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RobertElphinstone

Violin beginner --jaw pain

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Hi guys,

Just started the violin a week ago as a 35 yr old. My excercises for the week is bow hold excercises and bowing open strings . My teacher does not wish me to use my sholder rest I bought which I have no problem with ,however, he is telling me to practice holding the violin without hands using jaw and collarbone pressure. He says a little bit per daybto build up the strength . Impossible! IV been trying all week and I cannot do this. My left jaw hurts and I swear is bruising, and my collerbone is tender. I can do this Easily with the sholder mount but not without. is this pain normal? Why do you have to be able to support it this way? Doesn't the left hand hold it up?

I'm also wondering if I'm holding it right...let me explain.

I place the button at the bottom of the violin right into my neck almost touching my Adams apple. I place my chin almost on the tailpiece, and then rest my jaw on the chin rest at a slight angle. feel it snug on the collerbone and jaw, but when I clamp down and let go. The scroll dips down and it really hurts like the chinrest is digging into my jaw. I have the violin at about a 10 o'clock or so so it isn't resting on my left sholder as I read it isn't supposed to and it is slightly tilted towards the floor about 45 degrees I guess, although IV read it is supposed to be parallel, almost flat but I doubt it as in ever picture I see it's tilted. All these angles makes it complicated and I REALLY want to learn the right way. Trying to learn bowing is hard if I keep changing my angles to what its supposed to be which everyone seems to have a different opinion on.... I really could use some help. I'm so devoted to learning the and have all the passion to practice, but don't want pain.

Thanks so much guys. I'm excited To finally be able to play violin as it has been a lifelong dream!

Rob

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Pain is the body’s way of telling you not to do something that way. wink.gif

Is your teacher perhaps 150 years old? Many of the old, old, old violin tutors [books, that is] complain about shoulder rests, but honestly, there are so many things going on for beginners, I don’t see how adding unnecessary difficulty aids learning.

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Thats what i thought about the pain, although im told everything hurts at the beginning and i have to build strength in the muscles.

Suprisingly my teacher is in his late 20's im guessing, but i bet you its the whole " I learned this way, so will you" mentality.

What i find ironic is im being taught with the Suzuki method, and even in the pictures of bow angles and such, the player is using a sholder rest!!

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Is there a player of the past or present you admire? You should be able to find some video clips on the Internet.

See how much they hold the violin up with their chin.

What I observe in the old timers is a continally changing hold—often within a phrase.

I don't have qualifications to speak with authority on this subject though I have a keen interest. Would be interesting to find the trail of influence that led your teacher to this concept.

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Hi guys,

Just started the violin a week ago as a 35 yr old. My excercises for the week is bow hold excercises and bowing open strings . My teacher does not wish me to use my sholder rest I bought which I have no problem with ,however, he is telling me to practice holding the violin without hands using jaw and collarbone pressure. He says a little bit per daybto build up the strength . Impossible! IV been trying all week and I cannot do this. My left jaw hurts and I swear is bruising, and my collerbone is tender. I can do this Easily with the sholder mount but not without. is this pain normal? Why do you have to be able to support it this way? Doesn't the left hand hold it up?

I'm also wondering if I'm holding it right...let me explain.

I place the button at the bottom of the violin right into my neck almost touching my Adams apple. I place my chin almost on the tailpiece, and then rest my jaw on the chin rest at a slight angle. feel it snug on the collerbone and jaw, but when I clamp down and let go. The scroll dips down and it really hurts like the chinrest is digging into my jaw. I have the violin at about a 10 o'clock or so so it isn't resting on my left sholder as I read it isn't supposed to and it is slightly tilted towards the floor about 45 degrees I guess, although IV read it is supposed to be parallel, almost flat but I doubt it as in ever picture I see it's tilted. All these angles makes it complicated and I REALLY want to learn the right way. Trying to learn bowing is hard if I keep changing my angles to what its supposed to be which everyone seems to have a different opinion on.... I really could use some help. I'm so devoted to learning the and have all the passion to practice, but don't want pain.

Thanks so much guys. I'm excited To finally be able to play violin as it has been a lifelong dream!

Rob

There have been many threads working over the shoulder rest vs no shoulder rest question. The end result has always been that of either way is OK if it works for you and that last part is important it has to work for you. There are and have been great concert violinists who play(ed) without a rest, though some, like Isaac Stern, cheated and used a pad underneath their suit jacket :). Current concert stars who do use a rest include Hilary Hahn, James Ehnes, Janine Jansen. Obviously it is OK to use a rest if you want to. I'd say if your teacher is dogmatic about this maybe you need a different teacher. If you have a long neck, bending your neck to hold the instrument risks muscle cramps or worse.

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I agree with Gowan. If you're more comfortable with a shoulder rest then use one and ask your teacher to check that your position is correct. If he/she refuses (unlikely though) then get another teacher. I started at 40 (6-7 years ago) and my first teacher was in his 70s. He told me to try with and without and see what was best. He was using one and had been playing for 60 years in professional orchestras. I can't hold my violin without and feel no shame about that. I tried though, but my long neck prevents me from playing without looking like a hunchback crippled when I don't use a shoulder rest. My second teacher is in her late 20's and we spent quite some time to find the best combination chin rest/shoulder rest so that my violin would be flat on my shoulder, despite the fact that she learnt to play without. So age should not be an excuse... :)

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I started at age 32 and have always played without a chin rest and can hold it in place all day long without any pain and also can hold a conversation while doing so and I am no pro. I think you have it positioned too far toward your body centerline. Without getting into some hyper anatomical terminology, try putting it further to your left side. Even though it is called a chin rest it is really a jaw rest (the jaw meaning the part of your face underneath your left molar teeth). The violin will dangle and maybe feel like it will fall but it won't. In reality most of the time you hold up the violin with your left hand and only during certain brief movements do you ever have to support it 100 percent from the jaw. Over time you may find that having a chin rest with a deeper cup or angled more down than up will also help but these are not the same for everyone and there is a magic position of the head relative to the violin that allows you to hear more easily when you are in tune or not in tune.

This may be more info than you asked for but since you are new to the instrument I would like to suggest to you that the things to spend your time on are:

- getting the notes in tune by playing continuously with an electronic tuner like the korg that will tell you immediately if you are off pitch

- work on getting your sound to sizzle under your ear and then make sure that every bow stroke keeps that sizzle from start to finish

- be very deliberate in making every note in a piece clear and have that sizzle sound under the ear

- ignore all references and commentary to eliminating tension/pressure or accentuating relaxation. There is nothing relaxing about playing a violin.

- do not be afraid to make a grating sound under your ear (meaning how you hear it as it is played) as long as the grating quality is constant.

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Find a new teacher. The vast majority of human bodies are more comfortable with a shoulder rest. Anyone who absolutely insists on not using one - espcially for an adult beginner, is stuck in dogma and not using reason. If you can be comfortable without one - fantastic! - you don't have to mess with the contraption, but that really is a rarity. The hold needs to be relaxed and stable.

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I started at age 32 and have always played without a chin rest and can hold it in place all day long without any pain and also can hold a conversation while doing so and I am no pro. I think you have it positioned too far toward your body centerline. Without getting into some hyper anatomical terminology, try putting it further to your left side. Even though it is called a chin rest it is really a jaw rest (the jaw meaning the part of your face underneath your left molar teeth). The violin will dangle and maybe feel like it will fall but it won't. In reality most of the time you hold up the violin with your left hand and only during certain brief movements do you ever have to support it 100 percent from the jaw. Over time you may find that having a chin rest with a deeper cup or angled more down than up will also help but these are not the same for everyone and there is a magic position of the head relative to the violin that allows you to hear more easily when you are in tune or not in tune.

This may be more info than you asked for but since you are new to the instrument I would like to suggest to you that the things to spend your time on are:

- getting the notes in tune by playing continuously with an electronic tuner like the korg that will tell you immediately if you are off pitch

- work on getting your sound to sizzle under your ear and then make sure that every bow stroke keeps that sizzle from start to finish

- be very deliberate in making every note in a piece clear and have that sizzle sound under the ear

- ignore all references and commentary to eliminating tension/pressure or accentuating relaxation. There is nothing relaxing about playing a violin.

- do not be afraid to make a grating sound under your ear (meaning how you hear it as it is played) as long as the grating quality is constant.

I agree about moving the instrument farther to the left. It's definitely a "jaw rest" for most people. If you look at videos of players like Heifetz and Perlman, they hold their instruments seemingly almost straight out to the side, certainly 70 degrees or more from centerline. I don't use a shoulder rest at all, and can hold a violin securely with no pressure at all except for the relaxed weight of the head - no clamping. Violin sits on collar bone, not on shoulder. I don't have any problem with people using a shoulder rest, but I see a lot of people who get into difficulties by using a rest incorrectly, trying to control the violin by clamping it into a bad position by force.

I do frequently use an earplug in the left ear when practicing, for two reasons - to protect what's left of my hearing, and to hear more of the sound that's going out into the room, rather than that which is directly under my ear.

Menuhin's YouTube tutorials are very good in explaining the principles of good violin technique.

is particularly good on the violin hold, but all of them are very thought provoking. I was never a big fan of his playing, but always admired him as a gentleman and teacher.

I don't think I could disagree more about relaxation. In my experience, relaxation is absolutely the key to good tone, intonation, speed, and everything else in playing music, just as it is in martial arts, and most other aspects of physical activity. Excess tension slows you down, distorts movements, and causes injury. I don't think I've ever met an experienced musician who thought otherwise. Erick Friedman said that standing next to Heifetz when he was playing, he got the impression that an errant breeze would blow the instrument out of his hands, and many advanced bowing techniques can simply not be done without and extremely relaxed bow hold. Watch Heifetz' Paganini videos for an example.

I don't have any problem with a complete beginner using a tuner to "find" the notes, but IMHO it should be dispensed with as soon as possible. The instrument will tell you when you are playing in tune far better and quicker than any tuner, and the sooner you learn to depend on your ears, the better.

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Addie is right, you shouldn't be in pain. Playing any of these instruments is about relaxation and expending as little as effort as possible. It may, however, not just be solved by starting to use some random shoulder rest that may or may not work for your body type. If you have the opportunity to pay a visit to a violin shop and try different combinations of shoulder/chin rests. You may even find a chin rest that will allow you to hold the violin comfortably without a shoulder rest.

Best of luck!

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Hi guys,

Just started the violin a week ago as a 35 yr old. My excercises for the week is bow hold excercises and bowing open strings . My teacher does not wish me to use my sholder rest I bought which I have no problem with ,however, he is telling me to practice holding the violin without hands using jaw and collarbone pressure. He says a little bit per daybto build up the strength . Impossible! IV been trying all week and I cannot do this. My left jaw hurts and I swear is bruising, and my collerbone is tender. I can do this Easily with the sholder mount but not without. is this pain normal? Why do you have to be able to support it this way? Doesn't the left hand hold it up?

I am a beginner too, but I have figured out or perhaps simply taken as an axiom that the left hand should have just one job---to finger the strings---and that that job is not so easy. Now you ought to realize that also giving the left hand the job of supporting the instrument would take away from what the left hand should be doing. So it sounds like your instructor is at least giving you the right goal. But as you have been saying to yourself, he is making it basically impossible to achieve it.

I understand that virtuosos are plentiful nowadays---a lot of people today can play the difficult compositions of the past. I wonder whether that is partly due to the adoption of shoulder rests. And is it that the virtuosos of yesterday were rare because it takes a somewhat unusual anatomy to play well without a shoulder rest?

Thanks so much guys. I'm excited To finally be able to play violin as it has been a lifelong dream!

I think one of the main things is to enjoy your play and practice. Your instructor is getting in the way of your enjoyment.

To go off topic a little, something else I have found motivating is that stringed instruments have a straightforward visual relationship to music theory. Brass instruments with their overtones and convoluted valving and piping are much more complicated to understand. And so many other instruments are "transposing instruments" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposing_instrument ), meaning that what you are playing and hearing does not even match the music written on the page--by design. I played one of those for many years (never very well) without even knowing that. So with violin it easier to dig into the theory and relate it directly to what you see and hear. So I would recommend to you to right away start learning the meanings of terms like: semitone, interval, tonic, octave, major and minor scale, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, etc. and start experiencing those concepts through your violin. That to me is how somebody makes sense out of music, rather than proceeding monkey-see-monkey-do.

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with violin it easier to dig into the theory and relate it directly to what you see and hear.

This is not a recommendation to rely on looking at the fingerboard or strings when you are playing!

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And is it that the virtuosos of yesterday were rare because it takes a somewhat unusual anatomy to play well without a shoulder rest?

An interesting hypothesis - would make for a very interesting piece of research for somebody not having anything better to do or lacking gainful employment.

The single, most common cause of jaw pain is taking too large a bite out of the violin, especially in the scroll or fingerboard area. Smaller pieces and thorough chewing alleviate the problem.

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The only correct way to hold it is what makes you most comfortable; Gidon Kremer uses a shoulder pad - so do most virtuosos, chamber musicians and orchestra players nowadays. 'nuff said.

And in fact Heifetz and Oistrakh and others did use shoulder padding; in the case of Heifetz it was usually sewn into his jacket, but it was there. With Oistrakh it is more obvious and visible under the violin in some videos.

Both players having started violin as toddlers; you are starting at 35. At 35 everything is different, including how you will learn music. Not better or worse necessarily.

I agree with earlier posters - find a good teacher and listen to your body. Otherwise you'll be finding a chiropractor and dermatologist.

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+++++++++++++++++

Do exactly as someone here said " The hold needs to be relaxed and stable. "

If the size of your violin is not right for you or the bow is too long etc. then it won't be stable nor relaxed.

Your teacher should find out why.

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My teacher does not wish me to use my sholder rest

To me, every player has to fill the space between collarbone and jaw with some combination of chin rest, fiddle, and shoulder rest.

Here is a study saying that 10 of 11 students benefited from a taller chinrest.

http://www.violinistinbalance.nl/necklengths.htm

I think probably people are suffering from 1) the difficulty of finding tall chin rests, and 2) cases that do not accommodate a tall chin rest. Shoulder rests are easily removable, but it is more work to replace and remove the chin rest every time you open the case, and to remove it when done playing. People have noted on this thread that there are "tuning" issues as to how tight the chin rest should be mounted. So if the thing has to be mounted carefully each time, users of tall chin rests may have to carry torque wrenches or other aids to mounting it just so.

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Hi guys,

Just started the violin a week ago as a 35 yr old. My excercises for the week is bow hold excercises and bowing open strings . My teacher does not wish me to use my sholder rest I bought which I have no problem with ,however, he is telling me to practice holding the violin without hands using jaw and collarbone pressure. He says a little bit per daybto build up the strength . Impossible! IV been trying all week and I cannot do this. My left jaw hurts and I swear is bruising, and my collerbone is tender. I can do this Easily with the sholder mount but not without. is this pain normal? Why do you have to be able to support it this way? Doesn't the left hand hold it up?

I'm also wondering if I'm holding it right...let me explain.

I place the button at the bottom of the violin right into my neck almost touching my Adams apple. I place my chin almost on the tailpiece, and then rest my jaw on the chin rest at a slight angle. feel it snug on the collerbone and jaw, but when I clamp down and let go. The scroll dips down and it really hurts like the chinrest is digging into my jaw. I have the violin at about a 10 o'clock or so so it isn't resting on my left sholder as I read it isn't supposed to and it is slightly tilted towards the floor about 45 degrees I guess, although IV read it is supposed to be parallel, almost flat but I doubt it as in ever picture I see it's tilted. All these angles makes it complicated and I REALLY want to learn the right way. Trying to learn bowing is hard if I keep changing my angles to what its supposed to be which everyone seems to have a different opinion on.... I really could use some help. I'm so devoted to learning the and have all the passion to practice, but don't want pain.

Thanks so much guys. I'm excited To finally be able to play violin as it has been a lifelong dream!

Rob

These are the things which I think you should do before considering playing without shoulder rest:

- Measure the distance between your jaw and your collarbone

- Measure your violin’s height

- Go to local luthier to try out chinrest

- Leave a space between your jaw/chin and your chinrest so your neck can move freely!

- Do not lift your left shoulder, your violin is held between your collarbone and your left hand!

I had never played without shoulder rest before and I own 6 shoulder rests, but none of them really makes me feel comfortable! Plus, each of the shoulder rest I own has its own advantages and disadvantages. The tone of your violin that each shoulder rest produces varies, too.

A few days ago I put a towel on my left shoulder and started playing without shoulder rest. Magic! I can do the shifting to higher positions, too! Now I knew what I needed to buy: a chinrest!

Balancing your violin with your left hand, collarbone and neck is the key to play without shoulder rest, but do not forget that a good chinrest is important, too!

Want to know what chinrest may fit you?

- If you rest your chin on the tailpiece you may benefit more from a chinrest that is center mounted

- Player with shorter arm may benefit from a center mounted chinrest too because, from what I've heard and read, they have difficulty with bowing to the tip of a bow using a side mounted chinrest

Everyone's body is not the same, I think you really need to find a luthier and try out what chinrest suits you best, there are a "raised" chinrests, too. Many violinists have bought lot of chinrests to explore which one fits them the best! But if you have the chance to try out, do this so you won't end up buying a bunch of chinrests, just like I have bought many shoulder rests that don't even make me feel comfortable.

I am using Berber chinrest, it's a center mounted chinrest but the chinrest is 1/2 on the tailpiece and 1/2 on the left side. And so because I'm lucky to have a quite "square" shoulder, my violin can rest on my shoulder without me having to lift my shoulder, hence I added a cosmetic sponge with a rubber band so my violin is more parallel to the ground. With this cosmetic sponge I will not drop my violin if I drop my left hand. Now I can't imagine playing with shoulder rest as I can move freely, play naturally, and comfortably. When I was at luthier, I tried out many chinrests, too, until he set a berber chinrest and when I tried it out, I had my "aha!" moment and knew directly that it's what I need!

Maybe this youtube video will help you. The uploader has a very long neck and he demonstrated how to play without shoulder rest:

I hope this helps! Good luck!

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