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Pain, Discomfort, a matter of time?


Jeffie
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I was reading some of the posts regarding pain, and the different shoulder rests.

Do people complain of pain because it is their first time using whatever device it is? Will it get more comfortable as time goes by?

I started using a Kun-like shoulder rest, but switch to Wolf ( initially I thought Wolf felt too big and bulky) but now after some time, no way am I going to switch back to Kun.

Wolf feels so comfortable to me now. My question is: Should people complain of aches when they have not tried it for a long time yet? Even Anne Sophie Mutter had to experience lots of pain without a shoulder rest for years before she feels comfortable without it, ( I think that is what I read in the latest Strad magazine)

Any comments or opinions?

Jeffie

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I'll have to disagree with that. I think that you need to make sure your shoulder rest is comfortable from the start. I have tendonitis in my shoulder, so it is really important to have a comfortable shoulder rest. Why would you want to put yourself through discomfort? I don't understand this. I use a wolf, I would never use a Kun, to me Kun are very uncomfortable.

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If it hurts, something is wrong. Playing should never hurt. It could be the way you're using your body or it could be your set-up, such as a shoulder rest. It sometimes takes a lot of careful work and experimentation to find the right set-up.

Everyone is different. I started on a Wolf rest and switched to Kun for both viola and viola. I am very comfortable with a Kun.

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I was reading through some of the older posts and then I came to this new one. I suffered way too much pain and stiffness from the wrong technique I was taught in my early playing years-probably about eighteen years of complete dissatisfaction with my vibrato. I never could understand why it should be so difficult/fristrating to play this instrument. It went against everything I had hoped for in my learning. Once I got away from it (only a few years ago) and started researching, searching for answers on my own, I started to try mixing a little of what worked COMFORTABLY for me through my experimenting, with formal technique. I have merged for a happy medium now, and I can actually relax while playing for the most part, as long as I stay focused. That's the thing about getting all wound up physically.......the only way to dispell it is to stop playing for a while. Once you get there, it is difficult to get relaxed again if you continue to play. If you are experiencing pain, I definately share your frustration, and am here to tell you that it can be overcome. But you have to try everything. Start by adjusting your shoulder rest on the fiddle for the most relaxed feel, the least amount of effort should be used to keep the fiddle in place-no neck/shoulder muscles should feel overly worked or used to prop up the instrument. Take your time and get it right. That's a good place to start. I know that most of my troubles came from trying to inject vibrato into everything I did, and it was very forceful, almost violent, and yet my 'teacher' had no cause for alarm. I didn't even think to know I could use wrist vibrato until I studied Flesch (recently), who has some very good ideas about starting its use by the way, and they work. It was an answer heaven-sent for me and the start of my recovery, and my impressions of neck scolding, wrenching vibrato has now, with a lot of hard work, turned into an effortless embellishment for the most part (not on the very high G string positions-that is yet to come). Keep trying.

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If your playing requires you to use a shoulder rest, I think the first step is to be sure you have the right chinrest for your "physique."

The eventual combination of the one or two rests should be absolutely comfortable to you either when playing or when just holding the instrument there.

How you angle a shoulder rest to the violin is important to grip and comfort. Ultimately the angle to your body that your chin and shoulder rests force the violin to most comfortably will determine how your hand engages it and the ease of fingering and vibrato.

I suspect that by shunning all "rests" HKV is completely free to angle the instrument in a way that works best for him at each instant of his playing. Any rests would be more confining - but some of us seem to need them.

Andy

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There is a third way.

Herein of the Tao of the Third Way: that is to utilize a shoulder rest that feels stable and comfortable (for me that is practically anything on the fiddle and a Mach 1 on my viola) and no chinrest. Protect the varnish with a bit of chamois cloth draped over the end where your jaw goes.

This takes a bit of getting used to, but I find it perfectly comfortable. And I find that removing the chinrest works a substantial tonal improvement.

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Some people say that you must be comfortable playing the violin at first try. I disagree with that.

I am sure each and everyone of us experiences discomfort when trying it out for the first time, Until we get used to it. How many of us remember trying to hold the bow and violin properly for the 1st time? It is painful , I remembered! 3rd position was painful to me until I got used to it!

We have to crawl first before walking, and walking before flying! No one walks first without stumbling and crawling!

HKV, I will not believe you if you tell me you did not experience discomfort when you first remove the chinrest and shoulder rest.

Jeffie

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Jeffie, I have to disagree with part of what you said. There is a difference between discomfort and pain. The holding position for the violin may not be comfortable at first, but it should never hurt. I have started a lot of beginners on violin and viola (about 160 by my estimation) and I have never found it necessary for them to experience continual pain, even though the holding positions are of course not "natural".

Pain tells me that I as a teacher need to help them to find a better way to play. Finding the most comfortable, free way to play is more important than anything else I can teach them technically.

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Nope. No discomfort.

In fact, you can always recognize my students because either they have no chinrest or no shoulder rest and often BOTH.

I never force them to go without the chinrest, though I'm pretty adamant about the shoulder rest because the style of playing I teach doesn't work that great with one.

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HKV:

I wish, oh how I wish, that I could play without a shoulder rest (or some kind of under-the-fiddle pad), because I can see this benefit: you can hold the instrument much flatter without a rest, and it seems to me that is a very good thing to be able to do, since it allows you to in an essentially horizontal plane on all four strings. Am I right?

My efforts in this direction always founder on two problems: my left trapezius muscle feels like it has been attacked with an icepick after I have supported the violin with my shoulder for a while (moreso, of course, with the viola); but if I don't support it fairly strongly with the shoulder, I can't sustain the kind of flow-through vibrato that I prefer, and that comes easily to me when I play with a rest.

What, o apostle of restless playing, is the answer?

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In the OLD (pre-Spohr) days, there was no chinrest to my recollection.

My students and their parents say that the violin "sounds louder" and "feels better" without a chinrest.

When I have the violin in an erect position, I can touch my left hand to my right shoulder even without a chinrest and with a protective cloth. This is the posture that Aaron Rosand taught me - though he thinks I'm crazy for having ditched my chinrest.

In this posture, I use my left hand to raise the scroll so that the strings are parallel to the floor. However, I do not hold the violin "flat" - I keep it at an angle consistent with my clavicle.

When I go into higher positions, I don't have to contort my spine to play really high positions. I can stand there with a straight up and down spine and just play. I've gotten a lot better at this since last year when I first ditched the rest. Now I stand pretty much without head tilt.

I also feel more natural with bowing and vibrato nowadays. When I vibrate, I vibrate in the plane of my neck and not in a vertical fashion.

My assistant has a long neck, and she's taller than me. She has to have a chinrest.

As a beginner violinist 22 years ago, I didn't have any physical discomfort until my mother started warping my posture due to the physical theatrics she saw violinists doing on TV.

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I have some questions for Huang regarding holding the violin without a shoulder rest if he will be so good as to answer. I really wish I could do this, and maybe I haven't done it right, but how can one do VIBRATO without any support under the instrument. My violin wants to pull itself out from under my neck when I use vibrato this way, and I cramp up almost instantly. With a shoulder rest I have no problems using vibrato in almost any circumstance. There is something I am doing or not doing. It has to be. I can play though, without vibrato and without a shoulder rest just fine. The purity of the instrument rings with more life without a shoulder rest. If you have a suggestion(s), I will try it.

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Namooz,

From what you wrote, I am guessing that you are trying to either hold the violin by raising your shoulder or forcing the neck. Playing without a shoulder rest requires a balance of the weight of the instrument on your body and your left hand. But BEWARE, do not hold the intrument in your left hand, let it rest either on your thumb or completely in the hand. There is a big difference between holding and resting. As for stabilizing the instrument, simply let the weight of your head fall onto the chinrest, do not force it or raise the shoulder. To gain a bigger vibrato, let the instrument shake slightly when vibrating. Believe me, you will not drop your instrument, just think about how much it is worth!

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