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Arthritis in my neck
Should I use a shoulder rest?
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spottedcat
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November 18, 2017 - 1:13 am
Member Since: November 18, 2017
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Greetings, all!

I have recently decided to try playing the violin again. I played for a few years when I was in my 20s. Now I'm in my 50s. Things have changed a lot in those 30-ish years, and mainmost among the changes is my neck.

I have arthritis in my neck which has decreased mobility.

Back when I was learning, I had a wonderful teacher. She has since died, so I can't ask her for suggestions, though I'm sure she would have some, were she still here, since she was in her 80s when I was learning from her.

She had me play with nothing more than a very thin piece of padding (a shoulder pad) rubber-banded to the violin to keep my collar bone from hurting. I was considerably thinner then, too, so the edge of the violin could dig in a bit.

I find myself wondering if I should get a shoulder rest. I've never used one. I'm waiting for my d-string to arrive in the mail (local music shop was out of d-strings...) so I haven't actually played yet, but I'm fairly sure that I'll have trouble, since my head hardly goes from side to side anymore.

Any suggestions?

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Mark
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November 18, 2017 - 2:42 am
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Welcome to the forum spottedcat,

That decision may take some experimentation to find the right combo,

a taller chin rest maybe is all that needed for your situation.

Easy as it is to say, it's much harder to do is stay relaxed gently hold the violin, try not to press down at all just balance it on your collar bone.

Fiddlerman has a video on playing with out a shoulder rest, you might want to watch it for a review on holding the violin since it's been a day or two since you last played.

Have fun playing the violin

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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damfino
oHIo, USA
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November 18, 2017 - 8:50 am
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Welcome to the forum, @spottedcat 🙂

If the local music shop you mentioned carries chin rests, you should go try a few of the tall ones on your fiddle to see if any would feel right to you. If they would, that might help you avoid needing a shoulder rest.

Since you did play before, you might remember that you shouldn't feel like you have to grip the violin with your shoulder and jaw, that it should just be a slight nod to hold on, and to get to that point is going to be different for each player. You might find you like your current chin rest better than a new one, but would rather fill in the gap with a shoulder rest. So I would suggest not ruling out trying on shoulder rests at the shop, too 😀 

If there is a violin teacher nearby, it might be worth getting one half hour lesson just to have them help fit the violin on your shoulder. That way they can watch you and make sure you aren't over compensating with shoulder movement in your hold. My very first lesson adjusting my shoulder rest was one of the first things my teacher did to adjust my hold and avoid causing injury down the road. 

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Charles
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November 18, 2017 - 10:49 am
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If your chinrest is way below your head and you're having to bend your neck over very far to get to it, it's too low, and yes, a chinrest should help that a lot.

The most common kind of chinrest should really be called a cheek rest, because the chin isn't involved at all.  There are other types where you actually use the chin. (I built a Sarasate style one out of a Guarneri.) You would have to turn your head farther to the left, but not tilt it as much. (If turning your head is as hard as tilting it, that won't help much.)

You might also check out a chiropractor. If the problem is 100% arthritis, they probably won't be able to help much, but the neck is part of the spine, and that's what they specialize in. I'm sure being able to move your head/neck more without pain would be nice in other areas than violin.

Finally, one last option - the only thing you need a chinrest for to begin with is for making large shifts from higher positions to lower ones.  There's almost always a way to make those transitions as a series of smaller transitions. You'll probably have to throw out the whole concept of "positions", because you might be playing the fourth finger in 7th position, the 3rd finger in 5th, the second finger in 3rd, and the first finger in first, as a way to move from 7th to 1st.

If you can do that, you don't need to put your chin/cheek on the violin at all. There will be a few pieces you won't be able to play that way (Say it's going from  G6 to A4), but not many.

You might want a shoulder rest to keep the violin from slipping down near your neck, but it probably isn't necessary.  I played for a couple of months with just the bare violin - no chinrest or shoulder rest. It wanting to slip down near my neck was the most common problem I encountered. Anything that provides friction between your shoulder and the violin should do the trick. (Pad, shoulder rest, whatever.)

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Ferenc Simon
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November 18, 2017 - 11:00 am
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Hey and welcome to the forums

With arthritis in your neck I would probably recommend you try shoulder rests first and adjust the chin-rest to suit that (get a lower one if it's too high).

Yes, plenty of people manage just fine without one, some even enjoy it more or are outright bothered by the presence of a shoulder rest, but subjective opinions aside, unless you can play securely by balancing the violin on your shoulder with your neck being completely free to move wherever you want it a shoulder rest will always give you slightly more stability which might be important in your case.

You could even try some of those extra curly shoulder rests like the mach one or something that hooks on to your shoulder preventing the violin from moving even if you don't put your head on it at all. Of course like Mandy said, try and experiment first to see what's comfortable, maybe it isn't that bad without one as I think, you never know.    

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zpilot
Kansas City, Mo.
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November 19, 2017 - 1:56 am
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On Pierre's recommendation I tried a Stuber chin rest and, after trying a few others, I like it the best.  It has a little lip that you hook your chin over.   That keeps you from having to press down on the chin rest to get a good "hold" on it.  My head stays in it's natural position with just a little turn to the left and I don't feel any tension which I'm told is a good thing.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
November 20, 2017 - 3:41 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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Great suggestions above. Welcome to the forum spottedcat.
I would suggest that you practice playing without holding the instrument using your head/jaw/neck..... Rather, let it rest, maybe rest your head, but don't squeeze at all.
In order to do so, you will need some pretty comfortable equipment and feel very relaxed with no hard edges.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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