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Playing woes and a tentative new beginning...
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New member
June 2, 2012 - 7:10 am
Member Since: June 2, 2012
Forum Posts: 2
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Hi - I'm new here, and I was wondering if anyone can help me.  I played Irish Fiddle for about 20 years without ever having any real lessons (except maybe once in a while in Ireland at Summer Schools) and got fairly good (I was in a ceilidh band for several years playing at weddings and such) but I had to give up a couple of years ago due to persistent shoulder pain (left shoulder).  Since then I have been playing guitar and flute and have achieved a fairly high standard without any pain at all (and the flute is notorious for causing discomfort if you're not careful).

But nothing quite pushes my buttons like the wonderful sound of a well played fiddle, so I would like to play again if possible.  Now that I've had a couple of years away from playing and the pain has gone I'm hoping that I can get back to it, but without any of the bad habits that (presumably) created the pain in the first place.

As you can probably imagine, I'm a bit nervous about starting up again. Do you have any advice about how to proceed with this so that I don't develop pain again?

I should also say that I live in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and there are very few violin/fiddle teachers here so getting a teacher wouldn't be easy.  Also I'm in my 50's, so well past the 'first flush of youth!'

Thanks, G


June 2, 2012 - 7:26 am
Member Since: May 4, 2012
Forum Posts: 2379
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Hi Gododdin.

Maybe hit a music store and try some different chin rests and maybe shoulder rests to get the fiddle sitting so you don't need to raise or tense the left shoulder to support it?  That's just a newbie guess, but it is what I thought of since I also play guitar and flute as well, and the shoulder and neck gave me trouble with the violin at first until I cobbled together a sort of shoulder rest.  Once I got the instrument elevated a little so I wasn't bringing the shoulder up at all or trying to clamp down on it with my jaw, there hasn't been any more strain on the left shoulder than there is when I play other instruments.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

Fort Lauderdale
June 2, 2012 - 8:28 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 13235

Hey and welcome gododdin,

You will be much more aware this time around since you have already had the problem. I have worked with quite a few professionals that have had problems caused by unnecessary tensions while playing. As Daniel mentioned above, you need to find equipment that allows you to hold comfortably without the need to grip. I have found that people with chin-rests that go over the tail-piece have less trouble with shoulder pain than the ones to the side. Also, even though it is called a chin-rest, it is usually used as a jaw bone rest.

A lot of people loose the perspective of where their tensions are being used when concentrating on playing. You need to keep this in mind in every session unlike what you were probably doing the first time you played the violin.

Look at my videos on how to hold the violin, since you were self taught, and try to balance the violin instead of holding it so hard. The only time I really need to hold the violin is during a downward shift or when playing very acrobatical music like Paganini and such, and then I try to only hold it and not grip too hard.

If a note is hard to reach see if moving your arm to a better position allows you to play with less tension. Experiment this time to find the most comfortable positions and holds and remember you are starting over again. Start slowly and carefully.

I used to take my summer vacations from the orchestra and after not having played anything for 6 weeks I would take out Bach and Paganini to get back in shape thinking I could play as long and as hard as ever but would always feel it the day after.

Good luck and I am fairly certain you can do it without much pain, and that the pain will be temporary as with many physical activities and sports. Once you get used to playing you should be ok providing you have paid close attention to proper technique and relaxation.

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

Honorary tenured advisor

June 2, 2012 - 11:52 am
Member Since: March 28, 2012
Forum Posts: 822
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Welcome oddin!birthday_balloon

"It can sing like a bird, it can cry like a human being, it can be very angry, it can be all that humans are" Maxim Vengerov


June 2, 2012 - 12:06 pm
Member Since: April 22, 2012
Forum Posts: 443
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Hello gododdin, and welcome from Southampton, England. I used to live in Glasgow 🙂

Have a look at this video I made, about the shoulder rest function. it's got some tips for posture and comfort.



...and this one here, in case things start to get a bit too serious :



Mr Jim roflol

New member
June 2, 2012 - 1:09 pm
Member Since: June 2, 2012
Forum Posts: 2
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Thanks for all the great responses everyone! thumbs-up  I think the trick for me will be to try to avoid diving straight into jigs and reels and just take it easy for a while - making sure I relax as much as possible and paying attention to how I'm holding the violin and reaching for notes.  Those videos are good Jim!  The second one would certainly stop you clamping down on the violin - ouch!  Thanks also for the welcome NoirVelours - as for my user name - an old Brythonic tribe - google it and all will be revealed in Wikipedia!

I thought I had tried every chin and shoulder rest going, including using none at all, but I agree I should probably experiment again.

I'll post again in a week or two to let you know how it's going.

Thanks again, G

Honorary tenured advisor

June 3, 2012 - 9:49 pm
Member Since: January 6, 2012
Forum Posts: 525
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Welcome Rhod! I recently saw and talked to someone who had once had sholder problems. His solution was to move the fiddle to his chest. This is common among blue grass fiddlers for some reason. I would consider it a last ditch solution but better than not playing at all. Good luck with restarting and remember there are a lot of diff. kinds of medical reasons for shouder pain. Experence speaking.facepalm

Russia, Tatarstan rep. Kazan city

June 4, 2012 - 3:49 am
Member Since: October 7, 2011
Forum Posts: 2849
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Welcone to the forum, GodOddin! =)

Absolutely agreed with advices above. It took me almost a year to figure out what stuff (like chin-rest and shoulder-rest) i need to get rid of neck/back/shoulder pains =). Now i know approximately what i need and still experimenting with this. I guess it's a long process. Also You could make a video of how You haold the violin, so the others could tell You what possibly could be wrong.. Just a suggestion =)

cow-fingerscrossed Good luck!

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