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Take a Plunge Into the Baroque World - Where Chinrests & Shoulder Rests DON'T EXIST!
You CAN play a NAKED Violin & Viola!
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (10 votes) 
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ELCBK
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June 29, 2022 - 7:23 am
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Take time to get to know your Violin or Viola BETTER! 

...maybe it's time for an exercise in self-confidence & freedom - prove to yourself you can play without a chinrest AND without a shoulder rest! 

You don't have to remove your chinrest to not use it, but you can trade out your shoulder rest for a small sponge, just to help keep from slipping. 

Scared? 

All kidding aside, how do you think Baroque Era Violinists & Violists played? 

YOU CAN DO IT! 

Fiddlers in remote areas learned to hold their instruments against their chest - NO RESTS!  You might be surprised at what you can do. 

 

GREAT TIPS from Kailey's Chronicles! 

From LaMotte Violins: Holding the Baroque Violin! 

Think you can't shift without a chinrest? 

Think again!

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/bc/09/20/bc0920ccadcd32c1b26b18e9754cef20--music-logo-music-music.jpg

...take time to explore, grow with your Violin, Viola & Bow!  

- Emily 

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Gordon Shumway
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June 29, 2022 - 10:18 am
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Not sure where else to post this.

My gelrest arrived today, and I don't think I need a Berber - the Guarneri is high enough for now. But the other day I was watching a programme on music in the reign of queen Victoria, and I think it was the London Philharmonic, and I noticed a violinist fiddling with her shoulder rest and it was a car sponge and a rubber band!

I haven't watched your videos yet. The point about the chinrest is to protect the tailpiece - if the chin presses against it, it can detune the strings. I'll assume the videos mention that.

Shifting down from 3rd to first was perhaps avoided before rests were invented - I think Andrew Manze remarks on this and the habit of creeping up and down a position at a time.

Andrew

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ELCBK
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June 29, 2022 - 11:52 am
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https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/t/black-faced-sheep-playing-violin-illustration-standing-upright-131403659.jpg

Btw, I kinda meant this as just an exercise to try - didn't expect anyone to go cold-turkey & strip their violin or viola. (lol) 

I'm not using much of a shoulder rest - used to it now, but wouldn't be a far stretch for me to go without.  I dislike too much rocking, though. 

I was fooling around learning a tune this morning, so focused, I suddenly realized I wasn't using my chinrest AT ALL - even with my lame vibrato, didn't bother me. 

 

No use for chinrests & shoulder rests if you compete in the Trick/Novelty/Fancy Class of a Fiddle Contest!  These can have VERY entertaining entries!

Want to learn how to do some?

Gretchen Koehler's TUTORIAL for 4 Trick & Fancy Fiddle Techniques AND Routine! 

 

Amazing Violin Stunts by Mark Minnich and Sally Williams Minnich (RevampedDuo)! 

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Gordon Shumway
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June 29, 2022 - 1:53 pm
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I like the idea of doing the Bach double that way.

Andrew

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damfino
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June 29, 2022 - 8:03 pm
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I still use a shoulder rest, but haven’t used a chin rest in several years. I put it back on here and there to see if I’ve changed my mind, but I always go back to playing without it. I like the connection to the fiddle that way, and it just feels more comfortable. 

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AndrewH
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June 29, 2022 - 8:53 pm
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I've experimented now and then with playing without a shoulder rest, and briefly without a chinrest because every chinrest on the market is too tall for my very short neck. It doesn't work for everyone. I ended up getting a custom-made, ultra-low chinrest that is lower than any off-the-shelf chinrest currently available.

For me, the chinrest is necessary. I need to shift a lot and routinely play an octave or more up the fingerboard, and I also have small hands that force me to shift more than most other people to play the same piece. I do sometimes lift my head off the chinrest if I have an extended passage without shifts.

I also can't play without a shoulder rest because small hands force me to tilt my viola much more than is typical. If my shoulder rest falls off while I'm playing (it's happened once in a while in orchestra rehearsals when I'm not careful about placing it securely), I can continue to the next long rest without a shoulder rest, but it's very uncomfortable and I need an extreme elbow swing to reach the C string at all.

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Gordon Shumway
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June 30, 2022 - 1:19 am
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And those who still need to learn to shift must keep their shoulder and chin rests.

I decided yesterday that my gelrest doesn't really work with a guarneri, so I've put the curved maple back on. But I discovered that the original Hidersine curved maples are actually curvier and more comfortable than the Chinese imitation I was using, so that one went in the bin.

Andrew

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SharonC
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June 30, 2022 - 5:57 pm
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AndrewH said
I've experimented now and then with playing without a shoulder rest, and briefly without a chinrest because every chinrest on the market is too tall for my very short neck. It doesn't work for everyone. I ended up getting a custom-made, ultra-low chinrest that is lower than any off-the-shelf chinrest currently available....

@AndrewH Have you seen the Wave Da Capo chinrest?  It is pretty low--sits 3/8ths of an inch above the bout.  

https://www.wavechinrest.com/s.....st-comfort

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

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AndrewH
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June 30, 2022 - 8:02 pm
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SharonC said

AndrewH said

I've experimented now and then with playing without a shoulder rest, and briefly without a chinrest because every chinrest on the market is too tall for my very short neck. It doesn't work for everyone. I ended up getting a custom-made, ultra-low chinrest that is lower than any off-the-shelf chinrest currently available....

@AndrewH Have you seen the Wave Da Capo chinrest?  It is pretty low--sits 3/8ths of an inch above the bout.  

https://www.wavechinrest.com/s.....st-comfort

  

Yeah, I tried one and sent it back. It's still too high (especially near the tailpiece) and doesn't have enough of a lip on the side. My custom-made chinrest is slightly lower, has its cup closer to center, and has more of a lip.

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Gordon Shumway
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July 1, 2022 - 12:59 am
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Gordon Shumway said
I discovered that the original Hidersine curved maples are actually curvier and more comfortable than the Chinese imitation I was using, so that one went in the bin. 

Aaargh, my two Hidersine originals have different curvatures, and the curvier one is the only comfortable one. I may complain to the company. I may go to Halfords and buy a sponge.

Andrew

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ELCBK
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July 1, 2022 - 5:03 am
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Can you remember how crazy it was to first learn riding a bicycle? 

Our bodies did all sorts of exaggerated movements to try to learn an extremely complex interaction of muscle movements, calculating balance, torque, the force of gravity & speed requirements - all while operating a machine over constantly changing terrain! 

As we became better at it, we didn't have to think about anything, many movements became undetectable to observers - maybe you even learned to ride without holding the handle bars or acrobatic stunts? 

 

I was hoping y'all might take 10-15 minutes, just to try a little experiment of playing without anything more than a small sponge for a shoulder rest and not touching your chinrest - even if you've tried it in the past. 

Our skills & awareness change over time. 

This is a balancing act - of the tail end on the collar bone and the neck in hand.  Spring-like adjustments from the shoulder & arm can change the violin/viola CENTER OF BALANCE, as it is held.

It's about teaching your body subtle auto-correct - to become aware you can react/compensate against downward pressures of bow & fingers, WITHOUT TENSION. 

...sit in the middle of your bed - if you're afraid you'll drop your instrument. 

 

Maybe just try no chinrest contact for a start. 

You might not be able to do this if you've been using your chin & shoulder as a vise, clamped onto your violin or viola.  If that's the case, maybe it's time to make some changes! 

Here's a GREAT video that could help free you up - learn everything that's involved when holding the violin or viola without a shoulder rest, from Andrew Hatfield.  Observe there is more than one way to rest a violin/viola at the collar bone!

 

 

Try vibrato... your thumb placement can counterbalance finger pressure. 

Try shifting... visualize gently tossing a ball in the air and catching it, while your arm moves forward or back - only MUCH more subtle, the violin doesn't actually leave your hand.  NO GRIPPING! 

 

 

An occasional exercise of playing without shoulder & chinrest should help lighten your touch when/if you return to using them. 

Have fun!

- Emily

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ELCBK
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Has anyone seen this from a few years back?

An EXCELLENT series of videos from the "Rest No More" presentation/workshop by Prof. Jonathan Swartz of Arizona State University!  

Important principles discussed - whether you do or you don't use a shoulder rest!

He talks about everything from HEALTH PROBLEMS that can arise from using a shoulder rest, how to transition to NO rest, forces involve, exercises and Q&A! 

💖 Alex Marcus has a more COMPLETE SERIES OF VIDEOS AVAILABLE TO WATCH here: "Rest No More" - Alex Marcus Vimeo

 

Bitesize Violin has some excerpts of the "Rest No More" presentation available on YouTube. 

Here the Prof talks about Detrimental Health Issues a shoulder rest can cause - and understanding the transition process to free yourself. 

 

https://youtu.be/OaDa2PFPVdo

Here's another part with GREAT EXERCISES to help free your head from your violin or viola and get your arms working together more naturally!  (Bitesize Violin)

Prof Swartz also talks about the benefits of practicing "Open String Shifting"

 

https://youtu.be/tcA7wBFJZws

 

The Alex Marcus link is definitely the best source. 

Very interesting that Prof Jonathan Swartz played WITH a shoulder rest for 40 years before changing, he talks about all the reasons why he probably didn't make the transition earlier - in hopes people don't fall into the same traps.

REALLY glad I found this! 🤔 ...looks like I'm just beginning another journey with my Edgar & Mortimer.  

- Emily

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ELCBK
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July 8, 2022 - 3:40 pm
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Okay, I've taken the plunge! 🤗

...well, part way. 

Edgar's pretty naked without a shoulder rest, but it's gone! 

Did vibrato, shifting and tried to keep pressure off the chin rest while practicing today.  Think it actually helped not having sleeves, or a collar, but had to be careful where the metal from the chin rest landed on my collarbone.

 

...we'll see how long this lasts! 

- Emily

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AndrewH
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July 8, 2022 - 3:49 pm
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There's a certain subset of people who play without a shoulder rest who are extremely dogmatic about saying no one should use one. The problems caused by using a shoulder rest are caused by using it improperly to add height. The edge of the instrument should sit on the collarbone whether using one or not. There should be no difference in how it contacts the body. The shoulder rest should only fill space.

 

Not everyone has the body type to play without a shoulder rest. In the era before shoulder rests, I would most likely have been directed toward some other instrument.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

I certainly believe people should do whatever is necessary to play comfortably. 

I'm pretty positive that I would've looked at the 4/4 violin I tried in Fourth Grade much differently if I'd had a shoulder rest back then.  I might have been playing it throughout my whole life! 

 

I can't do anything more than tell my journey.

I noticed I felt restricted with my BonMusica on my violin - even with modifications to lower it (cut one threaded bolt down).  I had no options for changing the chin rest because it contains electronics. 

When I recorded, noticed I was always trying to 'grab' my violin with my chin. 

My Viola changed things when it arrived.  I figured I'd start with the lowest shoulder rest I could find - a Resonans (from Fiddlershop).  This really felt too low to begin with & I folded a towel under it - even tied a rolled up washcloth to it! 

In the meantime, I was trying to get comfortable moving my left thumb around everywhere for shifting & vibrato - supporting some weight without ANY gripping.  ...even practiced with my thumb completely straight sometimes, so I wouldn't use it for anything more than counterbalance. 

In time, found I could get rid of the towel, then the washcloth.  Later, noticed in my recordings I was still grabbing with my chin

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/77/2e/2c/772e2c14473b9838ec742abd65a9d39e.jpg

One day I was reminded, when I saw some Old Time fiddlers playing with the end of their violin against their chest (instead of their neck) - that I shouldn't have to grab with my chin!  So, getting more comfortable sliding my thumb around, I started trying to play without using my chin. 

I should also point out that it's possible I may feel the need to freely rotate my instruments more than others, just because I have an extra string... and this may also be relevant to anyone trying a 6-string Violin. 

 

Bottom line: wanting freedom of movement is what led me down this shoulder 'restless' path.  

- Emily

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AndrewH
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Sure. I'm not going to discourage playing without a shoulder rest. I just want to caution that you shouldn't feel like you must play without a shoulder rest; a number of people (including Alex Marcus and Jonathan Swartz) overstate the "shoulder rests are bad" case. It starts all kinds of arguments on other string forums. Many people can play without a shoulder rest... that doesn't mean everyone can. For me, a combination of high, narrow collarbone and very small hands means I can only play comfortably without a shoulder rest if I stick mostly to the top two strings.

Interesting that you started with the Bonmusica -- it's the exact opposite extreme from playing without a rest. It gives maximum security, but many people (including me) find it too constricting.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

Well, this has been quite eye-opening - I didn't realize there was such heated debate over whether, or not, to use a shoulder rest. 

Thanks for letting me know!

Funny, I was just putting the idea out there as an alternative, because almost everyone seems to have issues with a shoulder rest at some time or other - ended up convincing myself to try!

 

Forgot to say I used a SureTone rest for a long time - it's thin, shaped to curve away from the violin body, and you can add height with velcro foam discs.  There's one for Violas, now.

...I really did a number on my BonMusica, couldn't use it like it was intended.  I think besides cutting the bolt to lower the shoulder end as much as possible, I had to straighten part & twist it some to be comfortable at all.  It's still on my violin (that I haven't been playing) - will probably toss it, now.

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AndrewH
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There's a whole spectrum of options, ranging from maximum security but very little freedom on one end (Bonmusica) to maximum freedom and much less security on the other end (no shoulder rest). The world's leading soloists are all across that spectrum, from Hilary Hahn who uses a Bonmusica, to Anne-Sophie Mutter who often plays with no shoulder rest on a bare shoulder. (Many who play without shoulder rests put a thin pad under their clothing.) I think every option is worth trying. I disagree with those who claim that playing without a shoulder rest is best for everyone, and I've encountered people who are extremely dogmatic about it both online and in person.

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Gordon Shumway
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I've had a rethink. I had been slowly tending towards the option of a lower shoulder rest (although I admit I hadn't yet acquired a high chinrest), but recently I've been practising some Handel with a lot of rapid downward shifting. Initially I wrote the word "chin" under notes in preparation for the shift. Then I wondered why I needed to worry about my chin so much and raised the height of the shoulderrest, and the problems are trivial now. None of this means very much. I still hate excessively high shoulder rests.

Andrew

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Fiddlerman
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I've had to play the violin without a chin-rest when testing instruments at Fiddlershop that don't have them. It's definitely not something I would want to do. However, I hardly ever have anything on the back side. If I have a shoulder rest, it's usually a red rubber around pad to keep the instrument from sliding.

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

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