17yr old violin position


said: May 10, 2006
 103 posts

Hi, I have a beginner 17 yr old student who is starting to use fingers on the fingerboard (without bow).

He has a fairly short neck and is only about 5′5″ in hight. Anyway, he has been complaining that when he puts his L. hand up to the neck and postitions fingers, he gets a strain/pull feeling in his shoulder (sort of above the arm pit).

Anyway, I don’t think this should be happening. Do any of you know if the muscles just need to get used to being used in this way?

I tend to think this is not the case, as this is an area in my arm that gets tight/tired since being in a MVA.

I know it’s hard to know what to suggest without seeing the student, but could I be positioning his violin too much on his shoulder? When I moved the scroll to be pointing slightly more forward he said that it eased this feeling. He is not using any type of Kun, just a sponge. I don’t think he would fit a Kun well. With moving the scroll forward, it changes the angle at which he needs to do bowing.

Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

said: May 11, 2006
 32 posts

Do you think he may be extending his shoulder out to to the left? When I do that I feel a strain like you are describing—perhaps he is reaching with his shoulder inadvertently. “Bring the violin to you” is one of my pet phrases—maybe that would work with him.
Alexander lessons are another wonderful way to relieve pain in playing—do a google for alexander method and your area. I have had chronic tendonitis, and alexander lessons have proven to be very beneficial to me!
One more thing—I know you said he has a short neck, but Wolf shoulder rests are very adjustable (look at the directions—it opened up a whole new world for me!!) and may make the violin feel more secure on his shoulder—you can actually mould the cushion to custom fit your shoulder, and the cushion/sponge part is 2x as wide as the Kun (more comfort!).
I hope you find something that works for him—best of luck!

Cynthia Faisst said: May 16, 2006
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

I have a Jr. College student who is not much taller who started with me 2 years ago. I recomended starting on a 1/2 or 3/4 instrument in the beginning. THis depends on the length of the upper arm which has to do most of the work.

A begining highschool, college or adult student does not always have the muscle tone in the upper body at first to handle a full size or sometimes even a 3/4 instrument. As they get comfortable, relaxed and develop endurance they will naturally move and adjuct to the larger instrument. Allow them to obtain good ballance and posture for the first year

It really is adviseable to give attention to discomfort that any beginning student feels. Older students are more likely to have difficulty becoming relaxed both physically and emotionally with their playing.

The student I mentioned above is now working in Book IV in his 3rd year of training. (He has only a little training on the mandoline as a youngster) He is very relaxed and has a very natural vibrato on the violin. This week he came to me with his first new full size violin that he was looking at. He knew he was ready and had the physical endurance to play several Seitz Concertos on it.

It was not because he was getting any taller at this age. His muscles and brain had finally adjusted to this strange new posture needed for the violin. I don’t think he would have been as graceful or comfortable by now if I had insisted that he struggle with the full size instrument in the beginning. We have to remember that we are training a sensitive nervous system.

I just sat there watching him and thinking what a joy it was to both see and hear him play. And the best thing was to see how happy he was about it himself.

That reminds me. I have to get back to Michael McClean and thank him for the encouragement this student received on his graduation tape for Bk II. Yes McClean sensei, this student is ready to use vibrato and his shifting skills are growing in confidence. It was worth the extra care.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

said: May 24, 2006
 103 posts

Well I’m wishing that I had thought of starting him on a 3/4 or so as I noticed at his last lesson that his neck is very tense. Yikes!

He actually has a broader shoulder than his younger sibbling, but for some reason he has a harder time being relaxed. I don’t think it started this way though.

They began lessons in Jan. 06 and the 17yr old actually had a deeper tone on open strings sooner than his sibbling. (No he wasn’t pushing with the pointer finger)

Anyway, I have been starting to add the L. hand fingers with him, but the interference of tension is affecting the sound when fingers are added. It is very hard for him to not “warble” when fingers are down. My theory is that the tension in his neck is causing tension in his L. arm which is then making it impossible to stay relaxed in the R. arm.

Help!!!!! any suggestions on how to get out of this mess? :confused:

Lynn said: May 24, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Is he even aware of the tension? My guess is probably not, and developing that awareness is what you’d want to work on, not just by telling him about it, but exploring ways to experience the difference between tension and relaxation, both in his neck, and also in other areas that are affected by the tension. Once he has become aware of the tension, and can release it, the practice objective is to maintain the relaxation for each practice element.

A common, and effective way to release tension, is to first take control of the tight muscles by purposly tightening them further, then letting them go.

As far as positioning the instrument, you don’t describe his physique, but men who are at all bulky through the chest tend to have less range of motion with the upper arm then a more slender build, and can’t carry the instrument as high on the shoulder. When they do, trying to reach to the strings torques the arm about where you describe. I’ve never tried this, so it may be a totally dumb idea, but where would the violin end up if you had him put all 4 fingers on the G string while in rest position, and then keeping the fingers in place, you brought the violin around to his shoulder, and looked for a placement where his left arm was not uncomfortably twisted?

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