Violin “on the shoulder”


Susan said: Oct 21, 2009
 Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Bass, Cello, Viola
16 posts

What a nice forum! How I missed finding this one I’ll never know. I have been questioning the phrase “on the shoulder” to describe where many players set the violin. I seem to remember attending a teacher-training YEARS ago where the student was being taught to place the violin truly on top of the shoulder. That still seems exaggerated to me. Plus I have read things like “Playing Less Hurt”, that would suggest this is potentially a damaging placement- and therefore also maybe not the best phrase. When I’m playing, I feel the weight of the violin on the uphill side of my collarbone just to the right of its little indent (not the middle U, the smaller ident to the right of that.) So I’ve started saying “on the edge of your collarbone” instead. But I would love to know others’ thoughts & vocabulary for this .

Gabriel Villasurda said: Oct 21, 2009
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts

I’ll let others comment on the physiology of holding the violin.

It is useful to consider why we need to hold the violin sufficiently “up-hill” on the shoulder as opposed to toward the middle of the neck—the familiar “necktie” position. The right position is determined by at least these factors:

  1. Can you reach the highest positions (nearly to the end of the fingerboard)? Can you get back and forth from first position to, say, twelfth in a very short time (16th rest)?

  2. Can you draw the bow from frog to tip at a 90 degree angle to the string? The “necktie” position makes this very difficult.

  3. Can you negotiate complex double stops such as those involving 3rd and 4th fingers? Try A on the E string and E-flat on the A string. Can you arch your fingers to clear the lower string? Can you get in and out of this chord easily?

  4. Can you vibrato on any finger and in any position?

We need to remind ourselves that the violin has been around for more than 3 centuries. In that time EVERYTHING has been tried. What we recognize as common practice is the distillation of legions of players and pedagogues. Look at the top artists; anyone who can play the Brahms Concerto and has done so for 20 years without physical harm is probably doing it right.

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

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