Violin that won’t stay on the shoulder?

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Devin Treadaway said: Mar 7, 2011
 Violin
2 posts

I have a 5-year-old student starting Twinkles (she has been taking lessons off and on for about 2 years) who twists her upper body around as she plays so that her violin starts off on her shoulder in the correct position but ends up with the violin straight out in front of her. This really inhibits any correct left hand position.

Any ideas??

Alie said: Mar 11, 2011
 Violin
Columbus, OH
21 posts

Here are some things that have helped me:

-Check her eye dominance. You can have her close one eye (while in playing position) and tell you if she can see all four strings really well. Repeat with the other eye. If she says she can see all four strings with both right and left, ask which eye she can see them better with. Sometimes left eye dominant students can’t see all four strings with a regular chin rest and constantly pull the violin forward in order to be able to see. A center chin rest will solve the problem if in fact she is left eye dominant.

If left eye dominance isn’t the problem, you could….

-Put a sticker on her shoulder and have her practice partner check to make sure it stays covered

-Experiment with different shoulder rests. I usually start out with Kun, and then try Mach One. The Mach One has a unique design that fits to the shoulder very nicely on some kids. They are finally making it in small sizes!

Trish said: May 25, 2013
Trish Clair (Horrocks)
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Nanaimo, BC
25 posts

I also have a six-year old with this problem, and we are currently trying a Wolf shoulder rest. I had suspected for a while that it had to do with his dominant eye (which is his left eye) and today we confirmed it by asking him to play first with one eye closed, then the other.

This student is playing Minuet One and most of his visual focus at present is at the contact point. He can play confidently and in tune without looking at the left hand fingers.

To help him to be motivated to turn his head a bit more, we crafted a creature out of pipe cleaners and attached it to his scroll on the G string side of the instrument. His job is to keep an eye on this “misbehaving” creature to make sure it doesn’t get into trouble. We’ll see whether this has helped next week at his lesson.

Sue Hunt said: May 26, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

I Tell these children that it is supposed to look fuzzy. Once they know it’s OK, for it to look strange, they stop pulling the instrument round to the front.

Have you tried Poly-pad shoulder rests? They are supportive, but soft and very comfortable to use. I try to steer clear of hard rests, as it’s not good for young shoulders to be held rigidly.

Trish said: May 26, 2013
Trish Clair (Horrocks)
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Nanaimo, BC
25 posts

I’ve been using the poly-pad with my students for several years and I love them. My only complaint is the squeaking sound they make sometimes if the elastics are not snug enough. But I haven’t tried one with this student … good idea.

Sue Hunt said: May 27, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

Rubber non-slip shelf liner will help the pad “stick” to the violin and will stop it slipping on clothing. Just put a small piece between the pad and the violin, or fold it round so that part of it also lies between the pad and the child’s shoulder. This makes a violin hold feel much more secure and you should be able to work on a more balanced relaxed hold.

Rose Lander said: May 27, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
55 posts

i really like the round, red cosmetic sponges that come in thick and thin sizes. they do not slip, they wear like iron, and are inexpensive. you can buy them from shar. the univeristy violin professor at umass uses them exclusively.
rose lander

Karl Johann Rainer said: May 27, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Nanaimo, BC
2 posts

I have several students who simply stand in the wrong orientation relative to their parent while practicing. If the player’s violin is properly on their shoulder to begin with, but their belly button and toes are pointed towards the parent and/or audience, then every time the parent makes a comment or the child looks to their face for approval, their gaze will naturally force the head to swivel and follow their eyes; it results in the violin coming out of a nice shoulder position, and eventually pointing at the parent.

I ask the student to put the violin up on their shoulder in the correct position, and then rotate their toes until the scroll is pointing at the parent/audience/teacher, and THEN begin playing, and it is amazing how much more stable the position remains.

Since bow position faces forward, I need to insert the rotation into their routine as part of getting into playing position.

Wendy Caron Zohar said: May 27, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

This is how I have learned, what works for me, and how I teach it. A rigid, firm shoulder rest should be avoided. I don’t believe they are necessary; only a small pad to keep from slipping and in some cases where a child has a very long neck, I advise using a low Menuhin-type rest or foam sponge or cushion held with a rubber band. Many of the others such as Kuhn, Resonans, Everest, Wolf and Mach, just manage to slip off all the time, frustrating and discouraging the student and taking up lots of lesson time to fit it back on. The Komford stays on all right, but I find it quite heavy and unyielding, rigid and controlling.

Of course under no conditions do we want to raise the left shoulder in order to HOLD the violin! However, I believe it is unwise to fill in that space with a tall shoulder rest. That keeps the violin in a fixed position, which stops the player from having the movement necessary to play freely. The shoulders and back should be hanging free, straight, and symmetrical when playing.

It really all starts with a proper violin hold. The violin should be resting on the collar bone, not on the shoulder! The end button ideally should rest against the neck, at the center point midway between the ear and the chin; the center of the jawbone. This would set the violin protruding from the body ideally at a 45 degree angle—approximately midway between “over the shoulder” and “straight out from the sternum”. The strings ideally should be held parallel to the floor. In other words, the table of the violin will be at a slight uphill angle from chin to scroll. The violin is held lightly at the neck with the left hand, which helps balance the instrument, not prop it up, so the hand has freedom to move fingers lightly and quickly without squeezing. Balance within the left hand, between thumb pad and another finger touching the fingerboard (and not clutching between thumb and palm!) brings about the feeling of stability and freedom of the instrument.

Stability of violin at the same time as freedom of movement is a ripe topic for another thread. But this subject, a correct hold for the violin so that it doesn’t slip down, is such an important topic. It should be taught correctly, right at the first holding of the violin. So much better to teach it right from the start, but it remains a central issue for even advanced players who struggle with sound and contact point problems who by that time have developed neck and back tension, and left upper arm pain, and try to resolve these with higher or more constricting shoulder rests. I espouse that simplest is best: a red non-slipping sponge or equivalent, held in whatever way that is least intrusive.

Wendy Caron Zohar

Rebecca said: May 27, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
West Valley City, UT
12 posts

Good idea.  My concern is parents working with beginners and bowing straight.  If the scroll is pointing at the parent, won’t the parent have an obscured view of the bow?  How do you address this?

Karl Johann Rainer said: May 27, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Nanaimo, BC
2 posts

Yes, it’s very much a question of addressing the problem at hand. If the body is twisted and the violin is pointing ahead rather than to the side, the bow arm is doing some very unnatural things to make the bow “straight”… my priority is to get the posture correct first, as that generally starts to align the bow arm correctly anyway. Then the parent can move their vantage point to get the best view of the particular problem (such as straight bow at contact point). By the way, there are times the parent wants to be BEHIND the student in order to see what is happening with the left thumb and the spine!

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