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Dick Stanley
Curious to know what our instructor thinks of this pricey shoulder rest:

"I always wanted to try this shoulder rest where you can remove your head/neck/chin from the equation completely:
http://thinkns.com/instruments/bsr.php
But at $190 retail and no way to try before you buy, it's a bit beyond my risk tolerance."



It's actually $190 for an electric violin but $350 for an acoustic one. Beth: Is there some other reason than money why it would not be a good idea?
Dick Stanley
23 Responses
Posted: February 21, 2012
Last Comment: February 24, 2012
Replies

Eileen
Posted: February 24, 2012
Hi Patricia....for you....I will work up the nerve to post you a video.  I may actually "talk" to explain it...lol...though the idea of talking to a camera is sort of weird and strange to me.  I guess it would be worse to just make a vid of me bending my hand with a smile on my face   x-D



Patricia
Posted: February 24, 2012

Eileen, about the stretching exercises, will you please give a more detailed explanation of how to do these exercise(s) because some nights I do feel discomfort (not numb) in my left wrist. It is nothing that keep me awake, but it will be good to do some kind of stretching before and after I play the violin like I used to do years ago before dance lessons.

Patricia


Eileen
Posted: February 24, 2012
I started having symptoms of CTS.....hands going numb at night...and while playing...tingling all that stuff.  I mentioned it to my dr at a routine exam and he said to do stretches by banding the hand backwards...not excessively as to do damage...but just a stretch.   I started doing that as one of my routines before playing...and at other times during the day and the symptoms have lessened.   They were gone all together for awhile there, then I stopped doing the stretch and it's started to reappear.  <:-o   Sooo...back to the stretch.  It's certainly simple enough to do and takes minimal effort so I have no idea why I stopped ! 

As to callouses...I've got them.....sometimes I do file them down with a soft nail file....and I have actually pulled/bitten them off on occassion(bad idea).   I don't think you have to worry over much about damaging nerve endings as the skin is dead...as long as you don't "saw" at them with a wood file or anything like that...haha....but...pulling them off is really not something I should be doing.....  <:-*

Dick Stanley
Posted: February 23, 2012
I chuckle at having written CST instead of CTS, and it occurs to me that I and the others I have known probably only have repetitive motion injury (RMI?), and not the full-blown CTS. Although I did know some who were so diagnosed and had the recommended surgery, with no apparent cure of the problem which just came back.

Dick Stanley
Posted: February 23, 2012
Appreciate your concern, Robyn, but I doubt I have CST in my left hand. I just, from time to time, squeeze the neck too hard. Usually, lately, when trying to learn something complicated. And since I've almost succeeded in relaxing my fingers and using light pressure on the strings (though, unlike Pablo Sarasete, I still have slight indentations from time to time) the thumb does the squeezing and gets the ache. 

I've watched all of Beth's good videos on squeezing several times, but it's not so simple for me. After all, I've only been learning the violin for two months. I've gradually worked up to an hour of practice with two breaks. When I can play something more interesting than Twinkle or Ode To Joy without a mistake, I'll post a video. Probably won't be soon. 

Your baby bird in the hand idea is a good one. I'll add that to the arsenal. The scroll holder idea also is a good one but I have no wall space readily available.

I use a Bon Musica rest, on Beth's recommendation, because the Kun I had at first was uncomfortable and slid off my shoulder. I have no trouble holding the violin with my head, but as Professor V says, temporarily holding the violin with a belt would eliminate reliance on the head and so help you relax your left hand. I'll probably try that to give my thumb a break. 

I know CST very well. Have known many people who have had it and I have had it off and on for many years in my right hand, due to 35 years of using a typewriter at first and later a computer keyboard and mouse as a broadcast and newspaper journalist, finally retiring in '06. I still get the wrist cramps in the right hand from time to time (using keyboard and mouse at home) and I wear a special glove overnight with a steel splint insert. Always clears it up by next morning. I've  known people who got the surgery but were not cured, so I'm not interested in any surgery.

As for calluses on the fingertips, I haven't been at it long enough to develop any, but Flesch cautions against letting them become excessive or they will adversely influence the tone. I suspect he would not like your filing them down, for fear you might damage the nerve endings, though he only specifically says not to cut them with scissors. (Ouch.) He recommends giving the fingertips "a thorough massage-like cleansing with a hard brush, warm water and soap." I'm trying to emulate Sarasete and avoid them altogether.



Beth Blackerby
Posted: February 23, 2012
Lot of good discussion here, but folks….love your calluses, they're nature's bandaids!(Have you ever seen a dancer's toes, or a bass player's fingers?) Thick calluses only mean you practice a lot. 

Eileen
Posted: February 23, 2012
Ditto !   x-)

Patricia
Posted: February 23, 2012

He, he, Liquid anti-oxidant. Ha, ha. Is so funny. lol!!

-------------------------------------------------

Do you have calluses on your finger tips? There shouldn't be any …tips should be soft. If you do have calluses, again this is a STRONG indicator that you are pressing to hard …I had this problem for over a year. I was pressing so hard that I had to file down the calluses nearly every night. The scroll against the wall really helped with this problem.

-------------------------------------------------

Robyn, I like to read when you post interesting and very useful information, but I love to read your funny and creative replies. Using others words, I like to read all of your posts. Please do not change.

Thank you

Patricia


Robyn
Posted: February 23, 2012
OK Dick, I'm putting my comedy side arms down so don't shoot:-)

Seems you possibly have 3 distinct although somewhat related issues to deal with:
  • Hand/wrist posture
  • Pressing to hard on the strings
  • Balanced setup that enables you to hold the violin securely without effort
You are not alone -- most of us have had to deal with one or more of the above.

You stated earlier:
"I could have used an ice pack for my aching fingertips…I'd solved the problem with lighter pressure on the strings. No more fingertip pain now. I still get an occasional cramp in my thumb from gripping the neck with it."

Now, I'm not a doctor, but I pretend to be one on the internet ;-) . Just kiddin' ... In all seriousness, I ran your symptoms by my better half who is practicing neurologist/professor, specializing in neuromuscular disorders.

...Here's my attempt to unravel the neuro-speak:
The fact that you specifically mention a cramping thumb whilst playing puts Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) higher on the list of differential diagnoses. CTS is a very common disorder and we (as elder folk) all have it to some degree.

CTS is a disorder caused by compression at the wrist of the median nerve supplying the hand, causing pain, numbness and tingling and/or pain. The carpal tunnel - a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand - houses the median nerve and tendons. The median nerve is responsible for both sensation and movement in the hand, in particular the thumb and first three fingers.  CTS has many root causes/contributing factors: genetic predisposition, disease (diabetes, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis etc) and is often exacerbated by activities that put increased stress on the wrist -- I know from personal experience that violin playing is an aggravating factor. 

CTS can be easily diagnosed through clinical/physical examination and diagnostic testing of the nerves (via emg and nerve conduction velocity tests) and x-rays to rule out other possible wrist problems.

If you have CTS, then it is important to avoid sustained hand/wrist postures that might further compress the median nerve directly or indirectly through irritation/inflammation of the CT area. Thus when playing the violin, the left hand shape (assuming that's your fingerboard hand) ideally should be in a relaxed neutral position -- neither flexed nor extended. Further, even when not playing the violin, the neutral position is something to keep in mind at all times. CTS can be alleviated with surgery to relieve the nerve compression but most people with mild cases are able to deal with it effectively through change of habits and the use of splints at night. 

On Squeezing & Finger Pressure...some thoughts
The scroll against the wall practice method works for me if for not other reason than to remind me to have good hand posture and a very light touch. I went through a period where I used that practice method every day until the desired hand/posture & light feel became almost 2nd nature and now I  use that method whenever I feel the big squeeze creeping back in -- usually when I am trying to learn something new. Also, one of my teachers in trying to correct my flawed grip/hold said "pretend you are holding a baby bird at all times" which was/is a very helpful image to latch onto.
In addition, the numerous videos Beth has produced on this topic have all but eradicated many of my bad habits in this regard. In fact I re-watch the videos every so often, gleaning something new each time.

Questions:
  • What shoulder rest are you currently using?
  • Can you hold the violin securely with just the weight of your head? …while bowing the at the same time?
  • Do you have calluses on your finger tips? There shouldn't be any …tips should be soft. If you do have calluses, again this is a STRONG indicator that you are pressing to hard …I had this problem for over a year. I was pressing so hard that I had to file down the calluses nearly every night. The scroll against the wall really helped with this problem. 

Anyway, Dick I wish you ___-speed in overcoming these hurdles…they are not show stoppers by any means but they do need to be addressed methodically at some point before you do damage or get discouraged.

My apologies to everyone for the long message.

Carol
Posted: February 22, 2012
I feel like I should have paid an admission price for the laughter this stream of comments gave me. Thanks for the giggles.

Dick Stanley
Posted: February 22, 2012
Scroll holder, eh? I did something similar by accident. I started trying to practice sitting on the edge of a straight back chair, but found my 68-year-old back hurt after ten minutes or so. So I sit more comfortably in a chair with arms. But I sometimes find myself resting my left elbow on the armrest. I correct it, of course, but now I don't feel so bad.

I don't need the IV bag in the drawing (since I'm not dehydrated or leaving blood on the fingerboard) but back in the beginning (late December-early January) I could have used an ice pack for my aching fingertips. Carl Flesch recommends "a firmly-attached medicinal pad with zinc oxide" but by the time I read that I'd solved the problem with lighter pressure on the strings. No more fingertip pain now. I still get an occasional cramp in my thumb from gripping the neck with it.

I do like the belt idea. After watching the Professor V video on it several times, I think it might just solve my thumb cramps. Maybe even free up my hand entirely to learn vibrato. And it's cheaper than that cyborg thing.

Robyn
Posted: February 22, 2012
Ha!ha!!!...Eileen..fantastic idea.
Can I just do a short 60 minute powerpoint presentation, because I've checked with the Canadian Military and our transport plane (we only have one) will be performing at the Aeronautics Show that week?

Eileen
Posted: February 22, 2012
I think everyone who's going to the summer workshop in July should bring their own version of this contraption.....and demonstrate it's use....Beth, you got time in the schedule for something like that ??

Robyn
Posted: February 22, 2012
OMG Beth ...that is too funny!!! I'm afraid to follow your genteel instructions for fear of self-asphyxiation.

As for your own LAOH (liquid anti-oxidant holder) -- don't go the wall route -- that would be an engineering mistake.
I suspect you will need additional support for the barrel, and therefore suggest sturdy ceiling hooks:-)

Beth Blackerby
Posted: February 22, 2012
 Robyn! That is priceless. The liquid anti-oxidant holder….lol!!

Ok, I'll share a little secret. I haven't shared this or done a tutorial (and WON'T!) because it's quite ungraceful as Prof V said. I've had pain in my neck for years and have often out of desperation done this little trick.  It's something I imagined while playing the Haydn "Seasons" a monstrously long choral work. 

Cut off a leg of a pair of pantyhose (not to sheer, opaque works best), then tie it in the way Prof V demonstrated around the neck and under the arm.  (There is a modified position for ladies if you know what I mean). Then, rather than slipping it over the chin rest, tuck the hooked part of the Bon Musica under the panty hose leg, from the side closer to your head (not your shoulder), ad Voilá!

In the last few weeks, I found something that works better for home practice. Take an empty duct tape ring, polka a hole in it, hang a picture hanger on the wall (at the height of your scroll), hang the duct tape ring on the picture hanger, stuff a washcloth into the ring. You have a scroll cradle! I've been warming up like this, so that I can get good left hand finger action exercises without taxing my neck. It's wonderfully liberating. 

Now I have to figure out how to rig the liquid antioxidant holder on the wall too!


Robyn
Posted: February 22, 2012
Dick, don't mess around with those expensive, poorly designed, uni-purpose devices
...I'll sell you this for just $9.99!!!


J. David
Posted: February 22, 2012
Hi Dick,

You mentioned "tendency to grip the neck".  I know that feeling exactly. In the beginning stages, I used to grip until my hand ached. It took quite a while to retrain my hand to eliminate the tendency, but it is possible.   I think that there is a need for the neck to rest on your left hand, but there is no "need to grip".


On a more humourous note, there just seems to be no end to violin inventions:

There's this to get rid of that inelegant look (which to me looks suspiciously like one of my wife's scarves):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GNZIMraoAA

And then there's this which carries with it the following advice:
CAUTION: Young children should be supervised when using the VioStrap to insure a proper fit and to insure that inappropriate use does not cause choking.:
http://www.viostrap.com/info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46&Itemid=53

And finally there's this that looks sort of like a bent shoe tree insert:
http://vectorinstruments.com/violins/gear.html
(I've got a Kun rest so if I can find a shoe tree,  I might have to MacGyver something like this).










Dick Stanley
Posted: February 22, 2012
As Professor V says, the advantage is to free up the left hand entirely, eliminating the tendency to grip the neck. I suppose you could fashion some sort of velvet cord to reduce inelegant look. I'm tempted to try it. But would it really help when you removed the cord/belt? Or would the need to grip reassert itself?

As for the BSR, I missed the ridiculous aspect. Being so new at the whole thing I have no ingrained attitude about what it's supposed to look like. There is a cyborg quality to the apparatus. Probably would work best for a stage performer, who would see an advantage in appearing unique and might be best able to afford it, anyhow.

Jennifer Nankey
Posted: February 22, 2012
I know, Robyn! haha Maybe they can come up with some sort of unit that stands up next to the music stand and the violin will just attach to it and when you're ready to play, you just walk up and set your chin on it!

KarenJ
Posted: February 22, 2012

Maybe you could wear it under a coat.  If they are going to that extreme, why not just have it on a stand where you don't use any paart of your body at all? 


J. David
Posted: February 22, 2012
Professor V has a low-cost/low-tech way to free up the neck (unfortunately there's still the looking ridiculous factor). See here about the 2 minute mark:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9WUdDoj2Hg#t=2m3s

Jennifer Nankey
Posted: February 21, 2012
Hahaaa "the looking ridiculous part...".  I was thinking the same thing!  Even if it felt like the most comfortable shoulder rest and chin rest set-up EVER, I don't think I could bring myself to use one.  It is sort of silly looking in a way.  Perhaps that is why they made it so expensive...so if anyone laughs at it, you can always say "how can you possibly be laughing at such a high-end piece of equipment?" 

Beth Blackerby
Posted: February 21, 2012
Well, there's the looking ridiculous part…. I can't get past the $350, frankly. I would love to have my neck liberated, but from the looks of it, it might put pressure on the shoulder, which may in turn create it's own set of problems. I'd at least like to see a video of someone using it. I can't really accurately assess unless I try it. We carry Steinberger electric instruments at the shop. Maybe they'll send us one for demo. I'll speak to my husband about it.