Playing any instrument means MOVING … a lot! A properly fitted set-up does not replace the benefits of a postural correction approach, but will optimize its benefits.
We all recognize the validity of fitting the right size instrument and bow to a player’s body type. But, when it comes to chin and shoulder rest set-up, the myriad of possibilities to adapt equipment to body type can be daunting. So before you buy ANOTHER chinrest or shoulder rest, here are some guidelines on what matters, based on my bottom-up experience of fitting/working with some 400 musicians in the past 4 years.
The head weighs 12 to 15 pounds. The axis of its balance is at ear lobe level. The head should rest on the chinrest at the same level as the end of nodding “yes”.
Arms should be supported by the back muscles in the same way as when hugging someone (but not falling in their arms!). If not, the arms will pull the instrument down with force that can’t be borne by the head and shoulder nor compensated for by the chinrest/shoulder rest set-up.
Best tool to train arm support? Apply the motion logic of walking, initiated from the hips, to arms: get the momentum going from the shoulder blades. For more on this, refer to scapulohumeral rhythm from the body mapping approach.
Up or down, in or out … it should be the teacher’s and player’s preference, not a chinrest or shoulder rest dictating how the instrument is held! One thing to remember though: by allowing a contact point with the collarbone instead of only on the left shoulder, one will notice:
- a reduced need to clench
- more freedom in the left shoulder, less strain on the left arm and hand
- less heaviness, more freedom in the bow arm
Follow the pain
One player’s comfortable set-up could be torture for another. It’s the same logic as trying on shoes! Initial pain or fatigue with instrument playing comes from muscle tension. So as early as possible, identify any skeleton imbalance in playing position (vs. neutral position) leading muscle to sustain a static position instead of contributing to movement. And say NO to the “no pain no gain” mantra, as it only leads to injury.