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Chin Rest Pressure in Violin Players: Musical Repertoire, Chin Rests, and Shoulder Pads as Possible Mediators

Marla A. O. Okner, Thomas Kernozek, Michael G. Wade
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 12 Number 4: Page 112 (December 1997)

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Abstract: Improving the "fit" between the performer and the instrument, in the context of the musical composition, may prove beneficial in the prevention of injury in musicians. The violin poses particular problems because it requires total support, yet both hands must be free to play. Changing the chin rest and changing the shoulder pad are common ways to modify the violin to fit the individual. The authors hypothesized that changes in chin rest and shoulder pad would result in changes in pressure and force applied over the chin rest during violin performance, and that these effects were predictable from anthropometric measures recorded at the neck and shoulder. The authors also hypothesized that different musical compositions would result in different levels of pressure and force. A sensor mat, sampling at 50 Hz, measured the peak pressure, peak force, pressure-time integral, force-time integral, and total contact area utilized over the chin rest during the performance of excerpts from a violin concerto by Max Bruch and a violin sonata by G. F. Handel. Repeated-measures univariate analysis of variance revealed that chin rest and musical composition produced significant differences in all the pressure and force variables. Shoulder pads proved effective in changing the peak pressure and the total contact area utilized over the chin rest. Stepwise multiple regression indicated that neck measurements were not a significant predictor of force or pressure, but shoulder measurements were a predictor of pressuring during the Bruch concerto. These results underscore the importance of evaluating chin rests, in addition to shoulder pads, when seeking a more comfortable "fit" for the violinist. In addition, the repertoire of the violinist should be considered a critical parameter when evaluating levels of force and pressure produced during performance. This study demonstrates that the specific musical composition may interact with the effects of chin rests. Musical composition may also influence the ability of anthropometric measures to predict the forces generated during performance.

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