To answer this question we'll consider several aspects of playing. We need to start by establishing our end goals; what do we want to accomplish? For inspiration we can contemplate the ideas expressed in the Kréddle Credo. The discoveries collected in the Credo have helped Kréddlers around the world find and foster healthy positions and movement patterns that work in harmony with each player's unique qualities. After unpacking the Credo we'll look at how each adjustment of the kréddle directly influences postural set up and thus the motions of playing.
A small grain of salt: To paraphrase a famous violinist, 'as soon as we begin to discuss proper violin technique, then do we immediately begin to error.' This sentiment remains present at all times at Kréddle--we fully realize that some of the ideas below may not work for everyone. We encourage players to evaluate all statements in relation to their own needs and experiences. Our goal is simply to share observations gleaned from several years of working through issues of set up with many players around the world. We hope these ideas will help you on your own quest for comfort!Jordan Hayes, Kréddle founder and fellow violinist
I have collected these phrases over the years from encounters with yoga, alexander technique, and several violin teachers. I try to remind myself of these ideas while playing to avoid fatigue or discomfort, and to help me access musical motions. Before I start playing I use these phrases to establish a home base position, which helps me avoid tools that try to push me into unhealthy positions. In my experience in order to use the kréddle to the fullest extent I must have a sense for how my home base feels before I play, otherwise I will not know where I need to move the kréddle--the kréddle cannot tell me why or where to move it to. If you have any phrases that you find helpful please share them with me via the contact page!
The Creed ends with the simple phrase "now breathe." Whenever I start to get frustrated either with the tools, or because of the difficultly of violin and viola playing, or because I feel uncomfortable, or for any other reason, I try to return to the breath. In my experience, reminding myself to breathe always helps.
Before we can really look at how the angles of set up effect playing the fiddle, we have to recognize two constraints that most fiddlers agree upon.
~ That the bow needs to remain perpendicular to the string for the entire bow path.
~ That the fiddle should stay fairly level, or parallel to the floor.
With these constraints in mind, I often find it useful to think of the violin and the bow as a unit; the "violin bow", or better yet; the "violin bow path". By doing so it'll be easier to visualize how moving the violin also moves the path the bow must travel. Reversed this will also help us visualize how to move the violin if we want the motions of the bow, and the path that the bow travels, to fit our own body.
Rotating the Kréddle has the effect of swinging the scroll of the violin to the right and left. By swinging the scroll of the violin, we change the length of our bow arm in relation to the bow path. For example, if we swing the scroll of the violin to the left, then the bow path moves farther away from the right side of the body. In essence then, our bow arm becomes shorter in relation to the bow path. The reverse is also true; if we swing the scroll to the right, our bow arm becomes longer in relation to the bow path because the bow path comes closer to the right side of our body.
Traditional chin rests force us to play with the scroll in a particular position, because the contours of the chin rest meet our chin at a certain angle, regardless of the length of our bow arm. Thus we often end up trying to figure out how to fit our arm to the bow path, which is ridiculous because it should really be the other way around. Using our own arm, we should be able to decide the path we want the bow to travel through space, and then put the violin where it needs to be for the bow path to intersect the violin strings at a perpendicular angle. Since the Kréddle gives us choice in the matter, 360 degrees of choice to be precise, we'll finally have a tool that will give us complete control over the angle of the violin, which directly relates to the length of our bow arm due to the bow-path.
360° Lateral Rotation
The Kréddle is the first chin rest ever, to offer us the option of lateral adjustment. At first it's not clear why this is so revolutionary, but let's take a closer look.
360° lateral adjustment means we now have the option of bringing the chin rest to us, as opposed to reaching for the chin rest. Common chin rests end flush with the bottom edge of the fiddle. The Kréddle can move so that the back edge of the chin plate is outboard of the bottom edge of the fiddle. Practically this means instead of reaching our neck forward, so that our chin grabs the back edge of the chin plate, we can bring the chin plate to our chin, allowing us to keep our head and neck in healthy alignment. Conversely, if you like to have your scroll held a bit higher, the Kréddle can hover farther in, over the top of the fiddle.
The 360° lateral adjustment also means that we can turn the Kréddle into an over-the-tailpiece, or center style chin rest. Ultimately the options are endless, but when you get your Kréddle I strongly encourage you to experiment with the lateral adjustment. This is one of the most important ways to move the Kréddle, but is often overlooked, because we've never had the option to try various lateral positions out. Remember this motto: "I choose and the Kréddle adjusts."
The important idea that Ida is demonstrating below, is that the kréddle will come to you. This allows you to keep your head comfortably stacked on top of your spine. You will no longer need to reach for the chin rest. Make sure to experiment with this capability, when you first get your kréddle!
Tilting the fiddle along the axis of the finger board helps us determine the height of our bow arm in relation to each string. It is especially important to pay attention to the tilt when playing on the G string on violin or the C string on viola. If the fiddle is flat, or barely tilted we'll probably have to bring our bow arm up really high in order to reach over to the lowest string. Conversely, if the violin is tilted significantly, that might cause the bow to be straight up and down on the highest string (E or A), and thus jeopardize the force of gravity, which helps with tone production and spiccato. With a Kréddle, and a little bit of experimenting, you'll be able to find the right spot according to your own playing style and body!
Ida is demonstrating how tilting the violin effects the height of the bow arm. In every photo the bow is on the D-string, in the same part of the bow. Everyone has a sweet spot, where they can comfortably access every string. The kréddle will help you find that sweet spot.
With the violin resting on the collarbone, any space between the top of the violin and the chin needs to be filled in from the top down, NOT the bottom up. In other words, using a violin shoulder rest to lift the violin up to the chin, can cause all kinds of problems and discomforts. Give this a try. No matter what your current set up is, take the shoulder rest off of the fiddle. Next, with the violin firmly on your collarbone, find a cloth or towel and fold it and place it on top of your chin rest, so that the space between the top of your current chin rest and your chin is easily filled in by the folded cloth. Make sure to always have a secure hold on the instrument during this process, to avoid dropping the instrument. By doing this we have momentarily made your current chin rest higher. This will accomplish several positive results:
1. Now that the violin is firmly on your collarbone, the violin will be at the lowest practical, and widely accepted, place on the body. We want the violin as low as possible in relation to our body because this allows us to relax both shoulders and arms. In other words, if we raise the violin up from underneath with a violin shoulder rest, that means both arms, hands, shoulders, elbows, etc. have to also be raised higher, potentially causing fatigue.
2. Our chin normally hovers almost directly over the collarbone. Now that we have the violin sitting firmly on the collarbone, and the folded cloth + chin rest filling in the space between the top of the violin and our chin, we have a straight and direct connection from chin to collarbone. For example, if we were to draw an imaginary line that follows how the weight of our head travels through the violin, we'd now see that the line would pass from our chin, to the chin rest, to the violin, and last to the collarbone--a straight line. Conversely, if we use a shoulder rest to raise the violin up to the chin, we'd have the following line for the weight transfer: chin - chin rest - violin - a 90° bend where the weight now transfers through the violin to where the shoulder rest attaches to the violin - a 90° bend down through the shoulder rest - down into our shoulder. Notice that the shoulder is not directly under our chin, and that it is also much more mobile and dynamic than the collarbone. In essence we have created a mini seesaw, with the shoulder rest as the fulcrum. In my experience, the inherent instability of this set up causes me to squeeze up with my left shoulder no matter how high I make the shoulder rest.
I encourage you to consider using the chin rest as the primary means for establishing the violin-to-body connection. After you find that solid feeling of connection using the chin rest, go ahead and add the shoulder rest back into the mix, if you want a little more stability and friction. Using or not using a shoulder rest is a decision everyone has to make for themselves. The important thing is to have a clear idea of how each tool (the chin rest and shoulder rest) effects your health and how you play.