If you read my post back in December, Tilting My Fiddle, you know that by a lot of experimentation with different chinrests and shoulder rest adjustments, I have positioned my fiddle so it is much more comfortable to play. Not only has it alleviated a lot of arm and hand fatigue, but it has improved my left hand fingering, too.
So, I have gone from a position similar to this…
to a position more like this.
Yesterday, I was looking at one of my Facebook groups, Fiddle Players, when I ran across a video by Huw Williams from The New Fiddler. Huw has been playing for about a year and a half. In this video, he talks about a video he saw of a very good fiddle player by the name of Rafe Stefanini who uses a strap to support his fiddle on his chest. Making a strap of his own, Huw immediately found it allowed him to position his fiddle in a manner that is not only more comfortable but allows him even better left hand fingering.
What intrigued me most about Huw’s video, and what I could relate to most, begins at 2:32 into his video:
Like Huw, I have a stout body with shorter arms and developed tighter arm muscles, from lifting all those cases in my home business. Very interested, I wrote to Huw and asked him more about the strap he made and how it was attached to his fiddle. He showed me this picture.
My first thought was of concern that attaching a strap in this manner would put stress on the chinrest bracket which would be transferred to the body of the fiddle. Don’t know if I want to do that. So, to Google I went in search of Fiddle Support Straps available in the US, and I found a few. There are not a lot out there, and of the ones I looked at, I only found two that I thought were well-made that would not put undo stress on the chinrest or tail piece.
The VioStrap is a physician invented and U.S. Patented Instrument Strap that was designed to be used with any shoulder rest. It slides under the fingerboard, wraps under the instrument and around your neck. It is designed to ease pain and discomfort by transferring pressure from the chin and shoulders to the back of the neck. The final cost with tax and shipping is $23.49. It seems to be one of the more popular straps, but I am not sure if it will allow for the playing position mentioned in the first part of this post.
As I later found out, the Wickelbuckle is the one used by Rafe Stefanini, the fiddler in Huw’s video. The Wickelbuckle is a bit more involved and expensive at $65 complete. It is a combination wire frame and strap apparatus that cradles the lower bouts of the fiddle and connects to a strap that wraps around the body. When properly used with a shoulder rest, it suspends the instrument and frees the head, neck, shoulders and hands, relieving tension and enabling more relaxation and greater ease of expression while playing.
I think I am going to spend some more time contemplating the idea of buying a strap, most likely the Wickelbuckle if I do, but first I am going to look around the house for something I can temporarily use to see if this playing position is right for me. I would be interested in your thoughts on this topic, especially if you use a strap to alleviate tension/pain, or to make playing easier, or both!