I don't know how closely you've looked at a violinist's neck lately. But almost all professional fiddlers have a deep bruise on the left side, just where the violin chinrest tucks in beneath the jaw. Friction and irritation over hours of daily practicing, year after year...makes a nice hickey.
Violinists talk about hickeys with each other, but it's rare for fiddlers to go public about their musical bruises. I think reporters are generally too embarrassed to ask, but hats off to Elizabeth Withey for raising the question when she profiled violinist Dianne New, a member of the Edmonton Symphony, in the Edmonton Journal.
Also visible, up close, is the distinct dark red mark on New's neck that makes some strangers stare or whisper. But don't blame her husband, principal trombonist John McPherson. He's great with his lips, but New's love bite comes from her instrument.
"Everyone refers to them as their violin hickey," she said, touching the rough callus underneath her chin. New has had a pressure cyst removed from her neck in the past, but says the scar tissue and other bodily wear and tear is "the nature of the beast" when playing the violin.
When a gorgeous 1729 violin made by Stradivarius was auctioned by Christie's in New York last year, prospective buyers were allowed to play the fiddle. But they had to get the green light from Benjamin Hebbert from Christie's. According to the New York Times, Hebbert admitted to checking for "the telltale bruise under the jaw."
In other words: no hickey, no Strad!
Some products claim to limit or eliminate the violin hickey. But at least one fiddler was, at one point, unhappy that she DIDN'T have one. When Michael Church interviewed Janine Jansen for andante.com, he asked about her pristine neck.
...when I ask how she's avoided the unsightly scar that most violinists collect under the left side of their jaw, she confesses to having done some touching-up of her own. 'I can laugh about it now, but when I was 10 all the other young violinists around me had huge brown bruises, and I had none. So I got out my mum's makeup and painted on brown eyeshadow to show I was like the others. My mum went mad, but it did look impressive.'
Makes me glad I play guitar.But then again, if you only knew the hassle of keeping your right hand nails long, you might not complain!