Who gave you that hickey? My violin did

Anusha Vadlamani | Staff Writer

Stellar performances aren’t the only result of hours of practice for many Mason Orchestra players.

For the vast majority of students in orchestra, Fiddler’s Neck, more commonly known as “violin hickeys” or “viola love bites,” is a common side effect of long hours of practice. Poor posture and the pressure of an instrument against the neck usually lead to the formation of a deep-purplish mark that very closely resembles a hickey. For Senior Haile Britton, the recurring bruise has led to awkward moments with her concerned parents.

“When I would go home every day, my parents would ask me what that was on my neck,” Britton said. “They were worried and kind of assumed the worst of things.”

Though the appearance of the bruise took her a little time to get used to, Britton said the constant questioning from friends and family required a great deal of adjustment.

“I was just annoyed that that’s what happens when you play an instrument but after a while, I got used to it,” Britton said. “My friends, though, would ask me what that was on my neck and they would just kind of assume things about me. My parents didn’t even believe me at first. I finally convinced my parents during our orchestra concert. I’ve been playing since sixth grade and it took them almost six years for them to believe me.”

Although Fiddler’s Neck is sometimes used as an indicator of a player’s ability and can be considered a ‘battle scar’ from frequent practicing, the development of Fiddler’s Neck ultimately comes down to skin sensitivity, playing habits, and the instrument itself. Despite senior Allen Yang not being able to practice as consistently as he used to in the past, his mark is still very noticeable.

“I’ve been playing for 10 years,” Yang said. “I haven’t really practiced in a couple years so the fact that this hickey is still there is kind of annoying. I guess it’s never really going to go away.”

While Yang has become so well accustomed to his scar that he occasionally forgets that it is there, he is still constantly reminded of it because of people that continue to call it out.

Senior Kevin Song developed a blemish on his chin after extensive violin practicing, which many have mistaken as a hickey.

“It’s pretty funny, but it’s still awkward,” Yang said. “It doesn’t feel like anything for me because I don’t really notice it, but it’s definitely noticeable for other people. When people point it out, I just try to go along with the joke.”

While Yang has been the been at the center of many awkward jokes, his fellow orchestra members, such as Senior Jenny Hong, have tried to help each other out in those situations. 

“A girl saw Allen’s violin hickey and she was like ‘Allen do you have a hickey,”’ Hong said. “And then I made the joke that Allen and I gave them to each other cause I had one too. It was just a big meme and then I explained to the girl where they came from. Most of my friends are in orchestra so they usually understand.”

Precautions can be taken against intensifying the bruise, such as improving posture, buying customized chin rests, and practicing better bow technique. Hong said she bought a custom chin rest in hopes of getting rid of the bruise. 

“When my parents first started noticing my hickey they were very worried,” Hong said. “We actually went shopping for a chin rest, and I bought one and it has helped a little; it hasn’t developed as much, so now it’s not as noticeable. It’s kind of a like a faint scar now.”

While senior Kevin Song’s parents have offered to buy him a new chin rest, Song said the mark is just a part of his daily life. 

“When my parents first saw it, they were a bit alarmed,” Song said. “They asked if I wanted to change my chin rest, but I said no. I don’t really think about it normally, it’s become a pretty ordinary part of my life.”

While the mark may be a minor inconvenience, Song said it also serves as a symbol of pride. 

“I was pretty surprised when I first saw it, but in a weird way, it made me kind of proud,” Song said. “It represented the hard work I put into all of my practice.” 

Photo by Henri Robbins.