Dear Alma, My dates are put off by violin rash. Help!

Dear Alma, My dates are put off by violin rash. Help!

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

August 10, 2023

Latest advice from our expert agony aunt:


Dear Alma,

Daughter, 22, says she can’t get a date because people see the violin rash on her neck. What shall I tell her?

Concerned Dad

Dear Concerned Dad,

Every occupation has its visible and non-visible side-effects. The exhausted doctor, the odoriferous sanitation engineer, the angry boss.    But in your question I actually see a deeper concern. In a nutshell, I am not convinced that what you hear from your daughter is what she is trying to convey to you, or what she truly means.

But first, let me answer your letter at face value, and offer some options. If a violin mark is the barrier between her and happiness, she can try these things to remove it. Try a hypoallergenic chin rest, a chin rest pad, a cover over the button area, covering the chin rest with a cloth (a la Hilary), wiping her neck with astringent, moisturizing, or just quitting violin if it’s stopping her from finding the love of her life.

Next, if people are thinking that her neck mark is a hickey (and I would assume that having a hickey as a 22 year old person interested in dating would actually be a plus!) and she would like to non-verbally counter that assumption, try wearing violin earrings, a treble clef necklace, or a shirt with André Rieu on it or “I just can’t stop playing my violin!!!” in big dorky letters. Or get the first measure of Ysaÿe Obsession tattooed on her forearm. Something that will start a conversation which will lead the parter to understand the misconstrued visible attribute of her passion.

But really, I would take a step back here and look at the larger picture. Firstly, she might just be trying to get you off her back. Maybe she is bitter that she spent so many years playing violin and is trying to get a little jab at you when you ask her annoying questions about her private life. She’s 22 and a grown woman. As a violinist, she has access to a group of people who would know what a violin hickey is. She can date those people or people like that – artists, people interested in culture. She has dating opportunities around her. If she is trying to date outside of that pool, a pretty wide pool I must say, she is either dabbling in the business class or the underworld (the latter would love a gal with a proudly displayed love bite).

If she is really having trouble dating, it’s her confidence in herself that needs boosting, and hickey or no hickey, that’s a fundamental problem. One which you, as her supportive dad, can discern and help her with. Is she happy, does she have a satisfying job, does she like where she is living?  These are the underlying questions which are screaming to us when we read your query. Give her a hug, bring her out for a pint, and be the ear that she is craving. And stop asking her about her love life. For all we know, she’s got something super spicy cooking and she is just trying to send a smoke screen out over her dear old pop.


  • Cornelia Mohrig says:

    I really enjoyed reading your letterexchange ..this morning in Hannover ..going by public transportation…thank you. For sharing this precious piece ..

  • Alma says:

    Dear Readers,
    I look forward to reading your questions here in the comments section!

  • Anne says:

    I am loving this new column. Who knew classical music could be so fun!!!

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Dear “Daughter, 22”:

    Don’t do the tatoo.

    • Cecily says:

      I agree about no tattoo, nothing would be worth that – – but more importantly that girl should consider herself to have had a welcome escape from some silly immature boy who thought a small mark on her neck was actually a consideration be fore befriending her! In any case if she really must, there are plenty of solutions eg use small makeup blotch concealer or a blouse with a small collar.. It has never bothered me….

  • zayin says:

    What are the other instrument stigmata?

    I know clarinet players: a thick callous on the right thumb and deep teeth marks in the lower inner lip (oh I just know I’ll be getting responses that with a double lip embouchure supported by fully developed facial muscles, there are no teeth marks, but who has a double lip embouchure and sounds good?)

    • ‘Jus says:

      Double bass players with vans, oboists with brain aneurysms, violists with back problems, conductors with huge egos, sopranos with….

    • Robert Holmén says:

      Cello players get a callous on their left thumb, from using that thumb as the “nut” in high-note “thumb position.”

      Trombone players get a callous on their left middle-finger, where most of the weight of the horn rests.

      Musicians who sit in front of trombone players get a semi-circular dent in the back of their head, from being hit by the extended trombone slide.

  • Troll says:

    as a composer I am getting deaf

  • MarkG says:

    Tell the losers to watch videos of who I already consider the best violinist in the world, Chloe Chua–bruising not holding her back, she is also beautiful.

  • MB says:

    Rash is to far down to be the chin rest. Try the Hilary cloth. And smile.

    • Alma says:

      Dear MP,
      Actually that is a typical lower violin mark. That would be from the shoulder rest. I do believe that is a stick photo, as no photo accompanied the initial question.
      Thank you for reading and TaTa,

  • Objective View says:

    It is an insignificant First World problem.

  • Zarathusa says:

    Take up the cello instead!

  • MBE says:

    Take heart, my dear. I am a retired 34-year career symphony violinist. I had the rash too. It did not put off any of the real men in my life. My sense is that you can find men of quality in your life who will rejoice in your talent. And, if you have to mention one of the unusual aspects of your talent, the right person will be intrigued. Don’t give up! They are out there!

  • Anon. says:

    It’s a sad day when this is the best an arts blog can produce.

  • Daniel Reiss says:

    Unbelievable. I first saw the rash – “the insult first presented to us” – when I was a late teen, in a VGL male violist – it may be more prominent or frequent in violists – and it has never bothered me in the least. I think this girl should consider her suitors’ distress and confusion as a red flag. Does she want to date a guy who’s clueless about playing her instrument?

  • Doc Martin says:

    Fiddler’s neck is caused by contact dermatitis. There was a comprehensive review about it in ENT journal, I think it might be of interest.

    One issue which seems to be a factor is the composition of the chin rest. Irritants eg Nickel can cause this. Also wood varnish.

    A colleague in Dermatology had a fiddle patient present with a rash, a mild cortisone cream helped to settle it and a different chin rest made of a composite material.

    My own feeling is how the fiddle was played in the 17th century by folk like Biber, Schmelzer, Mateis etc. From old Dutch paintings I see they played it against the upper breast area not the chin. I suppose the change in playing position happened later on.

    I have seen old trad fiddlers in, Galway, Sligo and Longford play this way, it makes a different sound.

  • Doc Martin says:

    I seem to recall a hoax report about “Cello Scrotum” in BMJ some years ago.