So, why am I here?
I'm a beginner violist (began as a violinist, but fell in love with the viola...), and as a beginner I have a very personal experience of many of the difficulties involved in not only playing, but even simply holding the instrument correctly and comfortably.
Sure, I began with the modern "Standard" setup: stock chinrest and shoulder rest clamped across the back.
But, that didn't work for me. Like trying to hold a phone clamped between your ear and your shoulder, the act of supporting the weight of the violin cantilevered by the shoulder rest and held by the head and jaw as a counterbalance gave me a pain in the neck.
So, i stopped using the shoulder rest.
But that opened up another can of worms: if you don't have a shoulder rest helping support the violin, the left hand has to do all the work (not so dire, that's how it was done for hundreds of years before the shoulder rest was invented). Yet the left hand is also the hand that need to finger notes, move up and down the neck of the instrument freely.
The thing is that the neck of the instrument doesn't rest at the bottom of the V of your left hand, it is supposed to be supported up by the pad of the thumb. Yet gravity, conspiring with the smooth wood of the violin neck are always trying to slide the violin down off your thumb into that valley.
So the most often solution to this is to *lightly* oppose this gravitational pull with the base of your first finger opposite the thumb. What becomes difficult with that proposition is that as soon as you start playing you have to start thinking about what your bow arm is doing, your eyes are drawn to the sheet of music before you, your left hand needs to keep up--first finger, third finger, up shift, down shift, forth finger.....next thing you know the left hand is clenched...the dreaded DEATH GRIP!
Could there be a better way?
I decided to see if there was.