With politics raging out of control in the U.S., I thought I'd go with the flow and have a vote on one of our most controversial subjects: shoulder rests!
Do you use a shoulder rest? And did you ever switch from using one to not, or vice-versa?
There are physical, musical and philosophical arguments either way. As a matter of fact, we've argued bitterly about the subject in many Violinist.com discussions over the years. Why is it such a heated topic? A few reasons: Jascha Heifetz didn't use a shoulder rest; who doesn't want to be like Heifetz? Some have made it into almost a moral issue, calling a shoulder rest a "crutch." That's annoying, as most people do use a shoulder rest or pad of some kind. At the same time, many have found a wonderful kind of freedom, not using a shoulder rest.
Add to this: it's easy to get neck, jaw, back and shoulder injuries when playing the violin or viola, and we all have different bodies. The choice of whether to use a shoulder rest and which one can affect the potential for injury.
The most important thing to remember is: don't cause yourself injury, either way. If you are comfortable physically and playing well with a shoulder rest, that is okay. And if you choose play without a shoulder rest, be sure you (and your teacher) understand the type of specific physical adjustments you need to make to do so without injury.
Let use know about your current shoulder rest status, and any thoughts you have about the topic. Did you change over the years? Have you ever experienced an injury that required an adjustment in the way you use or don't use a shoulder rest?
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