V.com weekend vote: Shoulder rests?
August 3, 2007 at 11:13 PM
We're starting a new weekly feature called the "V.com weekend vote." (Thanks to sister site Theme Park Insider
for the idea.)
Pick your choice below, then explain your choice by leaving a comment!
Yes I use one. I have a long neck (for my height) and require a shoulder rest, chin rest, and a chin rest gel pad to have it fit right. (The latter is because I broke my jaw on the left side in a car accident some years ago, and I am very prone now to bone spurs on the fracture line and abscesses when anything irritates that side of my jaw. As they are not fun, I always use that gel pad.)
From Karin Lin
Posted on August 3, 2007 at 11:58 PM
What a fun idea! I look forward to more polls in the future. When you start asking us to compare violinists...let the flame wars begin! >:)
i use a shoulder rest and am proud of it! i have pretty much always used one, and finally found one that works well for me when i was a freshman in college. i use a wolf forte primo set pretty low and it allows me to be really relaxed without having to worry about balancing the violin. even though i don't have to worry about balancing it, i am free to move it around as i want, whether it is up/down or left/right or any combination of the two. i also find myself not clamping down on the violin as much as i did when i didn't use a shoulder rest (back in high school i used a sponge). i don't think everyone needs a shoulder rest, but i do think it is important for everyone to find their best individual solution. there are so many options these days!
I went shoulder restless about ten months ago. You couldn't pay me to go back.
Oh yeah, I have a long neck too.
Heh Brian, I also have C5-C6 fused with a titanium plate and 4 screws in my neck.
I've been practicing a lot and my neck has been bugging me, seems like even with all that I can't get comfortable =(
I keep going further and further away from shoulder rest use. A few months ago I used two of those little red sponges stacked on top of each other and held in place by a rubber band. Then I switched to a differenr one, about 1.5 times as thick as one of the two I had been using. Now I'm just using one of the original little red ones. Next, nothing at all?!
I find that a shoulder rest puts the violin at a very strange angle. It's easier for me to get a good tone and good intonation sans shoulder rest.
From Mike Liu
Posted on August 4, 2007 at 2:45 AM
BRIAN. I am exactly like that (except I went only a couple months ago). Ah, feels so much better without a shoulder rest. :D
I adamantly endorse the Wolf shoulder rests :)
What about a sponge pad? Is it a rest?
When is a rest not a rest?
How thick a chamois skin is a pad?
Is a thick chamois skin pad a rest?
Sorry guys, it's "yes" or "no"! You have to decide if what you use is really a shoulder rest or not!
I use a Wolf, too, Andrew. :)
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on August 4, 2007 at 5:09 AM
I used to use a Menuhin style rest for years when I was a kid and I liked it. I stopped playing for many years and when I started it last year, shoulder rests gave me nothing but trouble. I tried 6-7 different types but they all kept coming off. I’m playing restless these days with a chamois and I’m fine. I like to feel the violin vibrates on my skin, my collar and shoulder bones when I play.
Playing restless is not about being superior but it’s about freedom: I’ no longer relying on using it but I can use it if I so choose. In fact, I do use it from time to time to see the difference how technical issues can be dealt with between playing with a sr and without one. In this sense, being able to play restless means I’ve go an additional tool for technical exploration.
From BJ Berman
Posted on August 4, 2007 at 5:04 AM
The shoulder rest, if shaped and adjusted properly to the shoulder, can be used to set the violin on the shoulder not only to the advantage of the left hand, but also the position and leverage of the entire right arm, from shoulder to fingers.
Probably the most important two factors are: 1.You can assure the necessary relaxation from left to right fingertip that guarantees the long term health of the body while playing many hours and the development of the stamina necessary to do it. 2.You can set the angle of the violin so that the right arm never has to rise far enough to cause strain from playing on the G string. It also gives you more leverage and resulting sound on the G. Oistrakh was such a master of this angle control that he varied it all the time to strengthen his leverage and ease on the G. You can see this in his video of the Tchaikowsky 3rd mov, Auer cadenza in the last section. He moves the violin from almost vertical at the beginning of the passage to more level at the top, to almost vertical again when the theme and the orchestra return. See this on youtube.com
Hope this is useful.
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on August 4, 2007 at 5:44 AM
BJ, that’s very helpful. Your second point confirms what I’ve recently figured. I might go back to the shoulder rest if I can find one that fit me and if it releases the tension to the left hand as you convincingly described. Thank you!
I'm not too surprised by what I'm seeing. People who don't use a rest are really vocal about it and need a lot of extra advice to go without, thus we hear from them a lot on v.com. Which is fine, I'm glad people are getting the advice they need.
But most people use one. They don't talk about it because it's working for them and thus not an issue.
Good idea, Laurie!
I use a Kun shoulder rest, set as low as possible, and a high chin rest, so that the violin can rest on my collar bone without me having to bend my neck too much.
The violin points up just a little in this arrangement, and I don't like that, so I may change to some sort of cushion in the future.
Still finding myself... So I didn't answer. I like using one, but oddly it took not using one to get me flowing using one?
The violin is a woman to me. I want to flow with her. Whatever improves that experience is what I'll end up doing, if it indeed proves either really is exclusively able to do this.
Defining this flowing because I've been so frustrated at getting my gig going because of a lack of clear images, I do so as follows:
Flow for my first goals, is to be able to shift to 5th competently with an eye above, while using vibrato, double stops and leisurely having the southpaw articulation to reach my musical goals.
Flow means being competent to explore higher goals more maybe even down the road, because my posture and kinetic relationship with the violin is so efficient I can physically do so at least in part in direct one to one correspondences with this competency.
The thought just came to me that perhaps it's good I struggled as I did with this given my OCD passion for violin. I love it a lot. But my sensitivity, and even angst in a positive sense received rich exercise because of this struggle--like it or not--the truth will stand--we shall see.
So I'm vain and selfish enough to think that because I struggled, I should receive added benefit because of persistence in terms of reaching goals eventually. And if I could really pull together my Promethean courage I like to brag about, by God I'd just take it! ;0).
And more precisely, flow means to confidently play in the circumstances and abilities already described, in a true sense of the word that for the foreseeable future respects how I love playing this thing, and seeks to continue moving me forward in being able to express that richness my frustrated heart feels, with her.
I developed this image, because shoulder rest/less discussions in my mind should consider this flow thing exclusively. Dampening effects? Reach? All that really matters is picking up the bow and surviving her! Damn she always wins! She still sleeps in the big bed.
Briefly re-digressing to where I began though, I really think I may have had pent up tension for reasons unimportant that was freed by the balance exercises not using a rest--unimportant, though nonetheless present.
So my contribution to the discussion as a remedial remedialed card holder, would be that it may be a good thing to master both restless and rest-using techniques in a significant sense not unlike scroll against the wall--qualifying, I would add in a very focused on form manner.
It is so light on my shoulder!. And that tuck! My crow's feet grew two inches grinning when I was consistently mastering those shifts with vibrato and etc, from the perspective of breathing and playing rather than the fog of not hearing what I need to. And I'm trying to create the image, that it was this precursory powerful control over musicality, I heard because of posture and centering that was overwhelming. And it became a little consistent.
'This, is flow.
So to take the question of rests to the next level, talk about 'anything's' contribution to flow--to heck with flatulence.
Good idea the polls--but get Robert to write the code for agreement (a literary image). It's very easy--he already shows far beyond the ability.
I use a wolf rest. I experimented playing restless, but found all the compensating and balancing to be an extra hassle I just didn't need as a beginner struggling with so many fundamental issues already. But then again, I use microwave popcorn, drive an automatic transmission, and take the elevator every chance I get, so maybe I just like the path of least resistance.
I agree, Laurie. I got rid of back and shoulder pain years ago, using a shoulder rest. And as a result, I don't have any interest in changing--because that part of my setup at least, is working for me.
I do find it interesting to read the comments from non-rest users in that I've still learned a bit about holding the instrument, especially the bigger and heavier viola, that works for me.
As many people know, I don't, and am a strong advocate of not using one, the whys and wherefores I have explained to the point of boring myself to tears.
Now I have a related but different question: How many people are sick and tired of this subject, and feel that it might be a good idea to put a moritorium on it for a while? I mean, some newcomer, in all innocense, asks about it, and it has the effect of baiting many of us to yet another round of the endless debate. I think it would be interesting if someone could gather everything that's been said on the subject into one file (which by now must be approaching the size of the "Federalist Papers") and for any new inquirer we could just say "here, see this".
I have had to use a shoulder pad ever since I had a major car accident that injured my neck in 1979 and lost mobility in my neck. Before that, I used it always in my lessons because my teacher demanded it, but played around with using and not using it outside of my lessons.
P.S. I use the Menuhin and a high centered chin rest. I found that for me, that combination made it possible to continue playing. Finding what worked for me made me look at this combination early on with all my students.
My teacher used to make sure I use a shoulder pad too during my first few years of learning the instrument. However, about 2 years back, I discovered that I didn't really need it and I was playing more comfortably without it.
Odd though, I seem to play nicer sounding double stops with the shoulder rest. Wonder if this has anything to do with sound absorption? Or maybe it's just my imagination. . .
I've tried kun, wolf forte secondo and bonmusica, but now, the one that fits me better is the match one.
It's important to note that, it must be a combination between shoulder and chin rest.
I use the Flesch no hump model.
I had a chuckle at your response. Read the entire thread on SRs again. Notice that it is the no-rest advocates who are keeping the thread alive.
I submit that Laurie is spot on in her analysis of the poll results. Those who tout playing without a rest seem to have a need to promote it. That's not a criticism. It's just an observation.
From Eve Carr
Posted on August 4, 2007 at 1:52 PM
While some may feel that this topic has been discussed too much, someone who is not happy with the shoulder rests that she has tried--and with back pain now--just assumes that going without a shoulder rest would not work, it is a very real topic. I wish someone could help me find a rest--or show me how to position the violin without a rest--so I could not always feel that the violin is slipping from under my chin. I welcome any and all advice from those who have had the same problem and have found a solution. I want to play more, but the pain prevents me. Thanks.
I use a shoulder rest. I also play free of pain and injuries.
I am tired of this "debate".
And I like the Weekend Poll!
When I began learning to play the violin I did not have a teacher or a shoulder rest. My equipment was all borrowed. After a few weeks of fiddling around, I had terrific pain in my left shoulder. I could not put on a shirt over my head without crying out. My doctor diagnosed rotator cuff injury/strain of unknown origin. I went to physical therapy twice a week for 3 months with little result. In the meantime I decided I was in love with the violin and purchased my own instrument with accessories, including a shoulder rest. Within 2 weeks I was pain free. Go figure.
As a matter of personal convenience,I don't use a shoulder rest..I started playing the violin without one and experimented with a few but found I was much more comfortable and natural without one...Somehow,the rest I used gave me a more or less distorted sound and made me feel as if I was 'detached' from my violin...
However as seen from the previous posts,I think it is a matter of sheer personal preference and convenience and has got to do more with the way you think about it than even the physical aspect.
I use a shoulder rest. It is a Wolf Segundo, and I've had it for a little over a year. I've tried playing without a shoulder rest and have found it very comfortable, but the only problem is that I don't really want to work on learning how to shift without a shoulder rest. I'll stick with my Wolf.
A few months ago, I watched a DVD of a well-known American orchestra from a performance a few decades ago and noticed that a lot of the players did not have shoulder rests (and even a few did not have chin rests).
I'm open to ideas for next week's poll...just e-mail me!
A sort of retired concert violinist and I talked about this very thing a few days ago. No, it's not Aaron Rosand, he gives me heck about using one everytime we talk. Nope, this guy said he gets a better tone out of his violin with a rest, but moves it a bit farther down the instrument then usual. He has it resting towards the end of his shoulder. I tried that and it does balance the instrument better and gives you a bit more freedom.
I use an Artino; I have a long neck. I ordered the Bon Musica, but have not been able to get comfortable with it. Are there suggestions about how to make it fit to me?
I had one teacher back when I was a teenager who insisted that I not use a shoulder rest. I fired him and got another teacher.
I find that a shoulder rest is a great help for most students, and I encourage their use.
I don't use a rest, but then I am a viola player, and find that there is a significant difference in the amount of space the the two instruments fill between my collar bone and chin. Also, by moving my chin rest to the center of the instrument, the weight is easier to balance. This has been working pretty well, but I do get cramps in my left hand. With a rest, I get cramps in my neck and back, so it can be frustrating. Also, I have found that the shoulder rests make it more difficult for me to reach the cing in higher posisitons. I find this debate facinating, and have been following it since I stumbled on violinist.com a year ago. It is still unresolved for me. The worst part about the rest issue is that I feel I need something which has not yet been designed. . . and I have made several on my own, but usually throw them into the soulder rest graveyard after about four to six weeks of use. I think I have about 10 hand made rests of cloth, beads, dicem, leather and craftstore snow, all collecting dust. but, lately, I am developing yet a new design. It will never end!
I used to use a shoulder rest, a Wolf Primo. I had a lot of pain in my neck. I went restless, the pain was greatly lessened. I found a slightly higher chinrest and the pain is gone. I very much enjoy playing the violin (could care less about whether or not I have a bit of scaffolding attached) but I enjoy playing it much more when free of pain. I wonder how much of this debate should surround proper set-up rather that whether or not a shoulder rest is or is not used. I also must end by saying that without the advise of many rested and un-rested players as well as the regular discussions of alleviating tension, I would never have been able to arrive where I am now in this wonderful (but still evolving) journey.
"approaching the Federalist Papers" in length--:-) !! hilarious!
I think using a shoulder rest depends on how a person is built. Those who have short necks may prefer not to use a shoulder rest and are perfectly comfortable not using one. I know a few people like that. I do use a shoulder rest because I have a long neck and sloping shoulders, so the shoulder rest makes playing much more comfortable.
From Tara Shaw
Posted on August 4, 2007 at 8:28 PM
I'm currently experimenting with not using one, since the Kun even at its lowest was giving me pain in the shoulder again. I don't know if it's a permanent switch.
wow I think this entry gets the award for most comments ever.. lol
I gladly read any and all comments concerning shoulder rests and chin rests because I share the problem Eve Carr mentions above--I keep feeling like the violin is slipping away from me. Perhaps a future thread could address this problem directly.
I can't play without a shoulder rest. I have the neck of a giraffe and find that having a shoulder rest allows me to be at the most natural- and comfortable- playing position. Hooray for shoulder rests!
I think the thread is alive simply because so many people are still struggling with holding the violin.
I must say again that I feel strongly the issue is not the rest or not but the whole issue of how an individual goes about supporting the intrument. That includes posture, left hand, jaw, chin rest, shifting and vibrato technique, etc. etc.
Also the same issue is constantly being revisited from many different perspectives. It is fairly complex.
I don't mind the repeated discussion, or the poll. When I tire of the subject I just ignore the posts for a while.
Carry on Laurie, and all you indefatigable v.com readers!
As a matter of fact, this subject has come up in conversation before on V.com...ROTFLMAO!
Let me try to direct you to some of the best advice from our members, though, for those who haven't been through about six years of The Shoulder Rest Wars, followed by the Shoulder Rest Truce and Period of Relative Peace:
First there is Michael Schallock's very well-crafted article on how to hold the violin, illustrated by his daughter.
Also, if you are trying life without a shoulder rest, Corwin Slack wrote an excellent blog with advice on how to adjust your technique to playing without a one.
Perhaps the questions isn't really shoulder rest or no shoulder rest but rather left hand or shoulder. Long before there were shoulder rests, the debate over support mechanism raged (but not so visibly given that there were no blogs.)
Paganini was left hand, Joachim was shoulder. They were both great violinists in their way.
Adding shoulder rest to the mix changes a lot of questions. There are those who use the shoulder rest very conditionally (e.g. only during a shift or very expressive note and others who use it constantly) There are "no shoulder-resters" who lift their shoulder or use a pad of some sort in lieu of a shoulder rest.
The arguments rage on. I tend towards pure "left-handism". My guru is Nathan Milstein although he was pretty taciturn about it. Apparently with Milstein you did it or didn't do it. He didn't write an illustrated guide.
From Daniel Mar
Posted on August 5, 2007 at 2:49 PM
No, I don't currently use one, although I used one for my first 11 years playing the violin.
I think I developed some shoulder problems over the years because I didn't learn 'correct violin holding technique' early in my playing.
So, after I quit taking lessons, I decided to experiment without a shoulder rest. I read up on the internet how to hold the violin in this way and eventually (weeks later) learned it comfortably. I've found that playing without a rest feels a lot more natural (i.e. less stiff) and that it causes less neck/shoulder pain.
Let me clarify something. Holding the violin with the shoulder means that the left arm can be dropped and the violin is still supported. Holding the violin with the left hand means that the if the left hand is removed the violin will fall.
The Michael Shallock article that Lauries cited is quite good. There is no doubt that some support is necessary on the shoulder end. It just doesn't have to be sufficient in itself. I agree very much that hunching or twisting the shoulder in order to avoid using a pad is a very bad thing.
As a Luthier I can tell you that more Violinists play with a shoulder rest because of comfort first. Secondly to make it easier to play with the left hand.
Yes, I use a shoulder rest. I have a long neck. I also have the theory that one should play in as "natural" a body position as possible. This is impossible for me to do without a shoulder rest. Without a rest, either my shoulder is crunched up or my violin is sagging down, and my elbow is in my side. The shoulder rest puts me in a far more natural position and frees up my left arm to play as I would like to.
I use a KUN shoulder rest - I play in a celtic rock band so I'm ALWAYS standing (if not dancing/jumping) while playing as well as playing while singing into a boom mic. The shoulder rest allows me the versatility to be able to sing and move as much as I need to as well as to get a good tone and balance the instrument easily. I've tried to go without but can't. My other issue is that I'm allergic to metal - so I actually use a Strad Pad over my chin rest (which is flat) and its clamp. So between the two, it makes for ease of use with good technique in my situation.
Apropos of comments by Michael Shallock and Corwin Slack, one teacher called attention to my relatively loose hold and said, "Did you ever see Heifetz play? You couldn't knock that fiddle out with a sledgehammer!" (Perish the thought...) I was always taught that if you were holding it properly you should be able to drop your left hand at any time without a change in the position of the instrument.
Intrigued by this and the thread above, I thought I would take advantage of my extensive LP collection and see what I could find out from the pictures on the jackets. Unfortunately, the most typical photo angles do not reveal much about what's under the left shoulder. The only definite evidence I could see of a shoulder pad was in a picture of Igor Oistrakh; the feet of a Wolf or Kun type pad are pretty clearly visible. Heifetz in one photo has a white handkerchief between the violin and his shoulder and neck (looks like it's tucked under the chinrest); and there is a photo of Szerying with exactly the same setup. (I've used a dinner napkin in a similar way all my life; which is why I play just like they do. LOL!). Definitely there is not a single picture in which you can see elastic bands on the top or sides of the instrument, nor the feet of a Wolf type rest except in the Oistrakh picture. So I suspect that few if any of the other violinists used commercial shoulder pads. Not proselytizing, just making an observation, and certainly open to correction by anyone who knows otherwise.
But more interesting was the fact that in virtually every photo - of Heifetz, the Oistrakhs, Milstein, Francescatti, Kogan, Szerying, Szigetti, Ricci, several others - the head appears to be only minimally tilted to the side, if at all; rather the chin is resting almost (not quite) vertically and the violin slightly tilted in. Is this evidence of a hidden pad of some sort raising the left side of the fiddle? I don't think so; rather, the left shoulder is raised just a bit. This is worth mulling over a little. Because I think a lot of people believe that in order to hold the fiddle securely without a shoulder pad you necessarily have to adopt a very unnatural physical stance, leading to severe back and neck pain. Most paintings I have seen of violinists also convey this impression - the head appears to be acutely cocked to one side. From what I can see, this is not how any of the major violinists of yesteryear held their instruments. The combination of a suit collar and a small cloth, a slightly raised shoulder and a very slight tilt of the head, is enough to keep the instrument secure and the body free of contortion. Whether this helps the people who complain of pain I don't know, but it's worth thinking about. I could never adjust to shoulder pads, and if I don't practice for a while I may get some pain when I start up again, but I'm going to think about those photos in the future and see if they help me adjust my stance. Though I doubt I'll hire someone with a sledgehammer to test out my grip!
I used to use one when I was a student.
After graduating I started to explore my technique and of course the question about the shoulder rest. I discovered that shoulder rest was quite a recent addition, and that many great masters of the past didn't use anything.
Anyway, long story short, I got obsessed. It took me several months to relearn and feel comfortable without it. On my first public performance without it, I felt that violin was literally flying out of my hands, but that didn't really happen. It is now about 5 years that I play without one.For me, unlike some other violinists,it wasn't easy transition , but i'm glad I did it. I feel that the violin is part of me. The sound is more beautiful and it takes me less time to master a difficult passage.I just wish I would play that way from my childhood. Because of that, I always give my students a chance to play without a shoulder rest for sometime. If they play for a few months and still are uncomfortable, then I suggest to try with a shoulder rest.
I have gone to not using a rest and am firmly convinced that it was the best decision. A shoulder rest may benefit some and for a while, but I feel as though all would benefit from life without one. The freedom of movement not using a shoulder rest affords seems so natural. When using a rest, the whole structure is simply too rigid and unyielding. This is my simple and limited perspective on the shoulder rest.
I started adult beginner lessons about 7 months ago. I employed a Kun-imitation SR for my first 8 lessons. But then I discovered the passionate depths of the whole SR issue. And after pondering the philosophy and anatomy of it all (and reading many postings, esp. on this site), I removed my SR, placed it in a box on the shelf, and have not looked back. My teacher helped me adjust posture (which she had been doing anyway since I'd just started). I also feel it helped that I came to violin with some athletic conditioning already in place.
I feel like starting restless as a hapless beginner helped me avoid some bad habits. Even with my "starter" instrument, which was a no-name Chinese fiddle (with Guaraneri chinrest) that I'd purchased at a trade show for $100.
I continued without the SR and then felt especially good with the choice in May, when I took my checkbook to the local violin shop (David Kerr). They worked the angles with me and ultimately outfit me with an Ivan Dunov violin and Morawetz chin rest (with titanium legs). I'm imminsely happy with the tone, the comfort and the fit of my much improved setup.
My regular clothing's provided an adequate layer between body and fiddle. I employ a small folded cloth over my collarbone in case the day's wardrobe includes mere shirting fabric too thin on its own.
"Rest-lessness" does appear the minority view on this board, but so far its been working for me.
Michael Schallock asks, when is a sponge pad a shouldr rest? Whether one uses a device that grabs the edge of the instrument or a pad, if it sits on the shoulder and the violiin rests on it, it functions as a shoulder rest.
My first year with violin in grade school in 1966, I had a full size violin w/ no shoulder rest/pad nor collarbone pad--we had to raise the shoulder and the vln sat on the collarbone unpadded--no one should have to endure such discomfort. My 2nd and 3rd years w/vln, in 1977-79, which I started in college, my teacher sent me out to get a shoulder rest(a cruddy Resonans, but it worked). It permitted a more natural stance with the instrument and I could actually play and focus on the vln. I still pinched the vln with my chin.
A fresh start in 2006 found me with a new vln and a Bon Musica shoulder rest. I still pinched with my chin, so much so that it hurt my collarbone and replaced my chinrest for a lower one which enabled the back of the violin not to contact my collarbone. Lately, I have experimented with using a towel on the shoulder and a cloth on my clavicle, with no problems. I can't comment on the difference in sound between shoulder rests/pads, but something has to sit on my shoulder to lift the vln's pegbox to an ergonomic position for the left hand to work the fingerboard. Over time I began to pinch less with my chin and also pinch less with my left hand on the fingerboard. Now I must relax more on the bow grip and learn to play the violin. At some point in many players' lives, confidence and one's anatomy may permit transition from a edge grabbing rest to a pad rest.
One thing about the shoulder rest: I had no place in the violin case for it. Finally, I just pushed it in next to the violin's neck and, case closed, it fit anyway.
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