Playing without a shoulder rest

April 10, 2018, 2:55 PM · I've been trying to play violin without a shoulder rest for a while now. I play for around five minutes each day without one, and I can play fine, except if I shift up, I can't go back down because my neck is long and I can't support the violin without scrunching my neck (which hurts), I can't shift back down without completely disconnecting my hand from the violin's neck. How can I support my violin like I did with a shoulder rest, but without using the shoulder rest?

Replies (106)

April 10, 2018, 3:17 PM · Find a taller chinrest that fills the space between your jawbone and collarbone, so that you don't have to "scrunch" to keep the instrument in place.

However, you will need to explore a new balance where the left hand is partly responsible for keeping the violin in place. Downshifts may feel like you're "throwing" the violin. :)

Edited: April 10, 2018, 3:26 PM · You may well need a higher and well-shaped chinrest to hook more under tne chin and jaw. The support must be the left hand and collarbone, with only occasional help from the shoulder.

If you need to tilt the violin on its axis, to reach the lower strings easily, some kind of small pad (under the left side of the violin) can rest on the collarbone.

The violin neck will have to rest on the thumb, but only against the base of the index: no gripping.

BTW I am a frequent defender of the Dreaded Shoulder Rest, but I did play restless for several years!

April 10, 2018, 4:14 PM · Why would you want to play without a shoulder rest? I 100% agree on getting a taller chin rest, though. Even then, long-necked people tend to be better off with a shoulder rest, but then again, everyone's different. Search this site for similar threads. There are a ton of them.
April 10, 2018, 4:31 PM · I don't know how long you've played, whether you have a teacher, whether you started from day 1 with a shoulder rest. One thing to determine is whether or not playing restless is the best way for you personally. I've long suspected that many players who successfully ditch their SRs would have been better off without them in the first place. As I've said before, I oppose having kids start off with them. Better to find out, for each player, whether these devices help or hinder.

I'll join those who advise seeing about the chin rest. I also advise looking into a chin rest cover such as the Strad Pad. I've used these for a long time. Not only have they prevented skin irritation on neck and jaw areas, but they have also given me a lot of grip and eliminated the slippage that you can sometimes get with uncovered chin rests.

Edited: April 11, 2018, 7:13 AM · Before you pay attention to the "naked neck" advocates, check out

1. naked neck and shoulder photos of great violinists
2. the chinrests they use(d)
3. the shoulder rests they use(d)

Where does your physiognomy fit? Decide from that.

I have played violin for 79 years. For the first 40% I did not use a shoulder rest. For the next 40% I did use shoulder rests - searching for the right one for about 10% of the time. For the final 20% I have played both restless and with shoulder rests searching again for my optimum one. Even though I gave away most of my shoulder rests I still have about half a dozen. This month I have alternated between two of them and I think I know what I will do for the rest of the month - until the next concert.

If it would help me play like them I would happily use Midori's or Mutter's shoulder rest!

It might be relevant to know that I have always held my violin and my viola on my collarbone and only use a low shoulder rest to help tilt the violin a bit and to provide some "shoulder lift."

Edited: April 10, 2018, 5:08 PM · If you want to play without a SR it is important that the violin is horizontal - the scroll on the same level as the centre of the player's face - and ideally it will rest on the collar bone. If the violin drops below the horizontal then gravity immediately becomes unfriendly in down shifts, the player therefore exerting downward pressure on the chin rest to compensate and keep the instrument from slipping, and so increasing tension in the neck and shoulder area which will cause a knock-on increase in tension both in the left hand and the bowing arm.

If all this works well for you then you may start wondering, as I did, if the chin rest is really necessary. For an answer look carefully at videos of baroque ensembles in action to see how it's done in real life.

Remember, posture and avoidance of tension are all-important.

Btw, the shoulder rest came into use not all that long ago, in the early 1950s just after WW2.

Edited: April 10, 2018, 7:08 PM · Why?

You should not play without SR unless you can play better and more effortlessly without it.

April 10, 2018, 8:51 PM · Another vote for why?

April 10, 2018, 9:36 PM · And you can’t know which is better for you until you paractice enough both ways to be comfortable in each. I switched to restless and it’s much better for me, but it took about two weeks of cold turkey to adjust.
Edited: April 10, 2018, 11:32 PM · I agree with what Jason Broander said. Find a comfortable setup both with and without a SR, and then decide which will ultimately be best for you.

Playing without a SR forced me to release tension in the left hand, since without a SR, the left hand has to support the violin while still being flexible enough to shift and do vibrato. (One could, of course, have a relaxed left hand with a shoulder rest, but in my experience, playing without a SR forced me to relax my left hand.)

Playing without a shoulder rest also caused my violin to be parallel to to the floor, which, I believe, improves tone. When the violin is parallel to the floor, the force of gravity plays the greatest possible role in producing tone, without added pressure from the right hand/index finger. With a shoulder rest, no matter how I adjusted it, the violin was always turned somewhat clockwise.

Having said that, I would be the first to acknowledge that most of today's virtuosos, including Hilary Hahn, Josh Bell, Rachel Barton Pine, and Viktoria Mullova use shoulder rests!

April 11, 2018, 12:01 AM · And another vote for Why?, Specially if you have long neck, as you say.
I don't use SR but that's because with my shoulders and collarbone even the smallest one raises the violin to my lips. And even having that very clear for me and all teachers, it took me 8 chinrest to find one that allowed me to shift and vibrate with control.

The shoulder rest and chinrest combo is made to adapt a fixed shape (the violin) to a variable one (The human body). To encourage one way or the other is a bit dogmatic.

April 11, 2018, 7:59 AM · Nina if you can't shift down without completely disconnecting your hand from the neck, I take it this is *with* the shoulder rest, right, well then your shifting technique is not OK yet. Without the shoulder rest you can't do that, but even with a shoulder rest you are clearly not supposed to do that. Without shoulder rest it helps if you prepare the downward shift by pull your thumb down so you have some support down there.
April 11, 2018, 11:57 AM · Maybe it is worthwhile to rehash a few videos posted on Youtube by violinist.com:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-9r077PCBc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiK7NzLONW0

April 11, 2018, 12:08 PM · Parallel to the floor for tone? I must tell this to my 'cellist friends!

BTW, despite my supportive post above, I also belong to the "why" camp;
but the OP was only asking "how"..

April 11, 2018, 12:47 PM · But "how" may not have a good answer without the "why."
April 11, 2018, 1:32 PM · Been there, done that. Moved one.
Not worth the trouble.

The "why"?
I think people are generally attracted to the idea of simplicity, purity, etc. Hence the popularity of single-speed bikes, cameras with one fixed lens, etc.

Playing without a shoulder rest is, for many if not most, the Tiny House of violin land:
Sure, sounds like a great idea. For a day or two...

April 11, 2018, 2:13 PM · "Sure, sounds like a great idea. For a day or two..."
I lasted a year or two, but folks seem to prefer my playing now.
April 11, 2018, 2:16 PM · A good link is "STRINGPEDAGOGY.COM" where the videos (there are several of them) go into some intelligent detail about changing to restless.
April 11, 2018, 2:34 PM · Why?

Because you will gain deeper insight into left hand technique and how the instrument balances on your body rather than trying to prop up the violin with your shoulder.

If shoulder rest is really so crucial, you would have thought someone would have come up with the idea back in the 1700s and 1800s. Instead most treatises then just advice you to put down your head temporary when shifting down...

My guess is nowadays most of us grew up with our first teacher teaching us how to hold the fiddle with a shoulder rest. And when we realize it wasn't always part of the instrument, we're shocked. How is it possible to play without a shoulder rest? It's like...magic. But it's not.

I encourage everyone to go back to the roots and at least try it. You might discover a shoulder rest is a better fit ultimately, which is also great, nothing wrong with it. But you would have gained a deeper insight and won't abuse the shoulder rest.

(Same logic with exploring chin off and below the collarbone playing, even as a modern player. At least try it and you'll learn something.)

April 11, 2018, 3:14 PM · And how about airplanes, automobiles, trains and indoor plumbing?
Ancient fables and mythology?

Introduction of modern aids brings advantages to a wider range of people.

Same logic applies to shoulder rests.

Edited: April 11, 2018, 6:04 PM · "Introduction of modern aids brings advantages to a wider range of people."

Ohhh, that was just too good of an intro...

An aid to help transition to restless playing? Something that will help with shifting up and down (with or without a SR) patents pending.

April 11, 2018, 7:29 PM · Because you will gain deeper insight into left hand technique and how the instrument balances on your body rather than trying to prop up the violin with your shoulder.

Insight, schminsight.
I'll bet 99% of everyone who tries just puts the rest back on.

Edited: April 11, 2018, 8:26 PM · I went through a phase (in high school) of not using a shoulder rest. Got to Oberlin and just about the first thing my teacher there did was strongly recommend that I start using a shoulder rest. The improvement in my ability to play without excess tension was instantaneous.

I have noticed that the majority of my colleagues use SRs and the majority of our guest soloists do too, and by "majority" I mean super majority.

The endless v.com discussions about going restless baffle me. People should play with whatever setup allows them to play with the least tension and the most comfort. Playing with a shoulder rest if that is one's preference is not an artistic or a moral compromise.

Edited: April 11, 2018, 8:58 PM · The idea that people in the 17th century played without SR, so should we is puzzling.

Back then, only those who could play without SR played. Thank goodness for SR, now the rest of us get to play as well!

April 11, 2018, 9:32 PM · 17th cent folks didn't have indoor plumbing and bled themselves as a medical treatment. Yeah I don't do that...

You miss my point.

The whole thing with exploring old performance practice (playing without shoulder/chin rests, using historical bows) is to learn from them and see how we can apply some their characteristics to modern playing and benefit from it.

David, if you want to talk 17th century, almost all sources describe placing the violin on the chest. The violin for the most part wasn't on the collarbone yet. Just do a Google image search on 17th cent. paintings:

https://www.google.com/search?q=17th+century+violin+painting&safe=off&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj_24HK8bPaAhVhiVQKHf1aAUcQ_AUICigB&biw=1366&bih=671

Throwing a shoulder rest at Biber or Corelli wouldn't have helped them because they used a fundamentally different left hand technique. I'm not saying play like that with your Don Juan audition. I'm just saying it's hugely beneficial experience the freedom without a rest. And then on concert stage you do what's most comfortable.

Are you one of those players who panic when your shoulder rest falls off and you can't continue to play even a simple passage? If so, I say there's a fundamental problem/disconnect of your instrument with your body. My conservatory teachers and coaches (all of them were Delay students...) were able to pick up an instrument and demonstrate a passage, with or without a shoulder rest. That's my point — ultimately they use their individual setup, but they understand how the instrument is balanced on the body and left hand.

Again I'm not saying let's be Zukerman and literally throw our shoulder rests across the stage. Try it in the comfort of practice space, it'll come slowly but naturally. The key is not feel pressured. (Or maybe pressure works too? Like those people in the Heifetz master class who have to figure it out in two weeks?! Sounds horrible to me.)

Give it a try. Or you can go buy yet another shoulder rest and add to your collection, until you find your "perfect" model.

Edited: April 11, 2018, 11:03 PM · My wife and I have around 40-45 private students at any given time. In the past decade, we have had exactly *one* student for whom going without the shoulder rest worked out well, and for me personally maybe 2-3 at most out of hundreds of students going back about twenty years.

It's a bit challenging for me sometimes because my students do notice and do ask me why I don't use one, but recommend that they do? In the end, it's always about the needs of the individual player. In my case, eliminating it solved a major issue with tension that had bothered me for a number of years. However, my last mentor offered me significant amounts of advice and help in getting it to work. Had I not had his support while experimenting with my setup, I might not have had the motivation to try and change.

I recently had a student who really wanted to do without (he wants to do what "the old guys" did). However, at the end of long orchestra rehearsal days he was developing some shoulder pain. Once we found a better fitting chinrest and shoulder rest, he found his endurance much better!

April 11, 2018, 11:21 PM · Using a shoulder rest is an affront to the violin!

Real players bulk up the shoulder and remove one or two cervicals!

April 12, 2018, 7:29 AM · As mentioned somewhere up above; a commonly overlooked, and very important element is having an appropriate height and shaped CHIN REST.

A long neck is best accommodated by a tall chin rest. Whether or not you use a SR is a separate matter. Having a correctly fitted chin rest will make either way of playing (restless or not) much more comfortable and ergonomic.

April 12, 2018, 5:00 PM · I may be lucky or I may be very insensitive to what's right for me, but I pretty much forgot chin-rests and shoulder rests even exist. I say lucky because I have no pain or strain in holding the instrument --all my issues right now are with getting a nice tone and good rhythm in the bowing --pretty much right hand issues (I think). Of course I may be blundering far down the wrong path as I have no teacher to tell me I'm doing everything wrong. I work full time and I'm struggling financially, so overall I am pleased with my progress, in my 36th month of playing and although it's not yet music, the Corelli and Handel and Croft sonatas are at least becoming recognizable, and in some passages I can play with genuine feeling.
April 12, 2018, 6:30 PM · Partially, I have to disconnect my hand because it sweats too much. It's been sticking to the violin. The other reason is that I was pulling the violin off of my shoulder while shifting down. I've been playing for eight years, with a shoulder rest and teacher. I tried taking it off because it started getting in the way of my shifting on the G string, and it helped - I just needed help shifting down.
Sorry for not responding sooner, guys.
April 12, 2018, 10:29 PM · stringpedagogy.com is worth looking at.

You need to use the chin and not the jaw to hold the violin and take it off the shoulder and move it much more towards the right. Then when you shift down to just hold with the chin on the chin rest. Also read Ricci (Ricci on Glissando) and the use of the left hand where the hand will give support against the neck and the violin body.

April 13, 2018, 2:38 AM · Hi Everyone - I've been away for maybe 4 years and I see the issue has not resolved itself! Perhaps just as well because if it did perhaps violinists would have nothing to talk about..

Since returning to the violin in 2008 I have had periods both with (W) and without (WO) the SR. The W was either because it was too hard WO or because a teacher insisted on it, the WO was generally because I found the SR inhibiting to a relaxed hold. I find it rather comical reading reports such as 'people who tried without invariably went back immediately'. Its comical because playing WO is like learning to ride a bike for the first time and not choosing whether to drink coffee with sugar or not! After years of flipping from one to the other I finally settled on WO when a new teacher opined that I not only played with better sensitivity and tone but also with better technical accuracy.

Actually, the bike is a good analogy for me and IMO the SR is a set of training wheels, and like training wheels is something you can get addicted to because it makes SOME things easier. I agree with the opinion above that you really don't know how to become one with this crazy instrument until you take the courage to dump the spare wheels and go through the many falls involved in training the body (not just the L hand) to accept this piece of wood as a part of itself. Its not hype, its really like that. And I have no problem shifting up or down from any position, never crosses my mind.

April 13, 2018, 3:17 AM · Thanks for the links, Peter: they actually go towards answering the original query!
And both you and I use a SR with ease and freedom...
Edited: April 13, 2018, 3:24 AM · ... !! No, I've stopped using a SR (I nearly put ST!) which has resulted in me having to re-learn left hand technique and at the same time (for me) a new fingering regime. All very painful but worthwhile - I hope.

I'm not advocating anyone else should do this, but I have been ill, and this is keeping me sane (or as near sanity as I can get ...)!

Edited: April 13, 2018, 3:26 AM · "Hi Everyone - I've been away for maybe 4 years"

Where have you been? I've been away for nearly a year.

Good luck with ditching the SR.

April 13, 2018, 3:43 AM · Elise great to see you back!
April 13, 2018, 4:34 AM · Peter, you traitor!
April 13, 2018, 4:38 AM · Well, it's been forced on me - I cant use a SR as it pushes the violin onto the shoulder and I can't use my jaw to hold it, only my chin. This is due to problems which have arisen since December last year.

P.S. I'm also in the Tower of London now, it could be a beheading job ...

April 13, 2018, 6:35 AM · Ouch!
Edited: April 13, 2018, 7:54 AM · First, Elise, good to see you once again. I was wondering where you were.

As I've said before, I can play with or without SR. I began playing in elementary school without and continued restless till 18-19 y/o. Having had the comparison, I preferred playing with the SR. I don't like the feel of a bareback fiddle. These are the reasons I don't think of the SR as "training wheels."

I had to compare SR models, too. It was far more than simply playing without versus playing with. Some models can make me more uncomfortable than playing restless -- it's really a process of elimination. I have several models in my collection. At present, the Kun Bravo works best for my build with my instruments.

Also, the orientation of the device on the back of the instrument can make a great difference. Some players orient theirs NW-SE. If this works for them, fine; but I can't play that way -- I've tried it -- very uncomfortable. I orient mine SW-NE, and it feels great.

Additionally, I can't wear a jacket if I'm using the SR. My neck is fairly short, and the jacket + SR = too much bulk. I ditch the jacket, not the SR -- more freedom of movement.

Bottom line, whether we play with or without: Is our playing something that draws people in and makes them want to keep coming back to hear us again? To the restless dogmatists -- and I know you're out there -- I say: You're not me. I'm not you. Deal with it and go practice.

April 13, 2018, 8:23 AM · Yes, I agree we should not be dogmatic about this subject. Everyone usually has good reasons why they use/don't use a shoulder rest.
April 13, 2018, 9:10 AM · Here's the danger of going this route, as many have doubtless discovered:

1. One fine day, you toss the rest, determined to defeat the contraption.
2. You try to play something and say "@$%#^&*!. how does anyone every play like this, let alone sound good?"
3. You keep at it, determined not to backslide. Eventually you can kind of shift up. Not down, at least not yet. You can't really vibrate. Or if you can, it's totally different than what you did before.
4. Advil.
5. You try all manner of smaller crutches--foam makeup pads, a piece of chamois, etc. They help, but not that much. And besides, the whole point is bare-naked freedom, right? It's like going to a nude beach in a Speedo. It's still clothing you wimp.
6. More Advil.
7. After a few days of this you can kind of play, although it sounds like you've lost 5 years from your sound and you feel twisted in knots. So one other fine day, you put the rest back on. You know, just to see. It's not like you NEED it. You can stop anytime you want.
8. Problem: now the rest feels like too much. You think "how did I ever get around the violin with this giant THING strapped to bottom?
7. You take it off again. Now it's too little. The violin now seems again like it's totally 2 dimensional, like you're trying to hold a piece of paper or something.
8. Repeat: rest on, rest off.
9. 2 advil this time.
10. Darn, you have a lesson/gig/audition/recital. "what do I do now? Rest on or rest off? More back and forth. More Advil. You yearn for purity; to kick the evil habit. You aspire to Mutter-hood, just the feel of the violin on your bare shoulder.
11. Eventually, Mutter-hood evades you. In more ways than one.
12. The rest goes back on. Sure, occasionally take it off, wistfully thinking of what might have been had you stuck with it. Then you just forget about it.
13. You decide you're going to find the perfect strings, spend $400 gathering every new set on the market, and start switching promiscuously.
14. The cycle starts again...

April 13, 2018, 10:25 AM · Scott, if you're having pain for more than a day or two, I agree you don't want to persist on that path.

When I went restless, though, I never had any pain, and after a day or two my level of relaxation was already better than playing with a rest. Maybe that's a sign that it's working and appropriate: you aren't having negative side effects for more than a day or two.

Also, Mutter-hood is hilarious word-play=)

April 13, 2018, 11:25 AM · Sounds like an addiction...

Just can't quit it!

;^)

April 14, 2018, 1:24 AM · Oh no...if you playing without shoulder rest makes you take advil, then you're doing something wrong. Again, I'm proposing mainly as an exercise as a learning experience on how the instrument can balanced on your left hand and collarbone. I ended up going all the way, and that works for me. Some people don't have the curiosity to try it and are fine with sticking with how they've grown up with, and that's fine. Used correctly a shoulder rest has great merits, and indeed most people use one. It's a big investment in time and life is short...

I'm being rather vocal about this pet subject because instead of offering useful suggestions this discussion has quickly derailed into asking why bother doing it...but the OP is asking how...

Nina, about shifting down — perhaps rather than "scrunching" your neck, just think of apply the bare minimum of head weight to keep the instrument from falling away from you. I also think instead of contracting and shortening my neck, I'm lowering my jawbone and LENGTHEN the back of my neck. And yes, I have a long neck too, I know what you're talking about. You actually don't need any squeezing at all to keep the instrument from falling. Playing without SR might change where you position your instrument — obviously if you put your jaw bone/chin on the extreme left side of the violin, it'll make the instrument extremely unstable. I think most shoulder rest-less players (myself include) center the instrument so the end button is against the neck. Using those red cosmetic sponges or a leather cloth is a good aid for friction to keep the instrument from slipping away without shoulder rest.

It definitely wasn't an overnight process, it took me about a year for each transition from using a sponge to using a cloth, and then to nothing. During those years I had went back and forth, but I always went at my own pace. Some concerts were extra harrowing but I learned from how my body would react and now I always perform without anything, even on "slipper" tux jacket.

I'm just saying it can be done. It might take a while (a couple years for me, but I'm a slow learner...) for all the pieces to fit together.

Perhaps this is like learning how to swim or ride a bike — it's better to hear from people who can do it without the floatation device or trainer wheels? We can always start another thread to talk about why use or not use a should rest (but I'd rather not...)

April 14, 2018, 1:50 AM · I wonder if "scrunching" doesn't often include raising the shoulder to stabalise the violin - and then forgetting to release it?

Apart from HIPsters, all the restless players I know or have watched hunch their shoulders some of the time; others all of the time. Even the few videos from behind the artist which Alex Marcus used to advocated restless playing confirm my observation.

This does not invalidate the restless adventure, but it answers some of the questions about downward shifts and vibrato.

April 14, 2018, 6:36 AM · I don't lift my shoulder - I'm too lazy. *

Adrian -

I've noticed a lot of people using SR's also lift their shoulders ...

One has to keep an open mind about SR's. It really is worth reading Ricci on Glissando - invaluable advice regarding fingerings even if you don't go down the restless road. "Restless Road" is going to be the title of a new song I can feel coming on.

* Back in the mists of time my fiddle teacher at the RAM asked a famous Italian violinist how she played so well with such a great sound. She just said, "well, I'm very lazy."

April 14, 2018, 6:36 AM · I have seen countless SR users that also incorporate raising their shoulder. So, I don’t think that is unique to playing restless.

April 14, 2018, 6:51 AM · One further note on always playing without any SR or CR: although I said I do it without any problems holding the violin steady, that's not quite the case. I've found it matters what I'm wearing. I have a favorite thick hoodie sweatshirt I wear often, and I've come to learn I can't play violin while wearing it because it pushes my violin away from where it normally rests. So if you're having problems but want to figure out how to play without any SR or CR, experiment with different clothing on your shoulders!
April 14, 2018, 6:58 AM · No shoulder rest, no chin rest, no clothing...as God (or whatever) and Amati intended for you.

April 14, 2018, 7:24 AM · "It might take a while (a couple years for me, but I'm a slow learner...) for all the pieces to fit together."

Two years?
Mama mia.

Who has two years to do this? Maybe that was my problem: when I tried it, I didn't have two years. I was either in graduate school or playing professionally. I didn't have the time to adjust--I had to play comfortably and well right then. What could I do--go into a lesson or audition and say "sorry I suck--I'm trying to get rid of my shoulder rest"?

April 14, 2018, 7:24 AM · "It might take a while (a couple years for me, but I'm a slow learner...) for all the pieces to fit together."

Two years?
Mama mia.

Who has two years to do this? Maybe that was my problem: when I tried it, I didn't have two years. I was either in graduate school or playing professionally. I didn't have the time to adjust--I had to play comfortably and well right then. What could I do--go into a lesson or audition and say "sorry I suck--I'm trying to get rid of my shoulder rest"?

April 14, 2018, 7:35 AM · Thanks for the return-welcomes :) I guess I'm a returner in two ways now....

If you have to raise your shoulder to play restless then you have no idea how to do it. IMO its a two stage process. The first is to keep the shoulder down but bring it forward - thats what Mutter does (look at her videos - she plays clotheless (hehe) because she needs the skin to contact the back of the violin but she does not raise the shoulder, she swings the shoulder forward as if you are trying to extend your arms as far forward as possible.

I say 'first stage' because this maneuver will get you going on training the left arm/hand and chin to hold the violin while you play. Gradually I found that contact with the shoulder became less and less necessary and now I have no stress most of the time (I say that because sometimes we all get stress - and yes, it can become a problem during a 3 hrs orchestra stint.

And please note that I think the SR is a training wheel - but that does not mean I think its wrong to play with one. Its just that if you have not learned to play without one you are missing so much of what I think is amazing about the instrument and surely must facilitate your playing when you put it back on.

April 14, 2018, 7:41 AM · ... addendum. Do you raise the shoulder at all? Well, yes of course! Thats the whole point of playing restless - you can move your body naturally rather than be constrained what should be called a VC.

[VC: Violin Crutch.]

April 14, 2018, 8:05 AM · My point about raising the shoulder is that everyone does it sometimes, SR or not.
Any rigidity will cause problems in the long term.

Crutch, training wheels? To me the SR simply adapts a very standardised instrument to very un-standardised humans!

OK, I'm a violist with stubby fingers, but using the left hand to hold up the fiddle andplay all those notes up & down the fingerboard with a varied and supple vbrato is a bit like trying to lift the chair I am sitting on!

April 14, 2018, 8:06 AM · " ... addendum. Do you raise the shoulder at all? Well, yes of course! Thats the whole point of playing restless - you can move your body naturally rather than be constrained what should be called a VC."

But why would you need to raise the shoulder at all, Elise? The violin should just slot onto the collar bone and be held up by the arm.

Edited: April 14, 2018, 9:16 AM · My point about raising the shoulder is that everyone does it sometimes, SR or not. And a SR doesn't have to remain in constant contact with the shoulder, but it's there when we need it. Any rigidity will cause problems in the long term.

Crutch, training wheels? To me the SR simply adapts a very standardised instrument to very un-standardised humans!

OK, I'm a violist with stubby fingers, but using the left hand to hold up the fiddle andplay all those notes up & down the fingerboard with a varied and supple vbrato is a bit like trying to lift the chair I am sitting on!

Edited: April 14, 2018, 8:22 AM · You have to change your whole left hand technique, or there is no point. It takes time, maybe even a few weeks. It also is helped by a fundamental re-think of fingering, so you move about in tones and semi-tones, and not huge jumps, or jumping over fingers, as we have been taught to do and you find in most editions. (i.e. open - 1-2 -1 or open a b natural (1) c sharp (2) D natural (or sharp) (1) again. That's the old first to third position syndrome. Also good to move with same finger on weak beats, rather than on strong beats.

The left hand also has the wrist touching the neck, and /or up against the body such as in 4th/5th position. This steadies the violin, and holds it when shifting down. Moving the violin to the right so you look down the fingerboard also means the bowing and consequentially the sound is much better.

April 14, 2018, 8:15 AM · You might raise the shoulder when you are expressing, it should not be about needing it to support the violin. But I'm by far not perfect either - sometimes I will notice my shoulder up and feel stress and I have to correct it. It happens. Also, please don't assume I am an anti-SR snob - I do put it on occasionally and might try having it with me for those long orchestra sessions; playing without is a little more work for the R arm and a change is probably healthy.
April 14, 2018, 8:24 AM · Expressing? Expressing what? Expression comes from the music and not from the body, surely?
Edited: April 14, 2018, 9:24 AM · As it happens, I never raise the shoulder as my long-legged SR acts a fulcrum on a relaxed shoulder, with just weight of my head to counterbalance the fiddle (and a much perfected CR/SR setup). No tension, no hickey, just contact and motion.

I sometimes practice restless, just as I sometimes put unsalt butter on my gingerbread.

April 14, 2018, 9:42 AM · Peter: "Expressing? Expressing what? Expression comes from the music and not from the body, surely?"

Can you please make an instructional video on how to express music without using your body? :)

April 14, 2018, 9:44 AM · 1. "...my long-legged SR ... no tension, no hickey, just contact and motion.
2. "I sometimes practice restless"

Dare I suggest that the ability to do #1 is, at least in part, linked to the ability to do #2?

Edited: April 15, 2018, 3:08 AM · Elise, yes.
But more folks ask me back since I returned to the SR.

I wonder if Nina found the shoulder-rest unsatisfactory (inappropriate, ill adjusted, unconfortable), or if she is just exploring different possibilties.

Edited: April 14, 2018, 11:03 AM · I don't do videos anymore I'm afraid. More things to life. So you do bodily expressions? Interesting, could be quite a floor show! Maybe you should make a video!?
April 14, 2018, 11:44 AM · The real question, in my opinion, is wether to use a shoulder rest or support the violin with the left hand.

When some violinists remove the shoulder rest they attempt to hold the violin by lifting the shoulder using their usual technique. This doesn’t work and they complain about a sore clavicle as this is taking the downward pressure from the head. Thinking upward lift with the left hand instead prevents this. The head provides balance only.

In my opinion, using a shoulder rest creates more problems than it solves and I disagree with those who describe its use as progress. Using a SR involves different technique and so does being restless. Progress doesn’t come into it.

Cheers Carlo

April 14, 2018, 12:19 PM · Dear Peter - the only bodily impressions I do are snow angels :)

Adrian 'more people ask me back etc' - I think that's actually rather interesting. You may be right but the reason may be that current taste in violin expression is not only for technical precision but also for technically pure and maintained tone. The increased flexibility possible without the SR can be two-edged: while it may permit more subtle expression, it might also lead to a less homogeneous tone. For some that may be better, but others not so. I'd love to hear other's opinion on that...

April 14, 2018, 12:20 PM · ... agreed Carlo - and nicely put.
Edited: April 14, 2018, 2:28 PM · as to the "why" question, this is very different for amateurs vs professionals. as long as you are a not-very-advanced student you have the time to learn or relearn playing sans SR. but a student doing higher violin studies or a professional who relies on a SR may not have time for that. note, however, the notable exception of Nathan Cole, and he is probably not the only exception.

but amateurs, curious about the fundamental simplicity, elegance, of playing sans SR, even sans CR, can take the time to relearn violin playing and enjoy it just for the sake of it.

I am just an amateur, it has taken me at least five years to play reasonably well sans SR and CR. In the meantime, however, I have also improved in general and play better than five years ago. I thoroughly enjoy the sensation of playing the violin this way. the CR, incidentally, I had not originally planned to ditch, but I did that because the metal clamp hurt me with the violin on the collarbone (it hurt even through the fabric of, say, a shirt). so, it was either putting the SR back on, or ditching the CR together with the SR. you may say "but you could also have put the chamois over the CR, to cover the metal clamp", true, but I discovered I don't actually need a CR. the chamois, I only need it when wearing clothes that come up higher on my neck, such as a sweater or a shirt, to avoid slippage. in summer, wearing just a polo shirt or t-shirt, I play on my skin and don't need anything. the violin is unbelievably light without SR, CR and the feeling of freedom is wonderful.

to Elise, I agree with you about the less homogeneous tone. this is the main difference I hear between my own playing and players of the same level with a SR, they sound a bit more steady.

April 14, 2018, 2:40 PM · When I see players who really can play without an SR--soloists--I've seen that they do indeed raise their shoulder all the way up to contact the violin. They do not play with space between the shoulder and violin, and it does not simply rest on their collarbone. That's what I've seen, especially sitting right behind the soloist.
Edited: April 14, 2018, 4:46 PM · Yes, with a SR my tone is steady, and I can voluntarily make it as unsteady and subtle as I like if inspired to do so!

And Scot's observations coincide with my own.

And I find more musical freedom with an SR..

April 14, 2018, 7:47 PM · Scott - did you see what I wrote about bringing the shoulder forward, not up?
April 14, 2018, 11:31 PM · For me the jury is still out regarding non SR use, and I have an open mind. I'm not suggesting anyone should ditch their SR. However, one annoying thing about the SR (and that's ALL SR's) is that they tend to fall off without fail, unless you remember to push them back into place. That's partly why I ditched mine. (And don't say there are ones out there that work - I've yet to find one).
April 15, 2018, 3:10 AM · They tend to unhook when the fiddle tries to swing round in front.
I have added a loop from the left screw "leg" to the left corner of the viola.
Edited: April 15, 2018, 3:30 AM · Interesting Adrian.

Talking of not using SR - I thought I saw some barock blokie who had some kind of long scarf like thing tied around him and attached to the violin that held it in place - so it could actually hang there when he wasn't playing. Have you heard of this geezer?

Sorry about english slang, I was dragged up from the gutter ...

April 15, 2018, 5:43 AM · I've found a nice intermediate solution is the Acoustifoam pad (I use a #4 thickness). It lets the violin and shoulder move more freely, thus sounding better and feeling better. At the same time, it has enough friction and firmness that it keeps the fiddle wedged back onto my collarbone without requiring any noticeable heroics.

I have found that getting a properly tall chinrest does help. On one violin I actually had a layer of wood added to the feet-- in part, because it needed lifting away from the tailpiece. In general, though, Strad Pads have added the rest of the necessary thickness.

April 15, 2018, 6:28 AM · I was interested in what Scott wrote about his observations sitting right behind the soloist. As is typical with all things violin, there is often a difference between what people SAY they do and what they actually do, e.g., tilted-vs-flat-bow-hair wars.

I do know one local pro violinist who plays without an SR and his violin really is just resting on his collarbone most of the time. And it's bouncing and rotating all over the place. He seems to get on fine, but I just could not deal with that, not in three weeks or three million years. I saw one of the students of this violinist perform once, and as a dutiful subject of his guru, he played restless too. He struggled. I know this struggle thoroughly because I lived it for 12 years -- my childhood teacher forbade the SR too. I have a nice big spur on my collarbone to show for it.

By the way, what Peter said about being more clever about shifting and fingerings applies just as well to those of us who use SRs. My teacher is always re-fingering editions that are wedded to the use of odd-integer positions.

April 15, 2018, 6:47 AM · Yes, the fingering aspect applies to both SR and non SR users. It uses a logic that gets away from the conventional and often dangerous ways of fingering things. But it depends on how your brain works (or doesn't in my case) and some people may find it unsuitable. I'm in the process of re-fingering all my music and really going through the Ricci book in great detail, at the moment looking at double stop scales and his fingering logic on those. (He doesn't think single note scales are much use for developing left hand technique).

If you study Perlman's left hand in videos you can learn a lot.

April 15, 2018, 7:34 AM · I think the OP has probably given up entirely by now and has switched to playing the non-contentious accordion...
April 15, 2018, 7:50 AM · The "geezer" is, of course, Enrico Onofri who was CM and soloist with Il Giardino Armonico for many years. The scarf he habitually uses when playing Baroque is an aviator's white silk scarf that passes underneath his violin's tailpiece and round his neck. Clearly secure, comfortable and efficient, otherwise he wouldn't have been using the system for all these years.

Plenty of Onfri on YouTube. One video I particularly enjoy is his live performance with Il Giardino Armonico of Vivaldi's "Grosso Mogul" concerto, here on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcO5pSMFV6A

April 15, 2018, 7:58 AM · The “Happynex”(I think that’s the name) is a commercially available version of that apparently
April 15, 2018, 8:20 AM · Thanks Trevor - the link you gave didn't work though. The "Happynex" (thanks Craig) was interesting. I think I could make one up myself using one of my wife's dresses - Oops - shouldn't have said that.
April 15, 2018, 8:51 AM · Peter, thanks for that info. I was working from a list of useful video links that I keep. It appears the link didn't work in this case because the video has been withdrawn, and a brief check indicates that this has happened to some other Il Giardino recordings. I wonder why.

Fortunately, there is one video of a youngish Onofri in action that has slipped through the net - the first movement of the Bach A minor - possibly because it is part of a compilation. Here is the link (it worked today!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0PyuafqYiw

If a video is likely to be of abiding interest then it is prudent to make a backup quickly for one's private study before it vanishes forever.

April 15, 2018, 10:09 AM · A good question might be:

Is my chinrest / shoulder rest (or non-rest) the correct setup FOR ME?

Not:

How do I play without a shoulder rest?

April 15, 2018, 10:14 AM · "Fortunately, there is one video of a youngish Onofri in action that has slipped through the net - the first movement of the Bach A minor - possibly because it is part of a compilation. Here is the link (it worked today!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0PyuafqYiw

If a video is likely to be of abiding interest then it is prudent to make a backup quickly for one's private study before it vanishes forever."

Yes it worked - thanks. Very interesting . Not sure if the scarf thing will work for me. I will just have to keep at it.

April 15, 2018, 2:16 PM · Still need a reply as to whether the non-SR players were really raising their shoulders or rotating them forward - when you can get contact without raising.
April 15, 2018, 2:34 PM · My own comments are about raisers. If the scroll is high, rotating isn't enpough on its own.
Edited: April 16, 2018, 7:08 PM · @Douglas these are different questions, both are valid. The question of how to play without SR is important for those who have heard that playing without SR offers certain benefits and is interested in exploring that, even though, in the end, it might be better for them or it might not. The experienced teachers who are often responding to these threads would likely say that such a significant change in setup warrants expert advice.
April 15, 2018, 4:35 PM · 'Who has two years to do this? Maybe that was my problem: when I tried it, I didn't have two years. I was either in graduate school or playing professionally. I didn't have the time to adjust--I had to play comfortably and well right then. What could I do--go into a lesson or audition and say "sorry I suck--I'm trying to get rid of my shoulder rest"?'

Um, I did it during conservatory. Time was a precious commodity for me too. When an audition or recital came up, I did what I had to do to get the job done. Again, it was a gradual process, I didn't go from shoulder rest straight to nothing. I tried things in practice room and low pressure things like rehearsals, and the lessons and studio classes.

And then one day I really figured it out and was comfortable with it all the time. And some friends would ask how do you do that? And I explain it. Some people have the same reaction as yours, "Yeah, I don't have time for this, but cool, good for you." Some people give it a try, and ultimately switch to a sponge because it's a better fit for them rather than a shoulder rest.

I say keep experimenting. Our bodies grows and changes — hey, Ivry Gitlis now uses a violin scroll stand to prop up his since he's like 300 years old now, because that's what works for him. Onofri uses a scarf — definitely don't think that's historical but hey that works for him too.

All I'm saying is it's not helpful to say" I've tried it and can't. No ain't got time, so don't bother..."

I just want to tell people out there professional or amateur, it is possible to shift up and down comfortably, WITHOUT moving your shoulder up or forward to support the violin.

And no shoulder rest is like 1/10th of difficulty compared to playing chin off, to put things in perspective. But that's a digression.

April 15, 2018, 10:04 PM · I've gone through a restless period, in early adolescence, but as I grew into my adult body, a shoulder-rest became preferable.

One of my teachers, many years later, suggested that I would benefit from not using a shoulder-rest, because it would force me to hold the violin up, which would in turn result in firmer contact of bow to string as the violin would be pushed into the bow. She also felt that I would benefit from the violin being flatter. She suggested that I spend a while trying it experimentally to see what the results were.

End result: Yes, I liked the sound, but I didn't find it comfortable. So I got a different shoulder-rest which kept the violin in a flat position, and changed my right-arm technique to make firmer contact with the string.

April 16, 2018, 9:07 AM · Adrian - why do you need a high scroll? Let the violin drape down from the chin to the forward rotated shoulder. Gradually your left hand will learn to manage not only the notes but also the violin and the violin angle will change according to need.

And I also had the problem of the violin not being rotated enough (along its long axis) but by persisting this has disappeared. I never even think about it anymore (but my teacher is working on an over rotated left arm - fortunately, fixing that does not seem to be affecting my playing so I'm pretty sure its not something that I need to do).

Edited: April 16, 2018, 10:09 AM · I don't need a high scroll!
After all, cellists make a lovely sound, and their strings are hardly horizontal, even with those funny kinked spikes!

Milstein's violin drooped, so why not my viola? (The only similarity, though.)

The rotation bit is important to me, though: I have very short pinky, and a great desire for a luscious vibrato on the C-string..

April 16, 2018, 11:56 AM · why don't they make a viol with a rotated fingerboard? Just a millimeter higher on the C (G) string side and with the bridge adjusted proportionally. I think a lot of people would love it...
April 16, 2018, 12:22 PM · When the scroll is not high enough, the strings slope down quite steeply. Even when you just put your violin flat on a table you will see they already slope down quite a bit. Now not raising your scroll and they will slope down even more. In that case you constantly have to fight gravity with the right hand, making sure you bow close enough to the bridge. Reference: All this is literally taken from Simon Fischer "Practice".
April 16, 2018, 3:13 PM · A high scroll also allows the pinky to come down onto the fingerboard, ad opposed to having to be lifted up over the fingerboard to get where you want it to go.


And cellos don’t have horizontal strings, it’s true, but most certainly have their scrolls pointing up! ;^)

April 16, 2018, 7:24 PM · Jean IMHO the slope thing is nonsense. Try tilting the violin, the bow does NOT slide off. Indeed, if it was true it would be impossible to play the cello! What that reasoning misses is that the arm is not hinged on a slider but on a point so the arm comes down in an arc, not a straight line. Thus weight is transmitted directly onto the instrument whether it is flat or vertical. Many violinists tilt the violin.
Edited: April 17, 2018, 1:55 AM · Iv'e been doing some experimentation and the problem with the shoulder rest is that it tends to push the violin over the shoulder and to the left which makes the bow skid all over the shop. So you have to force the violin back to the right some considerable distance. This position without the SR is more natural and happens without too much thought.

It's quite possible to use the SR BUT one has to remember to get the position of the violin to the right and keep it there. So both with SR and without SR can work.

So you really need to forget about bowing as it's hard enough anyway just dealing with the left hand, but unless the bowing can just happen and stay on the best parts of the strings, in other words look after itself, then you have to be aware of this problem.

Anyone wish to comment?

April 17, 2018, 2:11 AM · I don't think that's right.
While the shoulder rest stays in a fixed position in the collarbone/shoulder, you can adjust the SR in the violin at many different angles which bring the scroll as right or as left as you want.

By the way, I don't use shoulder rest but I have a huge collection of them and have conducted my own experimentations. Despite what some say, there is no angle, tilt, bowing or any technique that gets limited by a properly set up SR.
And there is also no angle, tilt bowing or technique limited by no using one, when the player is used to play restless.

The only thing that playing with or without one fixes, is neck and shoulder discomfort. Which in some cases is by not using one, and for others is by using it.

April 17, 2018, 2:34 AM · "unless the bowing can just happen and stay on the best parts of the strings, in other words look after itself"

LOL! I shudder to think how many millions of synapses are firing in the background to keep that bow 'looking after itself' :)

Both can surely be automated...

Edited: April 17, 2018, 11:35 PM · duplicate
Edited: April 17, 2018, 12:48 PM · My teacher (also my daughter's teacher) teaches high scroll. Whenever I get lazy and my scroll drops, other aspects of my technique suffer. But I don't think it has anything to do with gravity vs. the slope of the strings, at least not directly, even though I think we've all heard that "reason" at least ten times. It's because all of the *other* things I was taught (hand positions, wrist and elbow mechanics, etc.) are all designed to be optimal for a high scroll. That's why cello works too, as Elise pointed out. Cellists learn a unified system that is built around how their instruments are positioned. Once in a while you see a cellist who has set things up so that his strings are *less* vertical (like Rostropovich) and people say, oh, I couldn't play like that, I wouldn't be able to drop my elbows, etc. etc.
April 17, 2018, 3:00 PM · This throws all discussions of chin/shoulder rests into the air :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigiswald_Kuijken#/media/File:Sigiswald_Kuijken.JPG

April 17, 2018, 11:35 PM · LOL Trevor - maybe, but I want to hear him play Paganini caprices on that before I'll buy...
Edited: April 18, 2018, 4:00 PM · Elise, some of the Paganini caprices have been performed on the cello - notably Nr. 24 (of course!) - so it wouldn't surprise me if Sigiswald Kuijken could if he were so minded. Doubtful, though, because he is basically a Baroquist.

Apparently, he uses the older technique of holding the violin on the shoulder and not under the chin. (Note to self - must work on that sometime ...)

Edited: April 23, 2018, 7:12 AM · It's called a Shoulder Cello (with a strap), although it looks more like a Tummy Cello: cello da spalla or cello da pancia?
April 18, 2018, 3:11 PM · @Trevor, you can find youtube videos of No. 24 on the string bass.


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