Is it good to try to play without shoulder rest over time?
I've been playing the violin for a while and over time I'm trying to remove the shoulder rest from the equation.
At the very beginning it was impossible to hold the violin even with shoulder rest. Months later I was comfortable holding it with a SR, but always had this thing running my head "stop using the SR!". I tried sometimes to play without SR, but after 10 minutes I would give up.
In these last days, I've tried more and more to play without SR, and today, without even noticing it, I played without SR the whole practice session.
I don't feel any con when not using a SR, I can play "as freely" as with SR, except that it's nearly impossible to fine tune the instrument as I can barely hold it without using my left hand, holding the neck.
The problem with my violin is that the pegs are not very well made, and it's quite difficult to tune the instrument using the pegs, so I really need to tune it using fine tuners in all the strings.
So, is it good to try to play without SR?
Does it really matter?
I see violinsts that I admire a lot, such as Hilary Hahn, and they use SR, so after all I feel that it's just doesn't matter.
Nonetheless, one thing I love about playing without SR is that you can take any violin out there and play it just like that, you won't feel uncomfortably for not using your particular SR.
One thing that still bugs me is that if I start practicing suddenly "a lot", like 3-4 hours per day for a week, my back starts complaining about the excess and I will feel very lightly but noticeable "pain". I don't know if I should call it "pain", but definitely my back is not at it's finest as when I've been 1 whole week without playing the violin.
Does this still happen to you once you've passed the beginner first years?
Oh, by the way, what's the next step, remove the jaw rest?
I don't think I could accomplish that, at least without "cheating", meaning without adding something to replace the jaw rest space, in which case I wouldn't see the point of removing the jaw rest.
I have been trying to get the thing right on my shoulder for the last 2 years. I broke my collar bone years back which doesn't help. There is a knot and an extra platform now which shouldn't be there.
The only rule is "No Rule". We have to be comfortable, and be able to make all those wonderful sounds going round in our heads, all over the violin.
For me the key to playing restless, which I do, is to move the violin further to the left. The truth is that the ubiquitous Guarneri chinrest design is not well suited to restless playing because it's designed with the assumption that you will position your violin to the right. I use a Teka rest, and even so I still place my chin somewhat onto the tailpiece. A Flesch chinrest is worth considering. They are really the right idea with regard to chin position, though I've personally found them too tall.
I haven't been using my shoulder rest for awhile now and I haven't missed it.
Once you find your "ah, violin playing is so easy and natural here!" zone, it's hard to get used to something else that is supposed to be better. So, "restless" is better for those for which the SR gets in the way, and trying to "properly play the violin" without SR might be an unnecessary struggle for those who already found their "zone" via a shoulder rest, chin rest, and accompanying violin position.
There is a post a while back that is helpful on violin holding:
Other than the fact that a shoulder rest will slightly dampen the sound of the instrument, it doesn't matter. There are some technical adaptions that come from both styles of playing, but both work. For some people, having a shoulder rest is a comfort issue - I would rather have a shoulder rest than a rather high chin rest to compensate for my long neck.
Comfort has been a priority for me. I will not play the violin if it will cause me injuries or major discomforts.
This is a very personal decision. Do you have a teacher you can talk to? My advice is to go with what best suits your physique.
Violinists play well both with and without a shoulder rest. The vast majority use a shoulder rest or a small pad.
Nobody's mentioned Heifetz or "projection" yet. How sad.
I was a kid beginner and played restless for some years -- till I was 18-19 y/o. Then I tried some SRs, found one that suited me, and have preferred playing with one ever since. I can play restless, but I don't like the feel of a bareback fiddle.
Paul. I have attended concerto concerts by Heifetz and Stern (no obvious shoulder rest) and Hilary Hahn (SR). All three had incredible projection. In other words, I don't understand what your remark has to do with the subject.
The "violin-shaped" foam I'm using is AcoustaGrip Concert Master Violin Shoulder Rest - Thick from Shar. They have different sizes and thickness. I bought the thickest one because I have a lot of space between my chin and shoulder. I'm a giraffe after all.
Many people get obsessed with trying to play without a shoulder rest (or they waste $$ trying to find the "perfect" strings). It's nothing but a waste of time.
Good advice Scott. Totally agree that too much attention on the margins takes time from practice. But can one apply the same priciple without SR too? In fact, one of the things about the SR is that it makes you think too much about its type, its position, its height. If one is also comfortable without SR (especially when it hasnt become a habit) why should one wear (and fuss over) it?
Nice to see the return of this old war horse!
Right On, John, it is an AcustaGrip that I am using, but not the thick model. I wrecked the sticking surface and have added some other self-stick material just to the ends of the AG.
If our physiognomy requires one, it is worth spend a lot of trouble with first chinrest, then shoulder rests, precisely so we no longer feel that they are there!
Scott Cole said "Many people get obsessed with trying to play without a shoulder rest (or they waste $$ trying to find the "perfect" strings). It's nothing but a waste of time. Spend your time and energy working on all the other stuff--bow distribution, intonation, rhythmic integrity, dependable shifts, spicatto--the stuff that counts."
I learned playing without SR as a child. When I went to conservatory I started playing with a pad, I do have long neck and for me it felt good. The pad however was damping very heavily.
John, THis is the stuff I bought to restick my AcustaGrip to the instrument backs:
I just can't do anything without a shoulder rest. I can't even hold the violin without applying an absurd pressure against the chinrest.
Scott Cole's comment is dangerous.
I also don't see finding the "perfect" this and that as a waste of time. Perhaps a little waste of money, but I think it's part of the experience of playing the violin that I'm willing to pay for up to a certain amount. I honestly would find it a lot more boring if there's only one type of string, bow, violin, and etc for everyone in the world.
If you're not totally happy with your equipment, it's okay to experiment and find the perfect personal match, as long as the search doesn't become too obssessive. I would play in a way that your teacher is familiar with, keeping in mind that it must fit you physically. Ultimately, your physique, and technique to some degree, decides what chin rest and shoulder rest combination works best for you, personally. I understand the spirit of Scott's comment, but Douglas is right on the ball here.
I think you should start without a SR, figure out the right chin rest, and then if there is still a need start out with a cloth or leather, then move to a pad or a thicker pad, and then finally a SR if it's necessary. I suspect most people could get by with a correct CR and a folded leather chamois, and they would be better off for starting minimalist and building from there--as a child I had a very poorly setup SR thanks to poor instruction and only in the last several years was able to rebuild my setup without a SR, and I am now completely relaxed and pain free whereas as a child I was constantly uncomfortable.
"In fact, one of the things about the SR is that it makes you think too much about its type, its position, its height. If one is also comfortable without SR (especially when it hasnt become a habit) why should one wear (and fuss over) it?"
Scott, a bit off topic, but the fixie bike craze is still with us, in the UK at any rate; only it's gone one stage further. Some enterprising idiots on the road are now dispensing with the front brake, so the only braking is restricted to what can be applied to the back wheel through the fixed wheel system; this is actually required in velodrome racing but is quite illegal on the road.
I don't use one on either my violin or viola, BUT I had to adopt a centered position like Anne Sophie Mutter uses in order to get the stability I require. I adapted flesch style flat chin rests of different heights to match the total collarbone to chin distance. I have noticed a very pronounced change in resonance and openness of sound- also greater volume and projection, even over the least dampening shoulder rests I could find- by Peter Mach.
It's worth noting that the almost flat baroque tailpiece behaves as a useful temporary chin-rest when shifting down from high positions. Only a gentle (and brief) frictional touch with the chin/jaw is needed - no digging in or significant pressure! The con is that such tailpieces aren't designed for micro tuners. No problem if you're using a full set of gut strings, but if you wanted to use a steel E then you'd probably have to fit geared pegging for that string.
Scott Cole, I use a Wolf Forte Secondo SR, which I find very, very comfortable. My "problem" actually is that I can't find a position that I can say is better for me than the rest. Of course between some limits, but I can move around the shoulder rest anywhere and most of the possible positions seem pretty much as comfortable.
So, can someone explain to me what the issue is exactly that the SR "solves"?
For those of us with long necks, playing with a SR is generally much less tension-inducing than playing without one. It's a comfort issue.
Same as Mary ^ long neck. Plus bony shoulders and collarbone for me.
There are so many interacting factors.
If your KUN falls of that usually means you got the scroll not high enough, just saying.
The reason there are so many different models of CR's and SR's available is that a much larger subset of our population with a greater range of different physical attributes and even age play the violin than at any previous time in history. If I had to look at my studio and make a general assessment, it would be that few students really share the exact same setup, and it changes as they age.
Tammuz wrote, "Now imagine adding the SR, which typically firmly holds the violin at two ends." Yes that's true, but you're not comparing that to zero contact. You're comparing that to a lot of surface contact between the back of the violin and your shoulder when playing restless, which I did all through childhood and I think it's one reason I didn't learn to play properly. My teacher was a member of the Heifetz Adoration Society and didn't allow the SR.
"Over time, I read these things about "the pureness of not using a SR", that a SR would dump the violin sound, you know, all the "myths" (or not, whatever you want to call it) about not using SR. You heard the stories of Heifetz and Menuhin, no SR allowed, etc..."
If you look in a proffessional orchestras you see a lot of people with bad holding and I know a good amount with hurt necks at the age of around 50. If the force on the kun rest is applied in the direction of the violin it never falls of.
Oh and about the brakes, because you kill yourself otherwise. As a passionate racing bike cyclist I can tell you, the higher up you go in the cyclists skills, the more minimalistic the equip.
Tim, I completely get your point. Play the way that's most comfortable for you, but if you have to temporarily play in a less optimal way, just accept it. For instance, I usually play with a shoulder rest, but when I'm trying out violins or briefly playing on someone else's violin, I'll go with a less optimal chinrest and a less optimal/no shoulder rest. I have also heard of the practice of not using the chinrest along with a shoulder rest. I think some people play that way because it's comfortable for them (my violin teacher played without a chinrest temporarily because she loaned her chin rest to a student, though she kept the shoulder rest). You can also check out shoulder and chin rest wars in the discussion board archives.
A long neck has nothing to do with a shoulder rest, unless you're holding your violin incorrectly...
Agree, long neck should mean long chinrest.
Scott wrote, "I find it interesting these days that, at least in the US, riders are loathe to put anything on their bike--water bottles, tool kits, spare tube--anything." Pro racers, that's one thing. But most of the guys you see who spent $2000 to shave 50 grams off the mass of their bicycles are 20+ pounds overweight. Go figure.
Talking about the KUN. I've compared it to my Wolf Forte Secondo and I think it's worse in every way.
Maybe off topic, but it's possible to have your violin touch your collarbone with a SR and still play comfortably. While many SR users play more to the left, I don't see it as a necessity-nor do I agree with the argument that SR "prevents" you from resting the violin on your collarbone.
I don't think anyone was saying that playing with an SR prevents you from resting the violin on your collarbone. Now, someone in search of height an therefore jacking up the SR is in dangerous territory for a number of reasons, including elevating off the collar bone and creating a see-saw.
Douglas, it seems like most amateurs are making the mistake you mention. I was one of them for many years.
See-saw? I indeed have my Kun just a little further from my neck than usual so it forms the fulcrum on my relaxed shoulder; when my head descends, the scroll rises. No tension, no hickey, and no pain on my ancient collarbone! But my CR is a high, much sculpted wooden Teka.
I was told and I've watched videos, wait, indeed, not just videos, I watched a documentary about Menuhin; he was teaching students first the proper way to hold a violin, and the see-saw was a straight and clear NO-NO.
I know that documentary too, worth watching but not the only right way. He did not get any damage due to the holding although playing excessevly, making it worth to look at his way!
It's interesting to me how essentially similar the design of most SRs is--a curve of some depth at shoulder end, and length extending accross the width of the instrument.
It can be a good idea to play without a SR occasionally because it can give you an idea of what your left thumb is doing when shifting.
Tim, the see-saw balance is not "a mistake", but let's say it doesn't seem to suit you! It works extremely well for me, avoiding the very uncomfortable constant contact with the collarbone, as well any tension in the neck. It doesn't stop me using left hand and collarbone if I wish.
Adrian, I've been told by my teacher too that there should not be see-saw, not just Menuhin. You need to move the shoulder rest farther away, or put a higher chin rest if you like where the violin is, or a sponge or something between your collarbone and the violin.
The violin sounds better without a shoulder rest IF you hold the violin up with your left hand not your shoulder. Many people fail at being restless as they try to use the same shoulder holding method that they used to use with a SR. Support the violin with the left hand and balance it on your collar bone. Job done.
Hahahaha, Carlo works for an invisi-rest company.
Carlo, you need to talk to the maker about increasing your distributor discount for the invisi-rest line, because I am turning quite a profit at my current selling price of $0. And my inventory is huge, with every model always in stock!
"it's a very shared opinion that the violin should not see-saw at all"
I am finding playing without a chin rest continues to be wonderful.
Menuhin got ill in his old days and was only able to continue playing (even when not in the same quality) because he had a healthy playing style. I dont think it is the best or only one out there, but for him it worked very well.
@Jason. Please make sure you are selling the Original Invisi-rest. There are Chinese knock offs kicking around. The original invisi-rest now comes with a completely invisible hologram.
Thank you Marc.