As a player who grew up playing without a shoulder rest, I have never felt comfortable using one. However, these days I do have to use one, due to my problems caused by the wear and tear on my shoulder after almost 50 years of playing.
I was recently gifted a a new shoulder rest - Shar's Performa shoulder rest.
I tested out the wood version for violin, and the level of comfort I felt was an 11 out of 10! Besides being beautiful, it’s light. It feels like playing without one - and much better than the red makeup sponge I’ve using for so many years.
The Performa comes in two versions: a wood version, which goes for $105 and is made of an African heartwood called "padauk"; and a plastic version, which goes for $55made of thermoplastic polymer). The wooden version is also available for viola, for $135.
The rest was developed by violinist Cyrus Forough and is a pretty flat and low rest (it can adjust from 11 mm to 25 mm tall) with a large platform.
We can debate for days about whether or not to use a shoulder rest when playing the violin, but I come from the school that teaches you to hold the violin with your collar bone, so that has made my shoulder very active instead of supportive. With this pad, my shoulder became both supportive and relaxed. I have never felt this way about a shoulder pad.
I also have to clarify that I am referring to my classical playing, when it comes to using this shoulder rest. For my electric-violin playing, it’s a whole different story that requires a whole different article!
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