I would love to tell everyone that a shoulder rest is a shoulder rest, and you really don't need to go out and get a fancy one, it won't make much of a difference.
But in truth it has made quite a lot of difference for me.
In March, Pirastro gave me a KoerfkerRest to try, so that I could review it for all of you. This was a big deal - I felt like they were entrusting me with a brick of gold, as this is a very expensive shoulder rest. It retails for a little more than $300 from SHAR, and I understand it's about £259.00 in the U.K. and €245 in Europe. To be honest, I might have ruled out this shoulder rest, based on price alone, without even considering it.
I told them that I would need to live with this shoulder rest for a while before I could make any kind of judgment about it, and definitely before I could write anything about it. Also, if I didn't like it, I was not going to say that I did. In fact, I'd just send it back.
Let's just say that I have no desire to send it back, or to go back to my old shoulder rest, or to try anything else -- because it's working, and it's working well.
Here are some of the ways it has made a difference for me:
Honestly, I think I was traumatized by my old shoulder rest, and I didn't even know it. If that seems a little too dramatic, I can say that I was conditioned by the old shoulder rest and its propensity to fall off all the time. Really, it's been a lifetime of various brands of shoulder rests that would fall off the fiddle!
When I first put the KorfkerRest on my violin, I confess that it did not immediately "fit." First, I was having a hard time getting it to the right place on the instrument where I needed it. One tip: When sliding it on, it really needs to clamp on. So I needed to just slightly force the feet outward to get them on the edge of the instrument. But then they stay. Man, do they stay!
I also needed to do a little adjustment to the angle of the feet to get them just right. The KorfkerRest is highly adjustable, which is great news. You can bend the wood (carefully!), adjust the legs, narrow or widen the rest, and change the tilt. The only bad news here is that you have to think about it and do some experimenting. If you don't feel like tinkering and you just want to get it out of the box and put it on, then this can be a little annoying. But it's really not that hard, and Pirastro has exhaustive instructions online for setting it up, as well as a little booklet that the shoulder rest comes with. It also comes with extra foam pads, an "Ergopack" to make further adjustments (I did not need this but I think it helps particularly for violists making size adjustments), and a tool for screwing and unscrewing all the little joints.
Once I started using the KorfkerRest, I started noticing other people with this shoulder rest. There were more than I expected! They also had different observations about it than I did. The first symphony concert I played after getting the Korfkerrest, I turned to see that my stand partner also had one. He said he had no regrets about the price, considering how much he plays. He liked the elegant look of it, and he liked the way it did not inhibit the sound of his instrument. Then at another gig, a different stand partner also had a Korfkerrest. She said she had had it for several years. I asked her if she'd made many adjustments to it, and she said no, she has been happy to use it as it came out of the box, without adjustments. She liked how light it was.
My adult student became interested in the KorfkerRest as well, after noticing my new rest. So I let him try it at his lesson. The very next week, he came to his lesson with a KorfkerRest! "I love it!" he said.
The KorfkerRest was invented in 2014 by a violinist named Berent Korfker, who was an assistant to Zakhar Bron for seven years, then a professor at the Royal College of Music in London for 13 years. He also has invented something called the KorflerCradle, which is more elaborate than the KorfkerRest and is focused on maximizing sound from the violin. (It's not something I have tried.)
If I can share just one general observation, it's this: If your shoulder rest is not working for you, then find one that does. Different shoulder rests work for different people, as we all have different-shaped shoulders and necks and jawbones -- and we have subtly different-shaped violins and set-ups as well. I had come to accept a lot of things about my old shoulder rest, and I did not even realize that they were actually causing me quite a lot of stress. So find a shoulder rest that fits your violin well and that fits your body well. Be proactive about making the necessary adjustments so that it works for you. And if you cannot solve the problems with your current rest, look into other ones! I've had a great experience with the KorfkerRest, and it will remain the shoulder rest that I use.
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