V.com weekend vote: Are you happy with your chin/shoulder rest set-up on the violin or viola?

August 6, 2021, 11:34 PM · Are you happy with your set-up, when it comes to your shoulder rest (if you use one) and chin rest?

Shoulder rests

While some violinists and violists find a satisfactory set-up right away, it can take years for others to discover the right combination of chin rest and shoulder rest that helps hold the violin or viola properly while also avoiding pain and tension in the neck, shoulders and back. And some discover they don't want to use a shoulder rest at all!

I've been thinking about this because I've spent the last few days in Denver, visiting my former student and dear friend Ann Connell, and we have been studying her violin set-up. She had been experimenting with different heights and kinds of chin rests and shoulder rests, and she was still not satisfied.

Here are some of the things we analyzed, in case they might be of help to others who are still figuring out their set-up:

When you find something that feels like it will work, it's important to test it out for a few months, and then re-evaluate. Some of the strain or pain might be caused by your set-up, but some might be playing habits. When you rest your jawbone on the shoulder rest, do you use minimal pressure, or do you squeeze a little too hard? Can you find ways to remind yourself to let up on that pressure?

So all that said, are you happy with your set-up, or are you still experimenting? What is your set-up? What are the considerations and particular concerns you have needed to address? Or have you been pretty happy with your set-up, without tweaking it? Please participate in the vote and then tell us your experiences.

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Replies

August 7, 2021 at 05:41 AM · I voted happy with both because it's as good as it's going to get. Still not wonderfully comfortable and still have to be careful to hold it so that there are no unintentional A E double stops but I can play for an hour or more every day and there is no discomfort. Yay!

August 7, 2021 at 06:32 AM · Mine is as good as it's going to get, I think. My viola chinrest is custom-made by Frisch & Denig. In the fitting session, we determined that the ideal chinrest for me is physically impossible, as it would have to be both centered and lower than the tailpiece. If I were to put my jaw directly on the tailpiece with no chinrest, it would still be too high. So what I have is ultra-low and half-centered, cut to place the center of the cup as close to the tailpiece as possible.

For my shoulder rest, I currently use a VLM Professional, at the lowest possible setting on both ends and placed relatively far from my neck so that it does not increase the height at my collarbone.

August 7, 2021 at 07:47 AM · I'm really happy with my setup on both. I have a Wittner Augsberg centre chinrest on both, which I find really comfortable. I used to use the same shoulder rest on both as well (A Wolf Secondo), but I recently changed back to my Kun collapsable. It feels more secure under my viola than the wolf, and I still use the Wolf on my violin

August 7, 2021 at 11:31 AM · The Frisch and Denig kit changed my playing experience from pain to pain free!

August 7, 2021 at 02:18 PM · Happy with both. I have the Teka medium CR on one fiddle and the lower-set Dresdens on the other two instruments. I also have two Strad Pads to cover the CRs. I put the large one on the Teka before starting a session and the regular-size pad on the Dresdens. Mine attach and detach with Velcro. I've used Strad Pads ever since 18 y/o -- I love the added grip and security; and, in the 90 minutes to 3 hours of practicing and playing I can fit into a day, they shield me from the hard CR surface and metal brackets. So -- no skin irritation. Side note: Both pads get daily use -- attach and detach -- since I split daily practice/play among the three instruments.

For SR, I use two Kun Bravo models -- each adjusted differently: one to fit two fiddles, the other to fit the third. I set mine at the lowest point for shoulder side, about midway for chest side.

The point in the blog about angling is important. My build is such that I angle the SR SW-NE on the back of the fiddle. I can't play comfortably if I try NW-SE.

August 7, 2021 at 03:39 PM · Happy with both BUT, took years to find the right combination for me!!

August 7, 2021 at 06:06 PM · I am pretty happy with my chin and shoulder rest on both violin and viola. That being said though, I do think I would like a slightly more side mounted chinrest on violin since I have a center one right now and that's just a bit too center, ya know, and it also needs to be a bit higher than normal because my neck is kinda long. My Wittner center mount with rubber risers pushed as far left as possible works well though. I'm happy with my Kun shoulder rest though. On viola I have a Flesch flat which I would consider replacing with the Wittner because it's not quite as flat and things would be just a bit more stable that way. My viola shoulder rest fits me well but I would consider replacing it because it is a cheapo knockoff Kun with some structural issues.

So in short, I'm happy with what I have but would consider a few small adjustments to optimize things just a bit more.

August 8, 2021 at 01:47 AM · I custom fit and make both chin and shoulder rests.

Having done so for some time I now can make it available to the public.

www.stevenmcmillan.musicteachershelper.com

www.HoustonViolin.com

August 8, 2021 at 01:35 PM · I love my Wolf Maestro leather chin rest. So soft and no sliding! Also love my Bon Musica shoulder rest which keeps my violin nicely in place. No sliding!

August 8, 2021 at 06:31 PM · 44% is the highest approval rating ever achieved for a shoulder-rest and chin-rest combination since the start of the modern polling era.

August 8, 2021 at 08:17 PM · I'm happy with my setup. On my violin, it's a Hill chinrest that was filed down to be pretty flat (it belonged to my teacher) and a red rubber cosmetic sponge on the back of my violin with rubber cement to hold it there. At one time, I didn't use any shoulder pad but the Hill chinrest's clamps were doing a number on my collarbone, so the cosmetic pad prevents that.

I went through a period of several years where I couldn't find a good combination (this was after being shoulder-rest-less for many years). Ultimately, I went back to basics, and rediscovered the posture that I'd had before. What had thrown everything into turmoil was my eyesight, and trying to share a stand in our orchestra. Unconsciously, in order to see the music clearly, I'd really messed up my posture, which necessitated using a TEKA chinrest, and a wooden shoulder rest (I don't remember the name of it - it was the first beautifully carved wooden rests to come out around 2000ish). With that setup, the violin was out to the side, and my ear was in line with the violin, which is a good way to lose hearing. With the setup I have now, my chin is in line with the violin (scroll) and the sound doesn't go directly into my ear. It also helps my bow to be straight. I'm a happy camper, although when sitting in the orchestra, I did have to take a stand for what I needed to keep my posture in line. It was worth it.

August 8, 2021 at 09:44 PM · You mean you’re supposed to feel comfortable when playing the violin? :)

Yesterday, at my lesson I told my violin teacher a funny story. Out of nowhere this week I heard the voice of my father (deceased) telling me to hold my violin up. He was a stickler for me holding my violin perfectly. I’ll never forget, as a young kid, hearing him keep saying “Violin up. Violin up!” It took seven months back into my current journey to realize what a slouch I have been!

August 8, 2021 at 11:16 PM · viola shoulder rest comes off in high positions otherwise ok

August 9, 2021 at 01:08 PM · @Dessie, in my community orchestra any member is allowed to have his or her own stand if they wish. There are two or three people who could share a stand but choose not to, and it's all fine. When there are 120 people in an orchestra, then you have to optimize the use of space, so someone who can't share a stand might wind up at the back of their section, which means they can see their music just fine but not the conductor! Our orchestra doesn't have enough players for this to ever be an issue.

August 9, 2021 at 02:39 PM · I am STILL hoping to discover that perfect combination of chin and shoulder rests. ??

August 10, 2021 at 07:29 PM · When I first started playing viola I tried going without a shoulder rest, just to see whether there was anything to all this talk I was hearing. Since the viola is thicker I thought it might work. But it wasn't that great - especially in concerts, where the viola tended to slide around on my slippery tuxedo jacket. (It was entertaining for the audience, though.)

Eventually I went to a shop and tried half a dozen different shoulder rests, and wound up settling on a good old Kun, just like on my violin.

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