Shoulder Rest: Yes or No?

May 5, 2008 at 05:08 PM ·

Replies (93)

May 5, 2008 at 05:11 PM · If it was me I would ask why without a rest? I would give it a worthy try and I have had a ball trying new things with the violin and you know what? I have new tools that have improved my playing and enhanced my abilities. However, if my progress or I suffered I would like to sit with the teacher and discuss options. Whatever is going to get the violin to do what you want and need it to do...Do!

May 5, 2008 at 05:18 PM · Boy have you opened a can of worms (there are a few other threads here that have gotten quite heated).

I'll chip in my 2 cents for what they're worth: I play with a shoulder rest, because I have an ostrich neck. This prevents me from A. lifting my shoulder B. lowering my chin C. supporting the violin with the left hand, which in my mind would tighten shifts and vibrato. Ergonomically, the one thing a person must be careful of is rests that force your fiddle to far forward on the chest - I have a Wolf Rest, and I've re-bent the metal frame to adjust the curve, which keeps the violin higher up on my shoulder.

Acoustics are the subject of debate, and without much scientific evidence. I did play for a while w/o a rest, and I do frankly think that my sound opened up when the back of my instrument was no longer pressed against clothing. I don't sense the sides of the fiddle being integral in sound production, so having a rest touching in a couple spots should not damage the sound.

If you decide to go rest-less, I'd recommend cosmetic sponges (available at Shar, I believe) to prevent the violin from slipping.

Good luck either way!

May 5, 2008 at 05:29 PM · Neck size doesn't really matter in my experience. I have a large neck, and am extremely comfortable playing without a shoulder rest.

Do whatever feels most natural for you. For me, I feel more intimate with my instrument when it's there without any outside influences in between.

May 5, 2008 at 05:22 PM · I would actually agree with your teacher Adam. At first it might feel strange but give it a try. You'll find your positioning and your tone to become much better.

May 5, 2008 at 05:36 PM · sigh

May 5, 2008 at 05:44 PM · I would say give it a solid try for a couple of weeks. Also, experiment with sponges/padding, different chin rests, etc. If you find you can't play without a shoulder rest, or you play much better with a shoulder rest, you can always throw the thing back on. It's always nice to try new things, even if they don't work out, because it gives you a bit of perspective.

Also, I like to quote Star Wars Ep. III for people who are super dogmatic about how to play music (whether it's shoulder rests on a violin or german vs. french bow holds on a bass, or whatever): "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."

May 5, 2008 at 06:48 PM · hahahaha! I agree "sigh"

I have a long neck and I play without a shoulder rest. Love it--best thing that ever happened to me and my violin. Totally freed me. I have no tension issues and I don't grip too much with my chin. I think I must have built up a little callous on my collarbone, because now it feels easy and natural, but when I was first learning, I had to use a chamois to help out. Give shoulder-restless playing a chance. If you can manage it, I think you'll like it, but it will end up being a personal decision.

Isn't it great you have the opportunity to learn both ways? Now, you'll get to weigh the pros and cons and make the choice for yourself--and that is a very musical thing to do.

May 5, 2008 at 05:48 PM · Ay, there's no absolutes for this kind of thing. There are many world-class violinists who get a gorgeous tone and play godly while using shoulder rests. And there are players of ye olden times who play marvelously without rests.

It all depends on YOU personally. If you find that your playing is easier without a rest, and it's more comfortable musically and physically, go for it!

If shoulder rests are that way for you, play with a rest!

May 5, 2008 at 06:47 PM · One other thought I forgot to mention. Corwin Slack has a nice picture on his bio that gives you a good birdseye view of what playing without a shoulder rest should look like--some people like to raise that left shoulder in an attempt to "grab" the violin with their chin and shoulder, but that will muffle the sound. To do "shoulder restless" playing appropriately, there shouldn't be any clenching between the shoulder and chin (that would be antithetical to the basic idea--to free the left shoulder). One of the first major hurdles for you will be to learn to balance the violin while shifting. It's a good thing to try even if you end up choosing to keep your shoulder rest (as was astutely pointed out by Buri on another thread) because it will teach your thumb how to organize itself in connection with the fingers and help you gain some freedom in your left shoulder.

May 5, 2008 at 06:06 PM · I remember when I started, it seemed like next to impossible to keep the violin on my shoulder without a rest. My teacher recommended a shoulder rest and over time I got used to it. One day, about 30 minutes into my daily practise I thought "something feels a little different today" and then I realised I had forgotten to put the shoulder rest on. The fact that it took me that long to notice is an indication that I should be able to get used to playing without it if I wanted to. So, I'd say it is not strictly necessary, just a matter of preference.

May 5, 2008 at 07:24 PM · Regardless of whether one uses or does not use a shoulder rest, the important thing to know is what the purpose of a chinrest and shoulder rest are. They are to have a consistent location to where one puts one instrument.

The purpose of the left hand is to hold the instrument. Not the shoulder or the neck. I found a huge improvement in my playing when I started holding the violin solely with my left hand. It may seem contradictory at first, but it makes everything easier.

May 5, 2008 at 07:47 PM · I've found that the violin itself does matter: the height of the ribs and the arching can make the instrument feel comfortable without a rest, or it may discourage it. An instrument I'm playing on now has a fairly flat arch and low rib height so I could never play without a rest. It would just fall on the floor.

May 5, 2008 at 11:05 PM ·

May 5, 2008 at 08:31 PM · I'm very surprised that nobody here has said anything about holding the violin with your LH when playing w/o a rest vs. clamping on the instrument with your jaw(maybe i've been doing it wrong!). Just to share my experience, I used to play with one but I got inspired by Clayton Haslop's story(Kreutzer guy) about Milstein telling him to ditch his rest(btw, Aaron Rosand also despises shoulder rests). I also stopped using one because I didn't like how my fiddle drooped, but I may of been using it incorrectly(I tend to clamp down down, like I said). Good luck and I've enjoyed reading everyone's insight into this controversial and important subject. One last thing, Primrose said he could teach a swan to play w/o any aid or support and he was one lanky fellow!

May 5, 2008 at 08:53 PM · So whatever works, it's whatever you can do to accomplish what needs to be accomplished with or without a shoulder rest. If you have a student who can play the Paganini Caprices perfectly with or with out what would you recomend?

May 5, 2008 at 09:10 PM · You're right Vincent, I was going to mention that earlier. The left hand balances when no shoulder rest is used and the whole element of double contact of thumb and the side of index finger has to be learned as well to facilitate the balancing of the instrument and to make navigation on the fingerbaord easier. I've seen so many teachers teach students this new trend brought on by the shoulder rest to have a space between the index finger and neck which makes one navigate the fingerboard blindly with the fingertips. The great violinists you can see from videos navigate with their palms and the base of their hands. Anyway I have to catch a train. Hope that made a little sense.

May 5, 2008 at 09:19 PM · Royce,

I'm pondering your question: what WOULD I do if I had a student who could play the Paganini Caprices perfectly? I don't know. Luckily I haven't faced that yet. On the one hand, I'd congratulate myself on a job well done. But on the other hand I'd want to shoot myself and then quit the violin.

Scott

May 5, 2008 at 09:23 PM · Adam

I could either way on the shoulder rest thing-really doesn't matter. What concerns me is a teacher who makes all her new students not use one. This seems rather dogmatic to me. Everyone is different.

Reminds me of Joachim, who forced all his students to have his bow arm. He didn't produce any significant students....

Scott

May 5, 2008 at 09:51 PM · According to a poll we took on V.com, a substantial majority (78 percent) of violinists use shoulder rests, just in case you want some stats. That includes me. (Click on "view results")

I have two students who use a only a very, very thin sponge, mostly to keep the fiddle from slipping, as they have very short necks.

May 6, 2008 at 12:15 AM · VINCENT--check out my previous post. I did mention it in my second post, actually.

"Reminds me of Joachim, who forced all his students to have his bow arm. He didn't produce any significant students...." Scott, I must totally misunderstand you or you must be saying that comment about Joachim tongue-in-cheek. What about Hubay or Auer? "Significant students?" Ysaye was influenced by him though I guess he wasn't technically Joachim's student. Then there's Huberman and Franz von Vecsey, but maybe they weren't too good . . . !?? Or did you mean Maud Powell? Explain?

May 6, 2008 at 12:04 AM · Old lady, short neck, Berber chinrest and chamois makes for comfort and security. Why add anything else? I tried no chinrest, didn't like it...I worried about the finish.

May 6, 2008 at 12:21 AM · NO!

May 6, 2008 at 12:26 AM · KImberlee,

No, I was being serious about Joachim. I'd like to point to several passages in Boris Schwartz's classic "Great Masters of the Violin" from pages 269-271. I won't quote everything, but I'll cover the major points:

1. all of the violinists you mentioned came to him as fully-formed and technically capable (Schwarz says that von Vecsey and Huberman had "minimal contact." For these students, Joachim gave very little technical advice, and often never even demonstrated.

2. Concerning those students that Joachim imparted technique to, it was Flesch who, noting Joachim's cramped and unnatural bow arm, observed that "a majority of the students thus maltreated contracted arm troubles and, as violinists, became cripples for life."

I was drawing a parallel between those students that Joachim ruined with a faulty bow arm, and teachers that insist on every student throwing away their shoulder rest. I still stand by my statement.

Scott

May 6, 2008 at 02:23 AM · Okay, Scott. Understood. It's funny--seems like I hear this "fully formed artist" argument in connection with Auer, Flesch, Zimbalist and now Joachim. I agree it is vitally important to teach the STUDENT. Student is first, lesson is second, method is third (at least that's my method! haha ;)) Sorry if I've been testy Julie. I'm done now. :)

May 6, 2008 at 02:49 AM · Kimberlee, you weren't being testy! Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. :)

I just feel strongly about this shoulder rest issue because I agree with everything Mr. Rosand has to say about the positioning of the violin. I had played for years with a shoulder rest because that was the way I was taught, and I always had shoulder pain and problems with flexibility and vibrato. When I learned to play without one, it changed my life.

Of course there are other reasons that I am pro no shoulder rest, but as we've already had many threads on this, I'll just keep mum.

May 6, 2008 at 12:22 PM · I'm with you Julie, but I'll mind my manners too.

May 6, 2008 at 02:36 PM · It isn't just a question of rest or no rest. It is also a question of lifting the shoulder vs. bit lifting the shoulder.

If your teacher suggests that you lift you shoulder to hold the violin without a rest I wouldn't be wildly enthusiastic.

But if your teacher can show how to play without a rest and without raising your shoulder then you could have some very great breakthroughs.

You can see what I mean not lifting the shoulder by clicking on my name and seeing the picture in my profile.

I dropped the shoulder rest about nine years ago. I had to relearn the left hand. It took some time before I was really comfortable.

May 6, 2008 at 05:05 PM · Scott- dito!

May 6, 2008 at 05:13 PM · Corwin--take a look at my second post.

May 6, 2008 at 05:36 PM · I sense that our various views stem largely from our approach towards the left hand. In my mind, the left hand should be as free as possible, so that it can make light, smooth shifts and a relaxed, fluid vibrato. I have studied in depth the left hand technique involved in supporting the violin, and it has yet to convince me.

That said, there are wonderful violinists that play both with or without. Anyone thinking that a rest is absolutely necessary evidently hasn't heard Milstein or Heifetz, and anyone who thinks that rests are cumbersome needs to learn of someone called Hilary Hahn, who seems to manage just fine with one.

If you can become great with/out one, do whatever is most comfortable and logical to you.

May 6, 2008 at 07:15 PM · I think people who use shoulder rests are just using a crutch and couldn't be considered "real" violinists...

Just kidding, totally kidding...

May 6, 2008 at 07:45 PM · Ian S. Please don't pollute a thread like this with your posts containing such fine common sense and excellent logic.

:)

Neil

May 6, 2008 at 09:07 PM · M. Dowling;

You can always try mountain biking without the seat. :)

May 6, 2008 at 10:41 PM · henceforward to be known as `Howlin` Dowlin``?

Cheers,

Buri

May 7, 2008 at 12:27 AM · LOL Buri!!!!

May 7, 2008 at 01:33 AM · A shoulder rest CANNOT be selected without first finding your ideal chinrest.

What is all the fuss about?

If you find you can play better with a shoulder rest, then there would seem to be no reason to foresake one.

You may also find different chinrests and different shoulder rests work for you on different violins. And - you may find that at different stages of your playing life the equipment that works for will change.

It is pointless to compare what works for one player and another. I'm sure my hands are at least twice the mass of Heifetz's (as are Perlmann's), and at least 4 times that of some fine female players I know. How in the world would the same things work for all of us - after all, the instruments are pretty much the same--how to you fit them to yourself?

Andy

May 7, 2008 at 11:29 AM · Geez.

Who Freaking Cares?!?!?!?

Some don't play with a shoulder rest - yay for them.

Some do play with a shoulder rest - yay for them.

Why do so many insist on inflicting THEIR beliefs on this issue on others? ALL of it is based on opinion and personal preference. NONE of it is based on an indisputable fact.

This insistence that your way, whichever way that is, is the only way, the correct way, the single one way, etc, etc, is arrogant, ignorant and moronic.

Give it a break people.

You do play with a shoulder rest - yay for you.

You don't play with a shoulder rest - yay for you.

Me, I don't care what the f**k you do so stop insisting I do it your way and only your way. Enough is enough.

Neil

PS: This is aimed at no single person, particularly not those such as Andrew who are more quietly advocating the same thing. Sometimes saying it bluntly though may get the point across.

May 7, 2008 at 12:34 PM · I am a teacher. I am supposed to influence people. What I say and do and think matters a lot. Some students will remember some of the things I say for their entire lifetime.

All of us influence other people whether we consciously intend to or not. I try to be very careful of what I do and what I say so that my students will have the happiest and healthiest relationship with their instrument. Then they are most able to express themselves through their music.

The reason there is so much discussion about the shoulder rest is that the use or non-use of the shoulder rest is directly related to many more fundamental issues concerning both how to hold the instrument and how to play it. These discussions of the deeper issues are valuable and healthy for us, both as teachers and as players.

The increasingly negative and divisive comments about shoulder rests both sadden and anger me at first; then I realize that the author may be struggling or hurting in a way that I do not yet understand.

I wish to encourage all of us to use our experience and influence as players and teachers to create the most positive environment for making and enjoying music.

May 7, 2008 at 01:17 PM · I'd be wary of a teacher who makes a blanket requirement like that about shoulder rests (one way or another). If you are having to switch teachers anyway, I'd suggest finding one who is more open-minded and treats her students as individuals with individual needs.

May 7, 2008 at 06:30 PM · I think I would be a bit wary of a teacher that didn't have some passion for what they believed and wanted to pass on to others.

In the end it isn't really about shoulder rest. It is more fundamental. It is how do you support the violin and what are the advantages for one method vs. another. If a teacher doesn't have a well developed and well argued point of view on how one supports the violin I wouldn't trust them at all.

May 7, 2008 at 07:24 PM · Laurie Niles' blog in February with a friend who plays in Tafelmusik (no chinrest and no shoulder rest either) demonstrated to me how it works.

It's notable that her friend also plays with a shoulder rest for her modern playing.

How's that for a political answer!!!

http://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20082/

May 7, 2008 at 08:10 PM · Well... like with any tool. It can either serve us well, or be misused. If it enhances and advances the music and or the player by all means use it. If it's a hinderance and or giving poor results now and or in the future by all means ditch it!

May 7, 2008 at 09:05 PM ·

May 7, 2008 at 10:18 PM · I play usually with a shoulder rest. But i find that my shoulder rest (KUN) muffles the sound ever so slightly. So when I take it off and play lets say Bach it sounds much brighter and has a longer ring.

May 7, 2008 at 11:53 PM · Adam- If you have a music shop that happens to have a variety, see if they'll let you try a few. The one that "fits" you, only you will know when playing with it. And as we age we go through physical changes and so adapt to and with those changes. Whatever will allow the body alighnment that allows you to play and execute whatever you need to do to play at your best.

It'll be the most comfortable from head to toe and allow you the most freedom (the most range of motion you can get from your limbs and fingers).

May 8, 2008 at 01:16 AM · Some people need it, some people don't. The shoulder rest is not evil or good. It simply is.

Talk to your new teacher about why she does not like the shoulder rest.

May 9, 2008 at 05:46 AM · Adam ... I find the Berber (central mount with lip)is the best chin rest for me and I attach some of that rubbery stuff used for lining drawers etc(not draws!) to stop any slipping.

May 9, 2008 at 06:47 AM · what do you use to line your draws?

Startled,

Buri

May 12, 2008 at 06:11 AM · Obviously depends upon prune consumption ... there are various options...

May 13, 2008 at 05:30 AM · Of course, Buri .... I might add that I have never seriously considered the option of going without said article, although that would dispense with the need for liners altogether. Going without, woud be the most natural thing, but I don't think I would feel comfortable. Everyone has their own opinion of course, and I hesistate to touch such a terribly sensitive subject on this site. Of course going WITH means a less open sound, a slightly muffled effect,together with a certain restriction of freedom .... but as I said, it depends somewhat on the prune intake.

May 12, 2008 at 12:03 PM · Having tried various combinations, the best for me is the centered mounted flat Flesch CR and no SR but with a 1 inch foam pad on the shoulder (the Ohrenform works very well too). No CR with SR works well for me too, but the CR no SR works better. CR with SR creates tensions and hickeys for me. No CR and no SR is the worst combo, as this creates the greatest neck pain.

I got the idea of CR and no SR from an old video of Isaac Stern in China. It was an adjustment for about a day (all changes are adjustments), but now I play better, without pain and hickey.

Sound affected? Don't know, as this was not the goal. But CR no SR still produces a great sound, and I like the experience of feeling the violin resonate on my shoulder.

Of course, it is a personal matter. If asked, I would suggest the CR no SR option. good to have options!

May 12, 2008 at 02:47 PM · I can't get over the fact that there are (were since the Shoulder rest opponents exsposed reached the 100 comments today) TWO shoulder rest threads running simultaneously!

Anyone to run three at a time?

:)

May 13, 2008 at 06:04 PM · YES! Using VSOs and bows with fake stamps!

;>)

May 13, 2008 at 07:05 PM · Sounds about right Don... But it is a trifle bit of fun. Robert Bly wrote that no one has a good arguement over a contrivercy..real or immagined anymore. Not to devide people but to spar, to test the wit, to put the mind on edge and stimulate great thinking. In the Inns and pubs in the 18th & 19th centuries in this country men would argue and debate, Mark Twain THRIVED on them! Some of his best humor came from them i.e., "Whiskey's for 'drinking' not water gentlemen! Water's for fighting over!"

May 14, 2008 at 03:21 AM · >the banjo forum looked pretty much under control.

That`s because they don`t use shoulder rests.;)

May 14, 2008 at 05:49 AM · Buri .... I can't believe you didn't take the bait ... I was looking forward to your reply (or maybe my sense of humour is just too wacky)

disappointed

Terri

May 14, 2008 at 06:44 AM · some things are just too good to mess with...

May 14, 2008 at 04:22 PM · I don't use shoulder rest.

I also don't wear any clothes when I'm practicing.

It's only me and the violin(well,and my bow too,but it turn out that the dealer sold me a 30$ bow at 215$ ,so I'm trying to forget it).

May 14, 2008 at 05:31 PM · Juda S- If I were in country in Nam like you I would practice the same way, my playing Schredieak would chase the mosquitos and centapedes away. I also have a 10 Dong coin on a nekclace. I have hopes that it'll surpass the USD in the next few years. Maybe then I can buy Buri a banjo and take him to lunch.

May 14, 2008 at 05:46 PM · Royce,

Were you in "the nam" ?

I have a few 10 dong pieces

in my desk.

May 15, 2008 at 02:42 PM · Joe- I sent you an email to your home account. I wasn't in the War. I was born in 1965. A friend who was gave it too me since it would be the last time I would ever see him again, at least in this life. He was with a Task Force Recon unit, U.S.M.C. This maybe inacurate but I think his was the 4th T.F.R. and based in Japan, but I don't remember.

May 16, 2008 at 03:43 AM · I was experimenting with my violin and I'm going to take the chin rest off and see how that goes. I prefer my chin more on the tail piece and it does sound better. But could it be that it sounds like that do to a different angle and how the sound waves are effected? I'll have someone listen and ask their point of view.

May 16, 2008 at 11:29 AM · Hi everyone!

I think it is not useful to be too dogmatic about this issue.

Since holding the violin is not really natural and strains your body in the long run, some violinists find it useful to change shoulder rests from time to time or even switch from using one to using none. Changing activates different muscles and can avoid long term tension based injuries.

I know for a fact that roughly at the same time the two concert masters of the London Philharmonic changed at the same time:

One started playing WITHOUT a rest after 40 years of using one and the other one started using one after playing without one. In the second case a wooden rest made his violin actually sound BETTER.

I know it usually is understood that playing without a rest makes a better violin sound but there are always exceptions.

I think one point that hasn't been mentioned (or at least I haven't come across it) is the fact, that the weight of the scroll and the neck that you have to 'carry' with your left hand becomes lighter if you lift the scroll up higher. If the scroll is above the violin's centre of gravity most of the weight will rest on your shoulder or collar bone and the weight your left hand has to hold is actually less. This applies if you play with or without rest. If you play without a rest however, I think you are kind of forced to hold it up a little higher so you don't drop it (like it's hot).

It seems unlogically at first that the neck and scroll is lighter when you hold it up more but that is the way it is. Any physicist could confirm that (I hope).

I started playing without a rest some time ago and found it quite difficult to change but it was very interesting because I had to think about the left hand much more. I found I have to focus on posture more and this point alone was worth the change. I started being more aware of breathing and also in my work as a violin maker it has helped me to think about my posture more. Making violins can be just as strenous as playing the violin.....

Because the violin rests on the shoulder and collar bone more, you need not clench it so much with your chin which frees up the right side of the neck. As others have written before, you must balance the violin more and you cannot grip the neck too tightly, so your left hands frees up automatically as well.

But by no means it is easy and I don't know how it is to play many hours in an orchestra or so.

I also think a little pad (sponge) helps because it prevents the violin slipping around on your shoulder.

As mentioned above I think it helps to be open minded about this subject and just try it out one or the other way, I guess there is a lot to be learned in both cases.

Hans

May 16, 2008 at 12:37 PM · hans, starting when will violin makers break the mold and make something that fits people's shoulder and neck?

forget about strad model, how about your own?

May 16, 2008 at 03:37 PM · I don't know. But I am afraid it is not going to be me....You guys like Strad models too much and frankly, he was the best.....

hans

May 16, 2008 at 05:13 PM · I love Amatis!

May 17, 2008 at 03:03 AM · Max, the thing is, changing from SR to no SR requires considerable re-training of the muscles. You probably would not be able to make an "informed" and fair decision on which method was best unless you tried SR-less for at least a few months.

This may well be why so many prefer to use one, because that's how they were taught when young, and that's how their muscles & muscle-memory developed. (Granted, some folks do switch from no SR to using one.)

Many physiology books say that to fully integrate a new muscle-memory takes around three years. (seven to fully change a muscle completely) That's true in sports, singing, and many other fields. it seems to be a fairly ubiquitous and universal number.

I never used a SR, but as I was learning to play (already an advanced musician on other instruments) the one thing I had trouble with was not shifting, it was keeping the violin from moving about on my collarbone. there really wasn't much I could do about it, so I concentrated on rt-hand control instead. It took about two years, but the movement simply wnt away. I assume my muscle-memory of all those small, related muscles just developed by itself. Now my violin is rock-stable, with no conscious effort on my part.

Long story to simply say: This is not a change that can be judged in a few days or even a week.

May 19, 2008 at 09:45 AM · BTW-

This thread was waaaay too civil, considering the subject matter!

You folks must be getting overly-sedated, listening to all that classical music. I hear it's very relaxing. (g)

May 19, 2008 at 02:31 PM · Yeah, I didn't see anybody refering to SR users as chinless weaklings slavishly dependant on tech devices with a fear of intimacy or the SRless minority called short necked throwbacks or obese multichined trogdalites with an infantile desire to cling ...could have been a lot more interesting...and it doesn't appear that anyone has stomped off into the far distance in a fit of outraged propriety, so all in all, I'd say we've been rather restrained.

May 19, 2008 at 03:17 PM · Far Out! Lets burn our Sr's and CR's! Trust no one "Under" 30!

May 20, 2008 at 12:05 AM ·

May 20, 2008 at 12:07 AM · Hey Adam, nobody's mad, especially at you. It's all in fun. It's like tie/no tie? Shirt in/shirt out?

May 20, 2008 at 01:01 AM · I play with a Sostenuto pad...flirted with trying a rest, and decided that the freedom was better than the stability, even though somethings are more difficult (learning vibrato, for example.) But I really like the feeling of the fiddle right down there on my collar bone so it feels like an extension of me. Erica

May 22, 2008 at 06:27 PM · I feel your pain!

I'm a beginner on the violin, and up until this point, I have done all of my playing and instruction without a shoulder rest. So far, it has caused no problems.

My instructor didn't push the idea of a shoulder rest (nor did he even mention one) until I told him I had one from a long time ago when I first tried playing violin. He then told me to bring it and see how it works out. It IS nice how much it frees up the left hand, however I'm having to reorient my bow because of the dramatic tilt I am now experiencing with the shoulder rest. It's not hard, but it IS somewhat a nuisance...

Anyway, I say all of this because I think using a shoulder rest might be better for a beginner...to make learning shifts & vibratos easier. You need that left hand freed up in order to do this. After you have learned these things, you could probably go back and forth between using a shoulder rest or not...I've noticed a lot of professional musicians do not venture into either extreme of ALWAYS using a shoulder rest of NEVER using one.

Give it a try, what could it hurt? But in the end, YOU make the decision. Afterall, the experience of playing the violin is entirely yours.

May 22, 2008 at 07:38 PM · Lauren,

I think it is always better to see how far you can get without a shoulder rest. Once you start to use one you can't easily learn the technique of playing without one.

Here is a test. Ask folks who play with one to play without and ask folks who play without to play with. Assess the difference in their playing and I think I will have proved my point.

I don't have anything against crutches and prostheses. I wear glasses. They are indispensible. I would rather use a walker, a cane, crutches or a wheelchair than be confined to bed. But I would be silly to use a wheelchair while I can still walk. Having said that I have seen folks play basketball in wheelchairs a lot better than I can play basketball on two legs.

May 22, 2008 at 10:30 PM · Greetings,

>Anyway, I say all of this because I think using a shoulder rest might be better for a beginner...to make learning shifts & vibratos easier. You need that left hand freed up in order to do this.

Non of my beginner stduents ghave had any probelms with being free, shifting or gettign a vibrato. Perhaps you haven`t noticed a number rof key posts in this disucssion which describe how teachers who don`t recmoomend shoulder rests take the trouble to teacher total balance and relaxtion? You dio nee dto know how to do it and if you don`t then there are all the other otehr absolutley fine etachers who go the other waywith no problem.

It is all down to teacher conmpetency, not the hoary old myth that the hand is freer with a rest. This issue really depresses me. There are the diehards of both schools who refuse to listen to each other banging away while well meaning peopel repeat falacies about other position. It`s good stuff for debate but it`s what I see in the real world taht bothers me. For example, I have tutored a childrens orchetsra for a number of years and watched dozens of young player spas sthrough and they are all taught by the same local taecher who has a monopoly on the area. =Every one- of those studnets has the violin too high, the scroll too low, raises the left shoulder, can neither shift nor do vibrato and has all the bowing arm probnlems associated with this garbage. I would not use that very big group of examples to say shoudler rest are bad for beginners. I just wish people would look a bit closer in either approach. If it looks wrong, sounds wrong and the student isn`t gettign anywhere then somethign need sot be changed.

Cheers,

Buri

May 23, 2008 at 01:01 AM · Oh good. I was afraid the topic had died;>)

May 23, 2008 at 01:28 AM · It has. Thes e are the last writes ;)

May 23, 2008 at 08:56 AM · Buri ....what do you mean by scroll too low and violin too high??? For me high violin means high scroll ... please explain .... thanks Terri

May 23, 2008 at 02:08 PM · I agree with Buri. Probably the best time to learn to play without a shoulder rest is as a beginner.

May 23, 2008 at 03:41 PM · Maybe a dumb question here, but a serious one. I play with a rest, and have always heard NSR advocates say that the sound is freer, that the rest dampens the sound a bit. True? And if so, what I don't understand is, why would the feet of a rest dampen the sound and the contact with the shoulder/neck/etc. not? It would seem that the more 'flesh contact' the more the dampening effect???

Not at all dogmatic about this, just curious...

:)

May 23, 2008 at 05:01 PM · Here is a test. Ask folks who play with one to play without and ask folks who play without to play with. Assess the difference in their playing and I think I will have proved my point.

Corwin,

I think it depends who you ask. If you asked Hilary Hahn or Josh Bell to play without a shoulder rest, I'm sure they could do it without any problem. But that raises the key issue on the whole SR/ no SR debate. IMHO, one should be able to play both ways and then to decide what works better.

May 24, 2008 at 12:18 AM · Terry,

Single cases prove nothing. Statistics will win this one for NSR players using an SR.

May 24, 2008 at 12:19 AM · I don't know if any case should be made for sound. I think the violin sounds better without but not because of a dampening or contact effect when using one but more likely because the inherent demands of creating a technique without a crutch. This can only be measured for the individual who uses then ceases using a rest. There is no way to compare any two users.

But even if it can't be proven tonally a crutch-less technique is its own reward.

I never fail to mention that I am as opposed to shoulder lifting as I am to shoulder rests.

May 24, 2008 at 03:48 AM · Greetings,

>Buri ....what do you mean by scroll too low and violin too high??? For me high violin means high scroll ... please explain .... thanks Terri

Terri, i`m glad you asked thta. I have come to the conclusion that ther eis onereally central issue aournd the quesiton of how the violin is held and it has nothign to do with entrenched positions of either one being better.

Basically the arse end of the violin should be lower than the scroll. The reason for this is a) if it is the weight of the violin is resting on the body more than the left hand. the instrument effectiviely becomes weightless. 2) if the \body of the violin is held parallel to the ground then the strings are actually tilted away form the body which automatically cause the bow to slide towards the bridge. It then takes considerable extra effort in the bow arm to keep it on track whereve rone wishes it to be.

When one has no rest the violin is sitting on the collar bone and it is easy to teach a beginner to keep the violin up simply by having them look in a mirror, raising the violin until the fingerboard becomes invisible. If this is not taught then there is soemthign wrong in my book. it takes some time for a beginner to understand the balances involved and it is often a littl eeasier to start with a very small piece of rolled up leather as a shoulder pad. My beginning studnets use these for a while and then discard them like trainign wheels on a bike.

The problem with rests (when used incorrectly) is they raise the height of the butt of the violin , often veyr subtantially. The studnet then faces the difficulty of being unable to raise the scroll high enough to keep the strings flat or slight raised and the weight of the violin is very much away from the body. This filling in the gap with rest while the violin points downward creates insecurity which the player reacts to by squeezing with the head which effectively pushes the violin further out and soon. The build up of tension is huge. this is the effect I have observed in almost all Japanes ekids I have watched without exception. Its scary. When using a rest is taught correctly the prblem should not arise.

Cheers,

Buri

May 24, 2008 at 07:20 AM · "I'm very surprised that nobody here has said anything about holding the violin with your LH when playing w/o a rest vs. clamping on the instrument with your jaw..."

Clamping isn't a good thing in any case, but unless you play the notes with your tongue...I'd say clamping with the jaw is less detrimental than clamping with your left hand.

Essentially, "holding" the violin with your left hand is just adding to the millions of things it already has to do just to play the notes.

QUIT HOLDING, CLAMPING, BITING, SQUEEZING ETC. ETC. and just be comfortable with or without a shoulder rest.

Just be COMFORTABLE.

May 24, 2008 at 01:43 PM · Well clamping with the left hand is what players do with no SR and no technique. When you play without a SR you learn how to hold the violin in the left hand without clenching it. It is like riding a bicycle without training wheels. When you ride a bicycle with two wheels you are constantly falling then recovering. Same when playing with no shoulder rest. You are dropping and picking up the violin second by second and it really becomes natural and liberating. It is like throwing away the training wheels.

I don't see it as additive to any millions of things necessary to play the notes. It is a fundamental thing that turns millions into thousands or maybe even hundreds.

May 24, 2008 at 06:43 PM · Almost to 100 comments, but never fear guys, there TWO other SR topics running!

May 25, 2008 at 12:21 AM · What a charmingly old-fashioned discussion! I don't know anyone who plays without a shoulder rest these days, except an old boy who holds the butt on his bicep. And myself sometimes when I leave the rest on another fiddle.

May 25, 2008 at 08:28 AM · I am becoming resigned to the fact that I am just old fashioned. I'm trapped in that state, and it seems to define me. Even my haircut is old fashioned. I'd like to be fashionable and use a shoulder rest but it doesn't work for me. I'm hoping though that the fashions might change in my favor.

May 25, 2008 at 10:47 AM · One aspect to no SR is variable tilt.

In his video, Isaac Stern made a strong point that a foam pad on the shoulder under the shirt is all he used - for a specific reason. He said emphatically that the foam pad allowed him to alter and control the tilt of the violin upon his shoulder during playing, something he said was very important.

Figuring the late Mr Stern knew infinitely more than me, his video prompted me to change to no SR. I found I needed a different CR from the Dresden, as the no SR naturally shifted the position of the violin. So I bought the Flesch.

I do not think I could have made the change without the Flesch CR or say the Ohrenform. Both are high, which is necessary for me, and both allow good contact with the jaw without strain.

The effects of the change were not completely apparent for about a week, but since then I have come to understand what Stern meant.

Violin now is a better experience. I would say overall playability is easier. Another is the neat experience of hearing and feeling my violin resonate (with SR, one hears only).

no SR may not be for everyone, but I think it worthwhile trying.

May 25, 2008 at 02:48 PM · Great topic, hate to see it go away, though there THREE other related discussions going on now. Perhaps we should start a topic debating other

wonderful technical devices we could develop to improve the playability, comfort, sound, appearance and commercial viability of the violin, a nice little instrument, but one so sadly imperfect as it stands alone...

Say, for example, other kinds of clamp ons, I mean, there is a lot of room left around the edges going to waste...

for use in lessons, an LED that flashes red/yellow/green for correct intonation...

a automated or remote controled light bar to enhance appearance during performance, to be mounted on the violin or clipped into the performers hair...

platform heels, height variable between 6 to 84 inches, to lift the performer into the perfect position to maximise the accoustics of the indiviual venue...

or a SR with a vibrator/heater to enhance comfort for those with stiff joints and muscles...

or a fingerless glove with electrode contact points on the inner surface to stimulate the muscles for a perfect continous vibrato...

how about an internal time meter to tell the teacher just how much time YOU spend in practice?...or to send automatic credit to the maker's account to tell the world how many minutes his/her fiddles have been played?

Ahhh, modern miracles, the old masters would be so envious.......

May 25, 2008 at 03:54 PM · For more advice about this topic; take a look at www.violinistinbalance.nl (in English) to see many different answers/solutions concerning this question under 'Musician Stories'.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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