Shoulder rest woes!

September 4, 2008 at 09:57 PM · Hey everyone, hope you're all enjoying the beginning of September! I have a question that hopefully some people in this community can answer...

Right now I'm using a Wolf shoulder rest, and it's great for the biggest problem I've had: height. I have a very long neck and I really hate tall chin rests, so I need something fairly tall. However, I've got a problem: I'm a pretty skinny, bony guy, so it doesn't really fit me very well, meaning it very often will move or just sorta fall off. Also, because the "legs" are not solidly attached to the body of the shoulder rest, and are instead attached by pliable metal, it will sometimes "pop out" (I don't know how else to describe it) when I play.

Does anyone know of one that is tall, will mold to a skinny guy's shoulder, and will hold still? Seems like an impossible task....

Replies (40)

September 4, 2008 at 10:04 PM · You could try a Bon Musica, A Kun collapsible with an optional taller leg, or an Everest. What sort of chinrest do you use? You might benefit from one that goes across the tailpiece, like the Wittner side mount, so that your violin is a bit further towards your shoulder. Best bet is to get to a store or teacher who has a collection of both chinrests and shoulder rests, and mess around with various combinations. Also check my post down the list a little ways asking for folks with long necks and narrow shoulders to tell me about their rest combos. Your problem is along the same lines, I think. Sue

September 5, 2008 at 12:35 PM · wolf primo is the only way to go, those things go up to like 8 inches or something but I know what you mean mine used to slip off and damage my violin. You could try mixing parts together - kun legs with the mach rest is supposed to make a pretty tall rest!

September 8, 2008 at 01:10 AM · I'm a pretty big fan of the Kun collapsible (which feels different from the original Kun, though I like that as well). So much depends on how you hold your violin. Some shoulder rests, like a Wolf, really lock the violin into a fairly immovable position. Others permit varying degrees of instrument movement. I happen to like the Kun, but a lot of friends / colleagues have switched over to a Wolf model. All have said it takes a while to get the legs adjusted "just right" for them and their instrument.

September 8, 2008 at 01:20 AM · Get a comford cradle. It's made to fit to your shoulder, and it will NEVER fall off. you can also get them in tall size.

Good luck.

you can get them at:

September 8, 2008 at 01:26 AM · mach 1?

September 8, 2008 at 01:35 AM · The Bon Musica is a good bet-it has all the potential for adjustability-although it is a bit pricey.

I played a Comford for a while...I have to say one of those bricks weighs 2X what many other rests do (~200 grams)-I also didn't like what it did to my violins sound (dampened it a bit) won't come off unless you mean it to.

September 8, 2008 at 02:24 AM · I’m definitely enjoying the beginning of September because it’s ’spring time’ down under.

I’m also tall, skinny and bony and I used the Wolf SR for many years until about 15 years ago when I switched to a shoulder pad. It took some time to get used to and I persevered because I was determined never to use another contraption that clamps on my violin.

The problems I had did not include falling off but reduction in resonance and losing the thing on a few occasions where I had to make do without. And unable to move the violin from side to side and up and down. Also damage to the violin, rubbing on the ribs and the pliable piece digging into the back if not careful.

Falling off I think could have something to do with the violin hold, because if the violin is held between the chin and the collar bone ( where the chin and collar bone meet with out violin ) the SR should ‘rest’ on the shoulder thus avoiding pressure which maybe causes it to fall off.

But the ‘Johnson Bon Musica’ looks like a rest I would have chosen.

September 8, 2008 at 07:28 AM · There are options that allow you to raise the height of your chin rest assuming you have one that fits your jaw type since it's the jaw that really is fitting in to the chin rest and then as long as the violin is resting on the collar bone you can supplement padding from below.

Since you are close to the northern Virginia area if you're still at CUA in Washington, D.C., you may wish to meet with Gary Frisch and Lynne Denig who do custom designs and assess the appropriate chin rest that can make a huge difference. Regarding shoulder rests/pads a very interesting product is available called the Acoustifoam which you can read more about at

The inventor of this product is coming to the Washington area on October 17th and 18th to demonstrate and show her product. Feel free to contact me further if you'd like additional information after you've had a chance to check out the site.

September 30, 2008 at 07:46 PM · I play without shoulder rest, plus Wolf does take away half of a sound.



September 30, 2008 at 09:16 PM · Wolf have the problem to fall easily. But you could change the legs with one Kun leg or Viva la Musica leg and they won't fall.

Another option would be the Kun with the longer legs or also Viva la Musica with longer legs.

The sound problem remains with almost all shoulder rest: you loose sound. The best I tried for this is the Kun Voce (quite expensive), but I don't know if you would like it for comfort. Also this one can be setup with longer legs.

September 30, 2008 at 10:35 PM · Greetings,

I play without and ask my student to elanr without a rest. However, this kind of imprecision with its implications of er daftness (?) on the part of rest users does not help anyone:

>plus Wolf does take away half of a sound.



September 30, 2008 at 10:45 PM · What about a good old "Resonans" shoulder rest? As I recall, they are reasonably tall, and pretty inexpensive, too.

September 30, 2008 at 10:59 PM · Every time someone asks for help with a shoulder rest, someone inevitably says just get rid of the darned thing....and -- BAM! -- we're off to the races.

Someone says no great player has ever used a rest; someone else starts listing famous players who use shoulder rests; someone else notes that some player who didn't use a rest actually hid some sort of thing they refuse to label a rest under their shirt.

Then someone says use of a shoulder rest takes away sound; then someone else disputes it, noting that published studies (of bridge-type rests) on the matter actually indicate the very opposite.

Then someone else says they don't care if does take away sound (if, in fact, it actually does), the rest provides comfort/relaxation and allows for better more injury-free playing.

At this point someone usually says they play far more relaxed and more free without a shoulder rest.

Then someone says it's an individual thing and shouldn't be prescribed for everyone.

Frequently, it gets silly and nasty.

Then someone comes along and says this is a tired old argument and we shouldn't bother.

Finally, someone says if you don't like the debate don't read the thread.

Good stuff!

Oh, and the orginal poster is still at a loss....

September 30, 2008 at 11:35 PM · which he wouldn`t be if he stopped using a shoulder rest....;)

September 30, 2008 at 11:48 PM · Exactly!

October 1, 2008 at 01:27 AM · or is it the otehr way round...

October 1, 2008 at 02:29 AM · You've pinned the tail on the donkey...or is the rest to the fiddle

October 1, 2008 at 03:59 AM · How about a bit of quilting on the jacket, inside? I use a shoulder rest that never seems to get the instrument at the angle I really like, and I have been considering using no shoulder rest. My neck is a bit long, however, and I have been considering a simple bit of padding under my clothing, just to get that extra 1/2 inch.

October 1, 2008 at 04:05 AM · Greetings,

sponge is easier than padding.



October 1, 2008 at 04:41 AM · I have tried a sponge but I find it useless. It could also be as something as simple as a chin rest.

I'm in the process of readjusting my equipment - so buying various chin rests and testing with/without shoudler rests (I've learnt playing without a shoulder rest but recently I've noticed I have trouble holding the violin recently as it keeps slipping - might have to do with damaged chinrest or that I need a shoulder rest; will figure out when I try soon however)

There are also universal chin rests available so try test them out and possibly get a 'thicker' one while combining that with a Kun Collapsible.

If you really are at a loss - try visit an Alexander technique person; they should be able to pinpoint for you - then its up to you to try out different brands of shoulder rests.

Ideally - just visit any string shop, they should LET you test out the shoulder rests.

October 1, 2008 at 05:21 AM · Greetings,

I`m actually not sure why visitjg an Alexander person would help one find the right shoulder rest or chin rest in such a diretc way. AT takes at leat 3 months for most people to egt a menasingful grasp of that they can cosnicously control. That would give one the toolls to evaluate what one is or is not doing that would help one to decided.

I have actually tried on a number of ocassion to get direct feedback about what is and isn`t better in set up terms bt have not really been helped. The AT teacher is primarily their to offer possibilities not solutions.

Good advice in general though.



October 1, 2008 at 02:20 PM · A month from now will mark the 70th anniversary of the day I was given my first violin - on my 4th birthday. After I annoyed everyone fiddling arround on it most of every day for 6 months, lessons were finally begun - and so on.

I played without a shoulder rest for the first 30 years, and with various shoulder rests for most of the next 35 years. I've tried most of the shoulder rests you can buy. I've learned a few things about these devices from all that experience - at least as it affects me.

The teachers during my youth were all short-necked men of middle and southern European heritage - so they had no use at all for shoulder rests and taught me not to.

In my mid-30s I finally discovered the ideal CHINREST design for me and that improved my playing. I decided to try adding a shoulder rest and that improved the stability of my vibrato - so I kept using it. Just WHICH shoulder rest was best for me actually depended on which violin I was using it with. Also, since I had only a limited supply of my ideal chinrest, the violins with different chinrests might require me to use a different shoulder rest. I actually have a different shoulder rest encased with each violin and adjusted to that violin.

Which shoulder rests and chinrest work for me is probably not relevant for any other player, but to set the record straight I have found the Wolf Secondo (not the Forte) is best except on the couple of violins that fit me best with a Kun Vocé. I really only use the shoulder rest to effectively raise my shoulder a but - the violin is held between my jaw and collarbone, as it should be - and when possible, just rests on my collarbone and thumb.

With arthritis creaping into my left thumb-index finger connection I have had to stop using a shoulder rest sometimes this year. And I learned that:

A shoulder rest stabilizes the violin and requires the player to use the arm and hand in a wider range of positions. Withou† a shoulder rest the player is free to move the violin more instead of using the hand in so many (possibly stressful) positions. The violin has to rest more on the thumb than on the shoulder. The very popular Bon Musica shoulder rest holds to violin to stably for me, but I know quite a feww very advanced amateurs and pros who us it.

It is most important for players and teachers to be aware of what is supporting the violin and how the player responds to that in terms of left hand technique. Adding or subtracting a shoulder rest will likely change details of that technique. Using a shoulder rest removes some of the left-hand responsibility for supporting the violin and may change the way the entire left arm is used.

Since so many really great violinists are using shoulder rests these days it seems foolish to me to condemn using one, but it reiterate that it is really worthwhile to examine what using one does to one's playing style, playing posture and use of muscles and joints.

I have very recently tried a new shoulder rest - the Acoustifoam ( ) and I find that it gives me the bit off support at the shoulder that I sometimes want, while still retaining the flexibility to shift the violin around, that one has with not shoulder rest. This is still my first week of using it, but for now, I'm hooked.


October 1, 2008 at 03:02 PM · andy, fascinating account of a personal evolution where you emphasize that as you change (do not dare to use,,,age:), your comfort level changes with it.

the other element often discussed is sound effect with or without. what is your personal experience on that, or do you take that into consideration as you seek out comfort?

October 1, 2008 at 05:43 PM · Al - I've not noticed too much sound difference (to me, the player) with or without a shoulder rest, but with the violins that a Vocé works on, the fiddles may be a bit brighter with that shoulder rest - but it could simply be the angle of the fiddle to my ears.


October 1, 2008 at 07:08 PM · Okay, let's really throw the cat among the pigeons!

I have just purchased a Happynex violin sling:

FANTASTIC!! No need to worry about a long neck because your head is now free. Also you can use it with or without a shoulder rest so you can all stop arguing!

October 3, 2008 at 06:28 AM · I personnally have a Bel Suono shoulder rest after 3 YEARS of research, and i'm finally ok with it, it's not cheap at all but it's well worth it!

October 3, 2008 at 10:57 AM · That violin sling has been mentioned some where, apparently the Baroque fiddlers used it. But I don’t think I’d like to attach it to my fiddle because it could be quite awkward not being able to remove vln from shoulder during an evenings performance or even during practise sessions. Being fixed to the tail piece might course problems with the strings. Recently, since reading this thread, I have discarded my shoulder ‘pad.’ I folded a small canvas bag and placed it under my shirt. I suppose this is similar to the ‘Acoustifoam.’ For some reason it feels much better to hold the vln and I can still play selections from Bach S&P which I believe sound better now. Maybe it’s because shoulder rests/pads are fixed to the vln restricting movement. But, oh what a relief it is to play my fiddle without relying on extra support being attached to the vln, just a little padding on the collar bone. Now I can play anyone’s fiddle without saying…”O h, have you got a shoulder rest? I can’t play it without one”.

October 4, 2008 at 03:36 AM · Actually it's very easy to remove the violin from the sling as it is kind of stretchy. If you have it under the tailpiece that's a different matter but I think most people would have it under the chinrest which is what I do.

October 4, 2008 at 04:04 AM · I use a bonmusica shoulder rest in combination with a sling on my heavy viola. I am only a beginner but my neck is less sore with this combination. I have a long neck with some arthritis. for details of the sling that I use.

January 31, 2011 at 05:02 PM ·

Hellow good violinist who is looking better playing.

this is useful for you.

New patent new design never know such a ideal shoulder pad.

you will know when you pay the violin FLOATING feeling.

once visit

you will see a new dimention of playing violin.

February 1, 2011 at 11:06 PM ·

I had an adult student who for physical reasons could not support the violin, either with or without a shoulder rest. Despite physical health issues, she still had an intense desire to play though!

The solution she found was the Viostrap:

Before anyone goes off on how this doesn't work, isn't ergonomic, blah blah blah....for her and others who have needed it, it works superbly well. It allowed her to relax into three-octave scales on the violin without the "grab and choke" shifting that gave her problems before. The concept behind its design is brilliant, and properly adjusted, it does exactly what it advertises.

It's refreshing to know that despite the relative resistance to new technology in a relatively conservative art form, there are many people out there willing to push the envelope to make playing more accessible for people who would have otherwise been told "forget it, because of [insert reason here] you'll never be able to play."

February 2, 2011 at 01:58 AM ·

See and notice the silk scarf that the soloist Enrico Onofri uses to hold his Baroque violin in place.

In Andrew Fouts of Chatham Baroque, who is very tall with a long neck, handles playing a Baroque violin with no assistance whatsoever.

In Amandine Beyer uses a very low Baroque hold demanded by the writing of the Baroque composer Nicola Matteis. 


February 2, 2011 at 05:06 AM ·

The Viostrap is flat out dangerous, besides being an absurdity:

"The elegant design simply slides under the fingerboard, wraps under the instrument and around your neck.  No tying, clamps, clips, snaps or screws.  Pain and discomfort are eased by transferring pressure from the chin and shoulders to the back of the neck."

"They also come equipped with an additional SAFETY RELEASE BUCKLE"

"Designed to be used with all standard shoulder rests, the VioStrap has minimal contact with the instrument."

Given that conservatory types like Valerie Gardener are advising students to practice routinely with the scroll against the wall (despite the SR),  its not too far fetched to envision yet another gadget in the pursuit of total immobalisation to secure the scroll into the wall.  Hmmm...a rope around your neck attached to the violin at one end, scroll locked in at the wall at the other end, and kids.  Asphyxiation anyone?  Good thing it has a SAFETY RELEASE BUCKLE.

What will it be next to complement the 12 chinrests, 8 shoulder rests,  16 DVD's and books most of us have? 

February 2, 2011 at 07:09 AM ·

> The Viostrap is flat out dangerous, besides being an absurdity

I see, you tried it out, worked with a student that tried it out, and arrived at this conclusion? Not in my experience...for a colleague of mine working with a student who had some permanent disability from a severe car accident, it allowed her a way to hold up her instrument and play without pain, and even make it through youth orchestra rehearsals.

Let me most posters on the Internet, you've decided to make absolute declarations without any actual experience with the product in question?

The basic failure of assertions of this nature (and it happens all the time on the Clarinet Pages at, on TrumpetHerald, and other instrument boards) is that individuals believe that their unique experience in the field should define that of every other person in it.

When you've taught enough people of different ages, ability levels, shapes, and sizes, you'll eventually realize that a "one size fits all" mentality doesn't have any grounding in reality.

February 2, 2011 at 08:54 PM ·

 Trevor, I am actually a baroque violinist myself. In that situation I do not use any shoulder or chin rest, however I find that for some of the more virtuoso music played on modern violin that having a chin-rest is really helpful, and can be used in a way that is not destructive.

The original post was a LONG time ago, but I have since found a good solution for me. I got rid of the shoulder rest entirely, because it was immobilizing my left arm and shoulder. After having played baroque violin for so long, I have really come to love the freedom that I feel when the violin just rests on my collarbone. Taking this as a parameter now, the solution was to find the right chin rest. I went to Lynne Denig and Gary Frisch, who made me a custom chin rest. I have used that for a year or so now and love it. It's a great solution, very comfortable, and it's much easier to play chin-off when I want to.

February 3, 2011 at 11:24 PM ·


February 3, 2011 at 11:35 PM ·

Oops, my bad. I didn't see that this started so long ago. Anyway, I'm glad that going shoulder restless :) worked for you.

February 3, 2011 at 11:38 PM ·

This is the topic that just won't go away.  I am neither pro-SR nor anti-SR.  I have played both ways and am currently not using an SR.  However, I would not rule out the possibility that one day I might go back to using an SR.  At any rate, I started a thread some time ago, not about whether one should use (or not use) an SR, but to discuss specific techniques to transition from SR to non-SR playing.  I also made a few videos you might find helpful.

Playing without a shoulder rest


February 4, 2011 at 02:12 AM ·

Do you mean having the violin at shoulder level but actually in contact with and supported by the collar bone, irrespective of whether a shoulder rest is being used? Any contact with the shoulder then would be merely passing and not supportive. Supporting the violin by the shoulder would surely hinder free movement of the shoulder and left arm. 

February 4, 2011 at 02:23 AM ·

I'm a fiddler, and I look at things a bit differently.

I'm thinking of coming up with some contraption to mount under my shirt that will make my shoulder the perfect shape to fit the violin. I am looking at Football, Hockey, and Lacrosse shoulder pads as a starting point. After I decide on the underlayer, I will see about getting a carbon fiber shelf mounted. I don't want to stop the back from resonating, so it will have to have a method to grab at the edge of the rib (the violin rib, not mine).

Once I get it developed, I'll let you know.

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

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine