Who invented the shoulder rest?

July 30, 2009 at 02:38 AM ·

I haven't been able to figure this out on my own. Does anyone know? Not just the first company to make one, but the first person.

Replies (40)

July 30, 2009 at 11:55 AM ·

Lucifer did! Ha - I couldn't resist!

But seriously...at what point is a shoulder rest, well, a shoulder rest - as opposed to a cushion of some sort? Not including the small, crescent-like devices, if we're talking about the kind that goes across the full width of the violin's lower bout, the earliest one that I know about was invented by Rudolf Kolitch. He was active in the early part of the 20th cent. I don't know when exactly he invented his rest.

OK - let the sparks fly. I really must be going again. My new CD isn't going to produce itself. I can quit v.com any time I want - I've done so, many times. ;-)

July 30, 2009 at 06:08 PM ·

I thought Joe Shoulder invented it.  I had heard it was named after him.

July 30, 2009 at 11:59 PM ·

Raphael- You could quit, but we would mis you and you would get lonely.... so there.... and you will have nightmares that shoulder rests are growing out of your body... Ha! };^)

July 31, 2009 at 10:09 PM ·

May Joe Shoulder rest in peace...

August 1, 2009 at 01:00 AM ·

Jean-Jacques Chaulder exhibited the first push-up bra at the 1876 Paris Fashion Show, and violinists soon discovered that the "lift" enhanced support of the violin in certain situations.

German engineers thought that this idea might be expanded to make it useful for the masses, so the trans-gender "Volks-bra" was designed. After no small amount of teasing about their masculinity, they redesigned this as an appliance which would fit onto the violin, rather than upon the body of the player. In the interim though, this brief tangle between engineering and eroticism was the genesis of the rocket program.

It was the French Canadians who finally insisted on rightful credit to the original French inventor of the concept, and re-named it the "Chaulder rest".

Americans, lacking culture, and any appreciation or understanding of history, eventually marketed this as a "shoulder rest", just because they didn't know any better.

 

August 1, 2009 at 04:22 AM ·

Haha! Them French Canadiens.

August 1, 2009 at 04:42 AM ·

Sarah Eaton asked: "Who invented the shoulder rest?" and Raphael Klayman responded: "Lucifer did."

I second the motion. 'Twas nought but the devil himself who was capable of conjuring such evil! Those who use a shoulder rest shall meet him!! People who use a little sponge or pad are mercifully sent to purgatory. Those of us who use nothing at all get to sit by the side of Heifetz in the heavenly firmament.

August 1, 2009 at 06:25 AM ·

 Greetings,

>Those of us who use nothing at all get to sit by the side of Heifetz in the heavenly firmament.

Good job there is only two of us then.....

Cheers,

Buri

August 1, 2009 at 08:29 AM ·

If man were meant to play with shoulder rests, God woudn't have given him collar bones ...

August 1, 2009 at 01:39 PM ·

Such restless people!  Have a prune! }:^D

August 1, 2009 at 04:38 PM ·

i play without and was just curious as to whose idea it was and why it caught on.

so no one has a serious answer? 

August 1, 2009 at 04:49 PM ·

I'd say it filled a gap rather than caught on. 

August 1, 2009 at 05:26 PM ·

The 1897 Sears catalog mentions, but does not illustrate "Becker's" chinrest with an integrated 'shoulder rest'.

The Becker unit is illustrated in an 1898 issue of 'The Strad', and looks very similar to the Libero/Stowemaster design.

The August, 1921 issue of 'Etude' magazine includes an advertisement for the 'Mado shoulder rest', which looks very much like the Libero/Stowemaster design.

The August, 1923 issue of 'The Violinist' magazine has a list of American violin makers in it.  There is a listing for "Lockes' Violin Shoulder Rest" which states that the particular shoulder rest was invented by Guyon Locke, April 25, 1876 "Ensures perfect position of the violin" etc.

The April, 1910 issue of 'Popular Mechanics' includes a brief mention of a shoulder rest with no inventor name or details aside from an illustration of what  again looks vaguely like a Libero or Stowemaster design.

So variations of the idea were probably invented by different people at different times, and even with all the facts in hand it would probably be difficult to pinpoint a moment when the common modern design came into being.  It wouldn't be surprising if the latter had been invented several times but finally successfully marketed only by a later inventor.

The magazines can be viewed at Google books.  :-)

August 1, 2009 at 05:57 PM ·

thank you andres for your helpful answer!

August 1, 2009 at 09:23 PM ·

I'm not getting one untill they come with a cupholder! And vibro-massage?:^D

C

August 2, 2009 at 11:25 AM ·

I like my shoulder rest as I feel more comfortable and get a better final result. I say this after a restless period of four years some years ago (which overall helped my playing a lot). May God rest Joe Shoulder's soul. I also use a toothbrush and not my fingers to brush my teeth, although a toothbrush is quite unnatural and impedes that I really feel my teeth - however they get cleaner this way. 

August 2, 2009 at 12:51 PM ·

I really do not want this to become another debate on the shoulder rest....I could care less about discusing that subject here and I know it has already been discused at length on this site.

I was only curious about the history of the shoulder rest out of personal interest.

Thank you to those of you with helpful answers.

August 2, 2009 at 02:25 PM ·

Sarah, I think one reason you're getting goofy answers it that "who was the first person to use a shoulder rest" is almost impossible to answer, particularly if you haven't defined what you mean by a "shoulder rest".  Who was the first person to roll up a piece of fabric, and place it between the collar bone and the violin? Was that a shoulder rest? Who was the first to strap this fabric pad to the violin? Was that the point at which it became a shoulder rest?

Another factor is that one person might be using an idea for many years, and then someone else popularizes it, and receives credit.

August 2, 2009 at 04:49 PM ·

Sarah, if you use certain trigger words talking with violinists you will get certain answers with the same consistency as Pavlov did with his dogs - no matter what you ask... If you ask who was the first person to use or propagate in public something to shorten the distance between violin and shoulder, Baillot is said to be one of the first. In his "L'Art du Violon" from 1834, he recommended the use of a pillow or a folded fabric. If you ask for a special mechanical device: Ole Bull invented a combined chin and shoulder rest. However, the shoulder rest part did not significantly shorten the distance between violin and shoulder. It is therefore up to you whether you accept it as a real shoulder rest. It had the main purpose to hinder the violin from slipping away. It was depicted in the book "Ole Bull, a memoir" by Sarah Chapman Thorp, published in 1886 (and therefore no longer under copyright law). However, I am not able to upload the picture as I get an error message that "this connector is disabled", sorry.

August 2, 2009 at 04:47 PM ·

I was referring to the kind that clamps onto the instrument...not cloth or sponge. I didn't realize that the idea had been so long in the making.

Thanks for your helpful answers! 

August 2, 2009 at 07:47 PM ·

 Kun rest was   invented in 1972 . I don't know of others,but I am sure there are older designs out there.

A little history 

http://www.kunrest.com/about.html

August 2, 2009 at 11:40 PM ·

Here's the Ole Bull design, published in 1882

img35.imageshack.us/img35/5940/olebull.jpg

The 'Menuhin' shoulder rest (which Menuhin apparently helped design), was being advertised in 'The Strad' magazine in 1962 FWIW.  That's the earliest reference I've found to something which looks like the typical modern design which is held away from the violin back by 'legs' on the edges.

August 3, 2009 at 04:10 AM ·

You might also try taking a look at the US Patent and Trade Office's site.  I think the site is www.uspto.gov.  It's fascinating reading seeing what others have come up with over a century and a half.  The site also has some patents from people living in other countries who applied for patents here.

Lynne Denig, recent patent grantee, www.chinrests.com

August 3, 2009 at 06:15 AM ·

 Circa 1953 I and friends were issued with "Resonans" shoulder rests. They were said to be new products. I use one to this day. Is it right to indoctrinate kids? Hooked at such an early age nothing else works for me !

Colleagues would proclaim that you simply cannot play the violin properly with a rest, which they would refer to as a crutch, yet so many who would do without seemed to play HORRIBLY out of tune all the time, except Heifetz!

Once upon a time, there were no chinrests either, and in those days the experts TRY telling us there was no soupy vibrato to disguise faulty intonation, though wind players at the same era were said to bleat like goats. Even earlier, there were no violins. Happy days.

August 5, 2009 at 02:00 AM ·

 Although probably not the first, Menuhin did invent a shoulder rest. They were pretty awful!

August 5, 2009 at 05:05 AM ·

I actually don't care who invented the shoulder rest; I'm trying to research who invented the quarter rest.
Any ideas?

August 5, 2009 at 06:24 AM ·

 Greetings,

four or five years ago there was an article in the Strad about a very innovative violnist/inventor who was ,  if I recall correctly Norwegian or Danish.  e invented the Wolf shoulder rest amomg other things. The original Wold had thick rubber bands stretched across the shoulder. Used to have one.

Actually I and a few othe rplayers on this list do like the Menuihin rest.  Its one I can almost use. I have one in the back of my fridge somewhere.  Its not made anymore but there is supposedly an identical model available from a European company.

Cheers,

Buri

August 6, 2009 at 03:30 AM ·

Oh dear - it appears that I'm going to have to interrupt my vacation in Tahiti (I wish) again. There's something my attention was called to, and I can't just let it go (-that and my OCD, but we won't talk about that). I've posted copiously on the subject of the SR. I'm known as an advocate for not using a SR - especially the big rigid kind that I think most people on this thread are referring to. I never said anything about INTONATION. You can play with a very high or low intonational batting average with or w.o. a SR. David Beck would disagree. He says:
 
"Colleagues would proclaim that you simply cannot play the violin properly with a rest, which they would refer to as a crutch, yet so many who would do without seemed to play HORRIBLY out of tune all the time, except Heifetz!'
 
To that I say - HUH??? "Except Heifetz"??? You may have heard of some fiddlers named, just off the top of my head, Ysaye, Kreisler, Thibaud, Milstein, Elman, Siedel - in fact nearly all of the innumerable and great Auer pupils. Ok, let's talk Flesch: Neveu, Hassid, Szeryng - and so many more. What about Stern (when he was in shape), Ricci most of the time (nowadays he doesn't even like a chinrest!), Francescatti, Shumsky, Libove, Nadien, Rabin, Rosand, Steinhardt, Laredo, Dicterow, Oliveira, Mutter, Perlman and Zuckerman. I could go on and on - and on some more. But since I got to "Z" I'll stop. Although, if we don't count the little crescent-shaped pads, I'd add Oistrakh and Grumiaux. If Heifetz was the only exception to good intonation w.o. the SR, then I just listed a whole bunch of folks who played "HORRIBLY out of tune all the time"! Yeah, right!
 
As to the "once we didn't have chinrests either" argument, it doesn't necessarily follow that every innovation is an improvement. Carbon fiber instruments and bows can be surprisingly decent - up to a point. But for most people they're not a replacement for the best among their wooden counterparts - not even close.
 
I'll only quote one sentence of what I wrote in the past on this subject: "Rest shmest;as long as you have your health!" Just don't distort the truth about high quality playing on either side of the rest aisle.
 
Now let me get back to my isle. You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore. Or something.
 

August 6, 2009 at 12:06 PM ·

 Sorry, Raphael, to have spoiled your idyll !

 "Colleagues would proclaim that you simply cannot play the violin properly with a rest, which they would refer to as a crutch, yet so many who would do without seemed to play HORRIBLY out of tune all the time, except Heifetz!'

 
I should surely have written "except those soloists in the Heifetz class" or some such.
 
In my attempt to enter into what seemed to be becoming a humorous debate I picked up on the Heifetz name in a prior post. I wasn't going for a Ph.D. But there was a time in the UK when teaching was not quite as it eventually became and players would emerge from Music College with half baked ideas, and find intonation seriously tricky without the "crutch". These idealist crusaders for the trashing of the SR would often seem to be rather poor advertisement for their ideas.
 
If I had my time over again, I'd adopt the "no rest" early on. But as I
remarked, we get indoctrinated, hooked, by our teachers early in life and a change while holding down a job is actually quite tricky !
 
My remark about chinrests is NOT an argument.

 

August 6, 2009 at 12:32 PM ·

 Hi,

This message if for Sarah...  Although Spohr is officially credited with inventing the chinrest, I cannot find someone credited with inventing the shoulder rest.  They seem to have gradually entered use in the 20th century, for Flesch even in the first Edition of the Art of Violin Playing from the 1920's discusses them in his topic on chinrests, cushions, etc.  Kolisch does stand out as one of the first known users but that does not necessarily mean he came up with the idea. They seemed to become more popular after WWII when companies like Poehland began making cushions (the model C was used by Oistrakh) and the big names like Wolf and Kun introduces models on the market.  

The debate of for or against will probably range on forever and it is not my goal to debate that topic.  Hope that this helps somewhat.

Cheers!

August 6, 2009 at 01:01 PM ·

After reading copious amounts of argument on both sides of the shoulder rest debate, I decided to approach my teacher.  I had thought her initial reaction would have been "What ... are you out of your mind?"  However, the response was quite different.  She said, sometimes I play with one and sometimes without.  Depends on what I'm doing.  These are the issues of playing without one (none of which struck me as insurmountable) and if you think you can do it and are more comfortable without it (and I am), then go ahead.  Not like you can't add one later if you feel the need.

So I embarked on my restless journey ... and am SOOOO much happier for it.  Never liked the shoulder rest right from the beginning.  Yes, I tried about  10 or 12 different rests, pads, balloons, sponges and foams, and ended up with a Kun foldable jobby.  I adjusted it every which way from Sunday.  And no matter how I played with the thing, the tension in my left hand (most painful) would rear its ugly head after 10 minutes of playing.  After 1/2 hour my thumb would go numb.  Now before you start screaming, its not the right one, not properly adjusted ... and so on ... My teacher is well versed in Alexandrian Technique, and nothing we would do would alleviate the problem.  Seems that my wrist just doesn't like bending the way a shoulder rest demands of me.  My neck is neither long nor short ... and various chinrests changed nothing either.

Now, rest free for two weeks ... my left hand is as free as a bird, no tension, no pain, thumb keeps its feeling.  My violin balances very nicely on the collar bone and that pad on the first figner ... don't even need to use the chinrest except to slide back to first position, and then just a quicky pinch with my chin. As to my intontaion, no noticable. change, neither better nor worse (not that its exactly stellar to begin with, but we're making serious progress there).  Now if I can just figure out how to get my stubby fingers to go from a G down to an F# on the E string ... I'll be all set.   Any advice?

The conclusion?  For some people its great, for some people it sucks, and for some people they can take it or leave it.  How's that for conclusive?

BURI -- You're my new hero!  Thank you for the inspiration, whithout which I never would have broached the topic.  Look for a case of Illinois prunes in the post by way of appreciation ... OK virtual prunes ... best I can manage.

August 7, 2009 at 12:32 AM ·

I believe that the first commercially available, detachable, "bar type" shoulder rest was invented by Vlado Kolitsch and patented in 1936. I actually used one when I started learning violin in the mid-60s. I can still remember its luxurious forest green corduroy cover. It was very well made and lasted for years. It's still an excellent design.

I remain a contented and non-dogmatic shoulder rest user unto this day. Here is a link to the patent information:

http://www.google.com/patents?id=9blOAAAAEBAJ&pg=PA2&lpg=PA2&dq=kolitsch+shoulder+rest&source=bl&ots=hVicNMlLyD&sig=_mvgHasounXqgHspOcWLsYEUYRI&hl=en&ei=wXJ7SrDTEY6yswP4i63vCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2#v=onepage&q=kolitsch%20shoulder%20rest&f=false

John Greenwood, Bowmaker

August 7, 2009 at 07:32 AM ·

That's very interesting, John. The linked document  refers back to Mirko Medakovic from Zagreb, (former) Yugoslavia. I found a patent application from December 1930 describing his invention:

http://v3.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/originalDocument;jsessionid=076149C26E43DCB4C0239315EDE1F3FE.espacenet_levelx_prod_0?CC=GB&NR=357870A&KC=A&FT=D&date=19311001&DB=&locale=

He got the US patent 1,879,386, while Kolitsch received the later number 2,064,925. Should he be credited to have invented the modern clamp shoulder rest Sarah is asking for? In his application he points out that previous shoulder rests were combined with a chin rest and that according to my understanding the main new thing he invented is independency of the shoulder rest from the chin rest using clamps. As this is a successful patent application there is quite some chance that he really was the first (at least officially). Furthermore, the Kun patent application mentions Medakov's application as the earliest. I think they did some research before patent application. The following image clearly shows that the Medakovic shoulder rest has a "modern design" according to Sarah's specifications:

http://v3.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio?CC=GB&NR=357870

 

Therefore, it seems that Mark Medakovic invented the modern removable shoulder rest with clamps, which become publicly known in 1930. I do not know whether it was ever marketed in great style such as the Kolitsch, John likes so much, however it seems not unlikely that Medakovic produced at least some commercially available shoulder rests, as there are patent applications for several countries (very expensive). Thanks and credit to John for this interesting link.

August 7, 2009 at 02:23 PM ·

The Kolitch patent mentions improvements over the design in Medakovic's prior patent, and over "many earlier other shoulder rests used with violins."

This implies that shoulder rests had already been around for a while..

When Kolitch mentions "earlier" shoulder rests, is he talking about the type which  attach to the chinrest?  Probably not, because these are described elsewhere as "a short convex plate". Kolitches patent claims that his shoulder rest (which is rather large) is "less bulky and lighter in weight than the devices at present known or used for such purpose".

Granting of a patent doesn't necessarily mean that a concept is new. It can be granted because the design submitted has some different feature, or is claimed to have some different effect from similar devices which have already been in use. It can even be identical to things already in use, as long as the same thing isn't found in a search of previous patents, and no one contests it.

Lots of things are invented for violins which don't show up as a patent. One of the biggest reasons is that a product must have sufficient sales volume, and potential profit, to cover the costs of applying for and maintaining a patent. The costs don't end there. Once a patent is granted (at least in the US), the burden of enforcement falls on the patent holder. That means that it's up to the patent holder to seek out anyone who is infringing on the patent, and it may be necessary to sue them (at your expense) to stop the infringement, or to collect damages. There is no government agency which takes care of this for you. In some cases, these lawsuits have taken many years to resolve, and have involved hideous legal expenses.

Understandably, all this may not sound very attractive to someone who has invented some kind of widget for the limited violin accessory market.

Anyway, given that various kinds of violin clamping devices (used in violin making and repair) have existed for as long as violins, and the way that people are shaped hasn't changed very much, I'll venture that chin rests and shoulder rests were experimented with from the very beginning, and "invented" around the 17th century.

August 7, 2009 at 01:55 PM ·

David, from the Medakovich application it gets clear that in the sentence cited by you Kolitsch refers to combined chin and shoulder rests (Andres provided nice examples). I think that's the reason why Kolitsch names only Medakovich's model but not others.

If you climb the Mount Everest as first person in the world and do not tell it anybody it's okay if the world thinks Hillary and Norgay were the first to get up to the summit and down again, even if this was not true. Medakovich seems to be the first documented inventor of a modern shoulder rest unless an older example by an unknown or know maker shows up. This looks easier than the complicated question who invented the light bulb...

August 7, 2009 at 05:24 PM ·

One important aspect of the Kolitsch rest was that it was quick to install and remove. That way, the violin could easily be fitted back in its case . . . with the shoulder rest itself stowed in a separate compartment.

In addition to its practicality, the Kolitsch rest was among the most influential of the "bar type" shoulder rests because it was relatively inexpensive and widely available.

John Greenwood, Bowmaker 

August 7, 2009 at 09:00 PM ·

"Medakovich seems to be the first documented inventor of a modern shoulder rest unless an older example by an unknown or know maker shows up."

_______________________

If the decision needed to be based only on whatever documentation happens to find its way onto this forum during a weeks time, I guess I would need to agree with you. ;-)

A serious search would include the hard-core violin researchers. They are regularly pouring over old documents and information which has never been accessible on the internet.

My perspective comes more from familiarity with violin makers. Most of them (not surprisingly) like to "make things", and many of them are obsessive experimenters, making things like special jigs, fixtures, supports, clamps, and experimental devices to improve tone or function. One dealer (trained as a maker) went so far as to spend considerable time developing a special box to go beneath a cello endpin, to enhance the sound. This box even contained its own adjustable soundpost! As I recall, he showed it around and attempted to market it, but I couldn't find any mention of it with a brief internet search.

I made (as a joke) a crutch for a cello bridge with a broken leg. I also made a spring loaded violin soundpost which would automatically adjust to the right length, and was easy to remove. You'd just pull it over to the f-hole, and it would spring right out!  I could tell many more similar stories.....

With this background, it's hard for me to believe that violins were in use for 300 years before someone finally came up with the idea of clamping a support to the back. Good heavens, they even tried drilling holes in the backs of valuable cellos so they could insert a peg, and hook this peg onto their belt to support the instrument!  :-) 

August 7, 2009 at 06:49 PM ·

David - your point about luthiers tinkering seems to me a good one, but perhaps not in the area of shoulder rests.  Pads work quite well and undoubtedly have been in use for much longer than modern shoulder rests.  There would probably have been very little call for shoulder rests.  The impetus for inventing them might have come when most people, particularly kids, were no longer wearing jackets when they played or practiced.  Just a speculation.

August 7, 2009 at 09:33 PM ·

Jackets while practicing?

Currently, at 9:03 PM their time, it's 86 degrees in Cremona (30 C)

(Sorry, just funnin' with ya. I'm really not that interested in who grabs credit for an invention, unless the true inventor is alive and has been screwed by somebody with more money to throw at litigatiion, and who has better promotional accumen. When that happens, in my mind, it becomes a moral issue)

August 7, 2009 at 08:33 PM ·

Perhaps a limping hardcore shoulder rest expert will show up here and tell us the truth. Beware!

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