Shoulder rest isn't fitting

September 16, 2009 at 02:44 PM ·

Any ideas on how to help a new student?  She's only had one lesson and is about  11 years old, very slender with a long neck. She has a Kun shoulder rest with adjustable legs, but it doesn't seem to 'fit'.  It leaves gaps as it contacts her body so that the violin isn't supported.  She also complained that it was uncomfortable.  I think there are other threads, but I couldn't find a suitable answer.  Thanks in advance for the responses.

Replies (22)

September 16, 2009 at 03:55 PM ·

You want to mold the  shoulder rest to  to the  shoulder for proper posture ,not comfort .Comfort comes when your posture is correct.
I am having a lot of success with the Wolfe sencondo and center chin rest,or a side chin rest that comes more over the tail piece.I find the students that use the secondo rest with a center chin rest learn quicker and have consistent intonation compared to the students who have learned with a kun type rest and a side mounted chin rest.

September 16, 2009 at 07:18 PM ·

Hello Sandy,

I do not often condone the use of any shoulder rest, unless it is absolutely necessary. Players got along for centuries without it, and many of the great violinists never used one. Even chinrests are a no-no in my book, but that is the purist in me speaking. A student must be relatively comfortable or they will soon give up altogether. Your student is starting at a good age and should get over the small aches and pains soon with a little work. If not, than obviously there are more underlying problems that need to be addressed. I have found that interest is the greatest painkiller when a student is just starting out.

But here are a few good sites that offer different models that may interest you. Perhaps the student needs more flexibility in a shoulder rest. Kun tends to be rather set in their configuration. I am not certain how the companies come up with some of the contraptions that they market, but it would seem that they were not violinists who invented these devices. They certainly are not physical therapists. Most shoulder rests seem to be foreign to the whole physics of violin playing and nature itself.

Considering the whole physics of violin playing,I have always taken a "straightforward" approach. It may help to use a chinrest that is placed over the tailpiece directly (one that makes the player have to hold the instrument straight forward, rather than off to the side). There are so many factors that come into play here, particularly the age of the student.  If they are just starting, it is often too common to hear many complaints about pain (as is normal with new physical motion and new muscle developments). I often have to remind the student "no pain, no gain". This is often a risky attitude for a teacher, as the pain may be caused by other factors and we don't want to make mistakes. Pain can often be a true test of dedication and real progress comes at the price of initial comfort.  I hope I was of some help.


September 16, 2009 at 08:41 PM ·

> I do not often condone the use of any shoulder rest, unless it is absolutely necessary.
> Players got along for centuries without it, and many of the great violinists never used one.
> Even chinrests are a no-no in my book, but that is the purist in me speaking.
> I often have to remind the student "no pain, no gain".

I strongly disagree.

Discomfort, fatigue, and/or lack of familiarity with a range of motion is one thing, but outside of physical ailments, PAIN is your body's way of telling you that the stress you are placing it under is harmful and can cause long-term damage if the activity or position that is causing that pain is not changed.

We now recognize that due to the incredible variety of physical attributes that make up each player, there are many, many ways to solve the problem of posture in playing the violin or viola. Many of the solutions involve using a chinrest and shoulder rest, and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with it.

It is well-documented that there are superb musical artists who play with,and without the shoulder rest, and this day in age it makes no do what works for you, and it doesn't matter what everyone else does. As for the chinrest, I'm sure it's fine not to use one as long as the distance between your collarbone and the fold of your neck below your chin is exactly the same height as the ribs of your instrument. In most cases, people don't have necks that short and require something to close that gap. When we deal with younger students who naturally change size as they age, this is an ongoing issue that needs to be evaluated frequently.

Just for the record, I play without a shoulder rest myself, but with a chinrest that allows my instrument to fit exactly in the space between the side of my jaw and my collarbone. I have one private student (a violist) for whom this solution works as well. My other twenty or so kids (mostly violinists), many whom are quite tall these days with longer necks than I rely an various chinrest/shoulder rest combinations to achieve a comfortable posture free of unnecessary strain.

First, a taller chinrest like SAS will help fill the gap. From there, depending on how much the shoulders slope downward one can see if extra long legs on a Kun or Wolf will suffice, or if one has to do try something more drastic like the Bon Musica or a change in playing approach (i.e., hold the instrument up with the left hand like those of us who don't use shoulder rests do).

September 16, 2009 at 09:04 PM ·

1.For one thing, if the chinrest is not a good fit for the player, there will always be problems trying to correct the problem with different shoulder rests.

2. For another, although most people seem to fit the shoulder rest across the lower bouts of the instrument, that is not the best geometry for all players.

3. As the teacher, you are in the best position to determine the ideal "points of contact" at jaw/chin and shoulder for this student and estimate the kinds of support needed at both places.

For myself, although I used Kun shoulder rests (of several designs) for some time, they were not best for me compared to some others. For 30 years before that, I used no shoulder rest. I have also found that for myself, some of my violins of ever so slightly different shape required me to use a different shoulder rest than my eventual standard (Wolf standard Secondo), THese days I only us a little pad (5/8 inch thick) right at the shoulder, and I find the Acoustifoam (which comes an a complete range of heights) ideal for me - but that's just me, with some arthritic joints.The Acoustifoam allows me to move the violin around as though I used no shoulder rest at all,

Most standard shoulder rests prevent the player form adjusting the position of the instrument while playing, forcing the body to adjust instead. If that hurts, it's time to think again.


September 16, 2009 at 10:08 PM ·

Hi, I can relate to this very well. I am also slender with a very long neck and gggrrrrrrr have suffered from it for a very long time before finding the solution. It doesn't give me a short neck but it helped very much.  I had a kun shoulder rest for my first years and didn't know I lifted my left shoulder to hold my violin...   I didn't know why I had pain and tendonidus and my teacher (my first one) didn't talk about "fit".   

With ideas and inspirations from and because my actual teacher was 100% for this, I let the shoulder rest aside and made various experiementations (yes it cost me precious time and adaptation but I would NEVER NEVER come back!!!). The best solution was an home made little cushion with very very little contact point with the back plate of my violin to not dammage the sound. Everything holds with  little elastics.  And I stuffed this little cushion with rigid foam.  (too soft it didn't feel good) Of course my violin rests in one point on my collar bone because otherwise you loose stability. (it would be like playing on a tennis ball outch and it would roll...) 

My teacher said it is the very best thing she saw yet for me.   Definitivly better than rests for me that is sure.  Good luck to her, I know how hard this is and commercial things are almost never never adapted for extremes ( too short or too long necks) 

If ever she absoluntly wants a rest, put many layers of foam (rigid foam) attach to the rest. You can cut them with the same shape of the rest and choose some black foam and it doesn't look that ugly.  This is also a good trick sometimes.  You can also just put it on the top of the rest. ( not the full lenght) if you need to create more angle with the violin if she hates flat violins. 


September 17, 2009 at 12:51 PM ·

I remember all sorts of teachers trying to force all sorts of shoulder rests on me to no avail.  I was always in pain to the point having to get cortizone shots and muscle relaxers during juries in college.  I finally got rid of all the shoulder rests and more importantly, the teachers who tried to force them on me.  I rarely use anything more than a sponge if anything at all for my students. 

September 17, 2009 at 01:08 PM ·

"I finally got rid of all the shoulder rests and more importantly, the teachers who tried to force them on me."

lol Marina I like so much this sentence!!!


September 18, 2009 at 05:39 PM ·

Jerald wrote:

"I do not often condone the use of any shoulder rest, unless it is absolutely necessary. Players got along for centuries without it, and many of the great violinists never used one."

I have a theory about that! It's very similar to the "survival of the fittest" theory.... All the players who back then, were able to play without shoulder rests and/or chinrest are those who were genetically lucky enough to have the right body type for violin... all others simply failed or hid their pain and never got very far...

so what you end up with is people playing without shoulder rests making it into the history books, and now everyone uses that same excuse: "people back then were able to play just fine without shoulder rests!"


September 18, 2009 at 07:56 PM ·

I agree. Altough it is possible to play restless with a very long neck (but I worked like a real crazy to make myself a correct device and I'm sure quite a few think I'm "original" to have tried this but not my teacher... thank god.) 

But you are right. Back then (in the past), I never heard of many Japanese players for example or even just "delicate" or very slim and tall. I am not saying they weren't but much much much less than today because no devices were as adapted to them as today (even if I would have a bunch of negative things to tell about the poor commercial choices the market offers in terms of rests and devices for etremes even today... lol) Also, I know that in some places, the ethics weren't like today and it was totally acceptable to choose students for such things as lengh of neck and hands. This was one of the very first things they looked at in a prospective student in some parts of Russia... and elswhere I am sure too. And (but this is my personnal view) think that clothing was much more appropriate back then to hide towels, sponges and such than today as many many great masters of the past did (Stern, Oistrakh, Ferras etc).  A coat in itself already have more support than a shirt or dress like we see today on soloists.   So something has to compensate for this stability somewhere...

However, I may often complain that today is not the best era to be a musician (may it be even amateur) but for accessibility to all types of bodies and people, it is the best ear ever even if far from perfect.  I would have been kicked out of many schools just a few decades ago beacuse of my genetics grrrrrr   But I just think teachers must avoid abuse of rests. When I see some that force all their students to have one because they have one themselves or that I see people who just take for granted that a long neck compulsory = a rest, I find this ridiculous and outrageous!



September 18, 2009 at 08:05 PM ·

I would think that you & the student should go to a music shop with a variety of rests and try them out and go from there?

September 18, 2009 at 08:14 PM ·

Anne-Marie: "With ideas and inspirations from and because my actual teacher was 100% for this...."

Aaron:  I think you mean "because my current teacher was 100% for this...."  I don't speak French, but this is a common error between English and Spanish or Portuguese :-).  I'm just a beginner (2 years violin and 50 years other instruments), but I have tried a variety of combinations of shoulder rests and chin rests and spent a lot of time watching YouTube for hints.  One thing that I have found with other instruments is that I might use one technique for years and then switch to another for a few years and then, either back to the original or to a third technique.  I currently use an SAS chin rest centered over the tailpiece and a Viva shoulder rest, but I want to try a Kun Bravo (perhaps my next paycheck).  Not everyone has access to a store with a large variety to try.  I would have to drive 300 miles each way to find one of those, but chin rests often cost less and changing those might be less expensive.  Where I live, I do a lot of business with Shar and Quinn.   

BTW, since she is only 11, I doubt that her neck is as long as mine at 6'2" and I would imagine there are a variety that would be high enough.  I suspect that the very slender dimension is more of a problem.  Since she has had only one lesson, I would think that the full tonal response of the instrument is not critical at this point; helping her be comfortable so that she wants to practice is more important.  I would give consideration to some of the pads. Four years from now when she has filled out more and has more experience she will be in a better position to make her own choices. 

September 18, 2009 at 09:35 PM ·

Aaron, gee that I have an hard time to hide I'm a frenchie lol!!! Well I'm 1/4 english but it's too far to write perfectly (just ennough to have had 2-3 freakles as a child! : )  


September 18, 2009 at 10:42 PM ·


Aaron,  the most unobtrusive and sensible rest I have come across in years is the relatively new (and expensive) Viva La Musica Diamond.  I perosnally think it is vastly superior to anything produced by Kun.  Why don`t you giveone of those a try?  Otherwise I would second (or whatever) the acusti foam option.


September 19, 2009 at 12:42 AM ·

Gee Buri, I thought the Kun Bravo was expensive.  I almost fell off my chair when I saw the price of the Viva la Musica Diamond!  But it is beautiful.

September 19, 2009 at 06:06 AM ·


Aaron,  on this site is a gentleman called Rolland Herrera.  He has his own web sote for is violin school. On it is a long and detialed discussion of the @ros and cons of various rests. It is well worth a long look.  He also recoomends the Diamond.  Clearly one thing all rets users have in common is poverty.



September 19, 2009 at 02:39 PM ·

Geez! Quinn Violins has them for $80+ USD!!!!!  I expect to be playing the Bruch & Chaconne by the end of the year! LOL!!!!

September 19, 2009 at 02:48 PM ·

What get's me, is that when my teacher, way back when, had all of us get rests (accept the cello of course) we just put them on and went from there.  I would think that a teacher could size up a person by looking at his or hers posture, body mechanics, alighnment, etc., as to know what & what not to use.  I remember that someone posted a site about a fellow who does just that but can't remember what & where to go.  I would like to see more string clinics at schools available for this.

September 19, 2009 at 05:11 PM ·

I have different physical characteristics (no neck, not long neck), and I have problems getting a shoulder rest to fit comfortably. I have tried no shoulder rest, which is comfortable for shorter periods, trying shoulder rests at different angles, etc. but the most hope Inow have is to use no shoulder rest, but have a pad over the chinrest; it allows me to make the adjustment on the top rather than the bottom; the only issue is that i have not found the right material for the pad for me to feel the violin is stable enough.

'You may try a different chin rest, or a gel pad of on the chin rest (some have antimocrobal properties, as a plus).

September 21, 2009 at 12:34 PM ·

Thank you for the great responses.  I think we found a solution for this situation.  I had an extra gel rest here, so we gave that a try.  It raises the chin rest up just a bit, but also adds a little padding.  And we added a washcloth under the shoulder rest.  Those two little adjustments have made enough of a difference to add comfort.  I also use a gel rest, and I'm very happy with it.



September 21, 2009 at 12:50 PM ·

 The solution for students with long necks is called the cello.

October 4, 2009 at 03:45 PM ·

Hellow every Violinist and Students for Violin and Viola,

I am living Tokyo and playing Violin,

I could not have a chanceto get  ideal shoulder rest in my life, so

I made a ideal design of a shoulder pad and got a Patent.

It can produce maximam powre of it's potential.

It is very unique design and  the Strad magazine featured them some month ago.

I recomend you once try MagiPad,

Thank you,



October 14, 2009 at 12:21 AM ·

Try my new shoulder rest design, most people feel its the most comfortable one in the market.  It also has a very reasonable cost.  You can get one from my website:


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