To use a shoulder rest or not?

October 4, 2009 at 08:16 AM ·

I'm just wondering: how many people like to use a shoulder rest vs. how many people don't?  I know many people that use them but I know of a few people that say they should never be used.  What does everyone here think?

Replies (42)

October 4, 2009 at 10:09 AM ·


Hanna ,  you really need to check the archives.  This is one of the most widely discussed issues on this site .  There isn`t that much left to be said except along the lines of `i`m right,  you`re wrong,`  which doesn`t get us anywhere.



October 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM ·

OK, that's it. I think I'm going to have to just bite my own head off!

October 4, 2009 at 12:25 PM ·


You might want to read this as well. It has been a great help to me. And I love the drawings.


October 4, 2009 at 02:51 PM ·

 Hanna. In relation to the post "I'm right and you're wrong", I prefer to say no-one is right.

I cannot be doing with teachers who demand one thing or another. I think no player should feel obliged to use or not use a shoulder rest.

I could easily play some Bach without the rest and I might find a small improvement in tone and some changes to my technique. Would I like to jump all over the fingerboard playing something highly athletic losing the security of a shoulder rest?...No.

I don't mind, but I will add that some of the available rests are not actually ideal at doing their job....players using rests that are clearly not offering security are advised to reconsider another design.



The infernal shoulder rest argument.....where've I heard this before.....

October 4, 2009 at 03:26 PM ·

EXPERIMENTATION is the key. Try as many setups possible with good coaching from your teacher. (rests, pads, towels, whatever... elastic and antislipering are your friends to experiment as well!!!)   Yes, it takes a little money to spend and lots of patience, but what you'll learn and find (your understanding of neck shoulder balance, tension in this area, creativity to invent  + sewing abilities lol : ) will worth it!!!   And it's totally possible to play without a rest if you have a long neck but you spend more time finding the right pad (which will be thicker) but it's very important that the contact point of the pad be as little as possible with the back plate of your violin!!! Otherwise, you muff your sound terribly. And the violin must touch your collarbone in one point for stability...

Good luck!!!


October 4, 2009 at 10:59 PM ·

I don't use one.  Tried.  Hurts.

However, in a nutshell, if you have a long-neck you might be more comfortable with one.

If you have a short neck you might be more comfortable without.

Experiment a bit.  But ultimately it doesn't matter one way or the other.


October 6, 2009 at 08:58 PM ·

It really does depend a great deal on your individual physiology.  My daughter and I are built similarly and we both use a Berber chinrest and a large shoulder rest.  Most people would find such a combination unplayable.

October 6, 2009 at 10:05 PM ·

Hi Hanna,

The first thing to do is to make sure your CHINREST fits you. This is the most important aspect of the shoulder rest problem. How could I choose one knowing that there are hundreds of models available out there?  To answer  this there is a very practical solution: After this step you will be able to decide if you need a shoulder rest or not. This worked for me,



October 7, 2009 at 01:30 AM ·

Hanna - if I recall correctly, there was actually one thread that took a poll and then tallied the score.  If I recall correctly, it was about 50-50 use vs. non-use.  For whatever that is worth.

October 8, 2009 at 03:39 AM ·

 It's not necessary to use a shoulder rest. The length of one's neck doesn't matter. You balance the violin between the collar bone and the left thumb. If you hold the violin parallel to the floor at the tailpiece with the fingers of your right hand, you'll discover that quite a bit of force is required to hold the instrument. If you then use a finger of the left hand to push the neck up, you'll discover that the slightest upward touch with left hand removes the strain on the "hold" at the collar bone completely. It thus becomes clear that a shoulder rest is unnecessary. You say,"Well, that's all well and good, but now I can't shift or vibrate."  Those problems are also easily solved; you only need to know what to do. People who have studied with D.C. Dounis  understand that a shoulder pad interferes with sound technique. There's a reason that very few of the great violinists of yore used one.  Charles Johnston

October 8, 2009 at 05:37 AM ·


we all have agreed not to discuss this matter any further. So please keep your opinion to yourself, as it cannot add any new insight.

And try to accept the simple fact that on both sides there are proficient players/teachers who know exactly what they do.

October 8, 2009 at 01:09 PM ·

Thank you, Tobias.

October 8, 2009 at 02:52 PM ·

This is a complicated issue and really draws out too much unhealthy emotion to be discussed. 

The question really should not be framed as shoulder rest versus non shoulder rest. The better question is what is the proper way to hold the violin.  Good luck in your study.

October 8, 2009 at 03:40 PM ·

Laurie: Is there a way to add a section to the top of the website with the title "New users: please read this before posting", with links to all the most-discussed topics?

Maybe folders that say "Shoulder rest pros & cons", "Beginners: how to choose an instrument", and "What kind of rosin do people like the best?"... and the folders contain every thread pertaining to those subjects?

October 8, 2009 at 05:36 PM ·

But this is so fun. It is like asking about the weather.

Someone should do a graduate paper on why this is such a hot button topic for violinists. I suspect that there is more to it than just the shoulder rest.

Also, I have to remind myself, as I do get questions still about this, that the subject is new and often overwhelmingly important to the student who has not considered the options before.

So, I am always open to questions on this subject.

October 8, 2009 at 07:08 PM ·

Michael - I think the contentiousness of the debate comes from the fact that a lot of people think there is a correct answer to the question of use vs. non-use, and violinists at almost any level of skill can discuss the issue.  Those who believe that rests should not be used can put forward arguments they have heard or experienced based on sound quality or technique issues (at least that is what I have seen on this forum).  Those who oppose can do the same based on their experience.  No one can tell them they are wrong.  For other questions, such as what are the best strings, there is clearly no right answer because it depends on the violin.   Some other questions usually involving technique cannot really be discussed by those who are not teachers or highly skilled.

October 8, 2009 at 07:11 PM ·

The issue is always in contention because people want to believe that what they know and do is right. For some, the existence of a different, but equally valid approach to an art form or concept is threatening, especially if they have been taught their entire lives that their way is the "real" way or the "best" way (or sadly, the "only" way).

October 8, 2009 at 07:54 PM ·

I like Glenda's suggestion.

October 8, 2009 at 08:33 PM ·

The problem for Laurie is that for this site to thrive it needs to attract new members. If we freeze all the arguments and say that has already been discussed it just opens up room for other sites to skim of the new member cream. No one wants to come here and find that it is a closed clique. We need to find other ways to discuss it that involve and energize new members.

My own preference is that we ask the question 'how does one properly hold and support the violin?' This question has ergonomic, technical and musical dimensions.  I think a shoulder rest answer comes out of that discussion but it only comes after many other principles are established.  Once certain principles are established it becomes reasonable to discuss acoustic and other issues.

October 8, 2009 at 09:35 PM ·


@ Corwin-

I can see where you are coming from, but at the same time.....To Whip A Dead Horse?  This is a circular subjective issue.

October 8, 2009 at 10:08 PM ·

I knew that one as "to beat a dead lion"... :) I think that describes better the conceptual relation with the topic in question, hehe.

October 8, 2009 at 10:35 PM ·

I'll probably be hated by everyone for posting an opinion, but here goes anyway.  I think it boils down to human physiology.  Each one of us is constructed differently.  Some of us need a shoulder rest; others do not.  Just like some people need eyeglasses and some don't.  To say that no one needs a shoulder rest, is like saying no one needs glasses.

I personally noticed a lot of tension in my left side and have been attempting to play without a shoulder rest for about 4 months now, and I still cannot do it.  All the time I have spent practicing without a shoulder rest has indeed helped me release some of the tension in my left side, but vibrating and shifting without a shoulder rest are excruciatingly difficult for me.

I have heard stories of people that took off the rest one day and never went back, or people who forgot their shoulder rest for a rehearsal and never used one again.  I can't help but think that those people are physically different than I am.  I believe my collar bone does not protrude out as much as some people because the violin tends to slip off my collar bone when vibrating or downshifting without a SR.

I would be very happy to get rid of the SR, but after 4 months, I still cannot do it.  After years of playing with a SR, I believe my technique is now dependent on it.  One other point, I recently purchased an Acoustifoam.  It seems to be a good compromise between SR and no SR.  I'm not sure if I will be able to fully adapt to the Acoustifoam, but it seems to give just a bit more support than no rest at all, while allowing the violin to be more free (e.g., not locked into place like using a SR).

Just my 2 cents -- not trying to continue this heated debate, but hope that my experience is helpful to someone.




October 8, 2009 at 11:22 PM ·

@ Kriztian:  Where I live it's cowboys and indians..... Horses.  Except for mountain lions.

October 9, 2009 at 01:19 AM ·

I'm not going to say it's right OR wrong to use a shoulder rest but I discarded mine years ago, and I did so because of ALL the reasons already stated here and elsewhere.

That took me *years*  to feel comfortable with out an SR, possibly due to my long neck, but I;m inclinded to believe that it was due to my incorrect use of the SR. I was supporting the violin entirely with the SR, lifting my shoulder to achieve a firm hold of the vln and I was unaware of the *correct contact point* between the chin and collar bone ( and incorrect left hand support ). This contact point is imperative when not useing an SR and it is just as important when one is used, observing Joshua Bell play demontrates a good exsample of this.  So I think those people who just * took off * thier rests one day and never went back already knew how to hold the vln useing the *correct contact point*. 

Therefore I believe, if it is really desired to play without SR, it can be achieved regardless of physiology . But after years of probable miss use it may take some years for it feel comfortable.

That may require some special excersises without the SR, and in the interim periods the SR may need to be attached so as to continue practiseing repertoir.

Can the vln be supported  between the chin and collar bone only..? Positioning  the left hand in case the vln may fall and allowing the vln to point to the floor. If this is posibble then I think the collar bone does protrude enough for the vln support.


I that worth 2 cents...??

October 9, 2009 at 01:57 AM ·


Thanks for the reply.  In a way it is reassuring to hear that like myself, others struggle to wean themselves of their SR's.  And perhaps you are right.  Given enough time, I too will be able to wean myself.  Right now, I spend about half my practice time with an SR, and half without.  And although I still am not able to play with any proficiency without the SR, it does get a little better each month (notice I didn't say each day or each week).  Perhaps one day, I will be just as comfortable with or without a SR, but for now, the acoustifoam seems to be a pretty good compromise.

Note: one of the first things I did before attempting to go restless was to get fitted with a raised chin rest.  I have a pretty long neck and without a raised chin rest it would be IMPOSSIBLE for me to adapt to playing without a SR.


October 9, 2009 at 02:44 AM ·



Thats good  you notice improvement playing the vln without the SR. When I practised without I had difficulty playing any piece of music that required change of position. So my prac seesions in this case would consist mainly of  'special excersises'  that would achieve my goal. These excersises I found in Yehudi's book. I am quite sure that when you become comfortable without SR it will never feel comfortable to use it again. I have been intending to acquire one of those raised chin rests as I sometimes use a folded cloth over the CR  and it feels most compfy, but it is very annoying when the cloth slips off.

October 9, 2009 at 03:56 AM · clarify...the phrase is: no use kicking a dead horse.

See, it can be a whole new argument.  :-)

October 9, 2009 at 04:31 AM ·


I don`t have an problems with kicking dead horses. Indeed, I think the psycho/theraputic value might be quite high.  Kicking a live horse is okay if an element of fair play is added in that the horse is then allowed to kick you.

Kicking hamsters (of the dead variety) is more obnoxious depending on the location.  there is nothing worse than sitting enjoying a bowl of stewed prunes in ones favorite restaurant and suddenly having a dead rodent fly through the air and land in your food receptacle (except perhaps someone`s toenail clippings).



October 9, 2009 at 05:13 AM ·

Actually, I think it is obvious that kicking a dead horse is much safer than kicking a live one; the live one may kick back, and they wear iron shoes.

Kicking hamsters is just wrong. They don't have the aerodynamics to get any distance, and not enough mass to provide a solid feel.

So, back to the original dead horse:
I have two violins, both the same nominal size, but the neck of one is a bit wider; with it, I can't really play it well without a shoulder rest. My other violin I play either way; without a shoulder rest is most comfortable to start, but I can't play that way for long periods (I'm a no-neck type, and the shoulder slope makes it hard to control the fiddle).

I suspect there are a number of dynamics, but one thing I know for certain; shoulder rests are NOT well designed, or this discussion would not be happening. If they were a clear improvement over no shoulder rest, there would be more agreement.
The fact that people buy shoulder rests, and that there is an industry providing them indicates there are circumstances where the back of the fiddle needs something.

How about we get our collective heads together, and identify the optimum way the fiddle will fit at the shoulder? Then we design something, market it, and make enough money to.....
Ah, never mind. We'd still all want to play fiddle, anyway. Why change that?

October 9, 2009 at 07:08 AM ·

> identify the optimum way the fiddle will fit at the shoulder?

Because you'll end up with a product that fits only one person, or every other person with the exact same physique.

After all, shoes come in different sizes. :P

October 9, 2009 at 11:40 AM ·

I stopped using a shoulder rest about 3 years ago, and I'm actually fine with it. Result is no tension at all in the left shoulder area (now I'm working on the right side, hehe).

But, I have to add, that when putting back the shoulder rest, it does not feel uncomfortable at all.. it's just more rigid after a while, and the sound is not the same...

October 9, 2009 at 12:22 PM ·

I suppose I mean that the sr would *not feel uncomfy* on my shoulder but it would make me feel uncomfy useing it. Knowing how long it took me to play without ( I'm afraid I might become used to it again ), and the poor sound quality, and the damage it might do,  so that will prevent me from ever attaching it again.

October 9, 2009 at 12:42 PM ·

Here is an interesting question.  We know that among the current stars, Shaham, Bell and Hahn use rests.  Has anyone out there either seen a review of any of these players or heard someone in the audience say after a concert something to the effect that "Gee, that was very good, but you know, his performance suffered (for whatever reason or sound or technique) because he used a rest?"   Or, for that matter, is there anyone out there who has had that thought or can spot technique or sound deficiencies in these violinists attributable to use of a rest?

October 9, 2009 at 01:00 PM ·


The discussion forums are well labelled. If you don't want to participate in a discussion you can avoid it altogether. In fact, if you respect Laurie and the new members who post old questions you'll avoid trying to drive them off with bold styled statements like whipping a dead horse.

If you have ever started a discussion you know that they are not automatically approved. As far as I have been able to tell, Laurie is the only one says whether it goes up or not.

October 9, 2009 at 02:55 PM ·

@ Corwin= Noted & thanks.

October 9, 2009 at 03:03 PM ·

Well, at the risk of reviving moribund horses, I will again refer people to:

which is the only project I know of that went at it empirically, this with music students in Holland.  They were thorough and included Alexander Technique training in the project, a big advantage to students who were in a number of cases playing in pain.  They documented it well, including before and after videos of the students where you can hear the difference in their playing.

If nothing else their story emphasizes the fact that you can't make rules, and that you must consider these appliances as a way of fitting the violin to the body of the player in order to make it as natural as possible to perform actions that are not particularly natural at all.  A look at that site may help clarify some of the issues that have been raised in this discussion, to say nothing of opening up possibilities for experimentation that can get you in trouble endelsssly.

October 9, 2009 at 04:33 PM ·

The violinistinbalance is indeed an excellent site- I had not seen the videos before and am grateful these are now included.

I think it's important to remember that deciding to use or not  use the shoulder rest is but one of many decisions to be made regarding pain-free efficient playing. Everything is in a dynamic relationship because any given position you are in to hold the violin or the bow may only be appropriate for a particular moment in time. If you're playing your fourth finger on the G string in 7th position  and at the tip of the bow  you will look different than if you're playing first finger on the e string in 1st position  at the frog  of the bow. What is key is that you have the right kind of equipment that gives you the flexibility to maneuver into the appropriate positions without pain or injury.

 Watching and going thoroughly through the violinistinbalance website is a good start but there is no substitute for  working with an experienced teacher whose students do not play in pain and who understands the way the body works and how it is possible to do any number of things on the violin without difficulty.

 It is not uncommon for many wonderfully gifted students to grow into a professional life and become  teachers or be asked to teach at universities because of their established credentials in performing but not consciously know how they are managing to play so well and not be able to offer the necessary specifics to help those less fortunate to have things naturally "fall into place". It may be advantageous to seek out the kind of teacher who had to figure these things out or was carefully taught such that they understood what they were doing and why they were doing things in a certain way.

I would always be suspicious of a one size fits all approach. Certain principles must be in play but each individual must learn to analyze how those principles work with their own physical make-up and an appropriately set-up violin with or without a shoulder rest, chin rest, etc.

 Even after finding the appropriate chin rest size, height, placement and similarly with or without a shoulder pad, rest, sponge, etc. it will be necessary to know how to change the tilt of the violin and under what circumstances, or change the angle to the left or right and under what circumstances, the thumb position, the curvature of the fingers, etc. A knowledgeable teacher should be able to explain and guide you through these decisions and others necessary to playing with ease in all kinds of situations.







October 9, 2009 at 05:14 PM ·

I was thoroughly impressed with it!  I wish there were more clinics here in the states, I would love to attend one!

October 10, 2009 at 12:12 PM ·

Such a bad thing to be a violinist, after all.... monsters of mal-adjustment, tension, and suffer lurk around every dark bush..... life is a struggle, after all, isn't it??

October 10, 2009 at 07:21 PM ·

God bless my new teacher. She has a neck like a swan and uses a shoulder rest, I'm an old lady with no neck and no shoulder rest.... and she doesn't care. She said we, that is, I can learn either way...

Tolerance...and a good dose of prunes, makes the world go round;-)

October 12, 2009 at 02:22 AM ·

In our research concerning chinrests and shoulder pads, it was clearly shown that hard (repeat, hard) shoulder pads, caused left shoulders to be lifted, caused excessive and static roll of the instrument, caused scrolls to droop, and, as expressed by client after client without our prompting, a loss in resonance of the instrument. 

And in fairness, all clients who are fitted with a custom-fitted chinrest also talk about needing time to accustom themselves to playing without a hard shoulder pad, but they also say that playing without a hard shoulder pad has so many benefits.  Particularly those who have been playing in pain are nearly giddy with relief.

What I see in most of the posts on this site is an eagerness to recommend all people use a certain shoulder pad or a certain chinrest because they or a certain artist use a "such and such".  But doing this is like recommending a certain running shoe that is used by an athlete when we all know that we must be individually fitted in order to "run" our best.

The secret in finding (in our view) a good chinrest is finding something that allows the head and shoulders to move in relation to what is being played (see Ron Mutchnik's post above for a wonderful explanation of this).  To keep the head and shoulders rigidly in place is the source of so many playing-related pain. 

It really is all about the neck and shoulders. Those who find a solution to allow the head and shoulders to stay in a neutral yet flexible situation are going to be the healthiest, longest-lived players.

Happy and pain-free playing, Lynne Denig

January 24, 2010 at 04:19 PM ·

 Oh, sweet Jesus, not the shoulder rest thread again!

Dear, there is a feature on this site called SEARCH. Use it before resurrecting a thread that has been ground to death.

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

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