Playing With a Shoulder Rest (Video)

August 26, 2010 at 02:07 PM ·

The shoulder rest topic again! I made a video just to show the advantage of a decent shoulder rest, totally from my personal perspective. It just shows how it affects posture, playing and general bio-mechanics. I stress this is simply my perspective, and not intended to contradict anyone else's view, esp. those players who do not use one. It may be informative for anyone who doesn't currently use a SR, and is thinking of trying one. I should add that I started using a SR very soon after starting the violin, over 40 years ago, and I have had no related aches or pains since. I did ache lots for the first few months before deciding to use one.


August 26, 2010 at 06:27 PM ·

 Jim I liked your video, you have a lovely voice ;)

I was shown what might be a miracle cure today by a friend who has been a violin teacher for many  years...we've been 'internet friends' for a while and although don't live too far away we live a little too far to see each other especially as I work 6 days a week and she's a busy teacher...

anyway, a commitment brought her near where I work today so we met up an hour before I started work and we had somewhere to go quite where I could take out my violin, she was going to look at how I hold it and see if she could come up with suggestions to help me improve the little 'twiches'/imperfections I complain of (I am playing sometimes with sometimes without a rest, I know it might be best to stick to one way or another but I really cannot make up my mind yet).

anyway, she took the violin and 'stuck it on me' in a way I've never had it on me before! it was almost totally in line with my line from neck to shoulder tip, so yes end button was touching my neck, bout of violin was resting on my collarbone but neck of violin was practically over my shoulder tip, I have always had the violin with neck/scroll more to an angle in front of me, if you imagine me standing tall with open shoulders and looking straight ahead, the violin would be with neck/scroll at roughly  35 degrees angle from my shoulder tip working your way forward, but now it's in line with my shoulder tip (angle?0 degrees? or 1? I have edited post as I thought scroll was at maybe 10degrees angle but have gone back to watch myself in mirror and violin is in line with my shoulder tip).

well, the difference was like MAGIC! to me anyway! today (sorry John ;) ) did not have John's device on violin at all (am going through an SR phase), but here are the results of this change of violin angle:

- we had to take the long legs off the shoulder rest and put on the shortest legs back on (it's a kun bravo) and put these on a middle to low setting (I used to use the really long legs on highest setting and still was moaning it was not high enough at times!),

-my bowing was now cured and was not wonky anymore, I could keep a nice straight bow at the tip on G string when I was struggling before with an extended arm aching at the back of my shoulder blade and now it doesn't have to be fully extended anymore and it's not aching and I can reach the tip and keep it straight

- I can reach the highest 'everest positions' without 'clumsiness' and without feeling 'squashed' and out of breath and so feel more freedom and can move better and with more accuracy/agility

- the pain at bottom/left side of my neck does not come on now (did not come on without SR but had other issues)

- tried to play without SR and guess what? the violin now does NOT slip off anywhere when I shift down, at all! and the guarnieri chin rest does not feel like it is not high enough anymore

- I posted on this forum before about the 'dilemma' of not being able to play in really high positions without an SR as my thumb had to come off from under the neck of violin and this meant the violin would DROP, well, this now DOES NOT HAPPEN anymore!!!

I can't believe such a simple adjustment did such a HUGE difference, it is now a million times better with or without a shoulder rest!

ok without an SR I'd still have to get used to hold the violin up with my left hand, but I have experimented with a little 'huber pad' (its a thin sponge type of thing) and this is sufficient for me not to have to hold up violin with left hand anymore! so if I do want to learn to play without SR all I would have to do is switch to a huber pad for a while, slowly let my left hand take more and more of the violin until the day I finally take the pad off.

Anyway, that's what happened to me today, it was for me as I said: magic and I had to share it!

Again, we wish there was one solution fits all kind of answer and this will not fit all, but I am so happy it is helping me :)


ps have practiced tonight with this new way and I've had no real issues :) will keep at it and see if any new 'bugs' come up in next few days

August 26, 2010 at 06:41 PM ·

@Jo - glad you got the playing position sorted out! 

@Don - I'm sure anti-shoulder-resters have as good reasons as I have (comfort, efficiency), maybe more.

@John - Do you have a quick link to your "device"? I'm curious.

August 26, 2010 at 07:27 PM ·


"Heifetz Masterclass Session 2  Part 2  (Chausson Poeme ) with  Carol Sindell. Especially see  00.55                 Also see Session 2 Part 3 at 7.25.   Look at the shoulder pushed right under the violin.   Don`t try this at home children."

Actually it was Claire Hodgkins I think who played the Chausson with very good posture I might add.  My teacher Erick Friedman was in a couple of those videos as well.  No shoulder rest either, eventhough he was 6'4" which repudiates the long neck/shoulder rest theory completely. :)


August 26, 2010 at 08:10 PM ·

 No need to crunch your neck to "fill up the space". Just hold the violin up with your left arm against your chin or not. It doesn't matter; I can play with the violin on my stomach. My left hand does all the work.

I've noticed over the years the no SR people practice less hours to be able to play difficult pieces than the SR people. It might have something to do with the work the no SR people have put into their left hand when they started out. Strict fingerings also seems to be the territory of the SR violinists. No SR fiddle players often tend to make up fingerings as they go along (Perlman and Milstein and Grappelli are prime examples of course).

August 26, 2010 at 08:18 PM ·

 Funny you mention 'random fingering' with no SR players, I am only a beginner and have only in the last few months started 'flying solo' with doing my own fingering on pieces (before teacher always did it all) and you know what? I am constantly changing fingering  as I play a piece, not because I don't know what to do, but I change according to how I want to play it, how I feel to play it and how I want to portray it or how lazy or adventurous I feel or sometimes I just simply 'make it up', but I use a shoulder rest...

maybe the 'inner me' is a shoulder rest-less person waiting to 'come out'?

August 27, 2010 at 03:30 AM ·

Jo , you must have long arms to reach round that far.


Hi John, I think my arms are 'ordinary', I did what  you mentioned in the past, move the violin to the right and to the left to find where I could get the 'right spot' for my bowing arm, but the problem was that I didn't have the violin high up enough on my collarbone, difficult to explain in words, maybe I should send you a photo?

My friend has placed the violin higher up on my collarbone, it felt like I was going to end up with my chin on the right side of tailpiece (the side with no chin rest), it was just an initial feeling as I was not used to 'being there' :) but yes, violin being higher up means I can draw a whole bow straight with violin that far out now, I never could before....!

August 27, 2010 at 11:46 AM ·

Hi John, no I don't miss the chin rest now, I am just more on the side near the tailpiece of the chinrest, when I play it 'looks' as if my chin is on the tailpiece but it is not touching it, rather my jaw rests on the chin rest ....

ps were you asking me if the back of the violin touches my shoulder? absolutely not, it does not even go near it :) it's on the collarbone only :)

August 27, 2010 at 12:04 PM ·

 Hey Jim, I liked your video. The shoulder is used for people who need it .  I have seen some people that do not use a shoulder rest.  They don’t need too, because they do not have a neck. I think one should get in a comfortable playing position. I am sure people can play the violin without using the shoulder rest and letting their left hand and arm do all the work, but why give yourself more work to do.  It takes “all that you have” to make your playing into music.  I am sure there are people that can play the violin while running, jumping, swimming, but who cares. Simply get comfortable.

August 27, 2010 at 12:13 PM ·

@Robert - yep, comfort and economy of movement are the keys :)

August 27, 2010 at 01:43 PM ·

Jim why do you use a Guarneri style chin rest? The angle you hold the violin is good ,and the placement of the chin over  of the tailpeice is good ,but you use a chinrest that doesn't support this hold.Why? Your not the only one, I've seen many violinist do this ,great and small.  Is this being taught as good technique?Wouldn't a Tekka or Berber style chinrest be a better choice?



August 27, 2010 at 01:44 PM ·

@Robert Keith

I am sure people can play the violin without using the shoulder rest and letting their left hand and arm do all the work, but why give yourself more work to do.

It might seem contradictory but holding the violin with the left hand is usually more relaxed and thus comfortable. Holding the violin with the left arm/hand enures complete relaxation in that hand for three reasons:

- many people  cope with the problem of "tension in your neck/jaw = tension in your left hand"; this problem will be gone

- if your left hand is not relaxed you cannot play holding the violin, so in fact one practices constantly on playing with minimum pressure on the fingerboard, fast and resistance free shifting and efficient vibrato

- when holding the violin with the left hand your hand shape will adapt according to where you are playing on the violin to be able to support the violin; this will ensure the most efficient hand shapes that require the least amount of movement to press down on the fingerboard. Also a smart use of gravity comes into play. Many players (so not ALL) who hold the violin between their shoulder and chin try to play with one hand shape as much as possible, sometimes resulting in less than ideal shapes in some positions.


August 27, 2010 at 03:30 PM ·


It certainly looks like your playing position is comfortable.  I will probably revisit using a SR in the future.  Are you able to maintain a relaxed and comfortable position while applying lots of vibrato?  That's where the tension was creeping in for me.  

IMO, it is not a question of whether or not one uses a SR, but rather the reasoning behind it, and technical issues with and without SR.   SR or not, it does not make a violinist.  There are many great players on both sides.   What is a lot more interesting (and relevant) is trying to understand the differences and making a personal choice based on your own body type and playing style.

August 27, 2010 at 05:15 PM ·

 @Christiaan van Hemert

I am not saying to hold the violin with your shoulder and chin, I am just saying that a person should hold the violin in a comfortable position, and since we people are all different sizes, then what is comfortable to you may not be comfortable to me.  I personally let the violin rest on my shoulder (with a shoulder rest) and use my thumb to support the violin and maybe a very little chin, but I regard the chin rest as a place to position my head and I watch my-self practice. If I did not have a left thumb, then I would have a real problem holding and playing the violin. We all have our playing positions, like a piano player who adjusts the seat so he can be at a comfortable height when he plays, or a drummer who positions the drums and cymbols in a way that suites him. The violin is the same way.  I like the violin to be: not to low, not to high, not to flat, not to titled. To sum up, I use my shoulder, left thumb, and a little chin. It is not a question of neck/jaw verses left hand.

As far as tension in your neck/jaw: If  anybody has a tension problem, then they are doing something wrong.

August 27, 2010 at 09:47 PM ·

> I've noticed over the years the no SR people practice less hours
>to be able to play difficult pieces than the SR people.

How many violinists, and at what ability level, are you basing this assumption on?

It's one thing to advocate for going restless because of the advantages offered by involving the left hand more and being able to change the angle of the instrument, but practice time?? Isn't that a function of a player's mental ability to work through the material? What does a shoulder rest (or lack of one) have to do with that?

August 27, 2010 at 10:56 PM ·


Yea Gena, exactly my point...........

August 27, 2010 at 11:32 PM ·

 It is not that people can not play without a shoulder rest, and a shoulder is required to be a violinist. It would be the same thing if you wanted to send your friend a letter who lives in another country. You would not hand write a letter and then go to the Post Office and mail the letter.  You would simply get on your computer and write a letter in MS WORD, and then email it. You would not walk to the store to buy food, instead you would get in your car and drive to the store. It is really that simple. I am sure that the people in the 1700's use some kind of a should rest. Playing the violin without a shoulder rest does not mean you are a better player for it. It is more important to   get past the technical problems and move on to making music. Music is the end goal and how we get there is not important. There are real physical problems with the violin that nobody can do anything about.  If you go to Youtube and watch IDA HEANDEL play, you can see that her right arm is too short to play a full bow on the G string. As she nears the top 1/4 of the bow, the bow start to turn to the right. So. lets thanks GOD we do not have a short arm or tiny hands for some other physical problem.  A shoulder rest is hardly worth the time to talk about.

August 28, 2010 at 04:40 AM ·

@Henry : "And it is definately NOT "inefficient to begin with' . And the thumb does NOT need to move in "various ways for shifting"! I think you need to study and experience rest-less playing before making these kinds of statments."

Can I remind you of my written comments when I posted this vid : "I made a video just to show the advantage of a decent shoulder rest, totally from my personal perspective. It just shows how it affects posture, playing and general bio-mechanics. I stress this is simply my perspective, and not intended to contradict anyone else's view, esp. those players who do not use one." Also, in the narration, my words, "It's all about me, me, me!" For me, simple mechanics and the obvious tell me that using any of my left hand to support the violin is inefficient, and the thumb will function differently when shifting when part of it's function is to take the weight of the violin. I have experienced restless playing, and for me it was painful, awkward and highly un-ergonomic. The narration also says "anyone is entitled to contradict me", you have, and that's fine. That's you and your personal perspective. 

"You say the gap between the chin and collarbone is filled by using an SR, I don't think this is possible" - look at the video again, between 00'32 to 00'050 - how can I make filling the gap any more obvious? :)

I have spent over 40 years using a shoulder rest for very good reasons. With all due respect to you, and I don't mean to sound rude, but you seem to have spent 20 years doing something that was totally wrong, without realising it at the time. I spent a relatively short period (about 6 months I think) right at the begining, without a rest, and had nothing but pain and discomfort. My teacher at the time did notice this, and recommended the rest I now use.

I do appreciate all your comments. They reinforce my view that we all need to do what we think we should, in order to get the best results, SR or not.

August 28, 2010 at 06:58 AM ·

Charles : "Jim why do you use a Guarneri style chin rest? The angle you hold the violin is good ,and the placement of the chin over  of the tailpeice is good ,but you use a chinrest that doesn't support this hold.Why? Your not the only one, I've seen many violinist do this ,great and small.  Is this being taught as good technique? Wouldn't a Tekka or Berber style chinrest be a better choice?"

@Charles - possibly. This combination is the nearest thing to perfection for me, but I know some players with Berber style chinrests, so I will try them out at the next Fiddle Hell. Thanks.

Smiley : "It certainly looks like your playing position is comfortable.  I will probably revisit using a SR in the future.  Are you able to maintain a relaxed and comfortable position while applying lots of vibrato?  That's where the tension was creeping in for me. "

@Smiley : With this setup, it makes no difference what I do - I still feel relaxed. I've tried to show the mechanics of how I apply the vibrato, which may help explain. I had to do the video in two parts, because of upload problems. Parts 1 and 2 :

Apologies for the sound dropping in places. It seems to happen if I adjust the camera.

August 28, 2010 at 09:34 AM ·

good videos, jim!  your accent is a bonus:)

it goes back to what i have said in smiley's thread that sr itself does not make its use necessarily uncomfortable, as attested by many.  since there are many true virtuosos using sr, i have a hard time buying the proposal that playing restless will improve one's techniques. i would like to think that  if one has a normal gait, to use a cane or not is not a pertinent consideration.   if a violin is sitting comfortably with sr on one's shoulder region, what on violin cannot be done by a sr person as well as one who is restless?    why there cannot be 2 sets of excellent approaches?  where is the proof that one set must be superior to the other?

smiley said something important in his thread: as one progresses on the difficulty scale, there could be more tension creeping into the practice/playing.  to many players, that could be any particular lesson, any particular moment, aka, any time.  IF the player at that moment cannot recognize and catch the problem, on his own or with help,  then often, imo, problem develops and sr is used as a scapegoat.  

a fitting sr does not invariably cause more tension.  in fact, a fitting sr leads to less tension.  the player himself is the controller of level of tension, at least should be or learns to or taught to be aware of level of tension .  he could be doing something uncomfortable, either due to excessive practice (much more than the body can handle) or trying to accomplish too much in too short period of time under the gun (ANXIETY).   how many here feel comfortable to complain of shoulder tightness during the lesson as the teacher is talking about other technical stuff?  not many, because we don't want to interrupt the music lesson, to be viewed as one with too many problems.   how are you?  i am OKAY.  how many would say OKAY when not OKAY just to keep in line with the big picture?  in addition, how many here have been encouraged or taught by teachers to report increased tension during playing because health is more important than music making?  judging by the heaps of violinists suffering from ailments all over,,,probably not many at all.  under-reported, under-emphasized.   please put a bowl of chocolate in your studio, any time a student reports excessive tension, reward them with a chocolate!   reporting excessive tension is a good thing; do it timely and often.  no report of pain, no gain.

but still, those who have claimed that they have found their ideal sr set-up may need to play under more intense pressue to see if their sr setup can stand up to the test and can help alleviate tension when tension creeps up.  

on the other hand, some people simply want to follow heifetz with restless playing.  i feel that there is some level of peer pressure.  that, imo, has absolutely nothing with do with the fitting or ergo issue at hand.  it is simply an extension of idol worshipping, that if it works for heifetz, then i should try it and have an obligation to stick with it regardless.  well, somtimes it works, sometimes it does not. 


August 28, 2010 at 11:25 AM ·

The wolf rest is a good rest ,I use it because it is adjustable to the shoulder ,but I see common errors ,List of com mom errors IMO;

            The middle of the chin rest shouldn't be touching the chest area ,only the ends should be touching the body.I always see the opposite, making shifts difficult.

        Most violinist move the rest  to the middle area ,or widest part of the violin. When they do this the SR is on top of the shoulder joint and muscle.The SR  should circle the neck line ,an inch or two away.Keep the SR supports as close to the outer side of the violin without falling off.

      Don't  flatten out the violin, the left hand should keep the violins body(not finger board) parallel with the floor ,but the rest needs to be adjusted for a good tilt .When you don't tilt the violin forward it makes shifting and bowing  difficult.

   Of course people can play very well with wrong set ups ,poor technique and bad posture,but are they suffering with pain?Are they over practicing with weak results? Are they able to get to their full potential? We have the ability to adapt poor ways of doing things and get good results ,but this doesn't  make it a better way. Flexibility ,ease ,alignment ,balance and ergonomics need to be first for best results.

      My 2 cents

August 28, 2010 at 12:25 PM ·

Something else I think about - as you probably know, in the traditional Indian Carnatic  style, the violin scroll is actually rested againt the ankle (player is seated of course). Obviously the music is totally different, as is the technique, but this method gives total freedom of movement of the left hand, which is almost what I have at the moment. For me this can only be a good thing.

August 28, 2010 at 02:04 PM ·

 @Nate Robinson

You are correct, I do not know anything about “period performance”. A person could play the violin with or without a chin/shoulder rest.  It is just a question of balance anyway. No one can say that using a chin/shoulder rest has a negative affect on a person playing the violin. Therefore, whether a person uses a chin/shoulder rest is not an important issue. 

August 28, 2010 at 02:19 PM ·


I checked out a few of your videos and you are obviously an accomplished violinist.  In your profile, you mention that you like to play classical music, but can you elaborate on how much time you have devoted to playing classical repertoire, and not to put you on the spot, but what pieces have you played?

I have dabbled in jazz and improvisation, even a little bluegrass, and based on my experience, it is relatively easy to play those genres completely tension free -- with or without a shoulder rest.  Vibrato is really the crux of the issue.  And because classical music requires gobs and gobs of continuous, wide vibrato, that is where the tension creeps in.  I notice in your videos, you apply vibrato very sparingly, not that there is anything wrong with that, in fact that is what those genres call for, but I'm wondering if you might also have tension issues if you played more classical repertoire.

My point is that although you and I may have similar body types, perhaps it is because we play different genres of music that I suffer from tension and you don't.  Or perhaps, I am prone to having tension while you are not.  If that is the case, what exactly is the difference? 


August 28, 2010 at 02:26 PM ·

Therefore, whether a person uses a chin/shoulder rest is not an important issue.


I could not disagree more.  In my previous post, I mention genres of music having different requirements.  Hundreds of years ago, when musicians played baroque music, they used little if any vibrato.  Chin rests are almost a requirement for playing the more "modern" repertoire.  Can you name a single (non-baroque) violinist today that does not use a chin rest?  The use of shoulder rests is still up for debate, but a chin rest is pretty much a necessity for playing modern day repertoire.


August 28, 2010 at 04:10 PM ·

@Smiley, thank you.

It's OK, I've nothing to hide. The "classical" tag is there for a few reasons - I was taught exclusively in the western classical style, after many years of self-taught "fiddling" in various genres. In reality I hardly play any of the classical repertoire at all now, except for some miniatures, Paganini Moto Perpetuo, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, some Handel Sonatas. I didn't learn much more than that in totality, and as I was already a fairly competent fiddle player, my teacher (sadly no longer alive) recommended loads of Sevcik studies to help improve my technique, and actually it has paid off.

I have hearing issues too (inaccurate above octave E on E string, despite hearing aids), so that cuts down on a lot of high position work (playing a 5-string with a low C string helps). Whilst it's true that I don't use heavy wide vibrato, I'm perfectly capable of doing so, even in large doses. I don't do much of that type because I do not like the sound (even listening to top players using it). The only tension I develop is sometimes when playing relentless fast 4/4 music for extended periods, sometimes out of my comfort zone tempo. Some of the stuff I've written (and play) is quite technically demanding by classical standards (esp. the sustained rapid double-stop work) - I know it is because I can compare. I get the feeling that your tension is in your vibrato method itself, although you may have a better idea about that. Maybe you could post a torrential vibrato video (private if you like) as I am genuinely interested in this type of issue.

I guess because I don't experience tension normally, and have always used a shoulder rest, I am genuinely surprised to read so many posts about SR / no SR and all the attached facts / opinions / debate. Really I am! I've passed my fiddle to players and friends at various music events, and some of them promptly whipped off the SR before playing, jokingly saying something like "they're for wimps!" or similar. On almost every occasion, these people have been "Bobs" (short neck or no visible neck), so I drew what I thought was an obvious conclusion - no-neck = no SR, long-neck (ie me) = SR. How wrong I was! To be honest, this SR discussion / debate has been a bit like the classic "God" debate, but without the beer dimension :) I've enjoyed it all, of course.

It's interesting to note that you have had better all-round progress since using the pad/harness instead of the SR. Just for the record, I am active in body mechanics, in that I lift weights (for flexibility, strength, not muscle),work out on a heavy bag and do stretching too. When I lay off this routine for any more than a few weeks, I find I get tired and a little sore all over the upper body after playing. The routine is something that benefits me, but maybe is not the thing for someone else ... it's hard to say. Feel free to write back :)


August 28, 2010 at 05:53 PM ·

 hey, this week for me is the week of 'magic discoveries', first it was my violin teacher friend 'sticking the violin on me' at an angle I never had it before! with scroll almost in line with my shoulder tip (only just in front of it), now this evening I was watching this guy (video below) and thought: hey! look at that shoulder rest clamp! where is it???? I picked up my violin and placed my kun bravo on it with clamp where he has it, for the SR to stay on the other side (the side on same side of chin rest) would have to be closer to C bout than I usually have it, I also had to change the settings on the legs (the screw settings) so that the legs came closer to each other and now have it on the narrowest setting.

result: I use the same height on the SR (quite low) BUT it has made a HUGE DRAMATIC improvement in comfort, so much so it's almost unbelievable! I thought I was totally free before, now I know I wasn't LOL

I never had the SR at such a 'strange' angle (to me anyway as I've never seen it this way before) and all I can say: all of you SR users, just try it, if you hate it fine, if you love it then great!

I am happy I stumbled upon this!

someone in another thread did mention to put the side of the SR which is on chin rest side nearer to C bout but did not (I think) mention to keep the other side on edge of lower bout like this guy does, as a result when I tried I did not like it at all, that's because I kept the side opposite the chin rest still on the side rather than so low like in this video...






August 28, 2010 at 06:06 PM · @Smiley With all due respect: I am saying that it is possible to play vibrato without using a chin rest. I did not say we should do away with chin rest. I need my chin and shoulder rest just as much as I need my violin and bow. You can goto YouTube an see many people playing only using their chin rest from time to time. Shoulder rest are not up for debate. Use a should rest if you want or do not use one. Shoulder rest can only improved your playing in most cases.

August 29, 2010 at 01:27 AM ·

Shoulder rest can only improved your playing in most cases.


Well, maybe I'm an exception then because it was precisely because I was not satisfied with my sound that I decided to abandon my shoulder rest.  My sound has improved quite a bit since I went restless, but to be fair, I cannot attribute the improvement entirely to the fact that I am now restless.  After all, I have one more year under my belt and I have practiced quite hard in the past 12 months. 

There are quite a few people like me, that played with a shoulder rest and battled with tension issues, then the tension went away after giving up the shoulder rest.  And there are violinists, like Jim, who use a shoulder rest and never have tension issues.  What I still do not understand is why some people have problems and others do not.  So far, the best explanation I can come up with is that the advanced classical repertoire, especially pieces that require lots of vibrato, can cause tension issues to creep in.  At least, I believe that's where the tension problems started for me. 


I am also big on fitness.  I lift weights several times a week and it definitely helps with aches and pains.  In fact, I can even play with a shoulder rest, and I can keep the pain under control as long as I visit the gym regularly.  But when I play restless, I do not need the gym at all.  I go anyway, but I really have not had any stiffness or pain issues since I went restless.  One day, I will visit the local violin shop and try out a Wolfe shoulder rest to see if I can use it without the dreaded shrug.  Perhaps I just need a taller shoulder rest, or one that fits differently so I can use it without lifting the left shoulder. 


August 29, 2010 at 06:54 AM ·

One day, I will visit the local violin shop and try out a Wolfe shoulder rest to see if I can use it without the dreaded shrug.  Perhaps I just need a taller shoulder rest, or one that fits differently so I can use it without lifting the left shoulder. 

@Smiley : It's certainly worth trying it out. As I said, my neck gap if filled completely with the SR, plus having the SR shaped to my shoulder makes it almost impossible to lift my shoulder (which I only tried after reading your posts).

I would have thought that weight training make s one muscle bound

@Henry : Every weight-lifting young man's dream is to get muscle-bound like "Arnie", but it won't happen for most people unless they lift weights for that just purpose, many hours a week, and optionally supplement it with high-protein diet (and of course having the right genes helps). As I'm neither young, nor spend hours in the gym, it's not likely to happen for me. What does happen is that the muscles get firmer and overall strength increases. As playing the violin entails both hands and wrists moving near the limit of the natural range of motion, I think it makes sense to have fit muscles to cope with this.

 especially gripping the bar would tighten the hand thus reduce sensitivity and the efficiency of the bow.

@Henry : only if I tried to play immediately after the weights session :) After "recovery" time, everything is back to normal.


August 29, 2010 at 08:42 AM ·

one thing that i can think of that smiley may want to try is to go through some sort of biofeedback on his own.  set the video at an angle that can focus on the left shoulder region (more of a side or back view so the violin is not blocking, perhaps keeping an eye of the shoulder line to the ear for example).  play some phrases that are considered "intense and challenging" but already in memory. not too short to not properly engage the body, but not too long to tire the body quick.   with sr and then without, or with some other types of setups.  keep some mental note during which section, which support does the shoulder tighten up, and then review the tape to see if they match and analyse why that is so.  due to shifts, vibrato, etc, etc, ,,i dunno. i have no idea about the findings or what most likely will happen.  perhaps smiley can match the "feel" with the "real" --able to clearly pinpoint the moments when the shoulder area tighten up. perhaps not, that there are moments when the shoulder visually shruggs but the motion is not felt during play.  this process, though tedious,  may provide some self discovered insights into the undesirable loop of action/reflex,  allowing a first peek into an area usually only considered in general terms without specific, time sequenced data and analysis.  if the shrug is felt accurately, then it is easier to learn to apply relaxation tech at the right time.  clearly the cascade effect of multiple shrugs is too much for the body to handle (too much lactic acid in one area to quickly disperse) and perhaps too late for relaxation tech to kick in.    it is also possible that during these self evals that smiley finds nothing of value to make sense of, but because he has consciously paid attention to the issue at hand, the shrug admits defeat and walks away.

weight lifting.  it is not about bulking up.  it is about giving muscles appropriate exercises and injury prevention.  there are as many merits of doing so as there are "drawbacks", depending on many factors, so essentially it is like talking about the use of sr or not.   i would think, any violin players, perhaps teen and up,  if medically cleared, can benefit from an exercise program with weight lifting as a part of the regimen.  the advantages of strong, supple musculature are just too many to list.   consider this simple fact.  when "lifting weight", the force is exerted on not just the muscles, but tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, etc.  one cannot achieve effective, natural good postures without good muscular support.   it is only through good musculoskeletal system that one can maintain and experience the feel of  good control, balance and tempo.  violin playing, like many other activites, is about good control, balance and tempo.  or it hurts to play.  and it hurts to watch and listen to :)    it is rather difficult to go 20 miles when the tank has only 15 miles worth of gasoline. 

August 31, 2010 at 04:14 AM ·

Having the shoulder in the sloped position or too high restricts the elbows (arm) forward movement .You want the shoulder to come up an inch or two, leveled with the collar bone.

I also do light weights to keep the muscles toned and the joints flexible.I do as many different slow  lifts I can think of so the weaker muscles get used.Apparently its about flexibility/ elasticity

August 31, 2010 at 07:08 PM ·

Yes her shoulder is way too high , it's above the collar bone.This causes a lot of strain when playing on the G string or shifting.When  the shoulder is  too high or too low ,the forward movement of the elbow becomes restricted.To see how much forward movement you loose. try this. Hold your Left hand up in normal playing position with out the violin .Next ,place your right hand 4-5 inches in front of your left elbow as a marker. Now move your arm forward. If you try holding your arm a different angles and different shoulder heights ,You will find that 45* and the shoulder up an inch or leveled with the collar bone gives you the most flexibility an movement.

When playing with a properly adjusted chinrest and shoulder rest the shoulder will only come up to the collar bone ,allowing the musician greater ease in shifting.

August 31, 2010 at 08:46 PM ·

@John Cadd : 

Jim`s fit with the violin works in that position but does not allow any change in arm position.The scroll end has to be kept still .(Vertically )  If the scroll drops the chin will have to rise.If the scroll rises the head has to drop.  The violin movement is not independant of head movements.

What's wrong with any of these things? How are they relevant, and in what way important to comfort or making music?

When Jim talks towards the camera and holds the violin his body is not square to the camera. He needs to turn  the head to play. So does Heifetz. I know. Heifetz is not looking at his fingers.He is just turning his head . Is having your head turned sideways all the time a good thing?  How many hours practising a day do you want to do that?

I only turn my head a little bit to play. I can play for long periods without discomfort (aside from maybe my LH fingertips). Maybe Heifetz was the same (unless he kept quiet about it) :)

With Jim,  almost no  movement  is allowed in a tilting rotational sense. Many players have no idea why the violin needs tilting at all. If you watch some famous players they simulate the tilt by moving from the waist. They may be subconsciously copying players who know why they tilt.  Many unnecessary , jerky movements are made doing this.   You must find these players  yourself to understand.  This is to understand rather than fight old wars.

You put the violin under your chin. You finger the notes, high and low. You bow the strings to make these notes. You change the plane in which you bow (using your bow arm) by altering the angle of the bow relative to the string, and there is really no need to tilt the violin. Yes some players do, either out of habit, for show, or to make it easier to reach the G string. You see some of them bent over so far that they are literally bowing in a vertical plane (eg Midori, sometimes). They physically don't need to do this to execute the passage. You don't see them tilting back and forth during Pag's Caprice #1 (persistent aggressive arpeggios from bottom string to top string, to bottom string), do you?

I think there's way too much fixation on the postures and movements of the virtuosos. Look at Heifetz - brilliant violinist that he was, had one of the most affected, haughty and uncomfortable-looking postures ever (however striking to the eye it may have been). Maybe it didn't bother him or cause him any discomfort - but it would bother a lot of players to play in this position, SR no SR, or whatever padding they used.

Jim`s setup works for him as far as he needs to go. He is not galloping up and down the fingerboard for hours at a time when practising. That`s all part of the shoulder rest spectrum.  Some people don`t need a Ferrari for shorter trips in town.

I can, and do shift up and down often and for long periods when practicing, and there is no physical barrier in doing so. That kind of display was not relevant to the purpose of the video, so I didn't do it. The whole point of the video was getting across, with the use of a shoulder rest,  1. comfort and ease of playing, 2.the freedom of the left hand, which in my case is unlimited. I don't have a technique anything like Heifezt or Perlman or Midori, but if I did I can guarantee my setup would not hinder it one bit. Maybe you are reading too much into too little, just by watching that short video. (no disrespect intended) :)

September 1, 2010 at 12:13 AM ·


Interesting idea about the biofeedback.  Back in my engineering days I would have built a pressure sensor with audio feedback to indicate when there is excessive pressure on the chin rest or shoulder rest.  Push too hard on the chin rest or shrug too much with the shoulder and an alert goes off.

Now that my tension is gone, I'd rather not experiment with changes that could cause it to return.  If I decide to go back to using a SR, I may do what you suggest.

September 1, 2010 at 01:23 AM ·

I'd just like to have your long pinky finger's, Jim  :-)

September 1, 2010 at 02:19 AM ·


You asked for the explanation:
I'm waiting for another explanation using 25 words or less on how to fill a 4" space with a 1 1/2" violin ?

Take up the cello; it will fit better without a shoulder rest. Chinrest may be difficult to find...

September 1, 2010 at 11:21 AM ·

john, i think many here appreciate your insights into this topic since it is a topic that eventually touches every player.  and your device i hope will find many who are looking for it.

having said that, i think it is very important to acknowledge that there are many, many roads to a setup that an individual finds to be comfortable and fitting.  we are all very different, therefore, our desirable setups are all very different.  THEREFORE,  if one person has found a good setup agreeable to his/her mental/physical make up, let it be:)

 ps.  i was looking over some clips just now and came across milstein's playing and set-up.  he constantly moves the violin around.  highly unstable, like a person with body tics.  take away the violin, his posture was horrible.  did he insist his students play like him like that?  Yike.   conclusion: people highly successful tend to get away with things that are questionable, but because they are successful, they get away with them or better yet, the followers tend to treat worn socks as if freshly laundered.  that if a beautiful sound is generated, everything else is justified.   and it is this blind pursuit of other people's ideas that get some of us into trouble.

September 1, 2010 at 09:00 PM ·

I'd just like to have your long pinky finger's, Jim  :-)


Are you sure about that?


September 1, 2010 at 10:12 PM ·

John, I think Al was saying if a player has a set up that is working well for them...let it be.  Don't fix what isn't broken.

Jim, absolutely!  My pinky fingers are barely long enough to stick in my ear.

September 1, 2010 at 11:10 PM ·

john, i think jim is happy with his set-up, but i wonder if he is happy with that straightened joint on his sizable pinkie:)

i think we owe ourselves to constantly evaluate and reevaluate the systems that we function in, for room for improvement.  i help out with my kids' extracurricular activities, trying to get them a little better each day.  i am positive that my constant questioning on their approaches irritate them at times, but in the long run, it helps validate their believes and resolves.    so i did not let them be:)   neither should you!




September 2, 2010 at 08:54 PM ·

john, i think jim is happy with his set-up, but i wonder if he is happy with that straightened joint on his sizable pinkie:)

Right John, better ask me that question before I go in the huff :)

I did a fiddling video this evening for someone, and stuck in the pinky movement at the end, showing it as normal, and when it goes the shape of piece of angle iron.

Now, I'm just playing some random chords here. If you look at the clip, around 11'02, I'm getting the pinkie right on the A string, in between fingered notes on the D and E strings (in a slightly narrower gap, as it's a 5-string where the strings are slightly closer together). While the 4th finger and its motions look bizarre, it is actually an advantage to have the "angle iron". As the clip plays out, I'm extending to make major 3rds, with a perfect clearance of the E string by the pinky. All is not always as it appears :)



September 3, 2010 at 12:56 PM ·

John, Meaning no disrespect to Jim's digit, I offer for your envy the pinkie of Viktoria Mullova. 

September 3, 2010 at 04:52 PM ·

thats one great sounding violin

September 3, 2010 at 09:43 PM ·

I'm not sure what to make of that interpretation.  The beginning was rather wimpy, and I hated the way she cut off the last note.  The stuff in between was pretty compelling though.

September 3, 2010 at 10:58 PM ·

Good clip. Well, history repeats itself .. in the past I was heavily criticised for my angle-iron, until famous people were seen to do the same thing. Then it suddenly became OK to angle-iron your tunes  ... Next! :) :) (now, where'd that steel hexagonal shoulder rest go?)

September 4, 2010 at 09:23 PM ·

Your topic has gone dead wide and keeps going off the page.Have you been messing around with it?

No, it's only because of the pic showing 4th finger.


September 5, 2010 at 09:27 PM ·

Well, if only I'd known you're not supposed to eat them, I wouldn't have gone through so many ... :)

OK, pretty straightforward really. It can only be fitted in 2 ways - left leg / right leg on the left of the violin, as you look at th eviolin's back. My natural instinct was to fit it at the widest points, which I did. It just needed to be bent a little to make a snug fit on the shoulder / collarbone. I think if it's comfortable to begin with, it will be comfortable for the next 40 years, all else being equal. 

To me, the criteria was keeping the same posture with the violin in place, as without the violin there at all. Some will find it amazingly comfortable, others will feel it restricts their movement - but here's the key - you don't need to be moving your upper body at all, as I've proved to myself (athough I hadn't given it much thought until reading these threads). It matters not one bit to me that virtuosos of the nth degree move their bodies while playing - it's not a necessity for playing.

If anyone who is comfortable with a shoulder rest, particularly if they have been playing for years is told to try not using one, my advice would be "don't listen".  If anyone has a good / valid reason for ditching the rest (discomfort, movement restriction, weight gain over the years, bob-ness etc) - then that's another story.


September 6, 2010 at 05:48 AM ·

JIm, I agree with you. I tried without the rest. I perservered. I got nickel allergy on my neck from close proximity to the chin rest fixings. But no matter what I could not achieve stability. Rest on and it's a lot better. Violin seems a lot more forte and the way the G string rattles up my chin is amusing.

It did strike me as odd that there weren't detailed fitting instructions - however it's hardly rocket science.

October 12, 2010 at 01:56 PM ·

I believe I'm right in saying that the Violin Shop in Bristol offers assistance to customers with the fitting of shoulder rests and chin rests.


October 12, 2010 at 02:34 PM ·

I would just like to respectfully add that Hilary Hahn uses a shouder rest and a chinrset and she has no problems and a technique that we would all die for.

She talks about all of this on youtube if you google it.

The most relaxed and technically brilliant playing you can find - so a SR obviously doesn't impede her, and she has a big repertoire too.

October 12, 2010 at 05:36 PM ·

I'd rather not contribute to this but since you've revived this carcass of a thread and have missed the point I'm going to comment.  Your conclusion is fallacious and that's not what he's saying.  Mr. Charles is not crediting her success to her shoulder rest, he's merely stating that it "doesn't impede her" (direct quote).  For her personal physique and technique it provides an ergonomic solution, no doubt.  Otherwise she wouldn't be using it.  Hilary is a very practical person and she wouldn't bother with it if it didn't help her in some way.  However, to assume that someone is claiming that that's all there is to her success is ridiculous.


October 12, 2010 at 05:52 PM ·

Thank you Michael - you have put it exactly as I would have liked to - thanks for taking the trouble.

October 12, 2010 at 07:49 PM ·

"Some people say that fitting a shoulder rest is hardly Rocket Science. Let me  assure you it is much more complicated than that ."

@John : Only if you are attempting to fit it to a rocket. Why does it need to be complicated to fit it to a violin?

Fitting it to a violin - well, once you've decided to fit it underneath the instrument, on the wide bit, with the padded bit pointing downwards, you really only have two options for which way round to clip the feet on. Height left or right (eg on the Wolf rest) is adjustable till the assembly can be slotted into the gap between shoulder and chin. Honestly, Mr Cadd!! :)

I agree with Peter about the functionality of the rest with Hilary Hahn. He said a similar thing earlier on in this thread.

October 13, 2010 at 05:07 PM ·

Oops, Mr Cadd, looks like I missed the joke too :) I really do feel the need to now make a video of how to fit a shoulder rest. Just for you. Just you wait :) Oh, did you know there was a rumour going about that Hilary Hahn is an ardent amateur footballer had a trial for Arsenal? Now, I'm not one to gossip, but .... :)

October 13, 2010 at 05:28 PM ·

I think we should give shoulder rests ... a rest. Preferably about 200 million bars rest!

Anyway, I'm keeping the chin rest and shoulder rest, but I'll dispense with the remainder of the fiddle. It's much easier to play that way.

October 13, 2010 at 06:28 PM ·

As usual this old war-horse seems to have generated more heat than light. If you are still confused you might want to visit:

It's a beautifully presented and enlightening report of a year long study by the Utrecht School for the Arts into set-up for violinists and violists.

For those who feel it's a bit of a non-issue, it's worth noting that many of the students found their habitual set-ups were causing them significant physical and technical difficulties.

Many of the set-ups that evolved look very different from the norm, and to my eye look more anatomically and mechanically sensible.

Well worth your consideration, I feel...

October 13, 2010 at 08:14 PM ·

"I always welcome new ideas."

@Peter - we're not done yet :)

@Don - you ask, you get. This shows the ideal way to fit a shoulder rest (slightly modified for extra grip and comfort.


October 14, 2010 at 12:49 AM ·

I've been following this thread since it began.  For years, all the way from my days as a kid beginner till I was about 18 1/2 years old, I never used a shoulder rest.  Then I tried the Resonans and liked it a lot.  Shifting felt lighter and easier.  About the same time, I started using a Strad Pad, which I really like -- wouldn't want to be without one.  BTW, I use a left chinrest, not center.

In 2005, I started using the Kun Bravo shoulder rest.  With me, it works best on the lowest setting with brackets at middle position.  My orientation of the device, viewed from the back of the instrument, is WSW-ENE.  This helps to send the instrument over the shoulder so that I can maintain about a 45-degree angle.  I can play this way for long stretches without fatigue or pinching or discomfort -- even though a T-shirt is all I use for a top during the warm days, which can start here in March and persist through November.

One thing I can't do with this setup is wear a jacket and tie.  I was 19-20 y/o when I set them aside.  I have a fairly short neck -- this is undoubtedly a major factor.

Fascinating thread -- thank you, Jim D., for launching it and sharing the video -- interesting perspective.

October 14, 2010 at 07:33 AM ·

Jim -- I rest my case ...

October 14, 2010 at 03:10 PM ·

Henry - why do think that some of us haven't tried playing without a shoulder rest? I can play with and without one, but after a couple of months without one I purchased a SR, and I feel it works better for me to use one.

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