FAIL VLOG: attempt at playing without a shoulder rest.

February 6, 2011 at 12:44 AM ·

Replies (82)

February 6, 2011 at 02:57 AM ·

 Wow!  She sounds and looks great without a SR.  When I try to play my viola without one, it bobbles and wobbles all over the place and I can't down shift or vibrate on lower strings/lower positions without one.  

My violin on the other hand - I tried it without a SR and had a much easier time.  Just a little soreness where it came in contact with the collar bone.

February 6, 2011 at 03:51 AM ·

What an engaging girl.  She is clearly proud of having out-maneuvered Dad.  I love it!

February 6, 2011 at 04:59 AM ·


When I stopped using SR a while back, I had the exact same sentiment as your daughter -- didn't feel comfortable, felt like I was going to drop the instrument, achy collar bone.  It took quite a bit of time to get used to the feeling of not having a SR.  For me, it was about 6-8 months before it started to feel natural.  Given relative rates of progress (your daughter learns about 10x faster than me), I would expect that it will take her a few weeks to get used to the feel. 

If you want to give the experiment a fair chance, she should go restless for at least a month, then ask her the same questions.  I suspect some of her answers may change.  Because she is not comfortable playing without SR, she is not able to draw an optimum tone, so it is hard to make a sound comparison until she is comfortable.  If she is having any tension issues with the left shoulder, they will go away if she ditches the SR. Her vibrato is surprisingly loose and free without SR.  When I ditched the SR, I was not able to vibrate at all; had to reprogram my vibrato to get it to work (still a work in progress 1.5 years later).

A couple of things that I believe are essential if you want to continue this experiment.   First of all, she needs something to protect the collar bone, either a chamois, or a thin cosmetic sponge affixed to the bottom with a rubber band.  Secondly, she needs a taller chin rest.  The easiest thing to do is have her existing chin rest raised by a few mm.  Any luthier can build it up with some cork on the bottom of the chin rest. I made a video a while back (maybe you've seen it already) that discusses some setup issues of playing restless. 

Proper setup for playing restless

If she is NOT having tension issues with the left side or having any pain in the right shoulder, then perhaps ditching the SR is not worth the effort.  I was suffering from pain and stiffness in my left shoulder and ditching the SR was helpful for me.  But if she does not have these symptoms, there may be minimal benefit in switching. 

February 6, 2011 at 05:43 AM ·

I wrote you a long explanation, and when I tried to post it, I got the dreaded "Internet cannot display this web page."  This happens a lot, particularly at this site.

I'm too bugged at this point to write that again from scratch.  I'll be back...

February 6, 2011 at 08:01 AM ·

BTDT Emily. That was kind of you to take the time to do that. Write whatever you want to write in Word or someplace where you can keep copying it by highlighting it and hitting ctrl / c. If what you wrote disappears into the cosmos simply hit ctrl / v and it's back again. But you probably know all that.

February 6, 2011 at 01:38 PM ·

 Hi Al, your daughter sure plays beautifully.  What a lovely tone.  I would like to suggest at this point that perhaps instead of going restless 'cold turkey', which I think puts off a lot of people, you might like to try her with a playonair shoulder rest as a intermediate stage.  As you probably know it is a blow up pad attached by adjustable elastic hooks.  I like it's versatility in that you can choose to position it on the violin in several angles, even back to front if that makes it more comfortable (and covers those nasty chinrest brackets).  As she goes along she could just let out the air a bit at a time until she is playing with a flat pad (which still provides friction).  By this time perhaps you will have been able to adjust the chinrest height gradually too.  I'm part of the way there myself using this technique, and have learned to relax while playing comfortably.  It's much easier than messing about with sponges etc which might fall off and annoy her straight away, before she gets a chance to become used to it.  If your daughter is anything like my son, one little disaster and the whole idea is 'Kaput'.  

February 6, 2011 at 01:51 PM ·

 thanks guys.  i am going to read your stuff slowly and try to digest it in regard to her situation.

as you probably know that i help her to practice, basically daily if we can help it, and during those sessions, we end up doing some stuff that is not teacher directed, more like meandering through the woods just for the heck of it.  and playing around with sr is a reaction to what i read on how influential you people can be? :)  so please hold yourselves up to high standard because i am on the front line to take the punches:)

i have never been impressed with her posture from day one (from day one she has used sr).  her scroll is pointing down to the floor to some degree, most of the time, unless she is reminded of it and then 30 seconds later,,same thing again.  is it really because of my constant reminder so that she does not learn to remember that herself?  perhaps! :)

she is growing taller so now when she sightreads something,  she pushes her face into the music with her scroll pointing down at a 45 degree angle.  so yesterday i said:  since you are hopelessly holding it like that anyway, let's see how you play without sr.

then you saw what happened.  one thing i regret that i did not have a chance to pursue--but noticed later during replay--is my suspicion that for her, without sr, another issue is possibly instability in the bass-treble plane.

notice that at least with this take,,,she did not complain of pain to the clavicle area,,,but it is a short playing, so tough to say later.  but she did hit a string, prompting me to go wow, wow, wow,,quite unusual for her at that speed of playing.  so i question if that is due to her having a hard time trying to stabilize a "rocking and rolling" violin.  she complained of trapezius discomfort, perhaps trying to tilt her neck to stabilize the bass-treble plane.  by look, i feel that she has managed to stabilize her violin hold, but i suspect what we do not see is overfiring of many muscles to maintain this,,,facade:)?   i don't think she can last long, such as playing that entire piece without some major finger slips or bow hits or major bodily complains afterwards.

to go from sr playing into sr-less playing, all of a sudden,  is perhaps like trying to stand up on iceskate for the first time so the foot wobbles, or standing up on a small row boat so it rocks sideways.  apparently she did not like this unstable feeling,,she felt it might slip off sideways.  i don't get the feeling the violin would pop out toward the scroll, in that direction.

in the past, once in a blue moon, i would suggest her to play a little without sr and it usually lasted about 5 seconds with her protesting it was yet another stupid suggestion from the old man:)


February 6, 2011 at 02:53 PM ·

 haha,,,"seem" is the right word:),,,my practice is limited to physics 101.

as i alluded to earlier,,,my thinking is that with sr, the base of contact with the body is wider and broader, so the tilt to fall off tendency that i was talking about is lessened.  

without sr, the contact between the body and the back of the violin is smaller in area and in the case of my kid, i think that posed a challenge.  it seems that the violin was sitting on her on a more flat plane, but it also seems that she had to try harder to balance it there at that level.  since she had no prior experiences balancing the violin on the clavicle in that axis,  she recruited other neighboring muscles to fight off the feeling that the violin is going to fall.  she seems to find this potential for sideway sway tough to manage.

oh yes, she did tell me later that when she downshifted, she felt that she needed to lower the scroll to do that which is something i have read prior i think.  but on the tape i did not see much of a drop.  perhaps she tightened up during downshifts as well.   so that is a force there that can pull the violin out, in addition to what i have described about the instability sideways. 

i think millie's suggestion is neat.  makes sense.

February 6, 2011 at 06:07 PM ·

You daughter plays beautifully. Here's a 12 year old kid playing pretty well without a shoulder rest:

February 6, 2011 at 09:06 PM ·

The problem your daughter is having is that her muscles are trying to function the same way they would if she had a shoulder rest, and this is not how one actually plays when playing without a rest.  It would be easier to start from scratch because her body wouldn't be telling her something is wrong.  To me, it appears as though she is trying to lift the violin up to her chin with her collar bone, which of course would create tension.

Here's how I teach a beginner to hold a violin, and I was taught this method by Lisa Marsnik, who posted a series of helpful videos on another website that unfortunately no longer exists.

We begin by balancing the violin on both index fingers.  The left index finger supports the neck of the violin, and the right is somewhere close to the end button, under the chin rest.  Once we've located this particular balance point with the right index, we practice placing that balance point on the collar bone, just to the left of the center divit.  You can actually balance your violin on your collar bone without using your chin at all.  This is where she should start.  Actually, she should start by checking her form from her feet to her head.  Make sure her spine is elongated by having her imagine a string attached to the crown of her head pulling up.  Then have her draw her shoulder blades toward each other and down.  She should keep this relaxed stance while working on balancing the violin on her collar bone and left hand index finger until she is used to the idea that she doesn't have to grip or squeeze.  It only works with good posture and if the strings are kept parallel to the ceiling.

Once we get that down, I incorporate the chin and left hand position .  The violin is secured in position much like a rock slipping into a bottle neck.  The corner of the jaw is one fixed point, and the collar bone is the other.  With a slight turn to the left and drop of the chin, this bottle neck is created.  the violin rather tilts into place, with the E string side closer to the floor.

If I was with your daughter, I would also check the way she brings her left arm up to play. 

Playing restless versus with a shoulder rest may require a completely different approach to playing than what she is used to.  It may bring the violin more to the front.  It may require a different chinrest, perhaps a bit higher and more centered.  It makes the strings easier to reach with the bow arm because the violin sits more on the same plane as the shoulder.  It also changes the relationship of the left hand with the neck of the violin, especially when shifting. 

It will most likely be more comfortable if she uses some sort of soft cloth to protect both her collar bone and her violin.

That's basically most of what I notice about changing to restless playing.  I made the transition in 2005, I think, and those are the things I remember learning.  It was difficult for me to not try to fill the space under the violin with my shoulder. 

February 7, 2011 at 01:58 AM ·

The Playonair seems like a sensible way to make the transition, but with all that contact on the back of the instrument, it must impact the sound quite a bit.  Millie do you notice a big difference in sound with the Playonair vs without?

February 7, 2011 at 02:06 AM ·

I used a cosmetic sponge when I transitioned to w/o.  I also tried the sostenuto rest and was tempted to keep it...

I personally need to have something between my collarbone and the violin or it hurts, but some women seem to like it just against their bare skin.  

Anyway...if it ain't broke don't fix it?  I only really changed over because 1)  my left shoulder was popping and 2) THE DAM* THING SCRATCHED MY VIOLIN.  Does her teacher also play without a shoulder rest?

February 7, 2011 at 03:16 AM ·

I just saw a DVD with Markov playing the 24 Paganini caprices all in one concert...

He played them truely marvelously and with a SR so... here's another proof that extraordinairy players can be found with and with no rest.

If she likes it and is not tense with a rest, why change a good formula? 

She plays so well... good luck to her!


February 7, 2011 at 04:51 AM ·

Shourder shoulder rest....that's a really lovely child, and she plays beautifully.

February 7, 2011 at 04:53 AM ·

Great post, Emily - many thanks!

February 7, 2011 at 07:47 AM ·


And Al, she really is growing into a lovely violinist.  I forgot to mention that earlier.

February 7, 2011 at 11:51 AM ·

 Hi Smiley, regarding your question whether the playonair affects the sound, I have found that it only affects it marginally, if at all.  I have had trouble deciding on that from time to time, so I think it is only barely noticeable.  The thing is, when the playonair is blown up, only parts of it touch the violin because it is rounded, not the whole pad, and as it flattens it follows the contours of your collarbone, much like a t-shirt would anyway.  When I finally graduate to being fully restless (more quickly now thanks to Emily's excellent detailed post) I will know for sure.  I guess I wonder sometimes when I see other various contraptions like pads and sponges attached with rubber bands, or even folded towels or chamois, whether these items would affect sound too. I suppose at all times, whether it is skin, t-shirt, or otherwise, something is always touching the violin, anyway. 

February 7, 2011 at 12:14 PM ·

 I have tried to play with no rest 3 times and twice have abandoned the 'quest' the third time is now....

I have to say I have NO ONE who is here to help me so I only  have 'you people' and youtube and so on....

the 'play on air' is useless to me, it makes the violin slip even more for me and puts it to the same angle as a shoulder rest, the E string too low towards the floor, no matter which way I turn it round how much I inflate it or deflate it, forget it I don't like it.

in the past I found John Cadd's invention very useful but I could not get round to get used to the rest around my neck (something some other people cannot get used to), so I still use the other bit of his invention which is the anti slip patch under the chin rest clamp and I find it does the same job even without the rest around the neck actually, that is a FAB bit of kit, so little but so so useful when in contact with my collarbone it helps in 2 ways: my collarbone does not get sore anymore and it also still provides help with making the violin non slip!

I find a sponge I made myself out of memory foam and then I covered with velvet far more useful than the play on air, I place it UNDER my t-shirt  like Pincas zuckerman does, yes the violin will still slip downwards on my t-shirt but this does not matter as my left hand is there to stop it from doing so, the sponge under my t-shirt fills up the gap between my shoulder and the violin and because it is soft the violin can still move around naturally whilst I play (unlike with a shoulder rest, it would not be able to do so).

But today I tried to follow Raphael Klayman's tips on how to hold the violin without a shoulder rest from him website and I did so without the sponge under my t-shirt and I could do so quite well.  I only played ten minutes and I don't know what to say, the road is much longer than that and I have given up twice before going back to the shoulder rest :(

but I keep having this desire to play with no shoulder rest and I don't know why it won't go out of my head, no particular reason, it's just an 'obsession' which I don't know where it's coming from.... I may give up again and I know I will still think about it!!!

February 7, 2011 at 12:52 PM ·

@ Smiley -

Just for fun I took my viola and decided to have one practice session without the shoulder rest.  I don't know if I was just 'lucky' or what, but the viola seemed to nestle itself right under my chin against my neck.  I had just a minor difference that I noticed in being able to balance it.

It was an 'ah-ha!' moment because I could see what you were speaking about - how you can FEEL the sound a bit better. 

I also have to admit that I got a bit nervous after about 10 minutes or so, and the shoulder rest went right back on.  It was just the familiarity thing - nothing else.

--Ann Marie

February 7, 2011 at 01:09 PM ·

 John, I actually like using 'just' the bit you created to go under the chin rest clamp and nothing else, I don't need anything else, I don't need a patch on my collarbone :) the little bit that goes under the chin rest clamp offers more than enough non slippage to the violin on its own believe it or not, maybe because I don't have a long neck?

I don't have a phobia of something round my neck I just don't like it, I don't like having to put something round my neck, I don't like ties either and I don't like shirts with the buttons done up all the way up too, the last button is always undone in my shirts, at the same time only the last button, I don't like too many buttons undone, I don't like showing off my chest either ;) so I won't wear strapless dresses, I don't wear dresses, I am not a 'lady' type of lady ;) rather a 'tom boy' type of female LOL

February 7, 2011 at 02:53 PM ·

 thanks people for your continued contribution to the shoulder rest topic and adding your droplets to the torrent on rest or not.    i am sure everyone appreciates the detailed post by emily which has provided an easily understandable, step-by-step approach.  for example, we discussed something emily mentioned, about the "balance point", etc.

before i go further, i will reiterate my goal (i would like to say our goal but that will not be factual because my kid is being dragged into this:).   the truth is i don't have a goal like many of you,,,yet.  some of you wanted to switch for one reason or another.  i just want to experiment how her current use of the sr is affecting the way she holds her violin.   to switch completely to sr-less playing is not necessarily where we are going with it , at least not yet.

after a night of watching superbowl ads that imo were quite disappointing (they are getting more retarded each year),   we tried again this morning:

 and here is a msg someone sent me, in response to the first  video.  

"What does dad mean "because of your poor playing" OMG what a horrible thing to say. And when she accidentally clipped another string and he says "where does that come from???" Isn't this an experiment? I hope this isn't how he usually comments on his daughter's wonderful playing. I mean really ...."


February 7, 2011 at 03:33 PM ·

Al that's great but you have to consider her normal clothes too.  That scarf surely helps but will she always put it on to play?  A violinist wants to have always about the same conditions.

If she likes the scarf, maybe it means that she should have something under the violin such as a pad, or little cushion, sponge etc (always with a desing that does make contact on the collar bone are but almost no contact on the back plate of the instrument.  Many great masters had such things...  Others had fold things (such as cloth) on their shouler or under their coat. 

But again it all boils down to what allows her to play at her best and both options SR or not are good if they work.

Good luck to her! 


February 7, 2011 at 03:40 PM ·

 hi anne marie,,,haha,,since we play it on the go,,,that "scarf" was actually from the violin case,,to cover the violin with.

since today her shirt allows the clavicle to be exposed, we felt it should be cushioned a little.  i think for now she needs something there,,,so not to confuse other issues further.

toward the 2nd part of the practice session today,,,she asked for the sr.  so about 20 min without, and 20 min with.

i will try to stick to this routine.  i felt her arm contributes more now to the violin hold; there is less jaw pressure downward.  even if she sticks with sr later, i think those aspects are good for her.

in fact, today she asked to lower the height of the sr, which tells me what she said yesterday about filling the space is not exactly necessary, simply because we watched the superbowl:):)

February 7, 2011 at 05:33 PM ·

 I think it is absolutely amazing how on her second video she says the violin is no longer 'slipping away' and it does no longer feel different to how she plays with the shoulder rest.

And by the look on her face by the end of the video, it looks like she actually 'enjoys' playing with no shoulder rest....

she looked a 'natural' with no rest, look at the difference from 1st video to 2nd, most people would take weeks/months to achieve that, she did it in 2 go's!!!

I may be 'biased' don't know but I think this girl was 'born' to play with no rest! it just shows so clearly in the videos!

whichever way it ends I love her to bits she is great! what a proud father you must be Al :)

February 7, 2011 at 06:56 PM ·

 "I'm sure there is a "why" in here somewhere.  What is it ?"]

i think asking why is perhaps too profound.  perhaps i want to sell a new product called SR-LESS and charge people 19.99 and mail them an empty envelope.  hahahaha.

i think as my kid grows it is almost essential to encourage her to experience new or different things through which she has a chance to think and feel and reflect and hopefully learn to make some judgments over alternatives.

i have no idea where this is leading to,,,perhaps what an experiment should be,,,with no pre-conceived conclusion.  as i said earlier, i feel through my observation that she, in one day, without practice but with a lot of informed guidances here, has been able to naturally use her arm more for support, instead of relying heavily on the chin/chest combo.  even prior to this, even though her hold does not look right to me (what do i know:),,she never complained of discomfort.  so there is really no urgent need to switch.  but to have fun requires no reasoning:)   i just want to know if  just a little shift in that balance may make a difference in how she "holds" the instrument.

the other thing is what smiley and some others had previously said about learning a different kind of vibrato when switching from rest to r-less.  i did not observe that--nor did she report that-with her playing.  i don't think she even thought about it, probably a reflection that she did not need to learn something very new with her left hand.  which begs the question: if one has difficulty making this switch,,,is it in some ways an indication that the hand hold or the vibrato type has something to do with it?  i dunno, just asking.  

my kid started with arm vibrato because that was all she could do then.  as she gets older and stronger, she could tolerate the rocking of the wrist at a reasonable frequency.  i suspect that if she was arm vib dependent, with minimal or inadequate wrist vibrato, then this switch from rest to r-less may be more challenging.  then she needs to balance the violin on both ends:  on the clavicle and in the hand.  my speculation is that a "comfortable" wrist position or handling has helped this process.

thank god i stopped playing the violin.  just thinking and typing about this gives me ibby jibby's:)

jo,,,go with the flo! :)

February 7, 2011 at 11:42 PM ·


Would you mind sharing with us the reason you decided to ditch the SR?  For some (e.g., Al's daughter), the transition is a piece of cake.  But then again, seems like everything is a piece of cake to her -- utterly disgusting :-)  That aside, it seems you struggled  a bit, just like I did.  I'm wondering why you persevered to rid yourself of the SR.


February 7, 2011 at 11:51 PM ·

BTW, I was off on my previous estimate.  I said that Al's daughter learns 10x faster than me.  I think it's more like 100x.  What a brat :-)

February 8, 2011 at 12:36 AM ·

because she does not have a career that requires her to solve real life problems  with real stresses 24/7,,,that is why! :)

so indeed she is a brat.  she just asked for my opinions about her dream job: a dog walker,,,between 10-20 dogs.  i told her go ahead because that will really make my day!

for those of you that have a full time job and then actively play violin not for pay:  i kowtow to you! 



February 8, 2011 at 12:55 AM ·

I'm going to become a professional dog walker so she can be jealous of me for a change :-)

February 8, 2011 at 01:08 AM ·

now, if you play the violin without a rest during the dog walk, she will make up her mind real fast about a permanent switch.:)    she will know,,,why.

February 8, 2011 at 03:28 AM ·


I was surprised by that survey.  Seems to me that the percentage of shoulder rest users is much higher than 80%; at least from the people I see in orchestras and what not.  My son's teacher has a studio of over 30 kids and every single one of them uses a shoulder rest (100%).  For a while, my son was using a sponge pad, but even he uses a shoulder rest now.  I figure if he developes tension issues like I did, he can make the switch just like his old man. 

February 8, 2011 at 04:33 AM ·

Al Ku, have you ever watched "Freaky Friday"? An old film with Jodie Foster when she was a child of about your daughter's age in it.

It turns out that the life of a teenager is not as easy as it looks, even if they're not working 24/7.

I for one don't miss my teenage years....

February 8, 2011 at 10:21 AM ·

Smiley, I don't know exactly what pushed me to the decision.  It was a combination of not being able to keep my shoulder rest on my violin (because it kept popping off) and an uncomfortable feeling, like it was getting in the way of something better.  Maybe I was being influenced by a cult of religious devotees of anti-shoulder-rest sentiment.  Whatever it was, I distinctly remember the evening I threw my shoulder rest across the room in disgust and set about finding something different.  I got plenty of advice, and lots of reasons why this was better than the old way, and when I experimented, it just made sense.  I couldn't help but notice that shoulder rests were a recent addition to the violin.  As I watched old footage of great masters, I saw that their relationship with the violin seemed different.  The violin sat lower.  The neck of the violin sat more deeply in the hand, creating a meaty, rich tone.  After I overhauled my basic ideas about setup, I got rid of a lot of tension.  That might have been simply because I was being open to reconstruction.  I don't know.   It also solved a lot of issues I'd had about shifting accuracy because you are committed to supporting the neck as you shift, and this really helps you measure the distance and feel your way up and down.

February 8, 2011 at 02:33 PM ·

hello, catherine,,i have never seen that movie, but i agree that teenager years can be the most challenging years in people's lives.  one thing that i find great comfort in is that my kids have a very close and open relationship with my wife.  the anchor is at home.  i feel that as they go through that stage, there is someone that they are close to and trust to help them balance things out.   i think so far no facebook, no ipods makes life easier for everyone in our household:)

pierre, thanks for pointing that out.  for some reason, that is yet another habit of hers that is just easy for her to cognitively accept but difficult to change in reality.  although i see some very good players also point the pinkie, i think it is not a good thing for her, particularly since we are trying to establish a more stable hand base.  having the pinkie pointing up and down rattles the hand and disrupts the hand shape, i think.

john, i saw couple clips on youtube about those heavy indian tubes...neat!:).  my kids play golf quite heavily, but i think training with those tubes is probably too heavy at this point.  besides, i am afraid when the sisters fight, they may use the tubes as weapons:)

here is an update from this morning.  she was able to play through the entire 40 mins with only the mop sheet:).



February 8, 2011 at 05:08 PM ·

"so indeed she is a brat.  she just asked for my opinions about her dream job: a dog walker,,,between 10-20 dogs.  i told her go ahead because that will really make my day!"

I don't know if you're serious or not (sorry), and I know this is a little irrelevant to the purpose of the thread, but being a dog walker can actually be a really fulfilling job that can make you more money than you'd think, if you play your cards right. One of my friend's daughters is a dog-walker and she does a very good business. Just a thought. The real job isn't necessarily like the stereotype.

February 8, 2011 at 08:10 PM ·

I saw many dog walkers at Beacon Hill in Boston when I was there on trip.  I was just a little jealous of that wonderful job. Yes, wonderful even if it's rainy or cold because you do what you like... : )

Considering the place, the dogs and their walker are surely pampered...  : ) 

February 8, 2011 at 08:29 PM ·

 haha,,,we used to live inside NYC and every time a dog-walker walked by with her troop, it was a sight!   i mean i might not have stopped for joshua bell, but i stopped every time for the procession. it was incredible how the dogs of different shapes and sizes became one unit and  were focused on one thing only,,,,walking:)  the leashes never got tangled up, even if one needed to stop everyone to take care of business:)   i bet individually the dogs don't behave like that!  now why is that?  

what my kid has not realized is that dog walking is not necessarily a fun activity, but something with tremendous amt of responsibility.  you are walking the princes and princesses--or kings and queens-- of each household!

February 8, 2011 at 08:38 PM ·


You were blessed with a good physique for playing violin -- short neck and broad shoulders.  There isn't any room for a shoulder rest with your physique.  It's no wonder you were never comfortable with SR.  But most people are not like you.  If you look at my video, you will notice a rather large gap between the top of my shoulder and the bottom of the violin.  Therefore, in order to keep the violin in playing position, I need either SR, or to use my left hand to support the instrument.  That's where the difficulty lies.  When I took off the SR, I had to reprogram my left hand (especially thumb) so it would support the violin while playing. 

February 8, 2011 at 08:44 PM ·

Al, I know but many people would give everything to work with animals...

Does she like horses?  One can work with horses to fix them for races or shows etc.

I would also love to be a horse groomer.  I'm quite artistic so I would fix them beautiful... and of course also pick up what's in their box, provide food and water etc... 

When I search for that as a summer job my mom said, you'll get injured and will never be able to play violin again...  Well, I can't do "nothing" just because of my violin!  My father also said that about horseback riding (telling that I would end in a wheel chair...) but since I'm 18 yo, I go regularly do trail rides (in safe places) and it's find.

Well, at her age, water will pass under the bridge before she takes her career decision! Good luck to her

February 8, 2011 at 09:36 PM ·

" at her age, water will pass under the bridge before she takes her career decision! "  so true.  but she does a mean "whoa, nelly" in a southern twine, so horseys are not out! :)

she has an interesting mix of traits.  she has a high degree of empathy for others.  (if you nick  you finger,,,she will remember to ask you about it even 2 weeks later)  very kind, with a sense of righteousness.  if anyone bullies others,,,because of her size:), she goes up to that person to straighten things out.  her best friend in school is a kid with autism.  

meanwhile, she is quite absented-minded.  more than you can imagine, let me put it that way:)  

so it scares me a little if she decides to go into health care for humans or animals...:)

February 8, 2011 at 11:46 PM ·

I think that absentmindedness is just hormones. We didn't lose any gloves or hats or mittens until the kids reached 5th or 6th grade.

February 9, 2011 at 12:31 AM ·

 john,  you measured that not in metric system? :)

let's say this weekend smiley has nothing better to do, we pretend. so he decides to walk around the house holding the violin with his left hand and resting it on the collar bone. meanwhile he tries to carry out chores given by his wife,,,using his right  hand to take out the garbage,  folding the laundry with his right hand, feeding himself with the right hand...while holding the violin...

bored?  perhaps just run his fingers up and down the fingerboard with no particular purpose, no one cares,,who cares.  if  his thumb finds a good supporting spot naturally,,,no big deal, let him.

i think the next day his violin hold without a rest may be a new sensation:)

February 9, 2011 at 02:40 AM ·

"I think that absentmindedness is just hormones."  Bill, did you mean you expect it's a phase?  My phase has been going on for--I forget how long!

February 9, 2011 at 03:11 AM ·

Actually, when I used SR, the violin was supporting the left hand to an extent.  That is, I lifted the left shoulder with enough force that the fingerboard was able to resist downward pressure from my left hand.  As you can imagine, if the left hand contributes even the slightest downward force on the scroll end of the fiddle, it requires tremendous compensation on the shoulder rest and chin rest to resist it.  In fact, my vibrato became reliant upon a stable and locked violin (e.g. locked left side).   The result was pain and tension in my left shoulder, and  a pretty noticeable violin hickey.

I think my tension issues were really due to poor technique and my teachers umpteen million years ago, didn't know any better to correct it.  But, I don't think my teachers were entirely to blame.  I believe my poor technique was partially the result of using a SR.  The SR allowed me to get away with pulling down on the fiddle with my left hand.  At some point in time many years ago, I must have noticed that I got a better vibrato that way.  What I didn't notice was the resulting tension that occurred.  When playing restless, one cannot get away with the poor technique that I developed.

So what do I conclude from this?  That it IS better to play without a SR if you have tension in your left side.  But if your physique and technique are such that you can play tension free, then using an SR is perfectly fine.  There are many fine examples of virtuoso violinists that play both ways.

PS  As for doing chores while holding my violin.  Well, my wife is in China, so I have no chores to do.  Yippee!  No "honey do this" or "honey do that" for another week.

February 9, 2011 at 03:37 AM ·

 dang, from what you have described,  i agree you might have benefited from trying with no rest first since there is nothing for your shoulder to push up and so you would have to learn to balance the violin the collar bone and in your hand, which i think is still possible if we put you into an induced coma to forget about the past,,,no just kidding,,,i mean if you can introduce it more gradually...

sounds like you are playing some big pieces that  you cannot afford to take it easy it seems.  i think the tension of trying to conquer a piece does not give you a chance to truly reestablish a new baseline.  

i hope you find that chance soon... i can accept if you are deemed to need sr or no rest or somewhere in between by physiological reasons, but i refuse to accept that the tension in the shoulder region is going to be present regardless.

absent-minded example 1:  going through the whole day in school without realizing wearing socks of different colors.   i don't mean black and dark blue.

2. playing the other person's golf ball,,,2 times this year.  (another one for smiley since he plays golf:  marking the ball on the green and when her turn came up, unable to locate the marker,,,in a tournament:)

3. violin in the case; bow is not.

violin is truly god sent.  have to play every note.  paying attention to rests is optional.

February 9, 2011 at 02:30 PM ·

 hello john, in my humble and unsubstantiated opinion, along with my kid's brief trial experience,  i think you have nailed some of the major issues of violin holding. for some people, these issues are not that easily solvable during couple lessons, as attested by many experienced players here.  it is not just a matter of "correct" instruction/information; the receiver has to be able to handle the new experience.  

one factor is indeed the general conditioning of the person.  it takes some level of physicality to hold out the left upper limb.  and when that department can't contribute its share, the jaw/shoulder probably overcompensates.  relatively speaking, my kid has been quite physically active so that might have helped.  when the rest was taken away,  she "compensated" by enlisting more help from the left arm and realized that violin could be played that way for the first time.  today i asked her to use the rest first and played a little and then without.  she said she could do either way now.  she now likes her fold-up swiffer sheets because they are soft and fuzzy, like a little stuffed animal, she said:)

the other thing you brought up is interesting.  i am sure she experiences some level of stress in public or on stage but it seems she is able to get on with it, instead of going blank.  i know some people tend to freeze, which is more challenging to work with imo.  i used to be the freezer type but with age and experience it is not an issue any more.  i can talk, but still have no idea what i am talking about:)

her issue can be double edged.  for instance, recently she played that gypsy thingy in front of some people.  she was sitting in the hall for close to one and half hour before she went up to play her piece.  from the playing i could tell there were some parts that became sloppy or stagnant partly because of that long wait while listening to playings that needed work.  so i asked her later,,,when you were sitting there,,,were you nervous thinking that your turn was coming up?  she said, no, not at all.  were you bored?  yes.  so what did you do?  just sit there and waste my life away.  no she did not say the second part.

so the situation was that she was about to go on the stage; although she was not nervous, she could be more focused.  i wish both of us know more about how to prep her for those to prepare when you can't really prepare with a violin in hand.

thanks for the compliment about the teacher whom my kid finds to be encouraging and not pushy.  since the teacher uses a rest, hold your horse there:).  let me see what it is like in this week's lesson.  i am going to be straight with the teacher and describe what we did without the rest and go from there.  if i don't show up on after tomorrow, something happened.

February 9, 2011 at 05:24 PM ·

Al, hope you've follow some self defense courses of some sort in Japan...  ; )

February 9, 2011 at 05:36 PM ·

 Why would anyone even go on a quest to ditch their shoulder rest, if all is well? I'm just sayin'.

February 9, 2011 at 06:37 PM ·

Laurie said:

Why would anyone even go on a quest to ditch their shoulder rest, if all is well? I'm just sayin'.


My reply: yes, I am !  I have done twice, gave up twice and now am going on that quest for the third time and this time I really don't want to give up anymore, I keep dreaming of being shoulder rest free!

why? am not even too sure why, those times I try to be shoulder rest free I LOVE the experience of it, but then when I have to play the pieces I am 'supposed' to play and I can't that's when I 'give up', the pieces in questions involve shifting up to 7th position.  So maybe I was 'impatient' to expect such things in just 2 or 3 days.  

I don't have anyone here to help me, to look at what I am doing and watch my posture and tell me I am on the right 'track' so I also get 'demoralised' if something feels difficult or insecure, I tend to think I am doing it wrong when maybe it's not wrong but I just have to 'get used to it'???

But then when I go back to the rest I keep thinking of playing 'rest-less' and I can't get it out of my head, it's what I want and now I am going back on the quest even though I can play perfectly well with a rest!!!

call me mad but I think I won't give up until I learn how to play rest-less, I wish I was Al's daughter and I could learn it just in 20 minutes!

February 9, 2011 at 06:52 PM ·

But Jo, do you feel comfortable with the rest? 

I think one should stay with what is most convenient for them...

And, as we can all see, it does not affect the level of playing or sound since one can see incredible soloists on both sides (SR or not).

When I got rid of my rest it was because no commercial device was comfortable for my long neck. So I made my own thing.  It wasn't for a kind of a mythical aura!   For one thing there are no mystical aura about the great masters and why they all played with no rest

- It didn't exist

- They were all made on the same modal : ) which is "men with a short neck"

- And they hid all kind of things under their cannot even image: folded towels, sewed pads, elastic pads, foam under the shirt  (from Stern to Ferras etc)

Just my two cents...  


But I find it's a good idea to try both methods to learn principle of violin holding, posture and balance.  After one can really have an idea of what he/she prefers...

February 9, 2011 at 07:06 PM ·

"2. playing the other person's golf ball,,,2 times this year.  (another one for smiley since he plays golf:  marking the ball on the green and when her turn came up, unable to locate the marker,,,in a tournament:)"

Yup!  Been there, done that.  Embarrassing to say the least... just two more things to add to the list of frustrating things about golf.  But there is one thing I LOVE about golf.  You don't have to argue about whether to use a shoulder rest.

I'm going to start an organization.  Shoulder Rests Anonymous.  "Hello, my name is Smiley.  I'm a recovering shoulder rester.  I've been SR-free for over a year now.  It has been tough, but has really helped me get through the rough patches.  Whenever I get the temptation to put on the SR, I go to"


February 9, 2011 at 07:18 PM ·


well, yes and no: I do and I don't feel comfortable with an SR

I used to get a pain in the bottom left of my neck, I got this resolved with AT lessons, then a pain in between my shoulder blades cropped up, which now I am seeing an osteopath for, he reckons it's because my spine is slightly bent to the left from an accident I had 19 years ago, not as severe to be a scoliosis but slightly enough for my thoracic spine to have lost some mobility and now complains about my violin playing, the osteopath will manipulate my spine back into alignment.  Anyway, playing with an SR I can do what I want 'technique wise' but my argument would be: it's because I have learnt to play with an SR! and it's now 4 years I have been learning with an SR right?  After all it's here on I have learnt that technique with and without an SR is rather different, how you use your left thumb, which arm muscles you use etc.... so no wonder when I attempt to go SR free I feel 'kinda lost'

I do not want to go SR free because of it's 'mystical' thing, because of 'the masters', I really don't care about 'because of the masters', I will never be like the masters, they are 'up there', I admire them, they are my inspiration, they are the ones that make me want to play and the ones that make my days nicer, but whether they use an SR or not I really don't mind, when I pick up the violin I hate the idea of having this 'furniture' to hang onto it and adjust, when I put it on my body I don't like having these crutches in between me and the violin, when I play the violin without the SR it feel NICE, NICE-R! when the vibrations of the violin come to my body without and SR it's like my cat is purring on my lap :) it's like my son is hugging me :) also with an SR the violin feels more 'paralysed' on me, it loses its range of motion a lot more....

well I guess you know what I am talking about as you don't use an SR :)

so in a nutshell I don't have to go SR free but I really REALLY want to and I have no one to help me so this is trickier for me, but I am getting more and more determined now.

I am due to perform a piece in 2 weeks time, let's get that out of the way and then I can concentrate on it more, but I really don't know how to go about it.  Is anyone here on willing to give me private advice I'd be happy to pay for private advice (albeit I struggle financially so I hope the fees are not too high), if anyone can help me please contact me through my profile, thank you (we could use skype)

February 10, 2011 at 02:34 AM ·

 I play without a shoulder rest, I haven't ever used one in fact. I don't see why apparently it's so difficult for some people, I know it hurts but that's only the first few times. About 5 days after I started playing it stopped hurting. It's like when you play guitar, at first your fingers hurt alot, but eventually it doesn't hurt. 

February 10, 2011 at 03:20 AM ·

 Well, carry on then! About 80 percent of violinists use a shoulder rest, at last check. :)

February 10, 2011 at 03:59 AM ·

Hi, thanks for telling that Jo. 

Yes I know what you mean about the clamp feel vs the wood feel.  It's kind of like when you play a cello!  But the good new is that, I think that's more for the player's "heart" than for the actual sound.  Perhaps you could try a wood rest?  I had one when I used to play with a rest and it was better than plastic...  It was like an extension of the violin and perhaps it helped to make resonate the sound.  In fact, it was the same wood as a violin if I remember well...

Hope you find a solution! 

February 10, 2011 at 05:23 AM ·

This thread has really got me thinking.  Today, I decided to let my son do his vibrato exercises sans SR.  I'll probably have him do scales without SR too just to make sure he doesn't develop the same bad habits I did.  But for repertoire, I'll let him use the SR.  Maybe it's not such a bad idea to play a little both ways.

February 10, 2011 at 08:45 AM ·

 Thanks Anne-Marie, I have tried a wooden rest it's just as un-nice as any other rest out there unfortunately, if I didn't buy all the shoulder rests/sponges/chin-rests/crutches I have bought in the past 2 years I'd be a lot more rich as I have spent a little fortune but I think I also would not have the knowledge I have now, I could probably open a violin accessory shop by now too! 

I am a little surprised that 'only' 80% use a shoulder rest, I would have said 95% as I have been trying to find someone here in London UK to help me with the transition to be shoulder rest-LESS and I cannot yet find anyone, ok, have not tried too hard yet, but whenever I ask someone 'do you play without a shoulder rest and can you help me learn to play without' the answer is always 'I play with one'

But in a way the more I can't learn the more I want to learn, what is it that others can do it and I 'can't', well I can, but just not 'proficiently enough' (yet).  Last night I changed from a sided chin rest to a centre mounted one (my AT teacher totally forbid me to have a centre mounted one but I went against her advice and stuck one on), it was a million times better holding the violin SR free with the centre one but it was too late at night for me to play, I am going to try to day, am looking forward to my practice with it and if it's better I am afraid I think I will tell my AT teacher that I 'don't care' if she forbids it, if I can play SR free with it, I will keep the centre mounted chin rest on my violin!  Mind you we never discussed why she doesn't want a centre mounted chin rest, maybe if I show her how much better I can play with it she will change her mind....... :) and at the time I was 'ok and happy' with the guarnieri one which is not too different from a centre mounted one as it has that bit going over the tailpiece right? and my spongy shoulder rest

February 10, 2011 at 04:04 PM ·

looking back on this thread, i hope people do not lose sight of my intention, which is about choices and exploration, or exploring choises.  to my kid, choice means, unfortunately, whatever adults shovel to her.  take it kid and go with it because we think it is good for you.  for the most parts that is a reasonably good assumption, that we help her until she can help themselves.

what triggered this thread is the fact her scroll habitually points lower, subconsciously, often dragging her upper back with it.  to me, that has gone too far.  and i have never seen her pointing too high by mistake.

i have always joked with her that in her life time, with school, with golf, with violin, with whatever, she needs to make 1000 mistakes to learn the lesson well. in fact everyone does. the earlier she starts to make mistakes and corrects them, the better off she will be in the long run.  so please make mistakes, please make mistakes and make them now.  make tomorrow's mistakes today.

based on that,  i suggested to her,,,hey,,since using the shoulder rest did not seem to support your violin anyway,,,lets see what happens if you do not use one.  and then this thread developed over couple days over couple videos and both she and i and some of the readers got something out of the experience.  instead of arguing back and forth among different opinions holders over personal believes, let's bring some visual on just one case in development.  we will make couple tapes and  follow the progression with no idea where it may lead us..  we show you; you tell us.  so far, i have learnt some things:

lesson 1:  she has previously under-used her left upper limb to support the violin.

lesson 2:  she is able to balance the violin in the hand fairly well without struggle, that is, she did not have to learn to hold or play with her left hand differently when playing with no rest all of a sudden.

lesson 3:  playing without a rest requires a balancing act on the collar bone, but, at least for her, the getting used to period is not that long. the falling feeling did not last long.

lesson 4:  my speculation: the fact that she got used to without rest probably has something to do with her being able to balance her hand on the violin neck, so she only needs to learn one more thing at the collar bone, instead of having to learn to balance both ends.

lesson 5: direct contact on the collar bone may cause irritation.  probably less of a problem if player is less bony in that area.   her violin was sitting on the collar bone only; others with broad and thick shoulders may have a different contact point and consequently different setup and issues.

lesson 6: after being able to play without rest, she can return to playing with one, but it seems that she is more aware of and more capable of using left upper limb to support the violin.

lesson 7:  it is tempting but possibly not wise to extrapolate her experience and apply to others.  but i think it is reasonable to extract some of this experience and incorporate into attempts by others who are still confused and frustrated.  some are confused and frustrated over shoulder rest or not,,,but the key is:  most  likely for different reasons. a specific lock needs a specific key.  but still i will end with my general bias:  if one does not have a decent balance of the violin neck in one's hand, playing without a rest may make the violin more unstable and thus more challenging.

February 10, 2011 at 04:56 PM ·

 Al, to me in your videos your daughter seems to have solved the scroll towards the floor problem playing with no shoulder rest.

the 'back coming down' with the scroll may cause her problems much later on in life if not corrected somehow so if she continues using a rest it is something which needs to be corrected one way or another.....

Funny isn't it? the no rest playing seems to do the trick.  I hope I am not biased but she seems to have better overall posture now.  Carry on with practicing playing with an without and let us what she settles on, and she seemed to enjoy the 'experiment' especially with the 'swifter' mop pads :)

February 10, 2011 at 05:03 PM ·

@John Caddd, 

now my chin is totally over the tailpiece, I have switched from a Guarnieri chin rest (with this my chin was still on left) to a Kaufman (chin still on left but close to tailpiece) to a Berber and now will switch to a Flesch when it arrives in the post tomorrow and my chin is now TOTALLY over the chin rest with the Berber (Ann Sophie Mutter style)

yes I always knew that some 'masters' used pads etc and have tried pads myself but I still want to learn to use nothing, the violin really feels totally free with nothing.

I think I am getting better, I had totally forgotten about some advice I had read about shifting down where you can move the thumb slightly before the rest of the hand and this really really helps but I have to practice it slowly and REMEMBER to do it when I play faster as for 4 years of learning my hand and thumb ALWAYS moved at the same time (shoulder rest style of shifting you see) so when I play a piece I forget this new style of shifting and my whole hand and thumb move in unison and the violin moves away from under my chin and bang! my violin is then unstable again!!! LOL  I think I need a lot of patience and slow practice until my brain remembers to do it in the new style!!! 

February 11, 2011 at 12:30 AM ·

 don, to answer that, we did a crude experiment:

several things for your consideration:

1. it seems that the sr touched the body in its entire length, across the chest and into the shoulder, but it is questionable whether it completely made contact across its width.  possibly one side/edge of it had closer contact. ( tough to say for sure since the clothing may be moved a bit.)

2. not sure if it is due to her left arm lifting (more active since this thread), at times one can see she actually lifted the entire shoulder rest off the chest.  (i highly doubt whether she knows/remembers for sure in the past what kind of contact she had.)

3. with the "exercise" in the second part of the tape,  one can appreciate that lifting the arm up like that  for some period of time is not easy.  couple seconds yes, but not beyond couple mins for many people.  she has a pretty strong shoulder and back from sports, but she can only last about 1 min and half.  so, if a piece is too long or a lengthy practice is structured with no rests when tired, some parts of the body may have to give to maintain that posture.  what happens when a muscle gets too tired?  it aches and tightens up.   if someone already has a tight/stiff shoulder area, sustained elevation and shoulder rotation during the violin hold will not help.   this is perhaps one reason why some people develop and complain of chronic ache or tightness in the left shoulder area.  

February 11, 2011 at 08:32 AM ·

 So now my theory on why she sounds so good, Al (for what its worth).  She has balance.  She has since day 1.  I wouldn't mind betting that the best sounding players are the same, it stands to reason really.  Good core stabiity and blance allows complete freedom of the arms in action, and that allows weight into the bow (rtather than joints and muscles working hard to hold the unit together).  I am impressed that she has retained this understanding of her body even as she sprouts.  Even though I think i am in balance, when I watch myself play I see that there is still restriction, and my sound doesn't develop nearly so fully.

February 11, 2011 at 08:45 AM ·

The real way to play with no shoulder rest.

February 11, 2011 at 10:59 AM ·

 Al, that exercise in the second half of the video was 'most interesting'

I could last 4 minutes, with the last minute being quite difficult but I did not move a millimeter, could feel my romboid muscles most of all working real hard and a little my shoulders and I knew I had to stop by 4 minutes LOL  when I play with no shoulder rest I feel my left bicep getting a little 'tired' like when you go to the gym and do weights and I realised this is because I hold the violin higher and as a result my arm is not against my upper body anymore (I am a bit overweight you see so when I play with a shoulder rest and my violin is lower my upper arm tends to touch my upper body/torso and this means my arms 'rests' lightly against it). So anyway, by holding the violin higher and my arm not 'resting' against my torso it has to work a little harder than it's used to so I guess I have just to build some extra muscle in my bicep and then I'll get used to it :)

February 11, 2011 at 01:05 PM ·


That was a cool video if you are into fiddling, but notice he never left first position, and also does not use any vibrato.  Therein lies the problem.  I haven't tried, but I don't think it would be possible to downshift with the violin in that position. 

February 11, 2011 at 09:54 PM ·

I don't know the motivation for most people who go restless, but mine is a combination of things:

1) I want to just pick up the fiddle & bow and start playing. I don't want to 'fiddle' with any extra appendages that add weight or, frankly, don't stay put. Plus, it clutters the case. :)

2) I'm old, short, and fat, with short arms and stubby fingers. Pretty picture, I know. But without a rest the violin is lower. I find the bow arm geometry especially is more natural that way. My left stubs (er, fingers) are able to reach around the fingerboard more easily.

3) The instrument sounds better - to ME - possibly because there's nothing between my bod and the vibrating wood, so I feel the music more. (I'm sure it doesn't sound better to anyone else, though!)

Now, there are obstacles to overcome. I think - or hope - that these are due to poor technique or bad habits:

A) Keeping the fiddle from slip-sliding away: If I could turn off gravity I'd be happy, but alas, I can't. So I need to tweak my hold a bit.

B) Tendency to grasp on the chinrest during vibrato/shifting: I've been used to having the instrument planted in one spot and not worrying about slipping or pulling away.

C) Given my physical attributes, as described above, my collarbone is not at all prominent. I'm not even sure I have one... (...Ah, yes, there it is. Kind of...) So I can't actually rest the fiddle on my collarbone without jabbing it into my neck. Okay, I exaggerate, but not by much.

So given my lazy nature and propensity toward doing everything the hard way (a very strange combination, I admit), I've decided to give going restless a try. Wish me luck. As for those who have success with it, I envy you. :)


February 11, 2011 at 10:48 PM ·

 David, we share some of the reasons for going 'rest-less' indeed :)

when did you start your journey? I have done it twice and 'abandoned the ship' twice, but started again a third time only 3 days ago, this time I am not abandoning the ship, I am going to either stay afloat or sink with it! we can share the journey if you like LOL ;)  

are you envious of Al's daughter just 'doing it'? I must admit I am! but in a way it makes me more determined to do it :)

February 12, 2011 at 04:48 PM ·

 jo, just want to add something about your being determined to do it.  i think it is a worthy expedition of self discovery, but let it happen instead of make it happen.  like dating? haha.  although my kid seems to get used to it earlier than i have expected (if not totally surprised and embarrassed when i look at the title of this thread), i think both you and she have the luxury of time.  there is really no time table to do it.  so please pace yourself and try to feel every sensation along the way instead of ignoring them.  by the way, your 4 mins on that exercise is really quite impressive.  i hate that useless feeling:)---can't fiddle,,,can't beat jo.

here is an update fyi:


February 12, 2011 at 05:41 PM ·

The "muffling" described by your daughter is the same as what I hear when I put on a SR.  And it is not surprising Al, that you are not able to hear a big difference.  The difference under ear is always more pronounced than from a distance.  Some violins sound almost the same when I hear them, but when I play them, they are ALL dramatically different.

SR users will never miss that clear, open sound, because they have not experienced it.  They also will not object to the weight of the SR because they are accustomed to it.  It is only after playing without SR that one notices these things.  These are two minor benefits of playing restless, but not reason enough to ditch the rest IMO.  The biggest reason to ditch the SR is to relieve tension if it exists.  The improved tone and reduced weight are just added benefits if you can make the switch.

Bravo on the playing.  I thought it would take at least 2-3 weeks for her to get comfortable, but it seems your daughter could be hooked already.

February 12, 2011 at 05:59 PM ·

 smiley, thanks for that input and coming to her defense:)

too bad, i don't have the equipments testing things out.  how much of a factor is the compression/contact from the  2 legs of the shoulder rest,,,,how much of a factor is due to bone conduction when end of back plate is directly on the clavicle (although minutely muted by clothing or sheet)...

and how much a difference in this phenom (that you two have observed) among different violins...

and, to be fair,,,how much a factor is placebo...


February 12, 2011 at 06:14 PM ·

Regarding the sound, it is definitely NOT placebo.  I have a pretty sensitive ear, and I've let my teacher play my violin with and without SR, also with and without Acoustifoam, and I can definitely hear the difference.  But that is playing one way and immediately comparing it to another.  In a performance scenario (e.g., not doing a direct comparison), you will not hear a difference.  That is, if I hear a violinist plaing with SR, I will not complain that the sound is muffled. 

Using your 0-10 scale, your daughter said the difference was 4.  For me, playing my fiddle, I would give it more like 2-3 muffling effect due to SR.  That is the sound under ear.  To the audience, the difference will be perhaps 0 or 1 -- an insignificant difference in sound compared to the difference due to the skill of the violinist.


February 14, 2011 at 08:25 PM ·

 Well John, I have some good news, it is now three days I have mastered shifting with no shoulder rest! :) I am so so happy! (wish I could be a good violinist now LOL LOL)

and all I have is a very very very thin piece of memory foam under my chin rest clamp  (only just over that area, it is a strip 3" long and 1" wide which I have placed along the chin rest metal clamp and provides a little 'grip').  I prefer this to some sheet of chamois leather or a terry cloth or whatever.  It is also good for protecting my collarbone from getting 'sore' from the metal clamp.

The flesch chin rest is really what I needed!  I can really balance well my violin with that and have my violin flat when I play yet move it to an angle if needed to access the G string more easily :)


ps I have had some help/tips from some very kind soul too who guided me through this process, an experienced 'rest-less player' so that I could make sure I did the right things whilst transitioning and also thank you to all of you here v.commies, all your shoulder rest debates and rest-less technique threads have helped me a GREAT DEAL, could have not done it without you all, THANK YOU SO SO SO MUCH EVERYONE!!!!

I can now play free of pain and I have achieved what my heart always wanted, I got 'my candies' finally :) I am one happy girl now :)

February 14, 2011 at 09:01 PM ·

 jo, happy for you:)

i asked my kid that if  she positioned her left thumb differently playing restless?

she said yes.  

how much?  she said, "slightly different."

it is amazing how people can learn to find a way to make things work. 

perhaps you did the same thing which facilitates shifting?

February 14, 2011 at 09:19 PM ·

 yes Al, the person who has been advising me advised me not to move my thumb in advance of the rest of the hand but to keep the thumb together with the hand as a unit, now I understand there may be 'different schools of thought' here and 'different strokes' ;) but I decided to follow this advice of this person and concentrated on keeping the hand 'as a unit' but yes my thumb stayed by the side of the neck as always but naturally started moving slightly differently and more independently, 'it' just knows what to do somehow!! and somehow knows when to start going under the neck too according to when I go to higher position or doing vibrato or double stops etc (weird)

February 14, 2011 at 09:54 PM ·

Jo, I'm sure you are far more advanced than I, but I'll still enjoy sharing the journey with you. :)

With that being said, my shifting and vibrato are sloppy to begin with so if I'm going to correct them and un-learn bad habits, may as well start fresh without the rest.

Playing without a SR forces me to finesse the balance of the instrument and to relax more. Without relaxation, it is impossible to play this way. I did not realize how poor my posture and technique truly was until I lost the scaffolding. I've been playing with a death-grip on the violin. Perhaps it would do me well to engage in some Alexander Technique training.

Of particular note is my inability to vibrate when restless. I notice my joints now, how they need to be connected, yet free. My old way of doing vibrato would now shake the fiddle from its perch. It's amazing how things become exposed, how things that were once somewhat acceptable are now impossible. I feel like a rank beginner again. It is eye-opening to say the least, and I am enjoying the discovery very much.

Al, your daughter is a wonderful musician. It's amazing how effortlessly the young can adapt to what some of us would consider a major equipment change!


February 14, 2011 at 09:55 PM ·

 Sorry John, so you mean:

-face the wall

-bring left arm up so it's parallel to floor and straight, palm of hand facing wall

- now palm of hand onto wall

- then rotate torso towards LEFT rather than right? or did you really mean right? or shall I rotate right and also left so I stretch muscles in both direction? how long should I keep the stretch for? oh sorry you did say: keep it for 3 minutes :)

February 14, 2011 at 10:02 PM ·

 @ David:

I am not that advanced at all LOL

I have been learning for 4 years but I don't play that well ;) well I don't think I do hehehe 

4 years with a shoulder rest.....I can now say I can play without the rest and I will never go back to the rest, of course I need to 'refine' playing with no rest by all means, on occasions I still  (and will) get 'wobbly' especially when I try to play faster and more complex pieces, but hey, it's early days, but I can certainly say I am no worse than I was with the rest on as I think and I am pretty sure that my intonation overall is actually BETTER now without the rest funny enough!!! but I think I heard other people commenting on this before when they did the switch, something to do with being more 'in touch' with the violin and 'feeling more' where you are......

Al's daughter is an inspiration to me, I think this thread and her videos have really 'spurred me on' and gave me the 'final push', a big thank you to her too, she's great :)

February 14, 2011 at 10:05 PM ·

 david and jo, , young at heart is the other asset you can keep forever:)

(unless you are a quitter like me :(


February 14, 2011 at 10:10 PM ·

 Al Ku, you....a quitter??? since when? you're a GREAT PERSON :) and don't think a quitter if you have raised a daughter so well ;) it takes many good qualities to do that :)

February 14, 2011 at 11:23 PM ·

 great person is undeniably questionable:)  and dealing with a kid like that is certainly handful and mindful.

i must say that i am quite proud of how this thread was treated by shoulder rest/restless enthusiasts, without the usual take-it-or-leave-it attitude.  a lot of issues were covered with sensible sharing of info and experiences.  it is rare to see thoughts turned into action turned into productive outcome.  some are still searching but in the end, couple people have successfully found a new dimension of themselves in this fail vlog.:)

so really, thank you all!

March 24, 2011 at 12:50 PM ·

Just wanted to give an update!

it is now 6 weeks and 3 days since I have taken off my shoulder rest and I have totally forgotten where I have left it ;) LOL

I now use a modern Flesch chin rest and a chamois leather to protect my collarbone which still gets a little tender now and again (but not as much as it used to, so who knows, may even ditch the chamois in future!).

I am a lot more confident than I was when I first started 6 weeks ago already, my violin  never slips away!  My shifts are always ok up to 7th position I'd say, it's only if I go higher that I need more experience/confidence definitely! especially if I do 3 octave scales, when I do them higher than D I am insecure in the last higher octave where I have to take my thumb OFF the neck and bring it to the side of the fingerboard if I have to keep all my fingers down, if I do this then I have to raise my shoulder and rest the violin on the shoulder just for the final 4 notes of the last octave, the only way NOT to raise my shoulder and not to take the thumb off the neck and to the side of the fingerboard is to raise my 2nd and 3rd finger off the fingerboard.

Generally I would never raise my shoulder when playing with no rest but I don't know how to handle the above as what do I do in future if I have to play a fast piece with those notes required? if I take my fingers off I might risk incorrect intonation, so what do I do? take my fingers off and play out of tune? or keep fingers on, raise my shoulder and get thumb to the side of the fingerboard all for just a few seconds?

I am so happy I am getting on so well with no rest :) and looking forward to the months ahead where it will all get better and better :)

March 24, 2011 at 01:01 PM ·

 hello jo, so happy for you, not that you can go up to 7 th position and i can't, but that you accomplish something that has been very elusive to many.  i will check to see how my kid manages high position tomorrow morning.  good question.  i will probably just revise this post then.   i have a feeling that my kid will stay with restless for the time being and near future unless something pops up.  for better or worse, she needs to be more aware of her thumb input during shifting, but your question on going on very high position when the thumb is not under the neck anymore is a good one.

also i saw your response in the other thread about tuning.  since i tune for my kid, i have also noticed that fine tuning e string is a bit dicey:).  so i go over and do it in front of a sofa in case the violin decides to fly off.  even if i shrug up the shoulder for a better squeeze, it still feels weird.  so safe landing in case:)


just now asked my kid to play all the way up the e string.  it seems that she can manage to keep her thumb on the ?base of the neck for support while reaching up with her hand on the e string higher register.  i wonder if this is what others do.  i think hand size plays a role in how to do it (she can reach 10 keys on piano between pinkie and thumb).  

on the same vein, it wil be interesting to see how a small-handed teacher teaches a large handed student.  similarly, how a large handed teacher teaches a small handed student.

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