Shoulder Rests

July 5, 2011 at 05:50 AM ·

Can any shoulder rest suffice no matter the brand or are there differences between shoulder rests? 

Replies (31)

July 5, 2011 at 06:39 AM ·

Some are made in similar shapes (KUN, Viva la Musica, etc.) but most of them vary greatly; some are meant to be more ergonomic (Playonair, sponges, Bonmusica) while others are stiffer (Resonans), and some are more adjustable (Wolf) while others have only one setting (Comford); some of them are just outright weird (Stowemaster).

If you are unhappy or uncomfortable with your current rest, go to a violin shop and try out multiple brands to see what you like. I personally use KUN.

July 5, 2011 at 07:53 AM ·

Steven, Brian is quite right, I only have one recommendation.

I would advise that you go with YOUR violin to a shop where they have a private practice room, allow PLENTY OF TIME, try out different ones, put on a side those 2 or 3 which feel like fit you best, then play a good amount of time (ie half an hour plus) with them before you buy it.

I'd say if at all possible do not just buy one having tried it on for 30seconds without even having played your violin with it.

In the past I have made that mistake...went home and after half an hour of playing realised I got it all wrong :(

July 5, 2011 at 08:04 AM ·

Great advice Jo.  I bet every violinist has a draw with several (failed) varieties, I certainly do (of course there are those that get rid of the rest entirely - but lets not go there.  PLEASE lets not go there....). 

Look for a rest that offers lots of flexibility in positioning and height at each end so that you can continue experimenting at home.  I found I also needed the ability to alter the angle of the rest (rotation along the end-to-end axis) but have only found one type that permits that yet.

One more thing: you might want to check out the chin rests first.  In my experience, if you can't get the chin comfortable the shoulder rest will never work.  For me the object seemed to be to get my eyes looking almost along the string but I'm sure thats very personal.

July 5, 2011 at 07:05 PM ·

You might want to check out a study they did on chinrests/shoulder rests in the Netherlands.

There are about a dozen case studies of violinists and violists and the process by which they came to the selection of their chinrests and shoulder rests. This was in conjunction with Alexander Technique.

Worth noting is that more than half of them use shoulder rests. There are clips of their playing and they talk about how they arrived at their current setup. There are tall and short violinists and violinists with long and short necks. I think you might find it really helpful!

Echoing what Elise is saying, they almost all start with getting a good chinrest setup first.

July 5, 2011 at 08:47 PM ·

Can any kind of shoe fit me no matter the model or are there differences between shoe sizes and models?

Now really, without being a jerk or anything... what would you answer to such a question?


July 5, 2011 at 09:00 PM ·

Whatever you choose, make sure that you can still place the violin on your collarbone. You can use a shoulder pad to help with support, but make sure that the edge of the violin is resting on your collarbone. It really helps you to feel connected with the violin as you're playing and prevents awkwardness.

July 5, 2011 at 09:58 PM ·

Oliviu a shoe wraps around your foot, do you wrap your shoulder rest around your neck? You should wrap it around your violin, it looks much better. 

That is the problem with comparisons, it is so easy to do and so easy to shoot down.

July 5, 2011 at 11:44 PM ·

Steven- Look for a highly adjustable one.  At this point on the learning curve, you posture and how you hold the instrument will evolve as you playing does.  The Wolf Forte Secundo is probably the most adjustable rest on the market.  Both feet change heights, the padded bar bends, you can swivel it to change the angle relative to the back of the instrument.  As others have said, try a few, for as long as the shop will let you.  Have someone there help you, if the store has good help.  Some rests may want to be straight on the instrument, others at an angle.  Try all the possibilities.

July 6, 2011 at 01:05 AM ·

I totally agree with Michael. I'd be curious if any virtuoso violinist plays with their instrument not at all in contact with their collarbone. Or if some do, they have it on their collarbone the vast majority of the time. I suspect that there are none but I could be wrong.

July 6, 2011 at 01:55 AM ·

 Hey Steven!

I don't about you but about 90% of music and repertoire I play has some outrageously high violin parts involving weird positioning and  awkward and fast shifts. I was using a very basic type of shoulder rest that probably was no better than a sponge. It really hurt my shoulder and made it hard to shift with confidence of getting to the right note because I was so worried about dropping the instrument. My teacher recommended that I switch to an Everest shoulder rest. I did, and I absolutely love it. It's soft to the violin but firm between the violin and your shoulder for smooth shifting. It's also shaped to fit the shape of your shoulder. I would definitely recommend it. It cost a little more than a standard one but not as much as a KUN, it was bout $15. Great investment. Hope this helps!


July 6, 2011 at 04:21 AM ·

 I have found that the NONE brand works the best. :)

July 6, 2011 at 05:57 AM ·

 @ Elise:  yes, I have let me count.....12 shoulder rests and 4 sponge-y things plus cloths all nicely 'chucked' in a draw LOL  and also just like you have said...... I now play with NOTHING AT ALL, not even a handkerchief ;) hahahahaha   

I have decided to keep all those rests and sponges/cloths as I may one day teach (if I become good enough to do so) and then they may become handy for some purposes :)  

July 6, 2011 at 10:16 AM ·

 "I now play with NOTHING AT ALL, not even a handkerchief ;) hahahahaha"   

It is called playing in the 'au naturelle', I hope you keep the curtains closed otherwise it could be a site for sore eyes.

July 6, 2011 at 01:07 PM ·

also great advice from Michael about keeping the violin in contact with the collarbone as advised on the website violinists in balance (mentioned by Terry)

July 6, 2011 at 05:08 PM ·

@ Andre A: The reason I made the comparison is because it is blindingly obvious that there are notable differences between various shoulder rests and you can't use any model. Therefore, I don't see the point of asking a question like "Are different shoulder rests different?". Sorry for coming across as a troll, but the way this is formulated begs for chuckles.

July 6, 2011 at 05:14 PM ·

July 6, 2011 at 06:15 PM ·

Oliviu, you are taking the knowledge for granted, but for a novice, all these brands and models are confusing. Perhaps the OP did not word his question carefully, but it would have been more helpful if you actually provide some advice instead of snarky remarks.

RE to OP: For many, it seems that any setup will do (or they just don't know better); for a few, nothing works.  Kun seems to work for most people I know. Unfortunately I have had great difficulty in finding a setup that works.  Here is what I have done after getting tired of going back and forth to my local shop - find a reputable online retailer with good return policies, order a whole bunch of shoulder rests and chinrests, try different combinations, keep the ones that work the best and return the rest (I went through this process several times).  Some you reject immediately, but for the combinations that seem to work OK, you need at least a few days to make sure it's true.

You did not say whether you currently use a shoulder rest, or if your current setup is uncomfortable.  If it works, don't fix it!

I found I also needed the ability to alter the angle of the rest (rotation along the end-to-end axis) but have only found one type that permits that yet.

Elise, do you mean rotating on-the-fly?  May I ask what shoulder rest is that?

July 6, 2011 at 06:28 PM ·

Oliviu no need to apologize, these things are said in the flash of a moment and I think you have a valid point. I understood what you meant and my response was also over the top.

I use a separate shoulder rest for all my violins and violas and it goes in the case with them when I put it away, they are different makes and I am comfortable with them all. A shoulder rest that can be adjusted for height and angle is all I need. I put it on the violin and forget about it, and I do not even realize there is a rest on the violin. 

Elise almost all my shoulder rests rotate on the axis, except the ones that broke and I had to glue to make it usable. Kun also rotates, among other no name brands.

July 6, 2011 at 07:31 PM ·

@Joyce Lyn - There is a nifty little button called "search" that usually keeps novices/beginners safe from snarklers.

The amount of well documented topics concerning the choosing and correct use of shoulder rests is more than enough to enlighten even the most petulant of newborns. And they are all accessible through the "search" function.

Again, I apologize for coming across as somewhat blunt, but honestly, I've seen one shoulder rest threads too many. They should make a section devoted entirely to SR and mark it "Hic sunt Dracones".

July 6, 2011 at 07:48 PM ·

Oliviu - I like your dragons. And, if I may add,  "Draco nunquam titillandus".

July 6, 2011 at 09:03 PM ·

Based on past discussions, I have come to the following conclusion.

Shoulder rests are an indispensable part of playing violin if you use one.  But if you don't use one, then they are terrible for you. 

Other relevant but less controversial topics include:

  • Does God exist
  • Should abortion be legal
  • Should congress raise the debt ceiling
  • Gays in the military

July 6, 2011 at 10:04 PM ·

Damnant quodnon intelligunt. Fallaces sunt rerum species.

I do not know what I am saying but hell it is nice speaking in tongues.

Quo Vadis 

July 6, 2011 at 10:29 PM ·

I still think the original question is a good question.

What makes a good shoulder rest a good shoulder rest? It's been a long time since I've had to think about it that much since I've gone without one for so long now. It seems that a good shoulder rest would be one that fills the space conveniently between the instrument and the body, when the instrument is resting on the collarbone, but still enables the left hand to move the instrument around.

The only way that a shoulder rest would function well in this manner would be if the chinrest then filled the space between the chin and the collarbone.


July 6, 2011 at 11:14 PM ·

@Andre A

Well, you just said that "they condemn what they don't understand" and that "Deceiving art the appearances of thingies". Tremefac trabes meas! Yarrr, my hearty fiddledogs!

July 6, 2011 at 11:20 PM ·

@Smiley Hsu

Paraphrasing a military catchphrase regarding the "rainbow" guys:

You don't have to be straight, you have to bow straight.

Yarrr, me me trusty fiddledogs!

July 7, 2011 at 02:10 AM ·

Please, people, let's not start this tired, endless debate again.  This man is asking for input on which types of shoulder rests he might want to try.  (Fact:  many, many people, professional, student, amateur, brilliant, terrible, use them.  It's not a crime.)  He's not asking for a debate about it.  He is new enough to the violin that he probably didn't realize that asking this is like throwing raw meat to animals.  If you see a title like this, don't even click on it, OK?  Just let the poor guy get answers from people willing to answer the question he asked.

July 7, 2011 at 09:58 AM ·

There be a buton called "search", riddin' ya'll scurvy puppies of snarkling beasties, yarr! I'm aye he's realised t'horror o' t'abomination he's released upon this hearty board when throwin' meat t' t' resless/ressful krakens.

Now ye best bury the shoulder rest rope or hang by it, me trusty fiddle dogs! Yarrrr!!!

July 7, 2011 at 11:22 AM ·

To Steven Garza:

Different shoulder rests have different designs.  Some are more curved, some less, some higher some lower, some have different adjustment capabilities.  There are standard models.  However, even within the same brand (example Kun Bravo or Mach 1) they vary from rest to rest because of the material.  There are companies that make shoulder pads which are different in that they cover only the left side but have direct contact with the back of the instrument, where as shoulder rests have feet that contact only the side of the instrument.  

Also in the equation is the chinrest you use.  So, for one choosing to use a shoulder rest, you have to try many and find a combination of chinrest/shoulder rest that works.  Each person has a different body, so what works for one, may not for another.  I am not necessarily sure that there is an ideal solution in the end, only the best compromise one can find.  Some bodies are more easily suited to the instrument than others, but that doesn't mean you cannot find something that will work for you.

As for the rest of the debate, I have used both.  I am forced for a host of reasons to not use a rest for the last few years.  It did teach mean a lot about balance and movements not to have the rest, but it doesn't make my life easier.  However, in teaching, I have found that you can and should use the natural principles and movements of no rest with a rest if not, then there are limitations caused by the errors in movements.  This had nothing to do with the rest, just the movements.

Cheers and best of luck in your search!

July 11, 2011 at 08:34 PM ·

Wolf (the shoulder rest makers, not the snarky posters!) have modified their design a little. The metal frame is easier to bend to shape, and the padding has been improved so that it retains it's grip for longer, before going 'smooth'. It offers very good support and stability. Many players think that the violin needs to be able to 'move around' while playing, to accomodate bowing angles, etc, but this is a subject of much debate ... so Steven, you need to just try a load of types of rest to see which one suits you best :)

July 14, 2011 at 11:35 PM ·

Im using Tido shoulder rest and am very happy with it...before I tried completely without, with KUN and WOLF...I must say Tido is my favourite. playing without is good too, but in high positions it becomes a little risky and the sound becomes too sweet.

March 13, 2013 at 08:49 AM · I found another one...

Cheers Carlo

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