Why no shoulder rest for Perlman?

March 23, 2013 at 01:12 AM · Why does Perlman dont use a shoulder Rest? How can he hold it? Wont it cause pain in the bone? Can I play violin without the shoulder rest?

Replies (95)

March 23, 2013 at 01:59 AM · OMG! Enough already! Can't this site go one week w.o. a SR discussion? It's not funny. It's just clogging up the site. I don't mean to attack a beginner who just joined this site, and I otherwise welcome him. But anybody can do a little research and find about 50 previous and still current threads on the subject. I thought that not every new thread gets approved automatically. Can't there be a moratorium on this subject?

I feel like finding the biggest, heaviest SR I can find, and like Samson did with the jaw of an ass (-in the bible that means a donkey, but feel free to re-interpret-) and slay everyone who has ever posted on an SR thread, before finally turning it on myself.

OK, I'll go back on my meds now. But I'm not too far off from being serious.

March 23, 2013 at 02:01 AM · 1. He's one of the best

2. He holds it with his left hand, collarbone, and left thumb, and chin

3. No pain if you play correctly.

4. Yes you can.

March 23, 2013 at 03:56 AM · Agreed

Of course you can

Why, I never played with a shoulder rest....ever

I don't understand the whole shoulder rest thing, but you do what you want and need to do

March 23, 2013 at 10:56 AM · Zion

Welcome to the site - don't worry, it's normally a very supportive place!

But as you've probably gathered - you've walked into a lions den with this one (though given that you seem to be a lion, you're probably not too worried!).

The answer is, many great players use rests, and many don't. Browse the many, many inconclusive Violinist.com threads on the subject and make up your own mind.

Can we stop now. Please??

March 23, 2013 at 12:03 PM · Raphael- it's not just the pills you take, it's the order you take them in ...

How was the recital(s)? I was going to attend but couldn't find the right bus to take me from Piccadilly Circus ...

Yes, people that start shoulder rest threads need to be strung up - from a really big SR!!

And I do think we can be too tolerant towards new posters, don't they look the relevant subject up on the search tool first?

March 23, 2013 at 12:27 PM · Forums are about sharing information.

A search will show up a lot of information, but perhaps some of it is out of date?

What happens if some fine day Euginia decides that she will liberate her violin from the shoulder rest shackles that have long oppressed it? She would post about how her new view on life may have freed up her playing and overall worldview.

Or perhaps Smiley decides he will no longer be a free wheeling shoulder restless guy? Perhaps he'd share the new confidence gained by having his violin now securely mounted on his shoulder and can play with renewed vigor no longer fearing in the back of his mind that his violin will shoot forth from betwixt his chin and shoulder like a proverbial watermelon seed?

That all would be breaking news not accessible via the search function.

And furthermore, does the Vcom archive answer the question as to why Perlman doesn't use a shoulder rest?

Zion, I encourage you to try playing both with and without a SR. Each way has its pros and cons. Only you can decide which way suits you best. You may find over time you will change from one way to the other (playing with one or not).

March 23, 2013 at 12:35 PM · I'm a huge supporter of shoulder rests. I have 8 of them. I don't use any of them, but I DO support the industry :-)

March 23, 2013 at 12:39 PM · "...his violin will shoot forth from betwixt his chin and shoulder like a proverbial watermelon seed?"

When the violin does squirt out like a watermellon seed, the shoulder rest hinders the squirting distance.

March 23, 2013 at 01:09 PM · Dear Zion,

Forgive the responders here. So many of them strongly oppose the use of shoulder rests. They are strongly intimidating - one wonders why they protest so much - considering how may great fiddlers use SRs They remind me of the increasing number of reactionary politicians who have so opposed gay rights and then switch immediately when they learn that they have a gay child themselves. It is really helpful to be able to imagine walking someone else's shoes before you condemn them to walk in yours.

The first thing to examine is the CHINREST on your violin. A chinrest that is uncomfortable for you may be the first thing that leads you to incorrectly choosing to use a shoulder rest. If you can get to a good violin shop with your own violin, try lots of chin rests - and definitely do not limit yourself to those that go over the tailpiece - or to those that don't.

All full-size violins are quite similarly sized, all full-sized people are not. Therefore some people need extra hardware to get the best out of their violin playing; but obviously some do not. Also as age, wear of their nerves, joints and muscles can limit their range of motion and ability to play the instrument under certain conditions.

I played violin without a shoulder rest for the first 30 years, and with low shoulder rests for the next 37 years, and with either no SR or only a shoulder pad (like the acoustifoam rest)- mostly no rest at all for the next 5. And now in the past month I've gone back to using a very low SR - a Wolf Secundo with no height adjustment. For me the SR has always been about strengthening my vibrato - especially after I suffered some nerve damage in my neck that caused partial paralysis/weakness of my left hand/arm about 22 years ago. Also my arms are too long (and my hands too large - but so are Perlman's - so there) to play the violin, I do not have the same vibrato problems playing viola without a shoulder rest - and none at all as a cellist.

Also, not all shoulder rests are the same - even a millimeter difference in dimensions and placement on the instrument can make a significant difference in its utility for each individual.

Finally, so many of the players who did not and do not use shoulder rests padded the left shoulders of their tux jackets - and if that's not a shoulder rest, what is.

The real problem with most shoulder rests is that they lock the violin into a single position, making it impossible to move it around when the music would be better served if it could be moved.


March 23, 2013 at 01:37 PM · "The real problem with most shoulder rests is that they lock the violin into a single position, making it impossible to move it around when the music would be better served if it could be moved."


This is simply NOT true. I am a shoulder rest user, and I can immediately switch my instrument to any position I choose, simply because I do not grip the chin rest with the chin and therefore the instrument is totally free. Any angle, any height, any position. I have more positions than the Karma Sutra.

March 23, 2013 at 02:20 PM · Since the site editors approved the thread for posting, I have no qualms about jumping into the discussion once again.

I began playing in elementary school without SR and continued without SR till 18-19 y/o. Then I decided to try a few rests, found the type I liked, and realized I was more comfortable with the device than without it. Ditto for the Strad Pad on the chin rest, which I also started using about the same time. I can play without either device but prefer to play with them -- now that I have the comparison.

What really grinds my gears in a lot of SR threads is the apparent air of moral superiority among some restless advocates -- as if they were part of an elite honor guard, and as if SR users were somehow less than genuine players.

Isaac Stern was one who padded the jacket, and that definitely counts as a shoulder rest. To paraphrase another poster in an older SR thread: Consider this before you seek to emulate. The discussion reminds me of the fad among young conductors, trying to emulate Arturo Toscanini by conducting from memory -- when, in fact, they had neither AT's uncommon powers of rentention nor his severe vision problems.

March 23, 2013 at 02:42 PM · Just to answer Zion's question, (!!!) I have much video evidence that Mr. Perlman holds his violin between chin and padded shoulder, at least some the time.

Many friends and colleagues say they don't hunch their shoulders, but in fact do just that when no-one is looking!!

March 23, 2013 at 04:35 PM · What does one violinist's preference matter? why Perlman? Why not someone else? Are you going to copy everything Perlman does?

Reminds me of when everyone suddenly switched to double-handed backhands when Jimmy Connors came along. And that awful racket he used, that nasty steel thing. everyone wanted one of those too.

March 23, 2013 at 05:06 PM · There is always a conundrum with knowing what we actually need to get the job done...and what we think we need (or what we just want).

Then there is always the added issue (for some of us) of wanting to be unique vs. the safety of being a sheep.

This conundrum/issue is neither baaaa-d nor good...it just is. ;)

So explore all your options and go with what works for you.

March 23, 2013 at 06:36 PM · The SR-users versus the SR-less players are often only talking about what is visible. Many SR-users don't realise that the real question is;


If one has learnt to play with a SR then takes it off. Of course it is difficult to play as one has learned to support the violin with the shoulder, and not the left hand.

No value judgement here, but I feel that the SR debate is pointless unless we know what the real, not the visual, difference is.

I strongly believe anyone can learn to play the violin without the SR, regardless of physiology. Is it better to do so? I have no answer.

Cheers Carlo

March 23, 2013 at 06:55 PM · Perlman doesn't use shoulder rest because he doesn't need to and feels comfortable without, and never use shoulder rest, and his neck isn't that long, and...and....and......now it's the time to make use of the search engine on this site about shoulder rest :)

March 23, 2013 at 07:01 PM · Peter wrote, "I have more positions than the Karma Sutra." I hope you know you will be quoted out of context now. LOL

This thread is a little different from other SR threads in the sense that the OP asked specifically about Itzhak Perlman. The answer to why HE can get by without a shoulder rest might have something to do with having relatively abundant jowls that smother over the lower bouts of his violin. Even his chin rest is barely visible from underneath. Maybe with some silicone implants and you could approximate his physicality. I'm more amazed that a man can play so astoundingly well with fingers that look like bratwurst.

March 23, 2013 at 07:21 PM · Vanessa and Paul, you both mention physiology in your posts, may I respectfully disagree. It is not Perlman's build that enables him to hold the violin without a SR but rather he has learnt to support the violin with his left hand, and not his shoulder.

Cheers Carlo

March 23, 2013 at 07:31 PM · Carlo - I hate to split hairs with you - but I think it's a bit of both i.e. his physical make up - and yes, his ability to hold the fidle like we all do, with the left hand. (Well, some of us anyway).

And yes my comment about the Karma Sutra will no doubt get me mis-quoted - but I'm used to that! Witness the thread about something to do with left hand spread of fingers and the indomitable Mr Terez Mertes ... Need I say more?

March 23, 2013 at 07:43 PM · Gotta say I agree with Raphael. I wish that this site had stickies, like many other forums, so that there could one thread about shoulder rests that new people could easily find. We could also use stickies for some other frequently asked questions, such as "am I too old to play the violin" and "can I make it as a professional violinist".

March 23, 2013 at 09:34 PM · CARLo, i didn't even say that perlman uses his shoulder to support violin.

March 23, 2013 at 10:41 PM · Coming attractions:

"Am I too old to play without a shoulder rest?"

"Can I make it as a professional violinist using a shoulder rest?"

And even:

"I can't afford a teacher right now, will I be able to learn how to install a shoulde rest on my own?"

March 23, 2013 at 10:56 PM · ...why on earth does it matter so much! who cares what other people do, surely it's best to concentrate on what's best for your own playing. If someone thinks shoulder rests are terrible then - cool, play without one, but don't worry about whether or not others are playing without one too. It just doesn't matter :)

(That's of course in response to the ongoing never ending shoulder rest argument and not to the thread starter!)

March 23, 2013 at 11:25 PM · Carlo, for goodness sake, watch videos of Perlman: there are numerous instances of him holding the violin without the left hand before playing, and no gap betwwen his padded jacket and his violin, while playing.

I respect your honest convictions, but please base them on the evidence!

March 24, 2013 at 12:49 AM · I agree with Adrian. Mr Perlman does not use a shoulder rest because they do not make them in micron thicknesses. And even if they did, there wouldn't be a point. Bottom line is, based on his physiology, there simply is no room to fit a shoulder rest between his violin and his body. He has the ideal physiology for playing violin, except for his bratwurst fingers of course

March 24, 2013 at 12:53 AM · OTOH,

Bratwurst = wide luscious vibrato

March 24, 2013 at 12:58 AM · Often overlooked amidst the acrimony: the humble shoulder PAD!

I've played with a shoulder rest, and lately without one. But just yesterday I went out and got an Artino Magic Pad.


Seems pretty good. No rubber bands like usual foam pads. Helps keep the violin from sliding around on your shoulder (or squirting out like a watermelon seed), helps give a little more height to the violin for us tall folk. Allows for full freedom of movement just as if it wasn't there. Doesn't clamp down on your instrument if that worries you about traditional shoulder rests. Cushions your collar bone.

Is the shoulder pad the middle ground?

Can the humble shoulder pad broker a armistice in the shoulder rest debates? Or is it destined to further stoke the flames of dissent?

By poking its head into the discussion has the shoulder pad only served to become the latest target of strife?

Has Itzak Perlman ever tried an Artino Magic Pad?

March 24, 2013 at 01:55 AM · Vanessa, you mention neck size which I believe has no bearing on the ability to hold the violin with or without a SR.

Adrian, I would like to see a video of Perlman playing wearing a t-shirt. I doubt he practises wearing a suit and I am sure he would play just the same.

If you want to see how it is done, place the violin on your collar bone and play CHINLESS for a while. You will then see what it is all about. The shoulder does not touch the violin at all. It is balanced on the collar bone, and the violin is held up with the left hand. I'm not saying this is better, but rather, how to do it if you wish. Then when you put the chin back on you will find downwards shifts are easier but the method of support does not change.

Cheers Carlo

March 24, 2013 at 02:13 AM · as much as everyone despises SR threads, there is no shortage of posts.

i use an SR but my chin often is not clamping down on the violin. still the SR has a stabilizing effect.

March 24, 2013 at 02:30 AM · Why does Perlman dont use a shoulder Rest?

The [edit: modern] shoulder rest was invented about 60 years ago if I remember correctly. Prior to that it was only sponges that were often discouraged for damping the sound or playing without.

How can he hold it?

His left hand and collar bone. You can actually hold it with just the chin and collar bone (no hands! no shoulder!), but not for very long and it is very tiring. The only time I think this is recommended is for chromatic glissando. Some people including many great violinists bring the left shoulder forward to support it, but I think Perlman does not and Milstein clearly didn't.

Wont it cause pain in the bone?

A little on the collar bone at first.

Can I play violin without the shoulder rest?

Yes, if that is important to you somehow.

March 24, 2013 at 05:00 AM · Carlo: i just meant to tell zion to use search engine on this site as there are too many reasons why perlman doesnt use shoulder rest and why there are people who dont use shoulder rest and how to play violin without shoulder rest, and so on.

You take things literally serious :p

Well sometime i use shoulder rest. The only SR that fits me is VLM Diamond. But when using sr, my shoulder hurts and my violin looks like it's bigger and my left hand so short (i am kinda tiny and people think i play viola!). (Maybe because my violin is far away from my collarbone so violin+SR: i feel that my violin looks bigger and the fingerboard looks soo long that my left hand too short (i still have to find out why)

March 24, 2013 at 09:09 AM · I am glad this thread is more about shoulder support than about shoulder rests.

Carlo, in the "Trout" DVD, we see Perlman in shirtsleeves and a thin cardigan: no shoulder contact. Then, in rehearsal, wearing a thin turtle-neckshirt: while tighening the bow, he holds the violin very horizontally between shoulder and chin.

I don't maintain that he uses this contact often, but that he can if necessary, with little or no raising of the shoulder. Some of us lesser mortals simply cannot, for anatomical reasons!

I spent a few years restless, (on violin and viola) not using the shoulder at all, with all the accompanying benefits. I gradually returned to shoulder support on my viola because my left hand simply could not produce the sounds I wanted, in terms of finger action, vibrato and high positions (8th upwards).

Carlo, I appreciate that you seem to be a "non-rester" rather than an "anti-rester", but I find many "nons" and "antis" prefer conviction and supposition to clear evidence.

March 24, 2013 at 02:16 PM · Again, I apologize to the OP - but about nothing else. You may have noticed that I didn't state my own preferrence and recommendation, because I've done it before, and that's not the issue any more. Enough is enough.

OK, the OP didn't know, and again, I'm usually nicer than this. But, as long as I'm not being so nice, some site clogging veterans whom I won't name - John - do know better.

You can always find slightly different nuances to the same topic and go on forever ad nauseum. So Perlman was particularly cited. How about new respective posts on why Zino Francescatti, Michael Rabin, Szerying, Eugene Fodor, David Nadien, Aaaron Rosand, Glenn Dicterow or Ann Sophie Mutter and all the members of the Guarneri Quartet (except, Sawyer - cellists laways have to be different!) don't or didn't use SR's - to say nothing of Heifetz and almost all of his generation? And why Joseph Silverstein, James Ehnnes, Hillary Hahn, Sarah Chang, Alexander Markov or Midori do? Yes, that's the ticket - let's have a separate thread for each prominant violinist who does or does not use one. That should keep us going till the next millenium.

If this is what people want fine. But I'm losing interest here. I think I'll go and find a violin making site, and each week bring up the topic of whether or not to spring the bass bar.

Peter - thanks for asking. I'm my own worst critic, so I'll say that SOME of my recital performances were good. The audiences were kind and supportive and I got particularly good feedback for my own second caprice and my encore - my own virtuosic arrangement for solo violin of the first Bach keyboard prelude.

The impossible program - a dear friend of mine who is a professional bassist called it "another one of your death-defying, kamakaze programs" - was all unaccompanied, and included Bach and Paganini. So I figured, why not make it even more impossible, and play the whole program with the violin on my head! Oh, if only I had played in the normal way and used or not used a shoulder rest! ;-)

March 24, 2013 at 06:36 PM · Raphael

Yes, I think we are often our own worst critics. And that's maybe good.

I'm reminded of a youngish violinist though after a performance in a piano trio where I was saying I thought I played badly, that we shouldn't beat ourselves up over it, and it was never quite as we think it is, and if people liked it then we should be pleased and not disilusion them.

And I now think he was right. One can learn a lot of sense from those younger than us!

March 24, 2013 at 06:46 PM · "Many orchestral players use shoulder rests and if a good alternative solution arrived they might be reluctant to make a change because it could risk their careers if the change caused problems. A life in music is not the most stable type of work. Maybe this explains the fevered reactions we see so often on this topic . Even teachers could feel the instability. If you were stuck on a mountain you would resent advice shouted from below to move a bit to the right or left in case you fell off. "Oh shut up"they would bellow from their precarious position ."

John, I've never heard orchestral players even discussing SR's and they certainly do not get anxious about it. They either use one or they don't - and it's no big deal. It seems only to be important on forums like this.

I only know of one orchestral player getting his knickers in a twist over it, and that was because he made the mistake of going to a (bad) teacher who insisted he stopped using it. So (as a viola player) he spent about 2 years in considerable discomfort not using one, and then one day said that the teacher had sacked him - so he pulled out the SR and continued using it.

His problems were far more basic than using or not using a SR and we had all known what a con artist the teacher was, although he was himself in fact a very good player, but a bad teacher.

So don't worry, professionals, or most of them, have it all worked out.

End of boring subject. Let's talk about playing the damned instrument instead.

March 25, 2013 at 12:46 AM · And this is how the d—d instrument can be played :)

March 25, 2013 at 03:46 AM · "

John, I've never heard orchestral players even discussing SR's and they certainly do not get anxious about it. They either use one or they don't - and it's no big deal. It seems only to be important on forums like this.


Hi Peter, i second you. Nobody in my orchestra groups discuss about SR. Nobody cares whether or not I use it...no big deal. Shoulder rest war only happens on violinist.com

March 25, 2013 at 04:02 AM · "OMG! Enough already! Can't this site go one week w.o. a SR discussion? " hahahaha

And yet, day 3, and already at 38 responses, who else gets that kind of interest. i don't think he's even checked back yet.

We're just sitting here talking amongst ourselves.


March 25, 2013 at 05:34 AM · sometimes, my violin slips off, when i hold it with my chin an collarbone. though i hold in that way, i'm unable to make a clear vibrato. it's making me to hold violin in my left hand. if i press a note on the fingerboard, violin is not stable, its going down with my left hand fingerings and slipping out. soory for my improper inglish.

March 25, 2013 at 06:02 AM · hey, sharrelle taylor. dont wrong me, taylor. as i'm new to this site, i thought that the website will send me a message when someone replies on this topic. so i dint see this site. today i saw it myslf

March 25, 2013 at 06:08 AM · its makin me to bend my neck and press my chin aginst the chin rest. so my head is not at 90 degree. it is at 60 degrre when playing without SR. my neck is paining

March 25, 2013 at 06:18 AM · my violin is shaking when shifting. so i'm unable to play proper note, when playin without a shoulder rest

March 25, 2013 at 09:06 AM · Seraphim, in my humble opinion, a shoulder pad is another form of rest. The question still remains, are you holding the violin up with your left-hand or your shoulder?

Vanessa and Peter, there are only two violinists in my orchestra who don't use a SR, and one who is a fantastic player, who uses a SR but no chin-rest. SR-users are definitely the majority and the use, or not, of the SR is not a big topic of conversation.

Zion, try discussing your problems with a teacher you respect who is a SR-less player. He/she will be able to explain how to play that way if that is your wish.

Cheers Carlo

March 25, 2013 at 11:31 AM · Zion, I sincerely thank you for asking a precise question based on observation rather than opinion.

The main reason why the subject recurs (and why we take the bait!) so often, is that that the practical issues of the "resters" are never, ever answered properly by the "restless". I read comments such as "in my opinion, anyone can learn to play restless", or "learn to play properly", or even "I am sure that Sarah Chang etc. etc. would play better without" - as if such artists were too stupid to have tried!! Or to claim that Heifetz or Perlman never use their shoulders when this is blatantly untrue.

As I have said before..., I have tried restless playing over a long period, with no support from the shoulder, but personally I make better music, with more freedom when I use a SR.

Violin setup is vitally important, and will keep recurring on v.com as long as the matter is met with self-sufficiency from the "antis", or obstinacy from the "pros".

March 25, 2013 at 11:59 AM · hi Adrian;

i have read people give specific reason for why they think they are better served by going restless...1- primarily owing to the tone quality that could be compromised (in their estimation) by the constricting clamping of the shoulder rest and 2- (if i recall correctly) due to inclucating a tension-free way of holding the violin

but there are people who claim the opposite.

so it would be interesting if these were studied scientifically to ascertain whether these claims are correct or not. just like it has been settled, for me, by way of "field tests" conducted by experts in the field, that old strad and guarneri violins are not necessarily superior to good modern violins.

March 25, 2013 at 01:37 PM · Tammuz, two quick answers!

Less tension? A bad CR & SR setup will cause much tension; a good setup can dramatically reduce tension! (My own experience, for what it is worth!)

Tone? I have compared my viola tone with and without two SRs (Kun Bravo and VLM Augustin):

1 - In playing position: since the collarbone contact and instrument angle change, the comparison is of little use.

2 - 'Cello fashion: the tighter, heavier Kun dampens the tone just a little, and reduces the nasal quality of my viola (again, just a little);

the lighter, more flexible VLM has no effect.

3 - Perched lightly on both thighs, same as no.2, but less noticable (the clamped back is hidden).

4 - Lightly balanced on one knee, without any SR, to imitate direct shoulder or pad contact on the lower back: a very noticable loss of depth of tone.

On my rather dull-toned violin, no difference in any position..

I invite you all to try the same protocol in an objective frame of mind......

March 25, 2013 at 02:14 PM · This thread should get the golden Oscar, or Palm D'Or (or whatever it's called) for


March 25, 2013 at 02:20 PM · Just to add some color to the thread:

March 25, 2013 at 02:32 PM · "Seraphim, in my humble opinion, a shoulder pad is another form of rest. The question still remains, are you holding the violin up with your left-hand or your shoulder?"

Hi Carlo,

I think I'm holding it up mostly with my left hand, but some lingering tightness in my trapezius is telling me that I am also still clamping down with my chin too much and/or raising up my shoulder (just started with the Artino two days ago, so still acclimating to it...).

I started with a SR, but I was definitely clamping down when using that. I tried jacking up the SR, but it got to the point of ridiculousness when I added on the extensions...

One day I simply tried without a SR, and felt much less tension. So I've been rolling like that lately.

Recently, I re-examined what I was doing, and I was sort of positioning the violin over the edge of my shirt collar, button up against my bare neck. The collar, it would seem, was acting as a sort of spacer/rest, as when I tried playing in a T-shirt (no collar), it was not nearly as comfortable.

Thus, enter the Artino-it acts as a spacer, it provides some non-slip, yet is not as imposing as a full on shoulder rest.

Personally, I have no issue with multiple SR threads. What else are we going to discuss if not SRs?


Should we have a few more threads to discuss what strings to get?


March 25, 2013 at 03:11 PM · Seraphim,

Anne Sophie Mutter is a great violinist and this is just one snapshot in time - there is no way she cold hold violin all the time and avoid neck / shoulder injury. look at the photo you provided:

1. Her head is tilted on the left.

2. The violin is resting on the shoulder (not only the collar bone) which is turned forward.

I stated this a few times and will repeat: the real danger is a religion of violin playing, no matter where it comes from. Everyone is unique and the flexibility is the key.

An example: I attended Tafelmusik concert on Friday and had plenty of time to observe the individual differences in the way they hold their violins and bows - there was not a "cookie-cutter" ideal and prescribed way to hold a violin. The soloist was Elizabeth Wallfisch and she uses a wedge - folded chamois leather supported by elastics. One violin player uses a red cosmetic pad, the viola player a pad under her shirt, plus a pad under her viola. Another player a black (barely visible) tie under the tailpiece and tied around his neck, just like Enrico Onorfi does. Only a few players did not use anything, save chamois leather, and even among them they held violin differently. All played more or less chin-less, no or minimal contact with the chin. Conclusion: all those devices are used (only) to avoid violin slipping and for a proper angle.

To Zion - unless you are a relative of Mr. Perlman and/or have a very similar physique, it is not a good idea to copy his posture or use / not use any ergonomic tools at your disposal based on what he does. (It is still great to observe him, for there is a lot to learn from it, especially about the flexibility of his thumb!)

If you still want to go without shoulder rest, you will need to re-learn how to hold your violin with left hand and rest it on your collar bone. This will include all aspects of shifting and moving along the finger board.

Most violinist will agree that violin has to be supported by 3 points of contact.

a) without a shoulder rest: first - collar bone, second - left thumb, third - the inner part of your point finger (the exact contact point will depend on your physique ). The 3rd contact point may be different and intermittent (Stanley Ritchie claims it is your bow, from the above !?) as you shift in upper positions

b) with a shoulder rest: first - the collar bone, second - shoulder rest (not clutched or locked in) and third - the left thumb (lesser and only intermittently)

In any case, it can not be stressed enough that contact points are never meant to be like clamps - they are a result of a dynamic interplay between the player and the instrument, always changing, never being static or rigid.

So it is not a question of not using a shoulder rest.... it is about being relaxed versus being tense from whatever reason - usually the one that comes from inside.

March 25, 2013 at 03:22 PM · Of course if you hold the violin like Anne Sophie Mutter you might end up playing and sounding just like her ...

(Please note: you should not read anything positive ot negative into that comment ...)

March 25, 2013 at 03:54 PM · Peter, I hope you weren't referring to my "field test" as B.S.! It's only applies to my own instruments, and it avoids the unsubstantiated suppositions that abound on some of these threads..

March 25, 2013 at 04:45 PM · Adrian - would I do that!! No, I certainly did not have you in mind when I made that comment, and did not mean that individual comments were BS - but the general subject!! (I'm just wiping the you know what off my Rest at this moment ... it seems to pick up a lot! And I haven't been near a herd of bulls or cows for that mutter for weeks!)

March 25, 2013 at 08:33 PM · Adrian, I wasn't taking sides but rather addressing this part of your previous post:

"The main reason why the subject recurs (and why we take the bait!) so often, is that that the practical issues of the "resters" are never, ever answered properly by the "restless".

In fact, they (the "restless") do give specific reasons that i've read and they sound (at least, concerning tone - clamp a violin, it will restrict the vibrations) reasonable. some people even say that certain shoulder rests improve the tone of their violin...perhaps because it detracts from certain undesired asects of the shoulder-restless sound peculair to their instruments? so, they also disclose a difference in tone although in this case to their advantage.

anyway, whether these are valid true reasons could be studied through field/scientific tests instead of inviting this irksome mystique :o)

personally, my violin sounds stronger and more piercing without the shoulder rest and i like the sound more. keep in mind, im an amateur adult student but still, its an obvious difference in tone.

March 25, 2013 at 08:35 PM · Zion, please don't be offended by my comment that you hadn't checked back - you asked a decent beginner's question. and the fact is, that even if you had searched, you would have found a number of pages of very lengthy and wandering answers, you would have had to wade through these and it would have taken some hours of your time, and you still wouldn't have known whether you should or shouldn't be using a shoulder rest, which one, how or how not, and what the blasted chin rest has to do with it all. And that, unfortunately is the complexity of the violin and why the advice to ask your teacher has to be the thing you walk away with. And if you want to play without a shoulder rest, you actually have to seek out a teacher who is experienced in setting up people to play without a shoulder rest.

March 25, 2013 at 11:52 PM · Adrian, your viola test has inspired me to do similar on my two violins.

First, I held my 18th c violin very lightly on my thighs and bowed open strings à la cello. I then moved it downwards slightly so that the insides of my knees gripped it in exactly the same places that a SR would. The reduction in resonance and tone was very noticeable. I repeated this with an old BonMusica SR that I haven't used for several years, again resting the violin on my thighs. The reduction in resonance was about the same as with the light gripping with the knees.

I then paid attention to the other end of the violin. Again holding it on my thighs in the cello position I gripped the neck in the first position fairly tightly as a beginner would (and as I did once upon a time!). Again, there was an observable reduction in tonal response compared with holding the neck lightly as one should. I discovered the adverse tonal effect of tightly gripping the neck for myself when I played the classical guitar many years ago. It's nice to see that it applies equally well to the violin.

I repeated all the tests with my 2002 Jay Haide, and the differences were now much less, but still just about observable.

FYI, My old violin is about 8% lighter than my Jay Haide, even though it is slightly bigger in all three dimensions.

March 26, 2013 at 01:03 AM · agreed on doing your personal research on the two teachings. I mean we are all here to create music, not dissect and approve/disapprove ones style.

Why does Stevie Nicks have that wavering voice, where as Beyonce adds extra notes. Why do some players sway and others don't. Does it really matter to go restless or not. It's a personal choice and not infringing on anyone else. perhaps I just don't get it?

March 26, 2013 at 08:32 AM · Zion

A lot of the posters here seem to have forgotten about you!

If you're having all these problems, I would suspect that you have basic issues with your setup and technique.

As many here have said, the role of the rest (for people who feel they need it) is a minor one, to provide a little additional stability and perhaps tilt the instrument at a more comfortable angle.

It shouldn't be a crutch to cover up basic issues with being able to hold and balance the instrument.

If you can't see a way forward, I would strongly suggest that you find an experienced teacher who can check out your setup. If there's no teacher locally, there are plenty teachers these days who offer lessons over Skype - not ideal, but much better than nothing.

March 26, 2013 at 01:57 PM · thnx for all these advices, i'v decided to play v without SR. I would try to buy a shoulder pad, or I'll play without SR or SP. thnx

March 26, 2013 at 03:54 PM · let's not forget the jawbone as a point of contact that supports the violin

March 26, 2013 at 04:04 PM · Zion - I'm a beginner like you, but in my personal view I think you've made a good decision. If you start without a shoulder rest, you'll learn a lot about having to balance the instrument, and it will be easy to start playing with a rest if you identify a need at some point as you advance.

I don't think it works so well the other way around - if you start with a rest you can become dependent on it and it might be quite hard to switch later. Clearly, it's possible to play at the top level with a rest, provided it's properly used. But I see many less sophisticated players abusing the rest (and their injury-prone necks) because they seem to be misunderstanding the role of the rest.

So my own view, for what little it's worth, is that for most people it would be best to learn how to play balancing the violin on collarbone and left hand, and add a rest later if some specific problem is identified...

It will slow you down a bit at first, as you grapple with the challenges, but I think that what you learn will benefit your playing in the long run.

March 26, 2013 at 08:27 PM · Just for what its worth, my teacher has often discused that she was very badly taught, without a shoulder rest,no one ever taught her how to hold and and support the instrument properly and it was never suggested that either use a shoulder rest or not. by the time she had played for 20 years, her compensations were enormous and her thumb was a mass of extraordinarily tight muscle. It was only that she had a huge commitment to playing, and a huge talent for playing that she was able to reach the level she did, and then relearn with high level teachers to progress beyond that to professional lead orchestras. Not all players could do that. Don't assume that you will learn something magical because you start without a shoulder rest - you are most unlikely to work it out effectively on your own, no matter how much you think you can do it, and what feels good now is no indication of what it will be like for you in 2, 10, or 40 years time. - you need to have a good teacher who will teach you properly and guide you through the process.

March 26, 2013 at 08:37 PM · "If you start without a shoulder rest, you'll learn a lot about having to balance the instrument, and it will be easy to start playing with a rest if you identify a need at some point as you advance.

"I don't think it works so well the other way around …."

Agreed. I don't teach; but if I did, I wouldn't start pupils on the SR -- any more than I would start a kid on corrective eye lenses. In either case, first find out whether there is an actual need for the device in question.

Indeed, some players do better without the SR. As mentioned above, I started without it and continued so till 18-19 y/o -- a couple of years after attaining my full height of 5'10" -- average for American fellows. I'm on the slim side and have a medium-short neck. Again, I can play either way, but I'm more comfortable with the SR than without.

About Perlman: I originally had a comment about him in my earlier reply but deleted it before posting. So here goes: The only way to really answer the original question -- "Why no shoulder rest for Perlman?" -- is to ask Perlman himself. I haven't researched his setup; so I don't know whether or not he pads his jacket, as Stern did.

March 28, 2013 at 03:34 PM · I started without SR when I was 5 years old. I have seen pictures of me playing when I was 14-16 years old, and what I see is the most awkward and uncomfortable looking setup imaginable. I think back to those times and all the strain and discomfort that I felt. I was told again and again that I should work to the point where I could hold up my violin without using my left hand and I never could, and it really made me feel like a failure. I was continually downgraded at festivals for shifting, intonation, and vibrato -- hmm, all the things that people keep asking about when they ask how to do things without an SR. When I returned to the violin 25 years later I bought a Kun shoulder rest. It might not be perfect for me, I might try some others, but I will not go back to playing without an SR. I have tried and it just brings back too many bad, stressful memories.

However, probably because of my non-SR upbringing, I often find that I am playing without clamping down on my violin with my chin, but rather balancing it using my left hand some of the time. But when I do want to use my chin to provide more traction or assist with a shift or something else that my left hand wants to do, I find it is easier because my chin is already very close to the chin rest so it requires hardly any movement. I feel like I get the best of both worlds this way, but I still regret spending my whole childhood trying to learn without an SR because I just don't think it was right for me.

March 29, 2013 at 02:48 AM · SR vs. no SR is the wrong argument and misses some important points. The issue in violin playing is clench with shoulder vs. hold up with left hand. There are players who do not use a shoulder rest who raise their shoulder and clench the violin. I couldn't call this virtuous. There may be players who use a shoulder rest very loosely and just for traction but otherwise hold the violin with the left hand. I don't know any such players but I wouldn't necessarily call this bad. Milstein said that the function of the left hand is to hold up the violin. In my opinion, learning to hold up the violin while shifting and vibrating is the starting point for a very solid left hand technique. I recommend that any player who feels that he has reached a plateau reconsider the function of the left hand.

March 29, 2013 at 04:34 AM · I find I can play without a shoulder rest except for one thing : vibrato. Even shifting up and down is not a problem but the vibrato is non existent without the SR. Is there a trick to it or just a matter of persevering ?

March 29, 2013 at 04:35 AM · Sorry...double post ! How do you delete the second posting ?

March 29, 2013 at 05:13 AM · It is certainly possible to vibrate without a shoulder rest. You probably need to learn to let the thumb move independently of the hand to do it if you're having trouble.

March 29, 2013 at 08:39 AM · Corwin

"There may be players who use a shoulder rest very loosely and just for traction but otherwise hold the violin with the left hand. I don't know any such players but I wouldn't necessarily call this bad."

I'm one of them. And it's certainly not bad, but good. I would say there are a lot of professional players out there who are similar. But none of us make a song and dance about it, and we do not criticise people who play restless. It's really horses for courses and people don't even notice most of the time.

I just wish the people with bees in their bonnets would call in a pest control expert!!

EDIT: Corwin, just in case you mis-interpret me, which for some reason many people tend to do, I'm actually agreeing with you and this is not a criticism. My "bee in the bonnet" quote is aimed elswhere!!

March 29, 2013 at 09:37 AM ·


"Agreed. I don't teach; but if I did, I wouldn't start pupils on the SR -- any more than I would start a kid on corrective eye lenses."

Your analogy is off a bit. I would say using SR and CR is more like wearing seatbelts and helmets. When used properly they will protect us from injury. The problem is people rarely use the right chinrest and don't understand how to fit a shoulder rest properly. It not like they come with insructions on set ups and healthy angles to adjust to.

March 29, 2013 at 02:45 PM · Two.

March 29, 2013 at 02:49 PM · Three

March 29, 2013 at 04:31 PM · Charles, let me clarify: I hear of teachers starting young kids right away on the SR -- without first determining whether there is an actual need in a particular child's case for the device. This, to me, makes about as much sense as starting a kid with corrective lenses as soon as he enters school -- when, in fact, he may be able to see fine without them. Or -- maybe a better analogy -- it's like fitting a kid with braces when, in fact, the teeth don't need straightening after all.

Again, I started in elementary school with no SR and played for years without one, not feeling any need of it -- till I was between 18 and 19 y/o. Then I did a tryout comparison and decided that playing with a particular SR was more comfortable for me than playing restless.

The seatbelt and helmet analogy, to me, is more of a stretch. I am a firm believer in seatbelt use -- and would be even if such use weren't mandatory here. SR use isn't mandatory anywhere that I know of.

March 29, 2013 at 10:59 PM · Corwin and John have made very good points about the left hand/ thumb and vibrato without SR. I have wanted to comment on this point too in the past but was too afraid lest it raise the ire of some.

Anyway, I agree.

March 29, 2013 at 11:21 PM · Regarding vibrato, I abandoned my shoulder rest about 2-3 years ago and also found it difficult to vibrate. In order to do it, I had to re-program my vibrato over the course of the past 2 years, and it is still a work in progress. But I think I am much better for it.

My previous vibrato relied on the violin being locked in position by clenching the chin and lifting the left shoulder. When there is no shoulder rest, the violin is not rigidly fixed in one place, so the vibrato action requires a more relaxed left hand and looser finger tips. By loosening the left hand, my vibrato is wider and I am able to vary the speed and amplitude to suit the music.

I am not advocating using (or not using) a shoulder rest; just stating that in my personal experience, I had developed bad habits that I was forced to correct when I removed the shoulder rest.

March 30, 2013 at 01:37 AM · One day my shoulder rest fell off the violin. I searched and searched, but could not find it. I didn't have enough money to buy a new one, so I went without. Since then, I have never had enough money to get a replacement. It is very sad.

If you have some extra money, can you send me some to buy a new one? Thanks, Bruce

March 30, 2013 at 04:34 AM · hello, paul deck, perlman balances the V with his left Thumb, and he can do a good vibrato, is that awkward.

March 30, 2013 at 05:34 AM · hi Smiley;

but if i recall properly, you also changed your chin rest height to compensate for the gap left in the absence of shoulder rest.

did you find that, in spite of that, you still had to change the way you hold the violin and play? i'm asking this because it is said that proper SR-less playing makes it quite clear that the violin rests on the collar bone and is held up with the left hand...as such, there chin rest is not one of the permanent anchorage (so to speak) points. and so, there is no real need to even raise the chin rest if the proper postures are maintained and raising it might encourage one to clamp down on it- being quite close to the jaw.

on the other hand, does the chin rest not play at least an intermittent role (as seen when even the greatest players who play restless raise their heads and tuck the chin rest in every now and then)?

i think my personal ailment with SR-less is where the violin neck rests between the V formed by my thumb and first finger and the tension that i feel in the muscles forming this V that translate into some pain after a while.

im not sure if its the violin neck thickness or thumb poisition. also, i notice that it is difficult to hold up the violin without it sinking right into the palm outskirts..i.e. no space is left below the violin neck as is usually recommended. maybe i should have a small bumpy bone implanted somewhere along my first finger ..or maybe make allowance for its adjustability, as in wardrobe shelves :o)

March 30, 2013 at 07:59 AM · Hi Tammuz,

Quite correct, I did get a raised chin rest. And I went back a couple of times to fine tune it to get the best possible fit. Even so, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of a Kreddle customizable chin rest.

You are correct that the violin rests on the collar bone and is supported by the left hand, but the chin rest is still very important to stabilize the instrument and keep it from slipping away from you during downshifts and vibrato.

The ideal chin rest not only has the right height, but also fits the contour of your jaw bone so it is comfortable and keeps the violin in place. A shoulder rest does that, but it is just bloody hard to use one without tensing up the left side -- at least it is for me.

March 30, 2013 at 08:30 AM · hi Smiley, thanks for answering.

one more question: after raising the chin rest did you find yourself clamping down on the chin rest? being so near, the temptation is there. and by doing so, SR tension might be deferred to jaw/neck tension..right? i'm trying to see whether the chin rest height is instrumental in attaining good tension-free SR-less posture or whether good posture can be attained regardless of chin rest height.

March 30, 2013 at 10:44 PM · The chin rest height is important for promoting a healthy setup while playing. If the chin rest is too low, you will have to bend your head down to contact the chin rest. Anything you do that moves your body away from a natural relaxed position could eventually result in injury. So you want to match the instrument to your anatomy as much as possible.

If you search youtube for my user name Smileyh888 and "shoulder rest" you can find a series of videos I made about my personal transition to playing restless. I would provide links, but I am in China right now and youtube is blocked. Sorry.

March 31, 2013 at 02:56 AM · Bruce, don't you want my box of old rejected shoulder rests and pads? ha :)

I bet lots of people on violinist.com have a box like that - all the old equipment they bought to please some teacher, or because it looked interesting in the catalog....

March 31, 2013 at 04:42 AM · I give my old reject violin parts (shoulder rests, chin rests, strings etc.) to a violin teacher I met while in China. He gives them away to his students. That is better than having them sit around in a box for years.

March 31, 2013 at 10:39 AM · Smiley, your videos are very clear, and refreshingly undogmatic! I am preparing short mp4's for my pupils, which I shall put on "GoogleDrive" who provide a download link to be included in a post or e-mail; the file stays available for a month if no-one downloads it, so it is worth downloading it onesself from time to time! Is GoogleDrive available in China?

John, your analyses of thumb action are worth following to the letter; it's an aspect I have avoided mentioning, but it would fun to start a Thumb War...

My €0,002: in vibrato, I use as much forearm movement as hand movement, so my thumb takes an active part.

It is worth examining many videos just to watch the thumbs: they are as different as shoulders or collar bones!

Sorry, I meant €0,02

April 1, 2013 at 02:30 AM · Adrian wrote:

"Is GoogleDrive available in China?"

Yes it is. I just tried and I AM able to access my google docs.

July 11, 2014 at 12:23 AM · No reason for this post - except its an SR fight and I both miss having one and I never posted in this one. So thanks for accommodating my withdrawal relapse...

July 11, 2014 at 03:21 AM · Haha poor OP probably had no idea what was about to hit him :) i don't think i read this one but, such an innocent question. .. Such a can of worms!

July 11, 2014 at 07:12 AM · In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. On the 7th day, God created the shoulder rest, but couldn't decide whether it was good or bad.

July 11, 2014 at 01:27 PM ·

July 11, 2014 at 03:08 PM · I was using a Kun but it was just too high, and my neck is not very long. I like the security that comes from the SR holding my violin in the correct position with respect to my shoulder, but the height was wrong. At a master class recently I learned about something called a "Poly-Pad" which is a foam thing, but it's contoured. This seems to be working well for me and I am able to have my violin still secure but farther back on my shoulder.

Going back to the very first comment on this thread by Raphael, I think it would be fun to have a complete set of URLs in one place for all the biggest battles in the SR wars.

July 11, 2014 at 05:08 PM · a lot of the great violinists didn't or don't use shoulder rests.

from what i've heard, Milstein and Heifetz were against them.

Eugene Fodor didn't use one either.

and so on.

July 11, 2014 at 06:53 PM · hello Elise,

Let's get this battle shoulder rest over with. I appreciate your efforts. We need 100.

Actually, I think that the best solution to this is to use a shoulder rest if you feel more comfortable with it. If you have tried without and feel more comfortable then go without.

I used one up to the age of about 20, then without for a couple of years, then with until about 28, then without until 65, Then since I had a broken shoulder with complete reverse shoulder replacement I tried a shoulder rest which made it possible for me to play, sort of. I am doing a lot of experimenting which I recommend for anyone attempting to play this brutal instrument. Bruce

July 11, 2014 at 09:42 PM · 2 images:

1. Oscar winning documentary "From Mao to Mozart"; when Isaac Stern gives out his little secret during his master class - a hidden pad under his shirt. Then he explains that without it, one can not play in high positions. Soon after, ALL students, big and small, tall and short have exactly the same sponge and obediently start using it.

2. TBSI - Tafelmusik Summer Baroque institute concert; where SR and CR are a big NO.... short students and those with small frame have no problems switching to chinless & restless. Tall ones, with long necks and just anybody in between bend their necks, in attempt to secure violins. Hidden chamois and red cosmetic pads...Most of them are not in tune anymore.

Until next SR discussion...

July 12, 2014 at 02:19 AM · It's all about inertia:

A shoulder at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts upon it, whilst a shoulder in motion will remain in motion, etc, etc...

July 12, 2014 at 04:02 AM · Ugh Elise. Here's #100. Now someone please euthanize me.

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

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