I just received a letter that our seven year old daughter is on probation from the University of Texas String Project for being "unprepared without materials" for not using a shoulder rest with her violin. I'm wondering whether in the view of other violinists this is a reasonable requirement.
The decision to use or not use a shoulder rest has always been entirely hers. She's been playing for 2 1/2 years now, and for the first six months she used a simple, 1/2" pad with with two elastic strings that wrapped around the violin. Eventually she found that she was more comfortable playing without it. We've also experimented with the standard clip-on style shoulder rest used by most SP students, a foam sponge, a couple of different soft pads, and a simple cloth.
Her private instructor also leaves the choice to her. He plays with a thin cloth, and his other students run the gamut in their choices.
She also seems to me to be progressing just fine without the shoulder rest. She's currently on Suzuki book four, smoothly shifting into 3rd and 5th positions and executing harmonics, and she's the youngest member of the elementary orchestra by at least a year.
While I'm new to the violin, from the reading I've done there isn't anything approaching a consensus that use of a shoulder rest is better, much less necessary. If anything, the consensus seems to be that a shoulder rest is fine if you need it for comfort (particularly if you have a long neck), but otherwise preferable to do without. It seems bizarre that the SP should insist that an accessory not used by Anne-Sophie Mutter, Jascha Heifetz, Nigel Kennedy, or Itzhak Perlman should be considered necessary.
If there is some evidence anyone can point to that she should use a shoulder rest I'd be happy to consider it. Otherwise I'm not prepared to adopt an approach that many people insist is inferior and, most importantly, that she personally finds uncomfortable.
I'm not trying to start a religious war about whether it's better or worse to use a shoulder rest, but rather whether it's reasonable to impose a *requirement* for use of a shoulder rest.
What do you guys think?
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