Don't give up on your shoulder rest yet

October 22, 2013 at 03:25 PM · I've been going back and forth on SR use for the past year.

I had normally played without one, as everytime I did use one it gave me a terrific pain in the neck.

But, I did enjoy the added stability of the violin and a additional left finger freedom. So, what to do?

I perused my copy of Simon Fischer's "The Violin Lesson" (I'm assuming you own a copy of this fabulous book don't you? If not, go get a copy, it's fantastic), and he has a section on proper fitting of the violin to your body. Of special note was a comment about having the SR as far from the shoulder as possible, so that it didn't lock up the shoulder and thus still allowed freedom of movement.

OK, that was worth a shot.

Previously I had pretty much just strapped the SR to the middle of my lower bout and called it good.

I'm 6'2", and my shoulders slope down, so my previous setup had my violin still too low, and forced my neck to bend down thus causing pain. I had already also added some height to my chinrest (proper chinrest height is also key in all of this).

So, I tried Mr Fischer's advice and moved the SR inboard, closer to my neck, and lower on the bout.

I then had to fuss about with dialing the SR height up or down a few turns to get the height and tilt juuuust right.

Hot diggity! Much more secure hold for the violin. No clamping needed from my neck, much better.

So, if you've tried a shoulder rest, and didn't like it, well that's all well and good. But did you really try and get it setup and dialed in just the way it should be? Go ahead and give it another shot.

Move the SR closer to your neck, further from your shoulder.

Adjust the height to avoid bring too low or too high.

Adjust the tilt of the violin to your preference (This affects the height adjustment as well...)

And give it a try

Then be sure to come post some vitriol and bombast here in yet another shoulder rest thread!

:^)

Replies (49)

October 22, 2013 at 06:32 PM · This is one of the few relevant and enjoyable shoulder rest posts have read :)

It doesn't work for me-tried it with multiple models. But more power to you :)

October 22, 2013 at 09:28 PM · I can relate to what you said, because I did similar experimentation some years back and came to much the same conclusion.

Once again, I started restless in elementary school. At 18, about 2 years after reaching my full height of 5-10, I tried some SR models. Although I can play either with or without SR, I prefer playing with one. For me, the new feel was better than the feel of a bareback fiddle.

Presently, I use the Kun Bravo model on all three of my fiddles -- set at lowest point on shoulder side and about midway on chest side. Also, I orient the device SW-NE as viewed from the back of the instrument -- so that it's right by the left bout as viewed from the top. This feels right to me.

FWIW, I can't wear a jacket and tie with the SR -- too much bulk, neck too short. So I ditched the jacket and tie, not the SR.

October 23, 2013 at 01:56 AM · I have a Mach one with the extenders extended. And that didn't feel right either, until I moved it in closer to my neck. Moving the rest in made a huge difference in proper height, but also as mentioned in Fischer's book, it allows your shoulder a greater range of motion than if the SR is further outboard testing more on the shoulder itself.

It is my unsubstantiated theory that the immobilization of he shoulder by an improperly fitted SR is part if the cause of discomfort for many who use them. Seems to have been the case for me anyhow.

October 23, 2013 at 02:38 AM · Actually, for me it was the lifting of the left shoulder that was causing discomfort. I have come to the conclusion that the reason I have had difficulties with shoulder rests is my left shoulder is rather droopy. If you have square shoulders (more horizontal to the ground) shoulder rests will probably work better for you. But if you have droopy shoulders like me, then a shoulder rest will not hold the instrument very well unless you lift the left shoulder to make it more horizontal.

That said, I have recently put the shoulder rest back on, but most of the time, it is not even touching my left shoulder. Just on occasion, when playing near the top of the fingerboard, or when doing quick shifts, I might rely on the shoulder rest for support, but mostly, it is hanging in mid air. Any attempt to support it with my left shoulder results in pain and discomfort.

Shoulder rests are not necessarily bad. For people with the right physique, it makes playing violin a lot easier. But for people who do NOT have the right physique, they can cause a lot of problems if not used properly. As Seraphim has noted, it is critically important to get it set up just right so no tension is introduced.

October 23, 2013 at 03:23 AM · I too welcome the positive sound of this thread.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of using a shoulder rest is not the rest itself, but the assumption that one size fits all.

There are so many unique bodies and only a few really different shoulder rests on the market. Yes, one can adjust the height and the angle and sometimes even the shape (curvature) of the rest, but the real setup has got 3 dimensions.

It is sometimes quite challenging to find that optimal configuration when the SR will not clutch and immobilize the left shoulder, but still offer a solid support and doesn't affect the sound.

After using Kun for a while I went back to a custom made wedge (as described on Elizabeth Walfhisch's web site). Why? Because, the sound of my violin is way, way better and the violin sits on my collar bone with minimal support of the wedge. Yes, I do have to support my violin more with my left hand, but not nearly as much as with no shoulder rest at all.

Keep experimenting and please share your experiences here.

Cheers!

October 23, 2013 at 03:26 AM · Since this is a shoulder rest thread I have a question. Has anyone here tried the AcoustaGrip SR or have any opinions on them? They seem to be fairly inexpensive. I play without a SR because I have never had one work as well as playing without one.

October 23, 2013 at 11:15 AM · @Michael, I have never heard of AcoustiGrip. Do you mean acoustifoam? If so, I have used it and it might be a good solution for some. I did not find it very comfortable and it affected the sound of my instrument. But I would describe the sensation as half way between SR and no SR.

October 23, 2013 at 11:44 AM · Another useful, undogmatic SR thread!

In a word, a bad SR-CR setup is worse than nothing; a good setup will increase poise and freedom.

A bit like shoes?

October 23, 2013 at 12:23 PM · I play completely restless. But I'm sure it's just my own physique or the fact that I have associated comfort with having my viola unfettered.

I tried many SR's, and didn't like any of them.

I get picked on a lot for not having a SR.

--Ann Marie

October 23, 2013 at 12:54 PM · I am with the folks who say you may need to try a bunch of different ones to find one that works well for you. I have certainly gone through a bunch of them, experimenting to find the best for me. I now use a Menuhin-style rest I got from Shar, but I have had experience actually using four or five others for long periods. The Kun Bravo actually worked well for me but I found aggravating its tendency to fly off the violin if I looked at it the wrong way. So, thanks, Seraphim, for presenting the issue which is certainly important to those who are SR users.

October 23, 2013 at 02:31 PM · @Smiley, Thanks for your reply. I came across them by a email ad from Shar who is now selling them. (Not trying to promote Shar) Here is their website:

http://acoustagrip.com/

I was just wondering if they are worth the money. I guess I can order one and report back. So far I have been much better off without a shoulder rest.

October 23, 2013 at 02:32 PM · http://acoustagrip.com/

Here's the Acoustagrip website (it is also sold by Shar, who only started stocking them a day or two ago); it is an amazingly comfortable shoulder rest, but unfortunately it only comes in two heights (for adults, and a smaller size for kids). In my opinion, the sound is indistinguishable from playing rest-less, despite the fact that the rest is placed directly on the back of the violin. I used this rest for a good few months before going completely rest-less; it was by far one of the most comfortable I used.

http://www.sharmusic.com/Shop-Shar/2013-Offers/AcoustaGrip/

Here it is on Shar!

The great thing about this shoulder rest which I think distinguishes it from other foam shoulder rests is the gap in the middle (which lets one half rest on the shoulder, and the other half rests on your chest) and the foam used in its construction easily conforms to the shape of your shoulder while also not dampening the resonance of your instrument. My problem with most store-bought foam rests is that most of them end up being nearly as stiff as rigid shoulder rests (most of which have contours that do not fit my shoulder), but this one strikes a good balance between being both stiff enough to be supportive, yet pliable enough to feel comfortable on a good variety of different physical builds, if used in conjunction with a chinrest that matches the player well.

October 23, 2013 at 03:48 PM · Fitting the shoulder: for many years I used a Wolf Forte, which I could bend, and above all twist, to make a perfect fit. But I find it very ugly, and if it slips it will badly gouge the instrument. i had to replace the rivets once or twice.

About the Bravo slipping, I have a loop (made from a leather shoelace) round the screw (on the shoulder side) going round the corresponding corner on the viola's back.

October 23, 2013 at 04:01 PM · I have found that the problem with most shoulder rests is that they are not high enough. I have to wrap some foam (black foam tubing for air conditioning pipes) around one end to get it anywhere near useful. I have also seen professionals doing the same thing so it is not just me.

The second problem is the way some teachers explain how to use it : 'clench your neck down on the violin/SR and the left hand does not support the violin at all.'

As we all know, this is the cause of all sorts of physical problems further down the track but youtube has a number of teachers giving out just such advice.

October 23, 2013 at 04:22 PM · part of the "clenching" issue is also caused by a chinrest that is not the proper height, but there does not seem to be a whole lot of discussion about chinrest height it seems. So much is focused on the SR alone often times (please refer to the archives and see how many shoulder rest arguments.....er...I mean...discussions there are, and how many chin rest discussions)

October 23, 2013 at 05:53 PM · If you're playing without a shoulder rest proficiently (can play in all positions and with good flexibility and vibrato and clear tone) should you consider going to a shoulder rest still? I tried one and it felt extremely restrained compared to not using one at all.

October 23, 2013 at 05:55 PM · Nimesh, in your case the SR would indeed be a hindrance.

October 23, 2013 at 07:12 PM · Wow! I didn't know about the acoustigrip. Is it just me or is it completely hokey that the thing is shaped like a violin. I know it goes on the back of a violin, but I find it hard to believe that the optimal shape for such a contraption is exactly the outline of a violin. If it were oval, or round, or anything other than a violin shape, I might be inclined to give it a try -- just my gut reaction.

October 23, 2013 at 08:22 PM · @Smiley, I guess you might try one of these then

Magic Pads

They are not violin shaped.

October 23, 2013 at 08:29 PM · The magic pads are really quite thin. They seem designed more for non-slip than for providing support. At least that was my experience with my Magic Pad.

October 23, 2013 at 08:41 PM · Sorry Seraphim, I was just joking because Smiley said: "If it were oval, or round, or anything other than a violin shape, I might be inclined to give it a try"

October 23, 2013 at 09:28 PM · Aha...

Well, what I find suspicious about the acoustigrip pad is that, to me, it looks VIOLA shaped!

8^o

Oh my!

The horror....

October 23, 2013 at 11:06 PM · I ordered an AcoustaGrip today. Should be here in 5 or 6 days. See what happens. It wasn't too expensive so if I don't like it I can always give it away.

October 24, 2013 at 12:30 AM · @Zina,

Those magic pads are awesome! Who'd have thought that playing violin could be so much fun. I ordered one of each with express shipping :-)

October 24, 2013 at 01:33 AM · @Smiley

I agree -- that is a bit hokey.

You know what you need to go with that violin-shaped shoulder rest? A violin-shaped chin rest...

October 24, 2013 at 01:59 AM · Brilliant! I wonder if they make violin shaped pegs :-)

October 24, 2013 at 05:57 AM · I trust that the Magic Pads and Acoustifoam are not actually stuck to tha varnish?!

October 24, 2013 at 06:14 AM · @Adrian

As it happens, the Magic Pads seem to be, they sport 'a reusable adhesive patch'. Scary! The AcoustaGrip is supposed to have microscopic suction cups that do not harm the varnish on one's violin.

October 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM · Suction cups that adhere to the varnish? That sounds a little scary to me too, especially in warm weather.

October 24, 2013 at 01:18 PM · I can't imagine EVER adhesing ANYthing to my instruments' varnish...scary. (I'm sure they've tested their products, but there are so many different kinds/qualities of varnish out there...) The magic pads look more like they are geared for kids' instruments, many of which look like they are varnished with polyurethane. But a 'real' instrument?

October 24, 2013 at 02:33 PM · As far as I can tell, there are no "microscopic suction cups" it appears that the surface is coated with some type of rubber.

I've heard that you can coat the back of those ever popular red cosmetic sponges with rubber cement, and when it dries it will adhere to the back of your violin (stick, but not glued!)

It would appear that the acoustigrip is utilizing rubber cement technology, nothing more.

If you watch the video he is showing himself sticking one of these viola shaped pads to the bottom of an apparently vintage instrument. Seems to work for him.

The maker's "science" page is quite lacking and does not boost my confidence one bit.

EXAMPLE:

"We have tested AcoustaGrip with electronic measuring machines tracking the “Wave Lengths”. In fact with the use of AcoustaGrip over “clamping type” rests you are able to produce up to 20% more volume and quality “overtones”, upon a comparison of other shoulder rests that clamp onto the instrument."

OK, so SHOW ME THAT DATA! 20% more volume is quite significant.

I'm calling "baloney" on the claims. per peer review policy.

October 24, 2013 at 03:00 PM · Back to the original topic:

Here is a page from "Violinist in Balance" with some comments on moving the rest closer to the neck, or collar bone.

http://www.violinistinbalance.nl/problem.htm

The Menuhin rest (I believe that is what they are showing in the lower series of photos) they show looks an awful lot like a Comford shoulder rest, doesn't it?

October 24, 2013 at 05:28 PM · Seraphim - you are correct that that picture is of a Menuhin-style SR. It does look something like the Comford and attaches in the same manner. The

Comford is much bulkier and heavier. I liked it at first but then found the bulk and weight not to work well for me. This is the one I have:

http://www.sharmusic.com/Shop-Shar/Accessories/Essentials/Shoulder-Rests/Maestro-Violin-Shoulder-Rest-fits-3-4---44-size.axd

October 24, 2013 at 06:52 PM · Thanks, Tom for the link. How do you like that rest?

Is there any problems putting it in your violin case, as I've heard that is an issue with the Comford.

Here is my current setup. A Wolf Forte Secundo and my custom height chinrest.

And the side view.

Look at the angle on that sucker! I'll give Smiley a run for his money in the "I have sloping shoulders" department...

:^)

October 24, 2013 at 07:36 PM · The rest works well for me. No problem fitting it in the case (nor did I have a problem of that kind with the Comford).

October 24, 2013 at 08:58 PM · Seraphim,

Yes, you might give me a run for my money. Is that a standard model adjusted really high, or is it a special model for droopy shouldered people. I'd like to get one to try it out. Most likely, it will join the others in the SR graveyard, but I'd like to keep an open mind.

October 24, 2013 at 09:24 PM · Hi Smiley,

It is a standard Wolf Forte Secundo.

The adjustablity range on them is quite large. I also like the way the base can freely tilt and the rest portion is fully moldable (made of thin aluminum I believe?) The main threaded parts also have an inner threaded part so you can go Xtra high. It comes with a little tube that helps keep this secondary extension supported. read the instructions that come with the rest, it tells you all of the doo-dads and gee-gaws it can do.

October 24, 2013 at 11:01 PM · Hi Seraphim,

I just ordered one. I'll let you know what I think in a few days. I might have a Wolf Forte Secondo for sale :-)

October 24, 2013 at 11:09 PM · Great!

Hey, you never know what you may find out...

Like I said, read the instructions, there are some non-obvious adjustments that can be made.

Good luck!

October 27, 2013 at 02:26 PM · Here's a new design from Wittner, the Isny. It's got my fiddle placed exactly where I want it now. Have had it for a week now and so far so good.

October 27, 2013 at 03:38 PM · Funny how similar it is to the pricey "Libero de Luxe" shoulder rest!

I wonder if the patent law suite will follow?

EDIT: too much hardware, too close to the rim, where the violin is supposed to touch and rest on collar bone.

October 27, 2013 at 04:24 PM · Interesting rest!

October 27, 2013 at 11:56 PM · I think an SR close to the neck is really the same principle as a 'collar bone wedge' which we had a topic on not long ago:

CBW

October 29, 2013 at 06:12 PM · I feel it is critically important to pay attention to where the SR is mounted on your violin, and to mount it there repeatably.

Here is a pic of two different mountings of my SR. I look at the SR from the bottom of the violin, and use the tip of my chinrest as a landmark to go by. Last week I was lining up the edge of the front rubber on the SR mounting feet with the tip of the chinrest. But I have found that moving it so that I now align with the back rubber on the mounting foot, it is much more comfortable.

I added a red line to show what I am referencing here

It's only a difference of a half an inch or so, but that small difference at the base of the violin makes for a rather large change in where the violin points, and thus a big change in where the scroll ends up, which affects your hold.

If you don't get the scroll pointing where you want with the SR, you end up fighting it (YOU want to hold it HERE, and the SR wants to point it THERE...) which leads to tension.

Hold the violin without a SR, and figure out where you normally hold it for best playing position. Then do all that you can to make the SR hold the violin for you in THAT position. Don't just slap the SR on there anywhere on the lower bout and expect it to work just fine.

Like anything in violin playing, correct mounting of a SR takes time, care and diligence.

So far I've found that moving the SR in much closer than I thought I should had a great effect on my ability to utilize the SR.

I then have been playing with height adjustments to fine tune that aspect. Even a single turn of each of the legs of the SR can add quite a bit to your comfort. Adjust each one independently, not just moving both together to adjust the up and down of the rest. Maybe adjust the bass side up, and leave the treble side alone. Or at today's practice, everything was feeling pretty good, but I felt I was reaching to get to my G and D, so I let only the treble side leg down by a single turn, and that helped tilt the violin that extra little bit to aid in playing comfort.

And then I realized that I also needed to adjust for ALL the axis of alignment as well: pitch, roll and yaw, with yaw being the one most likely least paid attention to

Your shoulder rest should be a custom fit, not just straight off the rack at the department store. Play around with it. Make it work for YOU.

October 29, 2013 at 06:26 PM ·

October 29, 2013 at 07:51 PM · I received the Wolf Forte Secondo yesterday and I started using it today. Of the shoulder rests I have tried, I would say this one of the better ones. I like the fact that it is highly adjustable. There is a big range of heights so I can get it plenty high, even with my droopy shoulders. With the Kun, even at the highest setting, the SR was not tall enough. In the photos, it looks a little bulky, but it is actually pretty light weight -- feels about the same as a Kun.

As I try more shoulder rests, I am coming to the realization that it is my droopy shoulders that makes the use of SR so uncomfortable. If I have the SR resting on my shoulder, then the slope of my shoulder tends to push the violin away from me. The only way to compensate is to lift my left shoulder to reduce the slope of the shoulder, but that leads to tension.

Initially, I had the Wolf SR set pretty high, so it was holding the violin in playing position. But after playing for a few minutes, I could feel the tension building in my left side, no doubt due to the lifting of my shoulder. To eliminate the tension, I set the SR lower, so it was not touching my shoulder, but hovering just above it. That eliminated the tension. So the SR is still there, offering additional security when needed, but for the most part, I am not relying on it. For now, I will continue using the Wolf SR, but I will probably play without it from time to time just to make sure everything is still relaxed.

October 29, 2013 at 09:55 PM · I think you don't have it mounted close enough to your neck yet.

November 4, 2013 at 03:31 AM · Another update on the Wolf Forte Secondo. I've been using it off and on for the past few days. I have tried to really fine tune the position as well as the height of the rest and I am getting to like it. By having the violin supported by the shoulder rest, it liberates the left hand allowing lighter fingers, and easier shifts. It also minimizes up and down motion of the violin during shifts, making it easier to maintain bow control.

On occasion, I can feel some tension building in the left side, so I really have to use my knowledge of Alexander technique to keep things relaxed. If the tension does not go away, I remove the SR and things get better. After having played without SR for 2-3 years, I think I am finally ready to put the SR back on. Past attempts have resulted in tension, but now that I can play without, I am able to take advantage of an SR without being completely reliant upon it. The SR offers a little extra support and freedom for the left hand when I need it.

One thing that I do NOT like about the SR is what it does to the sound of my instrument. I find it especially noticeable when playing chords. The instrument just does not resonate like it does with no SR.

November 11, 2013 at 04:49 PM · 3 months ago due to reading up on the advice in Simon Fischer's 'The Violin Lesson' I decided to look at my set up again. Yeah I ve played about with should er rests over the years - but I never thought of my whole setup.

So I decided my Teka rest wasnt in the place it should be - I wanted my jaw/chin more over the tailpiece of the violin. So I removed the chinrest (Teka) and the shoulder rest and went back to basics.

Blimey - a slight horrid nasalness to my violin's sound which I had hated for a decade disappeared!!!

Job 1 - new chinrest. So using the playing position without a shoulder rest. I went for a SAS chinrest - and tried various heights settling on a 28mm. The SAS rests adjust in a number of planes and the fitting to the instrument doesnt rob it of its tone at all.

I now have a violin I can play happily without a should rest in first position, although shifting (due to lack of security which the shoulder rest provides) was awkward. But no pain, very comfortable.

I looked at the violinist in balance website and concluded that my shoulder rest was there merely to provide security in shifting and no other reason.

Job 2. New Shoulder rest. This has been trickier. Ive been through about 8 different rests now. The Lark (Menuhin copy) taught me a lot - it has complete freedom - which was initially scary - but showed up how much tension I had in my arm/neck etc. Ive now got this sorted. Whilst good the rest wasnt perfect - a little too much height because I want the violin to contact my collar bone...I purchased a Viva La Musica Augistin Diamond. Its been tricky - initially i prefered the Lark Menuhin rest - but having played about a LOT with the VLMA Diamond (and you wont believe just how adjustable it is!) Ive now got the rest working for me. Sitting in the right place, no discomfort, violin in contact with my collar bone. the rest is extremely secure on the violin with low pressures on the violin - so again this shoulder rest doesnt rob tone as others do. Im amazed at how low it goes on the shoulder side and how much it can be altered.

Upshot - I highly recommend SAS Chinrests and VLM Augustin Diamond shoulder rests....but I think the process was more interesting.

1. Remove chind/shoulder rests

2. Work out where you want your chin

3. Try a suitable chin rest such that the height of the rest is about 1 finger from your jaw. when the violin is in the playing position on your collar bone without a rest.

4. find a shoulder rest to fit the gap

be warned most shoulder rests in my opinion suffer from 2 commons faults:

1. Too much height on the shoulder

2. bad foot positioning resulting in insecurity of rest on the instrument

And two further common faults of shoulder rests:

3. Incorrect angle between the rest plate and the violin belly - resulting in the rest often 'cutting in' to the body

4. Robbing of an instrument's tone

Anyway - this was my journey - perhaps this information is useful to others as I guess Im not alone. Time will tell but I think Im there. :)

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