Leaving shoulder rest on violin

June 6, 2016 at 10:37 PM · I have a habit of leaving the shoulder rest on the violin and then just putting the violin back in the case when I've finished with it. I obviously don't close the lid of the case but just drape that piece of material (does it have a name?) over it. I find it so much eaiser to just grab the violin and start playing without messing with the shoulder rest. I like to have the shoulder rest 'just so' and it takes a while to get it in the right place. Also, the case that came with my violin is a shaped one and there is no real place for the shoulder rest.

Am I damaging my violin in some way by doing this? I'm wondering if I should stop doing it, even though it makes practising quicker and easier.

Replies (35)

June 6, 2016 at 10:51 PM · As long as you don't have cats or young children or anyone else in the house that is likely to damage the violin by accidentally dropping the lid on the case, knocking the case off the table, etc., there's no harm leaving it out like this.

June 6, 2016 at 10:58 PM · I generally only put my violin away after I'm done practicing and will be taking a long break. If I am taking a short break I leave my violin set up in the case with the lid open or on the couch or bed etc without the case. It might not be the safest thing to do, but it's only for a few minutes.

June 7, 2016 at 01:25 AM · Thanks. There are no children or pets in my household so that's not a problem. I was just wondering if having the shoulder rest perpetually on the violin will damage the varnish or something else on the violin over time?

June 7, 2016 at 01:30 AM · It's okay to leave the shoulder rest on, but you should really be playing without one.

June 7, 2016 at 03:15 AM · ...the 'piece of material' you drape over it is called the 'blanket'. :)

June 7, 2016 at 03:37 AM · I actually wondered this myself. Sometimes my shoulder rest is on for a week at a time.

Dexter, I'd really like to see references as to why you think the OP shouldn't use a shoulder rest at all? I see very, very few top violinist not using a shoulder rest. Not to take over the post with a new topic or anything.

June 7, 2016 at 03:47 AM · The shoulder-rest vs non-shoulder-rest debate is endless. There are a zillion archived threads about it if you feel like doing a search.

Most modern players use a shoulder-rest. The previous recent generations of players often did not, but put padding under their jacket-shoulder and/or used a folded cloth.

June 7, 2016 at 05:26 AM · I see 2 possible reasons for not leaving the shoulder rest on. First, the rubber feet will not allow the wood to 'breathe' and may damage the varnish in those spots over a long period of time. And second, the compression/pressure exerted by the shoulder rest may not be optimal for the violin's health especially if it is old. On my first (cheaper) violin I left it on all week, taking it off only to go to my lesson. With my new baby I take it off every time I stop unless it's just a 10 minute break, and pack it (the fiddle) away in the case every night. 2 nights ago I left it the open case overnight due to laziness, that night it rained and water dripped through a light fitting several feet away. Never again.

June 7, 2016 at 06:49 AM · Living in Christchurch NZ, I would never leave a violin case open with a violin in it, or even a closed case sitting on a table. When not playing, the case is closed and placed in my violin cupboard with the door closed and locked. The cupboard is screwed to the wall.

Earthquakes are something to be aware of. If you think your city is immune think again, there was no knowledge of a fault line here either, before the massive quake five years ago. 30,000 houses destroyed and the city centre gone. It was the third most expensive earthquake in the world.

Happy thoughts...

Cheers Carlo

June 7, 2016 at 12:44 PM · I agree with Carlo, and, as a case maker, I put it in writing in my how-to-use-case instructions.

"Never leave the case open with the instrument inside (whether attended to or not). Do not place the instrument in the case with the shoulder rest attached, even for a short time."

Besides earthquakes, the risk of even bumping into yourself and have the lid crash down on the violin is simply too great. If you really prefer to leave the shoulder rest on the instrument, then hang it, place it somewhere else, but don't leave it in the case with the lid open!

June 7, 2016 at 12:59 PM · I agree with the last 3 posters and never left a shoulder rest on an instrument* (although I rarely use one any more). Also I always put the instrument back in the case when I leave the room, and close the case. Could that be because I live in California?


* There were exceptions for shoulder rests (like acoustifoam) that are held on with rubber bands - and could fit in certain cases with the lid down.

June 7, 2016 at 01:09 PM · Even though you may not "see" anything, even over a long period of time, depending on what the shoulder rest is made of - it will leave residue on your violin. A week or so probably wouldn't harm it, but long periods of time probably will. I habitually wipe mine off with a cloth, and to remove any fingerprints - which are even worse for the varnish. Also, the shoulder rest may constrict the natural flexing of the wood as it changes in temp and humidity. Leaving the case open may be fine in your climate zone, but where I am would be not so good - as humidity and temp here is not stable but varies widely. I prefer to leave my violin in a humidity controlled case.

Of course, these are observations of someone trained in historical resource preservation - think VERY long term. If, in the short term, doing so allows you to practice more, the possible effects may be worth it.

Hehe - like Andy - we have EQ here - just had a good jolt four days ago that would have dropped the lid!!!

June 7, 2016 at 04:56 PM · Andrea, even in Britain we have the occasional 'quake. Most are minor, or even not noticed, and fatalities are thankfully very rare. Sometimes a biggish one hits the headlines, one such being in 1990, and I felt it. I was working in my office and there was a tremendous crash like a piece of heavy furniture coming from my secretary's office next door. I dashed into her room to find the lady as startled as I was - she thought the bang came from my office. It turned out to be a 5.1 with an epicentre about 200 miles away in Wales. What we had experienced was a pressure wave travelling at high speed through the rock very deep down with an effect like a sonic boom.

I just wonder how violins hanging on the walls of the violin shops in town reacted.

June 7, 2016 at 04:56 PM · duplicate posting

June 7, 2016 at 04:56 PM · duplicate

June 7, 2016 at 05:03 PM · My violin sits on a bookshelf always ready to play with its shoulder rest fitted. It has been like that for many years with no detectable problems.

NOTE : no children and no pets. No earthquakes either !

June 7, 2016 at 07:53 PM · I've had mine welded on so it never comes off ...

June 7, 2016 at 09:36 PM · Why don't you leave your shoulder rest on your shoulder?

June 8, 2016 at 08:59 AM · If you use my "invisi-rest" you need never to take if off. It fits in any case even on the violin. Weighs nothing too!

Cheers Carlo

June 8, 2016 at 09:27 AM · I agree with Dimitri and Andrew. In the repair business, we commonly run across the type of damage that many musicians don't hear much about, because it can be a little embarrassing to share with your buddies that your instrument got messed up due to lack of care.

Of course, each person will need to decide their own level of risk tolerance, and how that relates to convenience, and the value of their instrument.

June 8, 2016 at 10:56 AM · Carlo, I hope you patented that!!

June 8, 2016 at 11:08 AM · It is pointless to put the violin in the case if you do not close the lid. As already pointed out, you risk the possibility of the lid closing on the instrument and damaging it. You are better off leaving the violin out. I just set mine down on the sofa during breaks. But when I am finished practicing, I remove the shoulder rest and put it in the case and close the lid. When I take my violin out of the house, I also zip up the violin case to give it added protection from the elements and prevent it from accidentally opening.

June 8, 2016 at 02:21 PM · From my own experience, the biggest danger to my instrument are other musicians! Especially non-string players; some of them have different perception of personal (instrumental) space.... piano players are notorious for running around in excitement and talking with their hands after a good piano trio / quartet / quintet.

Chamber music, orchestra rehearsals... I always store my violin inside the case and close it completely. It takes a while to develop a habit, but it is worth the effort .

June 8, 2016 at 02:41 PM · It makes me go cold to see during a rehearsal break the number of violins and violas, and their bows, perched on chairs or on the floor alongside - and this is by experienced adult musicians in this particular symphony orchestra who really should know better. The leader and I are among the few who quickly put their instruments into their cases which are then closed.

In contrast, the musicians in my chamber orchestra are far more sensible in this respect.

June 8, 2016 at 03:52 PM · My personal horror story, which I repeat every chance I get, is when an A-list soloist showed up in my atelier with her Golden Period Strad in supercheap, styrofoam case the lid of which would flop inwards with the simple pressure of the thumb.

When I demonstrated that (with the Strad safely outside the contraption, of course) and told her in what danger the instrument had been, she shrugged her shoulders and said "well, nothing ever happened".

For the record she showed up in a chauffered luxury car, the hourly cost of which was easily the price of a decent case.

Sheer, uncaring, blithe irresponsibility.

June 8, 2016 at 03:52 PM · (double post, my mistake, sorry)

June 8, 2016 at 05:24 PM · I've made 3 replacement tops and a back of damaged violas made by me. They were all outside their cases. One of them was over the opened case and with the shoulder rest on it.

As David Burgess mentioned, we see horror stories every week.

June 10, 2016 at 05:26 PM · A good alternative is to buy a violin stand (free standing, not the hanger type). You don't need to remove the shoulder rest between practice and the stand is quite stable. Of course if you have a small child or a pet, that's a different story.

June 10, 2016 at 09:55 PM · @ Sung Han. I don't wish to harp on, especially as a violinist. A stand will do nothing in an earthquake. Imagine a full-size fridge freezer thrown 10 meters into another room...

Cheers Carlo

June 10, 2016 at 10:19 PM · Carlo,

I'm assuming the "normal operating conditions", thus excluding earthquake, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami, asteroid impact... Other than those, a violin stand buys the convenience which is a significant factor for mere mortals.

June 10, 2016 at 10:57 PM · My point is that earthquakes are not so uncommon. Any members here live in California?

May I ask, since your profile is not filled in, where in the world do you live?

Cheers Carlo

June 10, 2016 at 11:02 PM · Oops, double post

June 10, 2016 at 11:12 PM · I'm in the DMV area so the earthquake is not much of a concern here.

June 10, 2016 at 11:26 PM · In 2011 you had a shake, although only a 5.8. My point is, don't think, "it will never happen to me..."

Cheers Carlo

June 11, 2016 at 03:05 AM · In the advent of a real shaker, case is not going to matter. (My aunt was picked up and thrown across the room to hit the opposite wall in the Northridge EQ)

A stand is a good option when pets or kids not an issue - I have a nice Meisel one which has a clasp to prevent violin tipping. I was going to add this earlier - but it seem they aren't made anymore? I place my violin in it with shoulder rest on when I am taking a break.

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