Shoulder rests

July 19, 2016 at 03:43 PM · Hi. Does anyone have a recommendation for a good shoulder rest?

I've tried a bunch and haven't found one yet that feels right to me, and I feel it's hampering my playing... How do I find one that fits me well?


Replies (21)

July 19, 2016 at 04:11 PM · It's more likely to be your posture and the way you are holding the instrument. Get help from a good teacher.

July 19, 2016 at 06:49 PM · It's also the way that you're placing the shoulder-rest, and possibly the combination with the chinrest.

Step 1: Figure out how you want to hold the violin.

Step 2: Find the chinrest and shoulder-rest that place the violin in that position.

Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the shoulder-rest's placement/feet angle/height, too.

July 19, 2016 at 06:52 PM · Get rid of the shoulder rest. Heffeitz didn't need one, why should you?

(Just to get things rolling here....)

July 19, 2016 at 07:12 PM · Nobody can do this for you because your physique and your preferences (and your teacher's preferences) for how you hold your violin are a unique combination.

I agree with Lydia. The SR and CR must be considered together. You can either do the trial-and-error in your teacher's studio, or you can go to a reputable store that has a lot of inventory and try them out yourself, maybe with the assistance of an in-store professional with some experience. Just remember they want to sell you the most expensive stuff. And make sure you use a mirror to get the amount of scroll lift that your teacher wants without straining (my teacher likes his students to have high scrolls).

Two more (less desirable) options are to build up the shoulder rest by wrapping a cloth around one half of the support -- little kids do this a lot -- and to carve wood away from your chin rest in the spots that offend your jaw -- I have done this with my Kaufmann chin rest and it's working out well for me. If you go with a big CR then the SR might get substituted by some kind of foam or sponge type thing. Lots of things to choose from there too. (One good one is called the PolyPad. Johnson carries it.)

Zeroing in on the right combination is not going to be an overnight thing. You've got to make sure that your violin position is not merely comfortable but that it allows you to get the right hand positions to actually play.

There are some (like Seraphim) who will insist that using a shoulder rest is bad. He's at least partly joking because everyone knows that these shoulder rest threads eventually "go there." But if your teacher has recommended that you use one, then in my view that's the end of that particular part of the discussion.

July 19, 2016 at 09:40 PM · The SR and CR are only there to help a bit, and one must never grip with the chin and press hard down on the SR and shoulder, or raise the left shoulder. Many of the great players rarely have their chins on the CR and the fiddle just floats on the shoulder. There are two opposing forces, the left hand holding the violin up, and the chin pushing it back down again. Therefore there is a conflict. The CR is really a curse most of the time. One should be able to dance with the fiddle.

All the gripping with the chin leads to the psychological fear of dropping the violin, and a strangled sound and bad intonation.

July 19, 2016 at 10:03 PM · My 2 centimes d'Euro.

May I insist on the word "rest" (as in "support"..)

I don't "hold" my fiddles, I "hold them up". My SR allows the weight of the instrument to "rest" on the shoulder, and round in front of (not on) the collarbone. The left side of my jaw and tip of my chin "rest" on the CR to balance the fiddle with the SR as pivot. My left arm and hand have plenty to do without having to hold up the instrument (which would be like trying to lift the chair you are sitting on!) I too have carved my Teka-style CR, and arranged the SR, for a 45° tilt to allow a good vibrato on the lowest string with my short fingers (I play mostly viola). No tension, no hickey.

And Heifetz would not have accepted me as a student anyway! (And he often supported the violin straight on his much squarer shoulders...)

July 19, 2016 at 11:21 PM · I believe you are best off if:

1. you can first find a chinrest that actually matches the contours of your jaw and allows the vioiin to rest on your collarbone.


2. If the back of the violin might gently touch some area of your shoulder so you can keep the violin in place with the weight of your head but not pressing down. There are times when it works to hold some of the fiddle's weight up with your left hand but other times youwant it free to do the hard work!

If you cannot do this without raising your shoulder, then a shoulder rest might be considered. There are lots of designs - some rest on the upper chest and allow for a comfortable tilt of the instrument. Different models for different folks and even different models for one person at different periods of life. And different heights and different angles across the back of the fiddle.

Many shoulder rest designs tend to lock the instrument in one position so you cannot vary its orientation and you have to rely on adjusting your arm and hand work to the instrument's rather fixed location.

Whatever approach you use - you can get used to it and do it for decades, but the more unnatural the approach you choose is for you, the sooner you will run into some problems. If you still hope to be playing after 70 or 80 years you will probably make changes in this aspect of your violin adventure several times (as I have).

July 20, 2016 at 12:22 AM · This is one though thing to do, that is finding the right shoulder rest. Though I am not in a position to share advice, I can certainly share my own experience, which goes along with the advice already given in previous posts. One thing I came to realize is that I could not look for a shoulder rest without first considering the chin rest. Ideally indeed, the violin should rest on the collar bone, with or without a shoulder rest, so I had to first find the right chin rest to fill the gab. With nearly 6in from collar bone to chin, that meant a rather tall chin rest. For the longest time I struggled with a "conventional" chin rest, which meant that I had to fill the gap with the shoulder rest. That resulted in a high shoulder rest setup, which induced tension having to raise my right shoulder to essentially reach up to the rather elevated setup. The natural and most stress free position was resting the instrument on the collar bone, using a tall chin rest rather, and then simply filling the remaining gap at the far end, setting up a Kun shoulder rest in the right angle. With the tall chinrest I could in effect forego the shoulder rest altogether, but I chose not to, and won't debate on the pros and cons of doing either. All that to say, that the important discovery for me was that I needed to fill the gap ABOVE the instrument, not below!

If I had Heifetz's body, things would have been a lot simpler for me I suppose!

July 20, 2016 at 03:07 AM · Have you tried the in invisi-rest. Extraordinarily light and doesn't effect the look of the back of the violin. Super comfortable too...

Cheers Carlo

July 20, 2016 at 06:46 AM · @Adrian

My left arm and hand have plenty to do without having to hold up the instrument

In that case you must be gripping the violin/viola to hold it up, although you might have invented a pulley system to tie around the scroll to keep it up!


Many shoulder rest designs tend to lock the instrument in one position so you cannot vary its orientation and you have to rely on adjusting your arm and hand work to the instrument's rather fixed location.

That is the wrong use of a shoulder rest. You must be able to swing the instrument and pivot of the SR with absolutely no restrictions.

July 20, 2016 at 07:52 AM · "In that case you must be gripping the violin/viola to hold it up.."

Absolutely not! As I described above, my shoulder "holds the viola up" via the SR, and the weight of my head balances it, see-saw fashion. Absolutely no gripping.

But I do have the left foot of my SR a little further forward than many folk, and the right end snugly in front of my collarbone.

July 20, 2016 at 07:58 AM · Hi Chava

I tried some of those: kun (Voce, bravo, original), wolf (both models ), Everest. Pirastro and the last Viva la Musica diamond.

If you have long neck you can change the feet.

With the diamond I feel it doesn't affect the sound.

Also the pirastro shoulder rest is very comfortable I use it and amazing design...

July 20, 2016 at 08:17 AM · Can we be clear: in most cases, a long neck needs a high chin rest, while sloping shoulders need a shoulder rest.

July 20, 2016 at 07:01 PM · @ Andrew V

I think your previous post is very helpful. Good insight.

I generally believe that the shoulder rest exists because chin rests are usually not fitted correctly.

July 21, 2016 at 10:59 AM · Adrian, may I respectfully disagree. In my opinion shoulders, sloping or otherwise, play no part in holding the violin. The way I support the violin is with my left hand and my collarbone. My chin is lightly on the chinrest but plays no part in holding up the violin. The seesaw principle done not apply at all when not using a SR, as the violin does not touch the shoulder at all.

You may well be right however, about the tall chinrest.

Cheers Carlo

July 21, 2016 at 11:20 AM · Carlo, many folks agree with you, and many others with me! I prefer us to compare notes so that others can try, or suggest, different solutions.

I had several years playing as you suggest, but on the viola I simply cannot get the gorgeous sounds going round in my head if my left hand is holding up the instrument (strong finger action, a vibrato needing "The Gap" etc.) And with my short fingers, to play in the higher positions means my thumb coming round the upper bout, or along the side of the fingerboard (like Vengerov or Bashmet on viola, or Midori on violin).

Watching my orchestral colleagues, I notice:

- those who play restless use their shoulders part of the time (like Heifetz, Perlman and all other non resters I have seen);

- my particular setup, with balance rather than tension, is rare..

With my students I seek the best for each one. Also my difficulties on the viola often correspond to those of my slender-handed young ladies on their violins.

July 21, 2016 at 03:51 PM · Chava, how about removing both rests and going to a mirror to see what's missing?

Is the fiddle too flat? (Try a small "collarbone" wedge of foam on the left side..).

Are you lowering your jaw too much? (Try a chinrest of sufficient thickness with a shape that hooks slightly inder the jawbone..)

Can you rest the violin neck on some part of your thumb without it slipping down into the "web"? If not, can you still play efficiently with the violin neck resting against (not on) the base joint of the index? If still not, I would recommend a highly adjustable shoulder rest to only just fill the gap under the violin, and attached not too near your neck.

Start with the chinrest, though.

I hope all this not too subversive!!

July 21, 2016 at 04:46 PM · @ Adrian

"Hooks slightly under the jaw bone"

If I grasp the chinrest sensibly while also engaging the collar bone, I find that I usually clamp down down on the outer edge (ouch) of the chin rest. Solution. Move violin AWAY from the neck. That doesn't seem right.

What I do is use the flattest chinrest known which offers a maximum of painless freedom.

I think that my chinrest was popular back in the 20's and now I know why.

July 21, 2016 at 05:41 PM · Adrian, nearly all my students use a SR as do nearly all my colleagues. I am happy for everyone to do what works for them.

I think body shape is less of an issue re holding the violin than people make out. In my experience, when people experiment not using a SR, they still try to hold up the violin with their shoulder instead of the left hand, and still try the SR seesaw. This, of course, does not work.

Playing SR-less involves a quite radical change of technique with the violin being held up with the left hand. The advantage, for me, is being totally pain free. I am just finishing a two week run of Tosca, combined with major rehearsals for a Mahler concert, plus teaching. In my old SR days, I would be feeling some discomfort at this point.

For those SR users who want to try something new...

I am having a special this week on the Invisi-rest. You can BOGOF for only $9.99. I can give any interested reader my Nigerian bank account details to make a direct payment. P&P is included.

Cheers Carlo

July 21, 2016 at 08:26 PM · Bon Musica shoulder rests shape to your shoulder although they are quite a hassle to carry around since they're so big, but it's worth a shot!

July 22, 2016 at 01:08 PM · I'm pretty much in agreement with Carlo - you need to use what's best for you - end of story!

In my experience, when people experiment not using a SR, they still try to hold up the violin with their shoulder instead of the left hand

Yes, this is very true.

I use a shoulder rest. I did a play through for fun of three Beethoven violin/piano sonatas plus a short (E minor) Mozart sonata over a three hour period (with a break) on the hottest day of the year here on Wednesday last. (31C and no air conditioning - so it was 31C with high humidity at about 70%+).

At the end we were perspiring a bit. I was totally fresh at the end and we could have gone on for at least another hour had the food and drinks not been more tempting ...

I can only speak for myself but the reason I was so fresh and relaxed (although hot) was because I had no tension whatsoever whilst playing. (Of course this does not mean that my playing was much good and although I was very happy at times I was also p****d off some of the time).

So a couple of "past their sell by date" old geezers (we first played together in 1957) can still do a long session without too much of a problem and play quite well together for at least 80%+ of the time.

I was so light on the SR that I did not have to check to see if it had moved or was about to fall off even once during the session. So what I'm saying is - GET RID OF THE TENSION IN THE KNECK AND SHOULDER - and you can play all day and night - and only the fairies and the booze might tempt you away ...

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