shoulder rest vs sponge vs nothing

August 15, 2016 at 06:05 PM · This topic might be kind of controversial, and already discussed too much on this forum. However, recently, I have heard many people talk about the negative effects of using a shoulder rest, and how using such a tool is detrimental towards sound production.

This week, I've been playing without a shoulder rest, or using a sponge, and while it was a bit awkward at first, right now it seems to me like using a shoulder rest or not using one is the same thing. Other than having to adjust the left hand technique a little bit to accommodate for the lack of space between the body and the instrument, I haven't noticed any significant pros or cons to be honest. It seems equally hard to play in tune. String crosses feel exactly the same, and I still have to use gravity to get most of the sound with the bow. I'm still trying to find out if there are any differences in sound production. Maybe they will be more apparent once my technique improves.

Will someone who is more knowledgeable about this subject weigh in on it? What are exactly the advantages and the disadvantages(or provide the link to old discussions regarding the topic).

Replies (80)

August 15, 2016 at 06:52 PM · Oh dear...

August 15, 2016 at 07:39 PM · As for finding the old discussions, that's something one can easily do for yourself, because there is a nice search tool provided at the top of the page. There is no shortage of them.

I have tried both ways. During my entire childhood I learned entirely restless, for 12 years. I've come to discover that the tutelage I received on the violin in my childhood was not very good, and it is hard not to associate that experience with that one particular aspect. Every other teacher or decent adult player that I came into contact with as a child would ask me straight off why I didn't try using a shoulder rest. They'd come right out and tell me that my teacher was wrong for insisting I play restless, and after seeing some old pictures of myself playing the violin, I can easily see why they would say that, as my setup was dreadful. I always felt inferior, like I was missing out on something that might help me play much better or at least enjoy it a little more.

In my adulthood I have mainly used a Kun SR although I experimented some with returning to restless playing, and I also tried a contoured sponge (the PolyPad) for several months. There is not a whole lot of difference, but I find playing with the SR less tiring. With the SR one gets kind of a "set it and forget it" sense of security. Maybe that's a false sense of security, but whenever I have to do something tricky with my left hand (playing in high positions, etc.) that is when I don't want to be worrying about dropping my violin. Note that the "freedom" of the violin to joggle around on your shoulder, this is precisely what advocates of restless playing say they like the most. I say: Good for them.

August 15, 2016 at 08:33 PM · Don’t be too swayed by what others say about “negative effects” -- especially if they don’t offer any specifics -- or what they say about “how using such a tool is detrimental towards sound production.” Now that you’ve got the comparison, give this whatever time you need to decide which method works best for you.

I played without SR from elementary school till I was 18-19 y/o. Then I tried some SRs -- mainly because I didn’t like the feel of a bareback fiddle. I felt freer with the SR because I was more comfortable. No personal experience with sponge.

About sound production: I haven’t noticed any reduction here. If anything, my sound is more resonant than what I had playing restless. The wood base of my current model, Kun Bravo, is undoubtedly a factor here. I don’t take the brunt of the sound, though, because I always have foam earplugs in place when practicing or playing -- dB reduction about 32.

My theory is that those who ditch the SR and prefer restless playing might have done well not to use the SR in the first place. Unfortunately, some teachers view the SR as they view training wheels and will start young kids, first-time players, on these devices as standard procedure. This, to me, makes as much sense as starting a first grader on corrective lenses when, in fact, the kid may be able to see the front of the room just fine without them.

Some top players of yesterday and today -- e.g., Heifetz and Mutter – have played restless. Others -- like Bell and Hahn -- have excelled with SRs in place. Again, you have to decide what’s best for you. Keep in mind, too, that still others, like Stern, have used padding inside the upper-left area of their jackets. So they weren’t totally restless.

August 15, 2016 at 09:04 PM · I used a Pohland for my early years (yes, that does date me). In college, I was introduced to the--then revolutionary--Kun. It was so helpful to have a secure balancing point. Unfortunately later I started clenching, and did myself some long-term damage. I still use sr (wolf primo) and have learned to stay relaxed & mobile. My particular physical type, and that I play viola as much as violin, means I need the sr. Like using four integrated tuners, I have finally learned to enjoy what works--for ME--regardless of whether it's fashionable.

August 15, 2016 at 11:23 PM · Can I recommend the invisi-rest. No blocking of the beauty of the back of the violin and it NEVER falls off!

Cheers Carlo

August 15, 2016 at 11:55 PM · I wish I could buy an invisi-rest Carlo.

August 16, 2016 at 12:46 AM · The only people who can afford it are those who qualify for the transparent aluminum Amex card.

August 16, 2016 at 01:30 AM · Just try various alternatives and go with what works for you and allows you to play your best and most easily. That is the bottom line. Ignore the heated disputes that appear from time to time in these threads about whether one way sounds better than the other or somehow makes the technique easier in ways that do not seem apt in your case. If you have any questions, ask you teacher. Good luck!

August 16, 2016 at 01:30 AM · Just try various alternatives and go with what works for you and allows you to play your best and most easily. That is the bottom line. Ignore the heated disputes that appear from time to time in these threads about whether one way sounds better than the other or somehow makes the technique easier in ways that do not seem apt in your case. If you have any questions, ask you teacher. Good luck!

August 16, 2016 at 08:32 AM · OK Tom, but teachers can be very obstinate....

And Carlo, if I play the highest notes on my viola with your Invsi-rest, I will find myself playing on an Invisi-viola! To be replaced using a very visible credit card..

August 16, 2016 at 09:55 AM · @Adrian, what sounds better the Invisi-viola, or the regular kind? I thought seen and not heard might be better than the other way around...

@Jeff, just credit my Nigerian bank account with $100USD and I will send you not one, but two, invisi-rests.

Cheers Carlo

August 16, 2016 at 09:59 AM · I suppose I asked for that.

August 16, 2016 at 02:47 PM · Having finally identified the magic gadget or scheme to improve my sound, how do I judge the benefit to a listener?

"Do You Hear What I Hear"?

August 16, 2016 at 06:56 PM · @Adrian. Could it be that you are fitting the invisi-rest wrongly to your viola? It shouldn't be possible, but maybe you installed it backwards. Just try it the other way around and see.

Cheers Carlo

August 17, 2016 at 01:45 AM ·

What do you guys make of this?

August 17, 2016 at 03:09 AM · It's a well-known pet peeve of Rosand's.

August 17, 2016 at 03:16 AM · But, he uses a foam pad in his shirt...

Cheat... :)

August 17, 2016 at 03:31 AM · Rosand is a great violinist and a legendary teacher. Zuckerman also recommends that his students throw away their SRs. I was curious about Ray Chen who studied with Rosand, so I looked at videos of him online. In his competition videos (Menuhin, Queen Elizabeth from 2008-2009) he does not seem to be using an SR. In videos from within the last two years he seems to be using one. His right arm, his vibrato, his intonation, and his individual sound do not seem to have been adversely affected.

August 17, 2016 at 03:48 AM · I also have been going back and forth between playing with a shoulder rest and playing restless. But this is after having gotten my chinrest situation mostly sorted out. (I've narrowed it down to a Kreddle and SAS.) If you're in an experimental mindset, you might consider how your chinrest fits in to the overall arrangement with and without a shoulder rest. Chinrests are almost as easy to change as a shoulder rest — no luthier needed.

August 17, 2016 at 03:56 AM · If only some kind of a reasonable scientific study was done regarding this question.

Rosand said at some point in the article something along the lines of the best players today and in the past do not use shoulder rests. Do you guys know of any modern violinists who don't use them(besides maybe Ray Chen like Paul mentioned?). I actually can't think of any at the moment, but I'm sure some prefer to go restless.

Cynthia, I also want to try to get a Kun rest with a long extension(lets you keep your head in a neutral position), and see what that's like, but I'm not sure where to get them. I've seen players use those at recitals/youtube videos and such. Anyone know what I am talking about?

August 17, 2016 at 04:32 AM · Shawn, Southwest strings sells the extra long "fork" as the leg is called, so I would guess most online sites of any size do.

August 17, 2016 at 05:27 AM · "Do you guys know of any modern violinists who don't use them(besides maybe Ray Chen like Paul mentioned?). I actually can't think of any at the moment, but I'm sure some prefer to go restless."

Anne Sophie Mutter, Kristof Barati, Nigel Kennedy and I'm sure there are quite a few more.

August 17, 2016 at 07:19 AM · Mutter, Zukerman, Perlman, (not to mention Heifetz!) don't use SR's.


Every single one of these supports the violin on the shoulder (padded or not) part of the time (according to their videos).

August 17, 2016 at 01:16 PM ·

The shoulder rest becomes very important when the wrong or ill-fitted chin rest is used.

August 17, 2016 at 03:13 PM · @Shawn. I tried that, and the SR then became a crutch elevating the entire instrument, which was then no longer resting on my collarbone, in turn forcing me to raise my bowing arm and shoulder which created tension. The solution for me was a taller chinrest rather than a taller SR.

August 17, 2016 at 03:36 PM · I read the Strad article --

I discourage my students from using a shoulder rest, says violinist Aaron Rosand

-- and, though I see where Rosand is coming from, I don’t agree with his approach. And I will rebut two of his statements here:

“With a shoulder rest, the left elbow flies out because the shoulder rest -- not the player -- is holding the violin.”

My experience contradicts this. No problems with elbow position. And it is I who hold the instrument, not the SR.

“Only without a shoulder rest can one develop a personal sound that is identifiable. Heifetz, Milstein, Elman, Oistrakh and Szigeti managed beautifully without one.”

First sentence is definitely not true. Again, my own personal experience contradicts this statement. And the five masters listed all grew up in the pre-SR era, as did Rosand himself.

A previous poster in the current thread reports that Rosand uses padding inside his shirt. Whether Milstein, Elman, Oistrakh, and Szigeti did this, I don’t know; but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they did -- or if Heifetz himself did. I’ve read that Stern did it. It was reportedly common practice in pre-SR times, so keep that in mind before you set out to emulate some restless player.

Be sure, if you haven’t already, to read all the comments that follow the Rosand article -- it shouldn’t take long. I especially liked what poster Richard Hendrix had to say. Disclaimer: I don’t know him, never met him, and don’t know anything about him personally -- beyond what he wrote.

August 17, 2016 at 04:32 PM · Jim, I shall take a look shortly. How do you make links clickable like that?

August 17, 2016 at 04:55 PM · To make your link clickable you have to package it in HTML. Right-click on Jim's link and select "Inspect Element" and it will show you the underlying code.

Laurie just posted a video of Sergei Dogadin playing a couple of Paganini caprices at the Stern Competition in Shanghai. Apparently he has won a couple of prestigious competitions already. In the video he does not seem to be using an SR, at least I could not see one. Thus there are young players -- really good ones -- who are playing restless.

For me, every time I try it (and from my childhood) I just associate playing restless with less security and more stress. I don't really have to worry, either, whether I'm going to lose my "individual sound" because I'm never going to have one.

August 17, 2016 at 05:33 PM · Jim, I had the same reactions as you did when I first read that article! I didn't understand the blanket statements, and still don't. But the article did encourage me to explore the issue at least, and I've written a post about that here on the site.

What I like about Rosand's interviews is that he gives specific reasons for his opinions, reasons that have to do with position and sound. We can disagree about whether those are true, but at least he's taking it out of the theoretical.

Since this is a question that so many people (obviously!) care about, I find the most useful observations are the ones that include specifics, positive and negative! Just because I no longer use a shoulder rest, that doesn't mean there aren't downsides as well!

August 17, 2016 at 11:39 PM · Lately I think about this issue some more when I see video clips of pro basketball players or Olympic swimmers. How would some of them hold a violin between their chins or jaws and clavicles? Their shoulders are so broad there is no clavicle just below their jaws. OK - they are too busy doing their sport to take up violin - but the point is made. I've been lucky my jaw and clavicle are perfect matches for the chinrest designs I have used for the past 50+ years - but finding/maintaining those designs despite manufacturer changes over the years has not been that easy.

In the 1970s I went to the Honda dealer to buy an Accord but found that the driver's seat hurt my back that had been injured in my 20s - so I bought a Civic, which did fit me. (Accord or Civic? Shoulder rest or no-shoulder rest? - same principle.) United Airlines coach seats in the 1980s hurt my back similarly - so I had our travel department people never book me on United again in that era - same principle.

I played without shoulder rests for my first 25 years of violin and with SRs for the next 40 years, and with and without for the next 12 having settled for without for the past couple of years. I've had to change my vibrato approach to accommodate the differences. I'm and old man now and I need the flexibility in instrument positioning I have without a shoulder rest, but I still remember the advantages my playing got during the years I used one.

I have long arms and that makes a big difference in instrument positioning. Sloping shoulders make a big difference for players too. All these physical factors relate to the chinrest and shoulder rest issues.

In my opinion, any teacher, no matter how great a violinist and musician or how great a teacher, must take into account every variation of student physique in PRESCRIBING chinrest design and shoulder rest use AND design. Playing the violin is difficult enough, additional impediments placed in any student's way seems almost criminal to me.

August 18, 2016 at 02:48 PM · With your generous experience, what might you as a teacher, tell a student about holding a violin and the related gadgets? Any specific principles?

How about things not to do?

I do not use a SR but I attribute that to my choice of CR.

August 18, 2016 at 03:04 PM · OK, I'm going to jump in here in a dazzling display of self-promotion (apologies for that...).

My name is Craig, and as an adult beginner violinist/violist I have struggled with holding the instrument (OK, I have plenty of other struggles with playing the violin, but let's not go there..). So, I am proposing a different solution to the shoulder rest/no shoulder rest/ sponge conundrum- introducing the WonderThumb, so that we can now debate the use of a THUMB rest!

August 18, 2016 at 04:17 PM · Sure looks promising to me but I would wonder if it might work better in slippery plastic material ?

August 18, 2016 at 04:20 PM · Hah, you look more like a biker than a violinist. ;-)

August 18, 2016 at 04:20 PM · Hi Darlene,

The foam rubber is covered with a soft material that is very low friction against the violin neck.

@David- I'm actually more of a, perhaps that explains the look?

(or maybe simply middle age....)

August 18, 2016 at 04:26 PM · OK, being a viola player would explain the slightly "menace to society" look. :-)

August 18, 2016 at 04:33 PM · I used a thumb guard similar to the WonderThumb when I was recovering from a joint inflammation. It works nicely until you try to play in the sixth position or higher.

August 18, 2016 at 04:46 PM · Are you selling these devices or is that a silly question?

If so, what are the ordering details ?

(Your graphics are a little raunchy for Vcom.)

I would call your device a "shifty".

August 18, 2016 at 05:49 PM ·

August 18, 2016 at 05:58 PM · Hi Darlene,

Not for sale yet.

Planning a Kickstarter project in the near future to get tooling, molds, etc up and going.

What raunchy graphics?

And as far as the name goes, I'm sticking with WonderThumb because i like the logo I came up with. The double quarter rest "W", and eighth rest "T" subliminally scream "REST" into the viewer's unsuspecting mind...


@Kevin- It would seem a thumb splint to reduce inflammation is designed to immobilize the thumb. Which would obviously lead to issues in higher positions.

Was it something like this?

The WonderThumb, attaches ONLY to the thumb, which therefore allows it to move independently of the rest of the hand, allowing you to reach for the higher positions.

August 18, 2016 at 06:30 PM · Yeah, the logo looks good after a little explanation but am sorry you have no short range plan for larger quantities.

(If no one sees "raunchy" then maybe it is just me. I hate the new brand of "funny" videos.)

Good luck and I will watch for thumb sign that you are ready to deal.

August 18, 2016 at 07:26 PM · Johanna/Adrian - the question of whether the current greats use SRs or not appears to be generational. The older generation, e.g., Rosand, Perlman, and Zukerman, do not use them, probably because of the strong anti-SR views of Galamian, who taught most of them. However, the younger generation players, e.g., Bell, Shaham, Hahn, Mutter, tend to use them. I really don't know about the ones who are just becoming adults, because I have not paid attention that closely. I would not claim that this shows anything other than that you can be great and do it either with or without an SR.

August 19, 2016 at 02:46 AM · Re. The Wonderthumb. I wasn't a fan of the heavy metal graphics either, with the two lightning bolt "S"s at the beginning!

I guess this will be aimed at fiddlers and not at serious violinists. I don't see how you would get off the neck onto the shoulder for high positions. It would also force the thumb into a single placement on the neck effectively locking the postion of the left elbow. How would you play tenths with that contraption on your hand? A range of vibrato types would not work either.

In my opinion, it should be named the "LockThumb"

Cheers Carlo

August 19, 2016 at 03:22 AM · Mi iPhone keeps bugging out

I'd buy one, only if they are made in China like Yitas!

August 19, 2016 at 03:26 AM · Hi Carlo,

Thanks for the feedback. I will try to show more about the functionality of it in future videos to illustrate that it is rather free in allowing movement rather than restrictive. As a beginner/intermediate myself, it certainly aids my vibrato (meager as it is at this point) as opposed to going without.

One could argue that a shoulder rest really locks you (or rather, your instrument) into a singular position as well. Everything has its pros and cons, I suppose.

Part of the threshold I realize that I'm up against is the fact that violinists are staunch Traditionalists. "We've done it this way for 400 years..." sort of a viewpoint. At one point the chinrest was a new innovation, and the shoulder rest was downright new-fangled. We shall see in due time if this is a hit or a miss. Fiddlers are surely welcome to use it, as are classical violinists. Even *gasp* violists may want to give it a whirl!

Now, as far as "lightning bolts" go...Are you serious? Cmon, look at a piece of sheet music and look at the quarter rests. I copied them directly!


But stylistically, yes it's always a matter of personal taste, I can't fault you there.

August 19, 2016 at 03:56 AM · Craig. You are one very chilled cat. I just criticised your invention and you maintained your cool. You have my total admiration!

I guess I am a stuck in the mud traditionalist. No new-fangled shoulder rest, CF bows, or geared pegs for me.

The problem with the lightning bolts, is that to my eyes, they don't read it as a W. Possibly an H, as in Honda.

Cheers Carlo

August 19, 2016 at 08:57 AM · I'll have my design team (hey, that's me...) take a look at redefining that to look more like a "W". I do appreciate the feedback, it is helpful!!

August 19, 2016 at 11:57 AM · My thoughts on this topic have changed over time. I have tried all three. In the end, being comfortable is what is the best situation. So whether that is with a rest, a cushion/sponge, or nothing is not that important.

The ideal is to keep a position even with a rest, that is as close to playing restless as possible. There are three things when playing without a rest (unless one jams the shoulder) that don't work:

1- over-rotation of the left elbow to the right

2- not having the left hand set on the base of the first finger and an unnatural thumb position

3- over-spreading of the right hand fingers

If you avoid those when using a rest, then the issue of rest vs restless becomes moot. It is good for one to experiment without a rest if using one to find and identify the movements that are imbalanced that need to be corrected, but once they are, finding the most comfortable position (rest, cushion or no rest) for oneself is what will help someone sound best.

Early morning thoughts...


August 19, 2016 at 02:10 PM · Christian

I have been looking for "ideal is to keep a position even with a rest, that is as close to playing restless as possible."

But the chinrest suffers the same problem which went before the existence of the SR.

Faced with several decisions, I play with an SR only to secure the violin hold. That's all.

August 19, 2016 at 02:22 PM · Christian, clear thinking and wise words. As a violist with short fingers, and often teaching girls with very slender hands, can I add the problem of reaching the high positions when the thumb has to leave the violin neck altogether.

August 19, 2016 at 06:36 PM · Thanks, Mr. Vachon, for your detailed and intelligent input. Comfort will help anyone play confidently at their best, as long as said comfort isn't detrimental to technique or the player's long term health. That "confident comfort" can be achieved by both means-I personally use a very unobtrusive SR that allows me to hold the violin almost as if it (the rest) wasn't there.

It is a personal discovery thing, because as a younger violinist I held up the violin much higher over the shoulder, and in comparison, the violin is so much more comfortable now than it used to be, at its current, much lower position. Everybody gotta figure out whether the SR is right for them, as well as chinrest, violin position, etc.-sometimes "universal rules" (such as "players with long arms", etc.) don't necessarily apply.

August 19, 2016 at 06:55 PM · Adrian. I don't use a SR and I go onto the shoulder with the thumb. This was always challenging until I got a slightly smaller violin.

At one time I owned every SR on the market, to try to be comfortable. These I have given to my students and colleagues. Anti SR, but not insisting others are too.

Cheers Carlo

August 19, 2016 at 07:30 PM · You should have opened a museum instead. It would be similar to the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum.

August 19, 2016 at 07:38 PM · People don't argue about mustard though.

Except in relation to hot dogs....

August 19, 2016 at 08:12 PM · @Paul. That would suggest they are/were relics from the past. I would be happy with this but, may I say, the majority of violinists would not be.

@Craig. Old Italian mustard is best. In blind tastings some people say modern American mustards are as good, but I'm sure the studies are not done under ideal conditions, and the participants are clearly biased...

Cheers Carlo

August 19, 2016 at 10:12 PM · @Shawn: Paul has answered your question about clickable links -- I will add one caution. Be sure the quote marks preceding and following the URL are straight quotes (" "), not smart quotes (“ ”). Otherwise, the intended page won’t display. I write most of my posts in MS Word, then copy and paste; so I have to watch out for this.

@Paul: My guess is that you do have an individual sound, one that your family members would recognize, sort of like with voice recognition. My theory is that players of yesteryear had more individualistic sounds, not because they played restless, but because they didn’t have quite the ready access to modern recordings and delivery media -- e.g., YouTube -- that we have now. So there wasn’t as much copying other players’ renditions.

@Christian: Thanks for your input -- it makes complete sense to me. As I’ve said before, I played restless from preadolescence till 18-19 y/o. After trying some SRs, I found myself more comfortable with a rest, and therefore freer, than I’d been previously with a bareback fiddle.

For those using SRs: Settings are crucial. With my build, I set my current model, Kun Bravo, at low point on shoulder side, about ¼-inch higher on chest side. Anything higher than this gives me excess bulk and makes the instrument harder to hold. BTW, I orient mine SW-NE as you view the back of the instrument. That, too, works well for my build. I try to lean into the CR as much as possible with the chin, not the jaw. This way, with my build, I can pivot the instrument more toward the front. I can’t use any CR higher than a Teka medium. FWIW, I use Strad Pads on all my chinrests. This, for me, increases the feeling of close, secure contact, adding traction and counteracting the tendency to grip tightly. Added benefit: No skin irritation from covered CR, at least for me.

August 19, 2016 at 10:12 PM · @Nate: Let me clarify. The two points Rosand made about SR use that I challenged are things that didn’t prove true in my case: 1) lack of individual, identifiable sound; 2) faulty elbow position. Rosand no doubt observed these deficiencies firsthand in other players, though.

About individual sound: As I told Paul, above, my theory is that players of yesteryear had more individualistic sounds -- or, at least, more individualistic interpretations -- because they didn’t have quite the ready access to modern recordings and delivery media like YouTube that we have now. So they didn’t do as much copying of other players’ renditions.

Yes, I remember your post about ditching the SR --

-- an engaging post and an interesting discussion that followed. I will give Rosand credit for being less rigid than Heifetz on this subject. If a pupil declared a need for SR use, Rosand wouldn’t flat-out forbid it. He made this point in an interview Laurie had with him about 2 years ago -- the link to it is in your above-linked post.

I’m not a teacher; but if I were, I wouldn’t start beginning pupils on SRs. I’d first see how comfortable they’d be restless, then experiment and compare devices down the road if need be.

August 20, 2016 at 03:36 PM · Thanks Carlo. But to reach the end of the fingerboard on the viola my thumb must come someway round the upper bout, or even along the side of the fingerboard. With my students, I start with no rest but usually end up proposing mimimal support.

August 21, 2016 at 01:28 AM · I frankly disagree with players, old-school or "new", that claim that individuality is a lost art, *specifically* because of the SR. And I say it as a devoted listener of the old recordings, which I generally enjoy more because "hidden" performance "rules" weren't as established then as they are now (there is a decided fear of sounding "old style" in many ways, and playing tends to thus be more conservative.) This means that some modern players are deceptively "less individual", but the underlying causes, I am convinced, are far beyond the concept of the shoulder rest. Has nothing to do with hating on Mr. Rosand, as I have always loved his recordings and agree with him on other issues-I just don't see this "lack of individuality" as the scientific result of the use SRs, but more as a the change of an era.

(Not to mention that the best players of our day *do have* their own sound and style, being different even when studying with the same teachers. One is not necessarily attacking/rejecting the great players of the past by admitting there is still uncommon greatness and individuality in many of our current, living artists-it sounds as many "the end of an era" conversations eather than provable arguments-and I say it as someone who doesn't always aubscribe to "new is always right.")

(Also disagree that listening to recordings makes you emulate others' playing, because as much as one can try, no one can sounds like someone else; plus the point is not to play like each other, but to hear a diverse range of musical interpretion... agree to disagree and all of that, so please do not argue too hotly about the issue.)

August 21, 2016 at 10:52 AM · Comparing timbre under the ear can be misleading, since removing or changing the chinrest and shoulder rest can modify the angles and distaces from the ear to the violin.

To test the tonal effects of both rests I also play 'cello-fashion (where we get a quite different tonal balance,) and then with the edges of the instrument perched (not gripped) on my lap.

We can also record ourselves with/without. Even if the recording quality is not first-rate, the differences in timbre will still be apparent.

August 21, 2016 at 04:40 PM · The one situation for me where a shoulder rest is useful is in an orchestral environment where I'm faced with a fast page turn, too fast for lowering my SR-less violin; which is why I sometimes use a SR in orchestra, depending on the music. I therefore take a SR to orchestra, "just in case".

August 21, 2016 at 04:51 PM · Occasionally I see violinists with shoulder rests the attachment of which to the violin apparently includes a pair of mysterious elastic bands looped round the corners of the lower bout.

Leaving aside one of the basic problems with elastic, namely that it can tend to degrade and snap easily, are these elastic bands meant to be "tuned" to resonate with the frequencies of the violin? Or not.

August 21, 2016 at 07:05 PM · I use a leather shoelace on the shoulder side of the SR. As I have come to ues a very high screw "leg", the viola's tendency to swing to the right can make the SR unhook. I'm not the only one..

August 21, 2016 at 07:41 PM · Given the violin's origin in a culture dominated by Roman Catholicism, it would be best to have any elastic bands used on a violin blessed by a priest. After that I don't think you need to worry any more. ;)

August 22, 2016 at 07:02 AM · The correct musical interpretation for rubber bands can be found here:

August 27, 2016 at 08:38 AM · Since I know Carlo has been anxiously waiting up late at night to find out more about the WonderThumb, and in an attempt to show that it is not indeed a "Lockthumb" (the nerve!), here's another little video I hope shows the functionality in closer detail.


(Click the link, I couldn't embed the video from my iPhone here)


August 28, 2016 at 09:08 AM · @Craig. I didn't wait up all night.. but I did watch your clip :-)

Cheers Carlo

August 28, 2016 at 11:16 PM · Ah, my mistake! I was the one up all night (jet lag from travel to Japan).



August 28, 2016 at 11:26 PM · I hate to be a negative Nelly but after watching the video of Wonder thumb, it seems like an awkward and cumbersome aid for violin players. I know that I should probably not say this without trying it, but my reasoning screams out, Why?

But on the other hand if it can help someone perhaps with a hand disability or some similar problem then why not?

August 29, 2016 at 12:12 AM · Hi Jeff.

No problem with the "negativity". The WonderThumb is s new concept. I expect, and appreciate feedback to better understand concerns.

As to your reasoning crying out "Why?", well all one needs to do is do a search for shoulder rest discussions here on to find out why.

Is the violin an easy instrument to support while playing?

Not really.

That's why the shoulder rest was invented. I'm sure that was met with considerable resistance when it first came out. Apparently it still does meet with resistance if you look at some of the replies in this very thread.

For some, a shoulder rest works, and works very well. It is s great solution to relieving the weight off of the left hand. However, for many, supporting the weight of the instrument via the muscles in your neck becomes quite painful.

Others complain that clamping a SR on the back of their mucho-bucks violin may impact it's tone.

So, the other option is playing without a SR, which can lead to difficulties since Gravity is always working to pull the neck of the violin down off your thumb. This is usually countered by "lightly" contacting the base of the finger opposite the thumb. That's great, but that can also lead to the dreaded "death grip" unless one has truly mastered that art.

Many of the members here have played violin since a very young age. Perhaps all of this seems quite natural to them. Either they have always played with a SR, and That's Just The Way It Is, or they grew up playing without one for the very same reason.

I am an adult beginner. So I'm coming at this from a very different point of view. I tried a SR, it was painful for me. I tried playing without a SR, and tended to clamp my left hand too much to prevent slippage.

So, the point of the WT is to aid the left hand in supporting the instrument, without any clamping force needed via the base knuckle opposite. No SR needed (although it can be used with one if desired). Shifting is particularly easy with the WT.

As someone who has used the WT extensively, and many of its preceding prototypes, I can say that it has certainly aided my playing.

Think of many of the issues new students have when they begin playing: death grip, pancake hand, etc. most of these have to do with that sense of insecurity of the violin sliding down in the left hand. I believe the WonderThumb solves many of these issues in a new and unique way that the SR does not. For a SR to function at its best it has to be correctly adjusted to proper tilt, height, angle. With the WT, you just put it on your hand and go. Pick up your violin, put that down, pick up your viola, it's right there ready to go.

Anyhow, as I said, I welcome all comments. I want to learn about what I don't know.


August 29, 2016 at 03:55 AM · I can see a role for the wonder thumb for those people who have very mobile joints where the carpometacarpal joint collapses in:

And for those of us who just don't get a comfortable thumb. There are only so many years left. If a little device allows comfortable playing and a little more time in learning, I see no harm.

August 29, 2016 at 01:24 PM · The shoulder rest was invented because chin rest design/installation was generally a disaster (and still is at the student level).

Will WT help me achieve an atomic vibrato?

Invisa -rest doesn't fit on my solid body Electric!

August 29, 2016 at 01:28 PM ·

August 30, 2016 at 12:53 AM · quick question, without SR. how do you perform down-shift? I almost threw my violin out the window today trying.

August 30, 2016 at 01:56 AM · The chin rest must be high enough to almost touch the chin, without bending and twisting head too much. I use a very thin domestic anti-slippery rubber under the viola and tie it with the elastic that comes with Playonair Crescent. The function of this rubber is to create atrit with left shoulder.

In a fixed position left hand helps to hold the neck of the viola (violin), which is supported by the collarbone and the chin rest on the other side. To shift down is necessary to raise a little the left shoulder, just enough to touch the rubber, and apply very few pressure with the head. After the shift left hand assumes the control again and the shoulder and the neck relax.

Not difficult but requires a little coordination. The real gain is that the viola (violin) is never fixed in a position, like it's with a shoulder rest. When the body movements are allowed there's no pain.

August 30, 2016 at 02:28 AM · Did I mention how easy shifting is with a WonderThumb?

Just saying...



August 30, 2016 at 12:46 PM · Stephen to answer your question about downshifting: you can prepare the downshift by moving the thumb downwards in advance to provide support for the downshift.

August 30, 2016 at 03:49 PM · I would appreciate a video of someone playing typical classical music using the WT.

I think I saw a few info-mercials but that's just a bunch of media.

I could tell right away how the WT fits my style if I see it in action.

Did I overlook a video somewhere?

August 30, 2016 at 04:52 PM · I hear ya, bunch of slick sales talk! Next thing you know that guy will be pitching that "operators are standing by..."

I'll see what I can do about a demonstration. Bad enough to have to put my face out there, to have to demonstrate my playing is s bit nerve wracking . I'll give it a try.

Or I'll see if I can cajole my instructor to give a real demonstration.

P.S.- Sharelle, thanks for the FB "like"!



August 30, 2016 at 10:55 PM · Supporting innovation.

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