Shoulder Rests>

September 1, 2004 at 05:41 AM · I'm reading about all these professionals that don't use shoulder rests. Why do they? I hurts whenever i do it. And why was the violin invented to be so uncomfortable?

Replies (97)

August 31, 2004 at 08:31 PM · i'm guessing you started playing when you were not a young child. i started at ~17 and i can't go w/o a shoulder rest either. way too uncomfortable.

from what i understand, most people that start really young can do it b/c their bodies are still adapting

August 31, 2004 at 09:13 PM · nonsense. if people adapted their bodies to the violin, everyones' shoulders would be lopsided

August 31, 2004 at 11:20 PM · One reasoning is that years ago jackets and coats were so heavily padded a shoulder rest wasn't needed.

August 31, 2004 at 11:21 PM · One of my hobby horses. I used to use one - and gripped the violin. My teacher persuaded me to ditch it and my playing improved dramatically. I don't think you can avoid gripping with a rest - look at all the great violinists of the past - they didn't use rests.

September 1, 2004 at 03:00 AM · Also depends on the size of the violin and the height of the chinrest.

September 1, 2004 at 03:21 AM · I never used one as a child...and then tried to use one when I returned to the violin last fall...

...and I quickly ditched puts me in a totally different position and I couldn't play more than 10 min. before my arms and shoulder and neck started to ache (otherwise I can practice 45-1 hour without a major break)...

...even without any padding I find the violin comfortable and I always have, but the viola is another animal altogether...without padding it bruises my collarbone..

...I just ordered a shoulder pad from a woman in Ontario (I think I saw the ad on this site!)...that sits on your shoulder) and hopefully that will help cushion the viola and make playing more comfortable...

So, you don't have to have a stand-type rest...another kind may be better for an individual...

...I think there may be something to those padded jackets male violinists wear, or used to wear...:)

...even though I don't think I'll be trying the rest again, I still think it's a great idea for greater ease in shifting and it makes vibrato easier too...

September 1, 2004 at 03:00 PM · Shoulder rests are really an individual thing. It's a very controversial subject and you can ligetematly argue both sides of the argument. Do whatever makes you comfortable. And to say that all great and professional violinists don't use shoulder rests is wrong. Many of them do use shoulder rests and many don't. Stern used to put a sponge under his tuxedo for some support. Just whatever makes you comfortable and gives you the most control and freedom in your playing.

I can play for long hours without tensing up and getting sore with a shoulder rest but when I play without a shoulder rest (which belive me I have tried for more then just 5 minutes on several ocassions) I get lots of pain and have a great deal of trouble keeping my vibrato relaxed, and not letting my shoulder come up to support the violin, and i get weird twinges in some of my muscles. (this is even with the instruction and guidance of a teacher/s)

Everyone is different, everyone is comfortable and can play better in different ways. I think the shoulder rest thing is unique as the violinists bow hold. No two are exactly the same.

September 1, 2004 at 03:15 PM · Agreed, Kelsey. This thread comes up every so often, and usually everyone argues their way into the archives... It is an individual thing, however as a teacher I've seen how beneficial a shoulder rest can be for students who have trouble with a) shifting and b) vibrato when playing without one. Personally I find most violinists have an easier time when they are able to support the violin solely with the head/collarbone. This is not to say they will always utilise this facility, but it's there when needed - for example in a downward shift. The shoulder rest bridges the distinction between the violin's height and the length of the neck, and also keeps the violin at a consistent angle; without this, the right side of the body has no way of accurately gauging the correct levels for each string. On the other hand, some players find they are able to achieve the above without a rest, and all power to them.

September 1, 2004 at 04:35 PM · Some players don't use them because your instrument produces and louder and more vibrant tone. Most of the old school players such as Aaron Rosand and so on, don't let their students use them... it's a matter of personal taste...

I started out (age 8) with out on.. Then I used a Kun and over time went through at least 4 other shoulder rest. Now (15 years old), my new teacher told me not to use one.

I perfer not using one, now. I get a better and cleaner sound. It seems whenever I use my shoulder rest my instrument doesn't vibrate as much..

I think as long as you are determind - whatever age you are, you can switch to not having one. You'll see the difference.. Although at 1st it is uncomfortable without a doubt. As the day goes on you get used to not using one.

September 1, 2004 at 04:46 PM · Well you might think it's louder and vibrates more is probably because the vibrations from the instrument is going through you without a shoulder rest. To me it just dampens the sound. Shoulder rests, maybe not all, will let the instrument vibrate and ring out since it's not being dampened by the shoulder without a shoulder rest. But it also depends on how you hold the violin without a shoulder rest too.

September 1, 2004 at 05:42 PM · June...I'm ordering this rest - it's in the I haven't tried it, but it looks like it might help you out too.

September 1, 2004 at 08:59 PM · Good question. You sometimes have to really grip it (like how Oistrakh did!!).. have complete control. It takes a while to find that control from slipping.

At my last school concert.. I was sitting on the outside and I put my instrument up into playing position for the opening piece, and it slipped! It was funny.. Also.. it depends on the type of clothing. I was wearing a tux, and it was very smooth easy to move around. I've learned mainly how to keep a good steady grip... It takes practice.

Although I think it is a good habit to break into getting used to not playing with a shoulder rest.. For example, before I perform, some many of my friends tend to break their shoulder rest - and don't have a spare.. And have to end up playing without one and they are just in pain.


September 1, 2004 at 10:44 PM · Hello, went I came to my new teacher a year ago, he told me to get rid of the shoulder rest because it's a cancer... hehe. Well, I have a really long neck so it was kind of hard to adjust, but now I realize that the shoulder rest is kind of restricting. Once you get used to not having it, you can move the violin with more freedom which I find a large advantage. I also used to have really bad posture with a shoulder rest. My violin was practically vertical and nothing I did helped. But now, without the shoulder rest, my violin is straight and my posture is much better. If you decide to not use a shoulder rest, give it some time before you get used to it because you won't get it right away.

September 1, 2004 at 11:47 PM · Greetings,

gotta post, gotta post, bad Dobby....

The prospect of a new shoulder rest war always gets the adrenaline going although although previous posts are perfectly sound. The topic has been covered ad naseaum on this list and all the others, even ones that have nothing to do with violin playing...

However, there is one point where I think people get a little confused and it is often the actual origin of subequent conflicts.

That is, a shoulder rest is an inflexible object of roughly the right shape that rest on your shoulder with a violin on top. Anything else is -not- a shoulder rest, but is a support. So when you hear someone say `I don`t use a rest,` or Menuhin didn`t use a rest (wrong, by the way, he used a quite substantial rest later in his career) that does not mean they are not using support of some kind and I would suggest that just about every violnist of any worth since Heifetz -has- used a support. Lets check out a few. Rosand (the most anti rest voice alive) stuffs a foam pad under his jacket.

Heifetz. A shirt stuffer and specially made jackets.

Misltein- uses the jacket and stuffed shirt on ocassion.

Friedman- openly straps foam.

Fried- straps foam.

Kreilsser used the lapel of his jacket.

Szeryng, well padded, jacket and lots of stuff on the chinrest.

Oistrakh-fell in love with the poland (?) late r in his career.

Grumiaux-unashamed pad user.

So, lets get real first. The argument here is between the kind of inflexible support provided by a rest and the more flexible other types. Virtually noone plays with a virgin set up unless they are an early music specialist. Oops, check out Walfisch (one of the best) in this month`s Strad. A small roll of Chamois strapped between the shoulde rand violin IE -use a pad-

The second point is that the debate is worthless without discussion of the chinrest which is probably the more significant factor. Giraffe necks can use the very nice Sas 3.7 cm tall model and may well be able to dispense with a rest whereas the ir previous argument has been , quite rightly, thyat such a thing is not possible. It ain`t if you stick with with your old faithful Guarneri model chinrest.

The third point is that there is agreat deal of talk about balancing on the collar bone, but it is aslo a problem that many young people have collapsed collar bones due to restricted breathing and misuse of the body. This can, of course, be corretce3d with Alexander Technique, and then the whole procdure of choosing becomes compeltely different.

In sunnary, the whole debate can never be an eithe ror. There are so many other interacting variables it is merely a question of experimentaion over -along period of time- befre coming to firm conclusions, preferably over a bowl of prunes.



September 2, 2004 at 12:16 AM · Yes, it is a controversial and emotional topic, believe it or not. So let's delve into it!

I think that when a person's teacher forces him/her to give up a shoulder rest, it creates in that person the feeling, "I must have done this for some very good reason. It has to be right!"

I use a shoulder rest and am fortunate over nearly 30 years of violin playing to have a very low incidence of pain and injury and a rather high incidence of being able to play well with good, relaxed technique.

Honestly, if I went to a teacher who insisted I give it up, I'd switch teachers. But there are some teachers out there who insist on imposing the no-shoulder-rest rule on their students. I'm not sure what techniques a person is unable to do *with* a shoulder rest that would require them to go without it. In other words, I see no technical, violinistic reason for going without it. If your neck is short and you are just totally comfy without a shoulder rest, so be it. But don't give it up if you need it.

We always get people loudly witnessing about how fabulous they feel without it, but I do just have to wonder if some of them aren't just trying to cope with a rather cruel trick their teachers have imposed.

September 2, 2004 at 01:01 AM · My teacher told me to get rid of it, his excuse was that it doesnt help with correct posture, BUT BUT instead he gave me a sponge and rubber to use, it helped the violin from slipping.

September 2, 2004 at 01:28 AM · Why DO we call it a shoulder rest anyway? Let's be a little more specific here - it doesn't go on your shoulder but on your collarbone. So - BonMusica aside - why don't we call it a collarbone rest?

September 2, 2004 at 01:39 AM · Perlman and Laredo don't use rests either as far as I know.

As Buri pointed out, there are many variables involved. I never liked the feeling of the shoulder rest because there is nothing like having direct contact w/ the instrument you are playing. Once you find an adequate setup w/ a higher chinrest, there is a considerable gain in stability and control. The difference is analogous to that of standing on your own feet and standing on a shaky ladder.

One possible way of trying this out:

1) remove shoulder and chin rests

2) rest the violin on the collarbone and find the contact point where the violin touches the neck

3) find the (tri)angle (formed by the scroll, your neck and your left shoulder) which is most comfortable for your left hand and arm

4) decide whether you want to rest the violin on your left shoulder like Mutter does (if you can, some people have droopy shoulders), or support it only on the collarbone and hold it up w/ the left hand-arm (I prefer to rest it on the shoulder).

5) Once the point of contact w/ the neck, the angle of the violin to the shoulder and the points of support (shoulder + collarbone or collarbone + left arm) are defined, the next step would be to find the ideal height and shape of the chinrest. But to get the height and shape right, you must have already found the spot where the chinrest will be attached to the violin.

September 2, 2004 at 03:16 AM · OK, maybe people use handkercheifs or sponges or whatever else for support whcih I'm all for but I'm pretty sure this debate was about those inflexible things that go on the violin called shoulder rests. To me, they sort of impose a certain posture and position which I guess can be ok if you find one that really fits you and plays comfortably, but not having a shoulder rest, or even having another form of support to me is more natural and gives someone their unique and individual posture which is important for playing relaxed and comfortable.

September 2, 2004 at 04:26 AM · Greetings,

yep, Enosh, it was about shoulder rests. But until one is clear about what they are the debate remains a little tricky;) The point about the pads is important so that people are not misled when a player of the stature of Rosand says `don`t use a rest` and the rest of us dutifully struggle away in a tee shirt , low chin rest and nothing in between. Possible for some physiques,but not worth it for most .

I have exactyly the same opinion as you about the shoulder rest itself. Cheers,


September 2, 2004 at 04:58 AM · Certainly, if it causes pain to use one, don't use one!

September 2, 2004 at 05:20 AM · Oh one more thing to add is that I have a BonMusica now after I got a lesson from a teacher/student with one. Thanks for the input


September 2, 2004 at 10:00 AM · Im happy to say I have been playing without a shoulder rest for 2 months now and nothing can be more comfortable. It's a really good way to play the violin. Both shoulders are completely first i used a small pad but now pad no shoulder rest and my technique and sound is by far better now then it was under the reign of the shoulder rest.

September 2, 2004 at 10:15 AM · another thing....have a good shirt collar helps it from slipping. I always wear nice hard cotton shirts for concerts and it doesnt slip.

September 2, 2004 at 12:15 PM · here in australia it is possible to get non-slip mats. these are small rubberry type meshes which are usually used for trays and such so that drinks don't spill. I have seen these used on the shoulder to stop the violin from slipping.

I find that I'm finding it difficult to get a shoulder rest that is good for me. At my uni, we have concert prac, and at my first performance, it was noted that my head was very much tilted to the side, which I was doing to grip the violin. So I raised the height of my rest, and today they commented that it was too large and it looked like it was hard to get power in the lower strings.

Oh well, more experimentation.

September 2, 2004 at 12:53 PM · Mouse pads can be cut and used as mats to prevent slippage too, but mine tended to muffle the sound. I recently succeeded in eliminating slippage completely by changing the triangle I mentioned above (scroll, shoulder and neck) and resting the violin on the shoulder as Mutter does. This meant rotating the violin towards the left, changing a high Guarnieri/Wedling chinrest for a Kaufmann and attaching the chinrest farther away from the tailpiece.

The basic principle remains: "Remove all accessories before adding new ones!" (and I would add: "Use as few accessories as possible!"). Some kind of Okham's razor is needed against the needless multiplication of accessories. It's ergonomic madness to keep adding contraptions to the violin one upon the other because it will only compound errors that are already there.

September 2, 2004 at 04:00 PM · I don't know how people without shoulder pads can do it because without a shoulder pad I can't shift or do vibrato (well I can't do vibrato either way, but that's beside the point). I also think it's very uncomfortable without a shoulder pad.


September 3, 2004 at 04:39 AM · A shoulder rest is a good idea if you have a longer neck (like me). A colleague of mine used to use one, but it was wound down to the bottom and eventually ditched it once he got to grad school and his teacher didn't use one. One certainly doesn't want to lean their neck drastically in one direction to hold the violin in place. Not worth the pain...

September 3, 2004 at 02:13 PM · See, this is what I don't understand... how is it certain players find they get neck pain with a rest, when the violin is supported and they *don't* have to twist or bend the neck, but are without pain playing with no support? Personally I find that without a rest I am forced to thrust my left shoulder forwards and twist my neck to the left, just to hold the violin steady. Otherwise it literally falls off me.

September 3, 2004 at 03:08 PM · A judge at a competition I played at thinks that you get a much more free feeling playing without a shoulder rests. While I could see his pros and cons to playing without a shoulder rest, as it being a more positive thing keeping the should relaxed and not having to bring it up to support the violin was something I had a lot of trouble with (as I said before I have experienced a lot with playing without a shoulder rest and when I was probably about 11 I played without a shoulder rest for quite sometime but developed problems). the idea of playing without a shoulder rest is you keep your shoulder totally relaxed and only bring it up to support your downward shifts. I found that that worked fine mostly...but still took tons of getting used to and caused me problems after awhile. Vibrato I found to be a significant challenge though, same with creating a good tone and havning good control with that kind of set up to play well. Ditching the shoulder rest helps a person realise how much tension they are really using when they with a shoulder rest, and from that point of view (I'm already a fairly relaxed player) I've become a super relaxed player because now I'm completely aware of what I'm doing when I tense up.

Again though, this can be argued either way. some people live by the shoulder rest or lack of it and as long as it isn't causing you any physical problems are limiting you, go for it!

September 3, 2004 at 03:58 PM · I use a shoulder rest. My teacher uses one as well, and has advocated a shoulder rest. I know of a violinist who has this large nasty black and blue mark on her collarbone for playing without a shoulder rest. I don't care if one uses a shoulder rest or not, or what other people's opinion is. But if for some reason I have to leave my teacher, and my next teacher tells me I need to remove my shoulder rest in order to play well and be "free" of any tension or whatever, is the day I go looking for another teacher.

I've seen students from Perlman's masterclasses and also from his Music School with shoulder rests on their violin, and he's not advocating for them to take it off. I've also seen Masterclasses with Zuckerman with students with shoulder rests and he's not advocating to take them off. I've heard very good players like Hahn, Midori, Bell, Shaham all using shoulder rest. And while you may not agree with their style of playing, these violinist are on top of their class. So, I say, do whatever you want to do, whether you want to use a shoulder rest, a pad, or no pad/rest at all. But don't tell me you're playing better because you're not using any sort of pad/rest. To me that's just bunk.

September 3, 2004 at 04:56 PM · Without one makes me sound like a cat trying to sing...

September 3, 2004 at 11:04 PM · Greetings,

one-Sim, having now seen your neck I casn assure you that you are indeed 'necktie challenged.'

I propose the following set up for you:

A wolf forte primo at maximum extension, stuck on top of a Bon Musica, stuck on top of a king size Big Mac. It will get a bit whiffy after a week or so but I am not sure what else you can do.



September 4, 2004 at 09:27 AM · I think someone should make a feeble but well intended attempt to re-invent the violin. If it is supposed to play so much better without rests, how come so many of us need them. Im stumpped by this completely

September 4, 2004 at 09:42 AM · Also I have concluded that there is a better tone without a chin rest so I have been using a bonmusica shoulder rest and no chinrest. Any advice?

September 4, 2004 at 02:59 PM · Buri: Huh? What do you mean 'necktie challenged'? Sorry, I don't really get stuff like that-I'm quite dumb:@)

I suppose that violins sound better without accesories attached to it because it's allowed to vibrate more freely-the sound vibrations travelling through the wood and freely into the air. It's like you can hear me shouting rather than me talking because someone hasn't stuffed a smelly sock in my mouth...:P

September 4, 2004 at 04:08 PM · Shoulder rests, pro and con


Improved sound (debatable - the flesh of the shoulder against a broad surface area of the violin back has a far greater dampening effect than the small surface area affected by the very small feet of the shoulder rest on, moreover, a non-vibrating portion of the violin)

Ability to tilt the violin, altering the angle of connection between bow and string (debatable - this can be done with the shoulder rest if the rest is not made too high)


Ability to support the violin without the left hand doing the supporting

Ability to shift freely since the left hand is free to move rather than constrained by the need to prevent the violin from slipping

Ability to vibrate freely - see above

Ability to adjust the height of the scroll, the pitch of the instrument in other words, with minimal pressure upwards with the shoulder OR minimal pressure downwards with the jaw

Ability to adjust the tilt of the instrument just as well as without a rest with minimal shifting of the downwards pressure of the jaw from the center or right-hand side of the chinrest to the left-hand side of the chinrest

No danger of sideways slippage of the instrument caused by the smooth, frictionless back sliding on the frictionless surface of concert clothes, or indeed on any other cloth

Most of all, though, I ask myself what is accomplished by discarding the rest that can't be accomplished with the rest. And the answer that I come up with is: nothing. What is to be gained by using a rest? Better posture, better intonation, better vibrato, better grip, better use of the left hand, and no dampening of the sound caused by sound-absorbing flesh contacting the point of greatest vibration - namely, the center of the back plate.

September 4, 2004 at 05:04 PM · ...I don't agree that the rest puts one in a better posture...maybe some people...but not all people...

September 4, 2004 at 10:20 PM · So interesting! What intrigues me is why it is so important to so many people whether OTHER people do or do not use shoulder rests. What is obviously important is whether or not YOU use one. It is equally clear to me that many successful violinists do and many do not. So try with and without and go forth with a light and merry heart knowing that you chose best for yourself. And if you change you mind at some point for some reason go ahead and switch without the least care.

September 5, 2004 at 06:52 AM · Anyone here not use a chin rest>?

September 6, 2004 at 09:31 AM · I'll say it again, as some people still have a misconception here: having a long neck does *not* mean you need a high shoulder-rest! That just makes your vln see-saw on the rest.

Supposing one wanted to try without: having a long neck, you just put the vln on your collarbone (bare, if possible: much less slippery), and then have a chinrest high enough to comfortably fill the space from vln to jaw without bending the neck.

If you want the vln to tilt to the right (to avoid raising right arm too high), you just need a bit of sponge under the left side of the vln.

I find this much more comfortable: my left shoulder and arm hang and move freely. The collarbone and hand completely hold the vln and the neck is at its full length. I have to stand up fairly straight for this to work, and hold the scroll up high enough.

Vibrato: generally, a hand vib is easiest. For a big arm vib, I lower the head weight onto the chinrest for a bit more stability.

Down shifts: thumb has to lead for this to work for me, unless again I use the head weight for stability (eg for a very big fast down shift, especially unlanned!).

However if you like shoulder rests, go for it. I'd just examine whether it's causing the left shoulder to seize up - it certainly did mine. It's certainly true that some fantastic violinists do use them and some don't.

September 6, 2004 at 02:55 PM · I agree w/ Susan D that there is a misunderstanding re: playing w/ or w/o a shoulder rest, and it seems to me to be on two levels, one more general and another more specific.

On the general or, let's say, more fundamental level, the issue is not about the shoulder rest in itself, but how to optimize your interaction w/ the instrument. An accessory is a means to an end and does not necessarily mean an ergonomic improvement, on the contrary, it may alleviate and disguise postural problems that will get progressively worse. As a matter of principle, if a postural correction can be achieved w/o an accessory, for simplicity's sake, so much the better. If the shoulder rest were such a wonderful solution, there wouldn't be this kind of debate. Having said this I agree w/ the spirit of Mr. Doolan's refusal to be apologetic about using a shoulder rest. Absolutely, if you have found a satisfactory setup w/ a shoulder rest, that is up to you to decide.

Now re: more specific issues, there is a misunderstanding of how the violin can be played and setup w/ only a (higher) chinrest. As I see it, there are basically two options re: support.

Option A is to rest the violin on the collarbone and hold the violin up w/ the left hand-arm-back muscles. Examples: Heifetz, Milstein, Perlman, Zukerman, Laredo, etc.

Option B is to support the violin on the collarbone AND a RELAXED left shoulder. The prime example here is Mutter. (Personally, I find this the best for my physique).

The way players of type A and B deal w/ vibrato, shifting, etc. may vary. Mutter can vibrato as much as she wants and shift w/ great precision. Having the violin rest on the RELAXED shoulder relieves the left hand from an unnecessary burden and gives it the freedom normally associated to the shoulder rest. Moreover, it has the advantage of stability and immediacy of playing w/o a shoulder rest.

Re: slippage, this occurs because of an inadequate position and/or shape of the chinrest, insufficient height, or misapplied head pressure. An adequately adjusted and positioned chinrest can do more than we usually expect. What I mean is that we tend to underestimate the chinrest, do not optimize it ergonomically, and introduce an additional accessory such as the shoulder rest for no reason.

September 6, 2004 at 11:45 PM · Greetings,

Tristan, very intersting post. One thing I wonder about. You seem somewhat to classify violnists as either having a relaxed left shoulder or not. Milstein , Heifetz et al could not paly they way they did without a -perfectly- relaxed shoulder. The slighets tension in the shoulder cause massive decrease in left hand efficiency,



September 7, 2004 at 01:13 AM · there is more of the body that touches the violin when you don't use the shoulder rest, which may dampen the sound, but may also allow the violin to resonate more because it can tap into using the body's own resonating spots (ask any singer) and use your body as an extra resonating chamber.

However, whether you use one or not, it doesn't really matter, what matters is that you can play, you produce a good tone, and that you're comfortable.

I tried to find a player in my local symphony orchestra the other night who wasn't using a shoulder rest... couldn't see one. Even the guest concert master was using one, so I guess that it's not really all that big a deal and shouldn't really deserve the amount of discussion that it's received on here.

September 7, 2004 at 12:50 PM · Hi, Buri: you are of course right that the left shoulder must always be relaxed. I did not mean that. My writing may have not been clear enough. The distinction lies in whether there is shoulder support or not, besides the contact point on the collarbone. Mutter plays w/ shoulder support, Heifetz et al. don't (or at least don't seem to in the admittedly limited footage I happen to have at my disposal). BOTH must have relaxed shoulders. The emphasis on "relaxed" was because a player above (I think it was Kelsey Z) said she played w/ a tense shoulder, w/o shoulder rest.

Ben: I agree that body ressonance is important, including having the feet solidly on the floor. Singing is unfairly underrated. Now whether an issue is important or not, or you can say you have left it behind, is something uncertain. Solid development in any area tends to be cyclical, not linear, because we often have to re-examine and rethink the basics. It's a never-ending process.

September 8, 2004 at 07:16 AM · True that one sees very few professionals not using one - only a few soloists and university-level teachers that I know of. What can it mean?

I guess arguing that those with can't play brilliantly, only that some of us are more comforable without, contrary to popular belief.

September 8, 2004 at 08:11 AM · In conclusion ditch the shoulder rest...its nothing but a metal obtrusion to true relaxation.

October 25, 2004 at 04:48 PM · I'm a 55yr old amateur violinist. I've been playing the violin off & on since I was 22yrs old. Only about 2yrs ago "stopped" using a shoulder-rest and have NOW discovered why I always played for 33yrs "off&on": shoulder-pain. I began anew taking violin lessons 4yrs ago, and one of my [new] bigger problems this time was "holding" the violin. Once in a lesson with my Russian teacher, he saw me stop&start numerous time to figget with my shoulder-rest until he finally grabbed my violin, tore the shoulder-rest off, tossed it across the room and bluntly stated: Here, `zis iz ze vay ve learned in Russia!!! {He got the point across!}

Nevertheless, it wasn't so easy (I went back to the S-R). Several months later, I developed a severe shoulder-pain so that I had to stop lessons (for about 12months). I later returned, but this time without the S-R.

I think I remembered something that Yehudi Menuhin had said about simply balancing the violin on one's collarbone; I tried this and - Amazing! - I'm playing better, freer and without the slightest bit of pain.

Two of my sons still remain with their S-Rs and I have tried to convince them to "be open to new and liberating venues of violin playing", but, alas, [remember] we old-foggies don't know anything!

There "may" be something to the argument about the S-Rs cramping the vibration (sound), what with the rubber-coated clamps on the lower bout of the back, but, on the contrary, it is true that with a S-R the whole violin "is" elevated way off of the shoulder itself (but, I'll leave this acoustical discussion for the concert violinists to quibble about). For me, it was all about comfort, and, further, the avoidance of pain, which allowed me to relinquish the S-R forever.

My favorite violinist, David Oistrakh, is quite famous for the freedom of movement he displayed of his head and neck "while" playing his violin. I pondered: How does he do that?! Okay, some will say, he was quite a "well-padded" gentleman in his own right (not to mention having some excess flesh on his neck to hold the fiddle in place). However, I still take issue with all the "long-neck" and "it keeps slipping-off" excuses. I, also, have a very long-neck, and my violin "used" to slip off, until I found out that one need only place the bottom back edge of the violin on the collarbone and, then, hold the scroll-end of the violin a little bit further toward the center-line of your body [to the right], instead of way off to the left side, then the violin stays there; you can move your neck, head and, most importantly, your left-shoulder (which allows, also, for even more freedom of movement of the whole left arm).

A should-rest is just that: it "rests" the shoulder. The shoulder shouldn't rest, it should move in flowing harmony with the whole body (ya` know, Ti Chi style). NOW, I understood why I had all those shoulder-pains over the years. By using a S-R, my left-shoulder was always blocked-up [like in a cast], not allowed to move (why?, bec. it was too busy "holding" the violin). And, by the way, the violin shouldn't be "held", at least, not in the traditional sense of clamping down and ridgedly anchoring it into one place. One should "never" lift the left-shoulder up to "hold" the violin in place, otherwise, you WILL very soon be suffering from major shoulder pains. This might sound "cheesy", or poetic, but the violin should, rather, be "played", ...or, "played with". It should bounce, be balanced, move, flow and swing, just like our body should move and sway when we're playing.

I will admit that initially when I ditched my S-R, my vibrato suffered, but before this I only had one type of vibrato, now [like taking two-steps backwards, to take three-steps forward] I have discovered multi-layers of vibrato. It all boils down to relaxing, holding the violin a bit more "in front of you", and flowing in sync with the music and the muse.

October 25, 2004 at 04:55 PM · I'd give you a star if I still had them available! Good post!

October 25, 2004 at 06:43 PM · Asher, how much do you feel you are "holding" or balancing the instrument with your left hand?

Also, do you find that you have to lift your left shoulder or significantly tilt your head to allow the chinrest to meet your chin?

Just curious as to how it works for a long necked person.

I think that Buri (many posts above) hit the nail on the head. Most violinists (including the "Greats") use some sort of support.

Susan, in response to letting the thumb lead in a down shift, I really don't know if that's such a good practice. There are some places where you can lead with the thumb (maybe to obtain a completely inaudible shift...more like performing a figer extension), but not very often. I find myself, and most other concert violinists contracting TOWARD the thumb in a down shift and allowing the thumb to follow afterwards. Even this is only when necessary as the hand should move as a unit.


October 26, 2004 at 12:09 AM · Greetings,

if you look at the picture of Benno Rabinoff with auer in `The Way they Play` book they are both wearing the same rather thick jackets and you can see exactly the same mark where the violin goes on the lapel in both player. The older culture of wearing a formal jacket has a heck of a lot to do with not using a shoulder rest. Kreisler used his lapel. Hugh Bean was a neckless player who threw the violin up and it just stayed put but he also dressed quite formally, at least when I met him.

Oistrakh said he was very excited when he found the Dolland rest in the US and took them back to Russia. As far as I know that is rather like the Gewa and I often see this kind of pad on East European violinists. Rodney Friend teaches most of his students to play using this kind of small pad to balance tyhe violin.

The observations about lack of movement causing pain are astute and correct but this should not cause one to leap to the concsluion that shoulder rests cause lack of movement. If you want to move, you move;)

Much of the problem is that we assume a shoulder rest is an uncomplicated thing and once it is on the stduent is fine. But the violin still has to be played using the corretc use of all parts of the body. It is only then that one can really make an informed decision about rests.

Personally I feel very close to solving the problem for me by rejecting the rest and using about 1 cm of actually ratehr stiff foam stuck under my shirt. The foam was the packaging from Pirastro when they sent me strings. My compliments!

But if I observe carefully I am not actually using the as support so much my violin is fairly high and mobile, just floating. I did have to relearn shifting downwards. For me, I don`t have to drop the head at all to give enough support for a rapid downward shift. I do almost all of it with my thumb and there is actually a considerbale increase in facilty. But in violin palying, as in any other complex set of motor skills, the problem is usually where we are not looking. The root of my problem is a contraction of the neck muscles on the right side of my neck as a result of anxiety about shifting. Inhibiting this habit is actually what solved things and I can float my head all over the place and still play showpieces fine even with a medium length neck.



October 26, 2004 at 01:29 AM · Living and playing in the New York area- you come across many different violinists. People who play without one just sound better. pros and cons of playing w/o a sr


1.better sound

2. Hear yourself better

3. more accurate shifting

4. able to vary vibrato more effectively


1. have to practice technique more initially to master shifting.

2. get used to new position of violin(if switching)

most of the world -class violinists living in the new york area play without one and there is a reasonfor it. these violinist include: Itzhack Perlman, Pinchas Zuckerman, Arnold Steinhardt, Aaron Rosand, Neil Weintrob, Matthew Reichert, Glenn Dictorow, and countless others.

Ask yourself if you would like to listen to Sarah Chang or Glenn Dictorow? I know my answer.

October 26, 2004 at 01:47 AM · Dicterow

October 26, 2004 at 02:41 AM · can someone help me understand how to keep the violin on my collarbone fully relaxed and be able to shift? i've tried playing without a shoulder rest and i can make pretty good tone and vibrato. yet once i get in 3rd position, it's nearly impossible to shift higher because the violin neck falls in between my thumb and index finger and its hard to keep it propped up

October 26, 2004 at 03:24 AM · I play without a shoulder rest but I have some problems I want to fix. First, when I play the violin tends to slip from my shoulder, so I find myself lifting my shoulder to support it, I know this is bad. Also, I noticed that my left hand tends to support my violin, I havent started shifting but I read that when you start to shift it becomes a problem.

I'm thinking of buying The Poeland Violin Shoulder Rest , its described as Crescent-shaped, cloth-covered rubber pad. Attaches with leather strap and elastic band. I was wondering what you all think about this one? is this a good choice or is there a better one out there? or is there a better way to prevent the violin from slipping and supporting at the same time without going to the help of a shoulder rest?

October 26, 2004 at 03:17 AM · Greetings,

Garry, I share your view on shoulder rests, but as often point out on this list it is frequently a distinction between s/r and padding rather than s/r and nothing. I don@t know about the others but Mr. Rosand has foam stuck under his jacket. Ditto Issac Stern.

Mr Steinheardt solved the problem with a very raised chin rest. that is a good solution in my opinion. But, I think one could also make a list of world class players who use a rest*

Repin, Mr Gringolts (I think), Emil, Mullova, Vengerov, Suwanai (I think) , Chung, Midori. A little more thought could probably make the list longer than those that don`t.

Sad world, but there you go.

Buri the Luddite

October 26, 2004 at 05:44 AM · Greetings,

Pedro, there are a couple of aspects of support thta don`t get mentioned so often. The first I think is quickly recognizable as true: the friction between the skin of your neck and the violin keeps it in place. If you sweat too much like me then you should use chamois leather which has exactly the same effect. Get the softest kind you can. Its cheap.

The second source of support is the bow itself. This might sound odd but if you can sensitize yourself to how the bow and strings interact you may find this true. Then there is the question of what is really making the violin slip- it may well be some kind of misuse of another part of the body. I think you might fiond the articlre by Elizabeth Walfisch in the Strad a couple of months back (Restless World?) very helpful. She also wrote a book about playing without a rest. and the kind of odeas are not jusrt for baroque players. The do help rest users. Tryin a pad isa good idea and the Poelland is well thought of. They don`t damp the violin so much as far as I am cocnerned (not like a huge wad of foam or a dead lemming anyway). There is also a small and cheap one by Gewa,



October 26, 2004 at 06:18 AM · buri do you know which issue it was? I was going to buy it, but dont know which issue it is? Also, this is for anyone, did I read right? is the subscrition to the strad really 96.50? thats quite a bit of money for a magazine subscrition.

October 26, 2004 at 11:20 AM · Greetings,

Pedro, September 2004,



October 26, 2004 at 03:35 PM · I was blessed with a long neck (!), and thank God every day for my shoulder rest. I was having to bend my neck to the side and down to be able to hold the violin before, and the shoulder rest makes it so much more comfortable. And I can move around plenty when I'm playing too. i haven't noticed any tone trouble with the shoulder rest; Actually, my tone got better.

October 26, 2004 at 09:17 PM · I'm another long-necker, and I can't play (other than fiddle styles) without my Wolfe forte-secondo.

I saw a great performance by the Takacs quartet last weekend--shoulder rests all around (well, except the cellist).

October 26, 2004 at 11:57 PM · Just a clarification about the Mach 1. The one I have is the "plastic with leather" and I think you have to buy that one to get the option of the chamois leather adjusting strap.

October 27, 2004 at 12:40 AM · A great rest for people with long necks that want ease of mobility and unaffected tone is the Violin Shoulder Cradle by Comfort LLC. Shar sells them: the body of the rest is a resonating chamber and can be bought in plastic, silver or gold plated.


October 27, 2004 at 01:01 AM · Maxim Vengerov uses a SR!

Does he sound bad?


October 27, 2004 at 02:06 AM · Greetings,

Peter, no but it may be the source of his over emoting



October 27, 2004 at 03:24 AM · i dont think its the fact that a player sounds bad with a SR. i think the point trying to be made here is that you can sound BETTER without one because not using one increases the depth of tone

October 27, 2004 at 05:01 AM · Speaking of the importance or lack thereof of instrumental support devices...has anyone ever tried playing without a chinrest? Did any of the greats go without one?

October 27, 2004 at 05:24 AM · Greetings,

soeone on this list said Kreisler did. idon@t know if this is true or not,



October 27, 2004 at 06:17 AM · okay but there are lots of incredible musicians who DO use a shoulder rest. I've never met anyone who could tell a resonance difference at least on my violin between SR and SRless. I say, if you can play just as well with one, why switch?

October 27, 2004 at 06:41 AM · Not using a shoulder rest DOES NOT guarentee a better tone...BELIEVE me! I've heard many players who do not use a shoulder rest and they get anything BUT depth of tone.

This is all so silly! I don't get why many people who don't use a rest think that those who do use one are somehow delayed in their musical walk.

I have found in my own experiments that a good rest that does not clamp the instrument too tightly or in the wrong places, (like the Menhuin and the Cradle) will allow the instrument to experience a depth of tone that is even better than when not using a rest.

The amount of the wood on the violin's back that is dampened by ones' shoulder is obviously going to affect the tone of the instrument.

There are two reasons, IMHO, that a "Restless" violin sounds better:

1. Most rests clamp the instrument too tightly and in the wrong places (around or near the broadest part of it's "shoulders"). I've seen some rests that look like hollow blocks of wood held to the violin by rubber bands that I think are a GREAT idea. It minimizes the area amount on the violin back that is dampened by contact and it allows for freedom of movement.

2. The vibrations of the instrument are more readily passed into the chest cavity (read "HOLLOW" PART OF YOUR BODY) therefore allowing you to hear (and feel) a more immediate tone. But this is not what your audience hears.

I compare it to hearing your immediate voice and hearing your recorded voice. I really think using a proper rest that allows the instrument to vibrate uninhibited is going to bring out the actual voice of the instrument (like when you hear what you really sound like after you've been recorded) while dampening the back with your shoulder is going to give you an untrue sound (like the voice your hear when you's not what you really sound like).

Of course if your body type is more suited to NOT using a rest, then a better tone will be attained simply because the player is more naturally set up and relaxed. If you need a shoulder rest, get a good one that does not clamp the violin (Menhuin, Cradel, wooden blocks, inflatable...[these cover lots of area but are hollow too])

Again, it's POINTLESS to tout ones self as "superior in the knowledge that a shoulder rest is for those who really haven't arrived" (I know I'm putting words in y'alls mouths). It's also pointless to keep on arguing that using one is better than not using one. It is PURELY subjective. One must do what one must do to get a better tone. If it's ditching a rest, then FINE! If it's utilizing a rest or another system of support, FINE!

As to a shoudler rest being the reason for Vegerov's "over emoting"... That's complete Rubbish! A rest has NOTHING to do with how one interprets a piece of music. I sincerely hope you were being facetious, Stephen, because that's rediculous. I'm sorry but it is.


October 27, 2004 at 10:51 PM · I found that clamping down when playing restless negates resonance that you would otherwise achieve.

October 27, 2004 at 11:37 PM · Greetings,

I believe Emily and I go to the same Chinese restaurant since I also found that message in a fortune cookie a few months back,



October 28, 2004 at 12:02 AM · i think Mr. Brivati should be a standup comedian

October 28, 2004 at 01:26 AM · I am so happy Mr. Brivati is back.

October 28, 2004 at 02:39 AM · Those who speak in wise proverbs should consume fewer fortune cookies.

October 28, 2004 at 02:38 AM · Buri,

Your technical prowess

is only exceeded by

your wit and charm.

October 28, 2004 at 04:52 AM · lol, we're all in haiku mode.

October 29, 2004 at 03:25 PM · A rest have I none

Nor any accoutrement

that may be deemed as one.

October 29, 2004 at 03:52 PM · Everytime I without shoulder rest

there a lot of pain

how make it comfortable?

Sorry about the bad haiku

But is there a special way of holding a violin without a shoulder rest so that it is comfortable because whenever I tryed it but it's so painful on my collar (even though there's alot of fat over my) bone.

Is my body just not built for it? Or am I doing it wronly-is there some sort of picture of someone playing without a shoulder rest?

October 29, 2004 at 05:19 PM · One-Sim, when I changed CHIN rests I had pain on the collar bone even though I don't play restless. It turned out that the angle at which I was holding the violin in relationship to the floor put the edge of the violin (the "corner" where body and side meet) against the collar bone cutting into it. Could it be that you are resting that edge or corner against your collar bone at an angle instead of the body surface?

October 29, 2004 at 06:38 PM · I'm bad at haiku because I don't like it.

Now, give me a limerick and I can sing!

At any rate, to be blunt: "you just hold the violin"

In reality there is no secret to playing without a rest or pad--as long as your body allows it. In other posts on this site there are several good techniques for finding what is comfortable for you.

One thing to realize is that there exists no single "right way" to hold the instrument (if there were, I think someone would have been very wealthy from the book royalties).

If you can describe the pain you are having and where in your body, along with how you are currently playing your instrument, there are several people that post to this site that have given some of the best advice anywhere. Perhaps they will respond in kind.

I think this is a topic that is worn a bit, but worth the effort each time it is proposed. As, I believe we all are becoming more succinct in our observations and explanations regarding it, with every reoccurrence.

Good luck!


October 29, 2004 at 10:43 PM · Greetings,

but Andrew, you just said it all!



October 30, 2004 at 04:22 PM · Ok, I better get experimenting without a shoulder rest now.


Thanks guys once again!


October 30, 2004 at 11:01 PM · I tried playing yesterday without my shoulder-rest, with a bit of stuffing under the shirt. I didn't find it too uncomfortable, so I will try it again. I've got my exams next week, so I won't be changing anything before then, but I then have about a 3 month break when I will give it a go (I'll also be working on my competancy on all 24 scales, so my intonation will *hopefully* be good as well)

March 9, 2013 at 07:10 PM · For those of you who want to give up the scaffolding...

I believe that you need to change your chin-rest for one that allows the violin to be held almost on, but just to the left of, the longitudinal centre of balance. This means a centre mounted chin-rest.

I tried for a number of years (about 20) to find a shoulder rest that was comfortable for me. I bought every one on the market. Eventually I used no rest for teaching or orchestral work but kept a shoulder-rest for solo work. Recently I was able to loose this final prop by changing chin-rests.

Cheers Carlo

March 10, 2013 at 02:03 PM · Is it necessary to revive a thread from 2004?

March 10, 2013 at 02:40 PM · It's such a silly discussion anyway. You either use one or you don't. And people grip using one and grip without one. And you can also be free with one, and without one.

Let's talk about playing instead.

March 10, 2013 at 04:41 PM · I was reading back threads and I found one about shoulder rests that hadn't been argued up to the 100 mark. has a perfect record so far. Lets finish this one...

Cheers Carlo

March 10, 2013 at 09:15 PM · Nothing is better than in their section about how to hold a violin "Holding the violin without a shoulder rest will allow you to play better in tune with less practice."

Anyway, I use a shoulder rest because my violin is not shoulder, or "collar-bone" shaped.

March 11, 2013 at 01:30 AM · Shawn, that's not a strong argument. Do you use a bow-holder because the bow is not "hand shaped"?

I am sure you use a shoulder-rest because it is more comfortable for you, and you play better with a shoulder-rest than without. As do the majority of violinists, but not me!

Cheers Carlo

March 11, 2013 at 01:49 AM · Thank you Peter :)

March 11, 2013 at 06:57 AM · Just want to contribute to the demise of this topic.

I currently don't use one - but I felt it during a marathon playing session...

March 11, 2013 at 07:18 AM · Keep it up team. Only four to go...

Cheers Carlo

March 11, 2013 at 10:14 AM · Oh well - why not? I'm an anti-rest zealot (hiss ... boo) but I'll restrain myself!

March 11, 2013 at 10:57 AM · I went back to a SR because I couldn't physically play what my inner ear demanded without one; first a soft pad, then a very well-adapted rigid one for marathon sessions. (I usually play viola.)

What bothers me is the sarcasm and arrogance of the "antis", who never, ever answer the precise queries of the "pros", but use words like "crutch", or "scaffolding", refer to child bicycle wheels, or "playing properly"; and then claim not to raise their shoulders but in fact do just that!

One illustrious poster even suggested that the many star players who use SRs would play and sound better without, as if they were too stupid to have tried!

I enjoy "restless" sessions, and I am careful to ensure that my chin- and shoulder-rests are adapted so that I hardly know they are there. Support without gripping..

March 11, 2013 at 12:37 PM · Good on you for reviving this thread and well said Peter.

If you wanna use it , use it!

If you donwanna use , don't use it!

Either way yous can all play da fiddle well.....hehe.

March 11, 2013 at 01:19 PM · I'm with you Adrian, though I'm not bothered by the arrogance as it tells us much more about the messenger than it does about the message. If we but imagine a few analogous scenarios in other contexts it's clear how ludicrous is the superiority of the genetically 'gifted.'

But the only reason I respond to such prejudice is to offer a different perspective, because I've seen too many students with the 'wrong' body type suffer at the hands of unthinking, dogmatic teachers, including a few with high profiles. So even if in some small way, I think it's important to outline the parameters involved in setup.

I guess the implications are not as serious as in some other fields like psychology or education, but the need for a more client-centred approach in violin pedagogy is overdue.

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