shoulder rests and chin rests. How to find the right ones?

April 4, 2006 at 12:16 AM · hi, I was wondering if someone could help me...

At this moment I'm looking for a new shoulder and chin rest. I tried some different ones but still didn't find something comfortable for me. I used to play the violin with the combination of an ordinary Kun rest and the Hill gold chin rest but that way my head is a bit down and it causes a lot of tension in my neck. My teacher told me to look for a higher chin and shoulder rest, but when I try this it even causes more pain in my neck. Anyone that can give me good advise?

Replies (14)

April 4, 2006 at 01:47 PM · Hi,

It is impossible to give you advice without seeing you in person. Really.

For chinrests, height isn't everything. It depends on so many factors (posture, etc.). I longed played with a chinrest that was too high to tell you the truth.

That said, here are two links to good places (both in the U.K.) where you can get excellent chinrests. I think that they are made by the same company. I ordered one from Beare because it was easier to do from Canada (since I had a personal contact).

Cheers and good luck!

April 4, 2006 at 07:30 PM · Hi Saïdjah !

Of course, I think nobody can give you the miracle answer...

I tried myself a lot of different chinrest/shoulderest...

Now, I never have pain in my neck or back... Everything changed for me when I learned that it's possible to play the violin without holding the violin with the head... I practiced a lot without shoulder rest in holding the violin only with the left hand without tightening the thumb. The violin should be in equilibre between the left thumb and the clavicule...

At the beginning it was so difficult !! I didn't have to touch the violin with my chin ! So, there were no tension in the neck or in the back.

After, I put a shoulder rest (vita della musica in wood). But I can play without. I prefer the sound with and that's why I use it.

I don't think the kind of shoulder rest can hurt you. You have to practice without tension, and after, you can use everything you want. You choose which accessories you want only for sound, not only to be more confortable.

But that is my own opinion!



April 4, 2006 at 08:03 PM · Very good point, Elenor.

Somehow, and I don't know where this started, somehow there is a nearly dominant mode of thinking out there that the violin must be clamped between the chin and the body, and that any support from the hand is unacceptable. This belief of course forces a shoulder rest, and a custom-fitted chinreset etc to the point where the player has no freedom of movement at all.

No wonder so many complain of strain!

I am so happy to hear somebody else post here (Christian has said the same thing as you, as did Lisa Marsnik) acknowledging that a death grip is not only unneccesary, but counterproductive!

April 4, 2006 at 09:04 PM · Thanks for your comments! I understand nobody can give me a personal advice, I was just looking for some general tips. I know the violin shouldn't be clamped between head and body, and the left thumb has to be relaxed. But that's exactly what I'm looking for at this moment... When playing without shoulder rest my neck is completely relaxed, but that way I cause tension in my left thumb and shoulder. When playing with a rest, it's just the opposite way...

April 6, 2006 at 06:12 AM · Greetings,

one of the simplest ways to experiment with this is using foam. I first saw this in the movie from Mozart to Mao of Isaac Stern in China. He encouraged all the players their to use this cheap and versatile solution. For many people it becomes the ideal compromise between shoulder rest and nothing at all.For me it was the interveening step between using a rest and playing as I do now with nothing.

The tension you experience in the left hand when restless is mor elikely to be the indirect result of not using the whole skeletal structure well to support the instrument. The left hand is an appendage thta forms part of the whole but of course when attention switches to `holding` the violin with the left hand it produces problems. Learning to play without a rest takes time and requires certain adjustments in technique and the way you use your body. It certainly isn`T everyone`s cup of tea but one can learn a lot from working at it even if one ultimately goes back to the rest.

One of the most significant aspect sof this switch I have found to be the creation of space forshifting. That is, for every movement in one direction there is an opposing movement. So when one shifts up the shoulder drops down/back very slightly in order to create space within which the shift can occur. Shifting down the shoulder does th eoppsite as preparation. I have found any lack of smoothness in shifting to be a result of not integrating it with this micro action. It is dicsussed in some detail in Menuhin`s book the violin an viola.



April 7, 2006 at 10:18 PM · As before, Christian is "right on" in terms of my experience.

for those who like stories....

I started with a pro teacher, member of a SO, who adamantly told me to use a shoulder and chin rest. So, I used and struggled onwards. I am on the tall side, with a long neck and broad shoulders. I have suffered serious whiplash, too. I tried many shoulder rests, and settled on the KUN as it seemed to give me the least strain. I went from the Strad chin rest to one I found made by Katarina of Cremona Violins. This last one is comfortable under the chin, and permitted me to increase playing time (an excellent rest). Until.... one day I forgot my shoulder rest at my teacher's place, and had to think of something to put on either my violin or shoulder to give some height. I recalled the foam pad preference, and went searching for any piece of foam. I found my cervical collar of all things, and placed it on my shoulder. And, wow, what a difference! Suddenly the violin was comfortable, and the resulting shift in placement made fingering and bowing easier. Amazing. Even my prof has noticed the improvement in sound and ability. No more shoulder rest for me. I will keep the chin rest, as it serves to protect the violin from sweat and skin oils, though I suspect it is not needed for playability or sound. The more I play with a foam rest, the more convinced I am this is the answer. The collar foam is high density, and hard to find otherwise, but it works well for me. I encourage everyone to try this.

thanks for reading my 2 bits.

April 7, 2006 at 10:54 PM · Ron,

actually my teacher just told me the same today: find a better chin rest and use foam instead of a shoulder rest :-) And I think I'm going to agree with both of you.

But next week I go to a violin shop anyway to try some more things. Hope I find something...

April 7, 2006 at 11:08 PM · Buri, stupid question... what do you mean with "using the whole skeletal structure to support the violin"? I think I understand what you mean but I'm not sure.

April 9, 2006 at 11:35 PM · Greetings,

well, techniques like those of Alexander have evolved because as we get older we lose the natural use of the body. For example, if oyu are a computer user you spent a great deal of time with your arms extended forward unaturally . This cause a disortion of muscles /tendons and subsequently affects the sekeltal structure. Or on copies ones parents in evolving a kind of spiral twist throughout the body (everybody doe sthis actually).

But when one looks at the skeleton as a complete entity it is an absolute marvel of engineering. When eveything is perfectly aligned it supports itself from the bottom up but also from the top down. Thus the hand cannot be said t be supporitng the violin. The hand is supported by the arm which is draped over the spine and it is all supported by the legs- if everything is as nature intended it to be.

The interesting thing is that the idea of our legs supporting us is not strictly true. We have got so used ot thinking in terms of gravity pulling us down we have lost our sense of the equal potent universal enrgy shotting us up thoruhg the spine. When the head bneck and back are in a harmonious relationship this energy flows freely and the spine actually lengthens dramtically as the rib cage rises and broadens. I have frequently had the experience of returnign home from Alexander Technique seminars and banging my head on the toilet door frame because I am at leat 2cm taller from the balanced strcuture I have been given back, albeit for a brief time,



Sorry, bit rambling but I have to teach. May get back to you on it if you wnat to ask more

April 11, 2006 at 08:08 PM · Thanks, Buri!

Right now I'm looking for a kind of soft, rectangular shoulder pad (like a pillow). Does anyone know the name of this pad?

April 11, 2006 at 08:42 PM · If you're looking for a pillow-like object, can you just use a piece of foam (sponge foam, not Styrofoam) from a craft store? That's what I've used for years and I prefer it to any store-bought shoulder rest I've tried.

April 11, 2006 at 09:04 PM · Maybe you're thinking of the Zaret shoulder rest. Just a block of sponge that's been ergonomically cut out. About 3 bucks, my mom uses one and loves it. I'm pretty sure Shar sells them.

April 11, 2006 at 11:12 PM · Greetings,

Sa-jah, my studnets hand make the kind of pillow/pad you describe using foam, a nice piece of cloth and needle and htread.



April 14, 2006 at 09:33 AM · Im pretty happy with my SAS chinrest. You can adjust the angle. And it works well with my violin acoustically. I got it to help me after not playing for five months do to an C5 C6 spine-neck overuse injury.

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