Shoulder rest problems

December 7, 2018, 2:58 PM · I promise I do not want this to be a SR vs. No-SR battle. I also assure you all that the problem I am about to describe is one that I have worked on already with three teachers and two violin shops.

I cannot find a way to play with a shoulder rest. I have tried a total 15 different models with the assistance of one instructor and one very experienced violinist who runs her own violin store. Between those people, I have also tried three different chin rests, including trying to custom modify one of them.

The problems I have are these: every shoulder rest tilts the violin forward on such an angle that it drives the back edge of the chin rest up into the rearmost corner of my jaw (ramus), causing pain because that's the only part of my jaw then in contact with the chin rest to hold the violin with the weight of my head. If I try sliding the G-string side of the shoulder rest further out on my shoulder to reduce the height at my neck, it just slides of the end of my shoulder and makes the violin rotate away or slide down my arm.

Also, even ignoring that problem, every shoulder rest causes the violin to rotate forward (spinning clockwise if viewed from above), when I move my arm, causing my chest muscles to push the bottom end of the shoulder rest away. For instance, I read that you should be able to hold your violin comfortably with just chin and collarbone, and reach over with your left hand to touch your right shoulder. If I do that, the violin rotates the scroll to the right, causing it to slip down my chest.

I currently have mounted the Flesch chin rest (I believe, completely covers tailpiece, center mounted), and have been trying to use the Mach One shoulder rest. That set-up is the most recent one given to me by the last violin shop. She said my overall violin hold was good, and swore this was the right combination for me.

I later showed my own private teacher, who noticed the problems I described above, but who had no ideas what to do about it. She even said she'd have to go ask her own teacher for thoughts or suggestions.

All that said, I've spent a lot of time playing without a shoulder rest at all, and I do best like that, because at least the violin isn't trying to fall out of my hand constantly. However, I've gotten to the point that I just can't seem to progress any further because of the excessive tension in my left side, all the way from shoulder to fingers. My teacher believes a shoulder rest would help this, and since I've spent a lot of time trying to consciously relax my shoulder while I play, without any progress, I tend to agree with her.

For what it's worth, I have narrow shoulders (3" narrower than average for adult males), and a short neck (about 1" shorter than the adult male average). My clavicle is not "well-padded," but instead the violin bout sits right on it, wood to bone with just the thinnest layer of skin. The height and fit of my chin rest are such that without a shoulder rest, the angle of my jaw matches the cut of the chin rest perfectly with my violin resting directly on my collarbone, and all of the angles seem perfect. And I barely have to nod my head down at all to make the match.

In fact, it's an extremely comfortable fit as long as I don't have the shoulder rest on there. But it leaves a very large gap out toward the end of the shoulder and edge of the chest, and there's no way I can hold the violin in place for even a passing moment without my left hand supporting it.

As I'm feeling now, I can't find a way to play with a shoulder rest, nor can I find a way to play without one. If I'm happy where I'm at, playing simplified versions of traditional Christmas carols, I could just give up on progressing, but I'm not satisfied with that. I'm currently on exercise 4 in Suzuki Book 2, and have been at this 6 months. I'm a 40 y/o beginner, with some musical background, but no other string instruments.

Yes, I mentioned three teachers. The first one couldn't figure out how to get me fitted with shoulder rest/chin rest combo, conceded that maybe I would do better without a SR, but wasn't willing to try to teach me that way because she had no idea how to play that way herself. On to teacher 2. He was willing to try to teach me without, but just really didn't seem like a very good teacher, and kept moving me on to two new Suzuki exercises each week no matter how poorly I felt I'd played my current assignment.

My current teacher is awesome, and she's willing to try to help me learn without a SR, but I know she thinks I need one. Every time I run into a hurdle, she tries to figure out everything ELSE it could before she finally says she thinks it's the lack of a shoulder rest. And even then, when she finally says it, she seems to feel apologetic. She knows how frustrating it is for me, and is trying to work with it, but I think she's at a loss, too.

Can some people just not play the violin? Are some bodies just so poorly adapted that it just can't work? I really would find tat hard to believe, but I honestly don't know what more to try.

Okay, that was seriously long, but it covers six-months' worth of experimenting, so there's a lot to say. I hope someone out there might read this and have some miraculous idea. I'm not holding out too much hope, because as I said, 3 teachers, 2 violin shops, 15 shoulder rests and 4 chin rests...

Replies (60)

December 7, 2018, 3:09 PM · I am no expert, but I seem to see at least one avenue that is unexplored. That would be using a sponge either under your shirt or attached to the violin with a rubber band. Others on this site may be able to advise concerning similar possibilities. We all feel your frustration; good luck coming to a happy resolution of this issue.
Edited: December 7, 2018, 3:23 PM · Oh, sorry. I forgot to mention I've tried that too. The "sponge" consisted of the foam part of a dry erase board eraser. I also tried small sheets of rubber used as jar openers, suede pads, microfiber cloths and various combinations of those things, to get both different thicknesses and textures.
December 7, 2018, 3:29 PM · My vote is also on experiment with a sponge...
Edited: December 7, 2018, 3:43 PM · I suppose one can "jerry-rig" these things, but my suggestions below are based on my own violin experience over many. many years and observations of others.

If you have any discomfort at all on your chin/jaw or collarbone I suggest this pad, sold by many dealers (SHAR is just one example:

If you have trouble getting the violin at just the right angle, but do need some help supporting it beyond your collarbone without raising your shoulder, this AcoustaGrip "shoulder rest" seems to work for a number of people. It is held on the back of the violin by microsuction (kind of the way insects can walk on windows and ceilings.) THERE ARE SEVERAL THICKNESSES/HEIGHTS - SO BEWARE WHEN YOU ORDER.
There are many dealers who sell it, this is just one example:

If you mess up the microsuction on the back of the AcoustaGrip you can add about 10 - 12 square inches of microsuction "tape" on it in 2 places. I have not noticed any change in a violin's tone using this device (either way)
"AirStick White Microsuction Tape by Sewell, 0.8mm, 250mmx300mm Sheet - No Residue Mounting Tape as Seen on MOS Products"

AMAZON sells it as:

Edited: December 7, 2018, 4:52 PM · Ted, ideally, you should be able to turn your head to the left ever so slightly, and the violin should fit snuggly into the area between your collarbone and chin, without lifting the shoulder or bending your neck down to meet the instrument. If you can do that, you have a proper setup. If you cannot, I would recommend looking into a higher chinrest, or using a bit of foam rubber like Isaac Stern demonstrates here in this video. Many others like Zimbalist, Rosand, Gingold, and Zukerman also have used a bit of foam rubber under the instrument, shirt or jacket, instead of a shoulder rest bar like a Kun, which in my opinion is absolute crap for your body due to their rigidity:

Edited: December 7, 2018, 4:58 PM · First of all, the chinrest.
I have found that the jaw line from the rearmost left corner of the jaw to the chin itself conflicts painfully with the rim of any chinrest. Whatever its type, I have to file deep into the left half of this rim, to allow my jaw to "escape".

Now the shoulder.
Placing the left hand on the right shoulder may raise the left shoulder enough to support the violin, although maintaining it at this height while playing for any length of time will cause much unwanted tension.
Hence a pad or rest is helpful for many of us.

Personally I have the right end of my SR against my chest in front of the collarbone at all times (for stability), and the left end on the curly end of the collarbone just before the arm (for support).
For a few students I have reduced the height of the left screw "leg" to a minimum, while leaving the right "leg" at a medium height. For a few students, even this is too much, and we must find another way to avoid slipping and rocking.

There is no place for the word "should" in these discussions. Violins are pretty similar, while jaws, necks, collarbones & shoulders are as varied as noses!

May I suggest removing the CR and SR, going to a mirror holding the violin in place with your left hand, and see what's missing (if anything..)

Edit; Nate, who is a really fine player, has a morphology different from mine. I use a Kun SR and I still play with complete freedom at the age of 70....

December 7, 2018, 4:55 PM · Nate Robinson,

That's my set-up. I just turn my head and nod my chin ever so slightly and it feels perfect. Comfortable and everything. But then I'm still supporting the violin entirely with my left hand and collarbone, since no shoulder rest. But that's with my violin up off the shoulder out at the tip of the shoulder. At the neck, it's a snug fit chin/jaw to chin rest to violin to collar bone. And all the angles fit snugly as well: jawline to chin rest to collarbone.

So, taking your statement that I have a proper set-up, are you suggesting that not only do I not NEED a shoulder rest, but using one might actually be detrimental? In other words, that possibly I'm not even ABLE to use a shoulder rest while keeping proper placement? Is that possible? My gut says it is, but I'm such a beginner I don't know how much I should trust my gut.

Edited: December 7, 2018, 5:15 PM · Adrian Heath,

Thank you. I also have tried placing the shoulder rest as you describe, but with these difficulties from that:

1. My shoulder drops off vertically just outside my collarbone attachment point (AC joint). The narrow shoulder thing, I think. My AC joint is basically directly atop the rotator cuff.

2. As soon as swing my elbow enough to reach the G-string, my chest muscles push that lower foot of the shoulder rest toward the right, which rotates the violin forward (clockwise from above) and slips the shoulder rest right off my shoulder.

With both of them removed, what's missing is:

a. Small gap from jaw/chin to top of violin;
b. Small gap at top of shoulder to bottom of violin.

I have tried putting the G-string foot of the shoulder rest as low as it can possibly go, even trimming a piece of the bolt off so I can screw it all the way in to where the foot is touching the rest. As low as possible. But even then, the shoulder rest is still too high and tilts the violin up into my chin. If I could slide the shoulder rest further out on my shoulder, it might work, but my shoulders are narrow and I run out of real estate.

I've been afraid to modify my chin rests the way you suggest, but today I did take that plunge. I have a Berber rest, and the placement of the main chin cup seems good, but that tail of the chin rest was digging in, so I cut it off and tried that. But that back ridge of the chin rest still cuts into the jaw.

December 7, 2018, 6:28 PM · What level are you playing at, OP, and how long have you played?
December 7, 2018, 6:49 PM · Have you tried the Bon Musica? I had the twisting/spinning problem until I figured out exactly at what angle the SR should be on the violin. Once I did figure that out, bingo! Works great and I can't live without it!
December 7, 2018, 7:23 PM · You seem to have tried a bunch of options; have you tried the kreddle chinrest and the recently released kreddle cushion? The cushion is not exactly a cushion, and it’s definitely not a shoulder rest either — seems interesting. The chinrest is extremely customizable. Could be worth a look.
December 7, 2018, 7:25 PM · Erik Williams: 6 months. At the third exercise in Suzuki book 2.

Elizabeth TeSelle: I looked at them but was adamantly told no by the violin expert that was fitting me. She considered it and was sure it wasn’t the right one for me.

December 7, 2018, 7:46 PM · Sean Gillia:

Yes! I feel like I've tried everything. Clearly not EVERYTHING, because the possibilities are nearly endless, but between the three teachers and two violin shops, I certainly feel I've tried a complete range.

No, I've not seen the Kreddle chin rest. I've tried the "traditional" rest, completely to the left of the tailpiece; the Berber chinrest, over the center with that odd fin out the the left; and now the completely center-mounted Flesch. One of the fitters also put a Guarneri on my violin, then took it back off as soon as I put the violin in position: she said she could already see it wasn't going to fit.

The same lady also had me try Wolf Secondo, Forte and Mach One shoulder rests. Also, Everest, Muco (cheap-o) and Kun. Also considered the Bon Musica, but said she was certain it wouldn't work for me, so never even tried to attach it. She observed that I needed something really short on the G-string side, and Mach One was the lowest it could get in that spot while still having some sort of hook to grasp my shoulder. But that one still tilts the violin really far forward on me, which forces my head to lean almost to the right -- that's how high the chin rests push up into my jaw with a shoulder rest on there.

But I may have to check out that Kreddle rest. Maybe? I'll see if the local shop has one. I don't want to keep dumping money if I can help it.

December 7, 2018, 9:34 PM · I understand. My daughter owns more shoulder rests and chin rests than I can count. The kreddle chinrest isn’t exactly cheap, it’s true, and I don’t know if it’s readily available at shops (the folks I know who have it purchased it directly). Same for the kreddle cushion, which only became available in the past month or two. If you’re interested, and don’t want to shell out the bucks, the maker has some lengthy but informative videos you can watch. And there’s also a more just the facts setup video by a violin teacher on YouTube.
December 7, 2018, 9:56 PM · I second the recommendation for AcoustaGrip, which my son is using after a more standard rigid shoulder rest. And somewhat similar I am now using a Perfect Shoulder Rest, which is a shaped foamy thing that could be just the ticket for you - it's soft and flexible but gives support beyond no SR. And best of it's it's less than $10. I have tried different options over the years and I'm leaning away from the rigid shoulder rest approach, though it obviously works for some people.

Another suggestion in a different direction is to check out videos of Mimi Zweig teaching online, either at or youtube. Watch her teaching very beginners. After one semester, they're not playing advanced repertoire, but they do have a very good setup with nice posture and ease - with a free left hand and right arm. You may pick up some things there, and it may suggest you slow down other things until you nail the posture/setup question. And take the time you need for that.

And to answer your question I don't believe anyone can't play the violin, absent some serious congenital issue. Be patient with yourself.

Edited: December 9, 2018, 10:56 AM · This thread already looks like a "yes, but" game, but let me participate, just for fun of it...
The symptoms you are describing seems to originate in wrong placement of the SR - too close to your neck. This is often a case when shoulders are not broad enough to allow proper placement - if placed properly SR will almost reach the end of the shoulder and immobilize it. In other words, SR may not be suited for your physique to start with. (that is why some people wage a SR war, not understanding that violinists come in all shapes and sizes) Before you give up on SR, try the following:
1. Avoid rigid shoulder rests.
2. Lower the SR to the minimum height
3. Place the feet of the SR under the treble side all the way to the C bout.
4. Place the feet of the SR under the bass-bar side as far as your shoulder allows

If the above does not help, consider using a wedge as described here ( under ** To make wedge:): (All credits to Elizabeth Wallfisch)

Edited: December 8, 2018, 12:11 AM · My girl plays without a shoulder rest as she has a short neck and narrow shoulders. She is young but maybe the same solution would be something for you to explore.

We have a kind of non-slippery and thin and flexible sheet from, which is used in medical needs (due to me being a GP) to get extra grip. Just a small piece of this is enough and it lasts about 6 months. The whole sheet is expensive but it lasts for a lifetime. Underneath she has a collar Ive made which has a bit extra padding on the right place, the padding is not on the collarbone, it is imediately down to it. So under violin a small sheet of the antislip material and then a bit of padding,

In this way, the violin really sticks to the right place thus preventing tension from the left arm and freeing the left shoulder. Maybe put the padding under your shirt and then an anti-slip sheet between the shirt and the violin. The anti-slip sheet is much better than some leather or other anti-slip materials.

Though I would not put this system on a Stradivarius, but during 3 years it has not damaged her violins so I should think it safe, after all its used by patients to open jars and such.

Kreddle also has a new collarbone rest, which may be something for you. I tried it and im going to further fix it as it is not perfect for me.

December 8, 2018, 12:18 AM · Great suggestions above. This is a very complicated and sometimes difficult-to-solve issue. Perhaps you could try a sponge/pad thing that's extremely thin on the shoulder side and a little thicker on the chest side? Maybe you could try cutting something to toy with (a lot of work)?
December 8, 2018, 6:25 AM · Experts aren't always right. It's worth it to give the Bon Musica a try. It takes a little experimenting to find the sweet spot. Perhaps your expert just didn't have much experience with it.
December 8, 2018, 6:54 AM · Here's a fairly extreme configuration of my ex-Bonmusica. it is very adaptable! (Ignore the height of the Wave chinrest. I've since chopped it down to almost half that height and love it.)
With the Bonmusica set like that, the violin also rested lightly on my collarbone. It sat like cemented in but tended to dig in where hooked over my shoulder. I was also scratching up the back of my violin with metal parts sticking out (I'm not the ultra careful type!)

I'm now using a Wolf Forte Secundo set in approximately the same way:

Finally, I had high hopes for the Kreddle Cushion but there just wasn't enough room, even using my lowest Guarneri chinrest, between jaw and collarbone. As you can see from this pic, the Cushion adds a good centimeter to the depth between chinrest surface and the spot the Cushion rests on your collarbone.

I'm OK with a little pink sponge attached by rubber band and enjoy practicing that way a couple of times a week but, as a beginner just learning shifting, I can't deny that it's easier with the Wolf.

December 8, 2018, 6:58 AM · P.S. If someone could point me in the right direction for instructions on how to set a hyperlink here, I'd be appreciative :-)
December 8, 2018, 6:59 AM · Ted - have you considered taking up the cello?
December 8, 2018, 7:13 AM · Gabriel Soloff, thanks. I'll look at that. And thanks for the confidence. I've been sitting here wondering how long until someone told me my solution is to just play cello!

Rocky Milankov, thanks. I'll check out the pads/sponges. I do think I have the problem you described in that I just run out of space on my shoulder to allow proper placement, because I've got the shoulder rest at minimum height and still it tries to press my chin up to the right. Your four steps still did not help, but thank you, now I have any route to look in to.

I also considered if I need to just rewind and go back to start over going slower and re-learning some stuff. My current teacher, who is well-regarded in the local area, said that's really not necessary. I actually insisted that I didn't mind even if I had to go all the way back to the beginning to start over, in case I'd gotten bad habits from the previous teachers (who didn't seem like very good teachers, for various reasons). I really want to learn this right, not just fast. But she insisted I'm doing fine where I am and don't need to start over. But, she has slowed me down a lot. Instead of two Suzuki pieces per week (like my last two teachers), she's been keeping me on the same one for 3-4 weeks at a time.

Maria Lammi, thank you. I've tried something like that before, and had trouble with getting it "stuck" to the violin, whether with rubber bands or something else. I think I'll need to try again, and if I can find a sheet of that material you describe, it might give me some extra to play with. Before I was limited to the circular size and shape of the jar opener I found in the drawer.

Ella Yu, I too thought that might be the answer, but my second teacher in combination with a music store helper tried to get it to work and gave up on it. Said it wasn't going to work for me. I took his word for that. I wonder if I should try again on my own.

Elizabeth TeSelle, absolutely right. That's a fair point. I may try to get back there today and try that out. That and the Kreddle chinrest, if they have it in the store.

Why is this so hard? [rhetorical question, I get it, chins, jaws, shoulders, etc. are all different.] But darn it, I just want to play and enjoy it!

December 8, 2018, 8:23 AM · Ted, I feel your pain because I too experienced that same pain. I came up with a different solution. See my profile for more info on that.

Another recommendation for a tilt-adjust chin rest is the Wittner Augsburg. It’s like $26, and you can customize the height and angle using the different spacers provided. I really enjoy mine. It’s designed as a center mount, but I use it as a side mount with no issues.

Keep at it. The violin is not an ergonomic designed piece of equipment!

December 8, 2018, 8:56 AM · If you're planning to spend a fortune on these plastic violin jaw braces anyways, you may as well just buy a Kréddle and save yourself the pain of fiddling with shoulder rests.
December 8, 2018, 9:30 AM · Cotton, I've seen your praise for the Kreddle before. Can you elaborate on its qualities?
December 8, 2018, 1:03 PM · Cotton Mather,

Are you suggesting that the correct chin rest (Kreddle, for example) would completely remove the need for any shoulder rest? Even if that chin rest is the best fit for my jaw, I don't see how it helps with the problem of support from below the instrument?

As I said, with my current chin rest, I seem to have a very good match between the line of my jaw and the line of my collar bone, with a seemingly ideal fit for height. My issue is with the need to support the violin from below without having it slide or rotate forward off my shoulder.

And what do you mean by "plastic violin jaw brace?" Is that referring to shoulder rests? Or some of the other chin rests recommended earlier?

December 8, 2018, 1:24 PM · Another 2 centimes d'Euro..

Some foam pads have a curve like a gentle hand on one's shoulder, but thicker at the right end for stability: a sort of squashable substitute for a Kun-type rest.

Can I add that my Kun in front of the collarbone takes the weight of the violin while my head simply balances it see-saw fashion. No grip, no tension, no hicky! This does no stop me raising the scroll with my hand if I wish to wriggle my shoulder, or glare at my desk partner.

December 8, 2018, 4:24 PM · You don't need a shoulder rest at all. The Kréddle can be set high enough to completely eliminate that need (I know, I have a very long neck). In fact, it's better overall to play without a shoulder rest, because it brings the violin closer to your body and makes it so your shoulders don't have to work as hard to get your hands up to the height of the violin. It also gives you a lot more mobility and freedom in how you hold the violin.
Imagine it like a bed. Playing with a shoulder rest is like sleeping in a coffin. Finding the right one is a pain, just as it is to sleep in it. Playing restless is like sleeping on a nice, soft mattress; you're free to roll around and lay however's comfortable on any particular day.

You can put a cloth, latex pad, or leather, or any other comfortor on the Kréddle plate if it's uncomfortable.

Edited: December 8, 2018, 7:33 PM · Cotton, I get your point and your logic. However, I don't want this to become a shoulder-rest war. The decision to use or not to use a shoulder rest is very personal and is based on the individual's body type and preferences as Rocky mentioned above. Some people need a little extra padding underneath even if their chin rest fills the entire space between collarbone and chin because there is not enough of a secure connection between the violin and their body. I believe that when looking for an ideal setup, one should keep all their options open, including playing restless. However, one should not be pushed in any direction by anyone other than someone who is good at evaluating setup (e.g a violin teacher or violin shop).

Feel free to use the Kreddle with any shoulder rest or pad. the inventor does advocate going restless and so does Cotton, but I think it's a matter of trying everything and deciding for yourself.

December 8, 2018, 6:49 PM · The thought I am having is to work on the left-side tension without the violin in place. Your body has a habit that involves the tension. You need to figure that out because when the tension is released your posture and measurements will change - and then all the setup work you have done will need to be changed again.

I have no idea if what I wrote is actually valid or not. It is what came to my mind though.

December 8, 2018, 7:34 PM · I think Laura's suggestion is a good one, and that stance and overall posture could be the problem. Practice good standing and sitting posture, and go from there.
Edited: December 8, 2018, 8:35 PM · As Ella said, I do have a set-up that fills the entire space comfortably between the chin and collarbone. My current chin rest already is very comfortable and seems to fit my jaw well. With my violin resting on my collarbone right up against my neck, I don't have to do anything more than turn my head slightly to the left to have my jaw slide smoothly into the cup of the chin rest. So filling the space there isn't the issue, because there is no excess space.

The reason I'm wondering if I need a shoulder rest is because of the space out toward the end and front of my shoulder. Would something there prevent the violin from rotating and sliding toward the front? Maybe not.

I am neither for or against a shoulder rest philosophically. I'll do whatever works best for me to allow me to enjoy the instrument.

So, back to Cotton recommending the Kreddle: if I do that, what does that chin rest give me that my current very-comfortable chin rest would not?

Laura, thank you. I think that's entirely valid. I am trying to work on that, and one thing I think I discovered today is that what I'm feeling is at least partly a different type of tension. Rather than tension from having my muscles all clenched up, it seems to be more tight muscles due to poor flexibility/mobility. Specifically in the muscles that allow me to twist my forearm to get the palm toward the fingerboard. I saw a video from "The Violin Lounge" on the topic, where she says that poor flexibility there is common for adult beginners, especially men. Well, I'm a 40 year-old man just 6 months in to learning violin. I've got a lifetime of exercising and have never once thought to stretch the forearm muscles.

According to that video, having a hard time getting the palm along the fingerboard leads to driving the elbow out further to the right across the body, which induces tension up into the shoulder. It's all connected, right? :)

So, yes, I'm going to work on that, in two ways. First, that video suggested a stretch to begin opening up that muscle. Also, I asked my wife to watch me play for a few moments here and there to see how my shoulder creeps up (or not), while I conscientiously try to keep from scrunching it. And slowing down on the hard songs (since psychologically that seems to make people tense up), and play more easy, relaxing songs while I focus on relaxing the muscles from shoulder to fingertip.

December 8, 2018, 8:35 PM · What it gives you over your current chinrest is complete customizability on every axis. You can adjust height, horizontal position, pitch, roll, and yaw, and you can set the joints more loose so that the plate is free to move somewhat while you play.
December 8, 2018, 8:44 PM · As I understand it (admittedly, again, a beginner), the chin rest is supposed to fill the space from collarbone to jaw, while the shoulder rest is supposed to fill the space between shoulder and violin when it's held with the strings parallel to the floor.

Since they're intended to serve such different purposes, I don't understand why one (chin rest) would necessarily negate the need for the other (shoulder rest), no matter how good of a fit it might be? What am I missing?

Edited: December 8, 2018, 8:53 PM · Ted, you are right that the chin rest and shoulder rest serve different purposes. That said, Cotton is right about the kreddle's capabilities. However, since it sounds like your current chinrest is working for you, I would not advise buying the kreddle in your shoes unless you want to try. The kreddle is surely the world's most adjustable chinrest, but even then, not every single person is going to like it. It just provides a lot of customization, which is an advantage. Does your violin rotate forward like you describe without a shoulder rest? Maybe you could try something that sits firmly on your chest in the region just below your collarbone that doesn't really cover your shoulder? For me personally, my shoulder rest sits firmly on my chest just below the collarbone and goes up over it. The left end of the shoulder rest basically just hangs over my shoulder and doesn't even touch it. This could hold true for you, but I can't be certain without seeing you playing, of course.
Edited: December 8, 2018, 9:02 PM · Ella,

With a shoulder rest, my violin rotates forward due to my chest muscles pushing against the lower foot of the rest whenever I swing my elbow to allow me to reach the G or D strings.

Without a shoulder rest, yes it will rotate, and I cannot hold my violin at all without my left hand.

I may need to take another look at shoulder rests like what you're describing. All of the ones I've tried so far that actually go up over the shoulder just can't be made low enough to keep the chin rest out of my jaw. But if I can find something, maybe like the foam sponges mentioned earlier, that can cover only the part below the shoulder ridge, maybe that would work.

Yes, of course this is a hard question online. That's kind of what's been so frustrating. Even the people I've seen in person, several of whom are professional teachers, have been stumped. Even my current teacher has settled into something along the lines of "It really looks like you need a shoulder rest... but I can't figure out how to get one to fit you."

Edited: December 9, 2018, 1:57 AM · My suspicion is that if anything needs customising, it's the shoulder-rest, not the chin-rest.

It seems to me that what is needed is a lot of curvature so that it sits on your collarbone. I don't like springiness in a shoulder-rest. My first was all plastic and bouncy. I now have a wooden one that I like a lot. A big problem I find, Ted, is if the combined shoulder-rest and chin-rest offer too much height - then it feels like the whole lot is going to pop out and fly across the room, especially if the shoulder-rest is springy.

At the moment, every piece of clothing I wear contributes something different to my comfort. Is there a thread in the archive about choice of clothing?

I think my shoulder rest (Hidersine Maesbury) is perfect. My teka chinrest is too high, so I only wear a T-Shirt. I had a Guarneri on order, but while it was in the post I started to feel comfortable with my teka and a T-shirt. Oh well, no harm in starting a chinrest collection! Or, as it's winter, I may wear thicker clothing and put the guarneri on instead. If I join an orchestra and have to wear a tux, i'm sure I'll need to use the guarneri.

December 9, 2018, 2:05 AM · Cotton I'm not sure about your "coffin" analogy. I've played viola & violin with stubby fingers, sloping shoulders, and various SRs for half a century and no-one has described my playing as "dead"!
My setup is now so perfect I don't even notice it's there..
December 9, 2018, 8:53 AM · Shoulder rests can be stiffling, but usually only when used improperly. Holding the violin "restless", while theoretically ideal, can also be done inappropriately and lead to pain and discomfort. Both can be proven to be right or wrong depending on the player and usage.

Some shoulder rests do not get in the way of a "restless feel", so I usually express doubts when even great violin masters state that shoulder rests do not allow for freedom of movement. If you clamp on it, or the model is highly inflexible, perhaps, but if you also have bad habits "restless" it would amount to different or similar problems.

In short, it's not a solution for all, but they should not be discounted for everyone just because the great majority of violin maestros in the past did not use them or that you personally found freedom without using them.

That said, if you are able to be relaxed and free while playing all the repertoire "restless" (from Suzuki 1 to Ernst's Last Rose), by all means, why not?

(I still use VLM Diamond, and can assure you it feels very "not there" at all, there's collarbone contact, and I am free to do whatever. Surely not the same for some of you, because we are all different.)

December 9, 2018, 9:59 AM · Ted, why do you feel the need to be able to have your violin supported without any help from the left hand? If you are using a SR, the amount of effort required by the left hand as an assist is quite minimal. Even without a SR, the weight supported by the left hand would be roughly only half of the weight of the violin.

Your left hand is out there anyway, to play the notes. Let the thumb do its thing by helping guide/support the neck of the instrument. Either with or without a SR. The “ look ma, no hands” SR look so often shown on Utube is just an example to show how much can be supported by a SR. I don’t think it is a mandate on how the violin should be supported ONLY by the SR at all times.

December 9, 2018, 11:37 AM · Craig First,

I was told that exact thing by my first teacher (and neither of my other teachers since then has strongly refuted it). She even had me practice long bowing open strings without having my left hand on the instrument at all. She demonstrated to me frequently how she could not only hold, but also play the instrument with "Look ma, no hands." So, not from nowhere did I get that impression. And as I said, she was my first teacher, and had come highly recommended, so I guess it's stuck with me.


I would be perfectly happy to use a shoulder rest if I can find one that works well without feeling like it gets in the way. However, I am equally open to playing without one forever, if I can learn to do that. In fact, I kind of like the idea of being able to pick up the instrument and just play without having to clip something on... but I'm not heavily married to that philosophically or anything.

Maybe that's what I need to do: just give up on this whole shoulder rest thing and focus my effort instead on easing up the tension and stretching the muscles better so I can do that.

Edited: December 10, 2018, 6:16 AM · - Every single restless player I know, or have seen, uses his-or-her shoulder to hold up the instrument part of the time (even those in videos chosen a while back by Alex Marcus to prove the contrary!)

- Craig's thumb-rest would certainly suit my hand shape, but would hamper the highest positions, where I absolutely have to move the thumb tip onto the upper bout (8th position and upwards). It might also limit the considerable thumb mobility which I have with a SR.

I chose to play restless, with no shoulder support, (out of a sort of idealism) for a few years, but I just couldn't get the sounds I wanted (clarity, rapidity, vibrato, especially on the C & G strings..)
Some manage, others don't.

December 12, 2018, 1:07 PM · In case you haven't tried this already in your homemade pad experiments - I made mine out of shelf/drawer liner like this (sorry, I haven't figured out how to post a clickable link):

This type of shelf liner can be found at discount or drug stores in a variety of colors. It can be easily cut with household scissors and rolled or folded into whatever shape and thickness you need.

It's cheap so if it doesn't work for you at least you haven't wasted much money.

Edited: December 12, 2018, 2:25 PM · I didn't have time to read all the foregoing right now, or even Mr. Lemerande's entire OP. But one phrase grabbed me: "Every shoulder rest tilts the violin forward on such an angle that it drives the back edge of the chin rest up into the rearmost corner of my jaw."

I use a Kaufmann chin rest and I was having this same problem -- not so much with the angle, but the same issue with the edge of the CR hitting across my jaw. So I removed my chin rest from my violin and carved that part down in my workshop. Since an off-the-shelf chin rest is an inexpensive and easily replaced item, I felt I could afford to experiment with this, and it worked well. I had to carve out quite a lot of material. (The dust from these kinds of woods is unpleasant, just warning you there.)

The angle issue could just be because your violin is not far enough back on your shoulder. I feel this is one reason why you see a lot of pro violinists using the "knob" part of the Guarneri CR under their jaw whilst the "cup" part goes completely unused. Essentially a side CR is being used as a center CR. This allows them to shove the violin back farther on their shoulder where it's not as tilted. Probably having that knob under their jaw is something they just got used to as youngsters. Why not just get a center CR then? Because most of them (like the Flesch CR) are way too high.

December 12, 2018, 2:34 PM · Oh how familiar. I went through the same thing and, yes, eventually ditched the stupid contraption. There followed a period of groping more than playing but now I can't imagine putting that straight-jacket back on. Note, this is only for me -if you can play with an SR power to you, it IS easier and good luck to you but the post above is all too familiar.
[Incidentally, while an SR may give you some advantages - one discovers other counter pluses for not using one like being able to easily rotate the instrument along its long axis...]
December 12, 2018, 2:51 PM · Like many violists I have the axis of the viola pointing to the little hollow at the centre of my neck; that, plus The Tilt, means my right eye looks right down the C-string. So instead of a central chinrest I use a much-filed Teka . No discomfort, no hickey, no tension.

Just my 2 centimes d'Euro, in case it works for someone else.

Edited: December 12, 2018, 4:42 PM · I had ditched my SR after about 1 year of playing because I noticed none of the great violin masters used it. haha

I have sloped shoulders that barely has any meat on it and a long neck - a body that should scream "Don't play without a SR!"My teacher used an SR on and off, but he did not give me much instruction on this, so I basically figured out how to play without a SR by myself.

Over the many years I have played the violin people often asked me how I managed to play without an SR (as there was literally nothing in between by shoulder and my violin). I rarely use my shoulder to support the instrument, unless there is a note near or higher than the fingerboard. I have concluded that it is just that I have trained myself over the years to instinctively know the best thumb position on the neck for each position and string to balance the violin and not let it fall. I have also learned to trust that my hand will not let the instrument fall. Some people believe that it is harder to play some techniques without the SR. I do not disagree. It does take more work and practice. But just a couple months ago I have tried to use some SRs again (and also sponges), and it IS easier to shift and stuff, but to me it just feels so restricting. Even if it does take more work, I don't think I will ever start using a SR again.
Many people have also asked me to teach them to play without a SR due to shoulder pain or something like that. This is how I would go about it.

Don't try to switch in a day. Just practice without one for a couple minutes every day and gradually increase the time.

For me, the violin is like a bridge from the collarbone to the hand. Place the violin on top of your collarbone where it feels most comfortable but don't put your head down. Then using your left hand's thumb and forefinger hold up the violin (yes you will have too hold it up with your hand if your shoulders are not blocky or fat enough to hold it up for you) to a normal violin playing position. Resist the urges to push your shoulder up to the violin. Release all tension after finding a position in which you are comfortable. Then gently rest your head onto your chinrest. If the chinrest bracket hurts your collarbone you should get a thin cloth and cover the collarbone. If it is too thick the collarbone will not be as connected to the violin.

Then slowly play the first finger notes of every string. Shift your thumb at every string crossing to what you feel is the most secure for your violin to not fall. After you are somewhat comfortable with that, go to second position and practice shifting. When shifting do not tense up your fingers, just trust your thumb and lightly slide over. This will take a long time, but the point is to, like I said, instinctively know where to place your thumb so the violin won't fall.

The collarbone may hurt after a bit of playing without the SR. It will disappear after you get used to it.

This worked for me, although I am not guaranteeing it will work for you. You will never know until you try. It is definitely a lot more work than what others have to go through, but in the end I believe it is worth it :)

The setup I have is a microfiber lens cleaning cloth and a wave chinrest. I would suggest that you look into waves. Once you order one you can choose another 3 to try (different heights and styles) and if you do not like it you can return all of them within 30 days.
With practice, playing without a SR will be effortless. I don't feel any tension or pain in my shoulder or neck, and I can basically play any technique anyone with a shoulder rest can. I recently performed Wieniawski's 2nd concerto, if that will reassure you.

Again though, this is only with my body.
Hope this helps!

December 12, 2018, 5:34 PM · Bravo to Zile Ran for a succinct summary! Baroque players who play with the chin off also figured out the use of the left-hand thumb in instrument support and shifting. And that's pretty much how people have played the violin up to the high-Baroque era and beyond.
December 12, 2018, 7:19 PM · Use what works best for you. There are many excellent soloists who don't use a SR...and many who do.

I'm baffled by the way many on use restless playing as a way of projecting moral superiority on others. Let people use SRs, or not. It's such a non-issue.

December 12, 2018, 8:06 PM · Sorry if it sounded like I was projecting moral superiority, I honestly don't care whether people use SRs or not. I was just sharing my experience because the OP said every SR he tried didn't work for him.
December 12, 2018, 8:12 PM · Also about the kreddle products:

I have used both the kreddle cushion and chin rest.
The chin rest didn't work for me. I do not know why, but no adjustment made it feel comfortable. I hear that many other people find it really good though.

The cushion didn't work for me either. It was pretty big, and it raised your violin up from your collarbone quite a bit. Being so big, it also dug into my flesh behind the collarbone and after playing this way for around a week it started to hurt whenever I played the violin. Perhaps this was designed for bigger people with more protruding collarbones, but I got rid of it after 2 weeks.

December 12, 2018, 10:58 PM · Following up on Tom's post about the Kaufman chinrest - my violin sits flatter with my current Kaufman chinrest than with my previous chinrest, which was about the same height but a different shape.

I wonder if the ability to play without a shoulder rest or pad has to do with the size and prominence of the collarbone. I have a short neck and shoulders with very little slope but my collarbone doesn't seem to provide much of a shelf. If I try to go without any kind of shoulder pad the violin wiggles constantly. Imagine if you tried to sit on a 2-legged stool. The shoulder pad provides the needed 3rd leg for balance.

December 13, 2018, 2:33 AM · "I wonder if the ability to play without a shoulder rest or pad has to do with the size and prominence of the collarbone."

But what about the people in the 17th and 18th c. who placed the violin below the collarbone...they ain't got nothing underneath...

December 13, 2018, 11:02 AM · So, for anyone still reading and interested, here's the latest from my last lesson. I suggested to my teacher that I was willing to spend the entire lesson just sorting this out, even if we didn't get to play anything. She agreed that was probably a good idea... no point continuing to fret over constant experiments any more than necessary. Understand that some experimentation is necessary, but not blindly.

So, from all of that, she concluded that in fact, I seem to actually be doing okay without the shoulder rest, and don't really need it. In fact, she just doesn't see how we could get one to work. Again, it's back to the short neck, narrow shoulders thing. She was a little surprised herself, but the more she tried to adjust, the more it really made things worse and everything became more unstable. The most stable placement of my violin just doesn't have room for a shoulder rest, nor does it need one.

Someone above mentioned the prominence of the collarbone, and mine does in fact protrude noticeably. With the violin sitting as a bridge between left hand and collarbone, it is very stable and doesn't rock back and forth. My collarbone is like a flat shelf. I dislocated that shoulder back in college, and now that collarbone sits just a hair higher than the other one. Maybe a factor here.

One other thing we also noticed is that I get a lot of tension along the back of my forearm, and she first thought it was from tension in my hand. After a bit more investigation, we determined it was more likely a lack of flexibility making it difficult to twist may wrist enough to get knuckles parallel to fingerboard. As a result, I was pressing my elbow farther to the right, which transferred tension on up into the shoulder. Combined with tensing up in difficult passages of music, that was causing shoulder hunching, a little.

Anyway, that was a long explanation for:

1. The center-mounted chin rest I already have still appears to be a very good fit.
2. A shoulder rest just doesn't seem to fit, and doesn't seem to be necessary for my physical "arrangement."
3. I need to focus on relaxing a bit and do some stretching exercises to loosen up my forearms.

It sets my mind a bit more at ease to have someone come to the conclusion that "You don't need a shoulder rest, so stop worrying about it."

The next issue may arise when we get to a point that some technique works differently with or without a shoulder rest: she admits she's not sure how to play without one. She's perfectly happy to teach me, and I suppose she'll probably learn a little as we go, but we may find difficulties down the line that's she's not sure how to address. But we'll cross that bridge if we come to it. I may very well find that with time, those things find their own natural or subconscious solutions.

December 13, 2018, 11:33 AM · That's great the you have been able to figure out what you need (or rather, what you don't need!) Sounds like you have a very helpful teacher.
December 13, 2018, 2:49 PM · I think I do. She was stumped for a few weeks, but after she thought a bit and I got some suggestions to consider from all of you on here, it kind of clicked.
Edited: December 14, 2018, 6:52 AM · We learn a lot from our students!
And that's not false modesty..

One more centime d'Euro..
The 30° tilt (45° on viola) I need to reach the lower strings with my stubby fingers can also be obtained with a small pad on the shoulder-blade rather than in front of it.

Edited: December 14, 2018, 9:27 AM · Hi Ted,

A fellow adult beginner here. I went to a body work lecture by Claire Steffani recently. And one of the things she was talking about that I found helpful relates to what you are talking about: where should the required "twist" come from to align the hand to the fingerboard? If you simply put your arm out there, and twist from the hand/wrist, you will feel a lot of tension in your forearm, as you describe. To get into proper position, the arm setup should begin at the back of the shoulder, up through the arm, and the wrist, then the fingers. It needs to start from the base or foundation and work its way up, not from the top and twist its way down.
Having the elbow out to towards the right is not improper form (as long as it's nothing extreme, of course).

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