Shoulder Rests Advice

June 7, 2019, 5:11 PM · Hi. I was shopping for a shoulder rest because I usually have not give me what I buy much thought. I usually just buy the standard Everest shoulder rest. Recently, I was in conversation with my friends and they were mentioning that a shoulder rest actually affects your sound. They also mentioned that they loved this 200+ dollar Pirastro shoulder rest. Do shoulder rests really affect your violin’s sound? What are some shoulder rests that you suggest?

Replies (23)

Edited: June 7, 2019, 5:25 PM · Shoulder rests can impact the tonal qualities of your violin in small ways, but the comfort of a good fit will in almost every case go miles further than the actual physics of the acoustics.

I have a Bon Musica that's $50 and has pretty good customization and fits me, who has a longer neck than most people (I'm a bigger guy, and Hilary Hahn also uses it). Kun shoulder rest is pretty standard as well. Heifetz played with just a spongepad.

June 7, 2019, 5:55 PM · I hope that you keep in mind what works well for one person may not be so fitting for another person. I recommend that you try to use your friends rest or take your violin to a shop and try out this particular shoulder rest before spending a large sum such as $200 for it and try out some inexpensive $20-40 models as well.
June 7, 2019, 5:58 PM · I find that the best shoulder rest is the back of the instrument, and it comes free with almost every violin.
June 7, 2019, 6:30 PM · I agree with those who say that shoulder rests only impact the sound very slightly. I also agree with those who say that everyone needs something different and that you just have to try a whole bunch of shoulder rests to find the right fit for you. Plus, our bodies change frequently so you may need to change your setup from time to time. If you are happy with your current Everest shoulder rest, just stick with it. If you are looking for comfort, not only should you try different shoulder rests but also try different chinrests; they also make a huge difference in your comfort level. The way you hold and balance the violin is also something to think about.
June 7, 2019, 7:37 PM · My violin is tilted too much. I want to change the shoulder rest, but the space under the fiddle is so great. I guess I have a long neck. The idea is to get it as level as possible, because you then take advantage of gravity with the bow, instead of trying to lean into the string from a somewhat vertical angle, compromising the tone quality. Is there a known, easy fix? I am headed to the shop for advice in a few days.
June 7, 2019, 8:24 PM · I currently use a Wolfe Forte Secondo and quite happy with it. Prior to that I used a Pedi Elegante and before that a Kun Bravo. All good, just a matter of what works best for you.
June 7, 2019, 11:30 PM · Charlene, I would say you have two options: 1. Try a bunch of different shoulder rests and find one that works. Your shoulder rest would have to be quite high, especially on the chest side. You can get extra long feet for certain models like the Kun. I would be a bit careful if you're going to raise the shoulder rest a lot because raising the shoulder rest too high will raise the violin high to the point that you have to raise your arms to reach the instrument, which will cause strain and playing will be harder. To solve this, I'm going to suggest another option. 2. Higher chinrests. Higher chinrests are a rather hard find and that has always been the case. Today, higher chinrests are easier to find, especially with the advent of adjustable chinrests. SAS makes a chinrest model in several heights. Wittner makes some height-adjustable models. There's a really adjustable (but expensive) chinrest called the Kreddle, which may be worth trying. An individual named Randall Olson sells a chinrest model that's available in several heights and shapes at wavechinrests.com.
June 8, 2019, 12:53 AM · Yes, Ella, I know to include the chinrest, too. I remember seeing very high looking ones in the past - but couldn't remember the details. The issue I'm having was addressed years ago, and didn't come up again until I began with a different teacher recently. I'm going to act on it this time! Thanks for the details!
June 8, 2019, 12:55 AM · I have resorted to using a sponge rest under my shirt so that I can go restless. I find that it gives a warmer tone and I have more freedom with my violin. It's like what violinists Augustin Hadelich, Issac Stern, and Cho-Liang Lin do (did in Issac's case). I also noticed an improvement in my playing and overall technique. I was finally about to not have my shoulders cave in and my bow arm as well as my shoulder didn't have to work as hard since they weren't being forced higher by a shoulder rest (I used to use the wolf secondo).
June 8, 2019, 12:58 AM · Ella has a very good point as well. People with higher necks would benefit from a higher chin rest instead of a higher shoulder rest. Get a higher chin rest so that your violin can be closer to your body which is more ideal. It'll help to take a lot of the strain that is on your arms and shoulders, not to mention your hands especially in higher positions.
June 8, 2019, 1:40 AM · Just to say that I use a SR to avoid raising the shoulder. Or gripping with the jaw.
Edited: June 8, 2019, 3:28 AM · "long" neck or actually just poor posture and weak upper body? Just saying! I'm 6 2 tall and I just use a small sponge with a typical Guarneri chinrest.

Before spending any money, I'd spend time in front of the mirror and in the gym. The lower the violin, the easier it is to play

June 8, 2019, 4:12 AM · "long neck or actually just poor posture and weak upper body?"

Long neck! :)

I agree about the mirror though: no SR or CR, and see what's missing..

Edited: June 8, 2019, 4:51 AM · The SR (if you use one) should fill the gap between the collarbone and the shoulder, not the neck and shoulder! Thus, the length of the neck is really irrelevant to SR selection; its really how much your shoulders slope and how long the are.

Balance the violin on your collarbone and get someone else to see how large the gap is. The rest (distance from chin to violin surface) should be filled by your chinrest - by filled I mean the distance you need to be comfortable.

June 8, 2019, 5:05 AM · Regarding the higher chin rest: a luthier can heighten your chin rest for you.
Edited: July 8, 2019, 3:10 AM · I use the Belvelin shoulder rest. It is a firm sponge that I have carved to fit my body better. It did enhance the sound a little. Shar sells an invisible rubber band. I also use the Wave chinrest. My neck is pretty long.
July 8, 2019, 4:04 AM · I think if you have a fairly expensive violin (to me, that might mean 8k or more), then investing in a better-sounding SR is a decent choice. I paid for the Korfker and I noticed a sound difference, especially when compared to something that dulls the sound significantly like an Everest or Comford. The choice was worth it because even if I get 5% more sound out of a 15k violin, I figure that's a $750 value!
July 8, 2019, 9:12 AM · I am currently using a Belvelin pad with an additional round sponge added, I was using the Kun Bravo (and the Wolfe Secondo before that, and the Kun Bravo again before that!) with a Guarneri model chinrest. With my older setup, I was getting a lot of neck and shoulder tension and headaches.

I paid for a shoulder and chinrest fitting, got a custom chinrest made, and am pretty happy with the setup. To me, it feels like I have the best of both worlds: a barely there shoulder "rest" that is there to fill a gap, and the freedom of restless playing. Had to make big adjustments though as I am much more reliant upon my left hand for supporting the violin than before switching to this barely there pad, and my vibrato has changed significantly (I think for the better in many ways). This said, my neck pain/tension and headaches have all but disappeared and my regular chiropractor visits are a thing of the past!

I never would have arrived at this combination on my own, or in trying out shoulder and chinrests at a shop, nor would I have been able to have been convinced that the months of adjustment was worth it otherwise (I was also taking Alexander technique classes in association with this setup change).

All these good things said: my violin sounds better with the standard Kun shoulder rest than the pad, but my playing/comfort is better with the pad. So, the pad it is for the foreseeable future...

July 8, 2019, 11:02 AM · Can I ask: how are people assessing whether the instrument 'sounds better'? If you are using your own ear while playing then realize the quality of the sound depends more on the relationship of your ear to the sound hole than just about anything else.

Either get someone else to give you feedback or try recording both with as near an identical setup as possible [note that the relationship between the microphone and the sound hole is likewise.]

July 8, 2019, 12:44 PM · I use a Korfker (the aforementioned $200+ rest) and versus the Viva La Musica Diamond that I was using previously, the instrument rings a little bit more. I don't think it's enough of a difference for an audience member to notice, but it's enough for me to notice.
July 8, 2019, 2:41 PM · Elise - I’ve tried recordings with as similar a setup as possible and I can hear a difference.

I still think it is more important to have a setup that feels as good as possible over one where there is a slight (positive) difference in ringtones that is less than ergonomically ideal.

July 8, 2019, 3:28 PM · Pamela - definitely: and the one that sounds better often is the one that is easier to play ;)
July 8, 2019, 3:34 PM · The importance to me, from the Korfker rest, isn't necessarily just a tonal one. It's a matter of responsiveness. When using techniques like up-bow stacatto, the speed that the sound disperses through the body of the instrument is very important. Although it only makes milliseconds of difference, the difference is noticeable in how quickly my instrument will vibrate in response to input, and therefore less mistakes are made with less effort on my part. The same principle applies to any technique that requires immediate response from the instrument, including martele and spicatto.

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