How much $$$ can shoulder rest companies make?

Edited: August 20, 2019, 5:01 PM · I know, this is an odd question here, but this is one of the few places I know about where there is a diverse collection of smart individuals that, collectively, seem to be able to answer any question.

First off: the title isn't *exactly* what I'm asking.

To make a long story short, I've been designing a new type of shoulder rest for some time now, and if everything goes as hoped, it should allow some ground-breaking levels of adjustability and security. Due to patent laws, I don't want to post any real details here, but basically, just imagine a shoulder rest that you can put anywhere in relation to your violin (very close, very far, way up, way down, pivot, left, right, etc...). and adjust in any/all axes of motion, and once it's there, it will stay there indefinitely, and will never fall off of your violin. But once you want to move it or try another position, it can be put into any other format within 5-10 seconds. So theoretically you could try 100 different positions within a fairly short time frame, but once you settled on one, you could just keep it there forever, and every time you put it back on your violin it will be in the exact same position it was last time. Oh, and despite all of this, it will be lighter than a "standard" SR (although there's no possible way to make it the *lightest* considering how much it can do).

There's a bunch of other stuff that also make it sort of a "first" in many categories, but I don't want to get too bogged down in bragging about it until I have an actual product on the market.

My dilemma is this: after having spent thousands upon thousands of hours designing this thing (including, but definitely not limited to, teaching myself CAD so I could make it precisely how I think it should be, researching high-end aerospace materials to use, understanding manufacturing, etc....), I'm getting to the point where I need to decide to spend serious $$$$$.

Because of the complexity of my design (there's no way to make it simpler than it already is), it will probably cost me a great sum of money to tool, so my guess is I'd have to sell something like 3000 shoulder rests to just break even on the tooling (this is partially because I want to keep the product price low, so my margins won't be insane.... I'd rather many people use it, rather than an elite few). Part of my parameters for the rest was to have it under $100, and hopefully closer to $60 (no promises there).

Until this point, I've been able to work on the design and the only cost has been my own time, creativity, and effort. But I'm approaching the "pay wall", and of course that's a whole different level of commitment. It's not like I can get a refund on a custom-made mold set, or all of the engineering fees for the molds themselves.

Getting down to the question: do you guys think it's a good idea to proceed, assuming that the shoulder rest does everything I claimed above?

And in relation to the actual title of the thread, how many shoulder rests do you think get sold yearly? And how many do you think get sold that are "specialty rests", in the $50-$100 range? I might be able to estimate my potential profits and thus financial feasibility for the my product if I had some numbers to work with. I'm sure no one here knows a concrete answer, but even sheer speculation would be helpful to me at this point.

Also, could you see yourselves spending $50-$100 on something that does what I've claimed? Or is the "regular" style of shoulder rest something that you've found satisfactory? Perhaps the quirks of regular SRs don't bother you that much? (e.g falling off, moving position, limited adjustability, or very time consuming to adjust).

Any and all opinions are welcomed. Thanks!

EDIT: I wanted to add that I'm not interesting in "crowdfunding" this product. It's just not something I believe in, for a multitude of reasons.

Replies (119)

August 20, 2019, 5:35 PM · Hi,

you might want to check this:

The most sold shoulder rest costs 22€ and is overall the 400th or so most sold time on the page. The Korfker Rest is already place 2 in shoulder rests, yet 2000th on the page overall.

My conclusion would be: People really look into specialities on a broad basis.

Maybe comparing other items on the overall most sold item list (student violins etc.) you might get a good feeling about what the actual sale numbers are for e.g. Korfker Rest on Thomann. Then you can scale up to Germany (say x10 maybe) and then to the world.

August 20, 2019, 5:45 PM · The Korfker rest is well over $300 US, and the Korfker cradle is more than a $1000, yet I see players using both of them. We're all struggling to find a way to make an essentially unnatural hold comfortable, and players are willing to go to great lengths to solve it. If your design really does provide a viable solution, many people will pay a high price for it. I sincerely wish you luck with this.
Edited: August 20, 2019, 6:04 PM · Sounds like you are at the point where a proper market analysis and business model needs assessment should be developed. A nice project for a grad student in business development, so you may want to approach some faculties with the right program. They love these kinds of practical and close ended projects with a limited and well defined scope.
August 20, 2019, 6:13 PM · Thanks for the input so far. I feel more encouraged already!
August 20, 2019, 7:12 PM · You're asking financial and business questions in a violin forum. What do you expect to get from the average user here?
The experts here should know about music and violin, but no clue at those things you ask.

Your question is the very first question all business persons ask themselves: should I invert in this business?
There are companies you pay to to get a real expert answer.

Here you can promote your product, talk about it, make us discuss over it... but suggestions about business and money?

August 20, 2019, 8:54 PM · There are people here who know a great deal about business (I am not one of them).

Laurie wrote a review of the Korfker shoulder rest which you may find of interest:

August 20, 2019, 9:09 PM · Erik, I had mentioned to you in a previous thread you had started a few months ago about this subject, that I manufacture and have items manufactured for my business. At this point, you need to decide the best manufacturing process that will suit to make your item efficiently, cost effectively, and to your standards and in the amounts that work for you. You will then need to produce some prototypes to be sure you are on track. At that point, you can calculate costs. You mention molding, I don't know what materials you plan to make them in, but 3d printing and CNC from solid material, may be considered. There are some websites where you can upload your 3D model, select a material, quantity, and receive a quote. As before, my offer stands if you need any other advice, just let me know.
August 20, 2019, 9:18 PM · I would definitely buy one. If it was really great, more than one.
August 20, 2019, 9:35 PM · One thing on your side is that folks who seek out a shoulder rest often buy more than 1 before they find the one they like and stick with. BUT, once a shoulder rest fits the need, there's no reason to buy more than one.
August 20, 2019, 9:36 PM · Less than physiotherapists.
August 20, 2019, 9:38 PM · A Kreddle shoulder rest? I would also buy one, but I think shoulder rests are clunky and a big waste of money.

Jokes aside, I'm insterested to see your design. I think there's definitely a market for it. Do carry through with it.

August 20, 2019, 9:48 PM · Timothy, thank you for the offer. I'm definitely still in the prototypes phase, although it's not as linear of a process as I would like because the material I will be using is fairly exotic (although, being a thermoplastic, still reasonably cheap to use once I have the molds). That, and the tolerances in the molded product have to be good because there are a lot of parts that need to push-fit into other parts, so the shrinkages need to be very similar in all of the components. But, I mainly have it sorted out. I may CNC a prototype out of a solid block of the stuff, or I may CNC machine it out of a material that's close enough in mechanical performance, but just heavier (like aluminum). I've already 3d printed prototypes, of course, and will be 3d printing more as time goes on. This isn't strong enough, even with the strongest FDM material (or SLS, etc...) for a truly functional prototype, but still helps me get closer to the final design.

What I'm actually trying to figure out at this point is if enough people will want the thing for it to be worth making. At somewhere between 60k-100k in tooling costs (estimated), there has to be a market for it or it would really suck. On the other hand, making this thing is my passion and even if it totally bombs financially, I'd still be proud of it.

Paul N, this is exactly the right place to be asking. Not only are there many qualified business people here, but there are *violinists* here. They're the ones that would be buying it, so their opinions are the ones I want. Of course I can just do a traditional business feasibility analysis, but I want more than that. Yes, I want suggestions about "business and money. It's not as if I'm going to hear the first suggestion and then run out and do it. I'm just looking for general advice, and since it pertains to violins and could benefit violinists greatly, I thought this would be the place for it.

August 20, 2019, 10:00 PM · Cotton, I dislike Kreddle's implementation of their idea. Yes, a ball-jointed chinrest was a cool idea, but in actually using it I found it somewhat unreliable in staying in position (smooth plastic on smooth plastic can only supply so much friction), and also very time-consuming to adjust. And the adjustment just isn't intuitive. I'm glad that they strived for something new and innovative, but I feel that it ended out being a half-baked product with good marketing behind it, rather than a truly solid piece of engineering. I also feel that it's heavier than it should be, and I'm *very* much not a fan that the clamp feet don't have a gap between them to make room for my collarbone. For such a premium price, I would expect them to at least have the clamp feet separate (talking about the center-mounted version).

I actually thought of you when designing this shoulder rest: I remember you mentioning that the moment you ditched your SR was because it fell off in the middle of a performance. I wondered that, if you had a SR that couldn't fall off, and allowed you to place the rest very low and close to the collarbone, perhaps you wouldn't have ditched it. I, too, have had bad experiences with the disadvantages of traditional SRs, having dropped TWO violas in my teen life because the rest fell off unexpectedly. Then my technique suffered because I would death-grip the thing after that happened.

Speaking of that, when the Comford Cradle came out way back when, I ordered it hoping for the best. However, it sucked at adapting to different size violas, so it never fit my instrument. Not to mention it had no adjustability and was very, very heavy.

Anyways, if it passes the Cotton Mather test, then I will know I've succeeded (e.g. if it doesn't end up in your already-full trash bin of SRs).

Edited: August 20, 2019, 10:12 PM · You're going to have to invest in your business, plain and simple. You can invest your own money, or you can get others to invest theirs. But you need to hire a lawyer who specializes in setting up small businesses because you need a trademark and possibly also a service mark and you need to set up an LLC or such, and you need to protect your IP (patents are expensive). I predict you will spend bare minimum $2000 just on that stuff, not to mention manufacturing. There are companies that will, for a fee or a piece of the action, shop your idea around on a non-disclosure basis to see if there are manufacturers who could easily re-tool for your item. Not surprisingly they advertise during late-night reruns of Perry Mason.

I don't know why people choke on spending $300 on a shoulder rest. Get the Sweetwater catalog. There are hundreds of guitar effects pedals for sale there, and many of them are in the $150 to 300 range. Each one probably has $20 worth of electronics inside it. I've heard of people spending $20,000 or more on a phonograph tonearm. Just the tonearm, folks.

August 20, 2019, 11:15 PM · Honestly, part of the reason I want to keep the price point low is because I want the majority of students to also have access to it, and if their violin is only $500, they probably don't want to spend $300 on just their SR :)

For us with more expensive violins, it's money well spent, but on the other hand I found myself unable to validate spending $1000 on the korfker cradle, despite how much I could see it being useful.

Edited: August 20, 2019, 11:21 PM · Paul Deck is right. There will be significant business set-up costs. You want to probably separate this from however you've incorporated your teaching business.

The reason most products these days get crowdfunded is that is significantly reduces your risks. If you don't get enough orders on Kickstarter to fund your initial production run, you know that you don't really have a viable product at this stage. Initial production runs are almost always problematic and you can end up sitting on a lot of inventory, out of cash, if you pursue a traditional startup CPG model.

I think the Korfker price is something that serious players have no problems paying. It's an imperfect rest, though.

August 20, 2019, 11:32 PM · This serious player isn't about to spend $300 on a shoulder rest no matter how great it is. I love my Mach One; the $60 or so I invested years ago was money well spent. Any leftover money these days--well, not that I have any leftover money--is going straight to the Jacobs School where I have a child determined to repeat my poor life choices.

I would also not buy a tone arm for $2K, let alone $20K. I don't know anyone else who would spend that kind of money either, but then I don't hang out with the craziest level of audiophiles or with people who have that much discretionary cash.

Probably best not to build a marketing plan around the outliers, anyway.

August 21, 2019, 1:49 AM · Yeah, I also plan to keep the price point low because I really want students to have access to a better SR. I teach so many people whom I can't seem to find a good fit for (without doing modifications, or having them try a billion different SRs).

I may reconsider crowdfunding as I close in on the final stages. I guess I just don't get how to successfully crowd fund... It seems like it's based on a snowball effect and I don't really know how people get the snowball rolling when it comes to such a small market such as violin accessories.

August 21, 2019, 6:59 AM · Erik,

"Getting down to the question: do you guys think it's a good idea to proceed, assuming that the shoulder rest does everything I claimed above?"

In other words, do you think I should invest?
Again, this is a violinist forum, masters here know about music and violin playing and performance, they are professional musicians. You can find amateurs and students, all related to music, not to business and investment. That's a totally different world, and if you want a proper answer for that question, here is not the place.

"How many shoulder rests do you think get sold yearly?"
Same, you are asking business questions, if you want a reliable, expert answer, there are companies that work on that and tell you all those values you want to know. What studying music and playing violin has to do with your questions?

As I was saying, you can promote here your shoulder rest once you've studied its price, distribution and all that business stuff. You can tell us what it does, we can tell you if we like that, if we would buy it for $50 or not... but none of the business stuff.

Mary Ellen Goree, yes, I'm sure there are people here that know a lot about business, just like there are some people here that know a lot about physics, chemistry, thermodynamics, maths... but, would you ask here a chemistry question?
Of course not. The average user here should know and be interested in music and violin stuff, not physics, maths or business.

My point is, if Erik is really into it, seeking business information here, or reading what an average violin student or professional violinist has to say about "should I invest in this?", is a really wrong idea, abusrd, because here we don't know anything about all that stuff. He needs to contact professionals of that sector if he's really into it, not in a violin forum.

August 21, 2019, 7:02 AM · How can you get one million dollars with lutherie? You have to start your business with two million dollars.
August 21, 2019, 9:01 AM · Paul N., professional freelance violinists and violin teachers own their own businesses, essentially. They assess the market, advertise, and decide how much to charge for their services,and what kinds of services they offer. Sure, "advertising," for a violin teacher, is likely your word-of-mouth reputation in the community. I think you're wrong--and I would expect that many professional musicians develop very good business sense learned on-the-job.
August 21, 2019, 9:31 AM · Oh, God, please, I really hope you're not comparing being a freelance teacher and thinking about how much is it each hour, with developing a product and selling it to the public. The first one can be done by a teenager, the second one requires an infinite amount of hours of developing the product, choosing the materials, the mechanization of the pieces, who ensembles them, where, how, the price of the product, how you distribute them, you have to know about licensing, create may be your own trademark or company, and this is just an appetizer. Your answer pretty much sums up why you shouldn't ask here business and investment questions. You get what you expect from a violin forum.
Edited: August 21, 2019, 10:06 AM · So now you're badmouthing violin teachers, on a violin forum, wow, what a troll!!
August 21, 2019, 9:49 AM · The thing that should be taken into account is there are very few companies that just manufacture Shoulder rests, usually it is just one of many products the company sells, expecting to make money of just selling shoulder rests is a bit iffy, especially at $60, it seems you would have to charge significantly more to make it a viable venture.

Standard wholesale is 4 times material and assembly costs, you can't make money on a lower margin. Then a retailer marks it up too.

August 21, 2019, 10:42 AM · Erik, in this case with low production numbers and sales, you have to keep this project as simple as possible. Don't get involved with lawyers, patents, and trademarks. Even if you do, if they are violated you have to file a claim that will cost more then what it is worth. This project is way under the radar of any company going to the trouble of copying. There just would not be enough profit for them to do so. However, if you offer to sell them in quantity to Shar or Fiddlerman at discounted prices they would prefer to get them from you then to go through the hassles of making them. It is also very risky to get that kind of money wrapped up in molds. If the molds don't work out properly, all could be lost. And in situations like this when there is a failure, you end up with a lot of finger pointing and a bunch of unusable product, been there. Instead look towards machining from solid or a much lower cost way to have molds produced.
August 21, 2019, 12:09 PM · Paul N said: "...requires an infinite amount of hours of developing the product, choosing the materials, the mechanization of the pieces, who ensembles them, where, how, the price of the product, how you distribute them, you have to know about licensing, create may be your own trademark or company..."

See? Look how helpful you're already being! I knew this was the right place to ask :)

Unfortunately the only real experts on how many people buy SRs are the companies themselves, and they're not about to divulge that info to me, a direct competitor. Hmmmmm, perhaps contacting a major retailer like Shar would be a good place to start... Somehow I doubt they'll want to tell me how many SRs they sell annually, though.

August 21, 2019, 12:17 PM · Erik, you should contact Jordan Somethingorother, the guy who did the Kreddle, about how he turned his idea into a real business. He wouldn't exactly be incentivized as a business owner to help you out, but you never know. If you can get something good in the hands of touring violinists, that is good marketing - I know some soloists have used the Kreddle, although your bread and butter is likely to be the student market.

I think that you may find that you can bring your manufacturing price down if you really take a look at how to cut costs, and your space-age materials may be something to look at. Think of this as a first iteration, and that if you have developed a market on your initial design, you can make higher-end versions with different materials or other improvements.

I'm not particularly in the market for a new shoulder rest - mine seems to work. Alexander Technique lessons have helped me to use myself in a more relaxed manner, and the Kreddle chinrest gave me exactly what I was looking for in a chinrest, but if a good product was put out, I might try and see that I was actually missing something.

August 21, 2019, 12:22 PM · it doesn't hurt to ask. Worse they can say is no. But if you are providing them with a future product there may be interest on their end. I would ask Fiddlerman too. Another person who went down a similar road is Peter Kaman

I tried his product but it wasn't for me.

Edited: August 21, 2019, 12:33 PM · Eric, if you have not already done so, run your shoulder rest by some high-end luthiers to see if there are any problems with the shoulder rest, or the attachment method, before you invest a bunch more money.

If piracy at the infancy stages is of concern to you, I think most of these luthiers would be fine with signing a non-disclosure agreement. I would expect that there would also be a few who wouldn't want to be bothered with digesting and signing a contract, with related attorney consultation fees, without being compensated for their expenses.

"Patent" inventions related to violins have been going on for 200 years or more. The vast majority of them never panned out.

In addition, there are the expenses of successfully marketing a fiddle gizmo. One method might be to sell your soul to a high-volume retailer.

August 21, 2019, 12:57 PM · Few designs stand up to the market unchanged. Over the first two years of selling my shoulder rest I have made changes to every part (easy to do with printed parts and low volume). Parts have been made stronger (broken due to drops, over-tightening bolts), knobs changed to make them easier to turn (arthritis is getting worse), the violin plate grip was changed due to unavailable materials, many changes to make manufacturing easier.

Other attributes to consider - appearance, violinists' preference for things made of wood, affect on violin sound, transportability, potential damage to the violin, durability.

Edited: August 22, 2019, 3:39 AM · First off, thanks for all the great responses, guys. The hard part for me in much of this is even knowing *what* questions to ask, and everyone here so far has done a great job of giving me perspectives that either I hadn't considered, or that I needed to be reminded of. It's so easy to get stuck in a bubble of your own thoughts when you're the sole proprietor of something. I also find that by simply asking a question to others, somehow new ideas end up popping into my head. It's kind of like that phenomenon: when you're searching forever for something you lost in the house, and as soon as you ask someone where they think it might be, that's when you find it (before they even answer!).

Christian: to be honest, the space-age material is still going to be the cheapest part of the SR (although, making molds for it is bound to be more expensive, due to higher pressure and tolerances, etc) in terms of price-per-part. That, and because my design runs very close to the belly of the violin, the stiffness needs to be off-the-charts in order for it to be completely safe for the varnish The labor will certainly be the most expensive part. For reasons that are unavoidable in my design, either a human being needs to assemble/drill certain things, or a very expensive robot needs to do it. I'll do this work myself at first, but I still have to consider my own time in all of that. Still, just by being injection-molded, I think I'll be able to keep the price down. I want my product to become as well-known as many of the major players in the specialty SR segment (mach one, bon musica, high-end kuns, etc...). And I do think the key to that is keeping it under $100. Oh, and great point about buying it just to see if something is missing. I'm actually counting on that segment of the market, because my product is so vastly different in design as compared to a typical SR. I figure that some people may just buy it just to try something new; I know that I've personally spent tons of money just trying new stuff for violin. And of course, my hope is that players will find out they really appreciate what it offers, rather than having buyer's remorse.

Timothy: your post reminds me of my feeling of jealousy when I see products that are one piece of plastic. My design uses 6-7 separate polymer parts, each needing an injection mold, in addition to off-the-shelf components. And they all need to fit together after shrinkage! The best part is, when I started the design, I promised myself it would be as simple as possible. Turns out, for it to work the way I want it to, this is as simple as it gets! It's also interesting because what I discovered along the way is that the hard part isn't making an SR that will work for *one* violin; the hard part is making something that will fit most violins and most people, all without turning into a heavy, behemoth contraption.

David: Honestly, I'm thinking a few steps ahead of where I'm at right now. My product isn't exactly ready to show, simply because it's not complete enough for me to say with confidence that it will be the last iteration. But, I certainly plan on getting player/luthier feedback before deciding on a final design. This will be one of the most crucial parts of the marketing as well, since I know that if even a few high-level players and luthiers alike are willing to publicly give it the "Green light," then others would be much less hesitant about trying it. Luckily, I have thought in great detail about the attachment mechanism. My SR will use a novel attachment method which will undo the need for very sticky rubber (which has damaged my varnish in multiple instances in the past). And because it won't be able to move much once attached, there will be very little sliding action back-and-forth, also helping to preserve varnish from the effects of repeated rubbing. And from an acoustic standpoint, I have built the design on a hypotheses about what parts of a SR affect the natural sound of a violin most.

1) [(Mass) x (closeness of mass to points of contact with violin) x (surface area of contact points directly touching violin)] *DIVIDED BY* [(Lucci rating between contact points) x (symmetry of sound permeation into the rest)] = dampening

Of course, this is just theory-crafting, but it seems to match up with what I've observed. In essence, all of the weight of an SR should be kept as far away from the contact points on the violin as possible. In addition, if we can get the vibrations to bypass our shoulder itself (which is essentially an infinite amount of mass, as far as the vibrational energy of a violin is concerned), then we've essentially reduced the "effective mass" of the SR by quite a bit, even if the rest itself is still heavy.

August 21, 2019, 2:08 PM · I would apply for a patent. I would also make the assumption that the patent will be nigh useless should anyone decide to actually copy your product once it's available, because a patent is only as useful as your ability to pay to litigate that patent. The copycat companies do not care that they are ripping off your IP, and they operate by having lots of money and a lawyer on staff whose job it is to basically run you out of time and money. Your likelihood of eventually winning a patent lawsuit, if you had the lawyer resources, is fairly high, but you're not likely to find it fruitful to spend your money that way unless you have a lawyer friend/family willing to assist you for free.
August 21, 2019, 2:27 PM · Lydia, that's exactly my plan. Patent it (or at last apply for patent pending), but don't actually expect that it will do anything if anyone gets the idea to directly copy my idea.

I'll be relying primarily on these factors to keep my idea going despite copycat attempts:

1) Customer loyalty and product reputation

2) Trademark/branding

3) Better quality product.... I don't think anyone cares about this thing as much as I do. There's just no way they'd spend the thousands of hours of effort that it took/while take to make it perfect. They might make something similar, but it won't be as good. And to make it as good, they'd have to spend more time and $$$ than it's worth.

4) Good customer service: the copycat brands are rarely based in the USA, and so the support of the product is likely to be much lower in quality. I would personally rather buy the "original" of something, at a higher price, and deal with the maker themselves than to save a few bucks dealing with a company that would steal someone's idea and likely won't help me if I need a replacement part.

5) Reputation risk to more well-known companies that try to steal it. There's no way Kun, for example, would take the risk of making something too similar to my idea, simply because it would make them look like money-hungry fiends. They're best sticking to what they already know and profiting off of the people that find their design satisfactory (which is a great number of people).

Lastly, if someone makes something similar after mine gets released, I don't know how much I'll really care. I think it's great when innovation drives other innovation. I'm sure I'll still keep a big enough piece of the pie to be satisfied, based on the above factors.

August 21, 2019, 3:35 PM · Erik,

A "better" shoulder rest sounds like a good idea. Getting a patent is neither easy nor inexpensive and anything but fast. Then you have to decide on how and where it will be made and most importantly, how to market the product.

Personally, I've actually seen the "Kreddle" in person and while it looks real nice, it is way too expensive for most people you would want to sell it to.

Getting a product from the drawing to an actual sale-able product is a very difficult process and takes a lot of skills (including my former profession of Supply-Chain-Management). A lot of money is required just to establish the Supply-Chain and setup the manufacturing process. Then you have to work on distribution and sales. You will also need endorsements and that involves freebies to artists who will "showcase" your product at concerts and at music schools.

Unfortunately, the market for new products is small and remain small till the product catches fire. All I can say is good-luck.

Edited: August 21, 2019, 6:04 PM · As far as patents are concerned, by far the greater part of the expense of getting a granted patent for an invention lies in the fees charged by patent professionals. The set fees charged by a national patent office for patent applications and renewals are relatively small in comparison.

The two fundamental and essential requirements for a valid patent are that the invention is novel (i.e. it has never been published or known in any form anywhere at any time before the date of the patent application); and, that the invention is not obvious to "the man skilled in the art", which can a tricky point to argue successfully.

In my experience, a private inventor who is capable of meeting patent office requirements and getting a strong valid patent at the end of the day without professional assistance is rare. This is why professional input is essential.

A private inventor would also be wise to carry out a cost effectiveness exercise of the expected (or hoped for!) financial success of his invention as measured against the likely expense of getting a granted patent. Note that some patent attorneys will give a new client a free first consultation to broadly discuss the case and outline what is involved, including the costs.

I was a British patent attorney until I retired.

August 21, 2019, 6:43 PM · If your financial resources are limited, consider going to California Lawyers for the Arts. If your income is low enough to qualify, they offer referrals to patent attorneys who are willing to work either pro bono or for reduced fees depending on your income.
August 21, 2019, 9:55 PM · Just a thought that you might be able to survey market share of different shoulder rests by the number of reviews they've received on various forums. In addition to being novel and non-obvious, my understanding (which is not so great) is that there needs to be "reduction to practice" which means you have tested a prototype.

You want iron-clad protection of your IP because your goal is not to make a profit manufacturing and selling your product. Your goal is to sell your IP to Wittner.

August 22, 2019, 1:24 AM · 'there needs to be "reduction to practice" which means you have tested a prototype.'

Reduction to practice can mean a sufficiently detailed description; a physical prototype is not required. You'd still want to make a prototype because a flaw in the design may show up that force you to make changes that are not covered by the patent. Possibly, the patent doesn't cover the final product any longer. Good patent attorneys will draft the patent description in a way that reduces the risk.

From personal experience: most of my patents were conceived in very early stages of product development (in an industry where development takes years and enormous amounts of money) and are essentially about a particular detail of a product. Some of them have never been implemented because a better solution came up or because other technical problems made the product unviable.

August 22, 2019, 2:02 AM · "You want iron-clad protection of your IP because your goal is not to make a profit manufacturing and selling your product. Your goal is to sell your IP to Wittner."

Aha! You're wrong there! I plan on making these things for a long time! No way I'd sell out. I actually like owning businesses as much as I like the money that I get from them. The customer service, the hands-on interaction with the product, continued innovation, etc.... It all sounds like fun to me. I'm looking forward to getting my parts from the manufacturer and assembling/drilling/shipping them myself. Something about keeping my own hands on the product I have worked so hard to achieve satisfies me. Besides, I wouldn't want to sell it to someone else and have it get turned into another shoddy could-have-been-good product. I want to to *stay* good.

August 22, 2019, 2:16 AM · I was just going to say, save yourself all the endless drudgery and sell your model to Wittner and continue to live in peace and prosperity, but I guess that's not what you're looking for...
August 22, 2019, 2:27 AM · By the way, will there also be a viola version? Or is the cost of additional molds going to be prohibitive?

I don't have issues with my violin shoulder rest, but the viola gives me back pain in half an hour.

August 22, 2019, 3:12 AM · From my job and where I work, I receive many individual and companies with really good inventions and designs.
My years of experience dealing with those make me tell them: "To have an idea or design is hard but feasable. In a globalized world, to have it produced is easy. What it is difficult is to have customers".

A product needs wide and reputed distribution chanels to become succesful.
I believe that the success (?!) of the Korfker rest comes from being branded by Pirastro and that allows it to appear in almost all music retailers. So I believe that if you want the desin to success, you have these options:
- Sell the design or arrange cooperation with an stablished brand in the violin world (Pirastro Korfker vs Thomastik's Erik Williams'?)
- See/arrange interviews about how you can place your rest in reputable retailers like Shar, Thomann, Stringzone, etc. See how much margin they would get and then and only then you can arrange the selling price.

If you don't have access to those retailers, you may still sell in your own webpage or ebay or amazon, but the strategy would be more as artisanal product rather than brand and compensation of cost might be impossible or too long term.

The above is a repeated pattern in my job advicing entrepeneurs.

August 22, 2019, 3:15 AM · I definitely plan on a viola version eventually because I think violists suffer even more often than violinists when it comes to the limitations of current SRs. I should probably be able to modify the violin version to fit violas with minimal tooling, rather than making an entire new set of molds. I can't promise it will take away back pain, though! Viola always made my back sore, and I actually remember inventing something for that when I was in my teens. I remember my viola teacher saying "ok, but please don't make it so that everyone says *oh, there's the viola player* when you enter the room." Looking back, it was a really ridiculous contraption.

I also plan on making a version, hopefully significantly cheaper, that will fit fractional instruments. I've actually been the *most* dissatisfied with how adjustable fractional SRs are, and their overall quality. Considering they're just as expensive as the full size SRs in many instances, the quality just sucks. Kids especially need SRs that can get closer to their neck so that the SR isn't teetering out on the edge of their tiny shoulder, leading to slumping and other problems. And they also need SRs that can't easily fall off. And did I mention the adjustability sucks on these things?? Kids have vastly different bodies from one another; there's no excuse for such poor design on these things.

August 22, 2019, 3:32 AM · Haha, it's funny that you mention thomastik, Carlos. That was one of my ideas, to partner with them to provide a direct competitor to the korfker series. However, I don't exactly like the idea of a large corporation telling me how I should make my invention or how much I should sell it for. I feel like it would turn into another shoulder rest that "everyone deserves but no one can afford".

But you're probably going to end out being correct about the necessity to wholesale to major retailers like Shar, swstrings, etc... mainly because of the exposure they can provide. After all, if a SR isn't in the Shar catalog, does it even really exist?

Edited: August 22, 2019, 8:55 AM · I'm no expert, by no stretch of the imagination. I will note that there is at least one violin-related business I know of that sells one thing, chinrests. The WAVE chinrest comes in 3 models in different sizes.

Speaking as a satisfied customer I found it very easy, and helpful, to deal directly with the manufacturer. I know of other similar sites related to several of my other interests. The internet does make this possible if it's done properly. The three things that are common across these successful direct-sales websites, regardless of field, quality research, lots of educational material - doesn't have to be videos though that's helpful - and superior customer service. I don't think that any of them sell wholesale, though the WAVE may not (not on any of the sites I frequent at least). In order to sell wholesale you really have to be able to produce large enough amounts to make it worthwhile to them.

August 22, 2019, 12:32 PM · I really want to avoid wholesale, catherine. However, I have to ask myself how much money I could possibly make if I'm doing all of my own marketing and sales and if that amount of money would cover the large initial expense of my design. If I'm being realistic, probably not, at least not in a limited time frame. But maybe I'm wrong... I wonder how much $$$ a company like the Wave can pull in yearly?

The nice thing about the Wave is that it's fairly simple and cheap to make on a small scale. They don't have to make thousands. Actually, my design also started out as a simple wooden device, but as it grew it become something entirely different.

Luckily, I will be able to mass produce them in enough quantity to satisfy wholesellers, I think.

Edited: August 22, 2019, 1:35 PM · Erik, I make my own molds and do plastic injection for a fair amount of my products. So if you need any free advice, feel free to reach out. While shrinkage should be factored in, you also need draft so the part can be removed easily, vents for air to escape, and also consider using threaded inserts for fasteners. I chose the image below so you can see how inserts can be molded in to avoid drilling and threading afterwards. If you have a STEP file 3d image of your parts, you can load them up at for an instant quote. They give you several options for manufacturing processes including injection molding.

August 22, 2019, 2:16 PM · Thanks so much for the advice and offers to help, Timothy! Luckily I have a friend who is a mechanical engineer and he has been able to give me some guidance in terms of the basics of the design to make it manufacturable (such as draft angle, uniformity of thickness, expected shrinkage, etc...). Of course, he has just made very general suggestions such as you are doing now (although he had the advantage of being able to see the part), and I still have done the actual work myself.

The reason we've chosen drilling after molding is because it seemed, to him, like the only way to get good tolerance holes. Not all holes in the part need to be super precise, but a couple of them do. And for those ones, it's likely that drilling will be necessary. However, I do think that I might be able to incorporate some molded-in parts, which would save huge amounts of time and allow me to keep the price point lower. I had sort of forgotten about the possibility of molded-in parts while thinking of so many different aspects of this thing, so thank you for reminding me!

And actually, now that I'm thinking about molded-in parts again, I sort of had an epiphany about maybe being able to mold in a metal cylinder in place of drilling the hole afterwards, since the cylinder isn't going to shrink like a plastic hole would. I guess the hard part about this would be making sure that the melt doesn't enter the hollow of the metal cylinder during molding. But if doable, this would bring me one step closer to a nearly-no-assembly SR, which would be amazing! (I wasn't really looking forward to drilling all day long).

August 22, 2019, 2:41 PM · Oh, by the way, what are some of your inventions, Timothy? Just curious.
August 22, 2019, 5:06 PM · Erik, one of your goals an the foremost reason to keep it simple and affordable was to make it accessible to any student. Suppose this should be the beginning of a success story, even without a strong partner, because the product would speak for itself and would be a must-have within short time without extensive and costly advertising - how could you expect to manage this without wholesale? Direct marketing in larger dimensions is some serious business, you'd have to he an employer soon as the business grows. At this stage the copycat companies will appear and sell their crappy lookalikes for $12,99 under similar name ("William Eric's" why not...), ruining your reputation. Now reread this thread under this light.

Direct distribution is something for a few nerds and even fewer people with specific problems. It's not the masses that can reached this way. These rely on Shar, Thomann, Amazone, and eventually their local shops. And, speaking as someone from a different continent, direct distribution from overseas often sucks, especially most US distributors are happy enough with the US market and will not ship to Europe, whatever the reasons may be. (Happened to me with several products already.)
Either your SR would remain a niche product accessible via direct distribution, or you would have to think big and carry all the risks. If you want to continue your current life, look for a strong partner for marketing and distribution. Approaching Thomastik or a similar company might not be a bad idea at all. You offer them a product from a field they have never in, finally they're highly specialized in the production of strings and strings only, and nothing else, and it's a small company, even if a big player in our universe. A partner like that would definitely allow you more freedom of decision on your side if you wished to, and you may not necessarily have to sell out your invention to them completely. With a company like Wittner, Kuhn or similar, it might be totally different - they'd simply buy and inhale your invention, and you'd be out.

August 22, 2019, 8:20 PM · Nuuska, I think that you, David Burgess, and Carlos are correct in your assessment that wholesale through major distributors will be necessary.

If I want my product to truly make a big impact, then I need to go big. Otherwise, it helps a few people but doesn't really change anything. Just a little small business that no one even knows about.

Thus, I will try to design from here on out to keep costs low, but will do so through the design of the manufacturing process rather than relying on keeping it low via a direct-sales business model. If I'm going to sell thousands of these things, the product will need to be as easy to assemble as possible to keep labor costs down.

Edited: August 22, 2019, 8:49 PM · Erik, can't say I have any inventions yet, mostly innovations. The part pictured is for an after market ignition system for a wide year range
of Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars. Rolls-Royce Plc and Lucas the original part provider were in a stand off over the quality of the original part. As a result, I developed and manufactured an aftermarket replacement using a much better ignition module that was readily available. For quite a while I was the worlds only provider for an ignition system that would run those cars. And it was much more reliable, 75% of the originals cost, with a 2 1/2 year warranty. Eventually my exclusive agreement to be the sole provider of the unit expired with the electronic module supplier and sales dropped off as a result. I knew it was coming and this was just a side venture. My main business is restoring antique Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars as well as providing replacement parts that have long since been out of production.
These days there are so many different opportunities available for people to expand their interests into something viable. But it seems society stifles people from exploring these areas and wants people to only be in selected molds. I find it encourage when I see someone investigating, thinking, and exploring creative ideas to improve aspects of life. Especially when they are individuals determined to get to the bottom of it. We need artistic, creative, free thinking, and thoughtful people to advance our society not a bunch of robots, sorry for the rant!
Edited: August 23, 2019, 1:45 AM · Oooh, this is exciting stuff!

I feel both your pain and your excitement!

Much good advice given already. Hmm, what can I add?

Patenting: Wow, applying for a patent is a trip all unto itself! Will it fend off copycats like a suit of armor? Most likely not. But will it be of value if you want to sell out to a big customer? Most likely yes.

When I got my patent for Wonderthumb, the sum total was probably close to $10,000. I am very satisfied with the service I received, and would be happy to pass along the attorney's name if you're interested.

It starts with a prior art search to see if there are ideas out there that have already closely described what you are attempting to do. Pass that hurdle? Then you write up a disclosure of your invention from which the attorney will craft your patent application. This document contains what the current "state of the art" is and how your innovation is new, different, and better.

You have the attorney write up the application itself, with the all important "claims" section and send it off the the USPTO and wait a yaer or two.

And then you WILL receive an office action from the USPTO denying your application. That's their job--to tell you "no".

You then need to pay your attorney to argue with them why your innovation is indeed quite different than the prior art they have put forth as a impediment.

For me, I then received a SECOND denial.

I about flipped my lid! I thought I was a gonner....But my attorney said "no sweat, your device is different in ways X, Y and Z...We got this..."

So, I forked over some more money to him, and lo and behold, he was right, and successfully argued my case and the patent was granted.

EDIT: I just saw that I basically wrote all of the above in a blog a few months back: blog

Edited: August 23, 2019, 1:34 AM · Manufacturing:
Ouch, this one is tougher for you than for me. I am able to utilize 3D printed molds for my fabrication. It allows for inexpensive tooling, as well as allowing me to make design changes if needed.

I originally had what I thought was a good design, and had the opportunity to pitch it to Johnson Strings (I happened to work in the same town as them ,so meeting in person was easy). They were open minded, and had the staff try it out. I got feedback both good (yeah!) and bad (even MORE helpful!). I was then able to modify my CAD design based on that feedback and make a product that was much better than my initial design. If I had to re-do injection molding tooling after that feedback, I would be bankrupt. And mine is a very simple molded shape, no moving parts, no tight tolerances needed.

Go out and get actual user feedback on your working prototypes before committing to tooling. You may use your new SR, and think its perfect. But it may only be perfect for you. Get a dozen violinists to try it and give you their brutally honest feedback on it. What works, what doesn't

Happy ending to my part of the story is that Johnson picked up the product last year. Then SHAR did as well, and now Southwest strings.

I think that perhaps there is a broader accepted market for a new fangled shoulder rest than there is for a niche teaching/learning aid such as mine. How big is that market? Sorry, I don't know that answer either.

Edited: August 23, 2019, 1:42 AM · Timothy, I Couldn't agree more! I also feel inspired when I hear about people making something new, or just pursuing a passion.
August 23, 2019, 1:50 AM · Craig, I think you are right about there being a better market for new shoulder rests, simply by the fact that new SRs are always exciting (whether they end up being good or not), whereas teaching aids don't stir up the impulse buyers quite so easily. So it gives me hope that you got the major players to buy!

Regarding testing, I will not only be using my 40+ students as test rats, but I think I will use my connections on this forum as well. There are obviously a lot of smart people here, and they happen to play violin as well! I couldn't ask for a better opinion panel.

August 23, 2019, 1:59 AM · I look forward to eventually seeing what you've come up with. I gave a stab at SR innovative re-design, and as you point out, there isn't much space under the body of the violin to work I abandoned ship on that avenue of exploration.
August 23, 2019, 2:22 AM · If it may be of interest:

There are possibilities for funding your own company by tapping into your own 401K

I haven’t gone that route yet, but am looking into it for another venture I’m pursuing (baseball related). Just thought it may be of assistance

August 23, 2019, 6:27 AM · I'm not sure about the relative sizes of the markets. The advantage of a beginner product is that everyone's a beginner ... at the beginning. Usually their SR at that stage is some hopeless piece of twisted metal wrapped lovingly with foam and scotch tape.

All this makes me cringe -- I'm a very risk-averse person. But Timothy is right -- we shouldn't all be cut from the same cloth.

A couple of questions I'd like to ask Craig -- maybe he can answer, maybe not. Of course we'd all be curious how many units he's sold, but that's probably a closely guarded business secret.

But I'm curious to know if he's had to defend his IP in court, or whether he's at all concerned that the device might be easy to counterfeit, and whether he's at all concerned that any of his distributors might gladly sell a counterfeit product to improve their margin.

Edited: August 24, 2019, 10:47 AM · Dr. Deck, I could possibly be even more adverse to risk then you. The company that was initially doing my plastic injection molding was small, allowed me to machine my own molds, and liked working with me. Eventually the owner retired, I had them make a large batch of pieces to carry me and purchased their plastic injection equipment very reasonably. Typically when I begin a new venture, I use time in the evenings and limited amounts during business hours, feel out for interest in that item as Erik is doing, and get as many advance orders as possible to at least break even as soon as possible. I caution Erik on getting involved with molding that can cost upwards of $60k. I know from experience and have seen businesses spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for tooling that does not work. And these days some people are very adept at providing excuses while keeping your money and failing to provide the service you wanted. When it came time for a website, I was told by web designers to be ready to spend upwards of $25k. While that seems fine, I still was the one doing the majority of the work photographing inventory, creating descriptions, etc so I found a company that offers website templates for a fraction of the cost and did the work of setting it up myself. It is not the greatest, but I am very satisfied. Another very important tool, is reading people and checking them out some before doing business with them. If a business seems to be cutthroat and doesn't value their vendors, stay clear from them. If they are open, honest, and value you as a vendor, it means more then any agreement written on paper.
August 23, 2019, 12:17 PM · Oh trust me, my design will be *perfect* before I actually shell out 60k-100k to make the molds. I've redesigned this thing countless times and I'll probably do it a bunch more, because I'm not willing to make a half-baked product.

I guess it also helps the risk factor that I have the money already. If I needed to borrow it to make the molds, it would be an especially bad idea.

August 23, 2019, 2:10 PM · Erik, et al.,

There is one critical factor that has not been discussed - who sets the price? While the entrepreneur likes to think that she sets the price, it is, in the final analysis, the consumer.

Yes there is that very-high-end SR being sold for hundreds of dollars but, having seen one at a concert recently and the owner allowed me to hold her instrument on my shoulder I determined that it really isn't that much different from my "Wolf" except that it is way more expensive.

That is why products fail. Erik's design may well be phenomenal, but if it has a phenomenal price tag for Erik to simply break even, it is not likely that enough consumers will buy them. You can try to sell the design to a regular manufacturer but they won't buy if the sale price cannot be competitive.

Personally, I did not need or use a shoulder rest until after I broke and dislocated my left clavicle. Once all healed, I found that playing without a rest hurt a lot. The Wolf solved my problem and I'm not in the market for "something better."

I get the process of invention - I was surrounded by inventive people at Bell Labs which has generated a "lot" of patents. Strangely, most of them, went nowhere because they were not economically feasible and the consumer was not willing to purchase the item.

August 23, 2019, 3:39 PM · Hi George, obviously you must be speaking of the Korfker shoulder rest (probably not the cradle, which is about $1000).

I actually own and use the Korfker rest, and have found it substantially better than other rests because it allows my instrument to vibrate more freely, and thus responds quicker to subtle bow inputs. Yes, the tone difference is unlikely to be noticed by anyone by me, but the lack of "misses" on things like up-bow staccato, sautille, martele, etc... are very appreciated by both the listener and the player. For me, the $300 price tag is worth it, but just barely. And comfort-wise, I have found some other SRs to be superior. One disadvantage of the regular korfker rest is that the rubber is so sticky on the bottom that it has actually worn off the varnish on the outer edge of my violin.

Now, the Cradle has the added advantage of being able to try different positions without sacrificing acoustics/security, but it's also $1000 and difficult to adjust. To be honest, when it came out, that was when I was inspired to truly pursue the design that I'd had in my head, because I just thought it was so unfair that when a SR that allowed adjustability without sacrificing security finally came out, they would gouge customers like that. It upset me. But, the market will eventually speak as competitors arise. And before Pirastro representatives get on me about how their rest is just super expensive to make, let me counter that argument: you could have put the effort in to make it cheaper to produce. Yeah, it probably wouldn't have been made out of wood and been so freakin' fancy, but at least it would be at an accessible price point. And then you could have put a wood version out there as an upgrade.

As I've stated before, I fully plan on keeping my design under $100. I feel that is the "breaking point" of price where it becomes much harder for people to validate the purchase. Just looking at the numbers realistically, because I'll be forced to go through retail, chances are that it'll be closer to $100 than it will be to $50. If I could be successful selling direct to customers, I could keep the price lower, but that would require a *lot* of support from the community.

For you, a Wolf is probably best. It's nicely adjustable and cheap. If you have *zero* problems with your current rest, then of course you would have little inventive to buy a different one. My personal qualms about the limits of a Wolf:

Can't put it diagonal without it slipping over time, can't put it close to collarbone without slipping, it bends (especially if you tend to squeeze a lot), it's not aesthetically pleasing, somewhat time-consuming to adjust because one adjustment usually means at least one other component needs to also be adjusted, plus it requires a tool on hand to adjust, and has significant dampening mass (rubber) directly touching the violin. Also, on the subject of bending, there is potential for scratching the underside of the violin if the rest is set very low, particularly because there are so many protrusions on the bottom of the rest.

Now, I think that these are acceptable compromises for many violin players; they're just not acceptable to me, personally.

August 23, 2019, 6:30 PM · Consider for a moment the difference between Craig's product and yours. Craig's is a single injection-molded piece of squishy plastic with no moving parts. And he spent how much on tooling?
August 23, 2019, 6:58 PM · I spent very little on tooling, as there was none. All molds were able to be 3D printed.

And to answer your earlier question; yeah, it would be a breach of business etiquette to say how many units have sold.

Edited: August 23, 2019, 7:14 PM · In most cases a mold can have multiple cavities with runners connecting them from the injection site. You do have to consider the injection capacity of the machine.
August 24, 2019, 6:01 AM · "I don't exactly like the idea of a large corporation telling me how I should make my invention or how much I should sell it for."

I'd assume that a large corporation knows how to handle marketing and production such that the risks are manageable and that it's going to make a profit. As a DIY inventor, you are tempted to underestimate costs and overestimate sales because that's the only way you can stay below the $100 price target. That corporation can serve as a reality check.

In my job, we estimate the maximum amount that the customer (another company) is willing to pay and we struggle in the engineering process to actually keep the costs (including nonrecurrent expenses) low enough. That's a very different perspective from what I have as a consumer ("they charge too much for a few bits of plastic and sheet metal").

August 24, 2019, 2:02 PM · Very true, Han. I have definitely been guilty of mentally forcing the prices of things down in the past just as a way of keeping ideas viable.

However, much of the cost will come down to how long I want it to take to break even on the tooling. Once the tooling is "paid for," so to speak, then the price basically becomes a matter of what margins I can accept.

So I figure that's as long as I'm not taking out a loan to pay for tooling, then I don't really need to factor it into the price of the rest (at least, I can spread it out over a longer payback period). Then all that's left is manufacturing cost, material cost, assembly/shipping labor, and maybe some advertising.

I guess I'll find out eventually if I'll be able to keep my claim of "under $100"!

August 25, 2019, 3:29 PM · "... how long I want it to take to break even on the tooling."

Two remarks here:
1. I wouldn't be so sure that tooling is a one-time cost. Even if it works out right the first time, you will likely see room for improvement once you get feedback from real customers. (If you claim that you will find the final, perfect design in the prototype phase, I don't believe you. :) )

2. Capital locked up in tooling and inventory is not free, because you could also have invested in things that have a greater return on investment. Also, you don't earn money from teaching during the hours you spend on this. You can of course treat it as a hobby that mainly costs time and money in exchange for "having fun". Nothing wrong with that, but you asked "how much $$$ can companies make", not "can I break even if my time is for free?".

And: "maybe some advertising." - I think that you're underestimating that part. For example: advertising includes you travelling to potential resellers for demonstrations/sales pitches.

August 26, 2019, 12:24 PM · Erik, Thomastik come out of the Rudolf Steiner cult and may not be open to inventions that come from outside that cult - which doesn't lessen the validity of some things that have come from within that cult, like Nordoff-Robbins music therapy. You may prefer a more culturally mainstream partner.
I would have thought that if your product offers all that Korfker offers and more, and is considerably cheaper, you might be on to a winner.
August 27, 2019, 1:44 AM · Well, I have a lot more work to do before I can truly claim anything, but I do really hope that my design can be as good or better than the cradle while being a heck of a lot closer to $100 than to $1000!

And hopefully I won't need a partner!

August 28, 2019, 9:18 AM · "There are possibilities for funding your own company by tapping into your own 401K"

Now we're in Crazy Land: Erik is going to tap his retirement account to try and manufacture a niche product with very limited demand in a crowded market? Something that can be copied easily by the Chinese and thrown up on Amazon (they don't care) or Ebay (neither do they) for pennies until the original producer and "patent holder" is crushed like a cockroach and is left wondering what to do with all those shoulder rests in his garage?"

Watch Shark Tank sometime.

Edited: August 28, 2019, 11:09 PM · Or, it could be a great advancement over the current array of SRs that are little more than glorified scaffolding propping up the violin. It could make it big, and Erik will laugh all the way to the bank.

Yes, it’s scary and caution must be used.

Scott, You are a professional violinist, that must have taken a lot of guts to pursue that career with all of the heavy competition involved. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

August 29, 2019, 2:00 AM · I'm fairly confident I'll be able to break even given enough time and effort. As long as I do that, I'll be happy.

Also, scott, copycats rarely cause the original maker to go out of business. They might take a bite out of it, but overtaking the whole thing is another matter. Many people, myself included, don't trust the quality of the Chinese knockoffs. We'd rather pay a bit more to be guaranteed a good product rather than gamble on something to save a couple bucks.

And look at the korfker cradle. Why hasn't anyone copied that? Probably because it'd be more expensive than it's worth to reverse engineer and produce the thing. It's easy enough to copy something like a Kun SR. Not so much when we're talking about multiple complex parts working together

August 29, 2019, 10:25 AM · I just had a look at this Korfker Cradle. So now not the violin, but that cradle thing, rests on your collarbone? How odd.
August 29, 2019, 1:22 PM · Yeah, that bothers me too, Jean. It looks like they made a bit of a cut-out, but I still imagine that the added thickness is something that would be bothersome to many people.
Edited: August 29, 2019, 1:32 PM · "Also, Scott, copycats rarely cause the original maker to go out of business."

Depends on the IP. If you're selling a textbook for an advanced (e.g., first-year graduate) course in chemistry, the largest markets are China and India. When I was in graduate school, most of the Chinese and Indian students found out what textbooks they would need before coming and arranged to have their native-language, entirely pirated textbooks shipped to their apartments. I have to wonder what percentage of Evah Pirazzi strings are counterfeit. How long before they fake the little iridescent security closure? Very hard to estimate what the margin is on those products.

(PS to Craig, that's what I thought you would say. No worries!)

August 29, 2019, 3:20 PM · I have to admit, I think it's harder to convincingly fake something like a shoulder rest (I'm talking about a situation where a competitor tries to pass off their copy as the real-deal).

Like, I've never seen a knock-off Kun and thought "oh, that's a Kun." The plastic is different, the padding is slightly off-color, the dimensions aren't quite right.

It would probably be very expensive to make a knock-off look exactly like the real thing, whereas with strings it's quite easy.

And in terms of copying the functionality of my SR, I think it would be pretty hard. I just think of the time I had to take to find the material. That alone took me many, many hours. And of course I'll keep that a trade secret. And the dimensions of the thing have to be very exact to work right. You can't just mold something that approximates it. It would have to be very precise, and precision is expensive initially.

But who knows? They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Time to tap into that 401k! LOL

September 1, 2019, 3:45 PM · By career I am a Mechanical Engineer who spent 35+ years developing products and shepherding these into production. I have designed my own and later ran teams of designers/engineers in design efforts and production releases for the high tech industry. These design efforts mostly focused on automated machines that are used to manufacture semiconductor chips. These teams numbered in the several hundreds of engineers/designers. I also love playing my violin which offers a great escape.

Erik I have followed the discussion and wondered whether I should comment. I love your enthusiasm and your initiative to work on a design which you feel is better than what currently exists on the market.

You are at present in what can be termed “the dream” phase of your project. This is by far the most fun portion of any design. It requires creativity, mental energy, and dreams. The next phases though are the more critical portion of the task.

In phase 2 you are focused on the age old question: “If I build it will they come?” Unlike the Hollywood ending of this story where fully uniformed baseball players come out of the cornfield with a traffic jam coming to see them, the real world is far different.

You asked exactly the right question in the beginning of this discussion which was what does the market look like? (This would have been a better question to ask before you started your initial design but now is now) Your second question was “Is there any way to find this out?” Now we enter into the wonderful world of shoulder rest reviews and Amazon reviews.

The market is divided into two segments. One could be termed the “learning violin segment.” The second is the “professional/serious amateur segment”. By far the learning violin segment is the largest purchaser of violin shoulder rests. New students arrive continually, older students move up in violin size, and more serious studies may require better accessories. When looking at shoulder rest reviews, which can easily be googled and read, the top ten shoulder rests are for the most part are under $30.00. KUN rates top in most surveys with a price tag of around $25. Personally, I have used a KUN for 20+ years and found it more than adequate.

Let's take the KUN as an example. Amazon includes customer reviews. There is a hard number in the review section showing total number of reviews. These reviews are spread over a 5 year period. This means that for any one year period we could come close to a yearly review number by dividing the total by 2. The assumption here is that most reviews are recent not past. This is why 2 was used and not 5. The number in Amazon for KUN reviews is 300. This means 150 in one year. Let's assume that 1 in 10 purchasers actually write a review. This means that the approximate number of KUN shoulder rests sold by Amazon and their partners is 150 X 10 or 1500 shoulder rests in one year. With the partnering that Amazon does, these shoulder rests more than likely come from 3rd party vendors. I would say that in the market segment you have access to, at best, the number might be 2000.

Price point is going to be critical. With so many options available at under $30, there needs to be a serious advantage to a shoulder rest exceeding $60. Additionally, the learning violin segment is not going to be very open in buying something too costly when that money might be better spent on a new bow, better rosin, strings, case, rehair, music or not spent at all because people try and quit. KUN is a good shoulder rest and there are many others equally as good or better in the same price range.

The only segment that might have an interest but there would need to be a very compelling reason is the professional/serious amateur segment. This segment is easily 1/10 the size and more likely 1/100 the size of the learning market. My guess is that the yearly number at best you would be looking at is 100 to 150. Take a look on Amazon at shoulder rests at or above $60. For example the Bonmusica which is priced at $52 on Amazon has 21 reviews.

I do not see the market being that big in light of the vast competition with sub $30 quality products. If you do decide to proceed, seriously consider following the 3D printer route using CF based filament.

Edited: September 1, 2019, 10:14 PM · i just spend 70 bucks on a mach one hook shoulder rest, but everyone else i know has one of these collapsible 30 bucks kuns
September 1, 2019, 7:47 PM · Interesting write up, Larry, thanks for the input.
September 1, 2019, 7:52 PM · Kun is a privately held company, so no hard numbers. However this site has the annual revenue estimated at $2.5M

September 2, 2019, 8:19 AM · Parents do not want to spend $50 on a shoulder rest. But if they have to spend hundreds on hockey gear, no problem.
September 2, 2019, 10:55 AM · "Scott, You are a professional violinist, that must have taken a lot of guts to pursue that career with all of the heavy competition involved. Nothing ventured nothing gained."

Yes, there are many times in life where "nothing ventured nothing gained." However, there's a difference between investing in a career versus attempting to design, build, and sell an inexpensive niche product in a crowded market.

"Also, Scott, copycats rarely cause the original maker to go out of business"

Erik, I do admire your creativity and optimism. I'm just concerned that you are only seeing what you want to see.

"So I figure that's as long as I'm not taking out a loan to pay for tooling, then I don't really need to factor it into the price of the rest (at least, I can spread it out over a longer payback period). Then all that's left is manufacturing cost, material cost, assembly/shipping labor, and maybe some advertising."

You're not going to factor in the tooling? And "all that's left" is...everything else? And "maybe some advertising?"

While I sincerely wish you success, I do hope you do your homework before you write any checks.

I'm not convinced there's a "best" shoulder rest. There are a bunch out there, and people pick one and get used to whatever they pick.

Edited: September 2, 2019, 12:34 PM · Larry, thanks for that write-up. Using amazon reviews is a creative way to get some metrics on total sales. However, it's worth noting that most SR sales are most likely through major distributors like Shar as well as music stores, so it's a little difficult to get an accurate grasp of the number without contacting the distributors themselves. For something like a vacuum, I would think the amazon-review method would be quite accurate. I'm just not sure about shoulder rests, since they're a specialty item in a sort of unusual market.

Craig, I hope you're right about the Kun annual revenue. That's a promising number. I would assume that quite a few people buy SRs every year, either to replace old ones, because they're a new student, or because they simply want to try something new. I certainly feel like even if I could tap into 1% of the market, I'd be making some good money.

Scott, although I agree there can't be a single "best" SR, I do feel the violin community deserves a single rest they can buy that allows nearly any position and stays securely on the violin, without being heavy or compromising acoustics. And without being a pain in the ass. We've accepted the "bridge-style" SR for so many years now because when it came out it was such an effective design relative to other available designs.

But, I think that design has lived long enough and it's time to be replaced with something better. It is my intention for my design to become the new standard, to replace the previous generation of bridge-style SRs. There will be copycats, but I'll still be happy because it spurred a new standard.

Also, I don't feel that people should have to try/buy 10 different SRs to finally settle on one. There should be a single rest with enough adjustability for most people.

September 10, 2019, 11:06 PM · Erik: Not sure if this is a relevant bellwether, but the company that makes the bow hold teaching aids (Bow Hold Buddies) just posted that they just passed their 10th anniversary and have sold over 100k units.

Just throwing that out there.

September 11, 2019, 2:23 AM · Thanks for the encouragement, Craig!

Right now I'm pondering whether or not to purchase a ($15k) 3d printer that can reinforce the print with continuous strands of carbon fiber. I'm thinking this might be the next logical step, and the only way I could do a small test run of the product and keep making improvements without fully committing to a final design yet. Plus I'm always inventing stuff, so at least if the product fails I'd have a useful tool.

Oh, and you'll be happy to hear that necessary changes to the violin version have also made it adaptable to viola as well. I think this is a really important step, as doubling the tooling just to make a viola version would be prohibitively expensive. But viola players probably need this invention more than anyone.

September 11, 2019, 9:21 AM · I don't think Bow Hold Buddies are a good indicator of the potential market for a new shoulder rest. The Bow Hold Buddy is a brand new concept, not a retooling of an existing one.

I am sort of astounded at Erik's casual discussion of large numbers. You'd have to sell a lot of shoulder rests to cover the cost of a $15K 3D printer and that's just the beginning.

September 11, 2019, 11:27 AM · Erik,

The local 3D print shop nearby has one of the carbon printing machines. The guy is a big fan of the resulting parts. He also talked about how owning and operating a 3D printer requires a lot of fiddling, trouble shooting, maintenance etc. it’s not as smooth and issue free as they’d like you to believe. is a job shop source that offers bulk discounts as another possible approach without having to invest in a machine yourself (that may soon be obsolete)

Edited: September 11, 2019, 12:20 PM · The comparison with Kun might not be fair, as it has the longevity of an established reputation across successive generations to its favour. Maybe more suited is a market research of how newer rests enter the market (marketing, endorsement..) and remain relevant.usually there is a marketing hook (pun aside).
September 11, 2019, 1:59 PM · Mary, start-ups are just expensive, so I've learned to not to react to large prices when considering them. For example, outfitting a simple commercial kitchen for a restaurant, buying the chairs, the tables, paint, etc... can easily run into the 100k-200k range. And there's no guarantee that the restaurant will be successful. Usually people take on business partners to divide the risk, but it's still a lot of money for something that, statistically, has a greater chance of failing than succeeding. My idea is no different. There is no reward without any risk. But my 3d printer idea is just a way of keeping the risk lower until I know there's a market. Keep in mind that 3D printers can be had for just a few hundred bucks, but the one I'm speaking of specifically can actually do professional, end-use products, meaning that I can "test the market" for much cheaper than the alternative. And like I said, at least if the idea fails, I can easily re-sell the 3d printer for a discount, or use it for other projects. When we're talking about this sort of equipment, it's not a hobbyist machine anymore; it's a business investment.

Craig, the lack of ease with owning my own printer is a big part of the reason that, until now, I have been outsourcing 3d printing as you mentioned (through 3dhubs as well as another company). However, I haven't been able to find a company that will manufacture using continuous strands of CF or FG. If I want a functional-strength prototype, it seems that my options are limited to CNC machining either aluminum or a solid block of my intended thermoplastic, and then we're talking about $1000 or so every time I want to make a design change.

Tammuz: I agree with your assessment. I'm just finding it very difficult to find data on that sort of thing. I contacted 3 major retailers (johnson string co, Shar, SW Strings) to try and find out how many of which type of SRs they sell each year, (it was a very simple question, just asking how many SRs above $40 they sell each year), but although they were all seemingly interested in being helpful, none have actually responded to me with the data I requested, and I don't really want to be a squeaky wheel yet.

Edited: September 11, 2019, 7:07 PM · This is why, very often, new ventures are taken on by those with experience in the industry. Because they have inside information not only about technology and manufacturing, but also market positions, distribution, and other vital factors.
September 11, 2019, 7:49 PM · Erik,
The local shop that's been doing some laser cutting and prototype molds (for a different, baseball related project) for me, has one of the Markforged carbon printers. Shoot me a message through the contact page of Wonderthumb and I will hook you up with his name, if you're interested.
September 11, 2019, 10:13 PM · I sent an inquiry, Craig. Thanks!
Edited: September 12, 2019, 11:06 AM · Revenue matters less than margin. Kun is the market leader in shoulder-rests. $2.5 million annually, if that's true, has to pay for manufacturing a dozen or more different types of shoulder-rests (multiple lines, with a range of fractional sizes in each line), fairly extensive marketing, attendance at trade shows, and likely paying salaries and benefits to a small staff. I'm guessing that revenue doesn't go very far in terms of generating cash profits.

The typical Kun sells for about $25. The high end of the line goes for about $70, but no doubt they sell overwhelmingly more of the basic model than the expensive one -- call it a 90/10 split. So their weighted average selling price is about $30. That's a retail price; figure wholesale is half that at $15. So if their revenue is $2.5m/year, that's about 165,000 Kun shoulder-rests sold each year.

If you assume that viola rests (a bit more expensive) are a chunk of the revenue and there's a bit more weight towards the higher end, and the wholesale price isn't quite as low, and use $25 per rest instead, that's still 100,000 Kuns per year. Pretty big number that suggests that the number of reviews on Amazon isn't even vaguely a good proxy for volume sold.

(Probably a lot of Kun purchases are schools buying wholesale for kids, violin shops buying a lot to include with rentals, and parents buying for kids each time they go up a fractional size.)

Edited: September 13, 2019, 5:52 PM · The Kun Voce, their CF rest, is $65, relatively simple in design, and is presumably mass-produced at more scale that Erik will have, suggesting that his $60 price point is probably unrealistic. So figure that maybe it retails at $100, making its wholesale price in the vicinity of $50 (note that this is uses the generous assumption that wholesale is 50% of retail and not 25%).

So he's got to sell 300 of them to cover the cost of his $15k 3D printer, and that doesn't account for the CF material costs, which a quick Google search indicates are about $25/kg. 1 kg is about 35 oz, and a shoulder-rest is probably 2 oz, so 300 rests is about 17 kg of material, or around $425 in COGS (which in this case are additional hard-dollar expenses).

That volume is an artisanal Etsy operation, though, not a wholesale distributor model. If he sells through Etsy, he gets to keep almost the whole $100, which means that he only needs to sell about 150 to break even on his 3D printer.

September 12, 2019, 8:00 PM · Erik, developing skills with 3D modelling and printing could become a very useful investment for you. I believe 3D printing will have a significant economical impact globally once it becomes the primary manufacturing process for nearly everything manufactured. The process is far more developed then most people realize. Once a leading tech company or large corporation takes the lead into 3D printing it will be the one to buy as much stock as possible in! It will become cheaper, better, and easier to make goods and products that would normally be made in China and Mexico. And there will be products that will be very unique and revolutionary due to the capabilities of 3D printing that conventional manufacturing cannot do such as printing in different overlapping materials.
September 12, 2019, 9:37 PM · The place that is doing the 3D printing for you may be willing to help you with the design, since they earn more if you sell more.
September 12, 2019, 9:59 PM · Lydia, nice assessment!
September 13, 2019, 3:06 AM · Unfortunately, Lydia, the spools for the CF-printer are extraordinarily expensive compared to normal CF. However, the actual strands of CF used in each part would be quite minimal. It would mostly be a somewhat-cheaper material which has chopped CF in it, but is primarily nylon.

The software for the printer also gives me an estimate of the cost to print. I've downloaded the software even though I don't have the printer, just to get some estimates.

Cost per SR using 3d printed material is looking to be closer to $20, plus some more when you include 3rd party components such as threaded inserts, etc... and then even more when I have to "charge" myself for the time it takes me to assemble the SR and ship it out. The early-adopter rests may have to be a bit more expensive to compensate for increased material costs, but since I'll be selling direct instead of wholesale, I'll still keep them cheap because of the much better margins.

I think the 3d printer is my best bet. I'm not going to jump into anything right away, but I think the printer is the best way of having a tiered-risk strategy. If I can make the 3d printer pay for itself, then I can validate the next level of commitment, which would be injection molds. 15k seems like a lot, but it's nothing compared to the 100k+ I could easily spend on tooling for molds.

Edited: September 13, 2019, 6:14 AM · Are you sure you need a fiber-reinforced material? These days 3d printing materials are quite varied in their physical properties and applications and improving all the time. I have colleagues who work on this. Would the range of materials available to you be wider if the plastic doesn't have to be black? Can the main "rest" part of your SR be made of wood, such that you can benefit from inexpensive labor and materials overseas?
September 13, 2019, 10:53 AM · There are many examples of success in the current market not in selling low-priced goods (where you will get crushed like a bug), but in high-end products. Watches are a great example: It's useless to compete against Timex or Casio. But many watch makers have sprung up in the US making higher-priced mechanical watches, and they seem to be selling. The same with craft liquors, chocolates, and other products. I'm always amazed at the $7 chocolate bars they sell at the local market.

So, instead of trying to mass-produce cheap shoulder rests, what about crafting them out of some rare wood or titanium in limited supply and selling them for $399? You'll probably sell a lot more if you fabricate a waiting list, or have a web photo of yourself crafting one with an old-timer wood tool, wearing a hipster-style worn leather apron, just like the photos that many violin makers have on their sites. People are willing to pay for authenticity instead of commodification.

A good analog is the new breed of violin cases that go for over $1000. Who would have thought that anyone would pay a fortune for a fancy case? But people seem to be shelling out plenty. Shar has Musafia cases for almost $3000, and apparently people are buying them.

September 13, 2019, 1:22 PM · I’m with Scott on that: you are making something extraordinary. People will pay good money for good products. We suckers pay lots of money on strings for crying out loud! And those wear out quick.

Getting visibility for your website is very difficult. So the “I’ll sell direct” may not be something you want to lock yourself into. Retailers do a lot of promoting, which is of benefit to you if you get picked up by them.

You will also accrue costs in getting a patent (if you go that route), setting up and maintaining a s-Corp or LLC, packaging, etc. it’s not just the materials cost you need to factor in.
Just saying...

September 13, 2019, 2:53 PM · One more comment about 3D printing, about which I admittedly know little:

A few years ago, as the digital photography revolution was gaining momentum, many photographers, including me, thought it would be great to buy one of the new printers on the market. After all, why pay the photo shop when I can buy a "pro" printer, some ink and paper, and fully control the process? So I sprung for the top HP printer, which had gotten all sorts of rave reviews.

Pretty soon, I realized the bear trap I'd stepped in: the ink and paper costs will eat you alive. With your own printer, you're less likely to self-edit, and print out a bazillion photos, trying various things to see how they'll look. "Hey, let's try converting to B&W on this one. Oops, a little too dark. Oh well, another 50-pack of 8x10s down the drain!" All those consumables add up. Eventually, I discovered the weak points of home photo printing: in spite of using the expensive "supreme plus" papers, the colors just didn't look that great.
B&W had a nauseating greenish tint when viewed under sunlight. The papers faded in spite of the manufacturers' claims that the new papers lasted 125 years or something.

I started talking to the photographers, including many pros, that abandoned those expensive printers and farmed it out. It ended up cheaper, and you didn't get stuck with an obsolete printer after a couple of years, or a model that the company stopped supporting, either with software, or ink. My own "pro" printer eventually sprung an ink leak, and I found that black ink had exploded all over the inside. And the commercial processes like Fuji simply made better photos that lasted longer.

So anyway, like I said--I haven't used 3D printers. But I wouldn't be surprised if people bought these things with the best intentions, and eventually started wondering where all their time and money was going. If the technology really is racing forward, one has to be careful about investing too heavily in equipment that may become obsolete quickly. Let someone else step make the investment.

September 13, 2019, 4:05 PM · Paul, FDM (fused deposition fabrication) 3d printing is notoriously weak compared to actual injection molding of the same thermoplastics. This is because each layer is just laying on top of the previous layer, having somewhat melted to it. So even if I use a plastic like polycarbonate that should theoretically have pretty decent strength/stiffness, I would find that it is multiple times weaker than its injection molded counterpart.

On the other hand, the continuous-fiber reinforced 3d printer allows you to print parts that are similar in stiffness/strength to 6061 aluminum. That means something like 10x the strength/stiffness of normal FDM plastics. So, unfortunately, there is simply no other FDM material that would do what I need it to.

Wood was originally my intended material for the entire rest, actually (although now I don't know if it would work or not, in terms of strength). But my design requires a bit too much precision for that to be realistic. A lot of different parts need to fit into each other, and being handmade, it's unlikely that this level of precision could occur at any reasonable price point. There are other reasons why this also wouldn't work that would take too much time to get into.

Scott: Actually, this whole idea *started* as exactly what you are talking about. I was going to hand-make each SR myself, or, later on, train a CNC machine to cut it out of solid pieces of maple. I was definitely thinking of a small-scale, artisinal/specialty kind of thing.

What happened was that as I designed the thing, I realized "wow, a lot of people could really use something like this." This was particularly amplified by my teaching of tons of beginners, where I constantly found it frustrating to try and adjust standard SRs to the vastly different body types of different students (both adults and kids).

As an example, I had an adult beginner about half a year ago that had very narrow shoulders, very long neck, but very short arms. Not to mention that because she was older, she didn't have great flexibility in the shoulder joint.

Basically, I needed an SR that would allow me to move the violin more towards her center, while also keeping the rest itself on the shoulder, but also allowing a very large height different between the left and right sides of the rest (she lacked "meat" on the ribcage/shoulder, so the rest needed to compensate for this). And I remember thinking, "man, I wish my SR was a finished product already, because there is *nothing* available that does what I need it to do." And keep in mind, I have 2 grocery bags filled with different SRs so I can try and find the best one for each student. Anyways, I ended up having her buy a Bon Musica and then adding some sponges with rubber bands, but it never ended up being ideal.

Or, some students want to be able to have the SR closer to their collarbone while also being rotated diagonally. Once again, this just isn't something that any current SR can do, but mine would.

Anyways, my point is that there's no way someone who is just starting is going to buy a $400 SR. And even among professionals, the amount that are going to be willing to buy something so expensive is pretty low. I really want my SR to be at a price point where teachers could recommend it to both their students and their colleagues. And keep in mind that if I'm making each SR for $20 and selling them for $60, I still consider that a good margin. I can't really consider this a "low priced good," because my margins are still pretty damn big. It's not like I'm trying to scrape 30 cents out of each toy sold or 10 cents out of each candy bar. In those arenas I would definitely get crushed.

I know a lot of people say this, but I really mean it: this is more than just about the money. I want other people to have access to something that, in my mind, should already exist. With that said, I am very aware that a business has to be financially successful to work long-term, so it's not like I'm not running the numbers.

Edited: September 13, 2019, 6:02 PM · Well, what I want is a shoulder-rest that is really, really low. I like my Korfker but I can't really adjust its legs to be as low as I want them to be. It doesn't interfere with resonance, which is the big plus that caused me to switch rests.

I don't need infinite adjustability so much as I need a rest that starts out being nearly optimized for my personal configuration, with the ability to make small adjustments to tweak comfort.

I shelled out over $3k for a Musafia Enigma. I reckon that the price was entirely justified when I recently left my violin, in its closed case, for a week when I went out of town and returned to discover that my basement (which is almost entirely comprised of my music room) had flooded, including a window-well leaking onto the table where I keep my violin. The Enigma kept the case humidity and temperature within a normal range, and its contents completely dry. (My grand piano, on the other hand, is a sad casualty of the humidity.)

Plus, I liked being able to totally customize the interior, and artisanal craftsmanship, let's be honest. Pure luxury goods stuff.

September 13, 2019, 6:24 PM · Erik,
I think you would be doing the violin world a service by gathering up all the Menuhin rests (those terrible things with the curly-spring legs) and nuking them.
September 13, 2019, 8:45 PM · Lydia, you'll be happy to hear that my SR will most likely allow the lowest possible position yet on any SR that has ever existed, as well as the highest possible possible.

It will allow nearly infinite adjustability but each adjustment will only take a couple of seconds, rather than a few minutes of fumbling around with tools and screws. And one adjustment won't screw up another adjustment, as is the case with *some* current rests. I'm sure you know what I mean.

Have you contacted Korfker? He sent me two pairs of shortened legs for the Korfker rest (the 2nd pair was an accident, though). Actually I could just send you the 2nd pair I have if you're unable to contact him.

Scott, I actually bought a bunch of those from Shar a few years back because they seemed so good in theory for a select subset of people, and then I got them and realized they totally sucked. I guess that's what happens when someone who refuses to use shoulder rests decides to design one. That rest is also why I'm skeptical of the usefulness of the new Kreddle Pad thingy.

September 13, 2019, 10:08 PM · Erik, I don’t know how thick this SR will be/needs to be. But what about foam/carbon sandwich construction? Like how surfboard are made?

Or, along a similar vein ; make the part out of “regular” 3D polycarbonate and laminate a stiffening stringer (aluminum or carbon) down the middle of it?

September 14, 2019, 9:47 AM · If the SR is to be very low then it has to be very stiff too otherwise you damage the underside of your instrument.
September 14, 2019, 10:08 AM · Thanks Erik. Pirastro got in touch with me today.
Edited: September 14, 2019, 10:45 AM · Erik, logistics aside, I think you've got a very new and innovative shoulder rest idea that could benefit lots of people. I just want to encourage you to keep up the good work.

I know this next question is slightly off topic, and I'm sure the answer is yes. I'm just curious. Is finding the right chinrest an important part of finding the ideal setup for your students? Do you also have a large collection of chinrests to try on your students?

September 14, 2019, 11:18 AM · Hi,Erik,Id say that if youre passionate about the project,go for it.The only thing is that you may have to give up some practise time
to develop your idea. What is the saying?'nothing venture,nothing win'

Best of luck,

September 14, 2019, 3:26 PM · Craig, I've definitely considered carbon sandwich construction, but for several different reasons I decided it wasn't too viable. Just too time consuming which would drive costs up, and a few other factors.

I have found that with this design, every time I get a "win," I then say "well, if it can do that, maybe it should be able to do this too." And so I've gone from something very simple to something much more complicated, and then I was like "well, now it needs to be inexpensive too." But, I think because of this attitude, I've made big leaps in the design.

Paul: that's my biggest design challenge, and the reason I'm so hell-bent on space-age materials. It's especially challenging because the arching on different violins has so much variety, and also now that I'm making it adaptable to viola and violin, that's yet another variable.

Ella: thanks for the encouragement. It is very needed. I use a Teka-style chinrest with nearly all of my beginning students. I have found that pretty much across the board, it's better for beginners. Actually, I really like it too, but refuse to accept the sound dampening that occurs from a side-mounted chinrest.

I do wish it was easier to get a variety of heights of chinrests. I have found that the Teka works well for most peoples' faces, but having only one height makes it difficult to find the perfect fit, since we want to avoid making up for height differences with only SR adjustments (in a perfect world). Some people respond better to making up most of the difference with CR, others do better with raising it mostly with the SR. It really depends, but it seems that a balance is ideal.

Malcolm: it's true, this pursuit takes up much of my time. But I keep reminding myself "if you don't do it, who will?" Anyone that wanted to make the same thing would have to make the same sacrifices.

Edited: September 14, 2019, 6:40 PM · Erik, I also wish chinrests were available in more heights. There are plenty of contours, and perhaps more options for center-mounted chinrests, especially the more contoured kind, would be nice (there are plenty of different kinds of side mounts). Sadly, chinrests don't come in a lot of height options and adjustable chinrest options are limited. That said, to add a bit of height, I'll add a bit of cork or rubber under the chinrest, but there's a limit to that. Alternatively, I might stick something on top of the chinrest to increase the height. Another thing: when choosing a chinrest for your students, do you consider whether they would be more comfortable with a side or center mounted chinrest? The teka is a great side-mounted chinrest, but some people are more comfortable with center mounts (and some find side mounts more comfy).
Edited: September 15, 2019, 2:35 PM · I just reread your original post. Personally, I don't have a problem with regular shoulder rests, as I love my basic Kun to bits (of course in combination with the right chinrest for my physiology) and won't trade it for anything. Plenty of people are happy with conventional shoulder rests, sponges, pads, or nothing, but many people still struggle to find a good fit, especially those with more particular needs. Most of our current shoulder rest offerings are adjustable in height and width, and some models offer shape adjustability (e.g Bon Musica). However, our current shoulder rests still have limited adjustment in other areas like position, angle, tilt, axis, leg positions, and rotation, which could be problematic for some people. For example, current shoulder rests can only go so low because of the way they're built. This means that someone who needs a really low shoulder rest would most likely be more comfortable using a sponge or pad instead of a regular shoulder rest. Current shoulder rests also cannot sit extremely close to the neck/collarbone, though you can get it fairly close if you use a center-mounted chinrest (side mounts get in the way), and put the shoulder side foot close to the chinrest clamp (you may have to narrow the shoulder rest a bit to make this work, like one notch on one side of a Kun shoulder rest), or use sponges/pads instead (not so good for longer necks). It would still be nice, however, to have a shoulder rest that allows for a variety of positions, and it sounds like your new shoulder rest will help to fill the void I have described, and I think it will be a great addition to the shoulder rest line.
September 15, 2019, 3:02 PM · My main qualm about shoulder rests currently is that when we adjust them to our personal tastes, they end up slipping. In a nutshell, that's the point of my rest: I can put it diagonally on the violin, or closer to my shoulder, without it moving around or compromising the security of the violin.

Of course, it does a lot more than that, but I think that's the main selling point.

It is interesting to hear perspectives like yours, though. It makes me wonder how to market the SR, since I'm starting to wonder if people have gotten so used to the inherent disadvantages of typical shoulder rests that they would see mine and wonder what the point was.

Obviously I'm thinking farther ahead than I need to be, but it is a point of curiosity. Perhaps my rest is simply a solution in search of a problem!

Edited: September 15, 2019, 4:39 PM · I don't have a problem spending $50-$100 on a shoulder rest if it offers a lot of adjustment and I'm not happy with a basic Kun rest. I'm not in that situation, but I know plenty of people who are not suited to the Kun rest. Nonetheless, a shoulder rest like yours would probably still have a place. The closest shoulder rest I can think of that's sort of like yours is the Viva La Musica. Have you tried it? As for the shoulder rest slipping, I generally have not had problems from that, even though I put my shoulder rest on a diagonal. If the shoulder rest slips, it has always been due to worn down rubber feet from years of use, at least that's the case with my Kun experience. As for metal parts scratching the back of the violin on the wolf and the bon musica, I think it's mostly a matter of being careful. I absolutely love the idea of having a shape-adjustable shoulder rest, and metal seems to be one of the few good materials for crafting one. I'm willing to make the compromises for shape-adjustability to be feasible, but I know you're not the most comfortable with that. The bottom line is that the shoulder rest you're proposing probably still has some unique features that you haven't yet mentioned.

As for an easy to adjust shoulder rest, it seems that the more adjustments a rest can offer, the more complicated it will be to adjust. If I were to design a new chinrest or shoulder rest, I would try my best to keep the design simple, but sometimes it just doesn't seem to be possible. For example, the Kreddle isn't the easiest thing to adjust, but could it be as simple as it gets with a multi-adjustable chinrest?

As for creating a shoulder rest that will work well for most people, that would be ideal, but we vary so much physically that I think that having a gazillion options is great in this regard. Trying many chinrests and shoulder rests to find the best fit is a lot of work, but I think it is worthwhile, even though it can get frustrating at times. Perhaps I am abit biased in that I have been lucky and able to find a comfortable setup quickly, but I know many people find the time spent finding comfortable equipment to be worthwhile.

And also, another question: can your new shoulder rest be adjusted to fit on an extra-wide viola e.g Tertis? Because a lot of violists struggle to find a shoulder rest that will fit a wider-than-standard viola.

September 16, 2019, 5:39 PM · That's the other business model: Just be the most expensive thing in the land. People will buy it for that reason alone. Baker's rosin, for example, or Stradivarious (sic!) violins.

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