Rest-lessness question

May 4, 2020, 11:35 AM · Hi have read a lot of different threads about playing without a shoulder rest but wanted a bit more specific advice. I’ve been playing for about two years and have used a few different rests (specifically started with an Everest which I thought was ok, tried a Kun but absolutely hated it, now using a Wolfe forte secondo) my teacher has said I really need to work on right shoulder tension, that I need to make it more supple and flexible. I have this feeling that a lot of my shoulder tension is originating in my left shoulder because it feels locked in place with the rest and then travels or is mirrored by the right shoulder (if that makes sense?) I somewhat accidentally tried playing without the rest a couple months ago after leaving it downstairs and was feeling too lazy to get it, I was stunned by how much more relaxed I felt shoulder wise! Still I found I got quite tired and my left hand felt tense after 10-15 mins without the rest. I’ve now attached a microfibre cloth folded a few times with a rubber band and it feels a lot better with a bit more support but still just generally feel pretty tired after 20-30 mins (but it’s not painful per se). So I mostly still play with the rest but spend a decent part of practice sessions with just the cloth.Just wondering what yalls experiences were with experimenting shoulder rest-less when you first tried it? Was it a process going from rest to no rest? If you ended up going back to rests why? Does it make sense to just switch back and forth within a practice session and not commit to either? Just not really sure how far I should pursue playing without a rest or if I should try different rests/chinrests combos first. My teacher has encouraged me to try different things but she hasn’t played without a rest so I guess I just wanted others’ personal experiences of “restlessness”. Thank you!

Replies (13)

May 4, 2020, 11:40 AM · Initially there will be more wear and tear on your left hand because it has to do a little more when you do not use a shoulder rest. This should eventually melt away with practice and tutelage from someone expert in converting from SR to NSR playing.
May 4, 2020, 11:45 AM · I personally do use a shoulder rest, but it's a really individual choice.

Going from shoulder rest to no shoulder rest takes quite a bit of getting used to from what I've heard, and many people say it takes months to fully get acquainted. For some people it comes more naturally because of their body type. I'd consider two things:

1. Are you totally happy with your choice of chinrest? Chinrests make a massive difference in your comfort level.
2. I know you're already working on it, but perhaps you could try a sponge or a piece of foam, which will stop the violin from slipping. Also, if you intend to use a shoulder rest, you can always experiment with where you place it on your violin. Many people put it on an angle so the shoulder side leg is much closer to the chinrest clamp than normal. This should hopefully put the shoulder rest closer to your neck so your left shoulder joint is more free to move.

May 4, 2020, 12:13 PM · I'd try a piece of chamois, simply draping it over your violin prior to bringing it to your collarbone, instead of that folded microfiber-cloth with elastic bands. Just a suggestion, as that is what I do. My own story? I learned to play, as a child, with a shoulder pad, not a full rest (although my teacher did use a full rest). Many years later I read about playing without a shoulder pad or rest (on this forum, actually). I tried it, it worked. One summer I re-worked my way through Kreutzer without a shoulder pad, and after that I was accustomed to it. But then I am an amateur so I can do what I like. The most important question is: are you a student preparing for a professional career, or just studying the violin for pleasure?
May 4, 2020, 3:22 PM · Ella may be on the right track for you.
Definitely be sure your chinrest fits your chin/jaw.
A sponge under the violin can help - the "AcoustaGrip" acts as a cushiony shoulder rst for many people; look into it (Google.com).

If you are finding playing SRestles OK for a bit of time the Wolf Forte Secundo may be too high and you might find the Wolf Secundo [without height-adjustable feet] a better fit. But I know a lot of people who are playing with AcoustaGrips now - I did recently for a few years = very comfortable (essentially a sponge temporarily attached to the violin back by microsuction - only while playing).

You can craft a perfectly fitted chinrest from a low flat chinrest (such as a "Joachim" [from Concordmusic.com] and an "Impressionist" [from most other internet violin shops]).

May 4, 2020, 3:30 PM · I use small square of high density foam attached with rubber bands.
May 4, 2020, 5:52 PM · I been using the Super Kun for a long time and I like it. Lately though I have also been using the Resonans Rest (lowest height #1) and that has worked out very well for me. That rest has a tilt feature that doesn't lock. I hadn't seen that feature in other rests I've tried.

I haven't played restless much at all so I cannot comment there.

May 5, 2020, 4:07 AM · Thanks for the responses everyone - very helpful!

Paul - that's good to know that it's normal for the left hand to adjust - i'll keep that in mind if I pursue playing without a rest. Although I do think I should probably explore other options too as others have suggested.

Ella thanks - I recently upgraded from a student violin to an antique violin that I'm absolutely in love with and I like the chin rest on the new (old) violin a lot better than what was on my student one. It seems to offer a lot more support and feels good but then again it's the only one I've had experience with besides the student one which was pretty crap. I think the chin rest on my new one is a guarneri just by looking at pictures. I suppose I should try others to see if they fit me any better.That was actually my plan just after buying the new violin to go back to the shop and try different chin/shoulder rests but that very week the UK went in lockdown so gonna have to wait! Re; sponges I did try using a bog standard kitchen sponge but I found that quite painful - it seemed too hard. But haven't tried any other foam material so something to think about. I do like the idea of having the shoulder rest closer to me and away from the shoulder but when I've tried to adjust it like that it just feels really awkward and makes my neck stiff.

Jean - thanks for the chamois cloth tip and thanks for sharing your story! I too am just playing for pleasure (but a pleasure that I've become very dedicated to - something that's surprised me given every other hobby I've picked up as an adult I've dropped within a few months!)

Andrew thank you for the recommendations - I have looked at AcoustaGrip and recently ordered one! And noted re: the other wolfe rest. Given the lock down (I'm in London) none of the shops are open for me to try different rests so I'm hoping the AcoustaGrip works fingers crossed!

Bud and Raymond - thanks for the recommendations - will keep in mind in what seems will be a never-ending quest for the ideal set-up!

My teacher did tell me that finding the right set-uo would be an ever-revolving process which is quite annoying but I guess that's just how it is - really glad to have a resource like this forum to hear other people's experiences :)


Edited: May 5, 2020, 12:35 PM · Some people put a pad under the shoulder of their jacket / shirt to rest the violin on when their hand gets tired or when they need stability. Personally I just use my shoulder in these cases. I've found it's acceptable to occasionally use the round part of the should for support as long as you aren't pushing it up into the violin and there is no tension in your body.

Check in the mirror for redness and bruising after a "restless" practise session to see where you're squeezing.

Edited: May 5, 2020, 2:34 PM · A few points about going completely restless, arising from my experience over the last few years. One is that without both SR and CR you get to hear, and feel, the real sound of your violin, perhaps for the first time. The second is that you will be aware that the violin is starting to become part of you, not least because you can feel your own body warmth in the instrument. Thirdly, you may expect your posture and playing to be that more relaxed.

I'll add that paying close attention to posture is a very important part of successful problem-free playing without SR and CR.

May 5, 2020, 9:49 PM · "Does it make sense to just switch back and forth within a practice session and not commit to either? Just not really sure how far I should pursue playing without a rest or if I should try different rests/chinrests combos first."

No, it doesn't make sense IMO. To play without a rest, you have to learn how to do it, whatever that is, and having a rest as a crutch means that you're not doing it successfully without the rest. This is not to say that restless playing is necessarily the solution for you, just that you have to either do it or not do it, and a compromise is not really doing either well.

Trying different things is appropriate and necessary - until you find the combination that works best for you, at least until some other reasons for change arise.

May 6, 2020, 3:19 AM · Hello, I switched to going restless in my teens. I use a Kreddle chinrest now, which definitely helps relax my neck - you can consider trying one if you want to explore completely different setups as it is easily adjustable.

Personally, the way I position the violin is basically the same with or without a shoulder rest - if I put on the rest, it merely fills the gap that would have been there anyway. I balance the violin between my left hand and my collarbone area, trying to eliminate pushing up with the shoulder. It took me a while to achieve this position, during which I dabbled both with and without rests. In the end the rest became more or less superfluous, so I do without, although I could play with if I wanted.

Two ideas - the first is that, when playing in only one position, or only shifting up (ascending scales, if you have learned other positions), we don't need to use our head at all to hold the violin in place - try playing without any squeezing between head and shoulder (lift the head up and partly support the violin with the left hand).

The two variables that really matter are the bending of your torso (are you standing straight or leaning or twisting?) and the position of your left arm (often we need to bring our left elbow more to the right in order to properly balance the violin - this often helps with vibrato and shifting too).


I have a simple torso exercise that might help with the tiredness. Start with the violin is a resting position, not playing position. Bend over so you are facing your feet. Now, while still bending over, try to pick up your violin and play with your violin parallel to the floor. You will have to lift both arms very high from the shoulders, and you will get tired very quickly.

Go back to a standing rest position, then lean your torso backwards, like you are doing the limbo (don't go too crazy and fall over!). You should be looking up at the ceiling (more or less). Now bring the violin up to play so that it is again parallel to the floor, without moving your head on the violin. Play something simple. You should need to open your arms at your shoulders very little, possibly not needing to move your left elbow at all from your body. This is a much more relaxing position. Try keeping your torso more or less the same and bring your neck and head up so that you are looking forward with your head on the violin - hopefully this results in a much more relaxing position.

The above is a 'de-hunching exercise,' as I find that many students suffer from some degree of hunching forward when holding the violin. This can help both with and without a shoulder rest, by the way. Combine it with proper placement of the left arm elbow (try directly below the strings) and hopefully you will find a balanced position.

May 6, 2020, 6:23 PM · "I just wanted others’ personal experiences of “restlessness”"

Here's one that might help: https://www.natesviolin.com/ditched-shoulder-rest-30-years/

May 7, 2020, 4:08 AM · "Two ideas - the first is that, when playing in only one position, or only shifting up (ascending scales, if you have learned other positions), we don't need to use our head at all to hold the violin in place - try playing without any squeezing between head and shoulder (lift the head up and partly support the violin with the left hand)."

Important advice. Flesch says maybe lean on the violin in performance but he prefers a straight neck when practicing.


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