Is it good to try to play without shoulder rest over time?

Edited: September 21, 2017, 2:36 PM · Hi,
I've been playing the violin for a while and over time I'm trying to remove the shoulder rest from the equation.

At the very beginning it was impossible to hold the violin even with shoulder rest. Months later I was comfortable holding it with a SR, but always had this thing running my head "stop using the SR!". I tried sometimes to play without SR, but after 10 minutes I would give up.

In these last days, I've tried more and more to play without SR, and today, without even noticing it, I played without SR the whole practice session.

I don't feel any con when not using a SR, I can play "as freely" as with SR, except that it's nearly impossible to fine tune the instrument as I can barely hold it without using my left hand, holding the neck.

The problem with my violin is that the pegs are not very well made, and it's quite difficult to tune the instrument using the pegs, so I really need to tune it using fine tuners in all the strings.

So, is it good to try to play without SR?
Does it really matter?

I see violinsts that I admire a lot, such as Hilary Hahn, and they use SR, so after all I feel that it's just doesn't matter.

Nonetheless, one thing I love about playing without SR is that you can take any violin out there and play it just like that, you won't feel uncomfortably for not using your particular SR.

One thing that still bugs me is that if I start practicing suddenly "a lot", like 3-4 hours per day for a week, my back starts complaining about the excess and I will feel very lightly but noticeable "pain". I don't know if I should call it "pain", but definitely my back is not at it's finest as when I've been 1 whole week without playing the violin.
Does this still happen to you once you've passed the beginner first years?

Oh, by the way, what's the next step, remove the jaw rest?
I don't think I could accomplish that, at least without "cheating", meaning without adding something to replace the jaw rest space, in which case I wouldn't see the point of removing the jaw rest.

Thank you

Replies (68)

September 21, 2017, 2:54 PM · I have been trying to get the thing right on my shoulder for the last 2 years. I broke my collar bone years back which doesn't help. There is a knot and an extra platform now which shouldn't be there.
I have tried loads of arrangements - without SR, with different shoulder rests including that one that looks like a bit of hollowed out coconut that you fix on the back with rubber band or sticky plastic stuff.
I went back to my earlier SR in the end. But now I have dispensed with the chin rest- and hey presto - its' wonderful. Reduced weight, improved responsiveness, but I can hold it high enough without clenching at all.
I can grip and embrace without getting tetany, I can release and float without a fall and the notes being smeared and thrown out of tune
(or even more out of tune in my case) . I think the chin rest was keeping things locked too much - in exchange for a certain stability no doubt. I am playing now without strain . I am still doing all this playing just from memory because i feel reading notes is going to
introduce somatic obliviousness that will probably kick start my old problems, so I want to be very careful and aware when i read notes again.
Too much squishiness is one of the problems besetting my hold. So I eschew a sponge or soft cloth even under my collar
September 21, 2017, 2:56 PM · The only rule is "No Rule". We have to be comfortable, and be able to make all those wonderful sounds going round in our heads, all over the violin.

Violins are very similar, violinists are definitely not!

Edited: September 21, 2017, 4:26 PM · For me the key to playing restless, which I do, is to move the violin further to the left. The truth is that the ubiquitous Guarneri chinrest design is not well suited to restless playing because it's designed with the assumption that you will position your violin to the right. I use a Teka rest, and even so I still place my chin somewhat onto the tailpiece. A Flesch chinrest is worth considering. They are really the right idea with regard to chin position, though I've personally found them too tall.

Without doing anything else, just move your violin to the left, and I think you'll discover that magically the violin back itself is positioned where your shoulder needs it to be. Some sort of thin pad that gives some traction between your violin and shoulder is very helpful too, unless you're like Anne Sophie Mutter, and you always play with a bare shoulder. ;)

But still there is a learning curve getting accustomed to holding the violin without a shoulder rest. Be patient and relax.

September 21, 2017, 4:42 PM · Once you find your "ah, violin playing is so easy and natural here!" zone, it's hard to get used to something else that is supposed to be better. So, "restless" is better for those for which the SR gets in the way, and trying to "properly play the violin" without SR might be an unnecessary struggle for those who already found their "zone" via a shoulder rest, chin rest, and accompanying violin position.

Though technically you could "make" most players play "restless", I question whether this is even desirable for many of these players. True, the SR is very often misused and can bring many problems, but this is usually due to "user error" and/or inappropriate fit. And no, I am not advocating that every player "needs" a SR-if you don't use one, and can play with freedom and ease anywhere and any repertoire, however advanced, then maybe you don't really need one.

Edited: September 21, 2017, 5:39 PM · There is a post a while back that is helpful on violin holding:

I believe the proper way is to:
First get a right chinrest that suits you (with the right height and style that suits your body which allows violin to sit on the collarbone)

If you find yourself comfortable enough with the above, then you can play restless. If not, then you probably need some sort of padding or support to get those extra comfort since everyone's bodybuild is different, by using 1) cloth or leather to prevent slipping (like Nathan cole mentioned in one of his YouTube video), 2) sponge (1-2 depending on the gap), or 3) a shoulder rest.

I have tried plenty myself and found myself most comfortable using regular foam pads (allows me the flexibility to tilt my violin, bc SR makes it a bit too high and fixed. But that's just me and my body built). But if I'm wearing some sort of suits or thick jacket, all I needed is some sort of cloth to prevent the violin from slipping or constantly rotating to the right (part of the reason why people gets back or neck pain bc they are afraid the violin would drop, so their jaw press harder during shift/vibrato/playing)

By all means, violin playing is hard enough and making good music is what we care. So finding the right setup that makes you comfortable and forget that it even existed is important. If restless makes your vibrato more freely, play restless. If a pad helps on the other hand, then a pad it is.

Hope this helps.

September 21, 2017, 6:22 PM · Other than the fact that a shoulder rest will slightly dampen the sound of the instrument, it doesn't matter. There are some technical adaptions that come from both styles of playing, but both work. For some people, having a shoulder rest is a comfort issue - I would rather have a shoulder rest than a rather high chin rest to compensate for my long neck.

However, I do also frequently lose my shoulder rest during the run of practice or a rehearsal. If I'm mid playing I won't bother picking it up and putting it back on until there is a good chance to do so. I find that I don't mind playing without it, but I do slightly prefer the angle the viola is presented at when using the rest. I can't quite get the same angle without it without having some tension.

If I couldn't use a shoulder rest I wouldn't cry, but I can so I do.

As far as removing chin rest, you can, but then shifting might become a real adventure. Remember, the chin rest is still 'new' in the history of the violin. The only thing you -need- are a violin, a bow, rosin, and strings!

September 21, 2017, 6:23 PM · Comfort has been a priority for me. I will not play the violin if it will cause me injuries or major discomforts.

My teacher recommended me SRs and a new chin rest. Ended up buying 5 shoulder rests and 2 chin rests (one bought by mistake). Regular, adjustable and bendable, regular rectangular sponge, rubber rectangular block, and violin-shaped sponge shoulder rests. At first I didnt like the violin-shaped, which is what my teacher is using, but my teacher helped me find a better placement and it works super great now! Took a while and it cost me extra, but worth it! I can focus on playing and not on random aches and pains.

I have a friend who has a short neck and doesn't need any SR. She tried all of my SR and all made it worse for her. I'd personally prefer if I don't need to use one, but my physiology says otherwise.

September 21, 2017, 9:44 PM · This is a very personal decision. Do you have a teacher you can talk to? My advice is to go with what best suits your physique.
September 22, 2017, 4:52 AM · Violinists play well both with and without a shoulder rest. The vast majority use a shoulder rest or a small pad.

You and your teacher should look at your unique body type and technique to decide which is better for you personally.

September 22, 2017, 5:17 AM · Nobody's mentioned Heifetz or "projection" yet. How sad.
September 22, 2017, 6:00 AM · I was a kid beginner and played restless for some years -- till I was 18-19 y/o. Then I tried some SRs, found one that suited me, and have preferred playing with one ever since. I can play restless, but I don't like the feel of a bareback fiddle.

I've long suspected that players who successfully ditch their SRs would have been better off not to start using them in the first place. I recall the story on some years back of the preadolescent kid -- about 7 y/o, not sure. Her school program required SR use. That strikes me as absurd. It's a bit like putting corrective lenses on a first grader -- without first determining whether the kid can see everything in the classroom just fine without them.

And not all SRs work equally well for all instruments, let alone for all players. On two of my fiddles, the VLM Diamond works great -- for me; but on the third, the Kun Bravo suits me better. Get another player to play these instruments, and the combinations might well have to be reversed.

Bottom line: As others have indicated, you need to determine what's best for you -- playing without the SR or playing with one. Trying to remove the SR "over time," as you say, sounds a little like trying to wean yourself off training wheels. SRs are not "training wheels."

BTW, I haven't noticed any dampening of sound from the SR. If anything, I notice a slight enhancement.

Edited: September 22, 2017, 6:16 AM · Paul. I have attended concerto concerts by Heifetz and Stern (no obvious shoulder rest) and Hilary Hahn (SR). All three had incredible projection. In other words, I don't understand what your remark has to do with the subject.

By the way, in a concert I attended with Erick Friedman (no SR - he couldn't dare as a student of Heifetz, no matter how long his neck)) playing the Brahms concerto only his overtones poked above the orchestral accompaniment.

My own violin experience was 30 years without SR followed by 40 years with SR followed by 9 years (and still counting) with changing SRs and no SR as my body had long passed SS and retirement age.

Finding the right violin-holding posture and the personally-right chinrest are the first steps. Deciding whether to add a shoulder rest (which model and how to mount it) are next. I was in my 30s and had been playing for 30 years when I finally found the right chinrest for the shape of my jaw and my violin-holding posture. With that perfect fit I then tried some SRs and found they helped. I don't think there is any negative effect of SR on "projection" or tone quality.

By the way I have long arms so I have to hold the violin with the neck pointing quite far to the left.

Most recently I started using a "violin-shaped" foam SR sold by SHAR, perhaps it is the same design that John C. referred to. It attaches directly to the violin (or viola) back and in testing it by playing in cello position I find it might actually enhance the sound a bit - certainly no negative effect. The same SR works equally well on violin and viola, which is handy if you use a double case and it is absolutely no threat to the instruments it is carried with. I do hold the instruments on my collarbone and depend on the SR only for a "bit of tilt."

Edited: September 22, 2017, 6:39 AM · Hi Andrew,
Im no scientist and not an experienced player by any means but it does stand to logic that the SR would have an impact on sound. Luthiers fiddle with the smallest measurements of the various parts of the violin; which means each of the parts of the violin box has a significant acoustic role to play in the ensemble of parts. Now imagine adding the SR, which typically firmly holds the violin at two ends or presses against the belly (foam). Its normal I think to expect a change.

Im not being prejudiced for or against. Maybe the change is good in some cases, maybe not. But do luthiers factor in SR when producing violins? Do they study the ebsemble of violin and particular SRs when producing violins? It doesnt seem that they regularly do that, understandably I think. But this is not to deny the fact that the SR becomes a (unstudied) part of the violin system with its own contribution.

September 22, 2017, 6:52 AM · The "violin-shaped" foam I'm using is AcoustaGrip Concert Master Violin Shoulder Rest - Thick from Shar. They have different sizes and thickness. I bought the thickest one because I have a lot of space between my chin and shoulder. I'm a giraffe after all.

Jokes aside, my second choice is the Bonmusica shoulder rest. It allows a lot of adjustment (check some videos since it would take me forever to describe what it can do) I have been using that for a while, but my teacher said "it's the worst" even though it's a lot more comfortable for me than the regular SR. He said it's too long and impedes on shoulder movement because I bent end to hook on to the back of my shoulder. I was able to adjust it to more of a regular SR, but since his disapproval I never brought it to lessons again. I knew I had to find something that he would approve so I bought three other SR's.

If you are by the San Francisco Bay Area, we can meet up and try my SRs.

September 22, 2017, 7:10 AM · Many people get obsessed with trying to play without a shoulder rest (or they waste $$ trying to find the "perfect" strings). It's nothing but a waste of time.
Spend your time and energy working on all the other stuff--bow distribution, intonation, rhythmic integrity, dependable shifts, spicatto--the stuff that counts.
Edited: September 22, 2017, 7:22 AM · Good advice Scott. Totally agree that too much attention on the margins takes time from practice. But can one apply the same priciple without SR too? In fact, one of the things about the SR is that it makes you think too much about its type, its position, its height. If one is also comfortable without SR (especially when it hasnt become a habit) why should one wear (and fuss over) it?
Edited: September 22, 2017, 7:24 AM · Nice to see the return of this old war horse!

I started learning the violin quite late in life so wasn't carry the baggage of having been ordered to use a SR ("because everyone else does") from the age of 5 or whatever. As an adult I felt I was now in a position to think things through and make some sort of informed decision.

I was aware that the SR was unknown before the 1940s and that today there are eminent professionals who don't use one. Furthermore, as an orchestral cellist, as I still was in my early violinist days, I was accustomed to hearing the unfortunate clatter of a falling SR in rehearsals - and even in the occasional concert; it still goes on.

My violin teacher, a SR-user, raised no objections to my experiments playing SR-less. In fact, at the time the focus was on my posture and hold, and it may have been considered that wearing a SR could have been more of a hindrance than a help. Less than a year later I had stopped using the SR completely. It is my view that not using a SR makes the violinist personally responsible for their posture, which is the foundation of tone production and all other aspects of playing the violin.

I've since found that playing without a chin rest, which I now increasingly do more and more, draws the violinist's attention even more closely to the importance of posture. Have sloppy posture when playing CR-less and you'll soon know all about it!

But, as Jim said in his last post, try to determine what's best for you; we're all individuals.

September 22, 2017, 8:09 AM · Right On, John, it is an AcustaGrip that I am using, but not the thick model. I wrecked the sticking surface and have added some other self-stick material just to the ends of the AG.
Edited: September 22, 2017, 8:48 AM · If our physiognomy requires one, it is worth spend a lot of trouble with first chinrest, then shoulder rests, precisely so we no longer feel that they are there!

I like to suggest removing both rests, and going to the mirror to see what's missing. It may be very little; or a lot...

These discussions lose their clarity when we don't specify whether we still use support from the shoulder some or all of the time, or even not at all, when playing "restless".

Edited: September 22, 2017, 9:20 AM · Scott Cole said "Many people get obsessed with trying to play without a shoulder rest (or they waste $$ trying to find the "perfect" strings). It's nothing but a waste of time. Spend your time and energy working on all the other stuff--bow distribution, intonation, rhythmic integrity, dependable shifts, spicatto--the stuff that counts."

I don't agree that it's a waste of time to explore various CR / SR / / string / equipment options, but I agree with the spirit of your statement. Some people spend a disproportionate amount of time messing around with things instead of practicing. Looking at your equipment choices periodically and how they fit your body and technique are an essential part of violin playing.

September 22, 2017, 9:25 AM · I learned playing without SR as a child. When I went to conservatory I started playing with a pad, I do have long neck and for me it felt good. The pad however was damping very heavily.
Today I play with SR (a bit of a shame), I feel good with it and with the right SR the damping was not to heavy on my current violin. I miss a bit the vibrations on my shoulder though.
I play the baroque violin without anything.
There are good reasons for every of those playing types and I would recommend to use a way your teacher is familiar with, or he might be guiding you in the wrong direction.
September 22, 2017, 9:40 AM · Andrew,

I'm using two clear rubber bands on mine. I have it wrapped on the bottom metal part of the violin then each hooked to the sharp corners on the sides of the violin. Though I have to make some cuts on the foam for the bands to pass through. Works fine and I don't have to worry about sticky stuff.

September 22, 2017, 10:09 AM · John, THis is the stuff I bought to restick my AcustaGrip to the instrument backs:

AirStick White Microsuction Tape By Sewell, 0.8mm, 250mmx300mm Sheet - No Residue Mounting Tape

It is available at Amazon and as you can tell by the title it uses micro suction rather than any other kind of stickiness. It seems more secure than the original "sticker."

September 22, 2017, 10:25 AM · I just can't do anything without a shoulder rest. I can't even hold the violin without applying an absurd pressure against the chinrest.

I can see it works for some people, but for my neck is a no no.

September 22, 2017, 12:16 PM · Scott Cole's comment is dangerous.

We should constantly experiment with what works best with our unique body shapes because if you can't play with ease, it'll soon lead to injury and then you can't play at all. Speaking from personal experience.

Just think: all the great virtuosi of the past before shoulder rest was invented/in common use: Paganini, Sarasate, they they manage to play? Magic? They understand how the instrument is balanced and supported on the left hand.

But I'l play devil's advocate to myself: let's say we bring a bag a shoulder rests and go into the time machine and let them try it. I wouldn't be surprised if at least some of them might say, "Hey, this is a fantastic little nifty invention!" People have different preferences. Already in 1830s Baillot in l'art du violon was advocating for a padding underneath to support the violin.

It's very personal, there's no right answers but you have to keep exploring. Some people must use it, must people can't do with or without, some prefer none. I think people like Zukerman literally throwing people's shoulder from the stage in master classes is a bit mean and stressful. Just take your time and feel how the instrument balances on your left hand. People think shifting is hard without shoulder rest because they still have a fear of dropping the fiddle so they grip on to the neck. Practice over a bed if you're scared and take it slowly, the body will figure it out on its own if you let it.

But don't listen to someone who say that's silly, go practice your bow distribution instead. Find out what's comfortable for you. It's worth the time, I promise.

September 22, 2017, 12:25 PM · I also don't see finding the "perfect" this and that as a waste of time. Perhaps a little waste of money, but I think it's part of the experience of playing the violin that I'm willing to pay for up to a certain amount. I honestly would find it a lot more boring if there's only one type of string, bow, violin, and etc for everyone in the world.
September 22, 2017, 1:42 PM · If you're not totally happy with your equipment, it's okay to experiment and find the perfect personal match, as long as the search doesn't become too obssessive. I would play in a way that your teacher is familiar with, keeping in mind that it must fit you physically. Ultimately, your physique, and technique to some degree, decides what chin rest and shoulder rest combination works best for you, personally. I understand the spirit of Scott's comment, but Douglas is right on the ball here.
September 22, 2017, 2:11 PM · I think you should start without a SR, figure out the right chin rest, and then if there is still a need start out with a cloth or leather, then move to a pad or a thicker pad, and then finally a SR if it's necessary. I suspect most people could get by with a correct CR and a folded leather chamois, and they would be better off for starting minimalist and building from there--as a child I had a very poorly setup SR thanks to poor instruction and only in the last several years was able to rebuild my setup without a SR, and I am now completely relaxed and pain free whereas as a child I was constantly uncomfortable.
Edited: September 22, 2017, 2:24 PM · "In fact, one of the things about the SR is that it makes you think too much about its type, its position, its height. If one is also comfortable without SR (especially when it hasnt become a habit) why should one wear (and fuss over) it?"

Well, he's NOT comfortable right now without a rest and he won't be for the foreseeable future. Maybe a couple of years. Once you get used to a decent shoulder rest, usually in a few days, you don't have to think about it. Unless of course you use a Kun and it falls off every few minutes like they generally do.

Frankly, the last comment about a "next step" about removing the chin rest now has me suspicious that the OP wants to do what he perceives is cool and minimalist rather than what is the most comfortable.

It reminds me of the fixie-bike craze amongst hipsters a few years ago: first everyone gets a mountain bike, then they move to a road bike, then, in the never-ending search for purity, simplicity and hipness, they get a fixed-gear bike. Certainly minimalist, but pretty useless.

These obsessions about shoulder rest and chinrest generally lead nowhere except for chasing one's one tail.

Edited: September 22, 2017, 5:17 PM · Scott, a bit off topic, but the fixie bike craze is still with us, in the UK at any rate; only it's gone one stage further. Some enterprising idiots on the road are now dispensing with the front brake, so the only braking is restricted to what can be applied to the back wheel through the fixed wheel system; this is actually required in velodrome racing but is quite illegal on the road.

A few days ago a British judge jailed a young man for crashing into and killing a pedestrian when riding a fixie bike without a front brake. The big problem is that the judge was restricted to handing down a mere 8 months sentence because the defendant could only be charged under an antiquated Victorian law about driving horse-drawn carriages "furiously"! This legal anomaly is soon to be looked into as a matter of urgency.

Unfortunately, I see no prospect in the foreseeable future of applying legislation to the crime of allowing a shoulder rest to clatter onto a hard floor at an inopportune moment during a concert :)

September 22, 2017, 5:21 PM · I don't use one on either my violin or viola, BUT I had to adopt a centered position like Anne Sophie Mutter uses in order to get the stability I require. I adapted flesch style flat chin rests of different heights to match the total collarbone to chin distance. I have noticed a very pronounced change in resonance and openness of sound- also greater volume and projection, even over the least dampening shoulder rests I could find- by Peter Mach.
Edited: September 22, 2017, 6:02 PM · It's worth noting that the almost flat baroque tailpiece behaves as a useful temporary chin-rest when shifting down from high positions. Only a gentle (and brief) frictional touch with the chin/jaw is needed - no digging in or significant pressure! The con is that such tailpieces aren't designed for micro tuners. No problem if you're using a full set of gut strings, but if you wanted to use a steel E then you'd probably have to fit geared pegging for that string.
Edited: September 22, 2017, 7:42 PM · Scott Cole, I use a Wolf Forte Secondo SR, which I find very, very comfortable. My "problem" actually is that I can't find a position that I can say is better for me than the rest. Of course between some limits, but I can move around the shoulder rest anywhere and most of the possible positions seem pretty much as comfortable.

I haven't tried yet to play without chin rest, indeed, I don't know how to take it out, hahahaha. I know you do it by turning those 2 pieces, but I've never done it neither seen how it's done. I'm gonna check it later in YouTube.

The thing is:

1. I've always kind of hated the idea of using a shoulder rest, even when I was a total beginner. I was surprised when my teacher told me in my first violin class that there was a thing called "shoulder rest" that you use to play the violin. I didn't even know that there was such a thing. Anyway, the next day I bought that Wolf Forte Secondo (yeah, I've only used one shoulder rest, tried many, but owned this one only). Nonetheless, a few days later I discovered that not every violinist needed a shoulder rest, and I knew that you could get used to one kind of SR, and one day, when you have the chance to play someone else's violin, and there's no shoulder rest available, you would be "in trouble". What I really loved from the beginning about not using a shoulder rest was that it let you get used to every violin in the world at the same time, no special gear needed.

2. Over time, I read these things about "the pureness of not using a SR", that a SR would dump the violin sound, you know, all the "myths" (or not, whatever you want to call it) about not using SR. You heard the stories of Heifetz and Menuhin, no SR allowed, etc...

3. Then you notice some of the greatest violinists use SR, so then you realize all you read about not using SR was mostly BS, hahahaha, but then you face in forums and blogs people that claim all those benefits of not using a SR are real. Your head explodes.

I know that some violinists will say the using SR or CR does not affect negatively the sound, but others will say the opposite. So I created this thread to read all the different opinions about this topic.

Hahaha, I'm no cool wannabe, just want to ask questions. If you want to know what I think is cool I will say it: I think SR's are not cool at all, but I also think CR are very cool, and most violins look kind of ugly without a CR.

September 22, 2017, 9:20 PM · So, can someone explain to me what the issue is exactly that the SR "solves"?

What challenges are introduced when you play without one?

September 22, 2017, 10:12 PM · For those of us with long necks, playing with a SR is generally much less tension-inducing than playing without one. It's a comfort issue.

Every time this topic comes up, I read the discussion slack-jawed with amazement. SR's are not the devil and the majority of professional violinists use one. CR's aren't the devil either, and there's a reason why they became universally adopted.

If playing with a SR is more comfortable, then use a SR. If playing without one is more comfortable, do that. If you must remove your CR, then I suggest taking some Baroque violin lessons so you can learn the proper technique to play that way.

I'll stick with my CR and Mach One SR, thanks.

September 22, 2017, 11:27 PM · Same as Mary ^ long neck. Plus bony shoulders and collarbone for me.
September 23, 2017, 12:39 AM · There are so many interacting factors.

- Do you want the fiddle always on the collarbone? Even when I can find my collarbone, I want to listen with my ears, not my bones. And it hurts!
- Long neck? A higher CR may be better than a high SR.
- Short fingers? I have a tilt o 45° on viola, 30° on violin, just to get a decent vibrato on th lowest string.
- Sloping shoulders? Now we're getting there! Every restless player I have seen or watched in concert hunches their left shoulder some of the time, even when they hotly deny ever doing so. If our shoulder is lower than the collarbone, extending the violin is surely better than raising the shoulder.
- Vibrato? I can't get the supple, variable vibrato that's in my head if my left hand is holding up the fiddle; a bit like lifting up the chair you are sitting on!

September 23, 2017, 1:09 AM · If your KUN falls of that usually means you got the scroll not high enough, just saying.
I used a KUN for 9 years and it never fall of and everytime i whitness this happening is when people dont get the thing upright and therefore introduce the SR to perpendicular forces.
I dont play Russian style with scroll in the air, but if your scroll is closer to the floor than your chinrest it destroys sound.
A shoulder rest supports the violin but if its completly locked there its often problematic for the neck. Even a shoulder rest player should be able to play a few minutes without or he propably has an unhealthy stlyle. I played endless hours of violin without any pain or stiffness in neck and shoulders and I thank my first teacher for beeing able to introduce me to a healthy playing style!
I see so many teachers with degree not beeing able to hold the violin correctly I sometimes am scared for the health of their students. There is more than one right way for sure, but so many wrong ones too.
Edited: September 23, 2017, 1:29 AM · The reason there are so many different models of CR's and SR's available is that a much larger subset of our population with a greater range of different physical attributes and even age play the violin than at any previous time in history. If I had to look at my studio and make a general assessment, it would be that few students really share the exact same setup, and it changes as they age.

The pianists are just finally beginning to broach this issue, with the design of the modern piano keyboard optimized for the hand span of tall, male, Europeans, but the source of a lot of frustration (and injuries) for pianists with smaller hands, who shouldn't be limited in their repertoire just because "tradition" dictates that their keyboards should only be offered in a single size. Check out this company building keyboards with 5.5in and 6.0in octave spans (vs. the traditional 6.5in) and their research into hand sizes:

The folks who insist that there is only a single right way the play the violin probably arrived at that conclusion because of their individual experience, but the issue with that is that the sample size is too small to make an overall assumption about an entire population.

I have played without a shoulder rest for almost fifteen years. I have a somewhat interesting Tempel chinrest that fits me exactly to accomplish it. In this same time span, I have had only two students out of a hundred-plus whose physical makeup permitted the same.

Edited: September 23, 2017, 3:58 AM · Tammuz wrote, "Now imagine adding the SR, which typically firmly holds the violin at two ends." Yes that's true, but you're not comparing that to zero contact. You're comparing that to a lot of surface contact between the back of the violin and your shoulder when playing restless, which I did all through childhood and I think it's one reason I didn't learn to play properly. My teacher was a member of the Heifetz Adoration Society and didn't allow the SR.
September 23, 2017, 9:04 AM · "Over time, I read these things about "the pureness of not using a SR", that a SR would dump the violin sound, you know, all the "myths" (or not, whatever you want to call it) about not using SR. You heard the stories of Heifetz and Menuhin, no SR allowed, etc..."

Yes, there's the bear trap. Many have stepped in it.

"If your KUN falls of that usually means you got the scroll not high enough, just saying. "

Kun rests fall off not due to scroll position but because they do not have much tension, unlike the Wolf, which rarely comes loose. And over time, the player doesn't realize that the foot wears and needs to be replaced. Even in professional orchestras, they fall off once in a while. And often during a rest when the violin is propped upright. If three happened at the same time you could serve them up as "shoulder rest sliders" with a side of carrot slaw on mini brioches for $8.95.

The other thing I don't like about the Kun, apart from the flimsy design and small diameter of the foot mounting post, is that when set low they can flex and rub against the back of the violin, even to the point of damaging the finish. The only worse design is that old Mehuhin type with the characteristic metal coils. "rib scratchers."

Why would one need a brake on a bike? For one thing, they add GRAMS to the weight. All that needless complexity. Totally destroys the clean aesthetic. So uncool...
I find it interesting these days that, at least in the US, riders are loathe to put anything on their bike--water bottles, tool kits, spare tube--anything. And the more expensive the bike, the more likely it is to be true.

September 23, 2017, 9:53 AM · If you look in a proffessional orchestras you see a lot of people with bad holding and I know a good amount with hurt necks at the age of around 50. If the force on the kun rest is applied in the direction of the violin it never falls of.
Broken feet rubbers are a point indeed, but I never understood how one could overlook this on his equipment. That its a bit less tension on the violin is something positiv in my opinion, esp when it comes to damping. I dont say Kun is a better SR than amy other, but to abandon it from the beginning would be also wrong imho.
September 23, 2017, 9:58 AM · Oh and about the brakes, because you kill yourself otherwise. As a passionate racing bike cyclist I can tell you, the higher up you go in the cyclists skills, the more minimalistic the equip.
Edited: September 23, 2017, 10:05 AM · Tim, I completely get your point. Play the way that's most comfortable for you, but if you have to temporarily play in a less optimal way, just accept it. For instance, I usually play with a shoulder rest, but when I'm trying out violins or briefly playing on someone else's violin, I'll go with a less optimal chinrest and a less optimal/no shoulder rest. I have also heard of the practice of not using the chinrest along with a shoulder rest. I think some people play that way because it's comfortable for them (my violin teacher played without a chinrest temporarily because she loaned her chin rest to a student, though she kept the shoulder rest). You can also check out shoulder and chin rest wars in the discussion board archives.
Edited: September 23, 2017, 10:30 AM · A long neck has nothing to do with a shoulder rest, unless you're holding your violin incorrectly...

The violin back edge rests on the collar bone. The shoulder rest fills the gap between the back and shoulder. The chin rest fills the gap between the top and jaw.

If using a shoulder rest to compensate for a long neck, the violin isn't resting on the collar bone correctly. The correct place to make up for a long neck is on the chinrest side, and the correct place to adjust for the angle and shape of the shoulder is the shoulder rest side.

Think of what would happen if you have the violin resting on the collar bone and you jack up the shoulder rest -- this would only change the angle of the violin with respect to the collar bone, and do nothing to compensate for a long neck. Far too often I see people in this predicament.

September 23, 2017, 11:10 AM · Agree, long neck should mean long chinrest.
If you play without CR dont forget some cloth to protect the varnish.
Edited: September 23, 2017, 12:36 PM · Scott wrote, "I find it interesting these days that, at least in the US, riders are loathe to put anything on their bike--water bottles, tool kits, spare tube--anything." Pro racers, that's one thing. But most of the guys you see who spent $2000 to shave 50 grams off the mass of their bicycles are 20+ pounds overweight. Go figure.

The same with people who agonize over CF vs. permambuco when they're obviously not even close to being equipment-limited.

I like the shape of the Kun, it works okay for me. There might be something better out there, but I haven't found it yet. The slipping problem is easily solved by strapping the posts to the lower bout corners on the back using a couple of rubber bands. They don't show from the front. Particularly good for my viola Kun, which is quite stiff and unruly. I keep my Kun as low as it will go but I haven't had the experience of clamping down hard enough with my chin to bottom it out on my violin.

September 23, 2017, 3:27 PM · Talking about the KUN. I've compared it to my Wolf Forte Secondo and I think it's worse in every way.

To those KUN owners... have you tried the Wolf Forte Secondo?

Specially after reading that "you have not find anything better", try the Wolf. It's better padded, less stiff (I mean, you can make the Wolf fit your shape easily), it's easier to use (when you have to fine adjust it) and it stays in the violin (yeah, I know the KUN doesn't fall off if you've set it correctly, but the Wolf won't fall off even if you put it "bad").

September 23, 2017, 3:57 PM · Maybe off topic, but it's possible to have your violin touch your collarbone with a SR and still play comfortably. While many SR users play more to the left, I don't see it as a necessity-nor do I agree with the argument that SR "prevents" you from resting the violin on your collarbone.

I have achieved this with Kun Bravos, Wolf Secondos, and the VLM Diamond, which I now exclusively use. I did like the Secondo a lot, though its minimum height can be high. You do not need to use these SR way to the left, and for *me* the collarbone position feels way easier to play than "all the way" to the left.

I have noticed many models that favor "up on the left side" playing, but I adjust all of mine so the violin is more forward than the usual, left-sided SR position. I think I wouldn't use a SR that really prevented me from playing me from using this "pseudo collarbone" (for lack of better term-an hybrid of SR and collarbone) position.

Ultimately, I don't think getting into "the way I hold the violin is better, less injury-prone, and more comfortable than yours" arguments will help the discussion, though.

No offense meant to all of you who may be genuinely convinced that I am "playing it wrong"-play and let play.

September 23, 2017, 4:40 PM · I don't think anyone was saying that playing with an SR prevents you from resting the violin on your collarbone. Now, someone in search of height an therefore jacking up the SR is in dangerous territory for a number of reasons, including elevating off the collar bone and creating a see-saw.
September 23, 2017, 6:02 PM · Douglas, it seems like most amateurs are making the mistake you mention. I was one of them for many years.
Edited: September 24, 2017, 12:11 AM · See-saw? I indeed have my Kun just a little further from my neck than usual so it forms the fulcrum on my relaxed shoulder; when my head descends, the scroll rises. No tension, no hickey, and no pain on my ancient collarbone! But my CR is a high, much sculpted wooden Teka.

No rules, just my €0.02

Edited: September 24, 2017, 4:34 AM · I was told and I've watched videos, wait, indeed, not just videos, I watched a documentary about Menuhin; he was teaching students first the proper way to hold a violin, and the see-saw was a straight and clear NO-NO.

Your scroll, or even better, your violin, is not supposed to move at all when your head descends. There can't be any kind of see-saw (look there, one advantage of not using a shoulder rest is that you literally can't make this mistake). Your violin is supposed to rest steady and balanced. You should totally move your shoulder rest further away from your neck until there's no see-saw.

September 24, 2017, 4:47 AM · I know that documentary too, worth watching but not the only right way. He did not get any damage due to the holding although playing excessevly, making it worth to look at his way!
Edited: September 24, 2017, 5:29 AM · It's interesting to me how essentially similar the design of most SRs is--a curve of some depth at shoulder end, and length extending accross the width of the instrument.
On the other end of the spectrum are pads (like the old-fashioned Poehland I grew up with) or sponges that support just the shoulder end, without "locking" the instrument in place.
I use a Wolf Primo b/c it can be made flat w/o that pesky shoulder-end locking curve, & I can turn the foot assembly over to lower the height considerably. That combination lets ME balance w/o tension, necessary at my age w/ my history of tension-related shoulder injuries. It took lots of experimentation to achieve the result, but I was threatened w/ having to stop playing altogether b/c of pain and neuropathy. Five years later, (5 yrs older) that spectre has vanished.
Edited: September 24, 2017, 10:28 AM · It can be a good idea to play without a SR occasionally because it can give you an idea of what your left thumb is doing when shifting.
Deciding on whether to play without SR always is very personal. One advantage is sound. Another is that your left shoulder is a lot more free, however only if you hold the fiddle with your left hand and only hold it with your shoulder and chin when necessary (f.ex. shifts downward).
You mention having pain, playing without SR might or might not help. Generally it is easyer if one has a short neck and high shoulders but one can play without SR if one has a long neck.
If you do play with a shoulder rest make sure you get one that fits you and that you don't pull your left shoulder up in order to hold the fiddle.
Edited: September 24, 2017, 11:10 AM · Tim, the see-saw balance is not "a mistake", but let's say it doesn't seem to suit you! It works extremely well for me, avoiding the very uncomfortable constant contact with the collarbone, as well any tension in the neck. It doesn't stop me using left hand and collarbone if I wish.
I don't see why you lay down the law in this fashion: it is misleading to answer the OP in such terms.

Menuhin's videos show his own personal approach: no shoulder participation and a large gap between index base and fingerboard (with which many disagree); Heifetz, and almost all other "restless" players use their shoulders often. One size never fits all.

My students' shoulders, necks etc are as different as their noses, and of course I don't impose my violin hold on any of them. I am just describing it as a practical and tension-free possibility.

September 24, 2017, 1:18 PM · Adrian, I've been told by my teacher too that there should not be see-saw, not just Menuhin. You need to move the shoulder rest farther away, or put a higher chin rest if you like where the violin is, or a sponge or something between your collarbone and the violin.

I know there's not only "one truth" about violin holding, but one thing is that there is room for the violin to be this way or that way, and another one is doing something I've been told several times and also watched no to do so.

If that violin hold works for you, go ahead, but one, I don't know how that can work, since the slightest movement of your head is going to move the violin up and down, and two, it's a very shared opinion that the violin should not see-saw at all.

September 24, 2017, 1:58 PM · The violin sounds better without a shoulder rest IF you hold the violin up with your left hand not your shoulder. Many people fail at being restless as they try to use the same shoulder holding method that they used to use with a SR. Support the violin with the left hand and balance it on your collar bone. Job done.
The other option is to buy an invisi-rest. I am currently selling two for $100. These take up no room in your case, provide an unimpeded view of the back of the violin, cannot be left behind, fit all fractions of violin, weigh nothing, and are guaranteed to fit every violin and never fall off.

Cheers Carlo

September 24, 2017, 6:33 PM · Hahahaha, Carlo works for an invisi-rest company.
September 24, 2017, 7:31 PM · Carlo, you need to talk to the maker about increasing your distributor discount for the invisi-rest line, because I am turning quite a profit at my current selling price of $0. And my inventory is huge, with every model always in stock!
Edited: September 25, 2017, 1:47 AM · "it's a very shared opinion that the violin should not see-saw at all"
Shared but not universal.

The main weight of my viola is taken by the shoulder and chest via the SR, and balanced, not held, by the weight of the head. No grip. If I lift my head the scroll end is supported by the left thumb (à la Menuhin). I can move my head from left to right, sliding on the CR. My collar-bone is not prominent enough to be a safe place for my instrument, padded or not.

I don't refer to my own setup as the best or only way, just to show the immense variety of human physique. And at 68yo, I have none of violists' usual ailments!

BTW, I too appreciate th Forte Secondo.
And I am a fervent fan of Menuhin and his teaching.

Edited: September 25, 2017, 10:59 AM · I am finding playing without a chin rest continues to be wonderful.
I am able to get up and down the violin fine. I am finding I am very close now ( I am sure) to playing in tune - which is wonderful. Just need to keep those fingers 2 and especially 1 back in first position, particularly on the a string. I am nearly there!!!!!
The sound without my chinrest changed : much clearer, more open, also more gravelly-gritty, a little more nasal. The rests of any kind do somewhat dampen sound I find, but also tame over-shrill high frequencies. Some of them may give more body to the sound, boost some of the lower frequencies.
I watched that video of Yehudi Menuhin teaching . I feel a bit skeptical now. It looks a bit like torture. I am a little suspicious of all those :
" This should be - should be " s " this must never" . I wonder also about his playing.
His playing sometimes looks to me very strained? There is a playing of a Bach prelude in E , not terribly well in tune on youtube . And I am aware some people have said his playing suffered a severe decline at some late stage.
I wonder if over -rigid and perhaps unnecessary ideas of how the violin must be held may have played a part in that?
Yes,its' a good idea to protect the varnish if playing without a chinrest. One reason I like it is it lightens the violin considerably. -Seems to me - however you suffer trying to hold the things with the best hold for shoulder etc - you will suffer LESS if the instrument is lighter.
I forgot to add that I am now crinkling my 4th, little, finger LH when I can , and it does indeed help, as somebody suggested in another post , - rather than having it fixed out straight. Even with a very short little 4th finger, I often can crinkle it at least a bit.
September 25, 2017, 11:10 AM · Menuhin got ill in his old days and was only able to continue playing (even when not in the same quality) because he had a healthy playing style. I dont think it is the best or only one out there, but for him it worked very well.
Playing in tune is usually not a matter of the holding, only for beginners. Even with the worst holding style you can get in tune. I whitnessed one of his last playings in front of an audience when he got a well renovated price in Germany. It was not exactly great, I felt very sad for him.
In his golden days, he was a great player!
Fourth finger will become easy with time, just keep using it! With time, the violin will feel like a part of yourself, very natural.
September 25, 2017, 8:12 PM · @Jason. Please make sure you are selling the Original Invisi-rest. There are Chinese knock offs kicking around. The original invisi-rest now comes with a completely invisible hologram.

Cheers Carlo

September 26, 2017, 3:07 PM · Thank you Marc.
September 26, 2017, 3:08 PM ·

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