How Much Would You Spend On a Shoulder Rest?
Before we get started, I'd like to acknowledge all the people that are going to make some tired joke about not needing a shoulder rest. Much like viola jokes, these can be reserved for the person in your life that laughs because they love you, not because there is actual humor in your remark.
Hello everyone; some of you may recall that for the past few years I've been developing a new type of shoulder rest.
I've spent so much time and energy on developing it that I can't even begin to detail the process thus far, but suffice to say, it's been a lot of work.
I'm at a point now where I'm trying to make some decisions, and a big one is "how much will I charge for this thing?"
I already know that the most obvious answer is "charge the most you can get away with," but frankly, I don't want to do that. Looking at the Korfker Cradle, whose $1000+ price tag inspired me to double down on my efforts to produce my own shoulder rest, I am reminded that I always wanted something that would be truly secure, lightweight, and allow a large range of adjustment, all while maintaining or improving acoustics versus a more "standard" SR. But when it finally came out, it was insanely expensive. And I know some will argue that the Cradle is expensive to make, but I guarantee you their margins are ridiculous. They chose to make something great, but to make it at a price point that only a select few would ever be able to afford. They could have offered a lower-tier version with cheaper materials, but they didn't.
I personally believe that a *broad* range of players deserve to be able to have something that is infinitely adjustable (curvature, as well as height and all angles), lightweight, acoustically superior, and highly secure.
So my question is this: what is the most you'd spend on a shoulder rest, provided it truly does what is claimed above? I think I'm aiming for a price where at least 30% of players would *consider* spending that amount. Obviously, I'm not looking to compete with the price point of something like an Everest or a Kun.
I feel like we all have a mental "cutoff" point where, regardless of function, we simply wouldn't pay more for a given accessory. For example, some people will never spend more than $300 on a bow, even if they could easily afford it. Others would be happy to spend $10,000.
My current plan is to offer 3 different inventions... the 1st should be something that's cheap enough to where nearly 100% of people would at least consider it. The 2nd is something I'd like 50% to consider. The 3rd is something I would hope 20-30% would consider.
1) The cheapest: a quick attachment that you can use with your current shoulder rest, which allows you to put it in most positions on the violin without it moving. Minimalistic and probably like $15-20. Think of it as a "better rubber band," although it won't be elastic and will last years of use. Theoretically could enhance acoustics due to no longer needing to "Squeeze" the shoulder rest on to keep it secure. Will be one-size-fits-all, so would work for anything from 1/4 violin to a very large viola. Would also be low-profile so no one feels silly using it.
2) Midrange: a more rigid system that will allow you to use your current shoulder rest in nearly any position, but gives 4 points of contact for a better acoustic, more security, and less varnish-rubbing. Would give zero lateral "squeezing" to the violin, thus freeing it to vibrate more naturally. However, your ability to control the height of the SR remains the same. Probably like $50.
3) High-end: a full shoulder rest system that attaches in the same way as option #2, but allows infinite adjustment in all directions and all angles, including extreme angles and extreme height variance (from very low to very high). The curvature of the rest portion will also be highly adjustable, allowing both bending AND twisting, but once it's set in place will remain completely rigid in that position (unlike metal rests which gradually unbend over time). Of course, these adjustments can be re-done at any time, and will be very intuitive and simple to do. No baking in the oven or anything like that. And due to utilizing carbon fiber, the whole thing will weigh under 40 grams. Also, it will attach to the violin in a "normal" way, meaning it can be completely removed and replaced within just a couple of seconds. I'm thinking somewhere between $120-$150. Do you think that, given what I've mentioned so far, that this price point is something 20-30% of players would consider?
As always, thank you all for your input. You guys have no idea how excited I am to finally be closing in on an idea and actually putting it out there. I've been inventing things since I was very young, but have never brought an idea to market. And even if I don't make much money, I will feel fulfilled by solving an issue that I've had since I was young, and hopefully progressing the design of shoulder rests in a forward direction.
PS: due to the MIRACLE that is 3d-printing with metal, I would eventually like to offer a 4th option, which would be a completely custom, titanium shoulder rest which would all be one piece of metal. It would be dendritic in structure and offer zero adjustability since it would have no moving parts. Each one would be one-of-a-kind and a work of art in its own right, as well as being lighter than you might think possible. Of course, it would retain the positive qualities of my other shoulder rest, such as having 4 contact points. This would be for someone that has already "dialed in" what they want in a shoulder rest, and has $$$$ to spend on something fairly superfluous.
For an SR that solved all of the problems that an SR can solve, I would pay $300. I would want a warranty.
I'd value shoulder rests the same as chinrests, since a good chinrest already eliminates the need of using any shoulder rest for me.
I’m with Paul. If it can do all of that and be adjusted to the very low height that I would need and allow the free range of motion that comes with sponges/nothing I’d pay Korfkerrest kind of money. I like things that rest more on my collarbone than my shoulder and as of right now the only thing that can do that are sponges due to the low height that I need on that side. That being said, I think $120-$150 is very reasonable for something with that capability as well. Price it at what you think is fair. People will pay for something they see the value in. Just look at all the korfker users. Most people wouldn’t pay over $100 for a shoulder rest anyway so around that price point would fit your 30% margin. The most I paid was about $80 for the VLM diamond back when I used it. I also had the collapsible kun bravo a while ago that’s around $100, but I won that in a giveaway. If the bravo worked for me I’d gladly pay another $100 if I ever needed another. Small price to pay for comfort.
" Before we get started, I'd like to acknowledge all the people that are going to make some tired joke about not needing a shoulder rest. Much like viola jokes, these can be reserved for the person in your life that laughs because they love you, not because there is actual humor in your remark."
Paul: thank you, that is exactly what I needed.
You want folks to weigh in. I'm a long-necked guy with a Kun Bravo (collapsible, but cost c.$75). It's pretty nice, but I would pay $120-$150 for something that felt wonderful and didn't dull the sound of my violin.
I'd be willing to pay Korfkerrest money if I have the opportunity to try it extensively in the shop before buying. If not, then my maximum price point drops to maybe $75 with a personal recommendation from someone who knows my playing, or $50 without a direct recommendation.
The most I would pay for a shoulder rest is $50. That is because most of the ones I have tried are not comfortable and turn out to be useless ; they just sit in the bottom of a drawer. If I knew that this shoulder rest was going to do the job it is supposed to do (try before you buy ? ) then I would pay up to $100 for it.
Erik wrote: "Speaking of which, does anyone know if there are any high-end players that use the Kreddle? I personally found that it worked well up to 3rd position, but poorly for upper positions, such as those in concertos."
Erik, I think $300 would be a fair price to pay for your high end shoulder rest. If your shoulder rest can help players achieve a relaxed playing position and prevent injuries, that would justify the high price.
Erik, I don't actually use a Kreddle myself since I have a Hollywood chinrest that fits me almost perfectly. I'm a firm believer that any height adjustments should be made at the chinrest on top of the violin, as opposed to under the violin via shoulder rests. Having the instrument raised high for me makes my playing tense and stiff; keeping it lower and supported by my left hand allows me to play in a more relaxed manner.
"Elise Stanley: Sorry, but we have to fight back against bullying! People should feel safe choosing whatever system works best for them, without fear of mockery from the community."
Heifetz just used a little sponge.
I'm neither for or against shoulder rests, and I think it's just what suits you best. My answer is that it really depends. Shoulder rests that are more adjustable and made of more expensive materials are inevitably going to be more expensive. I'm using a Kun standard collapsible and am able to get it close enough to my neck by placing it in a certain position on the violin/viola and I do have relatively narrow shoulders, but that certainly doesn't work for everyone.
As the parent of serious teens, a hundred bucks or so was about my limit for a shoulder rest that may or may not work for us. But as soon as my son's teacher (and pro symphony musician) told us "I am not going to tell you that you have to buy a $300 shoulder rest, but the Korfkerrest is great and solves every problem I've had with one", since we'd had the same issues, we jumped on this.
I acknowledge your acknowledgement.
Personally I think a target market should be those in their first year or two who want a cheap shoulder rest which is comfortable. Your market for something that most people would consider expensive, ie, over a hundred quid, I would have thought is relatively small, whearas there are a lot of beginners who dont know if they will carry on the hobby so wont spend an arm and a leg, these are who you should look to, if making money is your aim, in my opinion anyway..
Personally, I've been happy with my $30 kun I've used since graduating from my Suzuki school sponges decades ago. My neck and shoulder probably grew to adjust to it after all these years. I must be a rare case. Your responses will probably be all over the board. You might have to practically give them away and not plan on making a lot at first, then keep raising the price as you find out how much you need to charge to make money and how much people are willing to pay. You probably won't make much in the first couple years anyway, that's just how business is.
@ Paul, yes good riddance to all those!
"My neck and shoulder probably grew to adjust to it after all these years. I must be a rare case."
After a lot of moderately expensive experimenting I settled on the least expensive Everest model. Be sure to find your best chin rest before shopping for the ideal shoulder rest. Try to avoid the current fad for extra high chin rests. They don't fit in the case.
I didn't balk at the price of a Korfker at $250, but to me, the $350 they want for the new model is too much. I suppose it's somewhat psychological, but to me, $75 is a reasonable amount to pay for a higher-end shoulder-rest. The $250 price of a Korfker is pretty much serious musicians only.
Kun is the major competition. You have to be priced to compete with those.
Wow, more responses than I expected on this subject! Though overwhelmed, I will respond to all of them:
After all your cynical comments about SR-less users you still have not given us a single example.
I feel like if you charged $400 for a bespoke shoulder rest in a leather wrapper you could find some success.
Thanks for the comments Erik. I'll just add that you are certainly not alone, and many people have tried inventing their own shoulder rest designs in hopes of solving a problem with fit for all.
Elise, I frankly find it baffling that you think I'm trying to intimidate you... Not sure what else to say, but perhaps you or someone else could chime in and let me know what I said to potentially make you feel that way. With all of that said, I'm not about to go do hours of digging into old threads just to prove an obviously true point, which is that threads involving shoulder rests *almost* always start with a few users chiming in with some snark about how they don't have to use one. I don't think these users understand the impact they're having on peoples' perceptions. I've had many students in the past couple of years come in for their first lesson and feel guilty or self-conscious about using a shoulder rest, because they've read online that it's no longer the proper way to play. In the same vein, many people no longer wish to play viola because Twoset has popularized micro-aggressions against them. Yes: they, too, are bullies; they're taking an already-wounded subgroup of players and jumping on the train to further kick them down. Words do matter, and I should know this better than anyone because I've burned many bridges online in the past. But I'm trying to improve the way I conduct myself, and I hope others would do the same.
The thing about low shoulder rests is that the portion that goes over the shoulder has to be made of an incredibly stiff material. If it's not stiff, then variations in downward pressure will cause too many problems. When the downward head pressure ("weight") is too low, the rest will feel too high, whereas if the head pressure is too high, then the underside of the rest will scratch the back of the violin. Rests like the Kun or Everest solve this problem to an extent by using carbon-reinforced polymer resins and a C-shaped or box-shaped cross-section. The C-shape can then provide a pocket for the foam rubber cushion. With my current SR (the popular "Everest"), the total height difference between zero and "full" pressure is about 5 mm. Well if that's how high you want your rest to be, then that's too much range of motion. So the question is what kind of material will be more stiff than a CF composite without adding a lot of mass? By the way I like the Everest better than the Kun partly because I like how wide it is -- it's a very comfy and secure SR, I just wish it could be adjusted a little lower. I am already using a Kaufmann side CR which I have carved out some, so it's about as low as they go. What's weird is that I seem to tolerate the viola with a Wittner CR and the Kun SR, which is a lot thicker overall than my violin setup. I think it works because the button is farther in front of my neck than it is on the violin. Or maybe I just tolerate a less comfortable setup because I'm resigned to the fact that with the viola it's basically hopeless. I would actually consider a cushion or semi-restless option for the viola except that I have a painful spur on my collarbone from playing the violin restless as a child, so it would have to be something that defends my collarbone very well. The thing is that I really like the way the SR feels and I don't want to give that up.
Great question, Paul. I spent a great deal of time researching carbon-reinforced polymers as a way of mass-producing a reasonably stiff SR. With long-fiber pellets, some pretty amazing results can happen, such as equaling the stiffness/strength of Aluminum, but of course, even the most advanced injection-moldable composite can't even come close to the stiffness/weight ratio of actual laid-up or pultruded carbon fiber.
I have a vlm and a basic Kun. The Kun is better padded for me and I can't tell a difference in sound so I rarely use the VLM.
I recently paid $350 for the KorferRest. I then paid an additional $50 for the short leg accessories. It is currently sitting on the shelf with a whole bunch of others. The VLM Diamond is on my violin. The price I would be willing to pay depends on the perceived value the maker is able to create. A great product is a good start. But marketing will play a critical role in sell success.
John, I'd be willing to try your Korfker to see if it's maybe something I would buy from you - if you're looking to get rid of it.
Every time there's a shoulder-rest thread, one or more people will post snark about their "Invisi-Rest" or something along those lines. It might have been vaguely funny the first time, and I bear those folks no ill will, but I can understand why Erik would tell them to give it a rest. (I have no recollection whether or not Elise is one of those people, and I doubt Erik remembers who has been part of the no-shoulder-rest brigade in the past.)
Personally I'd go to about 100-110 USD. Currently I'm using something in the range of 70 USD. I like experimenting and it replaced a 50 USD rest that replaced a 30 USD rest, etc. But it wasn't leaps and bounds better than the previous. In fact, I may have gotten it chiefly out of curiosity and esthetics. :D
Great input so far. Also, thank you to the people that have emailed me thus far with further input.
The partial tilt possibility of the Bravo can help with different clothing: T-shirt, cardigan, tuxedo etc.