I’m currently using a kun collapsible with Everest feet, but it’s not very comfortable. I’ve heard that the Mach one can get pretty low, but I don’t know how much. There’s also the Korfkerrest with the short leg option, but I don’t know how that competes against other more economically priced rests.
I’ve also tried the VLM diamond, but last I tried it I didn’t like the s shape it has.
I also don’t live near a big violin shop, so going to one and trying a bunch wouldn’t be much of a possibility for me.Tweet
The sponge is often a “gateway” rest anyway, so it might be what you need.
An injury to my neck when I had been playing for 50 years killed my arm vibrato and forced me to develop a hand vibrato, so I no longer needed a shoulder rest for vibrato, but I still used one from time to time.
Over the next 34 years I tried various shoulder rests and I have played with and without so many that I purchased. Right now I am playing without any device between my shoulder or collarbone and the back of my violins or violas. I prefer to play without a shoulder rest because I like the flexibility I gain when I can move the instrument around.
The following is a short list of low shoulder rests I have found to work well for me at various times.
1. Performa, is a solid violin shoulder rest. It is sold by SHAR and comes in both wood and thermoplastic versions. The plastic version is half the price and twice the weight. I found they are acoustically identical to my ears. The viola version is not a low shoulder rest.
2. The following are small 2 devices that adhere to the back of the violin ("microsuction")and offer support at the shoulder but still permit some flexibility of motion:
3. "Acoustafoam shoulder rest" (google it) This is a small hard rubber rest (available in various heights) that attaches to the end button and C-bout edge with rubber bands.
I have used all of these and most other reasonably priced shoulder rests on the market.
The VLM Diamond rest is the lowest one I have. I find it reasonably comfortable and stable. The Performa is also low. But I find it big and inflexible. I also have a KorferRest with low feet. It's not as low as the VLM Diamond but it's very light and doesn't diminish the sound much.
I have found the best sound and most flexibility in playing without a SR altogether. But stability is a big challenge.
A world of compromise I suppose.
The Performa with the short-legs option can go extremely low -- about as low as a rest can get while still providing air clearance between itself and the back of the violin. The Performa is broad and flat, and in some ways feels more similar to having your shoulder directly against the back of the violin. It is extremely stable but also makes it hard to tilt the instrument back and forth the way you can if you're playing totally restless.
When I was attempting to play while struggling with frozen shoulder in my left shoulder, the Performa gave me the best support to deal with my limited range of motion, and it sat comfortably without putting pressure on any of tendinitis-inflamed sensitive points.
The Korfker with its short-legs option can also go lower, but not as low as the Performa. It has more of a curve that you can fit closely to your shoulder and offers a lot of freedom of movement.
Nothing else can get as low, and I've tried a lot of shoulder-rests over the years. The VLM Diamond will go down pretty low, but not as low as the other two. The Mach One's legs can be made to go lower if you're willing to take tools to them in order to bend them lower, but again still won't get as low as the other two (and it's more flexible material which means that you have to be more careful about clearance from the back of the violin). I used both of those rests for lengthy periods of time in the past.
I've also tried a variety of sponges / foam rests. Most foam rests in their "low" form are still too thick for me. Carving them down to be lower is viable; you can use a craft knife, like an X-acto, to do it (and they're cheap enough to make multiple attempts if you don't like how it turns out). Also, foam sits against the back of the violin, so it dampens the sound.
You end up securing foam with rubber bands, which can be dubiously reliable. (There are things that will stick the foam to the back of the violin, and they are supposed to not significantly damage the varnish, but as the owner of a valuable antique, I'm not willing to take any risks.)
And, of course, I've tried playing restless. I feel like I mostly just want a bit of filler padding on the chest side, but nobody makes anything appropriate for that.
Yes I have tried playing without one. Actually since the summer of 2021 until maybe a month or so ago I had been playing restless with a microfiber cloth to protect my collarbone and to provide some grip. Eventually I found that I still wanted support for more technically demanding things so recently I have fallen beck into the shoulder rest rabbit hole. For the most part no shoulder rest was working fine, but my vibrato was suffering due to me having to hold the violin up with my left hand since I wasn’t relying on a shoulder rest anymore. Also, I’ve been revisiting the 2nd Wieniawski concerto which is pretty technically demanding shifting wise to where the lack of support is really getting in the way.
I’ve tried a few sponges. The ones I’ve tried are either not supportive enough (too soft) or too supportive (too hard). There could be a sponge out there that I like, but I haven’t found it yet.
Thank you for all of the suggestions. I have a performa, but I didn’t like how big it is so I got retired to my shoulder rest collection. I haven’t tried a gel rest, but I had tried an acoustic grip as well as the acoustifoam. The acoustagrip I remember not liking how thick it was, but I don’t remember which version it was since it belonged to a friend. The acoustifoam I just didn’t like how firm it was.
I have all three sizes of the Belvelin sponges. This is one of the sponges where I felt they were a little too firm for me. Perhaps I could try them again, but I’m not sure if it would be the same outcome. I have a VLM diamond in my collection, but I’m not too fond of the “S” shape of the rest. Stability is definitely a big challenge when playing without a shoulder rest.
I would say I prefer to have the shoulder rest in a 3pm-4/5pm position so that the chest side is closer to my collarbone. If it’s too close to my shoulder I start to feel locked up and my shoulder feels immobilized.
I’ve already mentioned my experience with the Performa, but I do want to make sure I understand what you’re saying in your paragraph about the VLM diamond. Are you saying that despite it’s ability to go pretty low the VLM diamond doesn’t quite go as low as a performa or Korfker with the short legs?
I’ve been thinking about ways to modify the Mach one, but I do have Everest feet so maybe that could work. Otherwise I’ve considered possibly reducing the height of the surfaces that the feet screw into in order to get the height lower and then use a short leg from Everest or Kun. I’m not sure how well this would work though and if I mess it up then obviously I can’t add wood back and it would forever be like that.
I use it along with a stock Guarneri style chinrest which is center mounted. I'm not sure how well it would work with a side-mount chinrest as the cushion would be offset in the wrong direction. But for me, it's been the ideal compromise between shoulder rest and no shoulder rest.
You may need to rotate the cushion laterally to find the best spot. For me it's rotated all the way to the front so the cushion makes contact primarliy where collarbone meets breastbone. That little bit of extra stability is kind of magical, actually, in terms of relaxing the left hand and associated benefits.
If you like the Performa height but don't like the shape, I suggest you try the Korfker.
I ordered mine online through Fiddlershop although I can't remember which model it is off the top of my head. What's difficult is you won't be able to try it until it's shipped. You can maybe try talking to your luthier about this if you're curious!
Ahhhh, I'm looking back and you said it is too big for you - it does have a large platform. For some that is a positive, but it sounds like you are looking for something smaller.
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