Low Shoulder Rests

Edited: April 29, 2023, 2:30 AM · What are the lowest shoulder rests you can get on the market right now? I need something that can get low on the shoulder side but because of my shorter neck and shoulders that don’t slope much not a lot of rests can achieve that for me. Therefore, In order to avoid having to buy a bunch of shoulder rests I’d rather just try a few that are known for working for people with shorter necks.

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.

Replies (18)

April 29, 2023, 4:20 AM · I have to ask, maybe you don't need one - have you tried playing without? It is most liberating when you get used to it.
April 29, 2023, 8:03 AM · To add to Elise’s comment, you might try a sponge or pad if you don’t need much support.

The sponge is often a “gateway” rest anyway, so it might be what you need.

April 29, 2023, 9:29 AM · I only started to use a shoulder rest after playing for 30 years. I only needed a low one and only to help grow the arm vibrato I had been trained to use decades earlier.

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.

April 29, 2023, 12:25 PM · The Belvelin is a contoured foam pad that works well. It's inexpensive so if you don't like it, it's not a big risk. I find it provides comfortable support but dampens the sound like any pad or cushion.

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.

April 29, 2023, 2:02 PM · Christian, do you prefer the SR to be very close to your collarbone, or in more of a "Standard" 3pm-9pm position?
April 29, 2023, 2:15 PM · I have a short neck, and I use a low, very flat chinrest, together with a low shoulder-rest.

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.

April 29, 2023, 3:38 PM · Most of the height of the Mach One comes from its feet. For a while I used a Mach One with short Everest feet and it could get extremely low.
April 30, 2023, 12:27 AM · Hi everyone. Thanks for all the replies/suggestions so far.

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.

April 30, 2023, 1:09 AM · With short Everest feet, the center of my Mach One was less than 1 cm from thr back of my viola. I don't think there's any need to cut the wood.
Edited: April 30, 2023, 8:50 AM · Another thing you might consider is the Kreddle Cushion, which is a firm rubber insert that fits under the chinrest clamp and can be centered or rotated an inch or so either direction.

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.

Edited: April 30, 2023, 11:39 AM · Acoustifoam comes in many thicknesses, and can be placed quite comfortably near your collarbone. I use the middle size (with a Flesch chin rest), but there are lots of skinnier options.


April 30, 2023, 12:39 PM · Caveat: I haven't found a perfect combo yet. But for what you're describing (seeking more left-hand freedom), I appreciate the Comford shoulder cradle. I have a short neck and it seems to fit me pretty well. It's super secure compared to every other shoulder rest I've tried. The downside is that it's also rather heavy (the plastic version less so) and I think that raising my violin up w/ a shoulder rest causes some bowing issues that I'm trying to resolve. Anyway, it might be worth a try. I *think* Gil Shaham uses it.
April 30, 2023, 2:49 PM · Christian: The VLM Diamond doesn't go as low as either the Performa or the Korfker, with their short-leg options.

If you like the Performa height but don't like the shape, I suggest you try the Korfker.

May 1, 2023, 3:41 PM · Have you tried experimenting with different chinrests? I've opted to not use a shoulder rest for three years and only recently I experimented with taller chinrests.

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!

May 7, 2023, 2:45 AM · I have before, but I’m starting to get into doing it again. I had settled on a Berber back when I wasn’t using a shoulder rest, but it’s too tall now that I’m trying to use one again. I think I’m likely going to end up with either Korfkerrest along with a different chin rest or just replacing the chin rest and seeing if that can help. The problem though is that I like a chin rest placement just barely to the left of the tailpiece. The Berber achieved this for me in the past but as I said before with the use of a shoulder rest it’s too much height. Perhaps something side mounted but comes over the tailpiece a good amount could work, but most of the ones I’ve tried either don’t come over enough or are too tall.
May 7, 2023, 7:10 AM · How about no chinrest at all? You hang your chin over the tailpiece...
May 7, 2023, 12:07 PM · Yes I have. I still would like a chin rest for security sake and so that I’m not putting the weight of my head on the tailpiece. I will probably try having 1 or 2 of my chin rests modified to see if they can fit me better but if there’s something out there that already does what I’m looking for then I would rather just buy it. I either need a lower Berber chin rest or a side mounted chin rest that comes over the tailpiece that isn’t too tall. The Berber is about 28mm in height so something lower than that would be ideal.
Edited: May 7, 2023, 2:56 PM · The Performa by Shar is really low and flat, and it sounds ideal for what you are describing. It comes in a Padauk wood version as well as a less-expensive thermoplastic version. For me it is actually too low, but I have a long neck. Here is a review from someone who really liked the Performa: https://www.violinist.com/blog/latinfiddler/20233/29565/.

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.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine