Fitting a Shoulder Rest

Edited: June 11, 2023, 11:45 AM · I'm experimenting with a shoulder rest having always used a pad. The wide end of the rest sits on my shoulder the middle of the rest on my collarbone leaving the lower half in the air. If that's right, what's the point of the lower half? Is there a good site out there that deals with shoulder rests scientifically? Please don't ask me what type of shoulder rest I'm using - I'm interested in the principles. Also, I hate to be so proscriptive but I'm not at all interested in the acoustic effects at the moment. Thanks.

edit: I think the wide part actually should sit just in from the acromion on the boney not the soft surface.

Replies (15)

June 11, 2023, 11:45 AM · Basically, you are right. The point of the lower half is to create the space where your collarbone connects with the SR and then goes on to permit attachement of the SR to the violin. Without the lower half, the SR could not both attach and be there for your collarbone.
Edited: June 12, 2023, 3:53 PM · The "right hand" end should press somewhere on the chest, for added stability.
Hence the "twist" in some shoulder rests: more horizontal on the collar bone, and more vertical (depending on corpulence..) on the chest.
June 11, 2023, 12:14 PM · Thanks. Maybe I need a pad for the lower bit on my chest. I try it.
June 11, 2023, 12:33 PM · Though it's perhaps not the norm-and why shoulder rests sometimes get a bad reputation by rest-less players-I feel it is possible to have 3 points of contact, rather than just 2:

-Left SR side on shoulder
-bottom end of violin on collarbone
-right side of SR on chest

In this way, every part of the shoulder rest is used, and you still feel "connected" to your instrument via the collarbone, as sometimes it's claimed is only possible by not playing with a shoulder rest (not a pro-SR vs no-SR thread-not my intention, do not worry.) It adds even more stability/security as well, without ever a true need to press down.

Some players balance the violin in the air with their shoulder rests between shoulder and chest. I am too old to remember what I did when I was young, but may have used your position "in error" when I was experimenting.

The way I do it is not the norm, but what feels more comfortable and natural for me. I often do not entirely agree with some "how to use shoulder rests" tutorials. We are all different, and it is fine as long as you do not press down with your chin on the instrument or abuse your shoulder with undue pressure in some way (nerve pain/damage can happen when improperly using a shoulder rest.)

I am honestly suspicious of your SR's right side being on the air rather than on the chest regardless, and would have to see it to have a better idea. *I* would definitely not have the middle section of the rest on my collarbone, as it would prevent me from contact with the instrument-perhaps would be too high a position as well-but as I said, that is perhaps just me.

(It also depends on the shoulder rest. No need to mention which one you are trying-tonal differences may happen, but what is most important is that it is comfortable for your playing. Some SRs are harder to adjust than others, preventing certain positions, so often you have to get used to them. Also, the shoulder rest relationship with your particular chinrest is of utmost importance.)

June 11, 2023, 12:40 PM · I agree with Adalberto. In my situation I can't stand much pressure on my collarbone, but with the SR I am using now (Everest) and even with my previous rest (standard Kun) mostly what I feel is the button pushing into my neck. I've experimented with *some* other things. I can't claim the search was exhaustive. But for me a basic SR gives me the support and security that I prefer.
Edited: June 11, 2023, 12:42 PM · I've added a pad to the right side of the sr. What a difference! Your 3 points seem to be correct for me Adalberto. The idea I had about the sr touching the collar bone, which I got from several websites, is wrong IMHO.
Edited: June 11, 2023, 1:09 PM · I agree with Adalberto: The typical use of the shoulder rest has the two points of contact with your body that he names:
-Left SR side on shoulder
-right side of SR on chest (or even not contacting the body much at all)

and the violin has the contact point he names:
-bottom end of violin on collarbone
as well as the contact of the chinrest (or top of the instrument) with your "chin" or jaw.

If your neck is too long to achieve this you may need a higher chinrest of a different shoulder rest.

No shoulder rest of my experience as been stable or secure enough to rely on for the necessary stability (for me - anyway).

There may be alternate ways to successfully hold or "angle" the instrument for some players to eliminate the need to depend on a shoulder rest. The secret for some may lie in the way you position the violin neck in contact with your thumb.
(I say this because I have only recently realized that my early violin teachers (may have) had the parochial opinion there was only one way to position my left thumb on the violin neck (and the resulting effect on my left arm posture) rather than learning to adapt it to my arm length and hand size as I grew. I only realized this very recently while observing videos of various virtuoso performers.)

June 11, 2023, 12:57 PM · Without the SR and even with some of the smaller "pads" and such there's a lot more required from the left hand to support the violin. That's not necessarily bad but it's simple physics.
Edited: June 11, 2023, 1:08 PM · IMG-20230611-185109

For the moment, outside of a butler holding it for me (ideal), this is working best.

Edited: June 11, 2023, 1:58 PM · I am glad you made it work for you-that said, I would relax the curvature/"hook" slightly, to avoid undue shoulder rest contact with the violin's back as you play. Even a little will help!

Some shoulder rests also have longer legs (or some that can be ordered) that could help you avoid your solution, if you are inclined to try them.

For me, the "3 contact points" matter and utter relaxation is what is more essential whenever using a shoulder rest. It needs not be a cumbersome thing that keeps your neck in place. Even the huge Bonmusica should not be used as a neck medical device, as I fear many think shoulder rests are to-or should-be used.

June 11, 2023, 2:05 PM · The deep curve in the center of the rest is to avoid touching the collarbone.
June 11, 2023, 2:56 PM · Bud your SR has seen better days. The middle part shouldn't be touching the violin.
June 11, 2023, 2:59 PM · I bent it so it would clear the collarbone.
June 12, 2023, 1:58 AM · The best so far is this really thick (over 1") block of high density foam on the right hand end. Anyone know of a commercial rest that does that? IMG-20230612-074606

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