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Shoulder/chinrest combos for long-necked players?


andy989
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I play violin and viola, and have always had trouble finding a comfortable shoulder rest/chinrest combination, partially because of my long neck and the resulting requisite height of the shoulder rest.

I'm currently using a BonMusica rest, which I've been using on and off for years, and I find that while the shoulder attachment is a nice idea, the shoulder rest is not contoured well (it's not really contoured at all, actually), and the shoulder attachment tends to slip off my shoulder. I have a Dresden chinrest that I like the shape of, but it is relatively short in height. The BonMusica's set relatively high to compensate for this.

What have the rest of you long-necked players found works for you?

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The assistant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony, David Taylor, is a very tall man with a phenomenally tall chinrest; the chinrest seems to be about 4-5 inches above his violin. He also uses a Kun with that chinrest. I don't know where he got it, but for a man that plays as much as Mr. Taylor, it seems to work for him! I'm not a tall person by any stretch, but I often find myself using a couple of sponges for added support instead of a shoulder rest. I can only imagine how much worse it'd be if I had more neck to support. You tall people, when it comes to the violin, have my sympathies!

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My way of holding a violin places it between my jaw and collarbone. Thus my chinrest must be of a height that I can, indeed, hold the violin without a shoulder rest. However, I have used a shoulder rest for the past 35 years to stabilize the instrument with much less "clamping" pressure. This also gives me a better angle of the instrument for bowing and fingering, and it improved my vibrato.

In addition to the issues of chinrest height and shoulder rest height, there are the joint issues of comfort to the jaw/chin area because of chinrest contouring and avoiding injury to the neck because of height and angle issues.

I have found that because the jaw/chin contour is different in everyone, the chinrest choice is too. So many instruments are bought with over-th-chinrest Guarneri-style chinrests these days that it seems almost an endorsement of that style. But look at the chinrests used by many players who use their instruments all day long. If you find your chinrest the least bit uncomfortable you should look for another one that is comfortable. Sometimes comfort can be gained with a current chinrest by topping it with a chamois cloth or a STRADPAD, only the player can decidee what works.

Shoulder rests are also a highly personal choice. I've been through just about all the shoulder rests and find I do noot need one for height so my chosen one does not need to be adjustable (I use a standard (not "forte") Wolf Secondo. With those of my violins that do not have my favorite chinrest design (which, no longer produced in Europe, is no longer made in exactly the same dimensions as the few I acquired 30 years ago) I am slightly more comfortable using a Mach One - or sometimes even a Kun shoulder rest. I know increasing numbers of violinists who have switched to Bon Musica shoulder rests. For me, that style feels too confining, but it could be because of the curve of my shoulder and upper back - my individual problem.

Andy

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As Andy pointed out, all jawlines will differ, but...

I have a long neck and have found some success with the taller SAS rests (you can order them in different heights and experiment to your liking) and with a flat Flesch with some extra padding under the feet (the screw adjusters will only accomodate so much extension of the height). Both of those options have allowed me to lower my shoulder rest.

Also, Bon Musica: can you do some additional "bending" to improve the contour? It might be worth a try.

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It was just a year ago when I jumped from a 16 1/2 to a 17 1/4 inch viola and I started having serious neck problems due to my "oversized" neck. I ended up with a Bonmusica(I had to modify to make it extra tall even), which I've noticed doesn't have as much flexibility/compatability with my specific viola as I had initially expected. Lately I've been tempted to try the Wolf Secundo.

I also have a custom chinrest(made out of rosewood I think) by a Minneapolis-based luthier, who I believe made a majority of chinrests for the CSO, and it works quite well. He had to do a little bit of sanding to contour it to my jaw, but eventually it was perfect. Those funky adjustable chinrests are also an option but something with their look just turns me away.

Personally, I think it just comes down to how you hold your instrument, your size(i.e. your neck), and trying out all the possibilities.

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I found out that you can get longer forks for the Mach One shoulder rest that let you make it taller than normal. You just unscrew the standard height forks and replace them with the extra-long ones.

That and a standard Guarneri chinrest now work fine for me.

- Ray

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  • 7 months later...

I'm a long-necked player, and my normal-height kun shoulder rest has started to give me neck and shoulder problems lately, so I've been looking for a shoulder rest solution. I found out kun makes extra-long feet, but can't find them anywhere. does anyone know where to find them? my kun rest is the most comfortable shoulder rest of any that I've tried, so I'd really like to not have to use a different one. help!

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Karissa - Steve's recommendation seems to be the best - I just read this letter from Kun (in Strings mag.) on another BB:

A I was just visiting your Web site and saw the correspondence from players in search of higher shoulder rests (I somehow missed the original "To Our Readers" in the December 1998 issue). The Kun Shoulder Rest has been manufacturing extra-long screws for long-necked players for five years. These nonstandard screws are 1-15/16 inches or 34 mm long, and judging by the number of requests we receive, many dealers don’t carry them. If you can’t find them through your Kun supplier, please contact us directly by calling (613) 232-1861, faxing (613) 232-9771, or e-mailing kun@kunrest.com. We’d be happy to assist you.

—Juliana Farha

Marketing Coordinator

The Kun Shoulder Rest

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  • 14 years later...

What options are available to kids that are just starting to play violin/viola but also have long necks?  My daughter is a very tall, thin 9 year old (she is about 5 ft. 4 in. and still growing) and just started playing viola 4 months ago.  She has a long slender neck and isn't very comfortable when she is playing, even with an extended basic shoulder rest.  I'm concerned that she will not continue to play and learn to enjoy the joy of playing if the discomfort continues.  I have found some options for professional custom fit chin rests with height extensions online- but the cost is more that we can handle for her age and ability.  Does anyone know any affordable options for early students?

--Emily Jensen, hobby violinist mom

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Just some relevant general info...  Years ago I went to a concert by the Guarneri Quartet, and I noticed that Arnold Steinhardt's chin rest was very high.  At a reception after the concert I asked him about his chin rest.  He said that he has a long neck and had struggled with neck pain for a long time.  Using a custom made high chin rest solved his problem.  He didn't say who made the rest.  Another thing...I recall reading somewhere that it is better to use a high chin rest than to use a high shoulder rest.

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I have a long neck and had this problem.  I had a somewhat-rickety shoulder rest, extended to its maximum ricketiness, and a luthier saw it and said that he thought it was taking tone away from the instrument.  He set me up with a Kun Bravo and a taller side-mounted chin rest with titanium hardware.  I don't know the maker, alas, but it wasn't a custom item.  Anyway, everything was instantly more solid, and he was weirdly right about the sound, too--fatter, more projection.  That was kind-of a pleasant surprise.

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Old post, but ever-present question.

I've always wondered why people conflate neck length with the need for a shoulder rest.  (I suppose it may be the fact that people with long necks often have narrow and sloping shoulders...)  But, the reality is, assuming you need a shoulder rest because you have a long neck is akin to having stairs installed in your home because your neighbor's house has two stories.  The "need" for a shoulder rest (or pad) is a function of the interface between the shoulder and the center back of the violin.  Neck length is a separate issue.

At the tailpin, the violin rests on the collar bone near the sternum, NOT the shoulder.  To fill the gap between the underside of the jaw/chin, choose a chinrest of the appropriate height and shape for your individual morphology and comfort.  Whether, or not, you use a shoulder rest has no bearing on comfortably filling the space between your jaw and collarbone.  This is a job for the chinrest, which establishes a fixed point from which the violin pivots and twists.

After choosing a chinrest, THEN, with the violin AND left shoulder held in playing position, check for a gap between the shoulder and the back (underside) of the violin, as well as the preferred tilt of the violin (top facing the ceiling vs. facing forward).  Filling the gap between the shoulder and the underside of the violin, and adjusting for tilt, is the domain of the shoulder rest.  Neck length has very little to do with it.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 1/13/2020 at 11:27 AM, Desert Rat said:

Old post, but ever-present question.

I've always wondered why people conflate neck length with the need for a shoulder rest.  (I suppose it may be the fact that people with long necks often have narrow and sloping shoulders...)  But, the reality is, assuming you need a shoulder rest because you have a long neck is akin to having stairs installed in your home because your neighbor's house has two stories.  The "need" for a shoulder rest (or pad) is a function of the interface between the shoulder and the center back of the violin.  Neck length is a separate issue.

At the tailpin, the violin rests on the collar bone near the sternum, NOT the shoulder.  To fill the gap between the underside of the jaw/chin, choose a chinrest of the appropriate height and shape for your individual morphology and comfort.  Whether, or not, you use a shoulder rest has no bearing on comfortably filling the space between your jaw and collarbone.  This is a job for the chinrest, which establishes a fixed point from which the violin pivots and twists.

After choosing a chinrest, THEN, with the violin AND left shoulder held in playing position, check for a gap between the shoulder and the back (underside) of the violin, as well as the preferred tilt of the violin (top facing the ceiling vs. facing forward).  Filling the gap between the shoulder and the underside of the violin, and adjusting for tilt, is the domain of the shoulder rest.  Neck length has very little to do with it.

All correct and very complicated.

Particularly for a growing child. Imagine being 5 feet tall and then being 6 feet tall, 2 years later. 


Yes, the long neck vs short neck is overstated. It’s the sloping shoulders and arm length that makes things more difficult. 


 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/4/2020 at 4:48 PM, Emily Jensen said:

What options are available to kids that are just starting to play violin/viola but also have long necks?  My daughter is a very tall, thin 9 year old (she is about 5 ft. 4 in. and still growing) and just started playing viola 4 months ago.  She has a long slender neck and isn't very comfortable when she is playing, even with an extended basic shoulder rest.  I'm concerned that she will not continue to play and learn to enjoy the joy of playing if the discomfort continues.  I have found some options for professional custom fit chin rests with height extensions online- but the cost is more that we can handle for her age and ability.  Does anyone know any affordable options for early students?

--Emily Jensen, hobby violinist mom

We are still dealing with this issue. (violin)(now 15 yrs old) Our latest trial is one of these https://www.ebay.com/itm/CUSTOM-MADE-EXTRA-HIGH-VIOLIN-CHIN-REST/401511301172 combined with an (unfortunately expensive) Korfker shoulder rest with ergo pack.  https://www.pirastro-shoulderrests.com/  This is the best combination for him so far.

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7 minutes ago, pjham said:

We are still dealing with this issue. (violin)(now 15 yrs old) Our latest trial is one of these https://www.ebay.com/itm/CUSTOM-MADE-EXTRA-HIGH-VIOLIN-CHIN-REST/401511301172 combined with an (unfortunately expensive) Korfker shoulder rest with ergo pack.  https://www.pirastro-shoulderrests.com/  This is the best combination for him so far.

Have you considered the SAS chinrest?  It is available in three or four different heights and is adjustable in ways your fixed rest is not. (see https://www.johnsonstring.com/cgi-bin/music/scripts/violin-viola-cello-music.cgi?xyUw3xafe=CHVVSAS&select1=SAS Violin Chinrests)

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11 hours ago, gowan said:

Have you considered the SAS chinrest?  It is available in three or four different heights and is adjustable in ways your fixed rest is not. (see https://www.johnsonstring.com/cgi-bin/music/scripts/violin-viola-cello-music.cgi?xyUw3xafe=CHVVSAS&select1=SAS Violin Chinrests)

Thank you.  Yes, have tried the SAS and various centre mounted tall chinrests.  Currently he likes this one the best.

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