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Should we or should we not use shoulder rests?


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Well I started out playing late, I'm 15 now, and I've been playing the violin about 9 months. I am told I am progressing well for how long I've played. I started out using a shoulder rest, and then I noticed that a lot of proffesionals did not(I don't know if any do) use shoulder rests. I stopped using a shoulder rest, but I am curios as to whether proffesionals use shoulder rests or if they're just something to make learning the violin easier for beginners. -Jon

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It really depends on your body type and how comfortable you are playing without a shoulder rest. Ideally one should try to play without one, as it allows for teh violin's natural sound to come out (you wouldn't believe how small things such as types of shoulder rest and position of chinrests changes the sound of an instrument). I tried to play without one for a while, and did fairly well, but I really had to contort my body in strange ways in order for that to work and a teacher I had over the summer (who btw doesn't use one) told me that because of the way my body is built, playing properly without a shoulder rest (i.e. with the least amount of tension, proper placement of the instrument, etc.) at this stage is not worth the trouble (there's too much space between my shoulder and the violin). So I'd say the best thing to do is consult your teacher about it, and if everything is working right without the shoulder rest then more power to you.

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: Not one of my collegues uses a shoulder rest.

Someone once told me that some violinists who don't use

a shoulder rest actually place a piece of foam

inside there jackets (maybe this was only done by

men?).

I have seen soloits such as Gil Shaham and Sarah Chang

using Kun-type shoulder rests.

Some other players seem to prefer the inflatable type

of shoulder rests.

Have a qualified teacher watch you play to make sure

you can handle the violin properly without the extra

support provided by the shoulder rest.

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I saw the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment perform in London earlier this week. All period instruments and a distinct lack of chin rests, shoulder rests, and vibrato, (and I assume gut strings, but I wasn't close enough to check)

They produced an eerily different sound to the norm, mellow but yet not as rich.

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At the beginning it is better to use it, especially if you do not have a very short neck. After ten years you can play without any rests (IMHO). A good compromise can be the Playonair. Hundred years ago nobody used even chinrest. But violin playing is not easy, with accessories that makes it easier you can concentrate on playing - leaving the rest later.

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Hi Jon,

I used a shoulder rest during the 'learning' years, then didn't use one for about 10 years. I do have a long neck. Now I suffer from a shoulder/neck problem for which I have to see an osteopath. he says I did it to myself(meaning playing music). It won't get better, he can just offer a little relief. So I always recommend a shoulder rest!!

VV

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: Someone once told me that some violinists who don't use

: a shoulder rest actually place a piece of foam

: inside there jackets (maybe this was only done by

: men?).

I went to a violin-viola masterclass given by P. Z. and we saw that he had a sponge inside his jacket; he kept adjusting it because it migrated.

AB

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Congrats on your violin playing! I know a guy who started at 14 and went on to play in the Mannhattan Quartet and did other great things as well. Anything is possible! Also congrats on trying to play sans shoulder rest. With aid of foam (if needed) they are completely unneccessary. Beware of teachers who require them of all their students! As far as pain in the neck and shoulders goes...if it hurts you are doing something wrong (for your body type). That doesn't mean to stick a huge shoulder rest on! I know a great number of people who have ruined their necks this way.

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The Kun rest web site claims that use of shoulder rest

improves sound quality. That seems reasonable, because

without shoulder rest the back of the violin become in

contact with shoulder and therefore the vibration of the

back of the violin might get damped. With rest, only small

area of the side of the violin becomes in contact.

How do you think?

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I have unique experience on this one. My first 30 years of violin playing I used no shoulder rest. My next 30 years I used a variety of shoulder rests. I was trained by short-necked teachers (not in or from Chicago) who accepted the dogma of ignoring such physical aids when playing the violin. When it became obvious in my mid-thirties, that I needed to do something to hold the instrument better - to save my neck, and to help improve my vibrato, I first tried a higher chinrest. But gradually I tried a number of shoulder rests. Most were a help to me. I had students who used them, and I could see that they helped them.

Now I recommend shoulder rests to most students, especially if they have visible necks. the type of shoulder rest I recommend will vary with other bodily atributes.

Kun, and Viva La Musica are good "middle of the road" rests - as is the Wolf Primo. (I have tried other types too, including ResonansPlayonair, Menuhin, Crescent, and Bon Musica) Personally, I now use a Wolf Secondo - after much searching - because it tends to move my fingerboard further to the left - which aids my wrist vibrato, and reduces fatigue (FOR ME!!), but I have unusually long arms. I would also recommend the Wolf Secondo for players whose long forearms tend to cause "crooked" bowing of a certain type. ETC. ETC. Wolf makes Forte styles (that have adjustable height) and Standard styles that have a fixed, fairly low height.

Selection of a shoulder rest is highly personal - and can affect your long-term orthpedic health.

There are great violinists who play "bare" and those who use the aid of a shoulder rest. That should not affect your choice.

Most of all, you should be wary of advice from those who want you to use the equipment that they use (or don't use) - because they may not understand the long-term implications.

Andy

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I've never watched a live baroque orchestra with or without period instruments, but when I have seen performances on TV, the facial expressions on the violin and viola players resemble those of people suffering road rage - and I empathize with them. You can almost hear them thinking of the problems they will have getting out of it after the next time they leave the first position. They must need the money awfully bad.

At least they won't be tempted to vibrato too much as is the style of the music they play.

Many changes are not progress, but I think chin and shoulder rests and the modern bow are - even for playing early music, call me "old fashioned."

Andy

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Jon,

The use of a shoulder rest is a personal choice and one that could possibly affect your health. It's comparable to choosing between a maunal transmission and an automatic transmission on a car, it's a personal choice. You should base it on your comfort. Try it with and without a shoulder rest to se what you like best. Personally, I could never play without one becaue I have such a long neck. Without one, my violin slips, and my posture is terrible. Yet I know many people who don't use one, and they are perfectly happy. (although most of these people have very short necks.) Anyone who says it is an indicator of ability is probably jealous of people who are better then they are who do things differently. It all comes down to comfort. Good luck.

Kreisler13

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: I've never watched a live baroque orchestra with or without period instruments, but when I have seen performances on TV, the facial expressions on the violin and viola players resemble those of people suffering road rage - and I empathize S with them. You can almost hear them thinking of the problems they will have getting out of it after the next time they leave the first position. They must need the money awfully bad.

: At least they won't be tempted to vibrato too much as is the style of the music they play.

: Many changes are not progress, but I think chin and shoulder rests and the modern bow are - even for playing early music, call me "old fashioned."

: Andy

I used shoulder rests for 25 years then suffered through a miserable ten days without one on a dare from a friend. But after that time I felt a wonderful freedom - I can play 6-8 hours a day without stiffness or pain - and my intonation and ability to play in high positions is much improved. For me shoulder rests lock the body in one position and make the violin seem inanimate - without one the violin really feels a part of me and I can play it without worrying about "positions". But basically one must find what works for oneself - great violinists use all different accessories and styles. I do have a very long neck too - in high school I was know as "Stork-neck"

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After playing for many years using a foam pad secured with a rubber band, one day my rubber band broke and

I didn't have a spare one. Lo and behold I discovered that my violin resonates much more freely without the

tension of the rubber band constraining the back. Now I play with just the foam pad and a handkerchief over it.

It migrates and must be adjusted frequently, but the

sound improvement is well worth the hassle!

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: : I've never watched a live baroque orchestra with or without period instruments, but when I have seen performances on TV, the facial expressions on the violin and viola players resemble those of people suffering road rage - and I empathize S with them. You can almost hear them thinking of the problems they will have getting out of it after the next time they leave the first position. They must need the money awfully bad.

: : At least they won't be tempted to vibrato too much as is the style of the music they play.

: : Many changes are not progress, but I think chin and shoulder rests and the modern bow are - even for playing early music, call me "old fashioned."

: : Andy

: I used shoulder rests for 25 years then suffered through a miserable ten days without one on a dare from a friend. But after that time I felt a wonderful freedom - I can play 6-8 hours a day without stiffness or pain - and my intonation and ability to play in high positions is much improved. For me shoulder rests lock the body in one position and make the violin seem inanimate - without one the violin really feels a part of me and I can play it without worrying about "positions". But basically one must find what works for oneself - great violinists use all different accessories and styles. I do have a very long neck too - in high school I was know as "Stork-neck"

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I found that my violin sounded much better without a shoulder rest than with it. And I was using a Kun shoulder rest back then. I think the reason for the better sound is that the violin is now in contact with my collarbone at the bottom block instead of being held at the side edges. Apparently there is more vibration at the side edges than at the bottom wood block, hence the violin vibrates more freely (and therefore sounds better) when played without a shoulder rest.

Note that the violin should be held up when playing without a shoulder rest--the scroll should be as high or higher than the bridge. Otherwise the situation that Kun describes will occur, but that is definitely not the norm nor is it the way a violin should be played without a shoulder rest.

Victor

: The Kun rest web site claims that use of shoulder rest

: improves sound quality. That seems reasonable, because

: without shoulder rest the back of the violin become in

: contact with shoulder and therefore the vibration of the

: back of the violin might get damped. With rest, only small

: area of the side of the violin becomes in contact.

: How do you think?

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