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Using shoulder rests?


polkat

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I have noticed over the years that many of the great violinists of all styles such as classical player Yehudi Menuhin, jazz great Stephane Grappelli, and even bluegrass player Kenny Baker (as well as many others) never used a shoulder rest or pad. My guess is that this is what they did when they first started learning and they got used to it.

I decided to try not using one recently to see if there was any advantage for me. But the edge of the bottom plate dug painfully into my collarbone, and the fiddle wanted to slip down to my shoulder all the time. Not for me I guess. How many here don't use a shoulder rest, and if not, how do you anchor the violin on your shoulder?

To take this a step further, I'm looking for a bar type shoulder rest that will take the bar very close to the bottom plate without actually touching it. My present one (an old Wolf rest) can't get any closer then 1" from the plate. Anyone know of a rest like I'm looking for? Thanks!

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To take this a step further, I'm looking for a bar type shoulder rest that will take the bar very close to the bottom plate without actually touching it. My present one (an old Wolf rest) can't get any closer then 1" from the plate. Anyone know of a rest like I'm looking for? Thanks!

Try the Mach1 rests. They make them is two different styles--wooden (nicer, but more $) and composite (stiffer, but less $). The wooden rest is thin, low, and a bit flexible, which I like very much. The only thing that I had to do to mine is to get rid of the original Mach1 feet, and replace them with feet from my old Kun rest. The Mach1 feet didn't hold the rest securely to my fiddle, and it kept falling off. They are supposedly designed not to diminish the sound, but I didn't notice much difference. I'm not sure where you can order them online, but the usual places will probably have them.

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How many here don't use a shoulder rest, and if not, how do you anchor the violin on your shoulder?

To take this a step further, I'm looking for a bar type shoulder rest that will take the bar very close to the bottom plate without actually touching it. My present one (an old Wolf rest) can't get any closer then 1" from the plate. Anyone know of a rest like I'm looking for? Thanks!

I don't use a shoulder rest, but I don't play professionally. However, I didn't use a shoulder rest in my serious student years, either.

There are lots of threads on this topic, if you do a search.

I have nothing against shoulder rests. You should use whatever works best for you.

Your chances of getting along without a shoulder rest are better if you get a chin rest that helps you hold the fiddle up. I use a rather high chin rest, an SAS, and rest the back of the fiddle against my shoulder rather than on the collar bone. I can hold up the fiddle indefinitely with just shoulder and chin without any left hand contact, just as most people can who use shoulder rests. I tend to hold the fiddle more to the left than many shoulder rest users might.

"How do you anchor the violin on your shoulder?" You don't. That's the advantage of not using a shoulder rest. You don't lock the fiddle in one position on the shoulder. The fiddle can move around a bit on the shoulder, but won't fall off.

To help prevent too much slipping around on the shoulder, you can drape a suede pad on your shoulder and lay the fiddle on that. But you should be able to hold the fiddle up, no hands, without the suede. The suede just helps a bit.

I've watched violinists who normally use shoulder rests become totally incapable of playing anything at all on a violin without a shoulder rest. That strikes me as quite a shortcoming.

It sounds like you are looking for a shoulder rest of minimum height, about one inch or less. You might try a pad that makes contact with the back of the fiddle, such as Playonair or various foam pads. They won't be as high as the rigid shoulder rests are. If you're worried about the pad resting against the back of the fiddle and scuffing it, a soft cloth between the pad and the fiddle back may solve the problem.

Good luck. If playing without a shoulder rest isn't comfortable for you pretty quickly, say, within 3 or 4 days, stick with the shoulder rest. You can waste a lot of time trying to get comfortable playing without a shoulder rest, if being without it really doesn't work for you.

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I have noticed over the years that many of the great violinists of all styles such as classical player Yehudi Menuhin, jazz great Stephane Grappelli, and even bluegrass player Kenny Baker (as well as many others) never used a shoulder rest or pad. My guess is that this is what they did when they first started learning and they got used to it.

I decided to try not using one recently to see if there was any advantage for me. But the edge of the bottom plate dug painfully into my collarbone, and the fiddle wanted to slip down to my shoulder all the time. Not for me I guess. How many here don't use a shoulder rest, and if not, how do you anchor the violin on your shoulder?

To take this a step further, I'm looking for a bar type shoulder rest that will take the bar very close to the bottom plate without actually touching it. My present one (an old Wolf rest) can't get any closer then 1" from the plate. Anyone know of a rest like I'm looking for? Thanks!

+++++++++++++++++++

At least two opposite views in two master classes. One teacher recommends to use shoulder rest and the other against it. They are not ordinary teachers (top of the

world violinists). You get it?

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If you are a woman with a very long neck, sloping shoulders, a strapless dress, and a thin violin, then you might need some kind of pad, or heaven forbid, a shoulder rest.

When I did use rests, I used the KUN type for viola and violin.

I gave up using shoulder rests totally even though I have a long neck.

The natural weight of your head and the support of your collar bone

will give the instrument enough hold.

Instead of a suede pad, you can try an elastic band anchored to the end pin and left corner of the back. It stops the instrument slipping, I used this method.

Look closely at how Heifetz held his violin, no rest and no neck tension, just balance.

Cheers.

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In my opinion, it IS all a matter of balance. I started "playing" the violin by myself, with no instruction or guidance outside of method books and this forum. At the time on Maestronet, the only adherents to the rest-less position seemed to be overtly dogmatic and were generally dismissed as fringe nutjobs.

I am 6'2", with a medium build and neck length, so I went with the general consensus (which said that if you're not under 5' with a neck like Gimli the Dwarf, you need a shoulder rest) and I bought a Wolf Secundo. I bought a Kun Original. I bought a Mach 1. I bought a Kun Collapsible. Each rest had its own comfort/fit drawbacks, and I kept getting tremendous neckaches and headaches.

When I finally decided to suck it up and pay for an instructor, I went with a retired symphony player who graduated from Julliard and trained under Oscar Shumsky. His first 'request' was that I lose the shoulder rest. He said I could use a sponge or a chamois if I was concerned about the lack of friction between the violin and my shoulder. The violin felt ridiculously flat, with only minimal tilt to the treble side. My left hand was adrift. I couldn't finger any notes accurately because I had to concentrate on simply not dropping the violin. Shifting was a trainwreck. Vibrato was all but impossible. I developed aches behind my shoulder blade from clenching my left shoulder up to hold the violin in place.

But, mysteriously, the neckaches and headaches went away. I hung in there, constantly reminding myself to relax, to periodically reset my position, and too NOT clench the violin with my left thumb, my chin, or my shoulder. As this balancing act became second nature, the shoulder aches dissolved. Before long, I began to recognize the lost, untethered, and insecure feeling of going rest-less as freedom.

After several months, I tried my old Kun, just out of curiosity. It felt like my left arm and neck had been put in shackles. I immediately felt the headache coming back. I was a convert. Now, I've even lost the sponge.

It's probably true that playing without a rest is not for everyone. There are far too many variations in individual morphology for a one-size-fits-all approach. However, I suspect that many, if not most people could do just fine without a shoulder rest given the right training and time to readjust.

And, yes, going restless does have an effect on the tone of the instrument. The high overtones are damped slightly. It's not great, and the degree of the damping depends on where on the violin the shoulder makes contact, the size of the contact area, and the amount of support given by the left hand. I prefer this sound. It's more like the sweeter sound of the 'old school' players.

Rat

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FWIW (probably not very much), I have the fiddle on my shoulder all day long, and I got one of those KUN Voce. I love it. And I'm 6'3" with very long arms and very long neck. I can't be fooling with an instrument that is going to slip; I might drop it. So I still have the KUN for the viola, which works fine, but for the violin, the Voce. Very comfortable.

Some purists will say, don't use a shoulder rest. And that's fine for the ivory tower but I have to work every day and I might very well drop the instrument, in the course of teaching all day.

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I was started without a rest. Started using one back when they started becoming popular in the 1970's, but the ones you got back then were flimsy and uncomfortable. Then better ones came out and I started using them regularly. My approach is one of relaxation, and for me, the rest allows better control of the instrument, with minimal amount of tension. I also approach playing the instrument, viewing the instrument as a platform to be held motionless (not to mean rigid) and the bow and left hand fingers do all the moving, so again, the shoulder rest helps this. I focus all the energy into the instrument and don't like expending energy moving it, adjusting it, or controlling it.

After reading many debates and researching this issue (I admit, the great majority of concert violinists do not use a shoulder rest, though many have a pad under their jacket), I decided to go without one for an entire year. Initially, once I got used to it, I did get a sense of freedom, but also an annoying need to constantly adjust the instrument (which I also see in most rest-less concert violinists). I eventually came to the conclusion that I lost accuracy and increased tension without a rest. I like the solid platform to play on and would rather not subtract from my playing the energy and concentration required to balance the instrument. If you have seen the Menhuin masterclasses on holding the instrument, it is a whole chapter in violin technique that requires practice and skill before you even play a note. The only thing I needed to work on with a shoulder rest was keeping the shoulder relaxed. (Don't forget that Menhuin came out with one of the first successful shoulder rests)

I think MingLoo has a point in that those of us utilitarian players who have the instrument under the chin for hours at a time would benefit more than the soloist who plays primarily only passages at a time and has ample opportunity to readjust between licks. Also, many of these players' technique was fully developed before shoulder rests came into use. I find it easier to go without a chinrest than a shoulder rest. My violin chinrest broke so I took it off and played without it. In fact I didn't miss it at all and it took me months before I finally remembered to order a new one, which I did mainly to protect the varnish and stop answering the question of why I wasn't using one.

I'm glad to see that this discussion can now be held here without insults and obsessive opinions being thrown about. Do what works best for you, but I think it is the more rare player who does better withour a rest. Even in major symphonies now, I I would bet that you will find more players using shoulder rests than not - I would be interested in this statistic as well as concert violininsts below the age of 40.

I often wonder if the reason so many of the very best violinists do not use a shoulder rest is that their physiology just fits the instrument better and this is at least part of the reason that they are so good - not because they don't use one, but because they don't need one.

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In my opinion it's worth investigating playing without a rest even if you eventually decide it's not for you.

I learned with a (crescent-style) rest and I've used a Resonans and then a Kun-type rest for many years. Several years ago, as an experiment I decided to try to learn to play "restless", and spent a Summer working on this. At first I had all sorts of trouble with the violin slipping around but finally found a position that worked for me, with the violin more flat on my shoulder than I was used to, sticking out more to the side, and the neck partially supported by my left hand. I realized that this position actually was the position that many professional violinists used, and that the Kun rest had been aiding me in my sloppy positioning by allowing me to support the violin with my jaw with no help from the left hand, and too far to the front of my body which affected my bowing position. (I'm sure a teacher would have seen this and corrected me but it's been a while since I've had lessons!) I eventually decided that I needed some support to allow me to play comfortably for long periods of time so went back to the Kun rest but adjusted it so that I could keep the violin in the same position that I'd identified when playing rest-less, and think that my playing has improved as a result of this.

Polkat, you might want to look at the Viva La Musica rest (the all-plastic version). I have one that's several years old and it adjusts more closely to the violin back than the Kuns because of its curve. Looks like they may have revised the shape since then, though.

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Reading what some people write, I see that there are some who use the shoulder rest instead of their collarbone to support the violin. This should be avoided, it results in an unstable pearch for the violin and a better-fitting chinrest should be found and used.

However, even with the ideal (for each person) chinrest, there are situations when a shoulder rest helps prevent raising the left shoulder and creating tension. There a problem with the typical strap-on shoulder rests (of almost all designs) because they can make it almost impossible to shift the violin to attain better left-hand positioning for playing on different strings and different positions.

The "pad under the suit" can work for male players and allow them to effectively shift the position of the "shoulder rest" on the violin. I have recently "discovered" the Acoustifoam shoulder rest and I'm totally pleased with the results. ( http://www.acoustifoamshoulderrests.com/ ). I had to stop using a shoulder rest this year because of arthritic pain in the joint of my left thumb and forefinger; I needed to move the violin more while playing than my low (non-adjustable) Wolf-secondo would allow. But now I find that with the Acostifoam I have all the flexibility I have without a rest, and the added shoulder support when I need or want it. You do have to carefully select the height of Acousifoam rest you want to purchase, and using your own rubberbands would be better (I use "asparagus-wrap rubber bands" from the produce dept. of my grocery store - 2 tied together work great.)

I've been playing violin for 70 years. The first 30 years I did not use a shoulder rest. The next 39 years I used (or tried using) most of the ones being sold (then and now). I settled on the non adjustable Wolf-seecondo for most of my violins about 25 years ago. I KNOW that it is impossible to successfully recommend a shoulder rest for another person, because I find that even for myself, different shoulder rests are better on different of my violins (for example I used a Kun Voce on one of my fiddles) - until I found Acoustifoam.

I also know that the key to it all is finding the chinrest that is just right for YOU. A shoulder rest may help compensate for a bad chinrest, but it will not completely solve the problem.

Andy

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Well, I started this post mainly to hear how people who do not use a shoulder rest anchor the bottom of the violin against their shoulder/neck area. For me, the edge of the bottom plate usually digs somewhat painfully into my collar bone and refuses to sit on top of it (and the metal screws for the chin rest contributes it's own little dig). I don't yet understand how the chinrest helps keep the bottom anchored on the shoulder/collar bone? When I try to play without a rest, regardless of the type of chinrest I am using, the first attempt to shift downward and the violin is gone!

I've studied Grappelli videos (I'm a jazz violinist) and in his case there's no evidence of any pad under his clothes. I've also noticed Joe Venuti using a strap-on shoulder rest in a late 1920's film, so the idea that shoulder rests have only been around since the 70's isn't correst. I think it comes down to the fact that when trying to play without a shoulder rest, I'm simply not placing the violin properly on the shoulder (keep in mind that I have no problem playing with a rest). Can someone here who does not use a rest describe how they place the fiddle on their shoulder? Exactly where, and how chin rest choice helps with this?

Thanks!

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Well, I started this post mainly to hear how people who do not use a shoulder rest anchor the bottom of the violin against their shoulder/neck area. For me, the edge of the bottom plate usually digs somewhat painfully into my collar bone and refuses to sit on top of it (and the metal screws for the chin rest contributes it's own little dig). I don't yet understand how the chinrest helps keep the bottom anchored on the shoulder/collar bone? When I try to play without a rest, regardless of the type of chinrest I am using, the first attempt to shift downward and the violin is gone!

I've studied Grappelli videos (I'm a jazz violinist) and in his case there's no evidence of any pad under his clothes. I've also noticed Joe Venuti using a strap-on shoulder rest in a late 1920's film, so the idea that shoulder rests have only been around since the 70's isn't correst. I think it comes down to the fact that when trying to play without a shoulder rest, I'm simply not placing the violin properly on the shoulder (keep in mind that I have no problem playing with a rest). Can someone here who does not use a rest describe how they place the fiddle on their shoulder? Exactly where, and how chin rest choice helps with this?

Thanks!

Years ago on this board someone gave instructions on how to place your instrument when playing without a shoulder rest. I think the instructions went like this: we were told to turn our heads all the way to the left, place the violin under the chin up to the neck along the shoulder, hold it there with the left hand and arm, then turn head and instrument as far to the right as you like it to be. If you have discomfort from pressure on the collarbone you may be using your chin (and neck muscles) to hold the instrument. Apparently that is not the right way to do it. The instrument should be held up with the left hand. When you have to shift you briefly grab the instrument with your chin during the shift but release the chin pressure immediately after the shift. A soft chamois cloth might help with the collarbone discomfort.

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>> The instrument should be held up with the left hand.

That may be but I can tell you, in teaching, you tell the student that the instrument is NOT held up with the left hand. The instrument is held with the collarbone, more toward the top seam of the left shoulder on a shirt; the instrument has to be stable, so the left hand can be free to shift and vibrato.

(Sorry, but that phrase needed correcting, IMHO).

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>> The instrument should be held up with the left hand.

That may be but I can tell you, in teaching, you tell the student that the instrument is NOT held up with the left hand. The instrument is held with the collarbone, more toward the top seam of the left shoulder on a shirt; the instrument has to be stable, so the left hand can be free to shift and vibrato.

(Sorry, but that phrase needed correcting, IMHO).

Clayton Haslop says the left hand (thumb) supports the instrument at the neck the way he and Nathan Milstein do and did it. Of course, when one downshifts perhaps some head weight on the chinrest will keep the fiddle from pulling away. Notice I said "weight" not "force."

So there are differences of opinion.

Pinchus Zukerman clear holds the instrument between JAW and collarbone and his chin is pointed forward while the violin is only a small angle off the shoulder. This is an ideal position for reading music while playing, although it might be tough on an inside player on the same stand, at times.

If the chinrest hardward is troublesome, it is easy to put a chamois cloth over the chinrest and under the violin to protect your skin. In fact, you could fasten one end of the cloth to your chinrest with velcro so it will always be in the right place. I know,k I've done it. One could also try a chinrest that has the hardware in a different place, such as a left-size chinrest, instead of one over the tailpiece.

Andy

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Arghh......the infernal shoulder rest!! It's back.

Only 3 things to say....and a final comment

1) With Willy Wolf Secondo.........I ALWAYS (yes, 100%) take the plastic screw out on the shoulder side, turn the silver "L" bar upside down and then re-thread the screw.....makes it a good bit lower.

2) I use Kun or Viva

https://www.viva-sas.com/shoulder_about.htm

3) Mach one is banned in my studio. If you can play well with a Mach one, you can play without.....which is exactly what all the Mach one ex-users do.

I can play with or without. Do what's most comfortable for you. Don't judge the non-use of shoulder rests with players from the past....they mostly learned with professors who either never used one (which is a historical thing as much as when decent rests first came into being) or disapproved. The technique for holding the Violin is different with or without....neither is correct or incorrect.

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So I took some time to consider my approach to holding the violin under my neck. I'm a fairly big guy with a lot of muscle mass in the upper chest. My collar bone sits just 1/3" out from the bottom of my neck, which is why I mentioned that the bottom plate digs painfully into the bone (as long as I can keep it from slipping off the bone as usual!). That's why I've been using a rest (placed itself on the collarbone, not the shoulder).

So I tried an experiment. I took an old Wolf Forte Primo, the flat one with the black rubber across the bottom, and drilled the rivets out of the leg support brackets, then re-riveted the bracket parts that only hold the legs on. This allows me to adjust the rest plate so that, in the center (the highest point in the back arch) the rest is only 1/4" above the back!

It's like not having a rest!! But with the padding back there the collarbone pain is gone. I can hold the instrument almost like one does with no rest. I can lift my head off the chinrest and look around, even shift down while doing this, and still have perfect control, freedom of the left hand, and the fiddle isn't damped by my clothing (and I believe the idea that not using a rest opens up the fiddle...is quite argueable!). I like this setup a lot and will use it from now on.

What this has taught me is that it is the requirements of each individual body that dictate wether a shoulder rest or some other device would be beneficial. We've had some mention here of older masters not using rests, and it's also been mentioned that rests (thought they have actually been around for a long time) didn't become popular until a few decades ago. I'd be willing to bet that if shoulder rests where popular when the old masters got started, many more of them (who would be helped by rests) would be using one today. They are tools that have evolved to make things easier if personally needed, and I've decided that arguements for or against are useless. There's been discussion here that a proper chin rest helps those not using a shoulder rest. Would most of us try to play a concert without a chin rest too!!?? Probably not, I wouldn't, but Paganini NEVER used a chin rest. They didn't exist until near the end of his career, so would that lead one to suggest that since the lack of a chin rest is more historically accurate and therefore suggestably more natural, that we shouldn't use them either?

Actually, I'm sorry I brought this topic up now that I've had time to think about it.

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  • 8 months later...
Some of the great violinists that do not appear to use shoulder rests actually have a pad of some sort under their clothes to support the violin.

I believe Isaac Stern was the primary example of this, no?

BTW, with children, many complain of the metal parts of the chin rest, hurting their necks. I have them get a "KinderChinder." This works very well. Later on, you can put a small, soft sponge, under the back part. You can also, initially, remove the chinrest entirely.

Of course, I have to watch what I say: children are very suggestible, and if I say "no hurting allowed" or some such, they will perceive that it is possible to complain, which you do not want them to do, if no complaint is legitimate.. :)

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The most interesting work on this issue I have found is at

http://www.violinistinbalance.nl/index.html

This is a project done some years ago at Utrecht, in Holland, which did what we might wish to do, starting with the students' bodies and adapting the violin to the physique. They bought one each of everything, ended up making their own chin rests, and added Alexander Technique to the program, important because the students who participated almost all had serious physical playing problems. The student accounts of the process in particular are fascinating.

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The most interesting work on this issue I have found is at

http://www.violinistinbalance.nl/index.html

This is a project done some years ago at Utrecht, in Holland, which did what we might wish to do, starting with the students' bodies and adapting the violin to the physique. They bought one each of everything, ended up making their own chin rests, and added Alexander Technique to the program, important because the students who participated almost all had serious physical playing problems. The student accounts of the process in particular are fascinating.

This is a great source of interesting and useful information. I was particularly interested to learn how various things like a chin rest that is the wrong height, besides causeing pain, can have effects on almost all parts of violin technique. It is very important to achieve a comfortable playing position.

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A piece of chamois (a cloth material made of animal skin) will do a good job of protecting the neck from the metal hardware.

The Standard Wolf Secondo (with no mechanism for changing the ehight of the shoulder rest) allows the back of the violin to be only 5/8" from the point of contact with the shoulder.

Even with a shoulder rest, the instrument should still be able to rest between the jaw and the collar bone.

The Acoustifoam shoulder rest may be a good compromise for many players. It has very limited contact area with the back of the instrument - it is a sort of cushion on your shoulder that is fastened to the violin. It allows more flexibility of left hand motion than a firm shoulder rest across the back of the instrument.

Andy

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I believe a question was asked. If for some reason you don't like the Wolf Secondo, the Menuhin is quite low. John Kendall (who has a short neck) always liked and recommended that one.

As always on this subject, there are many people weighing in vehemently -- many of them self-taught but not in doubt. If Hahn and Ennis aren't enough reassurance for you, Gil Shaham uses a shoulder rest. So feel free to use what fits you.

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While we're advertising, might I also throw into the mix a new product which i don't think was around when this thread was started. The Everest seems to be a lot stiffer than other shoulder rests, which for me makes it more comfortable. Although to me it is an amazing product, I might also add the criticism that the vibrations from the instrument to the body are considerably dampened. Many people might not even notice this, (in fact some people might prefer it this way) but I think it is one reason many proffesionals don't use a shoulder rest.

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