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Shoulder rest effect on tone?


polkat

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The shoulder rest has been around in one form or another since at least the turn of the century (the last one) and some early users played quite well with them. I have a pic of Joe Venuti using a strap=on pad version in 1924. I think that many professional players resist using one mostly because they were taught that way, but perhaps partially because of the muffling effect on tone. I use one, but I have definately found that the clamping action does effect the tone. Has anyone or any company experimented with making a rest that attaches to the violin, but has little effect on tone?

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I'm not sure if I'm understanding you correctly.

But for me, not using a shoulder rest muffles the sound. Sometimes this works well if the violin is overly resonant and overly open sounding. Having the person's shoulder on the back of the violin dampens it, ...reining it in a bit, giving it more focus.

Other violins need to be freed up more to sound good. They really need a shoulder rest so there is less dampening from contact with the persons body. I have not found that the KUN shoulder rest dampens the sound. It's only touching the edges, not the back plate of the violin. So if an instrument needs to be more free, I use the lightest tail piece and chinrest, and use a Kun shoulder rest.

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I have not found that the KUN shoulder rest dampens the sound. It's only touching the edges, not the back plate of the violin. So if an instrument needs to be more free, I use the lightest tail piece and chinrest, and use a Kun shoulder rest.

I also tried a shoulder rest that "only touched the edges", and found that the sound was definitely affected. It lost some of its fullness.

The T1 and B1 body modes (400 - 550 Hz, approx.) DO involve movements of the ribs, so it is not a surprise that these modes would be attenuated if something is attached to the ribs.

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Well, in a way that's my point. I'm trying to get away from the shoulder rest after using one for years, but I find it quite hard play without it.

So, I'm thinking about designing one that has the least effect on tone. For most who don't use one, the back edge of the plate, more then the plate surface itself, rides on the collar bone (not actually on the shoulder directly). I definately hear a better, more open tone when I try this, so I'm trying to figure out a rest that uses the back edge (and as little of it as possible) for mounting. I was told once that there are shoulder rests that attach to or with the chinrest clamps, but I have never seen one. Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest...I guess it comes down to the tone you are willing to accept.

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As with chinrests, different instruments probably are affected in different ways by shoulder rest placement.

As to a design which restricts support to the end block area but gives a lot of support , there have been three: Stowe, Bel Suono, Libero. All on the pricey side as I recall, and I recommend you track down reviews if you consider buying one.

If you just need a bit of support restricted to the end block area you may find some of the techniques (though not the designs) here applicable: http://www.violinistinbalance.nl/

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Steve W is right about there being lots of old posts on this subject.

GMM's going to get on my case for saying this, but it's worth getting the master/servant relationship clear in the shoulder rest issue. The violin is the 2nd most uncomfortable musical instrument to hold in playing postion, the first being the viola. There's nothing natural about the violin/viola playing position. The violin is famous for inflicting muscular-skeletal strains and pains and surface skin irritations on dedicated players. You're lucky to be playing the violin at top form in your seventies, while cellist and pianists have another decade or two in them.

If playing with a certain shoulder rest, including no shoulder rest at all, gives you maximum comfort with the violin, then use that regardless of what it does to the tone of the instrument. I've used a lot of different shoulder rests and will admit that some enhanced the sound of the instrument, and, maybe, some detracted, but none of them (including sponges and using no shoulder rest at all) so distorted the sound of the instrument as to render the instrument tonally unsatisfactory.

If, on the other hand, you develop some kind of muscular-skeletal problem because you're using a shoulder rest that makes your fiddle sound great but isn't comfortable for you, then it doesn't matter how great the fiddle sounds because you won't be able to play it maximally well in your discomfort.

So, put first priority on your comfort, not on the tonal needs of your fiddle. The shoulder rest is there to enhance your physical well being, and you don't want to injure yourself because of some misplaced priority on serving the tonal needs of your fiddle.

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Right on Skiingfiddler. If a fiddle has the best tone with nothing touching it, floating in mid air, with the player sitting the other room and not breathing for fear on disturbing the air, what good is it? And what does it matter?

Get comfortable, get you're fiddle adjusted as best as you can for you, and then work at that other vastly more important tone determiner. The musician behind it.

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For most who don't use one, the back edge of the plate, more then the plate surface itself, rides on the collar bone (not actually on the shoulder directly).

I play without a shoulder rest and find that I contact the back of the fiddle at three points of my shoulder area, the actual shoulder where arm and shoulder connect, the base of the neck at the shoulder, and the collar bone slightly left of the left side of the chin. Three points determine a plane (ie, a three legged stool doesn't wobble) and I can hold the fiddle indefinitely, no hands, without shrugging my shoulder upwards or any discomfort. It's more comfortable for me to play without a shoulder rest than any I've tried. So, that's what I do.

I did spend a lot of time finding the right chin rest for myself, though.

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Steve W is right about there being lots of old posts on this subject.

GMM's going to get on my case for saying this, but it's worth getting the master/servant relationship clear in the shoulder rest issue...

Skiingfiddler, my only advice is that you get a dog, so that you can redirect this persistent inclination of yours in a healthier way. :)

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Darren,

Boy, I'm slow. That comment was probably about my playing position rather than the hoped for playing ability. Anyway, you're still a nice guy who makes a fine violin, but I'll be careful to parse each word from you from now on.

:) No, it was about your playing. Come to think of it, though, I liked your playing position, too.

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I think shoulder rests and the effect on tone is a bit of a foggy issue. While I would not make certain claim to the truth, my casual observation is that Wolf Forte Secondo rests are the least tonally intrusive, for two reasons. One is that the all metal frame provides a certain kind of acoustic coupling across the back that differs from plastic or wood, and this coupling may be less objectionable due to a lower damping factor. The second is that the gripping pads are more substantial and have higher friction than other models, and this means they will stay in place with less (detrimental) mechanical force applied across the back. In addition, I think they are the most comfortable, although I do not use a rest.

Cat word trivia for the day: Cataphasia, a speech disorder where a person constantly repeats a word or phrase over and over. The onset of this speech disorder is reported to be triggered easily in bow rehairers on occasions when they forget to put the ferrule on hair before fixing the second end in the bow.

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Yes, I'm well locked in for comfort as I play. I've been using an old Wolf Forte Primo for many years. Never had any problem with tension or pain, and I can look at other players and even raise my chin while playing with no problem. So using the rest is no problem for me. The other day I misplaced it and practiced without it (and yes, I know how to hold it without the rest). Boy, the strain and pain came on strong without it...but, I noticed that the instruments tone increased considerably. So my only conclusion was that a shoulder rest clamping the ribs and plate edges on the sides does indeed have some negative effect tone.

That's what got me to thinking how a rest that clamps at the block (perhaps supported at the chin rest clamps-assuming a center mounted chin rest) rather then the sides might offer an improvement in tone, while not changing significantly in comfort from a normally mounted shoulder rest. I think that there is something to this and plan to search one out. I'll look at the ones suggested.

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there's a method of playing without a shoulder rest, and NOT having any contact of the back of the instrument with your shoulder. You support the instrument solely with your left thumb being slightly under the neck, and the other half of the instrument rests on your collarbone. I played this way for a few years and was taught this way by a teacher who teaches at Curtis, just to lend this some credibility. The best example of this style of playing is leonid kogan, hands down.

I do notice some muting with a KUN on my instrument, but even after years of learning how to play without a shoulder rest from a master player, it just doesn't suit me. Playing with a shoulder rest, when properly fitted (that's the key, if it's not fitted to you right it can be quite painful) is infinitely easier. It's easier to do vibrato and it's easier to keep the instrument stable during spiccato. I notice when I played without a shoulder rest, the instrument bobs slightly when you do a spicatto stroke. The shoulder rest contains this, making the stroke more precise.

There's some videos on youtube of menuhin instructing young students how to play without a shoulder rest, they are quite interesting to watch.

There are many pros to playing with or without a shoulder rest..... I'll just say that playing without requires great amounts of attention to muscle movement to succeed, and it came to the point for me where it just wasn't worth the extra effort. I play a lot more confidently with one, no matter how much I practiced without, I never felt %100 about it.

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Yea xdmitrix420, that's pretty much the same with me. I'm just looking for a rest that doesn't attach to any resonating parts, and as an amatuer maker as well as player, it's been my experience that the ribs and plate area that the rests attach to do contribute to tone. I think it's why I notice a difference tone with or without one (in my opinion). By the way, I find it rather odd that there is a Menuhin style shoulder rest available when he himself never used one!

I looked at the three chin rests mentioned earlier in this thread, and yes, they are quite similar to what I'm thinking about. Also yes, the prices are high, so I'm going to try and make one, particularly with the rest just off the back plate...more as a cushion for the collarbone then an actual shoulder rest. I think the end result will play much like a violin without a shoulder rest, yet be more comfortable on the collarbone and provide a bit more friction.

I get rather irritated by people who yell "Crutch" to those using shoulder rests. It's simply a tool to help one with a different physic play better, just like Perfection pegs help one tune better, or glasses help one see better. How many sight readers with poor vision would go to a gig without their glasses (crutch?)?

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Yea xdmitrix420, that's pretty much the same with me. I'm just looking for a rest that doesn't attach to any resonating parts,

Both unfortunately everything on a violin vibrates. Sure some parts vibrate more than others but adding mass anywhere except at exactly a node will change how the violin vibrates, and a node only occurs at particular frequencies so that's not really practical. I think a better option would be to design a rest that just doesn't attach rigidly to any part of the violin. This will make the violin and shoulder rest act mostly independent of each other so there should be minimal change in tone.

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