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polkat

Shoulder rest history?

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This is not an arguement of the 'for or against' type. That arguement will never die. I am more interested in the history of the shoulder rest. Numerous websites that I've read talk about how it is a fairly new invention, yet I have seen patents for shoulder rests (not pads) that go back over a century. Does anyone know anything real about this device's history?

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yet I have seen patents for shoulder rests (not pads) that go back over a century. Does anyone know anything real about this device's history?

Polkat,

Those patents would be interesting. Would you cite those patents on this thread? If so, you'd probably be offering some of the best information available on shoulder rest history.

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The first actual (American) patent I can find for something that is actually a specific shoulder rest (actually a shoulder rest/chin rest combo) and not a pad, is dated 2/9/1909, issued to G. Becker as patent number 908541. You can find it at the US Patent search site. In the text it is referred to as an improvement to such rests already available! From that we can deduce that such rests, at least like this one, were already available on the market, if not in common use (but one assumes that they would not be on the market if they didn't sell, and therefore must have been used by some players). Unfortunately, Becker does not reference the patent or patents or device that he is improving on, and considering the date, it's possible that some similar devices actually had no patents (though not likely).

An interesting side note is that, if one studies patents, it will be seen that often the actual device eventually sold does not always resemble the drawings patented, although they must include the basic features to protect the patent..

This assumes a lot I admit, but to me it indicates that specific shoulder rests were in use at least on or before that date.

Another interesting patent issued to a Colbertson on 4/29/1930 as patent number 1756676, seems to be designed to give a padded edge to the bottom plate for players that did not normally use a rest, but didn't like the feel of the plate edge on the collarbone. It is similar to something I tried to come up with a few years ago but failed. There are many other patents listed as one approaches the present.

Again, I am assuming a lot here, but this info seems to indicate that specific use shoulder rests (not pads) were in use at least by the turn of the last century, and are not a recent development, although considering the lifespan of the violin, I suppose it could be considered recent.

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Polkat,

That 1909 date is surprisingly early, and your assumptions sound good. Thanks for that information.

I remember a teacher of mine who owned a nice, great sounding Joseph Guarneri filius Andrea and gave up his rather thick pad (like a small, hard pillow) that was fastened to the fiddle back by rubber bands. That was back in the 1960's, and he was around 40 years old.

He got himself a shoulder rest that had a wire frame with an inch and a half wide strap of rubber going from end to end of the frame. The rubber strap rested against the shoulder and also provided the resistance on the frame that kept the two feet of the wire frame in contact with the bottom plate edges.

He was quite pleased with it. That was quite an innovative change for him. I got the impression that he had had that simple pillow pad for decades. He had played professionally in the Detroit Symphony back, I believe, in the 50's, back when the Detroit Symphony was a major American orchestra, comparable to any.

Back then, in the 1950's, early 1960's, if you were using a shoulder rest that wasn't a pillow pad, it was probably a Resonans or a Menuhin. My teacher's new shoulder rest, with its elastic, rubber strap, was really a newfangled device.

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jezzupe, very interesting! While it doesn't directly show a shoulder rest (except possibly in the upper image), there is definately an attachment for one. Assuming this is true, we can now trace the shoulder rest to at least 131 years ago, and probably longer! And I am sure that pad type rests go back much further. I played with a pad in high school in the early 60's (yes, I'm old), and hated it for the feel and because it muffled the instrument. But I remember seeing more modern looking rests even then. So I'm betting that shoulder rests, other then pads, have been around for at least 1/3rd of the violin's history.

My interest in this is two fold. First, I like violin history, but second, as I mentioned before, I'm interested in creating (not for money but for my own use) a rest that simply pads the area where the violin plate edge touches the collarbone. I've met several players who, like myself, prefer to play without a shoulder rest (again, not argueing that this is the best method), but find it painful after a short time. However, the technique of stuffing some foam under my shirt just doesn't work for me. It won't stay and feels too weird, and doesn't work with T-shirts.

Any ideas on this?

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jezzupe, very interesting! While it doesn't directly show a shoulder rest (except possibly in the upper image), there is definately an attachment for one. Assuming this is true, we can now trace the shoulder rest to at least 131 years ago, and probably longer! And I am sure that pad type rests go back much further. I played with a pad in high school in the early 60's (yes, I'm old), and hated it for the feel and because it muffled the instrument. But I remember seeing more modern looking rests even then. So I'm betting that shoulder rests, other then pads, have been around for at least 1/3rd of the violin's history.

My interest in this is two fold. First, I like violin history, but second, as I mentioned before, I'm interested in creating (not for money but for my own use) a rest that simply pads the area where the violin plate edge touches the collarbone. I've met several players who, like myself, prefer to play without a shoulder rest (again, not argueing that this is the best method), but find it painful after a short time. However, the technique of stuffing some foam under my shirt just doesn't work for me. It won't stay and feels too weird, and doesn't work with T-shirts.

Any ideas on this?

If you look at the picture closely it is a combonation shoulder/chin rest...the abstract is interesting as well.

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I'm interested in creating (not for money but for my own use) a rest that simply pads the area where the violin plate edge touches the collarbone.

The full size Playonair, as I remember from a brief period of use, padded all possible contact points between fiddle back and player without adding a lot of height between fiddle and shoulder or collar bone. I did try one, and found it very comfortable, but in the end found I didn't need any shoulder rest at all to be completely comfortable.

This merchant happens to have a good photo of the deluxe Playonair. The shoulder rest is available from lots of other merchants, also.

Playonair deluxe shoulder rest

If your goal is just to pad the lower edge of the back, the following might work: Clamp some thin but strong strip (wood, metal, plastic) under the chinrest clamp flange that presses against the back of the fiddle. This strip (maybe 1 or 2 mm thick and a cm wide) runs along the lower bout edge for as far as you need padding. On the outside surface of the strip (the surface that will contact you), glue 3 or 4 mm thick foam (maybe weather stripping). On the inside surface of the strip (between strip and fiddle wood) glue suede a mm thick so that strip does not damage fiddle.

I've also seen players with some pretty fancy violins (a nice Grancino, for example) have thin, round foam pads stuck directly onto the back of the fiddle with some kind of adhesive that's fairly secure but allows for removal, too. I don't know what that adhesive is. The pad's intent is to keep the fiddle from sliding around when played without a shoulder rest. If you could find an adhesive that would allow for a foam strip to be securely attached directly to the edge of the fiddle, without marring the varnish and still allow for removal by peeling it off, that might work.

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Heres a good one by "some guy" :)

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=aWJ...amp;dq=OLE+BULL

actually this is where I got {stole} the idea for mine that I posted long ago

Google patent search will find any patent either by name or "thing"

Jezzupe,

Great link! It would have been interesting to have discussed this during the recent Ole Bull exhibition that was held in Bergen.

Bruce

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I've always had mixed feelings about chin rests and shoulder pads, or for all the other fittings for that matter. I know they are needed, but some of the time they don't work well (visually) with the rest of the instrument. That Ole Bull one is neat in that could be designed in to fit the violin from the beggining, and the hole in the button would prove that it belongs there. I wonder if that small square on the retaining pin is really enough to keep the entire rest/pad suspended above the instrument. I like that the "button" is re-created on the end of the retaining pin. A cool idea. Maybe I'll try it. I noticed that the chin rest is in the spot I'd expect it, but the shoulder rest is shifted more to the other side. Is that normal?

Ken

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