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Shoulder Rest Position


David Rosales
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I've been using a Bon Musica for a long time now. I like it except for its weight. I've got two questions:

1. Where are y'all attaching your shoulder rest to the instrument? I'm currently at about 10 & 4 o'clock. I've seen some people place it on the the exact opposite location at 2 & 8 o'clock and a lot of people placing it at 9 & 3 o'clock. Is there any good reason to deviate from my current set up?

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2. Any recommendations for shoulder rest that's lighter than the bon music but provides a similar feel?

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I switched to Bon Musica after seeing it in use a few times, and I'm not likely to choose anything else.  I don't find the weight an issue at all, just can't fit it in my case!  If this below is not Bon Musica, it's something similar, and seems to suit Hilary very well in this epic performance of Sibelius.  I run it 3:15-8:30 or so, and love the way it catches over the shoulder if you form it that way.  good luck.

image.png.95fafc89a9a1e788a56e327f0ab747cf.png

 

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In the 83 years since my first violin lesson I have used (or tried) most of the shoulder rests (SR) available about half of the time I have been playing violin. The rest of the time I have played restless, including the first 30 years. These days I am back to playing without a SR.

I only started to use a shoulder rest in my early 30s because I found it helped me improve my arm vibrato. An injury in my mid-50s forced me to stop that vibrato technique, when I could resume playing after a year, and switch to wrist/hand vibrato, which results in different forces on the instrument that obviate that need for the shoulder rest. Nevertheless I continued to try and use different shoulder rests since then about half the time.

I thought I was the only person who DID NOT mount the rest at "9 and 3" since it seems to me most of the people I have played with did that. Obviously there is no universal best way to position the rest; it depends on individual physique and how one positions the instrument. When using a SR I always positioned it at the most extreme angle possible (I estimate 7:30 to 1:30, left to right looking at the back). I have long arms and needed to angle the neck of the violin far to the left (which also is not that great for vibrato).

SR or restless I always hold the instrument between my jaw and collarbone. I had been playing for 30 years when I finally found the perfect chinrest design to fit my jaw and have stuck with that ever since. It was only after that that I started to use SRs.

 

 

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FWIW I position my shoulder rests for both violin and viola at about 3 and 8:30. I've been using the Korfker Rest on both instruments for the last two years - the combination of very light weight, the ability to customize the shape somewhat, and the fact that they really stay put well is what sold me on them. When I changed violas last year I had to add a longer foot and one of the extensions on the chest side to get the proper angle back. Many claim that they "sound better" than other shoulder rests - I'm not convinced of that, but I do feel that once they are set up right, they feel good and don't add much weight, so it is easier to play - perhaps that's why people think they sound better. 

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I have several Bon Musica rests of various sizes in boxes.

Hate them. Maybe that is too strong. They are very useful, but tend to lock players into specific positions. They are very useful for students learning to play very difficult literature. Or more clearly, useful for players learning difficult literature. Have not been able to set them up to optimally support the instrument. 

Fit becomes the issue. Sound on a particular note, is sometimes optimum in one position. Depending on the work, and let's be real, most people take at least a half a year to get comfortable with a piece, unless one is Sarah Chang, Ms Hahn or Ms Mutter or some of the more gifted players developing after the pandemic.

The length of some necks have a bit to do with comfort or playability.

I am not necessarily in the wood sounds better than plastic camp, but whenever possible, the students play on some form of wood. But whenever this is not possible, metal, the Wolf products among the groupings, becomes the secondary tier.

I recently ordered the Korfker as it will have to be added in the arsenal. I like the Mach for myself on very technical works, but generally do not use a rest... I have replaced the Mach feet with Kun feet at times. the parents will freak out when their kid needs a Korfker.

Ok, had my say.

The further the Bon Musica is from your neck, the more it might fit across your chest. Though there is a ribbon of metal, I would resist distorting it too much. The one thing for certain, is that the rest is adjustable to your heart's content assuming one is patient enough to try the positions. What I mean is that the fit of the rest is shallower the further the upper part is on the shoulder, unless locked in at 70 degrees off center works. 

I start some playing at 45 degrees off of center axis and work towards 70. For most students, the low g- string is better at 45 while the upper octave work is better approaching 70 assuming the arms the willing. 

To answer your question, I start shallow at 8:30 and 3:30 which might move closer to 9:00 and 3:30...

Where would you like the shoulders to be?  This is another discussion to be had...  

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Hi David - Like many on this thread, I have experiemented with a variety of shoulder rests. My challenge has been to find a setup high enough to fill the allotted space (I am relatively tall and thin).

I used a Kuhn for a while - though I needed to modify some of the "long" clamps by soldering in a brass tube extension to raise both ends. This worked, but it was "one off" and time consuming to do, and it was a little unstable due to the extensions. Rests lilke the Mach One were way too low.

For my current setup I use a BonMusica shoulder rest, together with one of the taller SAS chin rests (they come in various heights) mounted mostly centrally on the bass side of the tailpiece. The SR is mounted 3:00 - 9:00, with the clamps straddling the point of maximum width of the lower bouts. The clamps are mostly extended. It was very useful to discover that the vertical plane of the BonMusica need not be parallel with the back of the violin - it was much more comfortable rotating it on its long axis, inclining it downwards toward the end-pin. This helped quite a lot. I also increased the "hook" shape of the bass end of the metal bar.

All of this took so much time and effort that I bought an extra SAS chinrest and BonMusica rest as spares!

With the caveat that everyon'e anatomy is slightly different, I hope this helps!

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I use Bonmusica for both my violin and 17" viola as I have slanted shoulders and a very long neck. No other shoulder rest can be further expanded and bent to fit my body shape. The Bonmusica will not fit in my violin case, but it does fit in my viola case. However, despite ordering the 17" sized Bonmusica shoulder rest for my viola, my viola (which has wider bouts and thicker ribs than most 17" violas) was still too wide for the shoulder rest to clamp on. I ended up having to replace one of the screws with a longer one, which then allowed me to "widen" the shoulder rest legs further.

Prior to coming across this thread, it never came across me to angle the shoulder rest at a 10:00 to 04:00 position. I had previously had it at 08:00 to 02:00 and then later 09:00 to 03:00. I now have it at 10:00 to 04:00 which lets me play more comfortably.

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39 minutes ago, Okayadokari said:

I use Bonmusica for both my violin and 17" viola as I have slanted shoulders and a very long neck. No other shoulder rest can be further expanded and bent to fit my body shape. The Bonmusica will not fit in my violin case, but it does fit in my viola case. However, despite ordering the 17" sized Bonmusica shoulder rest for my viola, my viola (which has wider bouts and thicker ribs than most 17" violas) was still too wide for the shoulder rest to clamp on. I ended up having to replace one of the screws with a longer one, which then allowed me to "widen" the shoulder rest legs further.

Prior to coming across this thread, it never came across me to angle the shoulder rest at a 10:00 to 04:00 position. I had previously had it at 08:00 to 02:00 and then later 09:00 to 03:00. I now have it at 10:00 to 04:00 which lets me play more comfortably.

Awesome! I'm not crazy! ....or we're both crazy? :unsure:

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David,

 

I usually keep mine (a korfkerrest) at 9 and 3, but I've been experimenting with a tilt that lets the instrument sit flatter, at the same angle as if it is resting on my collarbone (see picture).  So far, no complaints.  

 

I will say the korfkerrest is my preferred rest.  It feels like I'm playing without a rest, but my downward shifts are more secure and I don't have to support the instrument with my left hand.  It's very ergonomic.

IMG_7375.jpeg

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On 6/17/2022 at 11:26 PM, David Rosales said:

 ( ... ) I've been thinking about trying out a Mach. We'll see. 

Mr Rosales,

So much depends on the player's physique and shape. There is more that should have been mentioned. Fit is important in development. Violin is less the issue now, but viola is getting worse. As I grow older, quality of sound is more important than fit. 

Aside from the fact that the Mach rest I use is made of wood, I chose it because of the attached leather. Leather slides better than foam. I also have a shorter neck and more square- ish shoulders. The instrument needs to move in preparation for major musical changes.

There appears to be very little benefit in having the rest further away given my shape. For some, the cantilevering of the rest, further away, might be preferred. I have a thick big skull with more sausage than brains. I can cantilever off the collar bone when need be. But a rest near the muscles of the shoulder also restricts movement of the instrument. I need the rest when locking in for the most difficult technical passages. 95% of performances require no rest. I might start with a rest, but will eventually move away. One instrument sounds great with the rest. One instrument, I am told, sound the best with a Wolf. SO what is practical?  

Leather slips and allows the quick and smooth change in position. There are other wooden rests that I like but the Mach worked and became available when I needed something different. The wooden Kun, tried in the shop, was more klunky. The curve of the Mach can be a bit aggressive. After a year or two of practice, three octave leaps become easier ( Sibelius, ) but playing chromatics in the 3rd octave, require some stability when replacing and re- replacing fingers. I do not use the Mach for the Sibelius or for most any playable concerto.

Kun makes taller legs and they are replaced in an assortment of rests. The original Mach feet did not last very long, so were replaced with Kun feet. As luthiers, we can likely fit any legs to any rest. Frankly, I have no idea where the Mach might be... put it away in 2018 and now in a box somewhere. When I need it I will look or buy a new one.

As designs go, the BonMusica rests are an assortment of modular possibilities and I do appreciate that aspect of construction. When prototyping, fixtures with various ranges might be created for "proof of concept" experiments, but for players, hopefully more choices evolve. I can not calculate the number of hours I spent ( shop hours- hundreds ) fitting BondMusica rest to students. The shop owner allowed us to be very helpful to the customers. Many teachers trusted us to achieve a reasonable fit and they had the veto power. We sometimes spent months with particular teachers. It is the shop's job to help the community and ultimately that was important to the owner. 

I had a student switch teachers during the pandemic, which is great as I do not mind and any progress is great. I chose not to teach via the internet. I did plenty of outdoor lessons. During the overlap lessons, they showed up with a BonMusica. At that point, it occurred to me that many of my fits were wrong ( no, being sarcastic, they were not absolutely not wrong ) or that the student just needed a change and a teacher that believed that the BonMusica rest would be the catalyst that would make a student's playing better. I add these comments not because that BonMusica is a bad rest and the teachers that use the rest are bad, but that change can be a good thing. Having heard that student play recently, there were no real improvements. So not sure the teacher's approach was credible or at least, that switching to the BonMusica did not make the better player.

Being klunky does not make the rest any better. It is a solution, but given the elegance of the instrument a dipped, metal rest may not be the solution. I am grateful for the option, but in order, does it improve: comfort, technique, sound?

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Shoulder rest position depends entirely upon your physique, posture and playing position.

You need to have the violin comfortably angled to your chest/shoulders; a slightly canted table toward bow hand; stable support for shifts; and an overall posture that facilitates bowing technique.  This depends hugely on your neck, collar bone, chest, etc.

An instructor who focuses on posture and bow mechanics can help you find the positioning that is best for you..

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I recently switched to the Bon Musica SR because of the adaptability.  Once I had it set up to be comfortable, my violin stopped trying to slide down my chest while playing.

Next I went to my local paintball store and bought a Molle style gear bag.  I took my SR with me and tried in in several bags until I found one it fit into and zipped closed.  right now the bag is attached to the grab loop on the end of my soft case but eventually I'll be attaching it to the music cover so it doesn't flop around like it does now.  The attachment will either be rivets or I'll sew webbing onto the cover to use the molle system on the bag so it can be removed for repair/replacement if necessary.

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