Thursday, July 26, 2012

Using A Shoulder Rest

One of the most difficult things I have to get over with in playing the violin is that painful dig the wooden instrument gives me when I put at the crook of my neck.  It digs to my collarbone and my then-instructor told me that the skin was starting to get raw.  Either I use a towel, or I use a violin shoulder rest.

My shoulder rest is just a simple, inexpensive black thing that I bought for just P500 (about $12 USD) in a local music store (which I will not promote because the manager is just so snotty).  And I will not
recommend the brand either because it's sort of rickety and hard to manipulate.  There are other more reliable brands which are, of course, expensive but they are worth every penny. Lesson learned: when you are serious with your violin, go for the mid-range to top-range gadgets, like this ViolinSmart 4/4 Full Size Violin Shoulder Rest or Beth's favorite Bonmusica 4/4 Violin Shoulder Rest

So, back to my shoulder rest. All shoulder rests will have their own unique shape and curvature, and each curve has a purpose.  The shoulder part of the rest is concave or curved in to hug your shoulders. The chest part is slightly convex or curved out to lift your violin up so it won't sink to your chest.

The ends of your shoulder rest, depending on your brand, will also have different widths.  Take for example this Kun Original 4/4 Violin Shoulder Rest: the shoulder end will be wide, while the chest end will be narrow. This is to help give you better balance as you'll be pressing on your violin with your chin to keep it in place.

Your violin shoulder rest will also come with different parts, with the clamp as one of the key parts you should look into.  It holds your shoulder rest in place on your violin and it should be covered with a strong, non-slip, yet soft rubber to prevent scratching your violin. These clamps are adjustable; you can lower the height of the peg or increase its length if necessary according to the size of your neck.

Positioning Your Violin Shoulder Rest

Placement of your shoulder rest is important for taking the pain out of violin playing.You have to manipulate your shoulder rest on your violin so you can find the best comfortable position for you.  You can either position your shoulder rest in a slanted manner (left picture). For me, I need the shoulder side positioned nearer to my shoulder, with the chest side slanted nearer to my neck.  Or, you can place the shoulder rest straight across your violin either near the base or near the center of your violin.

Comfortability Issues

Putting up a shoulder rest for your violin should mean increased or improved comfort in playing. If you feel your neck is unnaturally stretched and/or your shoulder is awkwardly raised, you should re-position your shoulder rest and adjust the pegs or clamp.Beth claims that of all the shoulder rests she's tried, the Bonmusica 4/4 Violin Shoulder Rest for her was the most comfortable one.  I am yet to find a Bonmusica shoulder rest here in the Philippines, and if I can find one, I'll definitely buy my own.
If you are not sure about how to place your shoulder rest on your violin, ask your violin teacher. Your goal for putting up a shoulder rest for violin will be to improve your playing experience, give you better violin support, and to prevent your thumb from supporting the bridge of your violin as you play so you can avoid squeezing your violin.


  1. Hey, thanks for this article. I was on the same boat trying to snug a comfortable shoulder rest. I may be using the black one you described which doesn't fit me right no matter how I adjust it. I end up having a sore jaw.

    Did you ever figure out where to buy the Bonmusica in Manila. I'm eyeing that one too as it is completely adjustable.


    1. Hi Gabriel. Sorry for the late reply, things have been going crazy lately. I miss my blog, and I miss blogging. I haven't figured out how to buy Bonmusica here. MOst of the shoulder rests are really downright ordinary. :(

      Thanks for visiting my blog and for posting your reply! :)