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Playing Without a Shoulder Rest or Pad
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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Crazymotive
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July 31, 2013 - 4:25 pm
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Does anyone out here play the violin without using any type of shoulder rest or shoulder pad ?

 

I have noticed that I am the only violinist in my orchestra who plays without any form of shoulder rest or shoulder pad. When  I was 10 years old (back in the 1960's) I was taught to play by holding the violin between my chin and collarbone. I can hold the violin such that it stays in place just from the pressure exerted between my chin and collarbone without any added shoulder rest or support and without holding it with my left hand.  I then extend my left hand under the neck so the violin rests gently in my hand forming a bridge between the left hand/arm and the shoulder, and, of course so I can perform fingering to play the notes. This is how I was taught to hold the violin and I feel very comfortable holding it this way. 

 

I notice that now days the majority of players seem to use some form of shoulder rest or padding added to the instrument. If anything I seem to be in a minority of players who don;t use any type of shoulder rest. 

 

I do use a chin rest though. I have tried playing without a chin rest and I find I definitely prefer using the chin rest.

 

Just curious if anyone else out here plays in this fashion without a shoulder rest or has ever tried it. I don;t thing either method, with or without, is better. The important thing it to play in whatever way you are comfortable and seems natural to you.

  Any experience, opinions or ideas on this ?

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Hman
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July 31, 2013 - 6:05 pm
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If you are happy doing it that way and it doesn't cause you pain then do it! But ya, there are people here who don't use a shoulder rest. I'm pretty sure Picklefish doesn't use one and I'm sure there are many others. I have a tall neck and I broke it many years back so I have to have a tall shoulder and chin rest. 

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DanielB
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I play without a shoulder rest.  I do use a little piece of soft leather to cover the metal of the chinrest clamp so it does not dig into my collarbone.

clamp_cover.JPGImage Enlarger

I think that whether one needs a shoulder-rest or what type of shoulder rest would be best comes down to a matter of how the individual player's body is constructed.  Our shoulders and collarbones are not all alike.  Our necks and jawline are  different.  Each player will be a unique combination of those sorts of physical traits, so I don't think there is a "best way" that will work for everyone.

It is a matter of what you find that is most comfortable and effective for you as an individual.  That is what will determine an individual's options.

I have to admit that I have only tried a few shoulder rests.  I own one that came with another violin, and I have tried the couple different ones the local music shops had.  Maybe they just weren't right for me.  But the principle of the violin being sort of like a lever or teeter-totter didn't feel comfortable to me.  Since I found it quite comfortable to play without a shoulder rest, I didn't make any huge effort to try every shoulder rest on the market. 

With my electric, I use a shoulder rest.  That instrument is heavier and the body is thinner, so it is not comfortable for me to play it without a shoulder rest.  It just doesn't fit my bones the same way the acoustic does.

Chin rests.. I kinda like playing acoustic without a chin-rest.  The feeling of contact with the instrument and the amount of bone conduction hearing is very pleasant.  But I found it to damp the higher frequencies a bit, and to tend to more neck strain when playing for long periods, so I have gotten used to using a chin rest on the acoustic. 

On electric, again, because of the thinner body and greater weight of the instrument, I don't think that playing it without a chinrest would be very viable.

 

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"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Picklefish
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July 31, 2013 - 6:40 pm
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I just recently ditched my shoulder rest for a elevated chinrest. The shoulder rest is excellent for providing stabilization while learning. Many pros use them and some dont. Fiddlerman uses a sponge instead of a rest for isntance.
I am doing it in hopes it improves my playing and sound all around. We will see. But, I have broad shoulders too, penty of support already built in. lol.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Fiddlerman
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July 31, 2013 - 9:49 pm
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I don't need a shoulder rest but use that thin sponge just to keep the violin from slipping sliding on my clothes. Often I don't even use my sponge. There is a philosophy about playing without a shoulder rest and on how it gives you more freedom. There are equal number of soloist and pros that are for using a shoulder rest as there are against.
I lean towards not using one if you can hold the instrument comfortably without any excess tension or pressure. Some players have plain and simply too long necks to get away with not using a shoulder-rest.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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ozmous
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July 31, 2013 - 10:19 pm
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I never play with a shoulder rest, sponge, pad, etc. At all, I don't like attaching and removing the shoulder rest before and after I play, and I can easily balance the violin on my collar bone, and sometimes, I play without a chinrest because I feel that it's heavy, but I'm comfortable with it.

cheers! - ⁰ℨ

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StoneDog
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July 31, 2013 - 11:40 pm
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I may try one some day > just to see. > There are a whole lot of SWEET!! players out there that use them. > I may try one some day. 

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Crazymotive
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August 2, 2013 - 1:30 pm
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Very interesting and informative responses all around. And yes, I agree, there is no "correct way" to play (with or without a shoulder rest).  It is a matter of preference and comfort. In my case I have never used one and I am comfortable without one. But then again, in all the years I've been  playing I never tried using a shoulder rest or pad. It is entirely possible that I may try one one of these days and wonder how I got along without one for so long. 

 

On the other hand I have tried playing without a chin rest and I much prefer using the chin rest.

 

But that is what it is all about. Trying different things and finding what you like best. The dame holds true for other things, such as rosins, bows, strings, etc.  For instance I use Pirastro Tonica strings and compared to others I've tried  like them. But who knows, one day I may try a string that I like even better. Same was true for rosins. For years I only used light rosins. Then last fall I tried a dark rosin and I seem to prefer the dark rosin. These days when I buy rosin I gravitate towards the darker varieties. 

 

You never know for sure till you try. :)

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Mad_Wed
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I use a shoulder rest. But i've found out that without it my shoulder and neck feel much better. Though there is a lot of stuff that i must master before i'll be able to play without a shoulder rest at all.

Like the violin being rested on my collar bone always waving, so clean stringcrossing is almost impossible for me. And i can't hold it without my left hand, so tuning is kinda tricky. Though i expected some problems with shifting and vibrato but no problems ha-ha!

So You're the one of the happiest violinists! Congrats on it!thumbs-up

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pky
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August 3, 2013 - 10:43 am
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I play without shoulder rest. I have short neck and my first violin has higher chinrest, there's no way I would feel comfortable if a shoulder rest was added. I did try using shoulder rest (a luthier sold one to me, I still have it) but after I tried it on I didn't like it. However, I was never able to hold my violin with my chin and collar bone without supporting it with my left hand. Then I switched to 7/8 violin with a shorter chinrest and it's a little more comfortable than my first one and I could hold it with my chin and collarbone without my left hand. BTW, I have very round shoulders and I don't know how that affects violin hold (Probably should have used a shoulder rest)

My daughter complained that her shoulder hurt, so her teacher gave her a foam pad. She also complained that the chinrest clamp was digging into her collarbone (that spot was often indented and red from playing) so I made her a chinrest cover that covered the chinrest, clamp, and had a pocket to hold the pad. but now she decided not to use it. However, she had just recently decided not to use both of them. I decided that when she switched to a bigger size violin and if she complained about chinrest clamp digging into her collar bone again, I would knit/crochet her a chinrest clamp cover (sort of like DanielB's, BTW you could buy one like his, but if you could make one yourself why buy it?).

Our teacher had tried on three or four chinrest/chinrest clamp cover that I made and decided that they all affect the tone of her violin so she uses them as mute:)). My daughter's violin is only 1/4 size, so we (or I) have not notice much difference between with chinrest cover/pad and without chinrest cover and pad.

To me, should rests should be custom made for each violinist because people's shoulders are of different built.

 

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wookieman
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August 3, 2013 - 11:31 am
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I saw this on another thread that was very similar.  It has some interesting viewpoints.   

There is no failure, only results.

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Fiddlerman
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August 3, 2013 - 1:32 pm
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Great video wookieman (if you can get through the whole thing)
Balance the violin and don't clinch the violin. If you need a shoulder-rest, for gods sake, do not squeeze. Be as relaxed as possible.

I will neither condemn nor promote the use of a shoulder-rest. Different body shapes require different solutions.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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pky
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Fiddlerman said
Great video wookieman (if you can get through the whole thing)
Balance the violin and don't clinch the violin. If you need a shoulder-rest, for gods sake, do not squeeze. Be as relaxed as possible.

I tend to squeeze and crunch my violin, my instructor always remind me to smile. I try to remind myself as well. squeezing violin is not a good posture and it puts a lot of stress on my left shoulder. I don't know why I do it, maybe nervous or too concentrate on "playing it right -- right notes, right tempo, right fingering, right pitch, right beats, right bowing, right bow pressure, right bow hand motion, etc."

I will neither condemn nor promote the use of a shoulder-rest. Different body shapes require different solutions.

Exactly!

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Picklefish
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August 3, 2013 - 3:48 pm
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you should only be squeezin oranges and girlfriends!

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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FiJaPAW
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August 3, 2013 - 4:17 pm
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I used to play without anything, no chinrest or shoulderrest. I loved it. I played that way for most of my time on the violin until a teacher I had convinced me to at least put on a chin rest about a year ago. I had no pain, but shifting to really high positions wasn't as fluid as it is now.

I am a violinist cycling around the world with my dog, Fiji, and my violin. http://www.FiJaPAW.com

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Crazymotive
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I first began playing violin back in 1967. I was about 10 years old at the time. My first violin was a 3/4 size rental. It came with no shoulder rest and my instructor never mentioned a shoulder rest. Initially the violin seemed awkward and uncomfortable to hold. Almost painfully so.  But after a bit of time and adjustment I was holding it comfortably in lessons and in practice.  When I bought my first full size violin (actually my parents bought it for me as I was only 11) I was not even offered a shoulder rest by the music shop. As far as I knew there was no such animal.  Back in those days I didn't know there was such a thing as a shoulder rest. Nobody I know used one. I only learned about shoulder rests when I got back into playing a few years ago. I noticed a lot of beginning students were using them and a great many web sites about the violin, as well as music shops, were selling them. These days it is rare for me to find a violin player that doesn't use one.  As I mentioned, in my orchestra I am the only player who doesn't use one and some people are puzzled as to how I can play without one.  However, this does not make me a better player, indeed there are people in our orchestra who use shoulder rests and can play better than i can.

 

I guess what I am leading up to is a question. When did the shoulder rest become popular ? Was it used at all back in the 1960's when I first started playing ? Or did it become popular later on. I would appreciate if someone can fill me in on the history/usage of the shoulder rests.

 

That said I am not in any way implying that not using a shoulder rest is better than using one. Every violinist has his/her own preferences and plays and uses whatever they are most comfortable with. With or without a should rest, chin rest, etc. It's all good. The important thing it to enjoy playing and to make nice music.

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Crazymotive
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August 3, 2013 - 8:26 pm
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pky said

Fiddlerman said
Great video wookieman (if you can get through the whole thing)
Balance the violin and don't clinch the violin. If you need a shoulder-rest, for gods sake, do not squeeze. Be as relaxed as possible.

I tend to squeeze and crunch my violin, my instructor always remind me to smile. I try to remind myself as well. squeezing violin is not a good posture and it puts a lot of stress on my left shoulder. I don't know why I do it, maybe nervous or too concentrate on "playing it right -- right notes, right tempo, right fingering, right pitch, right beats, right bowing, right bow pressure, right bow hand motion, etc."

I will neither condemn nor promote the use of a shoulder-rest. Different body shapes require different solutions.

Exactly!

The important thing is not to squeeze or crush the violin against the collarbone when playing without a shoulder rest.  When I play I simply rest it on the collar bone. I only apply mild pressure at times when I am making extreme fast movements, shifting, etc.  But more often than not the violin is just resting on the collar bone.  Sometimes my chin is barely in contact with the violin. The amount of pressure I exert varies as I play but the neutral condition is very relaxed. Sort of like shifting gears  🙂

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Picklefish
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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
(http://www.maestronet.com/foru.....t-history/)

Conversely;
The chinrest was invented by Louis Spohr in the early 19th century in response to increasingly difficult repertoire which demanded freer left hand techniques than had previously been used. After being promoted by prominent violinists of the day, such as Pierre Baillot and Giovanni Battista Viotti, it gained quick acceptance among most violists & violinists and is today considered a standard part of the viola and violin.[1]
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinrest)

It is interesting to me that the chinrest was such an important invention that its inventor is known while the shoulder rest is a bit obscure....

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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coolpinkone
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I use a shoulder rest.. I feel like I always have to have it.. when I play a violin without one... I can't control it.  I am kind of bummed.. would like to be able to play both ways.

But for now it is one less thing to think of... I am thinking of Robs Idea of the elevated chin rest... ... hmmmm

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Picklefish
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@Toni- dont rush it, it took me 3 years to come to this decision. I used a shoulder rest up until now, and I may go back to it if it doesnt work for me. My motivation has to do with wanting the best body position possible ala the Alexander Technique as introduced to me by RU and Ray through the Violinist in Motion study that was done. Its all a giant experiment. A week into it though I have found a hold and position that seems to work for me. I just want to make sure I can keep a relaxed posture with it.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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