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Shoulder rest
Why I use a shouler rest
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (3 votes) 
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Worldfiddler
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November 17, 2012 - 3:54 pm
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I thought I'd share this one with you all.

It's all about "the shoulder rest". Do you need to use one? If so, why? Do people tell you to avoid using a shoulder rest, because it damps the tone of your violin?

On some violin forums, there is a lot of heated debate on this topic, and postings by many purists who shun the device completely.

Here's a video I made, simply to explain, graphically, why some players actually need to use a rest. There is also the issue of physique - you may be average, or slim, with a long neck, or simply a bob (torso + head : no neck) - a reference to the actor Bob Hoskyns, to name but one :)

The video just shows and explains - there are no audio examples playing with / without.

Doggammit, you all know what I sound like anyway!    

Here goes :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....HiWwEVEgWU

Mr Jim dancing

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Mad_Wed
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November 17, 2012 - 5:45 pm
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Thanks for the video, Mr. Jim! Nice explanation. I still don't understand how others can hold it without a S-R.. Tried lots of times... no chance for me...rofl

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Fiddlestix
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November 17, 2012 - 6:43 pm
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Excellent video, Mr. Jim.  I have a pad that I sewed on the machine, kinda shaped like a dog bone, but it still doesn't work well. I still have to support the violin with my left hand which really play's hell with doing vibrato. I bought one a few month's ago, tried it at the fiddle shop, brought it home, but it didn't feel comfortable. I probably didn't spend enough time fitting one.

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RosinedUp
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November 17, 2012 - 7:35 pm
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Thanks, Mr. Jim. 

I found this video of yours some months ago on youtube, and it helped me to appreciate the importance of a good hold, as well as to identify some of the specific issues.  I don't think people should even try to play much before they achieve a comfortable and functional hold.

I understand that violin virtuosos are far more common nowadays than they used to be.  Supposedly there are many now who can play the difficult pieces that only a few could play years ago.  So I have supposed that part of that comes from the use of chin and shoulder rests.  I had the bright idea that virtuosos may have been rare in the past partly because it required an unusual anatomy (namely a short neck) to hold the violin well.  So we need a research grant to examine portraits of the old virtuosos, to verify or negate the hypothesis.

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DanielB
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November 17, 2012 - 7:59 pm
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That might not be as valid a data source as one would want for actual research.  Portraits were usually drawn or painted and aren't necessarily as accurate as a photograph.  In fact, often there is a bit of a tendency of portrait painters to make the image a bit more flattering than reality.  Ones who did that tended to get paid more.

just sayin'..

"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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RosinedUp
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November 17, 2012 - 8:15 pm
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DanielB said
That might not be as valid a data source as one would want for actual research.  Portraits were usually drawn or painted and aren't necessarily as accurate as a photograph.  In fact, often there is a bit of a tendency of portrait painters to make the image a bit more flattering than reality.  Ones who did that tended to get paid more.

just sayin'..

Well, good point, Daniel.  I will try to come up with some solution to that issue when writing the grant proposal.laugh

As a first approach, I would try to answer the question of whether photography was widely used before chin rests and shoulder rests were used.

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DanielB
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November 17, 2012 - 8:25 pm
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I don't use a shoulder rest when playing acoustic.  But I haven't been playing long enough to be much of an authority on such things. 

It's not because somebody said anything about the tone or any heated debates, it just has always felt more comfortable to me without one.  My first acoustic, I didn't use the chin rest either.  It was very uncomfortable and managed to dig into just the wrong part of my jaw, and I liked the feel of the top when I played it.  On the newer acoustic, the chinrest is more comfortable, but I still don't really like it and am trying to get used to it to see if it is worth keeping. 

It may just have been a bad shoulder rest, like the chinrest on my first acoustic wasn't so good.  But to me they both feel like a sort of artificial gadget and not really a part of the instrument that should be there.

I'm really not used to instruments that take this much hardware buckled on to play.  LOL  Just doesn't feel natural/proper to me personally.

Wood on the collarbone doesn't bother me much.  But that chinrest clamp is metal and that gets uncomfortable.  I have a tab of soft leather I made to cover that to keep it from digging in when I play, since I found even a thin cosmetic sponge felt too "slushy" for my liking.

But I haven't been playing long, and don't claim to play well, either, so my POV should be considered purely personal and is not intended as advice to anyone.

"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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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
November 18, 2012 - 8:32 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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I don't condemn using a shoulder-rest though I don't use one myself.
As Jim says in his video, you must close the gap.

Some people don't have much of a neck to speak of and others have real long necks. This is a reason for having or not having a shoulder-rest.

Also, you can fill the gap by raising the chin-rest or purchasing a chin-rest with a taller plate. This will bring your violin closer to your body instead of closer to your head, which will in turn will bring the violin closer to the tip of your bow. Many people have trouble with tensions in the right arm when they reach the tip or upper part.

If you need a should-rest try getting a taller chin-rest first and adjust the shoulder rest to be shorter to make up that difference. This is IMO better.

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

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billyh
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November 18, 2012 - 10:56 am
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Hey Fiddlerman,

I broke my left arm when I was very young and it did not set right. As a result I cannot get my hand around the neck to use my fingers for producing notes. I have a cheap violin and have decided to play it like a cello. I have a strong desire to play the violin. Do you think I am wasting my time trying to play it like this? Would, if I have the talent, I be able to play well this way? Any suggestions on setting the violin up to play like this? Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated.

I chose this topic because I do not need a shoulder rest. :)

Thank you

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Picklefish
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November 18, 2012 - 11:14 am
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Hey billyh, I am not the Fiddlerman but thought I would ask if youve seen the old time fiddlers who play with the fiddle tucked into their chest instead of on the shoulder. There was even a forum post I believe on this if you search the past. This non traditional style puts it in a posistion where you might be able to reach with your hand, not familiar with your particular limitation.

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

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billyh
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November 18, 2012 - 11:19 am
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Hey picklefish,

I wouldn't be able to play that way either. If my left hand was extended like to shake hands, rotating to the left I can only turn it about 45 degrees.

I appreciate the suggestion.

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RosinedUp
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November 18, 2012 - 11:39 am
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billyh said

If my left hand was extended like to shake hands, rotating to the left I can only turn it about 45 degrees.

The next obvious question is whether you can do the bowing with your left hand instead of your right.

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Fiddlestix
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November 18, 2012 - 12:12 pm
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I can't see any reason why you couldn't use it like a cello. I think you would have to do a slight bit of refab. on it. Remove the chin rest, remove the end plug and try to find or make a new, end pin / Stachel for it. I think you will be ok like that.

Good luck, I hope it work's for you. Sure would hate to see someone not be able to play because of a slight arm problem.

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billyh
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November 18, 2012 - 12:36 pm
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I did try left handed, wasn't a pretty sight or sound. :)

I'll give it a try like a cello but either I will reverse the strings or get a left handed violin.

I am not sure which would be best.

Thanks for all the suggestions.

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dionysia
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November 18, 2012 - 1:16 pm
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Have you seen the way carnatic fiddlers hold the fiddle propped against their foot? I tried that before, it's actually sort of comfortable. And I have seen vids of irish fiddlers holding the fiddle more like a cello. I say whatever works for you and makes you happy. That is why we're playing after all...

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dionysia
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November 18, 2012 - 1:18 pm
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picklefish said
Hey billyh, I am not the Fiddlerman but thought I would ask if youve seen the old time fiddlers who play with the fiddle tucked into their chest instead of on the shoulder. There was even a forum post I believe on this if you search the past. This non traditional style puts it in a posistion where you might be able to reach with your hand, not familiar with your particular limitation.

I love this guy. In my wildest dreams I could play like that!

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Picklefish
Merritt Island, Fla
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November 18, 2012 - 2:20 pm
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It takes quite a bit of "fiddle-lube" Im sure to get your legs to wiggle like that without disturbing the upper body. lol, My beard is 1/4 of the way there though, I hear thats another requirement. lol.

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

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dionysia
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November 18, 2012 - 2:52 pm
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Naw - my Grampa didn't have a beard

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RosinedUp
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November 18, 2012 - 2:58 pm
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billyh said
I did try left handed, wasn't a pretty sight or sound. :)

Nothing very unusual about that for any beginner.  You might ask a teacher or two to evaluate your potential for bowing left handed.

billyh said 
I'll give it a try like a cello but either I will reverse the strings or get a left handed violin.

I am not sure which would be best.

Certainly you should get a left-handed fiddle if you are going to play left handed and you can afford the extra cost of the left-handed fiddle.

Somebody posted a video of a woman who was a very good fiddler, playing a right-handed fiddle left handed.  And if I remember right, she hadn't even reversed the strings.  But you have to wonder how much better she would be had she started her playing with a left-handed fiddle left handed.

There is also a style of violin playing in India where the player sits on the floor and the scroll rests on the ankle.  Somebody please help me with the name of that style.

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Picklefish
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November 18, 2012 - 3:23 pm
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here is an example of your solution then

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

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