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Violin setup experiences...
With or without shoulder rest? Proper chin rest? There are many options. This is a report of my journey to the land of violin chin and shoulder rests.
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New member
January 1, 2015 - 4:52 pm
Member Since: January 1, 2015
Forum Posts: 1
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After a couple of months of experimentation and five violin lessons I have gone through more than a few iterations of chin and shoulder supports on my violin.  I started with a standard Kun, went to Bon Musica shoulder rest and ended up with a Poehland.  Chin rests include my original Guerini (sp?), Dresden and Donaldson.

Of all the combinations I tried, the Donaldson/Poehland combination worked best for me.  The chin rest has a gentle ridge and fits my chin very well, with no sharp edges but enough "purchase" to allow the chin to hold the violin horizontally even without a shoulder rest.  It is a side-mount design, which gets the supports away from the center where the tailpiece connects.  This in itself made the instrument more resonant!

The Kun was very good at support, allowing the instrument to be held horizontally without support by the left hand.  And the Bon Musica fixed the support to my shoulder in a very solid connection.  But the Poehland turned out to be better for me in totally unexpected ways.  First of all, the Poehland does not clamp to the sides of the violin like most of the other supports do.  This seems to free up the back of the violin to resonate without being damped.  The pad is quite small, and this gives the instrument flexibility by allowing rotation around the pad.  The combined effect of the small pad and support system, which includes a leather (?) strap that is secured at the tailpiece post, and a rubber band, is to improve resonance dramatically.

At least for now, with plans for future experimentation, the Poehland shoulder support allows rotational flexibility of movement, free of clamping across the back of the violin, and frictional support to keep the violin horizontal.  The Donaldson chin rest provides a comfortable dished surface and under-chin support ridge that, in combination with the Poehland rest fills the space between my clavicle and the violin quite comfortably.

Although the "clamp on" shoulder rests, especially the Bon Musica, provided secure support, the security was a short-lived feature.  Freedom of movement allows the instrument to move in combination with the bow as required by musical phrasing and expression.  This is a paradoxical matter because one intuitively assumes that a fixed position would make playing easier.  In fact, it is much easier to play when the bow and the violin engage in a mutual cooperation rather than a flexible bow operating against a rigid frame of reference.


January 2, 2015 - 12:00 am
Member Since: September 21, 2013
Forum Posts: 321
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Humm this is an interesting observation. I know i have played around with different shoulder rests/no shoulder rests. I can say i personally like the security of a solder rest right now (i use and everest right now) but i consider myself still very beginner so maybe that will fade with experience.  I've tried the poehland rest before but never quite sat right on my shoulder, but then again mayhap it just takes time to get used to a rest like that.  Someday i'll experiment with new chin rests but for now mines working quite well :D  

Thanks for posting your expirances with different shoulders/chin rests for the violin. I know its different for everybody but i always find there are good ideas in everyones reviews! 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton


January 2, 2015 - 5:29 am
Member Since: May 4, 2012
Forum Posts: 2379
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I sometimes use a round cosmetic sponge and a couple of the hair ties that don't have metal clips to hold it on, which is much like the Poehland style rest in principle.  But mostly, I have found that I am more comfortable without a shoulder rest on the acoustic violin. 

I don't think that it is necessarily better or somehow more advanced to play without a shoulder rest.  I think it is a matter of us all being shaped differently, while violins are shaped pretty much the same.  For some people, the bare instrument is comfortable, and for others there needs to be a rest for it to really feel comfortable.  Our shoulders, collarbones, jaws and necks are all a bit different, so I don't think that one single rest or going without a rest can possibly be the best answer for everyone.  I think both ways are fine, both are good, and whichever works the best for you is the way to go.

On electric violin, I use a shoulder rest, largely because the instrument is heavier.  To me, acoustic violins seem so light that they are almost like holding up nothing but air anyway. 

Chinrests as well, come in different sizes and shapes because we come in different sizes and shapes. 

Probably the best solution, where possible, is to go to a music shop with a good assortment and try the different styles of chin and shoulder rests so you find the combination that works best for you at this time.

I used to prefer playing acoustic violin without a chinrest, because the chinrest always felt too high and always managed to have an edge against my jaw.  But then I got a different violin with a chinrest that looked just the same.. But felt completely different.  It was probably just a difference of a mm or two somewhere, but it was a world of difference in how it worked for me.  So since there is some variance, even when two chinrests are of the same type/style, it is again a matter of trying different options and finding out what works best for you as an individual.

One can either view the necessity of finding the best option/combination as a royal pain in the butt.. or as part of the fun.  That is up to the individual's temperament.  LOL

"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

Fort Lauderdale
January 2, 2015 - 7:41 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11601

Interesting take nelsonljohnson,

There are different theories about side or center mounting and also about touching the back of the violin or not when holding. Thought I'd offer the other side so both are represented. My belief is that a center mount limits the vibrations less than a side mount since it's mounted over the end button block inside the violin. That being said, my Stuber chin-rest is side mounted as well.
As far as the shoulder-rest limiting the vibrations of the violin by resting on the ribs, I believe that this must be better than having much of your body resting on the violins back which should vibrate freely. A violin vibrates less at the ribs than it does on the top and bottom.

The Poehland is nice and works great for many people. I like it but I'm so used to my little red rubber round pad or having nothing that I prefer not to switch.
I think if you use the Poehland or a pad like mine without squeezing you still barely affect the sound and comfort is crucial to successful playing. I've experimented quite a bit and I know I can produce a very powerful sound when necessary regardless of my setup.

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

Honorary advisor

January 23, 2015 - 2:48 pm
Member Since: January 18, 2012
Forum Posts: 342
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Several months ago a fellow orchestra member noticed that I tend to hold the violin with my chin over the tailpiece of the violin. He suggested I try a chin rest that is center mounted. So, I switched to a "Berber" style chinrest and I find it helped me quite a bit.  More comfortable as it's centered over the tailpiece thus better oriented towards the manner in which I am most comfortable. I also get better support and better hold on the instrument both with or without a shoulder rest. This makes things like shifting and vibrato a lot more stable and comfortable.  I do use a shoulder rest these days as well and it provides me some added support which is good when I am playing long pieces of music and keeping the violin in playing position for a long time. But, with the "Berber" style rest I am also quite comfortable and can play quite well even without the shoulder rest. I would say that of the two rests having a comfortable and proper fitting chinrest is most important. Every player is different and there is no one single universal style of chinrest that is good for everyone. For me the Berber rest was the way for me to go.. For others it many not be the way to go.

Fort Lauderdale
January 28, 2015 - 1:49 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11601

Great advice. We should all reevaluate our equipment from time to time. Not only do our techniques change but new equipment becomes available frequently.
As far as the chin going over the tailpiece, it's not that big of a deal unless you are making a lot of contact on that. I do that for example but the contact is all at my jaw bone.

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

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