I have just bought a viola and am wondering about shoulder rests. Do I have to go through an almost infinite number of them before I find one that fits and does it's job? Should I dispense with one altogether and consider a pad instead? My current rest gets me in the ballpark, but no further. After using it for a while I have a sore jaw. Is this typical? I am wondering if a pad might be a better option.
I would like to be able to hold the viola correctly before booking lessons, so any advice would be welcome.
You can see what "Violaman" uses and does.
Please look at the top of the page - "Beginner" heading to start (looks like he's just using a sponge-type with rubber bands) and the "Videos" heading here, at -
...hope this gets you started!
Thanks for the information guys. I have just ordered a Bon Musica. It sounds like the best choice at the moment.
Let us know how you get on with it.
I was going to suggest that maybe you should be wary of spending money until you get a teacher's advice.
You imply that your rest is too high? Its height is one of the things I hate about my Bon Musica!
I took up both the violin and the viola pretty much at the same time around 10 months ago.
I have tried several shoulder and chin rest arrangements and I am getting close to the most comfortable ones for me. I think it took 2 different chin rests and 3 different shoulder rests before I became comfortable.
I found that I was holding the instrument too flat and too high on my shoulder and I was suffering with pain in my neck and shoulder.
I am now using sponge-type pad for the shoulder rest and a small sponge pad on top of my chin rest.
My instrument position is now tilted approximately 20 degrees from horizontal and I am able to hold it in-place by the jaw below the ear and side pressure (not down pressure) on the soft pad on top of the chin rest.
Hope this helps. Don't give up and always seek help out there- sometimes it is not easy to find.
Good luck and welcome to the site.
Ideally, the shoulder rest should not create much (if any) change in instrument position from playing without a shoulder rest. Its purpose is to fill space, not to raise the instrument.
I would advise first finding a position where your jaw rests comfortably on the chinrest and your fingers reach the strings easily, then finding a shoulder rest that helps you hold the viola in that position. You may want to consider experimenting with chinrests as well. If you have a long neck, get as much height as possible from the chinrest before you start adding height using the shoulder rest. If you have a short neck, definitely look into lower chinrests. Because of my extremely short neck, I had to get a custom-made chinrest that is lower than anything on the market, and I use a shoulder rest set as low as possible.
Overall, you should aim to keep your shoulders in a neutral position when holding your instrument. Your head should not need to turn too far to the left; ideally you should be able to hold your instrument securely with your head facing straight ahead or with only a slight turn to the left. The chinrest and shoulder rest should enable that posture.