My shoulder rest opinion
February 14, 2019 at 11:05 PM #69202
So, when I started I didn’t have a shoulder rest, so I used a rubber band to hold a folded cloth (actually a cloth diaper that hadn’t been used, and when not using that, a pair of undies or socks). So last year when I first played a fiddle with one (and a viola too) it just felt wrong. Then the fiddle that I borrowed for sone weeks had one, and my new fiddle came with one, and I have now formed an opinion about them, that will share because I’m always right and y’all need to sit still and listen to these priceless nuggets of wisdom. Just kidding 😉
Anyway, my opinion is this: They’re great, but not for me. There’s several reasons for this; with the way that I hold the fiddle, the shoulder rest puts my shoulder too close to the middle of the fiddle (I want my shoulder to be at the edge) also it makes it too tall to comfortably put my chin over, and I don’t like the angle it puts the fiddle at. And my final axe to grind is the sound; I’ve noticed that the rest has the same effect as a tone guard on mandolin: it prevents your shoulder from damping the vibration of the back, and in my opinion (which if you didn’t want, you shouldn’t have read this thread) it makes the fiddle too resonant, and particularly the D and A strings sound too twangy (in a bad way) and brash. Now for some folks, and some fiddles, those may be good things, but for me they’re not. Oh, and also I prefer to grip the fiddle with my chin and collarbone, and the shoulder rest doesn’t let me do that. On the bright side, since getting my new fiddle, I’ve stopped using any shoulder rest at all (not even the diaper) and all of a sudden, it doesn’t hurt my shoulder at all. What that means is that my life is a whole lot easier now. Side note, I played some other fiddle at a bluegrass concert (it belongs to the performer, and I wasn’t performing) and that shoulder rest was super comfortable and immediately felt right. I still didn’t like the sound character though.
P.S. This tirade is specifically refering to the Kun shoulder rest, with the exception of the last example, the make of which rest is unknown. I realize I am probably in the minority with this opinion, but I’m used to that. I hope this had been helpful, and if not, at least entertaining. And please don’t eat your cat with ketchup, it will give you food poisoningFebruary 15, 2019 at 8:47 AM #69204cricketParticipant
Well said, Gunnar! I have tried shoulder rests, and find the same types of problems you wrote. I don’t use them. Another thing I went around the whole thing with was the chin rest. They just gouge my jaw like crazy…I tried several, carved them out with a pocket knife, etc., and finally abandoned them too. Nothing but the instrument for me. Of course everybody’s different, but I tried and can’t deal with shoulder rests or chin rests, and wasted a lot of money until I figured that out. I should add that a lot of times when I play old time stuff that’s more centered on bowing that fancy fingering, I just hold the fiddle on my knee, sitting down of course. But if I’m standing up or playing certain things, I hold it under my chin. One thing for certain, there seems to be no really good way to hold onto a fiddle…so I guess anything goes, really. Whatever it takes to hang on enough to play whatever kinda stuff you’re playing. I think chin rests have been in use for a while, but shoulder rests are a newer invention. Classical players might need ’em to fly up and down the fingerboard without dropping the instrument. No shoulder rests for me, though. I always do eat ketchup when i eat cat though, so… I have to disagree with you on that point…just that one point, though. What do you think about mustard?February 15, 2019 at 11:33 AM #69209
Yeah, if you look at old original Stradivarius’s they have chin rests and not shoulder rests. I think there are shoulder rests that I might get along with, but I’d still have to stuff a shirt between it and the back to find the tone I want. And I find that mustard works way better than ketchup to hide the odorous flavor of catFebruary 15, 2019 at 12:08 PM #69213Steve SraderParticipant
What Cricket said lots of people don’t even use chin rest , However I do use both , getting the height right and angles right , side to side right , up and down right , to the point it is comfortable and no effort is used to hold the violin without hands ! Also the fingerboard hand and arm is comfortable with the violin positions also , I have marked a mark with a pin on each side of the violins back rib so when I put the shoulder rest on the violin it’s always exactly in the same positions , every body’s , height ,weight , neck , chest , shoulder , jaw line has to be customized to fit each person , It takes time and patients to adjust and find all the right adjustments the height adjustments on the shoulder rest , the left and right side of the shoulder rest can adjust to different heights the tilt of the shoulder rest and the adjust holes on the shoulder rest shifting the shoulder rest higher over the shoulder or more towards the chest and finally the position the shoulder rest is fixed to the violins back rib , The position of mine is on the bass side more towards the back of the violin curve and the E string side more towards the cut away so the shoulder rest sets at a angle on the violin and every one is different more or less you have to find the feel good spots to all the adjustments for your own body’s needs ! If it does not feel natural and comfortable then its not right !
February 15, 2019 at 4:55 PM #69215
- This reply was modified 1 year ago by Steve Srader.
That’s why I used cloth for so long; it instantly conforms to the correct shape. If it gets painful or unpleasant at all playing without one, I’ll go back to folded cloth in a heartbeat. But as it is I can hold it comfortably with none, which means I don’t have to worry about playing someone else’s whether or not they use oneFebruary 20, 2019 at 1:09 AM #69348John (BGD)Keymaster
At Fiddle Camp we give the kids a small piece of foam. You really don’t need a shoulder rest in order to play the fiddle; I didn’t use one for the first ten or so years although I use one now. I can’t tell much difference in the sound, but I think it helps my posture a bit. Ultimately it is an individual preference!March 20, 2019 at 4:31 PM #70381Fiddle CatParticipant
I like shoulder rests, but they’re just like ski boots. I haven’t found one that’s comfortable. I’m not a classical player or even a very good bluegrass fiddler, but I want stability so I can go into 2nd or 3rd position easily to make chords. Foam may work. . . haven’t tried that one yet.March 20, 2019 at 7:09 PM #70395Fiddle4meParticipant
I started playing without a shoulder rest but that was putting too much stress on my neck. Though it did take me a while to find a comfortable position for it, I’m happy I started using one.March 20, 2019 at 7:59 PM #70396FrederickParticipant
I fiddled for years without one, but when I finally tried one I’ve never looked back. I use one on any fiddle I play. If someone hands me their fiddle and it doesn’t have a rest (a restless fiddle, lol) I get one of mine out of my double case and put that on. I’m too used to a rest now to play without one.March 20, 2019 at 8:51 PM #70400fiddlewoodParticipant
Same here Fred. Having a rest got rid of my fiddle wanting to slide around when my hand did. Before I started using one I might yank the fiddle right off my shoulder trying to slide a double-stop from third to first position.March 20, 2019 at 8:58 PM #70403Steve SraderParticipant
I’m with Fred and Dave I like having it on !March 20, 2019 at 10:07 PM #70405rodgerParticipant
Oh boy…the shoulder rest debate is always like the Democrats & Republicans. You guys have hit a lot of the important points so far.
They have a new one that is just a piece of foam that you cut out to shape to fit however you need to. It has a plastic film on the back that adheres to your fiddle by static and you place it anywhere, at any angle you want. It is amazing comfortable and rock solid.
Gunnar, we don’t let the kids play without a shoulder rest. The posture habits they develop without one really is detrimental. Dave’s point about shifting & even vibrato, is true. One thing is for sure…whether you use it or not, you have to be able to hold the fiddle up in position with just just your chin, and some people can’t do that without a shoulder rest.
Any kind of a rest dampens my fiddle and I don’t like that, so after years of using one from day one, I’ve learned to play without it because of that, but I know eventually I’m going to have to go back to using one.
Every body is a little different and the real trick is to get a rest to conform comfortably to your body, unless you use those new foam ones, and even those you have to spend time cutting out just right to fit. Most rests have adjusting holes available to move it sideways, and bendable clamps, and some have the shoulder arch bendable so you can bend it to exactly conform to your shoulder.March 20, 2019 at 10:09 PM #70406AngelaParticipant
It was a game changer for me. I played without one for years. Hadn’t even considered one. But my neck would hurt so bad after a while it felt like an ice pick was stabbing me (Seriously). It’s one of the reasons I put the fiddle away for about 20 years (wish I had those back). When I decided to start playing again somebody recommended one. And ahhhhhh. All better now. I played about 6 hours straight last week at a jam. I was tired but no pain.March 20, 2019 at 10:39 PM #70409fiddlewoodParticipant
interesting that your fiddle was dampened by one Roger…mine both came alive when the back was no longer impeded from vibrating by my shoulder…then again all fiddles are different…
March 21, 2019 at 10:27 AM #70426
- This reply was modified 11 months, 1 week ago by fiddlewood.
Interesting conversation. I’ve already mentioned why I don’t use one, but you all make good points for why you do or don’t. one big thing for me is that I want to be able to play any instrument anywhere, so if I get used to playing with a shoulder rest, at some point I’ll want to play a fiddle that doesn’t have one, and then I’ll be stuck. if I’m already used to playing without one, I can play any fiddle, cuz a shoulder rest can always come off (well, I’m not sure about those foam ones…)March 21, 2019 at 11:21 AM #70430cricketParticipant
I think part of it might depend on how one’s shoulders are designed too…I think it’s possible the configuration between a person’s shoulders, neck, chin, etc., plus how they naturally tend to hold and play the instrument, might be a big consideration.March 21, 2019 at 2:28 PM #70439rodgerParticipant
That makes sense Dave. But my wood & metal solid rest clamps on the sides of the plate and becomes added mass that absorbs & dampens certain harmonics and changes the sound. When a fiddle is glued together it definitely has it own unique characteristics. The incredible fine tuning of it all, including the type of wood, density and grain characteristics of the wood, humidity, the shaping, thickness, and even the tension, or lack of it that the wood components are glued together with, all has dramatic effects. Then added to that, the accessories fixed onto it dramatically affect it also. Shoulder rests, chin rests, fine tuners, geared pegs, are modern additions. Tailpieces & its adjuster, bridges, strings, sound posts also can make or break the sound…..Oh and don’t even mention bass bar shapes, locations, etc. (Did I include F hole configurations?) Most notable of that would be the classic Strad, and the longer Guarnieri.March 21, 2019 at 11:20 PM #70455Great ScottModerator
Horses for courses…
Whatever floats your boat!
If it works, use one. If it doesn’t work, don’t use one.
I get what Gunnar is saying about the sound deadening. I had my experiences with shoulder rests several years ago (check out the threads I created regarding the bad experiences with them). I found that while playing without a shoulder rest, my collar bone would vibrate and I felt this traveling from my shoulder all the way through my body. I felt my bones abuzzin’. I even felt the earth move. ; ) Made me go weak at the knees. I got none of these marvelous sensations when playing with a shoulder rest. Without one, my violin felt “ALIVE”. With one, it felt dead and lifeless. So, for me, I don’t care to use one.
I think that the shoulder rest manufacturers should install a “Sensation Switch” on each of their shoulder rests. That way, you can play your violin without any sensation, or you can simply flip a switch and get totally vibrated and feel like Paganini. 🙂
That said, I have moved on from the violin and am now majoring in Triangle. Extremely difficult to play; but now I am in need of a good wrist rest. Any suggestions?May 6, 2019 at 5:59 AM #71630John (BGD)Keymaster
That’s a fine choice, GS. When I discovered that our local triangle virtuoso received the same paycheck as the first violinist, I also attempted to make the transition to a new instrument. However, I cannot decide whether to play it with or without the clip!
I played the fiddle in church yesterday, and as I was a bit late I decided to forego the shoulder rest. That was a mistake! After becoming dependent on the rest, I really don’t play as well without it. The main problem I noticed was that it tended to rock back and forth a bit, which made the strings somewhat of a moving target for my bow. I eventually got used to it, but I didn’t enjoy it!May 6, 2019 at 6:26 AM #71633
That dependency is part of why I don’t use one. With reference to the triangle, it’s not much problem in the states, but keep them away from kids, one of my brothers once stuck the stick into an electrical socket.
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