Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

Hi All ,

Just wanted to see if anyone has had a similar experience. I am aware of the whole Shoulder rest with or without debate and have played with one no bother for the last couple of years so always thought it was more of a classical playing thing,…………anyway i took a break from the fiddle for around close to two years i’d say and recently ( since Christmas) returned with a vengeance. For the last two months, tough enough tunes i have been relearning that used to be no problem have been annoying the shit out of me and little bits i used to glance through were tripping me up constantly. The other night i was putting the fiddle away so took off the shoulder rest , and out of frustration i decided to play for another little while, this time i didn’t bother with the shoulder rest so just picked it up and started ………………..all the little things on a few of the tunes that had been at me the last while were not there anymore. I put it down to luck and said i would try again without the shoulder rest the next night. Same thing !!!………….i am finding the fiddle a little less comfortable at the moment but all the things in technique that were driving me insane have gone away. Anyways, bit of a strange revelation so just wanted to share the experience. As far as i know my neck has not shrunk in case anyone wants to ask!!!.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

I’m always changing the way I hold my fiddle, my bow, the type of shoulder rest and its angle, bow pressure, length of stroke, etc., etc. One thing improves, another gets worse. And so it goes - welcome to the fiddle!

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

Fifty years without a shoulder rest. Too late to start now. Every time I try it I become aware that it’s just one more piece of kit I have to lug around with me. A shoulder rest is just a nuisance. Every fiddler I know has at some point had th rest fall off his fiddle and have to take time to make it sit right. The following is from theviolinist.com.

Laurie: Tell me your thoughts on shoulder rests.

Aaron: Let me preface whatever I say by saying, the greatest violinists, past and present, do not use shoulder rests. Those that have a beautiful sound, or particularly a personal sound, do not use the shoulder rest. There’s a good reason for it: It’s the position of the left arm. Because first of all, the violin doesn’t sit on the shoulder, I don’t know if that surprises you or not.

Laurie: It doesn’t really surprise me, it’s more the collarbone, isn’t it?

Aaron: Yehudi Menuhin never used the shoulder rest in his life. He endorsed [ a rest] I guess to make some royalties for his school, but he never used shoulder rests. The violin sits on the collarbone, it doesn’t sit on the shoulder. The left arm should hang loosely; it’s a fallacy to think that the violin is supposed to sit up in the air, without you holding it. Heifetz put it very simply: when a young person came to him and said, I can’t play without a shoulder rest: "Take up the cello!"

You look at all the pictures of Heifetz and Zimbalist and all the great players, and even the current crop, Pinchas Zukerman doesn’t use a shoulder rest, Perlman doesn’t use a shoulder rest and Anne Sophie Mutter’s playing bareback. I think they’ve had good careers, and they have good tones!

http://goukaslukas.weebly.com/no-sholder-rest.html

How to Play the Violin Without a Shoulder Rest — http://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/22177/

On the other hand, some very good fiddlers DO use a shoulder rest, so we are back to personal choice, as in flat wrist or arched wrist, tadpoles or ears.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

Whatever works for you. I don’t think Heifetz would think much of my playing, anyway. He would sit in, incognito, with a group of old-time fiddlers in New York State, though, so - who knows?

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

I guess that, for most of us, the shoulder rest/no shoulder rest question is a matter of comfort and convenience, like all the other aspects of fiddle positioning on the body (and I’ve seen some idiosyncratic approaches to holding the thing that still allow the player to knock out a good tune). I suspect it becomes more of an issue for those at the upper reaches of violin technique (e.g., those mentioned above) who are performing far more elaborate/complex/seriously tricky manoeuvres than those demanded by most of the folk music that I’ve come across.

I understood, too, that a significant argument against shoulder rests is that the resonance of the sound chamber could be impaired by anything clamped on to it. This probably doesn’t really apply to the quality of fiddle that folks like me can afford, but if you have a top-class soloist’s instrument - and the relevant skill - perhaps it could be the difference between exquisite and sublime.

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Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

Some of course would say the chinrest is a newfangled jonny-come-lately unnecessary contraption.

I learnt with a shoulder rest, and after taking classes with a very good player for a year or two I was weaned off it, and find I play more freely and comfortably without, but I understand the sense of security it brings.

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Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong here. It’s not like one of those ‘traditional/classical players don’t use a shoulder rest’ kind of things, where it turns into some kind of status symbol…. More like what works for you. After all, there are any number of excellent players of all sorts who do and don’t use one, so I wouldn’t be guided by that.

I find it tends to slide round to the right too much without one in fact, and my hand is then supporting, rather than concentrating on the notes and the tone - that said, I’ve played with one since I was 8 or so. Why change? To make it more difficult? As Meself says, it does seem to be a constant evolution of learning and experimentation, trial and error…

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Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

I think for quite a few people it’s not really a matter of choice - it depends on the distance between your jawbone and collarbone and the angle of your collarbone. Those factors will make playing without a shoulder rest easy or hard.
Crucial thing - as mentioned above, the fiddle rests on your collarbone, tucked well into your neck.
I don’t use a shoulder rest, I’m glad not to as I think the angle it places the fiddle at is better for the right hand wrist, and I like the convenience.
But no one should tell others what to do, or feel under pressure from their own choice. Giving both a fair try is a nice thing to do.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

It might also depend on how bony you are. I find playing without a shoulder rest really painful as there’s no padding on my collarbone at all.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

Also, the biggest advantage of the shoulder rest was not mentioned in that article: It helps to keep the fiddle out of the pools of Guinness on the table when you’re at the bar or toilet.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

I could never play without a shoulder rest. I can barely play with one. When I try to play without a shoulder rest, I can’t even get through a set without tensing up in all of the fiddle zones. When I play with a shoulder rest, at the least I can play comfortably, usually for hours if I’m in practice. But I still sound pretty terrible, so I don’t think it really matters.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

Hey - some of the greatest fiddlers sound terrible … !

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

Couple threads on that violinist.com site mention players who use padding under their clothing. Some names mentioned above. They also specifically mentioned several first-rate players who do use rests.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

It’s all about comfort. With or without shoulder rest, is alll about how you feel yourself, with your violin. I tend to prefer without a shouder rest, as amny of th gratest clasical musicians today don’t use one. I play classical music without. I would say better without, as you are "closer " to your instument and hear it way better, as well as feel it’s tone and vibrations, right into your jaw and head, so you’re much more awayre of the "closer" sound.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

I have a rugby players neck who needs a rest.
Please don’t ask which player.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

Having worked in a violin workshop and retail and seen the relief on a child’s face after playing with a new fitted tecka chin rest after using one of those flat models that come with new fiddles, and a good fitting shoulder rest. I would go with shoulder rest every time, and a chin rest that suits. I have used many different chin rests and shoulder rests. It is important to take the stress off the left wrist and those bones in the neck. Your head should be comfortable and look straight ahead. That does not mean that this is set in stone. It means return to the better posture to avoid long term damage. Fill the gap between the chin and the shoulder and be able to hold the instrument without dipping the head and or raising the shoulder. Sometimes tricky to achieve. Take the opportunity to visit the violin specialist and try out various combinations.

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

A little dogmatic above here. I’ve seen plenty of kids having fun with their fiddles held in all kinds of positions. They don’t get hurt because there’s no tension in their arms and neck. They think that playing music is meant to be fun, so they’re relaxed.
I’ve been playing the fiddle for fifty years with no shoulder rest and with a flat wrist. No damage except to my left ear-drum. How I — and plenty of my cronies — hold a fiddle is anathema to serious classicists. The concentration on teaching "proper form" often substitutes for informed comment on the music itself.
Perhaps people who concentrate on proper form, and who hold the fiddle "properly," can play better than Miz. Liz, but I’d be surprised: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4SwyZEifvY

Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

It depends on each player’s own anatomy. The best solution for your body may not work for someone else. You may want to take a look at this site, which tracks research into the topic. The videos and the player’s stories are fascinating. http://www.violinistinbalance.nl/did.htm

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Re: Shoulder rest or no shoulder rest

All I know…it sure is comfortable. It holds the fiddle real nice and takes some pressure off me to support it.
So for what it’s worth…..
But for pity’s sake, yes, whatever works for the individual. Whose gonna argue with a player who drives the thing but uses one or doesn’t?