Tips in Choosing the Best Violin Shoulder Rest

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GWB and Laura Bush at White House State Dinner pastry and entertainment for Queen Elizabeth II. White House photo by Shealah Craighead

Shoulder rest addresses two things: to avoid your instrument from falling off your shoulder or sliding on your chest and to help you adjust the tilt and ability to rotate the violin based on your body type. This is more than an accessory nowadays as it gives comfort to your posture and reduces tension problems.

Why Use a Shoulder Rest?

While a lot of people, especially the legendary musicians, manage to play the violin or viola without a shoulder rest. These days, shoulder rest is being recommended for beginners to help them play the violin with a correct posture and hold them without tension or pain. 

Aside from preventing it from putting too much pressure on the collarbone where the violin is being rested, a shoulder rest provides comfort while playing the instrument even on longer sessions. 

Apart from taking care of our violin and violin bow, we, as musicians, should also take care of our posture and musculoskeletal health.

Here are some things to consider in choosing a violin shoulder rest:

1. Size and shape

There are a variety of shoulder rests that you can choose from. If you prefer your violin to be in place without the unnecessary movements, you can opt for a clip-on shoulder rest that has “feet” attached to the rim of the violin. If you want a softer cushion, you can alternatively use a foam sponge and attach it to your instrument with a rubber band. 

2. Height

It is important to consider checking on the height of the shoulder rest so that you wouldn’t have to adjust your body while playing the violin. Most of the shoulder rests are adjustable and have extra long screws on it. 

You may also attach a sponge on the clavicle section to add height to the shoulder rest. 

3. Body Shape and Dimension

A shoulder rest should match your body. If you have a long neck or a sloped shoulder, look for one with adjustable screws for height. The most important thing that you should check is the alignment. 

Stand straight, naturally aligned with the spine. Raise your left arm and hold your violin. Your head should be comfortably aligned, not bent. It shouldn’t also require you to raise your shoulder.

Like I mentioned earlier, you can use a foam sponge attached to a rubber band as an option.  You can also use a piece of clothing or towel secured with a rubber band as another substitute. 

Take note that it is not a one size fits all. Consider matching your shoulder rest with your chin rest and make sure to choose proper support for your body shape and dimension. Failing to do so could lead to serious musculoskeletal problems.

Up until now, there is still an ongoing debate as to whether you should or should not use a shoulder rest. At the end of the day, it will also be about your preference and techniques in playing the violin.