- Rachael Ridge
Should I Use a Shoulder Rest?
The debate of whether or not violinists should use a shoulder rest is heated, with professionals taking firm stances on one side or the other.
Advocates of shoulder rests claim that you need the stability a shoulder rest provides in order to avoid tension in your neck and shoulders. The violin tends to slip and won’t stay in place causing players to strain their neck and shoulders trying to hold it still.
On the other side, players who believe in no shoulder rests claim that they restrict their range of motion and dampen the sound quality of the violin.
Personally, while I do play with a shoulder rest currently, I do encourage my students to experiment without one especially when they are just starting out on the violin. This can help you understand proper placement and set-up of the violin to your body.
You can read more about set-up in my post here.
If you decide to try a shoulder rest, you can order a few from a violin shop to try before committing to one that may or may not work for you.
Below are my favorite shoulder rests and their pros and cons to give you a place to start.
Kun: This is the most popular beginner shoulder rest. The contour fits nicely on the shoulder and it is well built. Some versions even include collapsible feet for storage. The rubber on the feet can become worn and rip off and it is very difficult to replace.
Everest: Another great beginner shoulder rest, the Everest is a bit more substantial than the Kun. It has similar contouring for the shoulder, but it’s a bit thicker and wider making it feel more secure in my opinion. The feet are a solid piece of rubber, but they can fall off easily if they are tightened too much.
Wolf Primo: This shoulder rest is more of a pad shape, but it can be bent slightly to fit to the player’s shoulder. It is made of quality materials and, because of its minimalist design, allows freedom of movement.
Wolf Secundo: A lot of the same qualities as the first edition Wolf, but with a bend in the middle to fit over the shoulder. This change allows a more secure feeling while still allowing freedom of movement.
BonMusic: High quality materials and very customizable with its bendable frame. Hook style prevents the violin from slipping and can be a good style for players with narrow shoulders. It has a bit of a bulky design and it is possible to over customize locking the violin in place.
This is the one that I personally use, but I bend it A LOT to make it more flexible and less restricting when I play.