TO USE OR NOT USE A SHOULDER REST FOR THE VIOLIN

The answer is one of a personal nature and only one you can answer.  There is no right way or wrong way.  Based on my experience, I would recommend using a shoulder rest.  I personally have tried to go without a shoulder rest to be more natural and to feel the vibrations of the instrument on my body but for me and my body it is not an option due to pain and twenty years of using a shoulder rest.

In my teaching, I have found that the shoulder rest is extremely useful and more comfortable for the students.  Keep in mind that if the violin becomes a part of your life that your body will be influenced by how you hold the violin.  If a student raises a shoulder to hold the violin, after six years of playing the violin it is very likely that the student will have one shoulder higher than the other.  This happens especially when the violinist is growing in their formative years say starting from the age of eight by the time they get to fourteen years of age the shoulder will be higher than the other.  I have seen this happen first hand with students.

It is best to keep the body tall and strong like a tree.  Always bring the violin to you and not to conform your body to the violin.  Make an effort to stand as natural as possible while playing and holding the violin.

In the training video below filmed in front of Lake Dospad in Bulgaria, I discuss the shoulder rest.  I demonstrate how to put on a shoulder rest.  A shoulder rest needs to be adjusted to the correct height of the violinist’s neck.

A good test is to have someone look at the back of the violinist’s neck and make sure the neck is straight up and down without too much of a lean to one side or the other.  It is most important the you are comfortable and do not experience neck strain of any kind.

Shoulder Rest in Video

Original Kun Shoulder Rest

1/8-1/4 KUN

1/2-3/4 KUN

Please share in the comments which above tips you will be implementing into your daily practices sessions.

Happy Magical Practices,

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Heather is a classically trained concert violinist performing with the Gabrovo Chamber Orchestra in Bulgaria. She received her BM violin performance degree from CU -Boulder, studied with top teachers including Rachel Barton Pine. Ms. Broadbent has held leadership positions with multiple orchestras in the Greater Chicago-Milwaukee area. She has instructed thousands of violinists globally via youtube videos, online Academy, E-Courses, group coaching and one on one intensives. Heather’s students have won multiple awards, concerto competitions, held concertmaster positions in orchestras and even performed in Carnegie Hall. Heather is an advocate of a holistic violin lifestyle – putting one’s mind, body and spirit as a violin journey priority.

Heather Broadbent

Violinist

2 replies
  1. Marikoli
    Marikoli says:

    I like to use a shoulder rest. Since shortly after I started learning the violin, I saw your video about a good setup, I do use a shoulder rest. I love how you explain that our neck should be straight and everything should feel natural without any strain. It works very well for me with the shoulder rest. I did do some adjusts a couple of times but my shoulder rest and setup feels great now, thanks to your detailed video about this topic.

    Reply
    • Heather Broadbent
      Heather Broadbent says:

      Awesome! So glad to hear Marikoli! It really can make a world of difference for the violinist. You may have heard me say I experimented going without but it is just not an option for me.

      I have played in many an orchestra where older violin soloists come to perform that have played without a shoulder rest for 30 some years if not more and they seriously do have one shoulder higher than the other.

      It is so important we take good care of our bodies to reduce injury and pain. Violinists are like athletes and the body is such an integral part of the journey. xoxo

      Reply

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