Our Shop Manager Sam gives a guide to finding the right Chin Rest and Shoulder Rest
Comfort when playing is a problem that almost every violinist faces. The positions and movements involved in playing the violin are hardly natural, and can result in discomfort, or at worst cause long-term injury. Incorrect posture and tension can also hamper shifting and vibrato, resulting in a less rewarding sound and playing experience. However, there are simple changes to how a player sets up their violin that can solve this discomfort, allowing the player much more technical freedom and security.
Chin Rests and Shoulder Rests
The Chin Rest and Shoulder Rest work in conjunction to support the violin. The violin should be suspended between the collarbone and the jawbone by a good-fitting chin rest and supportive shoulder rest. As every player’s collarbone and jawbone are different there are a multitude of both available!
Every player is different and will hold the violin in a slightly different way. Some players like their jaw directly over the tailpiece; some rest their jaw much further round the bass side of the instrument. Some players will have the violin pointing almost horizontally out from the shoulder, some will have the instrument projecting much more centrally from under the chin. The type of chin rest that will suit a player is dependent on three things – where the player wants to place their jaw on the violin, what angle from the shoulder the player wants the violin to project, and what is comfortable along the player’s jawbone.
There are certain chin rests, such as the Teka model, which have the flexibility to sit slightly over the tailpiece or be adjusted much further round to the left of the tailpiece. Others only sit in a very specific place, such as the Guarneri model which reaches out to the left of the tailpiece, or the Flesch model which bridges directly over the tailpiece,. Whatever chin rest a player uses, it is imperative that it is comfortable on the jaw, that the chin can rest in the right place on the violin for that player, and the violin is projecting over the left arm as the player feels comfortable.
As with chin rests there are many different shoulder rests to cater for every type of collar bone. A well fitted shoulder rest should sit along the shoulder and chest with minimal gaps underneath. It should support the violin so that the player can hold the violin between their chin and shoulder without gripping the violin with the left hand, but also without squeezing down using their neck muscles. A well-fitted shoulder rest should allow the player to swing their left elbow freely when playing without tension in the left shoulder, allowing for much freer shifting and vibrato.
Ideally the shoulder rest should sit on the violin at the widest part of the instrument; if a shoulder rest is only comfortable when it is moved significantly either way it might be worth considering other options! All shoulder rests are height-adjustable by using the screw-threads on the legs. The support of the shoulder rest can be made from many different materials. The Kun, Everest and Fom rests are made from plastic. This makes them lightweight, but with very little flexibility in the support itself. Although they are designed to be as generic and ergonomic as possible this means they may not suit every player. The Wolf and BonMusica rests are made from metal, which means they are infinitely adjustable by carefully bending the support, although they tend to be heavier than plastic rests. Pirastro’s new Korfker rest, made from Maple, is incredibly light at only 30g, and through heating can be bent to perfectly fit the player (read the instructions first!!!!). Being made from Maple does make the Korfker expensive, but if this reduces shoulder tension when playing or practicing for hours a day it might be a worthwhile investment! The advantages of a light shoulder rest are that there is less material dampening the sound of the instrument, allowing for greater expression, but only if it fits and suits the player.
By finding the right chin rest and shoulder rest you can improve your comfort, release tension in your neck and shoulder, improve your posture and allow much greater technical and tonal freedom.