Why Do Violinists Use Shoulder Rests?

The violin is not always the most comfortable instrument to play, so it is no wonder why people add extra devices such as chin and shoulder rests to their violins. Even professional violinists sometimes use shoulder rests. But why do some violinists use shoulder rests and others do not?

Why do violinists use shoulder rests? Violinists use shoulder rests for a number of reasons, including to reduce tension, increase comfort, ensure proper posture, add height and more. Using a shoulder rest is a personal preference. They are not required in order to properly play the violin, though there are many benefits to using one.

In this article, we will take a closer look at why violinists use shoulder rests, the benefits and limitations of shoulder rests, and the different types of shoulder rests.

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Table Of Contents

What Is A Shoulder Rest

A violin shoulder rest is a device that attaches to the back of a violin. When in use, it rests on the shoulders and collarbone. They come in various different shapes, materials and styles, such as clip-on, inflatable and foam. Click here to read more on the different types of shoulder rests.

Why Violinists Use Shoulder Rests

Using a shoulder rest is a completely personal preference. There are many reasons why a violinist might choose to use a shoulder rest.

1. Reduce tension and increase comfort

Using a shoulder rest can reduce tension and pain while playing, especially if you are playing for a long duration. It can help make the violin feel more comfortable to play as it will alleviate some of the pressure to hold the violin tightly between the shoulder and chin.

2. To add height

For violinists with longer necks, holding a violin without a shoulder rest can cause you to scrunch your neck in order to hold it in place. This can cause pain and discomfort and even make playing the violin unenjoyable. Using a shoulder rest to add height can help reduce this issue.

3. To hold the violin in place

Lastly, another common reason violinists use a shoulder rest is to stop the violin from slipping while playing. This helps to ensure our violin stays in its proper place allowing you to play freely without worry that it may fall.

4. To enable proper posture

Proper posture is important when it comes to playing the violin and can affect the tone of the violin. When we get tired, it can be easy to let our posture slip. This is where a shoulder rest comes in handy. Using a shoulder rest can help enable proper posture.

Different Types Of Shoulder Rests

There are many types of violin shoulder rests to choose from. They come in various sizes, shapes, materials and padding.

Clip-On Shoulder Rest

Clip-on shoulder rests are a popular choice among many violinists. They have “feet” on either side that clamps onto the bottom of the violin. The feet can adjust both the height and angle to help ensure a proper fit and comfort.

An example of a clip-on shoulder rest is the Everest EZ-1 Shoulder Rest (link to check the price at Sweetwater), which is crafted with optimal comfort in mind and comes in various adjustable sizes. These rests are great for all neck lengths as they are modifiable and come in different shapes, sizes, materials and padding levels.

Foam Shoulder Rest

A foam shoulder rest is a piece of foam or sponge that attaches to the back of a violin using a rubber band. Although anyone can use these, they tend to be better for people with shorter necks as the thin pads can be more comfortable than a clamp-on rest, and they are not as adjustable in height.

Foam shoulder rests are a great affordable option for those on a budget as you can make them yourself with materials around your home. For those looking for a premade one, check out the Players Economy Foam Shoulder Pad (link to check the price on Amazon).

Inflatable Shoulder Rest

Inflatable shoulder rests are larger in size and cover the full width of the violin. These inflatable pads attach over the lower bout using a strap. Once on, you can inflate it to your desired comfort and height.

A great example is the Playonair Deluxe Shoulder Rest (link to check the price on Amazon). This shoulder rest lets you adjust the firmness, has a non-slip finish and will move with your body while playing to provide natural support and cushioning.

Should You Use A Shoulder Rest

As mentioned, using a shoulder rest is completely up to the individual. They are not required or necessary in order to play the violin, though they can be extremely beneficial to some people. To know if a shoulder rest is right for you, try speaking with an instructor or go to a local music shop. They can also help you figure out the appropriate height needed to suit your needs.

One thing to consider is if you have a long neck or a short neck. If you have a long neck, you may opt for a shoulder rest to avoid scrunching your neck and potentially causing an injury. Since there is more space between the chin and collarbone, a shoulder rest could help fill the space and create a more comfortable playing experience.

On the other hand, if you have a short neck, then using a shoulder rest might not be needed. Although there are benefits to using one, the space to fill is much less and would, therefore, not require a shoulder rest unless you are seeking additional padding for comfort or to stop the violin from slipping.

At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide whether or not you could benefit from using a shoulder rest.

To learn more about the benefits and limitations of using a shoulder rest, check out my article Is A Violin Shoulder Rest Worth Using? 5 Reasons Why.

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.


Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and the author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or producing music. For more info, please check out his YouTube channel and his music.

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