Choose your own Adventure!
by Christine Beamer
Like most violists, I have tried pretty much every shoulder rest out there in search of a perfect fit. While some people find a shoulder rest that fits them to a tee, do not panic if you love the height of one shoulder rest but the curve of another! There are many ways to customize a rest so it fits your personal body shape - here are just a few to get you started.
- Cosmetic Sponges: These sponges come in thick and thin widths, and they are perfect for adding a little bit of extra height to your rest. Slip them underneath your sponge's rubber bands to add substance to a sponge, affix them to either (or both) sides of your bar shoulder rest with rubberbands, or made a shoulder sponge entirely out of cosmetic sponges (gluing them together with rubber cement usually works well).
- Mix and match your feet: Kun, Everest, and Mach One sell their feet separately, and the feet will fit on any of each other's rests. Moreover, Kun and Everest offer an "extra long" leg for those of us with giraffe-like necks. Each foot has a slightly different method of gripping the instrument, to address pesky problems like the shoulder rest slipping off the instrument.
- Use some rubber tubing: Have a Kun rest with worn our tubing or molding? Add a new piece of rubber tubing to rejuvenate that old rest, or add it to a new foot to tighten the grip of a rest that is a little loose. I find that a little soap goes a long way towards getting the tubing onto the foot.
Chinrest vs. Shoulder Rest: Multiply your Shape Options!
Being a violist with an extremely long neck, I find it helpful to think of choosing shoulder rests notsimply in terms of height, but consider the shape of the shoulder rest. I kept looking for taller and taller shoulder rests until I found that using a chinrest with a hump provided structure which matched my jaw shape, and I didn't need more height at all. The main reason for this is that the shoulder rest and chinrest must work together by providing opposite forces (a cantilever, if you will). The shoulder rest pushes up from underneath the instrument and the chinrest counters that force, giving the instrument its position in regards to the body.
This all sounds fine in the abstract but let's get down to actually choosing one. Here are a few questions you should ask of your shoulder rest/chinrest relationship: Is my shoulder rest pushing the instrument out from under my jaw? Is it because the shoulder rest is too tall/short or is it because I need a different shape of chinrest? Would my posture benefit from more structure or does my stance feel too rigid?
Check Your Setup!
While Christine and Hilary have tried everything in the way of shoulder rests, I've had my trusty Kun Bravo for 8 years. Before that... I used a Kun Original. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit. That's not to say that I was always and automatically comfortable. For years, there would be a few comfortable days and then a day where I was in terrible pain. Since it was sporadic, I eventually concluded that the pain was due to my posture rather than the hardware of my violin. If my story sounds familiar, you might want to check your set up! Try a few of these techniques:
- Experiment holding the violin more toward the front, or more to the side.
- Shrug your shoulders and sigh to see where your shoulders sit when they are relaxed.
- Bring your violin to your body (rather than your body to your violin). Talk to your teacher about ways to relax your stance and your posture so that you have a clean slate for trying all your shoulder rest options!
Good luck on the quest for the perfect rest!