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Update: I just published a video on YouTube that demonstrates the position and adjustments I discuss in this post.
Take a look.
I have written before about the debate around whether to use a shoulder rest. Today I am going to share with you my magic shoulder rest position. No, seriously. Magic!
Why magic, you ask? Because this position is the best position for a violin shoulder rest. It works for 92.789% of my students, give or take a hundredth. While most teachers shrug and say you have a weird body type or you just have to live with your shoulder aching, not Red Desert Violin! We’re all about making you feel better (and without substances of any kind).
And we help you play better, too. But really, you have to feel good first because if it hurts, you’ll quit like any sane human would.
This post is inspired by recent requests from blog readers. For example:
I am having some shoulder rest issues. Mine seems to slide forward a lot. I know my posture is correct because I use a mirror, maybe I just have droopy shoulders? If I hold the violin higher, I can’t get my hand far enough to use the tip of the bow.
My left shoulder and neck both ache after playing a short time. I am a beginner, and a former guitar player, in case those are clues. I feel sure I am holding the instrument incorrectly or something like that–
(As far as your struggle to go to the TIP of the bow: It’s not always necessary to go to the tip on every bow. If your arm length is making this difficult, then consider 4 inches from the tip your tip. Also, when I need to get the VERY TIP, my pinky comes off the bow, and my bow hand pronates pinky up and thumb down. This usually gives my arm the extra length it needs without strain.)
Does Your Shoulder Rest Slip?
Here is one quick fix for your shoulder rest problem. You can put something on your shoulder rest that will cling to your clothing on top of your shoulder. Hair ties made from terri cloth work well, if you put it around the shoulder rest, and double it up to make it snug, or put several on.
I’ve seen people use “scrunchy ties” (ask any girlie-girl what these are….she’ll tell you). I personally glued “cork” onto the wood of my Mach1. Anything to prevent “slippage”. Try to figure out where the slippage occurs, and put the scrunchy tie there.
Now here comes the magic position. Adjust your shoulder rest so that the side that is nearest the G STRING is extended as far out past the G string as possible (in other words, adjust it so that it hangs and curves over your shoulder as much as possible) Then you will have to adjust the other side so that it will clamp onto your violin snugly. Here are some pictures to help you. Click on the small ones to see a bigger version.
Also, adjust the portion nearest the G String SHORTER, and adjust the portion toward the E string TALLER. Most shoulder rests have a longer screw for the E string foot than the G string foot.
Finally, play with the “swivel” function of your shoulder rest. If you have it swiveled the wrong way, it won’t cradle and cling to your shoulder.
I put EVERY shoulder rest I ever touch into this position, and it works for most of my students. (This adjustment mostly pertains to the Kun and Mach 1, which have the adjustable screw holes. You can get the Kun Original shoulder rest at nearly ANY music supply online or in stores.
How is your chin rest? Sometimes chin rests create shoulder rest problems. It should cup your jaw, and your violin should be snugged up to your neck. The height and shape of your chin rest should work in cooperation with your shoulder rest. People with long necks need a taller chin rest instead of jacking up their shoulder rest super tall. You want your violin to stay close to your body and your collar bone. This is another whole topic, but the two (shoulder rests and chin rests) are inseparable, so it is necessary to mention it here.
The process of finding the right combination can take time and patience….but it is worth it. Keep at it!