How To Choose a Shoulder Rest
Questions? 800.248.7427
How To Choose a Shoulder Rest
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Selecting a shoulder rest involves more decision making than you might think. There are many options available for today's players. The most important advice SHAR can offer on choosing a shoulder rest is that you will want to find one that fits your body and is comfortable and helpful to your playing. There are many styles and rests to choose from. Because every player's body and style of playing is different, trying a few shoulder rests to see what works best for you is always a good idea. To help you choose, we gathered a few SHAR staff, all with completely different set-ups, and here are the answers we found:
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Why so many Shapes and Sizes?
Most players want basically two things from their shoulder rest; help holding the violin correctly under the chin and comfort while playing. You probably already have an idea of whether you want a larger shoulder rest, or if you want something smaller. Perhaps you are not sure, so there are other things to ask yourself too. Do you want something large and soft with lots padding like a Playonair or something smaller, but still soft like a sponge or a Kinder Chinder? Maybe you need more support and help holding the instrument. In that case, a less padded bar-shaped rest that is less soft, but is shaped to fit your body could be best. Have a look at bar-style rests or contoured rests like the Bon Musica, the Mach One, or the Viva la Musica.
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What about shoulder rest height?
The correct height is important to consider too. Generally, if you have a longer neck, you will need something a bit taller like a Wolf Forte Secondo, Playonair Deluxe Jumbo, the Mach One or Comford Tall. For those who are looking for something in a more moderate height, there are many choices including the new SHAR Professional Shoulder Rest, Playonair Deluxe, Artino, Everest, Bonmusica and the very popular Kun. Foam rests like the Zaret or Perfect Shoulder Rest, as well as a Cosmetic Sponge are usually the lowest. Kun rests have always been popular because they are so adjustable, and are a good 'fit' for most players. The wooden Viva La Musica rests are also very adjustable and come in several different designs and wood types. Finding the right height is very important for any player, and especially for players who are affected by injuries at some point in their careers.
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Does a Shoulder Rest affect my sound?
Generally speaking, a shoulder rest that is flush against the back of an instrument, like a sponge, can cause a muting of the instrument's tone. Bar-style rests, such as the new SHAR Professional, have only a few touch points on the instrument and will allow the instrument to resonate more underneath your chin. The material the shoulder rest is made out of matters too. Most rests are made out of foam and plastic, but shoulder rests like the Kun Bravo, Viva La Musica or the Maple Mach One are constructed with hardwood and so as a result will resonate more.
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So what does it all mean?
At the end of the day, it all comes back to personal preference, and you might have to go through some trial and error in order to find the right match. One of the differences here at SHAR is that we are always happy to provide you help and advice. Please give us a call at 800.248.7427 and we will be glad to help you find the right shoulder rest.
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Notes from a SHAR Apprentice
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Christine Beamer - 2010 SHAR Apprentice space

Shoulder Rests: 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.

1) 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).
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2) 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.
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3) 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.
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Hilary Lewis space

Chinrest vs. Shoulder Rest: Multiply your Shape Options!
by Hilary Lewis
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?

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Katherine Thompson space

Check Your Setup!
by Katherine Thompson
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:

1) Experiment holding the violin more toward the front, or more to the side.
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2) Shrug your shoulders and sigh to see where your shoulders sit when they are relaxed.
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3) 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!
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Good luck on the quest for the perfect rest!