This review was originally published on Violinist.com. Reprinted with permission.
I have the privilege of sharing my two cents on the Performa Violin Shoulder Rest with you! Before digging in, I would like to introduce myself: my name is Yu Kai and I am a Chinese-Canadian violinist originally from Montréal, QC. Recently, I completed a Master of Music at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, and I am currently based in Luxembourg as a member of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra Academy.
I'd like to preface this by pointing out that shoulder rests are personal to everybody and every body. It's not dissimilar from different violins or bows working for some people, but not others. This review is based solely on my subjectivity and what works for my own body.
Here’s a bit of a backstory as to how I ended up with this shoulder rest: earlier this year, I suffered from a bow-hand wrist tendinitis, as well as some pain from my arms and shoulders due to overplaying. I was shattered and needed to seek help. Luckily, I was able to consult both a doctor and a physiotherapist that both specialize in treating musicians. They prescribed me daily stretching and strengthening exercises, but also recommended that I change my overall playing posture as it was the root to my pain.
The first thing that my doctors noticed was the unevenness of my shoulders and of my general stature. After an analysis of my posture as I played a few notes, they noticed that my shoulder rest was too small for my neck and that I compensated the height by elevating my left shoulder to secure the hold of the violin.
Up until then, it had never crossed my mind that something was wrong with my shoulder rest, as I have only ever played on the same Poehland pad (see picture below) since the very beginning of my violin studies. The pad used to work on my adolescent body, but with age, my body required a different violin set-up.
In the proceeding weeks, I tried as many shoulders rests as I could. I even attempted to play on several center-mounted chinrests, which allowed my right arm to reach the tip of the bow much more easily, but it was compensated with a left hand that struggled to reach higher positions on the fingerboard without pain.
After partnering many different combinations of shoulder rests and chin rests, I wasn't finding anything that was particularly comfortable. As I have a rather short neck, most of them were too tall for my size.
Then, when I played on the plastic-made Performa shoulder rest, it felt drastically different than the popular options such a Kun and Korfker. I immediately noticed that it had a larger surface of contact that was evenly spread with my skin, yet it still offered flexibility and room for motion due to its slight incline of a curve, unlike Kun rests that "lock" your entire position in. The only downfall was it felt heavy on my shoulder, and I wasn't keen on the thermoplastic material. However, I then found out that they also carry a wooden version!
When I picked up the Performa Padauk Wood Violin Shoulder Rest, it felt as if I found "the one," much like matchmaking.
Its lightweight yet sturdy build and adjustable nature made this one a winner for me. I was able to customize it exactly to my liking by swapping the legs and adding the extra layer of padding that they include. Perhaps the adjustability isn't as drastic as some of its pricier competitors, but considering the mid-range price of this one, it is no doubt worth the investment.
Hope you get the chance to try this special shoulder rest on your own!