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Author Topic: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?  (Read 5672 times)

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Offline Samofey

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Hi. I'm an Asian young man and I started to learn violin few weeks ago. I'm tall and thin(190/65), and have a long neck.

I've read some threads and articles throughout different websites and found some people saying that using shoulder rest would make the student pick up bad habits in playing. And I also found some people saying that shoulder rest would dampen the tone of instrument.

As I thought them persuasive, I considered learning without shoulder rest. So I tried holding violin without shoulder rest, only to find it slipping between my chin and shoulder- collarbone? it was laid across collarbone and shoulder
(However, when I tried it on bare shoulder it didn't slip that much and seemed quite OK. I think it's a matter of friction of my clothes and I wonder if there's any good solution)

What I wonder is whether it's worth trying to learn violin without shoulder rest. Does it have advantages, significant enough to trade off the hardship of being used to playing without it? Or is it enough just to learn with it?

Offline Worldfiddler

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #1 on: Jan 30, 2012, 02:55:02 PM »
Hi and welcome to the Forum!

I think a shoulder rest would help you if you are slim. I too am on the slim side, and I have always used one.

There is some debate on whether it should be used, and there are tons of opinions from users and non-users. The only way is to try for yourself - with a rest, and without one. Only you can decide what is most comfortable and efficient, and if you think there is a difference in the sound worth bothering about (apart from change of sound [rest-less] because the wood is in contact with your bones).

Some of the world's top players use a rest, eg Hillary Hahn, Joshua Bell .. they have fairly slim builds. Other virtuosi don't use a rest at all - eg Itzak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, although they are a bit "chubbier" around the chin, neck and shoulders and this alone would explain a lot.

I made a short video here just to explain the mechanics of using a rest, as opposed to using no rest at all :

Using a Violin Shoulder Rest

There are several types of shoulder rests on the market - also, chinrests with different shapes, designed to fit on different parts of the fiddle top. There are a number of interim solutions as well - pads for the top / bottom, combinations of shallow shoulder rests and pads, etc etc.

People will tell you the advantages of playing rest-less, but it's only ever an advantage if it works for you, in comfort and tone.

There really is only one rule - the violin needs enough support so that your hand can move up and down the fingerboard totally unresricted, and you need to be comfortable too, without having to press down with your chin to support the instrument.

Jim

Offline madmat

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #2 on: Jan 30, 2012, 05:12:07 PM »
I agree with Mr. Jim,and put it very succinctly - you need to be *very* comfortable holding your violin without either hand on it, or your experience with it will be very short because you dropped it! ;)

For many of us (as another thin Asian guy with a long neck) this means a comfortable chin rest and shoulder rest. It is well worth going to a good violin shop and spending the money it takes to adapt the violin to YOU - it literally is a part of your body when you play.
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline Kaveh Saidi

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #3 on: Jan 30, 2012, 06:13:38 PM »
Most of my beginning students who use a shoulder rest are more comfortable and also sound and perform better. A Kun rest is very common and a good choice.

Offline Erik

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #4 on: Jan 30, 2012, 07:12:35 PM »
First of all, Congrats to the wonderfull choice and future experience of taking to the Fiddle!

I didnt know nothing when I started and I thought all used a chinrest, then I saw some who didnt,

first month I played the fiddle It hurted my body in weard places, like if I wrestled someone like Madmat blindfolded, smile

Back to serious again, then a few years ago I didnt have a chinnrest, I felt completly handicapped, I could hardly hold the fiddle,  this happened again and I also lost the chinnrest and I got used to playing without it.

In short, If I could look back, I would have used a chinnrest the first 3 month, when I can hold the fiddle without grabbing a hold of it, I would loose the chinnrest.

For a begginer just as you grab a hold on to the fiddle with hands, your chinn might try and crush the fiddle without a chinrest, the chinrest spreads the preasure and reduce risk of neckpain before you can relax and be comfortable to support the fiddle as a floating ballon.

Another thing, if you play for a close group, you want be able to look up, think of when you are sitting in a chair or standing in a train, is your head more relaxed naturally looking at a horizontal level or is it more relaxed looking closer to the floor in any position standing or sitting?

If you look at the great ones, they never look up while playing.

Offcouse what Jim in the video explanes makes sence but he also mentions that it does for him due to using a chinrest. one thing Jim mentions is the leaning angle of the fiddle, , I dont belive the same, what I would say is that a chinrest dont angle the fiddle, Its up to the player, but what it does actually is that it restrict its possibilities of angles and therefor your real time options just to do so.

also in the end, and always at best, you want yourself and the instrument to become as one so in other words, No chinrest then, nothing in the way, perhaps not even a shirt that is slippry,  fidde to skin is probably the ultimate.
« Last Edit: Jan 30, 2012, 10:41:54 PM by Erik »

Offline swarbrules

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #5 on: Jan 31, 2012, 11:02:02 AM »
What has been said so far is right.

I can play without a rest but, it isn't as comfortable and I can't relax.

If you look at orchestras, you will see that many of the fiddle players use rests. A good number of them would probably have learnt without them and then switched so, there might well be an advantage.

Offline Graham Clark

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #6 on: Jan 31, 2012, 12:07:12 PM »
I would say it is far better to avoid the shoulder rest. It causes all kinds of tensions.
It is a dangerous myth that you need to hold the violin without support from the left hand.

There aren't many violinists who don't have neck and shoulder problems, (I am one who doesn't) and I believe the shoulder rest is the major cause of these playing-related injuries in violinists.
Not only does the left arm, shoulder and neck suffer, but the right arm system also has to be raised more unnaturally and so cause right side problems as well.

This is, of course, an on-going argument, a bit like the big-enders and the little-enders in Lilliput.
There are pages and pages of web-discussion on the matter, and the arguments sometimes get heated!

The problem is that so many more people use the shoulder rest than don't, and they do so without even thinking about it, or the mechanisms of holding the fiddle, so they assume it is a necessary thing. For example, I gave a girl a lesson a couple of days ago who thought it was a miracle that I could shift without a rest. But when I showed her how easy it was for me, she started to understand.

The violin should sit on the collarbone, and not touch the top of the shoulder. You can stop slippage with a piece of cloth. I use a bit of chamois leather.

However - if you are learning with a teacher, you will just have to go with what they show you. They almost all say, nowadays, that the fiddle should be held without the left arm support, and stay in a stable position.

I say this is claptrap - it forces you to twist your arms and wrists, and leads to tendon strain. It is better to be able to move the violin around and adjust its position to your needs.

If you must use a shoulder rest,  look at the way James Ehnes uses his - he still supports the instrument in his left hand, and holds the violin a little lower. His rest does not restrict his arm movement as it simply rests against his upper chest, rather than over the shoulder, just stopping the violin from slipping. Watch as he plays - the violin moves with his arm, and he can lift his head from the chinrest.

gc







Offline Worldfiddler

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #7 on: Jan 31, 2012, 12:41:29 PM »
Quote
I would say it is far better to avoid the shoulder rest. It causes all kinds of tensions.
It is a dangerous myth that you need to hold the violin without support from the left hand.

It was only a matter of time :)

Both of these items vary in truth according to the individual, which is why I was so non-committal in my original post. I am constantly surprised at the multitude of different ways in which people hold, play, bow, finger, shift (many of which raise eyebrows, including my awkward looking but very efficient angle-iron left-hand pinky), and still manage get a good sound and stay healthy, with or without a rest.

Jim

Offline Graham Clark

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #8 on: Jan 31, 2012, 01:03:07 PM »
Jim, I had to put my case more strongly as there will be so many people saying "use one".

In any case, the OP was asking, "What I wonder is whether it's worth trying to learn violin without shoulder rest. Does it have advantages, significant enough to trade off the hardship of being used to playing without it? Or is it enough just to learn with it?"

The real issue is whether the violin is in a fixed position or moveable. If a rest-user still has fiddle mobility and has some weight in the left hand, there are as few problems as with not using a rest.

If a non-rest-user holds the fiddle in a fixed position with the weight of the head, then even such a non-rest user will get the same problems as the usual rest-user.

The key to it all is taking weight in the left hand.

Offline Kaveh Saidi

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #9 on: Jan 31, 2012, 01:57:18 PM »
The shoulder rest holds up the violin so that the left hand is more free to move, especially for shifting. Vibrato is also helped because the hand does not have to tighten to hold up the neck. And lastly, the shoulder rest keeps the violin level so that the bow plays closer to the bridge than the fingerboard, which creates a stronger and clearer tone. Many students who do not use a shoulder rest tend to let the violin drop so that the scroll points to the floor. This logically makes the bow drift away from the proper sounding point (about an inch or two from the bridge) to a bow playing over the fingerboard. A bow playing over the finger board tends to make a softer tone and scratches more easily when weight is applied.

if you are an advanced player who can play without one, go for it. Most students need a shoulder rest.
« Last Edit: Mar 20, 2012, 04:46:01 PM by Kaveh Saidi »

Offline Samofey

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #10 on: Jan 31, 2012, 03:10:29 PM »
Deeply thankful for all of your replies. I appreciate your video, Jim. The issue about arm and fiddle mobility made me think it over. Thank you for who suggested the issue. And I'm also thankful to Mr.Clark for giving an example of James Ehnes. Now I'm watching his videos and how he plays. Honestly, I was on a little negative stand about the topic. Thanks to all of you, however, now I'm considering it more prudently. I think it will take quite a bit of time to decide which is fit for me. Thanks to you for all of your answers.

P.S. : I'm a little amazed how kind people of this forum are. Thank you!

Offline Worldfiddler

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #11 on: Jan 31, 2012, 03:23:27 PM »
Quote
The key to it all is taking weight in the left hand.

I think this is one one the fundamental disagreements many people have, myself included. For myself, I insist on total freedom of the left hand, repeat, for me. From a purely physical aspect, this gives the most freedom of movement of the left hand. Partly taking the weight in the left hand, by mechanics alone, will add resistance to the shifting ability. Now, some players won't even notice this, and shift away merrily, unhindered, while others (like me) will feel the resistance and will be impeded. These are simple facts of mechanics which won't go away, regardless of whether they present a problem.

Graham, you and I are both competent players (as are many others on this forum), and we achieve good results, albeit by very different methods.

In some ways, a forum is the worst place to come to for advice on this subject, but happily the advantages of advice on other aspects far outweigh this :)

Jim

Offline madmat

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #12 on: Jan 31, 2012, 06:03:02 PM »
In some ways, a forum is the worst place to come to for advice on this subject, but happily the advantages of advice on other aspects far outweigh this :)
You *do* get to hear from some real iconoclasts... ;)

Try everything at least  once, but preferably twice...
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline Graham Clark

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #13 on: Jan 31, 2012, 06:14:01 PM »
Next Fiddle Hell, Jim, I will show you what I am talkng about.

gc

Offline Kaveh Saidi

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #14 on: Jan 31, 2012, 06:17:11 PM »
One note: Using no shoulder rest can make some instruments sound softer than if a shoulder is used. The reason for this is that the shoulder against the back of the violin touches a significant portion of the back plate, which conducts sound. This is not an issue on some instruments, because each violin vibrates in slightly different ways. I have always noticed a louder sound with a shoulder rest on my specific instrument.

You know, if a violin worked better by playing it with your feet, more people would do it. But we now know through the advances in education that it does not work well that way.

Offline Worldfiddler

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #15 on: Jan 31, 2012, 06:32:55 PM »
Quote
Next Fiddle Hell, Jim, I will show you what I am talkng about.

I wanna see it now!!!!!!!!

Quote
One note: Using no shoulder rest can make some instruments sound softer than if a shoulder is used. The reason for this is that the shoulder against the back of the violin touches a significant portion of the back plate, which conducts sound. This is not an issue on some instruments, because each violin vibrates in slightly different ways. I have always noticed a louder sound with a shoulder rest on my specific instrument.

Interesting point. in the 80's The Strad magazine did a test of plate vibrations using different shoulder rests, and no shoulder rest at all. The results showed maximum vibration when the rests were used, and the Wolf Forte Primo came out tops for allowing the most free vibration. I have no idea what tests have been done since then, and I don't place much importance on them anyway.

I hear people insist that that the violin sounds better and clearer without a rest. Well, either plate vibration variation does  not map directly to tonal variation, or the thing just sounds different because there's wood against bone. Sure beats the hell out of me :)

Jim

Offline Kaveh Saidi

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #16 on: Jan 31, 2012, 06:43:31 PM »
In some ways, a forum is the worst place to come to for advice on this subject, but happily the advantages of advice on other aspects far outweigh this :)

Jim

I've saved a ton of $$$ I would have wasted buying useless equipment by being on this forum!
So to me it's a great place to workshop ideas.

Offline Worldfiddler

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #17 on: Jan 31, 2012, 08:17:32 PM »
Quote
I've saved a ton of $$$ I would have wasted buying useless equipment by being on this forum!
So to me it's a great place to workshop ideas.

Of course it is. I didn't mean it in a bad way, just meant about shoulder rest opinions :)

Jim

Offline madmat

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #18 on: Jan 31, 2012, 08:22:23 PM »
I wanna see it now!!!!!!!!
Vid-e-o! Vid-e-o! VID-EEEH-OOOH! ;D

Mistuh Geem has laid down the gauntlet.
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline Worldfiddler

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #19 on: Jan 31, 2012, 08:40:46 PM »
Quote
Mistuh Geem has laid down the gauntlet.

No, I didn't mean it like that, you mubble-traker!

Jim

Offline Erik

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #20 on: Jan 31, 2012, 10:41:54 PM »
Like I wrote, what is there is there to work with, would you ask for a stand to perform with a lovely lady?
Would you like to become used to a need for such a stand or pill when it works fine without one all natural?

Play the right fiddle and there is no need for anything extra to it.


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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #21 on: Mar 20, 2012, 03:31:49 PM »
Tall and slim?
Yes: Shouder rest. AND high chinrest

Offline pastrings

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #22 on: Mar 20, 2012, 07:49:25 PM »
I think it's ridiculous to try to play without a shoulder rest.  If you are holding the instrument correctly, it is resting on your left clavicle (I tell my kids jokingly that the only reason we really have a collar bone is to play a violin or viola).  That being said, you do need support so that your head tilts as little as possible when holding the instrument in place.  There should be very little difference in the tilt of your head with or without the violin.  The next thing that's important is that the instrument not slip off of the clothing on the shoulder.  That produces a tendency to squeeze very hard with the left hand.  Little kids use a sponge.  Isaac Stern used a sponge underneath his clothing.  I've seen people use wash rags and rubber bands.  I don't buy into the myth that material on the underside of the instrument lessons the quality of sound. 

Offline Worldfiddler

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Re: Will it be a good choice to learn violin without shoulder rest?
« Reply #23 on: Mar 20, 2012, 09:20:36 PM »
Quote
I think it's ridiculous to try to play without a shoulder rest.  If you are holding the instrument correctly, it is resting on your left clavicle (I tell my kids jokingly that the only reason we really have a collar bone is to play a violin or viola).  That being said, you do need support so that your head tilts as little as possible when holding the instrument in place.  There should be very little difference in the tilt of your head with or without the violin.  The next thing that's important is that the instrument not slip off of the clothing on the shoulder.  That produces a tendency to squeeze very hard with the left hand.  Little kids use a sponge.  Isaac Stern used a sponge underneath his clothing.  I've seen people use wash rags and rubber bands.  I don't buy into the myth that material on the underside of the instrument lessons the quality of sound. 

Bravo!! Welcome to the forum :) Maybe you could put a little bit about yourself in the introductions section?

Jim

 




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