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Guide to Selecting a Shoulder Rest, Sponge, and Chin Rest

Contributed by Gunnhildur Daðadóttir, Lindsey Bordner, and Elizabeth Kim

Many violinists use some type of shoulder rest or shoulder pad. The role of a shoulder rest is to support the violin and elevate it to the proper height, and to make it easier and more comfortable to hold the violin. In addition, any violin you might buy today is fitted with a standard shaped chinrest. Many sizes and shapes of chinrests exist and are well worth trying out, as chinrests can highly influence one’s posture as well. There are many different options out there, and it is very important to find the combination of shoulder rest and chinrest that is most suited to your body in order to maintain correct posture.
Here are some brief, generally agreed upon guidelines for posture. First, think of sitting or standing tall. This natural stance should be maintained when you hold the violin. The end of the violin should rest on the collarbone, and the scroll should be level with the body of the instrument. Keep the head in a neutral position, turned slightly to the left. The head should not tilt or strain to reach the violin. The jaw simply rests on the chinrest. There should be no tension involved in holding the violin between the collarbone and jawbone, solely the weight of the head. A proper shoulder rest and chinrest height will make this possible.

Sponges

Sponges are generally good for people with shorter necks and children. They are found in different widths and heights, and shapes. Sponges can be attached to the violin with a rubber band or worn under the clothes. Many are already manufactured specially to attach to the violin, such as the Kinder Chinder pad and Sostenuto shoulder pad. Others are more simple sponges, such as Red Sponge and the Zaret.

Zaret spongered sponges

Shoulder Rests

More rigid shoulder rests that clamp onto the underside of the violin are usually good for anyone with an average to long length neck. They come in all heights and many are adjustable. Some of the more common shoulder rests are the Kun, Mach One, and Wolf. Others include Bon Musica, Everest, Comford, Resonans, and Viva la Musica.
Another option is to play without a shoulder rest or sponge. This is most common among people with shorter necks. Some people use a cloth over the end of the instrument. Most importantly, the violin needs to feel comfortable and stable where it sits.

bonmusicaComford Violin Shoulder CradleEverestKun

 

 

Mach Oneresonans

 

viva la musicaWolf

 

sostenuto

 

Chinrests

Chinrests come in various heights and degrees of concaveness, and also vary in placement on the instrument. There are as many options as there are for shoulder rests, but people often don’t realize they can change their chinrest. Height is an important factor, especially for people with long necks. Amount to which it rises up under the jaw (concaveness) will affect how well you are able to hold the violin up with just the head, without having to squeeze or tense. Most chinrests sit to the left of the tailpiece, such as Dresden, Kaufman, Morawetz, and Taka. The most common chinrest, Guarneri, clamps on in the center, but sits to the left. Others, such as Berber, sit in the center of the instrument directly over the tailpiece. Chinrests in the center of the violin are less common, but enable people with shorter arms to play at the tip of the bow more easily.

 

berberDresden

 

Guarnerikaufman

 

MorawetzKinder chinrest pad


In conclusion, finding the right shoulder rest and chinrest combination takes some time and can be a learning process. Every violinist is shaped differently, and it is important to try a variety of options to find what works best for you. A comfortable setup can free you up to express yourself musically.

 

 
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