You may not realize this, but there is a lot of debate around whether or not violinists should use shoulder rests. And while more advanced players may not need to use a shoulder rest, we personally believe all beginners should use a shoulder rest when they are first learning to play.
As the name suggests, a shoulder rest is an accessory that your shoulder is able to rest on. It attaches to the violin and helps support the instrument.
It literally props up the instrument a few inches higher than the body which makes it a lot easier to hold and play the violin.
Even though we recommend you use a shoulder rest, truth be told, they are not necessary in order to play the violin.
They actually didn’t start being used until the 20th century. You will also find that most professional violinists do not use shoulder rests when they play.
Violinists who play Early Music tend to avoid using shoulder rests as doing so makes it a lot easier to maintain an older style of play.
With that being said, there are still many violinists who find that using a shoulder rest is more comfortable.
It is therefore very important you explore which option will work best for you.
As you can imagine, there are quite a few different types of shoulder rests you can choose from. To find the one best suited for you, you will need to do a little experimenting.
3 Important Factors To Consider When Choosing a Shoulder Rest
When it comes to finding the best shoulder rest, there are 3 important factors you will need to consider.
Generally speaking, shoulder rests are made using a combination of different materials. The materials include wood, plastic, leather, sponge, foam, carbon fiber, and aluminum.
The most popular style shoulder rests are the ones with the rubber tipped feet that attach to the body of the violin.
Shoulder rests made out of foam or sponge can easily stick onto the violin. Or they can easily be attached with elastics.
While the shape of a shoulder rest can vary quite a bit, generally speaking, most will come in the same shape as the shoulder.
The big difference is some will have more padding than others.
Bar style shoulder rests also attach to the body of the violin. They however are said to not mute the sound of the violin as much as other shoulder rests.
Foam and sponge shoulder rests tend to take up a large surface area on the body of the violin. They also mute the sound a lot more than bar style shoulder rests.
This is because they interrupt the vibrations more so than the other shoulder rests.
Think of the violin as a drum. The wood is like a membrane that vibrates anytime the bow caresses the strings.
If the shoulder rest interrupts the vibrations, the violin won’t amplify as much.
As you very well know, each brand is different. That means each brand will have shoulder rests in different sizes.
The good news is most shoulder rests can be adjusted for height. For those with longer necks, this can be a gamechanger as the adjustment can help relieve tension in the neck.
And just so you are aware, most shoulder rests will also fit on a viola. They will also work in much of the same way as they do on a violin.
Also, it's okay to mix and match different pieces of the shoulder rest. That’s how you design something that works best for you.
For example, let's say you like a particular shoulder rest but you don’t like the feet. You can easily transfer the feet from a different shoulder rest to the one you like. This way you know your shoulder rest fits perfectly.
If you are having trouble finding a shoulder rest that fits, consider trying a different style chin rest. Oftentimes, the problem isn’t with how the violin rests on the shoulder. It is instead with how the violin is hooking under the chin.
If you can fix that, then you will be able to play the violin in a more comfortable way.
Lastly, if you are experiencing any pain when holding the violin, that means something is off with the setup. Check the shoulder rest, the chin rest, and the hardware.
Top 8 Best Violin Shoulder Rests
- Kun Original Violin Shoulder Rest
- Kun Collapsible Violin Shoulder Rest
- Mach One Violin Shoulder Rest
- Everest Violin Shoulder Rest
- Vival La Musica Violin Shoulder Rest
- Wolf Violin Shoulder Rest
- Playonair Violin Shoulder Rest
- AcoustaGrip Violin Shoulder Rest
The Kun Original is probably the most popular shoulder rest for beginners. It is a standard shoulder rest that comes with a lot of the outfitted violin sets.
It features adjustable rubber feet that easily attach to the instrument. It is made out of foam, aluminum, and plastic.
It has a contoured shape that fits the body of the violin.
When compared to the Kun shoulder rests, the Mach One models are generally more expensive. They also tend to be better quality.
The Mach One shoulder rests are typically made using wood and plastic. The contour is a little different which is something some players prefer.
While the feet on this shoulder rest are adjustable, they aren’t that effective when it comes to attaching to the violin.
For this reason, it is not uncommon for people to replace the Mach One feet with Kun feet.
This is a very popular choice for students due to its low price. They are made using plastic and foam which makes them not of the best quality.
However, they are a great price which makes them a great option for someone on a budget.
With this company there is a lot to explore. The Vival La Musica is just one of the many shoulder rests they offer.
It is made out of wood which makes it a lot stiffer than many of the plastic models. It is also a bit pricier.
The rubber feet fold out and the designs are beautiful.
The cool thing about this shoulder rest is its ability to be moulded to fit the player’s shoulder.
If you are a more advanced player, and you like to experiment with your setup, this is the shoulder rest for you. These models also have a fold out option.
Most of the shoulder rests in this article are bar shoulder rests. This one however is an inflatable cushion that can be clipped onto the violin.
You have complete control over how much you inflate the cushion. This means you can control your level of comfort.
If you need a lot of height out of your shoulder rest, this is not the best option as it is lower than most models.
Please note this shoulder rest can reduce the volume of your instrument.
This is a foam shoulder rest that uses hundreds of microgrip suction cups to adhere to the body of the violin.
This ensures the varnish on the violin does not get damaged.
According to the makers of this shoulder rest, since there are no clamps, the sound is not affected by the shoulder rest.
Our Final Thoughts
While we do consider these the top 8 best violin shoulder rests, we would also encourage you to explore the many different options.
Try different types of shaped foam or sponge shoulder rests. Doing so will help you find the best option for you.
Keep in mind it is not a requirement for you to play with a shoulder rest. The goal is to find a healthy and comfortable way to play the violin.
In some cases you may need a shoulder rest to make that happen. In some cases you will not.
If you are comfortable playing without a shoulder rest then there is no need to invest in one.