Shoulder rests present many benefits to players. It facilitates free movement of the left hand and helps those with longer necks fill in the gap between left shoulder and chin.
However, shoulder rests are not for everyone. Some people prefer the comfort of a bare violin. If one's neck is shorter, the shoulder rest may place the body in an awkward position. It's best to experiment with the most relaxed and tension-free positions for yourself.
If you do find playing without a shoulder rest preferable, then here are some tips to take your hold a step further and gain more control of both body and violin.
There are three elements at work.
- Your left hand places the violin on the shoulder.
- Your shoulder acts like a table for the violin to rest on.
- The natural weight of your head lies on the chin rest to secure the violin in position.
Make note the shoulder is like an inanimate object. It does not need to move up in order to support the violin. The violin simply rests on the shoulder. If you move the shoulder blade higher, you will create unnecessary tension and eventual pain.
Also important, the left hand only supports the violin initially to place the violin in position between shoulder, neck, and chin. Once the weight of the head falls on the chin rest, the left hand should be relaxed, not grabbing or tightening around the neck of the violin. It only slightly holds the violin - the thumb and padding of the hand below the index or first finger. You should still be able to shift and vibrate.
Watch Fiddlerman demonstrate below.
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