Shoulder rest vs no shoulder rest

said: Jan 9, 2008
 8 posts

Is it a requirement or a better idea in general for young children to start learning the violin with shoulder rest? I vaguely remember having come across with some articles about pain after a long term playing with shoulder rest. This probably won’t apply to little children who are really not going to play more than a few minutes at a time.

Thanks in advance,

Michael

“Amateur parent seeking professional parenting advice.” :)

said: Jan 9, 2008
 103 posts

I don’t know if there is a “recommended time” so to speak—I’d be interested to know more about how they sometimes cause injury.

What I figure is that it depends on how each child’s body is built. Do they have a long neck or short neck? Narrow slender shoulders or wide and stocky? As I’m sure you know the variations can be so vast!

I personally was trained to use no shoulder support at all. Actually when I first began I had a sponge because having nothing was uncomfortable—but my teacher encouraged me to stop using it over time—and I was able to play quite “comfortably”. This teachers view was that using a sponge muted the sound of the instrument.

I was fine for about 6 years, after which I was in a car accident. I had a lot of pain at the time and it still limits my playing. Anyway, around this time I began with a new teacher who informed me that I had a long neck and suggested that I try another chinrest/shoulder rest set up.

Anyway, because of how I’ve seen how my neck gets bothered by playing it does make me think about the importance of setting up a child properly.

Basically you want to make sure that the space between the shoulders and head is filled comfortably—not over filled, nor under filled so that the child has to lean down to have a “heavy head”.

I have typically used sponges to fill this space, but I do also have a student using a child’s Kun and another using something similar though it is straight shape and a thicker “spongy cover”.

Anyway, I’ve got to go, I may post more later.

said: Jan 9, 2008
 103 posts

I’m back!

I remember in orchestra that one of my friends had shoulder problems due to her shoulder rest (some sort of Kun type one). I think it had something to do with it pushing down in the wrong place on her shoulder??? Anyway, she went to physio for it and it must have have helped over time as she went on to study music at University.

I personally can’t stand the Kun type shoulder rests. All the ones that I’ve tried so far have dug into me and hurt. I’ve also tried a heightened chin rest in the center of the instrument—but it isn’t quite right (I used it for a couple years). Now I use a combination of shoulder sponge and lower chin rest.

I think mainly what I’m trying to say is that I think its best to go with comfort, keeping the spine aligned and head not over twisting, and what ever helps the student feel supported the best.

Jennifer Visick said: Jan 21, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Twinkle Rhythms

What I figure is that it depends on how each child’s body is built. Do they have a long neck or short neck? Narrow slender shoulders or wide and stocky? As I’m sure you know the variations can be so vast!

That is exactly the key. Customize the instrument for the person, not the other way around.

Students who aren’t set up properly—especially those with longer necks—can get into habits of holding the instrument with the left shoulder raised up or the head clamped down or either the shoulder or head or both brought forward in strange positions. Once the habit is formed, it feels “comfortable”, and can continue to feel fine for years—not because it’s actually comfortable, but because the student’s brain was so engaged in doing other things when the habit was formed that the signals the body was sending to the brain were ignored, the body compensated in other ways and the signals are no longer notice-able.

Until something traumatic happens. Like A) a car accident or other muscle strain injury B) extended practice for many hours over many years finally takes it’s toll by showing up in over-use injuries B) the person becomes out of shape and/or older.

Then the person who is well set-up has a distinct advantage over the person who has played with a raised shoulder and/or other strange positions. The well-set up person may actually be able to continue playing, whereas the other person might have to spend a lot of time re-setting themselves up in order to continue to play.

Jennifer Visick said: Jan 30, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

I’ve never met a person whose shoulder was Kun-shaped.

I tend to use Wolf shoulder rests for my students, which have a metal form which can be customized by being bent (although it requires some strength to do so). Kuns tend to be plastic or wood and unbendable. Bonmusicas are designed to be customized in this way (by bending to the shape of a person’s shoulder). However they’re kind of expensive and heavy and bulky for most students. For myself I use a Wolf Secondo (bent and customized) on my violin and a Bonmusica on my viola.

Most people I know who use kuns professionally also have them customized with little extra pads and sponges so that it’s shaped more usefully to the shoulder.

Everyone is different!

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