shoulder rest

Irene said: Sep 14, 2010
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

looking to buy a shoulder rest for myself. for 4/4, is KUN good?

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 14, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

You need a shoulder rest that fits you (or which is customizable enough to fit you). You should try it out before your buy it, if you’re concerned about not wasting money on it.

I’ve never met anyone who had a KUN-shaped shoulder, and the kun is usually made of plastic (or wood), which means that any customization needs to be with sponges or other things rubberbanded or otherwise attached to the frame of the Kun.

For customization of shape, shoulder rests that have a metal frame are bend-able, (but you need to spend time bending and experimenting until you get the right shape for your shoulder). The Bonmusica and the Wolf Forte Primo & Wolf Forte Secondo and the Resonans all have metal frames. (The resonans lacks a “stop” for turning on its axis, which most people need.)

Some people, who have short necks, where the distance between collarbone (when the shoulder is relaxed) and jawbone is not significantly taller than the distance between the bottom of the instrument and the top of the chinrest, do not need a shoulder rest but can get away with something like a couple of red rubber (cosmetic) sponges & a rubber band.

Christine said: Sep 15, 2010
Christine Goodner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Hillsboro, OR
72 posts

I agree—everyone is different and different shoulder rests work for different people. Are you working with a teacher who could help you get set up with something that fits you well?

Christine in OR

Christine Goodner

Studio Website: Brookside Suzuki Strings

Blog: The Suzuki Triangle

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Timothy Judd said: Sep 15, 2010
Timothy Judd
Suzuki Association Member
Glen Allen, VA
56 posts

My experience with KUN has been very good. This is what many of my students use. For many years I used the KUN. Someone convinced me to switch to the MACH One which touches the violin even less than the KUN providing greater ring. MACH One may not be for everyone it works for me.

said: Dec 2, 2010
 5 posts

I really like KUN. That is what I use and all of my students as well. I also have used Wolf ones and those are also very comfortable.

Laura said: Dec 2, 2010
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

We have yet to venture into the land of shoulder rests (maybe we’re dealing with a short-neck situation—still OK using sponges). But I am curious… what is with all of the shoulder rests popping off and falling on the floor during group class? Is this an inherent weakness in the design, or are they not properly installed, or are the kids just getting fidgety?

Jennifer Visick said: Dec 2, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts
said: Dec 3, 2010
 24 posts

My son uses a FOM and a KUN. I like both a lot. I’ve noticed if I check the adjustments on a normal basis and put it on the violin carefully will fall off less. Also, whenever I let him put it on his violin himself it seems to fall off a lot. So I have noticed it helps if I just do it for him. I know he’ll hae to do it all by himself one day…but if I know he is going to have a performance or have a class with other kids I put it on to make sure it is less of a distraction by falling off frequently.

Jennifer Visick said: Dec 4, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Perhaps we are failing to treat putting on a shoulder rest as a teachable skill just like holding the bow, rest position and playing position, etc.

Michelle said: Dec 4, 2010
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
25 posts

The general lesson routine with me starts will a fully set up violin which they bow with. Then I take the violin to tune it (they have to come set up and bow first, then I check tuning). This is also an opportunity to test the shoulder rest placement. If it feels funny when I put it up to my shoulder to tune, I check it. If I feel the need to adjust it some, I always take the time to explain what I’m adjusting and why. A lot of times, one of the feet has come loose from the base and the screw just needs to be tightened. Sometimes, they get it a little crooked and I straighten it out.

I teach shoulder rest placement as part of instrument care and set up. I like to have the student do as much as they can, no matter how young. They learn how to lift the violin out of the case, and then we talk about why we have a sponge or shoulder rest. I put the naked violin on my shoulder and let it slide forward and explain that even if we don’t need much height, the violin is slippery and we need something to help it be grippier to stay on the shoulder. For Kun shoulder rests, I put matching stickers on the underside of one side and the violin, so they know which way it goes. They still put it on backwards and I tell them the story of when I was in middle school orchestra and we would have lengthy discussions before class started about which way the shoulder rest goes because none of us could remember. It took me years to really get the Kun figured out.

Then, from the very beginning, I teach them in going from rest position to playing to lift their arm first, then lift the violin away from their side, then bring it forward. Otherwise the shoulder rest gets caught on their side and pulled it off. They get to practice this anytime it falls off in the lesson. Even if they’re 13. I actually had one 13 year violist drop her shoulder rest so many times, we just left it on the ground one day and discovered she’s more comfortable without it. She has broader shoulders and didn’t need to lift her shoulder at all to keep the viola at a good level, so we left it that way. Luckily, I’ve studied with enough trainers who don’t use a shoulder rest that I know the modified shifting and vibrato and balance issues to help her with this set up.

I absolutely agree that should rest placement is a teachable skill, and moreover I believe that is such a way to place a Kun that it won’t fall off. I think I lot of teachers have just given up on that style of shoulder rest and assume that nothing can be done. But Kun styles rests can absolutely make it through a lesson, group class, orchestra rehearsal, or practice session and not fall off.

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said: Dec 4, 2010
 89 posts

One of my kids once had an instrument that was “between sizes” for the Kuns we had. A rubber band was the easy solution for keeping it attached to the instrument.

Sue Hunt said: Jan 26, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
391 posts

I have long thought that it is best to keep the shoulder rest as low as possible and rely on a higher chin rest to fill the gap if necessary. The lower edge of the instrument should be in contact with the collar bone for more stability. Many of us find that rigid shoulder rests are too high and restrictive. If you get the chin rest right, a foam pad should be all that is necessary. There is a great website based on a yearlong exploration of how to create a balanced, pain free violin set up. Do look at it.

I love my combination of a specially customed chin rest from Alexander Accessories and a poly-pad shoulder rest . They also make lovely slim ones for tiny tots called lily-pads. It has helped me to learn to let go of a vicelike grip on my viola and my shoulders are pain free for the first time in years.

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