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A Shoulder Rest or not?

Do I need a violin or viola shoulder rest?

At some point nearly every violin or viola student asks the question: should I use a shoulder rest? The simple answer is that it’s a personal decision because everybody is unique.

shoulder rest

You need to take into account a number of physiological aspects of your body shape and playing style. Start by checking that the violin rests on your collarbone. The collarbone provides a solid base and a physical connection with your instrument.

When the violin or viola is sitting nicely on the collarbone you can get a feel for how much space is between the instrument and the shoulder. A shoulder rest may help to support the instrument by filling this space and enhancing the friction between the instrument and your shoulder. If you have a short neck, broad shoulders and a pronounced collarbone you may not need a shoulder rest.

If you have a long neck you may want to explore using a higher chinrest rather than increasing the height of your shoulder rest. Using a higher shoulder rest to make up for a long neck can create a very unstable violin hold and increase neck discomfort and tension.

Always remember to allow your neck to lengthen naturally when trying out different shoulder rests. Let your head balance freely on top of the neck, and let the chin rest lightly on the chinrest. If you need a shoulder rest you may have to experiment with various styles to find the right one for you.

Your Pro-Am Strings online violin tutor will help you decide whether or not you need a shoulder rest and help you choose one that suits. Meet your experienced online violin/viola tutor today and learn how to play with greater comfort than ever before.  If you have found this blog useful, please subscribe to our newsletter.


This post was written by Stylus writer, a former professional violinist/ violist who has taken his gift for phrasing and tone into the world of words. You can learn more about his work at https://styluswriter.com/

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