Shoulder rests are one of the most common and practical violin accessories. They help players improve posture while playing, consequently reducing stress on shoulder and neck muscles, and the spine.
The main reason some players shunned shoulder rests in the past was that the early models could dampen the instrument’s resonation due to the overly large contact surfaces. However, modern rests, even the cheapest ones, now have minimum contact surface, effectively making any effect on the instrument’s tone inaudible.
5 Best Violin Shoulder Rests for 4/4 and 3/4 Violins
When looking for the best violin shoulder rest, there are many things to consider. The main ones include build quality, materials used, adjustability, and price. Keep reading for a selection of my favorite violin shoulder rests and tips on how to pick the right one for you.
A shoulder rest has to be comfortable to use. It has to grant the player more flexibility rather than impeding it. The Kun Original is one of the most popular and comfortable options out there, used by many amateur and professional violinists alike.
The Original 4/4 is made for full-sized violins and can’t be used with smaller models. It is an affordable rest based on the original Kun rest that’s been the industry standard for years.
The rest features three-direction adjustability and end members with patented locks. The special end members are there to minimize contact between the rest and the instrument’s body, and consequently the level of sound muffling.
Along with comfort, a player who opts for a shoulder rest must also consider the build quality. The rest has to be sturdy enough to withstand long rehearsals and performances. The Bonmusica is a full-sized rest made for standard 4/4 violins. It is on the pricy side for players who know what they’re looking for.
This rest from Bonmusica is built to last and comes with a softly padded and curved base. The end members feature simple and sturdy locks that ensure minimum contact with the instrument. The Bonmusica rest is width, height, as well as curve adjustable, making it one of the most versatile options out there. It can also be installed on left-handed violins.
It is recommended for players who use both standard and student-sized violins to buy one shoulder rest for each instrument. However, there are also versatile models that can accommodate instruments of different sizes. The EZ4A by Everest is one such model.
This affordable shoulder rest can be used with both 4/4 and ¾-sized violins, making it one of the most versatile models in its price class. It can also be mounted on 13” and 14” violas if necessary.
The EZ4A is made of composite materials and rocks a rubber base with thin foam coating on the bottom. The end members are very simple and easy to attach to the instrument. They’re made of hard rubber and coated to avoid damaging the instrument’s finish.
The quality of materials should also be among the top priorities when buying a shoulder rest. Those that are made of cheap and flimsy materials can’t offer adequate support and may deteriorate quickly. This Fiddlerman model sports a combination of genuine wood, metal, plastics, and foam for outstanding durability.
The base of the rest is made of solid wood with soft foam padding on the bottom. This approach ensures excellent sturdiness while being easy on the shoulder and the collarbone. On the downside, the rest is not curve-adjustable.
The feet are made of quality plastic and are height-adjustable. They are also collapsible and can be fully retracted in case you want a more natural feel and to minimize the distance between your shoulder and the instrument.
Getting the right shoulder rest is personal and largely depends on the shape of the player’s shoulders and neck. Therefore, it is a huge advantage to have a rest that is bendable. The Primo by Wolf Forte has been designed to offer maximum adjustability in this area.
As opposed to the majority of affordable shoulder rests, the Primo rocks a metal base plate that can be bent and shaped to your shoulder. On the bottom, it has foam padding for increased comfort.
The legs are made of two threaded sections and allow excellent height adjustability to accommodate players with very long necks. The feet are coated in rubber to prevent instrument damage. This rest works with 4/4 and ¾ violins, as well as 13” and 14” violas.
Shoulder rests for violins have only been around since the 1950s and are still regarded as a fancy novelty and an unnecessary thing by many players. However, the rests have come a long way since their humble beginnings. The main materials used in their production include wood, rubber, foam, metal, and plastic.
Wood is mainly used as the base material. Its strengths include durability, good resonance, and stylish looks that fit well with violin designs. On the downside, wood bases can’t be bent to fit the shape of your shoulder. If they don’t have some sort of padding on the bottom, they can be pretty uncomfortable.
Foam is mainly used for base padding as a way to improve comfort level. Alternatively, sponge and soft rubber may be used instead of foam.
Some models are made almost entirely of hardened rubber, though you’ll mostly find rubber on the rest’s feet as protection. Rubber rests are generally very flexible and affordable. On the flip side, they are not as stylish as their wood counterparts.
Metal is, in some way or another, featured on almost every shoulder rest. If nothing else, the posts in the legs are made of metal. Some models, however, also feature metal bases. In the case of bases, soft and bendable types of metal are used to allow the players to shape the rest to their liking.
Affordable shoulder rests are usually plastic. While inexpensive, plastic rests tend to have shorter lives.
When buying a shoulder rest, you should consider the size of your instrument and buy accordingly. Usually, the models are classified by the size of the violins (and sometimes violas) that they can be used with.
It is not uncommon to find violin rests that are compatible with multiple instruments, the most common of which are for 4/4 and 3/4 violins. These can also be used with 13” and 14” violas.
In case you play only a 4/4 or a 3/4 violin, you don’t need extra adjustability. On the other hand, if you use them interchangeably or play both violin and viola, you might want to consider investing in a more versatile shoulder rest.
Adjustability is another important aspect of a shoulder rest. Almost all models can be adjusted by height and depth. Some models also have the tilt or “swivel” feature where you can adjust the angle of the base. Additionally, some of the bases can also be bent to fit the curve of your shoulder.
Just like a good violin body, great strings, and a comfortable stool or chair, one of the best shoulder rests can help you massively in your violin playing pursuit by saving you a lot of back, shoulder, and neck pain down the road, as well as give you a better posture and more flexibility while playing.
While there are other options out there, this list can give you a good idea of where to start your search and what to look for in a violin shoulder rest.