A violin shoulder rest is a device that attaches to the back of a violin. The purpose of a shoulder rest is to make holding the instrument easier for the player as it narrows the gap between their chin and left shoulder.
There are many types of violin shoulder rests and more are being developed every year. The type of shoulder rest a violinist uses is a very personalized choice. Many violinists and teachers alike have differing opinions about what is the “ideal violin shoulder rest.”
The ideal shoulder rest will allow the violinist an opportunity to play without left hand tension. Playing with a left hand free of tension is important for shifting from one position to another on the fingerboard and having a good developed vibrato. Vibrato is the wiggling of the finger which creates oscillation of different pitches. Vibrato is created from having a loose left hand.
The best tone is accomplished when a violinist bows parallel to the bridge. This is known as playing with a straight bow. Through my teaching experience, I have observed that the proper shoulder rest will also influence tone. The proper shoulder rest will help keep the violin on the left shoulder and therefore make it easier for violinists to bow straight because the violin won’t be sliding off the person’s shoulder when he/she plays. When the violin slides towards the center of a person’s body, further adjustments with a person’s bowing needs to be made to insure a straight bow.
I can help students select a shoulder rest which will improve their sound and ease of playing.