Technical Disadvantages and Orthopaedic Problems with the Conventional Violin Shoulder Rest

The modern shoulder rest as we know it today was only developed in the 1960s. It was invented because playing without support was perceived as uncomfortable. In fact, these conventional rests (with clamping device and bracket) allow to hold the instrument with little effort, and also give the player a sense of security, holding the instrument exclusively with the chin, i.e. being able to hold the violin without any support by the left hand.

According to the inventor, however, it is precisely this supposed advantage of the bridge-like shoulder rests that leads to considerable disadvantages. The securer feeling, which is perceived as advantageous in the first instance, means that the position of the instrument cannot be changed when playing. In particular, the "bridge-like" shoulder rests do not allow any rotation of the instrument around its longitudinal axis. On the contrary, the bridge-like shoulder rest promotes a posture, in which the violin is held relatively high on the shoulder and turned outwards. Though such a posture may have been regarded by many violinists as exemplary in the past, due to the rigid fixation, it hardly allows the player to leave this posture which turns out to be a constraint after all.

It has been the inventor's experience, that this fixed posture leads to a number of orthopaedic problems, and it is not optimal regarding the sound of the violin given the relative angle of bow to strings. Especially for professional string players rehearsing many hours a day, the described posture often leads to arthrosis in the left shoulder and intervertebral disc discomfort in the cervical spine.

Since the conventional bridge-like shoulder rest lifts the instrument comparatively far up, the left arm often has to be lifted over the shoulder when playing, which leads to pain in the shoulder for many violinists or viola players, especially during long rehearsal phases, and also does not help the vibrato. At the same time, the high-held position of the instrument forces the player to raise the right shoulder to bring sufficient pressure to the bow, which also leads to orthopaedic difficulties, referred to as "tennis elbows".