Using a shoulder rest when playing a violin is a matter of personal preference. Some players prefer using it while others play the instrument without it.
A shoulder rest makes it easier to hold the violin by propping the instrument higher from the shoulder.
If adjusted correctly, it can significantly improve the user’s playing technique and help them avoid long-term neck problems.
These tools are particularly handy for beginners and violinists playing the instrument for extended periods. Besides, the best violin shoulder rests can help you develop the right posture by preventing you from hunching.
Top 5 Violin Shoulder Rests of 2023
Best Overall: Bonmusica 4/4 Shoulder Rest
This one tops our list since it’s the most comfortable option for amateurs and professional violinists alike and we think its worth the somewhat higher price.
The German-designed Bonmusica shoulder rest is ideal for standard 4/4 violins. It boasts a sturdy construction; hence, it can withstand long performances and rehearsals. The base is padded and curved to allow players to wrap it over the shoulder.
It can also be molded to fit individual shapes and sizes, and its end members fitted with simple and sturdy locks to reduce contact with the instrument. This shoulder rest has an adjustable, height, width and curve making it the most versatile option in this category.
It’s great for players with longer necks, musicians who have suffered injury or inflammation of the neck and shoulder region.
What We Like
- Can be fitted on left-handed violins
- Great level of adjustability
- Excellent for players with long necks
Best for Beginners: Kun Original 4/4 Shoulder Rest
The Kun Orginal 4/4 model is a fantastic choice and quite affordably priced! It is a great choice for beginners.
A striking feature about this shoulder rest is that it can be adjusted in three directions: the height, location and angle of the feet. As such, the rest can accommodate different body shapes and characteristics.
It also has end members with patented locks to reduce contact between the body of the instrument and the rest. This helps to eliminate sound muffling.
Buying Guide: Best Violins for Beginners & Students
The shoulder rest is also fitted with reasonable padding at the beam which makes it comfortable to use for long periods. Although, it is made of synthetic material including metal, very little is exposed, so none of it touches the instrument.
What’s more, it’s pretty affordable given that the Kun shoulder rests have been the industry’s standard for years.
What We Like
- Has a sturdy construction
- Patented locks prevent slipping
- Adjustable in three directions
- The metal is not exposed on feet
Everest EZ4A 3-4/4 Shoulder Rest
The Everest EZ4A 3-4/4 is ideal for beginners and students looking for more economical options. Most instructors require students to purchase shoulder rests for each instrument but with this gear, you have a one-size-fit for all your violins.
It can be used with 4/4 and ¾ violins as well as the 13’’ and 14” violas. Also, it’s pretty stable for a shoulder rest of this category thanks to the reinforcements on different locations. The legs are also adjustable which eliminates the need for swivel components and brackets.
The EZ4A shoulder rest is made from synthetic materials -plastic and foam. This makes for an incredibly light unit, although it’s also slightly lower in quality. The base has a rubber material with thin foam coating. The end members are made of hard rubber and coated to avoid damaging the finish.
You will also find the curve of this shoulder rest ideal for this economy range. The EZ4A is pretty comfortable and contours well on the shoulder. Good contour allows the rest to latch on to your shoulder. This way, there’ll be no movement unless you expressly move the violin.
What We Like
- The feet are coated
- Has good contour
- Easy to mount
Fiddlerman Wood 3-4/4 Shoulder Rest
This wooden shoulder rest has adjustable feet to fit any type of body and a range of violins. The feet are made of metal and coated in a synthetic material so the rest does not touch any exposed metal neither does it scratch the surface.
The Fiddlerman Wood 3-4/4 has collapsible feet and can be fully retracted for a more natural feel. This also helps to reduce the distance between the instrument and the shoulder.
The shoulder rest sports a combination of wood, plastic, metal and foam which explain its outstanding durability. Its base is made of solid wood- a construction that enhances sturdiness and reduces pressure on your shoulder and collarbone.
The shoulder rest also sports a foam padding base to enhance comfort. You will also love the smaller profile of the feet which reduce sound dampening when playing the instrument.
What We Like
- Has collapsible feet
- The wooden base is coated with foam padding
- Ideal for right and left-handed players
Viva La Musica Diamond Shoulder Rest
The shoulder rest is made from harvested Bosnian flamed maple. Since, this type of wood is also used to make most violins, the rest helps the violin to resonate more intensely. Additionally, the feet have a low profile to avoid absorbing the natural vibrations produced by the violin.
The wood construction also means the beam remains intact even when used for long periods. Viva La Musica Diamond shoulder rest is fully adjustable with its arms swinging 360 degrees. This feature allows you to return the rest to the back of the violin while keeping the feet at the widest point of the lower bout. Also, the feet are covered in soft synthetic materials so no metal is left exposed.
You will particularly love the large and short foot screws that allow height adjustments. The shoulder rest also has a curve to provide a more diagonal angle on the body and enhance comfort.
- Sturdy construction
- Excellent adjustability
- The solid maple wood construction improves resonance
How to Choose the Best Violin Shoulder Rest
Poor posture is rampant among young players and beginners. Violinists often slouch when playing the instrument. This occurs when they fail to hold the violin parallel to the shoulder. The chin tilts downwards and the shoulder is lifted up to grasp the instrument.
The problem with slouching is that it causes other side effects. For one, it reduces sound quality. It also makes it more difficult to move your hands and fingers on the fingerboard. Lastly, it creates a risk of neck tension.
A shoulder rest is placed at the bottom of the violin to reduce the amount of pressure exerted on the shoulder. It makes the instrument feel thicker, and this reduces the likelihood of tilting your chin downwards.
Also, players don’t need to use their hands to support the violin; hence, they can move their hands freely. They can sit up and project as they play.
The question is: how do you go about choosing a shoulder rest?
Well, the first thing you should consider is the shape of your body. You want to choose a shoulder rest that corresponds to your shape while also enhancing comfort. In particular, focus on the breadth of your shoulders and length of your neck.
Players with narrow shoulders, for example, benefit from curved rests while those with broad shoulders may find rests with wider designs useful.
You also need to determine your most comfortable playing position in relation to your body.
Some players find rests that sit closer to the neck more comfortable while others prefer placing them further away. Your shoulders should be relaxed with the neck straight without inclining it forward. A shoulder rest that helps you maintain this position is ideal.
Try out different types of shoulder rests to find out what works most effectively. You may also bend the device into a shape that feels comfortable or spread a sponge, piece of cloth or look for other adaptation to find out if it improves your comfort.
Here are other features to consider when buying a shoulder rest:
Type of Shoulder Rest
You need to identify the type of shoulder rest that meets your requirements. Some violinists prefer rests with a soft touch for more comfort while others prefer those with rigid surfaces to hold the instrument firmly.
Choose a shoulder rest with adjustable features and a curve where your shoulder can fit for additional comfort. Slide it further down the violin to find out what works best.
Shoulder rests are made from a number of materials such as wood, carbon fibre, foam, leather, aluminum, or sponge.
The most popular is the wood-based shoulder rest as it is durable, stylish and has good resonance. However, these have their fair share of disadvantages.
For one, they cannot be bent to conform to your shoulder. Furthermore, some of them lack padding at the bottom making them quite uncomfortable.
Those made from cloth and sponge are pressed directly on the back of the instrument; thus, likely to muffle the sound of the instrument. The large surface area interrupts the vibrations at the back of the violin, muting the sound. The body of the violin is made from wood which acts as the membrane that vibrates in tandem with the strings as transmitted through the post.
If the shoulder rest interrupts the vibrations, the amplitude reduces and the violin produces a softer sound. Other types of rests are made of hardened rubber. These kinds are flexible and affordable but not as stylish as wooden rests.
The size of the instrument determines the size of the shoulder rest you should buy. Most stores sell violin rests compatible with multiple instruments including the 13’’, 14’’violas and, 4/4, 3/4 violins.
Players using 4/4 and the ¾ violins may not need additional adjustability. However, if you play the violin and the viola interchangeably consider investing in a versatile shoulder rest.
Most rests mimic the shape of the shoulder. Bar-style rests have fewer touch-points hence less likely to affect the tone of the instrument’s sound while wooden ones produce more resonance.
Finding a rest with the right height helps reduce the tension caused by craning the neck and lifting the shoulder for long periods. Players with longer necks should look for longer rests while those with short necks can use rests with thin pads.
Are you looking for a stick-on rest or a clip-on type? Clip-on rests are less adjustable compared to their counterparts. Also, they are easy to bend by hand and can be angled easily.
Most models are adjustable by height and depth. Other models come with a swivel or a tilt feature, enabling you to fine-tune the angle of the base. Some rests also have flexible bases to fit the curve of your shoulder.
A good shoulder rest saves you from slouching; thus, helping to prevent back, neck and shoulder pain. To get the most out of this, the trick is to find a shoulder rest that not only matches the size of your violin but one that can also be adjusted to fit your body shape.
Bonmusica is one that checks all these boxes. Designed for both amateur and veteran violinists, this shoulder rest provides ultimate comfort. Both its height and angle of feet can be adjusted, making it fit for different body shapes. Plus, it’s equipped with patented locks to prevent slippage.