The Shoulder Rest Dilemma

Every couple of years, it seems, I reevaluate my set up. It usually involves trying lots of expensive accessories, staring intently at my colleagues to figure out what they do that makes it look so easy, and it usually concludes with a product that makes me swear I’ve FINALLY found the secret to playing the violin. It also usually comes at the worst time possible – this time it’s about a week before an audition.

I thought I had the solution, but I’ve come to remember why I don’t like my shoulder rests so darn high. Turns out that leads to an achy shoulder, which is what I’m suffering from after a three hour opera rehearsal last night. So I’m deciding between a couple more to try, and I may end up ordering a couple and returning the one that doesn’t work. Or, let’s face it, keeping the one that doesn’t work because chances are it will end up working eventually.

In an effort to understand why the heck my muscles feel this way, I attempted to take some pictures of what my shoulder looks like from different angles with different shoulder rests.

Here, first, is the way I wish I could play, completely sans shoulder rest.

You can see the daylight poking through, and the temptation to bring up my shoulder in order to close the gap is pretty great. This also puts more strain on my left hand, and makes shifting into high positions significantly more difficult. Makes me yearn for Baroque music, because if I could learn to get this to work for me, the sheer lack of equipment on my fiddle would make it sound INCREDIBLE.

Here’s my current setup:

It’s fairly solid when all is said and done, but the problem is this:

As you can see, the curve with the fiddle is pretty significant. And since it’s an older shoulder rest, it’s a little too flexible. All it takes is a small amount of pressure to get the thing to buzz on the back of the instrument. So, initially, I thought I needed something similar, but with not such a curve, which is what lead me to try this:

Not nearly as dramatic, right? Unfortunately, it ends up feeling just like it looks, which is high and awkward, no matter how I arrange the feet:

I have a couple more coming next week, but the damage from this last one has been done. Holding my head up has become a chore, so I think I managed to tweak my neck somehow. I’m hoping it will be better tomorrow – most of the pain has gone away – but it makes for a frustrating situation in the meantime. I’ve been told very firmly that the violin SHOULD NOT HURT, and if it does, it means you need to rest and re-evaluate. And do nothing. This kind of thing drives me nuts. Especially when excerpts are staring me in the face. It’s a lot of positive thinking that gets you through a couple days such as this.

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