Music for a lifetime: Educating musicians to create a better world

Chin & Shoulder Rests

A wide variety of chin and shoulder rests is available for violins and violas. Every player is built differently, so we can't recommend any specific model. A combination that works for one musician may be uncomfortable and awkward for another.

Chinrests

Chinrests come in a variety of sizes, shapes, heights, and mounting positions (over the tail piece or to its left), so you may have to try several to find one that is comfortable for you and makes it easy to have good posture. (For example, shorter players sometimes find rests that are mounted over the tailpiece a better option, since this will allow you to use more of your bow.) Some chinrest models come in a variety of woods. Don't select yours based simply on appearance, since the density of the chinrest wood and the size of the rest can have an effect on the sound of your instrument. Try several comfortable rests, and see which one makes your instrument sound the best.

A few do's and don'ts:

  • DO be sure that the chinrest is on securely and does not touch the tailpiece. (Otherwise, you might experience a very unpleasant buzz!) If your chinrest is loose, take it to a shop to have a technician tighten it, or invest in an inexpensive chinrest key, so that you can tighten it yourself. On the other hand...
  • DON'T overtighten your chinrest. Tighten it so that it is secure but no further. Otherwise, you may restrict the vibration of your instrument or damage it.
  • DON'T use tools that weren't designed for chinrest adjustment. Otherwise you are likely to scratch or otherwise damage your instrument.
  • DO let a technician at a violin shop mount your chinrest, if possible. A technician will be able to adjust the cork feet under the rest to fit your violin or viola perfectly and will know where to mount it. The feet of the rest should sit over the rib and not further in over the arching. where it will restrict the vibration of your instrument.
  • DO keep the chinrest clean and free of dust, dirt and sweat. A dirty chinrest can result in an infected neck area.

Shoulder Rests

Teachers and performers can have very different opinions on the type of shoulder rest to use, or whether to use one at all. (Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, for instance, don't use shoulder rests; Joshua Bell does use one.) Without getting into this debate, there are generally three types of shoulder support:

  • None. The instrument sits on the collar bone.
  • Firm shoulder rest that clips onto the edges of the instrument. The Kun is a good example.
  • Soft rest or sponge that sits on the back of the instrument. The Playonair is a popular model.

A wide variety of shoulder rests is available online, and you may want to inspect a website to get ideas. However, we strongly recommend that you get advice from your teacher and work with a technician at a violin shop to fit a chinrest and shoulder rest combination that will be comfortable for you.

A shoulder rest that has “legs” should have enough clearance so as to not touch the back of the violin or viola. Check all hardware (screws, etc.) and make sure that they are properly tightened. If rubber tips are torn or severely worn out, replace immediately. Failure to do so can result in a scrape on the back of the instrument. If using a pad, foam, or air pad, check rubber bands to make sure they are in good shape and not about to break or snap.