Updated September 16, 2021
Fitting a Shoulder Rest
By Ryan Thomson
A letter I received:
Hi Captain Fiddle,
What kind of shoulder rests do you buy? I have just bought a Wolf Secundo for my fiddle and a Wolf Primo for my viola. It seems so odd to me that they arrive with almost no instructions on how to tailor the fit. I have adjusted the height and width and the things still don't feel comfortable. I have figured out, based on a photo in a catalogue where they should fit on the violin, but where on your body, exactly are they supposed to fit? Maybe my neck is just too short or something.
I use a forte primo for my violin. I like it. I used to use a "Resonans" which I still have as a back up. I actually spent time over a few weeks bending the metal bit by bit until it fit the contour of my collar bone exactly. It fits better than the forte primo, but isn't as secure in the way that it attaches to the violin. However they are both good models.
Everybody has a different shaped body. Its common for someone(me too) to take a month or so fiddling with a new shoulder rest until they get it adjusted right for them. Also, some chin rests stick up higher than others so if it seems you've lowered the adjustments all the way down and your neck still seems too short, maybe you might consider a different chin rest. The shoulder rests also come in 3 different heights, although most stores only carry "medium height."
Turn the shoulder rest around, try each end up or down. Also try it diagonally, in all the possible positions short of having it fall off your fiddle. It doesn't have to just go on perpendicular as shown in the diagram.
All of the pad on the bottom of the rest should be touching your body, not just the top, or bottom, or just one edge of it. Put it on and have someone look at you and see whether the pad is in complete contact with your body, with no open space showing. Adjust accordingly. I hope this helps!
happy fiddling, Ryan
Only another fiddle lover would go to that much trouble to help a fellow fiddler. Thank you very much. What you have said is very helpful, especially the part about being sure that it touches all around. I hope that you will add your advice to your next book. I read anything "fiddle" and have never found this info, although, I suppose it is mostly common sense...then so is most of what we read. We just have to have our "bells" rung. By the way, I come from the period when nobody used a shoulder rest, but my shoulder muscles now need some help.
Thank you again and... Happy Holidays!
Article written by Ryan Thomson, 2002
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