Laurie's Safe, Easy Way to Put a Shoulder Rest on Your Violin or Viola

March 19, 2018, 11:55 PM · To my horror, one of the students in my group class was holding her violin, bridge-down on the floor and forcibly pushing it into the ground as she attempted to attach her shoulder rest to the instrument.

"NOOOOOO!" I said.

This is not the correct way to put on your shoulder rest. Despite all the talk and blogs about not using a shoulder rest, about three-quarters of violinists and violists do use one (according to numerous Weekend Votes over the years), so I feel it's important to talk about the correct way to put on a shoulder rest.

It's a physically awkward proposition, but over the years I've come up with a way that allows even a toddler to do so without the danger of dropping the instrument or collapsing the bridge. Here is my fool-proof method!

How to Put on a Shoulder Rest:

I hope you find this helpful, and happy practicing!

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March 20, 2018 at 02:12 PM · Laurie, way back in the day when I used to use a SR that is exactly the method I worked out for myself to install the device. I still use the method to put the SR on my daughter's violin when she visits. Great minds evidently still think alike!

Sadly, I've yet to see the safe method being used in my orchestras - plenty of awkward and acrobatic antics that perhaps need two or three attempts, yes, but nothing really safe.

March 20, 2018 at 04:20 PM · I personally don't use this method, but I've never ran into unsafe situations putting on a shoulder rest.

March 20, 2018 at 04:36 PM · Ella, I felt compelled to do this when I caught a student with her violin upside down on the floor, pushing against the bridge during group class!

When it comes to my own students, I want them to take responsibility for their own instruments, and that means learning to get the instrument out and prepare it for playing themselves -- even if the student is four years old. I've found that, when it comes to the shoulder rest, it is best if I give them the blow-by-blow, "here's how to do it" 5-minute lesson about it. I've done so for older students as well!

March 20, 2018 at 06:26 PM · Very good advice! But how about a video for the 1/4 of rest-less players? What do they do while everyone else is busy putting on their rests? I used to draw cartoonesque pictures of the conductor on the music, but the librarian yelled at me for that.

March 20, 2018 at 07:36 PM · Scott, I recommend that The Restless follow the Ways of Cremonus and use that extra time to practice scales.

March 20, 2018 at 07:59 PM · I completely concur! Praise be unto Cremonus!!

March 20, 2018 at 08:26 PM · IS there any harm in leaving a shoulder rest on, if the violin is in a safe place and not being transported? Are there likely to be any issues regarding distortion etc?

March 20, 2018 at 08:31 PM · I use a monstrous shoulder rest (the Comford shoulder cradle) with two pairs of feet, and it is a bear to put on. I just tried you method and it worked very well, Laurie. Do you have some advice on putting on the shoulder rest while standing up?

March 20, 2018 at 10:30 PM · I put affix shoulder rests safely while standing up, and teach all my students to do it as I do. Sometimes there's no chair to sit on.

Hold the violin or viola with the bout against your body, on either your left or right side, parallel to the floor, upside down with bridge facing down, end button in front and the scroll in the back. Cradle the violin securely with both forearms and hands.

Take the shoulder rest and now you can set it easily in place - safely with no danger of dropping the instrument. I also mention, for the Resonance, Wolf or Kuhn style rests, to see the "smile", or I sometimes say to find the "eye" formed by the upper rib and the line of the shoulder rest. With a few adjustments up or down on left or right side, we soon find the perfect fit.

March 21, 2018 at 05:27 PM · I suggest that while 3/4 of us are putting on our shoulder rests, the 1/4 of restless players can commiserate about the abject moral travesty that is unfolding before their very eyes. And if that doesn't settle their nerves there is always Valium.

If you are at an orchestra rehearsal and you find yourself with a few moments of spare time before the start, scales are unacceptable. Instead you are expected to play a few passages from the latest high-octane concerto that you're working on, fortissimo if possible, and preferably while the poor soul next to you is trying to tune.

On a more serious note, a good skill to learn is to hold the violin securely by having the C-bouts between your knees. The corners will keep your violin from slipping around. Good for restringing too.

March 21, 2018 at 07:21 PM · Laurie,

Thanks for this. As part of the Lakeland Youth Symphony Orchestras group of adult supervision, I check, sometimes adjust, and tune about 60 violins and violas every Monday night. I get my share of downed bridges from the problem you noted. Being and adult I can put the rest on easily. I think I'm going to do a lesson next Monday at rehearsal to teach them all your method. If the young musicians can put on their rests themselves it will make my job easier and faster.

March 21, 2018 at 07:44 PM · That is a lot of violins and violas to check and adjust! Bless you!

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