Rest No More?
(The shoulder rest, that is)
Professor of Violin
Arizona State University
Jonathan Swartz shares his exploration of playing the violin without a shoulder rest, after almost 40 years of playing exclusively with one.
Fundamental principles of violin set-up, efficiencies of technique, and general physical health are discussed.
Common Habits with a Shoulder Rest: InefficientàDetrimental
Fill in the extra space between shoulder and jaw entirely with a shoulder rest – pushes the violin away from body, forcing arms into an unhealthy and difficult position to play
Squeeze the instrument between shoulder and jaw – constant downward force (neck/jaw)
One-sided, leftward leaning playing – bringing both arms to the violin: unsupported – shoulder rest providing “fake” support
Locked in place: immovable – unhealthy for neck and shoulder; removes the possibility of slight adjustments in set up while playing (ie. playing at the tip of the bow – extending the bow arm vs. bringing violin in front a bit)
Left hand moves freely “around” the instrument – removes contact with the neck prematurely; affects support, efficiency of motion, and geography of the violin relative to hand/finger posture
- Support the violin with the left hand: counter-pressure for more balanced playing – “meet in the middle.” - Support requires the left arm underneath the violin – physically healthier
- Freedom and release in your neck and shoulder
- Move “through” the instrument with the left hand, rather than around it – more efficient path for shifting, and creates information for understanding the geography of the violin
- Use finger posture and arm alignment to understand geography of the violin