There are violinists and violists who swear by modern shoulder rests, but not everyone agrees on their necessity.
Shoulder rests. Are they necessary or are they not? This is a question that is always being asked by students, performers and teachers. Now that you've purchased a student violin for your child, it is now a question for you, the parent.
The violin shoulder rest is not considered one of the essential violin accessories, like strings and rosin. But just about everyone agrees, a high quality and well-chosen shoulder rest that is properly set up on the violin for the player will make the violin easier to play, as well as much more comfortable to play.
The question of just how necessary a shoulder rest is to playing the violin (or viola) has risen based on the fact that use of the shoulder rest did not become popular until the later part of the Twentieth century. Most of the great violinists before 1970 didn't use a shoulder rest while performing and many of the great violinists today do not use one.
Though the shoulder rest - which attaches to the back of the violin and offers more stability - makes it simpler to play the violin, many believe that the presence of the shoulder rest on the violin dampens the violin's tone by undermining the violin's ability to naturally vibrate. Shoulder rests employ usually soft rubber feet that grip the instrument. It is this padding that is believed to retard the vibration of the violin and undermine sound.
So how does the shoulder rest make the violin easier to play? It frees up the left hand of the player by putting most of the responsibility of holding the violin upright on the chin and shoulder, simply by adding height. The left hand, then, is more free to comfortably shift through positions on the fingerboard, a necessity as the student progresses into intermediate and advanced playing.
Violin shoulder rests are available in a range of styles and costs, with professional models retailing for up to $80 and student models costing as little as $12. Rests are typically manufactured in wood, plastic or carbon fiber. Whether you are purchasing a shoulder rest from a violin shop or an online source, make sure you order the right size rest for your child's student violin. Also, because the shoulder rest is for a child, make sure that the shoulder rest is adjustable in height.