How to Set-up a Violin Shoulder Rest

As you might imagine, here at GelRest, we get a lot of queries about how to make a violin more comfortable, so musicians often ask us about the violin shoulder rest.

The way we see it, the GelRest provides comfort and protection to those parts of your body above the shoulder, like your face and neck for instance, while the shoulder rest does the same for parts of your body below, like your collarbone and breast.

Having a bit of padding at BOTH areas of contact will offer the most protection — thus preventing bruising while also reducing tension. The result is you will practice more, which is the key to faster improvement, and more fun!

So, a shoulder rest is a good place to start, but it’s only half the battle, because chinrests and shoulder rests work together to achieve optimum comfort.  Make sure your chinrest is comfortable, click Here.

Here’s a good tip for setting up your shoulder rest on your violin or viola…

Note, to try this, your shoulder rest must have adjustable feet.

Next, try setting the two adjustable feet at very different heights –one side high and one side low. See photos.

That’s because when you hold the instrument up to your chin, your left shoulder will easily contact the instrument, but your right shoulder willl not contact the instrument at all — in fact, there may be a gap of 3 or 4 inches between the instrument and your right side.

Try holding your instrument up in playing position, and see for yourself.

Here’s how I set up my shoulder rest.

  • Set the foot on the left at the lowest position possible, by turning it clockwise.
  • Set the foot on the right at a higher position (turn counter-clockwise), so it makes contact with your body.

Experiment with the right foot height to find the position that’s right for you.
Looking down from the neck of the instrument. The extended right side is easy to see.

Another view. Note that the shoulder rest is at an angle across the back of the instrument. Try to copy from the photo. If your shoulder rest doesn’t feel comfortable for you, try changing this angle.

Don’t forget to protect your face!  It doesn’t make sense to have padding on your shoulder but not on your chin rest!

Go here for more information about the GelRest.

10 thoughts on “How to Set-up a Violin Shoulder Rest”

  1. Hey

    Great guide. I have used the KUN shoulder rest as well for many years. I have bought the tallest screws, since I am a tall person.

    In my opinion, the best way to find the setup that feels most comfortable for you is by experimenting and evaluating over a longer time.

    Best regards, I will recommend this article.

    • Thanks for the comment Adam. I agree. For all players, whether new or playing for years, it’s worth spending the time to get a comfortable set up.

    • It’s easy: The violin has a higehr and more piercing tone that carries well over an orchestra so it plays the lead role in performances. The viola has a richer tone that is more satisfying for solo playing. The violin is a performer’s instrument and the viola is a musician’s instrument. That’s why so many great composers wrote for the violin and played the viola. each has its own strengths.I’m 50 and I just bought my first bowed instrument. A 16 viola.No, 15 is not too old to start. ;

  2. When the lower end of the shoulder rest is not high enough, the neck of the instrument can drop downwards, or the instrument can slide along the chest. This makes it difficult for the player to hold the instrument up, and causes them to bring the shoulder around to the front and up to try to fill the space.

  3. The gap between the shoulder rest and the violinist shows how far the left shoulder has to come forward to meet the shoulder rest.

  4. The Bonmusica Violin Shoulder Rest is height, width, and curve adjustable so that the player may obtain a precise fit and be as comfortable as possible. The padded curved base can be easily manipulated to fit the exact contour of the player s shoulder, holding the instrument in place while promoting hands-free stability for easy shifting and vibrato.

  5. This is a interesting article by the way. I am going to go ahead and bookmark this article for my sister to check out later on tomorrow. Keep up the fine work.

    • Thanks for the comment. Playing comfortably is important for any instrument, and the violin is no different. Best of Luck to your sister!!

Comments are closed.