The goal of a shoulder rest is to allow a more comfortable attitude while playing by adding height to the shoulder and preventing the instrument from slipping. A shoulder rest generally follows the curve of the shoulder; it is an accessory to facilitate holding the violin.
In my fourth month now, I am still not sure if my Fiddlerman wood shoulder rest is the right shoulder rest for me. It’s not uncomfortable, and it definitely needed as I find it difficult to hold my fiddle and play it without the use of a shoulder rest. However, I feel like I should be able to hold my fiddle up with more ease, and this shoulder rest does not fully allow me to hold my fiddle in position without my left hand, something I keep reading about and seeing in instructional videos.
This past week, I ordered a Bonmusica shoulder rest in the hope that it would give me that little extra support I have been looking for. After taking it out of the box, I played around with it for about ninety minutes, adjusting the various parts, fitting and refitting it to my fiddle. At the end of this time, I was no more pleased with it than my Fiddlerman shoulder rest. I put it back in the box deciding I would try again in a day or two.
Today, I started working with it again, and unknown or overlooked by me the other day, I discovered I can also adjust it so that the entire shoulder rest can be swiveled back or forth so it is not completely parallel to the bottom of the fiddle. Swiveling it more towards the back of the fiddle did two things. It helped raise the front of the fiddle a bit and gave me the sense of more support of the fiddle between my chin and shoulder. Now, it felt at least as good as my Fiddlerman wood shoulder rest.
Then, to my annoyance, I noticed that the metal frame has made a few minor scratches on the bottom of my fiddle. Further adjustments to avoid this situation left the Bonmusica feeling less secure and once again not so comfortable. I’m beginning to think the Bonmusica shoulder rest is not the shoulder rest for me. Not so much a fault of the rest, but a condition of my short neck.
The other day I wrote a post about this shoulder rest in the Facebook group Adult Starters, a group for new adult violin learners. The response to my post was good, and at last count, about 40% of those who said they have tried the Bonmusica shoulder rest didn’t like it, saying they could never get it adjusted to suit them. I did notice a few responders mentioned it fits best for folks who have longer necks.
Looks like the Bonmusica shoulder rest will be added to my little, but growing, box of fiddle accessories along with the original chin that came with my fiddle and another one I tried. The other day I mentioned that many violinists and fiddlers joke about having a similar box of tried-but-failed accessories they have used over time. Too bad there is not a website for swapping such items. We’d all save a lot of money! Back to the drawing board…