Why do violinists use shoulder rests? Violinists use shoulder rests for a number of reasons, including to reduce tension, increase comfort, ensure proper posture, add height and more. Using a shoulder rest is a personal preference. They are not required in order to properly play the violin, though there are many benefits to using one.One thing to consider is if you have a long neck or a short neck. If you have a long neck, you may opt for a shoulder rest to avoid scrunching your neck and potentially causing an injury. Since there is more space between the chin and collarbone, a shoulder rest could help fill the space and create a more comfortable playing experience.
In this article, we will take a closer look at why violinists use shoulder rests, the benefits and limitations of shoulder rests, and the different types of shoulder rests.
Using a shoulder rest can reduce tension and pain while playing, especially if you are playing for a long duration. It can help make the violin feel more comfortable to play as it will alleviate some of the pressure to hold the violin tightly between the shoulder and chin. Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and the author of My New Microphone. He’s an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he’s likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers’ Movement (hikersmovement.com) or producing music. For more info, please check out his YouTube channel and his music. As mentioned, using a shoulder rest is completely up to the individual. They are not required or necessary in order to play the violin, though they can be extremely beneficial to some people. To know if a shoulder rest is right for you, try speaking with an instructor or go to a local music shop. They can also help you figure out the appropriate height needed to suit your needs.On the other hand, if you have a short neck, then using a shoulder rest might not be needed. Although there are benefits to using one, the space to fill is much less and would, therefore, not require a shoulder rest unless you are seeking additional padding for comfort or to stop the violin from slipping.
A great example is the Playonair Deluxe Shoulder Rest (link to check the price on Amazon). This shoulder rest lets you adjust the firmness, has a non-slip finish and will move with your body while playing to provide natural support and cushioning.
Foam shoulder rests are a great affordable option for those on a budget as you can make them yourself with materials around your home. For those looking for a premade one, check out the Players Economy Foam Shoulder Pad (link to check the price on Amazon).
Proper posture is important when it comes to playing the violin and can affect the tone of the violin. When we get tired, it can be easy to let our posture slip. This is where a shoulder rest comes in handy. Using a shoulder rest can help enable proper posture.
Lastly, another common reason violinists use a shoulder rest is to stop the violin from slipping while playing. This helps to ensure our violin stays in its proper place allowing you to play freely without worry that it may fall.A foam shoulder rest is a piece of foam or sponge that attaches to the back of a violin using a rubber band. Although anyone can use these, they tend to be better for people with shorter necks as the thin pads can be more comfortable than a clamp-on rest, and they are not as adjustable in height. Clip-on shoulder rests are a popular choice among many violinists. They have “feet” on either side that clamps onto the bottom of the violin. The feet can adjust both the height and angle to help ensure a proper fit and comfort. The violin is not always the most comfortable instrument to play, so it is no wonder why people add extra devices such as chin and shoulder rests to their violins. Even professional violinists sometimes use shoulder rests. But why do some violinists use shoulder rests and others do not?
For violinists with longer necks, holding a violin without a shoulder rest can cause you to scrunch your neck in order to hold it in place. This can cause pain and discomfort and even make playing the violin unenjoyable. Using a shoulder rest to add height can help reduce this issue.Inflatable shoulder rests are larger in size and cover the full width of the violin. These inflatable pads attach over the lower bout using a strap. Once on, you can inflate it to your desired comfort and height.
A violin shoulder rest is a device that attaches to the back of a violin. When in use, it rests on the shoulders and collarbone. They come in various different shapes, materials and styles, such as clip-on, inflatable and foam. Click here to read more on the different types of shoulder rests.An example of a clip-on shoulder rest is the Everest EZ-1 Shoulder Rest (link to check the price at Sweetwater), which is crafted with optimal comfort in mind and comes in various adjustable sizes. These rests are great for all neck lengths as they are modifiable and come in different shapes, sizes, materials and padding levels.Fiddlershop is a small family-owned business located in South Florida. Since 2012 we have been serving the string community with quality instruments and accessories. We believe that music and instruments should be accessible to everyone at a price they can afford.For even more height, remove the leg screws, and rotate the bracket 180 degrees and re-insert the leg screw (as seen in last two photos). This will bring the clearance to an impressive 63mm, when measured from the bottom of the violin to the center of the chinrest.
The BonMusica violin shoulder rest is extremely versatile with adjustable height, width and curve for a precise fit and optimal comfort, making it one of our most popular shoulder rests.
Does Joshua Bell use a shoulder rest?
I noticed that Bell does indeed use a shoulder rest, but he by no means clenches with the neck; very often his head is far back and the fiddle is completely cradled by the left hand.
Pros: The foam part which goes on the shoulder is very adjustable, and I have been able to experiment with many different set ups. The foam pad is very comfortable and it actually fits in my case!The hook can be moved to provide a good anchorage at the prefered playing position. Height and tilt in 2 planes combined with a bendable plate allow an almost infinite range and will enable the vast majority of players to achieve a comfortable playing experience.
Pros: After a few qualms initially, I found a position for the Shoulder rest that really suits me and I am now extremely happy with it. It is very secure and comfortable and helps with tone and intonation.
Pros: Very comfortable Quick to adjust to the individual Good instructions Vastly improved playing position Frees the left hand fingers to move properlyTypically we despatch “out of stock” items within 7 days. If we expect a delay of more than 7 days, we will email you with an expected despatch date and you will have the option to wait for your item or to cancel your order.
Do pro violinists use shoulder rests?
The violin is not always the most comfortable instrument to play, so it is no wonder why people add extra devices such as chin and shoulder rests to their violins. Even professional violinists sometimes use shoulder rests.
Pros: This is a well designed shoulder rest for serious players. I have used the Bonmusica daily for a year now. Helps to allow a relaxed posture and enables a big projection of sound. The idea of hooking the rest over the shoulder is a good one, and once adjusted it just sits in place waiting, this gives free mobility in the left arm and minimal tension in the jaw. Pros: I found the Bonmusica shoulder rest to be much better than the one I had been using. It hooks over the shoulder to give good support without slipping and I adjusted it to give a really comfortable height. Wouldn’t want to use any other make now. Pros: Most comfortable shoulder rest I’ve ever tried, used to get pain in my left shoulder from constantly raising it upwards towards my chin, the Bonmusica has completely and utterly removed the pain and the violin sits so well on my shoulder it feels like it’s part of me.
Do violinists have bad posture?
Violinists and violists often suffer from conditions in the jaw, back, neck, shoulder and hands, which can be either nerve related or muscular. The disorders are caused by repetitiveness, inappropriate postures and stress brought about by remaining seated for a long time or carrying instruments.
This product is currently out of stock and we are awaiting a delivery from our supplier. You may still order this product but delivery is likely to be delayed.
Does Perlman use a shoulder rest?
Although some debate surrounds the use of shoulder rests, (‘Itzhak Perlman doesn’t use one, and he’s pretty good!’) , many players see them as an essential aid to achieving comfort, stability and confidence in their playing.
Cons: It is a lot more expensive than Resonans/Kun/Wolfe. It does have some adjustable locking nuts which I’ve never need to use. It may not suit players with short necks, since it really lifts the instrument off the shoulder.Other: After developing tennis elbow on the left side and dental problems from clenching my jaw to clamp the vioin steady, the penny finally dropped that my playing position had deteriorated badly over the years I had been playing. I researched violinist injuries and the name of this shoulder rest came up as a possible solution. It took 20-30 minutes from opening the bow to find a comfortable combination of settings to get the position right, but the instructions were very clear and helpful. Then when I started playing I was amazed! The violin was suddenlly weightless, supporting itself on my shoulder! I could use my fingers so much more freely, not having to worry about supporting the vioin. It was in a very different position from where I usually played it and this took a little getting used to especially with the bow hand but my tennis elbow disappeared overnight, muscle tension in my shoulders vanished and my tone therefore improved. I have stopped clenching my jaw while playing and hope to see the benefits on my teeth too! I am now saving up for the same rest for my viola. I will not be returning to a standard rest.This rest can be customised to a very high level and is ideal for players who feel their instrument can slip down, especially in the higher playing positions.Alternatively, ‘soft’ types usually mean a pad attached with adhesive or elastic bands, such as Huber pads or our specially shaped sponges. These are often good for younger children or those who require cushioning rather than height.As a guide, if you find yourself having to raise your shoulder or tilt your head to hold the instrument securely, it may be advisable to try a shoulder rest.
However, it really depends on your individual physical makeup, your teacher’s advice and what is most comfortable for you. Our necks and shoulders are all different, so what suits one player will not necessarily suit another.
Not to be confused with the chin rest (which is the solid fixture on the front of the instrument where your chin sits), the shoulder rest is a removable accessory, which attaches to the back of the instrument.Using the right model can prevent you developing bad habits which could lead to tension and injury. It’s definitely worth investing in the right accessories at the beginning rather than in physiotherapy later on!
‘Solid’ models attach to the instrument’s edges with rubber feet and include popular brands such as Kun, Everest, Viva, Wolf or Bonmusica. Generally these models provide adjustable heights and/or angles, and great stability for the instrument.
Although some debate surrounds the use of shoulder rests, (‘Itzhak Perlman doesn’t use one, and he’s pretty good!’), many players see them as an essential aid to achieving comfort, stability and confidence in their playing.
Victoria Fifield is a violin and viola specialist at Stringers of London. Her diverse career has so far included working as a professional violinist, artist and designer, and teaching in the UK and the Palestinian Territories.
As well as these observational tests, your appointment will also let you experience how the different models feel as you hold the instrument and play. This is perhaps the most important element, as ultimately it is about what feels most comfortable and natural for you.Let’s face it – as violinists or violists we balance a piece of wood on our collarbones, sometimes for hours at a time. Ouch! Although arguably not the most natural or comfortable activity, this can be hugely remedied with the help of a shoulder rest.
Although this is not an exact science, our violin and viola specialists have developed a method to help match you with your most suitable shoulder rest. Using our wide selection of testers in store, our specialists will observe how well each model fits your individual physique. As we experiment we will observe:
I have been through all the various options mentioned here for considerable periods and performances, and am currently on the fixed Playonair. I find each option – including not using a shoulder rest – has it’s pros and its cons and it’s up to each individual player to see what works best for him/her. For students I find it important to try and play with and without a shoulder rest – without this it is hard for students to know what those pros and cons are. There seems to be a misunderstood notion that students MUST use shoulder rests, which I don’t think is accurate – though once again with tall students, I would recommend it more enthusiastically than with others. A common substitute for chin rests has long been sponge – in From Mao to Mozart, over twenty years ago, Isaac Stern famously surprised students with placing sponge on the inside of his T-shirt. More commonly, various types of sponge have been placed over the instrument using rubber band. The packing sponge for air conditioners is apparently useful because it doesn’t ‘squash’ too easily. The other recommended option (mentioned to me by Prof. James Dunham) is makeup sponge: b) A major problem is that on certain instruments the shoulder can fall off, which actually caused me a serious hand injuries at one time. One easy fix is just to adjust the elastic sections to be tighter. If this does not do the job, experimentation has allowed me another way to fix the Playonair problem:
which as you can see can be placed without rubber bands. A few layers of rubber cement is used on one side of the sponge, and left to dry. The result is a stickiness that is (in Prof. Dunham’s words) just a shade stickier than Post-It Notes.
There are various shoulder rests being made today which are based on some sort of foam or sponge, though I haven’t tried them personally to say one way or another how well they work.in part because the wood base apparently vibrates along with the instrument (there’s actually a tailpiece connecting gut that applies the same concept, as well the ball ends of the Titanium strings, but that’s another story). It does have a bigger sound – though with certain strings I have found the tone/timbre of the sound can change as well, in terms of balance of the strings.
This really depends on how it works with you. The ‘regular’ position of the Playonair has the advantage of propping up the C string to allow for easier bow access, but one has to watch out for the other side effects which may occur to posture.
Suspended bars are the most common of shoulder rests, popular brands for students being Kun and Wolf. The way it works is that by suspending the instrument away from the shoulder, the bottom plate resonates better, and provides a bigger sound. The main problem is that it makes holding the instrument a little more stiff (particularly in moving the instrument left and right), which can have negative effects on flexibility during playing. It is, however, good for tall students to avoid neck pain.
a) A former teacher recommended putting it on ‘backwards’, i.e. with the larger end away from the shoulder. This has the effect of pushing the right side of the instrument up, helping to support a better posture overall, as well as flexibility.
Shoulder rests are a “big deal” to many people. This is no real surprise, since shoulder rests can change the sound of an instrument dramatically and instantly. (Which, I think on some level is also because even the best practice produces results rather gradually.)
Out of the more advanced models are the Bon Musica, the Comford Shoulder Cradle, and the Mach One. I personally find the Bon Musica particularly stiff, though some say that it fits certain people’s shoulders (particularly the curve) better than others. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Comford for comfort, the only downside is that it’s really heavy. Professionals tend to recommend the Mach One:
Very often these two goals can contradict each other – the shoulder rests which are great for sound are not usually the most comfortable, and vice versa. For a long time I used to value sound production above everything else, since as a violist this was even more important than for the violin. However in recent years I have come to think that it’s more important to feel comfortable so that the ability to best put your interpretation forward comes before the acoustics.
The part highlighted was originally held in place by the piece of rubber. This piece of rubber also ensured the plastic didn’t scratch the instrument. However, the position (for some instruments) also can cause the whole shoulder rest to fall off, especially when moving the instrument from right to left. As you can see from the same higlighted area, sewing it up can solve the problem, together with moving the rubber slightly lower (adjust to your own instrument) to make sure the plastic doesn’t cause any damage.
There are many who advocate not using a shoulder rest at all – that it allows for a better connection with the instrument. It is interesting to note that when the instrument is lifted upwards, the sound projection is said to be better than any other option, because even shoulder rests clamp the sides of the instrument. The problem is that raising he instrument for long periods is often clumsy and uncomfortable, especially during shifts.These supports are filled with air, inflated with some sort of tube. These won’t provide the same kind of projection as the suspended ones, and are more on the side of providing a comforatable experience.
Do shoulder rests affect sound?
This is no real surprise, since shoulder rests can change the sound of an instrument dramatically and instantly.
If a student has become accustomed to playing with the thumb extended too far forward, it’s very difficult to move that thumb back and, without any pressure on the neck of the violin, to get the fingers articulating independently. The fingers must bounce off the strings like little springs. Every finger has to be independent. Only in this position comes pure intonation. The left hand becomes like a machine. No matter where it is on the violin, the intonation will be perfect and pure.
Why do some violinists not use a shoulder rest?
The reasons to forego a shoulder rest are often more nebulous and aesthetic in nature, though not strictly so. Some claim that shoulder rests dampen the natural resonances of the instrument; others simply want to keep with tradition, and many documented violin greats (Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, et al.)
The control of vibrato speed is never as good with a shoulder rest. The fingertip rotates on the string and the vibrato often comes from the arm rather than the fingertip and is usually very one-dimensional. Only without a shoulder rest can one develop a personal sound that is identifiable. Heifetz, Milstein, Elman, Oistrakh and Szigeti managed beautifully without one.Heifetz would tell pupils not to walk into his studio if they had a shoulder rest. I’m not quite that severe, but I do strongly discourage them. They place the violin in the wrong position and upset the angle of the fingertip on the string that produces vibrato. The position of the left arm is completely out of place, because in the Auer school the violin rests on the clavicle rather than the shoulder. Your eye should look down the fingerboard to the scroll, and the left arm has to be placed well under the violin. With a shoulder rest, the left elbow flies out because the shoulder rest – not the player – is holding the violin.
The shoulder rest also affects the bow arm. If you move the violin to the left, the right arm must be extended, requiring the application of more pressure to the string. That increased pressure employs not only the hand or wrist but also the arm, a fundamental breach of proper position for Auer and all the other great players of the past.
Position is the most important thing in developing good players, as it affects the tone. Odd as it may seem, no one these days will tell you how to hold the violin. In all parts of the world now, teachers are advising their pupils to use a shoulder rest because they say it makes playing easier.
August 30, 2008 at 08:07 AM · Thank you so much for this interview with Joshua Bell. I have enjoyed, and have been deeply moved by, his playing for years, both on cd, as well as in live performance (for instance, in the early ’80’s at Tanglewood!). As a composer (my page here has one sound clip), I was interested in something I read a year ago about his recent interest in composing larger works (in addition to cadenzas). If there were a follow-up from him to Laurie’s excellent live interview, perhaps it might be possible to hear how he feels about this idea at this point? Thanks for all of the great information and links on this site, by the way!
The day after this performance, I interviewed Joshua Bell at his publicist’s home in Studio City. It was his last in what sounded like a marathon day of interviews. He wore white shirt and dark pants, his boyish mop of hair messy and tousled. He talked with patience and polish through most any subject. His face lit up a few times – when he spoke about writing cadenzas, and conducting. He said he also loves computers, science and gadgets.
The Chausson Poéme is a piece with an amorphous beginning in the orchestra, which slowly swirls around itself, until the solo violin takes over. It’s a rather exposed beginning for the soloist, but I imagine that with the Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius violin of 1713, one might not feel alone. Bell has Strad sound, and he’s not afraid to use it in all its glorious range, from the laid-bare intimacy of the Poéme’s introduction, to a mounting series of double stops that flows into the all-out emotional wailing at the center of this piece.They said, “You have to go to Juilliard. You’ve got to move to New York and study with this teacher.” I won’t say who…. “And then you’ll get your connections there.” And I did my own thing. I stayed with Gingold and found my own way. And I didn’t go to competitions – international competitions. I managed to avoid it. But I found my own way, and there’s not just one way to do it.
Joshua: Well, I was scared to play it. When I wrote it, I was doing it just for fun. Actually, the second it was done, I never went back to any other cadenza. Because I figured, “I’ve just written this, and it’s different. And why not do it?”
In a way, another memorable experience was my debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra when I was 14. That was my first big concert. I was playing with a sponge and a rubber band as my shoulder rest, and the rubber band had sort of come off. I felt it slipping. So just before the cadenza of the Mozart Concerto , I had just a few moments to get it back. I was quickly trying to put the rubber band in the right place, and I accidentally let go of it. It flew all the way across and hit the principal violist in the head! [Laughter] So I played the cadenza without a shoulder rest, and then after the first movement, [the orchestra members] all passed it along up to the front, where I reattached it. That was my debut.Also, watching Carlos Kleiber on video conducting the Bavarian [State Orchestra]. I love watching him conduct Beethoven’s symphonies. Or even his Vienna New Year’s Concert. He’s conducting music that’s not even my favorite music — Strauss waltzes and things. He elevates it to great music. And what I like about Kleiber is that it seems like every tempo that he picks is exactly right. He’s not trying to make a statement. Sometimes you feel, with conductors or violinists, that they’re always trying to make a statement or be provocative in some way, instead of just finding the exact tempo. It should just feel right. It should be about the music. And with Kleiber, there’s no showboating. You feel like he is what the Beethoven Symphony is supposed to be. Perhaps Laurie can interview soon ALbrecht Breuninger, Vilmos Szabadi, Aaron Rosand, Olivier Charlier, Gerard Poulet, Philippe Graffin, who have all recorded rarities and are much more worth for the violincommunity to archive this great unknown music on cd. Thank you very much Laurie for this wonderful interview. I enjoyed reading Mr. Bell’s take on many things. I agree with his rant – and I always love the fact that the higher up a violinist is, the more respect they have for their colleagues and differences between artistic approaches.
Hopefully, some of that element came out in the recording. I think the harpsichord player did a lot of fun improvisation and irreverent improvisations that helped characterize a lot of the movements. I was happy with the collaboration.
Joshua Bell: Well, you could say that about any piece of classical music. We’re always retelling the stories, but they’re stories that are relevant and very personal. You really won’t find two interpretations alike of the Vivaldi, especially today. First, you have so many different ways of approaching Baroque music, from the hardcore early-instrument approach, to the people who dive into it wholeheartedly – the Romantic approach — which is, I think, equally valid. Also, the Vivaldi has so much room for ornamentation and improvisation. So I think there’s always room for another version of The Four Seasons.They’re not able to open up their minds and enjoy it on the terms that the person is presenting it – as a performance. I’m guilty as much as anybody. But if you can unblock yourself and try to get inside an interpretation of someone that may be eccentric, or listen to an old Mischa Elman, without saying, “Oh God, those gross slides. Listen to the tasteless stuff.” If you can try to get beyond that, and really see the poetry that’s underneath it — it’s a different sound. There’s room for a lot of ways of playing. That’s what makes it so rich and interesting in the musical world. August 29, 2008 at 08:54 PM · Laurie – wonderful interview. I especially enjoyed your comments in the beginning. Nah, I enjoyed it all! A thank you to Joshua Bell, as well, for taking the time to let you speak with him. Joshua: No. Obviously, after doing lots of performances of it, varying it from night to night, I’d feel that certain things worked better than others, and I’d try to remember them. But I would experiment around, even in the recording studio. When I was editing the record, I’d have to choose between which ones I thought sounded better. So I wasn’t completely set on exactly what I was going to do.As a violin teacher, Joshua B. is a wonderful example to use as a variant of classic posture…The angle of his neck/head aren’t for everyone. Much like Perlman’s left thumb, and bow grip. When assessing a student’s posture one has to be prudent about what to change and what to allow. Like tennis player, R. Nadal, his uncle and coach had him play left-handed even though he is a natural rightie….seems to have been a beneficial change, but not for everyone. If a beginning adult violinist tried to play with J’s posture, certainly suggestions would be offered.
August 29, 2008 at 07:06 PM · Thank you so much for interviewing Mr. Bell. He is one of my favorite violinists, and I find his approach to music very unique, though very diligent and honest.If I might begin a slight rant about one of the problems I find — even on websites like Violinist.com. It’s a good thing that people talk about [the violin]. But if you go on YouTube – especially among young people, they have this sort of competition-type attitude when they listen to violinists play.I play a lot of chamber music, myself. It’s a big part of my life. I think one of the things I’ve learned, also, is that there’s not just one path to success. You have to find your own way. When I was a kid, many people told me, “There’s only one way.”Joshua: Yeah. Sure. Definitely that happens a lot in concert. Every night was something different; he would spur me on to a different kind of ornamentation. A lot of the tone was set by the harpsichord player (John Constable) as well.
Does violin sound better without shoulder rest?
The control of vibrato speed is never as good with a shoulder rest. The fingertip rotates on the string and the vibrato often comes from the arm rather than the fingertip and is usually very one-dimensional. Only without a shoulder rest can one develop a personal sound that is identifiable.
Finally, I got to the end of the slow movement, and before the last movement, I just ran offstage. Actually, I ran offstage, and I couldn’t find my dressing room! Finally, I made it, just in time, before I threw up. But that was in the middle of a concert. Then I went back on and played the last movement.
The piano is not the most singing,melodic instrument. To me, those slow movements in Mozart can sing on the violin better. And it’s also a throwback to my old heroes, like Heifetz and [Fritz] Kreisler, who did that all the time.
Laurie: People love the arrangements you used for your Romance of the Violin, Gershwin Fantasy; and West Side Story albums. Are you ever going to make them available? What is your take on possibly publishing violin and piano reductions on those? Joshua: Well, my teacher before Gingold was Mimi Zweig, who I’m very close with still. And she has a great academy in Bloomington every summer. She professes that no one should use a shoulder rest. That was until that first spellbinding utterance from Bell’s Stradivarius, in Ernest Chausson’s Poéme. Suddenly the audience quieted; the only extra noise came from the singing crickets on the hillside. If the performance had until this moment seemed like a distant concert on a screen, it now felt live, with Bell to focus it. What makes for a world-class soloist? It’s this ability to grab people with your sound and hold them rapt.Joshua: That was one of the big challenges, is how to get back into it. And I had to come at it from a different angle, which was fun. But I did it for fun, for myself. The Mendelssohn Concerto is one of my top three violin concertos. It’s the most sublime, perfect piece. But frankly, the cadenza was never my favorite part of the Mendelssohn. Except the end [of the cadenza]. I don’t know for sure, but I wonder how much Ferdinand David, for whom it was written, actually contributed to the cadenza. That’s, at least, my excuse for saying that I should be allowed to do mine.
Joshua: I mean Mendelssohn himself wrote piano accompaniments to the Bach Chaccone. It shows how the view of music was very wide open. Here we had Bach Chaccone, which is the most sacred and perfect piece — How could you ever improve on it? And Mendelssohn and Schumann and others, they added the piano accompaniment, just for the celebration of the music, in their own way. No one, at that time, would ever say, “Oh, you’re defiling the piece.” That’s just what was done. Music was very much more free to experiment We’re kind of obsessed a little bit too much with authentic playing of everything – authentically in the original form. That’s why I enjoy being a little irreverent with the arrangements. I arranged, for the Voice of the Violin, the Mozart Piano Concerto, the famous slow movement. I always thought, “Actually, I think it sounds better on the violin.”
How do you adjust Bon Musica shoulder rest?
Parts on your bond musica. And I’ll describe briefly what access they’re going to be used to adjust. And then I’ll go ahead and put it on my violin. And show you a few things.
I like his perspective about conducting as a form of teaching. The conductor I have enjoyed playing with the most is one who is a very good teacher. I’ve learned so much about music from the inside this way.Again, one of your best interviews…and it’s good to see Joshua getting deserved recognition. As for the complainant about his stale repertoire, I’m sure there’ll be folks unhappy in heaven ! The close-cropped TV images of Bell emphasized his considerable movement during performing; and they also allowed for a peek at technique, which I enjoyed especially during Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, a piece written in 1863 and dedicated to the technical wizard, Pablo de Sarasate. I noticed that Bell does indeed use a shoulder rest, but he by no means clenches with the neck; very often his head is far back and the fiddle is completely cradled by the left hand. His chinrest is right in the middle, over the tailpiece. You might say, ‘Yeah, if I had a Strad, I could play like that.’ But not so. It’s the other way around. If you were driven your whole life to play like that, then you might recognize your voice in that Strad and bank your whole existence on buying it, like he did. He may be a violin superstar, but I’m still guessing that $4 million put a dent in his wallet.outstanding interviews from laurie is almost a given so not noteworthy anymore. what i find impressive is the first 2 paragraphs where she laid out the undercurrents leading to the interview, with confidence, class, style and fairness. to me, that is leadership and management. When I work with an orchestra – a youth orchestra, or I’m leading or directing an orchestra – I feel that I’m playing the role of teacher, explaining why I want to do something, and why it makes sense, and getting them to do it in a way that feels natural, and not just kind of imitating something I’m telling them to do. That’s an important thing too. I’ve performed with Roger Norrington, and I recorded a Beethoven and Mendelssohn (performance) with Norrington. I’ve performed with John Eliot Gardiner.Laurie: That brings me to the idea of teaching. I know that you’ve developed a new affiliation with Indiana University. Are you moving in the direction of teaching?
Does shoulder rest affect violin sound?
The study found that the addition of a shoulder rest affected the balance and amplitude of the overtones that compose sustained tones on the studied violins, thus altering the timbre of the instrument.
Those are the kind of musicians I like. For example, with someone like [pianist] Radu Lupu, it’s just exactly right. It’s not extreme in any way, yet there’s nothing unexciting about his playing. It’s exciting when it
I like the fact that Josh writes some cadenzas. I’m not sure whether I prefer his to the traditional ones, but I like the idea that he broke a barrier and started doing some things his own way. I hope other musicians will follow suit.
August 31, 2008 at 06:57 AM · Laurie, thanks so much for your detailed and enlightening interview with Joshua Bell. Thank you, Josh, for sharing so many great insights.Joshua: Actually, I think a lot about trying to minimize movements when I play, or trying to be more efficient in my playing. But if I try to be totally still, I feel inhibited, and I can’t be as expressive as I want to be. I’m sure certain people accuse me of moving around too much. And sometimes, they’re absolutely right. I think there are times where you’re actually making it more difficult, when you have a moving target.
Joshua: You kind of learn on the job, your way of doing it. I think it’s dangerous to even start extolling advice about what to do when you’re a soloist. Because one of the biggest problems amongst students going into colleges and schools is that they think that’s the only ultimate goal: to be a soloist.
commercial middle of the road violinist with a safe and rather dull repertoirelist (not even on his website), perhaps a little better than other violinists, but I am not waiting for his 4seasons and I won’t listen to his interpretation, because I know the piece too well.Again, it’s an ornament. One of the mistakes I feel that students make is that the trills all sound like you stuck your finger in an electric socket. (He laughs.) It may be impressive to do something like that. But it doesn’t sound organic or musical at all, if it sounds like the way a synthesizer would do a perfect trill.
Joshua: I’ve had a lot of different influences. My primary influence was Josef Gingold, and you might say, he comes from the old school. But within the old school, there were different approaches as well. Gingold was born in Russia, but yet he studied with Ysaye. Really, his way of playing lent itself more to the French-Belgian school, rather than the traditional Russian school. But in his day and age, there was the common denominator among whatever schools there were, that there wasn’t a lot of thought about, or worrying about, being authentic. In a way, I love that. I love the fact that the music was unabashedly expressive, not self-conscious about style. It was very honest. Of course, it wasn’t the way Vivaldi would have heard it in his time. But there’s an honesty to that way of playing which is really wonderful.
I find that it’s sort of a novice mistake. I find it even more among complete amateurs, who are not even in music at all. They’ve grown up with their one recording of a piece. They’ll complain to me, “Oh, I heard this opera sung by this person. And oh, it’s terrible, because it should be this way.” Because this is the way they view that piece. September 1, 2008 at 01:33 AM · I liked the idea about becoming a soloist. If you’re thinking how great your are and how you can get into the music better than everyone else, your never going to do it. That’s a very humble attitude and Mr. Gingold was alot like that.It’s also good know that it’s not just about making lots of CD’s, playing alot of concerts, making sure everyone knows who you are. Thoughtful interview. Thanks August 31, 2008 at 07:21 PM · Insightful and very interesting interview. Congratulations to you for having had the opportunity to do so and thank you for posting.If I were to stand totally still and just move my right or left arms, it may sound just as good. Heifetz hardly moved. But he’s a rare person to be able to do that. It would be hard to convey that way, when you’re playing with an orchestra. Even playing with a conductor, I think they get a lot of cues from the movement as well. In the end, they have to follow me as much as they follow the conductor. It’s the most fun and creative thing I think I’ve done, to sit down to write a new cadenza. It started with the Brahms Concerto when I was 20 years old. So it’s a bit daunting, when you go in the studio thinking, “This is the way it’s gonna be down for your legacy, for your grandchildren, as the way you did it.” I’m careful before I record something, that I feel ready enough to do it. I felt ready for The Four Seasons.The sunset brings mild chill, and as darkness falls I look at my $1 program and think, what could be more tiresome than a Berlioz March? The Hollywood Bowl seats some 18,000 patrons, thus for everyone to see the action, it requires not only two large video screens that flank the stage, but also other sets of screens higher up, for those in back. To me, the Berlioz seemed rather amplified and distant, and I had to remind myself to watch the real orchestra and not just stare at the T.V. screen. The Berlioz had not arrested anyone’s attention, certainly not mine, when violinist Joshua Bell emerged on the stage to much applause but also still to much chair scraping, chattering, clanking of dinnerware and giggling.
Joshua: No. I’ve had to write some of them down when I make the recordings of them, for the producer to have something to look at. But generally, I compose them with the violin. And by the time I’ve figured it out, it’s so in my head, that I don’t bother to write them down.
It’s not for everybody, and it’s not the only way to have a career in music. The great example that I had in front of me was my teacher, Gingold, who was an incredible violinist. He always played so much better than his students, which is not always the case.I especially liked Joshua Bell’s take on authenticity: “In a way, I love that. I love the fact that the music was unabashedly expressive, not self-conscious about style. It was very honest.” Food for thought.
They make comments like, “This person sucks.” If one says someone plays something well, the idea that you need to trash someone else. Of course, you have your favorite. But I think it’s really important for young people to open their minds to other ways of playing and other ways of appreciating music.
And for me, I’ve been playing it since I was very young, and I’ve probably performed it hundreds of times. I had been touring it with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and I felt ready to put it down on disc. Basically, it’s my version, at this point in my life. A year from now, I’d probably play it differently. But that’s all you can really say about a recording, that it’s a snapshot in time. Unfortunately, it lives forever, and people view it as being the way I play that piece.Joshua: A trill is not supposed to sound like that. So I play around with it, what feels right to me: sometimes fast, sometimes slow. There are tricks that I use sometimes. If it’s a half-step trill, and it’s very high up, sometimes I just actually do it like a fast vibrato and let it hit the note. But that creates a different kind of sound as well. Sometimes it sounds better to have a clean, independent motion with the finger. It all depends on what you think is appropriate for the situation.I like Josh’s comments on using vibrato as an ornament, not a constant. While listening to his recordings, I have noticed that he sometimes plays with no vibrato and that when he does use vibrato, he makes the most of it. He varies its properties to help communicate his own understanding of the music. I agree that art is more important than authenticity. I’ve been thinking about these issues a lot lately, as I am going back to some Bach pieces that I haven’t played in years.
September 1, 2008 at 09:11 PM · Thanks for all your wonderful responses! Also, thank you to everyone who submitted questions, including Brian Hong, Karin Lin, Todd Carlsen, Michael Divino, Tommy Atkinson, Eitan Silkoff, Terry Hsu, Jenny Fischer, okay you ALL gave me great ideas for interview questions, I can’t name everybody! As always, Violinist.com is a community effort.
Laurie: What is your advice for aspiring violin soloists? For example, is there anything that you can think of now, that you wish you’d known back then, just to make life manageable, to cope with being a soloist?Joshua: Like vibrato, trills can vary so much, depending on the context. Sometimes I like a very slow trill. Like at the end of the Chausson “Poéme,” I like a trill that gets slower and slower, until it becomes one note.The same with vibrato. Every note should have its own vibrato, depending on the color and the mood. When you’re used to varying your vibrato, it happens naturally. You shouldn’t even have to think about it; it becomes organic to your playing. But you can experiment in the practice room with vibrato. It’s something very hard to teach. I think I developed my own sort of arm vibrato that works for me. It’s sort of something very personal and distinct. When you listen to old recordings, Heifetz’s vibrato was very distinct.
What shoulder rest does Hilary Hahn use?
Fun Fact: Hilary Hahn uses a Bon Musica shoulder rest.
But also, when you’re playing with people, and especially when you’re doing a lot more leading without a conductor – even with Mendelssohn and Beethoven concertos and Bruch concertos without a conductor — the movement can demonstrate. I use movement to show a lot, basically conducting and playing at the same time. If you’re almost dancing with the instrument a little bit, it conveys a certain way that the orchestra can feel – almost like a conductor’s movements.
Joshua: Well, although I live much of the time in New York; Bloomington, Indiana is still my home. My family lives there. I grew up around the university, so I’ve always felt very close to it. I wouldn’t dream of taking on a teaching position anywhere else. They’ve been asking me for a while to teach at the university, so I’ve taken on a small commitment – two weeks a year, at the moment. It’s just one week each semester. But eventually, hopefully, it will grow into something more. But I don’t want to give up my concert schedule.
The early music approach has done wonderful things as well. It’s raised our awareness as to what it might have sounded like at the time, and also done great things with tempo, that over the years had gotten heavier and slower in the approach to Baroque music.
Joshua, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with Laurie. You’ve presented a very refreshing perspective on the role of music in life (and life in music!), on the importance of the human element. After all, for what other purpose does music exist?
Seriously, I like his comments about people opening their minds to all types of music and all types of musical styles. There is no right or wrong with art. It’s simply the artists interpretation put out there for anyone to enjoy.
So I don’t have a hard or fast rule. But you have to be comfortable and try relax the muscles that are not necessarily for playing the violin are not being used trying to hold your violin on your neck. So I use what Mimi calls a “Brooklyn Bridge.”Joshua: Probably the worst experience, that’s funny now, would be early in my career, when I was playing in Alaska, and I had food poisoning. I was playing the Mendelssohn Concerto, and I was so nauseous and sick. I barely remember the slow movement, because I was trying to fight back throwing up. There’s no break, even to run off stage. He did not know that Ysaye had written a violinconcerto and for the rest he has a quite poor repertoireknowledge and did not knew the violinconcerto’s I gave him in Arnhem, Netherlands. So I’m going against her. [He smiles.] I think her advice is good. If you can do without it, it’s good. But for me, I feel more comfortable with the shoulder rest. And in the end, relaxation is the key – and feeling that you’re most efficiently using your muscles. So if you need to tense your shoulder to keep the violin in place, then playing without a shoulder rest is not doing you any good.