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Re-aligning the equipment

From Shoulder Rest to Collar Bone Rest

3. Getting off the shoulder

1. Pressure points to avoid: top of shoulder joint (acromion), chest muscle and lower part of breastbone
2. Preferred position: middle of collar bone and on or near upper part of breastbone

Pressure points to avoid:
The shoulder rest should not be allowed to press on:

  • The tip of the shoulder (acromion)
    Pressure on the tip of the shoulder immobilizes the shoulder blade and shoulder joint.
  • The chest muscles
    Pressure on the chest muscles also restricts movement in the arm.
  • The lower part of the breast bone
    The lower part of the breast bone is more flexible than the upper part and responds to pressure by collapsing down and in, disturbing the breathing as well as the alignment and poise of the whole body.

If the shoulder rest presses on these spots, the player can have trouble moving freely in the left arm and hand. This also affects the mobility of the bow arm. If the shoulder rest also raises the instrument off the collar bone, then the only choice is to clamp it diagonally between jaw and shoulder, increasing pressure.

1. Tip of shoulder: the acromion. The shoulder rest should not touch here.
2. Acromion: where the collar bone and shoulder blade meet.

Acromion: the tip of the shoulder where the collar bone and shoulder blade meet to form the socket of the shoulder joint.

In a common reaction to the pressure on the acromion, the violinist pulls the shoulder forward and up to secure the instrument. The left shoulder blade is then locked in place, no longer able to move. This can be aggravated further if the height of the shoulder rest is not adjusted properly or the form of the shoulder rest does not match the player’s body (see below).

The left shoulder and shoulder blade pull up and forward, restricting movement


The big chest muscle (pectoralis major) is directly connected to the upper arm. Pressure here can make it more difficult to hold the left arm in playing position for an extended period.

Anatomy drawing from: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum, Kendall, Spieren, 3e druk, ISBN: 9031327301.  

Paginanummer 73.  


Preferred position:
The shoulder rest can sit on:

  • The middle of the collar bone
    Positioning chin rest here frees left shoulder joint for movement.
  • The upper part of the breast bone
    The upper part of the breast bone is less flexible than the lower part and can support the instrument without disturbing the mobility of the ribs.

When the cushion of the shoulder rest is placed here, closer in towards the neck, the shoulder joint and chest muscles are left free to move. The upper part of the breast bone and the middle of the collar bone are sturdy structures that can well support the instrument. The chin rest should provide the basic support. When the basic support of the instrument is between collar bone and jaw (straight down) the stimulus to clamp between jaw and shoulder (diagonally) is removed, decreasing harmful pressure.

1. Shoulder rest presses on top of shoulder joint restricting movement.
2. Shoulder rest moved to middle of collar bone, freeing shoulder joint.

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