How to Play the Violin Without a Shoulder Rest

by | Apr 10, 2019 | Interviews, Play Comfortably | 2 comments

With the Kreddle cushion it’s easier and more comfortable to play the violin without a shoulder rest

I interview Jordan Hayes about the advantages of playing without a shoulder rest and the idea behind the Kreddle Cushion

I know the discussion about whether to use a shoulder rest can be very heated

In this interview I’d just like to give you some ideas to think about. Of course everybody and every body is different. There are great violinists playing with shoulder rest and great vioinists playing without. Choose what fits YOU best.

The pro’s and cons of using a shoulder rest

The advantages of playing the violin with a shoulder rest are:

  • A shoulder rest gives you stability and makes it easier to have a proper violin hold.
  • You can adjust it to the shape of your shoulder.
  • It frees up your left hand.
  • It makes the violin a bit higher, so you don’t have to bend your neck.

The disadvantages are:

  • It doesn’t challenge you to develop balance and stability yourself.
  • The shoulder rest can slide off while playing.
  • It strains your neck and shoulder as you’re not using your left arm and hand to hold the violin.
  • A lot of people keep struggling, buying lots of shoulder rests, adjusting them infinitely, but never finding a comfortable violin hold.

The pro’s and cons of playing the violin without a shoulder rest

The advantages of playing the violin WITHOUT a shoulder rest are:

  • It gives you a lot of freedom of movement and expression. You don’t clench the violin with your neck and shoulder. You develop balance and flexibility in your violin hold, making it more comfortable and improving your general violin technique.
  • Your violin can sound better as it’s not muted by a shoulder rest. (this depends on what type of shoulder rest you compare it to)
  • It activates your left arm en hand, which can improve your left hand technique in general.

 The disadvantages are:

  • You have to learn a whole new playing technique for the left hand when you’re used to playing with a shoulder rest.
  • The violin feels hard on your collar bone and can be uncomfortable.
  • You experience less stability than with a shoulder rest and can’t adjust the violin to your body (except for the chinrest).

What is a Kreddle Cushion?

kreddle cushionThe Cushion is an alternative to a shoulder rest. It’s a small accessory you can place on almost any chinrest bracket (except the Wittner composite rests).

When playing with the cushion and a higher chinrest, the violin is not too high, you don’t have the lower your head and the violin rests on the collar bone.

The Cushion can’t slide off like a regular shoulder rest. Watch the video above to see how you place it on your violin and how you can play comfortable with a relaxed violin hold.

The Cushion of course gives you less stability than a shoulder rest. This requires a different playing technique, where your left arm and hand are more active. However you CAN do position play and vibrato just as well as you can with a shoulder rest.

If you’re struggling with pain while violin playing, adjusting your shoulder rest or any other violin hold problem, the Cushion is a certainly an alternative you can explore.

Click here to watch my other interview with Jordan Hayes about the fully adjustable Kreddle chinrest and how to play the violin comfortably.

What are my personal experiences with the Kreddle Cushion?

I’ve tried out playing with the Kreddle chinrest and Cushion extensively and followed the tips from this interview and my other interview with Jordan Hayes.

No matter the adjustment, it didn’t feel 100% comfortble for me. When I switch back to my Viva la Musica Diamond shoulder rest and my Stradivari chinrest, it felt like a relief. I decided to stick with my current set up. 

I know it’s tempting to copy me or another violinist, but please find what works best for YOU. Choosing your set up is very important and very personal.

Disclaimer: good rests can’t compensate bad playing technique

Always remember that it’s 80% playing technique and 20% rests. D0n’t spend all your time and money on chinrests and shoulder rests. Work on your body, balance and violin hold FIRST. Choose a chinrest, shoulder rest, cushion or nothing based on a healthy posture.

I’d love to read your experiences!

What are your thoughts on the Cushion or playing without shoulder rest in general? What chinrest and/or shoulder rest are you currently using? Are you comfortable while playing the violin? Share it in the comments below!


  1. Ella

    I know that this is a late response, but I’ll share it anyway. I am quite neutral on this topic, as I am neither for or against shoulder rest use. I have read a TON of discussions on shoulder rest vs no shoulder rest online, and I have concluded that it really depends on what suits your unique physiology and playing style; some people are in huge trouble without shoulder rests while others find them totally unnecessary or even annoying. I do, however, think that at
    least 80% of violinists and violists do benefit from something to stop the instrument from slipping; even a small cloth or sponge counts. I also think that going restless generally requires a certain body structure, plus a healthy way of balancing the instrument between chin, collarbone/shoulder, left arm and left hand.
    The bottom line is, use whatever is most comfortable and allows you to play with the most physical ease and comfort, whether it is using a shoulder rest, a piece of foam, or nothing. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this shoulder rest vs no shoulder rest debate is just plain silly and pointless. I think this debate stems from dogmatism, aka the idea that everything MUST be done in one, very particular way. If we can be more open to the unique needs and wishes of each individual (which many of us, thankfully, already consider, including you and me), this debate would not be nearly as heated.

    Personally, I started with a sponge and eventually got a Kun and have been very happy ever since. And yes, I also love my Wittner chinrest. I’ve tried going restless for fun, and often when I’m trying violins, I’ll go restless because it’s more convenient. I can manage for short periods of time. Long term, unless I’m wearing clothing with lots of padding in the shoulder area, I find it very hard to balance the instrument because my physical structure
    means that the instrument only seems to touch a very small part of my collarbone, which doesn’t provide nearly enough stability even if the chinrest is the right height and shape. I could pull my shoulder forward to make my collarbone more exposed, but that doesn’t seem healthy either. I just really need something to stop the violin from slipping in the long haul; even a sponge will do, if the shape fits me, of


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