Attaching a shoulder rest to a violin is a rather simple process. You should, however, remember to be careful with the instrument since violins are fragile and may scratch easily. Shoulder rests are not required equipment. Well-known violinsts, including Itzak Perlman, do not use them. But for those that do need them understanding what type of pad best fits your body is most important in correctly attaching a shoulder rest.
Attaching a Manufactured Shoulder Rest
Research some of the shoulder rest manufacturers like Kun, Wolf and Viva-SAS. These and rests from other makers can be purchased via your local violin shop or online at Sharmusic.com.
Take the violin from its case and set it upright on your knee as you sit. The front of the instrument should be facing away from you.
Take the shoulder rest, making sure that the feet are standing perpendicular to the pad, not "tucked under" and parallel to it. Note the widest part of the pad and slide the feet below this area along the lower back edge of the violin. Start near the chin rest area and slowly move it upward until it is at an acceptable position, at least a few inches from the chin rest area.
Take the other side of the shoulder rest where the narrow part of the pad is located and slide the feet below this area on the opposite side of the back edge of the violin. Do this until the shoulder rest pad is about perpendicular to the violin.
Place the violin between your chin and collarbone, as if you were about to play. Determine how comfortable the shoulder rest feels. Make adjustments as needed, making sure to carefully move the padded feet along the back edge of the violin. You do not want to damage it by scratching or denting it.
Making Additional Adjustments to Your Shoulder Rest
Make additional adjustments to the shoulder rest if it does not fit well. One possibility is to use temporary padding. This can be done most simply by using a small towel or soft, thick cloth between the collarbone and the shoulder rest. Alternatively, placing the cloth on the chin rest, rather than below the shoulder rest, may help.
Affix additional padding permenantly to the shoulder rest by gluing it there. According to violinist Phillip Pan, use close cell foam cement which may be obtained at a boating or camping store. Cut and shape it with a very sharp knife. Place it on the shoulder rest before gluing to see if it feels comfortable. Make adjustments as needed.
Use contact cement, according to Pan, to glue the foam to the shoulder rest pad. Color your new parts the same color as the shoulder rest pad using a permanment marker. If the foam is too slippery against the body use clean automotive inner tube material or a grippy cloth, which may be less likely to leave marks.
Attaching a Make-Shift Shoulder Rest
Attach a makeshift shoulder rest if you are a new student and are uncertain if the violin is an instrument you want to pursue. Also use it if the manufactured rests are uncomforatble for you. Utilizing a common household cleaning sponge for a shoulder rest is a low-cost alternative to a factory-made rest, which can start at $20.
Find a dry, unused sponge without any rough "scrubbing" surfaces. The multipacks of synthetic sponges at the dollar store or grocery store will do. Take one of the sponges and place it on the lower back of the violin, opposite where the chin rest is attached.
Get a strong rubber band and place it over the sponge, attaching it to the lower corner of the violin. The rubber band should easily stretch diagonally across the lower front of the instrument from the left lower corner to the right lower curve of the instrument, when viewed from the front perspective.
Place the violin with your sponge shoulder rest between your chin and collarbone, as if you are about to play. Do not hold the violin with anything else except your chin and collarbone. Make adjustments if necessary, including adding an additional sponge, so that you are comfortable while holding the instrument and playing.
Contact cement may be purchased on-line at Tower Hobbies. Closed cell foams cay be bought on-line at Closed Cell Foams.