I have seen from some resources like books or videos, that if you hold your violin properly, then you should be able to hold it with your chin and arm, somewhat like this:

The image of woman holding the violin using no hands

Now I am new to violin, and don't have a shoulder rest yet (still not sure whether I should use one). I can't really do the thing at the photo without using much force. It looks rather effortless; however, in most of these situations people have a shoulder rest. Should I be able to do that without using a shoulder rest?

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    Get yourself a shoulder rest, it makes life so much easier, and it's not cheating. Then your left hand can concentrate on what it's there for.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 16:45
  • I second Tim. I don't know how they pulled it off in the Baroque period... The left hand is not there to support the instrument. In fact, it should not support it at all. It is simply there to depress the strings. Also, your head should not press down, the weight of your head itself should be enough to hold the fairly light instrument up. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 4:11
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    As someone who finds shoulder rests quite painful, I'd suggest keeping an open mind and trying every option that crosses your path. There are strong opinions on both sides, but it is entirely possible to play at a high level with or without one.
    – Karen
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 14:46
  • @Karen I went today to my music shop and bought shoulder rest. I can now hold violin without using my hand, it's much more comfortable doing so. After consulting my teacher I will probably change my chin rest to be more centered too. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


It's true that if you are holding the violin correctly, you should be able to support it comfortably between your collar bone and your chin without putting your hand on it. However you must not "squeeze" the instrument in any way, either by pushing down with your head, or hunching up your shoulder. Your shoulder and neck must be relaxed or tension will migrate to your arms, wrists and fingers, preventing them from working optimally.

With your shoulders relaxed and your arms hanging down naturally by your sides, it should be possible for the instrument to rest on your collar bone, and to be held in place simply by the weight of your head. For most people, the gap between the bottom of the chin and the collarbone will be greater than the depth of the violin body, so the rest of that gap must be filled using some combination of chinrest and possibly shoulder rest.

The appropriate size and positioning of both chin and shoulder rests depend on your own personal anatomy, particularly of course the length of your neck.

There's some very good advice at this link (there are also people, with whom I have no affiliation, trying to sell you things): http://www.artistinbalance.org/vib/

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    You need to get this sorted out right from the beginning. When you start learning, your left hand will always be in the same position, i.e. not moving up and down the fingerboard, and it is easy to get the bad habit of gripping the neck and supporting the violin with your left hand. If you want to progress, eventually you will be forced to "unlearn" that habit and start again from the beginning. Eventually, you should be able to tune the violin turning the pegs with your left hand while bowing the strings, and you can't do that if your left hand is supporting the instrument.
    – user19146
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 16:45
  • Exactly. It's simply the weight of your head that should be holding the instrument, not any tension in the neck, left hand, left arm, right wrist, anything. That's how you avoid injuries. Anything else will, and I mean will, cause neck problems and the like. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 4:08

Yes, get yourself a shoulder rest! The positioning you see in this picture is with a shoulder rest and trying to get the same posture without a shoulder rest won't work. Playing with or playing without a shoulder rest requires different positioning and technique. Although both are correct, most people find using a shoulder rest more comfortable.

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