Review of The Slipper Shoulder Rest by Eric J. Kiszenia, July 2, 2012
For the past several months, I have been searching for a shoulder rest that would not only help secure my violin and make playing more comfortable, but to help me with another challenge I have in playing. Since 2008, I have been rehabilitating from a severe spine and shoulder injury suffered during an accident at work. My right shoulder was dislocated with major damage to the surrounding muscles and tendons while my back was broken in 2 different locations with 4 ruptured disks. After 6 surgeries, I thought learning violin was out of the question. However, after discussing the matter with both my doctor and physical therapist, we all agreed that playing violin might help improve my condition so long as I keep good posture while playing. I immediately purchased a violin and began trying out different shoulder rests and setups.
The most immediate problem I ran into was the length of my neck and the condition of Kyphosis. Kyphosis was brought on by my injuries and causes me to roll my shoulders and back forward to alleviate pain. Most shoulder rests that I’ve tried causes that condition to worsen as I had to slightly angle my head and neck to put pressure on the chinrest. After some trial and error, I raised my chinrest and it helped slightly, but I’d still get some pain after prolonged playing. At that point, I was only able to play 15 to 20 minutes at a time before having to lie down. I knew I needed to try different shoulder rests that would help secure my violin on my shoulder and provide the best position for my neck and head.
At this point, The Slipper was recommended to me as it was designed much different from many of the many shoulder rests I own or have tried.
The first thing that caught my attention after I removed the Slipper from the packaging was how elegant it looked. It did not have the generic appearance of the many plastic shoulder rests on the market. The beautifully stained wood was perfect for the elegant shape.
I picked it up and was pleasantly surprised how light the Slipper was. While being of wood construction, the Slipper was actually lighter then my current plastic shoulder rest. Though, not the lightest shoulder rest I have ever tried, but among the top.
The next thing I noticed was the padding lining the inside of the shoulder rest. I was a little concerned with how little padding there was compared to my previous shoulder rests. I was worried that prolonged playing would cause pain to my left shoulder as I had to put more pressure to keep my violin stable.
The first thing I did with The Slipper was place it on my shoulder without having the violin attached. I immediately notice how the shape “hugged” my shoulder and how there was very little friction needed to keep from moving. I was able to stand up with The Slipper on my shoulder and walk around without worrying about it falling off.
After finding the optimal position on my shoulder, I fitted it on to the back of my violin. I was familiar with the rubberized feet on The Slipper as many of my other shoulder rests use a similar design. The rubberized feet screwed into the body of The Slipper and had multiple screw positions to adjust to for comfort and violin size. It took me less than 5 minutes to set it up into a comfortable position.
Once The Slipper was initially set up, I realized that I did not nearly need as much pressure to keep my violin in place as I did before. All I had to do was slightly lift my chin, move my violin into place and lower my chin down to a normal position. The ability to let my chin actually rest and not press down lessened my prior concern about the thickness of padding.
I also noticed that I did not need to adjust my neck or back into any awkward positions to keep my violin still. This helped me to keep good posture without worrying about the violin slipping out of place or using my left arm to stabilize it. I had no muscle tightness in my neck or back while I held my violin up without using my left arm. I was actually able to stretch and straighten my back with very little movement from my violin.
As I began playing, the thing that stood out the most to me about The Slipper, was how it kept my violin in place despite how much I moved. In the past, I would have to constantly adjust my violin’s position in the middle of playing for both comfort reasons and pain. With the slipper, I was able to focus on my posture, bowing and note placement instead of adjusting myself and my violin.
At an early point in my warm up, I nearly forgot that The Slipper was there. It felt comfortable and it truly felt like it was part of my violin. It felt natural and not like on odd, add-on. Between the comfortable position the shape of The Slipper puts my violin in and how light The Slipper is, I was able to focus on other nuances of playing.
As my violin was kept in a comfortable position, I began noticing how playing on the G string became much easier. I was able to swing my left elbow forward without having to readjust my violin. While continuing to work on scales, vibrato became much easier. I no longer gripped the neck tightly to hold my violin in place, freeing up my hand.
From that point, I continued on to practice songs and The Slipper became an afterthought as it felt so natural and comfortable. The padding was no longer a concern due to how the shape of The Slipper hugged my shoulder without added pressure from my neck. The only time I noticed The Slipper at that point was when I changed music and set my violin on my lap.
After working on several different songs, I made an astonishing discovery. I had been playing for 50 minutes. Previously, 20 minutes was the maximum amount of time before pain would set in causing me to lie down. Granted, I had a little bit of pain from sitting and having my vertebrae compress, but I did not have the sharp pain in my neck and back that came from bad posture.
In order to make sure that the lack of pain was not from excitement and adrenalin from having a new product, I set my violin down and didn’t play again until my evening practice time. Again, I was able to play for 40 minutes straight without a problem. By that point, my lower back was compressed again and my left hand and fingers were sore from playing. That pain being most welcomed.
For the rest of the week, I continued to play with the same results. I have not been able to go past on hour of playing time, but this is much better than being able to play only 15 minutes at a time.
I would most definitely recommend The Slipper. Its ergonomic shape and design helps maintain proper position and hold. Its elegant appearance matches that of the violin and is a perfect fit for both beginners and professionals. The Slipper helps you focus on the nuances of playing rather than worrying about comfort and position.
The price may be higher than your average shoulder rest, but at $99, it is well worth it for both luxury and functionality of a hand-crafted shoulder rest. In the past, I have purchased 4 of the “cheaper” shoulder rests, a combined total of more than $100, and none of them come close to The Slipper’s comfort, functionality and appearance.
The only negative I could find was the placement of the “Made in The USA” sticker. While I’m proud to own such a product, removing the sticker presented a challenge as I did not want to ruin the finish. I spent 30 minutes trying to carefully remove the sticker and adhesive. Although, that’s a small price to pay for such a great product.
~Eric J. Kiszenia