TOO FEW VIOLINISTS/VIOLISTS ASK THIS IMPORTANT QUESTION

Featured

“Does my shoulder rest impede or enhance the sound of my instrument?”

Most players buy a shoulder rest for comfort and ease of play. Most players don’t worry too much about whether or not the device they’ve just attached to their instrument negatively affects the sound of their instrument. A shoulder rest is considered to be a necessary evil by most and an unnecessary evil by some pedagogues.

But does a shoulder rest have to impede the sound that’s transferred from your instrument?

Do you know of ANY shoulder rest company that promotes this subject?

THE ANSWER IS “NO” ON BOTH COUNTS!!!!!!!

In the development of The Slipper TM, we, thinking that this subject was just common sense, paid close attention to the impact that our design had on sound transference. Being relatively new at the violin when I designed The Slipper TM, and having an engineering background, I assumed that the design of a viable shoulder rest HAD to fit comfortably providing an ergonomic fit, AND had to avoid deteriorating the sound of the instrument. In my mind, both features were important.

Once we were confident in the fit, we began refining the sound transference using sound analysis software. We ran over 100 analyses comparing the dozens of components available to incorporate into the final design.

We tested various woods, and not to our surprise, the wood most commonly used in the instrument itself, maple, had the best results; various metals, plastics, and foams never came close.

We tested various foams and adhesives for the pad and discovered that not only did a thicker foam seem to dampen the sound, but it also made the rest a bit less stable on the shoulder.

We tested various feet and mechanisms used to attach the feet, and nothing produced the same quality as a surgical-grade rubber, uncolored, with the posts screwed directly into the maple. All of the various articulating metal and plastic attachments degraded the sound quality.

And finally, even the finish on the maple seemed to affect the quality of sound transference. A hard poly varnish on top of a water-based stain, tested better than a wax hand-rubbed finish.

And finally, it turns out that the shape of The Slipper TM itself has the greatest impact on sound quality. Because of the shape, it doesn’t have to be “clamped” down on by the neck or chin, allowing the instrument to resonate more freely. This, in addition to the position in which The Slipper TM holds the instrument provides an optimal angle for the bow to move to the “sweet spot” of the strings.

All of this was a part of our final design. We knew the results and really took them for granted. Until a professional violist, who recognized the sound qualities immediately upon playing with The Slipper TM for Viola ‘Original’ & ‘Artist’, decided to run her own independent comparisons.

This violist is a fan of The Slipper TM because she recognized, not only the improved fit and comfort, but because she could HEAR the clear difference from anything she’s used in the past.

We are ECSTATIC to learn that this violist, under her own terms and completely independent of us, has made several video comparisons presenting her own findings. We have not compensated her for her project; in fact she bore every cost associated with the production of this video. Her motivation was her belief in our product and her desire to make the viola and violin community aware of this new improvement in a very old industry and market.

She has presented these videos to us for our use, as well as hers, and we are incredibly happy to be presenting these video comparisons over the next several weeks so you can see them and hear them for yourself.

Two Incredible Performers Now Use The Slipper TM

Featured

We are ecstatic and very honored to have Victoria Voronyansky and Avery Merritt endorse The Slipper TM, for Viola and for Violin!!!

Victoria Voronyansky, a violist, and Avery Merritt, a violinist/fiddler, are very different in their musicality, and both are incredibly talented musicians,,,, we’re very happy to say, they both now use The Slipper TM as their shoulder rest of choice.

Victoria is a classically-trained solo violist who I had the unique pleasure of meeting at Mondomusica this past March in NYC.  She is such an incredible talent, with an impeccable musical background.  With her Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School, and her solo debut with the Manhattan Chamber Symphony at the age of 17, Victoria has distinguished herself as a recitalist, chamber musician, educator and published author.  She teaches at The Juilliard School as well as privately.  Her performances are engaging and truly enthralling; you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of her CD “Red Viola” on her website  www.redviola.com.  Victoria has such an incredible story to tell; a story of loss and pain, and a story of hope and enrichment.

I met Avery Merritt last month; he was my primary teacher at The Julian Family Fiddle Camp in Julian, Ca, in San Diego County.  This was his first year teaching fiddle at JFFC.  Avery is the most unassuming 19 year old young man you could imagine,,, who just happens to be a demon on the violin/fiddle.  Avery started violin at the age of 5, is also classically-trained, who has branched off into very different avenues; bluegrass and jazz.  Avery has been driven to master his art and learn as much as he can from as many talented teachers as he can find.  He is an astounding teacher and he takes you by surprise, because he is so unassuming; turns out, his real demeanor is “quiet but confident”.  He is well-spoken and his real teaching talent is his ability to present a concept from several different perspectives, one or several of which will click with the student.  I believe Avery is talented enough to jam with just about anybody on the planet.

Since I’m old enough, in theory, to be his grandfather, I feel comfortable saying, Avery is everything you’d hope your son grows up to be. You’ve got to check out Avery’s music video clips on Youtube; SCVTV’s House Blend, Jerusalem Ridge, and more, he is such a treat to watch and hear.

Needless to say, we are so happy these two incredible artists found and love The Slipper TM.

Mondomusica 2013 was HUGE!!!

Featured

Okay, this post is a little late in coming, but for very good reason; we were so overwhelmed by the post-show order activity that this, 3 weeks after the show, is the first opportunity I’ve had to write this commentary.

So, Mondomusica, the world-renowned stringed instrument convention, which was held in the US, NYC specifically, for the very first time ever, may not have been the “hugest” show in terms of square footage of space, or number of exhibitors, or even number of visitors,,, but it was HUGE for The Slipper TM,,, a huge, and unexpected, success!  Our rest was overwhelmingly well received, by both consumers and dealers alike, as well as instrument makers and artists.  Here’s what the 3-day event looked like for us -

The event coordinators did a wonderful job; it can be compared to a quote I once read about the Alpha Romeo [in general], “it’s like a powerful flock of birds all flying together, no one part of the flock is perfect, but it moves together in a beautifully coordinated way”.  The preparation may have had its shortcomings, but the coordinators were all so conscientious and accommodating that it worked beautifully.

Once we had our exhibit installed at 10am Friday (March 14), our first interested visitor approached.  He was an Italian gentleman in his 30′s.  He picked up one of the rests, gave it a profound 3 second examination, and declared, in English, “this is an abomination!”  Not sure I actually understood what he had said and sure that nobody would have made a comment as rude and singularly dismissive as what I thought I heard him say, I asked, with a hand to one ear “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that…”.  He once again declared, “This is an abomination! A violin should never be played with a shoulder rest attached to it!”  Very surprised at this person’s omnipotent declaration, the only response that seemed able to come forth from my mouth was, “Well I’m sure that’s a perfect perspective for you.”  He looked as puzzled at me as I was at him, then realized he may have just been insulted, and quickly departed.  Fortunately I am very thick-skinned, professionally anyway, because this guy just called my baby ugly!  I had just traveled across the country and spent a crap-load of money to exhibit at this show, only to find out that this just might be a very tough audience.

As you may know, I am too new/poor a player to have yet nurtured any level of pride in my playing ability; I play for my own personal pleasure and I LOVE the instrument.  But I quickly realized that many people at this show just might take the instrument a little more seriously than I.  I take my career very seriously, and that’s the perspective that I needed to incorporate into my understanding; some people are VERY serious about every aspect of this instrument and its playing and it is their career and possibly not just their pleasure.  So I immediately adopted a more light-hearted, slightly combative, not martially combative but conversationally combative, attitude and prepared myself for three days of “playing to a tough crowd”, just as any stand-up comedian might.  I was now mentally prepared.

Then, shortly thereafter, there appeared to be a steady stream of people interested in examining and trying The Slipper TM.  I had brought to the show, my third favorite violin of my modest collection; it is a beautiful-sounding violin from the early 1900′s made by a Polish violin-maker by the name of Jarek Wojcek; I had received two offers on the violin during the show, but I declined to sell just yet.  Pretty continually throughout the day, people approached our exhibit, and with entirely different responses than the first gentleman.

Over 90% of everyone who tried The Slipper TM was very complimentary, of the design, the appearance, the quality, the fit, and the comfort.  Over 60% of those, loved it well enough to make at least one their own.  There were several shop owners who bought several rests for their shops and have since become Dealers for The Slipper TM.  We understand that the fit of The Slipper TM does not compliment everyone’s playing style, so it was no surprise to us that a number of investigators didn’t care for the fit.  But we were also very pleasantly surprised at the percentage of people who “had to have one”.  Those who didn’t bring enough cash to the show followed up with purchases on our site.  As a result of this show, we’ve sold over 80 Slippers in two weeks!

I’d say I was most surprised by the several quality violin makers who came up and tried The Slipper TM.  Each one examined our rest, played with it for extended periods of time, really listening hard; and one after another they each seemed to be listening for a faint cry from the woods, and then, there was this noticeable change to the look on their face that seemed to be a recognition of something they had been longing to hear…. the comment that came forth each time was [cumulatively paraphrasing], “this is a wonderful product,,, unlike every other rest on the market, there is a wonderful transference of sound from the instrument which other rests seem to inhibit”.  And each time one of these craftsmen came up and introduced themselves and their shop, I waited with anticipation to hear their verdict, and each time it was the same.   Several renowned experts were among these craftsmen; and it felt like we were receiving the Good Housekeeping Seal.  This was a very rewarding experience; it validated that my baby wasn’t ugly after all.

Since this was the very first time The Slipper TM ever exhibited at a trade show, we had no idea what was appropriate and what wasn’t, so, being an ex-Boy Scout, I brought a suitcase full of Slippers, 40 in fact.  While packing the suitcase full of product, I clearly remember thinking, “What the hell, am I really Willie Loman?”  But after this joyous experience, and having sold all but 8 rests in 3 days, I felt pretty validated,,, that our product is great, not that I am Willie Loman!

And the last, one of the most incredible experiences of the three days came on the last day.  I saw a lady, holding a handful of CDs, who was waiting to speak with someone else at the show, so I initiated a conversation with her.  I discovered that her name was Victoria Voronyansky, who is this incredible violist in several well-known symphonies, holds a Masters from The Julliard School, and who is a well-known teacher and artist, and those were her CDs she was holding.  We spoke for quite a while about her background, what she does, and some of her experiences, so I asked her if she’d like to try our rest.  We found a nearby viola, attached The Slipper TM for Viola, and she slowly began to play.  Almost immediately, her face opened up and she was smiling; she LOVED it!  Victoria has a really amazing story and I felt compelled to give her one of our brand new, as of March 1st, viola rests to take with her.  She was generous enough to give me a few of her CDs.  Over the past few weeks, Victoria has played extensively with The Slipper TM and was kind enough to write a testimonial for us to use, which I’d urge you to read on the “Testimonials” page.  And I have now listened to her CD several dozen times; it is incredible!

As a wrap up – I had a ball at Mondumusica, met some wonderful, kind, generous, and talented people, with whom I’m now developing relationships.  And, getting back to the Italian pedagog; I understand that perspective but I personally reject it as antiquated and existing solely for the sake of pride.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and to pursue an interest anyway they choose, but there is a very good analogy for this particular mindset.  Violinists who take pride in their “pure” approach to playing and who are prideful of, for an example, their “violin hickey”, as a sign of their suffering and expertise and dedication, is in my mind, very much like the mixed martial artist today who very proudly sports his cauliflower ears because he wants to show to the world that he’s “paid his dues” and because he doesn’t want to wear head gear while sparring.  But there is head gear out there that is of high quality and impeccable design that doesn’t interfere with ones fight performance.  There are also accessories available that will protect you as a violinist (both epidermally and orthopedically) that are quality products with impeccable design that allow incredible sound transference and actually enhances your performance.  Stop being an elitist for the sake of being an elitist and wear your head gear man!!!

Review of The Slipper by a Violinist with Neck & Back Injury

Featured

Review of The Slipper Shoulder Rest                                                                                 by Eric J. Kiszenia, July 2, 2012

 My Background:

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.

Arrival/First Impressions:

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.

Fitting/Placement:

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.

Playing:

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.

In Conclusion:

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

The Shoulder Rest Workshop

Featured

June 16, 2012

I finally broke down and took some photos inside The Slipper workshop including a few pics of Nick and me.

New Shoulder Rest Testimonial

Featured

June 13, 2012

Richard Conviser just sent me a wonderful description of an experience he recently had with The Slipper TM that I wanted to post -

“Several of my beginning violin students have found it difficult to hold their instruments comfortably under their chins, and that has impeded their progress in becoming comfortable with the violin.  One of them even quit the instrument because she never could get comfortable with it.

One such student was 10 years old when she started studying with me ten months ago.  She and her mother tried a variety of other shoulder rests, including a sponge held against the bottom of the violin by rubber bands.  They finally arrived at a temporary expedient by wrapping a washcloth around the pad of a shoulder rest they got at a local music store and holding it in place with rubber bands.

When I brought one of The Slipper shoulder rests with me to the student’s lesson, everything changed immediately.  The student took to the rest instantly and says that it fits her shoulder perfectly.  The violin now always winds up being in the same location, which makes it easier for the student to play in tune.  And her mother says that unlike the “cob-job” that it replaced, the new shoulder rest is attractive and suitable to be seen in public.

In addition, the shoulder rest can be adjusted to fit violins of various widths.  There are several choices of holes into which the feet can be screwed which hold the rest onto the violin.  Consequently, the same rest that now fits the student’s 3/4 size instrument will also work on a full-sized violin when she moves up to it in several years.”  Richard Conviser, violin teacher

How to fine-tune a violin without fine tuners

Featured

June 11, 2012

This is a very useful tip that my violin teacher just shared with me.  A lot of violinists and fiddlers don’t like attaching fine-tuners to their ‘G’, ‘D’, and ‘A’ strings,,,, for many reasons; some are aesthetic and some are just tradition.

I personally happen to be a fan of fine-tuners, but don’t have them on my current violin solely because I like keeping the look of my violin as “authentic” as possible.  So that means I tune my violin before each lesson, practice, performance using just the tuning pegs.  Occasionally I am microscopically close to the correct pitch and don’t want to start the tuning process for that string from scratch, backing the string off and trying to hit it again.  So my teacher told me, when you are so close to the pitch being correct, and if you are just slightly flat, use your fingertip to press on the string between the nut and the peg (in the peg box basically) and often times that will move the tension on the string just slightly enough that between the nut and the bridge, it is in the correct pitch.

Try it sometime,,, it really works….. or just use fine-tuners!!!