A viola is a member of the violin family of the string instruments. The viola rests on the left collarbone of a right-handed violist, and some musicians prefer to use a viola shoulder rest to help hold the instrument in place. Viola shoulder rests provide cushioning and help prevent them from sliding off the musicians' shoulders. The different types of viola shoulder rests vary based on the materials from which they are made and their design. Some violists and manufacturers believe that a viola shoulder rest can affect the tone and response of the instrument.
Manufacturers produce this viola accessory from materials such as aluminum, wood, plastic and carbon fiber. The shoulder rest connects to the back edge of the viola with soft plastic or padded rubber tubing. Many viola shoulder rests are adjustable, with sliding brackets to provide a better fit. Additionally, some types of shoulder rests have collapsible legs that make it easier to store the viola in an upright position.
Many viola shoulder rests are made from wood such as maple or walnut. Some wooden shoulder rests have metal or plastic accents, and other shoulder rests are made primarily of metal or plastic. Plastic shoulder rests are sometimes available in colors such as green, red and black. Carbon fiber shoulder rests are a more lightweight option.
Some viola shoulder rests have a slight curve. Others have a more wavy shape. The sizes of the pads also can vary.
When a musician is selecting a viola shoulder rest, the decision depends largely on the personal preference and comfort of the musician. To assure a perfect fit, it is ideal for the musician to take the viola to the store to test several types, shapes and brands of viola shoulder rests. Some musicians decide to not use a viola shoulder rest or to use a cloth or thin sponge beneath the instrument.