The Chinrest Lip
Play Better Than You Ever Have Before
Hi. My name is Peter Kaman and I’m the inventor and designer of an amazing new product for the violin and viola called The Chinrest Lip.
You may think that our motto “Play Better Than You Ever Have
Before” is a little too bold. But I’m writing this blog today to tell you that it is most definitely not bold enough!
First, let me tell you a little about myself. I grew up in a small town in upstate New York and started to play the violin at the age of six. For the next ten years I thought I was the best violinist in the world,until I left my local zip code to study at the Meadowmount School of Music, the summer school founded by the famous pedagogue Ivan
Galamian. It was at Meadowmount that I became acutely familiar with the phrase “Ignorance Is Bliss”. Because after the first day, I realized that I needed about 100 years of practice to catch up to the virtuosic skills of the incredibly talented musicians around me.
Every day was a struggle for me that first summer in 1970, a
struggle to master the technical and musical demands of the
instrument, and a struggle with my own physical limitations. But for some reason, I loved it so much I decided to make it my life’s work. For almost 47 years after that first summer, I have never given up trying to be the best violinist
I could be. I’m sure many of you who subscribe and read Violinist.com feel exactly the same way. Several years later, I enrolled at Juilliard and spent 5 years
surrounded by even more wonderfully talented students. Shlomo Mintz, Dimitry Sitkovetsky, Mark Peskanov, Nigel Kennedy, the Rostropovich sisters, Peter Oundjian, and Cho-Liang Lin were just some of the incredibly talented musicians in my class. Hearing them practice and perform became my daily inspiration. During those early years at Juilliard, like many of you, I used a shoulder rest to hold up the violin. That alone caused me a lot of problems.
First of all, I had trouble drawing a straight bow. My teachers suggested it was best to go in an “IN” direction on an up-bow coming towards the frog, and to go in an “OUT” direction on a down-bow going towards the tip. I did as I was instructed, however I noticed not one great violinist I ever saw did the same. In fact, when I watched Heifetz
and Milstein, they did the exact opposite. They went “OUT” coming towards the frog and “IN” going towards the tip. And many more of the greatest violinists in the world just went “DOWN” and “UP” with their bows.
Another serious problem occurred when I used the shoulder rest. By bringing the chinrest "up" to my chin, and raising the bout (lower back edge) of the instrument "off" my collarbone area, I had to raise my
bow arm to the new higher string height to accommodate the higher position of the instrument. And when I raised my arm (even one inch), I immediately lost a large percentage of my natural arm weight, forcing me to compensate for the loss of optimum sound by pressing into the string with the smaller muscles of my fingers and hands. (Notably a lot
of 1 st finger pressure or a forward press of the hand).
Yes, you can produce sound by pressing, but it's not the healthiest sound, nor is it the fullest sound. That natural weight of the arm is what most of the greatest violinists in the world use to create their full- bodied, unforced, luxurious sound.
Not only was my sound pressed and squeezed, it was very difficult to sustain a full sound evenly throughout the entire length of the bow. As a result, I found myself having to play much closer to the bridge, which in turn prevented me from changing bow speeds effectively.
It wasn’t until a little later, (maybe in my 3 rd year at Juilliard), when I heard Igor Oistrakh play a recital at Carnegie Hall, that I realized I had a big problem and that I had to make a change.
For an encore that evening, Oistrakh played Paganini’s Moto
Perpetuo Op. 11. I’ll never forget it. Not only did he play it faster than I had ever heard, he didn’t play it spiccato in the middle of the bow as most violinists do. He played it detache using a full bow for every note.
Yes, you heard me correctly. A full bow for every note!
I was sitting next to Stephanie Chase (a great virtuoso in her own right), and when we saw that, both of our jaws dropped to the floor.
Igor Oistrakh didn’t have time to go “IN” and “OUT” with his bow. He just went “DOWN” and “UP”, just like every great violinist who ever lived. And his bow was perfectly straight. What I learned that day is that most of the great violinists don’t manipulate their bows. Their violins are sitting so perfectly on their body that no manipulations are required. When the violin is sitting properly on one's body, the body movements required to play the instrument at the highest level become much more natural. When one observes any of the top violinists in the world performing, past or present, one has to come to the conclusion that their playing looks easy, natural, and effortless.
That day a light bulb went off over my head. I learned that the position of the violin on one’s body is the single most important common denominator to playing the instrument at the highest level.
So, from that day on, I played without a shoulder rest. It took a while to adjust, but I figured if Heifetz, Milstein, Grumiaux, Stern, Kogan, Francescatti, Perlman, Elman, Kreisler, Anne Sophie Mutter, and Aaron Rosand could play without a shoulder rest, I should at least try it.
I did improve a little, because I didn’t have to raise my arm as much as when I used a shoulder rest, but it wasn’t until many years later, that I came across an even better way to hold the violin that would literally improve my playing so much, that in my wildest dreams I never thought I could play so well. In the interim, at the age of 40 (still looking for a better way to hold the instrument), I invented and patented a chinrest specifically for violinists with longer arms (like myself). It extended the violin a little
farther away from the body, which I thought would greatly help long- armed violinists. Unfortunately the design was a little flawed, and I eventually stopped production.
But with that product, I included a foam rubber pad that affixed to the bottom of the extended chinrest, helping to hold the product comfortably against the body. That piece of foam rubber had a plastic strip covering the bottom, which when pulled away from the rubber, had stickum glue allowing the pad to adhere firmly to any solid object.
When I stopped production, for an experiment, I cut that foam rubber piece into a different shape (a rectangular block), and placed it on the back edge of my Guarneri style chinrest forming a "LIP" on the back edge of my chinrest. The fulcrum it created by the slightest downward pressure of my chin or even the natural weight of my head, allowed the scroll to rise and the violin to stay in place just below my collarbone, comfortably and effortlessly.
I could now hold the violin up without a shoulder
rest, and without even the use of my left hand!
Finally, I had total freedom of movement on the fingerboard, and my bow arm was at such a proper angle to the strings, that for the first time in my life my bow technique was outstanding. I improved so much and so quickly, that to tell you the truth, even I couldn’t believe it.
It was this discovery that motivated me to design and
manufacture a product for all violinists of any age, shape, and size to dramatically improve their skills also. That product is called The Chinrest Lip.
We all know that the violin is one of the most difficult instruments in the world to master. I believe with all my heart, that The Chinrest Lip will help everyone hold their instrument more easily, more comfortably, and more securely than ever before. And the skills to play the instrument at the highest level will be much more attainable. Guaranteed.
So, it gives me greatest pleasure to introduce to all of the
followers of Violinist.com (and to thousands of other violinists and violists all over the world who want to improve their skills) a thrilling and exciting new product called The Chinrest Lip.
Play better than you ever have before.
Here are 10 specific things The Chinrest Lip can do for you:
1. The Chinrest Lip holds the instrument up without the use of a shoulder rest.
2. The foam is comfortable (and hypoallergenic), yet dense
enough to serve its function of not buckling under the weight or pressure of the chin. This allows the fulcrum to work properly so the performer can hold the instrument up effortlessly.
3. The foam rubber pad affixes strongly to the top of any shaped chinrest, and can be easily removed by just peeling the foam rubber away with the thumb. To remove the adhesive residue left on the chinrest, take a cloth, dab it with rubbing alcohol and the adhesive comes off easily, without damaging the chinrest.
4. The Chinrest Lip comes in 3 different heights for players with varied neck lengths: L (low), M (medium), and H (high).
5. The Chinrest Lip comes in 3 colors: light brown, dark brown, and black-- - the very same colors of most chinrests.
6. The Chinrest Lip aids tremendously in shifting in both upward and downward directions, because it frees the hand of its holding duties.
7. The Chinrest Lip holds the instrument so securely against the body that even your vibrato will improve.
8. Optimum tone production will be produced naturally, because the violin will be sitting lower on the body, thus putting the bow arm at the proper height and angle to the string.
9. All bow strokes can now be mastered, because the body is
positioned properly with the instrument, enabling the least amount of manipulation to get the desired results.
10. Used over time, The Chinrest Lip will help alleviate all pains in the back, neck, or shoulders, caused by improperly holding the instrument.
Simple stated, and most importantly, The Chinrest Lip will help everyone who uses it play better.
For more specific information about our product, please go to our website at www.thechinrestlip.com and read the TUTORIAL section, or watch our video on the HOME page.
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