Playing without a chinrestInstruments: Is it bad for the instrument?
From Andrew Holland
I'd like to continue experimenting with this, but I wonder if the weight of my head (which supports the viola, not my left hand) could damage the wood, or if perspiration, etc. could destroy the varnish?
Has anyone else tried playing this way? If so, what were your results?
Thanks a lot,
From jake bushIf you perspire a lot while playing a stressful, intense piece, or during the summer heat, the sweat can indeed damage the varnish. Many concert musicians play with a cloth under their face for this reason, even when they are using a chinrest.
Posted on February 22, 2008 at 05:05 PM
From Marina FragoulisBaroque violins are usually played without a chin rest so there doesn't seem to be a problem with damaging the structure of the instrument. But do use a cloth to protect the varnish - find one that doesn't slip though.
Posted on February 22, 2008 at 05:40 PM
From Ricky ChanI wouldn't go with that option. The chin rest is made in such a way that sends the pressure to a lesser extent of surface area. Touching the varinish alone is bad enough, sticking your chin on the surface would make things works. I suggest that you get a very flat chinrest.
Posted on February 22, 2008 at 05:43 PM
From Bob AnnisI've played around with a baroque violin with no chin or shoulder rest. While it's fun, beards and perspiration will have a negative effect on the varnish over time. Unless you're the Incredible Hulk, I can't see the pressure doing much harm, though there may be some vibratory inhibition of the plates.
Posted on February 22, 2008 at 08:35 PM
From Jon O'BrienThere are very few problems in my opinion. Even chinrests can end up damaging violins slightly over many years. The really old Italian instruments are damaged from direct contact with the top but I suspect the original owners were not very careful about using a cloth between them and the instrument.
Posted on February 23, 2008 at 12:23 AM
I don't find problems with perspiration. If it's too hot I just change the cloth as needed.
My main violin I have had for a long time. It has been played without a cr on and off for years. For the last year and a half I have only been playing cr-less. I use a piece of chamois to protect the varnish, and provide a non slip surface. I find that cotton and other woven cloths slip for me. Others might go well with cotton.
Either way, I would make sure you use a cloth or a piece of chamois (can be bought in automotive stores). Make sure it is real chamois, not plastic. A big piece should cost you about $18 but it will last a long time. You can wash it, but when you do, use pure unscented bar soap, and don't rinse the soap out of the chamois. Let it dry and the soap will keep the chamois supple and soft.
My violin has almost no mark at all on it where I put my chin to the left of the tailpiece - just a slightly duller patch of varnish but not ugly looking. You can only see this slightly duller patch of varnish at certain angles in the light. From a distance of 3 or 4 feet away you can see no mark at all. All of the varnish is still there and has not worn off. Even if it does, the varnish can be replaced. Enjoy playing without a chinrest!
Regarding vibration change to the instrument from contact with the top plate, I find this is pretty negligible myself. I notice more of a difference with the body touching the back of the instrument rather than the top.
From Ron Gorthuissay,... nice to know I am not the only odd one who says no CR is more comfortable. For me, no CR means no hickey or rash, and a relaxed grip. But the sound of the violin is muffled and the contact does wear the varnish rather quickly. Except for wear, no CR is a better way to play.
Posted on February 23, 2008 at 03:10 AM
From Jon O'BrienThe chinrest exerts downward pressure on the top as well. The pressure is closer to the edge of the top plate, but a proportion of it still extends into the free vibrating surface. So the use of a chinrest also has a factor in lessening vibration. And of course the ribs, end block and back of the violin are involved in vibration as well, both of which a chinrest lock down on to to some extent.
Posted on February 23, 2008 at 08:19 AM
A concentration of pressure at a localised point - for instance the small feet or connection point of the cr - creates lines of stress that spread out beyond the point of contact. This alters the top plate vibrational performance I would say (being scientifically speculative here, but I think there's something in it).
Going without a cr is not a perfect system by any means, but it ain't as bad as some cr users think it is. Putting your jaw (more or less cushioned as the case may be) down on the top plate just spreads the pressure over a wider area, and is therefore less pounds per sq. inch if you want to put it in terms of numbers. It is, however, a larger surface area of contact, obviously.
It is overall a softer pressure effect on the top plate; or at least one of a different quality, not necessarily worse (I don't think it's worse, for what it's worth. If I did I wouldn't play this way).
As Ron pointed out, the technique of playing is more relaxed (at least for Ron and me), so you don't actually need to press down hard with your jaw or chin on the top plate anyway. It works! Not for everyone by any means but great for those for whom this method of holding works well. That's my take on it.
From Andrew HollandThanks, everyone!
Posted on February 23, 2008 at 04:52 AM
From Hans PluharHi Andrew!
Posted on February 23, 2008 at 10:26 AM
Many great classical instruments show a pattern of wear next to the tailpiece (often on either side). That suggests players not having used a chinrest.
From Christopher CiampoliI just tried this right now (with a piece of felt that was lying around) and I'd like to share my findings:
Posted on February 23, 2008 at 01:28 PM
#1 I have a dark-sounding violin and when I bought it, while the tonal quality was superb, the projection left something to be desired. However, as soon as I played without the chinrest the first immediate difference I noticed was an amazing change in my instrument's sound. The volume noticeably increased and sounded better than ever when I recorded myself. Second, new overtones appeared that weren't there before (previous ones were also stronger). For example when I played a C in first position on the G string, I distinctly heard a brand new and very obvious "E", which in the harmonic series, doesn't even come until the 3rd octave. Combined, it almost sounded like a dampener had been taken off. I'd personally have to verify what Jon says in his second post wherein he mentions the spreading of the pressure (and it also felt like reduced pressure).
#2 I've been having problems with right shoulder/arm tension and as I played into the mirror just now, my right shoulder was completely relaxed the entire time, and I never raised it as has been my perpetual habit. I've been trying to get rid of this for months! My conclusion is that the static position from the chinrest just really resulted in ever-mounting tension for me. Without the chinrest, I make small micro-adjustments and can really relax.
Very intriguing. I'm going to show my teacher. I'm anxious for his reaction and opinion.
But I feel weird thinking that playing without a chinrest might be better for me, or saying that to my teacher! Almost no one does it. Should I really believe what I just experimented with?
From Brian HongBaroque violinists are not supposed to touch the varnish. If they rest their chin on the instrument, it is usually on the tailpiece, with minimal pressure. All pressure is meant to be put in holding the violin with the left hand.
Posted on February 23, 2008 at 03:06 PM
From Jon O'BrienYes that is the current practice in baroque HIP playing I believe. I think historically there is some evidence that violinists also held the violin by putting their heads down directly onto the top plate, either side of the tailpiece, just as often as they put it down on top of the tailpiece, with the violin being centrally placed.
Posted on February 24, 2008 at 12:46 AM
Later textual evidence, and physical evidence from surviving violins, shows that you could rest your chin on either side of the tailpiece. The balance of evidence seems to suggest that Paganini - to use the example of a much later player - put his jaw down on the left hand side of the tailpiece more often than the right. When you do this the technique is basically exactly the same as what you do when you use a left-mounted chinrest. The only difference being that the cr isn't there. In the case of the 19th C there are books/treatises that specifically advise this manner of holding the violin.
Putting your chin/jaw down on the top plate is a great and efficacious method of playing. I like holding the violin to the left side. There is no reason why a violinist should be prejudiced against it. In my opinion the sound is not muffled, at least no more than what a cr and pad combination would create. But if you prefer it the other way, put your chin down on top of the tailpiece instead. I can hold it and play it either way. To each his own.
From Jon O'BrienThat's a great post, Christopher. I, too, need all the encouragement I can get. So thanks!
Posted on February 24, 2008 at 02:18 AM
You might find yourself going back to using a chinrest, but good on you for having the openmindedness to experiment. I sometimes think I'll go back to using a cr, but so far I haven't. I'm always looking for ways for me to get better. With or without is great either way in my opinion.
Regarding increase of tone, it is interesting and encouraging to note that Wilhelmj, who played without a cr, was renowned for having a big sound. This was in the late 19th C, at a time when the cr had reached almost universal use. Some critics bagged Wilhelmj slightly, saying he tended to play to the gallery, implying he was a bit cheap and commercial, but too bad. Big sound is big sound. Another guy who played without cr around the same time, and who was very popular, was Ole Bull from Norway. I used to know a geologist girl from Norway who lived near his old house. Mannes and Hartmann were more classicist type players who also did not use a cr in the late 19th and early 20th C. There are others.
Also, about Wilhelmj, there is an extant recording of his which apparently sounds fairly terrible. I don't put too much store in this. He was very popular in his day and must have been an excellent player, during a time when standards were universally high and a large and discriminating audience held sway over the success of any artist.
Best of all, non cr users have a fairly certain role-model in the form of a one Niccolo Paganini from Genoa. I hear tell he was pretty good.
From Brian HongGreat insight, Jon! I need two hours to mull this over.
Posted on February 24, 2008 at 03:12 AM
From Kevin CheungI have taken off the chinrest on my second violin to experiment with the left-hand glissando technique described in Ricci's book. Very interesting experience so far.
Posted on February 25, 2008 at 12:26 AM
BTW, I rest my chin on the tailpiece when it's needed to stabilize the violin. Is it possible to do a proper vibrato with the chin completely off the violin?
From Brian HongYou know, it is. I can't do it-but some great baroque violinists who employ more use of faster vibrato, especially in Vivaldi, can get a great vib. Only problem is the violin wiggles, but what can yo do?
Posted on February 25, 2008 at 12:58 AM
From Stephen BrivatiGreetings,
Posted on February 25, 2008 at 01:28 AM
>Is it possible to do a proper vibrato with the chin completely off the violin?
Yes. If you support the violin with the left hand (actually a misnomer for the sky, left arm structure, torso , legs and planet earth) then a relaxed and variable vibrato without the head on the isnturment is actually rather easy.
From Kevin CheungMaybe I need to see in person how this is done.
Posted on February 25, 2008 at 02:04 AM
From Ron Gorthuishttp://www.gutenberg.org/files/15535/15535-h/15535-h.htm
Posted on February 25, 2008 at 06:55 AM
search for this link. you should find most players 100 yrs ago preferred no CR, or SR. must be a good reason.
From Jim W. Miller"....late 19th C, at a time when the cr had reached almost universal use."
Posted on February 25, 2008 at 07:40 AM
I've seen old, old chinrests on attic violins. They weren't like a modern CR. The were small, flat, low, and kidney-shaped, and really only presented a surface to put your chin on. In fact if I remember them right, they look like they were striving to make them as low as possible, unobtrusive, evidenced by the kidney shape, perhaps to help clear the arch. You know, new things use the appearance of the things they replace as a starting point. Therefore the earliest cars look like horse-drawn carriages. You'd expect the earliest chin rests to resemble a violin without a chin rest, like they do.
"...role-model in the form of a one Niccolo Paganini..."
Just pitch that one next time you get your ears boxed for playing without a CR. That will be your shock and awe weapon.
I wonder what we would see if a consummate modern artist deleted their CR. Went back to genuine canvas, camel hair brushes, and stinky paint. Maud Powell didn't use one. Rachel, are you reading? Lindsay? Hilary? How 'bouts it gals?
From Pamela SchulzMy violin had one of those very low, kidney-shaped chinrests. It was made of Bakelite, though. I replaced it with a fairly low ebony one, which is quite comfortable.
Posted on February 25, 2008 at 07:44 AM
From Cathy GrayMy chin rest has been bothering me for too long. I think as we grow and get older we change. I finally decided to take my chin rest off. The pain in my neck is gone! Playing is much more enjoyable. I came here looking for comments about this and found them! Thank you! I learned a lot from you. No more chin rest for me!
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!