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without a chin rest

Technique and Practicing: why use a chin rest?

From P. Trouvé
Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:28 PM

Hi,

I do not use a chin rest, is there many other people who do not use them?

Is there a reason why I should use a chin rest if I'm confortable without one?

Thanks

From Michael Crawford
Posted on July 16, 2010 at 02:11 AM

Hi,

Shoulder rests help to support the violin fully without using your left hand. It is important because, by taking pressure off of your left hand, your hand can move more freely over different positions and execute various techniques with greater ease. If you need to use your hand to keep your violin from falling, it will make your playing more difficult. So if you cannot support your violin without using your hand, you should get a shoulder rest.

Personally, I cannot play without a shoulder rest, because it causes me to make extra efforts to support my violin, resulting in tension, and really makes switching position and performing vibrato difficult.

 

From Smiley Hsu
Posted on July 16, 2010 at 02:29 AM

Michael,

The OP is asking about a chin rest, not shoulder rest. 

From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on July 16, 2010 at 03:36 AM

This information may prove useful on chin rests:

http://www.stringsmagazine.com/issues/Strings121/yourinstrument.html

 Especially check out the paragraphs on "To Use or Not To Use"

 There is also the website violinistinbalance.nl  with a lot of information on examining the difficulties in achieving comfort in supporting the violin ( with mention of chin rests and shoulder rests) and how these challenges were met  and what solutions were developed.

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on July 16, 2010 at 08:02 AM

 The chin rest was invented by Louis Spohr in the early 1800s.  The reason for using a chin rest is that it enables the player to use their jaw bone for extra stability so that the left hand is freer to move around on the fingerboard.  Why would you not use a chin rest?  What kind of music do you play?  If you can manage the advanced standard violin repertoire with no chin rest I'll be very impressed.  I don't mean to doubt you, I'm just saying I'd be impressed.   

From Gene Wie
Posted on July 16, 2010 at 09:54 AM

 If you're comfortable and able to do everything you need to play without it, then by all means, stick with what works! :)

I will venture that if the length of your neck is greater than the height of the violin from the top plate to bottom plate along the rib, a chinrest of appropriate thickness might improve your comfort in holding the instrument, and fill any gap that might exist that could cause any undesired tension in your posture.

From Theodor Taimla
Posted on July 16, 2010 at 06:53 PM

I don't know any violinists that don't use a chin rest. It's funny, before I started researching the violin, I thought everybody didn't use any chin or shoulder rests :D
Judging by what others say, it's alright as long as you are comfortable, aren't raising your shoulder (too much?) and aren't squeezing it between your collar bone and chin/jaw.

I might look into trying to be without a chin rest, I just wonder how that feels! Probably not any time soon tho..

Cheers,
Theo
 

From P. Trouvé
Posted on July 17, 2010 at 01:14 AM

Hi,

I play violin, and viola (thus very small viola15.") by neck is extremely small. I had to switch to smaller and smaller chin rest until my teacher and I finally decided to get rid of  the chin rest.  I have no problem holding my instrument without my left end.  But I do use a shoulder rest.

Thanks for the advice, but I'm confuse a bit, it seem I should be using one.. but why, if I have no problem holding the instrument??? I though there was a sound reason...

From Anthony Barletta
Posted on July 17, 2010 at 02:21 AM
From Jiefei Fang
Posted on July 17, 2010 at 05:48 AM

 Hello,

"If you need to use your hand to keep your violin from falling, it will make your playing more difficult. So if you cannot support your violin without using your hand, you should get a shoulder rest."

I disagree, but with that topic, it's not really news, is it? 

 

I'm sure the chinrest does affect the sound, though depending on the individual chinrest and instrument, it may be attached at a point (perhaps the end block, or some region along the lining) that is relatively inactive in terms of resonance. In that case, the chinrest's influence on the sound is minimized.

However, don't you think that the flesh of the jaw itself on the chinrest would also affect sound? Unlike a properly-shaped chinrest, which only applies pressure at the very edge of the instrument (or at least it should), a person's jaw contacts the violin with a significantly larger surface area. An increase in tone from removing the chinrest may be real, or it may be only perceived as a result of more direct transmission of sound from the instrument to the player.

One reason that a chinrest is often recommended is that they come in various shapes. Some chinrests feature a ridge that slightly hooks under the player's jaw, so that when the player shifts down, the hook on the chinrest ensures that the instrument won't go anywhere even without additional weight from the jaw.

Another reason is varnish. Over time, contact with the jaw will wear away at the varnish, and some people consider that wear or sign of age undesirable. In addition, since violin varnish varies greatly in composition, the player may be allergic to some components in the varnish.

The third, and for me, the most important reason is that it fills a gap. I set the violin on my collarbone, and the gap between the top of the instrument and my jaw is filled by the chinrest.

However, if none of the above is an issue to you, then I don't see a problem with you not using a chinrest.

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on July 17, 2010 at 06:49 AM

 I don't mean to sound presumptuous but theoretically if my neck was that short I'd choose to ditch the shoulder rest and keep the chin rest but that's just me.  Personally I use both but if my neck was shorter that's the way I would go.  If your teacher and you both feel that your current setup works best for your physique then you're probably doing fine and it simply wouldn't be fair for someone on the internet to tell you it doesn't work for you.  However, I would highly suggest that you at least play with something soft to protect the varnish from your skin or beard.  If I did that I think my face would sandpaper the varnish down to the grain in a week.

From Lisa Fogler
Posted on July 17, 2010 at 07:54 AM

First, using a chin rest does not mean you are lazy. It's normal. If you lived in Baroque times you wouldn't have used one. But, then again, the music was different then, not as technically demanding. If you want to play only Baroque music, by all means, lose the chinrest.

But if you want to play all the music that came after Baroque, then you will need a chinrest (in my modest opinion). There was a very good reason it was added to violins and violas. It was developed because music composition was changing and becoming much more difficuly to play. It was needed to allow musicians to change with it and to free up their left hand in order to meet the technical new difficulties.

Second, I disagree about a chin rest changing the sound of a violin. That isn't it at all. It changes how you hear the sound. If you put a very high chin rest on your violin you are higher over the instrument and it sounds different to your ear, but not to anyone else.

At the very least, my chinrest protects my violin from my oily sweaty skin. And if you think you don't have oil in your skin then you are not like the rest of the human race! During concerts I often sweat like crazy, and even with a chinrest I need a cloth to keep my violin from sliding out from under my chin (or "chins" in my case!). Use a cloth if you don't use a chinrest, and clean it often.

From P. Trouvé
Posted on July 17, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Oh! but I do use a cloth between me and my instrument!!!

From Lisa Fogler
Posted on July 17, 2010 at 01:58 PM

Bien trouvé!! ;o)

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on July 18, 2010 at 05:18 AM

 Lisa that's actually not correct.  The top, back and ribs all vibrate when you play the violin and clamping a chin rest onto a violin does mute the sound to a degree (the amount varies depending on the location of the chin rest).  It's just a small sacrifice we make for comfort and technique.  There was a whole thread on this recently and several luthiers explained how it works.

From Lisa Fogler
Posted on July 18, 2010 at 07:39 AM

Michael....since I posted that, I went and read that other thread so I see what you mean.  But, at the same time, I still stand by my comment that in order to play the more demanding compositions that we "modern" violinist play, one should really have a chinrest. It's become a part of the violin even though it's not needed to produce sound. I read in another thread (maybe the one you referred to) that fortunately it is attached at the right place to have the least amount of impact on the sound. Also, I do believe the height of the chinrest does change our perception of the sound of the violin,

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on July 18, 2010 at 07:47 AM

 oh I'm not arguing that we shouldn't have one.  I don't know what I'd do without mine.  I recently switched to a Guarneri-style to minimize the muting effect and I immediately noticed that my violin sounds bigger. 

From Veronica Jackson
Posted on July 18, 2010 at 12:15 PM

There are no hard and fast rules regarding the use or non-use of chin rests or shoulder rests... 

I use a child size wood chin rest....works for me...I use it mainly to prevent skin contact with the body of my violin...

One of my grand daughters doesn't use a chin rest or shoulder rest....the other won't use a shoulder rest....it's all how you feel and what  you're comfortable with while playing and practicing...

 

From Marc Villeneuve
Posted on July 18, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Lisa: Paganini played without a chin-rest . The most severe critics of his time wrote that his intonation was perfect and that he played the most demanding passages with the utmost ease. Reading about Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps and others, it seemed that they all had intonation problems when performing.

I have always played without a shoulder rest and for a while, have experimented to play without a chin-rest. At the very beginning it feels funny, but you get use to it after a while. There is a video of Zukerman playing a beautiful Strad in a Museum without a chin-rest and he sounds really good... Kreisler played for a long time without a chin rest during his youth and then after adopted the big flat one invented by the Hills.

Paganini played the most difficult work ever written for the violin ( think about his third concerto in E major or the God save the King variations) and never had any problems

From Theodor Taimla
Posted on July 18, 2010 at 02:36 PM

Has Paganini ever used a chin rest for even when he was just starting out?
I mean, everybody were once beginners. :)

 

From Lisa Fogler
Posted on July 18, 2010 at 04:52 PM

Hi Michael, I agree. And it's interesting about the effect changing your chinrest had. I may try that!

As for the comment: "Paganini played without a chin-rest . The most severe critics of his time wrote that his intonation was perfect and that he played the most demanding passages with the utmost ease. Reading about Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps and others, it seemed that they all had intonation problems when performing." If you want to talk about exceptions that's your right. I have no clue what one famous violinist, Paganini, playing without a chinrest has to do with the rest of us normal people. I'm not talking about famous virtuousos, but normal every day violinists. Good for you if you choose to play without one. Citing ONE super talented out of the ordinary violinist does not prove anything. Do you play like Paganini? How many people do? Do you even play as well as Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps, those famous ridiculous poor idiots who seem to play out of tune with their chinrests???? lol! What does this prove? Nothing. The point is, for most of us, modern playing involves playing with a chinrest. There is not something wrong with us for using one. If you have chosen not to that's your choice. Nobody is criticising you. Personally, I don't see any reason to do that unless one is going to play in a Baroque orchestra, et al. Most people might simply choose a smaller chinrest, which I am considering doing based on the great comments I've read in this forum.

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on July 18, 2010 at 10:40 PM

 oh man...if doing without a chin rest approaches the kind of anti-shoulder-rest fundamentalism that sometimes goes on I just don't know what I'm going to do...I still use both and my set up works for me but ...oh sheesh I quit posting in this thread.  Even though I made one correction of something I saw in one of Lisa's posts, in general I agree with her on the other issues and I just don't think it matters what Paganini did without.  I've only studied a couple of his caprices so far but I can honestly say that it simply wouldn't work for me unless my setup was comfortable for me.

From Marc Villeneuve
Posted on July 18, 2010 at 11:32 PM

Lisa: I am not the agressive type. I am just telling you about well known facts. Many tzigane violinists still play today without a chin-rest. Spohr was the first to use one. And I am not a super virtuoso. I am a composer,that is quite different. My comment is just informative and to be part of a friendly discussion. You assumed that it was not possible to play difficult music without a chin-rest. I disagree. That is all... And I do use a chin-rest, but not a shoulder pad.

The comments about Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps are not negatives. Since we do not have any recordings of these great violinists, i just wanted to make a comparaison with Paganini. You can read these critics in the New-york times archives if you are a member.  About Paganini, you can read his latest bio published aux éditions Fayard et écrit par Edward Neill,musicologue anglais établi en Italie,secrétaire à l'institut d'Études sur Paganini... C'est très intéressant. Bonne soirée Lisa!

From Melvin Goldsmith
Posted on July 19, 2010 at 12:13 AM

 Body contact with the violin or cello  in Strad's  time was part of the playing tecnique for controlling tone and wolf etc.

Chinrests do effect tone.....Many years ago  I became aware of this adjusting violins. The chinrest is quite an encumberance for making adjustments and it is very tempting to remove it while trying to fix things....The adjuster cannot take a short cut by playing the violin with no chinrest...A violin played as Paganini  played it would be much more controllable in terms of tone but physically far more demanding to play.

From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on July 19, 2010 at 02:11 AM

 

I am having trouble understanding why playing without a chin rest would be the crucial or even a major factor in playing in tune. Even Ruggiero Ricci who wrote about the lost art of pivoting (to move around the violin without the direct shifting that changed violin technique) used a chin rest. He is certainly known for his wonderful Paganini playing and he even played and recorded more difficult music like that of Ernst ( for example, Polyphonic Etude # 6, Variations on "Last Rose of Summer").

Gidon Kremer is a great Paganini player as well and uses a chin rest. Alexander Markov has a video of a live performance of all the Paganini Caprices and also uses a chin rest. I cannot tell that their intonation suffers or that they show any hardship negotiating the difficulties of these caprices by using chin rests. In fact, I can think of no great player before the public today that is playing repertoire of this kind that doesn't use a chin rest.

What do you do with people who have a big gap between their chin/jaw and the surface of the violin? Are they simply to leave their chin a couple inches or more up in the air as they play Paganini caprices? Surely they shouldn't be risking damage to their necks by dropping the head so much to touch the violin and secure it from above. I've seen people leave their chins off the violin often when playing in period instrument ensembles and I've seen, for example, one of the concertmasters of the Berlin Philharmonic who uses a shoulder rest lift his chin off from time to time while playing, but I've never seen this demonstrated for music like Paganini caprices or his concerti.

Do we know anything about how Paganini positioned his violin in the absence of a chin rest? The famous daguerrotype alleged to be a picture of him is not (http://www.gegoux.com/fake.htm) or at:

(http://www.lifeinitaly.com/music/niccolo-paganini.asp) so I'm not sure if there are any likenesses of him playing or in a playing stance that can give us any clues.

Also, how does playing without a chin rest effect the ability to do vibrato for example in the ways in which we are accustomed to hearing from the early 20th century onward with examples from Kreisler, Heifetz, and Elman up to and including the arm vibrato techniques of many current players?

 

From Marc Villeneuve
Posted on July 19, 2010 at 04:10 AM

The daguerre is a fake and the drawings are not faithful to how really Paganini hold the violin. But looking at Zukerman doing it seems not to be impossible to achieve high level of virtuosity. I think that the chin-rest is very comfortable, specially the flat ones made by the Hills. I had just experiment the sensation of playing without the chin-rest and it is just fun and the violin sounds different. You feel the vibrations on the table. There is no more to say. I never said it had something to do with intonation. I was just refering to the accuracy of Paganini as reported by musicians of the time and famous critics. Ole Bull,Vieuxtemps, Dancla, Carl Ghur, and dozens of others did wrote comments about Paganini's playing and immaculate intonation.

From Christiaan van Hemert
Posted on July 19, 2010 at 06:45 AM

 I am always surprised when I read the shoulder rest discussions and now the chin rest!  I really feel that it makes no difference if you use them or not. It all boils down to one thing:

- Do you hold the violin up with your left hand? (like I do) Then it's your choice whether you use a shoulder rest and/or chin rest. You don't need them but if they make you feel more comfortable you can. Many violinists who hold the violin with their left hand still use the rests!

- Do you hold the violin between your chin and shoulder? If this is the case you need to play with rests to avoid injuries (and to feel comfortable), simple as that!

I bet every combination can yield great results and thus a great violinist.

If I have to name a real advantage of playing without a shoulder rest it would be that you never have to fiddle with it (pun intended) and that it can't slip off during a concert messing up your peformance. Then again, with a shoulder rest it's much easier and safer to put your violin on a marble table :)

From Lisa Fogler
Posted on July 19, 2010 at 08:50 AM

Christiaan, very good and simply way to put it. Maybe this difference of opinions has to do with style of playing. Classical musicians usually do not hold their violin with their left hand (or they shouldn't anyway!). Whereas, in other styles, it may be perfectly acceptable. So, it's a a personal choice and nobody can argue with that! ;o)

Ronald, your comments were very insteresting. I didn't know Ricci said that. I love learning new things in here! I knew about the Paganin/chinrest arguement before. But, as far as I know there was some question about whether or not it was accurate that he didn't play with one. And, dare I add, that most people don't have super soloist violins anyway. The average person had an average violin and plays with a chinrest, and there is nothing wrong with that.

And it certainly is no justification for the rest of us to not use one. Also, I have a sweaty double chin. I certainly would never apply it for long periods of time to my dear violin, cloth or not! Plus, it hurts to play without one! There's nothing wrong with comfort, it doesn't mean we are a cowards or lazy or trying to take the easy route.

Melvin, I didn't think that chinrests effected sound until I read about that in this forum! In fact I was sure they didn't, but now I've changed my mind :o)

From Christiaan van Hemert
Posted on July 19, 2010 at 09:20 AM

Hi Lisa,

I am in fact a gypsy jazz-fiddler but with a very solid classical background and I still play classical music often professionally, both as a chamber music musician and/or as a soloist with ensembles/orchestras. I know many, many very fine classical violinists (I'm talking about the highest level here, soloists and concertmasters) who hold the violin with their left hand.

It might seem contradictory but holding the violin with the left hand enures complete relaxation in that hand for three reasons:

- many people  cope with the problem of "tension in your neck/jaw = tension in your left hand"; this problem will be gone

- if your left hand is not relaxed you cannot play holding the violin, so in fact one practices constantly on playing with minimum pressure on the fingerboard, fast and resistance free shifting and efficient vibrato

- when holding the violin with the left hand your hand shape will adapt according to where you are playing on the violin to be able to support the violin; this will ensure the most efficient hand shapes that require the least amount of movement to press down on the fingerboard. Also a smart use of gravity comes into play. Many players (so not ALL) who hold the violin between their shoulder and chin try to play with one hand shape as much as possible, sometimes resulting in less than ideal shapes in some positions.

 

From John Cadd
Posted on July 19, 2010 at 07:35 PM

If you really wanted to play without a chinrest would you need to contact the belly with skin?  The varnish might deteriorate if you did that. Simple answer would be a piece of cling film spread on the belly.Not traditional I know. Better than a big white absorbent cloth.

From Andres Sender
Posted on July 20, 2010 at 04:48 PM

Thank you Christiaan for keeping things grounded.

A few facts about the history of the chin-rest:  Paganini was 38 in 1820, which is about when Spohr implies that the chin-rest began to be used by "many players".  But Spohr was in Frankfurt or Kassel at that time and the chin-rest seems to have been a pet project of his, indeed he is commonly credited with its invention because he mentions and illustrates one in his Violinschule, published in Vienna in 1832.  Other sources say that the chin-rest did not become standard until around 1850.

Interestingly, as late as the third quarter of that century many people were just using a sort of minimalist crescent-shaped attachment to aid hooking the chin on the bass side of the lower bout.  One example can be seen on photos of  the younger Sarasate with his instrument (he began public performances in 1860).   In later photos a white-haired Sarasate is seen with something like a small version of the modern chin-rest.  He died in 1908.

From Michael Darnton
Posted on July 21, 2010 at 04:02 AM

A friend of mine who plays baroque, transitional, and modern violins tells me that while it's easy to move back from higher positions with a conically tapered baroque neck (moving from the thick part of the neck to the thin end seems to slide nicely for him), or with a chinrest on a modern violin, it's difficult with a transitional neck, which is relatively parallel in thickness like a modern violin but the transitional doesn't have a chinrest to hold the violin while pulling your hand back. The transitional period started around 1780 or so, and continued into the early 1800s. I think it's reasonable to suspect that the narrowing of the upper neck made it easier to reach higher positions, but players soon realized they needed more help getting back out of them, and thus the rapid development of the chinrest right around that time.

Someone who owns one of my violins used it for a while with a shoulder rest and no chinrest, saying that it was very comfortable that way. I'd say you, as the player, can do whatever you want, and if it's working for you, no one else should have a say in it, especially not random strangers on the internet. :-)

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on July 21, 2010 at 05:43 AM

 `There are no random strangers on the Internet.`

Quote from my latest book `Ricecrispian theory for dummies.`

Cheers,

Buri

From Dion Ackermann
Posted on July 22, 2010 at 06:15 PM

 There are only strange randoms on the internet.

If you are comfortable without one don't use it, unless your wife gave you one for your birthday. 

From Ann Brown
Posted on January 23, 2011 at 03:30 AM

 So is there any hope for a giraffe neck with hyper flexible thumbs?  I have an SAS 4.0 cm chin rest (never found a shoulder rest that worked - tried em all)  and cannot hold the violin between chin and clavicle shoulder without it drooping downward and aiming more towards my front center.  So my playing vibrato and shifting is handicapped or poor until I find a means to give my left hand freedom to not need to help hold up the neck.  My teacher says to aim my thumb tip back towards the scroll and let the neck balance on the bone of my thumb alone to do vibrato but invariable it slips - when I lay I need the base of the 1st finger to help support with the thumb.  Any clues for a better chinrest or even how high to get it?

I wish the SAS chin rest lip could be a little deeper with a steeper ridge because it slides out from under my jaw so easily.
Video showing my thumb collapsing as I play:  https://files.me.com/tigerphilosophy/dgkhwq

 

From Thomas Cooper
Posted on January 23, 2011 at 04:21 AM

Yes, you need a chin rest. If you don't use one, your position will become corrupted, and it will ultimately affect your technical ability.

From Jiefei Fang
Posted on January 24, 2011 at 05:16 PM

 @ Ann:

Fellow v.com member Emily Grossman posted pictures and explanation of her solution in a previous discussion to what I believe is the left hand issue at question. Here is the link - her pictures are about 2/5 down the discussion.

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=15191

 I myself recently (in the last 5 or 6 weeks) have also adopted this method with favorable results - including (but not limited to) better shifting, more consistent intonation, improved vibrato, miraculously learning wrist/hand vibrato, cleaner double-stops, improved fourth finger strength and dexterity, better hand-wrist-arm alignment, and more efficient use of the base knuckles for articulation. To top it all off? I also have what you might call hyper-flexible thumbs, so this solution might work for you too. However, please do consult your teacher before adhering to advice given over the internet by a stranger.

You mentioned:

"My teacher says to aim my thumb tip back towards the scroll and let the neck balance on the bone of my thumb alone to do vibrato but invariable it slips - when I lay I need the base of the 1st finger to help support with the thumb."

Unless you hold the violin entirely by chin and shoulder (something that never worked for me - at all), then keeping the violin on the bone of the thumb alone is of course a very unstable position to work from. I advocate allowing the base of the index finger to make contact with the neck - I do not find that it inhibits vibrato to any degree, and in fact find it useful for having a tactile sense of where I am on the fingerboard. However, in keeping in-line with your teacher's instructions, I would suggest the following:

Based on the video you posted, it seems that your left hand palm is more or less facing, well, your face. This puts the thumb next to the neck of the violin, and is not conducive to your teacher's advice of having the neck balance on the bone of the thumb. What I might suggest is to further supinate the forearm - to rotate it such that the palm is facing to the left somewhat. This rotates the whole arm and hand such that it places the thumb a little further under the neck. Be careful that if you are to try this (emphasis on IF - again, I highly suggest consulting your teacher about any advice that you are considering), that you don't try to rotate the pinkie around the thumb. Instead, it is easier (and healthier) to keep the pinkie in place as an axis, and to rotate the rest of the hand around it.

Another thing to watch out for (I noted this while watching the clip you posted) is the alignment of the hand, wrist, and forearm. There are brief moments where in trying to correct your thumb position, your wrist seems to collapse - and repeated or prolonged collapse can lead to problems in the wrist. Something I would recommend (Warning: consult with teacher first!) is to pretend that you are playing violin - putting your arms into position - but instead of the normal left hand shape and right hand bow hold - lightly make fists with both hands. It is difficult to make a fist if the wrist is collapsed - and I believe that this exercise of imagination will help provide a feel for what having power and relaxation in tandem is like.

 

From Amanda Clark
Posted on January 26, 2011 at 02:03 AM

You don't want to have to support the violin with left hand or it will affect your playing when moving to higher position. You should be able to hold the violin with your neck instead of your hand without the violin sliding. Also, you could be setting yourself up for neck problems down the road.

From bill platt
Posted on January 26, 2011 at 05:21 PM

"You should be able to hold the violin with your neck instead of your hand without the violin sliding. Also, you could be setting yourself up for neck problems down the road."

Clamping the violin with your neck can make for neck problems.

Holding the violin with your left hand could cause neck problems?  That seems less likely.

 

From Ted Awards
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 03:29 PM
In my opinion if I place my chin on a violin without the chin rest, the resonance of the sound is reduced. Some of the wood vibration are dampened by my chin on the top of the violin.
I put the chin rest back and my violin starts singing like a bird :-)
From marjory lange
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Funny, no one on the whole thread discusses the possibility for damage to the VIOLIN from playing w/o chin rest...varnish for one. Pressure on the top for another. All worry only about the player.
From Trevor Jennings
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Stanley Ritchie's new book "Before the Chinrest" is the one to read on this topic. It discusses, among many other things, alternative fingering and left hand techniques to cope with downward shifts.
Playing without a chinrest is for me a relaxing experience. Nearly all of the time my chin barely makes contact with the violin, if indeed at all. The only time proper contact is needed is when shifting down from a high position and then it is only enough pressure to stabilize the instrument for a short period of time; any adverse change in tone quality is virtually unnoticeable. Note that a useful tip is to have the chin located on the treble side of the tailpiece; this stops the violin from sliding down to the right. Another tip is to support the violin with the scroll at more or less centre-face level; it makes it that much easier.
From Shawn Boucke
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 06:03 PM
I use a chin rest, and shoulder rest because neither my chin, nor my shoulder is shaped like a violin.
From marjory lange
Posted on September 15, 2012 at 02:38 AM
I'm sure the technique can be learned; I just wonder about the violin during the learning process. Too many people grip/cling to their chin rest like it holds things together. That kind of pressure would be terrible for a violin.
From Draco Rat
Posted on September 15, 2012 at 06:43 AM
Interesting about Heifetz. He apparently used a chin rest some of the time at least.

Clearly visible.

From John Cadd
Posted on September 15, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Historically many players used the violin without a chinrest and we see the bare wood on the belly that was exposed by that.But when modern makers imitate the worn varnish on the back they just keep the belly completely normal as if chinrests have always been used. How do we square that up ? As you are a player who prefers to play without one because it fits your neck I would say go ahead and enjoy it. The influence on this topic feels as if you should be slightly (or even very )uncomfortable to make a better sound or to save the varnish. If it limits the amount of virtuosity you can display that is your own decision. That limit will always be there . The longer expressive notes will allow you to lift the chin away and let the violin vibrate anyway.
From jean dubuisson
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Think of the Mozart concerto's, the Bach sonatas and partitas, even the Beethoven concerto, all from before the chinrest. I've often wondered about it. My old teacher also had such a minimalistic, crescent-shaped chinrest as was mentioned in one of the replies above. Just like the shoulder rest I think the chinrest can largely be dispensed with, but, as is also indicated by many of the above replies, you have to touch the wood with your chin (perhaps not all the time, but frequently when shifting), and that is probably not so good for the violin itself (think of perspiration etc.) and will also dampen the sound. By the way, my luthier warns agains chinrest models that clamp outside of the end block of the violin. Indeed, beyond the area of the end block, there is just that thin violin rib that must support the often quite high pressure of the clamp.
From Paul Chan
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 04:22 PM
In the process of trying different chin rests, I played for a period of time without one. My violin came with a Guarneri style chin rest, then I switched to Strad, plastic Dresden, plastic Teka, and for a while after, played without a chin rest. The sound was much more free in response. The only adjustment I had to make was to raise and level the shoulder rest arms to get the height and rotation angle to a comfortable level. Also used a cloth on the violin. It felt very natural and surprisingly I ended up using less clamping force with my chin. I have since put on a modified wooden Teka and somehow it really enhanced the sound of my violin. It took away my wolf tones on the G octave and the E string became more focused and strong. Not sure why this is happening but it seems the chinrests has quite some affect on my violin. Playing without a shoulder rest on the other hand, didnt make much difference in sound for me.
From jean dubuisson
Posted on September 18, 2012 at 07:26 AM
hi all,

motivated by this discussion I decided this morning to try and play without the chinrest. it feels great! I should specify that I play without a shoulder rest so I already know to hold the violin with the left hand and just rest the violin on the collarbone.

the main discovery is that your violin becomes so much lighter! it is as light as a feather now. I played a scale in C on the G-string, and a scale in C on the E-string, and this is as easy as it was before. so, shifting is not really a problem. I use a cloth of chamois leather instead of the chinrest, it seems to suffice. it prevents the violin from sliding away. so I think, at least for now, I am going to relegate my chinrest to the large storage compartment of my violin case (so that I have the chinrest with me just in case I need it back), and try out "doubly restless" life for a while! I play in an amateur orchestra and have to learn four new pieces in a month time, so I am not doing this idly!

to all those amateur players out there who can afford to experiment, and especially those who already know how to play without a shoulder rest, I would recommend to just try it out and see how it feels!

best -Jean

From John Cadd
Posted on September 18, 2012 at 10:01 AM
Oh Trouve now look what you`ve started. And Bud too !
From Bud Scott
Posted on September 18, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I played in an orchestra without one this week - much more fun and yes, oh the lightness!
From Gary Anderson
Posted on July 22, 2013 at 08:38 PM
OK I'll jump in.

If you can play without a chinrest and you like it and it works for you, fantastic! But I think there are 3 factors to consider: comfort, control and sound/tone.

I believe Louis Spohr invented the chinrest in the 1820's to facilitate the left hand, which it does. Before that, no chinrests. But anything that touches the top, back or sides will dampen the sound to some degree. So, the chin and shoulder with no chinrest will dampen the violin's vibration, as does a traditional chinrest in the way it clamps onto an instrument.

The real problem is, can a chinrest allow maximum vibration, and still be standard and comfortable? If you want your chinrest to also help open up your sound, you might check out www.ResonationChinrest.com.

There may be other chinrests that help with resonation also. Is any chinrest perfectly comfortable? Maybe. And a custom setup by a luthier certainly is a help.

Just a suggestion. Happy music making! Gary

From marjory lange
Posted on July 24, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Pressure: even the most relaxed violinists 'grab' from time to time. Look at how thin the plates are.

Sweat/oil: bad for varnish

In other words, protection to ensure the instrument's longer, healthier life.

I guess if you're a fiddler who rests the instrument against the breast bone, it may not be an issue (oddly, all the fiddlers I've seen who play that way have the chin rest they absolutely never use).

From Emily Grossman
Posted on July 24, 2013 at 05:03 PM
I took mine off for a month this year to break a clenching habit. Basically, any time you clench, it can throw everything off. If playing without a chin rest makes you clench more, then you're doing it wrong. Done properly, you rely heavily upon balance and good technique to pull it off. Personally, I found that my violin was more resonant without it, but I think it needed a soundpost adjustment because the responsiveness changed. So, eventually, I just put the chin rest back on. It comes in handy when negotiating the fingerboard in and out of the highest positions because the cup shape hooks under the chin just a bit and keeps the violin from potentially slipping off the collarbone when shifting down. You can ma.nage without it, but for me, it felt a bit risky when playing with the symphony
From bill kilpatrick
Posted on July 24, 2013 at 05:44 PM
while i don't use a chin rest, i acknowledge that wearing one would be a great way to stop people asking why i don't wear a chin rest.
From Gary Anderson
Posted on August 5, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Bill, LOL!

But think about this. Before the 1820's nobody used a chinrest. And before chinrests, all players knew what an instrument sounded like sans chinrest. And with the new chinrest in the 1820's, I'm sure they could hear a difference, if any. After then, chinrests developed, and more and more used chinrests were used, until now where 99.99% of all violinists and violists use chinrests.

Don't you think there is a good reason for that?

It's easy to ask the question, "Why not just not use a chinrest? Wouldn't that be better?". Back then they knew why not. Obviously the advantages of a chinrest outweighed the problems of it.

If we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Gary

From Ryan Fox
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 07:44 AM
Thread from the grave, sorry...

But my viola was sounding unresponsive and very muted after myriad adjustments to the post and string experimentation.

I noticed though that the side mount ebony chinrest was actually beyond the edge and on the viola. Moved it back to the very edge and finger tightened it... and it sound like I spent an extra $30k. If incorrectly placed or tightened it can make a huge diff

From John Cadd
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 08:52 AM
That shows a good reason not to not have a chinrest. The badly fitted chinrest was pressing down on a plate (probably) and stopping it vibrating.Imagine a big fat old chin restricting the delicate vibrations. Then again the varnish will wear away and then sweat and dirt will get into the wood fibres.You must have seen plenty of old violins like that.
From Darrett Smith
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 11:42 AM
Ryan, you can also try experimenting with moving the chinrest farther away from or closer to the tailpiece - moving it away from the tailpiece makes the sound darker and more open, while moving it closer to the tailpiece focuses and brightens the sound.

My current teacher uses a Wittner side-mounted chinrest on his Gaspar da Salo viola because it's so light, and the contact with the instrument is minimal - it sits only on the purfling.

From John Cadd
Posted on August 17, 2013 at 12:53 PM
One design that never gets mentioned is the combined chinrest with tailpiece all in one .It is on sale but nobody talks about it. Would outright dismissal be fair without trying it ? On this forum ,probably that will happen. It`s not a new design though. Many old books have pen sketches extolling it`s virtues. Don`t knock it till you`ve tried it . I have never tried one myself. It might work. It might not. No clamp to weigh it all down .Nice,pretty wood to tempt you. How can you resist ? You won`t press it down with your chin . Who would ever think of such a thing ? All that floating and balancing ? You know it makes sense .
From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on August 18, 2013 at 12:25 AM
Hi John,
Is this the product to which you are referring?
http://www.adventurousmuse.com/2011/04/is-it-a-tailpiece-or-a-chin-rest-how-about-both.html
From John Cadd
Posted on August 18, 2013 at 10:16 PM
I could not find it there but Dov Schmidt has some pictures. It says many fiddle players use them.They have lower bridges (I didn`t know that) which makes for a harsher sound and the tailpiece combination seems to smooth out the harshness. All new to me but interesting. I thought there must have been a reason to still see them around. But haven`t we all seen famous players with their chins all over the tailpiece at times ? Perhaps it`s like the lady whose husband had died .One consolation was allowing herself the luxury of lying diagonally in bed .
From William Vennard
Posted on August 27, 2013 at 03:13 PM
The one thing I've noticed in previous com is little mentioning individuals upper physiology.I was born with a.longer than usual, thin neck, causing me to have to play with both a chin rest and ashoulder rest. Hope that most would agree that minor damage from the purling to the edge of the bout would cause the least damage to the overal sound of your instrumnent. Fortunately,the best chin and shoulder rests clamp on to these very edges and make no contact with the edges of the back and lower bouts and can actually open up the sound of you instrument. Thank you.

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