V.com weekend vote: Have you ever changed the chinrest on your violin to be more comfortable?

December 21, 2018, 8:47 PM · We've said it before: playing the violin or viola can be a pain in the neck!

Many people look to their shoulder rest to alleviate that pain -- either finding the one with the best shape and size for you, or eliminating it all together. But something many people overlook is the chinrest, that piece of wood on the top of the fiddle that cups the chin. Oftentimes students or even longtime players simply settle for the chinrest that came on the fiddle, without much more thought.

But finding the right the chin rest can make a huge difference in one's comfort level, playing the violin or viola. For those with a tall neck, getting a thicker chinrest can fill space between the violin and the chin, without raising the violin as a shoulder rest does. For those with a short neck, a lower chinrest can increase the comfort level by lowering the height of the violin.

chinrests
Illustration by Violinist.com.

And another consideration is where the chinrest sits: is it to the left of the tailpiece, or over the center? Is it mounted on the side, or the center? How does that affect the angle of the violin? The idea is to find a chinrest that puts the violin at an ideal angle, while putting your head in the healthiest, most comfortable place that won't require you to turn your head at an awkward angle or clench with the neck.

What are your experiences with chinrests? Please select the answer below that best relates to your experience, and then tell us about it in the comments below. You can describe a solution that really worked for you, or you can describe a problem that you continue to have and wish to solve.

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Replies

December 22, 2018 at 03:59 AM · I voted no, I was happy with the one the violin came with. Not quite true: I was happy with the one on my first violin and moved it over when I upgraded.

December 22, 2018 at 04:07 AM · I have an extremely short neck. My viola came with a Kaufman chinrest, which is already one of the lowest on the market... and it was still too tall. I was simply unable to fit my viola between my jaw and collarbone for years, so it got 100% of its support from my shoulder.

Ideally, I would use a center-mounted chinrest -- but I can't, because the tailpiece itself is already too high.

The best solution so far has been a custom chinrest: a Brandt rest with the inner edge cut to enable it to be moved about a half-inch closer to center. It's ultra-low, and while it's not quite the centered chinrest that would be ideal, I simply don't see any possible way to do better with a viola.

December 22, 2018 at 04:09 AM · When I get a new violin or viola, I have always needed to change the chinrest. Once I know I'm keeping the instrument, I will change the chinrest ASAP. I will only use the chinrest a violin or viola comes with if it happens to be the right fit for me. I've fantasized about it happening, but it never has and it's likely never going to happen.

December 22, 2018 at 04:18 AM · That comment above is mine.. Sorry for not logging in.

Andrew, and others seeking an extra low setup, apparently there's an extremely low center-mounted chinrest called Wave da capo, which seems to be perhaps the lowest chinrest in the world. You will have to go to their website to buy it, but you can return it if you dislike it. That chinrest is extremely, extremely low at only 1 cm tall. I have absolutely no idea how it works, but it sounds interesting. I just thought it might be interesting to put it out there.

Finding a chinrest that truly suits me has not been too difficult, thankfully. My teacher values the importance of a suitable chinrest and pointed me in the right direction early on. I am extremely thankful for that. I do change the chinrest whenever I get a new instrument, though.

December 22, 2018 at 04:22 AM · Wave Da Capo is not centered, though... it's center mounted but the part that's low is a wing extending out to the side, much like a Guarneri. It's actually a little bit too tall for me close to the tailpiece, because of its shape, and it's too flat for my liking. My current chinrest is 11 mm tall.

December 22, 2018 at 04:53 AM · Thanks for telling me. I didn't mean to be mean...

December 22, 2018 at 05:27 AM · Didn't think you were being mean. I realize that people who need low chinrests are extremely rare. When I got my custom chinrest, Frisch & Denig told me that over 90% of their customers needed raised chinrests.

December 22, 2018 at 05:35 AM · Andrew, I feel your pain! I also have a very short neck, and have struggled to find a chinrest that works for me. My current setup is actually no chinrest (and no shoulder rest) which leaves less than 1 cm between the violin table and my jaw. This combination works well for me in lower positions, but I have trouble holding the violin securely in high positions when my thumb leaves the neck. I end up raising my left shoulder a bit to stabilize the instrument in these positions - not ideal.

Ironically, the only comfortable chinrest I've ever found is my son's 1/4 size Wittner side-mount, which can't be mounted on a 4/4 violin. I'm planning to carve myself a Wittner clone that's the height of my son's chinrest, but compatible with a standard 4/4 clamp.

December 22, 2018 at 10:22 AM · I have yet to find my perfect set-up and experiment often if something new comes along that I think might work. You would think it would be fairly easy these days to be able to have a chinrest and shoulder rest fitted for the individual so that it works for them. Unfortunately, in the UK at least, this does not seem to be on offer.

December 22, 2018 at 10:41 AM · I'm a short, petite person, with a relatively short neck. For a year or so, I used a centra violin chinrest, but after struggling with this I tried my teacher's Wittner side-mounted and it's been fantastic. Comfortable, low and light. I doubt I'll ever use a different chinrest again!

December 22, 2018 at 12:29 PM · The over-the-tailpiece models are never comfortable for me and my relatively short, thick neck. Side-mounted without much scoop works best. After all, players did for centuries without such rests.

December 22, 2018 at 03:04 PM · I got my violin with a generic Guarneri model. No thank you! For a giraffe like me, thay's a death sentence. I first switched to a SAS but found it unreliable (that thing fell off during WAY too many performances). Eventually I upgraded to a Kreddle.

December 22, 2018 at 03:20 PM · " Yes, after trying the original I've changed it once or a few times."

About 13 years ago, I tried the Flesch flat model, centered over tailpiece. I liked it right away -- or, at least, thought I did. Later, though, I realized it was too tall for me. So I retrieved a vintage rest I'd kept from my student days. It reminded me of the Teka medium -- same basic shape and size. On two fiddles, it was too tall, but it fit right for me on the third instrument. One problem with this old CR: It was no longer safe to use. One bracket would no longer remain securely in place.

So I ordered a new Teka medium, which fits me right for this instrument. The other two fiddles now each have the shorter Dresden medium.

FWIW, I've used Strad Pads to cover the CR since I was 18 y/o -- one pad that I detach and re-attach for whichever instrument I'm playing. I love the enhanced freedom and security I get from these pads -- reliable grip, no slippage, no skin irritation.

December 22, 2018 at 04:48 PM · I would say that it is not just a matter of the right chin rest, but the right CR-SR combo (including no SR for some).

December 22, 2018 at 05:24 PM · I have changed a chinrest because it was unacceptable. It was a decent viola but came with a cheap plastic chinrest--the maker told me, "Doesn't matter what I put on it, you'd probably change it anyway." The one I choose I choose for aesthetic reasons (it matched the instrument's hue), but it also turned out to suit me.

Violin came with chinrest it kept for decades. I just got a new violin, I'll probably swap the chinrest out and keep my old one--same material, same model, no rational reason for the change. Or maybe I'll replace the current chinrest with one that again strikes me as more harmonious to the eye.

December 22, 2018 at 05:53 PM · Andrew I carved my Kaufmann CR down with tools in my workshop. Helped quite a bit.

December 22, 2018 at 07:00 PM · Not sure I had the option of cutting down a Kaufman. I needed both a lower edge and a deeper cup (I likely would have had to cut all the way through it), and I would have preferred something closer to center, so the custom-made chinrest may have been the only workable solution.

Besides, I don't have the tools to modify a chinrest on my own -- I didn't graduate from law school until I was 30, and I'm 35 now, so I'm still in an apartment and a long way from being able to have a workshop at all!

December 22, 2018 at 08:26 PM · I just changed my chinrest again today, to an Ohrenform Berber style. I loved it instantly - it gives me almost everything my previous chinrest did, plus more stability and a slightly better playing angle. One other thing it does (inadvertently) is change the position of my left ear, so the viola sounds different. Better, thankfully :-)

I'm wondering about others' experiences with this - does a different chinrest significantly change where your ear is and thus your perception of your instrument's sound? Does that affect your playing?

December 22, 2018 at 08:34 PM · I'm another Wittner user. All three of my violins, two acoustics and one electric, have Wittner Augsburg chinrests, and if I bought another violin I'd order an Augsburg to go with it right from the start. Height adjustability, beautifully functional and comfortable cup design, hypo-allergenic materials, lightweight, and brilliant attachment system are all features of the Wittner Augsburg.

To the anonymous poster above who has a fondness for their child's 1/4 size Wittner side mount, all the Wittner chinrests use the same attachment system. The clamping arms differ in size for different sized violins (or violas), but they are interchangeable throughout the system. If you had to have the 1/4 size cup, you could use full size clamping arms to attach it to your full size violin.

December 22, 2018 at 10:02 PM · I think that different chinrests can change sound perception because of the relationship between ear and violin, but I don't think it really affects your playing. I, too, use a Wittner center mount on my violin (although the side mount should do just fine for me too) and a Flesch flat on viola. I like both chinrests equally and it doesn't matter too much which instrument has which.

December 22, 2018 at 10:02 PM · How I voted isn't exactly the truth. I spent quite a lot of time settling on chin rests for the couple of violins & violas I use regularly. For the violins I prefer side-mount cantilevered rests, and for the violas, rather flat ones, though each fiddle has its own. Just how it worked out. Not all chin rests feel right with all shoulder rests, so working on one and then the other in very short order is really necessary, imo. I voted the way I did since I periodically check my students' rests and make adjustments or suggestions for changes as they grow around the equipment they have.

December 22, 2018 at 10:45 PM · I've always been happy with the chinrest on my violin, but am far less sure of the one on my 16.5" viola. One of these days I'll get round to trying a centre chinrest on the viola just to see if it makes it a bit more manageable.

December 22, 2018 at 11:49 PM · I have a Guarnieri on my German violin, and I think the chinrest on my recently acquired violin is a Gordon. I ordered a new Guarnieri in the color that matches my new violin.

December 23, 2018 at 12:03 AM ·

Here is my suggestion for those with a longish neck:

https://magicposture.com

it is a combination of the Teka chin rest and a properly moulded Wolf Forte Secondo.

December 23, 2018 at 01:07 AM · I use an ohrenform (Berber) chin rest. Everything else gives a sort of welt on my neck. Joshua Bell's use of one recommended it to me years ago.

December 23, 2018 at 02:03 AM · Anonymous Wittner fan here - thanks for the suggestion, Mark. Unfortunately, I've already tried that configuration. I should have clarified that the 1/4 size Wittner only works for me on my son's violin, because his instrument has the shorter ribs of a 1/4 size violin. The 1/4 size Wittner on my violin is still too high for me, and also interferes with the tailpiece. The search continues!

December 23, 2018 at 11:26 AM · I always carve the cork pads to reduce deadening effect

December 23, 2018 at 07:44 PM · I like to move my chin around a lot when I play and I also love the Ohrenform/Berber style. I got one for both my violin and my viola.

December 23, 2018 at 10:03 PM · Like most beginners, I started with the basic Guarneri that is all but ubiquitous. After a year or so, I found it was getting uncomfortable. I tried different CR's and finally landed on the Schmidt. It works best with my jawbone although the camber, being in reverse to the Guarneri confuses people who borrow my instrument.

FWIW: I did not use a SR till after I broke and dislocated my left clavicle. After it healed I found I needed one.

December 24, 2018 at 01:35 AM · I'm only really comfortable with very tall sidemounted chinrests and medium height shoulder rests. It was a struggle but finally found a setup that works a couple weeks ago.

December 25, 2018 at 06:48 PM · The way that a well made violin is constructed includes end blocks and corner blocks. The tailpiece end block is what the tail piece pin is inserted into. Because of this block, the center mounted side or center type of chin rests cause the least interference with the acoustics of the top and bottom plate of the violin. Also structurally this is one of the location on the violin body that has the greatest strength. This is why my chosen style of chin rest is center mounted side type. Side mounted chin rests have been around for decades. It is not the best place acoustically or structurally to attach a chin rest, however, the violinist must choose what works best for them. In the end consistency of position of the violin with respect to the left hand and the bow arm create the base upon which motor skills are learned.

December 27, 2018 at 09:20 PM · I use a Wave 1 chinrest. Works great.

December 28, 2018 at 02:53 AM · Funnily enough I changed the chinrest on my main violin several times since I got it in 2003, but am now back to using the one it originally came with! Started with a Guarneri, changed to a Guarneri with a silicone pad, to a side-mounted rest, then to a Flesch centered over the tailpiece, now back to the original Guarneri which now seems much more comfortable than it did originally...

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