Allergic to chin rest

September 27, 2012 at 03:45 AM · I am the mother of 10 and 12 year-old violinists. Both of them started at age five and just recently I realized that my youngest daughter was allergic to the metal that supports the chin rest. She has had very bad sores on her neck and avoided playing it at all. I thought it was that she was not holding it right and I feel horrible about it now.

She does want to continue playing the violin. My solution was to sew a piece of fabric to hang over it so that it does not touch her neck. It is doing the job but she is very embarassed by it when playing in the orchestra. It really looks like something "Mom" did :)

Can anyone give me any advice on what to do in this situation? I have been looking for something that would cover this. Even a different kind of chin rest would work but I can't seem to find anything.

Replies (24)

September 27, 2012 at 04:16 AM · There are a number of options to try :

1.You can buy chin rest covers made of leather. See ebay or try the violin shop. You could easily make one yourself out of scrap leather.

2. I assume that the fittings are chrome or nickel...some sort of shiny silver coloured metal ? You can buy gold plated or titanium fittings which are better for sensitive skin. Check with your violin shop.

3. Wittner make various hypoallergenic chinrests which also have special fittings. You can see them on ebay.

Try Dov Schmidt Music for a large range of chin rests and fittings. He has a good web site with photos.

NOTE : Many professional violinists who play expensive instruments put a cloth over the chin rest area to stop them sweating over their million dollar violins. You could point this out to your daughter.

September 27, 2012 at 06:37 AM · I've found the Wittner hypo-allergenic chinrests to work very well for students in this situation. They have both side and center-mount versions.

I also have pretty sensitive skin, easily irritated by cheap metal fittings. For the last decade and a half I've used Titanium fittings made by Otto Tempel for my chinrest. They're also very, very, light!

September 27, 2012 at 10:50 AM · Also my reaction: it is actually quite common to have a cloth over the chinrest. Let your daughter watch some fine Hilary Hahn movies on YouTube. Hilary Hahn is one of the absolute world stars of the violin and she is clearly not embarrassed by using a cloth over her chinrest! She is just one super example, actually, as I said, many many people use it. It is very ordinary, in fact.

September 27, 2012 at 11:34 AM · A simple (but not permanent) solution that is invisible is to coat the metal with clear nailvarnish! Obviously take the chinrest off the violin first as the nail varnish solvent will damage its finish. You may need to put a spot more on the tightening holes after putting it back on as the friction of the tool will likely scratch the nail varnish finish.

As said, its temporary until you can do one of the above....

September 27, 2012 at 12:03 PM · Also the Wolf Maestro, a covered chinrest, but $$$ imo.

September 27, 2012 at 12:50 PM · My daughter is also bothered by the metal of her chinrest. What has worked for her is a chin cozy:

It has a little padding, but you can remove it if you don't need that.

September 27, 2012 at 02:46 PM · Many violinists use a cloth over the chinrest, either because of allergies or perspiration, or for cushioning. For orchstra concerts, it should be black or dark; otherwise, anything that works.

Wittner chinrests are nice, but not very adjustable. If you know what the metal is to which she is sensitive, you can ask your luthier if s/he has feet of a different metal.

September 27, 2012 at 03:50 PM · Thank you all for the responses. I didn't know there were these options. I will look into them all.

I am still not sure which metal is bothering her. I realized this was the problem when she put on a cheap necklace and ended up extremely sore. She had a problem with rosin too but I was able to find some that didn't bother her. Hopefully this will be the end of the allergy problems for her.

September 27, 2012 at 05:48 PM · I know what it is like to have an allergy like that.. whenever that spot on my neck comes into contact with nickel, chrome, or brass for even just a few seconds, (one time I played on another violin for just ten seconds, thinking that that wouldn't be a problem) I wake up the next morning with a bad rash on my neck.

I've been mostly using the C.A. Gotz chinrests with titanium brackets; I also have a chinrest by Alexander Accessories with titanium brackets that's probably the closest thing I've seen to the original Hill Guarneri chinrests, which also caused a marked improvement of sound on my violin - but it wasn't comfortable for me to hold (the scoop was too deep) and shoulder tension issues forced me to switch back to my old chinrest.

The Wittner side-mounted hypoallergenic chinrest is also very good (if you find it comfortable), and if you don't overtighten it, it can be very nonintrusive to the sound of your instrument.

Also, there's nothing wrong with just using a folded up handkerchief; I know many people who don't have allergies who use them anyway, for comfort purposes.

September 27, 2012 at 07:43 PM · I think its most commonly nickel - which used to be used to 'dilute' (and strengthen) silver. I know cause I used to have a dredful red blemish on my neck that would not go away (once there it remained for months) until I found the culprit. She has to watch out for earring posts - stainless steel or pure silver is usually fine.

September 27, 2012 at 08:26 PM · I use the Strad Pad -- the model that uses a Velcro attachment to make it stay firmly on the chin rest. It's easily detachable and washable and quite economical -- less than $20 USD at last check. I use the large size, which covers the Flesch flat model chin rest and Guarneri large-plate model -- and it covers the metal brackets. I got my last ones a few months back from Shar or SW Strings -- not sure which at the moment.

I personally find the device very comfortable and much better for my purposes than a separate cloth -- definitely better traction and stability. I don't have to worry about a piece of fabric that can slide around; and since I don't have to hold the pad in place when I pause to hold the instrument aside for a few seconds, it's just one less item to keep track of during a session.

September 28, 2012 at 06:57 AM · I also use Strad Pads. If allergies were an issue, I'd get the large version which covers more real estate on the side of the violin.

Another option is that Shar sells a microfiber cleaning cloth that also makes a remarkably non-skid (and non-attention-grabbing) cloth for this purpose.

September 28, 2012 at 05:08 PM · Just paint the offending metal parts with polyurathene varnish; maybe the bow screw too?

Unless you are allergic to polyurathene too..

Cloth and leather may not be enough, as the slightest perspiration will put you back in contact with the horrid nickel alloys.

September 30, 2012 at 01:43 AM · see if your luthier can swap the hardware out with either titanium or stainless fittings. Otherwise, a cloth or chamois covering is quite a conventional solution.

September 30, 2012 at 04:07 AM · We bought a Wittner hypoallergenic chin rest made in Germany. You can buy one online from Amazon, eBay, etc, or you can buy one from your local shop. It absolutely does work with no metal coming in contact with your child's skin.

It comes in side or center mount. It can be a bit small, but for a young student, it works just fine. The composite legs are a bit bulky and can make the violin a tight fit in a case if the length of the back is longer (e.g. 360 mm).

September 30, 2012 at 04:20 AM · By the way, if you do go the Wittner composite chin rest route, there are just a couple of standard shapes and heights to the chin rest, and most people use a side mount. If your daughter does well with a flatter type of chin rest, this will work for her, and you can always have a luthier remove parts of the composite to make it more comfortable. If she needs a different type of chin rest, then a solution like titanium hardware may work better.

September 30, 2012 at 04:34 AM · In addition to the options above, a popular method is to cover the metal of the chinrest with moleskin. Naturally you want avoid getting it on the violin if possible.

October 6, 2012 at 12:08 AM · I am also allergic, and found the best thing that worked for me, was to put cloth tape on the end button and the two metal strips. It works great, and I don't have to worry about using a silk cloth, or something attached to the chin rest. Good luck!

October 6, 2012 at 12:51 AM · Here is another vote for the Wittner side-mounted chin rest. I change the violin hold on-the-fly to compensate my physical limitations, and this chin rest is very flexible in turns of holding positions. I also tried their centered-mounted chin rest but it did not work as well as the side-mounted one for me.

October 6, 2012 at 01:53 AM · take the chinrest off and use a sponge with rubberbands similar to how you would use for a shoulder rest application.

December 21, 2012 at 08:00 PM · It might be a nickel/chrome allergy.

You can find chinrest supports that are gold-plated (they're not especially expensive). Gold allergy is rare but I don't know how fast the plating may wear off. Gold-plating plus a cloth might do the trick.

Many violinists use a cloth to cushion their skin. Some even use sponges rather than a hard shoulder rest that attaches to the violin. I've considered trying that myself since the fewer accessories you add to the violin (that could dampen or interfere with the vibrations) probably the better.

If your daughter is self-conscious about the cloth, either use a pattern that's "cool" with kids (a popular character, for example) or one that matches the color of the violin or regular chinrest. Often it's not the material itself, but the "look" of it that makes kids self-conscious. Perhaps your daughter could pick out the cloth herself.

December 23, 2012 at 12:10 AM · I have been finding more and more musicians with this problem lately for some reason and I have started using annodized aluminum or titanium for the chinrest feet and none of my musicians have had problems with my instruments since then with being allergic to the hardware. Titanium is more expensive though but one plus is that it is lighter.

December 23, 2012 at 01:19 AM · Andrew kochie is right. Titanium clamp is expensive. I am allergy to nickel, too....and now use a black titanium clamp, which is more expensive than my chinrest.

Before this, i covered the nickel clamp with a tissue, but it looks so weird....

December 23, 2012 at 11:54 AM · I'll agree that the titanium clamps solve the problem for most people, and can usually be retrofit to the existing chinrest, if one wants to keep that.

On the gold plated hardware I've seen, the gold can wear off rather quickly.

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