Taking Off Beginner's Chinrests

March 13, 2013 at 07:11 PM · What's the point of a chinrest for beginners? Until they start shifting, isn't it just an enticement to poor posture habits? If, without shoulder rest, with the violin sitting on the collar bone, the student can have a wonderful posture - complete with regal neck/head - why shouldn't we remove it?

Replies (24)

March 13, 2013 at 07:20 PM · Your argument is based on the flawed premise that having a chinrest or shoulder rest causes poor posture.

Poor posture comes for the failure to have all the different physical elements of the instrument come together as unified, functioning, system. This is why private lessons with experienced teachers who can diagnose and solve these issues are invaluable.

March 13, 2013 at 07:45 PM · My premise is - ask the child to freeze in playing position. Take away the instrument, and the chin-rest-less students only need drop their arms and they're in the perfect standing posture.

March 13, 2013 at 07:53 PM · You're assuming all children are the same size and shape. As someone who has been teaching elementary school aged children violin in private and class formats for nearly two decades, I assure you that isn't the case.

Furthermore, I can do what you propose with ALL of my students regardless of age and they all have wildly different combinations of chinrests, shoulder rests (or not). They don't have to modify their standing posture to play the instrument, nor raise their shoulders, or anything of that sort.

The challenge as a teacher is fitting the instrument to the body, and not the other way around. This is compounded by the fact that children grow and change in size and shape!

March 13, 2013 at 08:01 PM · Furthermore, I can do what you propose with ALL of my students regardless of age

and their necks/shoulders aren't distorted? and why do they need the chinrest?

March 14, 2013 at 06:51 AM · Interesting view John. The shape I want kids to adapt to is the beautiful, natural one. I suppose I don't support taking away from that in the slightest - I'm an ultra fit-the-instrument-to-the-body person, but more importantly playing as-it-feels-from-the-inside. In that sense playing an instrument is an aid to posture; a feel-my-body-doing-this-expertly kinda thing. Only the best posture allows that. I'm not looking for violin virtuosos I'm looking for posture virtuosos! :)

March 14, 2013 at 08:46 AM · We need to keep the chin-rests on for children. It stops their nasal secretions from dribbling onto the varnish...

Cheers Carlo

March 14, 2013 at 02:04 PM · A good teacher is the one with a keen eye for individual differences in students - body mind and soul.

Any rigid and religious attitude such as "no shoulder rest" or "no chin rest" or "shoulder and chin rest" will not serve the student, but the ego of the teacher that can brag among the colleagues about it.

We have to keep in mind that the children grow and their bodies develop during those years of early violin training. Even if one starts without / with chin-shoulder rest, along the way they may or may not need one.

Common sense, together with living memory of great masters of the 20th century is telling me that chin rest is a minimum of ergonomic tools that could be used to the benefits of a student with average neck length. The only exception is when a student has a really short neck, but even then, a low chin rest would help a bit.

The challenge is that there are not too many great designs of chin rests for beginners, so one has to spend more time looking for the best match and keep updating them as the child grows.

I also agree that using or not using the chin rest or shoulder rest will not make one more or less tense. A good teacher is the one who will teach the student to be aware of tension and make his/her own decisions and choose what works for them.

March 14, 2013 at 04:09 PM · >and their necks/shoulders aren't distorted?

No, they stand without having to distort their physical layout.

> and why do they need the chinrest?

Because it fills the gap between their jawbone and collarbone and provides part of the balance of holding up the violin.

If you don't want to use a chinrest personally, I have no issue with it. However, this whole idea that somehow students shouldn't use one because it "causes bad posture" is a complete fallacy.

March 14, 2013 at 06:51 PM · Because it fills the gap between their jawbone and collarbone and provides part of the balance of holding up the violin.

I'm not convinced. What's wrong with having a gap between jawbone and collarbone? In fact I think it important the jaw doesn't touch the violin at all until perhaps it's time to learn shifting (it's probably how Leopold Mozart taught). The extra balancing required is good for the student. I suppose what we have here is the fixed/rigid hold school vs the no hold school. And what is it I read in another post - that over 70% have serious issues with tension which limit their potential?

March 15, 2013 at 04:29 PM · I often remove both rests, look in a mirror, and see what's missing: a lot in my case.

I have often filed down the painful edges of spoon-shaped rests: a lip to hook under the chin is one thing, but a sharp ridge cutting across under the left side of the jawbone is intolerably distracting.

I shall take out a few patents before saying any more!

Chidren change shape weekly; violins don't!

March 15, 2013 at 06:24 PM · John, I wouldn't waste money on Elbow Pills. Good traditional Elbow Grease, cheap at half the price, is good enough for me, as it was for my father, his father, and grandfathers to the n-th degree before him.

March 15, 2013 at 06:44 PM · The violin while it is played surely has three supports, the first two being left hand and collar bone, the third (which doesn't occur to everyone) being the stabilising pressure of the bow on the strings. In which case I can see the argument for not needing a chinrest for music that rarely gets out of the first position, like most folk music of the British Isles, and a lot of Early and Baroque music.

The first 24 measures of the Bach A minor vc, for example, can be played perfectly well in the first position, as I rather suspect would have been the practice of the time. And (slightly off-topic) I'm a getting a little concerned about some of the proposed fingerings and shifts in my modern edition of the Haydn G major vc, that I'm currently working on. My motto for most music up to the end of the 18th century is to keep the technique straightforward.

March 15, 2013 at 07:30 PM · There's a Trinity grade 5 Corelli gigue - I handed out a version from IMSLP which immediately goes into 3rd position. I thought it weird at the time. The kid's violin teacher used an urtext copy and voila! all in 1st.

Yes, those of us chinless, restless, soon notice the 'third support'.

March 15, 2013 at 11:05 PM ·

March 15, 2013 at 11:26 PM · "The violin is also unstable without a chin rest. I was in a neck brace and then in recovery for a while, so I played shoulder and chinrestless for a little over a year. I learned a lot, including why we have chin rests. They keep the violin from teetering right to left. They also serve as a groove that fits under the jaw bone and prevents the violin from moving away from the body during shifts."

I hear that. I still make do with a standard teka chin rest and a ridiculous amount of foam padding on top (~ 4cm) because I have a long neck (relative to the violin, not relative to the rest of my skeleton!) and have not been able to find a rest high enough. It works but is not ideal for down shifting.

Cue the long neck deniers and those that expect me to bend my neck into a pretzel.

March 15, 2013 at 11:40 PM · There has been a lot of damage to varnish from the time before chin rests. Of course, with student instruments, who cares, right?

March 16, 2013 at 01:15 AM · Eric, if you can't find a high enough chin rest, you could get a should....never mind.

March 16, 2013 at 02:34 AM · Messing with your students' chin rests seems rather neurotic to me. I'm not sure what the point is, other than to make them get used to something different later on. And when do you make that decision?

Louis Spohr didn't leave that much music of value, but he was right about the chinrest and the baton.

March 16, 2013 at 05:41 AM · > I suppose what we have here is the fixed/rigid

> hold school vs the no hold school.

I am at a complete loss to figure out what you mean by fixed/rigid. By filling the space between the collarbone and the jawbone, it makes it *easier* to rotate the violin on the long axis with the hands and the body, allowing for more effective bowing.

> And what is it I read in another post -

> that over 70% have serious issues with

> tension which limit their potential?

Statistics of this sort are meaningless...what study came to this conclusion, and on what sample size of the violin playing population?

Again I ask, what is your correlation between using a chinrest, and having tension while playing?

March 16, 2013 at 07:29 AM · Again I ask, what is your correlation between using a chinrest, and having tension while playing?

I've worked with a teacher who repaired broken violinists. It was always the shoulder! Using the chinrest with children, I found it a constant battle to prevent that tension - both shoulder and neck. Balancing on the collarbone and barring chin from touching the instrument (unless the neck is really short) cuts all that bother out. Let's face it, the violin is a freakish thing to hold! I'm just wishing to make it as natural as possible - not necessarily easier. After all, my approach requires substantial left hand development.

March 16, 2013 at 07:58 AM · I think Bud is saying that at an early stage of playing development, where it may not be absolutely essential for holding the instrument, it is better to eschew an (in all probability) ill fitting chin rest, than to use one and encourage bad posture by its use.

March 16, 2013 at 08:36 AM · Thanks Eric. Yes, it's a keep-it-simple-for-as-long-as-possible argument. By the way, and just to be facetious, how many bike teachers are there out there?

March 17, 2013 at 08:27 AM · I do like that idea John. Can't be that hard to make your own chinrests with an epoxy putty. I would think it would need to go hand in hand with an adjustable shoulder rest as necks in children can grow quite alarmingly. But then maybe the chinrest could be raised instead?

March 17, 2013 at 01:36 PM · Sirrah, a mighty jest indeed!

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