Are Taller Chin Rests The Answer?

March 10, 2014 at 03:49 AM · I've just watched a video of the violin virtuoso, Xiang Yu. He uses what appears to be a normal sized chin rest but his shoulder rest is very tall.

In recent years the thinking seems to be away from tall shoulder rests to tall chin rests. Xiang Yu's professional teachers/coaches seem to think differently.

I'm curious what the thoughts are on the forum.

Replies (26)

March 10, 2014 at 04:24 AM · You use what works for you. Every person faces different physical challenges playing the violin.

March 10, 2014 at 04:46 AM · I'm a fan of tall chin rests. Using a too tall shoulder rest can throw off your bowing arm mechanics.

March 10, 2014 at 12:13 PM · I agree with SP that a tall shoulder rest changes bowing dynamics and the tall chin rest is more natural.

I am currently using a tall chin rest and no shoulder rest.

March 10, 2014 at 01:09 PM · A higher shoulder rest should cause your hands to be raised relative to the rest of your body, even if only slightly. I think for many SR users this is something they endure (get used to) in exchange for the other perceived benefits of the SR.

March 10, 2014 at 01:28 PM · "getting used to" only works for so many years.

As someone who used the standard chin rest/shoulder rest combo for my entire playing life, I'm in a position to say that, had a taller chin rest been available some decades ago, I might (emphasis on 'might') not have the very disturbing bone-spur problem in my right shoulder I do now.

Moving down--taller cr/less sr--is helping, but it's a case of too late. Back when I was a student, set up wasn't much discussed. I'm glad to see that, whatever new problems arise, the issue of equipment beyond fiddle and bow is becoming a more normal thing to evaluate and adjust.

March 10, 2014 at 03:15 PM ·

March 10, 2014 at 04:24 PM · The comments cause me to ask why those that needed a taller chin rest did not simply add an extension to the feet of the rest.

March 10, 2014 at 04:37 PM · Right now I'd have to say the kreddle is the best answer for those of us that have long necks. Once I installed mine and put it on the CR highest setting, everything felt a lot more comfortable and and more natural to play.

During my first lesson with the kreddle, my teacher immediately noticed a better and more natural posture while playing. Now she even recommends it to all of her long necked colleagues. Even if it still isnt not long enough for you, a little bit of extra cork should do the trick.

March 10, 2014 at 05:17 PM · I did add extensions to the feet of my Chinrest to make it taller.

March 10, 2014 at 10:33 PM · there's a certain space between the shoulder and the chin, and the violin itself takes up part of it. Figure where the violin needs to be within that space to give you your best range of bow strokes based on your anatomy, then fill in above that with chin rest (whatever height that needs to be), and fill in below that with shoulder rest or padding or whatever you do.

March 11, 2014 at 01:45 AM · "Figure where the violin needs to be within that space "

@Tom,

The violin needs to be as low as possible; i.e., resting on the collar bone, or very close to it. Any higher and it is less than optimal for the bow arm, especially on the lower strings. Regardless of the length of your neck, your arms are at the same elevation -- that is, assuming your shoulders are not lopsided. Just because you have a long neck does not mean you would benefit by having the violin closer to your head.

To answer the OP, yes any extra gap should be filled from above, not below (i.e., using taller chin rest, not a taller shoulder rest).

March 11, 2014 at 07:23 AM · For a player with very long arms, having the violin very low causes issues for the left arm, as the elbow tends to get squashed near the body.

I had a 6'3" student who needed a taller shoulder rest to go with his taller chinrest in order to deal this particular problem.

March 11, 2014 at 04:07 PM · my violin setup is totally fine- thank you. If I were looking for help with it, I'd be very wary of ideologues and anyone with a "one size fits all" approach to it. Everyone needs to find the best for themselves as an individual!

March 11, 2014 at 11:17 PM · Gene,

no. Read "Principles of Violin Playing" By I. Galamian. He writes about a triangle your hand makes when bowing close to the frog. Elevating one angle of a triangle does not change the length of the sides. The same with a "square", when one's bow is around the middle or a bit above, depending on the arm length.

If one's arms are longer, then adjustment is made on a horizontal plane, by pointing the scroll a bit more toward left, and thus making it a bit farther from your bowing arm.

I agree with other posters that there are many advantages of resting one's violin on the collar bone, or very close to it. It does not only help one's bowing arm, but also one's left hand.

March 11, 2014 at 11:49 PM · Hi,

Rocky, there is more to it than that in my experience. The square is dependent not only on arm length but also proportion of length between the forearm and upper arm. The closer they are, the more one will be in the middle of the bow. The more disproportionate, then that will change where in the bow one is for the square.

As for the rest, there is the relationship between arm length and width of shoulders. Sometimes the direction of the scroll can be the answer, for some, it is where they place their chin or the violin chinrest in relationship to the tailpiece.

It is a decided advantage to have the violin on the collarbone, but in the case of long neck one has to be careful with chinrests that are too high and have too much wood as this can affect the sound of the instrument and sound perception.

As for the raising of the arms, tilt of the instrument also plays a role.

In the end, it is really a balance between all factors.

As for the violinist mentioned in the original post, I went to see the videos and none of them show how high or low his shoulder rest is set up, only the chest portion is visible, which is quite high. The violin's tilt is quite flat, which could suggest that the shoulder side is actually set quite low. Whichever way, he sounds really terrific!

In the end, it is always about finding out what works for oneself, using our own body geometry as a guide.

Cheers!

March 12, 2014 at 06:49 PM · video showing shoulder rest:

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March 12, 2014 at 07:20 PM · great video! he's good- and coming from Mongolia is cool. He does have a high shoulder rest, but I'm sure he's figured out that it works for him. I don't think anyone should blindly copy his setup, but it would be great to copy the results of it. His left arm hangs down nice and relaxed and doesn't have to move while plays, and his right arm is also in a very relaxed position with the upper arm, forearm, hand & bow all in line. Exactly how he gets to this position, though, may not be how anyone else would get there.

March 12, 2014 at 08:06 PM · Rocky.

No.

That didn't work for my student because changing the position of the violin further to the left was detrimental to his bowing technique for the right arm, putting it too much in front of his chest in an uncomfortable area of his range of motion. He wanted to play with the instrument more the front, and we came up with a chinrest and shoulder rest combination that allowed him to do it without creating tension or restricting his ability to change the angle of the instrument in playing.

Also, the triangles and squares from the Galamian book are a good idea, not an iron-clad mandate...people of average size can get there easily, but those on the extremes of short/tall can't always get themselves to look exactly like those pictures. After all, the length of the violin doesn't change to accommodate our individual physiques...is everyone's elbow in the exact same place in proportion to the upper and lower arms?

Furthermore, I'd point out that one of the very first things that Galamian writes in his book is that the insistence of rigid rules for everything regarding to playing is a detriment to teaching and playing. Any concept, no matter how good, needs to be adapted to the person being taught, and having seen thousands of students, I refuse to make the assumption that exceptions to the mainstream won't work.

March 12, 2014 at 08:09 PM · Hi,

Seraphim: thanks. I guess that answers that question.

Cheers!

March 13, 2014 at 01:20 AM · Seraphim,

Yes SR is high in the vid, but the violin is actually pretty close to his collarbone. My SR is also quite high but the violin rests in my collarbone.

March 13, 2014 at 01:48 AM · I have to agree with the remark by Smiley H. about doubts of raising the violin vs. leaving it in a more natural plane.

Whenever I raised the violin I had the odd feeling that I was playing "uphill" and my tone and speed suffered. I now use a tall chin rest and no shoulder rest at all.

As a secondary observation I felt that high vs. low violin configurations can not be compared directly because each uses a dramatically different set of muscle groups.

March 13, 2014 at 01:28 PM · Wow, great thread! The diversity of the answers here just show that the true answer to the question is relative to a lot of factors - to the person's physical makeup and preferences, to particular methods, and whatnot. As for me, I prefer higher shoulder rests as it's proven more comfortable through the years that I've been playing.

March 13, 2014 at 02:02 PM · @John C.

It rings a bell when you mention arm and elbow high. I was guilty of that which visibly upset my teacher. That would be on the A and E strings and using CR and SR ....... the classical KUN setup.

I have to admit after many years that she was correct and the "flat" violin seems to encourage bow control.

However, I never argue with success!

Fortunately, my struggle is over because I may have achieved about 50% perfection which is probably as good as it's going to get !

March 13, 2014 at 08:28 PM · "The diversity of the answers here just show that the true answer to the question is relative to a lot of factors - to the person's physical makeup and preferences, to particular methods, and whatnot."

@Rosette,

Actually, that's NOT what I'm suggesting. Regardless of your physical makeup, the violin should rest on or near the collar bone. For some, that might require no shoulder rest, for others (like me) it requires a rather tall shoulder rest. But regardless of the height of the shoulder rest, the violin should be very close to the collar bone.

March 13, 2014 at 09:08 PM · Incidentally, I would guess that there is a high incidence of a shoulder rest PREVENTING collar bone contact but NOT because of height. That may happen from installing the SR "short" so that the SR hits the torso BEFORE engaging the collar bone.

More common might be a variety of that where only a tangential contact is achieved.

@John C. My reference to a "flat" violin was poorly stated. I did not mean "tilt" but rather vertical elevation. I will bend for the G string as required :)

March 14, 2014 at 12:36 AM · Christian and Gene,

Thank you for your comments. I learned from both of you.

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