Chin Rest tolerances

September 25, 2014 at 11:25 PM · I have always contended that the placement of a chin rest is much more important than generally recognized.

I went looking for a "sweet spot" for my Teka CR and I found it. The horizontal mounting placement was critical to +/- 1/8 ".

What was better? Overall comfort, ease of holding the violin and bow control.

It was not just the 1/8 that mattered, the violin angle changed much more.

Replies (36)

September 26, 2014 at 12:27 AM · My solution (which I've implemented on both my violins, btw) is to take the darn thing off, lock it away in drawer, forget about it, and don't replace it. Happiness!

September 26, 2014 at 01:27 AM · And I bet you avoid distorting the natural resonances of your violin.

Does a luthier modify the design to agree with a customers hardware choices?

I think the chin rest is legitimate because not all players have a body type to go without. Then too, there is the syndrome that tells us that there is some gadget out there which will surely rescue us from the truth.

Given that chin rests will be around for awhile, it might be worthwhile to think about adjustment !

September 26, 2014 at 02:07 AM · Hillary Hahn posted a youtube video where she discusses her search for a chin rest. You can find lots of information from international soloists.

Basically, they all say it is an individualized quest that may take years to complete. I guess it is one of the reasons there are so many different chin rests on the market.

September 26, 2014 at 02:34 AM · I think that Hillary shows a lot of class to bother to share her good info. However, she has little to worry about regarding competition :)

September 26, 2014 at 09:24 AM · I Think I will agree with Trevor's points on this chin rest discussion. I'm even thinking of taking mine off as I don't use it much now, since I hold the fiddle up with the arm and rarely put the chin on it.

You know what they say, chin up!

But I will think about taking it off a bit more before doing so.

But it all boils down to incorrect holding of the fiddle by a lot of players.

September 26, 2014 at 10:13 AM · I would assume that rejection of the chin rest also precludes the shoulder rest?

However, use of hardware among pros has increased dramatically according to YouTube videos.

I would say that the violin is a poor design for holding purposes . Why should I suffer for the sake of tradition?

I think that a lot of grief with hardware is the failure to conceptualize the problems and decide on effective corrective action.

September 26, 2014 at 11:16 AM · Darlene

It's really bad usage rather than the hardware.

I will keep my SR even if I dispense with the CR. At least for a while.

But while I'm messing with the CR I could be playing instead, and experimenting. I want to be able to jump 3 feet in the air on the final chord just like Stephan Grapelli did aged about 80.

September 26, 2014 at 12:38 PM · I am not faulting hardware even if I have too much!

Using the shoulder rest makes your crusade a little less heroic. Yes?

September 26, 2014 at 01:08 PM · NO!

September 26, 2014 at 02:30 PM · Louis Spohr certainly started something for today's forums, and unwittingly sparked off a thriving industry worldwide.

I'd like to know who was responsible for the clamp-on shoulder rest. I'm just old enough to remember two or three boys in my school orchestra turning up with these peculiar things attached to the underside of their violins, to the alarm and consternation of the conductor, himself a violinist of the old school, and amazement of us cellists. It wasn't all that long before all in the violin and viola sections were using shoulder rests. My theory is it only took a couple of influential teachers, backed up by one or two eminent soloists, to start the unstoppable ball rolling.

September 26, 2014 at 03:17 PM · I first saw a Kun being installed by some obscure second violin in a community orch.

Everyone else just watched and said "a what?" They walked around him like it was contagious.

They say that the CR happened because of more difficult music. What era spawned the need?

September 26, 2014 at 05:35 PM · It's true that the first violins were built(invented) and played w/o cr's and sr's...

But as with most worthy inventions, improvement was inevitable. :)

September 26, 2014 at 07:42 PM · It just occurs to me that the first violin type instruments may have been played in someones lap and not at all up at shoulder level. Some of the early history photos for the Appalachians show violins on the knee and, of course, no hardware.

September 26, 2014 at 08:56 PM · >> But as with most worthy inventions, improvement was inevitable.

I see it as an evolution rather than saying the violin was inferior in the 17th and 18th centuries and then voila - with the new invention of the chinrest, it became better.

You can do really well in Lully's orchestra playing his operas and dances music with your chin off, but about a century later when you look at the music of Beethoven and studies by Kreuzter, Rode, etc, coming out of the Paris Conservatoire, there's clearly a lot of demand on left hand technique especially on traveling to and from high positions, and the chinrest caught on to the shift of musical styles and allowed the more stability.

Chin rests and shoulder rests are great tools and aids and aren't inherently evil, my experience is that I see people who don't understand the fundamental principals of how to balance the instrument on the body tend blame the equipment first.

There's nothing wrong with using a chinrest or shoulder rest, but I really encourage if you haven't already to see what happens if you take everything away and play a scale on first position, and see if you can do it freely, and then add the furniture back on. It's really illuminating.

September 26, 2014 at 09:21 PM · Anyone who has chosen modern strings, and a modern standardized string length and neck profile, will have a hard time making a case for other modern violin-inventions being inherently evil. ;-)

September 26, 2014 at 09:51 PM · Touche' David Burgess!!

September 26, 2014 at 10:11 PM · Don't forget too that chin rest placement goes hand in hand with overall sound adjustment. In other words, changing the style (side mount, center mount, etc) or the placement affects how the instrument is clamped. For each instrument, there are more or less helpful placements. So it's not just about comfort!

September 26, 2014 at 11:24 PM · Yup.

These days, there is a strong general preference for the way violins sound WITH a chinrest, and there can be significant changes with the style of chinrest, location, and clamping pressure.

September 26, 2014 at 11:45 PM · Let me add to the original post.

What defines that a CR installation is at optimum?

What tests/criteria should a new installation have to satisfy?

September 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM · At this point, it pretty much comes down to trial and error. There might be some general rules, like an overly bright fiddle benefiting from a center mounted chinrest, and a mushy violin benefiting from a heavy side-mounted chinrest, but there are so many exceptions that these things are almost not worth saying.

Don Noon, one of our best fiddle scientists, who posts here, might be able to expand on that or refute.

September 27, 2014 at 08:11 AM · Dorian

Good points generally but -

"There's nothing wrong with using a chinrest or shoulder rest, but I really encourage if you haven't already to see what happens if you take everything away and play a scale on first position, and see if you can do it freely, and then add the furniture back on. It's really illuminating."

the problem without chinrest and SR comes when out of first position and especially when coming down very fast from say a high A on the E string to a low whatever on the G string. Most of us need a split second to steady the fiddle with the chin, even if most of the time (90% +) the chin is not being used.

So first position is easy but will give a false impression.

I would be interested in Nathan's view on this point.

September 27, 2014 at 03:12 PM · David B

I have no ideas so advanced that a scientist is needed!

I have just two notions:

Simply mounting a chin rest establishes a chin rest to neck dimension. If this distance is short, the tendency is to move the violin towards the scroll which is away from the collar bone.

I really think that chin rests were dimensioned for smaller people. There is "wiggle" room available but all positions are not equally comfortable. There is really no remedy here except to try another chin rest or tuck in the chin.

The second idea is that the chin rest mounting determines the direction of the violin. If the chin rest wants one direction and the performer another I would bet on the chin rest ! (ouch)

My original post was related to this violin angle.

September 27, 2014 at 03:20 PM · Darlene, what I did, and what several of my friends have also found effective is to find a cr that is comfortable and sounds good. If the HEIGHT is the only issue, a violin maker (or a carpenter, I suppose, but violin makers are used to thinking in millimeters) to raise the chin rest and reset the mounts. I used slices of cork to get a good idea of the 'right' height for me, then took the whole mess to my favorite, patient v.m., who turned it into a safe, permanent, perfect-height chin rest.

(Also has let me bring my sr down to a pad, while still keeping a good head/neck/shoulder balance, release of tension, and comfortable facility in all positions across all strings)

September 27, 2014 at 04:33 PM · There was a time I was interested in height and wound up with an SAS but something unexpected happened.

I found a small unknown shop run by a man and his wife. Pure country and retro. They had maybe 10 violins hanging up and another dozen string instruments around the room ( 2 small rooms ).

It didn't take me long to notice that all the violins had those chin rests seen in 1920's movies. No thicker than 1/4".

I figured that time had kindly just passed them by and I would try out a few violins as is.

Well, I could not believe how great that was. I played around that store for half an hour until they invited me out.

I did later buy a violin there and a second chin rest of the flat variety.

I eventually did wind up with a low Teka which I'm evaluating now but I may go flat again ("flat", not flat!)

September 27, 2014 at 09:44 PM · I've never gone without a chin rest, and I can't say that I know anyone who has either. So it really is a tiny slice of the violin-playing population that plays without a chin rest! That doesn't mean there might not be advantages, but I wanted to give a little perspective in this discussion.

I have played without a shoulder rest at times, although never in "pressure" situations! I am comfortable doing so, but I can't see myself handling the advanced repertoire while also forgoing the chin rest. As Peter mentions, that little bit of friction is quite helpful when shifting down from a high position to low. This isn't the same as "clamping" down on the rest, so that the hand moves separately from the instrument! The left hand supports the neck on the way down, of course, but that bit of friction from the chin rest helps keep things steady during a less stable moment.

Those are the kinds of shifts that are less common in early repertoire, and why it tends to be only those players who specialize in that rep who remove the chin rest. And very few of them I should add!

September 27, 2014 at 11:10 PM · The trouble I notice with chin rests is not a competition of styles. I never argue with success.

The problem seems to be selecting a chin rest. Often, today's "just right" becomes tomorrow's "I wish it was a little more _______.

But I guess the eternal streaming of CR topics speaks for itself!

September 28, 2014 at 02:01 AM · Chin Rests, Shoulder Rests are essentially devices aiming at adapting the holding of the violin to individual morphologies, There is no such a thing as one size fits all. When the violin was first invented, not only did the players hold the instrument much lower, they were also on average a foot shorter. With modern technique of holding the instrument on the collar bone, there ought to be a huge variations from one individual to another. I for one have a 3 inches between the collar bone and chin, other barely an inch and a half. It comes naturally that if the distance between chin and collar bone is more than the thickness of the instrument that either some form of contortion will be needed, or the gap has to be filled some how. The chinrest-less option might work for some, but not for me. I need a chinrest to be 1 1/2 inch tall AND a shoulder rest. Using just a tall shoulder rest forces me to raise my right arm, hence creating tension in the right shoulder. I find that the best option for me was a lower shoulder rest, and a higher chinrest, hence leaving my shoulders in a more natural position. Every individual will be different.

September 28, 2014 at 02:59 AM · Hi Peter,

I just want to add another exercise in Simon Fischer's The Violin Lesson, p. 182 under "Experiment: play without the chin on the violin"

It discusses how the thumb prepares during downward shifts, on a 1 string scale using 1 2 1 2 etc. I think it's really helpful for baroque and modern players alike.

The point I'm trying to make is that it's not about making everyone become Sigiswald Kuijken and play completely chin off. It's just a useful exercise if you're a chinrest and shoulder rest user to experience the feeling without these aids. Afterwards you add them back on and maybe you'll feel differently and learn something. I don't want anyone to confuse me saying you should play Tchaikovsky violin concerto without your chin.

In my experience, a lot of chin rest problems for a lot of people stems from squeezing the neck, and then I see they keep changing chinrests but not dealing directly with the cause of the discomfort. Experiencing no chin rest and trying chin off certainly helped me a lot in my modern playing. I was complaining about my chinrest and wanted to find someone to customize it, but now that I am used to playing with resting my jawbone on the tailpiece and playing chin off at other times in baroque playing, I find I am quite comfortable with almost any kind of of chin rest (some much better than others of course.)

Anyway in summary, I think the formula to a comfortable and pain free playing is a good, individualized setup plus knowing how to balance the instrument on the body without squeezing. So we need to find the perfect shoulder/chin rest combo, and if you also squeeze, some simple scales and exercises with chin off might be really helpful.

September 28, 2014 at 03:20 AM · Roger

My chin to neck is too long for most chin rests.

Dorian

Do you play on tailpiece to move left? This is often what Guanari (sp?) players do.

September 28, 2014 at 04:20 AM · Darlene,

if you haven't already, you may want to check out the Kreddle Chin Rest (www.kreddle.com). I am trying it right now for myself, and so far, find it really comfortable with my relatively long neck. Not cheap, but perhaps one of the few options available when some distance is needed.

September 28, 2014 at 07:34 AM · Dorian - you have made good points. It's down to individuals to experiment and find what works.

I don't do Baroque, but I can see there are some useful ideas and we can all learn from every area of performance.

Nathan

What you have said makes good sense, and I think long sessions in orchestral situations is helped by shoulder rests and chin rests. Sometimes in rehearsals I note others and myself as well, playing some tedious passages with less than normal conviction and letting the SR and CR do the bulk of the work! (But not in concerts of course!)

I think my CR will definitely stay for the time being at least!

September 28, 2014 at 05:29 PM · Rodger

I am not in the market right now for a new chin rest but the Kreddle does look promising as a design.

I do imagine that adjustable might be the wave of the future.

September 28, 2014 at 09:17 PM · Hi Darlene, sorry I don't quite understand your question...

September 28, 2014 at 10:25 PM · The question .... is there any objective way to decide on chin rest selection? Or, can it only be trial and error? I own 6 or 7 chin rests that eventually did not do the job but I finally found some important issues about fit.

The opening post in this thread is not only objective, it is numerical.

I don't expect much information because the market is conditioned to accept an endless pursuit for chin rests (and some other items)

Nevertheless, I think that flexibility like the Kreddel (sp?) will advance the situation.

September 28, 2014 at 10:35 PM · I would say trial and error because everyone's body and schooling is different.

However it's very useful to have a session with someone like an Alexander Technique teacher and figure out where you might have tension and what chin/shoulder rest will help you expand your body and play most efficiently.

Edit: I want to add, re: trial and error, perhaps a friendly local luthier nearby has a box of chin rests that you can try out without spending a fortune on a chin rest collection. I don't think you will find a manual that says this neck length use this chinrest, and this body type use that chinrest, etc.

September 28, 2014 at 11:26 PM · I'm not looking for a new chin rest as my present chin rest works fine and I'm glad to be over with that search.

I only wonder if someone actually tries out most of the 50 chin rest styles available?

IF I wanted another chin rest it would be the Kreddle.

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