Heifetz...Varga chinrest..what works for you!!!

April 13, 2005 at 11:38 PM · Re: Discussion of Jascha Heifetz chinrests:

I use the Tibor Varga model chin rest on the Heifetz Tononi violin. As I came to study with Mr. Heifetz following my study with Tibor Varga, I also used this chinrest on my violin at that time and he was aware of it.

Sherry Kloss

Replies (18)

April 14, 2005 at 09:17 AM · Hi Sherry,

Nice of you to post here and clarify what I assume was a point of contention in another thread. Is this rest no longer available on the market? I have yet to encounter it.


April 18, 2005 at 06:15 PM · Yes it is available

April 18, 2005 at 08:05 PM · Hi Sherry,

It's nice to see you posting here. Quite often questions come up which you would certainly be uniquely qualified to answer. I think people want to know: What chinrest did Mr. Heifetz use on his del Gesu? I would add the question: What sort of chinrest did the Tononi have on it when you received it (before you put the Varga chinrest on it)? Another historical question that is likely of interest to many here is: what sort of uncovered Gut D & A did he use? I noticed that many of his students used the uncovered Gut D&A as well. Did he specifically request that they do? Did he ever say a reason for his string preferences?

There is a photo of the Varga chinrest at this URL:


(Third chinrest down from the top)

Right above it is a photo of the Kaufman chinrest, which looks to me like the one Mr. Heifetz used. Sherry would know for sure.

April 24, 2005 at 02:07 PM · Hi,

Mr. Steiner, Ms. Kloss can correct me if I am wrong, but stumbling on the Heifetz 85th birthday special in Strad Magazine the other day by accident, there was an article with Heifetz's luthier. He said that Mr. Heifetz always used Tricolore strings and a Medium Goldbrokat E. I have never heard of Tricolore strings, but, that is what it said.

I would be interested about the chinrest thing also because of its role in Heifetz incredibly relaxed posture, and in noticing how important the chinrest seems to be in finding comfort with the violin.

Thank you Ms. Kloss, and I do hope that you will have the opportunity to answer.



April 24, 2005 at 06:44 PM · I remember Tricolore strings, and in fact tried them at times in the 1960s. I don't recall whether Tricolore was a small independent brand or a division of a larger string manufacturer. For my violin and personal taste, Eudoxas have always been the gut string of choice. (I now use Obligatos). I had thought that JH used a Tricolore G, some other brand, perhaps made in Italy, of uncovered gut D & A, and a Goldbrokat E. However I looked up the article which you referenced and see that my recollection regarding the middle, uncovered, strings is incorrect. I didn't recall that Tricolore made uncovered gut strings. I had tried only their covered gut strings. As for Heifetz's chinrest, I'm pretty sure that it was either a "Kaufman" model or something very close in appearance to it. The second edition of the Axelrod biography of Heifetz has, on page 137, a photo of Heifetz's Del Gesu resting in its case. One can get a pretty good view of the chinrest there. Photos on pages 139, 144 and 218 all show the same chinrest. I have a vague recollection of a "Berlin" model chinrest having looked similar both to the one in these photos and to the "Kaufman", however I didn't find a photo of the "Berlin" model on the internet when I Googled it. The "Kaufman" and "Berlin" model chinrests are both lower than the "Guarneri" model.

April 26, 2005 at 11:40 AM · Hi,

Mr. Steiner, thank you so much for the information. I did a little research and found that Tricolore was manifactured by the Musical Perfection Strings Co. (an American maker) that is no longer in existence (the machines though survive and belong to the string manifacturer Daniel Larson or Gamut Strings). I would be curious as to the difference in sound between these Tricolore strings and Eudoxa (which I know well).

Thank you also for the information about the chinrest. I will look it up. Watching Heifetz on DVD recently, many things in his physical approach with the instrument have caught my interest, not the least of which is his incredibly effecient use of body.

Thank you again!



July 30, 2006 at 02:34 AM · To clear up the confusion, Tricolore strings were sold until sometime in the late 1970's. The Perfection Musical String company made them, along with the Wondertone Gold Label and Black label strings that were sold in the US using the Pirastro name licensed from Pirazzi in Germany.

I used both Tricolore and the Gold Label and thought they were identical except for the color of the silk wrapping. They were very, very good strings. I thought they had a stronger tone and were more durable (not the A, though) than the Eudoxas that I had to start using when they disappeared from the market. The Tricolore G had a blue and white wrapping at both the peg and tailpiece end; the aluminum wrapped D had a red and white wrapping. The Heiftez Guarneri Strad poster clearly shows the Tricolore G in the profile shot. The plain gut D and A were really the same thing as the Chorda strings Pirastro sells now. I think the closest gut G string you can buy now to the Tricolore is the Eudoxa "Brilliant" G.


May 20, 2008 at 05:47 AM · Yes, Daniel Larson runs Gamut strings, using the same machine that made the Tricolor strings, and many others; the machine is about 100 years old. I have used Gamut string, and they are top-notch. I think Mr Larson is bring back the Tricolor strings, gut with a hide buffer at the tie point; they aren't on the website yet, but he is sending me a few sets.


May 20, 2008 at 11:09 AM · Getting back to the Varga chinrest ....

I tried looking at:

http://shopping.msn.com/marketplace.aspx?pmpType=1&pcId=11208&catId=2035 - but didn't have any luck. There is a Ebony Varga type model on Ebay. Anyone tried it?

GEWA used to manufacture the Varga chinrests. They were similar to the Guarneri chinrests but with a deeper lip to them (to hook under the chin). His design was with this pronounced edge as he taught the violin without a shoulder rest and his chin rest was designed to facilitate this.

I don't think GEWA manufactures this model now. It is a shame as they are superior to the American models I bought called "Varga" chinrests.

December 29, 2008 at 10:08 PM ·

Great info on this thread. 

As to an update on the Daniel Larson strings (sorry, off topic regarding the chinrest) - my father and I spoke with Mr. Larson today.  He said he expects the Tricolore machine to be very duplicitave of the original Tricolore strings in 2009 - he is teaching someone to operate the machine, which he noted takes approximately one year to learn, as the machine is quite old.  The strings we purchased from him today are quite similar to the original Tricolore strings (he is quite modest and said something of that nature). 

My mother has been trying out Pirastro's Chorda gut A and D strings (14.25 and 19.25, respectively).  My dad is eager for her to try Mr. Larson's strings.  He will be sending the A and D strings of similar gauge - coverted from millimeters, as he uses that unit of measurement for his strings.  Also, he will send one of his Academie G strings.  He noted the Academie strings are those most similar to the original Tricolore.  The strings will be sent without being cut and tied, and my dad will do that before putting them on my mother's violin. 

Also, someone noted putting olive oil on the strings for maintenance, etc.  Mr. Larson did say today that he does not recommend olive oil at all - instead, he said almond oil should be used.  Using a cloth, and a bit of the almond oil would be much better.  And, one can enjoy the rest of the almond oil with a salad too!

I've enjoyed reading this thread.  Thank you, Valerie :)

December 29, 2008 at 11:34 PM ·


I saw the word Tibor Varga chinrest on this website. Hope this is it because I'm curious about the chinrest myself.

December 30, 2008 at 06:42 AM ·

Hi, Valerie, yes you are right about the almond oil although I have never used any oil really (maybe once).  I think Dan Larson pre oils the strings as well.  The gauges which you listed are a little thin in my opinion or at least would be for my violin/playing style.  Heifetz, from what I understand, used thicker gauges; something close to a 16 1/2 PM for the A string and 21 1/2 - 22 PM for the D.  The larger the gauge for plain gut, I have noticed, the more I can 'dig in'.  I am a big fan of Dan Larson's Gamut Strings.   I have been using his plain gut D&A for the last 2 years and I am most happy.  They are 1000X better than any other plain gut string I have tried on my violin with regards to pitch stability, tone quality, and durability.  I'd suggest also getting the strings varnished.  You will get more durability, especially in the summer months.   I think Pirastro actually makes really good wound gut strings; especially the Eudoxa and Oliv (I haven't tried the Passione strings yet though).

December 30, 2008 at 12:13 PM ·

In my "unwound" gut times I preferred mineral oil (mainly watchmaker oil of high purity) but since I've developed a predilection for living in humid or (right now) VERY hot & humid places, any kind of gut (plain or wound) is a "no-go"... And back to the chinrests, they're actually built by Bois d'Harmonie in France but sold exclusively by luthier Jean-Noel Rybicki ( ftvg@bluewin.ch ) who is Vargas son-in-law and (I think) also takes care of the Varga Foundation. IMO the Varga model chinrests can be a big help for  "restless" playing or at least understanding how it could be done.   

December 30, 2008 at 01:00 PM ·

Oil the Strings- I just learned something from this thread, oiling strings! And it does not effect the horse hair on the bow?


December 31, 2008 at 01:47 AM ·

Re: Oil on the strings - Mr. Larson did specify using just a bit of almond oil on a cloth, applying carefully, and staying away from the bow area; otherwise, you'd have a "real mess," as he noted!  So, if you apply it in such manner, the bow hair should not be affected.

December 31, 2008 at 02:04 AM ·

Thank you a million! Now that makes since! Keep the oil away from the bowing areas.

February 16, 2009 at 05:05 PM ·

I am also interested to try the tricolor G string. If anyone as tried it how does it compare with the Eudoxa (I use this now). I also read somewhere that Heifetz told his students to have the G string wrapped with aluminum, is that true? I am Using Mr. Larson's Heavy+ D and A strings as well. They are very powerful the sound is just stunning. However, as I was looking through some Heifetz photographs I saw that his strings looked really thin, much thinner than mine, so I ordered mediums as a experiment. Does anyone have any experience with these. How does the mediums compare against the heavies?


February 17, 2009 at 12:49 AM ·

I usually (I have a collection of violins) like a Kaufman -  and the variety that has a longer lip that extends over the tailpiece. I like to be pretty centered with my chin/jaw, and this gives me a comfortable support. I think that a preponderance of players like to be centered. There are certainly exceptions. Milstein was pretty much to the left, and so the popular Guarneri model suited him. But I've noticed so many other players using the Guarneri model who play centered anyway. The whole cup is often not used, and whether they realize it or not, they just make use of the rim that goes over the t.p.

I find that I usually have to tinker with the Kaufman to get it  really comfortable and well-fuctioning: Though that long lip is meant to cover the t.p., it often doesn't quite clear it from below. If it touches the t.p., it can inhibit the t.p.'s vibrations and should be sanded a bit to clear it. Also I like to smooth/sand the edge of the cup a bit because I find it well, too edgy. I've had colleagues try one of my violins and (besides reacting to the tone) say - "wow, your chinrest is so comfortable! Where can I buy one just like it?" And I have to say "well, you can't quite".

Sherry, if you read this, I'd like to say that I enjoyed your book very much. I wonder if you'd be open to taking questions about it, to clear a couple of things up? Thanks!

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