Chinrest weight and sound

January 27, 2018, 3:21 AM · I just want to share... I was using a custom made, pure ebony chinrest. I was very proud and it looked great. However, while trying some alternative shapes I started to notice changes in the sound... I have been experimenting and there is a clear and provable inverse relation between the weight of the chinrest and both the volume of sound and the clarity.
I could not find such obvious change in the chinrest position once you adapt your bowing.
But the weight difference is very noticeable. By myself, by listeners and by sound apps.
I see it has been mentioned before, so just a +1 to that fact and another tool if anyone wants to change the loudness of the instrument.

Replies (11)

Edited: January 27, 2018, 4:27 PM · I have also noticed the relationship between chinrest weight and sound.

And also between position of chinrest and sound - but that differs for different violins. I had a violin-maker friend and we tested a number of his instruments (and the three that I owned then) with different chinrests in his shop as well as a large venue. Most sounded better with chinrests on the left side, but some were at least equal center-mounted.

And - the mounting makes a difference. Most chin rests contact the violin with cork mounting, but a decade or so ago there was a patented chin rest with a rubber (or soft plastic) mounting that sounded better. I switched my violins to that chinrest - but still left-mounted. My piano-trio partner also put one of those on his Rocca, but his is center-mounted. These were actually relatively cheap ebony chin rests (roughly) tripled in price for the maker's addition. I still use those chinrests. I can no longer find those chin rests for sale on line.

January 27, 2018, 8:00 AM · I suspect it is not only the weight of the chinrest that is significant but also the contact area of the cork with the violin. Accordingly, I like to minimize that contact area by cutting away the cork in various places so as to allow more vibration of the body. This is probably best done when the cork on a well-used chinrest is starting to deteriorate and it is time to re-cork.

Another important factor is where the cork contacts the violin. I try to get the contact points as close to the purfling as possible; contact any further inwards onto the top plate and the vibrations of the plate will be affected.

January 27, 2018, 8:29 AM · Yes, the chinrest definitely changes the sound coming off of the instrument. And, to an even larger degree, it changes the players perception of the sound.
January 27, 2018, 4:09 PM · Question — is there a difference between playing with your custom made chin rest and without a chin rest? Would it be louder without the chin rest?
January 27, 2018, 4:34 PM · What is happening is that when you try a different chin rest your ear moves relative to your f-holes and your violin sounds different.
January 28, 2018, 5:54 AM · I have just a few anecdotal data points on this, but I've noticed the chinrest mounting can affect how much the chinrest affects the sound of the violin.

Basically, it seems that if the mounting surfaces are touching the plates away from the ribs, as opposed to being carefully positioned over the ribs, then the chinrest can influence the sound in noticeable ways.

Side mount chinrests seem more prone to this effect than center mount. And center mount chin rests that are modified to have the contact surface modified to rest on the outer edges of the saddle seem to have no affect at all.

January 28, 2018, 6:54 AM · Re Paul: the OP mentions "by listeners and by sound apps", so it doesn't seem to be just the ears of the player.

I do wonder how one can isolate the effect of chinrest mass from other effects (contact points when mounted, properties of the cork, force from chin to CR depending on CR shape and height, and so on).

January 28, 2018, 1:22 PM · Sound is certainly one thing which is at least noticeable, but I simply like the handling of violins with heavy chin rests very much (low center of mass, etc.).
Edited: January 28, 2018, 5:08 PM · Carlos, once you have tried your experiment on enough fiddles, I think you'll conclude that "it depends on the fiddle", and also that it is highly dependent on the personal tastes of the players and listners.

There is no universally correct formula for chinrests, any more than there is a single correct intonation strategy.

Context always matters.

January 28, 2018, 4:49 PM · I noticed this also and I have since discarded my ebony rests and replaced with one made from light weight wood. I also cut excess wood from the replaced rest thus weighing even lighter.
January 28, 2018, 7:20 PM · At all: Regardless of the quality of the sound produced, which is a subjective point, a phone in the music stand measuring the sound was showing consistenly 2-3 db louder with no (or light) chinrest.

The original chinrest was indeed very heavy. Its replacement could be felt as soon as you would grab the violin. The instrument had a very different balance and I think that lightening it changed the pressure and tensions in its different parts. Mainly, the soundpost.

The result in mine was a louder sound. I imagine, as Mr. Burgess points out, that other original setups (soundpost, wood thickness...) can get a different result.

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