Should You Get a Chin Rest That is Comfortable and Then Fit a Shoulder Rest or Vice Versa?

Edited: October 7, 2018, 9:15 AM · I have been reading about the Wave chin rest and believe it may be what I have been looking for. I do not want to develop neck issues. I have not found a good combination of chin rest and shoulder rest yet.

My question is this. I have found a chin rest I think might work for me. Just have read about it and watched videos, I have not seen it personally. I have still not found a shoulder rest I am comfortable with, either, but I am considering one. I do not want to raise my violin to my jaw. I want the chin rest to come up high enough so it aligns properly with my jaw, allowing my violin to stay lower.

Since I want to keep the violin low and am specific about chin rest height, should I get the chin rest first and then work on fitting a comfortable shoulder rest to it? Where I would get this chin rest, the Wave website, there are no shoulder rests, so I can’t get them together. These chin rests are not available at the violin shop and the type of shoulder rest I am thinking of is not there either. I will have to go online for the shoulder rest where they have a good trial period with return option. The Wave has a good one for their chin rests.

Pros:

The chin rest comes in different heights. My current one, and all I have tried, are too short for my needs. They all seem to be the same height. Definitely not even the middle height of the Wave.

The wave chin rest is longer. In the video they have it shows this allows you wiggle room. I also believe it will alleviate the awkwardness I feel with the shorter ones just dropping off at the jaw, and the feeling of being confined to one position.

The lip that goes under the jaw is not as sharp as the one I have. Mine digs and is not very comfortable.

Cons:

Price

I know some of you will say, “Have your instructor help”, again, not feasible here and I won’t go into that. Some will say, “Have the violin shop help” The violin shop has a limited number of styles. Not what I am looking for. I have a Kun shoulder rest and not a fan. They have Kuns.

So, understanding that I am without assistance, would I get the chin rest and then a shoulder rest to match, or get the shoulder rest and then measure for the chin rest height.

In a video on the Wave website they say to measure from the jaw bone down to the collar bone. It would seem that the the shoulder rest could therefore be purchased after, correct?

I just want to get a better set up before I develop neck issues.

Thanks

Cynthia

Replies (25)

Edited: October 7, 2018, 9:50 AM · I think it would be ideal to find a good chinrest so you could play comfortably without a shoulder rest even if you go the shoulder rest route. I would encourage you to try various chinrests before actually ordering.
October 7, 2018, 10:14 AM · In my personal case, the chinrest was criticial. I bought them all , Wave , Kreddle, etc. I must also say I play without SR.

In the end though, what I truly needed was a custom made chinrest by a local luthier. Not saying the other chinrests on the market were bad but the custom made one was really the best solution for me. My custom chinrest is a tiny bit taller than the tallest Wave, and the shape was custom shaped for my jaw/chin.

It really makes playing without SR so much easier!

I have a friend who has an extremely tall neck who needed a tall chinrest before looking at SR solutions.

October 7, 2018, 10:30 AM · I actually just went through the process of getting a Wave and it was a great learning experience (via video call with Randy Olson.) The deal is that you order one chinrest (they come in 3 heights and 2 surface shapes.) You can additionally request up to three others for comparison. Either you return all 4 USPS (so cheap shipping) or you keep one and return the others.
As it turns out, I kept the Wave 1 at the max. height (1.5") because, like Cynthia, I wanted to fill that gap primarily between the violin and my jaw. I wanted to get away from my previously high Bonmusic setting which jacked the violin up in the air and forced me to lift my bowing arm unnecessarily high to get on top of the strings. My Bonmusica (clumsy contraption that it is) is now set to super low on the shoulder side and on a hard diagonal so the combo works for me.
October 7, 2018, 10:31 AM · CHINREST FIRST FOR SURE!!!
October 7, 2018, 10:35 AM · The ideal situation does not exist here. This is not annorchestral instrument area. There are not any stores in my direct town that sells these and the violin shops 60-70 miles away yo not keep assorted chinrests in stock. They have their brands that they prefer to sell. Pretty mich the same brands, the other violin shop about 50 mils away sells violins only. He is a luthier but makes and sells violins only. He operateds from his house. So, trying numerous before ordering will not work.

Many people have the ideal situation when it comes to violins, violas, and cellos. Not eveyone does have the ideal monetary situation or location situation and we must do the best we can.

I have tried sans shoulder rest and find that I am holding the neck tightly with my thumb to compensate. Maybe with a better fitting chinrest, that would be an occasional option, though.

Thank you. Will be considering the Wave as I check around for other options.

Edited: October 7, 2018, 12:43 PM · I definitely agree on fitting the chinrest first, since that seems to make more of a difference in comfort level than trying shoulder rests only. Keep in mind that the left arm/hand has a supporting role no matter what kind of setup you have, and you are certainly welcome to involve the left arm/hand in supporting the violin more than you were originally used to if you like. The Wave chinrest sounds like a great choice to try. If you think it's too expensive, one cheaper solution could be to order a Wittner Augsburg chinrest online. Its shape is neither too flat or curved, so it's more likely to fit you. Of course it's not for everyone. The main reason I'm suggesting it is because it's height and tilt adjustable and it's not very expensive. You could also consider the SAS and Kreddle chinrests, though they're probably a lot more expensive. Also keep in mind that while a good-fitting chin- and shoulder rest combo will facilitate good posture, there is still potential to misuse your combo, so I suggest checking yourself in a mirror to look for any slouching, tilting, twisting, and any other awkward postures and unnecessary tension. Also, have you considered sponge/pad/cloth solutions for a shoulder rest? You can customize these to fit your unique needs, although it can take some time. It's well worth the effort, however.
October 7, 2018, 1:44 PM · I have seen the sponge/pad/cloth shoulder rests. I am not sold on them, even with what little I know yet. It just seems to me that sponges/cloths/pads under the violin will muffle it. There is a big deal written about having as little chin rest and shoulder rest actually “resting” on the violin because it muffles it, prevents vibration(?), that I just can’t see even spending money to try those. I liken it to a constantly depressed damper pedal on a piano.

Edited: October 7, 2018, 2:13 PM · The unfortunate thing of the violin is as you’ve mentioned, certain factors in life make it difficult to find the right setup, and it seems that the issue of violin health is relatively new and still has lots of room for improvement. A lot of people even professional musicians are still unaware of how to find the right setup.

A friend of mine compares violin setup to shoes. We all can’t wear the same szie shoes, yet for some reason in the violin world, until recently, setup options were extremely limited, and even today despite improvements, they still kind of are

Anyway, every body is a unique shape , so no one can really tell you what’s right for you, and if you’re worried about budget. It makes things harder. One cheap DIY solution is to take your existing chinrest and buy lots small corks and stack them under your chinrest until you find the ideal height. Take measurements, and see if any of the Wave chinrest can match that height . I only mention Wave because you talk about them, but there are others out there such as the Frisch and Denig chinrests.

That’s just talking about height though, and then you have to find the shape that you find comfortable. For me, I liked the tallest Wave with a kun shoulder rest.

The best thing without a doubt is a custom chinrest for your specific body type, but that would involve meeting someone who can take the correct measurements and build it for you. I;m lucky that there is such a person in my city who’s been doing it for 40 years and has violinists traveling from all over the world for him to do such things after exhausting many options.

There are those who are born with the righj body for violin and can play with just about any chinrest / SR , i am not one of those people, and apparently you are not eitherr. So, yes that’s the unfortunate part of the violin world. It can be an expensive hobby.

One final important thing is that the chin rest and shoulder rest don’t do the same thing. The chinrest is for collarbone/jaw , the shoulder rest is for the shoulder, to lessen the need of left hand support, and it basically makes the violin stuck in one position. A proper fitted chinrest still allows a lot of room for flexibility of the violin without SR.

So two completely different roles. It definitely helped for me to get the chinrest sorted out first and like I said, I play withour SR.

Edited: October 7, 2018, 2:35 PM · Yes, I am aware of each item’s use. Putting a “stack” of cork under my existing one and measuring is a good idea. I can, of course measure from the jaw to collar one and compare the two. The measurement you use for the Wave, if that is what I decide to try, is to measure from jaw bone to collar bone.

I have other chin rests but the lip on most of them is so narrow that it is like a blade under my jaw. I need a smoother or a tad thicker of a lip so it is not quite so “sharp” under the jaw. The one I have in the violin I am trading in has a nice edge and a deep enough dip, but it is way too short and it does not come taller. I also wish it was a little longer going to the edge of the violin. That is also something I like about the Wave chin rest.

I am not saying the Wave is the best without checking around, but they are things I am looking for in the chin rest. I can return the Wave in 30 days if I decide it is not for me. I can have them send all three sizes and return the ones I am not fond of, or return them all. That is also a good thing.

I was basically wondering which to get firsr, chin rest or shoulder rest. It appears that my thinking was pretty much on target this time and the chin rest is first.

October 7, 2018, 2:39 PM · As others noted, chin-rest first, and then the shoulder-rest.
October 7, 2018, 5:24 PM · If you cannot get to a shop where you can try various chinrest styles, I suggest trying either:
1. The "Impressionist" or "Impressionist comforter" chinrest or chinrest pad
OR
2. The "Gelrest chinrest" or "Gelrest chinrest pad"

Both of these are sold by SHAR and by Amazon.com.

These designs mold to fit the contours of your chin/jaw and you can either continue to use one or use it as a basis for selecting a "hard" chinrest later.

If you were to purchase a pad of either type to mount on an existing chinrest, I suggest you use chinrest a little lower than you need.

One disadvantage of these two products is their density/weight which might have a negative effect on an instrument's tone. I consider the fact that the chinrests shown in ads for both styles are over-the-tailpiece mounted a potential disadvantage in case your instrument does not respond as well with a such chinrest mounting.

October 7, 2018, 5:34 PM · I need to have a higher chin rest than I have so, the ones just mentioned really would not do it. I have to lower my head too much and I don’t want to raise my violin up to my jaw.

I just needed to find out if I should fit my chin rest forst or the shoulder rest. It should be the chin rest.

Thank you everyone for confirming what I thought and for your suggestions, most helpful.

October 7, 2018, 10:26 PM · Cynthia, you can narrow your search putting play doh, or soft clay (inside a bag) on top of your current chinrest. Adjust until you are comfortable in your playing position and then get the overall height and shape as what you are exactly looking for. If you know the height and angle you need, there are many online sellers with quality chinrest quite cheap.
October 7, 2018, 11:20 PM · Great suggestions above. According to your descriptions, you seem to be (at least with the way I'm interpreting it) more suited to a chin rest on the flatter side of the scale, so look in that direction. The height adjustable Wittner Augsburg I mentioned above has very smooth edges so you might find that enjoyable. Chin rest pads are great for covering up sharp or hard edges on hard chinrests. Of course, the Wave is a great option to try too. I know this is very individual, but I generally recommend using side-mounted chinrests, namely those that go slightly over the tailpiece, unless you are very small with short arms. This has to do with the fact that center mounted chinrests facilitate a hold in which the violin points almost directly in front of you, which is not viable for most players due to arm length.
October 8, 2018, 8:03 AM · Ella, yes, side mount is what I am using now. The Guarneri(?) was on my violin originally. That is the one that was on the two less expensive ones that I have, also. Not a fan. My jaw is always on the tail piece, granted, I may be holding it slightly wrong, but I don’t think so. I brought my current more expensive violin back to the shop and explained that I did not care for that one and they put the current one on at no charge. I like this one. It is comfortable, but the lip is a little sharp for me. It is usable, but I am concerned that lip into the jaw will cause issues later because it is probably too high. Lower in this post, this is addressed. The shape and texture of the rest beyond the lip is very nice.

I do wish it was wider so there was more surface area, not deeper over the violin, just wider towards the edge. It is weird and hard to explain. It is almost like the little claustrophobia I have, hits me when my jaw is on that short chin rest. I get that little tiny bit of panic feeling in my gut. So weird, like when I gave my kids baths when they were little ones (all adults now) and I was leaning over the tub. Felt penned in. I feel that way with the short chin rest cup when my jaw sits on it. It has no extra wiggle room to the left.

I like the side mount because you have more option for adjusting because there is nothing over the tailpiece nailing it down. There is a section that can be moved over the tailpiece, or you can move it even farther left. Many options.

There is a question that comes to mind about the side mount that concerns me but that would change the direction of this thread I started. I will start another later on that because I would like to know how violinists here feel about it and what they have experienced. I am not fond of simple review sites because are they really violinists? So, I trust responses here more. Does that make sense?

Back to Ella’s post. I have placed the gel type toe pads that ladies use in high heels in the chin rest. I don’t wear heels so purchased a package of those toe pads because the shape was similar to the chin rest. That does help because the cup is not as deep. It covers the surface that I like, though. I have not removed the adhesive backing because I am not sure I want it there permanently. I have both in the pair stacked. One is not enough, both together seems a little high. Therefore, your thoughts that I need a smoother surface one may be correct. But is smoother going to actually give you grip to hold the violin in place? Since my pads are not secured in the chin rest, I can’t tell. But I think one pad is not enough and two stacked together, is too high.

I have seen the Wittner Augsburg Chin rest. That is where I first heard of adjustable chin rests. The rest looks very smooth and comfortable, but it is short. It is about the same price as the Wave. The things that make me feel like the Wave II might be good, I can return any or all I do not like, the extra width, the way it conforms to the 45° side violin holder (there is an option for the front violin holder, Wave I). I think that will help me not move it too much over my shoulder without thinking. I have noticed I do that at times. Anyway, what I like about the Wittner Augsburg is that it is adjustable. I can change the height.

Carlos, I like the playdough idea. I might have to get a small container of playdough when we go shopping later today. That is an excellent idea. I have baggies, so I will be set to try that when I get the playdough.

I am going to the violin shop Wednesday and do a violin tasting and will ask them about it too. I am also waiting for a prospective instructor to call. I I can get her, and I have not solved my chinrest issue before my first lesson, I will ask her for suggestions based on what she sees in my hold. I hope this instructor works out and she has a time slot I can fill.

Thank you all for your suggestions.

October 8, 2018, 9:35 AM · Not to be the pessimistic kind of person there, but sometimes instructors may not even be able to help you because violini health as i mentioned is still a relatively new concept. There are college students only finding out they’ve been playing “wrong” for the first time when they start college. But maybe I’m wrong and I hope your teacher can help you.

I only say this because, I’ve seen first hand teachers say very wrong things about violin health. Every one is unique and what they say may be true for themselves, but it may be very wrong for you. I think your curiosity is a great thing and you might find what you need by continuing your research..

Lots of people have given great suggestions already. Once you’ve done a bit of DIY work to find something you think you can work with, you can contact chinrest makers to see if they can find something along the lines of what you need. Another suggestion is the folks at Frisch and Denig who specialize in chinrests.

October 8, 2018, 10:56 AM · I have received a lot of feedback, thank you very much. I have discovered, through the replies, that I have many things to consider and will keep an open mind. I am not set on any particular model right now, just needed some incite on things to think about. My original post was just to find out if my search should be for a chin rest first and then shoulder rest, or the opposite, in case I could not get both at the same time. I was thinking the chin rest first, as was confirmed. Thank you.

The morfing of my post to that of chin rest options gave me a lot of informatiom and things to consider. Wednesday, I will see what I can find at the violin shop. I am not sure what they have. Did not see any out on display, just a few shoulder rests. They did put a diffefent one on the violin when I went back and let them know that the one that came on it was not working for me. Maybe they have more, but they are not in display, will ask, and then go from there.

Thank you all very much.

Cynthia

Edited: October 8, 2018, 12:06 PM · I have to agree with Denis, except that I would say that some violin teachers are great about teaching technique that is healthy and helping students find a chin and shoulder rest solution that actually suits them, and others are terrible about this stuff. I'm very lucky to have a violin teacher who's very good about teaching healthy technique. Although she does try to talk students into using chin rests she personally likes, she is reasonable about it and values the importance of a combo that actually fits you because she won't force you into it if it really doesn't work for you. At one time she made me try her favourite chin rest model, which does not fit my chin shape. Thankfully, she did let me go back to my preferred model, and she was totally cool with that, knowing that it was not a good fit for me. My teacher is also quite aware of how violinists with different body types play the violin because she has observed a lot of performances over the years, analyzing how different violinists approach violin technique differently by linking certain body types to certain technique patterns. She actually finds this stuff very fascinating, which is a good thing for her teaching because that way, she is actually more able to help students with varying body types adapt to the violin. There's actually a lot more variation in technique among professional violinists than you may think.

In terms of losing grip with a flatter chin rest, this is completely chin shape dependent. Those who are suited to flatter chinrests grip the chin rest via friction, and it actually works really well. Those who find a flatter chin rest comfortable find the more curved/scooped chinrests uncomfortable and dislike the sharp edges. Some violinists have even customized chin rests by themselves by carving away parts of the chinrest using sandpaper or something similar.

Edited: October 8, 2018, 1:55 PM · "I have seen the Wittner Augsburg Chin rest. That is where I first heard of adjustable chin rests. The rest looks very smooth and comfortable, but it is short."

I wouldn't call it short - relative to giants maybe, but not really short, given its own adjustment options. In addition, Wittner sells extention legs which can make it very high. Caution - when trying an extension leg on one side only, perhaps with excessive angling, I managed to break the chinrest at the point of the original attachment.

Wittner also has a new Guarneri-style chinrest which they call "Zuerich". It's just like the Augsburg in other aspects - same adjustments and mounting system.
https://www.wittner-gmbh.de/kinnhalter_e.html

I like the legs/mounting system of the Wittners very much - they're easier to tighten with less risk of damage to the violin surface, and if you're playing without a shoulder rest, contact with the rounded wood of the violin is much more comfortable than metal.

Personally, I switched from an Augsburg to a Guarneri to a Zuerich and back to the Augsburg as I found the positioning of the Zuerich to be much less comfortable. The Guarneri was much lower, and a part of an experiment of less jaw contact force, which was somewhat successful, but not mastered. My position currently is that the hand should do more work to support the instrument and be comfortably placed to work, and excessive reliance on devices to do that can be counter-productive.

October 9, 2018, 10:51 AM · I recently switched to WAVE chinrests on both my violin and viola. I had been using SAS chinrests if anyone wants to buy them. When I switched to the WAVE, I had to also change my shoulder rest. The chinrest feel changes for me depending on the shoulder rest.
Edited: October 9, 2018, 10:20 PM · About six months ago, I acquired the Chinrest Lip. The pros are that it does give my jaw something to grab onto and is of a material that provides good traction. The cons are that even the shortest was too tall with my chinrest. and the square edge of the lip was too much for my jaw. Both issues were resolved with a razor blade. The other issue is that once it is attached to the chinrest, removing it destroys it, so moving it one way or the other is not an option once attached.
October 10, 2018, 12:31 PM · I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this, but you could always try a Strad pad.

Even though I'm small, I need a high setup because my violin is unnaturally large and heavy (14.25in in body length and large all around, but no, it's not a viola. I'm possibly thinking it could be a Maggini or Maggini copy. It's an heirloom so there's no sticker, but we found out it's 1880s Germany) and the weight of it (probably twice as heavy as my 15" viola) caused my shoulders to overcompensate and I had a lot of neck and shoulder issues.

I have a high sitting Guarineri (sp?) chin rest and currently an Everest shoulder rest (I gave my Kun to my student because his Everest didn't fit him well) and it still gave me issues. I bought the Strad pad and it gave me enough support and cushion to finally fit rather nicely. The pad also got rid of the dreaded violin hickey. I can't be going around teaching in schools with a big ol' hickey-looking mark on my neck!

I also wouldn't be opposed to looking into different chin rests, since I've only ever used Guarineri and the nameless one that was on my violin. I'll have to look into it more.

Hope this helps,

Kristen

October 10, 2018, 2:42 PM · One very good and comfortable alternative to the shoulder rest that people might also consider is foam rubber. Mr. Stern was a big advocate of this approach over using a rigid shoulder rest.

October 12, 2018, 5:17 PM · Only do the shoulder rest first if you have an adjustable collarbone and swapable jaw.
October 13, 2018, 9:10 AM · One reason to consider the shoulder support (whether pad or rest) before the chin rest is to find an optimal tilt angle (analogous to "roll" if you think of the scroll as the nose of an airplane.)


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