Why Is the Guarneri Chinrest So Popular?

Edited: October 13, 2018, 8:05 PM · Hi everyone,
I'm just curious about this. Why is the Guarneri chinrest (the one that's center mounted with the chin plate on the left and a leg over the tailpiece) so popular, and why does it come on so many violins? I know this is a personal opinion only, but its shape and curvature isn't really meant to fit a chin (I found a similar statement on chinrests.com). I'm aware that many players place their chin on the cross-over piece, but I feel like the chin isn't meant to be placed on it. Any thoughts?

Replies (31)

October 13, 2018, 8:31 PM · Players get used to it (perhaps the most common chinrest?), and get to play at such a high level it even stops mattering much. Very rarely used as intended, but if it works for these players, it's fine I suppose.

It's the Teka (or similar styles) for me, as I don't hold the violin that high on the shoulder, but more a bit forward, so my chin actually lies on the chinrest (cheek/chin, actually, but at least it's practical in my case, rather than a big piece of unused wood.)

There are many more "ideal" chinrests these thousands of players could use, but I guess they got used to the Guarneri being comfortable being used like that (many centered cups can be high or not the most comfortable.)

October 13, 2018, 8:40 PM · Is it because it fits the shortest necks and will almost never be too high for anyone?

I have a short neck and spent months finding the right ultra-low chinrest and shoulder rest combo for viola, just to allow a viola to fit between jaw and collarbone. On the rare occasions I play violin, I play comfortably with no shoulder rest and my chin fits perfectly in the Guarneri cup. So maybe it's intended for one extreme of the range of human head/neck/shoulder shapes, with the idea that it doesn't exclude anyone completely even if it's a poor fit for most people?

October 13, 2018, 10:00 PM · There is a chinrests.com??
October 13, 2018, 10:02 PM · Perhaps because it works fine for the average player? Anything too "fancy" will be way too specific, fitting a small subset of the population.
October 13, 2018, 10:56 PM · Contrary to current popular belief, many violinists do hold with the chin rather than the jaw (I wonder who popularized that notion of the 'jaw rest.') Of those who 'chin-hold', there are some who at times lean left and apply the jaw, but there's definitely a tucking of the chin (using AT's head 'forward and up') and there's no centre mounted chinrest which allows for that. So for those who like to hold with the chin and hold at the centre, or just left of it, there isn't a lot of choice. The bar of the Guarneri and Strad models work well to fill that void. Most chinrest cups also rise back to front, and so they push the chin up, preventing tucking. Also, I think the shape just looks right, but maybe that's because they're ubiquitous, and the names probably don't hurt either.
October 14, 2018, 1:47 AM · I think the guarneri works well for advanced players, but the teka is far better for beginners, on average.
October 14, 2018, 1:54 AM · Ella, the Guarneri might not be right for you and the way you hold the violin, but it is for a lot of people.

A couple of other things:
The chinrest clamp agains the collar bone can be a source of discomfort, and the Guarneri syle moves this clamp out of the way.
The Guarneri style puts the clamping force closer the lower block, a heavily reinforced area, rather than over the weaker rib.

Would the people who place their chin more over the tailpiece, rather than to the left, be better off with a different style of chinrest? Seems like it to me. But some of these are very good players, so I presume they've tried many different things and know what they're doing.

Edited: October 14, 2018, 3:30 AM · Side mounted chinrests also change the sound significantly, in my experience.

Center mounted, like guarneri, strad, flesch, etc, tend to keep the sound focused and projecting. The sounds rings longer and is more pure.

Side mounted chinrests, like teka, tend to warm the violin up a bit and cut down on overtones.

I've been very comfortable with side mounted chinrests before but was never able to validate the sound impurity that resulted. So I always end up switching back.

Edited: October 14, 2018, 6:22 AM · I suspect that historically, before the chin rest was invented in 1820, players would have naturally tended to rest their chin on the tailpiece, avoiding too much contact with the body of the instrument. Music of the period was usually scored for the violins so as provide little "escape routes" for descending from high positions - a half beat rest here, an open string or octave harmonic there, and other little tricks, all still worth utilising today.
[edit added] If you play a Haydn symphony with a violin in a Baroque setup, as I have, you quickly become aware of these escape routes.

@ Eric. "The sounds rings longer ..." I think that with the Guarneri chin rest if you are placing your chin over the tailpiece you are allowing the chin plate on the left to resonate - you can check for this by contacting it with your chin when playing, and listening for a resulting slight muting of the sound.

October 14, 2018, 6:27 AM · A lot of players I see have a chinrest that is not mounted over the tailpiece like the Guarneri but, when they play, their chin seems to be centered over the tailpiece and almost off the rest. The Guarneri and Berber rests take advantage of this fact and center the chinrest where the musician seems to place his/her chin.
Edited: October 14, 2018, 8:32 AM · It might be due to the fact that it is the "usual" way, but in my opinion, at least in the collector part of mine, violins look best with Guarneri chin rest. For technical purposes, I currently use SAS (only touches the table where the block sits, is above the tail piece, and at least fits my chin quite well).
Edited: October 14, 2018, 10:46 AM · Thank you all for your interesting and informative responses. I realize this is a very individual issue. However, what I wrote in my original post was a personal opinion only. In my opinion, I think any other chinrest in the world is good and benefits people. What really interests me is: Is there a historical reason as to why the Guarneri became so popular?
October 14, 2018, 11:32 AM · I suspect that it is because the makers prefer the end-clamps to be over the tailpiece end-block, which is safer for the violin, and they would buy one variety in bulk for lower costs, so Guarneri is it. In one of Paul Rolland's books he describes an experiment where a large number of students were able to test a variety of chin-rests. The result was that most preferred that in-between style like the Teka and a minority preferred the Guarneri or the center-mounted Flesch. A some point I ask my students "Is that the chin-rest that came with the violin?" The majority say Yes.
October 14, 2018, 11:45 AM · Years ago I did a number of chinrest tests with a violin-maker friend of mine when sound-checking some of his brand-new instruments (and some of mine too). Most of the instruments sounded better with the chinrests not clamped on the end block; for a few it made no difference.

I agree with Joel. I have been amused for decades to watch those violinists who are uncomfortable with the Guarneri chinrests that came with their violins and the machinations they go through to make their comfort tolerable rather than just changing chinrests.

However, a lot of different physical factors go into chinrest comfort. It took me 30 years to find a chinrest that fit me parfectly; that was 50 playing years ago - so it wasn't too late!

October 14, 2018, 12:01 PM · It has a "cool", famous Italian family name.

Seriously, must have been an old "standard", and people kept emulating what many of their favorite players used, even when holding the violin differently, having unique body shapes, and using shoulder rests, which all change chinrest dynamics quite considerably. I know that when I was younger I made it work for me despite noticing I never used the cup (and after failing to adapt to centered chinrests), but I did hold the violin like many players do quite well, more over the shoulder. During my "how can I make everything better"? era, which has thankfully lasted to this day (though I have not made changes to chinrest/shoulder rest in 7+ years), I discovered changing violin positions and different chinrests and shoulder rests, which led me to a "beginner's Teka" (as suggested above), so I guess I now know less about violin playing than what I did before. I did want the Guarneri to work fine at first, but since what I now use makes playing so incredibly easy and effortless, I see zero point in using what is not optimal for my current violin playing preferences just to emulate the majority or use what big name violinists may use (many of whom I actually like, by the way, so I have no trouble with people using Guarneri chinrests to suit their needs.)

As far as sound goes, I like bright and don't have much trouble with my side mounted rest. I have heard opposite claims, that both styles are supposed to improve the sound. Must be all subjective preference, and each individual violin maybe reacts differently.

Did not mean to offend. Do not think, however, it's necessary for one side to claim "superiority" just because it's what they use and prefer (or in some cases, because of "majority bragging rights"). Violin teaching is more homogeneous nowadays, but body differences and resulting violin holding positions require, in my opinion, we open our minds a bit more about what "should be" and is "optimal" for each player and violin.

Best wishes, and happy practicing/music making.

October 14, 2018, 3:34 PM · Why indeed? Probably because they approach ubiquity when purchasing and instrument. I started with one but fund that it was really uncomfortable for my jaw. A visit to the Luthier who restored my instrument took me on a search to find the one that works best with my jaw bone - The "Edu".

Occasionally, I ask professionals and other people who play better than me to play my instrument as a way of seeing if I'm getting all I can out of my instrument. Sometimes the looks on their faces when the Edu contacts their jaw bone are hilarious. FWIW: I actually do want the comparison, I just forget that I use an unusual chinrest and it does feel different - one person commented that my bridge must be misaligned and I pointed out the different chinrest. "Oh, one of those" she said rather disgustedly.

October 14, 2018, 4:20 PM ·

I am an ant-Guarneri style chinrest guy, and that's because the chinrest is designed for the placement of the left side of the jawbone to lean against and not the chin. Having a chinrest as close to the tailpiece or over the tailpiece is better. I custom made my own chinrest to fit the mold of my chin and that works the best.

October 14, 2018, 5:51 PM · I think it is popular in part, because many people are able to adapt to using it in different ways. Since it has a ridge over the tailpiece, it can be used even if a center mounted chin rest might be more ideal, but it also fits many who like a side-mounted chin rest. It also is one of the more attractive chin rest styles, which is probably why many violin shops have them on the majority of instruments and why most instruments are photographed with it.
Edited: October 15, 2018, 7:37 AM · What David Burgess said. It works perfectly well for me. I've tried out a few different types, discussed them with my luthier, who made the violin, and this felt the most comfortable. I was persuaded also by the arguments for the way it is mounted over the violin's tailpiece (rather than on the left-hand rib), including the potential effect on sound. The shape of the cup gives me some freedom of chin placement, as I like to be able to shift around a little. It looks attractive too, I suppose, though that's not an issue one way or another.
October 16, 2018, 9:36 AM · Initially I didn't mind my new violin's Teka, but I think the more I use it, the more I wish it was a Guarneri. My neck is very short.
Edited: October 16, 2018, 10:21 AM · I have a long neck, and I have re-carved and re-tilted wooden and plastic Tekas with success. My chin is on the part overhanging th tailpiece, and my so delicate jaw hooks over the ridge but escapes via a much deepened hollow. However, it would not suit Charles Cook, or anyone who holds the fiddle more in front than I do.
October 16, 2018, 11:18 AM · I am amused that; many violinists are concerned about the effect on the sound of the position of the chinrest clamps or the shoulder rest touching the edges, but the no-shoulder- rest crowd ignore the damping effect of the the back plate touching the body. These alleged differences might be from the position & angle of the left ear to the top plate of the violin.
Edited: October 16, 2018, 6:19 PM · I switched to flesch so I could hear myself. A side benefit was that I can now play comfortably and securely without a shoulder rest on both violin and viola. That also improves resonance by removing a massive vibration dampening device.
Edited: October 16, 2018, 7:11 PM · "the no-shoulder- rest crowd ignore the damping effect of the back plate"

I cannot entirely agree with that statement as a generality.

I don't use a shoulder rest. The back plate of my violin(s) does not contact my shoulder when I play. The only contact the violin has with my body is its support by the collar bone at the bottom edge of the back plate - a narrow region at the edge where vibration is small or non-existent. My left hand of course supports the violin at its neck, and the chin rest (a Guarneri) is primarily there to provide stability by a light touch of the chin/jaw, especially when coming down from high positions.

It is also a matter of observation that gripping the neck with the left hand, (as beginners are prone to do), instead of providing a light support, has a damping effect on the sound, especially with a responsive instrument. A classical guitarist will attest to this phenomenon on their instrument.

October 21, 2018, 11:29 AM · I was able to modify one Guarneri rest to my (near) satifaction.
- I cut of a small wedge from the left foot and transferred it to the right; this tilts the plateau down towards the top plate, giving me better access to the bottom string with my stubby pinky.
- With a half-round file, I removed the rim from the left half of the plateau; this suits my jaw, which has a "corner" below the ear.
October 21, 2018, 10:53 PM · A couple of years ago I got fitted for a Frisch & Denig chinrest and have been ecstatic about it. My posture is way better, no discomfort or pain because of bad posture, don't have to deal with shoulder rests popping off,etc. I can't imagine going back. It was about $300 for the fitting plus chinrest, but money worth spent. The person was a violinist and teacher herself and was very helpful and well trained. Took about 45 min for the fitting.
(I'm not connected in any way with Frisch & Denig.)
October 23, 2018, 10:09 PM · Oh the variability of ergonomics!
October 24, 2018, 1:56 AM · My centered chinrest is rather flat. With double-sided tape I attached a small rim out of firm foam material to the outer corner. Over that goes my strad pad. Very comfortable and the little rim gives me a slight hook for my skinny jaw.
After quite some adjustment iterations before now for the last couple of month I am happy with my chinrest, shoulderrest combination.
Edited: October 30, 2018, 5:36 AM · I have three good violins and they all behave differently when it comes to centre or side mounted chinrests. My Vuillaume will not tolerate a side mounted CR where the sound becomes too stiff. My modern violin is happy with either as is my Jacquot. So far I was using the Ruggiery but after watching a great violinist how he is holding the violin, I decided to emulate his placement position which meant bringing the violin a little towards the chest. This has freed up my bow arm and improved my tone. I realized though that the existing CR was uncomfortable, so I changed to the Gilkes Guarneri with the low scoop which I now find comfortable.
October 30, 2018, 5:46 AM · I said, "Initially I didn't mind my new violin's Teka, but I think the more I use it, the more I wish it was a Guarneri. My neck is very short."

It turns out the people who set it up put the chinrest way too far off-centre.

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