The one in which we debate the merits of a tall chinrest

Edited: October 24, 2018, 3:58 PM · I've noticed that people talk about tall chin rests a lot, but I can't recall any knock-down-drag-out-shoulder-rest-style debate on the merits of adding height to chin rests. It is taken as fact that people need a taller chinrest. Tall chin rests have only become a thing in the past 10 so years- have our necks gotten longer, did we just not start using taller chin rests until recently because we didn't, or have physiological changes due to poor use necessitated taller chin rests?

I personally think that while some people actually do have long necks, generally, people hold their heads too far backward and up (Google images for tech neck and swayback), which requires a taller chin rest. But I've not really made up my mind either way.

Edited to add: If you use a tall chin rest, did you decide to do so after consulting a some sort of professional (Alexander teacher, etc.) who has specialized knowledge of violin setup and human physiology?

Replies (21)

October 24, 2018, 4:09 PM · I got a taller chin rest recently because I noticed I was raising my left shoulder and playing felt awkward. I'm much less tense and more comfortable when I play now and it's improved my left hand technique. I think tall chin rests have merit if that's what's right for the player. there is no one size fits all solution and it's good for people to try out different things until they find what works for them
October 24, 2018, 4:31 PM · Julie, tall chinrests have been around a lot longer than 10 years. We were making or modifying them to be higher for people back in the 1960's, when I first got into the business.
Edited: October 24, 2018, 4:43 PM · David, were they as widely used back then or was it a somewhat rare specialty item? I don't recall them being mass produced or seeing them in catalogs until recently, and I never saw anyone using them or recommending them until a few years ago. I think Smiley Hsu was one of the first people I remember talking a lot about setups with tall chin rests. I have helped 2 very tall students purchase them. I'm not sure I'd recommend one as a remedy for a lifting shoulder though, as it could cause neck strain if your head's too far back.
October 24, 2018, 8:23 PM · Tall chin rests for tall necks.

Short chin rests for short necks.

Not “tall for all”

It may appear that way, since most chinrests that come on instruments are uniformly low to begin with.

To properly utilize a shoulder rest, a proper chin rest is required or all manner of ills will afflict the hapless user.

I theorize that a big issue is that now that shoulder rests have been around for a number of generations of violin instructors perhaps the underlying basics of how to hold a violin “au naturale” have been conflated with a reliance on using a shoulder rest at all times, and the feeling of a lifted left shoulder or a downward tilted head is all that has ever been experienced by many.

October 24, 2018, 8:28 PM · Is anyone saying "tall for all", though? Sure, Frisch & Denig say that 90% of their customers need lifted chin rests, but that's likely more a function of people who need tall chin rests having a harder time finding something that works for them on the market.

For me, the lowest off-the-shelf chin rests on the market are still too tall, with or without a shoulder rest.

October 25, 2018, 2:44 AM · "David, were they as widely used back then or was it a somewhat rare specialty item?"
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Julie, I don't know. We didn't have the internet to be able to easily find unusual products, or easily sample public opinion over a broad geographic area. ;-)

Where I was working at the time (Weisshaar shop in Los Angeles), I recall quite a few being made for Heifetz students, because Heifetz didn't want his students using shoulder rests. Heifetz could do fine with a low chinrest and no shoulder rest, but it didn't work out so well for people with longer necks.

October 25, 2018, 5:58 AM · I dont know, Craig, I'm small but need a tall setup so my shoulder doesn't compensate for the unusual weight of my instrument. I've been looking into these tall ones for a little bit and I might do it.
October 25, 2018, 8:13 AM · It seems reasonable also that a taller CR will be preferred by someone who wants to minimize or eliminate the SR.
October 25, 2018, 9:58 AM · I find that I am most comfortable playing my violin with a tall, slightly side-mounted chinrest and my shoulder rest on the lowest height setting. The alternative is to increase the height of my shoulder rest or live with terrible upper back pain because I've been raising my left shoulder. Both of these latter scenarios seem to have a negative effect on my playing technique as well. My viola, on the other hand, is a fair bit bigger, so I use a flatter chinrest with that. FWIW, I did find the 35mm SAS chinrest to be a bit too high on the violin, although I'm considering going back to that one next summer so I can experiment with taking the shoulder rest off completely.
Edited: October 25, 2018, 7:53 PM · I once moved to a Kréddle chinrest with medium height post + short setup Pedi shoulder rest, which reduced tension in my right shoulder, but eventually reverted to a middle of the ground setup with a traditional guarneri style ebony CR and Wolf Forte Secondo SR, which for the moment seems to work best. That may change over time however.
October 25, 2018, 5:23 PM · I still have my Forte Secondo somewhere, and would use it without much trouble if need be, perhaps on its lowest height (which is rather "medium" height.) The VLM Diamond made me not want to experiment much more with SRs, however, as it works so well for me. I find the Wolf much more flexible/adaptable than all the Kuns I have used in the past.

I have been tempted to buy the Korfker at a good price a few times, but ultimately think that it may not be worth trying something so pricey when I feel 100% comfortable with my current setup.

October 25, 2018, 7:00 PM · Paul Deck said "It seems reasonable also that a taller CR will be preferred by someone who wants to minimize or eliminate the SR."

I don't know that I'd equate these, though I think you're right in the sense that the chinrest security IS more important to someone without a shoulder rest. With no shoulder rest, it's more imperative to get the chinrest right.

If you hang the violin out horizontally from the collar bone, you will have a distance from the back to the shoulder and from the top of the violin to the jaw. The shoulder rest and chinrest have really different functions in that regard....

The chinrest makes up for long necks and the shape of the jaw (or wherever the players face contacts the instrument. The shoulder rest makes up for the slope of the shoulder and any additional "tilt" the player needs to accommodate bowing. The shoulder rest also provides friction and can block the instrument from rotating.

October 25, 2018, 8:11 PM · I think perhaps a “correctly sized for the individual “ chinrest will make playing without a SR easier. Is probably more appropriate.
October 26, 2018, 9:42 AM · I've never actually gone without a SR. However, it's a lot easier for me to get up into high positions on the G and D strings with a tall chinrest/low SR vs. a short chinrest/high SR. (High positions in general feel easier to me with this setup, it's just even more apparent on the lower end.) Octaves and tenths are also easier. It's not so much about security as it is about being able to reach every part of the violin that I need to without straining, raising my shoulder, or tensing up anywhere.

Also, there are some people who don't necessarily need a taller chinrest, but can benefit from switching out their side-mounted chinrest for a center-mounted model. It really depends on the person.

November 19, 2018, 3:19 PM · I switched to the smallest chinrest I can find. A year ago, I had my violin at my luthier and played on my wife's instrument. I was joking her that she has small pretty and low one like kitty for kitty chin :) and now I have the same :) I have very short neck and it is comfortable for me, it also decreased the weight of my little bit heavier instrument
Edited: November 19, 2018, 11:30 PM · Julie, doesn't it make sense that someone with a taller neck would benefit from a taller chin rest? (Whether or not people hold their heads in the wrong position)

I have a long neck and getting a taller chin rest has been a huge help. The amount of tension in my entire left side has reduced dramatically.

November 19, 2018, 11:58 PM · Fairly long-necked person here. When I started playing my current instrument, I found that having a tall shoulder rest was more relaxing for me, but the rest itself was a bit rickety. When I brought my violin into the luthier, I asked about the issue. He watched me play for a couple of minutes, and came out with a tall, side-mounted, titanium-fittings chin rest, and a Kun Bravo shoulder rest, which was lower, but now I had the taller chin rest. Several years later, and that set up is still the most comfortable ever for me.
November 20, 2018, 3:56 PM · A major point to consider with regard to chin rest height is one's bow arm. If you feel that you are raising your arm too high, use a high chin rest to lower the violin and therefore your bow arm. This allows you to use a shorter shoulder rest, or remove the shoulder rest altogether, your preference.

In my case, I wanted to use a tall chinrest, but I couldn't find one which was shaped the way I like, so I use my regular Guarneri style chinrest with some cork blocks placed underneath. I use screw bars from a viola chin rest to allow the extra height. I'm a fairly big guy so for me this was the perfect solution.

November 20, 2018, 5:15 PM · I had a really strained setup, and was having arthritic issues in my hands (some other weird health stuff was perhaps the root cause), but I also had TMJ disorder (clenching and popping of the jaw). Thanks I think to this website, I found Alexander Technique, and in conjunction with a lot of experimenting with different chinrests and inserts and junk, I came to a much more relaxed use of myself. Alexander Technique was big, but it was always pretty clear to me that a higher chinrest would help (I have this long dancer's neck).

I settled on the Kreddle, and I like it a lot. Perhaps I could find more comfort by messing with my set-up a bit, but I'm at the point with it where my set-up is not the limiting factor in tension in my playing. My violin teacher has also been important in emphasizing relaxation. I actually take the chinrest off every time I put the violin in my case, because the clearance is too high. My shoulder rest is pretty standard. I used to use a Kun, which I found a little too contoured, but now use a flatter Viva La Musica. I also like the lack of contour on the Kreddle Chinrest. For me, having the space filled but without the contours gives a good balance between freedom and security.

November 21, 2018, 11:02 PM · I think the trend of people using higher chin rests has to do with awareness. I did not have a single teacher ever talk to me about my set up. It wasn't until after I had been out of college for a few years and had taken training on how to teach young beginners, that the notion of how a set up can hinder or help someone.

I think people have become much more aware of the ergonomics regarding playing the violin. I think there are also many more options available now then there were then. I started with a kitchen sponge that my mom sewed a piece of corduroy fabric around as a shoulder rest.

I have not consulted professionals, but I have attended and sought out workshops on body usage as well as reading and studying many books.

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