Chinrest modification to improve violin and viola sound

February 24, 2019, 3:57 PM · I recently replaced the cork on chinrests for my two violas and two of my 4 violins with 2mm thick rubber sheeting. The improvement in tone was immediate and noticeable whether play with the instruments under my chin or in cello position.

This was not a stroke of genius but inspired by my previous years of experience with RESONATION CHINRESTs on my 4 violins ( ).

More in my post below:

Replies (41)

Edited: March 5, 2019, 9:41 PM · I’ve had (left-mounted RESONATION CHINRESTS (RC)- on my 4 violins for a decade and a fellow violinist then put a Guarneri model RC on his Enrico Rocco violin with good tonal improvement. My only disappointment was that I had to go to a different model chinrest from my favored 50 year old Original Stubers. The RC incorporates a patented rubber connection between the chinrest and the violin corpus.

Recently I attempted to order two of the lowest-height RC model of (Gary Anderson’s) RESONATION CHINREST to use on my violas and found the website "down for maintenance." So I tried something else - I removed the cork lining from the chinrests I was using and replaced it with 2mm thick rubber sheeting cut to fit. It works at least as well as the RCs in improving tone. So I took the little bit of rubber I had left and relined two of my old Stuber violin chinrests - and "voila!" fantastic sound and that same old jaw comfort I had enjoyed for earlier decades. Unfortunately I donated my two other Stubers to a local youth orchestra a few years ago (I've ordered two replacements - I hope they have those same contours that "God" used to design my jaw).

EDIT: Feb. 26: Unfortunately my newly arrived Stuber chinrests are not the original European design that worked so well for me.

EDIT: Mar. 5: I subsequently ordered two Edu chinrests from SHAR and they seem to be close enough in top contour to my original Stubers that I'm going with them.

Edited: February 24, 2019, 4:17 PM · Sorry, but that's total bollocks.
The chinrest clamp presses over the area where the rib meets the table, which is totally acoustically insignificant.

Furthermore, even if the chinrest clamp did have any effect, adding rubber to it would not make any difference at all. If it did, then taking your chinrest off altogether should make your violin sound like a Strad. Which it won't. Because it makes no difference.

Edited: February 24, 2019, 4:28 PM · This was discussed on Maestronet today. For myself, I would hold off
judgment till I tried it myself, but
one can aways hope, and different people may have different results on different instruments.
Edited: February 24, 2019, 4:54 PM · Cotton, have you tried it?

Jeff, I saw that on Maestronet - it was a 2013 thread that I missed when it was done - but I added to it this morning.

True - different people may have different results on different instruments - but I've now had very positive results on 2 violas and 3 violins.

If it doesn't work for you, you can always replace the cork you cut off your chinrest with slices cut from a wine-bottle cork.

And at least one of my violins does sound and play like a Strad (especially with this chinrest improvement) - maybe not the greatest Strad, but pretty close to the lesser of the two I have played.

February 24, 2019, 5:02 PM · "Sorry, but that's total bollocks.
The chinrest clamp presses over the area where the rib meets the table, which is totally acoustically insignificant."

That would seem to be the case in theory. However, in reality it is not true. Anything touching the violin influences the sound.

For example, the theory behind a center-mounted chinrest is that the clamp, being on a block, should thus allow better resonance. I have found this to be false on numerous violins. A center-mount allows a little more resonance from the bass side, but can choke off the A instead.

February 24, 2019, 5:42 PM · Yep, anything touching the violin affects the sound.
Edited: February 24, 2019, 5:57 PM · Respectfully, Scott, the rubber would likely have a different transmission of vibrations than the cork, either natural or composite, probably more longitudinal than torsional, near the main point of transmission- the saddle. In my experience, the mass and density of wood of the chinrest (I prefer center mount Flesch but have tried plastic Wittner and others) has had major affects on the tambre of several instrument, not just the resonance. Cotton, it’s not the clamp, it’s the contact point of the rest which transmits to it. The chinrest does, in my experience, dampen with various affect. It would make sense that a different material with different characteristics would have some effect.
Andrew, I have always found your observations to be well considered and look forward to trying this in the future. What type of rubber are you using and where did you source it?
Edited: February 24, 2019, 5:59 PM · So Cotton, Are you the same person as
Deo Lawson who posts on
Maestronet? The dog avitar looks to be the same as yours on this forum, minus the balloon.
February 24, 2019, 6:00 PM · For the chinrest to damp the violin, the whole instrument would have to move as one solid mass on one axis. Which it doesn't!
The plates move freely irrespective to how much cork you stick on the ribs.
Edited: March 9, 2019, 6:32 AM · Edward so far I found enough rubber in some 2mm thick pieces that were part of packing for some small elex stuff I bought. But I just received some in a roll from Amazon that I will use for the last two chinrests when they arrive.

Neoprene Rubber self adhesive strip 5/8" wide x 5/64" thick x 33 feet long - $13.95

P.S. EDIT: (3/9/2019) The self-adhesive strips work as well as the previous rubber.

February 24, 2019, 7:55 PM · Andrew ... thanks for the tip, I see no harm in trying it.
Edited: February 24, 2019, 8:54 PM · I think the Kreddle uses rubber instead of cork. Switching to Kreddle did not improve the sound of my violin.

However, I tried once taking my centre-mounted guarneri CR (with cork) off and the sound did indeed significantly improved.

February 24, 2019, 11:20 PM · Back in the early 1990s I used try out violins (both in the white and finished) that a fried of mine (Charles Woods) made - both in his studio and in the large sanctuary of the church he belonged to. Most (not all) of the violins sounded much better both under the chin and projecting in that large room with side-mounted chinrests than with center-mounted ones.

*(At last count, Charles Woods, who started making as an amateur in his 40s has made 101 instruments including 86 violins, 12 violas and 3 cellos. All have been sold except for his first and last violins, which he plans to keep - so he told me late last year).

February 24, 2019, 11:23 PM · It would be messy to computer-model the effects of rubber and cork chinrest mountings. I think the rubber is acting as a shock absorber to isolate the chinrest from the motions (vibrations) of the instrument so less energy is lost to moving the chinrest - to put it in simple terms. Cork may be a good thermal insulator but it is mechanically stiff compared to rubber.
February 25, 2019, 1:50 AM · Oh dear, another crucial factor to add to the list
February 25, 2019, 2:50 AM · How does rubber behave with varnish, especially antique?
February 25, 2019, 6:47 AM · The proper way to get back to the original tone as envisaged by the maker is to remove CR and SR. It works.
February 25, 2019, 7:12 AM · I have only ever noticed a sound change when removing a shoulder rest (though I struggle to play indefinitely w/out a shoulder rest).

I did change my chin rests to centre mounted Wittners, which to me changed the perceived sound, but I put this down to the violin/viola being positioned slightly differently in relation to my ears, hence the change in the perceived sound? Who knows, I go for comfort when playing, then figure out the sound bit afterwards. Others might have more experience than me?

February 25, 2019, 7:52 AM · Half an inch of rubber sheet is not gonna mechanically insulate ****. The chinrest will still vibrate with the instrument.

The perceived change is all in your head!

February 25, 2019, 8:15 AM · Anything that touches the violin (or viola) can have an effect... only if that area of the instrument vibrates... and every part of the violin vibrates at some frequency or another.
Putting soft, springy material between the chinrest and violin can have significant and varied effects. I have found them mostly to be undesirable, allowing the chinrest to vibrate on its own at some frequencies... so I have replaced some vinyl pads on Dix chinrests with stiffer cork. I suppose it is possible for very, very soft pads to move chinrest movements to a low enough frequency to be out of the playing range... I don't know. Haven't tried it. But the bottom line is that the effects would be variable with frequency, and impossible to arm-wave to any conclusion about better or worse (and could depend on the instrument). You'd have to try it. I generally found that stiff pads and side-mount chinrests work best for my tastes.
February 25, 2019, 8:16 AM · To help with the dampening effect of the chinrest you can cut back the cork so it just makes contact on the edge, the cork doesn't need to extend onto the top. Depending on the kind of rubber, I wouldn't recommend it, it'll mess up the varnish more than the cork. Neoprene or something like it would probably be okayish.
February 26, 2019, 6:24 PM · Anthony, cork can mess it up too. With the violins I've owned for 50 to 70 years (3 of my 4), changing chinrests makes it obvious that if you want the varnish virgin to the edge you will need professional refinishing. I can't see that rubber removal will be more of a problem.

For the rest of ye nay-sayers, I just say try it.

Unfortunately my newly arrived Stuber chinrests are not the original European design.

February 27, 2019, 2:37 AM · Andrew, I'm a stuber fans too. And "edu", which is quite similar to stuber.
February 27, 2019, 9:11 AM · Chinrests have a huge effect, and a player who is looking for a certain effect might conclude that all of his instruments have been improved by a chinrest that gives that effect on them, but that doesn't mean the violin is better or worse for someone else who isn't looking for that effect. . . and tonal and instrument behavior preferences (very often players are sensing things that don't reach listeners) are far from universal! I see this all the time with various modern innovations--that they work with a certain type of violin or player, but are not useful for anything else. Kevlar tail guts on violins are a really good example of this, as are "harp" cello tailpieces. I can hear the difference, and know where they are useful, but that benefit is very specific to certain types of instrument, not universal. It depends entirely on what areas that specific instrument needs to be accentuated or subdued to work better.

Regarding cello tailpieces, for instance, we use three types of hanger on seven different types of tailpiece, depending on the cello (yes, we often do try them all, though most of the time we understand them well enough to go for the right set immediately, or get close quickly). These are fundamental gross differences independent of afterlength, which we then work on after finding the right tailpiece.

Regarding mounting things on the block, the lower block moves quite a bit, and clamping something there that is then secured, clamped, or dampened by the player's chin is obviously going to have an effect on the sound. A friend reported to me once an experiment someone did at Oberlin which involved mounting a rod in the end button that extended into the instrument a couple of inches with a weight on the end. The movement of the block was enough to cause the weight to start flapping so much that it began slapping the inside of the violin in line with the movement you would expect based on how the vibrating strings pull on the block. So much for the idea that the block is an inactive spot! It is, after all, the lower anchor point for all of the movement of the strings.

I worked on a viola once that when I returned it to the player he commented after playing it that I had not put the chinrest back in the right spot. I looked, and the previous dent was less than a mm away. When I moved it, yes, the difference in sound was noticeable. He had done quite a bit of experimentation to find just the right spot, and so he was able to recognize the tonal change and tag it to the chinrest location. In this case it was having a very localized effect on a specific harmonic component of the whole instrument.

March 5, 2019, 6:01 PM · Andrew! You’ve inspired me to try it. Why not? I was going to order what you listed in your earlier post on amazon. Can you explain a little how to put it on the chinrest?
March 5, 2019, 6:51 PM · Nice and very valuable post, Darnton.
Edited: March 5, 2019, 9:37 PM · Jamie,

I scraped the cork off the chinrests and replaced it with the rubber - trimming the rubber to the same shape as the cork. I did it carefully so I could re-glue the cork on if I want to - but I won't be doing that!

The product I bought from Amazon was called"
"Neoprene Rubber self adhesive strip 5/8" wide x 5/64" thick x 33 feet long "
but checking just now looks like I bought the last of it.

It has adhesive on one side so it just sticks to the chinrsts where the cork was.

If you have acceess to my email or some other way to message me I can get your address and mail you a half foot of the rubber "tape" (plenty to do 2 chinrests) I recently bought from Amazon - It works great. I have now tried it on 4 violins, and 2 violas and a total of 8 chinrests with the same positive result on all.

March 6, 2019, 2:04 PM · Thank you Andrew! I think I bought the last one :) It's to arrive tomorrow! But thank you for the offer. I'll let you know my results
March 6, 2019, 2:19 PM · Who unlocked the looney bin?...
Edited: March 6, 2019, 2:54 PM · Looney bin? My money is on Victor, Burgess and Darnton any day.
March 8, 2019, 5:58 PM · Andrew is correct! There IS a difference. Wow, I wasn’t expecting that much of a change but a change for the better it is. Andrew, do you think doubling the rubber might be helpful?
March 9, 2019, 6:29 AM · Jamie, you certainly have enough material to try it.
I can't imagine my sound being any better on any instrument I've got this on (6 now) - my setups are fine (strings,bridges, soundposts - the rest is up to the way I play - and unfortunately IT ain't getting better.
March 9, 2019, 7:38 AM · Chin rests and shoulder rests are called boundary conditions in the science of mechanics. They form rather complex restraints on the violin and interactions between the violin and the contact points on the body.

Things like the location of the chin rest, its mass, and the mechanical properties of the cork or rubber, can all affect the boundary condition on the violin and affect its response. As Don mentioned, the magnitude of the effect is dependent on frequency.

Current computer modelling technology, combined with lots of money and time, can be used to predict certain quantitative changes, like changes in amplitude, frequency and shape of various modes.

But there is no objective standard that can be applied to this information to tell us if these changes are, tonally, good or bad.

So, just try it and see!

March 9, 2019, 10:15 AM · And - are not the chin/jaw, collarbone, shoulder (or other flesh-covered contact) and the mass of the head on the chinrest or bare violin body part of it all too?
Edited: March 9, 2019, 10:29 AM · I feel it my calling in life to pour scepticism on all claims that depend solely on the accurate and unbiased opinion of the claimant. I certainly wouldn't trust my own judgement to be free of subconscious bias, but for £2.99 I thought I might as well order a roll of neoprene rubber anyway. Just hope it turns out to be the right thickness, brand, colour...
Edited: March 9, 2019, 10:42 AM · Andrew, I can not find a left-handed chinrest high enough to suit me; I wonder if adding a rubber strip or two would do the trick? Also, I am wondering if you tried leaving the cork on and adding the rubber? Thank you!
March 9, 2019, 1:52 PM · Andrew,

At some point the mass of the head for the chin rest and the mass of the body for the shoulder rest are so substantially different from the violin that there is little error in considering them "fixed" points from a boundary condition perspective.

However, especially for the chin, the soft tissue in contact with the chin rest would act like some sort of spring and damping system. Also, how hard one clamps down with the jaw would also have some effect on the boundary condition.

Edited: March 9, 2019, 2:10 PM · Andrew, is it possible to post a picture to see what your chinrest looks like with your 'rubber adjustment'? :)
March 10, 2019, 3:01 AM · I tried this today with my guarneri chinrest as the original cork had already had an accident when a luthier tried to change chinrests. (Never offered to re-cork it either)

I can't say I noticed a difference in sound, but I was able to get a little more height on it (+5mm). A good temporary solution until I get my 30mm chinrest in sometime next week.

You guys must have better ears than me. I could barely tell the difference from when I changed strings from steel to synthetic.

Edited: March 10, 2019, 4:40 PM · "Cotton Mather" is completely wrong here. The bottom rib area of the violin is tremendously important to sound production, and anything that touches the ribs in that location is going to have an impact.

People can get more volume out of a violin simply by installing a low-mass high-vibration tailpiece. People can get more volume trading a conventional tailgut for kevlar or steel. I traded a boxwood soundpost for a titanium one and definitely picked up volume. Maybe this is counterintuitive to some but it shouldn't be. When it comes to acoustics we know that little things matter a lot.

I have a friend who recently bought a custom-carved chinrest that is more comfortable -- but when he installed it on the violin, it dampened the sound dramatically. It wasn't subtle, it was an obvious difference that we could hear instantly when he changed the old for the new.

Here's what was going on: the old conventional chinrest rested on two post of cork, wherease the expensive custom chinrest mounted across a continuous ridge of cork about 2 1/2 long. It was just a big sound damper.

Andrew's idea to replace the 2mm cork with a thicker layer of something makes a lot of sense to me.

Andrew, where do you source the 2 mm rubber? I would be interested in trying this.

March 11, 2019, 4:14 PM · Thomas, I bought the rubber for my 4 most recent installations from Amazon using the descriptor in "quotation marks" in one (or 2) of posts above in this thread.

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