How Long Did It Take You to Find a Chinrest / Shoulder Rest Setup That Works?

March 9, 2019, 11:57 PM · I've been experimenting with different chinrest / shoulder rest setups and I was wondering how long it took everybody here to find one that works?

I've tried a few different things to try to get comfortable including:

Playing with an Everest shoulder rest set high, set low, offset (hi/lo) - Everything puts the violin too high and I feel restricted like I'm stuck in a box with a shoulder rest. It also makes my shoulder, neck, and arms tense up, and this may sound funny, but my eyes cross when I try to look at the fingerboard or bowing area. Not great for trying to learn. It just feels wrong.

Playing without a shoulder rest - I much prefer this, but my neck still comes down too far, so I just ordered a taller guarneri style chinrest (30mm). Hopefully that does the trick. My current chinrest is about 20mm tall, and I've been putting my wallet on top which is another 10mm to simulate the height of the new chinrest and that seems to work ok. So we'll see when I get it delivered.

I've also tried a Wittner chinrest, but since I stopped using a shoulder rest, it doesn't really work either. Plus I'm not really a fan of the plastic.

I've even tried playing without a chinrest. No chinrest and no shoulder rest is tough because of the head moving too far down, but no chinrest plus shoulder rest is actually not too bad, but my chin pretty much rests on the tailpiece which I can't imagine is very good for resonance.

I've also tried to make some rubber feet for my normal guarneri chinrest, but the screws on the clamp are almost bottoming out, so I don't feel safe leaving them on there. I was able to get a raise of 5mm (25mm total) which felt better than the stock 20mm, but wasn't quite high enough which hopefully the 30mm chinrest I ordered will do the trick. They also sell a 40mm and a 50mm but from the pictures, they look pretty ridiculous and I doubt my case would be able to close with them that high.

Overall, I'm really hoping that the taller chinrest and no shoulder rest will do the trick.

Replies (26)

March 10, 2019, 12:13 AM · It took me about two and a half years or so. I have a centremounted Wittner chinrest on its highest setting and a Wolf Secondo s/r ^_^
Edited: March 10, 2019, 4:09 AM · Still looking for something that works after 18 years playing viola, because I have almost no neck, sloped shoulders, and extremely short fingers.

I tried a whole bunch of chinrests, but everything on the market was too tall for me to fit my viola between my jaw and collarbone. For a long time I had no choice but to put most of the weight on my shoulder. Playing with no chinrest was not a solution either, because it was too flat. Eventually I shelled out money on a half-centered, ultra-low custom chinrest (10 mm at bottom of cup, 15 mm at top of lip). I think I have the chinrest part sorted out now.

I can play violin with no shoulder rest, but can't play viola that way. Balancing the instrument on my shoulder makes it too flat, and my fingers are barely able to stop the C string. (To reach the C string with properly curved fingers when playing with no shoulder rest, my arm has to be almost in contact with the back of the viola and the instrument ends up being tilted farther to the left.) So what I really need is a shoulder rest that is extremely low at its lowest point, but also tilts the viola significantly. At the moment I'm using a modified Mach One shoulder rest to get minimal height (12 mm) with some tilt, but ideally I'd like to have the low point farther to the left in order to allow a greater tilt and to allow me to place the shoulder rest slightly farther out on my shoulder.

Note that a shoulder rest ideally should not raise the height between collarbone and jaw at all. The purpose is to fill space farther out on the shoulder.

Edited: March 10, 2019, 4:16 AM · If - like me - you don't have somebody to guide you through more than trial and error in the interaction CR/SR-setup <--> posture, then this can be quite some challenging journey.

What immensely helped me was the purchase of a kreddle CR and watching the kreddle tutorial videos online. The CR gives you the possibility to adjust in many parameters at any time you want, while the tutorials aren't just advertising (what they also are) but give you a profound idea about what good posture might mean at all. And although I do not use the kreddle anymore, it was worth the investment!

My pre-kreddle collection includes a Kun, a Wolf forte primo and forte secondo SR, an invisirest and countless different types of foam rests, and Wittner / Teka / Berber / Guarneri / Dresden CR. Meanwhiles I feel most comfortable with a higher Teka model CR and an Augustin VLM diamond SR (you can not only adjust the the feets height but also rotate them so that the distance of the SR to your body changes), or alternatively with a modified Berber CR and an invisirest.
What I've seen on the internet and looks interesting to me (but never tried) is the phantom SR. Who knows what it's worth...

Edited: March 13, 2019, 11:13 AM · Judging by the multiplicity of SR/CR threads together with their comments that have been appearing on this forum over the years it would seem that the correct, and only, answer to the OP's question is "for ever" ;)

Edited: March 10, 2019, 11:11 AM · Trevor, weren't you using the Invisirest?
Edited: March 13, 2019, 12:32 PM · Roger, you're quite right, I use an Invisirest SR on both my violins- it's inexpensive, light, doesn't fall off, and never needs adjustment.
March 10, 2019, 12:14 PM · I think this is an evolving issue for many of us because our bodies change all the time. It took me somewhere around a week or two to find a chinrest and shoulder rest that suited me, but I still play around with the placement of the chinrest and the shoulder rest. After all, I started as a child and growth often dictates equipment changes.
March 10, 2019, 12:21 PM · It took me 25 or 30 years and I found the ideal chinrest first. And - Ella is right, our bodies do change with time, although, from my own experience I'd say the years between 20 and 50 may be fairly stable.
March 10, 2019, 1:42 PM · For several decades I used either the Kun or the Resonans #1 Shoulder Rest and a Chin Rest from Weisshaar, which I think is now called Hollywood. After age ___ the warranty on my moving parts expired, I started to have problems in the left shoulder or elbow. I did a lot of experimenting, including no SR. invested a couple of hundred dollars, ending up pretty close to where I started with the Morawitz CR and the inexpensive Everest SR. I think a developing student should experiment with their ergonomic set-up at several stages: when they change sizes of violin, start vibrato, start shifting, start the high positions, and of course, if they add a Viola to their skills. On Viola I use the center-mounted Flesch.
March 10, 2019, 3:15 PM · I had the same issues - the SR always felt like I put on a jacket that was a size too small :D I got rid of it and then spent months trying to find CR to fill the gap and more important to rotate the violin. Finally had a custom made one but one day that broke - and I discovered that while it is easer to play with an CR as long as it was a) at least 0.5 inches thick, and b) side mounted, it really didn't make much difference because the rotation of the violin is controlled by the L hand.

Good luck in your discovery journey.

March 10, 2019, 3:43 PM · I have run through many chinrests, shoulder rests, no SR, etc. If I remember correctly, I have historically used (not in any particular order) Kun collapsible, maybe the regular Kun, Kun Bravo, Wolf Forte Primo e Secondo, and finally, Viva La Musica Diamond. Been tempted to try the basic Korfker, but the Diamond works too well for *me*, amd the price is not tenpting (I have indeed adjusted thr VLM a little since I first acquired it, but it has been at the same spot for many years-just in January changed the height a little bit, to even lower.)

My most eureka moment ever was that Diamond shoulder rest combined with a low Teka chinrest. Makes playing relatively easy and effortless, but it took many, many years to end up there. I haven't wanted to change my current setup since I discovered how well a fit it was for *me*.

Others chinrests I have used throughout the years are the Guarneri (obviously), the Strad, and the Flesch Center mounted one, as I used to hold the violin very differently many years ago. The Flesch wasn't the best fit, afyer a year+ of experimenting. Used the Guarneri for a long time as most do, not ever using the cup for either cheek or chin at all.

I think it's crucial to find a spot where violin becomes "easy", whether one uses a SR or is "restless". Be patient, see how your body feels, check whether fast, multiple position shifting is a struggle, etc. Not everyone needs a SR, but be wary of hurting yourself over time.

It wil be hard to convince me I "need" another chinrest or SR at this juncture (barring breakage.)

March 10, 2019, 4:09 PM · Kr├ęddle chinrest.
March 10, 2019, 6:32 PM · Go to the upholstery store and buy a big chunk of ultra-firm upholstery foam. It cuts easily with a bread knife. If you cut a piece that doesn't work, just throw it away and try again.
March 11, 2019, 5:31 AM · Guarneri -> Berber -> Kreddle / Edu -> Edu

I think you may first find a chin rest that fit your posture, and adjust your SR so that the chin rest fit comfortably to your collar bone (with a mirror, it helps!).

Edited: March 11, 2019, 5:32 AM · (Why double posting is so common here?)
March 11, 2019, 8:01 AM · Still searching, but I hope I find great chin rest, very flat, I have extremely short neck :) I am going to try Kun shoulder rest, I have wolf forte secondo now
March 11, 2019, 8:11 AM · Martin - do try without or with a pad. SRs are very popular but they are not obligatory...
March 11, 2019, 9:27 AM · "My current chinrest is about 20mm tall, and I've been putting my wallet on top which is another 10mm to simulate the height of the new chinrest and that seems to work ok."

Russell, when you get the violin of your dreams the wallet will probably no longer be an option. ;).Also to consider is Nochin, Somchin and Bigchin. FWIW These aren't sir names, at least not in this context.

You remind me of me. I'm still looking, though I have something that works ok for now. I doubt few would ever say the violin is so comfortable to hold that they want to take it to bed. It seems to be more about finding something we are comfortable to TOLERATE. I think there can be a tendency to sometimes look in the wrong places when we are already at a place where we can begin to learn. I heard you play a song. We know you can do that with the setup you have now. I have never gotten to the place where I would describe holding the violin as comfortable.Maybe some would say that holding a violin feels somewhat comfortable, like an old friend.
Nothing like a warm puppy to me though.Sometimes feels more like holding a dead trout that Rigor mortis has set in on minus the smell. It's not like people are lining up and saying, " I can't wait to go hold my violin". They say, " I want to play my violin".

Nothing wrong with finding the best fit. If you're looking for ecstasy though, it seems more like the holy grail of violin pursuit to me sometimes.

March 11, 2019, 10:15 AM · I've used a Guarneri style chinrest (amongst others!), and a Wolfe Forte Secondo and Kun shoulder rest. I had a chinrest custom made (was extravagant!) and am now using a belvelin pad with a thick sponge on one side to create more balance. It's not perfect, but it's better than my previous setups and my violin hickey is slowly going away.

Paul's suggestion is fantastic - you can also use a contoured carwash sponge cut at an angle with a bread knife!

March 11, 2019, 10:59 AM · I thought it was a good idea too, wonder where you would get that type of more rigid foam? Isn't upholstery foam yellow and extra soft? I would want the grey semi-rigid foam. IOW I don't want it to feel like a pillow on my shoulder, more like a Kun minus the rigid holder.

Some poor chap is out there saying to himself, " 500.00 on shoulder rests and I finally found the answer, in a packing box for free."

March 11, 2019, 11:24 AM · The Belvelin pad is the harder foam, and Augustin Hadelich uses something similar to that but much cheaper (see the new Strings article). They make firmer upholstery foam.

My current setup feels pretty similar to what you describe: Kun minus the ridid holder.

March 11, 2019, 11:51 AM · Hmmmm...Thanks Pamela M. I will check that out! I'm not necessarily unhappy with my Kun, but I would like to be happier!
March 11, 2019, 5:51 PM · Horace, if you make your chin rest fit comfortably to your collar bone, what will be your approach for a bow hold? Or, in other words, isn't this some kind of situs inversus?
Edited: April 5, 2019, 7:14 AM · It took a while to find the right setup. I have a long neck so I tried building the height with my shoulder rest. It did put the violin up higher but it made it more difficult to play. I use the Wave chin rest and the Belvelin shoulder rest, a great combination for me. Good luck in your search.

If you are still experimenting, the gentleman that makes the Wave chin rest will let you try up to four different models with the purchase of one. If they do not work out just return them for your money back.

April 5, 2019, 1:25 PM · Glad you found something that works Sydnie.

I ended up with a soft center chin rest. Seems to be a bit better for me.I still plan to get a Belvelvin pad.

Edited: April 5, 2019, 4:48 PM · ... and it also heavily depends on the instrument I'm playing. I regularly use 2 violins and 2 violas. The violins are pretty similar to play, but in one the angle of fingerboard and bridge leans more to the treble side. On this one (it's my better violin) its Teka + VLM, while I prefer the other one with Teka + individually cut piece of foam to give it more tilt but play it almost like restless. (It's the most "organic" of all setups I have found on any of my instrumens.) A third violin belonging to my skinny long necked son is used with Berber + VLM, and it also works well for me.
The violas are very different in form and size, so for sure I'll miss some details. Viola 1 with slightly higher ribs works fine with Guarneri (which I usually don't like too much) + foam, Viola 2 has wide bouts and works best with Teka + Wolf forte secondo. Center mounted CRs unfortunately tend to be too high for my neck and a mefium size viola. It's all a work in progress and tends to change when I'm getting "better" (which also means more relaxed and mobile in my posture). And also our bodies change with time. The perfect setup for today may not be the same than in some years.

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