Center Chinrests: Love or hate?

September 15, 2019, 10:54 AM · I recently adopted a center chinrest on my violin and immediately my ease of playing has improved. My shoulders stay more open, my spine more erect, and my neck is free of tension. I chose a Flesch scooped model; it was the most natural fit for my body and immediately felt better than the rest.

However, I hate how it looks. Maybe I will grow more accustomed to it, but I wanted to reach out to all of you to see if you had any testimonials for center chinrests that you felt strongly in favor of that I might investigate? I feel that aesthetic is secondary to function and in that regard I will keep my current setup, but if any of you can suggest something you have had success with I would love to hear about it!

Thank you

Replies (28)

September 15, 2019, 10:56 AM · I have a Wittner Augsberg centre chin rest on my violin. I really like it. There is no tension in my neck. It helps a lot. So I would recommend it
September 15, 2019, 11:02 AM · Thanks Jake!
September 15, 2019, 11:15 AM · Looks have to come second! You don't look good in traction ;)

I'm not aware of an engineering study on why the location of the chin rest makes such a difference but surely arm length, flexibility (including arm torsion and shoulder joint) are all factors. The centre chin rest is better for your violin as it is attached at its strongest point - but again, that is really secondary.

September 15, 2019, 12:35 PM · The decision to use a center or side-mounted chinrest is very individual. Everyone is different; some love center mounts while others hate them, so it really depends on your own needs and preferences. Center mounted chinrests are advantageous if you have short arms or less flexibility in your shoulder joint, as they position the violin higher on the shoulder and point the scroll more in front of you rather than out to the side, which makes it easier to reach the tip of the bow and brings the violin a bit closer to your left arm. The disadvantage of a center-mounted chinrest is that for people who have longer arms, a center mount may force them to hold the violin too far in front of them, leaving a lack of room to bow at the frog, staying close to the bridge will be hard, and the left arm might feel squished into a small space. In this case, a side-mounted chinrest can help position the violin so that there is more room for the arms to move.

Personally, I have this strange fondness for center-mounted chinrests. When I was young and choosing a comfortable chinrest, I discovered a center mount, loved it, and stuck with it. Eventually as I got older, I began to better understand how the angle/position of the violin can affect my playing, and I now seem to need something that's a little bit off center. I currently use a Wittner center mount (not the Augsburg) placed slightly left of center but still remaining center mounted (the Wittner has a wider than usual tailpiece opening which allows for this type of positioning). A side-mounted chinrest that reaches slightly over the tailpiece would most likely work for me. I also play viola, and since I'm a smallish person coping with the largest viola my arm length will permit which is only 15.75", I have to use a center-mounted chinrest to bring the viola more in reach of my arms (I have a Flesch flat, not the hump model on viola, but I'm sure I'd like the Wittner just as much). With a side mounted chinrest on viola, the viola would point too far to the left for my liking, my left arm will feel twisted and far away from me (not comfortable or healthy), and I'll probably have a hard time reaching the tip of the bow. I theorize that center mounted chinrests can help violists cope with instruments that are largish for them. Of course you don't want to play a viola that's too big for you.

September 15, 2019, 1:32 PM · For my arm length and hand size, a center-mounted chinrest would be ideal... but my neck is so short that it would have to be lower than the tailpiece itself, which makes it impossible for me to use a center mount. My solution is a custom-made chinrest: side-mounted, ultra-low, and cut to place the cup as close to the tailpiece as possible.
Edited: September 15, 2019, 2:32 PM · Yes, I forgot to mention that center-mounted chinrests will not fit short necked players, especially violists because of the thickness of the instrument. This is because center mounts can only go so low or otherwise they won't fit over the tailpiece properly. But in my case, however, I actually have a fairly long neck, even though I'm not very tall, so a center mount on viola is actually very comfortable for me in all aspects. Since the OP is a violinist and not a violist, this situation is less likely to occur; you would need a rather short neck to find a standard center mount too high.
September 15, 2019, 4:11 PM · I'm looking to get one for myself! Has anyone tried the SAS? It looks super interesting, in that it can move laterally.
September 15, 2019, 6:50 PM · Kirsten,

I had a SAS. I ended up shortening it to accommodate a strad pad (a very tricky process). Also, it kept coming loose during concerts, as there's only one screw holding the plate in place and it's via metal-on-metal friction with a very small contact surface. The Kreddle is better.

To answer the original question, I always liked center chinrests. I think even people with side-mounted rests mostly use the innermost side of it without realizing.

September 15, 2019, 7:16 PM · I would disagree with Ella. I found the opposite. As a long armed player, I find it more comfortable playing out to the side than in front with a centre mount. Was the opposite with side
Edited: September 15, 2019, 8:15 PM · Look at Anne Sophie Mutter playing. I would not say that she looks uncomfortable and the instrument definitely looks balanced While I love trying to play as relaxed as Zukerman, I try to emulate her balance.

The Flesch (no hump) lets me easily go back and forth between violins and violas. I also use a Wittner on a violin I use for jazz.

Edited: September 15, 2019, 8:18 PM · It's a very individual thing of course. But if you look at a lot of pros, they have a lot of side chin rests especially Guarneri CRs, but their jaw isn't in the cup of the CR. It's across the tailpiece and over the treble bout! The only part of the Guarneri CR they use (watch Josh Bell for example) is the knob that goes over the tail piece. Thus, it's a center chin rest after all! I think the idea of the center CR is that it moves your violin farther back on your shoulder. I know a woman who has her violin pushed back so far that her chin rest of more of an ear rest.
September 15, 2019, 8:52 PM · Jake, I guess everyone is different. What I said was my experie and what my teacher has noticed anyway. I have also read a number of postings about center-mounted chinrest and short-armed players. We're all different.
September 15, 2019, 8:57 PM · Ella, I get that. Was just sharing mine too :)
September 16, 2019, 11:39 AM · I find chinrests that are centered over the tailpiece to be horribly uncomfortable but when I notice that a student seems to play with their chin consistently over the tailpiece, I recommend that they try such a model. It's such an individual thing.

My chinrest has the cup to the side but it does clamp over the tailpiece, and I recommend this for everyone. Avoid the chinrests that clamp over the side; you want to put the clamps over the block under the tailpiece no matter where the cup is. To have all that weight (your head) over the un-reinforced rib to the side is just asking for trouble.

September 16, 2019, 11:50 AM · Hi,
I considered trying a centre-mounted chinrest,but the
one reason I didnt,was I figured that,I would have to 'reach'
over further,when bowing on the G-string.


September 16, 2019, 5:23 PM · Some play forward, some to the side, some more up, some more down. If only there weren’t so many bones of varying lengths involved, not to mention the floating collarbone and scapula and ball and socket joint...
September 16, 2019, 5:26 PM · Another thing that has not been mentioned is how some of the cantilevered models, Guarneri, SAS, etc have a little less rigidity in them. I noticed that when I used to play out on the cup on a 16.5” viola. I felt less secure than I do now.
September 17, 2019, 9:27 AM · Well.... You don't look at the chin rest while you are playing right? If it makes playing more comfortable and natural, it is the way to go for you.
(Another Flesch chin rest user here)
September 17, 2019, 3:09 PM · I had an ohrenform chinrest on my violin. When I switched to viola, I realized after 2 years that part of the tension I was feeling was from its Strad-style chinrest and went to an Ohrenform. It was immediately so much more comfortable. I happen to have small hands and a long neck, which is consistent with what other center-chinrest lovers have written.
September 17, 2019, 10:23 PM · I tuned a student's instrument today in orchestra, and it had a Wittner. It was the side mount, but it was surprisingly extremely comfy.

I've just ordered the SAS, Holstein Freedom (not center mount, but I was curious), Berber, and Flesch rests from Fiddlershop, so we'll see how they go. They should be in by Friday!

Edited: September 18, 2019, 10:57 AM · This summer i got a sverdlik chinrest. It's similar to the non-humped flesch chinres except its slightly to the left, allowing you to hold the violin further to the left, as opposed to always over the tailpiece. One of the first things i noticed was how it really improved my sound, making it more resonant and increasing the great ring of overtones. It also allowed for a lot of flexibility an comfort, while also giving enough structure to maintain stability. I would highly reccomend it but I should warn you, it's expensive. Many very prominant violinists use it like Glenn Dicterow and Dmitry Sitkovetsky.
September 18, 2019, 1:06 PM · I’ve noticed many people who are more petite (below 5’3”) with shorter necks, tend to place the jaw over the tailpiece for leverage. So I think in this case, a Flesch center mounted chinrest is ideal, rather than using a side mounted Guarneri style chinrest and placing the chin on the tailpiece. I’m about 6’0” so the side mounted Kaufman is what I prefer.
September 22, 2019, 1:44 PM · Just to follow up- I used the Flesch with the hump for about two weeks. It was wonderful, but I wanted to keep experimenting. I installed the Berber center rest this past week, and I feel like this is the line of best fit for me. My chin can rest more or less centered over the tailpiece while my jawline is cradled by the remaining cup--something the Flesch didn't have that I missed. I wish I had experimented with this 10 years ago! But I suppose that as I age I get better at finding ways to use my body with the least amount of tension possible. Thank you all for your testimonials! :)
September 24, 2019, 7:41 PM · Having used a Guarneri chinrest on violin and viola, I experimented with a center mounted rest--the Ohrenform, which Joshua Bell has been using. On the violin it is very comfortable, but on the viola it does not work; it's too high. I'm 5'8" and my neck isn 't long enough.
September 25, 2019, 6:25 AM · I really tried to like a center rest CR. I check all of the physical boxes that say it should have worked for but just couldn't tolerate it long enough to.get used to it. The Wave turned out to be the CR for me.
September 25, 2019, 11:05 AM · Catherine, is the Wave side or center-mounted?
September 25, 2019, 11:35 AM · The Wittner Zuerich is very similar except it's a side chinrest. Same lightweight plastic fittings that can help a violin's sound (metal and cork chinrest mounts are essentially dampers for the violin).

I personally like a side chinrest because I like to have my violin more on my chest than shoulder. But everybody has to find their own solutions. A teacher can't make these decisions for you.

I personally have come to believe that it's important to be able to hold the violin in a variety of positions -- to prevent fatigue, cramping, nerve and muscle issues. It's GOOD to feel like your violin isn't glued to your shoulder -- that it can move. That you can rest it on your collarbone or chest and raise your head sometimes.

AT least for experienced players who understand how sound works, the violin should feel free and not tight, and it can move around. I think consistency of hold is actually not desirable.

Yes you do have to adjust your bow angles but that is possible. As you mature as a player you may find that holding the violin more centered is good for certain kind of passage work and holding the violin more on your shoulder and angled upward is good for other kinds of passages. Take advantage of it.

September 27, 2019, 11:57 AM · Thomas I completely agree! Well said.

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