January 4, 2020, 9:06 AM · 1820 - the year when the violin chinrest is presumed to have been invented by Louis Spohr. This year, 2020, is therefore its 200th anniversary and it seems to me appropriate to mark the occasion by discarding the device, if one so wishes, and making a New Year's resolution never to use it again. Note that continuing to play using a shoulder rest, which seems to have been invented about the time of WW2, would of course count as cheating!

Replies (16)

January 4, 2020, 9:18 AM · My my such strong opinions we have. No fair reading your music using an electric light either. Candles only!!
January 4, 2020, 10:15 AM · I believe I am correct in saying that oil lamps were in use in the 19th century and well into the 20th, and are still available. However, I must apologise for not going quite far enough in my suggestion for a NYR - I didn't mention also changing to an all-gut string setup including a baroque tailpiece complete with real tailgut :)
Edited: January 4, 2020, 1:08 PM · Having just declared in Laurie's referendum that never in 50-odd years of playing the violin have I felt the slightest discomfort, I'm reminded that I did for a short while when I discarded the chin rest. I soon put it back on
January 4, 2020, 11:21 AM · Once again I must suggest that people go to Youtube to see for themselves what the greatest soloists use(d) as a setup. All except baroque specialists are using chin rests and the majority use shoulder rests as well.

This also applies to violin sections in professional orchestras.

January 4, 2020, 1:21 PM · Why stop there, Trevor? How about not playing any music written after the invention of the chin rest?
January 4, 2020, 1:21 PM · Why stop there, Trevor? How about not playing any music written after the invention of the chin rest?
Edited: January 4, 2020, 1:44 PM · Bo, that sounds fair. Also put emphasis on the correct neck angle, use pre-Tourte bow models and tune down as far as you wish to. And don't forget about hand-written copies of your sheet music. Preferably not a single line should be straight. The more your music resembles paintings, the better - so expressive!

All things I really like to do BTW, especially on Viol-a! Except the handwriting, and I do not care too much for neck angles. Even if I'm not heavily into HIP, I consider these efforts as interesting, and by temporarily putting aside SR and eventually CR I believe that I've learned a lot about posture and balance. Baroque bows teach me about the music of their time.
And since we're all slightly different with varying needs and preferences, so everyone to his own liking I'd say. It's mostly the result that matters.

January 4, 2020, 2:48 PM · I completely agree regarding baroque bows for baroque music. You can really learn from a baroque bow. All these years of trying to get baroque playing right with a modern bow and then you get a baroque bow in your hand - "now I understand!". But I still play with chin- and shoulder rest when playing baroque. I tried without, but it doesn't do a lot of difference to the sound. It does make me much more insecure and afraid to drop the violin.....
January 4, 2020, 3:43 PM · "All except baroque specialists are using chin rests"

Even among baroque specialists, it's rare for there to be no contact between the jaw and the instrument - either with a cloth or otherwise, so that affectation, with a few notable exceptions, seems to one of form more than substance.

Players like Amandine Beyer are notable exceptions, and deservedly so, because how they play is extremely rare and difficult. (I somewhat reluctantly mention that she also 'cheats' by using the jaw when tuning and perhaps in some other instances.)

But if you wish to eschew the chinrest, it's your choice. In the end nobody's going to really care about the hardware, just the music and performance, as we should.

January 4, 2020, 4:03 PM · I agree with Mary Ellen Goree. Pick your favorite 10, or 25 violinist
and see how many don't use chin rests. I bet they all have them.
I hope your Dr. and hospital don't use 200 year old information and procedures. Bring out the leeches.
Edited: January 4, 2020, 5:19 PM · Jeff, although I'm a MD working at an extremely modern and well equipped hospital, my impression tends to be different from time to time. But that's another story.

There definitely was a reason why the CR was invented. It's hard to play advanced romantic and modern rep without the extra stabilisation it provides. And the SR also has it's place, although it is a "handle with care" device - if used correctly, it makes things easier, but if used as a shortcut it can be a severe hindrance in developing a free and relaxed posture. In my case, after a lot of trial and error and analyzing, then trial and error again, I still need both for an acceptable vibrato, and it makes playing in high positions way easier. (Only talking about violin, the viola still is an ongoing work in progress.)

For most music of baroque and classic era, neither heavy vibrato nor permanently playing "sul G" in high positions is needed / desired. The instability resulting from playing all restless mainly derives from the habits we learned from playing with rest. But it's not only about ditching CR and SR - to get there, we also need to position the instrument in a different way. We know this from paintings but always tend to believe that the artist who produced the picture was uninformed and not a musician himself, so probably couldn't remember how it exactly had to look like and therefore showing a weird and wrong positioning of the instrument, but the opposite is true. The violin (or viola) really has to sit higher, with the tailpiece almost under the ear and the scroll pointing in front of the player. It's amazing how well it works once you got it, and how much freedom of motion it allows. Short chin contact is necessary, but only when shifting downwards. Note that I'm not a pro at all, and not a proficient violinist by any right, but it really isn't that hard to learn if you know how. But I agree that it is not a requirement for making beautiful and meaningful music. It's interesting, and it definitely has it's qualities, but we should not become religious about HIP.

But. Making your own decision against HIP and playing restless (or let's just say, the decision about what suits you best) is only possible if you are already able to play restless, I think. It's hard to vote against porridge for breakfast if you've never had it!

January 4, 2020, 5:40 PM · I didn't see HIP mentioned the in original post. Nuuska, who are your favorite dozen violinist? Do they use chin rests?
January 4, 2020, 6:53 PM · I heard Dylan went electric. . . Stratocaster, leather jacket, long hair. . . wow. . . the nerve of that guy, eh?
January 4, 2020, 11:11 PM · Common ))) He is teasing you. Look at his picture ))))
Edited: January 5, 2020, 3:24 AM · Jeff, the reason for bringing HIP into the discussion isvbecause it's one of only two reasons I can think of why one would abandon the CR...
I didn't count the number of my "favorite violinists", but actually there are a couple of restless players I admire, and as you'd expect they're all into HIP. But as mentioned above, I don't think that this would really make sense in virtuoso rep.

The second reason I can see for putting away the CR is applying to myself. I just couldn't find one that was comfortable and helpful enough on my viola. As soon as I find "the one" (or eventually switched instrument) I'm sure I'll use it.

Edited: January 5, 2020, 6:57 AM · As it happens, I am quite happy playing without a CR when I feel like it, and haven't used a SR for 10 years or more. In two of the symphony concerts I played in last year I didn't use a CR - it was comfortable and no panics. I wouldn't describe myself as a HIP player either.

Nuuska, re the comment you made about not being able to find a viola CR that does the job properly, I heard a similar comment yesterday at a folk music workshop from one of the tutors. He and I were discussing CRs and he said he was forever swapping his around in abortive attempts get something that worked comfortably, and would now experiment without a CR, noticing that I wasn't using one.

That was also an insightful comment of yours about how a SR can be a hindrance to a relaxed posture.

If you look at pre-19th century violin music scores you'll notice that the composers (often violinists themselves) would usually provide little "escape" routes for coming down from high positions in those CR-less days. For example: a brief rest, end of a phrase, an open string, an octave harmonic, remaining in a high position and playing across the strings.

But posture and basic physics are also of prime importance. If the violin is supported horizontally on the collar bone and between the thumb and first finger of the left hand (not gripped or held!), with the scroll on a level with the centre of the player's face, then that is a stable configuration. There is also stability provided by the weight/pressure of the bow on the strings. This is a natural stability that is different from the artificial structural stability provided by a fixed CR/SR combination.

There is physics in downward shifts when a low degree of frictional engagement of the chin or jaw with the top plate or tailpiece exceeds the near-zero friction of the left hand as it comes down from the high position. The relaxation of the left hand and arm going up and down the fingerboard should such as if the violin wasn't there - a practice point to work on.

There are also finger crawling techniques for descents that are discussed in Ritchie's "Before the Chinrest", but I have not explored them in detail.

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