Centre chinrests (again?)

Edited: March 18, 2020, 5:31 AM · I've got a feeling there was a thread about centrally mounted chinrests somewhere. I don't know where. At the time it didn't interest me, but since then I have seen the vibration patterns in the Cambridge Companion to the Violin, and it seems there is some antinodal activity where a chinrest normally goes, to the left of the tailpiece; whereas in the middle it is nodal. I was wondering if anyone had noticed better sound from their violin when using a central chinrest as a result of employing this more nodal position? (I'm wondering about getting a Flesch or a Berber)

And while I'm here, is boxwood better than ebony?

Replies (8)

March 18, 2020, 4:46 AM · I have a centre chinrest on both my violin and viola. It suits my playing style a lot better. I find it comfortable. I can't say about the sound because I changed the chinrest before really playing them properly so the sound I know is the centre CR
Edited: March 18, 2020, 8:40 AM · When I tried center chinrests around 30 years ago they dimmed the sound of my violins compared to left-mounted chinrests. But in testing them with a violin maker friend I found that is not true for all violins.

Trouble might be that so many violins are sold nowadays with center-mounted chinrests and the sellers and buyers never check to see if that is the best option for their instrument.

So, all my violins have left-mounted chinrests.

One change I did make about a decade ago was to try a"Resonation Chinrest" (developed and sold by Gary Anderson). It was actually just and ordinary chinrest but with non-cork contacts to the instrument. Mine were left-mounted and a colleague bought a center-mounted one. We both felt our instruments performed better (his is a "top-name" 100-year old Italian worth $150,000).

The actual Resonation Chinrest I bought was not the ideal shape for my chin (none of them were), so a few years ago I took the information I gained from that experience and replaced the cork strips on all my old chinrests with thin rubber. The sonic improvement over cork is impressive -SO- to this day I have rubber mounting on all my chinrests (violins and violas).

March 18, 2020, 11:46 AM · When choosing a chinrest, the number one deciding factor is comfort. There is a lot of controversy with regards to how chinrests affect sound, of much of that is related to the altering relationship between the ear and the sound holes. I think the difference in sound between side and center is so little that it doesn't matter anymore, although sometimes it is onsiceable. I think a player in comfort will sound better regardless.
Edited: March 18, 2020, 1:25 PM · The debate over acoustic impact of center/side-mounted chinrests has been going on for a long time.

I tend to prefer center-mounted chinrests for violin, as they have the structural benefit of clamping directly over the bottom block. I’ve come across a surprising number of violins that have been damaged by side-mounted chinrests that made the ribs give way and crack. Sometimes the plates have even become badly warped. It’s not easy damage to correct. Clamping over a block can distribute the pressure of the hardware and the player’s chin somewhat better. In any case, though, it’s crucial to avoid overtightening the chinrest.

When I set up violas, I often use the Kaufmann chinrest, as it’s flatter and lower and has a bigger platform that players tend to appreciate. I make this concession in the name of ease of playing. Some players like the feel of the Guarneri better, especially those who play both violin and viola (that was how my instruments were set up when I was learning and I never noticed any discomfort).

It often comes down to the playing posture of the customer. Some players prefer to use more of the jawbone when holding the instrument, which fits with the side-mount, whereas others hold with the chin, which fits with the center-mount.

As to the question about wood type, ebony and rosewood are very good woods for chinrests. Boxwood is problematic, because most of what’s available on the market is not actually boxwood—its a soft and spongy wood that deforms and breaks easily. True boxwood is a very strong wood, and it doesn’t take dye so readily as the cheaper wood. Good boxwood fittings exist, but they’re not cheap. Just be careful!

March 18, 2020, 1:21 PM · For me, comfort is most important. While many people are comfortable with the Guarneri chinrest, I find them to be very uncomfortable overall for my build. Some variants feel better than others, but they are by no means ideal for me. If you want to read some of the past discussions on center chinrests, just use the search box.
Edited: March 18, 2020, 5:12 PM · I'm completely with Ella. Comfort is the most crucial factor. And, no matter the instrument, Guarneri style chinrests are worst for me.
But, I should do an update on my problems with finding the appropriate setup for me and my viola. I found a solution! Here only so much:

The center mounted rests are usually horizontal to the violin/viola top. Berber, Flesch, Guarneri - none of them has a tilt. Side mounted rests do that, with very very few ultralow models. So, as long as you will not choose a Flesch anyway, your choice isn't so much between center and side mounted, but between horizontal and tilted.
What I did was filing down a Guarneri until it's heavily leaning to the bass side. The already thinned cup is now only 2 mm away from the viola top, so I'm sailing ultra low like with the lowest possible side mounted rests, plus enjoying a slight tilt, and still have the centered mount, which I believe is optimal in this specific instrument. The rest lost about 25% of its weight, BTW for those who are interested.
It's not the most beautiful rest I've ever seen - it's not the final version, but it works and feels gorgeous!

Edit to add that my violin doesn't care at all about the mounting point of a chinrest.

March 18, 2020, 5:30 PM · For me, what matters most about the chinrest is the shape. The position matters too, but the shape is also a crucial factor. Some people prefer flat chinrests while others prefer models with a deeper cup. My jaw shape, for example, favours relatively flat chinrests (my brother, for instance, is the opposite). On violin, I need something very close to center but not quite, so right now I'm using a center-mounted Wittner shifted a little to the left. Its extra-wide tailpiece opening allows for this. I think the side-mounted Wittner (which extends over the tailpiece a bit) and other similar models should be a good fit as well. On viola, I need something that is dead center. At the moment I have a flat Flesch, which is pretty comfortable. I have contemplated switching to Wittner on viola because it has a slightly deeper cup (good for stability), and the fact that it's a bit tilted (lower on bass than treble side) is nice as well. It all comes down to personal preference, but that's what I'm using fyi.
Edited: March 18, 2020, 5:45 PM · I have a constellation of chinrests sitting around that I've tried on several violins and a viola. Do some of them make an instrument sound different? Mostly, not much. The changes I hear are subtle to non-existent, regardless of the instrument.

However, in my case there is one noticeable exception: I tried an Ohrenform chinrest (an over the tailpiece style) with the Hill style clamps. It noticeably magnifies the high frequencies, in an unpleasant way, on my best violin. It is ebony, somewhat heavy. On a viola, the effect was unnoticeable. Go figure.

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