Chin Rest Experimentation
I've owned my violin for a few months over a year now, and I'm still learning about its idiosyncrasies.
Most recently, I've been adjusting my chin rest. It's a standard, non-Guarnari type, chin-rest that attaches just to the left of the tailpiece. I've learned that I have to be very careful about how a chin-rest is attached, because if it encroaches too much onto the violin's top, it negatively impacts the violin's voice. So before tightening it, I've positioned the underside of the chin-rest so that it overlaps the edge of the ribs a minimal amount. Else, both the volume and the depth of tone is negatively affected. To summarize, the less chin-rest surface area that touches the violin, the better.
In a visit to my luthier last week, he recommended that I remove the cork, or even sand down the portion of the chin-rest, that extends from either side of the metal clasp that attaches the chin-rest to the violin. My chin-rest extends about a half inch to either side. I had my chin rest positioned about a half inch away from the tailpiece. So, I removed the cork, and I moved the chin-rest a little closer to the tailpiece.
I was nearly stunned by the improvement to my violin's voice. The D string took on a deeper resonance, and the A and E string both had a sweeter tone. Definitely a significant improvement. So, I moved the chin-rest just to the left of the tailpiece, and the tone improved a little better yet.
Subscribing to the philosophy that, if some's good, more might be better, I played the violin with the chin-rest entirely removed. Hmm; . . . interesting. The tone is a little deeper on all strings; but, I'm not sure that I like it as well. I think that some "fuzziness" can enhance tone.
So, I think that I will next experiment with a Guarnari type chin rest that I purchased at a violin shop yesterday. This is the type that clamps on to either side of the tail-piece. On principle, my luthier holds the cross up to these chin-rests, because they can inhibit vibration of the wood whose grain leads up to the sound post. I have a hunch that the violin will then have a voice similar to that when no chin-rest was attached. I'm inclined not to venture into this realm too much. But, we'll see.
QUESTION (Finally): What have you learned over the years about chin-rests and how they're attached?
I was once told by a luthier that a chinrest that clamps on either side of the tailpiece was *preferable* because there is a block inside the violin at that spot that can better withstand the pressure than clamping the chinrest over the unreinforced wood to the left of the tailpiece.
I leave well enough alone and in 60 years have learned nothing except obvious things like making sure there's plenty of clearance above the tailpiece. Why is it "Guarneri-style" can anyone tell me?
What have I learned about chinrests? The Guarnari style was best for me for the majority of my playing life. I also liked the fact that it clamps on the block. Happenstantial I learned that the corkscrew in a Swiss Army Knife can be used to loosen and tighten the clamp if/when you lose the little tool.
It's just a way of identifying the different chinrests; numbers would do as well, or dog names.
The chinrests that clamp on both sides of the tail-piece, at the end-pin block, are safer for the violin. Those would be the Guarneri, Flesch, and a fairly new one that I like; Ohrenform. Side-mounted chinrests should also be OK, but must be clamped right across, in line with the ribs. The wood of the top plate is very thin where it meets the side.
For me, a good fit to my jaw is the only consideration. As it turns out, no off-the-shelf chinrest on the market (not even the Wave Da Capo or others marketed as ultra-low) allows me to fit my viola between my jaw and collarbone at all. In addition, although my small hands call for a center-mounted chinrest, my short neck does not allow me to use one. The cup needs to be lower than the tailpiece.
George, do you really think that Guarneri and Stradivari anticipated Spohr's invention by 100 years or so?
I'm switching over too a Guarneri style chinrest. 1) I've heard and read the same as other supporters of such have voiced not just on this particular discussion, but other discussions here on violinist.com through the years. 2) Out of necessity. Both of my rotator cuffs are in bad shape, my bow arm the worse. Neither can be repaired and in a few years to come I'll have to go through reconstruction, so says my bone & joint Doctor. Since I play my violin much like we see in paintings of the Renaissance through Baroque of viols, and other such instruments including the earliest violins, it's been suggested, "Do you really 'need' a chin rest at all?" That's now another journey for another post somewhere or someday.
Royce, I get what you're saying in the last couple of sentences of your post. For age-related reasons, I have fairly recently retired from a lifetime of symphony orchestral playing, initially as a cellist, and as a violinist for the last twenty years. The time has come to say farewell to all that, giving me the opportunity and time to focus on the violin music of the Baroque era, particularly that of Corelli and Handel.
Trevor, I challenged George Wells on dates, but you have gone beyond him.
John, typing "8120" instead of "1820" is one of the age-related reasons I referred to!
@Andrew Hsieh, I use the Kaufmann chin rest too. I carved mine down some, especially on the outside there there is a ridge that clashed with my jawbone.
Those of you who like Guarneri Style center-mounted rests, have you tried the Zuerich model from Wittner?
I no longer use the Kaufmann. It was what came with my viola, but even the bottom of the cup was too high.
I've used a Kaufmann style rest almost exclusively over the years. But I was thinking of something even lower too. Also thought of trying to play without a chinrest just to experiment and see if I like it.
Below find the review of the Joachim chinrest I posted on concordmusic.com (the only place I have ever seen one). The Joachim is just 1/2 inch high (approx. 1 cm). I modify it as described in my review.
Trevor, just a parent not a player- but surveying the main soloists of the day, most of them are playing with chinrests and shoulder rests. I don't think HH is suffering to much tonally.