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Chinrests


robert_k
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Do any of you play without a chinrest? I think violins look better without them, so i was wondering if they're really that important. The reason i ask is, im building one right now and if i could play without one it would save that extra bit of time and money putting one on. I havent learnt how to play the violin yet so do you think it would be too hard to learn to play without a chinrest, or should i not worry about it?

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Robert, I believe players of "ancient instruments," instruments which are copies of renaissance viols, play without chinrests - those violins may be held differently. Several people here play these instruments, I believe, and can tell you more.

I agree that violins look prettier sans chinrest, and you will know when you start playing whether you prefer using one. Chinrests help you hold the instrument, and protect the finish. It was a good invention, to my mind! Good luck! Shirley

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my ex roomate used to play without a chin rest,.. he said its much like " paganini " and I think his appearance looks like one too.

He began to use chinrest again when his instructor noticed and got mad at him. ( his instructor didnt noticed for a month)

back to the topic, some people think any add - ons to the violin reduces its tonal performance.

but believe it or not, without the chinrest, your chin would be the largest add on to the violin.

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Quote:

Do any of you play without a chinrest? I think violins look better without them, so i was wondering if they're really that important. The reason i ask is, im building one right now and if i could play without one it would save that extra bit of time and money putting one on. I havent learnt how to play the violin yet so do you think it would be too hard to learn to play without a chinrest, or should i not worry about it?


Are you still going to use a shoulder rest without the chin rest?

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There are dedicated advocates of not using chinrests; some have written on this board, from time to time. My personal feeling about it is that I'd never do without one. Even on a fairly seasoned violin once, in the summer, I managed to warm up the violin enough on the back, through my T-shirt, to cause the varnish to melt a bit and keep the impression of the fabric. (I play without a shoulder rest, and I'm very careful to keep some insulation between me and the violin when it gets hot. If it's too hot to keep the violin cool enough, I just don't practice until I can get to an air conditioned place, or a cool basement.) The chin has to be an even warmer contact point. Clearly the chinrest helps protect the violin's finish from the player's skin oils and perspiration, and maybe also the top plate from the potentially deforming effects of the player's head weight. Perhaps also the head weight could prevent some of the vibrations of the top plate. I find this concept somewhat demonstrated by the fact that if you squeeze a cello with your knees when you're anticipating playing a note that usually produces a wolf, you can sometimes prevent that nasty clash from getting started. But I defer to the luthiers on all of these topics. I just know that I'd never subject my violin to such close contact as would occur without a chinrest; not to mention various technical, playing-related reasons.

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I find it impossibly difficult to play without a chinrest...especially when I could almost fit another violin and a half under my chin if I held my head straight. I do, however, play without a shoulder rest, and I like better the freedom in movement of my violin. I'd think the same applies if you play without a chinrest?

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I don't know, I just aquired another violin and purhcased it without the chinrest. I tried playing last night for the first time and my jaw wanted to lay on the top of the tailpiece. I too found it very difficult to hold and play without the chinrest.

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I use one and nearly always choose a new type for my pupils, since they tend to come with rather unsatisfactory things. It seems that (IMHO) playing without is somewhat more damaging to vibrations on the Violin 'belly' since a good chinrest only contacts the outer edges???

Hello to everyone who remembers me! It's been a while....but....a new house, endless concerts and teaching...these things take up spare time!!! aarghh.

Say hello on a PM if we used to chat.

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Violins certainly look better without chinrests to some people. However (not to start a familiar agrument here) chinrests, shoulder rests, carbon fibre bows and now instruments are technological advancements so the issue is really of looks versus performance.

I look forward to the availability of complete carbon fibre 100% custom built instruuments that incorporate both chin and shoulder rests, plus come with a synthetic bow matched to the instrument perfectly in development.

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As a collector and player of old violins, I have systematically removed all the chinrests from my instruments.

This is partly because they look like an eye patch on an otherwise attractive face but more because I have seen the catastrophic damage they can cause to varnish, edges and lower rib.

I need a shoulder rest for height and comfort but my chin never touches the varnish during playing. I drape a nice suede cloth over the end of the violin which gives complete protection to the violin and provides a good cushion.

It also has the right friction to hold the violin nicely in place and can be washed when soiled.

I recently learned that the chin rest was invented by Spohr early in the 19th century.

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Spohr invented the chinrest around 1820, but it did not come into wide use until the late 19th century. This can be seen by looking at early photos of violinists and by reading late 19th century primers such as by Honeyman which were still debating whether or not to use a chinrest and if so which type to use. Many early chinrests were just banana-shaped hooks that rested at the margin of the fiddle and were there to clamp on to when down shifting. So... playing without a chinrest is not just a 'Baroque' thing - many Romantic era players still did not use them.

In my photo collection I have many images of 19th century players with their chin hooked over the tailpiece or even on the treble side of the violin with the tailpiece at the left side of their throat (much as Manze, Podger, Holloway, etc. play today).

Personally, I have all of my violins and violas in modern set-up fitted with chinrests, and all in 'classical' or 'baroque' set-up without chinrests. On the ones with chinrests I usually use a Flesch style 'over the tailpiece' type chin rest. This makes switching back and forth between modern and early set-up much easier and requires very little readjustment.

So, for many long dead players - and for traditional style players today - the tailpiece does act like a type of chinrest - which is really quite natural.

As for skin contact with the instrument... Aren't we being just a bit too clinical? Look at all that lovely wear on old instruments caused by honest sweat and bushy beards! I have this horror of twentieth century instruments never aging because they are held away from us by surgical rubber and cork!

To quote Haweis (and forgive the slightly over the top Victorian prose) 'The violin... Tis half human; tis caressed by your hand; it lies close to your cheek; tis breathed on by you and when you press it, in moments of musical trance, between your chin and your left breast, its vibrating back actually feels the pulses of your own heart'

Regards,

TradFiddle

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You raise an excellent point with you Haweis quote.

How on earth are the lovely old wear patterns, so much admired, to be achieved if we protect the instrument from contact?

One of the signs that most excites me about an old violin is severe wear on the treble C bout. This tells me the violin was played long and heartily.

Pristine violins look as though they have long resided in their cases - neglected because of their inability to impress musically.

But I can only groan when I see ribs that have buckled and plates that have cracked through misuse of the chin rest. There is nothing attractive about that.

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I have experimented with the system mentioned by GlennYorkPA from time to time. For my part, I think the instruments sound better without a chinrest clamped on to them: fuller and more resonant.

My experiments always run aground, however, because I dont seem to be able to stabilize the instruments without quite a lot of downward pressure from my jaw, with resulting shoulder discomfort.

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