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Chinrest Issues
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rottrunner
Chicago, IL, USA
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March 13, 2015 - 11:51 pm
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Has anyone tried, or does anyone know of a chinrest that is "thinner" than most of the others?  I don't have a particularly long neck, and the ribs on my violin are thicker than on some others that I've played.  This makes it really difficult for me to sort of settle my chin into the chin rest, because my head is tilted upward somewhat just to fit the violin properly.  The chinrest I have now came with my violin (August Kohr 565), and it's rather thick, and sort of floats about a 1/2" above the violin, adding even more to the overall thickness.  

Anyone have any recommendations?  Or does anyone play without a chinrest?  I'm wondering if that might be a better option.

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micra
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March 14, 2015 - 3:15 am
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hm...  I'll be interested to see what others say about this.  I am currently evaluating a couple of chin rests to replace the stock guarneri type that came on my violin.  I read a study on chin rests that interestingly enough indicated the modern guarneri is unsuitable for most jaw types, and so it was not even included as an option for the students used in the evaluation.  But this study was geared mostly towards matching jaw type to chin rest.  (if you're interested: study on chin rests)  I actually am trying to get mine a bit taller on the instrument, and shallower, for my "bony" jaw type.  And I'm doing this while evaluating a new shoulder rest, too- trying to add height and more stability for keeping the instrument up on my shoulder instead slipping down as it does now.  

So, you did not mention a shoulder rest- are you using one and if so, this is another place to adjust overall height if that is the only problem.

As for playing without one?  Well, give it a try and see what it feels like.  Long term I wouldn't think it a good solution, but it may give you some insight into what you're feeling playing with the one you have installed.  If for no better reason, the chin rest does protect the varnish of your instrument from the sweat and oils of your skin.  But it's best purpose really is to provide a more comfortable experience than what pre-19th century players had to endure.

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Uzi
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March 14, 2015 - 10:43 am
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There are so many chin rests and shoulder rest combinations that it almost mandatory that you try different set ups to see what works the best for your personal build. If  there is a violin store in your area that will help you try some of them out, that would probably be the shortest and easiest path to getting the best set up. I imagine that someone with enough experience could probably have a pretty good idea of what would work best just by looking at you.  Otherwise, you may just have to look at all the alternatives and keep buying and trying until you find it yourself.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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DanielB
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March 14, 2015 - 11:48 am
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I sometimes like to play my acoustic without the chinrest.  I don't use shoulder rest on acoustic. 

The chinrest is a removable accessory to the instrument.  You can take it off and put it back on as you see fit.  It's your violin, and they didn't originally come with a chin-rest or shoulder rest.  They are optional to the instrument, but keep in mind that most modern playing advice you will get assumes you are using at least the chin rest.  If you take it off, you have to figure more of how to play out for yourself. 

Be aware, though, that there are some differences in sound, and also how you have to play. 

Playing with your jaw resting firmly against the top does slightly dampen high frequencies and overall volume, giving a mellower sound.  But since you don't really need to hold/steady the violin with your jaw/chin except when shifting or using vibrato, that isn't necessarily a huge problem.  You can work the sound differences into your playing style for certain songs, and it can be nice.

Shifting and vibrato are a little trickier when playing without a chin rest.  A trick I learned from a totally "rest-less" sort of player is to raise the scroll a bit when doing downward shifts or vibrato, so the violin doesn't tend to move away from you.  

You also need to keep the left hand very relaxed, since a "death grip" with the left hand thumb makes playing without a chinrest considerably harder.  If you are actually gripping the neck with the thumb and try to shift back down towards the scroll when you aren't using a chin rest, the violin will tend to get pulled away from you and you'll be fumbling around trying to keep control.  With a chin rest, you can get away with squeezing the neck more, which actually isn't a good thing. 

Another thing is that because bone conduction is a part of how we hear ourselves when we play violin, you will tend to sound a little louder to yourself.  That leads to playing quieter.  So you may need to teach yourself to play with a bit more "authoritay" to actually be as loud as you think you are on strong passages when recording or playing with others.

 Now about the varnish.. Most acoustic instruments that are held in the hands, it is accepted as a given that the finish will wear and need touched up after a certain number of years (unless you like it looking kinda worn).  People freak out more over that possibility with violins.  I don't know why, unless maybe it is an antique instrument where nobody knows for a fact just how it was finished and the wear would be seen as damage to it's collector/historical value. 

I find that using a bit of cloth folded over the end of the violin makes it more comfortable to play (and also protects that varnish that some folks worry so about).  But I also use that when I am playing with a chin rest, because.. Like I said it is more comfortable. LOL  Doesn't have to be anything thick.  A handkerchief or soft washcloth or etc would do fine.

 

I personally like playing without a chinrest better.  I do use it a good bit of the time, though, since as I already mentioned, most modern playing advice you'll get will assume you are using one.  Much of the advice you ever get about playing violin will also assume you are using a shoulder rest for that matter.  Getting your playing tips from older books that were published before the rests were in fashion can save you some confusion.  Or just figure it out for yourself.

Whether you will find it more comfortable or not really depends on how your shoulder, jaw, chin, and collarbone are shaped.  Violins are all shaped very similarly, but players are all very different.

Oh, and if anyone suggests that you "have a short neck" if you decide that you prefer playing without either or both rests?  You could just make some similarly inconsiderate remark about their bodily appearance in return.. But it would be more fun to be creative and artistic.  Maybe put concentrated black food coloring in their bottle or can of beer, or fill the straw in their glass of soda up with mustard or hot sauce when they aren't looking.

Be classy, y'know?

 Before giving up on chin rests entirely, it might be a good idea to try some lower ones or ones in a different style.  But while you're waiting on being able to go shop for one or to have one you decide to try delivered, no harm in taking the dang thing off and trying playing without it.  As long as you're reasonably careful, taking chin rests off and putting them back on is no big thing.  They are a removable accessory that you can decide to use or not, as you see fit.  If you are studying with a teacher, though, it would probably be best to ask their advice first.  Not all teachers are particularly flexible in such matters, and they may not actually know how to adapt technique for playing without chin (or shoulder) rests.  

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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rottrunner
Chicago, IL, USA
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March 14, 2015 - 4:57 pm
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@DanielB Thank you for all your information!  I hadn't even thought of the sound conductivity being altered because of bone-to-wood contact, but that makes perfect sense.  I already play with a mute most of the time, so I'll just have to keep that in mind.

I always assumed it would be a bad idea to take my chinrest off for fear that the violin would slip down off of my shoulder.  But I find that I'm tilting my shoulders downward anyway when I play because of the weird position of my neck, so...it definitely can't hurt to pop it off and see how it feels.

And to your advice, perhaps I'll tell the "short neck" commenter that she has the thickest ankles I've ever seen. ;)

Thanks again!

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micra
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March 14, 2015 - 5:48 pm
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DanielB said

 Now about the varnish.. Most acoustic instruments that are held in the hands, it is accepted as a given that the finish will wear and need touched up after a certain number of years (unless you like it looking kinda worn).  People freak out more over that possibility with violins.  I don't know why, unless maybe it is an antique instrument where nobody knows for a fact just how it was finished and the wear would be seen as damage to it's collector/historical value. 

I find that using a bit of cloth folded over the end of the violin makes it more comfortable to play (and also protects that varnish that some folks worry so about).  But I also use that when I am playing with a chin rest, because.. Like I said it is more comfortable. LOL  Doesn't have to be anything thick.  A handkerchief or soft washcloth or etc would do fine.

well...  hands that have been washed are one thing-  the side of my sweaty, oily face is another entirely!  of course you can be fastidious and wipe clean after every use, that would probably go a long way.  and you're cloth is a great idea, too.  but there should be some protection, if you sitting there with your face on the instrument for hours on end, I should think!  but, that's just me...

i did switch out my chin rest- i like the new one better, it mounts on the side (not over the tailpiece) and is shallower, while still being taller (if that makes any sense!). however, there is "cork" rash where the old one was installed.  being as that we've established i'm freaked out about varnish, i tried to see if some of Martin Guitar's best would have any effect: nope.  Any way to "clean" off that cork rash from the finish?  It's not noticeable unless you shine a light on the finish, but it's definitely noticeable when you do that.

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rottrunner
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March 14, 2015 - 6:57 pm
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@micra While I'm no expert, I am learning to build, finish, and varnish violins.  If there's something on the varnish that doesn't come off easily, or the varnish itself is somehow marked up, I would say your best bet is to take it to a luthier who can retouch it for you. Varnish is terribly complicated, and it takes quite a bit of skill to do any kind of retouching, or cleaning to get something off.  Not super helpful advice, sorry, but if you really like your varnish to be in ship-shape, that's my recommendation.

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DanielB
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March 14, 2015 - 11:30 pm
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@micra:  Ok, so yeah.. I am fastidious in that I do wipe down the acoustic violin, first with cotton and then a buff with a bit of silk.  I also run a cork over the strings every time when I'm done playing.  When I put it away, it looks as good as the day I got it, so it is that way every time I take it out.  But I'm a bit of a fusspot that way, compared to most players, I think. 

I'm not that way with every instrument, though.  My electric violin gets an occasional cleaning with paper towels, rubbing alcohol and Duck tape.  LOL  I don't recall if it has ever even seen the inside of it's "gig bag" since I got it.  It lives on the kitchen table and moves from room to room some, to usually be in easy reach.

@rottrunner:  Bone conduction will make it seem louder to you, but the bit of damping from the contact with the top plate will make it very slightly less loud and bright to a listener.

Rests and whether to use them or not, what type to use if you do use shoulder or chin rests or if they come out with nose rests next week and everybody starts using those.. I feel it is a matter of comfort and personal tastes.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
March 15, 2015 - 9:36 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11694

We have some super thin chin-rests that we took off some violin because I don't know many people that they would suit. Give us a call at Fiddlershop rottrunner and we'll get you one. Sorry that I don't know the name of the chin rest.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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