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I've been experimenting with different chinrest / shoulder rest setups and I was wondering how long it took everybody here to find one that works?
I've tried a few different things to try to get comfortable including:
Playing with an Everest shoulder rest set high, set low, offset (hi/lo) - Everything puts the violin too high and I feel restricted like I'm stuck in a box with a shoulder rest. It also makes my shoulder, neck, and arms tense up, and this may sound funny, but my eyes cross when I try to look at the fingerboard or bowing area. Not great for trying to learn. It just feels wrong.
Playing without a shoulder rest - I much prefer this, but my neck still comes down too far, so I just ordered a taller guarneri style chinrest (30mm). Hopefully that does the trick. My current chinrest is about 20mm tall, and I've been putting my wallet on top which is another 10mm to simulate the height of the new chinrest and that seems to work ok. So we'll see when I get it delivered.
I've also tried a Wittner chinrest, but since I stopped using a shoulder rest, it doesn't really work either. Plus I'm not really a fan of the plastic.
I've even tried playing without a chinrest. No chinrest and no shoulder rest is tough because of the head moving too far down, but no chinrest plus shoulder rest is actually not too bad, but my chin pretty much rests on the tailpiece which I can't imagine is very good for resonance.
I've also tried to make some rubber feet for my normal guarneri chinrest, but the screws on the clamp are almost bottoming out, so I don't feel safe leaving them on there. I was able to get a raise of 5mm (25mm total) which felt better than the stock 20mm, but wasn't quite high enough which hopefully the 30mm chinrest I ordered will do the trick. They also sell a 40mm and a 50mm but from the pictures, they look pretty ridiculous and I doubt my case would be able to close with them that high.
Overall, I'm really hoping that the taller chinrest and no shoulder rest will do the trick.
I'm still looking for the right chin rest. I often prefer to play without one at all. I did find one that I thought would work, but when I bought it, it didn't fit any of my fiddles. It was supposed to be for 4/4 fiddles, but didn't fit any of mine (all different set ups) so I think they were made very poorly, or I was sent a child sized one. It went into my wasted money pile of fiddle accessories, lol.
For shoulder rest, a couple years ago I got a Wolf Forte Secondo, and that has stayed my main shoulder rest ever since. Out of curiosity I have tried others, but also go back to that one.
World's Okayest Fiddler
I'm built much like you @FortyNothing I found comfort and stability (at least for now) when I switched to a lower chinrest and using a shoulder rest. My Fiddlerman Concert violin came fitted with a Guarneri Model Violin Chinrest.
With it and the Fiddlerman shoulder rest, I was very uncomfortable. I felt there was not enough room between my chin and shoulder to hold my fiddle. I tried taking the shoulder rest off, and that was better, but the bottom pressed against my collarbone and I couldn't hold the fiddle up easily when I took my left hand away; it drooped down and felt heavy.
I found a much lower chinrest...Conrad Gotz Chinrest Model ZK256
Now, with this chinrest and my Fiddlerman shoulder rest, everything feels very comfortable, my fiddle seems to fit more "naturally", and I can easily hold up my fiddle without touching it with my left hand, and it also feels light as a feather.
It's my understanding that folks can go through many chinrests/shoulder rests before they find the best combination or best set up that suits them. I think I was lucky finding comfort and stability with just one chinrest change.
Good point, @Mouse
Maybe I should create a box with old fiddle accessories. I already bought another tuner, a D'Addario NS Micro Violin Tuner because it fits onto my fiddle so well, as opposed to the Matrix Clip On Chromatic Tuner which is a PITA. I can put the tuner and chin rest away and save them for a rainy day when I might need them
First time around (year 2012) it took me about 4-5 months to find a proper setup. Ended up with a slipper shoulderrest and flesch chinrest, which I still use today. However, since then my body have changed quite a bit, most notable I've become taller. The shoulderrest/chinrest combo doesn't fit as snug anymore, even though it's still a pretty good fit for me. So I guess it's about time to find a new chinrest, although I like my current chinrest in relation to position on the violin and shape of the chinrest.
In other words, I don't think there's such a thing as a set for life when it comes to setups.
'Armed with theory, practice becomes meaningful. Through practice, theory becomes fulfilled.' - Egon von Neindorff.
I've played for over a year and a half now and things still don't feel great. I haven't had the money to try things out much though.
I borrowed a couple of violins a year ago and one of them had a chinrest that was low but it hooked under my jaw and it was just amazing. I could set my shoulderrest as low as it could go. Now I absolutely hate myself for not thinking to ask the luthier if I could just buy the chinrest. I have no idea what it was.
I have a very long neck so since then I've tried a couple that seemed to have a good lip but they weren't good enough. Also got a SAS, as tall as you can get them, which is what I currently use. Height was ok but it's a very flat chinrest. Had my boyfriend bring me "the impressionist" from australia as I couldn't get it here. A type of cushion you can mold. That made the SAS feel a lot better, but it's still not perfect.
I am considering ordering the "chinrest lip" next month to see if that is something that works for me. Something I found online that some guy invented.
It's all just so annoying as I know a very low chinrest can work just fine for me if it's the right one. Just wish I knew what it was. The availability of chinrests is also restricted in my country, hard to find shops even online. And hard to tell from pictures what they are like and shops IRL are non existent.
So I am still looking for something that works well. Although most of the time I think the biggest issue is tension. :S
I went through a lot of trials with chin rests. I currently use a SAS chin rest. I love it because it is very adjustable. You can center mount it or side mount and also you can tilt it. I also bought it because I was looking for a little more height in my chin rest.
On violin it was surprisingly easy, probably because I have a short neck and the Guarneri chinrest that is too low for most people is perfect for me (and I actually use the cup as intended). I go back and forth between using a Kun shoulder rest at minimum height and using no shoulder rest.
But... even though I play viola 99% of the time, I've been looking for a good viola setup for 18 years. My viola came with a Kaufman chinrest, which is one of the lowest on the market to begin with, but it was still too high for me to fit my viola between jaw and collarbone, so for many years I used an Artino (Kun-like) shoulder rest placed far out on my shoulder and relied on my shoulder to hold the viola. Eventually, I started looking for better chinrest solutions. The first thing I tried was a Joachim chinrest, which was low enough for me but was too flat and led to neck strain because I couldn't keep the viola from slipping without a lot of head pressure. Last summer, on the recommendation of a professional violist I met, I got a custom-made chinrest that is both ultra-low and half-centered (in between typical side mount and center mount) and it made my viola much more comfortable. I still don't have the shoulder rest sorted out, because what I really need is a low shoulder rest that puts my viola at a significant tilt to allow my left hand fingers to reach the C string comfortably. I currently use a Mach One shoulder rest with shorter Everest feet, and cosmetic pads attached to the shoulder rest with rubber bands to add friction (the leather pad on the Mach One is too slippery). If I can get the same minimal height with 5-10 degrees more tilt, I'll be happy.
Interesting video @Mark - good points there. And LOL @Ripton - don't encourage me!
And to the original poster @FortyNothing - I'm sure I was about 3 years in to playing before I settled on my preferred setup - certainly for the first 2 I did experiment to some extent, but like the video Mark posted, I found I would eventually accommodate the different rests - I think I tried 4 different shoulder rests (some were borrowed), and 2 styles of chinrest.
What I found - and its's purely personal choice, nothing more - is that I prefer to play without a shoulder-rest and then the choice of chin-rest appears (for me) not to matter - I have a center-mounted over-the-tailpiece on one of my fiddles, and side-mounted versions on all my others. My preference now is definitely the center-mount - but - I don't really feel it necessary to replace the other 3 fiddles with side-mounted ones - I can manage just fine with them. The BIG difference for me was getting rid of the shoulder rest !
The down-side to playing sans-shoulder-rest is that, depending on your shirt material, the instrument may want to wander/slip. In these situations, I'll use a pub bar-top beer mat (the woven/knitted type) slung over my shoulder... (which also gives a hint as to what any listeners may care to get me....)
I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh -
Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)
@MoonShadows - well Jim, I had to think about that, but, where I think it came from was that initially I was working with the side-mount, and at that time I tended to feel more comfortable (physically) by turning the fiddle towards the left - but - then - to actually properly see my fingering and bow contact (which mattered back then) I ended up having to swivel my head somewhat as well - which simply became uncomfortable, and gave me a crick in the neck.
I forget the descriptive terms for the different side-mounted rests (well, some with the same"style name" do seem to actually differ in construction - so I avoid using the style-name unless I have to ) - but - one of the side-mounts has an extension that actually goes over the tailpiece - (commonly the Guarneri although seen on no-name others) and I found by using that style, I could hold the instrument in a more forward-facing attitude, with my chin on/over the raised part which sweeps over the tailpiece. [ Keep in mind, at that time I also used a shoulder rest ]. It was due to the degree of comfort which that brought, that I decided to try out the full-on center mount - and indeed not long after that I started to experiment with abandoning the shoulder rest.
Nowadays, I have a lot less need to keep an eye on fingering or indeed on bowing lanes, and, as I mentioned, although center is my preference, I'm now comfortable enough with my other instruments that are fitted with side-mount rests.
That was my experience anyway ! We're all different !
I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh -
Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)
Thanks for that detailed answer @BillyG I find with the lower chinrest, I can see my fingering easier...something I am now trying to move away from little-by-little, and do it without looking. I was wondering the affects the centered chinrest might have on your neck or hand or elbow, etc. I know my neck feels a lot better now with the low chinrest. At 63 y/o, I consider myself now built for comfort, not speed...if you know what I mean.
I haven't been able to play in a few months, but I was/am still struggling to find something that fits comfortably. I don't have the money to try out a lot of stuff either.
Someone should come up with some kind of algorithm where you can put in a bunch of your measurements and it give at least some choices of what should be a good fit for the individual person.
Any math people out there?
It's easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself. Johann S.Bach