Chin Rest: Adjustable in all directions
“To find the violin/viola with just a turn and a nod of the head…”
With the instrument resting on the collar bone, the instrument’s primary point of support, the chin rest acts as an upward extension of the instrument allowing the player to find the instrument with the jaw by simply turning and nodding the head. A well-fitted chin rest helps the player to support the instrument. Then, any light pressure given by the jaw on the chin rest not only secures the instrument but helps hold the neck of the instrument up.
To make this possible, the chin rest needs to be fitted in position, height, tilt, angle and shape. Players usually buy one chin rest and are limited to what that one has to offer. The Chin Rest Testing Kit developed for the research made it possible try out different options, and then incorporate the changes made into the design for the final custom made chin rest.
We found that the shoulder rest had often been adjusted to make up for an ill-fitting chin rest. This caused unnecessary tension in the shoulder and neck. A correctly adjusted chin rest gave the musician more security. Only after adjusting the chin rest did we look to adjusting the shoulder rest. Chin rest and shoulder rest could then work together to help the player support the instrument without limiting movement.
When the chin rest is in the correct position for the player, then the jaw drops into the centre of the cup of the chin rest when the player simply turns and nods the head.
The position of the chin rest must help the player hold the violin or viola in the best playing position for the arms and hands while playing. Many violinists play with their jaws only partially in the cup of their chin rest which is an indication that the position of the chin rest is not in line with the desired angle of the violin fingerboard and strings.*
When the cup of the chin rest is too far over to the left of the tailpiece, then the violin tends to be forced also to the left, making bowing and fingering difficult. A twist can occur in the neck, shoulders and back of the player when the chin rest dictates one position of the instrument, and the hands and arms require another.
1. A chin rest with the cup to the left of centre
2. A chin rest attached in the middle, but the cup is still to the left of centre
3. A chin rest with the cup over the centre
We initially removed the shoulder rest in order to check the chin rest position, asking the player not to use the jaw or shoulder to grab or attempt to hold the instrument. We then positioned the violin so that the strings and bow were at right angles for “bowing straight” with ease. With the violin so aligned with the movements of the player, we then checked to see whether or not the cup of the chin rest was under the jaw.
1. Before the research: the position of the chin rest cup was too far to the left for Fiona’s jaw.
2. We chose another chin rest for Fiona that put the cup of the chin rest directly under the left side of her jaw.
We found that a chin rest with the cup positioned over the tailpiece was the best place to start. For players with longer arms, we positioned the chin rest slightly more to the left, but still partly over the tailpiece (see photo above).
*When the chin also touches the tailpiece of the instrument this can affect intonation, as the pressure of the chin alternately stretches and releases the strings.