Let’s Talk Set Ups
April 24, 2020 at 2:09 am #41225Jim GuinnModerator
The jury is still out, but I am seriously thinking of ditching my chinrest and not using one at all.
I have tried several chinrests since I picked up my fiddle in February 2019: 1. Guarneri, 2. Conrad Gotz 256, 3. Flat Flesch, and 4. Berber. So far, the Berber has been my favorite.
This hasn’t been a straight progression. From time to time I take one chinrest off and put another one on for a while. I’ve even tried to play with each of these chinrests and no shoulder rest, and even no chin rest/shoulder rest combination. I’ve definitely decided I need a shoulder rest, or at least something under my fiddle to keep it from sliding around on my shoulder.
One of the things I notice as I progress is I continue to get neck and shoulder pain if I practice a lot or for a long time. It is unconscious, but I tend to have a reflexive tendency to bear down with my chin and push up with my shoulder as I continue playing even if I start off relaxed. Another thing I have noticed is as I bear down, my fiddle tends to become more upright from a 45 degree angle causing my left arm to have to twist more to properly finger notes, causing tension and fatigue in my left arm. Neither of these is conducive to playing.
Yesterday, I decided to try something new. I practiced with no chinrest at all, but I still used my shoulder rest. I had never tried this before because I never heard of anyone doing this. Usually, if one is going to get rid of one of these accessories, it is usually the shoulder rest that is removed. It was probably the most comfortable practice session I have ever had. For some reason, without a chinrest, my reflex to bare down and push up was tremendously minimized, and I noticed the tension in my neck and shoulder greatly reduced. Additionally, since I wasn’t doing that, my fiddle stayed more at a 45 degree angle. My arm did not have to twist further around the neck, reducing the tension and fatigue in my left arm.
My fiddle rested secure on my shoulder, and my chin just gently touched the top. It was such a soft touch. It felt very natural, something I seldom feel playing my fiddle.
Something began to dawn on me. I had always thought my reflexive response was an attempt to hold my fiddle up and secure, but I now don’t think that’s what is was at all. I have a short neck, and while my chin rest and shoulder rest are very low, combined I think they were pushing my neck up and my shoulder down into unnatural positions. So, my unconscious reflex was to push down with my chin and up with my shoulder to regain natural positions. That set off an undesirable chain of events. Otherwise, how do I explain that without my chinrest my fiddle feels well supported with just the slightest chin pressure?
We’ll see! Like I said, the jury is still out because in the past I thought I had found the answer only to change my set up again, but so far, I am liking this new approach after day two.
One drawback of not using a chinrest is bare skin and beard stubble against the finish of the fiddle. Skin against varnish provides for a nice, non-skid hold, but it is not very good for the finish, not to mention the beard stubble scratching away. I tried a thin cloth, but didn’t like the feel and it moved slightly against the slick finish. On my desk was one of those pvc foam jar gripper pads that can be used to get a good grip when opening a stubborn jar lid. I placed it on my fiddle and it felt great. It was soft, there was no movement, and it will provide protection against the finish. However, 5.5 inches in diameter, it was too large, so I folded it over and trimmed one side to fit nicely. And, here is my new chinrest.
It certainly isn’t classy looking, but it does the trick! I’m going to continue without any chinrest for now and see how it goes.
September 25, 2020 at 12:37 pm #43680KvmceffParticipant
No chin rest is pretty ancient (vs. old school)!! You can tell a really old fiddle by the wear in the area where the chin hit the violin before chin rests were standard.
Have you looked into the ones that are gel? I just can’t imagine life without a chin rest.
As for shoulder rests you could go to the rolled up dish towel.
December 5, 2020 at 1:49 pm #44725Nick WilkinsParticipant
I’m only 6 weeks into fiddling, but I’m already way into ‘how do I make this thing comfortable?’ territory, so I’ll be really interested to read what happens, MoonShadows, without a chinrest. [How can I possibly ever play that ‘devil talking’ tremelo slidy-thing in ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ until I can grip my fiddle without using my left hand? I badly want to play that tune!]
My fiddle came with a Guarneri-style chinrest. No good, so I bought an Everest shoulder rest to go with it. Awful. So I sold the Everest and bought a Kun Collapsible. No good, so I changed the chinrest to a Flesch-style centre one … no good.
No chinrest? Hmm. Not sure I could do that, but I’m now wondering about a sponge for my shoulder [or a towel; thanks Kvmceff – never heard of that one]. Not very scientific or professional, but if it works, I’m in.
I’m thinking, too, of trying one of those tall chinrests. Anyone have a report of them?
All best wishes to all from the UK. Take care and stay safe you fiddlers!
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