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A Guarneri-type chinrest.

A chinrest is a shaped piece of wood (or plastic) attached to the body of a violin or a viola to aid in the positioning of the player's jaw or chin on the instrument. The chinrest may be made of ebony, rosewood, boxwood, or plastic. It was invented by Louis Spohr in the early 1800s in response to increasingly difficult repertoire which demanded freer left hand techniques than had previously been used. After being promoted by prominent violinists of the day, such as Pierre Baillot and Giovanni Battista Viotti, it gained quick acceptance among most violists & violinists and is today considered a standard part of the viola and violin.[1]


Chinrest attachment

Chinrest clamp wrench

The attachment consists of a metal bracket that hooks over the edge of the back, clamped onto the instrument by means of two threaded barrels connecting it to screws on the chinrest. Both the lower bracket and chinrest are usually padded with cork to minimize damage to the wood.[2] The wrench shown makes it easy to adjust the clamp tension without damaging the rib of the violin. "Hill-style" clamps have a separate foot for each screw rather than a bar between them. (Some modern composite chinrests have clamps adjusted with a small Phillips screwdriver or with a hex key.)

Types and options

Spohr's original design called for a small block of wood to be centered over the tailpiece, but soon evolved. Today, there are at least 50 different types of chinrests available,[1] one of the most popular being a "Guarneri" type, which attaches centered over the tailpiece with the cup for the chin to the left of the tailpiece. Other types attach to the left, but either type must be placed so it does not touch or buzz against the tailpiece or belly of the instrument.[2] Some players prefer a chinrest with the cup centered over the tailpiece. The "Flesch" chinrest is of this type. Chinrests are available in different heights and shapes. Violin and viola pedagogue Susan Kempter advocates having a luthier customize the chinrest by shaping it to fit the player's jaw properly and either raising or reducing the height until it fits the player's neck height as well.[3]

Pressure from the chinrest against the player's skin can result in a common irritation known as "fiddler's neck." It can also be caused by bacteria or fungus living on the wood or by an allergic reaction to the metals used in the chinrest. Some players prefer to use a cloth, such as a handkerchief, to cover the chinrest, to avoid this irritation and make playing more comfortable. Several types of padded fabric slipcovers are also commercially available. They may not only cover the chinrest cup, but also extend to provide a barrier between the metal clamp hardware and the skin--beneficial if the hardware is plated with nickel and the player is allergic to the metal. Hypo-allergenic chinrests (with plastic or titanium fittings) are also available.

Vociferous debate may be elicited in some circles by suggesting that a violin sounds better without a chinrest. It has been suggested that Paganini played without a chinrest, though no proof exists. A few professionals today (notably Regina Carter) do not use a chinrest on their modern instruments; many who play Baroque instruments also avoid one.

See also


  1. ^ a b Nemet, Mary (August/September), "Choosing a chinrest", Strings (121),  
  2. ^ a b Ford, Charles (1979). Making Musical Instruments: Strings and Keyboard. New York: Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.. p. 97. ISBN 0-394-73561-7.  
  3. ^ Kempter, Susan (2003). How Muscles Learn: Teaching the Violin with the Body in Mind. 15800 N.W. 48th Avenue, Miami, FL, 33014: Summy-Birchard, Inc., distributed by Warner Bros. Publications. p. 23.  

Simple English

A chinrest is a part on a violin. It helps to hold the violin against the player's shoulder. A chinrest is usually made of wood. It is usually not glued on. Instead, metal clasps are used. These clasps are put against the side of the violin. They are held on by the tension of the screws in them. Older violins do not often have chinrests.


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