Culinary Arts

Violin 101: What Is a Violin Chinrest? Learn About 5 Types of Violin Chinrests, and 2 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing the Right Chinrest

Written by MasterClass

Jun 24, 2019 • 2 min read

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In order to keep a violin aligned horizontally (parallel to the ground), a violinist must hold the violin in place using the left side of her chin. In the early days of violin performance, this meant putting one’s chin in direct contact with the wood instrument, but this changed with the nineteenth century advent of the chinrest.

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What Is a Violin Chinrest?

A violin chinrest is a curved piece of wood or plastic that attaches to a violin in order to provide comfort and stability when a player is anchoring her violin with her chin.

The chinrest was invented in the early nineteenth century by the German musician Louis Spohr. Ironically, Spohr did not set out to protect a violinist’s chin; rather he sought to protect the tailpiece of the violin itself, which could be cracked by too much pressure from the player. However, prominent nineteenth century violinists including Pierre Baillot and Giovanni Battista Viotti promoted the chinrest for its comfort, and it has been used primarily for this purpose ever since.

What Is A Chinrest Made Of?

Chinrests are traditionally made of wood. Varieties include:

  • Ebony
  • Boxwood
  • Rosewood

Beginner violins frequently have plastic chinrests, and sometimes these plastic pieces can provide more comfort than their wooden counterparts. Plastic chinrests are hypoallergenic—great for players whose skin may react badly to certain varieties of wood. A typical violin shop or violin dealer will offer multiple types of chinrests for different types of physiques—including players with long necks, fleshy jaws, or those prone to skin irritations.

5 Types of Different Violin Chin Rests

Louis Spohr’s original chinrest was centered over the violin’s tailpiece. This helped address his stated goal—protecting that tailpiece—but it was not the most comfortable location for players. Today, there are dozens of chinrest styles available. The most popular include:

  • The Flesch Chinrest. Named for Hungarian violinist Carl Flesch, this features a cupped chinrest centered over the tailpiece, much like Spohr’s original.
  • The Guarneri Chinrest. Named for a distinguished family of luthiers from the Italian city of Cremona. While the Guarneri chinrest attaches directly over the tailpiece, the cup itself is to the left of the tailpiece. As such, it both protects the instrument and aligns more comfortably with most players’ physiques.
  • The Dresden Chinrest. Mounted on the left side of the violin, with a contoured cup for the actual chin.
  • The Kaufman Chinrest. Mounted on the left side of the violin, with a flatter cup than the Dresden chinrest.
  • Morawetz Chinrest. Mounted on the left side of the violin, with a considerable lip at the front of the chin cup.

2 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing the Right Violin Chinrest

Different chinrests suit different body types and playing styles. When choosing a chinrest for your violin, it’s important to consider two factors:

  1. Does your chin and jawbone actually rest in the cup of your current chin rest, or are you placing it somewhere else? There are chin rests made to put the cup to the right, the middle or the left, so choose one that fits where you actually rest your chin.
  2. Is it the right height? If you have a short neck and a very high chin rest, you may want a shorter one. Likewise, a tall neck with a very short chin rest can be uncomfortable, and you might want a taller one. Be sure to choose a chin rest that places the cup in the correct place for you and gives you the right amount of height.

Learn more violin playing techniques in Itzhak Perlman’s MasterClass.