Finding the violin chinrest to be more of an obstruction than an aid, lately, has led me to take a brief look into the subject.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was aware that Louis Spohr, in addition to all his other remarkable achievements as violinist, conductor, and composer, was an inventor who had developed the violin chinrest. May I say, before proceeding any further, that these are merely personal musings that follow; I am not taking sides in the ever-raging shoulder rest dispute (greatly in evidence on forum boards where all things violin are discussed) nor hoping to prove the virtues of one view above another. Although I have my own ideas these matters and even believe they might apply to more violinists than just myself, that’s not what I’m on about here.
Make my violin chinrest as unobtrusive as possible, please
Some discomfort caused me to discard my shoulder rest about six weeks after starting to study the violin, and I have continued happily without one lo, these many years since. It was my great good fortune to come upon a brilliant teacher whose mission was to make the unnatural business of playing the instrument as natural as possible; he was the ultimate bearer of that standard, and certainly anyone who was privileged to study with him received the benefits of his philosophy — personalized to accommodate the needs (and shortcomings) of the student. Likewise, my violin chinrest had evolved early into the flattest, smoothest, narrowest available, despite the incredibly wide range of models to be had, not only from luthiers and specialty shops, but these days, even on Amazon.com, of all places.
It turns out that the violin chinrest question also leads a lively life of its own, though perhaps not quite as heated as the shoulder rest dilemma, as its necessity is not generally in doubt in the same fashion. There is, however, not even a consensus as how to spell it (two words for chin rest, or one?), thanks, it would seem, to the fact that it was first known in German as a composite, and the translations have varied since Spohr presented his invention to the violin-playing world. Ingenious though I find this creation to be, my point is that I believe myself to have come full circle. The longer I have played, the more comfortable I have come to feel and the more problems of accessibility I appear to solve for myself (Charles Libove’s lessons having the characteristics of time-released capsules). Very recently I have caught myself gravitating off the violin chinrest towards the middle of the instrument, practically onto the tailpiece, and it feels as if I may have finally learned how to hold the violin. Luckily for me, all these goings-on take place in the context of orchestral employment; I am “covered” in a way that a soloist would not be. I shall just conclude by stating that I feel freer than I had ever deemed possible, and I can measure it by the degree to which I have ended up ignoring the violin chinrest.