By Katharine Rapoport

Keeping your chin and jaw clear of the top of the violin means less damping of sound and less damage to the varnish from the heat and sweat of your chin. (You can see patches of lighter or darker wood on the tops of old violins where the players’ chins used to rest. Modern violin makers sometimes imitate this look when building new instruments so that the violins look “antiqued.”)

Today’s chinrests come in a range of shapes and sizes, to suit just about everyone. A basic plastic chinrest can retail at less than $10 (U.S. dollars), and a top‐of‐the‐line handmade wooden chinrest can cost more than $100. Expect to pay between $6 and $40 for a chinrest that will work for you and your violin.

The elements that are important in a chinrest are height, shape, and angle — all variables in the designs of the many chinrest models you can see at a well‐stocked violin store. You can find models made of plastic or wood, such as ebony and rosewood, plus several other options.

Professional violinists often match the wood of the chinrest to the wood of the tailpiece, but at the beginning, a black plastic chinrest that matches the ebony of the fingerboard looks quite fine. Make a modest investment until you become used to holding the violin and develop specific preferences about your chinrest.

The number and choice of available chinrests shows you how individual their fittings can be! If your chinrest doesn’t feel comfortable, playing the violin won’t be the joy you’d anticipated. There are four main types of chinrests, and following are some suggestions for who might be suited to each type.

When choosing a chinrest, be sure to look for a gently rounded edge on the cupped part where you place your jaw.

Here are the available styles of chinrests:

  • Teka: These models are installed just to the left of the violin’s tailpiece, and they’re the kind many young students have on their violins. Teka could be described as a middle‐of‐the‐road chinrest, though you probably don’t want to leave your chinrest in the middle of the road! This style of chinrest is certainly worth a try.

  • Vermeer: These models are shaped so that they go halfway across the violin’s tailpiece, allowing the player’s head to balance more centrally on the instrument. Vermeer models can be useful to violinists with shorter arms, because the violin sits a little farther to the left side, making it easier to bow all the way to the tip. However, these chinrests are also higher, because they have to clear the tailpiece. If you have shorter arms and a longer neck, these models may work for you.

  • Flesch: These chinrests are installed directly in the middle of the violin, across the tailpiece. As with the Vermeer model, you will be comfortable on this kind of chinrest only if you have a fairly long neck. Some Flesch chinrests have a raised middle ridge, which seems to work well for violinists with narrower chins. Tall, willowy violinists often find Flesch‐style chinrests useful because, in addition to their height, they have the added advantage of balancing the violin more centrally, which makes it seem lighter.

  • Guarneri: These chinrests are made in what’s perhaps the most generally comfortable style. This model has the chinrest just to the left of the tailpiece, but it also features a bar that runs across to the right side of the tailpiece. Violinists can hold the violin fairly freely and allow their heads some latitude — the cup is not deep, and the bar across the tailpiece is also comfortable to rest on. Violinists with fairly square or fleshy jaws, or who don’t hold their violins very snugly, like these rests.

    Four kinds of chinrests: Vermeer, Teka, Flesch, and Guarneri-style chinrests. [Credit: Photograph b

    Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk
    Four kinds of chinrests: Vermeer, Teka, Flesch, and Guarneri-style chinrests.

Chinrests are available in different heights. The cup for your chin can also vary greatly in size. Finding the right height means getting a chinrest that fits the length of your neck when the violin is resting on your collarbone and in playing position.

Don’t get a chinrest that fills the space completely, because you will be stuck in one position, but you shouldn’t have to clamp down, either. As long as you have a chinrest that is reasonably comfortable to start with, you can always change to one you like better as your playing evolves.

Chinrest covers and gel pads are more recent inventions for extra comfort and for sensitive skins. The two main kinds are made of gel or of latex foam material and are good for adding softness and a safe feeling to the violin hold.