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There are different violin chin rest. enter image description here

My daughter’s violin teacher said the left hand which place on the strings should be like a butterfly not a crane. So I watch my daughter practice and found the reason might be related to her chin rest.

A improper chin rest made the violin player can’t hold the violin using the chin rest and the shoulder rest securely. So he/she can’t free his/her left hand.

I am not sure if I am right. Hence I have this question in mind?

I saw professional youth violin player using their chin rest like this.

Here are professionals’ photos.

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enter image description here

Here is my daughter’s photo below. The difference is the professional’s chin rest is up to their ears. But my daughter’s is very low to her chin.

enter image description here

Not sure if this chin rest is a proper one. Hope this question makes sense. Thanks

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    What did her teacher say about it?
    – Aaron
    May 15, 2022 at 8:26
  • Recommendations for equipment are off topic. May 15, 2022 at 14:59
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    @BrianTowers It's not asking for a recommendation. It's asking how to choose.
    – Aaron
    May 15, 2022 at 17:48
  • @BrianTowers I am more of interested the improper chin rest affected the player’s posture or her/his play.
    – cdhit
    May 16, 2022 at 9:47
  • To summarize my answer more: There are no "improper chin rests," but you can hold the instrument improperly with any of them. I will expand my answer to address your daughter's hold, but the short answer is that her chin and head are positioned the way I teach it. I once held the violin with my cheek, rather than my chin, on the chinrest, and this led to the beginnings of a physical injury. I changed my hold to put my chin more on the chinrest. May 16, 2022 at 14:04

4 Answers 4

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This is strictly a matter of personal comfort and preference. It's possible to use bad technique with any chinrest, and it's possible to use good technique with any chinrest, but some will feel better or work better for each person. The violin was played for centuries with no chinrest at all! I decided on a chinrest model that I liked in my teens, but later changed the way I hold the violin slightly and then used a different chinrest. (I currently use the Guarneri, the top left corner in the picture of chinrests; it's a very popular choice.) The best way to choose a chinrest is to go to a store that has many models and try them on. If your daughter is just beginning, she might find that one is more comfortable than another, but as she learns more technique, that choice might change later.

The chinrest your daughter currently uses doesn't cause bad left-hand technique, but a different one could help it. Your teacher understands best what they meant by "butterfly, not crane." These kind of metaphors are great for helping students remember physical positions (I use "parrot, not fox" for right hand), but I'm not sure what it actually meant for the hand position. What is true is that the hand position can be affected by where the violin is placed on the neck and the direction that the violin points, and these can be affected by the chinrest and shoulder rest models and how they're positioned.

The shoulder rest is the "support under the violin" that Tim mentioned. Teachers have different opinions; for very young children (like 5 years old or less), some prefer not to use them. Some players start with them but later decide not to. Personally, I recommend them for all beginners. For this, too, you will want to try different models after learning for a while. Experimenting with where the shoulder rest is placed on the body of the violin can be useful too.

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Chin rests in combination with shoulder rests are a very personal thing and might depend on things like physiology (not all bodies are shaped the same way), playing preference like at which angle you hold the instrument, which rotation of the instrument use, whether you hold the instrument under the chin or under the cheeks and such. Conversely the choice of chin rest and shoulder rest will affect your playing posture.

In any case the combination of chin rest and shoulder rest should enable you to hold the violin under your chin without having to hold it with your left hand in a comfortable way without having to clamp down on the instrument. This is nescessary to allow you to freely move the left hand over the fretboard without loosing control of the instrument.

Considering you the individuality of this combination it is best to consult your teacher or a violin maker of your trust to try out different options.

Regarding the butterfly and the crane: I think this is not related to this topic. It takes a bit of force to push down the strings, but beginners tend to apply force in an unfocused manner, leading to cramping up the muscles in the fingers. This is then detrimental to the agility of the fingers. So what needs to be learned (alongside with actually building up the nescessary muscles) is to supply the nescessary force in a way that allows the fingers to remain agile.

While this can probably be influenced by an insecure hold on the instrument (i.e. holding tighter than nescessary in fear of dropping the instrument) it is usually not the cause of this. An insecure hold of the instrument will usually make things like shifts and fast runs harder.

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  • I'm puzzled by the references to "bridge." The bridge is normally fitted by the luthier to match the curve of the top plate of the instrument, and doesn't impact the way you hold the instrument. Is it possible you mean shoulder rest? May 16, 2022 at 2:01
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    @AndyBonner Sorry, fugue! We call that thing "Brücke" in german. There are always these fine details. The ponticello we call "Steg". Thank you for pointing that out, I shall correct this!
    – Lazy
    May 16, 2022 at 7:01
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Looking at the 3rd pic., it seems there is also another support under the violin. For beginners, especially children, this is a great aid to keeping the violin up, without too much left hand support. To me, that's going to be a better help than changing the chinrest.

However, before taking advice from people who have never seen your daughter, ask teacher, and try various paddings, which may save buying several different chinrests. Also, see if she can try others' violins, for some clues.

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  • Actually, the last photo is my daughter’s
    – cdhit
    May 16, 2022 at 9:56
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Make an appointment at a good music shop and try different styles. The goal is to be comfortable holding the instrument up with the left hand at rest at the side of the body. Then get her a Strad pad. A Strad pad will put her on Cloud 9. It makes the chin rest less slippery.

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