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It's November which means it's time for "Movember" when some men traditionally grow a moustache in aid of charities aimed at men's health problems, typically prostate and testicular cancers. As moustaches become passe some men are growing a full beard instead.

How does a beard affect your ability to play the violin or viola? I'm particularly concerned about gripping the chin rest when shifting without generating too much tension.

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  • In my experience there is not much of an issue apart from it maybe feeling a bit uncomfortable. And if you look at portraits of e.g. Ernst I think it is safe to claim that it works.
    – Lazy
    Nov 7, 2022 at 15:22
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    For me it's kind of the opposite, playing the violin adversely affects growing a beard! In the sense that, in the early stubbly stages, it's a bit painful. I doubt I can blame the violin for my patchy beard. Nov 7, 2022 at 15:26
  • Something you might not have heard is that if your beard is long enough you can roll it up and tuck it under your chin with a hair tie or pin, making a large bushy beard appear very small. Note that this isn't quite the same as tieing a beard. Much like head hair if it's in the way it can be moved out of the way. This might eliminate a lot of the give that you might get. Also lets not forget that some people have hairless soft and supple chins. Wether this impacts violin playing or not I'm not sure, but there are more options than beard or no beard. Nov 8, 2022 at 15:32
  • As an aside, if you just grow a moustache it's a non-issue. The point of Movember is to grow a moustache, not a beard or a goatee, because it's supposed to be a conversation starter. A beard doesn't really aid visibility for the cause. The fact that a moustache might be passe for a larger portion of people is part of the reason it was chosen. Also, individual fund raising for charities generally involves some level of hard work or getting out of your comfort zone, to incentivise people donating money to your cause. Essentially you are causing yourself some kind of discomfort for the cause.
    – rooby
    Nov 8, 2022 at 23:19

2 Answers 2

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It really depends on the bulk of the beard. If you have a thick, bushy beard, it could give you a less "positive" hold on the instrument. If you have a short-cropped beard, you may not notice too much. I played viola and never had any issues going from smooth-shaven to a short and stubbly beard.

Beards come in all shapes and sizes as well. You could grow out a full beard to try it, then trim things back to a different shape if needed. A goatee is still a beard.

Oh, the challenges of shoulder-supported instruments! Do you now wish you had taken up cello?

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    But you have to lug around a cello and everything costs more =/
    – DKNguyen
    Nov 8, 2022 at 16:36
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Well, the easy answer is try it and shave it off if it doesn't work! For me, it doesn't work well. It's quite true that you want to avoid tension and that the chin isn't solely responsible for holding the violin up. But I find that the beard is a bit "slippery", where a shaven chin has more friction. You could probably get an idea of the effect by putting a bit of cloth under your chin. It's probably something that could be adapted to quite effectively, just unsettling at first. I also find it a bit prickly and uncomfortable.

You could of course do a soul patch, or perhaps a compact goatee would not interfere with your hold. Or just get into baroque violin, go chinrest-free, and go wild like this guy!

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