Is the chinrest the unsung hero of the violin?
Violinists put their chin on the chinrest and tuck the violin in the crook of their neck to support the instrument. The chinrest is indispensable for the support of the instrument, but it was invented only in the 1820s. The inventor of the chinrest, composer Louis Spohr, contributed to the development of modern violin performance techniques. According to Spohr, prior to his invention, the violin was not tucked under the neck but was supported by the collar bone.
In fact, the invention of the chinrest had broad implications for performance techniques. As a result, fingerings, position changes, and vibrato techniques that had been difficult to perform up through the classical period became easier, and the range of expression grew. Put another way, the phrases that were difficult to perform in the pre-chinrest period became easy to perform after the invention of the chinrest. This simple invention not only changed performance techniques but could be said to have had a wider influence on music itself.