Review: Kréddle, the First Fully Adjustable Chin Rest

kreddleIf there’s one thing that every violinist and violist has in common, it’s the challenge of finding a comfortable combination of chin rest and shoulder rest. You can spend tons of time and money searching for a chin rest which doesn’t jab your jaw, or the shoulder rest which provides enough support for free left-hand motion. Violinist Jordan Hayes is hoping to end the struggle with his invention, the fully adjustable Kréddle chin rest.

Jordan’s path to creating the Kréddle started when he was a student at the Eastman School of Music. After experimenting with a multitude of chin rests, and even carving his own, an idea occurred to him. What if he could create a fully adjustable chin rest? He spent some additional time welding and grinding before finally creating the very first Kréddle.

Hayes’s design won first place in Eastman’s New Venture Challenge in 2010. After further re-designing and testing, he started a Kickstarter.com campaign. The fundraising project concluded successfully on January 14, 2013, raising nearly $25,000. And the result is a hypoallergenic, lightweight chin rest made from a carbon fiber composite with solid strength-to-weight properties.

So what exactly can you do with a fully adjustable chin rest? All sorts of useful things. You can adjust the tilt  from side to side; choose from three different posts to customize the height; change the pitch of the chin rest to accommodate how much you need to grip with your jawbone; rotate the chin rest 360° to create the optimal angle between your violin and bow arm; and move the chin rest from side to side so that you don’t have to hyper-extend your neck in order to reach your instrument.

After I learned about all of these possibilities, I wanted to try the Kréddle myself. I contacted Jordan, who was kind enough to send one to me.

When I first put the Kréddle  on my violin, the infinite possibilities of complete adjustability felt wonderfully overwhelming. I rotated and tilted it in every possible direction until I found a relatively comfortable setting.  I was immediately struck by how much more support the Kréddle provided than the Guarneri chin rest which I normally use. As a result, I felt much more freedom of movement in both of my arms.

However, I did encounter two challenges. First, the chin rest plate (where you put your chin and jawbone) is shallow, so it was hard for me to tuck it securely under my jawbone. I contacted Hayes, who explained that he had kept the plate shallow so that it wouldn’t force people to place their heads in a particular position. He recommended that I roll the chin plate all the way forward, which I did find helpful. The other challenge was the height of the chin rest. I should mention here that I’m a shrimpy 5’2″. Even when I put the lowest post on the chin rest, it felt too high in combination with my Kun shoulder rest. I tried using different shoulder rests, and even attempted going without a shoulder rest. However, nothing was as comfortable as playing with the Kun.

I turned to my colleague Karin Addis (who is an average-height person) to provide a second opinion, and she generously agreed to try the Kréddle on her viola.  Karin normally uses a flat, center-mounted chin rest on her instrument. Like me, she also enjoyed rotating and tilting the Kréddle. But whereas I found the chin rest to be too shallow, she felt like it was digging into her chin. Here’s what she had to say:

I love the idea of having so many options with a chin rest, but after trying many different combinations of tilt, height, and angle, I couldn’t get completely comfortable with the Kréddle.  I found two combinations that were great, but neither allowed me any freedom to move my head even the slightest bit without some discomfort.  I think most of that was due to the chin plate itself.  Any motion in my head caused the edge of the left side of the chin plate to dig into my jaw a bit.  If there were a way to have the chin plate I currently have with all the adjustable options of the Kréddle, that would be perfect.

After Karin and I had experimented with the Kréddle, I shared our concerns with Jordan. He provided thorough, insightful responses [which have been slightly abridged in the interest of length]. Here’s what he said about the shape of the chin plate :

I am actually in the process of tweaking the chin plate shape. I have also talked with a woman who has worked with the violinistinbalance people. According to her, their studies found that most chin shapes can be accommodated with three archetypal chin plate shapes. I would like to work with them to incorporate those options into the Kréddle. In an ideal world, this would not take very long. But as I do not have an internal design department, it may be some time before all of these options are available…

Any attempt at a ‘universal’ chin rest is ultimately bound to fall short–there are just too many variables competing for solutions. However, the attempt to achieve design perfection will lead us to far more sensitive solutions than anything currently available, even if we never actually reach ‘perfection.’ I plan to continue to refine the Kréddle and its capabilities far into the future. The design process is one of my favorite parts of the business process.

I also asked Jordan about the possibility of creating a lower post to address my height challenges:

The currently lowest post will most likely remain the lowest post…We could attempt to make everything smaller, but then we’d risk weakening the parts…The Kréddle weighing less than half the weight of a normal chin rest is really due to carbon fiber’s great strength to weight properties. Even carbon fiber has limitations however, which mean that it does require a bit more mass than other materials. If we want to keep the lightness and fabrication qualities of carbon fiber, we have to understand that the Kréddle may not be able to go as low as everyone would like.

In addition to the above, I will say three more things about the height. First, most of the 30 revisions of the original design were made to make the Kréddle as low as possible. Out of everything, lowering the Kréddle was probably the most troubling thorn. It’s very challenging to fit all of that adjustability into less than an inch of space, while also ensuring the strength to weight ratio is ideal.

Second, by far, the majority of comments I’ve received from people have been for taller posts. I think this is due partly to a complete absence of taller chin rest options currently available… Since there are a multitude of options for those who require a chin rest shorter than the Kréddle, and sparse options for those who require taller chin rests, I chose to allow the Kréddle to slightly favor the higher side.

Third, due to the influences and plethora of shoulder rests, I believe the violin community needs a little nudge towards exploring taller chin rests. A taller chin rest allows, and in a way encourages, people to place the instrument on the collarbone…  I’m suggesting that most of the chin rests currently on the market are actually too short for anyone but those with exceptionally short necks, even if the violin community at large has not yet come to realize this tendency. I will say that that this idea is largely on the violin side–the thickness of the viola naturally helps with longer necks… I’m talking about a general tendency, and do not mean to suggest this is the case with everyone or even a large majority. I simply want to encourage the community to explore this issue by providing an alternative option to the abundance of short chin rests.

I would absolutely recommend trying the Kréddle for people who either have long necks, or people who have shorter necks and are comfortable using a shoulder rest thinner than a Kun. I’ve had to go back to using my Guarneri chin rest because of the height issue, but I miss the support of the Kréddle. I’d love to use it again, and I’m actively looking for another shoulder rest solution which will allow me to do so.

The Kréddle can be purchased at kréddle.com. The regular version is $89; stainless steel brackets for those with nickel allergies are available for an additional $19. To learn more about Jordan’s thoughts regarding violin setup and how to use the Kréddle, please watch the first installment of his video series on the subject below.

Photos courtesy of kréddle.com. Special thanks to Jordan for taking the time to address the multitude of questions I sent to him.

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