The Violin Channel recently sat down with Michael Y. Wiener, Co-Founder of the Swiss-based company, DOLFINOS.
Tell us about the Dolfinos Company. When was it founded, where are you based, and what was your motivation behind your exciting new Carbon Edition chin rest/shoulder rest project?
To our own astonishment, our team won the first prize of the Swiss Startups Award in 2013 with a model of an innovative all-in-one rest system concept. Our initial motivation was to help beginners interact much easier and more safely with their violin or viola — and quickly get over the many obstacles of starting to learn these wonderful instruments. Avid beginners should be empowered and encouraged by a more intelligent combination of a chin and shoulder rest to stick with their instrument until the first success gives them the intrinsic motivation to continue.
Our survey, which we executed in Swiss Music Schools, showed that out of 10 kids who start playing the violin, an average of only three students remain in the class after three months of practicing! A desire to increase the number of upper strings (violin and viola) players in and out of these programs gave us another motivational kick.
Can you tell us about the new Dolfinos Carbon Edition?
This is our newest model. With this edition, we worked extremely hard to make our breakthrough innovation affordable to everyone. We get daily feedback from early adopters who tell us they have now a much bigger sound, effortless playing, and reliability which they never experienced before — and all of this for less than €0.6 a day — assuming you keep the product for only two years. But our products are like good Swiss watches: They can be serviced and therefore last much longer than just the warranty period, so this becomes a really sustainable investment.
What are the major benefits of using your new product over a traditional chin and shoulder rest?
It covers all elements and functions a player needs to interact in full harmony with their instrument. Our technology allows you to fully adapt to the player and therefore even grows with you. That means you can start at age seven and play on the same system until age 77 and beyond. Your instruments may come and go, but this solution is made to accompany you for a lifetime.
Can you tell us what procedures and testing processes have gone into its development?
The Swiss Federal Commission for Technology and Innovation granted us a research project to establish the scientific basics for a violin and viola rest system that could be a superior solution, not only for beginners but also for amateurs, students, and professionals. We then tested these advanced prototypes with musicians and luthiers who came to our labs at the Zurich Universities.
Were you working directly with musicians, and how many years did it take to fully develop the design to this point?
Yes, of course, that was the funniest part! At the time we worked closely together with Joshua Bell, Soyoung Yoon, Peter Greiner, Ana Chumachenco, Zakhar Bron, and one of the last Heifetz students, Rudolf Koelman, in order to get the expertise from leading appliers to improve our technology. That was a great experience, and we learned a lot from them. With the proof of concept in 2019, we started to produce our Pioneer Model in Baden, Switzerland.
Now you can tell how seriously we took this: three years of basic research, and three years of product development — of which the last year was only dedicated to optimizing its user-friendliness.
What has been the feedback you’ve received so far from musicians?
Joanna Kamenarska was among the first to receive the CARBON Edition. She is a concertmaster in the Hamburger Staatsorchester. And in her own words, she stated: "I can already say: the DOLFINOS will open up completely new tonal and technical possibilities for me, and now that concerts in the Elbphilharmonie are suddenly starting again, I am particularly happy because without DOLFINOS I would have been in pain."
Is it particularly suitable for any certain types of violinists or violists?
As this system is designed to be truly and extensively adaptive, it fits any body shape, age, and preferred performing styles (classic, folk, bluegrass, pop, etc.). And again, here, we like to give voice to an early adopter, Kiyokazu Wakabayashi from Japan, who described it as follows: "There are a lot of Japanese people with 'sloping shoulders.' Your Dollfie is the most wonderful shoulder rest I ever had. The great thing is that you can make fine adjustments in various places. I can freely adjust the height of the chin rest, the position and angle of the pad. And I can get my own fit. I'm really glad I bought it. Thank you very much."
We also made a big effort to answer to the needs of viola players by offering a viola version. Also, for those who do not use a shoulder rest at all, we created the PURE Edition. We think musicians deserve the best we have to offer. Nevertheless, we would like to underline that we are aware that DOLFINOS cannot fulfill everyone's dreams and that there are other products on the market that are completely satisfying or make a player even happier than ours do.
Where can any person interested in learning more go to find out?
We have more than 3000 Newsletter subscribers, and many of them play on the DOLFINOS. Our experience is that they are willing to help you in their own hometown and show you their equipment if you are interested to get a hands-on experience. We also recommend visiting our website. We invested a lot so that people who want to learn about our products do not need to visit a shop or a luthier: You can find a large collection of descriptions, demonstrating tutorials, and factsheets on our website, and from time to time we offer webinars or online workshops on our Facebook page.
Some leading luthiers are also our exclusive sales and service partners. You can find them on the list under the "Near You" menu on our webpage www.dolfinos.com. We love and respect musicians, and that is why we want to have a strong relationship with our customers. To value them also means to learn from them. That is the only way we can make sure our team satisfies and pleases our users to the fullest. And this experience with DOLFINOS starts right away from the very beginning: We are the first upper strings supplier company to offer a trial period with a money-back guarantee.