What type of violin shape creates what sound?

March 26, 2008 at 06:02 PM · I'm looking to take up violin again after a 25 year hiatus, and am starting to look for an instrument. (Not that I was very good to begin with, only having taken lessons for two years.)

My budget is around $3000 for everything, and I'm hoping to get a nice sounding instrument for that, with the understanding this is at the low end of the price range. The problem is how to narrow down the selection to the type of sound I like

For example, on guitars I know exactly what a dreadnaught should like compared to a concert design, what the effects of different woods would be on the sound, etc. For example, if I were looking to purchase a dreadnaught, it would be a waste of time to try out nylon string guitars.

With violin I'm pretty much in the dark.

Yes, I am going to play dozens of instruments, but there's a huge variety out there. And while I will ask my teacher to play them before making a final choice, I can't have a teacher play all the violins.

So.... I thought it would help to identify recordings I like and figure out what type of violin would create those sounds. In this price range there's lots of copies of famous styles and shapes, but I have no idea what a violin in the various styles is supposed to sound like.

For example, someone recommended I try out violins from Jay Haide, but the model in my price range comes in a "Stradivari", "Guarneri", "Guadagnini", "Balestrieri", model. The same can be said of other shop made instrument lines.

There are comments posted on violinist.com such as Gliga's are "dark" sounding, but what does a dark violin sound like? Other violins are described as "brilliant", but again what type of violin shape would produce such a sound?

Its frustrating because guitar makers are putting recordings of the instruments on their websites so you can hear approximately what they sound like, but their appears to be nothing like that in the violin world.

Although I'll be playing classical pieces, with some gypsy thrown in for fun, and jazz should my playing progress that far.

As far as players go my favorite violin sound is Stephane Grappellii, who I think of as having a "sweet" sound, and not at all dull as most jazz violinists.

Sorry for the rant, and I'm sure you get these types of questions way too often.

Replies (14)

March 26, 2008 at 07:56 PM · The problem with associating a particular sound with particular models is that models don't really mean all that much for violins in your price range. The 'model' may only mean a shape and f-hole type, maybe also the style of corners. If it goes so far as to affect the style of arching you still have to contend with the fact that it's a factory 'interpretation' of the specific arching.

In fact you'll find that those who deal regularly with very fine violins that certain examples of X have a similar sound to examples of Y when played by the same player.

You're on the right track with trying to define what you like and put it into words. Tell that to the suppliers you're dealing with and let them figure out whether their version of an 'X' or a 'Y' is more suited to your taste.

This is a useful thread:


March 26, 2008 at 07:55 PM · Yes, like Andreas said.

Basically it isn't like guitars (like the sound difference between a "martin" dreadnought and a "gibson" SJ vs an archtop vs a Taylor acoustic-electric etc.

March 26, 2008 at 07:58 PM · Thanks, I appreciate the help. I'll try and figure out what violin sound I like, and describe that to the various local violin shops.

The only problem is: to my untrained ear most of the top-tier violinists sound very similar in timbre. Its easy to tell players styles apart, but the violins themselves, well....

I was wondering if people could recommend recordings of archetypal sounds, like someone who is known to have a "dark" sound, "sweet" sound, "bright" sound, etc?

March 26, 2008 at 08:08 PM · I think you are perhaps getting a bit ahead of yourself. Go and try some violins without preconceptions and get someone better than you to play the ones you like best so you can hear the kind of sound they really have as opposed to the sound under your ear. Tell the luthier you would like to try violins that have different basic sounds so that you will get a sense or them. Also, keep in mind that choice of strings can permit you to modify the violin's basic sound to some extent. The luthier can advise on this. Then, see how that works for you and if you have further questions, let us know.

March 26, 2008 at 08:11 PM · :)

Really, you just have to live through it to get the understanding. That's why you go with what feels good at the time, regardless of what someone else says. As you mature in your playing, you will become more discriminating and you will start to hear what is different.

That's the fun of it--you have to live it to get it!

March 26, 2008 at 08:14 PM · I second Mr. Holzman's advice. When I was searching for my current violin, I had been playing for several years already and had some sense of different basic sounds, but it really furthered my "sound education" to have one of the people at the shop listen to me play the violins, or play the violins himself, and then describe the sound for me. Probably one reason why all top violinists seem to have a similar basic sound is that any sound that is too extreme in darkness, brightness, etc. will not be as pleasing as a more balanced sound.

March 27, 2008 at 03:35 AM · Bear in mind that technique is easily the greater part of your sound. Good players tend to sound like themselves no matter what they play, but it's easier on better instruments, and you have a wider range of possibilities.

Were I in your shoes(and I have been, recently), I'd just look for an instrument that had good response, a balanced sound, and as wide a tonal and dynamic range as I could find. There are instruments in the $2500 range that would probably meet those requirements for you. With a decent instrument, you can get a good range of sound with different strings.

I prefer instruments that are rather better than I am, so if I don't sound like I want to, I know who's to blame. I don't see a better instrument as an easy way to better sound - only as something that makes it easier to learn.

March 27, 2008 at 02:38 PM · Thank you all for the advice. I agree technique is the better part of the sound, no doubt.

By the way, I did find what I was looking for online, a music store, Whitehorse Music, put a series of videos online comparing different violin models in different price ranges.

Here's a link to the $1,500 price range comparing a Gliga Pro and a Paesold 800.


March 27, 2008 at 03:05 PM · note that the video was made in Australia and the prices are in Australian dollars

March 27, 2008 at 04:10 PM · You may also try :


Here they have many good violins and most of them have a sound clip so you can find out how they sound.

March 27, 2008 at 09:04 PM · FYI, so far the Paesold 803 sounds the best to my ears, even next to the older violins at West Country Violins:


The West Country people are on to something though, I really appreciate that they put the sound clips on their site.

March 28, 2008 at 02:05 AM · I bought my Violin from Whitehorse Music.

If you are interested in their website it is:


Richard plays in the videos and he is a luthier.

March 28, 2008 at 02:51 AM · I was recently in your shoes in trying to buy a violin around your price range. I am a rank beginner (7 weeks play time)and I found that the only real way to buy a violin (don't look mostly at price and recommendations) is to try them out, PERIOD. I compared violins from $3,500 to $1,500. Guess which one worked for me? It was the $1,500 violin (I had my professional teacher/performer try them out too and both of us agreed the less expensive violin was the better sounding one---I played and she played these violins separately from one another). I eventually narrowed down which violin to choose to two violins. From there I selected the less 'bright' sounding violin (and the less expensive violin, but didn't know that until I made my final selection). But to emphasize--only buy after hearing all the violins in the same room at the same time---NEVER BUY SOLEY ON INTERNET (I had several of the suggested violins on this site shipped to me to compare and none of those made the cut) RECOMMENDATIONS, NEVER. -----I live in Montana, so walking into a violin shop to try many violins in one fell swoop is not possible).

March 28, 2008 at 06:41 PM · Violin sound files are very misleading. A violin which the player makes sound like what you want may in fact be a heavy clunker incapable of doing anything but that one sound. A beginner especially is not equipped to judge a violin based on its tone in a sample, or to ask the additional very necessary questions to aid in judging the instrument.

If you order online, sound sample or no, be sure a return is realistically feasible. If you get a violin which doesn’t really satisfy you, you don’t want to end up stuck with it because sending it back is an expensive or risky chore.

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