Sound characteristics

February 18, 2010 at 06:27 PM ·

  Greetings folks.

I am kinda new to the Violin/Viola world.

I play the viola myself and have been for several months.

I have searched the internet, but cannot find any comments on sound characteristics for different types of Violins/Violas.

Like, what are the main sound characteristics for Stradivarius and Guarnieri Del Gesu etc 

I was told that Del Gesu was a smaller Violin and had a totally different sound.

Where can I find this information ?


Replies (4)

February 18, 2010 at 08:14 PM ·

The better source of information concerning this is probably to stop at a violin maker's shop to ask your questions... They know this so well!

Usually from my experience, readings, comments by soloists etc I think I can say very roughly that Stards are very very slightly longer than Guarneris with a "slender" body. Guarneris are a tiny bit shorter and thicker (more chubby look, slightly wider where you bow and a shorter "table" which is the streigh part before the curves if you check the violin sideways with the bridge 90 degres angle with the floor)   

As for sound, this is a personnal taste. Many say Strads sound too beautiful with a centered sound, while Guarneris sound immidiately powerful but more human and less heavenly beautiful (I think this means you can't hide anything if you make a mistake... ) These days, many talk about Guarneris since they do produce a surprisingly powerful sound but I also noticed an increased in the "too forced" playing (but would not jump to conclusions to say it's because they over or badly use the asset they have... Can be 10 000 other things too : ).  Perhaps one must be careful with any sound "bomb"!   Honnestly the best thing is to try the two and make your own mind...

When I bought my violin, I didn't even ask about the "modal" since this was secondary.  Seemed that the one I prefered and found absoluntly fantasctic is a dark sounding Guarneri modal... But I loved the strad modal I had before too. Also, I'm sure I would hate a bright sounding Guarneri...

Very good sounding violin masters are found on Strads as well as on Guarneris.

Interesting that when scientists scaned Strads vs Guarneris, they founded that Strads vibrate more near the center of the instruments while Guarneris vibrate mostly at the two ends of the instrument (less in the middle!)


February 18, 2010 at 11:52 PM ·

Violas are a bit more complex than violins, because they differ much more in outline, archings, size, string length, schools, etc.

Some say that the Brescian models (Gasparo da Salo, Maggini and others) have a darker sound than Cremonese models (Amati, Stradivari, Andrea Guarneri and others). Some violists will prefer a darker sound, others a more open sound. 

The best thing you can do is to play and listen many many instruments till you form your own reference table. It takes time, but it is the only way to get that. For a begginer, I would recomend finding an instrument with a good C string (that is difficult) and a wide dynamic range (wich is difficult too), leaving other subtleties for the future. 

Here a sound sample with a viola I made to Alberto Lepage (17 inches, loosely based in Andrea Guarneri) , he plays Harold in Italy:

February 19, 2010 at 07:23 AM ·

When we talk about this model that sound, there's one thing that's almost impossible to deliver - description of tonal characteristic.

Same kind of tone can be described as dark  some can say it's boomy and muddy. Some say a tone that's bright but can mean thin and harsh to some.

And that's only the bright/dark characters, there're also "open", "closed", "nasal", "strident", "robust", "hollow", "sweet" etc etc. They can literally mean anything! Also, are these descriptions about the sound under the ear, or as a listener?

More over, there're only a few makers who painstakingly recreate the character of the original instrument. And you try to take any of the variable aspects (wood, slight differences in carving, thickness), it's impossible to recreate the same tonal character (not even remotely close). Even Del Gesu and Strad can't reproduce the same sound on each instrument. Seach youtube for "Nicolas Kitchen" and you can find his videos playing different strads and del gesus on bachs. Listening only to the Goldberg and Kreisler del gesu, which supposed to be twins, can sound so different...

February 19, 2010 at 11:55 PM ·

The vowels!

A, E, I, O, and U

Say each letter and those are the different sounds.

A: Slightly bright, round, even, rich, open (My favorite)

E: Very bright, focused, clear (Fiddle-like)

I: Focused, articulate, very clear

O: Round, very open, warm, even, rich (Old italian sound)

U: Deep, dark, very rich (cello or viola)

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