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How to Become a Violin Maker

Instruments: How do I get started?

From jake bush
Posted March 17, 2008 at 06:05 PM

I am very passionate about violins, and have always wanted to make my own, and have dreamed of making a masterpiece like any other violin maker, but how do I get started?

I see that there are the Chicago School of Violin Making, and the Salt Lake City one, which is the best to enroll in?

And what are ways I could prepare? I have no experience in woodworking, but I learn quickly when I devote myself to something. I am a hands-on learner, and when someone physically shows me something it makes sense, but learning from a textbook is very difficult for me.

Can any makers or aspiring makers give me advice and tell me about how to get into the field?

From neil ertz
Posted on March 17, 2008 at 07:07 PM
I’d recommend reading anything you can get your hands on about violin making and if you are seriously interested then certainly buy and read “The Secrets of Stradivari” by Simone F. Sacconi.
Go and visit any violin maker in your area and check out forums such as Maestronet where there is an active community of makers from complete beginner amateur makers through to quite a few high profile professionals chatting about what they do.
As for which of the schools in the US are best I am not sure as I live and work on the other side of the pond.
I wouldn’t recommend splashing out on a wide selection of tools at this stage as you can get started on really very little..but I would strongly recommend going out of your way to visit and chat too as many practicing violin makers as you can practically get too as this is the best way to find out if your dream is anything like the real world of making and/or repairing string instruments for a living.
Have fun and good luck.
Neil.
From LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO
Posted on March 17, 2008 at 07:07 PM
In the old way you learned with a master, as an aprentice ("garzone di bottega", in Italian); now there are violin making schools.

There are many self taught makers also, it's a tough way to learn, but it's possible, many now famous Italian makers were self taught (Capicchioni, Chiocchi, Fagnola, etc.). The best do it by yourself book is by Courntall and Jonhson.

There are many amateur makers today, and it's not a new sensation, they existed in Strad's time also, some were monks. And many Victorian gentlemen built instruments after reading Heron Allen's book.

The market today is very tough, it seems that there are just about 20 makers in the USA living exclusevely from new making, most makers do also repairs and sales, or a non related job also. You have to get a good price from your instruments (perhaps no less than 8K) otherwise it will not be able to you to compete with Chinese makers.

It takes some years to learn how to make a good instrument, we are still learning all the time.

You can see a tutorial I prepared about neck and scroll carving here:

http://www.maestronet.com/forums/messageview.cfm?catid=4&threadid=317301&STARTPAGE=1&enterthread=y

From jake bush
Posted on March 17, 2008 at 08:24 PM
Oh, I don't play on making a living that way at all, a I know 'starving artist' applies to instrument makers as well, but it's something I would be very interested in doing part-time.

The problem I suppose is my complete lack of experience. That neck tutorial, for example, was a little incomprehensible to me as I don't know all the vocabulary/tools/techniques, etc!

Does anyone know where I could find/purchase those books? Google is turning up nothing for me.

Thanks!

From LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO
Posted on March 17, 2008 at 08:33 PM
You can find it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Violin-Making-Chris-Johnson/dp/0709058764/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205785880&sr=1-1

It's the best one. I have more than a hundred violin books in Italian, English and French, and they are not cheap, but this one is considered the best.

According to many my tutorial was much more comprehensive than the Courtnall & Jonshon book, but get the book and study it, anyway violin making is a long, long term project and good results will take time to appear, as with violin playing.

Good luck!

From Sue Bechler
Posted on March 17, 2008 at 11:50 PM
Read books. Get a job sweeping up in a shop. (This actually needs done all the time and carefully, since little bits of this & that sometimes need found or saved.) Take a repair and adjustment workshop at college. Go to summer school in New England (I forgot the name, but somebody here will know.) Go to college in Chicago. Buy a junker violin, a good knife, a bridge lifter, a rod of soundpost wood and a setter, and start practicing. There's a good market for a "genius" with bridge cutting and soundpost adjustment. Sue
From LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 12:36 AM
Starting making violins is relatevely easy, I can't say the same about stopping it!!!
From Chris Dolan
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 03:52 AM
Jake,

You and I share something in common, a great urge to learn the art of violin making. Given my situation, I have little choice other than to do most of the learning on my own, and a maker no less than Sam Zygmuntowicz told me that it would not be easy, but that it could be done. So, I would say the same to you. Natural aptitude will of course play a role, but nothing less than good, old hard work will carry the day.

Over the last several months I have acquired a few books, two of which I very highly recommend, "The Secrets of Stradivari" by Saconni, and "The Art of Violinmaking" by Courtnal and Johnson. Of course there are others, many of which are shockingly expensive. One book I did not learn of until the printed stock was gone was "Traite de Lutherie" by Francios Denis. Another work I would one day LOVE to own, but one that will also likely leave the market prior to my being able to secure a copy is the 2-volume treatise on the work of del Gesu, published by Peter Biddulph. A good place to go for books such as these is Amati Books (www.amatibooks.com). I got my copy of Saconni's book there, but I got my copy of Courtnall and Johnson's book on Amazon, as it was the best price. Another good source of information is The Strad, and their poster series is great. Actually, you will find that a lot of information is available, much of which can be learned online and at no cost, however as a rule published materials are probably a more credible source of information. The maestronet site is good as well. I joined a short while ago, and there are a lot of thoughts being traded on the site daily, and some of the contributors are well-known makers with solid reputations, and they come from all over the world.

If you truly desire this, it will happen. To which degree I cannot say, but I feel safe in saying that you will without a doubt find a way to weave your new-found love of violin making into the fabric of your life. Let it lead you where it will, and enjoy yourself along the way. You will meet and come to know a lot of really great people, and what could be better than this?

Take care,
Chris

From Jay Peterson
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 05:47 PM
Jake,if you figure out how to build one tuned in fourths(E,A,D,G) or even better,D,G,B,E-you will get rich-every guitar player on earth will buy one,I'll take TWO!!!!!
From Barry Dudley
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 08:40 PM
I would strongly agree with Manfio on "The Art of Violin Making" It is a very good how to book that will even help you set your shop up and give you some historic perspective.
If you have any skill at all this one book will set you on your way. Of course it is not the only book you will want but if you can only buy one this is the one.
Many years ago someone told me that it takes 10 instruments before you begin to understand what you are doing. I thought that was nonsense...but it is very true. So if you decide to go down Luthier Lane, be prepared for a long frustrating journey!
From David Burgess
Posted on March 19, 2008 at 12:07 AM
Violin making is a disease for which there is no cure.
Crack and meth addiction pale in comparison. ;)
From LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO
Posted on March 19, 2008 at 12:16 AM
Yes David, there is no cure for the virus, it may have also a phsycological cause (obssessive/compulsive disorder).

In some Sundays I say to my wife: "please don't let me work more than four hours today"...

From Sean Bishop
Posted on March 19, 2008 at 03:41 PM
True. It's a disease! and as a dealer whom does not even make violins I seem to have caught a very resilient strain........
From Hans Pluhar
Posted on March 19, 2008 at 06:00 PM
I think what one can say is you need passion and patience.
If you play the violin already that is a great start.
You will be able to judge yourself the violins you are making and advance much faster.
Good luck and Go for it!
Hans
From Andres Sender
Posted on April 13, 2008 at 04:50 AM
Chris, I missed this part of your post initially, but as far as I know the Denis book is still available. Amatibooks apparently still has it, for one.

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