composite violins

December 11, 2007 at 07:56 PM · Hello, everybody! I suppose you all know about the new (?) composite (carbon fiber) violins made by Luis and Clark (are there any other on the market?). If any of you owns one, could you tell us what you like about it (and what you don't)? Also, how does one go about buying one? It is not possible for me to try one, apparently... Are these instruments supposed to sound the same and one does not really need to try them and select THE ONE?? I received a package from Mrs. Leguia recently and Mr. Rosenthal seems to be trying many violins with the aim of selecting the one he'd like best... so I don't see why the other customers wouldn't, couldn't, shouldn't do the same... On the web there is also a sound sample of a composite violin built by two students at the USC. It sounds very, very nice, in my opinion, better than the "Luis and Clark"s. Are these composite violins just coming out and it would be wise to wait? Any reply would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

Replies (28)

December 11, 2007 at 09:49 PM · I haven't tried one. I like what I've seen and heard (videos and CD's) so far, for the money.

There's a violist on this forum who owns one and who may be happy to share info and experiences.

Lots of dealers and makers will ship a violin to you for approval. Luis and Clark is not unique in that regard.

Good luck, I hope you find an instrument that satisfies you for years to come.

December 11, 2007 at 10:13 PM · I'm curious as to what the appeal is for these instruments. In other words, what attracts you (and others)to the composites?

I'm sure that louis and clark will send instruments out on approval. You most likely pay for shipping and insurance.

December 11, 2007 at 11:55 PM · I believe that there was an audio test on youTube - blindfold comparison between a composite and natural violin. The test subject (college student studying violin) stated that there was almost no discernible difference in sound/tone. It's impossible to make a judgment based on the video (audio), but I thought it was a neat idea... Coke... Pepsi... or Fanta?

The big draw seems to be based on the assumption that carbon fiber is:

1 - lighter than wood

2 - strong than wood /less likely to be (as) damaged due to carelessness

3 - less likely to have tone/sound shifts due to weather/humidity changes (can probably drink out of the darn thing… easier to make a consistent tweak in the setup)

4 - better than cutting down trees (we're running out)

5 - cheaper (people are cheap)

6 - awesome looking (my friends don't have one)

Please don't hold me to the list above... I prefer old school violins. Composite seems like a good idea for travel violins, and might be fine enough for concert instruments. I don't know.

December 11, 2007 at 11:08 PM · I was lucky to try out multiple violas since I live close by. I can only tell you more about the violas than the violins. The violas themselves were very resonant. As I tried the different ones, they are very similar. The only slight difference was in the setup where one of the fine tuners were loose and buzzed a little; however, that was quickly remedied. I also found that the black (unpainted) violas are more resonant than the brown (painted) ones. Overall, the instrument felt lighter and easy to play. In addition, the instrument resists humidity changes and would make a great travel instrument.

December 12, 2007 at 12:07 AM · "4 - better than cutting down trees (we're running out)" Ian

I'm not sure I agree with that. Carbon fiber takes a huge amount of energy to produce, as does the epoxy ( petro-chemical ) that is infused in it. As does the urethane clear coats (petro-chemical ) that these instruments are sprayed with.Think of the big factories making these raw materials. And that's just the raw materials so far. the end products ( instruments, in this case ) are formed and baked, as well.( VOC's ) The enviromental foot print is enormous, compared to a wooden product. With wood (renewable resource )you plant more trees. With plastics,,,,,,

but I'm not saying this to start an arguement, I really do want to hear what the appeal is among players. I was just surprised to hear carbon fiber implied to be enviromentaly friendly.

December 12, 2007 at 12:41 AM · Hi, well, I guess different people might like it for different reasons - or, at least, different groups of people... such as amateurs vs. professionals, rich people vs. the not-so-rich ones, people who travel a lot vs. those who stay put, "cheap" people (as someone writes here) vs. that kind of people we all think we are... maybe, HIP, just because it rhymes! Sound is a major factor for me... so is its reproducibility. Another major one: this violin could take a lot of travel. Then many people do not have easy access to a good violin repairer and/or good violin shops where you would be looking for your perfect wooden match... perfect till you get home and the perfect match already sounds like something else. About trying it and shipping it back: it appears the whole thing would cost a little more than $300. I figure that would rather pay for a ticket to Boston to try (more than one of) those violins in person... but would it be worthwhile? Anyone who might own one of these cf violins or who might have tried them, or who'd just have a little time to make a comment -- it's greatly appreciated.

December 12, 2007 at 03:01 AM · I had a conversation with a musician several weeks ago and he suggested that people should invest in fine wooden instruments now, since we’re pillaging forests of their finest tone woods today. The idea was not really one of green conservation, but rather a smart long-term investment. Buy real wood while we still have it, because it’s going to become rare.

Darren, I agree with you. I don’t think that it helps the environment to make a violin out of carbon fiber instead of wood, but some people think that it does. I’m not interested in a huge environmental debate, but just wanted to clarify that I’m not necessarily expressing my own personal view(s) with the list of comments above. I do care about deforestation and the environment, but this is not a forum for that.

I love violins!

December 12, 2007 at 04:34 AM · Carbon fiber violins are of some interest to me, due to stability issues as well as being less likely to suffer damage from impact etc. For professionals who must play out-of-doors they seem to make a lot of sense.

They are not cheap. Unless you feel five thousand dollars is chump change for a violin. (Of course, it is, for many professionals. But not for me).

I don't think the world is running out of wood. Fine tonewood that will be used in violin production for the next fifty years has been cut and stored a generation or more ago. The world is not running out of wooden violins. Take a look at ebay. Chinese production is prodigious, and will increase. I understand that the Chinese govt oversaw planting innumerable trees as they created and improved roads thruout the country, trees which are now being turned into violins. Whether they will be of sufficient quality to make the Strads of the 22nd century is not known, but I see no reason to begin hoarding wooden fiddles to capitalise on the End of the Tree at this point.

Awesome-looking? I'll grant you that, though I also am fond of the more traditional look. Still, a carbon fiber violin and carbon fiber bow in a carbon-fiber case makes a certain fashion statement, and I'd find it appealing.

December 12, 2007 at 04:16 PM · Hi Maria, there is a professional violist in my town who was/is seriously considering a L&C viola.

He is attracted to the big sound, he likes to be heard. And maybe the " differentness " of it is an attraction, as well. It won't be his primary instrument, though.

December 12, 2007 at 05:31 PM · I have played wooden fiddles for over 45 years and bought a Luis & Clark about a year ago. I prefer the L&C.

December 12, 2007 at 07:11 PM · 5k is chump change if it sounds like a new 30k or old 100k instrument.

Still, hearing/playing is believing. I can't quite buy into the CF bows, so I naturally am skeptical about the instruments till I meet one "in the flesh," as it were.

You can ship a guitar across the country and back, insured, for 150 or so. I can't imagine a 5k violin would cost 300 to ship.

December 12, 2007 at 07:16 PM · 160 one way...

December 18, 2007 at 05:39 PM · correction, for the record... it's indeed only one way if you return it...

What about plastic? :-) how about this on utube

December 19, 2007 at 12:55 AM · I have a Luis & Clarke viola and being a violist that uses a 17 inche viola that weights alot and can sometimes be a little bit hard to support, but the L&C viola is really, REALLY light. Makes a beautiful sound for somehting that makes pencil lead, and diamonds.

December 19, 2007 at 02:04 AM · $160 shipping one way???

I regularly ship instruments all over the US. Post office Express Mail is about $55 to ship in a large box with plenty of padding (even Hawaii or Alaska), next day service to most locations.

David Burgess

December 19, 2007 at 02:18 AM · It's the information I received from the seller/maker. They use fedex international priority for safety and speed, and the violin should be returned the same fashion. But I guess the discussion is moving into the wrong direction... I wanted to know more about the instruments if possible.

December 19, 2007 at 02:34 AM · The plastic violin doesn't sound all that bad.

December 19, 2007 at 05:05 AM · I am quite impressed too, it's ironic it's made of plastic though

December 19, 2007 at 01:53 PM · What I find ironic is that L&C is charging nearly three times the amount that Mr. Burgess is, to ship an instrument whose list of appeals is that it is nearly unbreakable.

December 19, 2007 at 01:58 PM · Can any one share how much these violin/violi weigh? I've never seen any actual numbers.

December 19, 2007 at 05:57 PM · I checked with L & C about trying a viola once. Basically, they seem to have a small output and don't want to be bothered with 'tire kickers'. Understandable, from their point of view, but tough on folks who want to try one before deciding.

(Personally, I don't put a whole lot of reliance on recordings, etc. any hunk of junk can sound quite good in a bathroom with a little digital enhancement).

They require that you BUY it (5,000 or so, I think)first, and then return it if you don't like it. Again, they don't want to have their instruments out being seen by people who aren't in a position to actually purchase one right then and there.

Since no one in my entire state owns one, and I didn't feel like tying up 5 grand, I decided to pass.

December 19, 2007 at 06:33 PM · "...pencil lead & diamonds." Don't forget Fullerines (Buckey balls)

December 19, 2007 at 06:37 PM · Hi, I agree with you, Julie, about the recordings. From my experience, they are useless, from the point of view of the buyer at least... Did anyone listen to this:

It's apparently the violin built by the two students at the University of Southern California. It's a recording, too, though... but it's next to the recording of the wooden violin they started with, so maybe there is some comparison to be made. It sounds nice, but, again, who knows. Would a five thousand dollar wooden violin sound that good (regardless of whether the sound was doctored or not)?

December 20, 2007 at 12:45 AM · I have heard tell of a violin made of Balsa wood (no joke) that beat at a number of high end Cremonese instruments at least in volume in a sound test at the Oberlin institute on violin making. This comes on good authority from our local violin maker who attended the event.

December 20, 2007 at 01:57 AM · That would be our buddy, Doug Martin, who attends the VSA/Oberlin Acoustics workshop. The violins are basically constructed of balsa with carbon fiber reinforcement.

Here's a picture of of another of our buddies, Rene Morel, hamming it up as usual, doing a soundpost adjustment on one of Doug's violins. Doug is slightly to the right of center, far rear.

Mr. Morel teaches at another of our workshops which runs at the same time as the acoustics workshop.


January 1, 2008 at 01:36 AM · I tried one a while ago and I must admit the sound was pretty decent. From what I remember, the articulation and response were great too; only the sound projection was disappointing to my taste. This said, I would never get one because I truly think they're ugly!

January 1, 2008 at 11:08 PM · I've been using my L&C violin every day for about a year now and it still works. It's totally unaffected by weather & humidity changes. I live in Orlando and brought it with me to Big Sky Montana, where I am now. After a day of travel from 80+ degree humidity to a 10 degree mountain top, the fiddle was still in tune and sounded as good as ever. It felt like holding a popsicle for a few minutes, but worked just fine. I thought about really testing it by leaving it out on the deck all night, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

January 14, 2008 at 06:26 PM · I just received my L&C violin last week. I would judge the tone as being more on the bright side, but I am going to experiement with different strings,...they come with Dominants. I think the instrument begs to be played, if you are a pretty good player, I think the instrument should perform to your level of playing. I asked Louis to search his inventory of violins and find one that represented a darker sound. I trust that he did do this and the instrument I received certainly cannot be described as overly bright. I would suggest you try out a violin to see how it performs for you. I strongly recommend that you have someone else play it so you can stand back a few feet to hear the instrument as it does not sound anything like a traditional violin under your ear.

I like my violin and see it as an instrument I can use for outside concerts and hauling back and forth in the cold weather to our orchestra rehersals. Good luck in your analysis!!

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