The Diference of Tone Wood's Affects What?

December 16, 2007 at 02:08 AM · There are Romainian Violins made from woods other than Tiger Maple. Bird's Eye Maple; Walnut; Quilt Maple and Ash. Can anyone who has or have tried these violins tell their expeience(s) with them? How Did You Like Them?

Replies (25)

December 16, 2007 at 02:56 AM · Let me guess Royce you have been looking at the Gliga website

December 16, 2007 at 03:06 AM · While woods make a difference, the construction is far more important. If you are lucky enough to know exactly who you want to build your instrument then you have the luxury of worrying about this wood or that one.

December 16, 2007 at 04:22 AM · Something like this Gliga Hellier...

December 16, 2007 at 01:14 PM · Blake- Yes. And they have some very beautiful violins.

Mike- So "type" of sound-wood wouldn't make that much difference. It's the quality of contruction including the Luthier's set up?

December 16, 2007 at 01:17 PM · Cris- Perhaps something less guady but yes. I do like the violin that your post suggested.

December 16, 2007 at 01:44 PM · my question, if i may, is about this description that i see often that on the front plate, the wood grain is narrow in the middle and then wider to the 2 sides...

December 16, 2007 at 02:12 PM · Al Ku- If I'm reading your post correctly I believe that's what is looked for on the top plate of Spruce. The grains are tight towards the center, and widden out towards the edges.

Until going this particular violin sight, I have never seen or heard of woods other than Flame/Tiger Maple. I'm just currious what to expect from these. I want to buy a nice student model.

Will these violins have good sound or would I be paying for asthetics?

December 16, 2007 at 02:58 PM · Gliga does OK; sound is usually pretty good, considering the price.

The quilted and birdseye maple should sound pretty much the same with as normal curly maple. I haven't heard Gliga's walnut and ash instruments, but the ones I have heard using these woods sound distinctly different from maple and to my ear, it's not an improvement. (I'm strongly biased toward the Italian sound, because that's what we make.)

I think that if a maker specialized in a particular wood, and made a number of violins, incrementally improving the arching and graduation on each one (and experimenting with ground) they might eventually come up with a good sounding instrument, but walnut and ash just don't seem to work all that well if they are treated the same as maple.

December 17, 2007 at 03:39 AM · Royce,

I don't consider set-up to be part of the construction, but it's another important factor. A proper bridge or soundpost can have an adverse affect if not positioned properly.

December 17, 2007 at 05:55 PM · This has been discussed at length. Do a search for "spruce top maple."

Really, the top needs to be spruce that has been properly dried/aged so it highly resonates. The grain ideally should be thin pinstripes tightly spaced. However there are good violins that do not have that exact pinstriping. (That spacing ideally gets wider from center to outside with cellos.) Spruce is a superior wood for the top because the wood is actually made of hollow tubes bundled together.

Ideally, the sides and back are made from highly-figured maple that has grown at high altitudes so the grain is dense, such as from Bosnia. Theoretically, you can use beech, ash willow and other hardwoods for the sides and back. Often these other woods are used when the maker wants the back to be made of one piece of wood. You have to find a piece of wood big enough to make a one-piece back. Generally, a one piece back made from these other materials is probably going to be a little warmer sounding. A two-piece back is structurally going to be stronger.

An aged spruce top and figured maple back and sides is the default standard, but not the only way.

You can make a violin out of synthetic materials, but that is a radically different paradigm.

December 17, 2007 at 06:22 PM · Ok, well I guess my question is answered. I wish to thank all of you who paricipated in answering.

December 17, 2007 at 09:41 PM · If I may say one more thing: the consideration of a variety of tonewoods is standard for guitar commissions, but not (to my knowledge) for violins.

December 17, 2007 at 11:25 PM · Todd, I'm not sure the top "has" to be Spruce, though who would want to take a chance on anything else? Some fabulous guitars have been built with Koa tops, and of course cedar is a standard for many classical guitars & smaller flat-tops. I see no reason why those species could not yeild a superb violin.

However, as has been said, the maker would likely have to experiment for many years to find the ideal graduations & arching for such woods. Who could afford such luxurious R&D expenditure?

As for backs & sides, I once recorded a stunning violin made from walnut, but indeed it did not sound like European Maple.


I just purchased a "fiddle" (in this case, that designation clearly applies) made by Grover Sutton, with what appears to be Cherry back & sides. This was an Ebay purchase, and I do not have it here yet, so I can't comment on the sound. Will do so soon. (I bought the fiddle because both Grover's son and grandson are very famous musicians. If it turns out to be a fine instrument, that will be icing on the cake.) I'm curious if Cherry is somewhat common with American violins, specifically made for bluegrass & Country styles.

December 17, 2007 at 11:48 PM · Allan- I would like to know how it sounds. It's the reason why I started this thread.

Mike- I wonder "why" maple (flamed) is used for the sides and backs?

I am thinking of going to the "Luthiers" list here at and see what they have to say. Next, post a Blog of what they had too say.

December 18, 2007 at 12:08 AM · Some comments about this issue appeared in this recent thread:

Maple in general is a nice musical wood which doesn't impose too much character on an instrument, it is also probably the most common decorative wood there is, and the violin was invented or at any rate it’s design solidified at a time when a beautiful appearance was valued. Then the instrument evolved to the Stradivari/Del Gesu heights based on the use of spruce and maple.

December 18, 2007 at 05:27 PM · Provided that the wood (spruce and maple) is of good quality, tone and sound is up to the maker. I never blamed (or praised) my instruments because of the wood I've used to make them.

Many classic Italian instruments were made with wood that would be considered third rate and would not be accepted by today's frowners, that is, wood with knots (found even in some Strads), "cipollature" (sorry, I don't know how to say that in English), wormy wood, tops with too wide or too tight grain, etc. Even with these problems the instruments sound good because the makers made them good.

December 18, 2007 at 06:14 PM · Luis- Muito Borigaddo (I hope I spelled that correctly? It's been awhile since I've been around Portugese) Thank you so very much for your imput! I hope that I can write you with any questions I may have that would need a Luthier to answer.

Kindest Regards,


December 19, 2007 at 12:49 AM · So many myths tend to be perpetuated as fact!

Grain width on a top is only loosely related to strength and tonal qualities. A subjective evaluation of how an instrument sounds will serve a musician much better than paying any attention to grain width.

A one-piece back needn't be any weaker, or sound any different from a two-piece back.

I've made two violins with "Port Orford cedar" tops, and was unable to tell a difference in sound from European spruce.

That said, I think the most reliable way to produce a traditional sound is to use traditional materials, and as Mr. Manfio said, the "quality" of these materials, historically, was all over the map.

Also liking what Richwine has said.

David Burgess

December 19, 2007 at 11:25 AM · Thanks David!

December 19, 2007 at 12:19 PM · My first full-size violin was made around 1965 by the New Zealand violinmaker, Ian Sweetman, out of Mangeao (Litsea calicaris) ie. the ribs and back. I believe he made a viola out of this wood at the same time as an experiment, no doubt to see if this local wood was a viable alternative to maple. I sold the instrument about 20 year's ago so it's hard to remember exactly the sound, however in 1985 it was used by a finalist in a Young Musician's competition performing as soloist the Dvorak Concerto with the NZSO.

December 19, 2007 at 01:09 PM · Hi Royce! Yes, I speak Portuguese, but I speak Italian too! And yes, feel free to contact me. You can see some of my instruments here:

Obrigado! Ciao!

December 20, 2007 at 08:28 AM · Lyndon,

I agree with your sentiments, but just have to say:

That is the single longest sentence I have ever seen! (g)

December 20, 2007 at 01:33 PM · As I understand it, there were issues like plague, political upheaval, and tax issues that made tonewood very hard to get during certain periods in Italy. Remember, this stuff had to be cut and hauled by oxcart and ship over a fairly long distance, and travel was a lot harder then. If the makers wanted to eat, they had to make, so they did the best they could with what they could get..

December 20, 2007 at 03:55 PM · Lyndon- How much does Aesthetics play on the price of a violin? I guess it would depend on the maker?

Luis- Gorgeous work, and not just the beautiful wood, but the excellent symetry!!!!

September 29, 2010 at 10:48 PM ·

  I believe I may have found the English equivalent of "cipollature" (plural of "cipollatura") in Luis's post of December 18, 2007. It appears to be "ring shake", which is a tangential separation of the wood fibers along parts of the annual rings.


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