Difference between Stradivari and Guarneri model violins?

January 17, 2008 at 07:37 PM · I would appreciate an explanation of the differences between these violin models. Why does a violinist choose one over the other?

Replies (92)

January 17, 2008 at 07:40 PM · Guarneri is dark, the Strad is bright so i think it's a matter of taste.

January 17, 2008 at 07:44 PM · I think the matter of light and dark is more about how someone plays... fundamentally Strads are more focused and require a very precise sounding point along with very controlled bow pressure and speed.

We already know that most people, even great violinists, couldn't tell the difference between the sound of a del Gesu and a Strad if their lives depended on it. There's a number of violinists who would sound like they're playing on a del Gesu even if they're playing on a Strad. Shlomo Mintz uses a Strad family instrument and you'd swear he's using a DG. There's a number of these examples. Kavakos for example, has a playing style that fits a Strad and even if he were playing a DG I'd be convinced he's playing a Strad just because of the character of the sound. You'll know the difference when you play the thing, as they feel different, and there's a few things even regular people without any training like myself can pick up just on the physical appearance of the thing.

January 18, 2008 at 12:01 AM · Also when you're talking about 'models' then much depends on who the maker is. If we're not talking about high-end makers then quite often the differences aren't as systematic as one might suppose. Does factory 'X' really use a Del Gesu outline and arching for their 'Guarneri' model or do they just put different fs on it?

Here are some past threads which have gone into this issue in depth:






January 18, 2008 at 01:59 AM · I didn't know that many makers were in that "50K and up" range.

January 18, 2008 at 02:19 AM · Mike, not only contemporary makers have made copies of Strad/Del Gesu.

Honestly I don't really agree with Josh's experience but that's his opinion so whatever, but as has already been established, much better violinists than anyone here have not been able to tell the difference between them on sound alone. It all matters how the mechanics of the instrument works to bring out the sound you like. They lend themselves to different styles of playing and they feel different, especially with the bow.

January 18, 2008 at 03:29 PM · Yes Lyndon, only the great Vuillaume could possibly have copied a del Gesu and Strad. Forget the scores of contemporary makers who have been acknowledged for making brilliantly accurate and faithlful copies by people infinintely more knowledgeable than you or I.

A lot of Vuillaumes are garbage, so I'm afraid that wouldn't help someone trying to find consistency with copies.

January 18, 2008 at 03:39 PM · Folks, I think that when T-Netz asked what is the difference bewteen the two it's more than just how they sound? I believe the question also ask's are there any physical differences? Does one use a different tone wood? Is the belly arch higher/lower? Does one have the sound post positioned differently, wider finger board, etc.?

January 18, 2008 at 04:11 PM · del Gesus tend to be a bit smaller and I believe that they have a flatter arch.

January 18, 2008 at 05:26 PM · I haven't had the opportunity to play a genuine Del Gesu Guarnerius, but I did have the opportunity to play a genuine Strad 37 years ago, so I cannot compare the two instruments (and even then, individual instruments can vary), but a violin maker whom I know and trust (who shall remain nameless, so he doesn't get any flack from what I may be mis-reporting) has told me that with HIS Strads and Guarneri, based on the accoustical properites of their patterns, that the Guarnerius is capable of a bigger, more projecting tone, but you have to work a lot harder (put more effort into it) to produce that tone. The Strad has good projection, but not as much top end (volume) potential as a Guarnerius, but the Strad takes a lot less effort to reach its full potential projection (which is, as stated earlier, a little bit less than the Guarnerius). I don't know if this is tue of the originals as well, but my friend seemed to think so.

January 18, 2008 at 05:31 PM · Lyndon, of course every maker has their own ideas and imprint on instruments. I was just rejecting this idea that there's like this critical price at which point you can consider a violin a valid specimen.

January 18, 2008 at 06:49 PM · We also know that $15,000 violins have been able to fool expert listeners (some of them owners of Strad/Del Gesu) as well.

January 18, 2008 at 06:53 PM · i can imagine there is a consensus of some sort when comparing strads and guarneris, the real ones, BUT, when you compare strad MODELS vs guarneri MODELS, except the outlines or lengths maybe,,,the sound can be anything.

January 18, 2008 at 07:11 PM · Al,

have you ever considered the wild and outlandish possibility that contemporary makers copy the exact measurements of a particular violin not only because they admire the construction, but because they know that they might get close to the sound? I know it sounds like a totally novel idea, but mull it over for a few minutes.

January 18, 2008 at 07:33 PM · ok pieter, time is up: they WISH they might get close to the sound:)

for t netz, if david burgess or micheal d say that their 2 models sound different quite consistently, that is, strad model having strad flavor and guarneri model having guarneri flavor, i might buy it.

but, for a person walking into the marketplace and ask for a strad model (can be from anywhere anyone's shop or sweatshop) expecting certain telling differences in terms of "sound" or even brightness vs darkness, it is too much to ask! :)

a lot of people in the violin industry will be out of their jobs if things are that simplistic!

January 18, 2008 at 07:40 PM · Al, a lot of great violinists have said in public that contemporary instruments sound very good, sometimes as good as a Strad or Guarneri.

Somehow I'm more inclined to believe them than a thread of people, some of whom aren't even violinists.

And no, it isn't too much to ask. A skilled maker like David Burgess is very consistent and knows that when he's scraping and cutting away at that piece of wood what he wants it to sound like, and he knows how to attain it. Violin making isn't completely random. If a skilled violin maker takes a del Gesu and copies its demensions and understands many of the core cremonese techniques then you're going to get a violin that in some ways works like a del Gesu. We also know that several makers have achieved violins very similar to a del Gesu feel and sound.

January 18, 2008 at 08:01 PM · pieter, i have no problem with the points you are making; in fact, i agree.

the point i was making is something else, that is, not all strad models in this world are created equal, and therefore, when someone asks for the telling difference, you don't know what to say for the reasons that i have listed...

January 18, 2008 at 08:03 PM · Al

What is "brightness vs darkness"?

January 18, 2008 at 08:07 PM · james, didn't micheal d provide a list of sound describing words on the thread that you have started?

January 18, 2008 at 08:08 PM · no al of course not. First of all, because there are many strads. However, with really great makers, you're going to get a very good "take" on a strad, of course with all the quirks of the maker himself, but there's just such an overwhelming amount of violin makers now who can make you a violin that can easily match a great deal of what is on the market, so I would think that a good strad model from a top maker would give you quite a good idea how the real thing would feel.

January 18, 2008 at 10:25 PM · Pieter, shut up! Better for you to be silent and be thought of as a fool but oh no, you had to open your mouth and remove all doubt!

January 19, 2008 at 01:23 AM · Greetings,


January 18, 2008 at 10:41 PM · Ladies! Ladies! Put the handbags down!

January 18, 2008 at 10:43 PM · Jim, my purse wasn't even poised to strike. I had no idea it was comming. I'll have to have a botox party to get over this.

January 18, 2008 at 11:30 PM · Pieter,

I don't agree that you should necessarily keep your mouth shut. But lately many of your posts have been pretty arrogant in a "20-year-old know-it-all- I -attend-a-New York Conservatory" way. A few months ago I decided to stop being a combative jerk, but you seem to have decided to pour it on, as if you have a chip on your shoulder. You're not the only "expert" on all things violin. Try toning it down and you won't get those messages.


January 19, 2008 at 12:40 AM · Truth hurts!

January 19, 2008 at 01:23 AM · No need

January 19, 2008 at 12:55 AM · Pie-Eatter, Sorry. I meant Pieter... You're so cute! You are such a cad! LOL!!!

"I could email what Luarie said, etc., et., You can't email me what "you" say" You'so cute!!! I just love your posts!:-{)

January 19, 2008 at 12:55 AM · Love you too royce.

January 19, 2008 at 01:00 AM · Thank God!!!! Men can love men as brothers than pump their emotions in an atomic bomb! and anialate each other.. Peiter.. You just won my heart! May you live a life with care frree joy!

Thank You my son!!! I Mean that sincerly!! People should passiontely disagree and leave one another as brother's and sister's!

January 19, 2008 at 01:17 AM · So we've made up now? (Sometimes Mommy just lets them duke it out)

January 19, 2008 at 02:23 AM · I have never had the opportunity to play authentic Strads or Del Gesus, but the models I have played, I would say that the Gesus were better sounding than their equivalent Strad model counterpart. Is that anyone else's experience? If you are a maker, is it possible that the Gesu models tends to achieve a grander sound because of its dimensions versus a Strad?

January 19, 2008 at 06:26 AM · It depends. The back tends to be flatter on most of the ones I've seen. I've heard some of the tables can be quite bulbous, but it's not consistent.

January 19, 2008 at 07:15 AM · Generally in the case of the good ones, Del gesus have so many "layers" of color potential, and in the right hands, more power than Strads. But there is a silvery brilliance and pure projection in great Strads that carry in a different way. Yet, I've played Dark, throaty Strads and Bright, piercing delgesus over the years. I personally love del gesus, and actually think they are more challenging and rewarding to play on. But it truly does depend on the individuals approach to playing.The "other " "Kreisler" Del Gesu currently played by Nicolaj Znaider is perhaps my current favorite

January 19, 2008 at 07:22 AM · One more thought. If one discusses copies, assuming the workmanship is good, archings, measurements, graduations and varnish are in the ball park, there is no real bottom end , except cheap factory instruments , to where some of the model's tonal attributes would apply.I'd like to ask a rhetorical question. We are all, I hope, trying to lead lives that bring something that represents the best, not the worst in mankind to the world. Does acrimony and insult put any of us in a good creative place?

January 19, 2008 at 08:14 AM · give it to the violins, they are all beautiful regardless of the makers. tone quality more significantly lies on the player.by the way,why don't we move on with time rather than being conservatively exreme,i believe,somewhere,somehow there exist better violins than strad or dg.jet age is better than stone age,thats my opinion anyway.

January 19, 2008 at 07:18 PM · here is an interesting site that shows a transaxial CT scan of a Strad and Del Gesu. The Del Gesu, shows a much deeper arched back and belly.


January 19, 2008 at 07:31 PM · John, it's tough to make a comparison because the CT scans are of different areas. The Strad is a cross section of the widest part of the lower bout, and the Guarneri is through the "C" near the upper corner.

January 19, 2008 at 09:47 PM · If it had been a snake it would have bit me. I didn't even read it, sorry David. The CT's are pretty cool though ;)

January 20, 2008 at 12:07 AM · From John Allison;

"The CT's are pretty cool though ;) "


Yes they are!

With the original files and the right program, you can read dimensions (including thickness), and even get the wood density at a particular spot.

January 20, 2008 at 02:17 AM · On the scans: am I seeing a bassbar but not soundpost?

January 20, 2008 at 12:45 PM · From Mike Harris;

"On the scans: am I seeing a bassbar but not soundpost?"


Mike, imagine laying the violin on a table and cutting it crosswise into 20 sections with a saw. The view in the scan shows one of these "slices". The bass bar is long enough to be included in almost any vertical slice, but the soundpost won't show unless the slice being viewed happens to be at the soundpost location.


From Lyndon Taylor;

"Pieter, If brand new American violins are so good worth 15,000USD-30,000, why are the hundred year old American violins worth only 1,000-5,000 with a hudred years to age etc. I happen to think makers were better 100yrs ago too,Fortuanetly this new is better crowd is still a minority in the violin world, sincerely Lyndon"


Lyndon, isn't that a little silly? Have you priced a Gemunder or a Carl Becker Sr.?

Sure, there are many factory and amateur-made fiddles from that era that aren't worth much.

High-quality making on a large scale didn't really take off in the US until around 1980, largely because it was difficult to make a living as a maker prior to that time.

As recently as the 1970s, many Strads were sold at auction for under fifty thousand dollars.

Today, a quality new violin can be purchased for around 2 percent of the price of a Strad, so if we apply that ratio to Strad prices in the 70s, you can see how it would have been difficult for a maker to earn a living.

Lyndon, you may feel that American makers were better 100 years ago than they are today, but I don't think you'll find any experts who agree with you.

January 20, 2008 at 12:42 PM · I would be interested David in hearing your explanation in the differences between a Strad and DelGesu model.

January 20, 2008 at 01:06 PM · David...

It's not worth it. There's just no point anymore. This guy sells violins on ebay. He definately knows things the rest of world doesn't.

January 20, 2008 at 01:16 PM · Peter Carter, your question is tough to answer, because the differences could be numerous, or they could be almost non-existent.

On a "factory" violin, the only difference might be the style of the F holes, and maybe something about the shape of the scroll.

On a meticulous copy, a maker might try to include every noticeable detail.

Arching and thickness schemes are probably the most important differences affecting the sound. I'm reluctant to generalize about how modern instruments sound with each model, because I think it's possible to get either sound out of either visual model, either by design or by accident.

January 20, 2008 at 01:29 PM · Hi,

As a player, I find that Strads and DGs have to be played differently. Though each instrument as a general rule is different, most DGs will withstand (even require) a slower bow and a considerable amount of pressure more than a Strad, which reponds better to lots of bow speed and the right contact point. Even the copies if played well seem to respond a bit in this direction.

Of course with Strads, each model he used responds differently. You can't play the early types the same as the long patterns or the large patterns. Oddly enough, the long pattern instruments seem to withstand more bow weight and pressure than the large patterns. Why, I don't.

So, as for players choosing a model it depends on several things. Some soloists don't get the choice - you get what you are loaned. Other choose based on the sound of a particular instrument, while some on the way the violin needs to be played, which makes them more comfortable. I have to say that in general DGs tend to be far more forgiving than Strads (the good violins based on their models as well).

My own two cents...


January 20, 2008 at 01:49 PM · From Lyndon Taylor;

"2% of 50,000 is 1000 quite a bit for a violin in the 70s, in 1990 my teacher RE Evans got 5,000 again quite a bit for a violin, youre arguement fails to account for inflation David.sincerely Lyndon"


Lyndon, prices of Strads and Guaneris have exceeded the price of inflation according to the available data, so I don't think the argument fails to account for inflation.

You're right, it would have been POSSIBLE to run a business, purchase materials and tools, and support a family on $12,000 per year ($1000 per fiddle) in the 70s, if one were willing to take a vow of poverty. ;) I think this emerging possibility was what started the transition from mostly restorers who made an occasional instrument, to the large number of full-time makers we have today.

January 20, 2008 at 08:31 PM · Lyndon, I'm glad that you've found a great business for yourself and I hope that it's a success, but with due respect, if you actually think that american violins from the early 1900s are better than the ones made now, then you're clearly ignoring the mountains of studies on violinmaking since then and the wealth of information which has come available. The general level of violin making has never been higher.

January 21, 2008 at 02:51 PM · I find Strad models to be brighter and more singing-like. I have a Guarneri model German violin, and it's very earthy, gutsy, and dark. Has anyone noticed that the Guarneri models tend to be built a little small (lengthwise) and a little thick (in the ribs) compared to strad models, which seem to be the opposite?

January 21, 2008 at 07:52 PM · Tasha,

I also am playing an older (circa 1894) and somewhat Guarneri-esque German violin, and find it to have a less complex and darker sound than the Stradivari-based violin I once played, but overall it is a much better instrument and has more potential (however, we are talking about instruments in the $4,000-$5,000 range, so take it for what it is worth). The German instrument is a tad shorter with less pronounced arching as per what is considered more typical of a del Gesu, but is not of greater thickness in the ribs, and it lacks the characteristic fuller lower bout of a Guarneri. But, it does have very charming f-holes, somewhat reminiscent of a del Gesu (albeit a bit more symmetrical than your typical del Gesu, especially those of his later period). For the record, I play Eudoxa strings on the G and D and a Gamut plain gut A, with a Hill E. The Eudoxa A lacked response compared to an unwound A, and was a bit overpowering when coupled with the remainder of the set. When I received the German violin it was adorned with a new set of Evah’s, but I have found the gut strings to have more resonance and character, not to mention an undeniable sentimental appeal for those of us who prefer all things old (at least with respect to the world of the violin).

To my ears, and I can only go off recordings here so take it for what it is worth, Guarneri del Gesu violins do not appear to have as rich a spectrum of overtones as the Stradivari instruments. When I say this I am referring to known vintage del Gesu and Stradivari violins (and only those I have heard, which is a fraction of the actual), played by virtuosos of considerable repute (not genuine “copies”, nor copies in design by a maker of a later period). Also, this does not take into account the performer, the performer's choice of strings, nor recording technology as some of the recordings to which I refer are from quite some time ago. However, the trend has been fairly consistent, which I do take to be largely due to the nature of the design as from what I have read to date, which amounts to various well-respected books and online sources (some respected, some perhaps less so), it would seem that Guarneri del Gesu instruments tend to have a greater capacity for power, whereas Stradivari instruments tend to have a more complex tone. Yes, this may be a gross generalization, and of course the real intention of the maker is completely unknown, but I have heard it again and again of how a del Gesu is capable of more power when compared to a Stradivari, and of how Stradivari instruments have a more noble tone. Recordings are unable to reveal much, if anything, of the power of an instrument. Recordings are only able to reveal tone (the tone as recorded, an important distinction) and only with the given set of conditions (performer, strings, hall, etc). However, from my library of recordings there is no doubt that del Gesu instruments sound less complex than Stradivari instruments. However as mentioned, not having had the opportunity to hear these wonders in person I cannot speak of their power and can only go on what others who have heard and played these instruments (top-level soloists) have said. Also, the needs of soloists, who are really the only ones to have the opportunity to play such rare and valuable an instrument as a del Gesu, differ from that of an ordinary player. They need their sound to carry above and beyond the greater orchestra so power, or the ability for their sound to carry and be heard, would be of utmost importance to them, as opposed to an orchestral violinist or lone lover of the violin, those of us who most often find ourselves playing alone and for the love of the music, and the violin. To someone such as this, to myself, power can take a back seat to tone and character, which is why I play gut strings.

But, all of this aside, I am interested in what a maker of David Burgess’ caliber might have to say regarding the above as he obviously has a lot of experience with respect to design, and the affect this may have on tone, power, etc. Of course the choice of wood, the ground, varnish, arching, thickness, strings, setup, age, etc, etc all play their part, but the basic design is the genesis and must have a definite bearing upon the end result when applied by a skilled maker, and must be chosen for more than aesthetic or historic appeal alone, right? Please, David, when you have a chance enlighten us who have far less experience and far less exposure to really good violins, new and old. I know what I hear, and what I like to hear, but I have never played a really nice vintage violin, and seldom have I had the opportunity to play a better violin by a contemporary maker. The violin I currently play was the best I was able to afford, the one with the greatest potential in my hands and the most character in sound, but not the most power.


January 22, 2008 at 01:26 PM · My instrument is in the 3-4000 price range, and also has the best sound and potential in my hands for what I can afford. I use Vision Titanium Orchestra, which have by far the richest, most colorful, and complex sound of any synthetic, but have the LEAST tension of any string I've ever played, including unwound gut (as best to my memory)!

January 22, 2008 at 06:52 PM · As earlier mentioned, the true structural differences between a Strad and a Guarneri "model" could be almost non-existent, but since the most common differences have not been discussed much yet, I would like to briefly suggest what they most often are: I repeat; the difference is often concerning only the appearance of the instrument; and that doesn't always lead to any recognizable, regular acoustical difference.

The three most common structural differences (that might have acoustical consequences) making a Guarneri-inspired instruments differ from a "Strad" are typically:

Longer f-holes

Fuller, possibly slightly lower, arching

Heavier scroll

All of these together should theoretically lead to a darker, steadier sound than the opposite details; a slightly more "centered" arching, lighter scroll, shorter f-holes. Still, all of these factors might be compensated for by graduations, bass-bar, neck set, set-up, strings, and other things that don't regard "style" at all. Therefore, very often this discussion leads out into the purest nonsense :^)

I think the different visual impact of the two makers, that are like a Rembrandt and a Caravaggio, might lead us to think the difference in sound must be equally different converted into sound waves. I think the visual contrast can't be transferred to our hearing , (but I would be surprised to encounter a Strad that sounds like the "Cannone")

January 22, 2008 at 06:40 PM · Here a quote from the December 2007 issue of 'The Strad' page 36 on Vadim Repin:

Repin performs on the 1736 'von Szerdahely' Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, having made the switch to Guarneri from Stradivari five years ago. At the age of 11 he played a three-quarter-size Stradivari, after which he graduated to a series of full-size Stradivaris, most recently the 1708 'Ruby'. 'With a Guarneri you have to focus more on technique to get the sound you want' he says.

What attracted Repin to the Guarneri was the full-blooded bass. The upper registers, on the other hand, possess a laser-sharp clarity. 'In order to get the best out of any instrument, you have to have an ideal sound in mind, and work towards it. My ideal sound is the Stradivari sound, but if you work towards a Stradivari sound on a Guarneri you that the latter possesses a much greater variety of colours.'

One of the biggest differences between a Guarneri and a Stradivari is the speed at which you can articulate with the bow. 'With a Guarneri you can play with a much slower bow speed, without it sounding like you're choking the notes. The Stradivari demands a much faster bow speed- sometimes two bows to get the same quality of tone that you can get with just one on the Guarneri'.


This is one great violinist's opinion, it would be interesting to hear other one's as well.

PS: How do you start a new discussion topic?

January 22, 2008 at 07:32 PM · Tasha, what you have to say about Vision Titanium Orchestra strings is very interesting. One of the things I did not like about Evah's is the tension! It seems like they really take a lot of tension to get to pitch, especially the A, and it just seemed like a lot for an old violin (made in 1894) to have to handle.

Magnus, thank you for taking the time to send your reply. I have noted the same differences between del Gesu and Stradivari instruments and one source of mine, Edward Heron-Allen's book, refers to a particular Guarneri as having the same arching for the back and belly. I found this pretty interesting. The violin I now play has arching and f-holes akin to a Guarneri, but a body shape more akin to a Stradivari. It is a dynamo and a pretty darn good violin. For now it will suit me well as I continue to hone my skills as a violinist. Yes, I do find limitations, but they are not crippling my style, or at least not to too great an extent!

January 22, 2008 at 07:40 PM · Hans, to submit a topic go the the "Discussion" tab at the top of the page. This will then lead you to the general discussion page from which you can find a tab for submitting a topic. There may be a shorter route, but this is how I have always had to do so.

Also, I found the comments you posted by the violinist interesting. Never having had the opportunity to become acquainted with such instruments myself, I always enjoy reading what those who have would say.

January 22, 2008 at 08:02 PM · Hans, I took a moment to read your reply again as I found the player's comments very intriguing. One thing I like so much about the violin I currently play is that even with a very slow bow it is still there, full of life and putting out a gorgeous sound (especially on the D and G strings). However, it also responds well to a quick bow. The A string is a little behind the rest in this regard, but not at all bad. The D string is the most sumptuous I have ever heard, and the G leaves very, very little to be desired. All in all, it has been a very good violin.

January 22, 2008 at 08:53 PM · thanks, chris!

January 23, 2008 at 05:11 PM · Catfights and an education, all in one place!-I LOVE this site!

January 23, 2008 at 05:59 PM · Chris,

My sample size is small, but I didn't come to the same conclusion regarding the complexity of sounds for Strads and Del Gesus.

I've played Strads owned by Steven Staryk and Eunice Lee, and a Del Gesu owned by a well-known soloist I'll call "P.F" (she let me play it on condition I wouldn't tell anyone, due to her insurance terms). Her Del Gesu had what I would call a dark, complex, and woody tone. The two Strads had a much sweeter trumpet-like sound.


I have to agree with you: I'm not sure how Lyndon can claim that 100-year-old American instruments are superior to the ones made today (if that's what he's really claiming). I've heard and played Beckers that were fabulous instruments, but that's about it. Most were rustic but nothing special. Also, I wasn't impressed with the 2 Gemunder samples I've played.

January 24, 2008 at 07:08 PM · Scott,

Thanks for your insight. Some day I would love to have the same opportunity. In fact, it has become a dream of mine, first to hear one in person, then to hold it in my hands and finally to play it under my ear.

I have no doubt that strings (and the setup) also play such an important role in the character of these instruments. To date I have experience with Dominants, Helicores, Evah's, Eudoxas, plain gut and some others I cannot recall on a dozen or so violins of various quality, some actually quite good, but none of course on par with a del Gesu or Stradivari violin. Many of the violins I have played, whether for evaluation or over a much longer term, have worn a variety of strings as I searched for the ideal solution, and each type of string has had its own peculiar traits and brought out something new. Of these, Eudoxas have consistently been the darkest sounding of all and have had the richest character. They bring out subtleties that synthetic strings simply cannot. I am currently playing with Eudoxas and when I put a set of Evah's on the violin I now play it becomes a very different instrument with a very different feel and sound. The violin I currently play was actually set up for Evah's, but my love of gut strings is such that I play them regardless. With Eudoxas the violin is much darker, much richer and seems to have more projection even though it is softer under the ear. When I put on Evah’s the violin is much more bright and the feel is altogether different. I am sure the same would hold true of the “superviolins”, with the exception that they would doubtless make even better use of my beloved gut strings.


January 24, 2008 at 11:09 PM · Chris,

Should the occasion present itself, I would recommend graciously declining any opportunities to play upon a real Strad, Guarneri, or any other instruments of their ilk. Such an experience will have the unfortunate effect of changing your neurochemistry permanently, leading to a chronic but ultimately fatal psychological condition

described (though as yet unamed) in the DSM IV. Called "Geigeshmerz" by Sigmund Freud, the malady instills a deep desire to throw one's own violin into the nearest mill race. Profound depression at not being able to play upon a Strad or Guerneri follows and is incurable.

January 24, 2008 at 11:22 PM · Greetings,

Alexander Technique has had some success in bypassing this pathology. One changes the underlying wish to play on a Strad or Guarneri.

`I wish I was dead,` seems to work quite well.



January 24, 2008 at 11:47 PM · People..........just face it. My violin is the best in the world! :-)

Lol, for you literal people out there, I'm kidding.

Oh, Pieter and Royce, you two lovebirds, glad you made up!

January 24, 2008 at 11:59 PM · Hi,

Though I am not of the stature of Mr. Repin, I have to say that my experience playing Strads and Del Gésus showed the same thing as his; particularly his comment about bow speed.


January 25, 2008 at 02:13 AM · I once read an excellent book on violins that said that Guarneri del Gesu violins have a slightly flatter top (by 3Mmm) than Strads, while the Strads are slightly more arched and generally have a narrower body. The del Gesu violins, thus, are thought to have better projection, while the Strads have maybe a little more sweetness that you can work out of it, although great examples of both types have plenty of power in reserve, and it keeps coming.

I also read that the varnish used by the masters was very important and partially accounts for the great tone. The ingredients they used are no longer available, and nobody knows exactly what they were. The sound quality of a violin changes dramatically from the white (no varnish) to varnished. Varnish that is too thick will prevent the violin from vibratating properly. Bad varnish can harden with time and hamper the sound.

I read that Guarneri del Gesu violins have been more sought after than Strads by some concert soloists because the del Gesu violins have a a better projection for concert halls.

These incredible transaction prices are listed at the website: http://www.stradivariinvest.com/index.html

Instrument: Sold for (US dollars):

Dolphin Stradivari violin of 1714 $5,500,000

Bass of Spain Stradivari cello of 1713 $5,000,000

Hausmann Stradivari cello of 1724 $4,500,000

DeMunck Stradivari cello of 1730 $5,000,000

Ries Stradivari violin of 1699 $3,500,000

The Maiden Stradivari violin of 1708 $5,500,000

General Kyd Stradivari violin of 1714 $5,500,000

La Pucelle Stradivari violin of 1709 $6,000,000

Hammer Stradivari violin of 1707 $3,544,000

Lord Wilton Guarneri del Gesù violin of 1742 $6,000,000

King Joseph Guarneri del Gesù violin of 1737 $6,000,000

Carrodus Guarneri del Gesù violin of 1743 $4,500,000

Kemp Guarneri del Gesù violin of 1738 $6,000,000

Guarneri del Gesù violin of 1699 $3,500,000

Paganini Josephus filius Andrea Guarneri violin of 1696 $1,000,000

Matteo Goffriller cello $1,500,000

Sleaping Beauty Domenico Montagnana cello $3,000,000

I count nine sales at five million or more, including four sales at six million. Plus there are many more "undisclosed price" transactions between private parties in that high-price range. Obviously, something more than utility is happening here.

Of course, the masters made different variations in design, and not all Strads and del Gesu violins are equal in quality. For example, the Strads for Stradivari's "golden period" are considered the best.

That reminds me of the story about Joshua Bell's violin. He wanted to buy the Gibson Ex Huberman, which was made during the golden period, but it was too expensive at $4 million. Then he became very upset when he heard that a German industrialist was going to buy it for a private collection. So Bell sold his Tom Taylor Strad and ponied up a couple million more money to buy the Gibson Ex Huberman. The great news is that Bell’s instrument will be played and not stuck in a museum. By the way, Bell’s investment paid off. According to Wikipedia, Bell's next album sold 5 million copies.

January 25, 2008 at 02:22 AM · "Obviously, something more than utility is happening here.?

Exactly. Besides being great musical instruments they are somewhat akin to antique furniture (certain examples of which also sell for obscene prices).

When people are paying 6 figures for electric guitars made in the 1950's (which originally sold for 2 or 3 hundred dollars), you know that world of collectibles is bat---- crazy.

January 25, 2008 at 02:49 AM · We Love You Too Brian!

January 25, 2008 at 03:03 AM · Hahahahahahaa!!!!!! That's a relief, with the way I've been acting lately!!!!!! :-)

January 25, 2008 at 04:56 AM · >>Guarneri del Gesù violin of 1699 $3,500,000 <<

so... the mighty Joseph made his violin when he was only 1 year old... :p

January 25, 2008 at 01:18 PM · Quote: "I once read an excellent book on violins that said that Guarneri del Gesu violins have a slightly flatter top (by 3 mm) than Strads, while the Strads are slightly more arched and generally have a narrower body. "

Now, this is simply incorrect, and goes to show that one tries to see these instruments as more different than they actually are. Books are full of the strangest notions about "del Gesu" in particular, and although entertaining, they should not be taken seriously. (The most reliable printed info I know of about G dG is found in Biddulphs book, "25 masterpieces by G dG")

January 25, 2008 at 01:47 PM · The basic problem in comparing Stradivari and del Gesu is that Stradivari worked for 70 years, in a lot of different styles, and del Gesu didn't work as long, but for all the different things he did, he might have well have.

Maybe the smartest comparison to make is between golden period Strads, and the highly-desirable 40s del Gesus, especially from 42 on. But those aren't at all "typical" del Gesus by quantity and style, and the possibly-best del Gesu, the Cannone, doesn't really resemble any other del Gesu too closely in some essential details. And then there's the problem of regraduation in del Gesus--only a few remain with what was probably his typical and consistent graduation pattern, and those are some of the best, and least typical in other respects.

So what, exactly, is the comparison being made here? I do think there is one to be made, but no one has expressed it concisely, mostly because I don't think this group has sufficient information to look at the problem in an objective way. To do that, you'd have to look at long-term characteristics of both makers that are represented in specific instruments, which overall gives a general tendency towards an answer. Though a couple of people, by quoting others, are coming close, mostly the people who are discussing this have no real even slightly-extensive experience with any of the instruments being discussed.

January 25, 2008 at 03:02 PM · I find it intruiging that so much mystery surrounds del Gesu and his work. I read portions of Hill's book on the Guarneri family of makers again last night, and in particular the section having to do with del Gesu. The thing I find most striking about his instruments is the way he worked in what appears to be such a free style, and at times with what seems a total lack of regard for the final conception, at least from the perspective of symmetry and appearance. However, was there a method to the madness? Is there a technical reason del Gesu’s f-holes are so often lacking in symmetry, the one on the treble side often higher than the other, and at times less, other times more, open. The end result, tonally-speaking, would tell one that del Gesu left nothing of importance to chance, and it would seem to me that f-hole placement, size, etc. is an important factor in determining the end result, from a tonal aspect.

With regard to material thickness, it is unfortunate to know that so many of these fine instruments are no longer in their original form. Yet, even so they remain at the pinnacle of greatness. One that is largely considered to be original with respect to material thickness is the Cannone, and what thickness! In so many ways del Gesu seems to go on a wild tangent, and yet he pulls it all together in the end. I continue to be amazed and hope for the day I can meet the maker in person, when I at long last hold his art in my very hands as I sound that first note.

January 25, 2008 at 04:04 PM · I think if you look more closely at del Gesus, and don't believe what was written 100 years ago and unthinkingly repeated by subsequent writers, you'll find that not only is del Gesu one of the cleanest of the Cremonese makers, but also one of the more consistent. There's hardly a prettier, more carefully-made violin than the 1737 King Joseph, for instance, and most examples from about 1734 to the Cannone are exceptionally precise.

The issue of symmetry is irrelevant to discussing Cremonese violins, none of which are particularly symmetrical, nor do I think they were intended to be. Marking down for this is using a modern, industrial age, grading scale, without regard to the original concept. All of the Cremonese makers used rules that are very different from what German factories established in the late 1800s and violin making schools taught until very recently. Within the Cremonese rules, things like f-hole placement is very consistent, even for del Gesu, but you have to be measuring from the right places.

Regarding graduation, it's interesting that some of the most highly-regarded ones retain thick graduations. Paganini, himself, recognized the value of this and was constantly searching for unregraduated examples. If I can generalize, the regraduated ones, for the most part, aren't the ones most highly regarded for their tonal quality, though because of their arching they do retain a lot of the del Gesu personality.

January 25, 2008 at 08:31 PM · Michael,

You bring up some good points, and yes my only experience comes about by virtue of the experience of others. So, in a sense I am a lowly parrot. However, to look at the violins of del Gesu, and then to look at those of Stradivari or Amati (the elder as well as the younger of the Amati clan), it is apparent that each had a very different approach to their work, or a different personality behind their work. Of course their clientele may have been from differing strata within society, and for this reason del Gesu may not have invested as much time in his work as the others. But, this possibility aside, to look at the photographs of the violins from these great makers, one cannot but help be impressed with a sense of urgency or haste on the part of del Gesu, as opposed to Stradivari or Amati. Some of del Gesu’s scrolls are quite different from one another, and the f-holes never look as precise, and vary considerably one from another. That he arrived at the same destination, if not a finer one, only attests all the more to his genius. At least that is the impression I have of him. I do not doubt there was at all times a method to his work, indeed being a Guarneri he must have been well trained, but to my eye his work just seems less precise. But, again, I only have photographs as a reference point, that and the word of others who have had the opportunity to hold, measure, play and in some cases dissect the violins of del Gesu. In the end it matters little to me, and I find a definite charm with respect to del Gesu’s work, a charm that actually draws me nearer than the work of other great past masters. The violins of del Gesu seem a more transparent window into the soul of the maker, and the results say it all. What more could one desire?

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, and if you have any further observations, please share these as well. Material thickness and f-holes aside, I find the arching of del Gesu’s violins very interesting as well. Since I have no reference to the contrary, it would seem that none of the past masters worked with arching templates, templates that seem so commonplace today. Rather, it would appear that the past masters let their experience and the wood that lay before them reveal the arching that would have been appropriate. This makes sense to me and whereas arching templates may provide a good starting point for the beginner, I would think that the aspiring maker would have to at some point in time lay the templates aside and let their own thoughts become their guide. And, with respect to the work of del Gesu, it would appear that he did so in all respects to a greater extent than any of the other past masters, and with a better result. At least this is the impression I have had of the man and his work, the writings of others aside, and I am in complete admiration.


January 25, 2008 at 08:32 PM · Actualy Brian Neither He Nor I can take credit!

Our success is due to our learning the secret of "The Prune"!!!!!!

January 25, 2008 at 11:00 PM · Michael,

The Cannone you feature on your website is simply stunning! The f-holes, the shape of the body, the varnish, etc. all make for a VERY stunning violin. Good work!


January 26, 2008 at 12:26 AM · Michael,

Hi, me again. I read the Soundpost interview on your website and from what you say (as well as what some others have said), I get the impression that with a violin based upon the work of del Gesu (as opposed to Stradivari, or some others), the performer must work a bit harder, but the violin will deliver a good return and without bottoming out. Based upon your experience, does that sound like an accurate statement?

Also, as I read your history I felt as though I was reading my own, at least with respect to the transition from guitarmaking to the making of violins. Guitars and violins are quite different, of course, yet they share similarities as well. Also, some of the better classical guitars of the past, for one the 1937 Hauser that Segovia played, wore comparatively thick soundboards. I used to think that thinner (and lighter) was always better, but I learned that such is not always the case, that it is not so simple and that a thicker section may yield a more wonderful and sonorous tone. From the work of del Gesu, it would appear that the same can be true of the violin.

I have yet to actually make a violin, and have spent my time to date (the last year or so) studying the subject and learning what I can from the text of others. I do not have the good fortune of being able to view in person really fine instruments, much less study them in any detail. I would have to agree that such would provide an invaluable education, and perhaps some day I will be able to do so, but regardless I am ever more intruiged by what I do read and learn. I have been able to spot discrepancies here and there, some authorative, some not. I try to all the while understand as deeply as possible what it is I am being told. To me, the greatest mystery of all must be the varnish as this is the most difficult aspect of a violin to observe in a direct manner, to dissect and study in parts, as opposed to form which avails itself to study and to measurement in a much friendlier way. To me the subject of violinmaking and the great makers of the past is truly fascinating, truly fascinating indeed.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experience.


January 26, 2008 at 01:03 AM · Yes, I think you've nailed it as regards the personality of the sound.

Not all del Gesus are difficult to get going, but a lot of them are, thanks to both arching and grads, and the interaction of the two. I suspect a lot of the earlier ones were regraduated because he didn't quite have his arching worked out well. I have seen only one earlier one with perfect thick grads, and it didn't have the arching of the ones around it in time, but was more similar to the better later ones--I wonder if because it worked (which it did) it was left alone.

If the arching is really perfect, with thick wood the result is a sophisticated but also responsive instrument, and I think the Cannone is one of the best examples of this, from what I can tell (I have not played it, but I did get to hear it in a hall with only the player, who was preparing for her Paganini Competition winner's concert) present, and thus was able to ask her about the experience). There are others of the same thickness, though, which are *very* difficult, and they don't have exctly that same type of arch (when the Wieniaski was at Bein & Fushi for four (!!) years, unsold, I heard only three people make it sound good, but it was very, very, very good when they played it).

It's not so easy to talk about arching in type, so I won't try too hard, but if I were generalizing (and the following are some very broad generalizations; please also remember that no maker's work is as simply linear as the following description, which sort of hits the highlights, not the specifics), I'd say that del Gesu started making a flatter-centered version of his father's bloated figure-eight arch which is fortunately more effective than his father's and resembles a late Strad just a bit, in being broad and full. That's up to 1730 or so, and then for a couple of years he made something more like a really nice Brothers Amati arch filtered through Stradivari, for just a couple of years. There are a few really fine instruments from that period, including Gidon Kremer's and the Kreisler.

Then, around 1734 he got sidetracked into a very scoopy, Nicolo Amati type arch, but quite a bit lower--as low as 13mm--which is the only thing that saved it from being a total failure. These violins are exceptionally beautiful in all respects, and nearly always owned by collectors, not players, which may say something about the tonal effect of the arch. These instruments are some of the most beautiful, carefully made violins ever, very consistent, accurate, and elegant in all respects, though they aren't usually recognized as such. The wood (which is as good or better than anything Stradivari ever had), workmanship, and art, all indicate that in this period del Gesu was the leading man in Cremona violin making.

In the late 30s, say from 1738 to 40 or 41, he started experimenting with a stronger, fuller arch with a lot more tonal potential, and again, there are some nice tonal examples, including Heifetz' and Rosand's. Then in the last period he jumps around a lot, and I'd say the Cannone is a better-developed example of something he was thinking of with the Kreisler and the King, and the unnamed thick one I saw, which was from 1736, I think.

Later, also, are a whole set of violins that I personally do not believe he made, that can be easily categorized by their appearance and which I think are Katarina Guarneri's. One of these, for instance, is the last one, the Sauret, which bears a label dated AFTER his death. As a group, these are effective instruments, but with a different arching concept than all of the others.

This is completely my personal opinion, from having seen about 80 del Gesus, and having played many or most of those, and analyzed them from a violin maker's viewpoint, which is very different from that of experts and players. I don't automatically assume that other people may agree with my conclusions.

By the way, when you're looking at del Gesus, know that virtually all of the middle-period heads are his father's. Many of the early ones, and some of the late, are del Gesu's own. They look blunt from the front, and the turns exit quickly from the eye. The Cannone is a perfect example of his own style. The late "handlebar" heads are completely different, and I think those, which are conceptually not even in the same ballpark, are Katarina's. .. In my opinion....

January 26, 2008 at 01:52 AM · Wow...Thank you for your insight, Michael! That is some of the best knowledge I have seen.

January 26, 2008 at 02:25 AM · Michael, you have packed a lot of very interesting information in your words, information I have never read before, but information that makes tremendous sense when I consider all that I have read and seen to date. What a tremendous gift you have given us all. Thank you so very much for sharing your insights, for sharing the gift of your experience. Most of us will never have the opportunity to work with these fine instruments, and certainly not on the scale you have, and then to apply what is learned as a maker. What a gift you have received, and what a gift when your wife saw the article regarding the opportunities at Bein and Fushi. Surely that moment must have changed your life, for the better and forevermore...a watershed moment when one's calling is made known.

I especially liked your analogy, comparing the making of a violin that could be considered on par with those of the past masters to the giving of a performance on the violin, one that could be considered on par, and equal in all respects, to that of another past master, Jascha Heifetz. Of course, this could never happen. Why? Because no two snowflakes are alike, and so it will remain. The greats establish the benchmark, which remains until the next great arrives upon the scene. However, the passing of time and the way in which the world and society has evolved makes some triumphs of the past impossible to know once more. I fear the same may be true with respect to the making of violins, however only time will tell. One thing is for sure, the world today is a very different place, and no amount of modern technology can take the place of the heart, personality and experience of a maker.

January 26, 2008 at 02:41 AM · Ditto

January 26, 2008 at 03:29 AM · The real question to me is, for how long will these violins be able to remain in active service...for another 100 years...200? Even given the tender loving care of very highly skilled luthiers, and players who look after them as they might a newborn, time will press on and in the process the ravages of such will become all the more difficult to appease. These truly are priceless treasures. Five million dollars is a lot of money for sure, but five million dollars will never replace a Stradivari, del Gesu or Amati, just as it would never replace a tree, nor any other living thing. And in so many respects that is what these priceless violins have become, objects with a soul of sorts, the soul of their maker. This is one of the things I love to much about violins, that they may live long beyond their maker.

January 26, 2008 at 01:20 PM · You know, it finally makes sense to me why the violins of del Gesu were (apparently) not so popular in their youth. In the past it has been suggested that they took more time to mature, that their sound simply took more time to develop. And, given the design, perhaps this is true to an extent. However, I would guess that the main reason is that the average player would not have known how to exploit their potential, and for this reason not have known of their potential. But, over time more and more came to learn what they were capable of, and the reputation grew. And, because they are unprecidented in this respect, they eventually became among the most sought-after violins of all. But, as was the case when they were young, your average violinist of today would still probably not know how to best exploit their potenial. This may be the reason why, greatness aside, some violins do not do very well in blind tests. It is not that they are not great violins, just that the person did not know how to put their potential to good use. It takes time to learn the ins and outs of any violin, even the more common ones. I just switched to an older German instrument a couple of months ago, and I am only now beginning to really know and understand the instrument. Actually, when I step back and consider it, it seems as though I have barely begun.

January 26, 2008 at 02:43 PM · I discussed this very issue with Robert Bein when I started making full-thickness del Gesus. He said that he doubted that del Gesu could make a living today, given that students are the biggest market for new violins, and that students are the least-equipped to understand what a del Gesu offers. Except for one, all of the heavy del Gesu model violins I have made have gone to very experienced professionals who were willing to give the violins time, and understood from the beginning what they had to offer. I've been very surprised, myself, how those violins have turned out after being played for a while.

January 26, 2008 at 08:52 PM · Michael,

What resources would you suggest for one interested in learning more about the work of del Gesu, sources that observe his work from the perspective of a maker? Also, do you happen to know where can I might find The Strad series of posters, such as the Cannone poster, etc?



January 26, 2008 at 09:02 PM · Michael,

One more question, if I may. Do you know who publishes an accurate assessment of the Cannone, both in form, arching and graduation? I have actually been looking for this for a time, but all of the sources I have come across seemed too generic, which led to my considering them unreliable.

Thanks again,


January 26, 2008 at 11:27 PM · This is unquestionably the source you are looking for:


Affording it is another issue, but you may be able to find a copy at a large library, or through a cross-library loan.

January 26, 2008 at 11:54 PM · $900 for 300 pages. It must mean there's a tiny number of customers but it's essential to them.

January 27, 2008 at 01:30 AM · Michael,

Thank you for the feedback. I have long coveted those volumes, but the price tag has put me off due to the fact that they are simply beyond what I can afford. Perhaps in a year or two, should they still be around, I will get my chance. I cannot imagine that too many copies were put in print, but I also cannot imagine that they are moving all that quick, given the cost.

Thanks again, have a good weekend.


January 27, 2008 at 03:18 PM · You know, having thought about this further from an intuitive perspective, this is the way I would interpret what I have come to learn of del Gesu's design. The thickness and graduation of the plates allow the violin to drive hard, to take a lot of effort from the performer and deliver a like return, which gives them the potential to be very powerful instruments. The arching works with the thickness of the plates to provide responsiveness. Of course there is form, body volume, f-holes, wood, varnish and ground, among other considerations, but the arching and material thickness seem to form the backbone of his design, or seem to be his departure. That, and his charming f-holes, which no doubt make their acoustical constribution as well. For one, the size or elongation of his f-holes would likely help to open up such robust plates. Anyway, I find it all extremenly fascinating and right or wrong, as I think about it these are some of the thoughts I have had as to why del Gesu's violins might work as they do.

January 27, 2008 at 03:48 PM · That's basically the way I think of it: that arching facilitates movement by providing just the right structure for the vibrations, and thickness moderates how much energy you can drive into the plates without things going wild. More thickness = greater power range; less, as in a Strad, results in a shorter (twitchier) power range (which may, nevertheless, cover the same volume range, if handled right, but will, inevitably, I think, give different tonal characteristics).

However, if the arching doesn't permit the right types of vibration, then heavy grads impede any movement. If archings aren't right, then thinner graduations can make the plates easy to move, even though they're "wrong". That's why it's easier to make a thin violin than a thick one, and why regraduating violins often makes them work better. This is one of the reasons I'm scornful of tuning experiments: regraduation only goes in one direction, thinner, and any violin that doesn't work will work better if it's made thinner--you don't have to "tune" anything. When tuners get positive results by adding weight instead of removing it, then I'll be impressed.

January 27, 2008 at 05:11 PM · Hi Michael! I've made many many "Cannone" inspired violins... now I would like to change my model, perhaps something more scooped in the edges... Anyway, what other model would you choose from the 25 Del Gesù/Katarina violins in Biddulph's book?

January 27, 2008 at 05:37 PM · If you want to try more scoop, the Lord Wilton has both a lot of scoop and a great tonal reputation.

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