Do you consider your violin as a work of art in wood ?

February 8, 2008 at 05:50 AM · I have 2 violins om the kitchen table.

They are so beautiful and they sound completely different.

1 is somewhat loud.

The other is richer in tone and easier to play.

Do you ever wonder how anyone can make a piece so very pleasing to the ear and be a form of art at the same time ?

I mean,a high degree of art in wood.

Something to be proud of.A piece you cherish everyday and clean everytime you pick 'her' up.

I consider violins to be feminine,as I do boats.

A violin is a woman,in my mind--something to be played with delicately,at times,other times just to rock out on.

You rarely comprehend what a woman is really thinking.Violins seem to have to be coached into a venerable sound;which may take a while to come to fruition.

Understand -- somewhat ?

Ok,now bash me--I'm ready !

Replies (33)

February 8, 2008 at 11:28 PM · Well, I'm a violin maker, but I'm also a violin/viola player. Instruments can be considered art objects but also as "tools". As a maker more focused in sound I see instruments more as tools, but somethings that are beautifull can be linked to good sound, as beautifull archings and sound holes, varnish, etc. The British Spitfire fighter was a war machine but was beautifull.

And for the trained eye there is quite a variety in style in details such as purfling, scroll design and carving, f holes, corners, texture of the wood etc. But prior to that, you have study and hard work, as well as years of practice. First we have to make a "correct" scroll, and only after making lots of them we will be able to make an artistic one.

Violins were born as "boys", "violino" in Italian is a masculine noum, viola is a feminine noum, cello is a masculine noum, and so for the bass too.

I give names to my violas, the last one is "Giudita" (Judith), but there is no Holoferns violin in the horizon. You can see pics of my Giudita viola here:


February 8, 2008 at 11:57 PM · I know what you mean about the scroll;it must be beautiful and pleasing to the mind.

On one of my violins,there is a grafted scroll and the workmanship is horrible in the peg-box--yet this is my fav violin---because I can play it easily.

A player must not perceive looks alone,when purchasing an instrument------yet,looks are tempting !

February 9, 2008 at 01:52 PM · Athought there is a famous quote from Charles Reade that runs "sound is listened with the eyes", try to listen with your ears.

February 9, 2008 at 03:22 PM · Sometimes the parents of a student who is looking for a new violin ask me: "He loves this violin, but we are concerned, because we want him to get the one with the best tone and playing qualites, and we suspect that his preference may be more based on its appearance." When I hear this, my advice to them is that tone and playing qualities are of first priority, but the student's feeling for the look of the violin is also important. The choice of the violin should allow for this, because the bonding between the instrument and its player is a very intimate one. If the violinist, on seeing an instrument, feels that he would like to hold it close to him for hours every day, it is a factor which should be considered.

February 9, 2008 at 05:44 PM · Dear Mr. Fischer,

In America, we refer to the lift as an elevator.


February 9, 2008 at 06:01 PM · Every time I look at the back of my violin I think how beautiful it is.

February 9, 2008 at 07:01 PM · I agree that the sound of the instrument is more important than the appearance. Having said that, I admit to being swayed by the appearance when I recently purchased a new violin. I had narrowed the search to two violins and they were very close in sound. One had exquisite inlay purling that was just beautiful. I really wanted that one to be the one for me but, the other had a more rich tone esp. in the high notes. I had to put down the "pretty" violin and choose the other that sounded better. It is also a beautiful violin but not like the other. I enjoy my new violin but occasionally I find myself thinking about the violin with the inlaid purling. Of course, I never let my new violin know.

February 10, 2008 at 01:13 AM · I too am a violin maker and as Manfio said the most important aspect is the sound and playability. But having said that I always appreciate when someone looks at my work and appreciates all the work and consideration I put into it when I make it. The shape of the violin is one that is very pleasing to the eye. It is basically shaped like a woman. It responds to the touch and makes wonderful music when treat right in the hands of someone who know how to bring out the best.

February 10, 2008 at 02:08 AM · The flame in the wood gets to me.

When I play,I think about the maker who created the instruments that I play and I am eternally indebted to the maker of a quality hand-crafted instrument.

The wood actually speaks and I am appreciative that someone has the knowledge to create a fine violin that is easy to play.

The makers seldom receive the attention they deserve--without a maker,we would be lost and unable to express ourselves as a violinist.

The makers select the woods involved and spend countless hours of woodworking expertise in order to make a violin for you.

So,let us give the makers a cheer--instead of cheering ourselves...

February 10, 2008 at 02:40 AM · I care about the appearance AND the sound... >.< I agree, I think that the string instruments are in their own little way, a different styles of art with wood, and all of them, they are all unique. In their sound and appearance...I have multiple violins too and they all sound different. One soft and warm while other rich and loud while my third one is more sharper in tone.

February 10, 2008 at 02:47 AM · To me, look is not unimportant. That's why I use a Mac.

February 10, 2008 at 03:00 AM · LOL...Mac's are way--- better looking than PC's

February 10, 2008 at 06:59 AM · My violin is rather old and battered and not very pretty - but I really like how it sounds. Right now it's at the luthier getting edge work done, and I have a loaner. I really miss mine!

February 10, 2008 at 07:34 AM · My violin's soundpost fell down a few years ago and I forgot I had it. But I have some of the coolest guitars. Let me tell you...nah.

February 10, 2008 at 01:59 PM · Pamela, IMHO one of the things that ADDS beauty to an instrument is the wear which in a way is a window into the life it has lead. I am talking about wear and not abuse. Who has played it? Where has it been? I know everyone has seen the movie "The Red Violin" so there is some beauty to the wear.

I have found that many times a instrument that shows a lot of wear is because it sounds so good and has been played a lot. Opposed to the violin that looks good but never gets played because it doesn't sound as good.

February 10, 2008 at 08:05 PM · That's the same reason why I like my socks with the holes in 'em. ;)

February 11, 2008 at 12:56 AM · If your son or daughter likes the violin more for its looks, have him play the violins blindfolded, either that or have his teacher play all the violins in random order, and have him pick out the best sounding one. This is how i picked my Cremonese Storioni :)

February 11, 2008 at 01:14 AM · It's not that hard to pick out a good violin blindfoled if you have $450,000 for a Storioni.

I can't say I've ever had an ugly violin. It's a bonus to like looking at it, but you definately shouldn't pick your violin based on it.

February 11, 2008 at 02:33 AM · "This is how i picked my Cremonese Storioni :)"

....and I thought we spent a lot for my daughter's new fiddle!

February 11, 2008 at 01:11 PM · Joe, I totally agree. I daresay quite a few here will too! My first moment of pleasure comes every time I take the instrument out of its case and pause to gaze at it. I love the sound too. Louder, fuller than my factory made first instrument, and even more of a joy to play now it is opening up after a few months playing.

Oliver's comment, "tone and playing qualities are of first priority, but the student's feeling for the look of the violin is also important" are valid. If a child loves the instrument, he/she will be more inclined to learn to play it. My son polishes his every time, loves looking at it and it has added to the pleasure of learning to play the instrument.

I think there is a definite bonding with a good instrument, not only if the instrument is a violin.

February 11, 2008 at 05:48 PM · >My first moment of pleasure comes every time I take the instrument out of its case and pause to gaze at it.

What Bernadette said...

February 13, 2008 at 12:21 AM · Work with your hands, and you are considered a worker.

Work with your mind, and you are called a craftsman.

Work with your heart, and you are an artist.

February 13, 2008 at 03:31 AM · don't work at all and you are a hero

willing to accept any type of music

freedom = not working

and continuing to accept challenges as your own

of all music

especially The Met in NYC

dining,drinking and dancing by the fountain in the middle of the square---and loving it forever.

to live the singers dream and to have a part in the orchestra

bedazzeled forever for even the chance to partake in such an event as The Met is everlasting,as moments to cherish above and beyond the normalcy of life

to espy artists at their calling in life is a thrill beyond imagination to all involved

let us thank the god's that we even entertain some semblance of the gift of music.

February 13, 2008 at 03:59 AM · joe... I have tried some really good s... in my time, but I think you might have the best stash of them all.

February 13, 2008 at 04:27 AM · April 12th,Saturday

La Boheme

I'll be outside at intermission,smoking a jet.

Otherwise,I'll be in row 'g' crying my ass off.[in orchestra section]...

after that its home,near 75th & Broadway where red, dry wine shall prevail.

oh,at most times,music seems to be the only truth

we realize and incorporate into the experience thereof

then,the trip back home is fufilled by a new shiny,black mercedes [2008]

all is a dream, come to frutition,then all is fini-----till next time..

avery fisher,ny opera,juilliard school,ny philharmonic ---is there anything else worth envisioning whilst dining at the Grand Tier ?

thrills of a lifetime--forever--and grand music to fill the soul

toss your fiddles and love them as your own and be appreciative you can play an open 'g' on a sustained note,forever into the memories you love and cherish--is'nt this what we are ?

February 13, 2008 at 05:37 AM · joe... please give me your dealer's card... if you have a lab out back in your shed, then please hook a brotha up.

February 13, 2008 at 05:45 AM · Pieter:

Ye must belong to the guild.

Submit your enquiry to the NY Times

as a music critic soon.

Use my tag as a reference.

February 14, 2008 at 03:02 AM · We have a dozen violin family instruments here, and the one that seems to find the most favor is an ebay nondescript whose treble f-holes were enlarged by what I assume to have been a mouse; gnawed enough that she could get inside and raise her litter. The f-hole was repaired after a fashion, to return the size to an approximation of original, though the repair is pretty ugly.

In fact, it's a sort of phantom of the opera look, with the bass side f-hole elegantly cut and fluted, making the reptile dentistry of the treble side even more horrible.

Somehow it seems not to matter, when you pick it up and play.

But for sheer beauty the nod goes to a Martin O18K from 1925 with koa wood so intensely flamed that it makes a Les Paul burst look ho-hum. I'm convinced that the curls in the wood have a strong influence on the sound; it is hypnotic, even hallucinogenic, to look at the wood while playing - you can see the sound curl off the top and sides.

I include this merely to make Jim sweat a bit.

February 14, 2008 at 03:16 AM · I have a collection of violins. I most defintely get visual as well as tonal pleasure from them. Bows, as well. They each have their own individual characteristics. Even the fittings make a difference, especially for a fine instrument, as far as aesthetic enhancement - like a frame to a picture.

I also have a lot of fine photos of instruments in books, auction catalogs, etc., and get a lot of enjoyment looking through them.

February 14, 2008 at 04:21 AM · To me, most all violins are beautiful. The shape, form, lines, and curves, the way they feel when you hold them. I never fail to get

excited, when I pick one up. All mine are definitely female. I believe

a violin can sense whether you like it or not, and respond accordingly. Also, when I look at one, I think about the loving care

the luthier must have put into each part, when giving it life.

February 14, 2008 at 04:32 AM · Yes, especially after having some very much-needed maintenance done...the slab-cut one piece back is gorgeous!

February 19, 2008 at 11:36 AM · I have only one violin, and I've only had it for two weeks. It is an american violin made by an unknown guy from Maine in '39. When I first saw it, I was a little horrified at it--noticeably lopsided, with a very amateur scroll, intense flame that seemed almost too garish, and slightly pointy f-holes. But I tried it with four others in a shop, and even my very untrained ear could hear how great the sound was. The resonance was really rich and it felt like it was singing to me as I played (very badly--it's been a long time!) I tried several more over the next few weeks, but they all seemed boring and predictable, so I went back and bought the goofy one. Now that it's familiar, all the things I didn't like at first, I love. The rustic scroll seems charming and authentic to me--unique--and the wood has a gorgeous rippled grain that runs through the flames--it's so pretty! The shape feels artistic and delicate instead of lopsided now. Guess I'm in love! It has such personality. I like that I know the maker's name and place, although I wish I knew his story. I definately feel like I have a piece of amazing folk art in my violin. :o)

February 19, 2008 at 02:54 PM · in case you speak/read German here is a fine book that bears the title of this great thread > Violine, Klangwerkzeug und Kunstgegenstand< or sth. like The Violin - Soundtool and Piece of Art, written by Klaus Osse, published first by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, c1985.

Osse used to be a gynaecologian in Jena, East Germany, till 1982, at age 11 started to learn the violin, fell in love with her and studied its anatomy, since 1965 until 1974 learnt with master luthier Kurt R. Zoephel in Marktneukirchen beside his main profession, earned a master's degree in 1979 and since 1991 is a luthier himself. His well researched book was dedicated to Zoephel (has a great appendix ref. violin history, lineages of important maker families etc.)

I play a Strad copy by Kurt R Zoephel of 1978, and I love it - "her".

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

2023 Authenticate LA: Los Angeles Violin Shop
2023 Authenticate LA Shopping Guide Shopping Guide


Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine