Why should a Zyg be better than a Gliga?

April 7, 2008 at 01:50 AM · There has been a general consensus that modern violins rival old classic ones. Contemporary makers learn from the same schools of luthiery and apprentice with one another. I assume there are no secret varnishes and that most makers work from standard models and templates using the same techniques. So what's the skinny? What makes one makers violins superior to others? Why can't any properly educated skilled craftsman succeed in turning out great fiddles?

Replies (21)

April 7, 2008 at 04:24 AM · SOME modern violins rival (insert percentage here) of classic instruments.

I am sure many makers of that level of instrument have some secrets they don't generally talk about, but the common denominator is that they have all learned to do all the right things in a consistent way, and to put all the 'right' right things together for a given type of instrument.

There are so many things to do wrong on a violin, it simply is not easy to do everything right. Factories have challenges in the form of lack of knowledge, lack of training, lack of time, lack of adequate materials control, and these and other issues lead to compromises in the result.

The other issue is that many violin makers will disagree about how things should be done, and about what's important and what's not important. The truth is that although most if not all the information needed to build great violins is available in various forms, the judgment to make proper use of that information is up to the individual, and so it does not always appear.

Oh and another thing is that violin greatness is in every aspect a matter of subtleties. Being able to evaluate violin quality requires a high level of discernment, and being able to make them does as well. Not everyone has all the qualities required for great violin making. Or maybe some people have qualities which distract them from the essential process, too. Making great violins requires just the right balance of being earth-bound and engaging in creative thinking, and not everyone manages that one either.

April 7, 2008 at 01:28 PM · "Why can't any properly educated skilled craftsman succeed in turning out great fiddles? "

i would like to think for the most part they do!

but, the super duper great ones are different, just like not everyone graduating from the french culinary institute will eventually end up as a 5 star chef. some individual originality,,creativity,,intuition,,talent,,drive,, that cannot be really learned or taught?

another way to look at it is that the ?2-3 sons of stradivari could not possibly be stuck with a better teacher, if they were interested, inquisitive and paying attention. yet, the legend died with the old man:)

April 7, 2008 at 01:45 PM · What one must remember is that EVERY piece of wood is different.....even 2 pieces of wood from the same trunk that were adjacent.

It isn't just a matter of technique and blueprints-one must treat each individual piece of lumber as it is-not according to an ideal

Thus, even if 2 luthiers DID have identical technique, methods, standards...etc.....they'd dtill get different results because they would never be working on identical pieces of lumber.

April 7, 2008 at 03:22 PM · It happens in every profession, from home repair to music performance. Two people can even come from the same school and the same teachers, and somehow wind up at different levels.

April 7, 2008 at 03:32 PM · Violin building requires a high skill level, like any profession where the skill level is unique and very high the end product price (for new violins) is a direct result of the quality (for the most part).

I can go to Home Depot and put in ready made cabinets and they'll be fine as far as cabinets go, or I can hire a custom cabinet builder who will make me much higher quality cabinets at four times the cost. Both sets are made in relatively the same the manner, but the master cabinet maker will still put out a much better product that even someone completely unskilled in cabinet making can discern. I think violins are very similar in that sense. It's no mystery some people are just much better at it.

April 7, 2008 at 05:13 PM · It is interesting to me that there may be no deep secrets to successful violin building that were lost with Stradivari. The mystique is probably in the soul of individual makers and how they are able to tweak the wood so it will sing. Perhaps it is something that can not be taught; the same way that playing the violin with soul can't be taught, no matter how one breaks down practice and technique. I guess this proves violin making is more of an art than a craft.

April 7, 2008 at 06:02 PM · Im curious David as to what you are thinking about as you construct one of your instruments.Do you stick to a preconceived plan or do you get "creative" as you are working.

How much reliance do you put on technique or intuition?

April 9, 2008 at 12:24 AM · Are you out there David?

April 9, 2008 at 01:15 AM · Oh sorry, I must have taken a journey into La-la land. Violin makers are permitted, yes? ;)

I'm somewhat of a pragmatist, except when it comes to marketing. Or maybe I just think I am. Intuition probably comes into play, but I'm in denial. :-)

When I'm working well, or "in the zone", I'm constantly thinking about,

"How can I do this better and faster?" by constantly scanning the periphery of what I'm doing, combined with thought models of how a violin moves when it's being played.

Then there's the other 70% of the time......

Stradivari made approximately 1200 instruments. I'll venture that to be so productive, he was a practical man, and had a strong drive to put the spaghetti on the table. Didn't waste a lot of time in self-indulgent (artsy type) thinking.

Creativity? No two instruments are the same, not counting the differences in wood. Others may not notice these differences, but I sure do!

One can not stick entirely to a preconceived plan when making a violin because every piece of wood is different.

I do try to stay in touch with the latest violin acoustical research.

OK, I see that I'm rambling, so maybe the truth is that I don't know how to answer your questions.

Perhaps you can intuit some content out of this response? (grin)

April 9, 2008 at 02:37 AM · Here's a segment from a video interview of one of the most well-known guitar makers. The interviewer is the founder of Windham Hill records. It's pretty interesting.

April 9, 2008 at 03:16 AM · Thanks Jim for the great interview.

April 9, 2008 at 11:08 AM · ...and thanks David for answering my question!

Im always intrigued comparing the skills of makers and players.Our careers may be technically different but there are so many parallels.Both camps have chosen a tough road to travel!!

April 9, 2008 at 01:35 PM · Thanks for putting up that interview, Jim.

He does a nice interview.

Just pretend it's me. ;)

April 9, 2008 at 02:16 PM · I'll get you in the movies too, man. Just hang on.

April 9, 2008 at 04:36 PM · We should get Laurie to give an interview with David Burgess.

What do you think Laurie????

April 9, 2008 at 05:11 PM · I'm sure she'd be even more inspired if at the end of the interview she got a free violin from the kindness and love of David's heart :)

April 9, 2008 at 09:58 PM · She'd need to go through my new agent, Jim Miller. ;)

April 10, 2008 at 01:04 AM · First thing we do is give you a quaint Minnesota accent and a Hawaiian shirt.

April 10, 2008 at 01:12 AM · Can I also have several gold chains and a diamond mounted in an incisor?

April 10, 2008 at 01:22 AM · You bet. We'll have songs like "A440 With Fundamental Removed" bumping from every hooptie.

April 10, 2008 at 05:35 AM · An interview with David would certainly be very interesting.

David, you could actually do this by yourself. Check out this video by and with Dimitri Badiarov ...


He interviewed himself using some sound altering software to lower the voice of the "interviewer". I found this was a really great idea and it's very nicely done, even funny at times.

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