Just by the look, how to tell that is a Strad or a Guarneri.

June 2, 2010 at 10:29 PM ·

 Just by the look, how to tell that is a Srad or a Guarneri.

There are many threads around discussed about the sound. Well, I have never heard one to tell.

But I'd love to know how to tell by eyes, looking at them.

I've seen about a hundred strange Chinese brands. I googled pictures, and i have no clues which is which.

Could you please tell me the characteristic of them on the outside?


Replies (23)

June 3, 2010 at 03:14 PM ·

Guarneri (at least del Gesu) models are a little easier to spot, as there are some real eccentricities on the surface.  The C-bouts tend to be much less indented than on Strads-- they look more like "(" than "C".  Also, especially on the later ones, the sound-holes are much less normal.  In some cases they look like they were put in by samurai warriors after a late night out.

Obviously this won't help you separate real del Gesus from   fakes-- but at least you'll know it's not a Strad.

June 3, 2010 at 04:41 PM ·

June 3, 2010 at 05:24 PM ·

 Thanks. That's what I need to know.

and, when modern luthiers copy these model, they also copy the F-holes?

Pardon me if my question is too simple, but I have a hole in my knowledge I should fill up.

June 3, 2010 at 05:37 PM ·

June 3, 2010 at 09:35 PM ·

If you're asking how to differentiate a commercial Guarneri model from a Stradivari model, that isn't always easy to know. In China recently, I saw Guarneri style ff holes on violins which might have otherwise been a Strad model. I'll assume that these were intended to be a Guarneri model. But as some people have pointed out already, Guarneri did a lot of different things.

Perhaps I should have said that I saw some "extreme" Guarneri style ff holes on violins which otherwise could have been Strad models. Some of his ff holes were pretty close to Strad, but they don't seem to get used much on production style instruments, maybe because it might fail to make the needed marketing distinction.

Maybe it's best to ask the seller what it's supposed to be. LOL

June 4, 2010 at 02:25 AM ·

 haha true. But I've always heard people say that a del Gesu procudes dark and thick sound, which I prefer over the bright and sharp sound. And If I have set that in my mind and go to shop, asking to buy a del Gesu without even knowing how to tell one from another then ant' I the dumbest person in the world?

June 4, 2010 at 11:11 AM ·

Hi Phuong,

The distinction Guarneri - dark sound vs Stradivari - bright and sweet sound may not be generally valid, especially when it's about models, not originals. My violin for example, a Guarneri model by the Bohemian maker Karel Pilar, has the sweetest sound imaginable.

It may be best just to ask for the sound you want.

Hope this helps,


June 4, 2010 at 11:55 AM ·

Many Strads(original) produce the dark sound you are talking about. Some guarneris do sound brighter like the David... Some Guarneris have both qualities, like the Kreisler. The 1715 Marsick Strad played by Ehnes has both qualities... 

June 4, 2010 at 03:06 PM ·

I thought the Marsic Strad, formerly played by David Oistrakh was only a so-so Strad, that Itzakh Pearlman said that Maestro Oistrakh was still able to get a decent tone out of it. I also thought the Russian State owned it.

June 4, 2010 at 03:41 PM ·

Ray: the Marsick Strad played by Oistrach is not the same as the one played by Ehnes. The Oistrach Marsick is dated 1708 circa. Mr. Perlman gives an opinion quite different about the 1708 Marsick than Milstein who said in his book that the sound was wonderful in the concert hall...the violin is admirable in construction even if few of the varnish (all chipped off) remains.


This confusion comes out often about Ehnes Marsick of 1715 with Oistrack's of 1708 circa... The opinion of Mr. Perlman are sometimes funny, especially when he speaks about Henryk Szeryng in the Art of the violin interview. Milstein is a more  reliable source...

June 4, 2010 at 04:18 PM ·

Long Off-Topic Post

I checked Cozio because I'm a geek about this sort of thing. If you type in Marsick there are two violins under Stradivari's name. One was built in 1705 and owned by a variety of people from Paris until Oistrakh owned it from 1966 to 1974. Would Oistrakh have really owned it or would the state? (Sorry if that's a stupid question.) It looks like his son Igor may be playing it now or at least in possession of it but I don't know.

The other is the 1715 Marsick that Ehnes plays, which was apparently owned by a couple of different people in the nineteenth century (including the scientist Werner Siemens? interesting; I suppose he might have been an amateur violinist, or maybe an investor?), until the Swiss violin maker Stubiger bought it in 1911. And then there's a big gap in its Cozio entry, only resuming when Peter Biddulph in London bought it. Ehnes has said before it had spent time in the Soviet Union too so it must have been during this long gap. Wonder if it was taken there sometime before the Revolution and never got out again? I don't know, just speculation. But I do know it was supposedly unknown to Western collectors until Biddulph bought it in 1997 or whatever year that would have been.

So two totally different violins with two totally different histories, who coincidentally ended up with the same name and lived in the Soviet Union around the same time.

Don't know how reliable Cozio is, but for what that's worth. Hope that helps.

End Long, Off-Topic Post

Sorry for the off-topicness!

June 4, 2010 at 05:33 PM ·

Emely: Milstein seems to have been present when the deal was made. Oistrach bought the Marsick 1705 in the U.S.A. from a private collector with his own money. It never belonged to the U.S.S.R. State... Milstein relates that after the deal,they went in a famous boutique of a violin maker to buy silk  accessories for the violin. I believe Igor owns the violin right now. David had another Strad , a gift from Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, but it was stolen after Oistrach's death. The violin was displayed in a Museum in Russia.

June 4, 2010 at 07:16 PM ·

Thanks for the two Marsick strad stories!

At my maker, the strad modals are longer and somehow "slimmer" while the Guarneri seem shorter and more "chubby". 

Is it always like this?


June 4, 2010 at 10:06 PM ·

June 4, 2010 at 11:35 PM ·

Strads f- holes are a major give away. He used a very curvy f shape whereas Guarneri made the f-holes more pointy looking. Also, Strad used a flatter arching when compared to del gesus. On a lot of del gesus each f-hole is completely different to eachother; sometimes even in shape. His arching was also extremely high.

Strads are also light as a feather. When you pick them up it almost seems like there's nothing there.

Guarneris have certain qualities about it that indicates that the workmanship wasn't as precise as strads. The instrument might not be perfectly symmetrical. It was more of a crude workmanship that just so happened to produce rival instruments.


in regards to sound, there is not much of way to distinguish the two. like someone said before some strads are dark, some are light, and some have both. As goes for guarneris. The ONLY thing i have noticed about listening to a stradivari, is a certain "golden shimmer" to the sound, and when vibrato is added to a note the sound is completely pure, with no scratch or fault.

For guarneri, you can completely distinguish the A string from the G string, the G string will have a boomy sound, and the A will be sonorous. On a strad, sometimes you can't even notice that the passage went from the A string to the E string.

many subtle differences that might hint to what instrument is being played.

i prefer to play on del gesus -- you can dig in! :P

June 4, 2010 at 11:59 PM ·

June 5, 2010 at 03:23 AM ·

Marc thanks for the info! Yes I did heard a bit about Leblanc and knew about Dubeau's violin too of course!

Thanks for the precisions!


June 5, 2010 at 08:09 PM ·

My question then is, if you can 'dig into' the Guaneri (which is what is said above and also upheld by many Violinists that are firm believers in the Guaneri over a Strad, will Guaneri copies (by good Luthiers) carry that quality of being able to 'dig into' that is supposedly so characteristic of Guaneri.

Also, I'm wondering if the arch, which also seems greater in a Guaneri than a Strad (of course, what do I know, I've only seen pictures) is in a strong way, responsible for this 'digging in' quality.  Yet, from what I understand, the Amati has a significant arch, but is not considered a Violin capable of projection in a large concert hall, whereas, the Guaneri is.  Can anyone educate me about all of this?



I just want to add, that Guaneri's sold for pennies on the dollar, compared to Strads, back in the days.  In parallell, today, there must be Luthiers who make violins that are superior to those that are considered the  'upper eschelon' contemporary Luthiers. 



June 5, 2010 at 08:27 PM ·

June 6, 2010 at 02:04 AM ·

It is all nonsense.

Some players prefer some fiddles to others.

Ascribing a reason for that preference to any given age, or town, or country is irrelvant

Even who made them doesn't seem to make a great deal of difference. Nor, even, does model, or arching. Especially not varnish.

It really is about how a given player relates to a particular violin.

All else is spin

I have no more to say


June 6, 2010 at 03:23 AM ·

June 6, 2010 at 09:26 AM ·

Maybe it isn't allI have to say:-

Marc, I am not doubting the extreme excellence of many of these fiddles - I just doubt that one can ascribe a particular sound to any given maker, town, country, model or even arching.

These violins that we are talking about are the ones that have remained famous after three centuries or so, and have always been regarded as the best instruments. I cannot doubt that.

But I am certain that to say "Strads are bright, del Gesus dark, Amatis sweet, etc." is absolutely wrong. These great fiddles are all individuals, and that is part of their magic. These are the ones that have ended up top of the tree, because each of them has been favoured by particular great violinists throughout their existence.

You cannot judge a generality from a few extreme examples.

I did play two famous del Gesus side by side at Beare's some years ago. One was dark, a bit dull even, but the other was huge and shimmery, with great depth, but also a sharp sparkliness that was nothing like the first one. I thought it was probably the best violin I had ever tried.

But I am also sure that some players would have preferred the one I found dull


June 6, 2010 at 02:23 PM ·



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