Old vs. New

September 22, 2010 at 04:39 AM ·

Hiya, I'm a violin maker and former player.

Do any of you people think that a really good copy of a famous violin looks better than a really good violin without the antique appearance ? Any of you think the opposite ?

Also, when you can get a really decent handmade violin from China for $1000, why would you want to spend $42,000 on a modern copy of a Del Gesu ...... ??

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

Replies (24)

September 22, 2010 at 07:21 AM ·

probably it is quite correct, people mostly like violins that looks old, antique or something,

the label, "Copy of stradivarius/ del gesu/ cremona" have magical gravitation on their own, as it claimed the copy was made by such "famous" maker,

 

people when testing the instruments  they usually gravitate to the best looking violin (by means, old looking and flamed ones / antiques), though they said " what i want is a beautiful tone",

and yes, appearance matter for me,

why people don't really take chinese into their consideration perhaps because as we know old violins mostly from europe, and people are very fond of it, Chinese are second thought, just for student set, yep, they don't know the chinese luthiers have made considerable improvements that might be good to look at,

or perhaps because reselling a chinese violin (though it sounds wonderful), is quite hard, compared to "made in Germany" labelled violins,

that's why they might prefer the 42,000$ violin as you mentioned,

where it was made.

and are willing to spend more on it,

 

i don't really 100% agree though,

because my "newly made" violin are better than my college's Holland made violin that looks antique but does not sounds like "made in Europe" instrument :) ,

though i would prefer the 1000$ set (because my pocket are just way too low for the 42'K...LOL:D)

 

just my thoughts,

 

September 22, 2010 at 02:34 PM ·

"Do any of you people think that a really good copy of a famous violin looks better than a really good violin without the antique appearance ? Any of you think the opposite ?

Also, when you can get a really decent handmade violin from China for $1000, why would you want to spend $42,000 on a modern copy of a Del Gesu ...... ??"

I think they are rather silly questions...but....

I think  it's all about playabilty and sound. Antique appearance is another thing..like makeup on a woman. There is a certain shade of finish that looks old on a violin, even without any other attempt to "age" it. Actually I like the look of a really good, new-looking well-made violin best.

A "decent" violin from China might not be quite enough. I think the price of a very good violin from China will probably be higher today (I have played one one originally $1,500 violin from China that would compete with Guarneri-family violins I've played (mid 6 figures) - but it was bought IN CHINA for that amount).

I have played on brand new American-made violins that were marvelous (I even bought one).

Violins that appear to be exact copies of famous ancient violins add another dimension to the maker's skills. One of my violins (made almost 60 years ago) is an exact copy of the "Emperor Strad." It's appearance is impressive. I was just a teenager when we got it new from the maker. I was impressed that I could see how it was finished to age fast - and it did. It took it about 20 years of daily playing  for the aging to seem to become real. It was not like one of those that seem to be painted to "look like" the original.

Andy

September 22, 2010 at 06:39 PM ·

Personally I'm not in favour of artificial aging on new instruments.

I don't care about looks, its the sound that matters to me.

September 22, 2010 at 10:20 PM ·

Since when do Del Gesu copies go for $42K?  Most modern makers are charging $10-30K for their instruments.  To get more than that, you either have to be famous, or deal with really dumb buyers.

I personally do not care about looks, but no disrespect to David Burgess, if you have two violins that sound and play the same, I believe the majority of people will gravitate towards one that looks old rather than brand new.

 

 

 

September 23, 2010 at 03:30 AM ·

I like the idea of new violin, just because I own a lovely violin that doesn't feel and play like new violin. I never had the chance to play enough fine old violins to make a bold statement that my violin plays like old violin, but it certainly very different from other violins that I've played. Full of personality and behaviour. Love it!

Though it's not $1000 chinese violins (which can be very very good for the price!) but certainly no where near $10,000. I'm glad I paid much less!

September 23, 2010 at 04:50 AM ·

There are reasons why some players want or need an old-looking violin.  Old instruments have what is technically called "mojo". This means they've acquired baraka or spiritual input from previous players, and can therefore call upon the vibrating essences of these past players to enhance the music-making experience of the current player. Despite what you may think, this is true.

However, a faked antique finish, while it may fool the audience or fellow musicians, does not, in fact cannot have mojo. This can only be achieved thru sweat equity,

It may be important for successful completion of the musical mission to fake the audience into thinking the instrument they hear is possessed of the mojo factor; in these cases, belief makes it happen. Remember Tinkerbelle?  In these cases, it is best that the player be deceived as well, though not essential.

The ultimate case is when a great player plays a nearly pristine old Cremonese instrument, which, because it looks new, deflates the expectation of the audience, yet, thru his playing, generates and invokes the true Muse of music, and everyone goes away transfigured, never realising that they just heard The Real Thing.

As you can see, the issue is complex.

Personally, I'd be pleased to own a new-looking Burgess, or a beater of a Strad. I like instruments that have been played in, but they don't have to look like they've been run hard and put away wet. (For those of you who don't understand what I meant by the last statement, I have only pity. You need to practice less and get out into real life more).

 

 

September 23, 2010 at 05:02 AM ·

 Personally I feel that a lot of the "antiquing" that's done by makers is kind of silly.  There's no harm in giving the violin a little color variance in the varnish but when a maker goes to the length of artificially creating huge patches on the back to look like it was worn down from being set on a table I tend to think the maker is trying too hard.  I don't like a violin to look like the maker deliberately attacked it with a pizza cutter either.  

I do like some of the signs of aging on my violin, but they are clearly from 60 years of being played and are subtle and authentic.  However, if I accidentally bump the violin and leave a mark I have a little heart attack each time.  To date there are only two wounds (minor scratches) that were my fault and I feel a little pain of guilt each time I see them.

September 23, 2010 at 05:18 AM ·

My pick on the appearance: (1) Very good (in terms of look) new-look violin, (2) very good antique violin,  (3) good antique violin, and (4) good new-look violin. Unfortunately, most of the new violins fall in the (4) category. I found it is very difficult to get/see a new violin with attractive non-antique varnish. Most of the non-antique violins look dull and uninteresting. But once you see a really good one, you fall in love with it.

Others being equal, if I decide not to buy the $1000 Chinese violin it must be due to the expected resale value of it.

September 23, 2010 at 09:25 AM ·

"There are reasons why some players want or need an old-looking violin.  Old instruments have what is technically called "mojo". This means they've acquired baraka or spiritual input from previous players, and can therefore call upon the vibrating essences of these past players to enhance the music-making experience of the current player. Despite what you may think, this is true."

I'm afraid I just don't believe this. It's an old wive's tale!

A new instrument needs a year or two to play in, but there is no reason why it can't sound just as good if not better than an old one after such a period. I've played on plenty of old instruments that are rubbish, along with a few that are very good.

September 23, 2010 at 09:29 AM ·


Bob Annis

I've just realised of course that you are probably having us all on with that story!! And I fell for it!!

 

September 23, 2010 at 11:29 AM ·

@ Bob: "I like instruments that have been played in, but they don't have to look like they've been run hard and put away wet. (For those of you who don't understand what I meant by the last statement, I have only pity. You need to practice less and get out into real life more)."

I run my instrument hard and we both end up wet. I always wipe it down and give it an hour to dry out before I put it away. Don't want it getting the violin equivalent of athlete's foot or worse.

September 23, 2010 at 01:08 PM ·

I'd rather mine age naturally

September 24, 2010 at 02:50 PM ·

Here's a link to a makers panel discussion on this, and varying related matters. Quite nice.

www.thestrad.com/Article.asp

September 24, 2010 at 06:08 PM · Interesting - BUT - there is an awful lot of BS spoken about instruments. Most instruments and especially some old ones are terribly overvalued. If a Strad was valued at about £10,000 that would be about right.

September 24, 2010 at 07:31 PM ·

Old-looking ones will probably sit better in orchestras -- not sound better, just make the snobs one might be sitting next to happy.  People listen with their eyes, and if you play a new-looking instruments, they will swear it sounds worse even if they could never tell it apart from a genuinely old one in a blind test.

I'm not fond of making anything look like something it's not in general.  I don't like fake antiquing on instruments, nor do I like it when people paint CF instruments brown.  I don't want my instrument to lie.  That said, faking the look of an old wooden instrument will keep a lot of purists from complaining about the "obvious" deficiencies in sound.  It may be worth it for that sake.  I'm glad I don't have to worry about that.  I plan on getting a CF viola at some point and having it painted as red as a barfly's nail polish.  :-)

September 24, 2010 at 08:01 PM ·

"Old-looking ones will probably sit better in orchestras -- not sound better, just make the snobs one might be sitting next to happy.  People listen with their eyes, and if you play a new-looking instruments, they will swear it sounds worse even if they could never tell it apart from a genuinely old one in a blind test."

There is a certain amount of truth in this. However, mostly though, profesional orchestral players don't give a stuff about what an instrument looks like, or how new or old it is.

But I did once hand a modern instrument I had on trial to an elderly lady in the orchestra who said - "I just can't stand modern instruments" after trying it.  But she was not an authority and hated any music later than Beethoven, so could not be taken seriously.

 

 

September 26, 2010 at 11:39 PM · Janis said " I don't want my instrument to lie" People wear makeup to look more attractive so antiquing is like make up on a violin what's so wrong with wanting a violin to be gorgeous and eye catching. Id much rather have a violin that's looks and plays beautifully than one that looks dull and boring.

September 26, 2010 at 11:50 PM ·

Labels and looks don't mean much to me.  I own two unlabeled instruments.  Both have very nice tone. Good solid construction and not too much finish are attributes I like.

 

September 27, 2010 at 12:38 AM ·

Anyone heard of a violin being reverse-aged - an old instrument that's been stripped down to the wood and revarnished to look like new?  The process would presumably involve also giving the instrument a good clean inside and replacing old pegs and so forth.

December 2, 2010 at 09:49 AM ·

"Also, when you can get a really decent handmade violin from China for $1000, why would you want to spend $42,000 on a modern copy of a Del Gesu ...... ??"

 

Because you can't get any decent violin for $1000!

December 3, 2010 at 09:13 AM ·

I like what Bob Annis wrote above, pretty much the whole post.Sweat equity. Not sure about mojo as a spiritual entity but I think the wood has a kind of life, if that does not seem too weird. Have you ever gone out to prune a bush in your yard that had been frozen the previous winter? You find out that what seems to be totally dead, if it has not actually rotten, can come back to life. That might not be scientific but I could imagine that something like a violin could be like a living organism. It could be that the longer this organism has existed in this particular form, the more of a personality it takes on. I look for something that has been loved and may have an inclination to love me back, seeing it as someone who had not had to experience an abusive relationship with a different owner. 

On flutes, there is this theory that a seamed tube makes it better because this sheet of silver had been in this state of existence as a sheet, then just bent around a bit then soldered where the ends join. A machine fabricated tube is distorted from a thick wire to take on a tube shape, disrupting the crystalline structure of the metal, thus loosing some of its life. So when did it become alive? I guess when it went from its molten state into a flat sheet. When would a violin become alive? When it all vibrates as a single unit? Maybe, but it sounds good to me. Is older better? It would have to be but only if it was taken care of and treated nice. 

December 10, 2010 at 05:13 PM ·

I think a really great violinmaker should make a super super well-made great sounding violin, but put a finish on it that looks like a candy apple--just to shake things up a bit. Why not? Some really-really, expensive old Gibson guitars look the same way...

December 11, 2010 at 04:40 AM ·

 No one has discussed the possibility that some of those great old instruments were...antiqued. One could well imagine that implications of age in an instrument has ALWAYS implied some kind of greatness, even in 1700. Surely musicians realized back then that older instruments sounded better.

I've seen and played many great old instruments, and frankly, the amount of wear and the patterns of wear would seem to be questionable. Did people really treat all those instruments so poorly? I have trouble believing it. 

 

December 11, 2010 at 05:02 AM ·

 It doesn't really matter- just find a violin that really speaks to you when you play it. It varies for every person, and could be an old or new violin.

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