Did Stradivari Make Good Sounding Violins?

January 7, 2011 at 03:59 PM ·

 My teacher told me that know one really knows whether Stradivari made good sounding violins or not. He says that all the famous instruments have been more or less completely rebuilt: tops (and sometimes backs) regraduated, longer heavier bass bars installed, necks lengthened and the angle changed etc. 

 He says that we know that he made beautifully proportioned instruments from good wood but that the real credit for how they sound now belongs to the people who rebuilt them.

 I was amazed by this- any thoughts?

Replies (41)

January 7, 2011 at 07:27 PM ·

Interesting discussion topic.  Stradivari's violins were in great demand and fetched very high prices in his lifetime, and I think we can safely assume it was primarily the tone and carrying power of his instruments that made him famous.  Before Stradiviari, violinists played on Amatis, Magginis, DaSalos, and especially Stainers if I recall correctly. In early 18th century England, Preston was churning out cheap fiddles for the masses. Even though the larger bodied Magginis had a full rich sound, it didn't project as well as Stradivari's violins.  Most players probably played on cheaper imitations or copies of these models, as they still do today.

Anyone that has played upon an unadulterated early 18th century violin can attest that the sound is usually rich and complex in harmonics. Sound is typically soft with gut strings, and it can play well in small rooms. Larger venues such as large houses of worship or concert halls are too big for the sound to carry well, but amassed together, an orchestra will sound good.

Because "time" is a major factor in a violin's tone, even an unaltered violin will not sound the same as it did a few hundred years ago.  As the wood becomes more tender with age, so does the sound.

So, I believe we assume that a "new" Stradivarius would have projected sound into the far reaches of the concert hall and was preferred my musicians over other luthier's violins. The lengthening of the neck and changing its angle,  replacing the bass bar (and sometimes corner blocks), using metal wrapped strings have dramatically changed the tone, some say for the better, others for the worse. These modifications definitely made the altered violin louder than before.

Todays modern reproductions of baroque violins are a good option for revisiting  the tone of 17th and 18th century violins. We can try good baroque copies of all the major makers of their day and compare. There are obvious variations in tone depending on each particular instrument, as this was also the case with Strads and all other makers. No single tone defines a luthiers skill, but we can probably assume that during his lifetime, Stradivari's form and construction skills raised the bar for power and projection in the concert hall, as did his rival Guarneri.

 

January 7, 2011 at 07:50 PM ·

"You , or your teacher have obviously never heard one played live. The memory lasts for years and years."

 

Oh good grief!

January 7, 2011 at 08:11 PM ·

For sure, David.

It's been 47 years since I first played on a (ex-Ole Bull) Stradivarius. A feeling I will never forget.

Andy

January 7, 2011 at 09:45 PM ·

I may have this wrong but I understood most of Strad's fiddles were bought by very rich people because of their visual beauty and craftsmanship, and the sound was never a great consideration. Only with later and more recent modifications were some of them considered great sounding instruments, with outstanding players.

In any case, it's the player that makes the sound - great or otherwise - and only to some degree the instrument.

It's the snob value of Strad's that seems to excite people the most. Of course, having said that, I would probably quite like one (or two) if I could buy them for less than $20,000!!!!

January 7, 2011 at 10:29 PM ·

Here's the bottom line:

A great Strad is a great thing. Number these at somewhere between twelve and one hundred, depending on which performers you talk to, who have routine access and have played a large number. Might go as high as 20% of the total around today.

Something magical happens when someone is first told that they will be playing, or listening to a Strad. Results are quite different when violins are anonymous, and must stand strictly on their own tonal merits. Take away the magic of knowing in advance what you are listening to, and in blind tests, listeners are notoriously unable to distinguish a Stad from the "also-rans". Here's one example, a recording of a BBC program involving high-level experts, attempting to distinguish various violins from a Strad, memorialized on Alan Coggin's website:

www.abcviolins.com/fidfad.html

It's time-consuming to listen to, but what you'll probably take away is that the experts didn't do a very good job of picking the Strad out of the lineup.

Yes, luthiers will take days or months or years to bring a Strad into compliance with the legend, and only spend 1/2 hour on something which doesn't offer similar profit potential. Doesn't make much sense to spend a year working on a $1000 violin, and then be able to sell it for $1500. Start with a base price of two million, and the same profit potential of 50% merits some attention.

 

January 7, 2011 at 11:06 PM ·

David,

OH NO! You are letting out too many secrets!

 

 

 

January 8, 2011 at 02:10 AM ·

 If one assumes that all of the work done on Strads--neck angle, regraduation, etc.--were also done to all the other Italian instruments, then there must be a reason that Strads are prized above the others. It doesn't seem logical that any modifications were done better on Strads than any other instruments. The logical answer is that they started out better.

January 8, 2011 at 03:08 AM ·

 Lest we forget Viotti, arguably the Oprah Winfrey of the violin world in his day, who gave his golden thumb of approval to Stradivari instruments and Tourte bows. And the market hasn't been the same since....

January 8, 2011 at 04:32 AM ·

FWIG, he also had access to some fantastic tonewoods as well.  Between that, the competitiveness of the time, and the prices people of that time were willing to pay for good instruments, it's safe to conclude that they were just about the best you were going to find for their time period.

The point where I diverge from many people's opinions is where people assume they still are.  All technology has improved with the passage of time.  There are without doubt many modern makers who are equalling him today, or even surpassing him in terms of hit-vs.-miss.  After all, most of his clunkers have gone into the fireplace over the past couple centuries.  Only the best ones remain.

January 8, 2011 at 12:07 PM ·

"It doesn't seem logical that any modifications were done better on Strads than any other instruments. The logical answer is that they started out better."

They may have started out better. Still, the tonal esteem with which we hold them today doesn't seem to have been present to nearly such an extent in Strad's lifetime. And Tarisio was apparently able to pick used ones up quite cheaply on occasion, after Strad's death.

From the time of Vuillaume onward, Strads have typically been worked on by the best people around. They aren't  projects which get handed to the person who works on the rental instruments.

January 8, 2011 at 01:10 PM ·

Strads were not regraduated, they were made already on the thin side.

The level of restoration techniques today is remarkable and every old instrument can be played if properly cared.
 
But some players will not agree, these are Szeryng's words:

 
 
"What are the problems concerning antique violins?

I have talked at length with experts. The result is extremely simple. The material seasons and ages. With time the wood becomes more venerable... but ultimately ... too old.

It does not exactly decay, but certainly does not improve, and loses elasticity.

I mostly play one of my two modern violins.

With all due respect, we must not forget that the finest classical violins are at least 250 years old. I am an incurable optimist, but I'm convinced that the Stradivaris, the Guarneris, the Amatis, the Grancinos, the Ruggeris, the Gaglianos and the Stainers will not be "playable" much longer unless they are completely restored.

This then gives rise to the problem of whether such an instrument can still be considered antique and original or whether instead it is the restorer who has bestowed upon that violin its balanced timbre and sonorousness, rather than the violinmaker who made it.

Consequently, the question arises of whether it is not more practical to resort from the beggining to a new instrument" (FRNAKFURTER ALLGEMEINE, Magazine, 30.01.87)


And in the Strad, september, 1988, we will find:


"In his final period, in addition to the "Le Duc, he (Szeryng) played on two French violins, one by Pierre Hel made in 1922 and the other by Jean Bauer, a comtemporary maker."
www.manfio.com

 

January 8, 2011 at 10:08 PM ·

"Can you follow all that children ?"

Afraid it's mostly gibberish to me. "Good grief" was primarily in response to your assertion that if Theodore and his teacher have failed to be enraptured with Strad, then they have never heard one live. You are in no way qualified to make that assessment. All you know is that you and they believe differently. I've heard and played and worked on many Strads, been involved in a number of blind comparisons, and quite frankly, there are some Strads which are pretty disappointing.

"Good grief" was also partly in response to other assumptive or mistaken content in your same post, stated in language suggesting that it is fact. Somewhat of a pattern in your posts, it appears.

 

Sorry if Josh (in the "Live Bow Hair" thread), Manfio (in this thread), and I are taking on too much of the mythbuster role today. I realize that some of the misinformation comes from usually trustworthy sources, like print and other media, and that many myths are cherished. I'm reminded of a recent thread, in which someone links to a documentary on violin making, where the narrator states something like, "Stradivari walked through the forest, tapping on trees and listening to the resonance to select his wood". Sorry, but that's pure bunk. Not to say that it couldn't have happened, but there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that it did. The romantic, airy-fairy stuff sells, and has broad appeal. Facts be damned.

 

January 8, 2011 at 10:53 PM ·

"Good Grief" David!!  I think I follow your logic and you have probably hit the nail on the head, to coin a phrase.

My vote would probably go for the newer instruments, or shall we say "less old!"

January 9, 2011 at 05:51 PM ·

When I was just starting out in the profession, I had the great fortune to meet Dario D'Attili from the old Wurlitzer shop in New York City. During one of our many conversations, he told me that most of the great Cremonese violins, including Strads, had been regraduated, some of them very early by the Mantagazza Brothers. I think Count Cozio pretty much says the same thing, as does S. F.Sacconi in his book "The 'Secrets' of Stradivari." Presumably the regrads were done for a reason, but I wasn't there and couldn't say what it was.

The other point to bear in mind was that after the conversion from Baroque to modern setup, which took place beginning around 1800, it was the flatter arching of the Strads that tolerated this change better than the higher-arched instruments of Amati and Jacob Stainer. Prior to the mid-1800s, Stainers brought more at auction than Strads did.

When it comes to workmanship, Stradivari's instruments set the bar very high, but if you ever get a chance to see the tenor by Jacob Stainer, it will blow your mind. And one of the most beautiful violins ever was built by Andrea Amati, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes, and preferences in sound have changed a lot over the centuries.

January 9, 2011 at 10:42 PM ·

The answer to the original question is,

"I don't know, I wasn't there. If I had been, my taste might have been different, influenced by whatever sound was customary for that time, performing conditions, and restrictions imposed by available strings and limited experience with setup paramaters. Strad was successful, but didn't exactly ace all the competition in his time. Yes, the people who have since worked on these instruments have had a significant impact".

January 9, 2011 at 11:23 PM ·

 The cold hard economic facts are that most top violinists play on an Old Cremonese and this has a simple reason.....like racing drivers,  they use the best tools they can get. .  Virtuoso players are not deluded and  tend to be able to sense things and demand things of instruments that  that most mere mortals can't comprehend and these peoples are not fools who can be tricked about the tools of their trade. A top player requires above all an immediacy of response to enable them to play in tune and shape their tone . They want to make their own  tone ...not to use the instrument's tone. They also require projection of sound ....even when playing softly and this is a good and mysterious sign of a great violin. ...that the sound projects hugely, even in pianissimo. One or two top soloists are actually consistently performing on modern violins.

January 9, 2011 at 11:57 PM ·

Melvin, I hope to always think of you as a friend, and I also consider you to be a violin expert, but I'll take issue with one or more things.

Soloists are no more immune to psychological influences than anyone else. Take any group of people brilliant at one thing, and it doesn't necessarily make them brilliant at all things. I'll welcome solid evidence to the contrary. Beyond the psychology, playing a megabuck instrument has a certain marketing cachet, almost like, "I'm worthy and significant, to be counted amongst the rest who have played these instruments".

One more consideration is where a well-informed person will park their money. Strads have a quite reasonable, though less than stellar track record of investment return. If one does everything right, many violins offer the opportunity to own and use them for free when all is said and done.

Consider for a moment a newspaper review of a soloist where the program notes state that a six million dollar Strad was being used, versus program notes which state that a six-hundred dollar Chinese violin was being used. A reasonably intelligent reviewer doesn't want to look like a dumb-ass, so guess what the comparative assessment is?

This isn't in any way intended to go to bat for the cheap stuff. In my limited experience, it doesn't have a good track record. Try different things, and find your own way, assisted by solid professional input. If you do it well, you'll get it right the first time, rather than going through a series of "step-up" instruments, like most people do.

January 10, 2011 at 01:40 PM ·

 David, I trust we will always be friends. You make some very good points and at risk of contradicting myself  (Not an uncommon event) I can't really disagree with your above post. Violins do not exist outside of a historical, sociological and psychological context . I had a long conversation once with race car mechanics during which we discovered that adjusting a race car for a driver and adjusting a violin for a violinist  have many similarities.

January 10, 2011 at 04:44 PM ·

Two thoughts occur (typically, my limit for the entire day :-)); I heard a concert once by two of the up-and-coming virtuosi who were granted use of a Strad and a Guarneri by the Stradivari Society. The player who was using the Strad was pushing it to its limits. I noticed he was on the edge of control, but I don't think any others in the audience were aware of it. Much to my surprise, it didn't seem to have everything he wanted. The person who played the Guarneri told me afterward that the violin wolfed on the G string . . . a lot! I didn't have to be told that as I had spent the entire week dealing with two badly wolfing violins in my shop, and I could hear just how good this player was at compensating for the bad notes.

I think David and others have alluded to this point, but there is a feeling that comes over you when you hold these instruments in your hands. Even as a maker who does not play well at all, I can say that these are marvelous creations. Never mind that much of their great value comes from their age and rarity rather than their intrinsic musical potential. I think that when a player who is struggling to reach the highest plateau is granted the use of a great Cremonese violin, it sends a powerful signal that they're among the best.

 

January 10, 2011 at 05:27 PM ·

 I was reading something about sewing machines yesterday that I think is relevant to this discussion: that a great sewer doesn't need a great machine to do great work, because his experience and control can push through the impecision of a less good machine, but an intermediate sewer can benefit from the precision of a great machine, as can a beginner.

It doesn't surprise me a bit that the greatest players can make any violin sound great: that's why we want to listen to them. But players consistently tell me that the finest violins give them a level of control, easily, that allows them to worry about other, musical, things without fighting.

Of the 150 or so Strads that I've had the pleasure of handling, playing, and hearing good players play on, there were only about three that weren't exceptional instruments in the right hands, but like every other tool, some people will get along better with one than with another. 

The idea that generations, hundreds or thousands, of great players could be deluded [and that a violin maker or two might know better than all of them] is simply silly.

January 10, 2011 at 08:09 PM ·

"The idea that generations, hundreds or thousands, of great players could be deluded [and that a violin maker or two might know better than all of them] is simply silly."

And your mis-characterization is simply silly. There is no need for a maker to "know better" than musicians, nor much incentive. One merely needs to be paying attention and listen to what they have to say, rather than trying to sell them a Strad. Weren't you a salesman at Bein and Fushi?

There are compelling reasons for owning a Stradivari, besides the sound, and besides being deluded. If it was all about the sound, why are so many owned by collectors or non-musicians? What about the instrument investment funds, where people can buy into antique instruments they will never have in their possession, or get to use? Stradivaris are collectibles. If the owner happens to play, and happens to own a particularly good sounding one, that's just an added bonus. :-)

January 10, 2011 at 08:20 PM ·

The delusion part can be said about many human endeavors and especially human beliefs. Witch hunts and their associated foundational philosophies come to mind.

January 10, 2011 at 09:31 PM ·

 I was reading something about sewing machines yesterday that I think is relevant to this discussion: that a great sewer doesn't need a great machine to do great work, because his experience and control can push through the impecision of a less good machine, but an intermediate sewer can benefit from the precision of a great machine, as can a beginner.

With due respect Mr Darnton, it seems like your analogy is exactly opposite with violins.  I consider myself an intermediate player and frankly, if you hand me Perlman's Strad, I will still sound like an intermediate player.  And if you handed that same Strad to a beginner, well, let's just say, they aren't going to sound like Perlman. 

I am of the feeling that the "Strad magic" is really a myth.  But I am at least open to the possibility that the worlds foremost players actually possess a skill that allows them to distinguish something special about old Italian masterpieces that most of us cannot.  So, contrary to your sewing machine example, if there actually is some magic in a Strad, it is not the beginner that is going to see it, but rather the touring pro.

 

 

January 10, 2011 at 10:24 PM ·

Smiley, I'd skimmed over that part (what you quoted) quickly enough to not really process it. Reading it again, I see your point. It sounds like Michael is making a case for Strads being of greatest benefit to beginning  and intermediate players. LOL

Melvin, I'm feeling guilty about what I posted earlier, particularly after your polite response. You post such consistently good stuff, that I felt danged awkward about disagreeing with you this time, and didn't quite know how to handle it. I'll make a special effort to do better next time.

I'm not by any means coming down on all Strads. There is one, owned by an amateur player, which I consider to be of benchmark sound quality. I mention this particular one because the owner loves to share it, so a high number of people have heard and played it, providing consensus on quality, and someone who has never played a Strad might have a good chance of playing it.

January 10, 2011 at 11:40 PM ·

It seems that it is easy to read, but not fathom Darnton's post.

January 11, 2011 at 12:02 AM ·

Bad reading comprehension, bad logic: it's easy to see how they must inevitably travel together,. 

January 11, 2011 at 12:08 AM ·

You're being much too hard on yourself.

January 11, 2011 at 01:21 AM ·

 David Burgess, Please don't feel at all awkward...Your willingness to contribute honestly is admirable..if folk always agreed something would be wrong!...I must admit that on subjects like the topic of this thread I have three or four contradictorary theories/feelings and am much in argument with myself!

January 11, 2011 at 01:36 AM ·

I have an easy answer to all these problems and contradictions.

As a player I would prefer to play on a good instrument, but not a Cremonese master, say a good modern instrument, anything from 30-150 years old.

If anyone asked what it was (and especially if it was a critic asking), I would say it was a Strad. Then they would perhaps think it sounded wonderful. So that gets over the wierd mental processes people go through, and it would certainly satisfy the snobs.

Of course an occasional person might doubt it being a Strad, in which case I would put it down to being a "bad" one. (I'd keep it at a distance in case someone could visually identify a Strad ...)

January 11, 2011 at 01:43 AM ·

I argue with myself too, Melvin. If we didn't do it, our opinions wouldn't mean anything. Freaking twist the knife by "out-nicing' me...

Just one more area where I can learn from you.
 

 

Peter, I own a nice copy of a Strad, made by a respected copyist, with a nice facsimile Strad label. Reactions have been fun, and also educational. One can't learn a lot by throwing Srads in front of people, unless there are also some fakes in the mix, or measures have been taken to obscure the identity of the fiddles. Results are a serious wake-up call for anyone who is genuinely interested in sorting fact from fiction.

January 11, 2011 at 02:51 AM ·

"Bad reading comprehension, bad logic: it's easy to see how they must inevitably travel together,." 

Michael Darnton, if that comment is directed at me, I apologize for misinterpreting your post.  Perhaps you can clarify what you meant and where my logic is flawed. 

January 11, 2011 at 11:38 AM ·

Or, maybe the Zen Bhuddhists have it right- if an audience is sitting there perceiving the Strad being played as a "magical sounding violin" it changes the atomic structure and it actually becomes a magical sounding violin- at least for the time it's being perceived as one.

Just kidding.............kind of......

January 11, 2011 at 12:00 PM ·

You can go further Theodore: if I told you I was practising on my Strad - what does that do to your opinion of me as a violinist?

And, perhaps even more interesting, what does it do to me to write that even if it were not true?

[scuse me, I'm going to my zen room for an hour or a month, whichver I percieve to last the longer...]

January 12, 2011 at 03:48 AM ·

 Reading this thread has reminded me much about Ferrari and his intentions.  When Enzo Ferrari started selling production cars, it was to solely fund his racing team.  The INTENTION of his was to sell a production car and people be proud of the pride and prestige of owning a Ferrari. When he found people were more concerned about it being performance and not so much prestige, he was infuriated as performance was more or less an afterthought.  So just because people sought after it, it doesn't mean it's the reason you would initially think.  Today it's a bit of both, but in the beginning, it wasn't the case.

 

How does this remind me of Violins?  Well today, cars are much like violins.  You have your cream of the crop and will pay a premium predominantly for the name.  An example is a lowly car like a Hyundai Genesis which is a copy of many luxury cars, specifically a BMW 5 series.  Tests have even proven that quality is similar as is performance around a track.  Many have even stated in a blind test, passengers wouldn't know the difference as to which car they're in...but if a person is told beforehand what car they're getting into "magically" the BMW is far better.  Interesting how that works.  And with something so subjective as sound, it's of my opinion that this is exactly the same "phenomenon".

 

This thread reminded me of the reading I was doing while waiting in the dentists office.

January 12, 2011 at 04:54 PM ·

I think what Michael D. was trying to say that a better tool will give you better idea of what a person CAN do, rather than lesser tools shutting off the possibilities and thus develop a different technique to use the tool, which probably struggle more to get the job done. I don't think he mentioned that having a great instrument in hand will make a player sound better, but it'll certainly teach a player that what he's lacking of.

Another example I can think of, is an extremely sharp knife, can take little effort to shave some wood off from a wood block, with precise control of how much wood needed to be shaved off. Will intermediate/beginner carpenter benefit from it? Why not? They'll know that what they lack of is a pair of steady and sensitive hands. They don't need to use more force to shave off some wood using lesser knifes, and with a great sharp knifes, they can shave wood off as tiny a piece as they want, which anyone can imagine it's impossible to do it on a blunt knifes.

I believe what Michael was say that, once a player has gotten into a level where they can do pretty well on a violin but still struggle with music when techniques get in the way and couldn't pull off what they wanted to do everytime (I believe most of us do!), a great instrument will give them such control that the instrument will connect to their mind and will do whatever they want, with less efforts. When a player can pull off what they wanted to do on a violin with ease, all they need to do is to focus on the music. Then, you'll also have to take into account that not every great instrument work well with every player, even a fine player.

Watch the video below. No doubt he's a fine player, but was working too hard on the violin. Yet, great instrument will sound even better when the player work less (hear what he said at 6:24). To me it looks as if the violinist doesn't yet have the sensitivity to "feel" the violin. Take my above example about knife, if you're used to blunt knife and always use a big force to carve the wood, you can probably chop the wood block into half if using an extremely sharp knife with big force...

 

Surely, I never played on a great instrument before, so I can never speak from my own experiences. But I for one can't think of other good reasons why many fine players are still trying as hard as they can to play on great old italians instead of others, apart from the reason that great old italians are simply superior in some ways. 

In the end, it'll remain a myth because nobody can tell what a player can feel on the violin. Whether old italians are superior, or simply just phychology thing, I feel that such debates can be never ending. The best violin the world is that one that that work best AND accessible/affordable to you.

January 12, 2011 at 06:23 PM ·

 @Nate:

There are two gorgeus moments in the life of the owner of a Ferrari: The first one is when you go to the dealer to pick up your brand new machine. The second is when you find a dupe to buy it..

January 12, 2011 at 07:08 PM ·

Casey, thanks for posting the "Trying out a Guarneri del Gesu" video.  However, I don't get the impression that the violinist was working too hard on the del Gesu.  Rather, I think he was bringing out the tonal and response qualities of the violin quite nicely.   In fact, he said the del Gesu was easy to play.  At 4:20 he said "the less I press, the more it sounds,"  and at 6:24 he said "So much easier... amazing how people who have great instruments... just how much less they work."

I'm pretty sure the violinist in the video is Igor Yuzefovich, assistant concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony.  He posts on this forum from time to time.  I hope he will add his insights to this discussion.

January 13, 2011 at 02:47 AM ·

Y Cheung - Surely he did not work too hard for what he's been doing everyday, but I was trying to say he's working too hard for what the violin will accept. (Nobody is perfect with wordings to 100% accurately express themself right? Same goes to what happened with Michael D. post. ;-)

By the way, we definitely can't tell from the youtube video whether he's choking the sound or not due to the typical compressing/limiting of the audio recording on consumer's video cam (for the sake of not overloading the input resulting distorted sound, at the same time bring up the overall volume as much as possible if the source is too soft). But at least we can hear what a fine player got to say about a great instrument.

January 14, 2011 at 06:30 PM ·

I have to say that I thought him to be a fine player and he had fine musicianship and sound too. Far too good in every respect to be in an orchestra!

If the del gesu was the first instrument then I prefered that one, it had rather a golden tone.The second instrument (his own?) also sounded very good, a brighter sound.

I'm afraid the young lady commenting didn't really know much about stringed instruments. Maybe she was his girlfriend ...

January 15, 2011 at 09:37 PM ·

All these obsessions about people using shoulder rests or not using them really says something about some people on these boards!! I just listen and when you have a player of that calibre I don't give a stuff if he uses bamboo scaffolding to hold the fiddle with, or rubs snake oil into his nether regions before playing.

What I heard was very fine playing, and he certainly tried only enough to get just the right results.

If we could all play even half as good as he does, then we might be in a position to make comments.

January 16, 2011 at 01:22 AM ·

For anyone who is interested (i.e. most of us!) the YouTube link to that video is
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNnYrEPVZeQ.  The comments indicate that it is a G del G that he is trying out. Note, towards the end, how he examines it before putting it back in its case.

I don't know whether it was my imagination, but there appeared to be an improved  tone when he changed bows, even through the audio fog of a YouTube video.  If that is indeed so then it is a good example of how important a bow is.

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