Worst violin inventions ever?

January 10, 2011 at 01:29 AM ·

Some of my favorite blunders:

the Poehland shoulder rest, for those who believe in the "no pain no gain" philosophy of music. I don't know exactly whose shoulder it was ergonomically designed for, but it probably wasn't a human.

Electronic tuners. Why bother to listen when you can watch a twitching needle or flashing red LED's instead?

Really cheap fine tuners. The new imports barely hold the string in place, the lever mechanism always seems to mar the violin surface below, and the tuning screw does not inspire confidence. By comparison, the older German made nickel tuners are as smooth as silk and a precision device.

Victorian wooden "coffin" style violin cases. With all the padded clothing people wore, didn't anyone think that their precious violin may want something more cozy and secure to sleep in?

Engraving pens. Yes, I've seen violins with  previous owner's personal information engraved on their backs.


January 10, 2011 at 01:47 AM ·

 Someone once showed me his patented soundpost. It was a brass triangle. One side was the "post", with a turnbuckle to tighten the post in place, and the other two sides joined to a point at the rib, and were held there with a pin through the rib. The bottom of the post was pinned in place on the back with a brass nail right through the back into the bottom of the "post". 

Here's another that's relatively harmless: a device to press upwards on the inside of the top to counter the downward pressure of the bridge. The upwards pressure is adjustable by turning a screw within the endpin: http://darntonviolins.com/images2/Sprengertone.jpg

January 10, 2011 at 04:34 PM ·

90% of the gadgets you see in string catalogs.  Some are good and useful, but a lot of them are things that no one would really need to put out money for, because you could carry out the same task with scotch tape, a butter knife, and a toothpick.

That's the same with a lot of things, though.  People will pay $20 for a little purple plastic tag with polka dots on it to hang off their knitting bag that tells them how to graft the toe of a sock shut rather than just write the directions down on an index card and stick the card in the bag.

January 10, 2011 at 04:41 PM ·

tube in-violin humidifier

[but I disagree on the electronic tuner ;) ]

January 10, 2011 at 04:47 PM ·

I disagree on the electronic tuner as well.  I don't naturally know what an "A" sounds like and I don't own a piano.  Without the electronic tuner, how am I supposed to get in tune?

January 10, 2011 at 04:49 PM ·

Maybe not the kind of invention you had in mind, but I did see, at a fiddle competition once, a monstrosity that was fiddle on one side, mandolin on the other. It was horrifying to look at! But it might just be me, I see geared tuners on a fiddle and feel pain, and some "fiddlers" flat bridges are the visual equivalent to nails on a chalkboard to me.

I disagree with the in violin humidifiers. I have four, and two teachers said they were a good idea, one chastised me for not making sure it had moisture in it.

January 10, 2011 at 04:54 PM ·

I disagree with the electronic tuner and fine tuner, for different reasons.

Electronic tuner is very helpful to people who begins without any pre-knowledge of tunes.

Finer tuner is an invention itself, and it's great. A cheap one is not another invention, just the same idea with different implements.

January 10, 2011 at 05:10 PM ·

I've got a tuner/metro combination, and it's fine for me.  Every now and then if I don't feel like going into the other room, I just haul it out if something seems strange to me, and none times out of ten it's not.  That's about it.  People seem to think that electronic tuners suck your free will out through your eyeballs or something, and force you to turn them on, glue them to the music stand, and mindlessly check every note with it.  It's just a tool -- you can overuse it or not as your own choice.  I can count on one hand the number of times I've turned mine on, but I've got one.

Meanly, speaking as a violist, I should also mention all the tote bags, coin purses, and silver jewelry that come in "both clefs."  *sigh*  They're not really inventions, though.  :-)

January 10, 2011 at 08:06 PM ·

Non-gut strings, which have been with us since about WW2. OK, we all use them, or have used them. But once you have gotten used to them (including the gut E), understood just why violin pegs are for tuning, and appreciated the tonal differences over everything else, you don't really want to go back to synthetics and steel.

I've also calculated out that plain gut strings (D,A,E) with a covered gut G give the best return for your money over good quality synthetics and steel. 

@Susan. Tuning forks are inexpensive, never wear out, break, or go out of tune, and don't have batteries. They're not even solar-powered!

January 11, 2011 at 12:48 AM ·

@ Trevor - I think I would find a tuning fork rather difficult right now.  Maybe a tuner that emits a constant sound that I could tune to.  That would be very helpful but having to strike a fork, then try to tune to a quickly fading sound is hard.  I had the pleasure of playing with my brother in law this Christmas.  Um - he plays piano, I should add :-)   He helped me through several pieces of music and pointed out my errors in reading notes, timing, counting.  Every once in a while he would constantly hit a note while saying "C C C C"  I could find the note while he was hitting the the note on the piano but once it faded it got kind of tough.

January 11, 2011 at 01:49 AM ·

 Susan, with practice, the sound gets into your ear, and you remember it for a long time (too long, if the next oboist's 'A' is different.)  And a fork's sound is so much purer than the electronic version.

I'm fascinated by the idea that gut strings are a better value than synthetic/steel.  Since my viola is new (2006) I doubt it would 'like' gut, but my (c. 1905)  violin's gonna get a trial set for its next birthday.

January 11, 2011 at 02:10 AM ·

What?  Nobody has mentioned the little strips of tape for the fingerboard to show beginners where the "right" notes are?  If aspiring violinists really need these, what do aspiring singers use?

Susan, I think you can do a lot of ear training with a tuning fork, and an A string you're trying to tune. One handy trick to experiment with is to hold the vibrating tuning fork to the bridge, then take it away while listening closely for any change in pitch.  You don't even have to play the violin...just hold it in your lap, alternately press and release the vibrating fork to the bridge, and listen for any kind of wah-wah that corresponds to your movement.  If the string is too far out of tune you won't get much out of this, but if it's right on you'll be surprised by how much you can get the string to vibrate just from what the fork is doing.  Fine tune the string up or down a bit and see how it affects the hold/no hold experiment.  And experiment with using your memory of the correct pitch. Just sing the note to yourself and try to tune to what you're singing. 

I will admit that once, while home alone,  I even put the base of the vibrating tuning fork against the bone near my right ear, and held the plucked violin up to my left.  The two sounds just met right in the middle of my head.  Try this at one of your jams, and see if the other fiddlers look at you funny.

January 11, 2011 at 03:30 AM ·

 "you don't really want to go back to synthetics and steel."

After trying every gut string on the market, yes I do want to go back to synthetics and steel. Even after trying Passiones recently. If you don't like them, you don't like them. And I don't like them.

My vote for worst invention is the Menuhin rest. They're prone to collapse and damage the back of the instrument, and you're lucky if the feet don't come off and gouge the finish.


January 11, 2011 at 12:19 PM ·

@Marjory, I've got all gut on my 2002 Jay Haide practice/folk/occasional orchestral fiddle, and the combination of Eudoxa G and A with Chorda (plain gut) A and E gives it the best sound it has ever had. I replaced an Eudoxa A and a Pirastro steel E with plain gut. The plain gut A is far better tonally and projectively, imo, than the Eudoxa A (and Eudoxas are not bad strings).

I tried out an old Chorda plain gut D but that didn't give a particularly good tone, especially from the 4th position up, and it wasn't balanced with the A, so I put the Eudoxa back on. Perhaps that was because the Chorda D was fairly old or not the right gauge; or perhaps a different make would be an improvement. I'll have to take advice on the matter.

Settling in of plain gut strings.  I installed them (A and E) carefully (once I'd figured out how to make the loop!), making sure the nut and bridge grooves were well lubricated with pencil lead, and they settled in within about 15 minutes. Since then, the way they hold their tuning is no worse than any other string I've used. It's worth bearing in mind that gut strings are well stretched during the manufacturing process as the strands of gut are twisted together, so it is to be expected that they settle in quickly and are fairly stable.

One thing I noticed about the plain gut A and E is that there is a smoother tone transition from one to the other than when the E is steel. In fact, the fingered E on the gut A is quite close tonally (except for reverberation of course) to the open gut E.

My other violin (late 18thc German "Strad" – or "Amati", opinions differ – ahem!) is currently strung with 3 Eudoxas and a loop Hill E (with Hill tuner).  I'm reluctant to replace the Hill with anything else at the moment, so I'll wait until the Eudoxas have had their day before I change to plain gut. 


January 11, 2011 at 12:30 PM ·

"Just sing the note to yourself and try to tune to what you're singing."

LOL!  When I started playing the violin my husband was curious to find out if I could identify a note because I certainly an not sing one!  That's when I found out that after 23 years together he really preferred if I DIDN'T sing along with the song on the radio!

What's interesting is that I can identify a G much easier when playing than I can other notes.  

OK, now I need to get a tuning fork.  I really do want to wean myself of aides. 

January 11, 2011 at 01:03 PM ·

susan - you don't have to use a tuning fork (look at the topic on tuning frequency for one problem with them).  Its better IMO to get an electronic tuner that sings the note to you - and wil do all of them and with a built in metronime (I have the light grey Korg).  Sometimes its just very useful to check what note you are playing quickly - in particular when you start playing in the higher registers.

However, the electronic tuners are not infallible - partly because of the whole tempered/non-tempered issue but (again IMO) because the violin note has so many overtones that sometimes it simply can't tell what your note is! 

January 11, 2011 at 04:20 PM ·

I believe it was Ruggiero Ricci who said that when he was warming up in the green room before his concerto he'd tune to the general sound of the orchestra filtering through from the stage as they played the overture.

When I'm playing in an instrumental folk session (English or Irish) I never use a tuning fork but always tune to the loudest instrument present, which is almost invariably some sort of two-row button melodeon.

In the chamber orchestra we always tune to the leader's A. Don't always necessarily agree with it, but there you go ;-)

January 11, 2011 at 04:21 PM ·

One thing I found that helped tune my ear better (I still need work) is an on-line tuner. It has a much more pleasant sound than my electronic tuner.

I have a bit of tinnitus, so the tuning fork is pretty difficult for me, although not impossible. That said, my fork is 440, which doesn't help much when I want to tune to 442.

Here's a site with an online sound; if you search for violin tuning, you will find a number of hits.


January 11, 2011 at 04:29 PM ·

My whole issue with these tuners is that you won't be able to take them out onto stage with you, so why use them?

You won't be able to play scales while you're on stage either, so why do them?

Jesus.  If I had to name a #1 "Most Pointless Thread Ever" on v.com, it would be anything about electronic tuners.

January 11, 2011 at 04:50 PM ·

 E string and A string pegs should be on the other side as well,,,if you know what i mean!

January 11, 2011 at 04:58 PM ·

'You won't be able to play scales while you're on stage either, so why do them? '


The last time I checked, the Beethoven and Mendelssohn Concerti had an abundance of scales. :)

January 11, 2011 at 05:02 PM ·

So you should only practice them if you are going to be playing pieces with scales.

Dude, face it.  What one does in practice is not the same as what one does on stage.  They're two different venues.  I doubt you'd walk on stage and spend an hour warming up on long tones while everyone listened.

Again, wasted thread.

January 11, 2011 at 05:20 PM ·

This thread is not only about the electronic tuners, may we just stick to the topic?

And IMO, electronic tuners and fork work for same purpose. One works for you, one works for me. If you hate it, don't use it; why bother to defense it to a party who doesn't even care how useful it is to you( fork for pro, electronic for newbie etc...). I'm using an electronic tuner, and I don't give a damn that a fork is useful for you now. I admire who can use it, but I don't bother with a thing I know I can't use it. It's simply as that so why argue?

January 11, 2011 at 05:31 PM ·

Pots and black kettles.

January 11, 2011 at 08:36 PM ·

One of my favorite Sir Thomas Beecham stories is that he was about to start a rehearsal with the orchestra, and the oboist giving the "A" to the strings had a particularly wide vibrato. Beecham looked around and said, "Gentlemen, take your pick."

January 12, 2011 at 04:17 PM ·


I'm a little unhappy with the tone of this thread, but I would like to try to address a couple of your tuner concerns seriously.  I got an electronic tuner only a couple of years ago, but since I've started working with it, my teacher has told me that my intonation has improved significantly, even when I'm not using it.  I also find that I hear intonation better, not just my own, but other people's.  (This is something of a mixed blessing, because previously I was just not that "tuned" to hearing bad intonation.  I could listen to an amateur, even elementary-public-school orchestra, and really just not be bothered by the less-than-perfect intonation.  Not anymore.)

My point is that the tuner provides me, someone who does not have a naturally good ear, with necessary feedback to train my ear.  When I started taking lessons with my current teacher, she would often hear intonation problems that I had not noticed, and point them out to me in lessons.  I would then work on those passages during the week, but since I only have lessons every 2-3 weeks (all I can afford, time- and money-wise), I could still go for a significant period of time in between lessons, playing something out of tune and learning to hear it incorrectly.  Then I'd go back to a lesson, she'd point out another problem, and I'd have to spend the next 2-3 weeks unlearning the incorrect thing I'd learned to hear on my own.  

My teacher actually recommended the tuner in response to this problem.  She also has one, and uses it herself in the same sort of way:  to check, and to make sure she doesn't get something wrong in her ear that then has to be unlearned.  She doesn't need it as much as I do--her ear is much better than mine naturally, and she has the further benefit of conservatory training and many years of professional playing experience, none of which I have.  

Having the tuner helps me check my intonation when my teacher or other sophisticated listener is not there.  With it, I don't waste 2-3 weeks in between lessons learning to hear and play something out of tune on my own.  There are probably more ideal ways to train your ear, but many of us don't have access to those ways.

To give a more concrete example, this fall I was working on the violin solo in the Tchaikovsky "Mozartiana" suite, in order to perform it.  You may be familiar with this piece.  Near the end of the solo there are two arpeggio figures, one ending on B and one ending on D (an octave above the ones you would play in 1st and 3rd position, respectively, on the E-string).  When I first started working on these figures, I was really lost.  They both sounded terrible to me (when I played them)--high and screechy, and just yeccch.  When I checked what I was doing with the tuner, I discovered something rather interesting:  that I was hitting the B too high and the D too low, consistently.  They were both pulling towards C in my mind.  A bad, fuzzy, out-of-tune, screechy C.  Once I knew that, I started working on playing the B lower and the D higher.  Then, over time, I started to learn to hear the difference between the two arpeggios up there in the nosebleed section.  They started to take on a different character from each other, and the contrast started to make musical sense.  I don't hear them pulling towards C anymore.

I didn't play those figures perfectly in performance.  Intonation for me is always going to be a work in progress.  And no, I didn't bring the tuner out on stage with me. But without the tuner I couldn't have even made the progress that I did in practice.

The fact that objective listeners tell me that my intonation has improved since I started using the tuner in practice, even though of course I don't take it out on stage with me, suggest that it really has helped me and isn't just a useless gadget.  

January 12, 2011 at 05:02 PM ·

Karen.  Amen.  Oh, and ditto.

I actually think that the strongest objections to tuners are from violinists who a) either can not remember what it ws like to start out or, b) played from such a young age when intonation was neither correct nor really required.  But perhaps there is an adult player or a returner (such as us) who have the same strong feelings against these devices?  it would be interesting if the opinion of young violinists on v.com


January 12, 2011 at 05:19 PM ·

re electronic tuner, i think it is a matter of using the tool for the right person at the right time.

if you have listened to nate's fine playing, you can safely assume he has a good ear, possibly to start with.

as karen has identified already, there are instances where one cannot hear one's own intonation problems despite paying attention to it.  this is particularly concerning if there is no one else around during practice to point that out, because that means the player is going to practice wrongly all week long until the next lesson, and the vicious cycle starts again.

my kids train with me in golf.  there are also many gadgets out there for that.  some are downright silly, imo, but, among those "silly ones", couple are very helpful to my kids because at this moment in time, they provide something for their brain to grasp, more effectively than my advice or books.  

for instance, on alignment, when we look straight into something far away, i can say with 100% certainty that 100% of the readers here can visualize a straight line, from where they are to the far away target.  really, no training is needed, just paying attention for couple seconds and you shall see that imagery straight line.

but if i ask them to stand sideways and look at the target again with a turned and tilted head, to visualize a straight line becomes very difficult for some.  optical illusion will come into play and right handed people tend to mistakenly line up toward the right side of the target.  some can overcome it naturally with little effort, some need to learn to develop a new sense.  that is when a gadget comes in handy.  in this case, the gadget is simply a straight stick, on the ground, pointing to the target.  you stand sideways and look at the direction where the stick points and condition yourself that THIS is the new straight line.  no kidding, it can take years for the reorientation!   some eventually just give up and simply aim left!

so for those with imprecise sense of intonation, it makes sense to get help from the tuner.  even though the tuner is not exactly exactly right, it is right enough for the time being.  the confidence developed with being right enough at this juncture is something to build on.  that, to me, means progress.

January 12, 2011 at 05:21 PM ·

A couple of years ago I was at an Irish music summer school in Keadue Co. Roscommon, Ireland, and one afternoon attended the finals of an international solo harp competition. There were 6 finalists, and one after the other they came on stage from the practice room to play their pieces before a fairly large audience and a judge.

They had previously tuned in the practice room and only needed to do a quick check on-stage to make sure that carrying the instrument into the hall hadn't affected the tuning. Five of the finalists tuned by ear; but one lady produced an electronic tuner and used it. In the audience eyebrows were raised, people turned and whispered to each other, and from where I was sitting I could see the frozen expression on the judge's face.

During their performances the intonation of five was as perfect as you would expect at an international competition; not so the harp that had been tuned electronically – it sounded hideous. I noticed that its player left the premises soon after she finished and did not stay for the results and the comments by the judge. It hardly needs to be mentioned that she did not get placed in the competition, the judge politely refraining from commenting on her performance (in public, at any rate).

January 12, 2011 at 08:52 PM ·

@Trevor, that sounds like a great example of how *not* to use an electronic tuner.   But what does that have to do with this thread?  Don't use your bow to stir spaghetti either.  Or your E-string to floss your teeth.  They are completely useless for that . . . ;-)

@Al, thanks for that interesting description of how aids are and are not used in golf.  That is the kind of subtlety that I was talking about with tuners also.  

It may be worth saying that I'm in no way advocating everyone using a tuner.  I personally view its use as more of a developmental stage.  Some, even many, people don't need one, or would use it differently than I described, as other have here.  People bring different strengths, weaknesses, and experiences to violin study.  The end goal, for me, is always being able to perform without it.  

But I don't seem to process auditory input very well.  In non-musical settings, I rarely remember things that I am just told verbally without writing them down, whereas my memory for visual information is quite good.  This idea of being able to "remember" pitch for more than a few seconds, especially with interference from intervening pitches, is almost completely mysterious to me--it would be a joke if it were funny.  I'm also sure that there are people who *can* remember pitches, I'm just not one of them.  I am getting a little better with practice.  Every once in a while I'll try to sing an A440, just off the top of my head, and then I'll check the tuner to see how close I get.  According to the tuner, I'm pretty close, but I'm never right on on the first try.  I vary a few Hz up or down.  And that's with a note I hear and pay attention to all the time.  If you asked me to sing a D or a G, or especially an F, off the top of my head, I will be off by a whole step, or even more.  I think there's a "pulling" towards certain default notes, the way there was with the C in the Mozartiana.

I'm pretty sure I could get better at singing pitches on cue if I worked at it, as I have with the violin intonation.  But I remain puzzled as to how I could get better without the feedback the tuner (or someone with a good ear) would provide.  It would be like trying to learn to solve math problems by guessing, and then not even being told if you got the right or wrong answer before you had to try again.

I also think the issue of equal temperament vs. other types of temperament is something of a red herring for people at my level.  (It is not at Nate's level.)  I can't, for example, hear the difference between an F# and a G-flat.  The intonation problems I'm trying to fix are almost always much more severe than that, at the level of being a quarter tone, or even a half-step, off.  Differences due to temperament are much smaller.  I would love to get to the level where I could hear those subtle differences.  But again, how am I going to do that without getting some feedback about where and how I'm going wrong?

January 12, 2011 at 09:16 PM ·

 good post karen.  i understand where you are coming from.  

you know, there are perhaps some or a few out there who can identify pitches correctly without having to learn it the hard way.  that is fine.  that ability may afford those to master pieces with less effort, but practically speaking, for classical musicians, or shall i say, music lovers, we are dealing with pieces with fixed notes, not like we have to react instantly to a military or medical emergency.  i think with time and with practice,  things will invariably get easier, through repetition and practice, both of which builds confidence.

if you find the aid helpful, by all means use it, as you say, during this developmental stage, just like training wheels for bikes (although for adults in a public street may look goofy:), or those flippers or board for swimmers to isolate upper or lower body training.  the list is endless.  most people get them through clever marketing and regret, but clearly that is not the case here.

another golf analogy is like this: when my kids were younger, from 100 yard away, they aim at a pin.  if they reached into a circle of 10 yard diameter around the pin,  i tell them it is good.  later, when they got better, 5 yard would be the goal.  these days, the circle is even smaller.

for you, without the tuner, it is like you can hit a target of 20 yd diameter, pitch-wise.  with it, you immediately can zone into 5 yard circle.  i would throw parties for that if i were you:)   i think those temperament talks can wait till you start hiting into 2 yard circle...

still, i think constantly checking against the open strings on your own violin helps.  i think the deeper or more focused you try to line up the 2, the more you will get out of it.  superficial listening can mislead you into thinking a little off is not off.

good luck!

January 12, 2011 at 10:15 PM ·

Besides tuners, the other thing I hear berated all the time is tape on the finger board.  I would love to not need it but in the very beginning it helps.  With the violin I rented, I used the tuner :-) to find my finger positions and then placed a thin strip of dark blue tape.  Once I got the feel of where my fingers went, I could start playing without always looking at my fingers but if I hear something wrong, first I look at where I am in relation to the tape then if it still sounds wrong, I might get out the tuner because the fact is, even with the tape you can get off by a bit.  When I went shopping for a violin of my own, I took my tuner, used it to help me locate the G on the D string, then I was set to go.  I had my position.  No tape needed.  I told my friends that I was going to leave the tape off of my new violin and they advised against it.  Don't add another hardship right now.  I've had this violin for almost two months now and I am starting to think about going tapeless.  I can always replace them if need be.  Like everything else, for some people it is helpful. It's just an aid and that's fine, as long as it doesn't become a crutch.

January 12, 2011 at 10:33 PM ·

I think the funniest device I've seen lately is the Bow Hold Buddy.  I'll let you do your own searches lest I direct some poor child to this monstrosity.

As far as electric tuners go.  I use one to get an A.  The very basic Korg allows you to set the frequency of A and it plays a tone.  It's also extremely useful if you are playing an amplified violin with a loud group, since you can plug a pickup directly into it and quickly tune in a loud room.  It also  tunes to the same notes as a guitarist or keyboardist are using.  The suggesting of tuning to the overture or the band playing a song, when possible, is my favorite way though.

I used to encourage beginning students who had a hard time identifying the proper notes in the first position to use a tuner to learn the basic 1st position fingerings but no longer do.  I like to put large stickers (the same ones kids get for learning a song) to get fingers in the right neighborhood and then teach how to listen to the instrument's resonance to get the notes exactly in tune.  The stickers wear off in a month or two and by then they're unnecessary.  A lot of adult beginners complain that they can't hear the resonance and need a lot of gentle guidance in fine tuning notes at first.  Eventually they to hear it, though, and it's like they're hearing their violin as a beautiful instrument for the first time.


January 13, 2011 at 12:10 AM ·


It's nice to hear that someone else has a problem associating the note they hear.

I have a different problem, but probably related somehow. I can hear a note, and know it is wrong, but not have any idea how to correct it. With a fork, I can eventually get it, because I know somewhere when it is getting further off, but with a slight sharp or flat, without some other context, I can't adjust well. I do have tinnitus, so that may be part of the equation.

Apparently not everyone can master pitch to the level needed to not use a tuner. That said, I do find myself improving as I work on it, so I don't promote doing nothing. I'm just glad I'm not the only one with problems related to pitch.

January 13, 2011 at 01:15 AM ·

@Elise Well I'm a young violinist! :D

Anyway, on semi-topic, electronic tuners are just like fine tuners. Use them if you need them, don't if you don't.

As for me, I like having the option of using one. For example, this semester, our high school orchestra director gave us Hoe-Down by Aaron Copland to play. Believe me, it's a really fun song, but I think all of us that have played it can agree that playing the cool fiddle rift starting on the high D on the E string takes some getting used to. Without an electronic tuner, I don't think I would be able to play that cool rift as well as I do now.

Now back on the real topic, I really don't like the white beginners' tape. I didn't like it when I was a little 3rd grader, I don't like it now. Just a few months ago, I found my 3/4 violin in my closet, beginners' tape and all. I was able to get it off with a lot of difficulty, and then I had to use rubbing alcohol [every carefully as to not touch the varnish] to remove the sticky residue. I heard about using white-out and how it will rub away cleanly the more you play and the more your fingers get used to the positions, and I think that's just ingenius.

So yeah, that's my pick for worst invention. Electronic tuners = alright depending on the person. Crappy beginners' tape = just switch to white-out.

January 13, 2011 at 01:58 AM ·

Those who diss electronic tuners probably haven't played the harp...or pieces with more than one harp!  What was tuning one like before electric tuners with the pickup? 

I always feel that tuning to an oboe that is forcing their A to match the tuner without adjusting their instrument kind of...misses the point though...

Incidentally with a tuning fork I have to remember the pitch for a while.  I can't tune and listen to that faint sound at the same time (they do make the huge ones with resonator boxes though)

January 13, 2011 at 02:19 AM ·


Looks like we have two threads again!  Tuning with means other than a good ol' A440 tuning fork, or "worst inventions..".  I'll tune in to the latter and add my own $.02.  The former can wait for a serious response from me.

IMHO, first prize goes to ebay item #360334119356.  As soon as I saw the original title of the post for the first time, the image of the "bow trainer"  popped into my mind as soon as my eyes landed on the above posting.

Since my teacher is not very keen on my bowing and I'm not ready for Sevcik yet, I'll offer this one for your grins:   http://www.patentgenius.com/image/5301589-2.html

January 13, 2011 at 02:34 AM ·

how about Vuillaumes "sourdine-pedale"???  I think de Beriot was the only guy that seemed to like it...

January 13, 2011 at 04:32 AM ·

synthetic bow hair?

January 13, 2011 at 09:56 AM ·

@ Leaton for this link :http://www.patentgenius.com/image/5301589-2.html


i think electric tuners are good for students, though many a,ctually have a speaker and play the notes instead of just having the lights and dials. I think using a tuner to check is fine, but you should always have a go first by ear. + unless you really need to, avoid tuning ALL the strings with the tuner (b/c of tempered pitch) and get used to tuning against chords

January 13, 2011 at 04:13 PM ·

I've never used synthetic bow hair but I do prefer synthetics for certain things...like motor oil

January 13, 2011 at 06:56 PM ·

Worst inventions ever for the violin:
- Combination electric violin and lie detector (to make sure you're not playing any false notes).
- A-string tuner attached to your car's battery.
- An automatic brow-wiping device attached to the bridge.
- F-holes in the shape of California.
- A flexible scroll that rolls out to reveal the entire text of Moby Dick.
- A cake of rosin made with TNT.
- A small super-glue dispenser for mending any broken chords.
I'd think of more, but I have to get back to work.
:) Sandy

January 14, 2011 at 02:20 AM ·

The "HappyNex" is by far the oddest device I've ever heard of....

January 14, 2011 at 02:26 AM ·

Wow, that Happynex is truly bizarre.

January 14, 2011 at 08:22 AM ·

Now then...What about Pythagorian Tuners ?  Mean tone tuners for piano duet, trio, quartet literature ??  How 'bout tuning forks with multiple sets of tines ?  How 'bout English mustard flavored rosin ?  How 'bout the rubber viola bow ??  Or the inflatable string instrument with an air valve on the end pin button ??  30 lbs for violin, 50 for viola, and 75 for cello ??  The radioactive mute ?  The diagonal Paganini Capo to play Caprice #1 on open strings ?  How 'bout the bow with a frog on each end so everything is downbow ??  How about Viotti #23 for agony ??  The circular bow chamber that allows one to play hurdy-gurdy literature ??  How 'bout the viola parts to Sibelius symphonies ?  Music-Minus-3 recordings of quartet literature ?  The Schnitke cadenza to Mississippi HotDog ? The Glutz Bros. violins with the bass bar on the top, and tune-able tail-gut ?  They've recently added a dial-'em-up gadget to select your favorite letter to replace standard F-holes and maintain political correctness. 

January 14, 2011 at 12:36 PM ·

Peter "Or the inflatable string instrument with an air valve on the end pin button ??  30 lbs for violin, 50 for viola, and 75 for cello ?? "

Love it.  And did you read about the time a player of this knocked over the entire cello section when his instrument exploded as he tried to reach the estimated 200lb for a double bass?

January 14, 2011 at 12:55 PM ·

Bow grease - allows you to practice in absolute silence.

June 4, 2011 at 02:14 AM ·

 My bete-noirs:

1.  Shoulder rests.  Aargh.  A pox on all of them.  If you were trained with one, getting rid of it takes a reconstruction of your technique. Different muscles get called into play.

2.  Those hideous wire and plastic mutes from the 60s (I can't remember the Brand name) that clipped onto the A and D strings.  They were ugly and tore the hell out of the silk wrapping on the string ends.  The little rubber Tourte mute is a big improvement.

3.  Synthetic strings.  Yeah, they stay in tune, but if I can think of something else nice to say about them I'll let you all know.



June 4, 2011 at 08:29 AM ·

Short necked violinsts - they are always trying to get rid of our essential shoulder rests... :p

Violin cases without an automatic catch - lift them by the handle without securing your instrument and .... OH NO!!!


June 4, 2011 at 10:36 AM ·

Worst violin-related bad idea in history? The VIOLA!!! ;-D

June 4, 2011 at 10:39 AM ·

I agree with Fred that the 1960s mutes he mentions looked un-aesthetic, but at least the one I had didn't tear the hell out of the silk windings on the strings.  Congratulations to Elise for her last post in this thread about shoulder rests (or should I say short-necked violinists?); adding to it, may I say that I'm relatively short-necked and much prefer a shoulder rest to a painful bruise on top of my collarbone.  As to electronic tuning, I recommend just googling 'violin tuner' and using the service so thoughtfully provided.  Some may lament the lack of overtones, but one can't have everything in life and this internet tuner is nothing if not accurate.  However, others will necessarily see shoulder rests and internet tuners as Bad Things, and they have a right to their opinions.

June 4, 2011 at 11:03 AM ·

[Raphael: do you like to live dangerously!!  Interesting how violinist never pick on cellists - perhaps  being smacked round the head with an instrument fitted with a harpoon is just too danagerous.  Or maybe because we actually need the Basso Continuo... Me I love cellists - oh, and violists are OK too :) ]

June 4, 2011 at 11:55 AM ·

I see we're resurrecting this one.

Here's an actual modification. Several decades ago, I was the Director of the Counseling Center at IIT in Chicago. One of the faculty members - an engineer named Marvin Camras - was also an amateur violin maker. Marvin had become famous because in the early 1940's when as an engineering student at IIT he invented some of the original technology for tape and wire recordings that made the growth of the recording industry possible in the last half-century. Anyway, Marv invented a violin with the right front quadrant (what your left arm struggles to get around when you play in higher positions) concave instead of convex - it curved in, not out.  This means you don't have to lift your right arm in that awkward position to get into high positions. Interesting idea, but the instrument itself didn't have a good sound.

But I can't resist a few more creative additions to the violin:

Using computer nano-technology, how about a device that fits over the scroll and the steel string tuners that automatically adjusts the intonation as you're playing? You could call it an accompanist.

Or a device that fits snugly over your left hand and arm and automatically gives you a perfect vibrato. It could be called the vibrometer. And you could plot the results on your vibrograph.

Then there's the Beethoven Equalizer, for automatically playing scales and arpeggios on your violin, thereby enabling you to play any piece by Beethoven.

And just to make sure you don't drop any notes, there's the spiccounter, which automatically counts all the notes you play in, say, Moto Perpetuo.

:) Sandy

June 4, 2011 at 12:54 PM ·

Synthetic bow hair ranks very high in worthlessness.

I personally can't stand the sound of electric violins.

I love my shoulder rest, my electronic tuner and my synthetic peter infeld strings.

June 4, 2011 at 02:16 PM ·

Me!  (except my brain and heart... : )

I don't know for what I was designed but gee it wasn't for my biggest passion!  aarrrrrrrggggg





June 4, 2011 at 02:24 PM ·

I can't stand mutes and what they do to the sound when you take them off...

June 4, 2011 at 02:25 PM ·

Shoulder rests are fine, as long as you have a good physical therapist :-)

June 4, 2011 at 06:01 PM ·

Ann-Marie:  I can't stand mutes and what they do to the sound when you take them off...

LOL!  Yup, suddenly goes loud, unfocussed and vacant sounding.  Till you put them on again of course then something opposite - and equally disturbing happens!

June 4, 2011 at 07:21 PM ·

 Nate, you bring up some interesting points.  And, like always, I'm going to disagree with you on this one ;)

"1) Shoulder rests: Especially Kun, Mach, and the ones with 'feet' that can mute the violin's tone, change positioning, and cause potential body damage to an instrument."

I disagree.  To me, a shoulder rest provides security, and, as long as it is used properly without gripping with the shoulder, then it is helpful.  And on your other point, I don't think it mutes the tone, rather, I feel that putting one's whole shoulder or chest on an instrument dampens the tone more.

"2) Dampits: These are absolutely horrible for instruments.  I've heard of cases where the moisture inside the dampit caused damage to the interior of violins.  A good alternative to the dampit in a dry climate is to have a humidifier. "

I once bought a rather expensive violin.  Took it home, and in the next two weeks, the horrible dryness and cold made it crack.  I then used a Dampit, and after that I had no problems. Body damage from the moisture is because people don't dry it out properly before putting it in; it is supposed to have a very small amount of liquid. 

"3) Tuners:  There are some players I know who practice with a tuning device on the stand in front of them and it shows whether or not the player is in tune.  It is one thing to get a tuning A, but another to practice a scale with one of these things. I believe in the long run, these do not help a violinist because the violinist will eventually have to hear the correct pitches and determine whether or not s/he is playing in tune without help from a tuning device.  Plus most of these tuners are geared for tempered intonation (piano intonation), we as string players have the advantage of not having to play with tempered pitch."

Again, I disagree.  I have many problems with intonation, and I believe it is my weakest area.  Then again, you have fantastic intonation.  I don't, and I use a tuner.  My performance of the Tzigane with the US Army Orchestra on Youtube and on my Facebook was the result (intonation wise) from working with a tuner, both with a needle and playing a section along to a "drone" note.

"4) Violin bow straighteners such as this one.  Anyone who has a basic idea about playing the violin properly knows that it is imperative not to always be on the same sounding point with the bow.  This bow straightener allows the player to bow in a limited area.  I'm not sure if this bow straightener even keeps the bow straight because in order for the bow to be 'straight' it has to be parallel to the bridge which is curved.  This bow straightener is square shaped."

I used one when I was a child.  I don't think that it is supposed to be for a professional violinist.  When you are teaching an absolute beginner, do you immediately tell them to start changing sounding points and try to find different colors?  No...you get them to play with a straight bow.  These straighteners are not meant to be used in the long term; rather, they are meant to just get the student used to the angle of the arm with having a bow parallel to the bridge.  And in that, it can be very valuable.

Hope this adds something to the discussion :)


June 4, 2011 at 07:43 PM ·

 Maybe not technically an invention, but have you ever seen attempts to evoke classical music or romanticism by featuring a violin on a poster, program, or greeting card? They photograph the worst piece of trash factory fiddle with a shiny finish and 5 tailpiece tuners and put things like a some roses or a puppy or glass of wine next to it. Usually, the "violin" is artfully placed on top of some sheet music that has nothing to do with the violin, like some song from South Pacific or a handbell choir piece.

June 4, 2011 at 08:44 PM ·

Scott lol...

Or these movies where the people fake to play and it shows...

Elise, yes and I find mutes muffle the sound for a few days when you take them off!   I'm talking of the classical black rubber and heavy metal mute.  I never put them now. 


June 5, 2011 at 12:25 AM ·

Elise - you're right, I am more afraid of cellists. And speaking of bad inventions, what's up with the cello endpin? Having long arms, I once thought to try to play the cello. I nearly severed my windpipe with that darn endpin!

June 5, 2011 at 04:30 AM ·

Raphael:  but cellists might counter that if the violin had an end pin the sound from the violin section would be much improved...


June 5, 2011 at 05:06 AM ·

Regarding fine tuners; I sometimes use one, but I also have G, D, A, and E as ringtones on my phone; I can play them as music, for as long as I want. No fade and at  whatever volume I want.

June 5, 2011 at 07:12 AM ·

 Sander wrote:

"Then there's the Beethoven Equalizer, for automatically playing scales and arpeggios on your violin, thereby enabling you to play any piece by Beethoven."


I think the Beethoven equalizer would be a fancy looking, expensive device that actually does absolutely nothing.

-Beethoven couldn't hear it & neither can you!  (send before midnight tomorrow.....)

June 5, 2011 at 11:12 AM ·

Elise - that's OK. Someone just corrected me and told me that I shouldn't have treid to hold the cello on my shoulder. Who knew? ;-)

June 5, 2011 at 12:08 PM ·

Raphael, ok... lol

I was thinking you were serious about trying the cello in the conventional way.  And I though "what the hell was he doing to have the endpin near his throat... " 


June 5, 2011 at 02:58 PM ·


June 5, 2011 at 05:23 PM ·


If you are using an appropriate sized shoulder rest for your cello, it has a guard to protect your neck from the endpin.

June 5, 2011 at 06:51 PM ·

Someone had given me one - but at the time I thought it was a bullet-proof vest!

June 5, 2011 at 07:22 PM ·

 The Incredibow has to come top 5. http://www.incredibow.com/ It's truly awful and makes playing with any kind of sound a herculean task. Also Synthetic strings can't be too bad if so many of today's top professionals use them!

June 6, 2011 at 02:01 PM ·

The endpin is dangerous only if you put it on a violin.

Allan, lighten up. Mark Twain once said that "Sacred cows make the best hamburger." I adore Beethoven. In the Violin Concerto, he takes scales and arpeggios - nothing, really - and out of it fashions one of the great artistic achievements of Western civilization.

June 6, 2011 at 07:20 PM ·

 http://tracking.technodesignip.com/?action=count&projectid=642&contentid=6533&referrer=-&urlaction=r...http://tracking.technodesignip.com/?action=count&projectid=642&contentid=6533&referrer=-&urlaction=r...very funny


June 9, 2011 at 01:53 AM ·

1. Tapes

2. Tuners (the pitch detecting kind)

3. Shoulder rests


In general I am against tapes and "tuners" but tapes can be very helpful in the early stages of playing especially to non-prodigies like me. Having said that I think they should be removed as soon as the student can play a few tunes with decent hand shape and basically in tune. Likewise for tuners. They can help someone hear more acutely by providing feedback on small pitch changes but once some basic acuity is achieved I think that the tuner should be abandoned.


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