Cornerless Violin

November 17, 2011 at 06:28 AM · Any thoughts on this violin? Reminds me of a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top Guitar.

Being played before it was stained.

Replies (21)

November 17, 2011 at 07:46 AM · I think that this shape was once done by Stradivarius as well, though with normal F-holes....

November 17, 2011 at 09:50 AM · Looks awful and sounds awful.

A better player might have helped.

Cutting corners like this never pays off!

November 17, 2011 at 11:58 AM · There's a British maker called Tim Phillips who's been making cornerless violins for years now.

Pretty decent instruments at an affordable price - they are very popular with Trad players, including many of the big names here.

Here's his site...

November 17, 2011 at 12:22 PM · i remember seeing j bell playing one, a strad?

does it have blocks still?

November 17, 2011 at 12:33 PM · I have two violins and a viola without corners. I like them in look and sound.

November 17, 2011 at 06:01 PM · A friend of mine in orchestra has one -- with very different-looking f-holes (they looked more like the letter "C") -- that was described by its maker as a "Baroque Violin". It sounds great! It's very powerful, though, so I'm sure it would do quite well for a soloist -- maybe too much "oomph" for a string trio or quartet.

November 17, 2011 at 06:49 PM · Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma plays the ex-Chanot Chardon Strad, "on loan to her from an anonymous benefactor." It has no corners and no blocks where the corners should be. You can see her playing it here.

November 17, 2011 at 08:28 PM · Joshua Bell playing corner-less Strad. (Oh yeah, he sounds like crap too. \sarcasm \rollseyes)

Joshua Bell plays cornerless Strad

November 18, 2011 at 02:42 AM · That's an eye opener - I assumed "cutting the corners" was just a cost-cutting shortcut for inexpensive fiddles...

If you can make a cornerless instrument good enough for Bell, why are we still making with corners? They look pretty, sure enough, but they get in the way and are vulnerable to damage. Is this just conservatism or is there a valid reason for retaining them?

Every day I pass the workshop of the wonderful Viol maker Bob Eyland and sometimes get the opportunity to discuss the history of the gamba family. They rarely have corners, last for hundreds of years, and look gorgeous. Why did corners evolve? Are they functional or merely decorative?

November 18, 2011 at 03:15 AM · Bell got rid of the corner-less Strad, presumably for a good reason.

If you have no corners, the blocks have to intrude into the air space.

It's probably not impossible to make a good-sounding or powerful model like this, but I'd think it makes it a little harder to pull off.

I remember a well-known member of a trio then had it (Beaux Arts?). I'd be curious to know if he still has it.

November 18, 2011 at 09:59 AM · So it really is a Strad! I'd initially thought this was a case of humour... The guys on Maestronet seem to think it's a conversion of a Gamba-like instrument.

One maker who has experimented with cornerless instruments says they tend to be more resonant but lacking a bit in the tone department. I've played a few of the Tim Phillips instruments and feel that this would be a fair description, though he has customers like Nancy Kerr, Alasdair White and Eliza Carthy, so what do I know?

There is a highly reputed UK maker who has developed a cornerless student viola, though her professional models seem to be conventional. The Strad did a piece on her which you can read here.

And of course the Luis and Clarke is cornerless and IMHO looks pretty good:

November 18, 2011 at 01:19 PM · Scott, you are wrong about there being blocks in the air-space. In a cornerless instrument there are in fact no blocks and yet all my instruments seem very sturdy. If all instruments were made cornerless and an instrument with corners was presented, we'd all be arguing about how those blocks they had to put in to support the corners were impeding the resonance.

The idea that you can play one cornerless and judge the whole concept from that one instrument seems ludicrous. Imagine it the other way around - that you play one violin with conventional corners and judge all cornered violins by that!

I also like the gamba corners - kind of blunter than the sharp protruding ones on a regular violin. Would like to see blunter corners at least.

November 18, 2011 at 05:11 PM · Christopher,

I haven't actually played any cornerless instruments, but I believe the argument was made to me by a luthier, so I could well be mistaken.

So one question for luthiers is whether there is actually some compromise in sound/projection.


December 15, 2015 at 04:21 PM · The cornerless violin and a regular violin look about the same on the inside. The instrument Mr. Bell was playing at the time is the Chanot-Chardon Stradivari. It was converted by someone probably in France in the 19th century. I have a modern copy of it that plays very well. The wider than normal middle bout does not seem to be any problem with playability. The original was sort of a small viola d'amore but the exact instrument is hard to visualize. The construction seems to owe a lot to Stradivari's guitars including the ebony pins in the ribs that were perhaps used to fix the ribs to the inside mold. The instrument is for sale at Bein and Fushi in Chicago at the moment.

December 15, 2015 at 05:50 PM · Here's a link to Simone Lamsma playing the cornerless ex-Chanot Chardon Strad

December 15, 2015 at 09:02 PM · My viola has only the two lower corners. I complained to my luthier, but he said it was already out of guarantee!

Very wide middle and upper bouts, but the latter are wide farther down than usual, so they don't get in the way. Deep warm tone, 15-3/4" body, 14" string length

December 15, 2015 at 09:16 PM · Interesting. I recently saw a performance by a string quartet where the violist had a cornerless instrument. It looked rather odd but sounded just fine.

December 15, 2015 at 09:42 PM · I like them! But aesthetically I prefer the normal f-holes, I find those c-holes too weird looking.

December 16, 2015 at 01:20 AM · There are plenty enough violins with normal f-holes!

December 16, 2015 at 02:34 AM · I prefer 3-cornered violas. :)

December 16, 2015 at 07:57 AM · Bernard Sabatier's lopsided Violas have three corners - and a super tone!

I prefer his two-cornered one: same warmth, but a little more punch.

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