Yamaha Acoustic Violin

December 18, 2011 at 09:23 PM · I've come across this yamaha promotion video about the Yamaha Acoustic Violin, and was thought to be some typical endorse video:

But the violinist Mikhail Nodelman mentioned that he even used the violin for competition and won the first place, and continue to use the violin as a concertmaster. So I'm pretty skeptical about this statement and I thought it has to be true or else he'll be in trouble! So I found this video...

And I thought to myself, geez this is one hell of a fine sound! Apart from the sound of the violinist himself, I think the violin also contributed big part of the sound he produced. But it's price tag belongs to the top of the line luthier made violins ($10k~$25k typical with a few exception in the $30k~50k+ range), "retail price" at 1,680,000 yen inclusive of tax which is about USD$21,570 according to today's currency conversion, without tax is about USD$1000 less. Since yamaha priced the violin like their other products, there should be "street price" that's lower. Still by no means cheap, but I think if it's as consistent as the one Mikhail Nodelman used, still not a bad choice I think. I've had some experiences with yamaha acoustic violin. One of my student owned the lower range yamaha acoustic violin and the made was very good, although the sound is to be expected for lower price range. Played another one that's exactly the same model, and was surprised that both sounded really similar. So I think Yamaha do try to maintain the consistency for their product.

What do you think?

Replies (27)

December 18, 2011 at 10:30 PM · Google Translate reports the YouTube clip as saying that it is Michael Dell playing a YVN500S prototype in Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben; and that he loves it. (My summary).

BTW, it is worth mentioning that Yahama make well-respected concert pianos and other instruments, so it is not surprising that they are starting to pay attention to professional quality violins.

December 19, 2011 at 04:12 AM · This site is in Japanese but some of Yamaha products...

http://jp.yamaha.com/products/musical-instruments/strings/ac-violins/artida/?mode=series

December 19, 2011 at 11:55 AM · Many years ago, an oboe friend once sneered at a Yamaha instrument. It had a £10,000 price tag, though, so when the shop asked her if she'd like to try it she couldn't resist a quick go. Apparently, she reported, it was amazing- pretty much played itself. Such a glorious tone.

I wonder how they do it?

December 19, 2011 at 01:28 PM · I really think there has been some significant input from the sound engineers on the Ein Heldenleben clip! But having said that, Yamaha have long had a reputation for high quality engineering.

December 19, 2011 at 01:29 PM · I understand that these instruments are partially hand made and that the wood is "aged" by high pressure steam. I don't know how they will hold their value against known makers who make in the traditional way and they do seem to be rather expensive. However, they do look good even with the fake antiquing.

The clip with orchestra one can't take too seriously as it was very close miked and amplified - the solo violin was ten times louder than the orchestra and there were all sorts of wierd noises like shoes being sqeaked and other strange sounds, and it made a few bow crunches very obvious.

If I'm going to pay £12,800 as quoted in the December Strad magazine then I would rather go for a traditional top maker where the sound would be just as good and maybe better.

Also, we do not know how these instruments will be in 20-50 years time with the steam treatment of the wood, and this may possibly mean they might start to fall apart. We just do not know.

All these things were mentioned in a Strad mag article in the Dec issue.

December 19, 2011 at 02:49 PM · The article is not in the Dec. issue, but the Jan 2012 issue, which I don't have yet. I'm curious to see it, as I was asked to contribute some information for the article.

There is a Yamaha site (http://se.yamaha.com/sv/products/musical-instruments/strings/ac-violins/yvn500s_02/) giving minimal clues about their wood processing, but yes: heat and pressure, along the lines of what I have been investigating for a few years. There are some reasonable arguments that the processing can produce chemical changes that would happen over long periods of normal aging, and there are measurable changes in the wood properties, such as stiffness/weight, and damping.

I also noticed that Yamaha mentions a UV-curing coating... I'm guessing it's not your normal linseed oil based varnish, but that can be cured by UV too.

December 19, 2011 at 03:06 PM · This would not be the first time that a mass marketer of multiple kinds of instruments sold good instruments. SO, I believe it!

Starting in the mid-nineteenth century, the Conn company (famous for band instruments) started selling violins. The process continued well into the 20th century, and it is reported that they actually imported some very fine Italian makers to produce their instruments. I have heard that the violins thus made compete well with any other Italian instruments of the period.

Although typical Conn violin prices are around $3,000, there is no reason they would not go higher.

Andy

December 19, 2011 at 04:24 PM · Don Noon

Sorry yes, it must be the January 2012 edition. I've just received it, and you are featured in it.

Hope you get your copy soon.

December 19, 2011 at 05:46 PM · Though I'm hugely impresed with the player, the actual sound of the violin, though healthily strong, doesn't much appeal, but that's probably to do with the engineering of the recording.

This project is very interesting, and knowing the reputation of Yamaha it will surely result in some good instruments. I am inclined to agree that the steam treatment probably merely hastens what would happen anyway to the timber. Those scaremonger tales directed at anyone who makes a halfway decent fiddle, Vuillaume and others, so often proved unfounded in the long-term. The Vuillaume I used for nearly 20 years was definitely not "half-baked".

December 19, 2011 at 07:00 PM · I have some experience with processed wood. One of the best makers of electric guitars, ruokangas, uses "thermo treatment" for some of his wood (see link).

http://www.ruokangas.com/?p=1859

The guitar I have from him (VSOP model) is simply great, and maybe the thermo treatment adds a bit to it (not much, as his instruments are fantastic anyway, for electric guitars).

I have a sensible (censored) detector, but here it sounds reasonable.

Maybe Yamaha use a similar process.

PS: Laurie, why can't I type the word "bullsh.." in this forum? It is filtered out by the software.

This is the appropriate word that is used for quackery etc., so where is the problem? In germany we have "bockmist" ;-)

December 19, 2011 at 07:13 PM · This is where Latin is useful. Try "excreta tauri".

December 22, 2011 at 05:27 PM · Appreciate the comments!

David Beck - You're right! I think there's this limiting going on in the video (a kind of compression, hard limiting the output level by attenuating the level if it goes beyond the threshold, in other words softer bits will not be attenuated so they appear louder than the rest when orchestra came in). When orchestra came in, the violin sound actually kinda disappeared.

Would really love to get my hands on these since violin is one of the instrument hardly associated with modern technology when it comes to improving the tradition since there're Strads and DGs around. There isn't much soloists praising instruments made with modern technology enhancement (carbon fiber bow is one of them). The only Yamaha violin I have experiences with is the V5 model, pretty nicely priced and the sound is pretty good for a student model. They're consistent for the 2 samples I tried.

December 23, 2011 at 08:20 AM · some questions to the luthiers:

so is this technology a propriety one being used solely on yamaha acoustic violins?

given that there are great makers out there (zygzyg, burgess, curtin, alf...etc) who are continually looking at how to make acoustically superior violins - have they eperimented with this technology and have they experienced an improvement or not?

ok, so basically these are workshop violins with a twist..does this twist work? or do they choose the best instruments to sell as yamaha - so its more of a strict quality control thing?

i read that the famous teacher Bron is helping/supporting Yamaha in their quest for making their top violins and bows. so there must also be something behind it.

but US $20,000? it is stated somewhere that Bron wanted to help Yamaha be able to provide players with more affordable instrument. but 20,000 buys you the best of contemporary and probably early 20th century violins...so the question is whether really these violins are so outstanding that they are far better than all these contemporary maker violins? in which case, are violinists running to the yamaha shops to buy them?

many questions...but 20,000 is far from being affordable unless it really is for something that is remarkably outstanding in my opinion

December 23, 2011 at 08:35 AM · Nothing new about an instrument-making firm consulting leading players/experts. Yamaha has quite a history, and the results have usually been impressive. Everywhere one goes there are Yamaha grand pianos, cruise ships, whatever.

In my neck of the woods Nicholas Cox helped redesign their clarinets, changing them from being clones of the Buffets to something approaching a German bore and sound.

http://uk.yamaha.com/en/artists/brass_woodwinds/nicholas_cox/

I suspect they've still got a long uphill climb ahead of them with their violin project. However, I'd be very happy if they succeed.

As to price, it seems that the Japanese market accepts quite high prices for new fiddles, especially Italians. $20k is not high.

A useful source of info is the kurosawagakki website. This is tricky to navigate. Best of luck !

December 23, 2011 at 11:34 AM · "some questions to the luthiers:"

Tammuz, I'd like to hold off a bit on commenting, because of the article coming out in The Strad magazine. It's a good magazine, run by people I like, so I try to be supportive.

Also, I haven't seen, heard or played one in person. I listened to the sound files, but never pay much attention to those, because too much depends on the recording environment, and how much the sound has been tweaked. It's pretty easy these days to push sound all over the place with computer processing. With the software I have, and a half-hours work, I can probably turn a violin into a saxaphone. LOL

Going just from the photos, its probably not something I'll be adding to my small collection of contemporary instruments. ;-)

December 23, 2011 at 11:48 AM · Longtime experience with Yamaha shows they learn and get better over time. They always kept looking and listening (and analysing)

30 ys ago I worked at a brass instruments workshop. They told me Yamaha guys bought some of their instruments and called back a short time afterwards, that there had been a damage and "please send only the replacement parts, we can fix it ourselves).

Nice try.

December 26, 2011 at 04:32 AM · I don't get the Strad magazine here :o(

nonetheless, it would be interesting to hear your opinion David - after or before magazine article.

its a strange thing...

-if the magic is in the technology being used, why havent the "cutting edge" (good pun?) luthiers not yet invested in such technology

- if its in the quality of workmanship and knowledge of sound, why would excellent luthiers wish to work with yamaha and not on their own when they can produce a "20,000" dollar instrument. but anyway, are they not workshop assemled-parts fiddle by another name?

at $20,000...i think yamaha are in a weird position. people willing to spend that much money are most probably very knowledgeable of what they breadth of choice can get for that sort of money.

and IF their violins really are that good, would it be the quality control issue that a reputable global company can seem to guarantee that tips the balance? on the other hand, on a more "marketing" level, isnt it the case that a "boutique" (singular maker) product is seen to be more rarefied therefore possibly expensive than a brand product (workshop-y). i stop now before this becomes a phd thesis.

December 26, 2011 at 03:42 PM · I don't pretend to know the inner workings of Yamaha, but they do seem to be willing to take risks on new technology. Back when I was still in the aerospace biz, Yamaha collected a bunch of techies (including me) for a free-form brainstorming session on how the latest technology could be applied to Yamaha products. It was several years ago, long before I started investigating wood and violin acoustics.

I'm guessing this high-level violin adventure by Yamaha won't be a resounding (yeesh, another pun) success financially. As has been pointed out, who would want to buy a violin from a "company" when for the same $ you could get one made by a person? And there's the R&D costs, advertising, etc. to try to recover on the sales. Rather than being a money-maker, I believe this is more of an image-booster for Yamaha. Like a car company pouring milliions into a racing team, where the prize money can't possibly cover the costs. It's already working: we're discussing Yamaha.

I don't believe that treated wood is "the magic bullet" all by itself. Certainly a poor luthier could use such wood to shoot himself in the foot. So most of the result is still in the hands of who shapes it. I don't have all the information yet, but it is reasonably clear to me that processing can get a little more stiffness, a little less weight, and a little more ring to the wood. An anvantage in my opinion, but not one that would overwhelm the effect of the maker or the natural variations you'd find in the raw wood.

November 26, 2012 at 05:49 PM · It would be interesting if any of the well known luthiers can get some of these steam treated wood to make violin and compare the two instruments?? I wouldn't worry to much about how these violins are going to be like in 20-30 years time as long as they are good to play with for the foreseeable future.

December 5, 2014 at 10:59 AM · :) Yamaha Violin is the best of choice. It is very expensive. I like it.

December 5, 2014 at 03:16 PM ·

December 5, 2014 at 09:18 PM · Can't speak for their highest end Model but a customer of mine proudly showed up with his $5000 Yamaha violin, it was loud and I guess you could say full sounding, but not very refined or sweet to my ear, certainly not something I would recommend for the price, it took a couple of years but the customer finally came up with $4000 to buy a Swedish violin I had by Johannes Brun around 1920 that he liked better, it may not have been quite as loud as the Yamaha, but tonally superior in almost every other respect, he's quit looking for anything better since buying the Swedish violin. But that being said there is always someone who seems to like violins I personally find quite distasteful, so I guess there's a market for anything.

December 7, 2014 at 07:23 AM · I can speak for Yamaha's research and development...they do great things for many instruments.

In the clarinet world, most people play on instruments from Buffet-Crampon (France), in particular, a specific model, the R-13. A little over a decade ago, Yamaha introduced a new model clarinet (the CSG) that I felt was noticeably better than my top-of-the-line, expert-adjusted set of Buffet clarinets, and I switched to them. They have not been afraid to introduce new concepts in instrument design that are out of the norm. In the past ten years every single performance of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, Brahms Clarinet Quintet and Trio, Weber Quintet, etc. has been on Yamaha. Their reliability and intonation (especially together with the string quartet) is impeccable. I should also mention that at the time, I was able to obtain both my clarinets (one in the key of Bb and the other in the key of A) for the same cost as ONE of my Buffet clarinets...it was startling to me to be able to obtain an instrument of that quality at such an economical price point.

I wouldn't be surprised to see interesting innovations by Yamaha for stringed instruments. I don't think their student instruments are quite competitive with the output from some of the workshops in mainland China that the shops out here stock at similar prices, but they are set up decently and are very consistent in terms of playability, and you can buy one without playing it and expect a certain minimum level of performance. There is a market for that...

December 7, 2014 at 01:37 PM · ADDENDA in giving some more thought to my story, It seems I may have, I'm not sure, confused two customers with one, one who owned the Yamaha and one who bought the Swedish violin, I stand by what I said about the sound, the Yamaha had a bit of raw quality to it you usually find on cheaper instruments, it had plenty of power and the notes were even, but the quality of the tone could be better IMHO, sorry about that.

December 8, 2014 at 12:33 AM · Hi Tobias,

We'll keep the word filters as is. We like people to take that extra step of figuring out how to express themselves without the expletives.

August 2, 2016 at 07:13 PM · I like Yamaha Violins. http://europe.yamaha.com/en/products/musical-instruments/strings/ac-violins/

August 3, 2016 at 12:23 PM · A few years ago, I tried a $700 Yamaha violin in a shop. It was easily blown away by the $350 Eastman that I also tried at that time. But I have heard a student rental Yamaha that sounded pretty good.

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