Where can we buy a fungus treated violin? They supposedly sound as good as a Stradivarius.

February 8, 2014 at 11:14 PM · Hi guys. Where can we buy a fungus treated violin? They supposedly sound as good as a Stradivarius. If we google this term we can read about how these violins often sound better than actual Strads in blind tests. I was wondering how much one would cost and how I could buy one.

Thank you,

Emmanuel

Replies (60)

February 8, 2014 at 11:49 PM · Joachim had a beard, but the only instruments he made to sound like strads were ..... strads.

February 9, 2014 at 12:05 AM ·

February 9, 2014 at 12:06 AM · Please define "supposedly."

February 9, 2014 at 07:49 AM · Roche violins http://www.rocheviolins.com/index.html seem to boast of a woodworm treatment. That's the only maker a google search gave me who seems to publicise using the process, though I expect many others would be willing to "borax" a new violin for you if asked.

Another "magic preparation" is a silicate treatment, which has some supporting evidence because the furniture makers of old used such a primer before varnishing.

It's thought that the borax preparation was used only for the maple, back and ribs. Also, because the maple came from the Balkans, via Venice, they think it was stored in sea-water,(!!!) and that this changed the internal structure of the timber. There's a lot of conjecture, not much by way of iron-cast proof.

We are expected to believe that then as now wood for the tables came from Northern Italy, Val di Fiemme, and was transported by land, so there was no sea-water immersion; and that woodworm don't relish spruce nearly as much as they do maple. Hmm. If a pinch of salt is required, it does not need to come from salt water, IMHO.

BTW there have been many instances of new violins beating Stradivaris in blind tests - so much depends on the player.

For further info, see :- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Nagyvary

February 9, 2014 at 03:06 PM · I think if we google this term we can find a lot of results. The sound is comparable to a Strad and some people even prefer it to the sound of a Strad.

The website that David posted is interesting.

What does boraxing an instrument involve? Are there people who soak wood in seawater and make violins out of it nowadays?

Thank you,

Emmanuel

February 9, 2014 at 03:29 PM · I believe the OP's interest has been generated by this article, or one of the many others like it reproducing information provided by the investigators:

http://scienceblog.com/56469/treatment-with-fungi-makes-a-modern-violin-sound-like-a-stradiavarius/

One thing to note is that Martin Schleske was involved in actually making the instrument, who is a reasonalby good maker, as I understand.

There is very little hard information about the "blind test" and the results, but we have plenty of evidence that these tests normally do not show clear Strad superiority.

I have looked into technical reports related to fungal treatment, and the results (i.e. improvements in the wood properties) do not look all that impressive to me. I have also been in contact with Dr. Nagyvary, and experimented with some of his ideas, with only intermittent and modest results. The best results I have found come from thermal processing (carefully controlled temperature and pressure). Yamaha is promoting a line of violins with processed wood, which they call A.R.E.

http://se.yamaha.com/sv/products/musical-instruments/strings/ac-violins/yvn500s_02/

I have not seen the technical results, nor actually tried any of these violins.

I do not know of any fungal treated violins on the market, and one from Schleske (if he even makes them available) would definitely not be cheap. Yamaha's treated violins are quite pricey, too.

February 9, 2014 at 03:54 PM · "BTW there have been many instances of new violins beating Stradivaris in blind tests - so much depends on the player."

I personally am not convinced that Strads are that easy to beat. Not only were they made well and with fine materials, but they have the benefit of three centuries of aging (whatever that means exactly) and playing.

As the former concertmaster of Cremona's Camerata Chamber Orchestra and choir, many years ago I have had the opportunity to play the 1715 ex-Joachim Strad... and it blew me away. Fantastic.

At the time I was also a professional maker and so I played a lot of new instruments too, my own and those of my colleagues in Cremona. I had never however played anything with a voice remotely comparable to "il Cremonese", in terms of ease of sound emission, capability of nuance, and richness of tone.

But... a lot of time has passed since then (ehm... 30 years) so maybe things are different now. Maybe David would like to voice his perspective of high-level new making today vis-à-vis the old masters?

February 9, 2014 at 04:12 PM · Wow. The yamaha violin seems good. But at that price I think I would get something like a modern American one.

I also wonder how these treated instruments would sound in several years.

Dimitri, you said you tried the ex-Joaquim Strad. Does it feel different from other violins? Like the feel of the bow etc? Or does it feel the same to the touch but sounds better?

Thank you

February 9, 2014 at 04:49 PM · Emmanuel, let's say that you drive a minivan. Then someone hands you the keys to a top-of-the-line Lamborghini Murciélago SuperVeloce.

They're both cars of course, but all of a sudden you're driving something with the center of gravity one third as high, maybe 500 more horsepower, all-wheel drive, and race-bred steering and brakes.

Get the idea?

February 9, 2014 at 04:51 PM ·

February 9, 2014 at 06:10 PM · "Maybe David would like to voice his perspective of high-level new making today vis-à-vis the old masters?"

Well, who am I to judge ? I never played a Burgess, for example, or a Zyg. But I do own a few recently made Cremonas. They SEEM to me to be have the same sounds in them as decent Italian fiddles of old - but they don't yet PLAY like old though they sre steadily improving. Of course, it's SO easy to fool oneself. Emperors new clothes and all that.

All I can contribute is the observation that there's a high standard of making worldwide nowadays.

None of my violins has an anti-woodworm treatment of any sort, borax or whatever, so I cannot write from experience about the tonal benefits of it.

February 9, 2014 at 06:11 PM · It was inevitable: the old "people who buy $million instruments have all been hoodwinked because they don't sound any better..."

Sure.

February 9, 2014 at 06:20 PM · David Beck, I apologize, I actually meant David Burgess who often posts here! I was curious to what a high-level maker thinks of this question. Sorry for the involuntary confusion.

February 9, 2014 at 06:48 PM · It's not uncommon for SOME modern violin to beat SOME Stradivari, so with that in mind, I don't know if the "fungus-modified" claims mean very much.

A lot probably depends on which modern violin, and which Stradivari are used.

February 9, 2014 at 06:51 PM · Wow. Like switching from a minivan to a Lambo. That's a jump.

I have never even seen a Strad in real life. But I think not every Strad sounds as good as people expect. Sound wise many people say that they are indistinguishable from other violins. I'm just curious about how it feels in our hands. Maybe a proper set up can make any violin feel like a Strad in our hands. (not sound wise)

I have also heard about how some old violins are 'hard to play' and extra sensitive to humidity. I think that is a problem when the violin feels different depending on the temperature and other conditions.

Do you think if we tell people a fungus treated violin was a Strad they could be fooled even if they play it? Maybe they will play it better.

It would be nice to hear the opinion of David Burgess and people who have touched these things.

Thank you

February 9, 2014 at 07:08 PM · Emmanuel, it's also not uncommon for players and listeners to be unable to correctly identify a violin as being old or new, when they can't see them, or don't have prior knowledge of which is being played.

This was one such experiment (there have been many more, but this one was published):

http://www.lam.jussieu.fr/Membres/Fritz/HomePage/Indianapolis_paper.html

February 9, 2014 at 07:25 PM ·

February 9, 2014 at 07:37 PM · Claudia Fritz did a big study in an auditorium in Paris 15 months ago, comparing old and new including Strads, even though she promised results months ago, no study has been published yet, did the results not meet her expectations??? enquiering minds want to know......

February 9, 2014 at 08:03 PM · On another web forum I asked some logical questions about Claudia Fritz's research, and the ensuing vitriol and profanity directed against me personally was reason for me to quit that site.

February 9, 2014 at 08:22 PM · The results of that study challenged many longstanding beliefs, so it wasn't unexpected that this would result in a highly emotional debate. It appears that this has largely died down now.

I'd already been involved in less formal comparisons for about 40 years, so didn't suffer from the shock that some people did.

Lyndon, I'm looking forward to the results of the Paris experiment too. An "undesirable outcome" wouldn't be my first stab at an explanation for the time which has elapsed, since Claudia Fritz is a Phd researcher, and not a violin maker.

A little background behind the experiments:

Much research has been done, devoted to making newly crafted violins sound like Strads. In the course of that research, a serious wrinkle developed:

Often, new instruments were preferred, and not all Strads sounded good. These are still things which are trying to be adequately digested, in the context of producing better instruments.

February 9, 2014 at 10:03 PM · Saw Claudia's website. All I can say is, keep it up! :)

February 9, 2014 at 10:38 PM · The only way to evaluate fungus-treated wood is to construct many identical violins, some with the treated wood and some without. You can't compare them across makers or centuries. It would be like saying that all Guarneri patterns sound the same when they clearly don't.

Also, if someone asserts that a Strad sounds the way it does because of the wood, they'd have to explain the sonic differences between all of the many 18th century Cremonese makers who doubtless used similar woods and varnishes.

I've played a Nagyvari. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't like the Strads I've played. I suppose it was worth the $7000 he was getting at the time. Certainly no more in my opinion.

February 10, 2014 at 12:12 PM · There is something of a philosophical problem today in research (and I'm not referring specifically to Claudia Fritz's work).

It is accepted that for an experiment to have scientific value, the conditions must be carefully noted and the variables tamed, so that a third party may be able to repeat the experiment, obtaining the same result.

Why, in this publish-or-perish academic world, would someone go through the effort to try to validate the work of someone else? Far more often, it's more in their interest to INvalidate it.

February 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM · Problem with those trials where no-one can agree on the superiority of Stradivaris seems to be that whilst some attempt at scientific rigor might obtain in the playing process, no-one has a way of evaluating the listeners.

Might the players vote differently from the audience ? We would need to assume that the performers in such trials were blind-folded - but then they might recognise the chinreats by feel. Problems, problems.

EDIT :- BTW Giovanni Rentokilli might be a good name for a maker of woodworm-proof fiddles.

February 10, 2014 at 01:05 PM · I don't know if this is an urban legend, but I do remember reading about the issue of a group of wine tasters who rated a selection of high-end wines for an important publication. They produced a list including the best, the no. 2, the no.3 and so on.

The test was allegedly repeated a few days later with the same tasters and the same wines, and the results were different.

February 10, 2014 at 01:29 PM ·

February 10, 2014 at 02:47 PM · The wine experiment link Liz posted above is well worth reading.

February 10, 2014 at 03:19 PM · "@David - In one of the recent trials (I think I read about it in The Strad magazine) the player wasn't a part of the evaluation process."

Yes. But, problem is, the players are virtually unable to saw away mechanically like robots. Performers continually react to the instrument. They cannot help but influence the outcome.

As to the evaluators, cheap plonk can be just as intoxicating as vintage wine. Not every taster will have a "discerning palate".

February 10, 2014 at 05:21 PM · Hmmm... it seems like I should put a huge price tag on my instruments, so that I will get a more favorable impression. That won't help sell any, though.

Violin tone evaluation I find useful, but you have to consider that there is a LOT of scatter, due to conditions, perceptions, and personal preferences. In looking over the VMAAI results, if you plot tone score of the top 10 instruments, the three judges show a similar overall slope from best to worst, but plenty of large peaks and dips. There isn't (and can never be) precision in this area.

So far, I have managed to get to play 4 Strads, 1 Guarneri, and 1 Amati. They all sounded different, and there was only one Strad (a "golden period" example) that I thought was exceptional... but not supernaturally so. There is the argument that the instruments were all fabulous and my judgement is deficient, which I'm sure fervent Cremonites will want to believe in. Not my concern; I'm just trying to hear things for myself.

Regarding material properties (and area of extreme interest for me), it has become very clear to me that the materials DO matter... but what the maker does with it matters far more. And it is not yet clear exactly what specific properties matter in which way to influence the sound, although there are some general tendencies.

Regarding Strad and wood... let me throw out the idea that he DID get in a shipment of exceptional wood for his "golden period", but otherwise was just a brilliant, talented, prolific maker that could get the most out of whatever he had, and 300 years of aging has done whatever it does.

February 10, 2014 at 06:08 PM · Interesting stuff. Those studies you guys posted were cool. Till now I am not really sure if Strads really sound that much better than other violins. I think if there could be more studies on this.

I just wonder what's the best bang for my buck violin for a few $K.

p.s Giovanni Rentokilli woodworm-proof violins, David Beck? Hahahaha!

February 10, 2014 at 07:47 PM · I knew of a violin maker who treated a violin with hydrochloric acid (in order to antique it). He didn't try that experiment again.

February 10, 2014 at 08:59 PM · There's no "k" in Italian, David. Giovanni Rentochilli? or Bello Rentochilli?

February 11, 2014 at 12:12 AM · Emmanuel,

The best bang for your buck is not likely to come from a novel treatment. As Don said, special wood will never make up for lack of skill and execution of the maker. I know one young maker who does a very nice job for, last I knew, $6000. I charge less but make no claims of quality and only make 3/4 size these days anyway. I have no idea what is available in Singapore, but I suggest shopping for a violin, not a fad.

February 11, 2014 at 01:09 AM · Let me, for the sake of an argument, throw an example of my Bohemian violin that was, at one point in time, invited as a menu item to a wood-worm family long feast..... despite all the wounds it still sounds great, better than many modern instruments.

In other words, the wood was NOT protected (chemically treated), but the knowledge of acoustic properties was skilfully applied.

Another example are the violins created by Vuillaume. I doubt that he used the same methods of wood protection by the old Cremonese masters, yet his violins are superb!

Having said that, I have to re-iterate: there are 2 groups of categories when we talk about violin's sound:

1. basic (such as resonance, clarity, responsiveness, power)

2. advanced (timbre and projection)

Any violin maker who knows the basics of applied acoustic is capable of making a violin that will provide the properties under the 1st category. If (and there is a big IF) there is any impact of chemically treated wood on the 2nd category, it will be void if the 1st set or properties is not there.

My 2 cents.

February 11, 2014 at 03:06 AM · Hi. :) can you expound upon the difference between resonance/power vs timbre/projection? Thanks!

Interested to hear your particular thoughts.

February 11, 2014 at 03:16 AM · I seem to remember that Martin Schleske of Munich was once tagged with having experimented with the fungus wood.

The only violin of his that I've tried is very good indeed. Whether its ingredients were subject to the noble rot I couldn't say.

February 11, 2014 at 06:25 AM · "There's no "k" in Italian, David."

Understood, but had I written Rentochilli folk might have failed to "get it".

My dumbed-down version wasn't much worse than some of the many other "fake" Italian fiddle-maker names, e.g. Lorenzo Frassino Guado, actually Lawrence Ashford, not from Cremona as stated on his labels but working in the UK ....

February 11, 2014 at 02:32 PM · "I seem to remember that Martin Schleske of Munich was once tagged with having experimented with the fungus wood."

Yes, he is mentioned in the article I cited earler. But it is not clear if he was just employed by Dr. Schwarze to make the violins, or if Schleske was more actively involved in developing the fungal treatment program.

February 13, 2014 at 01:13 PM · I understand worms have also been considered beneficial for sound, though for these and fungus the reasons escape me entirely.

Fungus and worms prefer humus, warmth and moisture. So if you want such parasites inside your violin, I imagine you should stuff your violin with garden compost material or a rich humus soil, and store your violin for a year in a dark, damp, warm basement away from direct sunlight.

Let me know how you get on with the parasites treatment.

February 14, 2014 at 04:13 PM · "I understand worms have also been considered beneficial for sound, though for these and fungus the reasons escape me entirely."

Isn't the reason simply that, by consuming the wood (and leaving, of course), these organism create open spaces that allow for less mass and more resonance? If fungi can create vast microscopic networks underground, then presumably they can do it in wood as well.

February 14, 2014 at 05:52 PM · Some years ago the late Clarence Myerscough was performing Bruch 1 with us. I got into conversation with the very likeable and laid-back gentleman during the long interlude between rehearsal and concert, and at one stage the subject of woodworm in violins came up. Clarence said that if a pupil had this problem he would suggest injecting paraffin into the worm holes to kill the infestation.

I open this suggestion for comments because I have no idea whether it would an advisable treatment for woodworm in a violin. I merely note that in my teenage years woodworm in the lining of my cello was spotted by my luthier when he was installing a new bridge and sound-post following an accident to the instrument. He replaced the lining.

February 15, 2014 at 03:19 PM · Injecting parafin? Sounds like a big no - no to me.

Not sure it would kill the parasites and it cannot be removed.

Best is to fumigate.

February 15, 2014 at 04:33 PM · Hendrick, thank you for that swift response. That's the sort of definite answer I was looking for. I did have some doubts in my mind at the time, but who was I to argue with an eminent soloist and teacher!

February 15, 2014 at 04:35 PM · Is the search for a violin made with wood treated AGAINST, or WITH, fungus ?? This had me puzzled until I delved.

Apparently Physisporinus vitreus was the fungus used for that famous trial. I wonder how many other fungi might eventually be tried.

How about the "Noble Rot" or "Pouritture Noble" of the wine-growers, Botrytis cinerea, for example ?? Maybe Honey fungus (Armillaria) might get a trial - the very name sounds inviting !

I had wondered if the the OP was referring to a borax treatment, which is supposed to protect against horrid infestations - apologies - so many different "Secrets of Stradivari" keep on emerging. For example, one violin I own used the "Internal coating" that Sacconi thought Stradivari used - but I reckon that any difference in performance as against other fiddles I have which were made without this can be so easily attributed to other factors.

Still, fungus for the table and sea-water-soaking for the back, plus a MAGIC secret varnish, together with a fiendish method of tuning the plates, and you have a great recipe for a sales-pitch !

February 15, 2014 at 07:24 PM · Perhaps I should rent out my closet.

February 16, 2014 at 07:43 AM · Whereas timber firms (e.g. Ciresa ?) might well offer HEAT TREATED wood as employed by (I think) Yamaha, something with which Vuillaume is rumoured to have experimented, I have not heard of makers being able to buy off-the-shelf fungus treated or salt-water inmpregnated blanks for fiddle making.

So, if I want to approach my friendly maker with a view to getting a fungus-fiddle, I'd need to wait a while for him to buy the wood, then treat it. Then, it would probably be damp and might need seasoning for another 10 years or so, to become sufficiently stable to be used.

The same would apply if I wanted him to steep the maple in brine - then let it dry out once more.

An entire decade could be added onto the waiting time between ordering and delivery.

The prospect of experimenting by asking for such a violin to be made for me seemed attractive until I realised I might not live long enough to take delivery of the finished fiddle !!

February 1, 2016 at 04:59 AM · Regarding the 'mycowood' violins: when I put in a 'search', one of the entries was directed to an article in C&EN (Chemical & Engineering News) from Oct 1, 2012. The article has the only recordings I've been able to find. There 2, as a comparative. Not that useful for comparison (one recording is of an untreated violin made from same tree, same luthier, same microphone). Dr. Schwarze's name was attached to the recordings... But the recording that is supposedly the fungal model shows that viol to sound very very good. If this all turns into something real, it will be a game-changer.

February 1, 2016 at 04:48 PM · Worm and Fungus treatment aside, I often wondered what would be the tonal effect of wood stabilization treatment process like that wood turning artists employ to avoid cracking. Such treatment removes water from the wood cells and replace it with a moisture insensitive agent such as wax.

February 1, 2016 at 05:24 PM · Interesting questions, not sure you'll get many skilled makers interested in using what essentially amounts to treated or filled lumber in their violins. The acoustic response of such treated wood could well be quite different. Creosote, anyone?

February 1, 2016 at 05:35 PM · Wood turning often stabilized the wood by soaking it in cyano acetate, in other words Super Glue. Essentially making it into plastic filled wood.

February 1, 2016 at 06:15 PM · I'd be curious to know how deep something like cyanoacrylate can penetrate, and whether the wood can still take a finish (stain and varnish) afterward. I think physical surface hardening is one of the main practical reasons for applying a varnish in the first place.

February 1, 2016 at 08:39 PM · All of this presumes that the fungo-fiddle also has every other design element in place that results in a good instrument: arching, pattern, graduation, quality of wood and varnish, etc.

Simply expecting one particular aspect to magically produce a great violin is very naive.

February 1, 2016 at 08:53 PM · I heard that Bakers Rosin has magical properties...

February 1, 2016 at 10:39 PM · I bet nobody tried soaking the wood in a solution of Baker's Rosin dissolved in acetone. (Please don't try this. Acetone is poisonous.)

I've got some bamboo flooring material left over from the renovation of the upstairs. This stuff is so hard they had to glue it down because the pneumatic nailer wasn't powerful enough. It's basically a composite of bamboo fibers and urethane resin. Maybe someone can make a violin out of that.

February 1, 2016 at 11:13 PM · Stard vs modern is like Lamborghini vs minivan?

Some of the modern minivans are quite powerful

February 2, 2016 at 06:52 AM · "Simply expecting one particular aspect to magically produce a great violin is very naive."

Yes. But very recently I did try a new top-of-the-range Yamaha violin that I was given to understand had been made with timber that had been subjected to their special heat-treatment.

My impression was that it played more like a 30-year-old fiddle than a new one, but not like any Strad I ever tried.

Price quoted was about £15k - Alan Gregory's shop near Manchester, UK.

February 2, 2016 at 01:04 PM · If you want to see if the fungus treatment works you could try storing some beater of a fiddle in a damp dark cellar for a few months, preferably a cellar that has a history of fungus and mould and being used as a film set for a Lovecraft story-line:)

February 2, 2016 at 03:20 PM · David,

Was that the Yamaha YVN500s? If so it's only $6500 in the US.

Part of me is skeptical that any self-respecting musician would play on a violin made by a company that also makes motorcycles. However, Yamaha does have the habit of excelling at whatever they set out to make. Which is why I didn't think twice about buying a Yamaha piano...

February 3, 2016 at 11:58 AM · "Was that the Yamaha YVN500s? If so it's only $6500 in the US."

Mm. Yes. Interesting. I've checked with the Manchester (UK) shop and they tell me the YVN500s is priced at $17,576 on the Yamaha website - that shop initially offered the one I tried at £15,000 but have now said they can lower the price to £12,000.

Though the Yamaha name is indeed associated with bikes it is now attached to many musical instruments. I gather a clarinet professor in my area has come up with a novel design for this firm, making the cylindrical section of the bore longer and resizing sound-holes to make a more "German" sound and facilitating intonation.

February 4, 2016 at 11:32 PM · Yamaha musical instruments are nothing new. Even on the little Yamaha motorbike I had in the '60s the logo was the three crossed tuning forks that they use today.

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