New/old violin question

May 30, 2015 at 11:29 AM · Hi everybody

I recently acquired a gliga maestro. It sounds ok for it's intended purpose, which is a "campfire fiddle". It was made in 2001 and somehow got lost in he shuffle until now. It is brand new and unplayed. My question is, can it be expected to open up with playing or it is what it is? One violin maker refered to the sound as 'covered" but didn't give a clear answer to my question.

I would like to say that i'm new to the website but have been lurking for a long time. The generosity that everyone shows in sharing their experience and knowledge has always amazed and enlightened me.

Thank you very,very much.


Replies (21)

June 1, 2015 at 02:43 PM · When you say the sound is "covered", I interpret that to mean it has a somewhat damped or closed in sound, rather than a large, booming sound.

If the violin is literally unplayed for 14 years, it will change its sound when it is played frequently for several months. The sound vibrations cause very small mechanical changes in the wood. However, it is very likely that after those changes, it will still have a sound the you would call "covered", i.e., you'll hear a change, but not a huge change.

June 1, 2015 at 03:23 PM · Hi Mike

Thank you for your response. Closed in is a better description. It's like all the sound is inside. When playing it doesn't sound very loud, but people in the room say it's has good volume. It will do for it's intended purpose, I was just wondering if there will be any changes.

June 1, 2015 at 03:30 PM · It's very hard to tell how your violin sounds to others just by how it sounds under your ear. Whether violins will "open up" after being played for a while is one of those controversial, folklore-fueled debates in which there is hardly any kind of vetted science. First of all "open up" is not well defined. When Mike says there are small mechanical changes in the wood, I would certainly agree that's possible, but your obvious questions would be "How do they know?" and "What did they measure?" One thing that is very hard to exclude is the extent to which the *player* is simply learning, over time, to coax more sound out of a negligibly changed violin.

June 1, 2015 at 03:37 PM · Leon,

the violin in question is not new anymore - it is 14 years old.

Depending on how did the instruments spend those 14 years, the sound may or may not change in either direction.

It is not the same if the violin was not even setup, or if it was under the tension for the same time, played occasionally, stored in a dry attic...

I would not place my hope on "play-in" or "break-in", but would rather focus on the best setup possible.

This will most likely be "what you hear is what you get".

June 1, 2015 at 03:48 PM · I think a more important issue is: was the violin strung up and tuned to pitch for those 14 years? There are known and measurable changes to the vibration properties of wood that undergoes a change of static stress, i.e. putting on strings and tuning it. After a few weeks, though, it should be settled in.

Regarding playing: there is no hard evidence that it does anything to change the sound. I have tried several times to find an effect, even going so far as to construct a fairly sensitive test setup, with no confirmation of the effect.

Covered, closed, muffled, quiet, dull, or even dead... these are descriptions that usually refer to high-frequency response deficiency, and it is the high frequencies that strengthen most over time, for a variety of potential reasons (excluding playing, for the moment). However, if I had an unplayed 14 year old violin that was closed, I wouldn't expect it to become fabulous.

June 1, 2015 at 07:42 PM · Thank you for your replies everybody.

I wouldn't expect a violin like this to ever sound fabulous but it definitely lacks high frequencies. Would having the cutouts in the bridge opened up help? I'm sure that it was strung up all these years, but there's no way to tell if it was near full tension.

It was a birthday present and the shop has closed and moved away, so, it's mine now regardless.

Thanks again.

June 1, 2015 at 10:23 PM · Dont start removing wood. You can try a new set of strings, such as zyex or vision.

June 2, 2015 at 05:32 AM · If you don't mind getting a new bridge if the experiment fails, you could remove mass from the upper part of the bridge (thinner, enlarging the openings). It does increase the high frequency response... but not just the highs you want. It also increases the very high end, possibly becoming unpleasantly harsh and gritty.

I assume you have new strings on it; if not, that would be the first thing to do.

June 2, 2015 at 01:52 PM · Soundpost adjustment may help as well.

June 2, 2015 at 02:32 PM · Hi everybody

I put a set of zyex on as soon as I got it and it helped a little. The soundpost is 2.5 mm behind the bridge and even with the end of the bridge foot. Will having it moved towards the bridge give it a little tighter sound?

I have also been reading about afterlength. What does a longer afterlength do compared to moving the soundpost closer to the bridge?

Sorry for all the questions but the nearest repairer is a two and a half hour round trip, so I like to have as much information as I can before going there.

Thank you all so much for your help.


June 2, 2015 at 09:30 PM · Many things can change the sound of a fiddle.

1. Many instruments, but not all, have a "sweet spot" for the sound post - and finding that can make a real difference.

2. Just because the bridge is in the right place relative to the notches in the f-holes does not mean the notches are in the right place (for that fiddle) - so some experimenting with that can make a difference. Also, bridges should be cut to an "ideal" mass for the instrument. My violin bridges weight 2.1 gram. A heavier bridge can dampen the overtones and make an instrument sound closed or "tight." Also, ( have read that the shortest acoustic path from all strings to the bridge feet (violin deck) should be equal - something the cutouts are supposed to accomplish (no proof of this - but I did read it somewhere years ago).

3. String afterlength does affect the sound but there are two sides to this aspect. One of course, is the distance from the bridge to the connection on the tailpiece (a good resonance involves this being related to important string overtones, typically the 2nd octave of the next higher string).The second aspect is the length of the tailcord, a little more length of the tailcord will allow the tailpiece to "swing" more freely - sometimes good.

4.The strings on an instrument can make a very large difference in the sound. The right choice can even open up a "closed" or tight instrument. One way to go is to try lower tension strings and see if that is the right direction. I have found the new Thomastik Peter Infeld Platinum-plated E string to open up the G strings of several of my ""closed " violins (if you don't mind spending $30 on an E string).

5. The bow can make a big, big difference in the sound of an instrument. In my experience, searching for a good tonal match for one cello of mine I found only 2 bows (out of 66 I tried) that made the correction I was seeking - both were by the only ones in the trial by same maker. I have not found my violins quite that sensitive to bow choice, and my violas are sort of intermediate in sensitivity to bow choice.

6. Choice of rosin can help increase the volume of sound from an instrument and thus the balance of higher overtones and make an instrument sound a lot different. I have found this particularly with a new brand "Magic Rosin" that comes in standard, Ultra, and eXtra versions (they are available on line). There are other fine rosins too; the best for any particular bow/violin pair can differ from another.

FINALLY, to get a little better idea of what your violin sounds like to others, either record it or try playing it in "cello position" to get it a little further from your ears.


June 18, 2015 at 08:58 PM · Yes it should open up somewhat as it is played. But things like string choice and soundpost/bridge adjustment will matter a lot more.

1) Check bridge location and angle. Learn how to move your bridge around safely (YouTube videos on this). On most violins, the bridge should be leaning slightly less than 90 degree angle toward the bottom of fiddle. And the bridge should be located directly between the f hole notches. Millimeters can make a big difference in how the violin sounds.

Next thing I would do is experiment with strings. Spend $4 for a Westminster E for example and see if that brightens up your fiddle. If it does, then spend $15 for a Vision Solo A (or any other relatively bright A). If that works, maybe try Vision D and G.

The Shar site, in their string selection app, has a great diagram of various brands of strings and where they fit on the loudness/brightness scales. You don't have to spend serious money. There are some cheap strings that might work on that fiddle -- D'Addario Zyex for example.

If strings don't help, visit a luthier and have him/her look at your soundpost and bridge. Maybe the bridge is warped or maybe that violin never had a proper bridge made for it. Maybe the soundpost has moved. In any case, if the violin was never used, it might be that it was never set up properly, and setup is hugely important.

A new bridge can be a couple hundred dollars, so an honest luther should be willing to tell you if it is worth making that investment on that violin.

June 19, 2015 at 12:59 AM · Hi everybody

Thank you for responding. I put on a set of zyex with a goldbrokat e and it helped some. I read some reviews from other Gliga owners and their violins have the same problem. They all said that replacing the bridge worked wonders. I guess Gliga uses really soft bridges so I'll try that next.

I recently met an old (excellent) fiddle player who had a really nice sound. He let me try his fiddle out and the sound under the ear was horrible. Next time I see him I'll take my fiddle and let him try it and see what it sounds like across the room.

Thank you all again


June 19, 2015 at 02:57 AM · To test your ears and get pretty much the same result as a professional audiologist would got to this website:

If your hearing response remains quite high in the 2,000 to 4,000 Hz range and higher, you might have a problem agreeing with many others on what constitutes a "good" violin sound. And you might need to train your ears (or settle for a less-bright violin.


June 19, 2015 at 06:17 AM · Try playing the violin in different environments and with different intensities over a period of time.

It sounds like the violin needs to be played in.

I think someone once told me that a new violin would reach its peak in terms of sound in about eighty years!

Conclusion : The more the instrument is played, the faster the eighty years fly by!


June 19, 2015 at 12:02 PM · Many a good tune has been played on a bad old violin.

June 19, 2015 at 04:52 PM · Hi everybody

This fiddle is not my main violin. I bought it to use as a "beater" so to speak. I'll use it outside in less than perfect weather. I was just if I could improve the sound somewhat.

Colin, I'll report back in 2095 and update you on if it has reached it's full potential.

If I play twice as fast will it peak in only 40 years? Sounds like an interesting experiment.

Thank's again everybody


June 19, 2015 at 06:47 PM · I have always understood that a violin will improve in sound when played, and my own violin, which started with the d string having a very cavernous sound, is getting better and better in its third year of life.

My teacher once offered me a gadget that you fix to the violin; it vibrates the instrument and 'plays it in' for you while you do other things, but I turned it down - I'd rather wake my fiddle myself - but I suppose there is always that option?

June 19, 2015 at 08:25 PM · Hi Mollie

Thank you for your reply.

The device is called a Tonerite. It has been discussed a number of times on the Acoustic Guitar Forum, and the general consensus by those that have used it is that it does nothing. I think an instrument has to be subjected(if that's the right word) to different frequencies, not just one vibration over a length of time.

Beside, it's a lot more fun to just play, rather than have a machine do it.


June 19, 2015 at 09:10 PM · I think new violins do open up somewhat as they're played but the difference is subtle -- especially compared to the change you get from new strings and proper setup. But aging doesn't really make a violin better IMHO.

If anything the new instrument might be a better bet these days. Entry level instruments are vastly better than they were 15 years ago when I bought one for my daughter.

June 20, 2015 at 12:02 PM · Thanks, Leon - I wondered what they were called, and regarding their use, I absolutely agree! I was surprised that my teacher urged it on me, to be honest, but oddly, despite being HIP, he's quite 'into' technology.

It cheers me up to find out that they're not much cop anyway.

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