Can this cause damage?

April 27, 2016 at 03:02 AM · Good evening or morning ladies and gentlemen. So my music professor has decided to pair me with a more experienced violinist for the spring concert she's planning on having. This is not an issue for me, I'm a second violinist and enjoy what I do. Anyway when my new partner and I had our first rehearsal she decided to have a smoke, not a big issue for me. As I'm sure some of you remember I enjoy drinking while I play my violin. However she did something that made me flinch. She took s large hit off of her cigerit and then blow the smoke into her violin's F-hole. Of course I asked why, she said this. "For luck." She then took my violin and did the same. I was so confused that I just stared at her till the rehearsal got fun. Anyway what are your thoughts? Should I just shrugg this off or get my violin checked out? Seruosuloy worried about my violin. I can not explain how down I'd get if it were to get damaged. I didn't laugh for a week when I accedently chipped it. It still bothers me.

Replies (49)

April 27, 2016 at 03:42 AM · Little bit of tar and dry toxic gas, wouldn't really damage the violin as much as making it smell bad for an extended period of time.

April 27, 2016 at 03:44 AM · I have never heard of or seen such a thing, but I imagine something could catch on fire if the cigarette manages to somehow slip out of her hands and I can't imagine smoke being great for the varnish.

April 27, 2016 at 10:14 AM · One puff of smoke is not going to do any damage to your violin, but if you are super sensitive, you might still smell it for a couple of days, anyway it seems kind of rude, I think it well within your right to tell her she offended you and you would prefer she blow her smoke somewhere else, obviously it seems you must be living somewhere else in the world, because in America she would never be allowed to light up indoors, except in her own residence.

April 27, 2016 at 10:21 AM · Keep an eye open for other strange "luck" rituals. I think it would be fair to put your foot down, if she looks like she's about to toot into your fiddle. ;-)

April 27, 2016 at 10:23 AM · Not that it couldn't be one way of "playing in" a new violin. But it tends to leave them sounding like a trombone.

April 27, 2016 at 10:57 AM · Hmm. This could inspire a few lines of bad verse:

If she toots in your fiddle

Take care she don't dribble --

You may have a big quibble.

"Play it in" all alone,

To get a good tone,

And avoid her trombone . . .

April 27, 2016 at 01:53 PM · Nope! You will get a smelly violin though.

Incidentally, after Casals died, they examined his cello before selling it, and found it full of matches that he had thrown in while lighting the cigarettes that he smoked while teaching etc. :D

April 27, 2016 at 02:29 PM · If you look at old pianos you will invariably see burn marks from where someone was playing while smoking, set the cigarette down on the edge of the piano, and then forgot about it. The moral of the story is "Don't use your musical instrument as an ashtray."

Luck rituals do seem nutty, but then all kinds of people believe all sorts of things for which there is no physical basis. I'm not sure we would have much of an economy left if they didn't.

April 27, 2016 at 02:39 PM · Almost any violin older than a couple of generations, and its larger relatives, will inevitably have been exposed over the years and centuries to tobacco smoke (possibly including the smoke of a related species!), and smoke from burning fuel in the living room fireplace. It's all part of the rich tapestry of human culture. Nothing to worry about.

April 27, 2016 at 02:56 PM · You are Hypoviolondriac, I think I spelled it correctly, and many a violinist and makers have it.

symptoms are:

fear of heat

fear of cold

fear of dry air

fear of humid air

fear of oils

fear rough cloths

fear of drooling

fear of sharp objects

no lendzies

everything requires an Luthier

campfires are a never

violin polish is the devil's elixir

April 27, 2016 at 03:11 PM · Tobacco smoke tend to stay in the wood for a long time.

You may not be able to sell your violin because of that.

Then, a day in ozone chamber can deodorize your violin.

Never a dull moment?

April 27, 2016 at 08:03 PM · Hello all thank you for your opinions and information. Mr. Cook you are very right my violin is basicly more important then my own physical being. Mrs. Taylor it was her home and I'm currently located within the state of CA. My partner is actually not from here, she's from a Bulken country. I forget witch. Mr. Milankov thank you for the heads up about selling my instrument, though I will not be doing that anytime soon its still good to know that I can get rid of the small, and yes there is never a dull moment in my life. Always so much going on and I tend to flock to the people I find comments ground with, as we all do. However, common ground for me is this. A normal day for me tends to place me in a situation were I will almost die from doing something stupidly fun. Many of my friends are of like mind. A.O. Mr. Deck, Mr. Duchemin, and Mr. Burgess. Thank you for your comical and anecdotal replies they are much appreciated.

April 27, 2016 at 09:56 PM · Mr. Cook, it's interesting to note that most high-level museum conservators, where preservation really matters, suffer from most of the same phobias. ;-)

Compared to museum environments, it's pretty shocking how many multi-million dollar, irreplaceable-art-object-violins are treated, out in the performance world.

April 27, 2016 at 10:26 PM · Now it has been discussed. I will admit, that often I prefer a new violin over an old violin is because I can't stand the smell of the antique ones.

I'm sorry, but my face hovers few inches above the f-hole. If it doesn't smell well. It doesn't make me want to keep it.

April 27, 2016 at 10:47 PM ·

April 27, 2016 at 10:53 PM · Ha ha. Just for fun, the following is an excerpt from a treatise on ancient and modern violins, written over a century ago, by an instrument maker named Andrew Hyde:

"Besides all this, the cost of a good new violin is not unreasonable in comparison with that of many a dirty looking dilapidated old tub that for sanitary reasons, if no other should have been buried years ago. How disgusting to see a beautiful and fastidious lady violinist hugging to her breast one of these filthy relics of a past age. It is horrible to think where it has been the past two centuries. Who has used it, and where? Who can tell its story? Held under the chin, breathed into, saturated with the sweat, filth and odor of cripples and tramps, street and gutter musicians that have perhaps used it for centuries. Played in dens, dives and brothels. A receptacle for foul and malignant diseases, rotting with accumulated grime and poisonous moisture, a hideous thing indeed to contemplate."

April 28, 2016 at 08:52 AM · Mr Burgess, will you stop at nothing to sell new violins over antiques??? I imagine a good writer could find quite disgusting the things you were doing while making a new violin.

April 28, 2016 at 11:03 AM · Mr. Taylor, I have no financial stake in whether people buy old or new. It's not like I'm hurtin' for business. ;-)

It sounds like Andrew Hyde was, though....

April 28, 2016 at 11:19 AM ·

April 28, 2016 at 12:42 PM · Actually David Burgess, If the vast majority of people still revered antiques over moderns the way they used to, I think you would be hurting for business!! At least not getting the prices you are.

In fact you might be forced to make a living restoring antiques, like me!! Which I'm sure you could do well enough at if you had devoted much of your life to it.

April 28, 2016 at 01:25 PM · Yes, things would be different, if they were not the way they are. ;-)

And I certainly don't take for granted what a privilege it has been, to have been able to make it as a full-time contemporary maker.

April 28, 2016 at 02:16 PM · Likewise I cannot say what a privilege it is that roughly 50% still think of antiques when they think of quality violins, since everyone else specializes in new Chinese student violins, it leaves the antique desiring public open to my business, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I should also point out that roughly 50% of people (and the vast majority of top soloists) still pick great Stradivaris over top modern makers like David, its not like everyone agrees that Moderns are better.

April 28, 2016 at 02:40 PM · Well I have to say I found David's original post quite entertaining! :-).

And while I like many things about antique violins I will admit I often find them to be touchy, high-maintenance type "creatures" requiring more than their fair share of work and repairs to keep them playing well. I will be in the market for a new violin in this next year and, for the first time, I look forward to to including modern makers in my search.

April 28, 2016 at 03:06 PM · While what you say may be true of original 1700s antiques, a lot of the instruments I deal with are 100-150 years old, in this genre it is still quite possible to find instruments with few or no cracks at all. I tell my customer if a violin has gone over 100 years with no cracks, a brand new violin is more likely to develop cracks or warp than the crack free antique.

One thing about antiques is the wood is stable, its gone through its drying out process, has shrunk somewhat, and is less likely to go through major changes to the wood than a brand new violin.

That being said, there are antiques that have just not aged well, and have tons of cracks, although most of these usually have more to do with inept repairs than defects in the violin itself, although definitely some wood does become more brittle with age.

April 28, 2016 at 03:32 PM · Lyndon wrote:

"Likewise I cannot say what a privilege it is that roughly 50% still think of antiques when they think of quality violins, since everyone else specializes in new Chinese student violins, it leaves the antique desiring public open to my business, I wouldn't have it any other way."


That's fine. So what's your beef?

April 28, 2016 at 04:01 PM ·

What if she was smoking pot. You would think that stink would take months to come out.

I bought a new mandolin 6 years ago and after 2 years the top began to bubble out at the tailpiece. I was lucky it had a lifetime guarantee and I kept the receipt, so they sent me a new one. I think it pays to check the warranty.

April 28, 2016 at 04:02 PM ·

April 28, 2016 at 04:18 PM · The major changes that take part in a new violin probably occur in the first ten years, after that, the changes are much slower, so actually a brand new violin, ESPECIALLY one that uses not totally dried wood is, more likely to have issues than an older on that is more stable, IMHO

April 28, 2016 at 04:42 PM · If you're talking about repairs being required, and unless you're talking about low-level factory violins, or improperly seasoned wood, I'd say that the experience of the larger repair community doesn't support that notion.

Nor is it representative of the feedback I get from musicians.

April 28, 2016 at 05:13 PM · So you're saying that warpage and shrinkage is less likely to occur in the first ten years?? Surely you have experience with shrinkage at your age, David???

I'm talking about stuff like soundposts needing to be replaced because they no longer fit, neck angles changing, and once in a while even cracks; certainly they are more likely to occur in the first ten years than in the second or third ten year periods. I'm not talking about the accumulated changes of all the years, just the changes with in a given ten year period.

In other words a used 20 year old Burgess in great condition is less likely to go through changes than a brand new Burgess, you don't agree??

April 28, 2016 at 05:30 PM · I'll be the first one to admit that if you buy a new violin from a respected top builder like Mr Burgess, you are going to assume he's using very well dried wood, so these problems I am mentioning are much less likely to happen with one of his new violins. But buying a new violin from China is more of crxpshoot when it comes to properly dried wood, you really have no idea how well dried the wood is, and little or no way of actually knowing how well dried it is, hence my point about new violins not necessarily being as stable as very good condition antiques.

April 28, 2016 at 05:47 PM · Lyndon, entering into some kind of extended argument wouldn't really be the best thing for me, or for my clients who are waiting for instruments. If readers feel it's important, they can look up our backgrounds and credentials, and decide on their own who or what they want to believe.

I have very little experience with cheapest of the Chinese instruments, if these are what you wanted to focus on.

Gotta work.

April 28, 2016 at 05:49 PM · Oops, double post.

April 28, 2016 at 05:53 PM · So you expect to win an argument by presenting no evidence, no explanation, just look at my website how famous I am??? Really good David, actually I encourage people to compare our websites, my experience with instruments is just as strong as yours David, and much more diverse, I might add.

April 28, 2016 at 05:56 PM · How about a limerick, then, to cheer us up after the Battle of the Ancients and the Moderns:

Mr. Burgess makes fiddles so fine,

That I wish I could claim one as mine.

My old Strad is too smelly,

With cracks in its belly --

Though its F holes are simply divine!

April 28, 2016 at 05:57 PM · And by the way, Julio Cervantes, I totally understand your annoyance about blowing smoke into your violin. Never heard of such a thing!

April 28, 2016 at 06:37 PM · This has been an amusingly fun post, dispite the fact.

April 28, 2016 at 07:04 PM · Lyndon wrote:

"So you expect to win an argument by presenting no evidence, no explanation,..."


Actually, I'm not terribly interested in winning any arguments right now. If arguing, and debating tactics are of high interest to you, you might want to look to an attorney forum for that. For me, within my professional microcosm, there are better fish to fry, like trying to make good violins.

And I think there's already enough information in this thread, that most people (and there are some really really smart people on, will be able to figure it out, without any need for extended (often circular) arguments, and without any need to try to coerce, or micromanage what their opinions should be.

April 28, 2016 at 07:19 PM · The point I was making which should make sense to most reasonable people is most of the major changes that are going to take place in a piece of wood happen fairly early in its life, if its well aged before building, most of the changes have occurred before it was made, most of the changes in the wood structure, moisture content, the dryness of the resins etc happen fairly soon after the tree is cut(5-30 years??), the longer the time after that, the slower the changes occur, and by a certain point(50years???), most of the drying out process has already occurred, the wood has stabilized and then maybe, over hundreds of years the wood weakens and becomes more brittle.

April 28, 2016 at 07:31 PM · In simpler terms; wood is incredibly unstable when it is green or freshly cut and as it ages becomes progressively more stable or "dry" and that this process is not linear, but exponential, in that most of the major changes happen rather quickly and not over hundreds of years.

A separate issue is the degradation of the hemicellulose in the wood which takes hundreds of years whereby the wood becomes weaker and more likely to split, this becomes a factor mostly long after the violin was built, but is a separate issue.

April 28, 2016 at 08:19 PM · So older wood is more likely to split?

April 28, 2016 at 08:23 PM · I don't know for sure, but I've encountered 250 year old wood on some violins that seems incredibly easy to split, I can't imagine it was that easy to split brand new, otherwise how would they even make the violin.

April 28, 2016 at 09:28 PM · In other words I wouldn't go as far as to say I know all wood becomes more brittle over hundreds of years, but I have some pretty good evidence that some wood becomes more brittle with age. Maybe not Picea Abies (Strad's wood) but some violin tops.

April 28, 2016 at 09:36 PM · If it's something like 250 years old wood, I'd be worried because it'll be quite hard to chase after if it were frozen at some point, if it completely dried up in a smoke house or etc.

If I learned Biology correctly, dead plant cells still store certain amount of water until they rupture, which can happen by being frozen, swollen with water, or deflated completely by being completely dried.

I thought violins were made of wood with dead tree cells, with most of the cell being able to retain moisture.

April 28, 2016 at 10:07 PM · What I remember reading is that after so many years?? of getting slightly drier and drier the wood reaches an equilibrium of water content, roughly 20% moisture?? I'm guessing, but it does go up a bit under high humidity, but the amount it goes up under high humidity becomes less over time, I believe, which is what contributes to it being somewhat more stable.

Correct me if I'm wrong??

April 28, 2016 at 11:03 PM · With regard to the original question, Julio, maybe blowing smoke into a guy's violin is her idea of flirting.

April 28, 2016 at 11:12 PM · Hubbah hubbah! (an archaic expression dating back to the Jackie Gleason show)

Tell her to blow in your ear next time. :-)

April 28, 2016 at 11:27 PM · Sorry for highjacking your thread, Julio.

April 28, 2016 at 11:48 PM · Mr. Taylor do not even worry about it Mr. Burgess and yourself have made this a fun little post to come back to. I love debates and little arguments that have a good topic and argumentation. Mr. Minnich your comment made me crack up for a bit thank you so much. Mr. Duchemin it's great to hear from you again and thank you for your amusing limericks! I apologize if I am leaving anyone else out, but I thank you for taking time out of your day to respond to my post and figure out this issue with me.

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