Turbocharging your violin?

August 25, 2004 at 05:43 PM · To what extent can one customise his violin, make it sound better, or possibly change the color? Must be honest with you, ive never even held a violin, baught one on ebay just yesturday, fitted with eboney, but im still expecting a nasty surprise... because it was cheap, and i know how nasty cheap guitars are. maybe there are tricks like upgrading the strings, the stick, or baking it in the oven for just a bit o_O, so i could sound like sarasate? Maybe?

Replies (15)

August 25, 2004 at 08:04 PM · Soundpost adjustment, upgrading strings, upgrading bow. A good handmade violin can get better within time as it ages and as it's played more. A factory-made one won't. I'm sure there are more ways to get a violin sounding better. Obviously not baking it in the oven!

August 25, 2004 at 08:02 PM · Funny thing is, that's exactly what we used to call it when we upgraded starter violins at Casa del Sol in Indianapolis. We even sold them as "turbos"!

Generally, however, for someone buying a retail instrument, it's not worth it to go through the work it takes. With a factory Chinese, Czech, German, etc. instrument, you'll probably have to:

change the pegs

plane and/or replace the fingerboard

new post

new bridge

new fittings (tailpiece, end button, and/or nut and saddle)

new strings

clean, polish, retouching

That's not even including any damage it might have.

When you put that all together, even for a retail shop doing brisk business, it's a barely profitable proposition. You're generally better off buying a violin that's together already.

August 26, 2004 at 02:10 AM · Re. changing the colour, one of my colleagues imports Stentor student violins and gets a local artist to paint them before he hires them out to his wealthiest students. Union Jack, zebra stripes, rainbow, glitter - you name it.

August 26, 2004 at 04:24 AM · Ermm ... is he talking about changing the color as in tone or like ... changing the color as in actual physical appearance? O.o

- Wenhao

August 27, 2004 at 12:36 AM · Oops, sorry - didn't think about that! P.S. Don't try any of this at home, kids...

August 27, 2004 at 01:50 AM · One can do quite a bit to improve a violin without opening it.

1. Really check the seams. Not just looking for open ones, but weak ones, too. Fix. Get the soundpost right, too.

2. Make sure the fingerboard is lightened underneath

3. Shape the neck nicely. Eliminates some weight, too.

4. Set B0 to the singing tone of the violin

5. Tune the tailpiece, both overall pitch and uniformity of tap across it. Works best perhaps with pegheds & no fine tuners. Make sure the afterlength is good.

6. Tune the ribs to a uniform response.

7. Tune the bridge to eliminate dull spots & get the strings balanced. Presuming a nicely fitted, nicely carved, suitably functional bridge exists. Otherwise provide one.

8. Tune the bass bar (various techniques.

9. Check the rib tuning.

10. Tune the F hole edges. Presuming these are slightly beveled into the cavity and have no thick varnish buildup. Might need to remedy these first.

One can also do additional work on tailpiece and fingerboard and so on.

A violin treated this way will become much more of itself, much more free and open.

August 27, 2004 at 06:56 PM · Stephen,

It's always great to see your input on these matters!

...But how exactly does one accomplish step #4?



August 28, 2004 at 12:52 AM · Yes, I was also wondering, what is B0? I can only think of "body odor".

August 28, 2004 at 01:32 AM · B zero. Body resonance of entire assembled violn. Hold violin at widest part of lower bout lightly. Tap back of scroll. Change by changing mass. Heavier or lighter chinrest. Adjust fingerboard, the usual technique. If B0 too high (typical) then get more flex in the middle of the fingerboard. B0 too low, then remove mass at the end of the fingerboard. The final adjustment from close to just right seems quite clear to me. The violin really lights up nicely.

The other stuff is more subtle, but builds well towards an improved result.

August 29, 2004 at 01:19 AM · Oh, and changing color is easy. Either lay on more varnish or a glaze. Or spray stuff from a can.

Or strip off the old and revarnish.

No big deal.

But I don't recommend it. Destroys value, new break in time, makes others mad, etc.

But if you're getting a new violin, then getting the things you want is pretty easy. Tell the maker what you want and see to what extent those demands can be met.


August 29, 2004 at 02:46 AM · My friend Chris used to put some Godsmack in his dad's stereo system, turn it up really loud, and let his violin bask in the sound waves. I tried it (not with Godsmack) and it helped a bit to open up the sound. I don't know if it's goof for your violin, but it works!


August 29, 2004 at 03:49 AM · Do you mean making your violin a different colorful color (that's my way of saying a color like pink or blue or something) because I've seen some violins on this one website that you can buy that look like that but it looked kind of funny.


August 29, 2004 at 12:05 PM · ashton violins in australia make coloured violins aimed at making learning the violin more fun (like it isn't already???). These violins are like your basic suzuki/sterling mass produced violins and have a coloured coat painted on them. They also have a matching bow which is an el cheapo bow with the colour pained on.

I know this because I got my acoustic-electric from them and it's exactly the same as the student violins but with a pick-up build in...

September 16, 2004 at 06:38 PM · The best (bar none) Colored Violins on the market today are Rainbow Violins. Visit the United States Rainbow Violin website at: www.violinsandfiddles.com

October 19, 2004 at 08:31 PM · I read this thread back in August and was intrigued by Stephen Perry's post. So I sent him an old Lyon and Healy violin I had lying around, in hopes that his tricks and tweeks would turn it into a better instrument. I got it back a few days ago, and the difference is remarkable, not subtle. The A and E strings were rather stuffy before, as if there was sound somehow trapped in the violin. The A is much better now and the E sings out in a way that I really didn't expect. Kudos to Steve and many thanks to violinist.com!

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