Design differences between Strad & other violin patterns.

February 15, 2005 at 04:42 AM · What's the difference between violin designs? How does a Strad differ from a del Gesu, or Amati or any other design?

How does this affect the timbre of the instrument?

Does one design favor brightness while another is richer or warmer?

Sorry for the string of questions, but I really am curious, and thought there'd be others who were wondering the same thing.



Replies (22)

February 15, 2005 at 01:06 PM · Most Cremonese violin outlines are very similar except for the length of the corners, which are outside the vibrating areas. The only exception is del Gesu, whose lower corners are a bit lower. This would be the only outline issue that might result in a tonal difference.

Most of the other differences are based in the shape of the arch, and the graduations. It's difficult to generalize, because most makers varied their arches quite a bit. In general, though, Stradivari arches tend to be higher and broad, where Amati ones are higher and pinched, with a wider concave margin around the edges. Del Gesu did a couple of different things, but his most famous violins are low-arched, with or without a lot of scoop aroud the edges. His best, however, have a broad arch that reaches out farther to the edges.

In the graduation department, most of the difference is in the overall weight, and in the thickness of the edges in the c-bouts. Again, very much in general, the best del Gesus have thicker backs, the best Strads are relatively thin all over, and Amatis tend to be similar to Strads but thinner in the edges of the c-bouts.

Those are the greatest differences. In general, as the individual makers used them, the results are a smooth sweetness in Amatis, shimmery bright Strads, and slightly mororse del Gesus. And that's a gross oversimplification.

February 15, 2005 at 01:45 PM · Its an honor to have you in this forum Mr Darnton.

Most of you dont know he makes professional concert violins. He is a regular at the maestronet pegbox, a place for people who make violins talk and was kind enought to answer some of my questions yesterday, ant very promptly I might add. I remember reading one violin he made for a child was being played at carnagie hall.

His website is at

February 15, 2005 at 06:40 PM · Thank you for the very informative reply!

So from what I gather, unless you're familiar with the other designs, it's difficult to tell one design from another by just looking.

From the way you describe it, it appears I would prefer an Amati or del Gesu design.

Thank you!


February 16, 2005 at 07:39 AM · A quick thing to help you guess which pattern a violin is based on is the F holes. Usually strad makers will use one style and del Gesu makers use a more pointy style. I prefer the latter but never bought one. YMMV.

And I agree with the previous post. I've found Michael is well-known and respected among violin makers.

February 16, 2005 at 12:05 PM · Thanks, Scott, for referring us to that Maestronet Q&A you had with Michael. It's an issue I've always wanted a good answer to, and I'm glad you posted the link. Cheers!

February 17, 2005 at 12:57 AM · There is another lengthy current thread on discussing in detail the characteristics and variations in Guarneri (DG) style instruments.

Michael Darton's informed insights make this international discussion the best exposition I've ever read on the nature of del Gesu violins. Please register another sincere vote of thanks for the contributions Mr. Darton has made to my knowledge of the violin. (and one to Scott 68 as well).

February 17, 2005 at 02:35 AM · Wow. Thanks, guys.

Aldon, when modern makers make these models, most don't carefully replicate the model--the archings and graduations (instead, they do their own thing, which really makes the violin sound like theirs, not any particular classical model)--so you may find that a modern rendition won't have the same characteristics. Also, very few people make any type of Amati model--correctly or incorrectly--because it's not usually as loud as the others, and today everyone wants LOUD!

February 17, 2005 at 07:25 AM · Hi Michael,

I recently bought a brand new violin, I had a few ppl try it out. I got some good reviews about it. Would you consider trying it out ? I see that you live in chicago and your office is downtown. The maker would like me to write him a reference, but I have no clue how to describe the sound and workmanship. Being that your a maker, you would help me out? I asked my teacher but he didnt really give me much to work on. I guess this offer goes to anyone in chicago, who would help me out ? thanx guys.

February 17, 2005 at 12:45 PM · I wouldn't mind seeing the violin, but I don't think it's fair for me to comment on another maker's work.

February 17, 2005 at 10:04 PM · yeah, I was just going to comment that, I wouldnt know if it would be fair to comment on another maker's violin, when you are trying to sell yours not his. So its ok, I was just thinking about that today. Hopefully I'll find a professional player that could comment on it. Thnak you anyways

March 4, 2005 at 03:10 PM · I was thinking some of you would be interested in seeing one of Mr Darnton's violins made in 1993

November 18, 2010 at 10:53 PM ·

 This thread is getting on in its years but I searched for differences between models on google and this came up! I understand a bit more about what I'm looking at now!

November 19, 2010 at 02:24 PM ·

The link to the Tchaikovsky Melody sound file is\ 

There is plenty more of his playing on that website.

November 19, 2010 at 06:37 PM ·

 Thank you! 

I was trying to look at the visual differences more than anything else, and I can see some more of them. I wish I could hold one of these things though... :(

November 19, 2010 at 06:50 PM ·

Eloise, if the purpose of your search was to understand the difference in models from a high-volume instrument producer, there may be almost no difference at all. They may just slap a Guarneri style ff hole on their standard model, and call it a Guarneri.

November 19, 2010 at 07:00 PM ·

 My purpose for looking was solely because I was interested in what differences there were between their designs through random curiosity. I generally think of a question in my head and then want to find out why something is like that or, as in this case, what differences there are. I can see the f holes do look different, which I found just interesting. I like to know how people come up with a model to go from. How did these great makers come up with their original templates? What wood did they use? These are all questions I bring up in my mind and want to know. There are so many people even now still use their designs in their instruments. I think it is fascinating... 

November 19, 2010 at 09:40 PM ·

Some while ago I read an opinion (no more than that, I must emphasize) on the internet that since Leonardo da Vinci was around in the area at the time when the violin was invented (i.e. when it made the transition from the medieval form) he must have had some input into its design and rather clever geometry. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any documentary evidence of this in Leonardo's notebooks, but of course that doesn't necessarily mean he didn't talk to luthiers of the time in their workshops and perhaps made helpful suggestions.

Do the experts here have any comments on the likelihood of this happening?


November 19, 2010 at 10:12 PM ·

When a modern violin maker at the less expensive end of the spectrum makes a violin with a label including the word Stradivarius, does he model it on a specific Stradivari instrument or is he using a generic "description" of a Stradivari violin, if there is indeed such a description? 

November 19, 2010 at 10:18 PM ·

Eloise, Michael summarized some of the differences quite well in one of the first posts. Del Gesu was kind of a quirky guy, so some of his instruments can look quite different from others.

We really don't know how they were designed. It could have been mostly practical and ergonomic, as John has mentioned. On the other end, many sophisticated design theories have been put forth, sometimes based on principles and beliefs of the era. The best known one is by Francois Denis, who has published a book on a particular method.  There's quite a bit about it on his web site:

September 21, 2014 at 10:01 AM · Hello

I am curious to know what is the difference in the structural construction of the frame; more specifically the blocks (corners/ends) and how the different makers all had they own signatures if any in that regard.


September 21, 2014 at 12:44 PM · Kovadis, Sounds like you need

that's the sort of thing they discuss, debate, and argue over all but endlessly, with great enthusiasm and amazing expertise and experience.

September 21, 2014 at 01:07 PM · It kind of seems to me like what you need are ears, not eyes to listen to a violin you are potentially buying, and not having any preconceived ideas about what it should or will sound like based purely on appearances, you would have to be an incredibly fine maker, and at the very top of your field price range to even come close to actually reproducing the sound differences between an genuine Del Gesu vs Strad, for example,

and even then I doubt most of the top makers have much correlation in the sound quality of there different models as between the sound qualities of the originals, so as I said use your ear, have no prejudices as per model, as one top makers Strad might be anothers Del Gesu, or another makers Ruggieri or Guadagnini.

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