Baroque Violins

January 14, 2018, 5:24 PM · My first love with regards to string music is Baroque music, and I love the sound of historically accurate instruments. I've toyed with the idea of buying one, but I really have no idea where to look. Do you have to find a specialty violin shop, or do most violin shops have one or two? And how much should one expect to spend on a good quality Baroque violin?

Replies (30)

January 14, 2018, 8:03 PM · I think you could get a close approximation to a baroque violin by using a 'modern' violin, buying (or making) a baroque tailpiece, stringing with gut, and replacing the saddle and bridge with appropriate versions.
January 14, 2018, 8:41 PM · They're fairly hard to find, I'm afraid. Depends on regional circumstances, though.
Edited: January 15, 2018, 12:21 AM · There's always this one:

January 15, 2018, 2:11 AM · In the UK conversions back to baroque start at around £2000. Played a nice one in Cardiff for about £4000 last year.
Edited: January 15, 2018, 2:21 AM · I have a baroque set up violin for $1500, its actually a violin made in the very early 1900s by an American maker of Scandinavian descent, but for some reason (perhaps because of his Scandinavian roots) he made the neck shorter and of a lower angle as per baroque spec, it is set up with baroque wedged maple fingerboard and tailpiece, baroque bridge and Damien Dlugolecki gut strings. You can contact me for more info by clicking on my name here, its a beautiful instrument, with a good sound.
January 15, 2018, 2:46 AM · You might find a Jay Haide instrument to your liking and within your budget.

If you have a good instrument already, I recommend starting with putting gut strings and getting a high baroque bow that's good for Bach and Handel.

Then go for a half conversion with getting a new bridge and tail piece. Many early musicians stop here. Converting the neck and bass bar is costly and unpredictable, at that point you might just want to consider commissioning an instrument.

The best situation of course is finding a 16 or 17 century violin with an original neck, which is possible but very rare.

And of course if you want to be hard core historically accurate, you would need 2 or 3 fiddles to cover the "Baroque era". Violins for Monteverdi would had been quite different than violins for Tartini, for example.

January 15, 2018, 3:42 AM · Aaron, I have also been looking for a Baroque-style instrument and bow recently.

I purchased a bow from David van Edwards ( It should be arriving this week.

I also purchased an inexpensive Baroque bow about a year ago. It was the one that Laurie mentioned on this site, I believe in conjunction with an interview with Rachel Barton Pine. I can't find the details right now, but you can probably find it if you dig around in the archives. It is a snakewood bow and cost about $100. I had it rehaired. I didn't like it at first, but as I've gotten used to it, it's not too bad.

I've also arranged to try a Jay Haide à l'ancienne Baroque. It is to arrive on Tuesday. The other name I came across in my search for a modern Baroque replica is Lu-Mi. I'm trying to set up a trial for this too.

Hopefully by the end of the week I will be able to give you more details.

January 15, 2018, 8:22 AM · Timothy Johnson makes replica baroque violins which sound especially good. I think they are around $10000.
January 15, 2018, 9:35 AM · I regularly restore early 1800s and late 1700s transitional violins that are basically made to baroque specs, smaller bass bar, shorter, less angled neck, wedged fingerboard, baroque tailpiece and bridge, plain gut strings. These are original authentic instruments that usually sell in the $1000-2000 range at my shop, all of these new options are much more expensive with the exception of the really crappy Chinese models. I mostly wholesale my baroque violins to a large dealer in Los Angeles. And as I mentioned I only have the one available at the present time.
January 15, 2018, 9:40 AM · Lyndon, I am trying to dig OUT of credit card debt but holy cow have you got my imagination messed up right now!
January 15, 2018, 11:04 AM · No worries, I usually have at least one Baroque set up violin for sale, but I don't take credit cards!!
January 15, 2018, 11:07 AM · I believe that baroque violin pics in the middle of this page, the one on the right and the one in the center are the instrument I have for sale, the back of the scroll is beautifully carved with a heart instead of the usual shape.

January 15, 2018, 5:10 PM · Thanks Lyndon, I checked out your webpage and bookmarked it in my "luthiers" folder. There will come a day when I buy another violin, as close to authentic baroque as my budget and intuition will take me at the time. I see some beautiful violins on your website, but I guess there's no buying my way into a better sound anyway. I'm on a break from practicing, now back to it! The day will come when I sound good....
January 16, 2018, 8:39 AM · Thanks for the information! I don't think converting my main instrument is really an option, cause I still want it to play with non-Baroque ensembles. Didn't realize you could get authentic 17th/18th century instruments so cheap! Seems like that would likely be my best course of action, though making a trip to your shop, Lyndon, would be bit of a long trip. Possibly will consider that for a graduation present to myself in a few months though!
Edited: January 16, 2018, 10:49 AM · Aaron, try contacting Bristol Violin Shop (in England). They may be able to help. I've seen their own baroque violins for sale in their store (and was tempted!), and I believe they made a set of baroque instruments for the Music Department of Bristol University.
January 16, 2018, 3:16 PM · I think Lyndon's shop in California would be a better bet, since I'm in Texas!
January 16, 2018, 5:14 PM · Aaron, oops! somehow I got it into my head that you were based in the UK!

Anyway, Bristol Violin Shop is a good store to visit should you ever be in England.

January 16, 2018, 8:32 PM · Authentic 1700s instruments are usually more expensive, its early 1800s instruments that are still built the same way that can be cheaper.
January 19, 2018, 9:37 PM · A good "modern" violin strung with gut strings (maybe changing out the tailpiece and bridge later), and a good baroque bow, will be a better start than a poor "baroque" violin. Avoid them. Yes, it is nice to have the right neck (especially if you want to play chin-off), but if you don't have a money to get a high quality baroque instrument, look around for a modern one that will play well with lighter tension gut strings.

There aren't a lot of baroque configured violins for sale in my part of the world. I got my old instrument converted. Bridgewood & Neitzert in London has a large baroque selection, especially by contemporary makers:

Generally, at the lower end of the market I think you'll pay more for a baroque violin because of scarcity, and at the higher end of the market baroque set-up mostly lessens a violin's market value (lower demand).

January 19, 2018, 10:49 PM · A good baroque violin shouldn't be any more expensive than an equally good modern violin, except perhaps for the extra investment in fittings. If shops are charging outrageous prices for crappy baroque violins, that's on them.
January 20, 2018, 12:06 AM ·
January 20, 2018, 12:12 AM · Yeah you're right, certainly at bottom end of market you can buy anything now quite cheap, and I suppose that's what you'll get. I really meant something a bit above that, not as much to choose from and harder to find a good'un so probably cost a bit more than a similar quality modern set-up fiddle. Interested if anyone's had that experience. Might be talking through a hole in my head, but still reckon you'll get more value fitting a good modern fiddle with baroque strings / bridge / tailpiece, and later fully converting if you're really keen.
Edited: January 20, 2018, 12:46 AM · strings and tailpiece are only half of it, the shorter bass bar, shorter and reduced angle neck, wedged fingerboard and less curved bridge and fingerboard are the other half
January 20, 2018, 3:47 PM · So what (other than strings, obviously) gives a Baroque violin its different sound? I can see how tailpiece and bass bar would change the sound; what effect does the different neck, fingerboard, and bridge have?
Edited: January 22, 2018, 7:29 AM · Aaron, I think the effect would be the way the modern player is able to replicate the Baroque style of playing as it was in that time, particularly when executing shifts without CR or SR, and playing 3-part chords (with the appropriate bow!). I also suspect that the shorter fingerboard would have some effect (marginal?) on the sound by not blocking vibrations from so much of the top plate, and it would make the violin that much lighter, perhaps enabling it to resonate better.

For Baroque music, and incidentally for by far the greater part of violin music since, you really don't need a fingerboard longer than 2 octaves - most modern ones are something like 2-1/2 octaves. If you need to play beyond 2 octaves then you shouldn't be trying to press the string into contact with a fingerboard at that altitude. A further benefit of the 2-octave fingerboard is that you no longer get an unsightly build-up of rosin dust on the end of the fingerboard after a practice or performing session; rosin dust on the top plate is also a little easier to remove.

Recently, when I took my 18th c violin to the luthier for a new bridge to be fitted I also asked him to shorten the fingerboard to 2 octaves. He did so, making a very neat job of it, and I'm very happy with the result.

January 21, 2018, 12:42 PM · Oh, interesting! Right, of course the bridge would make triple stops a lot more sensible; I'm working on the Telemann Fantasia in B-flat so there's a lot of those in there.

I've got an old fiddle I bought cheaply but of a pretty decent quality; I'm rather fond of it but don't play it much anymore so perhaps I'll grab some gut strings and a flatter bridge for a first attempt at a Baroque instrument. Will need to look into bows though...

January 21, 2018, 6:06 PM · You can't just flatten the bridge, you have to flatten the fingerboard as well so they match, I use a 50mm radius instead of modern 42mm radius.
January 30, 2018, 5:25 PM · Jason Reaves: Have you been able to try those instruments you mentioned? I'm particularly curious about the Lu Mi. I think I'm going to start by putting gut strings and maybe a Baroque tail piece on one of my current violins, but I'm thinking about a Lu Mi bow since that seems like a good middle ground between a cheap eBay gamble and a really pricey professional-grade bow. So I'd be curious to hear if the instrument itself is good quality.

Regarding converting this violin: anyone know where one would buy a Baroque tail piece? Or should I find a luthier in my area who can make one?

January 30, 2018, 5:54 PM · If you change to a baroque tailpiece, you should also change your saddle to the baroque low saddle. This article by Roger Hargrave explains the relationship between the tailpiece and the saddle:

Period of Adjustment

January 30, 2018, 6:46 PM · You should only use a baroque bow that's designed to bow straight or slightly outward under moderate tension, if your bow doesn't do that its fake baroque, like most of those Chinese bows.

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