What type of varnish is this?
My violin and most violins I’ve seen are very glossy in appearance, but my teacher has a violin that does not have this shine. I would call it dull only for lack of a better word. I actually think this looks better than the very shiny varnish because you can see the grain of the spruce better. Since noticing this I think I see Hillary Hahn’s has this type of varnish job as well. Can anyone tell me the technical terms of this type of varnish? Is it considered more sophisticated to have a high shine or not to have it?
Do you know how old your teacher's violin is?
No idea I can ask her next week
Chances are that your shiny instrument and others similar you see are varnished with spirit / synthetic base varnish such as that you would find at your local hardware store. This is a very hard and usual (but not necessarily) shiny varnish type. More expensive quality instruments are varnished with a softer more flexible oil-based varnish (usually mixed by the maker). Varnish can significantly affect the sound of an instrument, and some believed is the holy grail of master instruments’ superior sound (but it’s a lot more complex than that actually). The shine is a matter of personal taste, but even the shiny oil-base varnishes have a more subtle natural look than the plastic looking spirit/synthetic base varnishes.
Luthiers also make dull instruments shine, and soloists seem to like their Strads shiny: it is not varnish, just some safe methods of polishing. I took a dull instrument in for setup and it came back very shiny. The luthier had not changed the varnish, just polished over it. I told him a new violin he showed me was too shiny. It is not the varnish, just a polish.
The original varnish in undisturbed old instruments is rare to see today. Many classic instruments had their original varnish covered with French polishing, in order to make them shine.
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