What makes a good violin good?
I've read about instruments from famous makers with imperfections- knotted or imperfect wood, asymmetrical construction, and even visible tool marks. What ultimately makes a violin sound good?
It's the rosin (just try it without)
"What ultimately makes a violin sound good?"
I think it ultimately depends on the quality of the wood and the skills of the maker. The maker doesn't necessarily need to invent anything. He may just happen to be a very good imitator. I heard many good Chinese violin brands are copies of Strads or some other famous European violins.
In theory you could churn them out on a CNC machine so that they are all exact copies and free of defects, but they still might not sound like a strad.
What makes a good violin? A good maker!
As with playing, great making is a combination of excellent, objective observations skills matched with precision in application and the congenital inability to be satisfied with what one's self is doing.
There are lots of entertaining theories about the "secret" of the old Italian violins. Two that are plausible to my mind; 1) The quality of the wood; In the 17th century Europe was coming out of a cool period that produced tighter growth rings in the wood. And the industrial revolution had not yet started, so the air was cleaner, without coal smoke. 2) No sandpaper or power tools. Power tools generate heat and lots of vibration. Sandpaper cuts across fibers while knives and scrapers cut with the fibers. It's a book-length topic. The best modern makers are making instruments as good as the old masters, at a fraction of the price.
Lots of theories but no proof and precious little agreement. The amount of virtual ink that gets spilled on Maestronet...
Exactly. Indeed I doubt we would all agree on how to just
I think a "good violin" is an objectively recognizable thing, but a "great" violin is just a good violin that has subjectively appealing qualities to the one using it.
Re: "In the 17th century Europe was coming out of a cool period that produced tighter growth rings in the wood."
Tastes are deeply personal to the player, as well. I tried the same Strad as Andrew Victor, at roughly the same time, and I
-David B. & Roger St.-P. Thank you for your expert replies.~JQ
I had the good fortune to have played a few Strads( Lord Newlands, Hubay) and a Guadagnini. The sound on them all was like a thin beam of light and very singing and focused. One does not need to press to get the sound out. Fortunately, at the last encounter with the Guadagnini I had my Guarneri Vuillaume with me to compare. The sound of the Guadagnini was more focused but did not have the expansiveness nor the opulence of sound of the much lesser Vuillaume. Surely the Guadagnini having this laser-like quality could project further in a hall, but the Vuillaume also has no problem projecting either. Holding these old violins in my hands though I all the time get the feeling that the wood is so dry to the point of fossilization from the years. I also notice they are very light in weight compared to a similar size modern violin.
Re:" I also notice they are very light in weight compared to a similar size modern violin"
Drying happens early in a violin's life; virtually all the moisture is removed before the violin is even made. Over decades, the hemicellulose in the wood decays, while the cellulose remains intact. That's responsible for some of the reduction in weight.
What makes a violin "sound" great is options. Dynamic level, tone color, attack, response, ease of projection. Some violins you can hear every nuance of vibrato, others not, for example. And there are many other small things you need to be able to do with the sound.
To answer Tom's question above:
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