Smoking and violin: compatible?

Edited: June 7, 2019, 9:25 AM · Encouraged by the topic about alcohol and instruments, although I've been asking myself this since I first bought my first violin, I'd like to know what's your opinion about being a smoker and playing in a orchestra (orchestra because that means you're always practicing and playing, and that mixes with your smoking habit).

Truth be told, out of my 3 violin teachers, 2 of them are smokers, one smokes weed (recreational) and the other smokes tobacco. None of them are addicted to it, at least from my experience. By addicted I mean that they are not constantly smoking or have urges to do so, they can spend a whole morning or afternoon without smoking, or a weekend. Well, the tobacco one I guess smokes at least 1 cigarette per day, but you know, smoking tobacco is socially accepted and even "cool". The weed one smokes just occasionally, she's not a pothead by any means.

To be clear: I think both of them are normal people, both have high violin studies (degree) and they are kind and friendly. Also, I hate cigarettes and everything related to smoking, I can't stand it.

First, I've noticed that it's very, very common to find smokers in conservatories and music schools, it's really extended, indeed I've sometimes joked about classical student musicians being "potheads". It doesn't really matter the instrument, when I was friend with a violin student and hang up with him and his conservatoire friends, I noticed how many of them smoked.

That really shocked me, because musicians, specially classical ones, and more specific the students of a degree that want to be professional, are really meticulous with their instruments, they spend or invest hundreds of dollars in instruments, many take care of them as if it was a child: humidity, so expensive cases, temperature... but then, you find they start to play their instruments (oboe, violin...) just after smoking a cigarette, with their smelly hands and breath, surrounding their instruments with very strong smells and substances, that stay in the violin, wood, bow, flute...

I'm quite sure they have many times smoked while playing in the comfort of their houses/rooms.

What do you think about it?
Won't the smoke damage the instruments?
What about the smoker's breath injected into oboes, clarinets, flutes....
Are you a smoker? Do you have any rule or philosophy about smoking and practicing?
In example, I try not to play or practice if I've smoked recently, I avoid sticking the smoke smells into the instrument, etc...

Replies (58)

June 7, 2019, 10:28 AM · One of my violin teachers smoked cigarettes, and I'm reasonably certain was thoroughly addicted to his cigarettes. But he would go outside or into a separate room from his violin to smoke.
June 7, 2019, 10:57 AM · I'm married to a returner smoker ("quit" for a decade - even though they would still smoke a few cigarettes a week) and I can assure you that the thing they love more than their health and well being is cigarettes. Thoroughly addicted, even when going for "long stretches" without cigarettes. My husband says that once you really smoke cigarettes, you will never go a day not wanting to have cigarettes.

I cannot comment on the rest of your post as I do not use either substance mentioned - I do not think they are "cool" or useful substances in my life.

Edited: June 7, 2019, 11:32 AM · I don't smoke, either tobacco or weed. I didn't ever want to touch the stuff, although I did try weed once in high school, because other kids were doing it and I didn't want to make a scene by refusing. But I was afraid to inhale because everyone said newbies always cough their lungs out the first time -- so I faked it. Years later when Bill Clinton said he "didn't inhale," I immediately understood, whereas everyone else just pointed and laughed. My inhale-faking strategy served me well many years later when I tricked a police officer giving me a breathalyzer test in his patrol car. I decided that day I would never tempt fate that way again.

My maternal ancestors were noted cigarette manufacturers in pre-WWII Berlin. Their family name was Rochmann. Most of the men in that family were murdered by the Nazis. One of them was a composer, I recall seeing an "Edition Peters" of his works for piano once. Another was a noted architect. My grandparents and their family (including my mom) escaped to Guatemala. Many of our European ancestors were accepted by Central American countries during dark periods of the 20th century. And now our so-called president doesn't want any Hondurans or Guatemalans or Salvadorans coming to the US even though there are employers who badly need these people to pick fruit, shuck oysters, and a whole bunch of other jobs that are foundational to many regional economies.

Now if all that isn't enough, where cigarettes really become important is when playing the piano. That's because the top of the piano is a convenient place to rest your cigarette between tokes. You'd have to be pretty steady on the violin to manage that. Used to be you could look at the top of any bar-room piano and see the melt or burn marks (depending on the surface) from where the ash burned down to the edge of the piano top and kept going. Nothing else leaves a mark like that.

June 7, 2019, 11:38 AM · A couple summers, I had a teacher from the Boston Symphony who smoked. An older French-trained man, who held his cigarette in his right hand while demonstrating on his Strad.
June 7, 2019, 12:22 PM · When I was a teen my parents would take me to an old Italian violin maker to get checkups and bow rehairs. He was a chainsmoker with nicotine yellow skin and never opened any windows to ventilate his house and I feel thhis lifestyle stole many years from his journey here. If he kept my instrument overnight it would smell from only being there a day or two.
June 7, 2019, 12:54 PM · That's the worst part of violinists who smoke from a purely selfish standpoint: When they come back from orchestra break they stink.
Edited: June 7, 2019, 1:53 PM · Pamela M, your husband is simply wrong. I smoked intermittently in high school, then steadily for about three years in young adulthood, and now I'm nothing but disgusted by them.

And I recently had to watch a close relative die from copd, caused by years of chronic smoking, so now when I see anyone at all smoking I'm literally stunned by the sight.

And lastly, I think it's highly unfortunate that recreational marijuana is becoming normalized and accepted in our society. But, truth be told, I guess I feel the same way about alcohol. So who cares what I think?

June 7, 2019, 5:52 PM · In the days (long ago) when you could smoke during rehearsals -you never saw our clarinet section. Both of them smoked, and were permanently hidden behind a smoke screen.
Wonderful players.
June 7, 2019, 5:57 PM · I’m sure a lot of musicians are addicted to caffeine. All of my child’s teachers either had coffee or tea near by.
June 7, 2019, 10:57 PM · Smoking/toking/vaping in all its forms gross me out and frankly I can't understand it and even less so stand it. I sometimes can smell a smoker driving on the highway at 100km/hr 2 cars ahead of me, and would hate having a smoker as my stand partner. My previous instrument smelled from decades (I assumed) of smoke exposure, it wasn't pleasant at all. One good thing about buying a newly made instrument I suppose.
June 8, 2019, 5:30 AM · I have a home recording studio and I don't allow smoking of any kind, it sticks to the insides of electronics and will discolor instruments eventually.
June 8, 2019, 6:30 AM · Hi Paul - you did not mention where you are. Here in Toronto Canada smoking is frowned on socially and is (at least in my experience) certainly not cool. That said, one violinist in our orchestra does smoke but he sneaks out at every break and is very quiet about it. I did smoke as a teenager but an older brother shocked me out of it but it took 20 years or more before the scent of a cigarette stopped being attractive. Now they revolt me.
June 8, 2019, 6:33 AM · Nicotine is one of the most potent addiction-agents in the world, maybe about the level of hard drugs. And this is because it changes the brains and due to that change there is a graving and addiction that is very hard to fight. So there is no non-addicted smokers. There are only people that refuse the believe that they are addicted. Addiction forms when the brains changes.

Ex smokers can become very averse to tobacco smoke and that is indeed the only way for their brains to combat the addiction. There has to be very strong motivation to succeed in permanently qitting.

So, alas, that is why so many people smoke even though it is the surest way to earlier death than they would otherwise have had. Usually the more clever the person the less likelihood there is she or he will become a smoker. And that is due to the fact thatn wise people believe easier the warnings they are given prior to starting. But there are exceptions.

Edited: June 8, 2019, 10:33 AM · Paul wrote:
"And now our so-called president doesn't want any Hondurans or Guatemalans or Salvadorans coming to the US... "

Isn't that a bit exaggerated? There are many Americans who think that immigration should be in accordance with our laws, which doesn't seem unreasonable. What nations have no restrictions for foreign visitors or immigrants?

Have you ever applied for a Chinese, Russian or Australian visa? They don't let just anybody in, even as a visitor!
Both Russia and Australia want to know about a visitor's criminal history. Does that seem like such a bad idea? I don't recall whether China needed that or not, but if you arrive showing signs of illness, you may be involuntarily quarantined, (or at least that's the way it was last time I was there).

June 8, 2019, 3:00 PM · " I'd like to know what's your opinion about being a smoker and playing in a orchestra"

Isn't this question a bit contrived? What does playing in an orchestra have to do with the question of smoking or not? And why is smoking or not even a question? It's irrational, wasteful, harmful, and merely an exercise of mental gymnastics amounting to failure which is maintained by those continuing the habit despite virtually everyone including their own failing health telling them otherwise.

On the positive side, it is a habit which was very widespread, but has over time, at least in the west and in most circles, gone in the other direction to being an uncommon habit (although that habit does persist to different degrees in different cultures and sub-cultures).

Not unlike playing violin, for the smoker, it is an opportunity to exercise self-discipline towards a positive achievement.

June 8, 2019, 4:29 PM · "An older French-trained man, who held his cigarette in his right hand while demonstrating on his Strad."

And I'll bet it had that certain "je ne sais crois"....

June 9, 2019, 11:38 AM · There are very few smokers in my orchestra, at least of cigarettes. I can't speak to weed because that wouldn't be taking place at work during breaks anyway, and whatever crowd that might be, it isn't mine. I'm a never smoker; it revolts me. None of my childhood or college teachers were smokers either. The idea of smoking as part of the artist's life has been passe for a very long time. Even when I was in conservatory in the 1980s, nonsmokers outnumbered smokers, although not to the extent that we do now.

I don't understand the conflation between cigarettes and caffeine addiction. Yes, most musicians drink coffee or tea, as do most other Americans. It's harder to find an adult who doesn't drink coffee than it is to find one who does. So what?


Edited: June 9, 2019, 12:04 PM · One of my schoolmates claimed that diameter of a cigaret serves as a perfect divider between fingers in a bow hold. My violin teacher smoked, and also did my mentor. I suffered from "allergies" back in Europe for a long time during my childhood and adolescence, only to find them magically disappear upon my landing in Canada. The only major difference is my surrounding: no prevalence of smokers in my immediate surrounding. Weed has become a major nuisance for pedestrians since legalization; it stinks everywhere. e-cigarets.... clouds of smoke. I lost count of my relatives who died of cancer, many of whom where chain smokers.
Drugs & music is most likely due to stressful working environment . I wonder why is there no focus on relaxation and stress-reduction instead? Arabella Steinbacher is one bright example of yoga practitioner and great violinist. We could all learn a lot from her.
June 9, 2019, 1:37 PM · We live in an age that is a bit more health conscious than the previous generation. Of course, when you look around most people aren't all that healthy, at least from the visual standpoint. We musicians aren't immune. Fellow musicians smoke tobacco (and other substances), drink alcohol, eat too much, don't exercise, have high stress jobs, et cetera.

As a former tobacco smoker (I was a cook in the navy and started smoking because only the smokers were allowed sit down breaks during our 12 hour shifts) A few years after being discharged, going to college and getting married I stopped smoking so I cannot say I never smoked. FWIW: I've also been overweight (not anymore). Since I'm the son of an alcoholic I don't drink alcohol or play with drugs or any intoxicants.

Yet more than a few of my favorite violinists smoke cigarettes and I can say that I'm always a bit disappointed to see that. Hey, it is their choice. I remember once seeing a video of Nadia rehearsing with a quartette - a laid back scene everyone in tee-shirts, shorts, flip-flops talking through the approach to the music and Nadia with a cigarette dangling from her lips. It hurt my heart to see that.

June 9, 2019, 1:58 PM · Smoking is definitely on the way out. I think the only hope of reviving the industry is to make it illegal.
June 9, 2019, 2:35 PM · There was a time when smoking could affect even non-smokers, when it was commonly done in enclosed spaces like offices and bars.

That is no longer taking place anywhere in the world I have been, so far. Slight smells could just as easily be interpreted as those from burning incense, so that's the way I choose to view it, rather than from a standpoint of hostility or condemnation.
June 9, 2019, 3:41 PM · Think of the strings you can buy with the money you save
(and health benefits) from not smoking.
June 10, 2019, 3:56 AM · Pamela M

It is just a comfort of your husband. I smoked for 17 year very regularly (20+ cigarettes per day). And I wanted to quit, so I quit. Now it is 6 years without cigarette, and it is stinking for me. I hate it, and I cannot imagine to smoke one again, yuck :/

Back to theme. Never smoked near instrument and always washed my hands.

June 10, 2019, 1:51 PM · Anyone who thinks smoking is "on the way out" lives in a certain kind of American socio-economic bubble.
You might as well say "everyone is jogging" or "no one eats white bread anymore."
June 10, 2019, 1:54 PM · @Scott

I think smoking cigarettes is certainly (and provably) on the decline, though I think "on the way out" is maybe being a little dramatic. However, it's being replaced by many young people with portable vaporizers that are more discrete, though I think the smells are just as obnoxious.

Edited: June 10, 2019, 5:26 PM · Non smokers are so sensitive to smells, one wonders how they can do their business in the bathroom, or maybe they gave that up too??
June 10, 2019, 4:59 PM · Will I need to stop cooking fish, cabbage, and brussel sprouts?
Edited: June 11, 2019, 5:15 AM · "Isn't this question a bit contrived? What does playing in an orchestra have to do with the question of smoking or not?"

Well, it's explained in the first message, but here it is again: I said "orchestra" because those musicians are professionals and have to practice and play every day or almost every day. Well, then, if you mix that with a smoker, you have the dish I was looking for: how smokers that are professional musicians behave and approach practicing and playing while having the "urge" to smoke.

"Non smokers are so sensitive to smells, one wonders how they can do their business in the bathroom, or maybe they gave that up too??"

More like "smokers don't give a flying carrot about other people and start fumigating everybody around". People with developed noses will just have to "suffer" a little more in the bathroom situation or when cooking, but certainly shouldn't have to tolerate the smoke of others. It is like kids, you handle your own, not someone else's. Anyways, just like you have way, way more patience with your own kids than other's, you tolerate your own odors way better than other's, that includes the bathroom business. Cooking fish does not always smell, cabbage and sprouts of course, but notice these are just uncomfortable situations you deal with. The smoke is a whole another story, because the smoke contains more than 300 cancerous substances.

The whole point of this post was to know if smokers smoke in their houses when playing or practicing, if they don't care if there's smoke around the violin, wanted to know if smoke damages the violin, etc...

June 10, 2019, 10:23 PM · Farts are poisonous gases, more so than cigarette smoke!!
June 11, 2019, 2:26 AM · So "on the way out" is now a melodramatic cultural signifier! No wonder a whiff of smoke puts us into a tailspin.
June 11, 2019, 2:33 AM · The most entertaining take on smoking and violin I ever encountered was the late Dave Swarbrick - long-time fiddle player and singer with Fairport Convention. He would set off a number fiddling away, fag in mouth, until it was time to sing. He would then lower the fiddle, remove the fag with his bow hand, sing a couple of verses and then reverse the entire process for his next fiddle break. I don't think I ever saw him without a cigarette.
June 11, 2019, 5:28 AM · "Farts are poisonous gases, more so than cigarette smoke!!"

No, they are not "poisonous", besides, poisonous is a matter of quantity, a proportion, not a matter of existence. Something is poisonous if you're exposed to a certain quantity of it. Everything can be poisonous just like healthy apples can kill you if you over eat them.

As far as I know, farts don't contain cancerous particles, they contain bacteria but only if inhaled under certain circumstances, and I'll stop there. Time to stop with this little off-topic, but let me ask you a question:

Do we fart next to others?
Or we do understand that it's not polite, it's not correct, it's uncomfortable for the others and prefer to be nice to others?

But let's focus on the topic: smoking and violin playing.

Edited: June 11, 2019, 7:02 AM · Paul wrote:
"Also, I hate cigarettes and everything related to smoking, I can't stand it."

Sounds like largely a psychological or emotional issue.
How intolerant are you of other things other people do, which you do not?

June 11, 2019, 7:17 AM · he probably thinks smoking pot is just fine!! When cigarettes started out doctors were recommending cigs to their patients, now no self respecting doctor will condone smoking but when it comes to pot, they're all supportive of it, as if its not carcinogenic just like cigarettes, but it is, actually worse.
June 11, 2019, 7:17 AM · I remember of a fine Strad with a "burn scar" that was attributed to a cigarette.
June 11, 2019, 7:17 AM · I remember of a fine Strad with a "burn scar" that was attributed to a cigarette.
June 11, 2019, 10:48 AM · "The most entertaining take on smoking and violin I ever encountered was the late Dave Swarbrick"

That would be the same Dave Swarbrick who read his own (premature) obituary when he was seriously ill in hospital in 1999 with emphysema. The few performances he managed between then and his double lung transplant operation in 2004 were made possible by having an oxygen cylinder on stage to keep him going.

The double lung transplant transformed his life and allowed him to return to "normal" performing. He died of pneumonia in 2016.

His fiddling was definitely entertaining, his smoking and its effects on him not so much.

June 11, 2019, 11:09 AM · Otto Erdesz apparently used a lit cigarette as part of his antiquing process. Nice-looking (and sounding) violas.
Edited: June 11, 2019, 11:37 AM · Nice, Luis Claudio, do you know where can I find the story?

You guys are making me answer and defend my view, and I don't want to because this post is about violin and smoking, not smoking in general in the current society. I'm gonna address your posts one last time:

"Sounds like largely a psychological or emotional issue.
How intolerant are you of other things other people do, which you do not?"

Let's see... I don't ski, I don't hate skiers; I don't read erotic novels, I don't hate erotic novel readers or writers; I don't watch politic debates, I don't hate them; and I can go on and on, forever, Mr. Burgess.

So, you see? It's not that I hate the things I don't do, where is that even coming from? Very weak and lazy logic.
I hate that smokers make me inhale and smell stinky smoke, which I repeat, contains more than 300 cancerous substances, the smoke itself. It's not even just a simple smelly issue, which should be enough for you to stop, it's also a health issue. My grandpa totally messed up his lungs and voice because of smoking, and it was only when he was at the hospital for a very severe condition (when he mostly lost his voice), when he decided to quit. Many years have passed and he's not smoked ever again.

How am I not gonna be mad at that?
The real problem is how messed up we are as a society to accept and deal with that. If I were in charge, I would fine all smokers that smoke in public with children and non smokers around. In the train station, surrounded by dozens of persons, but they don't care the slightest, let's fumigate everybody. In their homes with their children and family, but they don't give a flying pig about it, inhale my sweet son. It's outstanding their disrespectful behavior, as hard as it sounds, but it's the pure truth. Back in the days I remember when I went to pubs to watch a football match, at the end of it my clothes were all stinky, my eyes itched and my throat was irritated.
Do you think us non smokers have to deal with that? Do you understand now where the hates come from?
Thanks God now it's forbidden to smoke in most indoor places, hallelujah. I can go now to pubs and clubs and enjoy the food and match without intoxicating myself because someone decided to do so.

No, smoking pot is exactly as stinky or worse. I won't discuss what's healthier, I don't care neither know. You can smoke all you want in your home without disturbing others, but the time you start to exhale smoke and make all the other people around you, from a very long distance, inhale your toxic fumes, that's where I find it very, very disrespectful.

So, you can get drunk in your room, smoke stones and burn plastic and aluminium, do whatever you want, but when your actions affect directly others in a very heavy way, that's when you know you're very disrespectful.

The other day, a friend (that I didn't know) of a friend of mine was in my car and asked if he could smoke. What? Oh, yes, please, go ahead, let's do the fumigating submarine, there's nothing more exciting for me to do than smell smoke while driving, have head-ache due to the smoke, stink my car for hours or days and inhale cancer. Wait, he offered himself to open the window. Oh, the window, wow, he's so nice, you have to admit he cares a lot about others. The window, that top notch piece of technology that absorbs all the fumes and no one notices there's someone smoking.
But guess what? You have to be nice because that's the way to go, and I sadly said "no, sorry", creating, because of him, a stupid tense moment, where it seemed like it was me the one being disrespectful or unpleasant. You gotta love smokers.

By the way, smokers reading this, when you politely ask if you can smoke, first, that's to start with a very mean question. The fact that you're politely asking something doesn't necessarily mean your question is not totally disrespectful and out of place. Second, you believe windows are magical and solve all problems, "I'm gonna smoke, I'm gonna open the window". No, no to the no-no. It doesn't matter if you open the window, you toxic smoke is gonna impregnate the whole room, I'm gonna smell your smoke for hours and your breath is gonna take care of it in case we successfully ventilate the room properly. My clothes are gonna stink as well, it's a fact.

There, I explained it thoroughly. Now, I remember the topic again: smoking and violin, how smoke affects a violin, if it affects it in some way, if smokers smoke in the same room with their expensive precious old instrument and expose it to the smoke, etc...

Edited: June 11, 2019, 3:35 PM · Otto Erdesz always had a cigarette burning, when I visited him. Bob Bein could have two or more cigarettes going at the same time.

Various sorts of addictions are are hard to sort out. I will readily confess to being a coffee addict.

Paul N, I think your emotional and hate issues will be so readily apparent to most readers, that I won't need to address them one by one.

When I was a wee lad, I hated parsnips. Had I been in control of the world, I would have banished them. Might have not been the best long-term strategy, for something I personally didn't like, in my immature state.

Edited: June 11, 2019, 4:36 PM · Hahahaha, banned parsnips!
Anyways... why? why you hated them? were they affecting your health or life in any way?

You are smart, why your conclusion after all I've said is that I'm immature because I want to forbid and ban everything I don't like?

Haven't you read that I think you can do or smoke whatever you want, as long as you don't disrupt others deeply?

You happen to be a luthier, and I suppose you are a smoker, or were one. Do you have any data or know if exposing a violin daily to a cigarette/weed smoke causes any damage to the wood or varnish?

As I said, I used the example of an orchestra musician because smokers normally smoke every day, orchestra musicians play and practice normally every day, so the violin is normally surrounded by smoke, except in concerts of course.

June 12, 2019, 3:39 AM · Instruments will start to stink if they are in smoking environment for a prolonged time. just like if they are in a musty or damp environment.

Smoking on a break (outside) and playing violin afterwards will not make it smellier (but woodwinds and brass could pick that up).

I smoke pot on occasion, but it takes the edge away - for better and for worse, so I don't do it in concert setting, only in party setting.
It's better to be completely alert and slightly edgy for a concert performance, but a wedding party actually benefits from the violinist being mellower.

June 12, 2019, 6:04 AM · Paul, I suppose smoke would eventually build up a film on the surfaces of a violin, like it does anything else.

I did know one luthier who used tobacco smoke to darken the wood or varnish of a violin, as part of his artificial aging process.

June 12, 2019, 7:39 AM · Some of the most famous pieces of music have been written with smokers in mind, to wit (or lack thereof):

- Bach's Brandenburg Concertobacco
- Paganini's Moto Perpuffuo
- Vivaldi's La Puffavera
- Schubert's Unfiltered Symphony

June 12, 2019, 8:22 AM · Instruments that have been in a smoking environment can be cleaned of smell in one to two weeks with baking soda or activated charcoal in the case, and a rub down of the outside surfaces.
Edited: June 12, 2019, 10:55 AM · So, it really doesn't affect the wood in the long term?

Just like humidity and temperature can damage a violin, I suppose smoke is nothing to worry about, right?

Do you know if it damages instruments like trumpets, oboes, bassoons, flutes, saxos...?
A violin, except the smoker smokes while he plays or practices with a cigarette in his/her mouth, can be just exposed to the smoke, and that's it.

Nevertheless, those wind instruments not only are exposed to the smoke, but all the internal wood and metals are in contact with the smoke because of the smoker's breath. Again, I don't think, I don't want to think actually, that smokers inhale all the smoke and then start to play. But you know, wind instruments are exposed to a mix of vapor water plus smoke, so I guess that would stick more to the internals, right?
Any data about that?

Since there are a lot of smokers in the world, and I've found that many musician students are smokers, it wouldn't be nuts to study the effects of smokers on instruments.

June 12, 2019, 11:26 AM · I think your hatred of all things smoker, is more damaging than anything that can be done to an instrument by smoke.
June 12, 2019, 12:29 PM · Wow.

I am 100% in agreement with Paul.

Edited: June 13, 2019, 2:18 AM · Paul N. wrote:
"So, it really doesn't affect the wood in the long term?"

Not that I have been able to determine, so far.

Sure, resins impregnating or on the surface of wood (like varnish) could affect the sound, and the longevity. Might make them better or worse. I prefer to go on data, rather than emotionally-based assumptions.

June 13, 2019, 6:40 AM · Thank you, David.
Note I created this thread asking, not making assumptions. My feelings and opinions about smoking in general and smokers don't affect the truth I'm seeking about if smoke damages in any way a violin or any other instrument.

I suspect smoke doesn't damage the violin in any way, not sure about wind instruments though and its internals metal parts. May be someone with experience here knew or knows that smoke actually damages the wood/varnish, so that's why I am asking.

If you say it doesn't, I'm gonna believe you, at least more than others since you should or probably know more about violin care than a random violinist.

Lyndon, "sadly", I can't say what I really think to smokers in real life, and I have to be always nice, with a smile in my face if possible. You feel like you're being nice to a person that's insulting you, literally. If I'm calmly sitting on a bench waiting for the train, and a smoker sits next to me and smokes, I start to eat all the smoke, and instead of screaming at him how disrespectful that is, I have to get up on the sly and walk away. If in that train station, there are like 4 or 5 smokers, lost fight, no matter where you stay in the platform, you're gonna smell the stinky smoke. When my uncle smokes I many times have to pretend there's nothing wrong about him impregnating the whole room with stinky cancerous smoke while he talks to me about something.

Edited: June 13, 2019, 7:17 AM · Well we all have to put up with your stinky attitudes, goes both ways. Outdoor smoke is not a health hazard, if you believe that you've fallen for a lot of BS. Indoor smoke is a problem, but not anymore.
June 13, 2019, 7:14 AM · Art conservators make a fine living cleaning such filth a cigarette smoke residue from paintings.
Edited: June 13, 2019, 8:36 AM · Paul D, my understanding is that most of this came from air pollution during the coal and wood burning era, and from the time candles and oil lamps were used for interior lighting. Some fiddles from old London were just black inside, prior to cleaning!
I can see how a painting displayed in a "smoking room" might get a buildup though from that alone.
June 13, 2019, 10:11 AM · David, yes of course there are far greater sources of grime than cigarette smoke, but I bet they don't let you blaze up in the Sistine Chapel.
Edited: June 13, 2019, 3:02 PM · After the Sistine Chapel cleaning, there were complaints about the colors being so bright and vivid, that they were cartoon-like.

Perhaps something similar is going on with the fashion for "antiqued" violins? What should we emulate? Grimed-up stuff, or best-preserved and pristine stuff?

June 13, 2019, 3:00 PM · David I agree. I really love how my Topa violin plays and sounds, but I wish it weren't so heavily antiqued.
June 13, 2019, 3:43 PM · Going again off-topic, guys, hahaha, but doesn't matter as long as the conversation is interesting.

I personally think aging artificially an instrument is kind of "inmoral" from an artisan perspective. Selecting the right wood, the right tone color, the best looking portion of a piece of wood but suitable for the piece mechanically... all of that is part of the job of an artisan, it's making big decisions and part of your mark, your spirit.

I'm not a professional luthier at all, but I've done quite a few jobs with wood, one of them in my precious guitar. Spent a whole month fixing and adjusting the finger board (fret board), even improved it a lot in some ways. In the last steps, that included sanding with fine sandpaper the whole ebony piece, hydrate it with oil, primer or sealer coat, etc... I was so, so tempted to make it look way better by tinting it or "painting" it (I don't know what's the correct term as I didn't studied the process). Notice by "painting" I don't mean to actually paint it like you paint your wood doors with titanium white or your house walls, of course. The ebony was (is) not black ebony, it was kind of maroon-brown ebony, a little "dead", light. I was planning on changing it into a gorgeous shiny cherry-brown, astonishing, but thought twice just before buying all the stuff and said to myself: "hell no, this is the wood I have, this is how it looks and the quality and tone color is the one I have, I won't fake the color"

Just like a fingerboard in a violin, a fret board in a guitar is naked, raw, unfinished, you don't varnish it (well, some guitars use maple and you varnish those, but that's beyond the point). If I think this way about the color on raw/naked wood parts of an instrument, imagine what's my opinion about artificially aging an instrument.

By the way, because I see it coming, I'm not against aesthetic changes, you can make those, you can spend hours looking for the exact varnish color you want, you can incise wonderful pictures or images on the wood if you are into that, you can make a dragon shaped scroll, you can get creative with the varnish or oil, indeed luthiers are, look at the backs, necks, etc...

Aging is a natural process, and as the name says, it takes ages. Just like VSO makers sometimes literally paint the fingerboard with black paint to fake it and make it look like it's professional good quality ebony, I think it's just as fake and "wrong", if you want, to make a 2019 new instrument look like it's from the 1700's. You can replicate its shape, color, varnish... that's fine, that would be like composing today something based on the baroque period, or a painting based on a technique or author from another period, but purposely aging it is, from my view, in a whole new level.

I know for sure some luthiers that make a lot of aging jobs are gonna be kind of "mad?" at me, but that's just my view on this topic, I'm really against anything fake in general terms, in life.

June 14, 2019, 3:04 AM · Paul N. I agree with you, I don't like artificial aging, it is done especially on guitars (electric) I really dislike it. Even that they are destroying them like very worn out. I have a few of my guitars 20 years, I drag them over the Europe on our concerts, many in harsh conditions, high used. And when someone is looking at one of these guitars, is amazed, how they are in perfect shape. Because I am overprotective on instruments, and taking care and using them carefully. My bandmate had guitar which after 3 or 4 years of usage was looking like pulled out of his a**, disgusting :/


Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Violin Finder
Yamaha Violin Finder

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Warchal Metronome

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings

Violin Lab

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Subscribe