Weight of a violin and sound

July 6, 2019, 6:04 PM · How does the weight of a violin affect the sound of of a violin. I've heard French and Italian makers often use lighter wood than the germans. is that so? My French violin weighs 420gms and my friends chinese violin on the other hand weights 549gms. What is the average weight of a violin? And how does the weight affect the sound?


Replies (6)

Edited: July 6, 2019, 6:43 PM · Presumably these are weights without the add-ons of chin rest and shoulder rest, which will add a significant amount to the whole, and will probably (but not necessarily) have an observable effect on the sound. That extra weight will depend on the design and materials of those add-ons. In the case of a chin-rest, its positioning and how tight it is fitted can affect the sound.

I think it is expedient in these considerations to ignore the weights of the various types of tailpiece-tuner combination; it is expecting too much to take those off and weigh them separately!

Edited: July 6, 2019, 9:17 PM · I think these weights likely include chinrest.

It's not a direct correlation. The distribution of the weight matters, of course, and it's never an exact science with natural materials. I'd estimate the average violin, assuming at least reasonably good quality, is in the 400-450 gram range, and above a certain level of instrument there really doesn't seem to be that much relation between weight and sound quality.

On the other hand, overly thick plates would definitely hurt the sound. Factory-made instruments tend to be heavy and clunky either because they are made by less-skilled woodworkers or because they are made under time pressure. It's not unheard of for Chinese factory violins to weigh as much as 600 grams.

To give an idea of just how heavy your friend's Chinese violin is: my 15-3/4" viola weighs 561 grams including chinrest.

July 6, 2019, 9:30 PM · Makers have told me that the density of the wood matters as well. For me, a very light feel in the hand is something I associates with good old Italians. Some modern makers achieve that without obvious flimsiness, and others are much heavier (with similar hardware).
Edited: July 7, 2019, 9:28 AM · Let's get some sort of ball rolling, starting with my two violins.

Violin A: mid-18th c 5-generation family heirloom. Not sure who made it, but am not inclined to give much, if any, credence to what it says on the label ;). Slightly out of the ordinary in that its body length is 14-1/4 inches, as opposed to the standard 14", and the bout widths and rib depth are pro rata slightly larger. The ebony fingerboard is the 2-octave Baroque length. The body length, bout and rib dimensions influenced the choice of C/R. Furthermore, its internal resonance, as blown across the f-holes, is C, as opposed to the D for most other violins. Normally strung with 4 gut or 3 gut + 1 steel. Resonant "old" sound, with a powerful G. Used mostly for baroque and early classical playing.

Violin B: Jay Haide dated 2002. Bought new so no doubts about its authenticity :). Normally strung with synthetics or steel. Gut doesn't work particularly well on this violin. Used for mostly everything else that Violin A isn't used for. Bright "modern" sound, but G string response does not match that of Violin A.

Weights (gms):

Violin A (no add-ons): 389
Violin A (with center-mounted ebony C/R): 458 (wt of C/R = 69)

Violin B (no add-ons): 444
Violin B (with center-mounted boxwood C/R: 498 (wt of C/R = 54)

I cannot say that the presence or absence of a center-mounted C/R makes an observable difference on either violin, but a side-mounted C/R tends to reduce the bass response slightly - which is why I no longer use side-mounted.

I don't use a shoulder rest, so I cannot comment on any effect such may have.

July 7, 2019, 12:27 PM · "my friends chinese violin on the other hand weights 549gms. What is the average weight of a violin? And how does the weight affect the sound?"

I think 549g is heavier than normal - I've weighed a few I have on hand, including two of Chinese origin, and none come close, with the exception of a solid-body electric, which is still a bit lighter, including a chin rest. (That electric sounds quite different, therefore the weight must make a huge difference to the sound!) The others are around the low 400g's without a chinrest, and a sampling of a couple of chinrests I have on hand are between around 35g and 65g.

The distribution of the weight is going to make more of a difference than the weight per se. E.g. a heavy scroll would change the balance but not affect the sound as much as a heavy top or bottom plate.

But rather than guessing the effect on the sound as generalization, isn't it easier and better to judge the sound of the instruments you have?

July 7, 2019, 2:25 PM · Comparison of total mass does not make any sense. What matters is plate graduation and overall design. Beware of extremely light violins; they may have been re-graduated resulting in a very thin upper board which is not sustainable in the long run.

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