second violin search - Glasser Carbon - anyone played one? Update

April 25, 2020, 11:30 AM · Three years ago I asked about a Glasser cf violin. I finally got one, but I went through an Andreas Eastman VN405 that I refurbished before settling on the cf Glasser. My main violin is an 1893 German instrument that I love- dark, resonant, and as responsive as I need. It’s diminutive pegbox has already been glued and the back hide glue has just been redone. Needless to say, no more steamy summer nights out or bitter dry and cold mid-winter rehearsals for it. My first back up instrument was an EH Roth 1964 student viola that is really heavy, but I have been able to set it up to sound close to my 1926 EH Roth viola. It has been bomber at saving my beloved 1926 Roth for summer concerts, so I wanted a backup violin too.
My first attempts were cheap German and Chinese instruments - no good, even with hours spent in setting them up and testing variable parts. I got the Andreas Eastman Vn405 because I almost bought a VA405 viola years ago and remembered loving the sound. It was abandoned by someone who had abused it and sold it sans bridge, etc.
Having finally set it up and adjusted it, swapping many combinations of parts, I played it in the fall concert. Playable, really stable with Knilling perfection pegs, loud And full G, but just did not allow me to relax and play.
That brings us to the Glasser. The prior owner had the bridge and soundpost well adjusted/ trimmed. He also had the tailpiece replaced with a Hill ebony one without tuners. It has a similar full sound, not as alive and resonant under the ear as the Vn405, but really easy to play, clear, and easy spicatto, legato, jete etc. Away from under the ear, they are comparable, but anyone would hear the difference in resonance and complexity, the Glasser has a simpler waveform. It is heavier, just like my student EH Roth viola is heavier than the old one.
The final deciding factor- I play better with the Glasser. it is probably either psychological or a perceptual difference under my ear, but there is a definite difference in my playing for the better, which outside, in a pit, or in a large section in a cold winter or steamy summer rehearsal matters more to me than beauty. at 1/10th the cost of a mezzo-forte, ricci, or Luis and Clarke it is something that I won’t cry about if something happens to it.

Replies (12)

April 26, 2020, 9:17 AM · There are reviews to be found if you Google "glasser carbon fiber violin"
April 26, 2020, 11:11 AM · The glasser opened up a little using the light Wittner center-mount standard chinrest with the suspended Isny shoulder rest. A little less dampening from the mass in contact with the bouts imho. I’m going to try a titanium tail cord and harp tailpiece next to see if the upper positions on the IV and III strings can open up a little.
April 26, 2020, 11:20 AM · I’m not sure if it’s the weight or the smooth finish on the back, but I’m not very comfortable playing it without a shoulder rest as I can almost any other violin. Some of it is the balance pulling it forward and down like with heavier violas. Some of it is not feeling as secure chin hooking the Wittner chinrest as I am with my preferred Flesch.
April 27, 2020, 5:54 AM · I have the glasser carbon-composite (their term) 5-string acoustic-electric violin. When it came the tone didn't have any ring to it, and my wife, when she demonstrated it for one of her students, made the statement "That's all it will ever sound like." I bought the more expensive version, the one where you can see the weave of the carbon fiber through the clear finish (mine's green), not the solid-color version which is less expensive and sounds much softer unless it's amplified.

I played it that way for a while and then I got to thinking, it's a violin-shaped box, it's a violin-sized box, it's got strings and a bridge and a soundpost, why isn't it sounding better?

So I took my wooden violin, which had been set up by an excellent local luthier and measured the vibrating string length -- it was off by 5mm! It was too short. So I moved the bridge, carefully a little at a time until the vibrating string length was the same between the two violins. Voila! It immediately got more ring to it.

Then I looked at the soundpost and noticed it was no longer in the correct place relative to the bridge. Figuring that one adjustment helped a lot, and knowing how important soundpost placement was, I figured that had to be moved also. I'm not comfortable doing that so I took the instrument to my luthier who agree that the string length is correct now (one can see where the feet of the bridge had originally been) and that the soundpost needed to be moved. He got the sounpost to the correct spot and the sound opened up a lot more. Now the only real difference between the Glasser and my wooden instrument is the tone and the Glasser is a bit quieter.

I did read a lot of online reviews before making my decision and after having made those adjustments I realized that the bad reviews were mainly due to playing on instruments right out of the box which are poorly set up. Once my Glasser got properly set up, it is a joy to play and it rings like it should

Edited: April 27, 2020, 6:35 AM · I bought a Glasser Carbon viola at the beginning of the year.

I've been playing for about three years now and have a very cheap (works out to be about US$150) 15" viola outfit I bought when I started group lessons. Its pegs have been very reliable and my teacher made me changed to wittner tailpiece with built-in fine-tuners. Then I started using a 16" viola my teacher lent me (bless him) about a year ago.

I bought the Glasser (15.5") partly because I wanted an upgrade from my first viola as I didn't think I can use my teacher's instrument indefinitely. I liked the idea of having something robust as I was still very nervous about handling these string instruments and I wanted to try out geared pegs and Larsen strings.

It was to my great surprise that I found that my first viola (with wittner tailpiece) is still easier to tune than Glasser's geared peg + built-in fine tuners combo and holds the tune better. As its sound is only marginally better than my 15" viola (which has a very strange mix of strings: cheap A string, evah pirazzi gold D string and original G and C that came with the instrument) but A LOT more heavier, I hardly use it since it arrived.

So I'm still using my teacher's instrument on regular basis despite being rather nervous about handling, the differences in sound quality and projection are simply too great.

In my case, the Glasser is probably not the smartest purchase as my own viola is functioning fine as well as being about the same as the Glasser in terms of sound quality and being cheap enough to be a second instrument to take some abuse.

But now I'm getting nervous about upgrading, as this experience makes me realise that it's likely to be expensive to buy something sounding as rich and full as what I'm currently using.

April 27, 2020, 6:37 AM · @David

Now I wonder if the setup of mine is correct.

April 27, 2020, 7:20 AM · This web-page: http://www.theviolaworkshop.com/page16.html has a chart of string length, and for a 15.5" viola the chart shows 35.4cm or 354mm. That's measured from the neck side of the nut to where the strings cross the bridge. If your bridge needs to be moved (easy to do if you're careful and do it in small increments) then the soundpost may not be in the correct position. That's an adjustment that's best left to a luthier.
April 28, 2020, 12:02 AM · All my instruments have longer string lengths than indicated on the web page.
15 inch: 356mm
15.5 inch: 365mm (Glasser)
16.25 inch: 374mm (I measured the body and it's larger than 16 inch)

All of them have the bridges sitting at the typical location (between the f-hole inner notches).

May 3, 2020, 7:12 PM · First week update. As a practice violin, the Glasser is really working out for me. It warms up in a minute- way faster than I do. Because I can rarely practice for hours at a sitting, this is a big efficiency thing for me. It is allowing me to pick it up, work on something a little, and go back to work on whatever else I need to do. I can spend more productive time playing and less time focusing on my old German’s quirks of weather, etc. Possibly because of its stability or its timbre, It seems much easier to find chords and double stops and large shifts with improved intonation.
May 5, 2020, 6:47 AM · @ Edward
Glad to hear the Glasser is working out for you.
I hope I can figure out how to make mine perform better; I really like the idea of having something very robust lying around at home that I can pick up and practice without thinking too much about taking care of it.
Edited: May 8, 2020, 11:34 AM · So, for you Glasser owners wishing for a little more of an alive resonance, try the following from Andrew Victor, whose years of experience I find most valuable. This has made a noticeable, but not huge, difference in y Glasser violin-using light adhesive pads instead of cork on my jet-black ebony Flesch chinrest. It also helps that the pads are black - maybe I’ll put on some black or titanium hardware next.
“About a decade ago I bought a "Resonation Chinrest" and found that it improved the sound of the violin I put it on ( http://www.resonationchinrest.com/ ) so I also put them on my three other violins - and it did the same for all of them. The 20-year-long-time violinist in my piano trio (where I payed cello) also installed a Resonation Chinrest on his Enrico Rocca violin with similarly favorable results. (My chinrests are all left-mounted, his was a center-mounted "Guarneri.")”
Edited: May 9, 2020, 7:51 AM · Re: Lockdown ensemble Jones - I miss playing ensemble music, so I’ve been reading with a lot of recordings. The stability of the composite with the geared tuners makes changing tuning pitch a snap! It’s a breeze to play 425 one movement withbthe Dutch and then go right into old DG 445+ German recordings with a quick change.

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