The secrets of violin playing!

Edited: August 12, 2023, 7:05 PM · I just stumbled across a book from 1899: The Secrets of Violin Playing by William Crawford.

I just found it a fascinating insight into violin playing, equipment and attitudes of the past. I was interested to read about early chin rests and how players were embarrassed to use them! Mention of vibrato (the close shake as he calls it) is interesting ("..this wretched and damning tremolo") and seems to point to a time when much less was used. He also has strong opinions about how women can never have the tone of a man as they lack the muscles!!

Thought some of you may find it interesting as a glimpse into the past.

Replies (15)

August 7, 2023, 11:22 AM · Great fun. The author's name is actually William Crawford Honeyman whose sole qualification seems to be that he is "A Professional Player". There are still a few old copies for sale online or new ones printed on demand.
August 7, 2023, 12:10 PM · Don't knock it, Steve. Pros know!
August 7, 2023, 3:34 PM · interesting, thanks for the link!
August 7, 2023, 3:51 PM · Well, maybe without the chinrest, women really WERE at a disadvantage?
Remember how comparatively uninteresting women's tennis was before carbon fibre (Now has men's tennis become less interesting?)?
August 7, 2023, 7:30 PM · In many ways tennis has evolved in the same ways as violin-playing. The training and physical development of the athletes is at a much higher level these days but that trend did probably start around the same time as the introduction of the graphite (CF) racquet (let's say, around 1980).
August 7, 2023, 8:50 PM · It's funny how he talks about women and their lack of muscle, as if violin playing needs Arnold Schwarzenegger to get a good tone! Also, that women's fingers will fall between the strings if they stop a fifth. Were women miniature in those days?!
August 7, 2023, 8:50 PM · Also, it seems before the shoulder rest wars we had the chinrest wars!
August 8, 2023, 3:45 PM · I just mentioned to my husband that I’m burning calories when I play. His comment was, “Why are there so many chubby violinists then?”
Trained muscles? I can’t imagine having muscular fingers would help anyone play better.
August 8, 2023, 4:46 PM · Well, when I started women had to use a side-saddle chin-rest. Something about the unseemly vibrations of the instrument on the, dare I say it, jaw bone.

There, the truth is out.

August 8, 2023, 7:08 PM · I don't think there are more chubby violinists than chubby chemists or chubby carpenters or anything else. One thing though -- I have never seen a chubby person playing hacky sack, so that particular thing must burn a lot of calories.
August 11, 2023, 8:42 AM · I like the reference to a "700 (pounds sterling)" Strad! I need a time machine!
August 11, 2023, 11:28 AM · "Women can never have the sound of men as they lack the muscles" - how was he playing the violin? Where did he use his superior strength? I would assume in bowing, that would cause a scratching sound?
I could understand it a little in playing double bass, as probably it is harder there to press the string to the fingerboard. (Not saying women cannot play the double bass! Only, that it might indeed be harder?)

But in violin playing?

August 11, 2023, 9:27 PM · There are no secrets to violin playing. But there are wrong theories, approaches, mechanics. From one of my teachers; "the natural instincts for playing the violin are all wrong" And then a pianist; (Alfred Brendel??) "Follow the path of most resistance"
August 16, 2023, 6:36 AM · Hello,

I am a violin parent. My son is age 13. He has been learning violin for about 5 years (a year of slack online with Covid). However, he has been learning piano for over 8 years now.


After Accolay, Winter, Mozart 3, and Bach Partita 2 - he is attempting to learn Brahms Concerto No. 3, first movement. He is a hardworking kid, and has a good sense of music in him.


1. Is Bruch the right choice for his level ?
2. If he is able to accomplish this milestone well, what can be his next choices ?

Thank you everybody!

August 16, 2023, 7:24 AM · It's not calories or exercise, rather it's the chronically elevated insulin levels from a high glycemic high carb diet of grains and sugars. Violin players as much as anyone else will not only lose weight but notice a surprising mental clarity and stamina by switching their energy metabolism from glucose-based to fat-based.

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