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Construction of the Violin
Kind of in line with GregW’s post, but a little different question
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cid
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February 14, 2019 - 8:52 am
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This is kind of a take on GregW’s post about different violin makes. I had posted it there as a reply early this morning, but deleted it so I wouldn’t be hijacking his interesting conversation thread.

If you are a violinist construction purist, you my want to stop reading right now. I know this is a sore point with those that feel that since “This is how it was made by the masters. DO NOT TOUCH!”. Then when it is mentioned, a big hullabaloo starts and the topic is never discussed because the line was crossed between acceptable violin alterations and alterations gone too far. So, any violin construction purists, you might want to stop reading this question now or brace yourself. 😁 I really am wondering about this.

Do luthiers ever seriously experiment and try making a violin in a different shape, a major redesign? Do they experiment and try different woods? If they try different woods, do they use aged different woods, or off the shelf at Lowes different woods? I ask this because, things do change over time. Products and materials are changed and improved. Some products and materials are changed and it does not work. Some products and materials are completely reinvented. Do luthiers do this with violins, or is it such a sore spot, as I have come to believe, that a serious luthier would not dare to seriously mess with the traditional way of making a violin and materials used, or risk being thought of as a non-contender as far as being thought of as a quality serious luthier goes?

I am not talking about using carbon, or even making an electric violin. I am talking about acoustic wood. I am not talking about placement of the soundpost or the type of tailpiece, strings, etc.

There are many things that could be experimented with. The shape, the placement and size and shape of the F holes, maybe make it a little deeper (higher), wood used, etc. Do respectable luthiers do this? I have seen pictures of violins that are way off in left field and I don’t think they were made to be seriously used as violins. What I am asking about are serious design changes that are not meant to be a shocking attention getter. 

I simply do not agree with the purists. Over time many products have been played with in attempts to be improved; cars, medicines, bicycles, materials for use in the making of said products, etc. Sometimes it leads to other changes that are better, even though the original change didn’t quite work as planned, other times the change is a success. But, it is change based on the current materials available, and up-to-date knowledge.

Has this experimentation been used by serious luthiers to improve the violin? (viola or cello, for that matter)

I am sorry if I have upset any violin construction purists who just don’t see how things have evolved over the centuries. I understand their not wanting a truly lovely instrument being changed. Whenever I have seen this topic in other forums, it is pretty much dead on arrival because violin construction purists seem to be insulted or something because the thought of messing with the masters’ designs is not allowed. So, I hope I have not stirred up a hornet’s nest, but I am wondering. 

Well, I wonder what the very very first violin was made of and looked like. Maybe, it was before the Masters and maybe the Masters changed that very first design. Just wondering.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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cid
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February 14, 2019 - 9:33 am
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Ok, so I did some checking because I was curious as to what the first violins looked like and when they were starting to be used. Here is a Wikipedia link that is quite interesting. I also saw similar info in other links, so I think this is pretty accurate:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wik.....the_violin

The first violins look nothing like the strad era violins, so that was a big change. Is any luthier working on serious changes for further improvements? Not sure what they would be, but you never know until after those modifications are created and brought to public eye.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Irv
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February 14, 2019 - 9:46 am
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Hi @cid and others.  Most luthiers undergo an apprenticeship for several years to enter the guild.  I think that innovators were/are seeded out of the process.  Much of the art was masked in mystery until the influx of the internet.  In much the same manner, students of psychiatry must undergo therapy.  If you object to this, you do not enter the club.  

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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cid
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February 14, 2019 - 10:09 am
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@Irv That is the thing. I realize they go through an apprenticeship and have a guild. Personally, apprenticeship is fine, but I don’t understand the guild requirement. So,  why does a luthier have to belong to the guild to be considered a luthier? If a luthier can make a well built, good sounding instrument, why is it necessary that that luthier be in some guild, probably with hefty dues, in order to be taken seriously? It seems to me that that requirement of “Following the rules” and not making advances, or trying to make advances, is a detriment to improvement of the current instrument, or possibly the creation of an entirely new instrument. 

So, if an innovator comes up with a terrific idea that is a really good improvement, the guild will look down on him/her, and kick that person out? I guess I am just not a, “You have to fit my mold and not use your brain or creativity” type person.

Ah, creativity. Is music not creativity? Not an art? Is the making of that said instrument used to make that creative music, not an art built out of creativity? Therefore, the luthier should be able to use his/her talent, creativity and knowledge to make changes outside the mold. 

Today’s guild is not using the designs of the first violins. Violins have changed over the centuries. I don’t know, I think eliminating the prospect of innivation and creativity is a great loss for that luthier’s guild. It seems to me, that if the guilds were there when the first violins were made, the luthiers that created the guild and are considered masters, would have been laughed at and kicked out by those luthiers who created the very first violins, ie the link in my original post in this thread.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Irv
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February 14, 2019 - 10:42 am
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Hi @cid and others.  A true innovator was the American luthier Carleen Hutchins, who is best known for her work on plate tuning.  She created a true proportion viola that was played like a cello and had a foot peg.  Yo Yo Ma recorded with it, won a Grammy, and was so criticized by fellow musicians for the affront that he never played it again.

The Glasser Carbon Violin is, in my opinion, a bargain if it can be obtained for about $400.  The provided strings and Knilling pegs cost about a third of that.  

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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cid
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February 14, 2019 - 10:53 am
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See, @Irv, it makes absolutely no sense.

I prefer the wood bows. I think part is the feel, and part is the fact that I have 4 carbon bows and they are all too lightweight. I need to feel them in my hand. Maybe a carryover from the cello bow weight and feel. I now use my Holstein Yellow Sandalwood bow. I think I used the proper name for it. I received it abkut 5 days ago. So far, so good. It is the viola bow. The violin bows are too lightweight. I wish this was just a tad heavier, but it is still better than the violin, for me. 

It is good to have variety because not all people prefer the same thing.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Irv
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February 14, 2019 - 11:19 am
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Hi @cid and others.  Case in point.  Look at the Knilling Perfection Peg thread on this forum.  This is a wonderful product and eliminates the need for fine tuners (acoustically beneficial).  It’s marketing problem is that it was not invented 300 years ago by the masters.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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cid
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February 14, 2019 - 11:37 am
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Hear that? I was hitting my head on the walldazedfacepalm

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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AndrewH
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February 14, 2019 - 5:56 pm
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Hold it -- the extreme hesitance of many string players to use geared pegs is not a matter of tradition, it's more a concern about long-term impact on the instrument. Geared pegs are not easily removable, and musicians with high-value instruments (virtually all professional classical musicians and many high-level amateurs) tend to be extremely concerned about potential damage and loss of value when geared pegs need to be replaced. In my view, the fewer moving parts there are that are subject to wear, the better, and any component that is subject to wear needs to be easy to replace.

When it comes to experimentation, the viola has been the subject of far more tinkering than the violin, likely because it is a compromise instrument to begin with. The first major modern innovation was the Tertis pattern, which is a relatively conservative change: high ribs and wide middle and lower bouts. The Tertis pattern is currently quite well accepted. I play a Tertis-pattern viola.

In more recent years, there have been more radical changes, such as the cutaway violas by makers such as Otto Erdesz and Hiroshi Iizuka, and the asymmetrical violas of David Rivinus. All three patterns have been adopted by at least some other makers. None of them are extremely common yet, but almost every professional orchestra I've seen perform in the last five years has had at least one violist playing an instrument in one of these three patterns. In January, I subbed in an orchestra where one violist plays a Rivinus viola. It's an impressive instrument: feels like a 15.75" viola (which is its body length if you measure down the center of the fingerboard) and has the acoustic properties of a 20" viola.

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