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The violins made by folks like Antonio Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù were not of a standard size, but varied all around the size that later became "standard" as full size. People sometimes recommend to a smaller-handed or shorter-armed adult that they consider a reproduction instrument of one of the shorter among the classical models.
On the other hand, I have some reason to believe that, around the lower end of these reproductions, the dimensions are standardized. At least, an employee of a violin shop who got interested in the question told me that the GCV "Cremona" violins are all built to the same standard metrics. (Or maybe we were talking only about the range of Guarneri "replicas" offered only, with the Strad "replicas" made to different, but also uniform, metrics? But I am NOT talking about lines that offer one "Strad" and one "Guarneri" model.) Several websites give some dimensions occasionally, but not consistently enough to be sure.
So here's a question: are there violins in the $1K to $2.5K range that are made to the dimensions of the instrument they claim to reproduce? (I'm thinking of Scott Cao's 750s and 850s, GCV "Cremona" instruments, Holstein "Traditional" instruments, similar brands purporting to reproduce specific famous old instruments.) If so, which brands and lines offer "reproduction" instruments with reproduction metrics?
IF it is true that some of these brands offer instruments claiming to copy specific old instruments but made to one or two "standard" dimension sets, what is the "reproduction" about? The antiquing? Maybe different pegs?
And if reproduction metrics are not available in instruments in this price range, at what price point do they become available?
So you are saying that the different "models" in, for example, the Guangzhou Cremona line are made to different metrics?
For example, two Strad copies in that line, say the Goldman and Bouree Strad, would be different metrics to reflect their different originals? Or two Guarneri copies, say the Kreisler and the Cannon, would be built to different metrics to reflect their different originals? Or, similarly, within Scott Cao's 750 or 850 lines, different models actually have the metrics of their originals?
I am asking quite specifically, because I have been told the EXACT OPPOSITE--that violins in these price ranges are made to the same or to a very few (Guarneri, Strad) metrics, and that they do NOT reflect differences in body length, neck length, etc., of their originals.
I was told this by a seemingly knowledgeable shop setting me up with a few of these cookie-cutter models for an in-home trial. (I was asking because I am considering a move to either a 7/8 violin or a metrically-accurate replica of one of the smaller historic violins.) Though they did find one that had one measurement a couple of millimeters smaller, and otherwise did not fit my description of what I was looking for--and, just coincidentally, was an upsell from my stated price range.
The widely available videos on YouTube that show a few different performers trying out some Scott Cao violins (though I think these are a more expensive line from SC) are sheer nonsense unless the different models are really different in their metrics.
But then, if they are, I don't know what to make of my experience with the seemingly knowledgeable shop. Unless such differences start at a price range above mine?
I thought I'd share my recent Fiddlershop experience with you since you seem to be looking for a slightly smaller violin without compromising sound.
Two months ago, I got the itch to pick up violin (lots of backstory which I'll save for another topic 🙂 The instrument I was learning on felt too big for me. Even my teacher confirmed that it was a big violin more appropriate for an orchestra soloist than a 60 year old beginner. Like every total beginner, I was struggling with my left pinky and dreamt of having that reach just a tad shorter and the instrument just a bit lighter.
I'm lucky to have five reputable violin shops within easy driving distance but none of them had the sweet 7/8 violin of my dreams.
I visited Fiddlershop which has a Scott Cao 750 available in 7/8. I tried that and several others. When I got to their Sima Traian, it was love at first draw of the bow even though it is a full 4/4 and over my intended budget. The harmonics were gorgeous but I was still concerned about my pinky stretch. I discussed this with Fiddlershop's master luthier, Felix, and he suggested that it would be possible to make life easier for my left hand by narrowing down the neck ever so slightly. After some internet research, it turns out that this solution is not that infrequent.
I needed to sleep on Felix' suggestion since committing to a neck modification meant that I was committing to giving the Sima Traian its "forever home" (wink to cat lovers.)
More internet research ensued. I wondered what would happen if the string length was also shortened by moving the nut closer to the fingerboard. Felix agreed to try this out, opting for a method that would be reversible if needed. Note: I wanted the nut moved as much as possible but Felix felt strongly that 5mm was the limit.
So, yes, I committed to the Sima Traian and the modifications were made. We also lowered the bridge which enhanced the playability and installed a harp shaped tailpiece to increase the after length. Finally, Pierre, personally, gave the sound post a little nudge.
IMHO, the instrument retained it's lovely harmonics which, in addition to being lovely, are also cluing me in to when I hit the notes correctly.
So that's my recent and really satisfying experience. Thanks for letting me share.
Thanks for sharing your experience--sounds like you got really fine treatment, and I'm so glad.
After my very interesting 2-week visit with 3 violins, I'm back to renting, albeit a bit better violin. The shop I'm renting from says they do have a few 7/8 rentals, but they are all out at present. They were really discouraging me from moving to 7/8ths, but I see no reason to play something that is just barely within my range: it's not like I'm headed for conservatory and hoping for a soloist career! (I'm 64 and a beginner... I'm hoping to get good enough that some people, somewhere, will tolerate me playing with them. Such people will care whether I'm in tune and up to speed, not whether (gasp!) I am not playing a fully standard instrument.)
My current idea is: when a 7/8ths rental becomes available, work with it until I am fully adapted to the size, then go back to a 4/4 rental till I am fully re-adapted (learning all the while, of course), and THEN decide if I really need to box myself in with a hard-to-find size. (Or have modifications done, as you are doing.) My hands have adapted more than I expected them to already, it may be they will adapt adequately AND with no problems later on.
There's a real difficulty in getting enough experience to know what one wants, what is comfortable, etc, when nearly all one's experience has been on one or two rental violins.
Hi Martha (and others). I went looking on the internet to find the difference in string length (from nut to bridge) between a 4/4 and a 7/8 violin. There is some variation but it appears to be from 0.5 cm (0.196 in) to 1 cm (0.39 in). The fingerboard is also slightly narrower and the neck is thinner. However, to the point. Since you are now playing on a rental, I suggest that it would be rather easy to make a temporary adjustment of the bridge to move it 0.5 to 1 cm toward the fingerboard and see if it greatly eases fingering for you. I would leave the sound post alone for the experiment. The strings will be slightly more difficult to play since the action will be higher, but that would be easily corrected if you like the fingering.
Specifically to Irv's idea of moving the bridge forward 5mm to 1cm to shorten the string length, let me share the following details about the adjustments Fiddlershop made to my violin to shorten the string length by 5mm.
The first step was to move the nut by 5mm towards the bridge. That helped my pinky reach in 1st position for sure. But the beautiful sound seemed choked and, indeed, as Irv surmised, the action was higher.
The second step was to lower the action by using a lower bridge. I think they used the low version of this self-adjusting bridge: https://fiddlershop.com/collections/violin-bridges/products/self-adjusting-aubert-mirecourt-violin-bridge-vb103sa.The nut was also shaved down a tad.
That helped for sure.
Then I splurged on installing a new set of Obligato strings (always coveting that deeper sound) and while we were at it, replaced the rather large tailpiece with a more petite harp. This really helped to un-choak the negative effects of the shortened string length.
Finally came the slight sound post adjustment and the violin's beautiful sound was back... just with 5mm less string length.
The lesson I learned was that "fiddling" with one part of the setup has huge consequences for the sound and is likely to require a bunch of follow-up adjustments.
Martha, I'm encouraged to hear that your pinky reach is evolving in the right direction. I'll keep working on mine!
Hi bocaholly (and others). I wish to know more about the tail piece on your "7/8" violin. Please refer to the violin pictured on the steveduf thread "left handed vs right handed" or the picture of my Mendini MV 500 on about the forth page of the thread "Mendini MV500/650 by Cecilio." Both pictures show the application of a 3/4 tail piece on a 4/4 violin. Is your harp tail piece this petite (which I doubt, because you would need a very long g string if it were so)? Do you have fine tuners on all 4 strings or only on the e string? If you have a fine tuner on the e string, is it "conventional" or a piccolo fine tuner?
From the looks of it, this is the tailpiece: https://fiddlershop.com/collections/violin-fittings/products/violin-harp-tailpiece-padauk-with-ebony-trim
The website text says that no special length G-string is necessary.
And since the name of this thread is 'violin metrics', here are some numbers:
Afterlength in mm (bridge to ebony ridge):
G - 64
D - 59
A - 53
E - 47
The actual tailpiece measures 118mm end-to-end along the E-string side and 996mm along the G-string side
Only the E-string has a fine tuner which is shaped like this one (although I can't imagine it's titanium): https://fiddlershop.com/collections/violin-fine-tuners/products/titanium-hill-style-violin-fine-tuner
And just for the record, this is a pic of the actual, new, 5mm augmented nut:
Hi bocaholly (and others). I think that you have a 3/4 harp tail piece. It looks great and I can certainly see why you like the harmonics so much. I credit Fiddlerman on that one. And yes, the piccolo fine tuner is likely to be titanium (very light weight and very strong). You will have to get loop ended e strings (or break off the ball end with plyers) to use it.
Since we are on metrics, would it be possible for you to measure the radius of the neck (not counting the ebony fingerboard). You could take a string (say, at the mid neck point) and use a pen to determine interface between the neck wood and the finger board on either side. I could take this measurement and approximate the half circumference.
I also like they way they used a piece of lengthened ebony to create a new nut.
Fancy me with a titanium fine tuner. I should have gotten two as earrings since they're supposed to be really light 🙂
I did some measuring around the neck at the spots marked in blue tape, below (creates a crummy pattern with my beginner finger tapes, hmmmm.)
|near the upper bout||48mm||29mm|
|in the middle||45mm||24mm|
|near the scroll||39mm||20mm|
By "half-circumference" I mean the curved underbelly of the neck (not including the ebony fingerboard.)These are "yeah, sort of" measurements since my most precise tool is a metric tape measure.
Hope these numbers make some sense to you.
My pleasure, Irv.
My violin is not quite a 7/8... but a bit bigger. The total vibrating string length is 321mm (125mm nut to top of the body and 196mm top of the body to the front of the bridge.) I think a 7/8 would be a total of 317mm or so.
In my book, the more petit the pinky stretch the better. Therefore, I kept thinking about your suggestion to Martha to move her bridge north a bit.
Since I had an apointment with Fiddlershop's master luthier, Felix, today anyway to take care of some cosmetic glitches I already inflicted on my instrument, we ran a quick experiment while I was there. He wiggled the bridge 4.5mm towards the fingerboard and adjusted the sound post accordingly. To my disappointment, my finger positions were unchanged (same exact pinky stretch in 1st position as before... same exact position for every finger.) If you look at my previous photos, above, you'll notice that I have beginner tapes on the fingerboard so I'm pretty confident that there was no change! I was surprised. Felix wasn't.
There was a change in the sound, though. Even with some sound post adjustment, the instrument was more strident - brighter - definitely not the sound direction I wanted to go towards.
So back the bridge went (maybe even 2mm further south than previously) and the sound post was readjusted. Lovely, ! Huge thanks to Felix for the lesson... and thanks to you for making me curious 🙂
I find the adjustments to make the pinky stretch lessened interesting. I'm going to keep that in mind as a potential adjustment to try down the road, depending on how this nerve injury heals up. Anything that will lessen the need for twisting and stretching would be a good thing.
On a journey to learn the fiddle since July 24, 2015
Yes, but at what price point do "reproduction" violins start actually having the (main) metrics of their prototypes? As in, to the extent that early famous violins that are a bit shorter or smaller are reproduced that way, rather than a cookie-cutter 4/4 size. Because it seems (from my way-too-limited experience + Fiddlershop's attempts to help me) that they do NOT have varying metrics--except Strad vs Guarneri--in the $1.5K to $2K range. Does anybody know anything about this?
Hi Martha (and others). I have no business responding to your original question, as I only have experience on instruments within a shadow of “violin shaped objects.” But I do read. And I do feel guilty because I may have enjoyed this thread more than you. So here goes.
There are several build parameters on a new reproduction of an old master which have no fidelity with the original. Modern violins have a glued in strut called a bass bar which was originally an integral part of the front plate (a construction detail that was very wasteful of wood and took a long time to execute). The ingredients in the old varnish are lost due to secrets of the trade. Wood takes on a different tone as it ages (which can be approximated by roasting the wood in a non oxygen environment, but is not currently done by violin luthiers). Time consuming registration of the front and back plates to obtain signature tones is rarely performed. The fingerboard is longer than in a baroque violin. Modern violins utilize chin rests and players often use shoulder rests. Modern violins rarely are strung with gut strings and the 440 hz a note is much higher than “back in the day.”
Equally important is the backward curve provided in a contemporary bow, which allows for a much higher bow hair tension than was available on a baroque bow.
One must also remembered that the masters also made a lot of clunkers. We don’t see them now because they were put in the fire for warmth, just like we don’t see the structurally unsound cathedrals of Europe because they fell centuries ago.
Thanks, Irv, I read too, and am familiar with these differences. I'm not trying to get an exact copy of an old instrument--I'm checking out routes to a smaller instrument.
The non-clunkers from the past that are being "reproduced" (albeit with modern fingerboard length and angle, etc) were not and are not the same size. The "full sized" historic great instruments varied, say from a wee bit over 7/8 to a wee bit under 9/8. (Note this is an impressionistic statement: 7/8s has no clear definition beyond "about a half inch shorter than 4/4," and 9/8 I just now made up to convey the idea.) For example, Stradivarius went through a phase of making full size violins somewhat longer than his earlier and later full size violins. These are now referred to as "long model Strads."
SOME FOLKS say, if you need a bit smaller violin, check out the reproductions of the smaller historic models.
OTHER FOLKS (including the helpful staff at Fiddlershop) have told me that, at least in my possible price range, whatever "reproduction" means it does not (generally) extend to reflecting these small size differences between historic instruments.
SO I am trying to find out whether this is true across the board, or just for some makers, and trying to find out whether this changes at (approximately) some price point, after which reproductions DO reflect these differences.
While I'm certainly frustrated over all that, I want to say the unexpected delight has been to hear about and see what Holly has been able to do and have done in the way of modifying a (presumably) modern standard 4/4. Thanks for posting all that, Holly--I'm glad that has gone so well for you!
Maybe there is some secret sauce in dealing locally. (Sigh.)
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