Albertus Bekker's blog


Volutes and violins: visual parallels between music and architecture

Here is a nice article by Åke Ekwall that appeared in the Nexus Network Journal. It deals with the possible design principles underlying the design of violin scrolls from a historical point of view. Nice read! (cick on the thumbnails for fullsize pictures)


Secrets Wonderful and Cruel

I came across this article that first appeared in the LA Times in 1997. It is a good description of the making process and how the history of the maker, player, instrument model and wood comes together to create a new violin. Enjoy!

By DUANE NORIYUKI, August 31, 1997


'Sherlock Holmes' violin created

A violin made from a tree in the garden of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's childhood home is to be played to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The violin was carved from the sycamore tree by Edinburgh-based luthier Steve Burnett.

It was made as a tribute to Conan Doyle's creation, Sherlock Holmes, who played the violin while solving cases.

It will feature on Friday night at a concert held by Dunedin School, which now occupies Conan Doyle's former home.


Ariane Todes talks to violin makers about their craft

I came across this on The Strad website in the blog of Ariane Todes. Interesting read...   AB

As part of the recent London International String Quartet Competition, I chaired a panel discussion with makers John Dilworth, Andreas Hudelmayer, Kai-Thomas Roth and Tibor Szemmelveiss. Here is a transcript of the conversation we had.

AT: Why should a player think about buying a modern instrument?

AH: It comes down to what playing power you get from your money and in my experience if you’ve got the typical budget of somebody who hasn’t just won the lottery then you will get a lot better playing instrument if you choose a good modern maker than if you go for what’s in your range in old instruments. You will need a big budget to find something that plays very well in an antique.

JD: It’s not to be underestimated, the business of making an instrument for a player. The player has the chance to direct what happens on the bench and specify what kind of instrument they like and want in every way and choose the right instrument for themselves. And they can have a relationship with the maker that can go right through their whole career and know that they can always go back to the person who made it if there are any difficulties.

AT: How does the relationship with players work?


Hindemith's toilet humour

Here is an extract from the recent The Strad magazine (July 2009) of an article by Louise Lansdown regarding weird musical plays written by the composer and violinist Paul Hindemith in his youth. I think I also want some of the stuff that he was smoking...

The young Paul Hindemith wrote outrageously comic musical plays that display his bizarre imagination. Louise Lansdown describes the strange plot of Viola Mania, whose protagonists turns the viola into a murder weapon and flushes himself down the lavatory.

Act one begins with Abdul standing before a picture of his hated boss whining petulantly about his lot in life: 'Thanks to the bank I am totally ill. I could leave. But then this play would not come to be written. Such a misfortune I must prevent. Abdul Linder - that's me - remains alive. And desires to give Paul his chance to have his fling. My forbearance gives way to anger. My angelic patience and almost fairy-tale graciousness finally gives way. Long live vengeance!'


Experimental modal analysis

This article is quite technical and will only be interesting to a very selective audience. It is a general introduction into experimental modal analysis - a technique that is often used to analyse violins. This article is not specific to analysing instruments but all the techniques are similar and applicable to instruments. Coming from a mechanical engineering background I found it really interesting. It first appeared as part of the conference notes of CSI Reliability Week, Orlando, FL October, 1999.

Registered users can download the article in PDF format here.


Experimental modal analysis has grown steadily in popularity since the advent of the digital FFT spectrum analyzer in the early 1970’s. Today, impact testing (or bump testing) has become widespread as a fast and economical means of finding the modes of vibration of a machine or structure.

In this paper, we review all of the main topics associated with experimental modal analysis (or modal testing), including making FRF measurements with a FFT analyzer, modal excitation techniques, and modal parameter estimation from a set of FRFs (curve fitting).


Bitten by the bug

I recently had a bad experience when I rehaired a bow for a client just for her to bring it back after about a month with several hair chewed off by carpet beetle larvae. This is normally not a problem with active players, since the little critters hate light. But if a bow is left in an old case for any length of time they will take their chance. I therefore decided to post an article on the subject and came across this one at Johnson String Instruments' website.


Benny vs Mendelssohn

Benny's Violin Jack Benny was famed for his role as a violin-playing miser. His performances left something to be desired. "Jack Benny played Mendelssohn last night," one reviewer reported. "Mendelssohn lost."


Nice viola for sale

I have recently been asked to assist in selling a nice viola. The owner is asking R5000 and I think it is a pretty good buy at that price. It was made in the 1960s in Germany by the Conrad Götz factory and is in excellent playing condition. It will be perfect for an advanced student or amateur performer. You can see some pictures here. Please contact me if you are interested or know of someone that might be.


A rational look at the classical Italian coatings

This article appeared in the VSA papers, summer 2005, and it really is one of the best I have seen. I follow the author, Koen Padding's advice quite closely in my own work. The article is downloadable in PDF format for registered users here.


This article describes the author’s thoughts about varnish and his approach toward understanding the puzzle that classical Italian varnish has become. Significant clues were derived from both the physical appearance of the surfaces of classical Italian violins and observations of the visible fluorescence from their varnishes when irradiated by an ultraviolet lamp. To illuminate the influence of earlier painting techniques on the surface coatings applied by Italian violin makers from ca. 1550 to 1750, the author refers to two historical documents from the 12th and 15th centuries that describe varnish composition and methods of application. Correlation of observations, scientific studies, and historical records has led the author to the conclusion that the Byzantine finishing system is the likely original conceptual basis for the classical Italian coatings.

Syndicate content

Contact details

76 seventh street
linden, johannesburg
south africa

tel: 0829035832
fax: (011) 2948849