instrument making

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All information related to the making of stringed instruments
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Building a violin - photo essay (Completed)

Violin buildingI recently received another commission to build a violin. I have decided to document the building process through a photo essay. The building process is mostly done by hand. I have no objection to the use of powertools, but there are very few steps in the building process that can be improved or completed in a shorter time using them. And besides, powertools and a glass of wine and a nice CD on the sound system don't mix!

Click on the thumbnails below to see the photo with a description. Enjoy!

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Cello completed!

ImageThe cello that I started building way back in 2007 is finally completed and was sold. I used the opportunity to update the pictures of the building process in the 'workbench' section of the website. Here is a link to the pictures:

Cello building pics

I also did some research on the 'Davidov' Stradivari cello that I used as inspiration for the cello and here is what I found:

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Violin maker the soul behind the sound

Perfect pitch: Violinist and luthier Phan Thanh Tien plays a viola pomposa he crafted himself.Violin making nowaday is an international craft that finds resonance in all cultures and peoples. This story about a vietnamese violin maker appeared in the Viet Nam News and was written by Duc Ngoc. Click here for more stories about the violin making process.

At classical concerts, audiences see the people who make the sounds, but few meet people who make the instruments. Duc Ngoc talks with artisan luthier Phan Thanh Tien. Tien, one of the country's few professional violin-makers, believes that every violin contains a soul, a mysterious life hidden within it.

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Making violas: reconciling size and sound

I came across this transcription of a talk given at Lutherie2006 Conference, Newark on Trent, 13 May 2006 by Helen Michetschläger. It is posted on her website here. It is a really good and useful description of her philosopy on viola design and the particular challenges the larger instrument poses. Good stuff!


I'm particularly pleased to have the opportunity to talk about one of my main areas of interest, making violas. This is going to be a practical rather than a theoretical talk, based on my experience of meeting and working with many viola players and teachers, discussing ideas with colleagues and trying things out at the workbench.

I think that making violas is one of the most interesting aspects of violin making today. Players demand powerful and responsive instruments in a size they can manage. As there are fewer good old violas than violins or cellos, viola players are often less conservative in their expectations. This gives us as makers a wonderful opportunity to be creative; to experiment and to test out ideas.

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William F. Fry: a physicist's quest for the 'secrets' of Stradivari

This is an article by Kameshwar C. Wali that I found here. It gives a profile of William Fry - a physicist - and his efforts to understand what makes the old Cremonese violins so special. I don't necessarily agree with all of his opinions, but it is nevertheless a very interesting read, especially the part on the effect of frequency ranges on the sound.


The origin and early history of the violin remain shrouded in mystery despite much research and speculation. The instrument appeared in its present form in the early sixteenth century, predominantly in Italy. Two schools of luthiers flourished: that of Gasparo Bertolotti, or Gasparo da Salo (1542-1609) in Brescia, and that of Andrea Amati (c. 1511-1581) in Cremona. The Cremona school dominated the scene for the next two centuries. Amati and his descendants ushered in an extraordinary period of violin making, which peaked between 1650 and 1750. All the violin makers lived and worked side by side around a courtyard in front of the St. Domenico church, where they produced instruments of great beauty and exquisite sound. The most celebrated of all, Antonio Stradivari (1644?-1737), brought unsurpassed perfection to the instruments he built.

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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

http://articles.latimes.com/1997/aug/31/magazine/tm-27440

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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?

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Guide to choosing and using strings for violins, violas and cellos

With the large selection of strings available nowadays, it is becoming increasingly difficult for a string player to choose the right strings for his/her needs. And with rising costs and economic woes experimentation is also not a realistic approach. I came across this guide that might be useful to narrow down your list of potential string choices. This article is by Richard Ward of Ifshin Violins in Berkeley California.  It first appeared in Strings Magazine several years ago and has been updated and posted on the Ifshin Violins site at http://www.ifshinviolins.com/features_guide.html

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Zeitgeist and violinmaking

AchemistOne of the leading proponents of the scientific approach to violinmaking is Martin Schleske. In this article he touches on the subject of the state of scientific discovery around the time of the Cremonese era.

The full article in PDF format can be downloaded by registered members here. 

 


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Mineral preservatives in the wood of Stradivari and Guarneri

Here is an article that is hot off the press. One of the authors is Joseph Nagyvary, a scientist/violinmaker from Texas that has written a lot on the theory that the Cremonese masters used a special wood treatment on their violins. In the past he has put forward several theories, including soaking the wood in water, urine, borax, shrimp shells, etc etc. All these theories and some sensationalist coverage by the press have not done his reputation in the violinmaking community much good. Nevertheless, he is an experienced scientist and his work and results are some of the best available. This paper contains some very interesting stuff. It seems more and more likely that there was a 'silver bullet' wood treatment that makes the Cremonese instruments different. The article was published in a scientific journal and it is not light reading, but well worth the effort.

The article is also available to registered users in PDF format here


Joseph Nagyvary1*, Renald N. Guillemette2, Clifford H. Spiegelman3

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e-mail: albertus@bekkerviolins.com