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New Model Violins - going "beyond" tradition

Craig Tucker

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f a violin maker turns out unappealing instruments to the eye and ear natural selection will cull these out and the instruments will eventually disappear

funny that eye came before ear, I think this represents the mentality of the market as well as the orthodox makers. I also am questioning if Stradivarius' violins are actually the best. (old story alert) Mozart rejected the Strad and ended up with a Hopf (unknowingly). I believe it is mostly just hype to the point that if you hear Its a strad, you believe in your mind that it is automatically superior, and therefore it is (in your mind)

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"funny that eye came before ear, I think this represents the mentality of the market as well as the orthodox makers"

What market? There is a market for everything, it is merely a continuum of potential customers ranging from one to many. A creative and skilled maker who innovates and has some sales skill can do very well. In fact, it is a burgeoning market. The problem is that very few have all of the attributes necessary for success. One way of succeeding is to stop whining that no one likes unconventionality, and simply make something that is sufficiently interesting and executed with such skill that it cannot be ignored.

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The changes which occurred in violin-design between Andrea Amati and del Gesu are very minor indeed compared to what remained basically the same.

And what's more, such changes were necessitated by the requirements of players - they didn't occur because of a desire by makers to be "different" just for the sake of being different.

Until changes in how a violin looks and sounds are required by the "market" (and the cut-out viola is an eloquent example of such a "change" which came about because of a solid practical reason), changes by makers based on a desire to be "different" and nothing else will not be perceived by the "market" as anything else but self-indulgence. The "market" has an uncanny ability to tell when the cart is pretending to be the horse.

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I agree with almost everything you said, but necessity alone cannot rule all. Changes only for the sake of being different are almost always bound to fail, but there is nothing in our world that precludes the possibility of a maker introducing a new style or element that eventually gains wide acceptance, even if history is very short of such examples.

By acceptance, I do not mean that it would be emulated widely, but rather that it would widely be seen as an interesting and respectable variation.

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Necessity is a very strong market force. Regardless of its peripheral attributes, a violin is a tool, not an object d'art.

Of all the reams of threads which have been devoted to this topic, the over-riding complaint, or "whine" as you put it so aptly, is not only the non-acceptance by the "market" of somebody's flight of fancy, but the failure of the market to reward it financially.

In other words: "Why doesn't everybody want to buy my latest aberration"?

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jessupe haves many hobbies and skills, he likes to build houses, do wood floors, wood science,music and macro molecular chemistry.............and math...

jessupe likea to thinka bouta what he do before he do...

so one thing came into my minds

a math problem...

if we said we have 100% of de violin makers, 95% of dem are making de violin in de traditionally way...

if we saids we haves 100% violins players, but only 65% of dems play "traditional" or have such demands for such things as this...

this more easy way to be like Frank, and do it my way....

my is

no corners...corners bad....

corners are a weaka spot in da frame....jessupe smash many violin, the corners go in one whack, de round 4 or 5...mine are much stronger than that others italian guys

corners do not allow for full fredom of bowaility for someone who mabye dancing when de play, yes

corners do not alow for a ones piece ribs structure....every gule joint is a weak spot and a junctiona for harmonic disruptiona...all a jessupe's cornersless violins have one peices of ribs, de fish 2...

for de fisha 5 string {now to be officially a 5 string only, unalike de first prototypes} we have de standard 14" spreada from the tail, and yeta if we connects de circle on de bottom we woulda gets a 16" viola spread...sos for de 5 stringa dis worka real goods, good resonants lows and nice highs...

de cutout allows for de instruments to be played comfortably withouts the chin anda shoulder rests, whicha ofcourses is the right way to play, my ole bull has much to says on dis...me and hims have de same patent...hehe

jessupe likea to make neato looking stuff the kids wanto buy, to makea dem wannna play de violin, jessupe he go to de synphony, he see all de gray heads, he sees no youngs peoples, this makes jessupe sad, mabyes some day the childs grow up and he plays on one of those other guys spensive violins, but jessupe he get him to play cause he make cool stuff for him to get excited bouta, so he can play violin different form de other, to feel different, to feel special, this make him play real good...

anda finally to makea it more like mys ways, i makes my own f holes, i calculate the sq. centmetrs for de standard f hole and den i makea my own hole, but better...i gota two tabs too, but mine are stronger, not gonna get cracks running off de hole so much, jessupe he make thin boards, make many f holes he cook them witha de hair dryer, see what crack and how...

and den finnally to know you gots a guinuine jessupe goldastini, cause when you puts a mirrior and looks inside on the tops, it has a little sticks figure man, and den whens you holds de violin upsides downs, you see thats the F/A HOLES {get it} makes a silluete ofa two guys leaning back taking a peepee, and under the little sticka figure man inside it says "f-amati" {get it}....

forgives me for beings so rudes, i guess sometimes i am a foul sences of humors......

tub os saw trazom......

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"if we said we have 100% of de violin makers, 95% of dem are making de violin in de traditionally way...

if we saids we haves 100% violins players, but only 65% of dems play "traditional" or have such demands for such things as this...

this more easy way to be like Frank, and do it my way...."

jezuppe he come to da right concluding ontoppada wrong taken-to-heavens - so, musta be jezuppe in da paradise fulla fooles.

But jezuppa happy, me alus.

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Or, maybe the Math doesn't work out quite to the numbers posted... I have seen hundreds of concert violinists, but never (in person) a cornerless violin in that setting. I have seen photos of the one (only?) cornerless violin made by Mr. Stradivari. As I recall, it was once played by (owned by?) Joshua Bell.

So-- that at least establishes that cornerless violins are not a new concept, but probably also establishes the suspicion that they may not be "better" however one defines the word. Out of the 1200 or so instruments A. Stradivari made, how many were cornerless violins? Of the 600+ that survive, there is only one, I am told. So, in terms of HIS output, we might guess one in a thousand-- or 0.1%.

In terms of players, there are many thousands of professional, semi-pro, and very good amateur players in the world-- How many play a cornerless? Is it all prejudice? (say it is, if you want...) There are less traditional players, country fiddlers, rock-band electric violinists, or whatever, whose instruments may or may not follow traditional lines. That's fine, too, but they are a tiny minority, still. (In many country-fiddling contests, five-string fiddles are forbidden-- everyone has standards.)

NOW do the math...the few makers who try a cornerless instrument (or more than one), and find they have a hard time selling it (them), go back to making traditional shapes and sizes. The players (few) who actually try such an instrument are likely trying the ONLY one of that type ever made by that maker--possibly not the best, in other words, and may (possibly unfairly) decide they don't like the sound, feel, response-- whatever. This decreases the market further.

For those who want to make a living at it, and for whom it is NOT just a hobby, the path is clear-- follow what works, and don't waste time and materials experimenting with oddball stuff.

Anybody remember the geodesic dome craze of 40 years ago? Where are all those houses now? How many times has a three wheeled car hit the market (and rolled over...)? There has to be a clear improvement, meeting a felt need, before major changes are economically a wise choice.

"Pet Rocks" may be the exception--but even so, how long did the fad last? The violin, as it is, has survived with very few changes for four hundred years. That's quite a track record. I think it is wisdom, not fear, or lack of creativity, that keeps makers following that model.

Chet Bishop

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I agree more or less with what you are saying Chet, although how many cornerless violins are available for those who may want to try them? Personally, I think they are ugly.

Aside from that, the unfortunate part of the 400 year old tradition is that tradition is dictating that the violin MUST be the way it is, and anyone deviating from what it "must" be is looked down upon in professional circles, no matter how well executed the workmanship is or quality of tone. Albert Fischer's violins raised quite a few eyebrows at VSA conventions until musicians actually tried them, and were hesitant to put it back on the table. My perspective on this is that this impedes new development ( because no matter how good it is, it's not what it should be). Savart produced some pretty ugly looking instruments, but he wasn't really looking for esthetics, he was doing research into acoustics. In the orthodox world of violins, what looks pretty doesn't always sound good, and what sounds good doesn't always look pretty.

There's an old saying, a wise man learns from his mistakes and doesn't repeat the same ones over and over. Nobody yet fully understands how a violin works, so if by experimentation a maker advances their knowledge even if only of what not to do, they are further ahead of the maker who copies someone elses work and the inherent unknown shortcomings.

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jessupe, he no like think bout it to mucha, he no likea do it for money, he do it for love....

it is what it is, to overthink why it is what it is and why its thata way, likea a figure out why da wind change direction

somebody like jessupe things, thas ok, somebody not, thas ok to

all i know is jessupe is much nicer man den any des other local maker guyes

when jessupe want to start making de violins, he call all over the state to makers, he say he want to learn, he pay well by de hour for de learning....all des mens de say no...we no show how....me look at schools....me laugh at de policys....i pay you to shows me how, you takes my work froms me and sells it?....haahaaa....jessupe busy guy he got no time for de workshops, he need on his schedule...

so jessupe figure it outa himself....and now jessupe starts to teach others for free the jessupe goldastini ways to make de violins...

jessupe do what he do cause he love to make and teach whata he know, not cause de money

jessupe measure success by de smile on de face, not de chingachang in your pocketa

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"Nobody yet fully understands how a violin works, so if by experimentation a maker advances their knowledge even if only of what not to do, they are further ahead..."

Agreed-- but as Jacob says, such experimentation is nothing new-- Stradivari did it, and so has every one since then, just about. But the fact is, after 400 years, everyone still seems to find the old standards (with very minor changes) preferable.

In violas and basses, there is less such prejudice, and cornerless basses, and cutaway violas are easy to find...but people still prefer the standards. Different woods are acceptable, too, but folks still prefer the old standards of Maple and Spruce.

I agree that innovation is to be encouraged. But most makers also want to make a living. Some players want to make a living at it...and they are investing a great deal of money to get a tool that either does or does not help them make that living. This is a point where the market rules.

It is true that a violin is not just an art object...but consider the artists who do exquisite realism (try it, if you think it is easy), and are told that realism is not only passé, but shows a lack of artistic maturity...what kind of nonsense is that? It is their chosen pursuit, and they have attained mastery.

A violinmaker who has worked hard for years to master a particular form of his art/craft (maybe just one Strad or del Gesu model), and has become very good at it (again, if you think it is easy...) should not be told that he lacks creativity, is a slave to the traditions of lutherie, has not learned to think on his own, etc.

An archer, upon hitting the x-ring ten times in a row is not accused of unimaginative shooting--and "creative bookkeeping" is usually termed embezzlement. Creativity has different forms and motives...goal-setting has different forms and motives. My goal is to build the best traditional violin/viola/cello/bass that I can. I have no desire to improve the instrument, just yet-- I have not yet caught up with the old masters --how could I surpass them? I would simply be different for the sake of being different, randomly hoping for an ill-defined excellence. As long as I have a chosen goal, excellence IS defined, and I can hope to approach it.

BTW, Jessupe-- I really DO like knowing WHY the wind blows, and why in a particular direction. I shared your frustration about the schools, etc., but found good books, and workshops that didn't have those flaws. On the other hand, had I gone to one of those schools, I might be a professional luthier now, instead of limping along with a grin and determination, trying to catch up with youngsters who were in middle school when I began, and now are miles ahead.

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I have a question for makers who make traditional instruments, and

are also brave enough to build innovative/creative instruments.

Do you feel this has hurt or helped sales in the traditional

instruments? Do you feel you've been labeled, or put in a category,

because of you're non-traditional work?

Is it possible to do both, and not have one area colour the other,

in a negative way?

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What could be done to attempt making few designs is to make a contest where designs are submitted a top number (call it X) is selected by some judges . The winning makers are given Y dollars to make an solid version and then have a blind testing with a few controls (a Strad Stainer etc.) and the winner gets Z dollars. It would certainly be an interesting contest, and may be a great learning process.

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