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Do Violins change their sound over time?


WesRist
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I have a newer violin and I've always been told that "The more you play it, the better it will sound. It will get better in time." My question is: How much time?

I agree with the proposition, but my questions are:

1-Has anyone here experienced that, where a violin sounds different after time than when they first purchased it?

2-How much time does it take for a violin to mature? Are we talking a year, five, ten?

Thanks for your comments!

Wes

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I think that in one year of continuous playing (some hours a day) you will have the instrument sounding better, but that will occur with a good instrument. A good instrument is good from the very beggining, it will get better with time and playing, but it was good from the very beggining.

If you are not satisfied with your instrument after playing a long time with it, take it to a good luthier. If even so you continue don't liking it, it may be the case of changing the violin, it's not the case of hoping for a miracle, I think.

I'm talking about hand made instruments, I don't have any experience with factory made violins in this sense.

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Some instruments can "break in" over time and get a little easier to play. This may or may not be accompanied by what is considered to be an improvement in sound. Some instruments are quite stable and stay the same. Players can also change over time. I have always thought that it is also difficult to remember exactly what an instrument you are playing regularly sounded like weeks, months, or years ago. So it may be next to impossible to tell how much change has taken place much less how much of the change is due to 1)the instrument changing, 2)the player changing, 3)the player getting used to the instrument, or perhaps even 4)the instrument getting used to the player.

A situation where change is quite noticeable is when a serious restoration (e.g. a new bass bar is installed) is done to an older instrument. Quite often, the instrument will feel significantly different when it is first played again. Some instruments will start to open up within a day or so while I have heard of other instruments which felt "new" for almost a year.

So, with both new and restored instruments, I guess there is no hard and fast rule.

--Dick--

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I have a Scott Cao violin that I often notice, has improved in sound over daily playing over the past 7 years. I still experiment with strings, have upgraded bows four times. Yet, while those things make a difference, I believe this violin, itself, has a better sound than it did when it was new.

One cannot help but deduct that playing any instrument will improve it's sound 'character,' Be it accordion, piano, ukelele or what have you. The simple handling, using and 'wearing in' of parts all should yield a positive result. At the very least, the fact that the instrument has made music should be like the immeasurable quality that has been imparted by that sound, and couldn't we say that the world itself has been made a better place because of it?

Indulge me, I digress, but it's a fun subject.

: )

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I must be the only person to have owned a violin that was so badly made that, after first opening up a trifle, it shut down gradually until it sounded like a violin-in-a-box. The one I have now is wonderful in sound and definitely improved from when it was new. I've been told that playing harmonics opens up completely new areas of sound: is this true?

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My teacher told me that the first 2 to 3 years of a new instructment cannot reflect the truth sound of it. It is because many wood used now is not completely dry, also the curve might change because of the strings' pressure. As a result, the violin will become comparatively stable after 2 to 3 years of playing. Some new fiddles sound brillant when first get it but when times gone, the sound turns dry and boring. That's why, my teacher prefer old fiddles.

Sounds not only improved in new fiddles, but also in those antiques. Yo yo ma once said he notice the sound of his Strad improves after years of playing.

It's very interesting to notice the changes of your violins and I enjoy it so much.

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I checked out the thread...well at least some of it, and the consensus seems that over a few months of continuous playing I'll notice the biggest difference. I think what I have to do is simply play more!:)

My problem is that I alternate between two violins so neither gets enough playing then. I think it's when I pick up the one that sat for a week or two that I say "ouch, is that what you sound like?" I think the advice on that thread is good in doing 5ths and playing them hard to get the instrument loosened up. I need to be more patient with an instrument that's been sitting.

Still I always wonder about flip statements like "It will sound better over time." Like has been said above, on a bad instrument to begin with perhaps not!

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Quote:

Like has been said above, on a bad instrument to begin with perhaps not!


Don't go by what I said about my first instrument, though - it was exceptionally bad. I still suspect that the soundpost had been knocked out of place and that the luthier didn't want to bother dealing with it because he was disgusted by the look of the instrument. As I recall, he only looked at it without bothering to hear it. Or because the badly set neck etc. was really destructive to technique so why have someone spend money on repair.

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The biggest change will come in about six months, smaller change over longer time. The pressure on the wood and the vibration seem to help the instrument settle in after that amount of time. That is with daily playing. The same is true of older violins which haven't been played in a long time. It takes a while to get it sounding right again. With a new instrument, the string pressure will change the shape of the top slightly. At the end of six months, you may need a longer sound post.

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Quote:

The main reason for the change, I have been told, is that the oils from your skin are absorbed into the wood and "season" it. Whether it's true or not, it sure seems plausible.


I wouldn't think so.... seeing as oils would make the wood more weighty, thereby keeping it from projecting as well, and sounding as brilliant.

If it was oils that made it better, there wouldn't be a whole lot of sense in have a finish on the instrument, except for looks... and perhaps minor protection against the elements.

A teacher of mine once told me that rubbing olive oil on the top plate gave her instrument a warmer sound, but dampened it a bit. So perhaps the oils would tend to give it a broader or more warm tone. But I would prefer brilliance and response over warmth and broadness; to a degree at least.

Another note... if you have a cushioned device that could securely hold a violin upright, and not put additional stres on it, I would wager that playering music "at" the instrument could help to mature it while you are not playing it.

I expiremented with that once... apparently not long enough to make a noticeable difference though; however it makes sense. Playing an instrument is effectively making it vibrate... and sound resonating in a violin is just that. But I have no proof of the concept, nor any idea if it could potentionally prove to be damaging.

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Olive oil!!!

Every once in a while, I like to polish away the finger prints with VIOL but apparently that should not be done too often for the sake of preserving the varnish. I don't know to which extent that could help the clarity of violin sound or "damage" the varnish. My violin gets a sparing dose a couple of times in a year.

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Sort of off this topic MANFIO but I know a fiddler who uses linseed oil on his fiddle and he says that the oil varnish is made from linseed oil anyway and that it helps to preserve it. I said to him that I thought the linseed oil may harden when dry and that his treatment of the violin may cause the varnish to crack. He seems to have been using linseed oil for some time without any detriment to his fiddle. What do you think?

BTW I have found this whole topic very interesting. I have a friend who bought a new bench made violin a couple of years ago. I was interested to see what it was like and she lent me the violin for a week. Now she is only a beginner player. I played her instrument for a couple of hours a day and I normally play all sorts and the violin gets a good workout. When I handed the violin back to her she said it sounded a lot louder than when she gave it to me - I made no adjustments to it. She now says it seems to resonate more! Could be that the amount and type of play a violin gets helps it to settle in.

Rob.

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