Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Roth rib thinning?

Recommended Posts

I doubt if any local luthiers would know of this thinning and I'm sure that I would never let them attempt it. I'm trying to learn more from this forum so I can decide if I will send the violin to someone I would trust to do the job (ie Darnton, Holmes, Alf, etc...).

Link to post
Share on other sites

As I've told you, if it's a good instrument, made in a good period, I imagine the ribs are ok. There is a device called Hacklinger caliper that can measure the rib thicknesses without taking the top off, but prior to that I would try to discover if everything else in the set up is correct, only a good luthier can see that. Can you put some photos here, try to take them with the correct views and angles. Ciao.

Link to post
Share on other sites


what if you asked one of the people you trust in a PM whether they

would be willing to take a look, and do the work if they feel it's

necessary, and if they are willing sent it to them so they can

professionally evaluate it? if the first person didn't have time,

you could ask someone else until you found someone who could take a


alternatively, the people here seem to know qualified people almost

everywhere, so if you gave your location, or what big city you're

nearest (for reference, in case they don't know the place you

live), i would guess that you will get lots of suggestions on

someone to take it to in your area!

just suggestions!



Link to post
Share on other sites


Originally posted by:

I've read that Roth's benefit from rib thinning. I have a 1926 Roth based on the 1725 Strad: how would I know if I should consider having it thinned? From a sonic standpoint, what would I likely gain?

Without seeing the instrument, it's hard to tell what it "needs" or what might already have been done.

Rib thinning isn't the only thing Michael (or others of us) address when working with Roth-type instruments... and the best time to do structural changes (in my opinion) is between owners. Long and short of it is; if you like your instrumnent now, leave it alone.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, that's part of a whole package of stuff I might do. If you do just one thing, it might be a bad move, rather than a good one. On Roths I have more confidence that you'd like the results of doing everything than if you just picked a random violin out of the stack, so I would do it for a current owner, with the understanding that he'd be getting back a totally different instrument--better, but different and not necessarily 100% to his taste. But I wouldn't do just part of the job, like thinning ribs.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fdl - Please consider not doing anything at all to your violin. I own and have owned a number of fine Roths from the 20's, and the reason they often do not sound that great immediately is that most of them were owned by students who either played them badly or not at all.

If you give your Roth a chance to come into it's own, I can almost guarantee you that it will improve. Most of them just need regular playing. Best, Larry.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies. From the looks of my Roth, it has not been played much at all. There have been no repairs, scratches, nicks or any signs of finish wear. The finish has faded as can be told from the big change in color under the chinrest and tailpiece but that's it. It may have been a wall decoration?

The major thing I've discovered about this violin is that it's tone changes radically when removing the chinrest (over the tailpiece or sidemount; either one seems to make the same difference). I currently prefer the tone without chinrest.

I'd be interested in the list of things that are typically done to a 20's Roth, how much it costs and what tonal or playability changes come from those operations?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Without going into it too deeply, what we do in my shop most usually runs around $1700. The price alone is enough to limit the number of people who have this done. The result is a more responsive, open, faster violin, usually louder, and often a bit brighter. It isn't the type of change you get from playing a violin in. It makes a violin more friendly to someone who's not a great and powerful player who can drag a good sound out of a door strung with dental floss.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This brings up a significant point, which is that there are plenty of 'good' players who would care for neither the setup nor the bowing feel of a top class violin. I recall a past visitor to these boards, who met R. Ricci and got to play his violin. He was horrified--claimed it was set up incompetently and was very insensitive.

In some strange way, I believe Ricci's violin was set up perfectly for someone who plays with his power and velocity.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Most players aren't Ricci, but there are a lot of ways that top-class players relate to violins, and not all of them are grinders. But your basic concept is certainly right: people need different things. From a sales standpoint, the problem comes when players who aren't Ricci believe they are, rather than just accepting who they really are.

Link to post
Share on other sites


Having re-read your original post, I see that you do not mention any dis-satisfaction with the sound of your Roth, only that you have heard that they can be improved. Let's remember that all Roths do not sound alike, nor are their thicknesses all alike. Some have a more covered sound, others a bright sound. If yours already has a bright sound you may not want to do something to make it louder and brighter still.

Please remember also that any thinning of the ribs and/or plates is going to be irreversible, and there is a distinct possibility you may not like the result.

These violins were made by some of the finest makers working at the time. It is quite a leap to just assume that they need improvement.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I won't disagree that the Roth makers of the time were fine makers, but they were making to specifications that aren't the specs for fine violins. I have read, and I don't know if this is true, that they were made extra thick to limit casualties in shipping to different parts of the globe. Regardless of the reason, many or most of them are decidedly overweight by any standard except the standard of tolerable-sounding factory violins, which is what they were originally intended to be. Fine makers in production situations did all sorts of things in the past that were wrong in retrospect (1890 French necksets come to mind--consistent. . . . and just plain wrong), and no one should be too reluctant to correct the more obvious errors.

I will agree, though, that if you like the sound of what you have, why is there a reason to change it in an unknown direction?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I appreciate everyone's feedback on this. Kind of re-directing the topic now. I'm an adult beginner, I had no experience with the violin until a year ago (guitar player for 45 yrs). The Roth is my 3rd violin and is better than the previous two from a sonic and playability perspective. The $1700 that Michael threw out as a cost to improve the violin doesn't scare me off. The question I have is, since I'm a beginner, will the improved playability of the violin help me to improve? Secondly, since I'm a beginner, can I actually hurt the intrinsic tone of the violin with my immature playing technique.

Link to post
Share on other sites

"I'm curious about what the thinning process includes. Are the linings thinned as well?

Mike in NJ"

Me too.

Does anyone recall the thread title - I must have missed that one.

I'm thinking about how I'd approach the issue, and it seems like it would be quite a task. I almost would be inclined to remove at least the top linings, thin down to the top of the bottom ones, and then replace the top ones after the thinning... (obviously, I've never done it or even heard of it being done...)



Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi fdl13,

I don't think a Roth in original shape is that great until someone (a competent luthier or a few

luthiers) has worked on it. I am speaking of experience just one old Roth (1925?) full of repairs

patchs (they did not hide the repairs). It sounds exceptionally good (silver bell sound). The shop was kind enough to let me try it for one day. Next day, someone bought it as soon as I

returned it to the shop, to my surprise. It was so fast. The price was $6000 without any trade-in.

Otherwise I would buy it. It would cost me $2000 new cash plus a $4k violin.

There are hundred of Roths of this kind in market, ebay etc. I don't believe everyone will sound that good. (I can tell from photos that they are not made of the same kind of wood (material),

why they kept buying them? beyond me)

I have no idea how good is your Roth. I don't know what thinning the ribs mean neither.

I don't know if your Roth can be of any benefit by doing anything on it. Showing it to a competent

luthier who has experience of doing the kind of work, is the right course to take. Good luck.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The quality of sound produced on a violin for a beginner comes from the following factors I believe:

1. Left Hand

. intonation

. vibrato -- warming up the sound

. agility (ability to hit the required notes in the required time)

2. Right Hand

. clean bow changes

. clean string crossing

. control of bow pressure and speed depending on the context

. articulations

(In my opinion, 80% of making a good sound in the violin comes from learning how to use the bow properly)


Whereas a proper setup of the violin will make a significant difference to the beginning violinist (strings, bridge, nut, fingerboard, tailpiece...), all of the above points/factors far outweigh the "intrinsic" sound/voice of the violin. That is, I suspect it'll take a long while before the violin makes an appreciable difference in the quality of music you will produce from the violin, assuming proper setup.

As others have mentioned, having your violin opened and thinned is radical and irreversable. No one will be able to predict the sound & performance you'll end up with beyond some general points. One might just as well buy an unheard violin off the internet -- the results are probably as predictable.


As to the other question you asked, I don't think you'd hurt any violin by playing it as a beginner. However, a more experienced player will probably exercise as violin more thoroughly than a beginner and therefore find or develop its most open, mature sound more quickly. If a violin "underutilized" by a beginner is later used for some time by an advanced violinist, he or she will develop the sound of the violin that the beginner didn't or couldn't.

Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was in high school, in the 60s, there was a story in the paper about a missing Strad. It had been left in a cab, or something similar. The cabbie had taken it home and given it to his 12 year old daughter, who used it. After several weeks or months the news of the missing violin got to the cabbie, who took it and returned it. The thing that interested me at the time was that the violin teacher commented on how good the student got one week, and stayed that way until the violn was returned. There's a lot to be said for technique, and good players are able to draw a great sound from anything, but really, few players reach that point. It's for those people--the 95% of players who don't develop the skill to play anything--who violins need to be set up for. I think it's just cruel to refuse to make a violin playable just because 5% of players know how to make the violin work as it is. It's like making the slow kids in the race run with weights, too. Punishing unskilled players does not help them.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...