There are some people who say that the violin is the perfect instrument, and, except when I am talking with a viola player or cellist, who am I to disagree! Certainly, the violin has remained largely unchanged because it works so well.
For me, the first step in making a violin is choosing the right model – it needs to be of a size and shape likely to produce the sound I like, and visually it needs to suit my style of working. Ultimately, it needs charm and charisma for me to be drawn to the model, just as a player is drawn to a finished instrument, or a listener to a musical performance.
I like an instrument to be responsive and easy to play, but also interesting to listen to – an instrument you don’t want to put down. It should speak easily whilst still having enough bite and resistance to push against, in order to produce the full sound. To be interesting, the sound must have character, and in my experience, it is the character that allows the sound to project. My own preference is for instruments which have depth, and a certain amount of darkness, combined with focus and clarity.
I make several violin models, some of which I return to time and again. The one I use most frequently is of the Venetian maker, Anselmo Bellosio. The original instrument was one I measured when working in Germany; it is slightly wider than average, with moderately high, strong archings and a deep red varnish. These instruments produce a deep, rich and focused sound with good carrying power.
The instruments of Pietro Guarneri of Venice are another favourite. Often the archings on these violins were very high, so on the model I use I make a somewhat lower arching, similar to the Bellosio. By comparison this tone of this model is, if anything, darker in character but retains refinement and projection.
I also make instruments based on Guiseppe Guarneri del Gesu. Recently I have based them on the ‘Alard’ of 1742, a gorgeous instrument which I examined at the Musée de la Musique in Paris. This is a powerful model, with a broader sound than my other instruments.
Violin based on Pietro Guarneri
Violin based on Guiseppe Guarneri, del Gesu
I'm happy to talk about instruments anytime, whether you're a professional, student or a keen amateur. Call me to talk through what you're looking for.