Cox Violins Blog

Playing-in & Evaluation

Violinmaker-in-Residence #24

I am approaching the moment when I will find out what the fiddle is really like. Though you might think I would know what to expect, with all my previous instruments and experience, each instrument is unique and has its own personality that reveals itself on its own terms and at its own pace.  Sometimes the results are as expected, and sometimes they surprise.

All of the parts of a violin vibrate when it is played and in very complex ways. Suddenly, after months of carving, scraping, shaping, hanging and varnishing, this light little wooden box is under 35 pounds of pressure through the bridge on the body, and 55 pounds of tension between the neck and the end button. Of course the violin has some adjusting to do in its new “live” state.

The tone and response of the violin will change as it is played, more so when it is new, less over time.  I am prepared for an ugly-duckling stage in the first days when changes happen daily, and adjustments may need to be made.  I like to have a month of playing before I feel I know the voice of the violin and feel some confidence in introducing it to a potential partner in life.  After five years these changes will be close to insignificant.

The VSO violin spent five days with a device that sends vibrations through the bridge to help it settle.  This “pre-playing” helps, but is no substitute for the energy a strong player puts into the violin. It is now being played by Kathy Andrew and I look forward to making adjustments to it as it develops.

Violin Opus 934 - the first formal photos

The first formal portraits.

We have photographed it to record its original condition, and a set of acoustic measurements have been made to provide a base line for following it as it matures and comparison with other violins. These measurements record the amplitude and frequency of resonances in the violin and tell me something of its basic character and how it works, but not the essence of the violin’s personality.

The spectral analysis of Violin Opus 934.

The spectral analysis of Violin Opus 934.

Now the real fun begins, as the violin will be in the hands of skilled players who can push the violin to its limits, and sensitive artists who will respond to the quality of the sound for its ability to contain meaning for the human ear. More on this as it unfolds.

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Let me know if you have suggestions of ways to make these residencies more valuable for you. If you have comments or questions, please send them to us via email.