Making Matters: Graduation studies
Is it possible to customise the sound and response of a newly built violin, in playing condition, for a specific musician? Ulf Kloo explains how it can be done, with the help of a small wooden pin in the back plate
What makes certain violins stand out as exceptional instruments from a player’s point of view, and how can luthiers make sure that their creations meet those criteria every time? In my view, getting the right voice or sound character of a new violin only gets you half of the way. At least as important is the sensitivity, dynamics, response and playability, and how malleable the sound of the violin is. Keeping track of wood quality, plate arching and graduations, bass-bar dimensions, weight, resonances and so on can perhaps get you close to your goals, but once the violin is finished and playable, the possibilities of adjusting the sound and playing characteristics with ordinary methods are limited. If you aren’t quite happy with it or, if it’s a commissioned instrument, the client isn’t satisfied with the result after the strings have settled in, this can be a source of frustration. Adjusting the bridge and soundpost might not be enough. Of course, a violin will mature somewhat through the years, but a mediocre instrument won’t develop into a sublime one just with time and intense playing. And how many musicians will want to waste years of their career playing an instrument that doesn’t respond well? Wouldn’t it be great to have a much more efficient method of sound and response adjustment, with the violin already set up and playable?