Four factors that affect the sound of the violin


Choosing a satisfactory violin sound is a basic requirement for many violinists. However, many violinists are often dissatisfied with the musical performance of their instruments, which can be attributed to various factors, both objective and subjective, innate and acquired. 

Of course, the performance of a violin typically corresponds to its price, following the market law. Nonetheless, by understanding the factors that affect violin sound, one can first analyze the reasons and then explore ways to improve it, thereby enhancing the overall performance of the instrument. Based on our years of observation, I suggest exploring the following four directions for improvement.

Ⅰ: In terms of quality control and management during the violin maker's manufacturing process


Choosing high-quality materials is essential, with high stability, resistance to deformation, and a long lifespan. However, naturally dried materials are scarce and hard to obtain. Many makers use artificial methods to accelerate the drying process, with the Morassi family from Cremona often employing ozone to accelerate wood aging. Some makers also use techniques like applying yellow tincture varnish to the inside of the violin. Many inexpensive yet visually appealing instruments use large ovens for drying.


Different molds naturally produce different sound performances. For example, Amati violins typically produce sweet tones with lower volume, while Stradivari violins typically have larger volume and solid tones. Guarneri violins also have a large volume and a rich, varied tone. Many small-sized violins for beginners deliberately have smaller shoulders to facilitate changing positions for young learners, which may slightly affect volume performance.

 Arching or thickness

The arching and thickness of the violin affect the relationship between mechanical vibrations and airflow, directly influencing volume and tone performance. Comparing violins made from Stainer and Stradivari molds, one can easily notice differences. Modern makers often prefer Stradivari and Guarneri molds for good reasons.


Most handmade violins undergo more than 30 layers of varnish before completion. Each layer increases the weight of the violin by 2 grams. Whether using a primer or choosing between oil-based or alcohol-based varnish will affect the violin's sound performance, not to mention the different formulas and seasonal variations of each master's production or the transparency after aging.

Initial assembly

After completion, most makers will initially assemble the violin with available parts. Due to the often unstable quality of mass-produced parts, issues such as inaccurate fingerboard length or incorrect angles for high and low notes can arise, affecting bridge height or violin tilt. Sometimes, peg deformation causes improper wear on the violin head or inconvenience during tuning. 

The material of the tailpiece also affects tone, especially noticeable in violas and cellos. Therefore, checking appropriate parts is necessary.

Ⅱ: Intrinsic Conditions of the Violin

 Origin and school of the maker: 

This condition is almost always the key factor in the price of a violin. From European violins such as those from Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and Eastern Europe, to those from the Americas like the United States and Argentina, and more recently from Asia such as Japan, South Korea, and China, the origin and school of the maker are often seen as the watershed for violin quality. However, it still depends on the maker's lineage and their manufacturing conditions and craftsmanship.


Violins need prolonged playing to develop and stabilize their sound to perfection, a process that typically takes 50-100 years. However, the sound of a new violin can already start to change after 3-5 years of use.

Preservation condition

Dampness or improper use can lead to a decline in the violin's sound quality. Common issues include deformation of the bridge, displacement of the sound post, and even loosening of the body's glue joints or bass bar. Some people may inadvertently cause cracking by storing the violin in excessively dry conditions or using excessive dehumidification methods.

Ⅲ: Actual Sensations During Musician's Performance

Performance technique

This is a combination of instrument conditions and performance abilities. Artistry is an extension of technique, and while a good instrument can greatly enhance a musician's performance, achieving a good tone still relies on the skill of the right hand to improve articulation issues.

Performance state

Psychological pressure and emotional management caused by performances or exams may affect the musician's performance.

Space and humidity

The appropriate acoustics and humidity levels can also affect sound performance. Sometimes, spaces that are too large or too small can result in reverberations and resonance different from regular practice, requiring accumulated experience or pre-rehearsals to solve the issue.

Violin assembly and adjustment

Choosing lightweight components can improve the performance of mid and low tones. Examples include high-grade boxwood fittings, titanium alloy chinrest metal feet, tungsten steel tailpieces, or carbon fiber endpins. Ensuring the proper position of the tailpiece, checking for loose fine tuners or wolf tone eliminators, and assessing whether the bridge has aged or deformed or if its material hardness is appropriate is also important. The thickness and length of the soundpost should also be appropriate, with options available based on grade and year. It's advisable to have an experienced repairer make adjustments.

Ⅳ: Other Conditions

Matching with the bow

Pairing a G. Fiorini violin with a bow by F. Lotte or E. Sartory will result in a world of difference. A good bow can enhance the violin's high tones, deepen the low tones, make the sound clearer, and fully express musical phrases. Of course, musicians playing on antique violins should also pair them with bows from the appropriate period. For instance, Carlo Tononi's 18th-century masterpieces should ideally be paired with bows from the 1850s such as those by D. Pecatte or P. Simon, rather than bows from the likes of J. J. Martin or E. A. Orchard.

String pairing 

Many students often continue using worn-out strings due to laziness or the misconception that if they haven't broken, they don't need to be replaced. Each type of string has its characteristics and is suitable for different violins. Choosing a gold-plated E string can brighten the high tones. Using Obligato or LARSON strings often increases the thickness of the mid and low tones. Eva Pirazzi strings can enhance the texture of the tone. Dominate stabilizes the pronunciation of the violin's fundamental tones. Tonica is suitable for enhancing the tone of ordinary violins. Violino is the best alternative to traditional gut strings. Vision increases the resonance of the fundamental tones. Regardless of the brand of strings chosen, if you want to maintain the competitiveness of the sound, you should replace them every 3-4 months at least.

Psychological factors of price

The price of a violin is influenced by many factors such as origin, maker, year, preservation condition, and the background of its previous owners. A higher price does not necessarily guarantee a sound you'll like; it's more important to choose an instrument that suits your desired tone. Don't be misled by price.

Myths of famous violins

Sound performance and playing ability are just parts of a violin's value. It's difficult to scientifically analyze the quality of a violin. The value of famous violins is often judged based on the historical significance of the instrument and its generational performance. Many famous violins such as those by Amati, da Salo, and even Guarneri may no longer be playable, but this does not diminish their value. Playing a famous violin requires not only exceptional skill but also rich musical expression. They are suitable for musicians to use and for collectors to appreciate and preserve value, but there is no fixed relationship between their sound performance and their price.

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