The Violinmaker’s Dilemma

The Violinmaker’s Dilemma : antiquing reconsidered

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, June 2010

One morning last winter, violist Yizhak Schotten left his Francesco Linarol viola at my shop for a few days for some routine maintenance. Originally built as a Lira da Braccia, the Linarol is one of those loosely built Old Italians, where all symmetries are aproximate, and each square inch is ...Read more


The Sound of Science : Developing the digital violin

By Joseph Curtin, Strings Magazine, April 2008

AT SIX O’CLOCK ON WEEKDAY MORNINGS, I drive to Portofino Coffee, a family-owned café on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, Michigan. There I plug in my laptop and order a pot of tea and a cranberry muffin. For many years, I’ve given myself two hours a day to write. Thanks ...Read more


Double Acts

By Nick Shave, The Strad, Dec. 2007

In 1984 Gregg Alf and I visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, with thoughts of setting up shop there. A University of Michigan professor took us to the laboratory of his colleague Gabriel Weinreich, a physicist who was researching violin acoustics. I’d only recently become interested in the subject, and I had ...Read more


Building Ultralight Violins

By Joseph Curtin, VSA, Fall 2007

Before talking about the possibilities for building ultra-light violins, we should first ask: Why would anyone want to build a lighter violin? I remember my teacher Otto Erdesz saying, “I don’t like light violins. They’re like light cameras – they feel cheap.” He was probably only half serious. He often ...Read more


Subject to Change : Innovation among violinmakers

By Joseph Curtin, Strings Magazine, April 2006

The violin is often hailed as a perfect design – though more often by makers and dealers than by working violinists, who must cope on a daily basis with the imperfections of their particular instruments. Violins – along with violas, cellos, and basses – are easily damaged, expensive to maintain, ...Read more


The Next Big Thing : Doug Martin's ultralight violins

By Joseph Curtin, VSA Newsletter, September 2005

The traditional violin became obsolete in July, 2005. It happened at Oberlin College, Ohio, where thirty-four violinmakers, scientists, engineers, inventors, and blow-hards assembled for the fourth annual VSA-Oberlin Acoustics Workshop. Among the participants was a boat designer and amateur violinmaker called Doug Martin. At first glance, his whimsically designed instruments ...Read more


Gabriel Weinreich and Directional Tone Color

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, April 2000

“When I say I study violin acoustics, ” says Gabriel Weinreich, Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan and pre-eminent figure in the world of musical acoustics, “people ask me if I’ve found the ‘Secret of Stradivari’. Well, I suppose it was the instrument’s mystique that drew me to it ...Read more


Project Evia : Redesigning the viola

By Joseph Curtin, American Lutherie Journal, Winter 1999

The last half of the twentieth century has seen rapid development in the creation and use of new materials – and in our understanding of violin acoustics. The scarcity of good old stringed instruments is opening up the market for good new ones, and a number of makers and researchers ...Read more


Space Age Stradivari : Building graphite instruments with Charles Besnainou

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, April 1999

New Directions in Violinmaking On the fourth floor of a remarkably ugly building in an otherwise beautiful section of Paris, ...Read more


Innovation in Violinmaking

By Joseph Curtin, Proceedings, International Symposium of Musical Acoustics (ISMA), July 1998

Abstract: The violin is a cultural icon as well as a working tool, and departures from its traditional form have been variously regarded as impossible (it would no longer be a violin), unnecessary (the violin is already perfect), and unacceptable (players would not play it). Is it possible to change, ...Read more


The Reciprocal Bow As A Workshop Tool

By Joseph Curtin, Journal of the Catgut Acoustical Society, May 1997

Introduction The obvious way to test a violin is to give it to a good violinist, then sit back and listen, just as, I suppose, the obvious way to test a race-car is to give it to a race-car driver and see how fast he can go. The trouble is ...Read more