Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Elements of Transformative Violin Sound

Daddy's cello

Element & Weise, 2001

100+ yrs Old violin

Copy of Antonio Strad Handmade in German, 1890. Maker unknown.

Here, I’m sharing my experience on what I did with my violins as well my two cents on what to focus on when transforming a violin’s sound into either a rich deep like cello, a Phantom’s tenor voice or an angel’s voice like a soprano. The important elements for me are the bow and strings in the process of transforming both my old and young violin sound into a beautifully rich and deep yet bright sound just like a lyric soprano or tenor. Bows and strings are like a married couple that need to be able to accompany each other. And a bow will need to match the violin to obtain harmony; thus, compatibility is essential. However, what comes as the first step of sound change, bow or stings, is a personal preference. Most people will make sure the bow and violin harmonize with each other before changing anything else on the violin.  Also, I hunted for my bow before I began my string search journey. The matched bow with a violin gave me the potential sound that I set out looking for.

Sound – It’s subjective because everyone has different hearing and different expectations for sound quality: deep, rich, vibrant, bright, loud, soft, etc. In addition, there are environmental differences as well solo vs. orchestral, small concert hall vs. outdoor big concert hall such as Hollywood bowl. Thus, it’s important to decide what sound you are seeking and the planned use of the instrument. As a soloist myself (not performing regularly, and no orchestral), I tend to like a mellow, soft and more dark and rich sound for A, D, and G strings but seek a mellow, soft and clean sound, not bright or crispy, for the E string.

Bow – Different shapes project a different sound. In general an octagon shape is able to give a bold, assertive Ethan with violin 2sound as opposed to a round shape which gives a softer, mellower sound. I started on a student grade octagon bow and moved to a better quality handmade octagon bow. It took me a year to find my current bow which has a round shape and is old, handmade and has a well balanced weight from tip to frog. Continue reading

New vs. Old Instrument

Does a New or Old instrument sound better?

Boesendorfer Piano

Boesendorfer Piano

I believe it’s every musician’s dream to own an astonishingly great crafted instrument such as a Bösendorfer, Steinway, Stradivari, Bergonzi, or Gadliano. And as a violinist myself, I can only dream to be able to feel the body of an Italian handmade Stradivari violin and maybe, just maybe, to gently pluck one of its strings to enjoy the legendary father of perfection and that astounding sound.

Red "Mendelssohn" Violin by Antonio Stradivari  My favorite

Red “Mendelssohn” Violin by Antonio Stradivari
My favorite


I was educated that an older string instrument was much better than a new one because the wood needs the vibration coming from the string to break it in.  On the contrary, it’s brand new instruments when it comes piano, and it needs to be black, 6’ or 7’ foot grand piano.  Restored Steinway piano has never been on my purchase list. J

I was ecstatic when this research article was released. The researcher’s finding definitely gives younger generation players a hope and great encouragement to carry on with their passion about music knowing that they can make great sound whether they play on a $2M of Stradivari violin or a $1000 student violin.


The study was led by Dr. Fritz, a flautist and a musical acoustics researcher and his research team at Piere and Marie Curie University in Paris. The concept was not to deny the work and sound of the maestros Stradivari or Guarneri del Gesu, or many other great instruments makers nor to promo new modern instruments as better than the older ones. It just simply wanted to show all the soloists that everyone can generate an astounding sound regardless of the value or the age of the violin. The research procedures were to ask Continue reading

BMW 5-Series Diesel Engine

Excited, Nervous, and Sad when I’m driving a brand new 535d.

535d 2

Sadness – ditching my all time loved 3-series for a 5-series for the first time since my very first BMW in 1995.

Nervous – the size difference between 3 series and 5 series, not sure if I can still have the same driving experience as a 3-series, and parking in tight spots have a greater chance of getting a door ding. Diesel, with its 400 lb-ft of torque versus 300 lb-ft of torque in the 535i, does give me more instant acceleration than I’ve always enjoyed from the 3-series. The big question is would the brake system give me the same bite and quick response and would the car perform that awesome fast, tight turn at 50-65mph on a curved road.

Excited – ☺ a brand new car equipped with most of my wanted high tech options and driving performance packages except the premium sound system. Let me tell you that “NEW CAR” smell is sooo refreshing.

Welcome to my opinion and experience driving BMW’s new (at least to us here in the US) diesel technology Continue reading