Subjective criteria for rating a violin

Criteria for rating the sound and the playability of a violin. Results gathered using a questionnaire.

In the research project previously mentioned, we began our work with a survey intended to determine the most important subjective criteria when rating a violin. A questionnaire was developed and presented to 120 mostly professional violinists including soloists and members of chamber music ensembles and various German orchestras:

  1. What criteria would you choose to rate a violin in terms of its sound and playability?
  2. Please rank the attributes you select in terms of importance (personal ranking).

A total of nearly 80 different attributes was cited by the musicians who responded. The results were sorted and weighted based on the frequency of the attribute and the individual priority it received. The attributes that were cited fell into six general groups.
The following figure shows the groups along with their percent share in the overall rating. [The figures in brackets indicate the number of different attributes per group].

Criteria for rating violins. Results of a survey of 120 violinists. The length of the bar show how important each group ("Tonal color (Timbre)", “Response”, etc.) was in the overall rating of a violin. The figures in brackets show the number of different linguistic attributes that were chosen to characterize each respective group (for the “Timbre” group, some of the attributes were, e.g.: “bright”, “dark”, “nasal”).

One notices immediately that with a 38% share, the “Timbre" group is clearly dominant when it comes to rating a violin. At the same time, this characteristic was described in a very diverse and individual manner: A total of 32 different attributes were named which fell into the “Timbre” group. On the other hand, the “Projection” group received a 13% share in the overall rating, but it was characterized using only two attributes. With a 19% share, the “Response” criterion came in second place. It was described using 12 different attributes. (See the figure for the other characteristics such as “Balance”, “Volume” and “Modulability” and their shares in the overall ranking.)