Look what happened to my Strad!

Ragin Wenk-Wolff opened her violin case yesterday and this is what she found.

ragin strad 1

She tells Slipped Disc: ‘Apparently this happens occasionally. No one is sure what caused it. It did not happen under any extreme conditions and not even while I was playing it or while it was manipulated. Thankfully not during a performance. The tail piece sure looks paper-thin where it broke. It is a 1689 Strad’.

ragin strad 2

Ragin has sent the instrument to a restorer and is awaiting diagnosis and a treatment estimate.

Has anyone else had this experience?

Here’s how the instrument sounds in action.

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  • I once opened my violin case to discover that the right upper corner of the tailpiece had snapped. My hypothesis was that, by habitually adjusting — mainly up — the E string by means of the fine tuner (and not compensating enough through use of the peg for that string), I had caused too much tension to build up over time. The luthier could — or would — not confirm that part of my theory nor my notion that it happened while the instrument was at rest due to slight, but crucial, changes in temperature and tension. Of course, my story is not nearly as dramatic as the above example, but I was duly startled, thinking at the first glance that I must be imagining it.

    • Absolutely correct. Strings are designed and meant to be pulled from the peg, not the fine tuner. The key word in ‘fine tuner’ is fine!

      • Well, yes, obviously, but that’s just it, Mr Lofitz; tiny, fine increments led to an unexpected result. (Cute moniker, incidentally.)

  • This happens extremely frequently. I think tension changes and temperature changes must contribute. It should not cost more than £10 to £20 to get a new tailpiece fitted. Please, just because it is a Strad, don’t be conned into spending more!

    • I think its a bit of an exaggeration to make out that this is a frequent occurrence. Strings break all the time, tailgut exceedingly rarely (see the infamous Yuri Bashmet “viola fail” video on You Tube), but I have never ever come across a tailpiece breaking in such a manner.

    • Not every Strad is above mediocrity and not every orchestra that isn’t a traditional household name is unable to pull off a good interpretation. You need to think less in brands and more in music… 😉

      • in general, you may be right, but in this particular case, the “Dvorak Symphony Prague” is a pick-up orchestra that plays almost only tourist concerts (think of eine kleine nachtmusik and vivaldi’s four seasons every night). but please correct me or prove if i am wrong …

  • Nothing by Stradivarius himself was harmed unless there is cracking in the top plate invisible in the photos. All that remains of the master’s work in present-day Strads is the bulk of the body (not counting the bass bar) and, perhaps, the neck and scroll. The repair should be straightforward and inexpensive, as others have noted.

    • The neck is not original unless the Strad is in a museum. The original scroll is grafted onto a longer neck with a higher angle relative to the instrument’s body to accommodate the higher tension of modern strings necessary to produce sound in today’s bigger halls. As already said, the bigger bass bar is another necessity.

  • I had my cello disassemble itself while I was playing it. The “gut” that ties the tailpiece to the bottom peg holder spontaneously stripped out and… SPROING… the strings and bridge collapsed and fell to the ground.

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