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23 Jan 2020

Violin lessons in Boston

Written by David Hopes
A group of people in a classroom examining a violin
Students on the violin-making course at North Bennett Street School examine the Gregg violin up close
Students learning how to make violins in Boston got the opportunity to see and hear the Gregg violin, while staff from the National Trust for Scotland got to learn more about the technology behind the violin and how it compares with violin manufacture today.

On the violin’s first trip to Boston we called at North Bennett Street School, where students are trained in traditional crafts. Students at various stages in a three-year violin-making course had the chance to examine the Gregg violin and compare it with other violins of the period. We learned that the design choices made by the original maker compare with Italian and Scandinavian fiddles of the period and show the influences of leading luthiers such as Nicolo Amati and Antonio Stradivari. However, the materials used by the maker of the Gregg violin are just the same as those used by the student-makers today. Maple is used to provide strength on the back of the fiddle; sycamore, being light and sturdy, is chosen for the sides; and pine (in the case of the Gregg violin, broad-grained Scots pine) is used on the belly or table (the front of the instrument). The decision to paint decoration on the surface of the violin rather than inlay might have been a practical consideration but this has ultimately influenced the instrument’s tone.

Alistair McCulloch also played the Gregg violin, allowing students to compare the soft, mellow sound of the 18th-century violin played by William Gregg with violins made today, which offer much more sharpness and volume.

Find out more information on North Bennett Street School.

A video showing the itinerary for the Gregg violin tour

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