Weird Violins

Robert Cauer’s legendary by-appointment-only shop in Hollywood builds, sells, repairs and accessorizes violins, violas and cellos; on the walls of the waiting room hang Cauer’s collection of historic and bizarre violin permutations that he acquired at auctions over the years.

A scalloped violin and a violin with two points instead of four

A rounded violin with crescents instead of f holes, and a violin with exaggerated points and a stepped tail piece

A violin jigsaw puzzle and a violin with a double length neck, two instead of four points, and wavy lines instead of f holes

A violin with a piano style keyboard over the neck

An electric rhinestone studded cowboy fiddle, probably from the 1920’s or 1930’s, a striped violin, and a violin with wavering outlines, as if it had been drawn by a child

An aluminum violin with a metal bow, and a bowed zither, a fretted instrument played flat on a table

An old German violin with a carving of a human head instead of scroll at the top, a practice violin, which won’t annoy the neighbors because it lacks a resonating chamber

A Stroh violin, invented in the late 19th century by John Matthias Augustus Stroh, a German-born mechanic and inventor living in London and the first person to build a phonograph in England. In the early days of recording on wax rolls, violins did not generate a strong enough signal to record easily, so Stroh added a conical aluminum diaphragm and a large horn to transmit the sound toward the recording horn transmitting the sound to the needle imprinting the wax roll. Stroh added a smaller horn so the musician could also hear himself play. With the advent of the microphone and electric recording in the mid-1920’s, demand for the Stroh decreased, leaving only violinists wanting a louder sound for live performance. Discontinued from manufacture in 1942, the Stroh violin lives on in collections like Robert Cauer’s, in the occasional novelty act, in Tom Waits recordings, and in the Biho region of Transylvania, where their odd, somewhat nasal sound is highly prized.

More wonderful collections of unusual stringed instruments here and here.