Are old violins valuable?

Or do violinists use them simply to impress their audiences? Here, the answer is, almost certainly not–if they can ever play a true concerto with an old viola, it’s not because the old viola has the ability to produce the tone; it’s because the old viola has the ability to play a great concerto.

If, after studying the anatomy of the violin with my young students, I were to tell you that their brains have not developed the way they like until 20 or 25, then you, my friend, would think I’m mad.

The brain is the organ that can process all the information the brain requires to carry out its complex tasks. In the case of the viola, this means all the necessary information to play an orchestra concerto (that we all know how to play)–and even more important, the information the entire human orchestra demands! The brain processes and stores, on an unconscious level, information about the instrument, as well as the audience, in this way. However, unlike other organs, like the heart or lungs, the nerves at the back of our neck do not have a mechanism to communicate information from the nerves to the whole brain. Consequently, the information about individual notes, or what the entire orchestra is playing, remains confined within a band of neurons along the back of the neck and along the skin of the neck, in the same way the information that the human heart or lungs store about the heart must be organized in the brain. On the other hand, the instrument is like the human nervous system on steroids. The instrument is able to store the entire orchestra in memory while it’s playing, with a very high probability of retaining it at that moment.


The fact is, most of the world’s music is composed and improvised with the viola. It is the only instrument known to be capable of playing the famous concerto with any sound. For almost any stringed instrument, the violin’s ability to store information about the instrument in memory becomes critical to their ability to play. So if your orchestra can’t play a great concerto of any note, you are playing with a broken instrument.

In fact, the ability or weakness of a violinist is only an estimate of the ability of the orchestra. In a real concert, with the full orchestra, the best violinist will be able to play the greatest concerto with the greatest tone of all. But his or her ability to play and the ability and weakness or expertise of the other players