To make a professional-quality violin requires the combination of centuries of old-world technique and craftsmanship with modern, cutting-edge technology. George Yu has actively sought out access to study, and play, rare instruments by classic masters such as Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesù, Amati, and others, through individuals and institutions throughout North America. Over the years, he has built up an extensive collection of photographs, tracings, measurements, CT scans, and plaster casts of these instruments, all of which are invaluable in his work of creating fine instruments that emulate the sound of these masters.
At the 2014 VSA Violin Making Competition, Mr. Yu's violin received Certificates of Merit for both Tone and Workmanship - one of only three violins to receive double-distinction prizes, out of the 246 violins submitted for the competition. Another of Mr. Yu's violins was awarded a Certificate of Merit for Tone at the previous biennial VSA competition, held in 2012.
After initial studies in basic violin-making techniques, Mr. Yu studied with Alan Carruth, an expert in violin plate tuning. He also participated in summer sessions at the University of New Hampshire with Karl Roy, a retired director of the Mittenwald violin making school in Germany. After this, Mr. Yu began to study violin-making full-time. He is a 1999 graduate of the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City. After graduation, Mr. Yu apprenticed with master luthiers Ken Meyer and Di Cao in suburban Boston. Mr. Yu continues to refine his art, regularly attending violin-making and acoustics workshops sponsored by the Violin Society of America at Oberlin college in the summers.
A Note from the Maker
A lot of thought goes into making the violin itself. It starts off with choosing wood that is in my desired range of stiffness and density. The overwhelming majority of models I work with, are those that I am personally familiar with - instruments that I’ve actually played, whose sound I admire; I will start by using CT scan data of those instruments, for the archings and graduations etc., and then “play” from there - putting my own individuality into my work.
When I turn my pegs, I use a machinist’s lathe so that I can best make the split of the wood coincide with the turning axis. I do this in conjunction with a 4-jaw chuck that has independently adjustable jaws so that the block of wood itself can be turned eccentrically BUT with the ultimate result being that the wood split will best coincide with the peg’s turning axis. No piece of wood is truly perfect in terms of split, etc. (it is, after all, a natural material). But, I try very hard to make it work well - I have, at times, rejected 20% of peg stock that looked good initially, but which ultimately did not yield a sufficiently good quality split! Having pegs whose shafts are turned as closely as possible to coincide with the split, means that over time, the pegs will still work significantly better than pegs whose shafts were turned off-split.
With my tailpieces, I can control the mass and its distribution, the spacing of the string slots, the precise length that can simultaneously consider a particular violin’s body length, body stop, string length and after length and how much tailgut protrudes out of the tailpiece before it touches the crest of the saddle. I feel that having an after length of 1/6 the string length is important but not as important as how much tailgut is exposed.
Similarly, with my chin rests, I can control the mass and its distribution, the spread of the feet, its cup shape, etc. My end buttons have a design that I think is both functional and comfortable.
My label motto is, “Cantet anima mea fervorem Dei salvificantem” - translated from Latin it means, “May my soul sing God’s healing passion”. Alternatively, “May my soul sing God’s passionate healing”. I want all of my instruments to be able to sing from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy, and everywhere else; and in doing so, bring Divine passionate healing to both the players and the listeners.