About Zachary Moen's Instruments

The Models

Zachary Moen handcrafts a wide range of models of violins, violas and cellos to meet the unique requirements of each player.  His instruments are typically inspired by classic great instruments by famous makers such as Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesu, Bergonzi, Gasparo da Salò, and others. 

The Wood

Zachary Moen's instruments are made with only the best quality aged European (and occasionally American) maple and spruce.  He carefully evaluates and hand select each piece of wood for its acoustic and visual properties.

Construction

Extreme care and attention to detail are given to every aspect of the design, construction, and setup of Zachary Moen's instruments.  

Sound

Much of the time in building an instrument is invested into realizing its full sound potential. The process starts with designing the model and selecting the wood, continues through each step of the construction process, including careful graduation and acoustic testing of the plates, and ends with the proper setup.  

Setup and Playability

Zachary Moen's instruments in individually setup for superior sound and playability.  His instruments include top quality boxwood or ebony fittings from makers such as Otto Tempel.  The fingerboard is made of the highest quality ebony and is carefully planed with the proper scoop for playability.  The bridge is a top quality hand selected Aubert DeLuxe bridge, which is carefully fit and shaped.  The strings are top quality brands such as Peter Infeld, Vision Solo, Obligato, Evah Pirazzi, and others, depending on which strings make the specific instrument sounds its best.

Varnish

Zachary Moen uses only the finest oil varnishes and pigments, some of which are handmade, on his instruments.  His varnish creates a beautiful classic Italian look and remains transparent to highlight and not obscure the beauty of the wood underneath.  Zachary Moen's instruments are available with pristine varnish, slightly antiqued, or fully antiqued, depending on model and client preferences.

Zachary Moen's Philosophy of Violinmaking

Today, it seems that value is placed on items that are new, flashy, quick, easy, inexpensive, and disposable. As a result, it is understandable for one to think that the days of a violinmaker hand crafting a small number of high quality instruments per year using traditional methods are extinct, or will be soon. And, in a way, its easy to understand why – what really is the value of a quality handcrafted instrument, other than the good feeling that comes from supporting a traditional craft? And why should you pay a higher price for a handcrafted instrument when mass-produced instruments seemingly get better every day?

For those who are musicians, perhaps the best way to understand the answer to this question is to think of your own playing. Music, too, can quickly and easily be created by computer without the aid of a musician. The computer can produce the sound of a violin at the frequencies of each printed note, for the duration specified, and in the order specified. And what the computer produces generally sounds like the piece of music that was programmed into it. In fact, the computer can likely produce the music so that it more perfectly corresponds to the notes and timing on the printed page.  But the music that results from this process is lacking in many respects.

Similarly, sophisticated CAT scanners and CNC machines have recently been used to create an exact replica of the Stradivari “Betts,” violin, to the extent where even the bump from the paper label is picked up. The result is perfect in every dimension, but it still isn’t valued as highly as the original, doesn’t sound like the original, and somehow lacks the personality of the original.

So, what is the value in a handcrafted violin over a mass-produced violin, or in music played by a musician over music created by a computer? Character, personality, distinction – in essence, soul. Your instrument is an extension of you -- it is your musical voice.

The goal of many violinmakers today seems to be to produce an instrument that has perfect dimensions, or is perfectly symmetrical, or is perfectly smooth. The result, in my opinion, is sterile and lacks character. In my view, these goals not only produce an uninteresting and uninspired instrument, but also almost certainly guarantee the extinction of the profession, as human hands will never beat CNC machinery if the goal is to cut wood perfectly and to exact dimensions.

And, in any event, this type of “perfection” is not seen in the classic Cremonese instruments that are used as the models for it. A close examination of the Stradivari “Betts,” for example, shows that filler is used to create those long purfling bee stings. An examination of the famed Stradivari "Messiah" shows that the f-hole on the bass side and the resulting sting stop varies by over 1mm from that on on the treble side of the instrument.  An examination of the “Ole Bull” violin by Guarneri del Gesu reveals widely varying distances between the purfling line and the edge, widely varying widths of purfling, purfling mitres that don’t meet exactly at the corners, lots of asymmetry, turns of the scroll that are undercut, and much more. Although instruments with such features would receive demerit points at a violinmaking competition today, these are fantastic instruments that are highly valued today, and these are only a few of hundreds of similar examples.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that those instruments are sloppy or exhibit poor workmanship. They are, in fact, perfect. They have character, personality, distinction – a soul. And this is what I seek to do with my instruments. Not copy the “soul” of those instruments perfectly, or create a sterile replica of those instruments, but create my own instruments with their own individual “soul” that are based on those timeless models. Each of my instruments is a reflection of me and becomes a reflection of the player who plays it. And that won’t be replaced by a machine.