Fiddleheads.ca Instrument Advice and FAQs
Q: Can you tell me the difference between a full back and a split back in terms of instrument quality, strength, sound, etc. Also, is the belly a single piece?
I honestly have never seen a difference in tone in 1- versus 2-piece backs and I have done plenty of comparison playing trying out hundreds of instruments over the years as a professional musician, teacher and violin shop owner.
Physically-speaking on a 2-piece back the makers glue the two halves together following the grain, so it is not any different than just another line of grain down the middle of a single piece of wood. A harmonic analyzer via computer *may* pick up slight variations in vibrations, but it would be pretty slight and nothing the ear would ever detect.
So it's really a matter of personal taste and will not affect your playing.
Many 2-piece backs have a bookmatch. This means the maker slices it down the middle and opens it like a book, thus coming out with two thinner plates to use side by side; the flames will be opposites and is very striking. It is cheaper, for some makers who are using very expensive wood, to use one smaller and thicker piece and bookmatch it rather than using one large piece.
A 1-piece back is special as it came from one, large solid plate of wood and is more decadent. Thus players think a 1-piece is better, but it simply means a bigger piece of wood was used. Bookmatching is not possible on a 1-piece back.
As for the belly, they are all made in 2-pieces from spruce wood (backs and ribs are almost always made from maple). The font seam is difficult to see on most violins and most people don't know it is, indeed, two pieces.
All the best for your music and we hope our shop will earn your business.