One of my biggest pet peeves in the music world is when string players paint their instruments.
For years I have participated in the Honor Orchestra and Forum Music Festival with the school orchestra. Every year I have been surprised to see the number of students with hot pink or light-blue violins, violas and cellos.
Not only are the colors distracting from the music (I spent one whole song just looking at a heinous yellow violin), but paint actually does affect the sound of the instrument.
By spray-painting a wooden instrument, you are essentially placing a hard coat on top of the instrument. Acoustically, the result will never be nearly as good as without the paint.
Wood is a flexible material; it changes with temperature, often making the sound of the instrument different in varying weather.
If you restrict the instrument’s ability to adapt and change, you are limiting the range of music you can achieve.
Of course, my annoyance at painted violins is a little ridiculous at times. For instance, when young musicians are playing on a one-eighth size violin (as opposed to the full-size for adults), their sound is going to be sub-par no matter what—it’s simply impossible to make a full, rich sound on such a small instrument.
In cases such as those, I can understand the appeal of a painted violin. If having a violet instrument makes a four-year-old want to start practicing, then I am all for painting.
But high schoolers are another matter. At that point, most players are on full-size instruments, making them capable of a beautiful tone and quality of sound.
Yet they decide to hinder their potential by painting their instruments—an occurrence that just makes me sad.
So, if you are a string player older than 10, do yourself a favor and don’t go for the cheap, green instrument in the store because, trust me, there’s a reason it’s cheap.