A backpaker violin

Travels are a never ending suorce on inpiration and most of the time I had to leave my violin at home because it was too complicated to carry such a delicate instrument with me. Finally I've started creating a robust and modular version of a violin that I could put in a backpack. Later on I've continued to develop the original archetyp build in Africa finding a way to amplify it, improve the proportion, keep the tuning...

The idea starts during a travel to Africa while visiting different developing projects in the south of Tanzania.

service 1


African archetype build with the local wood.

service 2


Carpentry workshop in Ikondo build by the NGO Cefa.

service 3


Second violin build of a olive branch.

After many different trial we have developed different models following some basic principles:

  • Dimensions and proportions are the same of a classical violin.
  • Violin maintainance is the same (same bridge, keys, strings...)
  • The sounds is generated from the vibration of wood, skin and metal (not the only from the strings)
  • The projects are open source and shared with the community of makers
  • Is modular and robust, the handle allows the positioning of different harmonic resonators, shoulder rests and alectronics.

Building up

We deployed many different trials to work on a efficient design that could make these principles effective.

project 1


We have worked on the simplicity of the form keeping inspiration from simple geometrical forms. 2D and 3D draws are available on the projects section.

project 1


We were inspired by ethnical and ancient instruments to try out different kinds of resonators to amplify. The instruments that have fascinated us the most are ekhtara, vioara cu goarna, calabasa, viella, kamancheh... We have built different harmonic resonators that could fit on our universal handle.

project 2


After many trials we have sorted out the materials which were more proper for functionality and shade combination. Some woods where taken from the garden (olive, waldnut, cherry, castanie) where we had the chance to choose the direction of the cut and store them in a dry and ventilated warehouse.

project 3


The handle is built respeting the exact dimensions of an acoustic violin and preserves the same references for the hand. It is usually made of oak, mogan, buche... The top has different forms depending on the kind of resonator is built for, we particularly like the form of a crown pit. The total length is about 63cm.
There is a reference attached to the left side of the handle to counterbalance the shoulder rest on the right side.

project 4


Fingerboards preserve the original size and are usually made of padaouk or olive. Generally we look for a diamond shaped wood knot which is typical on the olive wood to place on the middle of the fingerboard.

project 4

Shoulder rest

The shoulder rest can be placed between the handle and the string holder. It's a single piece designed to sit on the breast and the shoulder. One can extract it to reduce the lateral size of the violin during the transportation. Shoulder rest are extremely customizabile according to the posture of the violinst. They are dimensioned to balance the total weight of the violin and shift the center of mass towards the body to relax the stress on the left arm.

project 5


We have tried different kind of resonators using at first bamboo segments, coconuts, pampkings or more complex forms built out from wood slices. The most performant resonator was the bamboo segment as long as half of the string length. This simply resontar was extremely rich in harmonics, and sustain was long lasting. Without amplification the sound is gentle and does not disturb the neighbours. We have tried resonators with parts made of skin, metal, springs, to mechanically elaborate and enrich the sound.

project 6


We have put two contact microphons (piezoelectric) inside all the resonators we have built. A thin layer of wax filter spurious vibrations. The microphones have different characteristic resonance frequencies, the smaller resonates aroud ...Hz and it is closer to the bridge, the larger resonates around ...Hz and it is further away from the bridge. The short distance between the two microphone introduce a natural reverber and the mix between the two mics construct the characteristic sound of the violin.

project 7

Harmonic analysis

We have analyzed and compared the power spetrum of the sound of the electric and classical violin recording with environmenta microphones. We have calculated a time averaged spectrum using baudline. In the picture an A string was played. We can see that the electric violin is rich in harmonics albeit the classic violin is stronger in the low frequency range.

project 8


For the varnishing I've experimented different methods to orient around lacques, shine, soaks, dyes, stains, wax, oils...
At the end I've decided for:
I) sanding 40 II) sanding 180 III) sanding sponge IV) sanding 400 V) oil wiping VI) first pass of transparent shine wiped with a drape VIb) light sanding 400 VII) second pass of shine.

project 9


The envolope is a simple textil bag with a soft padding, the straps connect the bottom with the closure strip. The violins without shoulder rests are more compact and have no frigile parts.

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