By William Stapp | From the July-August 2021 issue of Strings magazine
Strings asked violin maker William Stapp: “What’s your favorite part of the process of making (or restoring) a violin—what day do you most look forward to?”
I am inclined to answer this question in a broader sense. As a maker, I am always looking for ways to be more efficient with each step of the making process. Ideally, efficiency can improve speed and accuracy simultaneously. This may include finding or making a better tool or improving my skill with an existing one. This mindset is influenced by the fact that I am also a professional violinist and violist. Efficiency in instrumental practice is essential, and this practice can be broken into two parts: building time and performing time. Building time is when the violinist works slowly and analytically to perfect form and accuracy. Performing is the end state where talent is allowed to flow simply and naturally. I believe the ideas of building time and performing time are also relevant and important for violin making. Efficiency and simplicity are often hard won. Those lightbulb moments of great clarity or insight don’t happen every day.
In short, my favorite part of making a violin is that moment when I have learned how to make a step in the process simpler and more efficient. This is a moment that results in fresh perspective and increased skill. The long-term benefit is a consistently better result in less time. As one gets older and set in a methodology, these moments may become less frequent. However, the potential for improvement always exists. As Jascha Heifetz once said, “There is no top. There are always further heights to reach.”