Modern Travel and Backpacker Violins
D. Rickert Musical Instruments makes some of the world’s finest Modern Travel Violins (aka Backpacker Fiddles) and more models (6 models currently; one a 5-string). We also make two Pochette models; one a Baroque (early to mid-1700s) and one a Pre-Modern (1780s). All of these instruments are available at the Don Rickert Musician Shop.
This article is about the modern Travel Violins and Backpacker Fiddles you will find at Don Rickert Musician Shop. You might also want to read Baroque Pochettes and Modern Travel Violins at the Don Rickert Musician Shop (Part 1 of 2 Parts): Pochettes, which is about our pochettes, and some of the lore associated with them.
Travel and Backpacker Violins and Fiddles by D. Rickert Musical Instruments
These are instruments that look superficially like Barqoue pochettes (pocket fiddles); however, they are full-length violins intended for backpacking and travel. All of our travel and backpacker violins are full 4/4 length instruments with chin rests and shoulder rest adapters. They are very popular among traveling classical violinists as well as adventure-loving fiddlers. Unlike the cheap travel fiddles that cost much less than ours on the market, ours respond to the bow like a full-size instrument and are quite sonorous...be sure to watch the videos below.
How Good Can a Travel Violin Sound?
Most makers of modern travel violins will tell you that they sound good. When we tell you that ours sound amazing, watch the following videos to hear for yourself what we mean by amazing…
Current Travel Violin and Fiddle Offerings at the Don Rickert Musician Shop
You will find these incredible instruments at…
We have been talking about a new travel violin to supersede the Neil Gow 22XL Travel Violin for several years. It is not that we do not like the Gow Travel Violin. We always felt that we could get a more full-bodied and balanced sound from an instrument of similar size (14” long x 3.25” wide, at the widest point). After many tries, involving countless prototypes, we achieved success. We call the new instrument the “Mountain Lion”.
At some point (soon!) we will have a video demo of the Mountain Lion Travel Violin. We can tell you that it sounds almost as good as the one played by Nathan Aldridge in the first video above (we do not see the possibility of ever making a travel violin that sounds better than the Custom Deep Body Travel Violin – Viola played by Nathan) and a little bit better than the one played by Troy Parker in the second video.
The instrument played by Troy Parker is an Adventurer II. We no longer make this instrument on a regular production basis, as it is too expensive to build, given its internal labyrinth of tuned porting that rivals the complexity of a Bose speaker enclosure (we still make them on a custom basis for those willing to pay the hefty price…about $3,000).
See photo essay, Deep Body Custom Travel Violin/Viola (Newly Re-christened)
What we are now calling the Deep Body Custom Travel Violin/Viola has become one of the most popular instruments we have ever sold. It is definitely the best-sounding pochette-type travel violin we have ever produced. Interestingly enough, not a single customer has opted for a 4-string octave violin (aka baritone violin) configuration. Rather, to date, we have made the following configurations for customers:
- 4-string standard violin or viola tuning (base price applies to this configuration)
- 5-string violin/viola with standard 5-string violin neck (this is what most customers buy)
- 5-string violin/viola with custom extra-wide 5-string neck
- 10-string instrument configured as follows: (See photo essay on 10-string Pochette D'Amore)
- 4 playable strings tuned C3, G3, C4 (middle C), G4 (G above middle C)
- 6 sympathetic strings that run through a channel under the fingerboard and then through a special cut-out in the bridge (i.e. the sympathetic string bridge) and attached to metal hooks on the underside of the tailpiece (just like a Norwegian Hardanger Fiddle)
This last instrument is interesting, as it is used by a performer of Hindi Classical Music living in Australia. In Indian classical music, the violin or viola is played with the musician sitting in something like a lotus position. The instrument end rests on the upper chest (we made the buyer a special chest rest for that purpose). The finial (e.g. scroll), in the case of this instrument, a viola d’Amore blindfolded muse (Baroque symbol of True Love), is held by the player’s toes. Only a picture can really convey how this is done.
See Photo Essay, Mountaineer IV Travel Violin with Phantom Shoulder Rest
The Rickert Mountaineer IV Backpacker Fiddle is a really skinny (but full 4/4 length) travel fiddle that is extremely durable for the most punishing environments. This instrument and its predecessors have now been on journeys in the U.S., Europe, U.K., Canada, Middle East, North Africa and the African sub-continent.
The instrument is just 2 inches wide and is standard 4/4 length (body just under 14", playable string length of 13”, and total length about 23").
The Mountaineer utilizes an innovative internal bracing, which performs the critical functions of the sound post (damping shrill high frequency overtones while enhancing mid and low frequency overtones). The advantage is that the Mountaineer IV can withstand shock and extreme temperatures without the risk of the sound post falling out of place. The new Mountaineer IV, unlike its predecessors, uses a separate bass bar (not part of the internal framing).
The instrument is quite loud (louder than a regular violin), and well balanced across all four strings. It is NOT shrill or “tinny”. Rather it tends to favor the mid-range. While having as much bass punch as a 2-inch wide instrument could possibly have, it is somewhat less than what we would call full-bodied.
Basically, it gets the job done sonically for those whose needs require such a small instrument. It does quite well in impromptu jam session due to its shear volume and mid-range bias.
See photo essay, Mountaineer IV Travel Violin with Phantom Shoulder Rest
It is based on the Mountaineer IV (see product description for the Mountaineer IV above), but has very special structural enhancements, which allow for the easy removal and reattachment of the neck. The entire instrument, together with its accessories and a take-apart bow, fits into two small boxes, which, themselves easily fit into one’s luggage. The photos illustrate how it works.
Like the Mountaineer IV, the Phantom Shoulder Rest is an available option.
The sound is almost as good as the Mountaineer IV. The Mountaineer IV is a bit more sonorous due to the latter’s permanently set neck, using a traditional modern violin mortised neck joint.
See photo essay, Lots of photos of new Neil Gow XL Travel Violin
The Neil Gow 21C, the predecessor of the Neil Gow XL Travel Violin, while actually quite modern under the surface, is based on our extremely popular Neil Gow Pochette, an interpretation of an 18th Century pochette (pocket fiddle or kit) on display in the Burrell Museum in Glasgow, Scotland. The bodies of the Neil Gow Pochette and its modern descendant, the Neil Gow 21C by Don Rickert Musical Instruments, while longer than the historic original on which their design is based, and have a full 4/4 size playable string length (nut to bridge), of 13 inches. This is one inch shorter than a 4/4 conventional violin. Most players do not notice this small difference in body length. For other musicians, especially novice and intermediate players, that one inch difference is important. For this reason, and to add a few more cubic inches of internal air space, the Neil Gow XL Travel Violin body is a full 14 inches long, which is the same a regular violin or fiddle.