Norman Pickering, 1953, 15 1/2″ Viola


Norman Pickering (b.1916, d.2015) was born in Brooklyn, New York and from an early age was taught piano and violin by his mother and grandmother, eventually studying French horn after a hand injury. He studied at the Newark College of Engineering, the Juilliard Graduate School, and Columbia University. Pickering worked designing musical instruments and gyroscopic aircraft instruments, became a pilot and also worked for Boeing. Pickering was an engineer and inventor in the medical field, developing specialized forms of ultrasound. He also conducted orchestras, served as a technical consultant to well-known musicians, and dabbled in the science at work in the recording studio, developing a new phonograph pick-up. In 1948 Pickering began studying violin making, constructed dozens of instruments, co-founded the Audio Engineering Society, and taught courses on Musical Acoustics. From 1980 on Pickering dedicated himself to studying the acoustics of violins, violas, and their respective bows, even working for D’Addario developing bow strings. He enjoyed a long, multi-faceted career and was an expert in all things acoustics, winning many awards and recognitions.

Pickering used his technical knowledge to craft instruments that aimed to extract the very best sound possible. His violins were closer in weight to fine Italian instruments, allowing for increased vibration while also enabling a fluid movement between the start-stop nature of playing. He determined that the initial tonewood coating has the most impact on tonal quality, and developed methods to aid in wood stiffening. As a result of his expert, scientific fine-tuning, Pickering’s instruments are top-quality and provide the ideal resonance and voice for any accomplished player. This model is made from spruce and flamed maple and features a lovely golden-hued varnish.

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