2019 Contest Rules

  1. Categories:

Members may enter instruments in the following events.

  1. Violins—Gut Stringed:* Tone, Workmanship and Overall Points Medals and certificate.
  2. Violins—Steel Stringed:* Tone, Workmanship and Overall Points Medals and Certificate.
  3. Violas—Tone, Workmanship and Overall Points Medals and Certificate.
  4. Cellos—Tone,Workmanship and Overall Points Medals and Certificate.
  5. Quartet—Tone Medals and Certificate.


* The definition of a gut-stringed violin is one that is equipped with a non-metallic core wound with nickel, silver, chromium, etc., except that the “E” string may be of solid gut or metal. A steel- stringed instrument is one that is equipped with strings composed of a multi-strand twisted steel core or solid steel core, which may be wound with metal, i.e. steel, nickel, silver, chromium, etc.

  1. Member:

A member is one who has paid the required dues and has maintained that membership in good standing.

  1. Entry Fees (per complete item):


First instrument                                     $!00.00

Second instrument                                $75.00

Third and Fourth instruments          $50.00 ea

Quartet—                                                   $100.00

Quartets will be counted as first instruments, with the other  instruments being entered separately, listed as 2nd inst., 3rd, and 4th respectively .

Tone Only—                                              $50.00

  1. Number of Entries:

Each entrant may enter up to four instruments in any or each of the competitive categories in “A” above.

  1. Restrictions:

Only instruments completed since the last convention and competition may be entered for competition, except those entered in a quartet. No time restrictions apply to the construction of instruments entered as a quartet. However, no instruments may be entered more than once as a member of a quartet.

In the event a competition in any category cannot be held because of insufficient entrants (three entrants required), the instruments may be entered in the next year’s competition where there are enough competitors. Completion since the last competition is interpreted to mean that an instrument must not have been played and then opened up and re-graduated, changed and again considered complete, except that an instrument may be assembled “in the white,” tested and again closed up for varnishing. Instruments of any age may be entered for judging tone only, but such entries are not competitive or eligible for trophies or other awards.

Instruments entered for tone only will be judged and scored for tone in Round 1 only and will not be included in the later rounds regardless of the score received. An instrument entered by an agent or representative must have signed authority from the maker; an exception provides that instruments completed within the competition year by a member who has died will be accepted for competition.

No instrument will be accepted without a maker’s label or mark stating the maker’s name and date of completion. In an effort to minimize the chance for bias in judging, the identity of the maker is to be kept from the judges until the completion of the judging. To accomplish this, it is the responsibility of the contestant to make sure that all marks and labels that identify the maker are concealed at the time of the placement of the instrument or bow on the table at the start of the judging process.

All instruments entered for trophy competition must be of the types generally accepted, and no strange oddities will be accepted or allowed to compete for awards. A violin may be entered with steel or gut strings; however, it may not be entered in both contests. Only instruments that have been made by one maker will be accepted in the competition. Instruments entered that have been made by more than one maker shall be entered in the ‘tone only’ category, and will not be eligible for trophies and certificates. Components such as pegs, bridges, and tailpieces for instruments, and frogs and buttons for bows that commonly are commercially made are acceptable under this rule.

  1. Judging:
    Instruments: Instruments will be judged for tone, workmanship and varnish.
  2. Instrument Tone:

Scoring Rounds: All instruments entered in a specific competition event will be eligible for evaluation in Round One. Violins, violas, and cellos will be judged in three separate rounds, Rounds 1, 2, and 3. Three tone judges will be selected and may be VMAAI members or other qualified persons. It is desirable that these three judges be the best available. It is preferable that the judges for the steel string violin competition be well versed in various fiddle playing styles and draw from those for music to be used for tone judging.

Scoring: Computation of the tone judge’s scores will be as follows for Round 1 and Round 3. Except for quartets, the score of the player judge will be doubled, and the two listener judge’s scores will be as turned in.

Round One: the playability judge will play the instrument in full view of the audience. The other two judges will be seated with their backs to the player and will judge the instrument on the tone they hear and on its projection ability. The player judge will demonstrate a full octave on each string and will play a selected short piece to bring out the maximum capabilities of each instrument. The judges will not play any of the competing instruments prior to the competition. Once the scores have been written on the score card, they will be collected by the “shagger.” Only after the shagger has collected these cards will the instrument’s competition number be announced. At this point, the shagger will write that number on the tone scorecards he has collected and turn them in to the official scorekeeper.

Following Round One, Rounds two will be played. For each category of violin, the top scoring 30% of entries from Round 1 will advance to Round 2. If there is a tie for the last place of the set selected to advance to round 2, the ties will move forward.

Round Two: The eligible instruments will be played by the 3 judges and evaluated on their playability and their response to the bow. Each judge will score each instrument. The scores for each instrument will be averaged and will constitute the Round Two score for that instrument.

Round Three: Following Round two judging, the top scoring 5 violins will advance to Round three. If there is a 5th place tie, the ties will move forward. If there is a tie for 1st and 2nd place in round 3 there will be a playoff to determine a winner.

For violas and cellos, 30 % of the entered instruments or a minimum of 3 will advance to Round 2. Out of this set of instruments after scoring Round 2, the top 5 or a minimum of 2 will proceed to Round 3. Ties will be handled as stated above.

In round 3, one of the judges will now play the instruments and the other two judges will be seated at the tone judges’ table in the audience to listen for each instrument’s tone quality and projection ability. The scoring procedures will be the same as that already outlined for Round One. These scores will be averaged and will constitute each instrument’s tone score for Round Three. The tone scores for Rounds One, Two and Three will be averaged and will comprise the final tone score for the instruments. 100% tone score will be added to the 100% workmanship and vanish scores and will comprise the overall score for the entry.

During the competition or in the event of a playoff, or the Bob Wallace competition, the instruments must be on the table 15 minutes prior to the beginning of that competition. If the instrument is not available to the judges at the time of the beginning of that competition, that instrument will forfeit its right to further competition. The next instrument in line shall be selected in its place.

Quartets will be judged in a single round by the process described for Round 1. Quartets will not be judged for workmanship or varnish. The final quartet score is the Round 1 average tone score.

  1. Workmanship – Violins, Violas, Cellos:

Workmanship involves that art of making a perfect instrument as seen by the quality of the craftsmanship shown in the finished instrument. It is quite separate from the art of varnishing and should not be confused with it. In judging workmanship, the judge will look for imperfections in the execution of the work of building the instrument. The model, size or varnish job shall be immaterial to him/her and is not to be judged by him/her. It is not the intention to stifle originality. The workmanship judge will view the instrument as if it were in the “white”, looking for such things as tool marks, sandpaper marks, scratches in the wood, uneven-fitting/poorly-fit neck, ragged corners, uneven overhang, poorly-bent and fitted ribs, poorly-fit bridge feet, poorly-fit saddle, nut, fingerboard, etc. He will mark off as he feels appropriate, but treat each instrument in the exact same manner. Judging workmanship is a matter of judging the ability of the maker to put forth a piece of work which is as flawless as possible.

The judge shall consider the workmanship of instruments that are finished without simulated wear (pristine instrument) and those finished to appear antique without preference when evaluating for score. The pristine instrument shall be judged according to established workmanship and style standards. The antiqued instrument shall be judged considering that the instrument was initially made to established workmanship and style standards, and then reworked to simulate natural wear. Examples of such wear include rounded edges and corners, open f-holes, grafts, crowns, replaced edges, button, etc., and should all appear realistic and consistent when modified. Workmanship scoring shall be done on a VMAAI Board approved score sheet, one sheet per instrument, which at the end of the contest will be made available to the contestant. Brief comments that would be helpful to the contestant should be added to the score sheet as practicable. The basis for this scoring is 125 points.


  1. Varnish:  Violins, Violas, Cellos:

Varnish is a thin film of protection and surface enhancement that preserves the outside surface of the instrument. Its tonal effect, beyond a certain point, is controversial. In judging varnish, the judge will look for imperfections in the film of varnish only – irrespective of the wood craftsmanship that lies underneath it. He is interested only in the thin film of protection and color over the underlying wood. He should look for such imperfections as brush marks, dust specks, murky or mottled appearance, uneven coloring, pin holes or protruding particles, sags, light areas due to excessive sanding or rubbing (exclusive of antiquing effect), poor rub down treatment, lack of luster and other defects in the varnish film. He shall not grade on the color of the varnish.

Varnish scoring shall be done on a VMAAI Board approved score sheet, one sheet per instrument, which at the end of the contest will be made available to the contestant. The basis for this scoring is 60 points.

  1. General:

In all cases where the number of instruments advancing to the next step in judging is determined by a specified percentage, the calculated number will be rounded to the nearest whole number. Specifically, if the number to the immediate right of the decimal point is 5 or greater, the calculated number will round up. If less than 5, the calculated number to the left of the decimal point will be used unchanged. If a member is judging workmanship or varnish in an event that he is entered in, the other judge will score both workmanship and varnish on that instrument. Prior to judging that instrument, the judge will view the top scoring instrument in that category, and judge accordingly, avoiding all possible bias. The workmanship and varnish judges will judge all instruments in the category. The scores and associated standing among the competitors are determined by the judges and shall be final except where subsequent investigation proves that a mathematical or posting error has been made. If there is a tie in maximum overall points, the instrument with the highest points in tone will be declared the winner. If there is still a tie, the workmanship and varnish will be re-judged to decide the winner. Any serious dispute with the judging will be presented to the president. He will choose two members at large to assist him in reaching an equitable decision. Their decision will be final.

  1. Awards:
  2. The Bill Barnitz Award:
    This award is designed to recognize the highest achievement of instrument making in the contest. It will designate the Grand Champion of the competition. All instruments categories are included. The highest total points awarded to the instrument in the workmanship and varnish and tone categories will receive The Bill Barnitz Award.
  3. Bob Wallace Memorial Trophy Contest:
    This contest is designed to determine the best-toned violin from the winners of the gut- and steel stringed categories. It is based upon tone only, and workmanship and varnish are not factors in the competition except that, in the case of a tie after the third playoff, appearance shall be the determining factor in selecting a winner. The top 10% of the violins entered in each of the gut and steel-string categories shall qualify for the competition. The judges for the Memorial Contest will be the same judges used in the violin contests in each string category when possible. There will be two listener/field judges and one playing judge.

The score of each judge shall be in the range of 91 to 100 points. One playing judge will be selected for the Memorial Contest from the playing judges of the violin categories.
The score of the playing judge includes playability and tone and shall be doubled and then averaged with the scores of the listener/field judges.

  1. Trophies / Medals:
    Trophies or medals will be awarded to members with instruments placing first and second in most categories. Trophies or medals will be awarded when there are three or more “entrants” in a category. Certificates and Medals will be given for final tone scores, workmanship and varnish scores, and overall scores.
  2. Safe-Keeping:
    Each person entering an instrument or bow is responsible for the safe-keeping of it at all times during the convention and competition. The Violin Makers Association of Arizona, International, assumes no responsibility whatsoever for any loss or damage to instruments, bows or cases.
  3. Hours:
    The official convention hours are from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. There will be breaks at opportune times during the morning and afternoon sessions.
  4. Registration of Instruments:

All instruments must be registered at least 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the competition of that category of instruments and be on the table 15 minutes prior to the beginning of that competition. Instruments scheduled for competition on the last day of the competition must be presented for workmanship and varnish judging not later than 11:00 a.m. on the day prior to the last day of the competition.

Revised 06 / 2019