Springers museum......

  Violin Home page

The  phono collection ......

of Stroviols and other horned stringed instruments

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Phono or horned string instruments developed at the turn of the 20th century in the first instance to assist in sound recordings on to wax cylinders as a sharper sound was needed. As recording techniques improved phono instrument enjoyed some popularity as novelty instruments. Many thousands of one string phono fiddles were produced of varying quality. Augustus Stroh was the pioneer in the market and produced the more  superior instruments with their patented diaphragm arrangement. Violins, violas, cellos, basses, ukuleles and guitars were made. The 4 string violins are scarce but other versions are extremely rare today.  As wax cylinder players lost popularity to the development of the disc recordings by the 1920s Stroh's production gradually slowed.  There has been some revival of interest in recent years.   


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One of only five Stroh guitars known to exist.(above )  ref:   Brian Cohen

Stroh bass. (above) Another extremely rare Stroh. Ref: Tony Bingham
Stroh text mandolin guitar.JPG (70972 bytes) A Stroh orchestra recording, circa 1910. ref :- Experimental instruments Stroh text viola cello.JPG (70570 bytes)

 Stroh instruments

Stroviols violin circa 1910. Twin horned. The smaller to be angled for the player to head as the sound is otherwise very directional. These are often favoured by jazz musicians.  

  Stroh viola. Proportionally larger than the violin. Some with 2 horns some just one.   One stringed aluminium horned Stroviols. (left) They also made various brass horned examples (right)   A Stroh mandolin. One of few existing.
Willy Tiebel, Markneukirchen, German made  similar  instruments to Augustus Stroh in the 1920s, with a maple scroll and body of mahogany (vaguely rectangular in cross section where Stroh's instruments were usually round).  New 4 string Stroviol copies can be found but the sound is not generally as good.   In Eastern Europe a 4 string phono fiddle called a Viora cu goarma is used. Made using an old trumpet bell and gramophone type sound box diaphragm.  (NOT a Stroviol)


Phono instruments by Howson

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Two Howson large and small brass bells C1910 Under the brass disc Howson inserted a metal diaphragm Howson's all carry the Howson logo. Howson  phono fiddle advert. .Howson unusual 2 string with brass horn. Strings tuned in unison. Phono ukulele by A T Howson. London

Violinophone. Prague early 20th century. This instrument has a diaphragm mounted vertically under the bridge. The sound is carried through a tube to the horn which rests around the shoulder to face forward.

  An interesting experinmental phono fiddle. With a gramophone type sound box and the wooden horn cuved to represent a violin. Circa 1900


Twin horn one string phono fiddle early 20th century

There are many one string phono fiddles still in evidence, these were often used as novelty items and often in musical hall and other stage acts. These usually work on a flat circular cellophane diaphram, a crude metal bridge glued directly to the surface. They were held and played in the cello position and tuned variously to suit the player. Strohviols and Howson were the most prominent makers. They were popular up until the 1940s and most retired to the loft.

Mina  Forsyth, c.1923ish with a one string phono fiddle Photo courtesy Alan Davidson

When 4 string Stroh violins were made. Necks from old violins were used. The bodies remaining of the violins were used to make one string fiddles (left)   An unusual gamba/viola one string. purpose built circa 1910.   Many one string fiddles were made in various styles often with box shapes. Some were made using cigar boxes.Sometime these were called Japanese fiddles   An un named wooden horn phono fiddle. The maker used a gramophone horn.



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