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What was that Sound?!

A violin with two water bottle caps resting over an F hole. It's not an every-time experience, but it's definitely not an uncommon experience for one of our luthiers to find a foreign object inside the body of an instrument. 

For example, we have found: bottle caps (pictured above), bendy-straws, a wedding invitation, socks, lip gloss, bridges, pencils, secret notes to future players (we love these!), and lots of rosin dust and broken cello Dampits. 

The item we find inside instruments that surprises our newer restorers most is a little more organic.

A violin F hole with a mysterious object inside that resembles an ear of corn.
If you look at the violin pictured here, inside the F-Hole you might
notice something that slightly resembles a tiny ear of corn. 

Thankfully it's not corn in there, but many players might
prefer corn to this alternative.

Any guesses as to what IS in there?

Pictured in the F-Hole above is, what is often called, a "rattler".  A "rattler" is the rattle end of the tail of a rattlesnake.
Yes. You read that right.

Pictured in the violin above is the rattle from the tail of the venomous reptile known as a rattlesnake. 

Musical danger noodle?
A rattlesnake flicking their tongue.
Rattlesnakes are pit vipers and primarily eat small mammals like rodents and lizards. describes the distinctive rattlesnake tail as follows: "The rattle, presumably a warning device, is composed of horny, loosely connected hollow segments, one of which is added every time the snake sheds its skin. The age of a rattlesnake cannot be determined from the number of its rattle segments, as rattlesnakes usually shed three or four times a year."

Although venomous, rattlesnakes actually get a bad rap due to lasting fears and myths about their nature. continues, "Rattlesnakes are not aggressive and will not attack humans if unprovoked; in fact, they are quite shy and timid." (Although we know they are a shy species by nature, do not try to pet or approach a rattlesnake.)

But Why Put THAT in a Violin?A zoomed in view of a rattler inside a violin.
That is a great question. 

Many players (and other professionals in the violin industry) have told us that the tradition of putting a "rattler" inside an instrument is thought to be of Appalachian origin. 

We have been told that, decades ago, Appalachian violinists would make music outside and then hang their violin on the front porch for storage.

Because front porches were typically unprotected from critters, vermin, and bugs, it is thought that a "rattler" deterred creatures from making a home inside the instrument. The rattling sound made when the instrument moved repelled larger vermin like mice and wasps were deterred from making nests inside the instrument because the buzzing of their wings made the "rattler" buzz, too. 

Other people believe the placement of the "rattler" inside instruments is based on superstition. Players have told us that the "rattler" in their instrument is an omen to ward off evil or was for good luck. 

Some players didn't know why the "rattler" was a thing, but they heard of a famous musician who had one in their instrument and figured anything that worked for that famous player might help them improve their own sound! 

As restorers, we're not sold on the "sound improvement" theory since we spend so much time helping players eliminate buzzes.

In fact, we have had violinists report a strange buzzing sound and bring their (new-to-them) violin into the shop for assessment. Low and behold, those violins had "rattlers" buzzing along inside that the musician didn't even know were in there!

Not Your Average Maraca
Two wooden maracas.
So there you have it! 

People really, actually, purposefully put rattlesnake tails inside their violins AND there are a varied number of reasons they might do so. 

As for us, we'll stick to rattle and rattler-free fiddles. 


Wallach, Van. "rattlesnake". Encyclopedia Britannica, 10 Jun. 2020, Accessed 2 February 2022.