History records the name of a single virtuoso on this instrument; he was a Bohemian musician called Senal, who travelled all over Germany with his instrument about 1780-1790. Senal had modified the instrument by adding sympathetic strings, and dubbed this enhanced version the "violino harmonico."
There have been several other modifications or variations on Wilde's original design. Modifications include the use of glass or wooden rods instead of metal nails. Träger of Bernberg (Saxony) created a treadle-operated keyboard version in 1791. The Adiaphonon, created by Franz Schuster in 1818-1819, was similar to the nail violin. It used bowed steel rods and had a six octave range. A Nineteenth Century modification, called the Stockspiel or Melkharmonica, incorporated wooden rods, which were played using rosined gloves. The waterphone works on similar principles, but is atonal rather than chromatic, and has water in its resonator.
The instrument is categorized as a friction idiophone, as it is played by bowing. The instrument can also be played by striking the nails or rods. Michael Meadows has made contemporary copies of the early design of the instrument.