From Samantha Grimes
Posted October 19, 2006 at 05:03 AM
So, here's my barrage of newbie questions. :)
Does the colour of the violin affect it's quality? For example, if one was to buy a blue violin, can they assume the sound quality would be worse than the same violin with a natural wood finish? (I'm awfully fond of the black violins, but am worried it would sound terrible.)
Also, is there a cut off age for really becoming good at the violin, or is it subjective? I've heard people say you have to start at 4 or so if you want to get anywhere, which has added to my apprehension.
Also, are there any suggestions on fair quality violins for a beginner on an extremely tight budget. Is EBAY a no-go zone? How about Amazon? I have considered renting and am not fond of the idea of using a violin that I don't technically own. It just makes me plain nervous. The violins at my local music store run around 300 dollars, which I really don't have. Am I doomed to the world of screechy balsa wood violins because of my budget? What if I buy one and my teacher says I can't use it because it's awful?
I've read some really good and some bad reviews on the Helmke violins supplied by ebay seller Great Tunes Select. I have been eying their full size ebony fitted set.Their pricing is within my range. Some people have said they're excellent and have no complaints about them, and others have said that you must buy a violin that's at least a thousand dollars to really be able to play.
I'm trying to sort fact from fiction basically, before I decide what to do. I think really the most I can currently stretch to is about a hundred dollars. My fingers are crossed as to whether this is do-able or not.
I'll stop talking your ears off now. I appreciate any advice anyone has to give.
Thank you in anticipation.
In his book, Ivan Galamian addresses this issue as thus: musical ability can be developed in any person of any age; however, playing technique is best developed when a person is younger.
In my experience, someone who is motivated and focused can play very well, regardless of age. I have a violin student who has been playing for almost 2 1/2 years. She started when she was eighteen (and had some piano experience when she was younger). We started from nothing, and now she is playing Mozart's G Major concerto and the third Bach Partita (along with having a great sound and strong musicianship), and took an audition (and was accepted as a new member this season) for UCLA's Symphony Orchestra. This is her first actual orchestra experience, and apparently she's having a great time.
Perhaps sometime soon I'll convince her to post on here and share her experience as an "adult beginner."
I'm here to tell you that one can indeed just plain suck at it and still manage to have some fun and produce some catchy tunes. It helps, though, to not be caught up in the destination, but instead enjoy the journey for what it is.
Those are indeed very inexpensive lessons. Keep in mind, though, that you usually get what you pay for, so if they don't nourish you, don't give up - just find another teacher (who most likely will charge more. Lots more. But the right teacher is well worth the cost).
No one has commented on the paint and buying on E-Bay and Amazon. I'm sure I echo others' opinions in saying no on both. Get out to several music shops and try out as many violins as possible (at least 10 and preferrably much more) and get to know what sounds best at the best cost. There are lots of wonderful, inexpensive violins out there - the Chinese ones are a real bargain. I bought a new Romanian one that I just adore. The sound and the playability just leapt out at me. My teacher was impressed, too. As for rentals, if you can get one now for three months, you're buying time to find the "right" violin for long term. Don't rush it. (As well, the music shop where I got my rental applied the rental cost to the purchase of any violin from there.)
Good luck, and hope you have as much fun as I've had as an adult beginner!
-Well, it's true that no maker of quality violins is going to dye his creation black. There is a black carbon-fiber violin currently being produced, which is supposedly quite decent in quality, but well....
"is there a cut off age for really becoming good at the violin, or is it subjective?"
-Define "really good." If you desire to be a world famous soloist, your chances would be diminished as certain brain & muscle changes can only happen when you are younger than 7. However, if your goal is to enjoy playing music, and maybe join a local orchestra or quartet, then you are going to be just fine.
"Are there any suggestions on fair quality violins for a beginner on an extremely tight budget?"
-Can't help you there. One thing to consider, though: With a limited budget, you are better off getting a decent bow and an absolute clunker violin. A good bow will help you develop skills. you can get a better violin later. Ebay might work for you, but you can also get completely taken. On a limited budget, I'd say it's unwise to take the chance unless you find an auction where the seller lives close by, so you can check it out. BTW: Some retailers have very liberal rental policies. that might be your best bet. Try Frisco Strings in Texas. They specialize in student - to mid-level instruments (meaning $5,000 and under) and have a GREAT rental policy. You could be learning a a really nice instrument instead of some junk, and 90%f the rental applies to any future purchase.
"The violins at my local music store run around 300 dollars, which I really don't have."
-The hard truth is, you can barely find an acceptable BOW for that much. I'm not being a snob, this is just how it is. I have been looking for a "pro" sounding violin for about six months. I haven't found anything that doesn't make me ill for under $15,000. So, again, accept this reality and re-think the option of renting.
" Am I doomed to the world of screechy balsa wood violins because of my budget?"
-Yes. See above.
"What if I buy one and my teacher says I can't use it because it's awful?"
-then find a new teacher. An awful bow, on the other hand....
" I think really the most I can currently stretch to is about a hundred dollars. My fingers are crossed as to whether this is do-able or not. "
Samantha, the last thing I want to do is discourage you. I learned on an absolutely horrible piece of dreck that I bought on Ebay for $75. However, it was properly set-up, so at least it responded correctly. For about six months, I enjoyed the heck out of it, simply because I enjoy the process of practising. However, once I got my mechanics fairly together, I quickly became massively frustrated with it's squeaky, pinched tone.
I suppose if I were dead-broke, I could continue to enjoy this little VSO (violin-shaped object) The thing is, though, that two weeks after buying this piece of dung, I purchased a $2,000 bow. The bow that came with the violin was a wet noodle. Using it would have been TORTURE.
rent, rent, rent.....
Not knowing the usual rates for music lesons of any type, I thought I would be getting a bargain for 18 bucks a half hour. :: laughs :: I sort of equated it to being close to riding lessons, which are actually more expensive, and was assuming lessons for violin would be ridiculously more expensive.
I have yet to go and meet this teacher in person, as I'm trying to sort of sound people out on other options before I rush into buying a bad instrument, or hiring a bad teacher. I do know that the teacher there does teach a lot of adults older than myself, along with a lot of children. Reputedly he teaches bluegrass and classical. ( I'm interested in learning classical) I am admittedly nervous about meeting with a music teacher after my repeated experience with teachers at school who ignore everyone but their star pupil who plays umpteen million different instruments. That being said, that is a reason I'd much rather have a one-on-one teaching session.
There are two places in this town with a few violin teachers. Perhaps I should go and meet with all of them and then decide?
As for trying out a violin before I buy it, not actually being able to play the violin sort of stunts my ability to hear the tone of the violin. I can get a good bow stroke going without the violin sounding like a dying cat, but as far as finger placements go, I don't have the foggiest clue where to start, and am loathe to start self teaching incase I pick up horrible habits that will stunt my learning process in the future.
But again, thank you all for being so encouraging! I have very desperately wanted to learn this instrument for some time, and as the years ticked on I thought it less likely I could. I don't really care what I play, I just want to play, anything. Or rather, learn the ability to play anything.
On another note (no pun intended)Does anyone have any tips for learning your music theory scales. I've seen the Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge thing (which we never learned in england, not sure why, it's so much easier) but even after all this time, I can't look at a stave and instantly know what pitch each note is without going over them and writing the pitch under each note. Any ideas of exresizes to help me learn on sight?
I am old enough to be your mother and I have no sense of rhythm. No musical background whatsoever. Never sucked on any instruments because I never played one. BUT I am learning the violin and have a lot of fun with it. :-)
If you can take someone with you who knows violins, sure take a look. At least the seller seems honest, and its old.
A few things to be aware of:
1: This is just some low end German production violin, like the millions of garbage Czech violins out there. Probably early 20th century. It looks a LOT like my $75 piece of dreck. It might still be as good as a "decent" student instrument of today, though, but maybe not.
2: It may need repairs WAAAY in excess of your total budget. Don't look at it without a vioinist friend or your teacher!!!!!!
3: It looks like the bow is shot, because it was stored under high-tension. You might be able to have it re-cambered, but you can't afford to right now, and it probably ins't a good enough bow to even warrant the work.
4: If they treated the bow like that, how did they treat the violin?
The soundpost could be loose, or missing.
Seems could be open.
The neck could be set at the wrong angle.
The bridge could be cut wrong or badly warped, or the wrong height, or have the grooves too deep.
The tuning pegs or holes might be mis-shaped and need work.
There could be a crack in the top where the soundpost sits. This is considered fatal.
The dimensions might be off. This would be rare, but it just happened to me. See my post titled "4/4 neck- how short can it be?"
HOWEVER, this might actually be a very nice little violin. (Well, maybe) It's worth $100 just as a wall hanging.
I see that this is an old (2006) thread. I wonder how Samantha did on finding an affordable violin.
Since my search for a violin in January, I've been made aware of a couple of sources that newbie violin shoppers might find helpful.
1) Check any pawn shops you can find. A friend of mine bought a nice -- not great -- violin for her daughter at a pawn shop for $100.
2) Check with local violin teachers to see if they have any students who have recently moved up to a better violin and are interested in selling their old one.
Both of these suggestions come with a couple of caveats -- take a violinist (teacher, advanced student, etc.) with you when you try out the violin, and listen to them play it. Ask them to critique the instrument. Also, take the instrument to a good luthier before making a final decision on it. Sometimes relatively easy set-up adjustments can make a vast difference in the sound quality of an instrument. One you might have originally considered passing up can really be improved with a couple of quick taps to the soundpost and/or a slight repositioning of the bridge.
You can always move up to a better instrument later as experience and finances allow. Anyone who tells you that you have to have a $1000 violin to start out with is a snooty elitist (with apologies to any potential snooty elitists out there!).
I just went back and read the older comments. Someone made a disparaging comment about the old German turn-of-the-century (around 1900) factory-made violins. You can't lump them all together. My primary violin is an old German conservatory violin (made for the U.S. student trade around 1900). It was given to me by a friend who had inherited it, but wasn't interested in learning to play. It needed repairs/replacement of missing parts when I got it, so I had the work done as cheaply as I could. It was then playable, but definitely lacked tonal quality. Since then, I've had parts (pegs, bridge, tailpiece, chin rest) upgraded and the set-up adjusted by an excellent luthier, and of course use better strings (Dominants) on it. I doubt that most people would recognize it as the same violin! It has a BEAUTIFUL tone! My teacher absolutely loves it, and I wouldn't trade it for any other violin I can think of!
He he, very good John.
Naturally in the violin world the heroines long for beaus not balls!
Hi, I am a recent (mature) student of the violin and am currently learning staccato. Basically , I would like to ask, how do I staccato? do I stay on the string and use the full length of the bow , or just a quick strike and off the string. ? Thank you for your help on technique.
There are many kinds of staccato ranging from short marcato to long bow strokes with many separated staccato notes within the bow. Spiccato strokes would have the bow coming off the string with some help from the player. Sautillé is a staccato stroke that has the bow coming off the string on its own.
If you don't have a teacher to help you through this (you really should), the DVD "Violin Bow Technique" with Fintan Murphy may be sufficient to help you into it.
Expect it to take quite some time (perhaps years). Also, for the off-string strokes, some bows are inadequate - and having a teacher (or a competent friend) can help avoid battling bad equipment.
Thank you for your kind response Andrew. I will be seeing a tutor next week. I think he meant me to practice marcato , ( short strokes). I feel rather defeated when you mentioned that the staccato technique can take years . Thanks for the DVD recommendation which I shall certainly look into. I'll get my local music shop to order it.
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