How do you define a VSO

March 28, 2018, 4:44 PM · I posted a question on bowing or expression and it immediately was assumed that I was compromised by playing a VSO. What's the rationale for this, price?

Replies (52)

March 28, 2018, 7:13 PM · In my opinion for a violin to be relegated to the VSO category, it would be a Very badly or amateur made instrument, that is not able to sound good or respond well.
A lot of the cheap mass made violins could be classed in VSO as well.
On the other hand, many cheap violins do sound good, and respond well.
March 28, 2018, 7:23 PM · A VSO is a cheap violin that will not sound good no matter how much is invested in adjusting it, changing strings, etc.

The purple violins available on Amazon are the very definition of VSOs.

Edited: March 28, 2018, 9:13 PM · In the end, VSO is a derogative expression of a bad violin... And good and bad are relative and subjective.

A VSO is an instrument that has limited playability. It may allow basic bowings in first position, but is not ready (or designed) to go beyond that.

Only when one has enough techniques, one can judge if your instrument is a tool that can help you to practice and expand those techniques. For example, for a master soloist used to quasiperfect instruments and playing regularly very high in G string, an otherwise perfectly good violin becomes an VSO if it can't deliver that.
That's why with many students, the "I'm very happy with my violin" in the first years, become a "I have a VSO and need to buy a real violin".

March 28, 2018, 10:06 PM · A VSO is pretty much a horrid violin. They range anywhere from violins that sound like dirt bags and are hard to work with, to violins that aren't even properly made, to violins that are pure junk that's unusuable, and everything in between.
Edited: March 29, 2018, 7:02 AM · Carlos: so a good violin becomes a VSO if it's not quasiperfect and does not deliver high on the G string to virtuoso standards?

I think that's just a bit extreme.

March 28, 2018, 11:51 PM · No, a violin becomes VSO when it holds you down.
March 29, 2018, 1:23 AM · I do think it’s a bit extreme Carlos. Just because you need something of higher quality doesn’t mean everything below is worthless.
March 29, 2018, 1:31 AM · The point is that I don't think that a VSO is worthless. It is a very valid instrument until you grow out of it and when you do, it is time to pass it to someone that will find it useful until they also grow out of it.

And in any case I just wanted to highlight the subjectivity of the appelation VSO.

Edited: March 29, 2018, 1:50 AM · I disagree with Carlos. To me, a VSO is a violin that is so poorly made that it starts holding back a beginner within the first few months, or costs more to bring to playable condition than it does to buy. It's the kind of instrument that fails to reward even good fundamental technique, or may even direct the student toward bad technique.

A student violin is a violin, even after you've outgrown it.

March 29, 2018, 2:24 AM · I like to think in terms of relativity, but I think there is absolutely no subjectivity in the definition of a VSO. It's worthless. I mean, what does it stand for? Just an 'object' that that only resembles a violin but actually isn't one for crying out loud.

Just because you outgrow a $20K instrument doesn't mean it becomes a VSO, even to you, because you might still sell it for somewhere close to that amount.

A violin made from plywood would perfectly be called a VSO, although there can be other 'violins' that fall into this category.

March 29, 2018, 5:04 AM · I have a plywood violin that you may safely disparage on the internet; in person less so. Jane has a leather wrap around her ribs, has had three different varnish finishes, numerous tail, peg outfits, scroll gouged to accept a tuner easier, has had over 10 bridges and 4 sound posts.
Twice a year when the humidity is just right for three days she emits sounds that actually has brought tears to my eyes.
I have other violins, but just like other first loves, she will always be my most memorable.
And,,and,,,your mother dresses you funny.
March 29, 2018, 5:27 AM · Lol Bob, I always feel it’s kind of spooky when someone humanises something curvy that has a voice and can cry, like a violin.

I’m thinking of The Red Violin now ...

March 29, 2018, 7:21 AM · @ David McLellan: do you think that you have a VSO? I suspect that you do not. I'm sorry you didn't get your questions answered on the assumption you have a VSO (if that is indeed the case)

Will: I once worked out what the bust, waist, hips measurement would be for a violin. can't remember for sure, but I think it was 32" - 20" - 36"

Edited: March 29, 2018, 8:42 AM · I'm with Carlos on that one. It's an expression that infers relative sub-standard construction, setup and arguably performance. What is VSO to one can be treasured by another. Take for example the trash made instruments used by the Landfillharmonic Orchestra. These VSOs to most mean the world to their players, and do sound like violins but would probably fail to meet most people's standard and expectations.
March 29, 2018, 8:53 AM · If I remember correctly Dave had told me that he built his own violin from scratch and would love to see some pictures of it.
Edited: March 30, 2018, 2:35 AM · David McLellan asked, "I posted a question on bowing or expression and it immediately was assumed that I was compromised by playing a VSO."
Some posters here are quick to suspect the equipment when someone asks a questions, others not. A lot of the answers are necessarily highly speculative.

"What's the rationale for this, price?" It is clear that some amateur made instruments which look less well finished than the work expected of an experienced professional maker, nevertheless respond and sound very well. Some mass-produced violins turn out well. Some expensive violins are disappointing. However, price does influence the perceptions of fiddlers and the public.

Personally I tend to ignore posts here which focus on possible problems with the equipment. To be fair though, without seeing and hearing the instrument and the player, those who try to give advice here must be relying in part on gueswork, and I would not take such comments to heart, especially if you know that the guess missed the mark.

Edited: March 30, 2018, 4:37 AM · I like Andrew's definition best: It will hold down a beginner after the first few months. Something that holds down an advanced player is just an average violin. We're all playing VSOs if the latter is the definition because I guarantee my fine bench-made eastern European violin wouldn't be good enough for David Kim or Christian Tetzlaff.
March 30, 2018, 5:20 AM · Anything that holds down a beginner after the first few months, or below that.
Edited: March 30, 2018, 7:54 AM · I think it's a stupid term coined by someone trying to be clever but failing. Every Stradivarius violin is actually a VSO. Rather than worrying about whether or nothing something fits the definition of a "VSO", whatever another takes that to be, it's much more useful to think of whether or not it meets the player's needs. There are some instruments which are so bad that we wouldn't want to give them away. We don't need an acronym to describe that; we have many words we could use instead.

Edit: Thinking of it a bit more, I take some of it back -- it was probably coined as part of a joke, where the "but it's not a real violin" was implicit. But the joke is lost when it's tried to be used seriously, as a definition.

March 30, 2018, 7:48 AM · On one hand, I kinda understand the need of this VSO "term" but on the other I think its like calling names. What I have to say is that if we accept the term and thats a big if for me, it should have nothing to do with the retail value.

It would be better in my humble opinion if we just say that each player needs a different instrument.

I tend to make weird thought when I bump into the VSO phrase. Sometimes I think that every violin is violin shaped....and it's an object. But every violin shaped object is not a violin. And I am referring to those little miniature violins, keychains, ornaments or those toys that you press a button and some horrifically transposed classical tune comes in. I think you get the impression :)

March 30, 2018, 1:37 PM · I'll have to go with the definition of a VSO being an instrument that is not even suitable for a beginner. I once taught a group class where one kid had an instrument where it looked as if the pegs had been glued in, and the fine tuners wouldn't budge, and another had a fingerboard which literally fell off and split in two one day from normal usage. That's not to mention that a dying kitten would have sounded better than a professional trying to play these things.
March 30, 2018, 1:40 PM · I also agree that a VSO is an instrument that would hold even a beginner back.
March 30, 2018, 4:10 PM · Honestly I don't understand why some of us would take issue with the term VSO itself. We use these daily. Like lemons for cars, rags for newspapers, or junk for anything.

Is it not ok to have a specific name for a very inferior violin? IDK.

Edited: March 30, 2018, 5:03 PM · A VSO is more or less an object or item that is trying to be a violin but it's so badly made that violinists and luthiers don't consider it even a violin.

In Europe or USA, it's pretty common to find VSO in the price below $200. Then, from $200 to $700-800 it really depends from the source you're buying. You can find VSO, or good enough violins that need noticeable adjustments from a luthier, or violins that are good just like they came.

A "real" violin is one made by a luthier, artisan instruments that need a lot of hours, knowledge and practice of an expert hand. These start in the $1000 and depending on the luthier they can start quite higher, and then there are the ancient jewels: Amati, Strads, Guarneris... in the million's.

What I don't agree with is that a violin can become a VSO, that's plain wrong. A violin is a violin, no matter who plays it. It happens that you can need a better violin, but that doesn't make in any way your last violin a piece of garbage, that logic is insane.

Edited: March 30, 2018, 6:27 PM · @ Tim Ripond: in one breath you say a 'real' violin has to be a bench made, minimum 10K.

in the next breath you say, if it doesn't meet this standard it's not a piece of garbage. well, that's a relief, I was just about to throw my 5K Louis Lowendall made in Berlin 1893 right out the window, rob a bank, get a 10k bench made so I could have a real violin. I've always wanted a real violin.

I like Paul Deck's post who likes Andrew Hsieh's post. I think these gentlemen have given the best, most generally accepted, and most sensible definition of VSO...unless you want to go a step below that and say that a genuine bonafide VSO is not even fit for a beginner, which I could also agree with.

March 30, 2018, 7:04 PM · Having played around taking apart and learning violin set up and repairs on many of them, my definition is either kindling, tinker-toys, or P.O.S. (not being retail point of sale, although that could be a double entendre.;-o.)
I do agree that anything you would not give your least liked neice or nephew to learn on would be a good benchmark.
March 30, 2018, 7:12 PM · @ Dave....I believe Tim said $1000 not $10,000.
March 30, 2018, 9:08 PM · @Kim W: you are right. Thank you for pointing that out. Obviously that changes things. I apologize.

March 30, 2018, 9:23 PM · @Dave, 32/20/36 is too unreal for a Violin Shaped Ob... Oh, wait!
March 30, 2018, 10:08 PM · I believe the violins shape comes from the shape of a voluptuous Woman, but we digress.
I think "not even usable for a beginner" should be the criterion for being relegated to VSO status.
As to how much you pay, that is not a real indicator. I have had Medio Fino's that sounded fantastic! And expensive violins that didn't.
March 31, 2018, 10:31 PM · A violin is not shaped like a woman. It is shaped like a violin. It does not come from the shape of a woman. The OP already had a negative experience seeking advice and is now asking a legitimate question about instrument quality/function. Please stop "digressing", boys, and remember that a number of us are women and don't particularly appreciate the completely irrelevant female measurement commentary.

Upvote for Lieschen and Mary Ellen. A VSO would hold even (and especially) a beginner back to the point where said beginner cannot learn because the instrument fails to function properly.

David, do you have a teacher or a friend who plays who can take a look at your instrument and see if that is causing any issues? Sometimes setup is part of the issue for a beginner, becuase you cant get to right when the instrument doesn't work properly and you may not be able to tell which is you and which is it. But sometimes it is just that even the best violin is a stubborn thing which requires somewhat awkward contortions and work and practice to make it sing.

April 1, 2018, 5:36 AM · Quite an experience. Many assumptions. VSO, beginner, proficiency of peers, acceptablity of gender comments, teacher required.
I propose the value of a musical instrument can be how we feel about it. Sound we can extract, antique, attachment, beauty, worn, history, availability, "market" etc.
I also propose that it's almost always the player, not the equipment.
April 1, 2018, 8:35 PM · I think John Candy’s Tattoo character would agree that it is ‘Shaped like a woman, Boss!” ( SCTV Fantasy Island Sketch.) Although in the skit he was ‘holding’ a cello.
April 2, 2018, 7:08 AM · careful may get your wrist slapped.
April 3, 2018, 12:36 PM · Around here VSO usually stands for "Vancouver Symphony Orchestra" - although I'm pretty sure that nobody in the VSO plays a VSO.
April 3, 2018, 4:52 PM · I have to hand it to you, Charlie, that was a good one.
Edited: April 3, 2018, 5:32 PM · Elis wrote:
"A violin is not shaped like a woman. It is shaped like a violin. It does not come from the shape of a woman."

Ms. Myers, how do you know where the shape came from? Do you think the outline was more likely inspired by a tuna-fish? ;-)

April 4, 2018, 1:02 AM · In addition to poor playability, I would think something is a VSO if the sound is so poor that it is not enjoyable to listen to, even when played well. Most $500 and less violins would fall into this category IMHO
Edited: April 4, 2018, 2:19 AM · I agree with that, most $500 violins, although you can find some "lost jewel" under that price that looks fine, sounds very well and it's well made.

Nevertheless, sound can't be a determinant factor because a Stradivarius can have crack/glue problems and suddenly sound "broken", and that wouldn't make it a VSO. Sure sound is important, but it can happen that a bad sounding violin is actually a "real" violin that has some problems that need to be addressed.

By the way, I've read quite a lot that a violin shape is based in a woman's figure. I find that statement a little stupid. Not because all the feminist BS we hear everyday (I'd take that comparison as a compliment, or something to be "proud of?", but these days compliments are offensive). The violin shape comes from the viol, which is like an ancient cello for those that doesn't know, and that shape is less "woman" shaped. It's like saying that "a lute shape is based on women breasts", I'd find that just as stupid.

Have you seen a woman posterior torso?
It doesn't look at all like a violin. Breasts don't go to the sides, they go to the front, for those who doesn't know... hahahaha.

But hey, if you have a proof that it's actually based on a woman torso, I'd be surprised. I will know then that the violin designer never met a woman, at least from Earth.

Edited: April 4, 2018, 3:09 AM · y'all don't forget. it was ME who started the 'shaped like a woman' thing...

...and the Oscar goes to Charlie Gibbs for 'nobody in the VSO plays a VSO'.

with honorable mention to David Burgess for 'inspired by a Tuna-fish'

April 4, 2018, 3:20 AM · I was gonna say what Tim said. The comparison, just in my very personal opinion, should be interpreted as a compliment rather than an attack on feminism. It would be a sad day for us all if all violins started to look like Donald Trump instead.

Regardless of the origins of the shape, there are indeed some very clear similarities. I distinctly remember there is a member whose profile picture depicts the back and hips of a nude woman, with two f-holes on each side of her lower back. Again, neither troupe nor metaphors are intended.

April 4, 2018, 4:33 AM · After a lot of research I'm quite sure the violin shape comes from the very actual pools:
Edited: April 4, 2018, 5:14 AM · Anyway what's the type of violins that do not have the edges (like guitar-shaped)? Do they sound any different? Look a lot more human that way, IMO.
As in here:

April 4, 2018, 5:29 AM · Tim I think for the price of this VSO, you can get a nice violin. :)
April 4, 2018, 9:29 AM · Actually, I thought it’s shape was to allow the bow a more extreme angle while maintaining a larger surface area, but hey...
Edited: April 4, 2018, 12:48 PM · For example, Emily Pamela is clearly an owner of a VSO. Look what she has done with her life. Kids, don't buy VSO or you will end up like Pamela and her fake money.
April 4, 2018, 1:04 PM · wow, that was a lot of typing. if only I put that much time into practice!

I think Tammuz Kolenyo also deserves honorable mention.

April 4, 2018, 2:52 PM · It's more like pasting a pre-typed text, Dave. And who knows Emily could be just a computer.

Welcome to the digital age when someone you met on the web may turn out to be a string of numbers.

April 4, 2018, 2:57 PM · Nice to meet you, my dear string. I intentionally wanted to parse you a little bit, byte 8 times I saw the booley man and I'm scared. Yay!
April 4, 2018, 3:00 PM · Honorable mention? For what?
April 4, 2018, 3:09 PM · Oh poor you tammuz, did you just get the spamming virus Emily? :D))
April 4, 2018, 4:29 PM · Lol. I just saw and deleted the repeated posts.

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