Breaking in a violin
I just got a new violin today as a suprise birthday present (Which I know is sort of a mess up with a violin but I won't complain). As far as I can tell from my very amateur knowledge, it seems like a decent violin (although not "expensive" in violin terms) and was twice as much as my previous one (this one was $1200). But when I first started playing it, I noticed the tone really wasn't much better than my previous one. Some of the notes are "sweeter" I think, but it lacks resonance and an open sound. Both came from the same shop and it's supposed to be a decently respected shop. Will "breaking in" the new one really cause the tone to become substantially better than the cheaper one? Also I heard you could do a "temporary" break in that wouldn't last as long as if you broke in by playing by setting a tuner to produce the note of a string and setting the tuner on the violin. Supposedly that string will become sweeter and clearer. Ever heard of this and will it cause any harm?
In general, I think it is better getting an instrument you like from the very beginning, and not count with radical changes due to playing in.
You could play it for a while and see what happens, if you're satisfied and don't want a new violin.
If you dont like it at the beginning the chances are very low it gets that much better you will really like it, if even better at all.
This might be a dud, too. See if you can take it back to the shop and trade it in for an instrument of the same price -- maybe even a different violin of the same "model".
There might be some slight change in tone if the instrument has been sitting/hanging idle for a prolonged period of time. It is worth a trial period. Also have your teacher play both instruments and see if you both can, or cannot, hear a difference between the instruments.
Welcome to Violinist.com Bob Hoebart.
Violin myths die hard.
I had my Jay Haide from new several years ago, long before I started having real lessons, and I can attest to the fact that it sounds and plays much better in every way now than it did then.
Violin facts get killed by mythologists, too!!
In my relatively limited experience, some violins play in, others don't. Some seem to get improvements from allegedly snakeoil stuff like ToneRite, others make no difference. And people will argue to death about the validity or one or the other argument. ;)
Good advice, Fox.
Yes, good advice.
I've had a number of violins and in my experience they have not "broken in" very much. The ones that are good were good on day one - right from the maker's hands. Improvements to others have occurred through adjustments of sound post, change of bridge, and finding the best strings for the particular fiddle. Even my best ones have benefitted from such expert luthier modifications.
I wouldn't have payed more than $1.8 million!!
That's why you didn't get it! ;-)
Bo, That was one of the reasons.
Violins improve with time and being played. Fact.
"Violins improve with time and being played. Fact."
Most violins at least change the same if they are simply strung up without being played and kept under tension. Some violins get worse over time, too.
Yes, trade it for something you like. For any new violin, at first play it at full volume, in tune of course. After about a year take it back to the maker to check, refit, the set-up.
Here's another consideration: a better violin will amplify the good in your playing, but it will also amplify the bad. I have had students who don't like the sound of a clearly (to me) better sounding violin a because the old violin, with its weaker tone and less complex voice, was aiding them in glossing over their deficiencies!
I would think of older violins usually having a more complex voice.
have you heard of our lords and saviors overtones :))) , thats the stuff
@Scott. You are right. I should have said, "Violins CHANGE with time and being played." A badly made, over wooded violin, will not improve significantly if at all. Poor varnish can also harden and choke a violin over time.
Btw, Carlo. Who made the wonderfull scroll on you profile picture?
I think a more accurate description is "violins get progressively adjusted to your tastes with time" - for example, better fitting a bridge, adjusting a soundpost, fine-setting string height, etc etc... All these small adjustements, in my oppinion, are what is considered the "violin break-in", rather than some magical sound improvement due to vibrations.
As with most things that vibrate, the more you vibrate them the easier they vibrate, so there is an even scientific expectation that violins will get more resonant with time.
Thanks Carlo, a great scroll, even on the scale of the best.
As I watch people develop with their violins, it's less clear to me that the player is breaking in the violin and more clear to me that the violin is breaking in the player. To put it another way, over time the player learns how to best operate a particularly instrument.
As A violin dealer who doesn't play violin, I'm sitting on lots of instruments that haven't been played for a long time, sometimes decades, to say that they don't improve after being heavily played seems outright ridiculous to my experience, perhaps some people just don't notice the improvements, but I certainly do.
What "improves" is, in the short run (less that 20-40 years), response, and not tone per se.
I've experienced instruments getting louder. One instrument that hadn't been played for years, out on approval for 2 weeks with a real player that was playing it a lot, I would swear it sounded twice as loud after he brought it back.
I have never had experience breaking in a new violin. If I have a new bridge installed or soundpost adjustment I always notice a change in tone and I notice a subtle change for 1-3 days afterward. Some learned people on another site say that after a soundpost adjustment that that is the final sound and it will not change as a violin "settles in" to this new change and some cite tests with meters and graphs to back this claim up. But my ears kind of tell me otherwise and just because there was a minor adjustment made to my instrument does not necessarily mean the tone improves for a few days afyerwards, sometimes I think the sound gets seemingly worse to my ear.
I'm certainly not saying that new violins don't change over time, or that instruments that haven't been played for a long time don't change after being played.
While its not unheard of, very few people report violins getting worse in tone when they are played in, improving in tone, or staying the same are the much more common reported options.
Lyndon,i had meant to get across that sometimes if my soundpost is adjusted it does not always sound better to me. I do wait for a week or so to be sure that an adjustment is not the sound I am looking for before altering it again. It is hard for me to write this in a logical manner so it makes sense of my experience.
With violin sound quality being extremely subjective, it makes no sense that any change would be definitively positive.
We're not talking about does a violin change when you adjust the soundpost, but rather when you take a violin that has been sitting for a long time and start playing it regularly, does it improve. Of course if you adjust the soundpost it may get better it may get worse.
I have found some new violins do 'break in' and their sound can change quite dramatically. But other violins do not change their sound at all. I can offer no reason for this difference.
@Lyndon -- I realize exactly what you are talking about.
Lets say a violin gets more resonant from breaking in, who's going to say more resonant is bad?????
Some violins are too resonant -- like a piano with the sustain pedal on. Heifetz said of overly resonant violins something like "I prefer that the violin stop when I do". Hehe. Now, yes, some amount of resonance is of course desired. But if the notes start to blur into each other in a way that is uncontrollable, that can be problematic.
Resonant is bad if it's bad resonance. I've heard violins that sounded like they were being played inside a coffee can. My violin sounded like that for a couple of days after I put Larsens on it. Then it was okay. Phew.
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