Best component to upgrade for better sound quality?

October 6, 2017, 8:06 PM · I got a cheap stradivarius copy violin and was wondering why the sound quality is so horrible when I play certain notes. I had just gotten the A-string changed, and it's the same string that makes the worst scratchy sound most of the time. It may have been a worse quality string than the rest. I'm just starting out, and I know when I am bowing wrong which can also made a bad sound. The sound goes terrible when I 1) play on A-string, 2) play towards the frog on the A-string especially, 3) place fingers on the strings for higher notes like low B and G. Even when I play a long note and am looking at it to make sure I"m bowing straight, it still comes out bad. I've tried adjusting bow tightness, rosin amount, etc. My question is, assuming it's not my technique, what part of the violin should be changed to produce a decent sound on all notes? the bow and/or strings?
Is it necessary to buy an entire upgrade of a violin, body and all? Or is it worth it to just invest in better strings and a better bow? What's the difference? Thanks

Replies (6)

October 6, 2017, 9:45 PM · Have a tech check it out. Also, this violin is probably not that great.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 10:14 PM · By "cheap" how cheap is it? I've heard really cheap ones <$100 and they do sound meh. There's definitely upgrade in sound quality as you move up in price. That upgrade in sound quality/price diminishes at a certain point. I think people generally will agree to invest the most money on the violin in terms of equipment.

Strings do make a difference, but the violin itself is the most important. What string did you get?

Bows make a lot of difference too. I'm in the process of upgrading my cheap bow and I do notice that I make less scratchy sound with the new ones I'm trying.

Just saw your profile. I'm also a beginner and just started 6+ months ago. Definitely sound scratchy at the start. Tried teaching myself in the first 2 months. I rented a violin for 3 months. I think it was about $28 a month for a $800 outfit. It's night and day compared to the cheap $100 violins. I was checking if I'd like it enough (playing the violin) before purchasing my own, which I eventually did.

I do recommend finding a teacher though as soon as you can. Prioritize that over purchasing a more expensive equipment (your teacher can also help with selecting an instrument). There were several things I thought I was doing correctly based on online tutorials, but were actually not quite correct.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 11:02 PM · Debbie, you said you are just staring out and you are self-teaching. I'm sorry to tell you that we cannot assume it's not your technique because as a self-taught beginner, it is a certainty that you will not sound good with any violin. Buying another instrument or even buying a set of new string will be more wasteful than find a reputable teacher, even just for one trial lesson. Let a teacher play your violin and to show you how it could sound with proper technique. Alternatively, rent a best violin you can afford and try it to see how much you can improve your sound. So that's the bad news for you.

The good news is that apparently you can tell what sounds bad which means you are listening to your own playing. You are exploring and trying ways to fix problems. Not everyone has such talent. You can go far, but here is the thing: you cannot blame the tool before you know how to handle it. Always try to make the best sound you can from your current violin, be it a cheap student violin or one that worth millions. This is how we grow as a violinist.

Edited: October 7, 2017, 5:31 AM · The player. Even with professional instruction and a great instrument, a beginning student will not be able to produce a sound comparable to that teacher on a student instrument. Or at least not consistently, given that a student with effort and specific instruction should be able to make a single note sound good for a while, within limits. Moreover, when listeners complain about the sound of beginners, it's usually mostly about intonation, not the tone per se. A bad tone can be listenable if it's in tune.
Edited: October 7, 2017, 11:30 AM · Beginners (and some others!) should be aware that the sound they hear from the violin they're playing is not the same sound that a listener 10 feet or more away will hear. This is because the really high-frequency noise - bow hiss and other very high-frequency noise which is always present - doesn't carry more than a few feet from the violin. This means, incidentally, that microphone positioning has to be carefully thought out beforehand to get good results.

In a beginner's case the scratchiness, as Yixi Zhang pointed out above, is due to lack of good technique, is obvious to a listener and can be eliminated by good teaching.

An experiment ...
Ask a good player (preferably your teacher) to play your violin. Stand a few feet away and listen. Then stand close behind the player on their left side so that your head is close to theirs and then you should be hearing the sound of the violin as they hear it - but ask permission before you do this! Even with a good violin and player the difference between what the player hears and what gets through to the audience can be surprising.

October 7, 2017, 1:39 PM · I also play a late 1800's German copy of a Strad. I put a lot of money into restoration and improving the tone. A good luthier can only do so much and it depends on how much you want to spend. Different bridges, adjusting the sound post, even measuring and shaving the plates to change the resonance.

Hindsight says that I should have just bought a better instrument 40 years ago but my instrument has a family story and sentimental value. I did learn a lot about violins, how they are made, how they work (my luthier was a fellow engineer by training).

The real test is to see what somebody who plays better than you can do with your current instrument. If you both sound pretty much the same only a new instrument (or major overhaul) will change the tone you get. If, however, somebody else makes your instrument sing, then you have work to do.

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