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Eleanor Myers

Choosing your instrument....

April 16, 2012 at 10:48 AM

I am 16 and have just finished my grade 8 violin. So; what next? I have been playing the same violin for 6 years now, and have very little experience on any violin other than this one. It is German, quite clear sounding, quiet and not particularly resonating. How am I supposed to find a new violin which I like and will be good for me as I carry on my studies? Any violin I play now sounds and feels wrong.I am borrowing a gio paulo copy at the moment and it took me at least two weeks to get the notes clear and adjust the violin to how I wanted it to sound. How can I do that in half an hour in a shop?

From Paul Deck
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 5:59 PM
I guess this topic might have made more sense as a discussion item rather than a blog entry, but I'll give it a go anyway.

You are very accustomed to your present violin. I was too -- but trusted teachers told me in clear terms that it was not doing the job. It was quiet and lacked resonance, perhaps like yours. It was "stuffy." I took it to a couple of luthiers, and they looked over very quickly and showed me why the instrument did not produce a big tone.

The first violin I tried seriously sounded too harsh. (I was used to pressing my bow into my strings to make enough sound.) I had to play four or five other violins before I realized that all good violins create more sound than mine, which is what I had been missing all these years. And yes I had to change how I was playing a little. But at that point I could focus less on how different they were compared to my old violin, and more on the differences among one another. Of course half an hour in a shop is only a handshake with a violin. To get to know the instrument you need to take them home.

Someone at your level will probably need to spend around $10000 on a violin and bow (and perhaps even that is a minimum estimate) to have something with which to grow your technique and musicality. I'm afraid ours is not an inexpensive hobby.

From Simon Streuff
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 11:16 PM
I think that your teacher will have good ideas for you. I can only recommend, play as much violins as you can get, also more expensive ones, just that you know what is possible. But really look inside yourself what YOU want from a violin, sometimes opinions differ here quite a lot. If you want to go in a orchestra later, listen to the sound of the violin section. it can give you ideas! Playability will always be a problem when changing violin, but one gets used to that too, so if you play a lot different violins, you will know how to adept more quickly

From Vicky Pharis
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 11:19 PM
You can find a shop that will let you narrow down your choices to 2 violins. They should let you take them home and play them. You will never know how your new instrument will sound until you play it where you are used to hearing yourself practice.
Posted on April 16, 2012 at 11:50 PM
In order to judge things you have to develop a good reference table. You know your mother's cake is good because you have sampled hundreds of different cakes and, eventually, got able to judge them. The same with instruments and bows.

It looks easy but it is not, it takes time till you develop your skills to judge sound, playability, dynamic range, response, harmonics, volume, sound colour, etc.

Good luck!

From John Cadd
Posted on April 17, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Is it a good idea to look for a violin with a flatter belly plate style that Stradivarius developed , rather than the deeper curved models . They have always had a reputation of a larger sound . It may simplify your choice . Don`t buy anything that needs setting up at your stage. It needs to sound at least as good as your own violin before you take it home . If not , find a better shop . Read all you can about setting up so you will know what to look for . String clearance . Exact fitting of bridge feet. Soundpost position .Just have a peek inside . Nothing too extreme about that .Just as many indicators as you can find . Nothing twisted . No cracks . Wait till the money rolls in for cracked ones .
From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 17, 2012 at 3:50 PM
Sometimes schools or youth orchestras have programs that will lend young musicians a fine violin to play for a few months. I'm wondering if you could work something out like this, just so you can get an idea of what it's like to play on one. Ask your teacher, perhaps your youth orchestra leader. I think it's very hard to choose a violin of a higher order if you've never played one.
From Eleanor Myers
Posted on April 17, 2012 at 6:20 PM
Wow, thanks. That is all dead helpful. I am in the process of moving teachers so checking with them may be hard, although some of my friends parents should be able to help me. A very good shop in Blackpool does let customers try out a few violins over a long period of time, so I will probably look there first. The list of possible shops and instruments is endless though, I will always be scared of choosing the wrong one........ it's not exactly like shoe shopping where there are only a few colours to pick from! Thanks :)
From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 17, 2012 at 6:43 PM
Another thing to remember when trying violins: always have someone play for you the ones you like best so you can hear what the violin will sound like to an audience. You cannot tell this when it is under your ear. The same advice applies to trying bows. Good luck!

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