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Playing by the Numbers

Krista Moyer

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Published: September 5, 2014 at 1:00 AM [UTC]

I’m not in the market for a violin. Not really. I keep saying that. After all, I’ve only had my current violin for a year and I really do like it. However, it’s a 3/4 and I’m constantly being pressured by people who know nothing about me, my teacher, my playing, or my physical limitations, to consider a full sized instrument.

They give me many examples of why I “should” have a full sized violin. Midori can do it, they’re tiny and have no problem, I’ll never get taken seriously with a fractional, no one will ever hear my violin, the sound will never compare, I’m silly for listening to my teacher, I can just learn to deal with the discomfort, etc. Sometimes it feels as if the cards are stacked against me.

With all that going on, it’s only natural that I should explore what is out there, right? Sure, I’m the rankest of amateurs; I rarely play in front of anyone but my husband or teacher. But hey, what does it hurt to try?

I finally got the opportunity to see what I was missing. I was fortunate to visit a local maker, Don Leister, who was kind enough to allow me to take one of his full size violins for a home trial. I am delighted by the sound of this violin. It sounds similar to the one I have, but bigger. It’s hard to explain. It’s just more – more volume, more resonance, more color. It has a wonderful response, and speaks to me. It doesn't hurt that it's also beautiful.

There’s only one problem. This violin is too big. I don’t think it’s simply a matter of getting used to it. My hand aches after 15 minutes of playing. I can’t crank my elbow far enough under the instrument to play in high positions, especially on the G string. The pegs are so far away I have to take it down to tune because I can’t reach them all. Clearly I’m cursed with T-rex arms.

That’s not to say that I will never play anything larger than a 3/4. Don also makes 7/8 size instruments. I briefly played one that he made that had recently been acquired by a new acquaintance of mine. I believe I was told it was based on a Bergonzi pattern. It has a wonderful sound that easily measures up to various full sized instruments I have heard. While Don doesn’t have any on hand at present, he said he would call when he has one available.

As I told him, I'm not in a hurry. There is plenty of time to right-size my violin. In the meantime, I'm still having a love affair with my 3/4 violin. Shhhhh.... don't tell my husband!

Posted on September 6, 2014 at 9:16 PM
I've had a similar experience. I was playing a full-size that I felt was too big for me, too much of a struggle. All the big people I asked teacher included, assured me that I wasn't that small, smaller people than me played full-size...

Then, after weeks of agonising, I asked my local string shop if I could play their 7/8 and 3/4 violins...

To cut a long story short, I traded in my full size for a 7/8... And am delighted. Just sorry it took me so long to find out!

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