It's a little rare, that the first violin you ever own is the one that you stay with forever.
Depending on how long you play and how serious you become about the violin, you may find yourself seeking out a new instrument that responds more easily to your efforts, one that gives you more reward for your vibrato, a richer sound with more overtones, a faster response.
This week's article by Michael Sanchez about the perils of cheap Chinese fiddles contains much truth, and if you bought a non-functioning VSO ("violin shaped object"), then you should take action right away to get something better. But if you currently play on a rather cheap violin and it's working for you, please don't despair or feel strange about being happy with your violin.
I remember well when I started playing the violin, and certainly, I had no idea what made for a good violin, other than a little bit of gut instinct. To be honest, my gut instinct, without much playing experience or ability, did not get me far. I chose my first violin, a student model (it was about $225 in the 1970s -- cheap has actually gotten cheaper since then) and to be honest, I think I chose the worst one in the room. At the time, I loved it.
A few years later, my grandmother gave me a family heirloom: her old German violin. Could it be better than the one I was playing? As it turned out, it was truly a step up, and I was thrilled. I was just learning to vibrate, and I discovered that this instrument gave me much more reward for my efforts. The notes rang, and I could hear that consonance with open strings and learn good intonation. This instrument lasted me a long time, and probably for sentimental reasons, it took me a bit too long to realize that I could not do everything with it. I bumped against that reality a lot, but the big bruising bump came when trying to learn the very high passage in the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. My teacher at the time just threw up his hands, "It's not going to happen on that violin, no matter how hard you try."
Do you mean it's not entirely my fault?
At that point, and it took about a year of looking, I upgraded to a lovely modern American violin . It was very deep and mellow -- and rather yellow, my favorite color! It had a richer tone in every register, and it kept me happy for years. Until, that is, I fell in love with my Gagliano, and well, I've told that story. I was at the point where I had been playing for about 30 years and I really, really knew what I wanted. I was willing to pay for years to get it.
The point is, if you are happy with your violin, then continue to play it. If you find that you are seeking more, then start looking. But it's a process that takes time, a very personal kind of consideration, and yes, money.
So let's take a poll to see where everyone is at:
Have you ever upgraded your full-size violin, viola or cello? (We aren't counting changing sizes as a child, unless there was a serious quality upgrade in that process)
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