V.com weekend vote: Have you ever damaged your violin, or had it damaged by someone or something else?

May 19, 2017, 10:38 AM · A few days ago one of my students handed me her violin to tune at the beginning of her lesson, and to my great dismay I found a couple of very deep cracks running out of the right f-hole.

cracked scroll

It was clearly a new injury; I am very familiar with her fiddle. It is a nice-quality student instrument that the family had recently purchased, which made it all the more painful. What happened? It could have been the school field trip, in which the violin had been transported with a lot of other instruments, possibly jostled around, possibly left in a too-cold or too-warm vehicle.

But I found another possible culprit: her violin case, in which the violin is quite elevated and the spinner for the bow is awfully low. She'd placed a cloth underneath the violin, elevating it further, and I could easily see a scenario where the lid came down and the spinner intersected with the wood. Thank goodness, they will take it to a good luthier, who should be able to diagnose the problem and fix the crack quite well. And possibly hook her up with a new case!

But it is very, very upsetting when one finds damage on one's instrument, whether it is caused by blunt trauma, injury in transport, or the long-term use of something like a case or a tuner that cuts down into the wood. Most often, a good violin maker can fix most problems -- I've even heard of resurrecting a violin after it's been driven over by a car! But still, we want to avoid the damage in the first place!

Have you ever damaged your violin, or had it damaged by something or someone else? Let us know what happened. Maybe your story will help someone else avoid the same fate!

Thank you to Morgan Watkins for sending me this vote idea! I invite you to e-mail me with your ideas!

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May 19, 2017 at 06:06 PM · I once broke the bridge on a violin, kind of by accident. It happened several months ago. I got it fixed, but I still have terrible memories of that incident and I still get mad at myself for it. Otherwise, I have never seriously damaged a violin.

May 19, 2017 at 06:29 PM · When I was a child, maybe 11-12 years old with my first full-size violin, my bow went up and the frog contacted one of the near corners and tore it off. There was a good luthier in east Detroit at the time who fixed it beautifully.

"another possible culprit: her violin case, in which the violin is quite elevated and the spinner for the bow is awfully low. She'd placed a cloth underneath the violin, elevating it further..."

One possibility is that this is a case that was not originally designed for "suspension" but they just added the suspension pads which raises the violin as much as half an inch. Was the cloth that she put under the instrument a cleaning cloth or the case blanket? If the latter, that's a lot of fabric.

May 19, 2017 at 07:01 PM · It was oddly padded to raise the violin, kind of slope it upward toward the scroll. It was just a cleaning cloth, but also the way the case was, you really had to push the violin down for it to be down. Otherwise, the fiddle kind of stayed higher, bolstered by the sides of the case. It would not necessarily nestle in, if that makes any sense. So I think it's possible she could have placed it in, not really pushed it down, then the spinner would have come right down on it. :( I do think that's partly a case-design problem, if that's what happened.

May 19, 2017 at 08:09 PM · I had a not particularly valuable old Markneukirchen violin damaged by a pretender violin repair person. I discovered that the top was left way too thick, and I wanted it regraduated with a hope to improve the tone. The person I took it to claimed to be a trained maker, but wound up splitting the top in several places while removing it, and used his thicknessing caliper by allowing it to snap down on the top with every measurement. The result was that the top wound up dimpled all over like a golf ball. I was so disgusted that I couldn't stand to look at it after that, and just sold it cheap. I'm certain that I could have done the job better myself. When I told other makers in the area about my experience, they all said he was an untrained pretender. It still annoys me when I think about it.

And when I first started playing the violin at age 15, I dropped a really cheap first bow and caused the tip to break off. I've always felt that my teacher at the time was secretly happy about it, because I'd learned an invaluable lesson at a very low cost.

May 19, 2017 at 09:59 PM · No damage to the instrument itself, though I recall that one bridge broke a few months after I'd moved up to my first 4/4-size instrument. I don't remember how long it took to replace the bridge. I either had a spare or got a replacement very fast.

May 19, 2017 at 11:54 PM · The only damage I have ever caused to one of my violins was with the fine tuners I used to have on my 1907 instrument. The ends of the screws dug into the wood. My luthier did a good job of restoring the pits and I now have fine tuners that cannot burrow into the instrument.

Fortunately, I got paranoid about violin damage at a very early age. I still remember someone in our school orchestra, probably around fifth grade, who dropped their violin and substantial damage occurred. Or, at least that is what we all believed. I remember hearing the great angst and pitiful wailing of the poor kid who fumbled their instrument. That incident left me scarred for life and I have been extremely careful ever since.

May 20, 2017 at 12:25 PM · I need to vote two..

One drop when the stage ended and I did not see it. Broken scroll. I was lucky to not break something else on the violin.

One car accident, completly smashed into pieces (no humans seriously harmed).

May 20, 2017 at 05:12 PM · I live in the S.F. Bay area and once had a violin sitting on a stand. We had a earthquake large enough to dislodge some books from a nearby bookshelf and one struck the bridge and broke it. Amazing enough, there was no visible damage to the violin, apart from bridge. Since that incident my violin lives in it's case when not in use.

May 20, 2017 at 05:22 PM · Many years ago when I was in the university orchestra I had a bow out on trial. My stand partner got really excited and wanted to try it out himself, and before I knew it he was trying to wrestle it out of my hands. Next thing I see is the bow falling to the ground in slow motion..then.. crack. Worst nightmare come to life - I see the bow broken right near the head. Mortified,I bring it back in to Gailes violin shop in Maryland where I took it out, and they graciously took it back without any judgement or difficulties.

May 20, 2017 at 11:01 PM · Presumably we're not concerned with the occupational risk of minor incidental scratches (usually in an orchestral environment) which don't have an effect on the instrument's performance. My 18th c violin, for example, has a very fragile varnish on its top plate and is therefore only too easily marked, so I wait until enough minor scratches have accumulated to become noticeable to all and sundry before I have them attended to in one go.

Incidentally, for me it is a good policy when I need to do anything that could conceivably put the top plate at risk (changing or adding a fine tuner, or, particularly, changing a tailpiece) is to protect the plate with a sheet of chamois.

May 22, 2017 at 12:37 AM · I had my first violin for only a few weeks beforeI dropped it. Sheer idiocy. I picked it up from a stand on the floor and fumbled it. It seemed to take about a week to plummet, tumbling, onto the hardwood floor.

Crack in the neck, close to the pegbox. It cost half the price of the violin to get it properly repaired - fingerboard off, blind hole drilled, dowel in, fingerboard back on.

I probably learned something from that. Not sure what.

May 22, 2017 at 12:50 AM · When I was a kid all the other kids in the school string class would hang their violins by the scroll from the lip of their music stands. I tried it at home and got a terrible scolding. Nowadays always back in its case, or on the wall-mounted "String Swing" hanger in my practice room.

May 22, 2017 at 02:19 PM · I broke my violin before my very first concert, at age 9. I was running to catch the bus from dress rehearsal back to my school. I slipped and dropped the case. It landed upside down. I didn't see the full extent of the damage until right before the concert: the top was cracked on both sides of the bridge all the way down to the top of the finger board. The bridge was caved in on both sides. My parents were furious, as it was my mother's old violin. However, I got a loaner from school. The top was replaced and I continued to play.

May 23, 2017 at 12:38 AM · I was playing in a pit orchestra/band several years ago, and they would mic the strings with standing mics. The stage-hand dropped the mic on my viola while I was holding it up. Didn't crack it, but it did scar the finish quite deeply. The ground layer wasn't damaged, so I left it as-is.

May 23, 2017 at 03:29 PM · I took my fiddle to a local music shop to have a new tailpiece installed. When it was returned to me, I saw a nick had been taken out of the varnish between the bridge and the tailpiece. I asked what had happened, and was told the tailgut (?) piece had snapped, and the bridge had collapsed (luckily nothing happened to the sound post). How this damaged the varnish, I don't know. They told me the tailgut had been defective, and that this had never happened to them before.

May 23, 2017 at 04:10 PM · Violin- in college, would ride my bike to violin lessons, to save time. One day fell off bike dropped case. Only broke the bridge, but seeing the shattered pieces in the case got me pretty rattled. The greate danger actually turned t to be the repair process, when the repair person wanted to cover some spots with his own warnish, a hideous red color that would have looked awful. He just happened to call and mentioned it, instead of doing it without asking...

Bow .... more recently, I Bought the violin and bow of my dreams. Had not had the bow more than a few weeks, was playing, and suddenly it flew out of my hand, rose into the air, descended point down, and after what felt like an hOur, hit a metal strip on the floor. I felt sick. But, was lucky, as only the protective ivory tip chipped, but the wood was ok.

May 23, 2017 at 10:23 PM · One or more of my students in a violin class damaged my violin while I was out of the classroom. The violin appeared to have been dropped on the floor, then picked up roughly. The back seam opened. The base bar cracked, and there was a crack from an f-hole. $3700.00 of damage. Nobody would admit to touching my violin, and the school would not help pay for the damage. Thankfully, I had a certificate of appraisal and my insurance covered the cost of repairing the instrument. I now have a $400.00 fiddle that I use to teach.

May 23, 2017 at 10:26 PM · I lent my nice old German fiddle to a bandmate, who vanished with it, leaving no trace. It had belonged to my great-grandfather. The pain of the betrayal remains . . .

May 24, 2017 at 12:42 AM · I fell off a stage with it. Nemes Senior mended it, after which it sounded better, but warned us not to move the soundpost, as it was now integral to the structure of the instrument (He added as little wood as possible). We forgot, and over the next few years part of the belly sank (the tight case may also have been to blame, and I no longer have tthat case), and I had to have done the wood insertion (by someone else, he having retired long ago) he had been trying to avoid doing. It hasn't sounded as good since, but is still a respectable violin.

May 24, 2017 at 07:30 PM · When I was on my way to my violin lesson and didn't know where to put my tennis ball, I was a 12 year old clueless girl, I tossed in in with my violin. My mother's violin.

When I closed the case it....'stuck'...wouldn't close, so I just used a bit more pressure and wow....it shut!!

At my lesson the teacher tuned it and said: "This feels strange." She handed to me and asked if I could tell what happen. The finger board was laying FLAT on the body. I had pushed it down with the tennis ball.

I had no idea how much it cost back than to fix it, but mother did have it fixed. What a naïve kid I was. Gee wiz!!!!

May 25, 2017 at 07:06 PM · For your consideration: Having an old scrap violin that was ravaged by its previous owner....virtually in pieces, I'd enter the first day's class of non-violin majors, with these pieces in a case...and as I approached the front of the room would allow the latch to open and drop all the pieces...the class didn't know it was a gag.There were gushes of sympathetic dismay...such fun ..and that first day we "examined" the makings of a violin from the inside>out. I used this stunt for a couple semesters til word-got-out and ruined the image...I gave the prop and stunt to a colleague at another college for their enjoyment

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