V.com weekend vote: What's the scariest thing that has happened to your instrument?

July 6, 2019, 11:45 PM · One has to take serious care of a violin, because scary things can happen to an object so delicate and valuable!

fiddle in danger

Violins and violas (and the bows that go with them) are notoriously breakable, losable, desirable to steal, etc. Their small size allows us to leave them in harm's way, all too easily, whether that means aimply forgetting the fiddle somewhere or placing it somewhere accident-prone. I personally know two separate people who backed cars over their violins, which they'd innocently placed behind the vehicle while loading it. Eeeek! Nightmare!

For me, probably the worst thing that happened with my fiddle was the two times - not one - when my bow snapped. Once I tripped over it and the stick simply snapped - I was playing in a youth symphony concert and this caused me great distress. It was 100 percent my clumsiness, which was even more distressing! I learned not to hold a bow straight down when climbing steps with the instrument. The other time, it was a very old bow, and when I tightened it, the tip simply snapped off. That time, I blamed the bow, which was from my grandmother's attic and likely had some kind of hairline crack already. Still, it was very dramatic to tighten a bow and have it break!

We all have stories, some more harrowing than others. What is yours? Have you ever actually broken your fiddle in some way? Left it behind somewhere? Did someone else do something to it? Has it been taken from you? And what measures have you taken to keep your violin safe in the future? Do you have suggestions for others? Please choose the answer that is closest for you and then share your experiences in the comments.

Replies

July 7, 2019 at 05:05 AM · I broke the bridge out of stupidity. So guilty...

July 7, 2019 at 05:38 AM · Bridges falling always are a scary surprise and sound like a disaster. Actually though, I have kind of a tie. Both were my student violin, an 1826 Stainer model from Vienna. First was back when I was just learning, on day it would just not hold it's tuning so the teacher tried it and suddenly the tail gut broke! The tailpiece flew up and over and it sounded like a disaster. To my 11yo self it seemed like the violin must be damaged.

Next and worse, same violin in high school in it's old wood case, the latch didn't hold and the case popped open. The violin rolled out onto the concrete damaging the lower edge and wrenched the neck cracking the top along the fingerboard. It was repaired but i can still see the cracks and where the edge was crushed in.

July 7, 2019 at 07:16 AM · Just two minor scares. One was when my bridge fell during a dress rehearsal -- fortunately there was a luthier in the orchestra who could step out of the rehearsal with me and check the soundpost. The other was when the plug and hair came out of my bow tip while reading chamber music, also cracking the tip plate; I didn't know it was an easy repair until I took it to the luthier a few hours later.

July 7, 2019 at 07:39 AM · I once took a violin to a shop for some major adjustments that required taking the top off. It turned out that repairer was not qualified to do the work and major damage ensued. Fortunately it wasn't much of a violin anyway. Lesson learned. Over the years I've mentioned that story to other area repairers and gotten responses like "You took it to him?," and "He wasn't a real violin maker."

I have dreams (nightmares) where I leave my violin somewhere and go back to find it gone. And no one will help me to find it. I have that same dream about my bicycle.

July 7, 2019 at 07:52 AM · Only recently I had to make trip by tour bus and take my violin with me. I bought an extra seat for my violin but the driver didn't care, snatched my violin from me and stored it in the luggage compartment. Though luckily I got it back unharmed I am still angry and upset.

And the same plug-and-hair incident happened to me as well. Like in Andrew`s case, it happened at an inconvenient time but was an easy repair.

July 7, 2019 at 09:05 AM · Bridge collapsing- twice. Once when pulling it back after restringing, once dropped it: on the bed fortunately.

Checked the soundpost was up, loosened the strings and set the bridge up again. Must have happened to most violinists.

Probably only a problem for children.

Terry

July 7, 2019 at 11:08 AM · I was playing in a rehearsal just before a concert when there was a cracking noise and my viola started to sound very strange and buzzed on certain notes. Strangely it seemed to stop when I gripped the chinrest tightly. In the next rests I took it off my shoulder and the chinrest dropped off, revealing gaps along the top and bottom of the lower bout rib on that side. The whole rib had come unglued!

Fortunately, an easy and quick repair and I still have the instrument to this day, some 40 years later...

July 7, 2019 at 01:36 PM · I decided to learn to play the cello as an older adult and so I rented an instrument. Within a week, my cats had knocked it over and the neck broke off. Luckily, I had insurance. What a nightmare.

July 7, 2019 at 02:56 PM · "something else" = bridge breaking during a practice session a year or so ago. Examination with a lens revealed an old flaw within the wood. A replacement bridge fitted by my luthier transformed the instrument.

My chamber orchestra was giving a concert in a village many miles out of town. After the concert, an elderly lady violinist placed her violin case on the ground behind her BMW, intending to put it in the trunk, was distracted in conversation with someone, got into her car and drove off, forgetting the violin. Fortunately, an elderly gentleman in the orchestra spotted what had happened, picked up the violin and chased his colleague all 20 miles back to her house. On arrival, the lady stopped, got out and was about to open the car trunk when her colleague pulled up behind and presented her with her violin, in its case and unharmed.

I think they both well deserved their cup of coffee afterwards!

July 7, 2019 at 03:12 PM · I had just purchased a Bam carbon fiber case the week before I tripped and fell in the parking lot after a concert. My violin case went flying , landed upside down and skidded across the asphalt. I couldn’t believe I had that case only for a week and there were scratches on the case but the violin and bow were completely unharmed. Can’t say the same for me! I guess now my new case (and me) has some “battle scars” but not the violin!

July 7, 2019 at 03:28 PM · I was taking my shoulder rest off and my hand slipped and I banged my violin against a chair which then knocked the bridge over (didn’t break) and the sound post came loose, I also bent the e fine tuner. I was sick, just sick. But, took it to a luthier and was fixed the next day. Soooo very careful now, I never have my violin near any furniture, just my lap!!??

July 7, 2019 at 03:52 PM · This is kind of embarrassing but last winter I was practicing my viola with too many layers of clothes on. My viola slipped and my bow flew out of my hand. The tip skipped across the front of the viola, leaving a trail of little nicks. I managed to grab the viola and the bow wasn't damaged. After that, I bought appropriate outerwear so that I can practice with less bulk at the neckline.

July 7, 2019 at 04:16 PM · "Scariest" for me involves something almost happening. Years ago, I had a cheap violin case that didn't latch properly, and it had nothing (no strip of cloth or whatever) to stop it from opening out 180 degrees. I had a nice violin and bows, but I was an impoverished musician and had been given this case, and was too cheap and lazy to upgrade. SO, I am headed to a gig, and pull the violin case out of the back seat, as I am parked along a busy street. I swing the case out, it unlatches, and as cars streak by, I am holding a wide-open case, my violin had flipped out of its bed onto the inside of the lid of the case upside-down. I had to contort myself to hold the case up so the violin didn't proceed to roll out onto the street, but somehow it had caught itself between the two bows. I managed to pull it all in, and I gathered it all together. As soon as the gig ended, I went out and bought a decent case. Whew!

July 7, 2019 at 05:25 PM · This didn't happen to me, but a colleague of my teacher at Juilliard. Right after graduation, this colleague (who shall remain nameless) was hired by a major symphony, and then went to a fine violin shop and made a down payment on a $100,000.00 violin (this is in the early eighties). Putting the violin case on top of his VW bug, and before he went to get insurance for the instrument, he took off, heading on the highway. Suddenly he remembered where he left the violin, just in time to watch the case fly off the back of the car, hit the road, and get demolished by an eighteen wheeler right behind him. Every time I moan and groan about not having an expensive fiddle, I think of that story.

July 7, 2019 at 06:26 PM · "Something else." About 8 years ago, on my 1883 fiddle, the tailpiece button failed. The outside, the button end, had split off from the base, leaving the base inside the opening.

I removed the remaining wood with the slow drill, but common sense told me to leave the button replacement to a luthier. I did. The timing was good, because I'd already planned to have the luthier re-bush the peg holes and install new pegs and a new tailpiece. I got all items done on the same job order.

Fortunately, the wood failure happened while the instrument was in its case. I have read on this site of at least one sudden, violent end-button failure -- an instant energy release in a string set being held under 50+ pounds of tension -- while the player was in orchestra rehearsal. No personal injury, but the thought of something like this happening is scary, indeed.

July 7, 2019 at 09:46 PM · I fell down a flight of stairs in my dormitory during undergrad with my violin case on my back. I checked the violin before I even considered that I might have been injured, and thankfully the case did its job and the violin was fine. I was also fine apart from a little bruising. After that I never rush stairs.

July 8, 2019 at 12:40 AM · I've played it.

July 8, 2019 at 04:08 AM · I once sat on my violin and broke the chinrest. I have seen someone in orchestra go to remove their mute and rip their whole bridge off. Also I saw a bow snap at the tip (old repair becoming unstuck).

July 8, 2019 at 04:48 AM · When someone in the first violin section set her instrument on her chair, it predictably got knocked off, ... the entire orchestra went silent suddenly! Oooops... fortunately no damage to it, but it wasn't the first time that happened either. Others hang theirs by the scroll on their stand, another dangerous bad habit.

July 8, 2019 at 10:07 AM · During an orchestra rehearsal a few years ago put my violin on a vacant chair on my right but slightly behind me so that I could mark up something in my part.

I turned round to pick it up and managed to knock it off the chair onto the tiled church floor. I caused some damage to the wood and it went badly out of tune. I managed to sort out the tuning without much issue and had to pay for the damaged to be repaired. You would never notice the repair unless you look very closely.

I have also managed to crack the tip of a bow but this was easily repaired for not much money. On the main bow I currently use I have had to have the brass eye replaced twice. Again not a particularly expensive repair which was done whilst I waited at the shop.

July 8, 2019 at 11:32 AM · When I need to leave my violin unattended during a rehearsal it goes straight into its case - no argument. Oddly, in my symphony orchestra rehearsals few violinists take this elementary precaution, but the violinists in my chamber orchestra are noticeably more careful.

July 8, 2019 at 12:32 PM · My observations are the same as Trevor's although I don't play in a chamber orchestra regularly just on odd occasions. The number of people in symphony orchestras who leave their instruments on a chair during a break is impressive.

It's going to end badly for someone one day just like it did for me as explained in my earlier post.

Quite recently I saw a woodwind player knock over the bow of my desk partner and didn't make any effort to pick it up and replace it on the chair from which it had fallen. I opted to pick it up myself to avoid it getting trodden on.

July 8, 2019 at 01:45 PM · I purchased a violin that, if in perfect condition, would have been 4x higher than my price range - but in its post-repair state was within my price range. Yet, after trying many violins, this one sounded and felt the best time and again. The repairs are stable, but I still worry over it because of its history. I think my next violin will be from a new maker.

Another time, I was practicing late in the evening and my bow literally fell out of my hand and dropped on the floor (the frog end hit the rug then the bow landed half on the rug half on the hardwood floor). The stick split at the button end in five or six places, and I thought the bow was unrepairable. I spent the night crying and sick to my stomach. (And I decided that having a decent backup bow was in order and promptly ordered a carbon fiber!) After much googling, I learned that it could be repaired and I dropped the bow off the next business day. It was expertly repaired, and I was told the bow got damaged in the best possible place. The button, an early 20th century shaped composite material, is now missing pieces though, so one day I will have to get that replaced as it is a forever reminder of that accident.

I used to put my bow on my music stand until one day it slid off and I caught it just in time, so now EVERYTHING goes back into the case no matter what the task is, or how long the task is going to take. I'm even paranoid to leave the case open with my violin set up in it because I'm so accident prone.

July 9, 2019 at 06:33 PM · The most hair-raising thing that happened was when I left it on the Park and Ride bus at the airport after a late flight home. I got all the way home from the airport (a thirty minute drive, got back after midnight) and realized what had happened. I got back in the car and drove back to the airport in a panic, but thank God the driver had found it and had kept it safe until I got there. It didn't have my name or any luggage tags on it, so I was really lucky.

Another time I was playing at a club where there was a big pillar of some sort running through the stage, from floor to ceiling. I was positioned onstage to the right of it, and, not paying attention to the space around me, I hit the pillar with the tip of my bow while I was playing, and snapped the end of it off. I finished the set with my back up bow, and had to send the bow back to the manufacturer (Glasser) who repaired it for a reasonable price.

My two scary stories.

July 9, 2019 at 06:42 PM · Like Mark B, I took my instrument to a luthier (recommended by my concertmaster). He ruined the tone of my viola, but at least he admitted it and gave me my money back, though it was a loss of a good instrument.

July 9, 2019 at 07:52 PM · Getting home from rehearsal, during a Hurricane, finding myself inside a floating vehicle. Yes rehearsal was not cancelled..and yes instrument was wet and fell apart withing hours.....(Steiner)..... luckily a Luthier was able to operate on it and was saved.

July 9, 2019 at 08:27 PM · While in college, playing 1st stand 2nd, (inside) in a union gig community type orchestra, the principal 2nd player slippery-handedly tossed his bow into the first row of seats (Vienna-set-up))...and we struggled in full view and during the concert as he tried to wrestle my bow....I resisted and the battle though brief, was most unprofessional. (I WON, KEPT MY BOW AND FINISHED THE MOVT.)

July 9, 2019 at 10:29 PM · I was putting new strings on mine, and suddenly, everything just stopped when a loud snap from the bridge occurred. My sound post inside is what I am worried about. I still don't know if my sound post moved, or if it can. My violin sounds different now. Any wisdom to give me?

Glory

July 9, 2019 at 10:34 PM · Playing in an orchestra, outdoors, when the wind began to blow hard and rain began to come down. In their panic, the first violins crashed into some of us second violins. Like a protective Mom, I immediately turned away, shielding my instrument/bow. There wasn’t really anywhere to go which added to the scare.

July 9, 2019 at 11:46 PM · Nothing particularly scary has happened to my instrument, but I had a student instrument that I loaned to a friend for her daughter's use after my daughter had outgrown it, and she ran it over with her car. It was a total loss a and she replaced it for me.

Several years ago, my bow snapped in half while I was rosining it. It was kind of traumatic at the time but it was actually a good excuse to get a new bow. I needed an upgrade!

July 10, 2019 at 12:30 PM · I lost a new set of strings in just two months. I think what happened is that one of my cats pissed on the cloth that covers the instrument in the case, this contaminated the bridge and corroded the aluminium winding of A and D strings. A snapped during transport to my class.

I took the violin to the luthier who made it to change the bridge and strings, but also to install Wittner geared pegs.

July 10, 2019 at 01:09 PM · OMG 98.5.150.253! The principal second tried to grab your bow from you while playing a concert? Did I read that correctly? What happened afterwards? Did you tell him off?

July 11, 2019 at 11:02 PM · I was wearing a pair of trousers with a rather strange seam down the front of the leg, at an orchestra reharsal. I think I was leading V2s. Suddenly my bow caught on the seam while bowing vigorously - it flew out of my hand and landed on the wooden floor in front of the orchestra leader. Once we worked out that my precious bow had survived unscathed, we found it very funny. I never wear those pants if I'm likely to play that day...

July 12, 2019 at 03:53 AM · Not my current violin but an earlier one was stolen along with some other instruments from a house we were renting. I'd given it up for lost but about 6 months later happened upon it hanging on the wall in a shop several miles away that dealt in used folk instruments. I knew about some hidden markings inside the instrument and was persuasive enough that they took it down off the wall and handed it back to me (they were a reputable shop but I suspect they didn't want to have to explain to the police why they were dealing in stolen instruments).

July 12, 2019 at 06:32 AM · JohnA,I was given a violin made about 100 years it looked a real mess and it was obvious that it was a backyarder , then luthe worst was a full length crack on the back and the best were the replacement of all music maker parts . The first thing I sorted out was fitting around post (just how terrible was the music or could it be not to bad the tone with an A string sort of fitted sounded not to bad but fitting the sound peg broke open the crack ,looking at the what had to be done , the shape of the violin I felt sorry , that any luthier asked to do the repairs would head the violin to the rubbish bin ,so here was a great oppertuneity for some one who had never repaired a violin ,to learn how to repair large crack ,fit a sound peg, end button, replace pegs, strings,tailpiece,wait before all this 16 coats of varnish my teacher has topped up the tuning I have great er respect for all in this great part of music best regards JohnA

July 12, 2019 at 06:36 AM · John I now fit geared pegs to my violas and violins ,how do you people find them I am a very happy user John A

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