V.com weekend vote: Have you ever borrowed a violin (or other instrument)?

July 10, 2021, 6:05 PM · Recently I traveled to Ohio to visit my parents for a week, and although I wanted to practice while I was there, I did not want to travel with my violin. I was not going to play any gigs while there, so I didn't really need my nice fiddle. Also, one of my planes was to be a "puddle jumper" - a small plane with little room for overhead baggage. I didn't want anyone telling me my violin would need to go in cargo!

violin and case

So thanks to my Cincy friend Suzanne Bona, host of the excellent NPR show Sunday Baroque, I was able to connect a fellow teacher and V.com reader, Laura Klein, who lent me her spare fiddle for my time there. (Thank you, Laura!) It was wonderful - I was able to serenade my parents and a few of their friends, as well as practice my scales and some new rep (Clara Schumann Romances - another blog to come on that!)

This made me think about the times when I have needed to borrow a violin, and the generosity of those who have lent one to me. Another such time was when my violin was being restored, and Dr. Bill Sloan lent me one of the four violins he has made - "Sloaneri II." I felt very honored!

As a beginner, I also benefited from the loan of a violin from my public school for a period of time, until my parents knew I was serious and got me one. I'm grateful - that borrowed instrument was certainly a factor in getting me started on the violin! I've also lent many violins - mostly to my students.

Of course, I'm not the only person who has borrowed violins -- some violin loans are very serious and can be long-lasting, such as the ones arranged by the Stradivari Society, in which an artist borrows a fine violin for a period during their career.

Have you ever borrowed a violin? Was it a long-term loan, or maybe just for a concert? Did you have it just a few weeks? What were the circumstances? And have you ever loaned out an instrument to someone else? Please participate in the vote and then tell us your stories about borrowing and/or lending violins or other instruments.

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Replies

July 10, 2021 at 11:52 PM · I had a viola on loan for four years when I first switched from violin to viola. During my college years, I played piano in the recreational chamber music program, which owned three violas that were intended for the use of violinists playing viola parts. In practice, they had not needed to loan out more than one viola at a time in many years, so I was able to borrow one of the violas for the entire four years of college.

Other than that, I once borrowed a violin for about an hour -- it was at a chamber music gathering, and with a surplus of violists, I borrowed a violin from the host to cover second violin parts.

I haven't loaned out an instrument, but I once loaned out a violin bow for a few months. That was to my girlfriend at the time, who was an adult returner violinist. Her bow tip broke, and she didn't have a backup bow on hand. She used one of my violin bows until her next opportunity to visit her parents and retrieve her good violin and bow that she used through high school.

July 11, 2021 at 12:01 AM · I borrowed an instrument for a few hours last month.. We were visiting my daughter at the University of Nebraska and I wanted to play duets with one of her professors. It was well over 95 most days and I did not want to lug around my violin. He brought two violins and we played duets for a couple of hours. We swapped instruments and bows and had a great time in a middle of a conference room at the university. FWIW we had great fun with the Shostakovitch 5 duets for violin and piano.... no piano but her prof is working on one for next time.

July 11, 2021 at 12:15 AM · My “first” was borrowed. I was 15, and taking care of my neighbor’s dog while they were on an extended vacation. I came across a violin in their family room and was stunned by the ancient design of it. I’d attended parochial schools with no music programs, and it’s almost hard to believe now, but I’d never seen a violin in person before that. When my neighbors returned I asked if I could borrow it, and they generously let me. No one from their family was using it. It was just a family keepsake. So that was my first violin for about a year, until I bought one of my own.

July 11, 2021 at 04:25 AM · I borrowed a violin from Oberlin’s collection while I was an undergrad, until I was able to buy a professional level violin of my own halfway through my senior year.

Much more recently but over a period of nearly twenty years, I was flying to Richmond, Virginia, four or five times a year when first my father and then my mother were in a healthcare facility. I almost never brought my own violin on these trips because sometimes one of my planes was a puddle jumper; instead, I used my sister’s violin in Richmond. It was not a high level instrument and I couldn’t really stand to practice on it, but it was perfectly fine to use when I played for the residents where my parents were, which I did every time I visited.

July 11, 2021 at 06:31 AM · i realize I voted incorrectly. My vote was "for a few days." In college, though, for music training I played viola for a year and used a loaner instrument and bow. I found it an acceptable instrument for my purposes. I know that at various points my teachers wanted me to permanently switch to viola due to my long limbs, and the (at the time) perceived easier rep and audition process for orchestra. But I never intended to do that.

I have never been asked to, nor do I think I would loan out an instrument except for just the right person and just the right set of exceptional circumstances. Call me selfish, but if something happens, what is to be done?

July 11, 2021 at 02:10 PM · As a teenager in the 1960s, I was playing on an indifferent fiddle and progress was hard. My teacher (she was one of the first women to join the RPO) lent me a decent spare until I had saved enough pocket/birthday/Christmas money to upgrade. Until I retired from language teaching, I kept several spares and lent them on many occasions long-term to pupils who were using VSOs and whose teachers recommended them to me. I was frequently rewarded by a bottle of wine and had the pleasure of seeing them in action in rehearsals and concerts.

July 11, 2021 at 02:56 PM · I borrowed a violin from a friend once while visiting so we could play duets. I also once borrowed an Amati from a collector who played it regularly in an orchestra I was in. It was his idea that I try it, not mine. He was a serious amateur but not professional level, and he was generous to let others in the orchestra try it out.

When my daughter was little I had some small fractional instruments that she outgrew and I loaned them to others. One of the moms I loaned a violin to forgot it in the driveway and ran over it with her car. She was mortified, and replaced it, but I just remember that story as a cautionary tale and as one of the more remarkable things that has happened to a borrowed violin!

July 11, 2021 at 03:12 PM · Aside from loaners while my violin was in the shop, my borrowing experience began with violas. Our small string department needed viola for string quartets so someone the violin instructor knew let me use a very nice viola. Much in the same way my daughter was thinking about switching to viola from violin in high school and through school lent her one to try. As a violin teacher, I had all of my high school level violinists play viola on an array of student violas that I acquired,so we could do quartets. Several decided to switch to viola and continue on into college. I think in the violin to viola switch, having an instrument to try without any additional parent commitment is crucial.

July 11, 2021 at 03:16 PM · Most of my borrowing instruments has been when my instrument was in the shop.

I tried borrowing instruments when I traveled for Bell-Labs. It was nice but a bit awkward being a friend-of-friend process. Eventually, during my 15 year gig at Bell-Labs all of my playing was on weekends or those rare weeks when I was "in the office."

I now have a small collection of fractional instruments that are all out on loan to my students. When they get big/old enough for a 4/4 we'll have to find a way to get them a permanent instrument of their own and financing that will be a problem.

July 11, 2021 at 03:17 PM · An acquaintance offered to loan me a viola by a well known San Francisco Bay Area maker for a week, just for fun. Sadly, I felt I had to turn it down. Our weather was making it hard to keep violas in tune and I was already renting one to try out so had two to worry about. It was during COVID and appointments with the violin shop were difficult to get, or I would have simply returned the rental early.

July 11, 2021 at 05:04 PM · I have my mother's violin, from the time she took lessons in the early 1940's. (It's the violin in my profile photo.) Over the past 80 years or so, the violin has gone from one family member to another to me. Subsequently, I don't consider it my violin. Instead, I consider myself the current custodian of the instrument. I play it, keep it in good condition and have the hope that a grandchild, or one of my sisters grandchildren, will show a serious interest in playing the violin. If and when that happens, I'll be happy to pass it forward.

July 11, 2021 at 05:39 PM · So far, no borrowing or loaning out. I did play on a smaller instrument before I was ready to move up to 4/4 size, but that was a rental, not a loan. I now have three 4/4-size fiddles that I practice and play on daily, splitting up the time among them. Probably, for that reason, won't be loaning out any of them, but you never know. The only 4/4 I no longer have is the first one. I handed it along to my second nephew for keeps, not just a loan, once he was big enough to handle it.

July 11, 2021 at 05:45 PM · I've been fortunate to have been loaned several exceptional instruments and bows to use, usually through my teachers.

My wife and I have a collection of decent instruments and bows (especially good ones in fractional sizes) that we loan to students on the basis of merit and/or need.

July 11, 2021 at 06:05 PM · I've 'borrowed' instruments (violin/viola) from time to time when looking to upgrade my violin or viola and consequently wanting to try out a possible instrument in different situations and over some time. I also once arranged a loan of a viola from a luthier in France where I was staying for some weeks and wanted to play with the local amateur orchestra - although later I bought a Yamaha violin that I could leave in France to use whenever I was there. I'm now about to 'lend' the 3/4 violin that I learnt on as a child to my granddaughter - something I'm super excited about although trying hard not to show it!

PS Clara Schumann Romances are beautiful pieces Laurie - you will enjoy them! and have you tried anything by Lili Boulanger - Nocturne and Cortege for violin and piano are lovely!

July 11, 2021 at 07:01 PM · I grew up on borrowed instruments! I was very fortunate that my local music service loaned fractional violins when children were growing, (parents always had the option to buy). I recall being immensely jealous of other children being given brand new violins in those green Stentor cases, yet I was given what I thought to be old and not very nice violins. Upon asking my teacher at age 11, she was clear that these instruments sounded better.

I also borrowed a viola for about 3 years during my late teen/early adult years. A 16 inch Yita viola, it was nice to play, if a little big at the time.

These days, I own my instruments, but I do loan instruments out to students if they need it.

Incidentally, I am currently borrowing my mum's old clarinet, I am teaching myself as a summer project.

July 11, 2021 at 07:35 PM · I should have added, I have often loaned my picnic violin to different students, and I occasionally loan a good bow to a high school student if they have an audition or performance coming up.

One student has had possession of my viola for several months now.

July 11, 2021 at 10:12 PM · My school lent me my first viola in 1963, and my teacher lent me a Tubbs bow for my degree finals: similar to mine, but better..

I had my current viola on trial for a week before buying it.

I have lent my "spare" instruments & bows.

July 11, 2021 at 10:46 PM · I’ve borrowed one twice for a few days. Travel with the violin wasn’t allowed and so I was attending a string camp and needed n instrument. A lovely friend lent me one,

I also borrowed one from a luthier when my violin was being mended. I liked the violin so much I bought it!.

July 12, 2021 at 12:06 AM · The usic director at the church I played at wanted a violist so I volunteered and borrowed his viola for several weeks before I got one of my own. I always wanted to play one so this was my chance.

I loaned a violin to a woan in this same group. she returned it to me saying t hat she cleaned it up for me before she returned it. I asked what she used to clean it and she said, "mayonnaise." Now if I loan an instrument it comes with a disclaimer.

July 12, 2021 at 04:45 PM · There was a period I lived at my teacher's house, and he allowed me to play on his Guarneri when I had lessons. He also lent me another violin when I practiced in private. My own violin has a neck that's a bit thicker than the standard, which made it very hard for my build to stop a fifth.

July 13, 2021 at 09:02 PM · Not a violin, but when I was in my guitar phase I was over at someone's house jamming when I saw a mandolin hanging on his rack. I picked it up and found a few chords. My buddy said that he bought it at a garage sale but didn't have time to learn it, and offered to lend it to me. I found a mandolin teacher, learned to play it, and got involved in the local bluegrass scene. I wound up buying the mandolin from him, and later moved up to a better one.

Several years later, when another friend gave me a VSO in exchange for a stove, I found that I already knew my way around the neck, since a violin is tuned the same as a mandolin. A bit of jamming, a few lessons, and here I am, only to fall into viola a few years after that.

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