V.com weekend vote: Are you still looking for the violin of your dreams?

April 9, 2022, 9:09 PM · It can take a long time to find an instrument that you truly love.

violin sunbeams

Of course, I knew from a very young age that I truly loved "the violin" generally. But finding a specific instrument that felt like my own voice took a very long time. In fact, I'd been playing for 30 years when I finally found "the one"!

On the way to meeting my match, I went through a number of fiddles: a Roth student violin, a German violin, a modern American. Each was a step up from the previous fiddle, and I learned a lot along the way about how a violin can help enhance one's vibrato, find more tone, play with more agility, and focus the sound, etc.

There are big-name violinists who found their partner early and stuck with it: Hilary Hahn springs to mind, with her Vuillaume, which she has played for some 25 years. And there are others who love to look, who are constantly trying out something new.

Where do you fall, when it comes to your main instrument, be it a violin, viola or something else? Are you happy together? Or are you still looking? Or are you just always looking? Vote, and then tell us about your journey, finding a violin.

Replies

April 10, 2022 at 06:18 PM · I am quite happy with the instrument I have, whats the point of having say a 1 million pound strad and not having the skill to get the best from it.

April 10, 2022 at 07:23 PM · I am in my 60's and am not sure it would be worth owning the viola of my dreams, but that doesn't keep me from looking.

April 10, 2022 at 07:31 PM · Happy with the main instrument, no longer searching. It's the third 4/4-size fiddle I've had. I tried it out and compared it with several others when I was a music major. I took to this one right away and have kept playing it since then.

The last comparison tryouts were in late summer 2005, when I was in the market for a couple of backups - no intention of giving up the above-mentioned main instrument. After two separate in-home comparison trials, each one about 2 weeks, I finally selected two fiddles. Now I have three that I play daily, splitting the time among them to keep them all tuned and played in.

I've long felt that no one instrument has everything. Depending on repertoire and room acoustics, I will often pick one instrument instead of another. While the two backups really tie for a close second, the main instrument still has the edge overall in what I aim for - a dark viola-ish sound in the low tones and a brighter sheen in the top notes. Here, of course, string combos make a difference, too.

April 10, 2022 at 08:11 PM · I don't really care. Today practiced on a nice 1930s Mirecourt student instrument and a newish accurate copy of a great golden-period Strad by an experienced maker using excellent old wood: it is a pleasure to use and to look at the higher-grade fiddle, and the difference is obvious, but I still don't much care. In my mind it is mostly about what the performer can and cannot do. The student violin may not be as audible in a large space.

I was influenced by a teacher who'd known many top violinists and played many famous Strads and DGs, He has a gorgeous sound on everything, considers a good modern violin the equal of the greatest antique instruments, and is happy with a student fiddle--though he is very picky about strings.

I do, however, care about the bow. It feels somehow more personal.

April 10, 2022 at 08:15 PM · Yes, I would love to own a great, $25k-$30k violin but I'm truly not sure I'd be able to make more out of it than the one I have now.

And at 68, there may not be a point in owning such a nice instrument.

April 10, 2022 at 08:21 PM · "And at 68, there may not be a point in owning such a nice instrument. " The point is enjoyment! A modern violin at that price can be as good as anything, as we know from the 2012 Paris blind trial where new instruments were at least as well liked as expensive antiques. A modern violin at half that price can be equally good, as the price of living makers is influencd by luck and marketing as well as ability and materials.

April 10, 2022 at 08:41 PM · voted No. During the student years I literally did not have money. When working at the non-music job, paying for a family, buying the next violin was just not a priority. Now retired, I have the money, but with only a few good years left, why bother? Finding a buyer at a fair price can be a problem for the executor of the estate.

April 10, 2022 at 09:11 PM · Is it possible that you fall in love with the instrument you have and make a relationship that works, even though there is a better instrument out there?

I am an adult learner with a family. Instrument spending for me is discretionary. My student instrument with professional strings sounds great. I love the way it looks and sounds. I usually find it sounds most amazing in the hands of a more talented player than myself. So I know there is potential. I’m grateful to have my instrument, but if I had the resources, I probably would try something else. Even then, I don’t think I would get rid of this instrument, because we both have grown together.

I feel like I’m babbling. Not being a professional musician, I’d still like to have the best possible, though not a Strad. That is for you Pro’s.

April 10, 2022 at 09:39 PM · I'm happy with the violin I'm using now, but I voted "Yes", I'm still looking. I think I'll always be looking, though not actively.

The violin I'm using now is the first bench-made violin I've owned -- Anne Cole (based in Albuquerque, NM) custom made it for my cousin in 1977. My cousin no longer plays, so he gave it to me just this past January. It is a powerful violin with a rich tone. I'm really enjoying playing with it so far!

April 10, 2022 at 09:53 PM · Your question has made me realize that my violin and I have now been living together for more than 50 years. I got extremely lucky in my teenage and there will never be a need, nor a wish, to upgrade.

April 10, 2022 at 10:07 PM · I do not have a "dream" violin, by any stretch. But it's been with me 45 years and has never failed me. I had help selecting it by two people who meant the world to me. So it is a dear and special member of the family.

April 10, 2022 at 11:50 PM · I knew I found the one for me because I quit looking at other violins (I mean I still like to look at them, but not with the thought of buying them).

April 11, 2022 at 02:13 AM · Yes: I just purchased my childhood violin teacher's teaching violin from his son after he passed away. It is a very nice Mittenwald violin from the 1850-1860's. After leaving Hungary after the revolution in the 1950's, My Teacher,George did not have much money to spend on an instrument. I'm sure this was the most sound for the least amount of money he could afford. He played that violin for over 50 years. Along with a ton of good memories associated with the violin, my current teacher loves the sound of it too. Using her words, "it sounds so chocolatety, but is so easy to play". It just makes me happy to open my case and say hi to "little george" and play.

April 11, 2022 at 03:25 AM · I'm enjoying the violin I have. However, I did upgrade my keyboard -- finally got a Nord.

April 11, 2022 at 04:30 AM · Happy with the contemporary instruments I am rotating through at the moment, and most “shopping” I do is to find out how good bows can get.

Nevertheless, there are a handful of good instruments that I remember trying, and might consider making some sacrifices to buy one of that quality.

April 11, 2022 at 06:06 AM · I voted "yes" but it's more complicated than that. I am very happy with my current violin. It's not a professional quality violin, but it totally meets my needs. If I wound up pursuing a music performance major, I would certainly upgrade when the time is right. However, I need to buy another violin of similar caliber to my current one as I am sharing my current violin with another family member. I also really need to buy a viola as my current one is on loan, plus, it's rather chunky (it's a relatively inexpensive student viola) and overly heavy due to wood thickness, and the sound is a little too bright.

April 11, 2022 at 12:19 PM · I had almost the violin of my dreams (an old German Stainer model left me by my mother's childhood head teacher) when, after I fell off a stage at school with it, Nemes senior did as minimal a repair as he could, using the sound post as part of the structure and gluing it in place accordingly. He gave us a warning, that I did not quite understand at the time, not to move the sound post. Some years later we'd forgotten the warning, and dad moved the sound post, asking me afterwards whether it had been glued (I had no idea that it had, and only realised much later why it had). Some years after that, the belly had sunk. The London College of Furniture trained luthiers I took it to either did not know or chose to keep quiet about the technique involving hot sand, so they tried to restore the shape without applied heat. When that failed, they did a competent reconstruction, but breaking the bass bar (which they said would be pretty inevitable) and replacing it with another. The high G-string tone that so entranced me is now replaced with one which does not, but my father said was still beautiful, and above, say, A-C, leaves, to my ears, something to be desired (Also, the power that made it necessary for me to be accompanied by at least a partially open grand piano when performing is no longer there). Ruschil & Bailly made massive improvements by modifying set up alone, but weren't confident that further structural work would be "worth the money".

So I have voted No, but only because the word "still" is in the question - I have now STARTED looking for the violin of my dreams, but only in principle, as I question whether I can find it at a price I can afford, and also whether my current playing standard in performance justifies it.

April 11, 2022 at 12:44 PM · I Guess that I can say both, "Yes," & "No." I do like the violin that I have. Under the ear the sound is hissy and scratchy. However, I'm the only one that hears that. As for other people listening to me playing it, they love it! As for pursuing another/other violin I'd have to say no. I would like to own 2 or 3 more, each with beautiful qualities and attributes that the others do not have, but as for finances and practicality it's not going to happen.

April 11, 2022 at 01:05 PM ·

My dream violin would have been a Francesco Ruggieri. But I was drifting away from playing violin at the time, and I walked away from one priced at $1950 in the early '70's. I think that it had been down-priced, because the scroll had been made by del-Gesu's father. (One of those Guarnari guys.)

Oh! How I regret THAT "decision."

Talk about a LIFETIME OF REGRET. But in my own defense, if I'd known what it really was, I would have purchased it anyway. What did I read a few years ago, four principle Cremona violin families were Amati, Stradivari, Guarnari, and of course, Ruggieri.

But last summer, I finally did purchase an older Italian instrument from the early 1800's at 60% of its appraised value. The owner was tired of waiting for it to sell, so he had substantially reduced the price to something that I could afford. I'm really happy with this instrument, so I'm willing to admit that I have "a dream violin." I think that it even makes sense financially. Italian violins are in demand. In my 70's now, if there comes a time when I can't play, I suspect that it will have increased significantly in value.

All's well that ends well? We'll see.

April 11, 2022 at 05:00 PM · I am very happy with one of my 3 violins. But there is certainly a better tool out there somewhere. I have no complaints about my favorite violin: it has great tone, projection, ease of playing etc. But that doesn't mean that there isn't something even better.

April 12, 2022 at 12:53 AM · After an accident that severely damaged my last violin I had the luxury of seeking a replacement and by good fortune (since the low CA$ made it impossible to look out of the country) I came across a 93 Luiz Bellini Knoop-Strad copy. Its now over 2 years later and I have much still to learn from this instrument - probably more than I have time to do so - and I do feel as if it is 'my' voice. I have also heard several fine violinists play it and it is a gorgeous instrument. Hence, I voted No. My mind is not closed to it, but I simply have neither the need nor the desire.

April 12, 2022 at 03:20 AM · Unless someone offers me a deal that's too good to pass up, I'm done looking for instruments and have been for quite a while.

I already have a bench-made viola that would serve me well at any level short of international soloist, so could take me far beyond my wildest dreams. I paid what was probably a stupid amount of money for it in 2006 considering my proficiency on the instrument at the time, but as my playing improved I came to appreciate how much of a bargain I actually got. Despite being relatively small (15.75") it's very much a principal player's or soloist's instrument, powerful in the low register and sweet in the upper register, easily capable of projecting over an orchestra. I would be hard pressed to find anything better that I can play comfortably: its short VSL (362 mm) is already at the upper limit for my hands.

My violin is nowhere near the same quality; it's a German workshop instrument from the 1950s, suitable for an upper intermediate or early advanced student. It has very nice tone quality, but doesn't project nearly as much as I'd like. That said, I have very little interest in upgrading because I basically only play violin when my viola is in the shop or in casual chamber music reading sessions. Also, I have plenty of sentimental reason to keep playing the same violin: it belonged to my late great-uncle, and I rescued it after it had sat unplayed on a shelf for over 20 years.

April 13, 2022 at 01:29 PM · Well, my newer viola totally gives the lie to the notion that one's tone depends on the player, not the instrument. It's one of Bernard Sabatier's very successful models: this one has only the two lower corners, similar to the Lyra Viola in the Ashmolean Museum. Mine is only 15.75", with a 14" vibrating string length, so it hasn't the baritone quality of the longer violas, but rather a plummy contralto, non-nasal tone. It is both louder and warmer than my dear old slimmer JTL of the same length, using the same bow and strings. And the same technique!

April 14, 2022 at 09:11 PM · But what if you used different techniques, Adrian? Different techniques are needed for different instruments - one doesn't get the best out of a strad by playing it the way one plays an ordinary instrument.

April 15, 2022 at 12:35 PM · I don't play better on my new viola, but I sound better!

But the response is different so I adapt bowing and vibrato without thinking.

My JTL for Mozart, my Sabatier for Brahms?

And I am happy with my Violin (Nicolas Morlot ca.1820) which sounds a little like a small viola...

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