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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Do you feel a special connection to your violin?

July 16, 2011 at 4:42 AM

If you live on Planet Earth, you may have heard something about the release of the final movie in the Harry Potter series on Friday.

What you may not know, especially if you have not been particularly enamored of the Harry Potter craze, is how much this world of magic created by J.K. Rowling parallels our world of music, and once again, I was struck by the similarities.

One of the most noticeable examples is how the wands used by the witches and wizards are their personal instruments, a lot like violins are our instruments, to which we can become very personally attached. A few years ago I wrote a long blog about the connection I noticed between the way luthiers speak of violins and the way J.K. Rowling's fictional wandmakers describe wands.


Image Courtesy Warner Bros.

The characters in the Harry Potter books have special connection to their wands (which are made of certain types of wood). "The wand chooses the wizard," says wandmaker Ollivander, a number of times throughout the book and at least once in this latest movie. That connection is felt by subsequent owners of a wand. It sounds a lot like the way we think of violins and stringed instruments.

I have felt connections to my own violin that are unlike the feelings I have for other objects in my life. One of my early violins was owned by my grandmother, one of the only possessions her German immigrant parents left her when she was orphaned at the age of three. Who played it before me? What did they play? The voice of that violin connects me to them.

I feel a deep connection to the violin I now play, which is 200 years old. The first time I played it, sparks flew from it and also the room turned upside-down. Okay, not really, but certainly I fell hard for that fiddle and still feel a strong attachment which is nothing like my feeling for my latest computer, or even for the flute I tried to play for a while. Each of my violins has had its own voice, and it would seem, a life of its own.

But some more than others. For a number of years I played a violin for which I had little attachment. It made a huge difference when I discovered a violin with which I connected on a more personal level.

How do you feel about your fiddle? Do you have a connection with it, or are you still looking for "the one"?

From Diane Allen
Posted on July 16, 2011 at 2:45 PM

I'm strongly connected to both the sound and shape of my violin. And let's not forget the bow - a bow I've owned for 25 years.

But lets get toally WOO WOO here! A friend of mine trained with Deena Spear - a woman who figured out how to adjust violins to bring out their best quality. But her adjustments were hands off. An energy healer - Deena uses her capacity to move energy to bring out the best qualities in instruments.

With my performance of Scheherezade coming up I was a bit frustrated with my violin. I knew that the upper registers could sing out better than they were. My violin was a little choked and I wanted her to have her voice freed up. I asked my friend who trained with Deena if she would take a look at the violin.

My friend - I'll call her K for this post - is a pianist and was feeling a little unsure about working with violins. She usually works on her pianos. She asked Deena (over 1000 miles away) to "check in" with my violin and see if it was ok to work on. Deena confirmed that the old repair work on the crack on the back of the instrument was solid and not to worry. But - how did she know there was an old crack on the back?

The day of our meeting - K started with me. I played my violin and showed her the stifled sounds in the upper register of the e string. She focused on me with some quiet throughts and then gave me some Bach Flower Remedies. The goal was for me to be grounded and centered. I felt my energy shift. We then had me play the violin. Big difference - the instrument (me) sounded much more perky and energetic - but the upper register was still lacking.

K then turned her attention to my violin. I have no idea what she was doing other than sitting there staring at it. After some time she asked me to play it again. The upper register had opened somewhat but I knew the violin had more to give. We repeated this process a few times - she staring at my violin - me playing. Yes - each time the sound changed. Having never worked on a violin before K was totally excited and tickled. Too bad we didn't think to make a recording of all the changes the violin went through. It was similar to getting a soundpost adjustment where after each adjustment you check out the sound and go back and forth until you're happy.

For all you skeptics - it definately was a "had to be there moment". But I can honestly say that the violin's upper register really opened up and has stayed open ever since.

I've also learned that if my violin sounds nasal - then I'm too uptight and I need to relax. The violin completely reflects my state of mind! My violin sounds best when I'm calm and centered and not busy both mentally and physically.

Just as Harry had to work with his wand - a true partnership - I feel the same with my bow and violin.

From Tobias Seyb
Posted on July 16, 2011 at 7:43 PM

Do you feel a special connection to your violin?

Yes. It's called "shoulder rest"  ;-)

Diane: great story! Had to laugh all the time, imagining someone staring at a violin to make it sound better (staring at my students works sometimes, but I haven't tried it with a fiddle yet).

Bach flower remedies are great too, but I feel sometimes they are too strong for me, because in the early morning I feel sometimes too much grounded. Should reduce my dose a bit.

Elvis lives!

From Andre A
Posted on July 16, 2011 at 9:27 PM

 Yes Diane, Yuri Geller could bend forks and knives with will power, and started watches over the radio. David Copperfield walked thru the Great Wall of China and made the Statue of Liberty disappear. Preachers can lengthen a shriveled limb and make the lame walk. There are even people who believe all this, so enjoy the wonderful new sound of your violin done with physic power. Shall I tell you what baffles brains?

From Ray Randall
Posted on July 16, 2011 at 10:44 PM

After seeing incredible things (with witnesses) after my wife passed away I totally believe you. Good luck.

From Sevde Guzel
Posted on July 17, 2011 at 2:39 AM

 This is a beautiful post. The violin and Harry Potter. Two of my greatest loves mentioned in one post. Brilliant.

From David Beck
Posted on July 17, 2011 at 5:23 AM

 Do you feel a special connection to your violin?

If I had the case of a priceless Stradivari chained to my wrist the special connection could feel pretty uncomfortable.

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on July 17, 2011 at 6:02 AM

My violin is my voice.  It is the most magical thing I have ever had in my life.  Many teachers say that the student is his own best teacher, but my violin is mine.

From elise stanley
Posted on July 17, 2011 at 8:52 AM

I am my violin's first owner - its like being entrusted with a child, the instrument opens up in your arms...

Perhaps one day someone will sense me through Gravitas.... its a delicious thought that I might touch them too...

From Kerstin-Elisabeth Ehrlich
Posted on July 17, 2011 at 12:28 PM

I have been thinking for a long time that music and magic are linked

Especially this morning I felt a special connection and it was so lovely. I was warming up with Bach E-major Prelude and I really felt how the notes touched my was so sweet feeling...That's why I love to be a musician...instrumentalist...string player...I think it's the most intimate connection we have with music...It's so special that you can make a sound yourself that comes straight from your can "hear your feelings" and you feel the notes' vibration as if they give you a gentle caress. I wonder if conductors aren't ever jeallous :P ...

From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 17, 2011 at 6:56 PM

 Francesca, you have said it so beautifully!

From Haley Schricker
Posted on July 17, 2011 at 11:59 PM

I feel a very special connection to my violin...some people describe their instruments as being their babies. Well, my violin is about 70 years older than I am, so I think of it as my best friend. ;) We've been through it all together. Many of the best and worst times of my life took place with violin in hand. I don't think it's possible to spend so much time together without becoming pretty tight. :)

From Betsey Karako
Posted on July 18, 2011 at 2:26 AM

I am still waiting to find "my" violin.....


Although I do have a certain fondness for the one I have now. He's just a student, and I've had him since I upgraded from a 3/4 size. I call him Troubadour. He has a very nice tone for a student instrument, and a nice color. I do recall picking him over his more expensive counterpart because I thought he looked prettier. :-)

From bill kilpatrick
Posted on July 18, 2011 at 2:34 AM

"the" violin - yes ... "a" violin - not yet ... (although, of the two i own, i'm more attached to one than the other.)

From Brian Lomax
Posted on July 18, 2011 at 3:17 PM

While changing strings I accidentally stuck myself in the finger. A drop of blood fell onto the wood and soaked in. Because my instrument and I share common blood I feel we are blood relatives in some manner.

From Robert Lundquist
Posted on July 19, 2011 at 12:22 PM

When I retired I had a great urge to try and make a violin and since made 7, not good ones, but my third violin sounds better then the one I owned for 64 years.  The man that sold it to me was a violin repairman and maker and I looked over his shoulder while I was growning up trying to learn. I bought all of the books available for making violins and, although they are not perfect the third violin is the one I play all of the time, mostly in our church as a soloist.. I love its mellow tone and all four strings ring out pleasantly. The thickness of the top and bottom have to be very thin, even down to 2cc.  It makes the plates vibrate more. Strad did this and he produced great violins. He also probably applied thin coats of animal hide glue to give the plates more strength (I did that also).

With all of this said, I play this violin in my basement.  It is my "Carnegie Hall" of sound and I really get in a trance (almost) trying to get the most out of this violin.  The whole point of this message is this:  I would encourage anyone to try and make a violin if you have the time and a little bit of skill and patience. The feeling you can get playing it for the first time is like no other. If anyone wants to ask me about how they can get started (with materials and written information out there) contact me. (By the way, I have used the same bow for 66 years and it is in the same good condition as when I bought it.)


From Jessica Carter
Posted on July 20, 2011 at 1:44 AM

I'm in the process of selecting a new violin, but I definitely feel like I have a connection to my old one because I'm finding it very hard to let go of. I've been playing the violin for 12 years and out of that time I've had my current violin for 10 years. Even though it's a cheap violin [costed less than $100] it has served me well over the past 10 years. 

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