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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: How much does the instrument matter?

August 3, 2013 at 7:14 AM

This week was inspired by a discussion post by member Madeline Davis: How much does the instrument matter?

It may seem like the most important thing is how well you play; but it is true that the very best players jump through all kinds of personal and financial hoops to get their hands on very fine instruments.

So what do you think? How much does the instrument matter? This week's poll gives you options on a scale of one to five, with one being that the instrument is the most important factor of all, and five being that the instrument does not matter at all. Please vote and discuss!

From Victor Lam
Posted on August 3, 2013 at 12:25 PM
I think it depends on how well you play. For a beginner, it matters a little bite. For a very best player (not me), it matters a great deal.
From Anne Horvath
Posted on August 3, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Don't forget the bow...
From George Christy
Posted on August 3, 2013 at 2:22 PM
Percentages for something like this are silly but
fun and fast.

My best guess (as a one year "player") as to relative importance:

Bowing - 50%
Left hand - 20%
Instrument - 20%
Bow - 10%

On the other hand, this may have been my best guess before I began playing a string instrument:

Bowing - 10%
Left hand - 70%
Instrument - 20%

The difference between the two perceptions is more interesting to me than the percentages for each.

From Brian Kelly
Posted on August 3, 2013 at 5:03 PM
I have heard professionals play on VSO's like Skylarks (remember them ?) fitted with factory strings and it still sounded pretty good.
From elise stanley
Posted on August 3, 2013 at 8:52 PM
It would have helped if the question had been posed with a particular goal. I said matters a bit.

If you play in an orchestra I don't think it matters that much - the bow (and the player of course) are far more important.

However, if you are to play the Beethoven violin concerto in Carnegie hall...

From Emma Otto
Posted on August 4, 2013 at 12:18 AM
Like Elise said, I think you can get away with an okay-sounding violin in an orchestra. But if you're playing solo, you'll need a very good one.

Now, the player certainly matters a lot too. My mom, who plays a little violin, could play Twinkle Twinkle on my $2,000 violin while I play the same piece on her old $50 violin, and I would still sound a lot better. But if someone closer to my level played Beethoven's Romanze in F on a professional-quality violin and I used a cheaper violin to play the same piece, the other violinist would probably win the competition.

From Katie Omundson
Posted on August 4, 2013 at 2:49 AM
I think most of us can agree that some violins are better than others, no question.
But about 10 years ago I heard a soloist perform on a chinese instrument that sounded FABULOUS. I thought it was his guarneri that they listed in the program notes until I found out later, from one of the orchestra's violinists (I think she said it costed $14,000 or maybe $16,000), that he was playing his backup instrument for this program. I was schocked! It fooled me and it sounded amazing. It was sweet like honey and rich like chocolate and had incredible projection. (I apologize for not being able to remember who that was. If I think of it, I will re-post.)
Moral of the story: a professional player is not going to be able to expect to win jobs on a student instrument, but past a certain point it's mostly about the player. We may have to work around our instrument's flaws (I hate to use that word), find a different bow to match it or change the setup, but a better violin isn't going to make a better violinist.

From Mark Roberts
Posted on August 7, 2013 at 5:17 AM
I can get a sound closer to what I want on the viola than the violin - perhaps because my viola is worth three times as much....
From Royce Faina
Posted on August 7, 2013 at 5:05 PM
Match the violin too the player as well as the bow, and then you get violin masters who can draw the best out of a violin perhaps any violin.

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