How Many Violins do You Have?

May 27, 2008 at 04:55 PM · I have owned only one violin since I started playing as a kid. I have played a few other instruments here and there for various reasons throughout the years. I was always struck by the noticible difference between these violins in terms of tone and feel. However, I recently got my hands on another instrument to try out for a couple of weeks. I have been swapping between my violin and the loaner to note the differences, and new idea came to me. It seems that the differences in these two violins point out difference in my playing that seems to synergize my efforts. I actually think that swapping between the two helps me play better. Of course, I have a preference for my own violin, but I am now considering seriously buying this loaner violin so I have 'options', and may indeed have the possibility to play better.

So my question is: has this occurred to you, and how many different violins do you play regulary?

Replies (24)

May 27, 2008 at 05:30 PM · I play on more than one regularly, but it reflects a situation, i.e. lesson with a young student vs. playing fiddle in a band, or the tuning required, not as a strategy for improving technique. If anything, I've recently been wondering if I'm wasting valuable time re-adjusting, since each violin requires something different. Sue

May 27, 2008 at 06:58 PM · I have two violins I use regularly. Like Sue, I sometimes wonder if I'm losing time while I readjust to the sound and response of two different instruments. One quite "tight", the other "soft" under the bow and each requires a different technique (and bow) to play well.

While it might be good experience to learn how to adapt to different instruments and their challenges, one could also argue that I might be farther ahead if I just concentrated in playing one well...

May 27, 2008 at 07:29 PM · I wouldn't mind having a Strad for every day of the week.

May 28, 2008 at 03:01 PM · In the past year, I've found myself switching back and forth between 3 violins: my "standard" violin, a cheap purple VSO that I used when traveling on business (a VSO with a heavy practice mute sounds much like a better instrument with a heavy practice mute), and my ultra-portable wiplstix.

Changing instruments (VSO during the week, good violin on the weekends) was an interesting experience. On one hand, it did some bad things to my intonation because I was constantly adjusting between two instruments that were slightly different, even when I used a ruler to match string length on the VSO to my other violin. On the other hand, the different characteristics of each instrument also bounced me out of my rut and made me a bit more conscious about how I was drawing a sound and how my left hand and arm were moving. That was actually quite helpful for kicking me off a bit of a complacent plateau, and it's helped me focus on improving some sloppy habits I've developed over the years.

May 28, 2008 at 10:03 PM · I have two violins... to be sincere, I have a precious warm French violin (1890) and a precious pink violin-shaped object :D The latter is great as decoration :D

May 28, 2008 at 10:22 PM · I have seven violins, one of which is out on loan and I may never see it again. That leaves 6 in playing condition. I regularly play three of them, depending on the type of music.

I would think the values range from $1,200 to perhaps $6,000, with the least expensive being my favorite.

I would trade all six violins for one ideal instrument.

I see no particular benefit from playing more than one instrument.

May 28, 2008 at 10:56 PM · What does VSO mean ?

May 28, 2008 at 11:07 PM · VSO = Violin Shaped Object.

There may be an advantage in playing different violins:

1.In different ensemble situations

2. In different acoustic environments (including climate effects)

3. If your body parts are misbehaving in ways that are helped with a different instrument.

4. The music being played.

5. Audience preferences. For example, some audiences seem prefer a brighter sound (I find children seem to like this), while some like it more mellow (some older folks).

Otherwise I think one sacrifices some technical things to try an instrument that differs from your usual favorite.

I have lots of violins, and sometimes my favorite varies between the top 3 or 4 for one or more of the reasons stated above.


May 28, 2008 at 11:46 PM · I only have one violin at the moment, and it is relatively new to me (almost a year). It is a wonderful instrument, and indeed it is my first instrument which was made by a master.

I had been playing on the same instrument forever, but one day realized I needed a lot more out of it. Since that realization, I have tried every instrument I could get my hands on, and getting to know the one I finally chose for myself has been incredibly instructive for me.

Now whenever I get a chance I play any instrument in front of me. It is helpful because it shows me which parts of my sound that are me, and the parts that are the instrument.

When I was shopping, I noticed that when someone would play 4 or 5 different instruments for me, they would all sound extremely similar, and at that point I decided that the way that the instrument feels and responds to me was going to be one of the biggest factors in choosing.

I am now saving to purchase a Ned Steinberger electric and over the years I would love to acquire some different violins for different kinds of playing.

I also want to get a viola and learn tenor and alto clef because that will be very useful in studio production, and also when we can't find a violist for a quartet gig.

Being a sax player too, I have to also mention that for whatever reason, it has always been very obvious to me the effect the instrument has on your sound, or in this case, the mouthpiece. However, while recently listening to 12 mouthpiece comparison recordings on a similar forum for sax players, it became obvious that the player makes the sound, and the gear either helps you reach your goal, or offers obstacles for you to overcome.

I recently got a bari and alto sax, and the process of building the embouchure and throat muscles required for those has really brought my tenor sax (main instrument) skills into focus. So, I would think that having some different violins and perhaps a viola around to work stuff out on would really help one work within the proper ranges that a particular instrument offers you without resistance, and will let you know how much work is worth it to get a certain thing.

May 29, 2008 at 01:01 AM · I have three, a German Stradivari copy from 1914, a French Gavinies from 1714, and a beautiful violin made in 2007 by Anton Krutz from KC Strings, which is my no. 1 instrument. It has a beautiful bel canto sound, and yet it has incredible power.

May 29, 2008 at 01:44 AM · I have three.

One...the violin I bought originally when I was 13 years old (Scherl & Roth, German made). Works great for traveling and taking to school to teach. It's pretty durable...heavier than I'd want a violin, but is more likely to survive wear and tear. antique violin (probably French and extremely mellow, I love it!) This is what I used at music school. I prefer not to travel much with it if I can though, just in case.

Three...A Jurgensmeyer electric violin. Sadly I don't get to play this one much, but I prefer the tone of my other ones anyways.

I think it only becomes convenient depending on the settings that I'd use technical reasons for it.

I also have an 1/8th VSO that I use to try and teach my little cousins how to hold the violin, and a viola, which I like but it is a little scratchy in tone and I never get many chances to play it, sadly enough :(

May 29, 2008 at 02:56 AM · Three, but I am making a trade for yard work(!) for one and giving another away to a kid for his lessons, so I'll be back to my old fav Blondie, and staying the heck away from yard sales/estate sales/ebay in future...getting ready to retire and hit the road(trip). Getting rid of all spares and seconds and all the junk I've saved for "just in case"...

May 29, 2008 at 04:38 AM · 2 Violas:

The Old Man, 15" German made from early 1900's. My first viola that I played all the time until recently. He travels with me.

Hilda, 16" Oregon made in 2003.

For me the switch is a bit more dramatic than it would be if they were two violins. The one inch difference makes adusting a challenge. The Old Man is much heaver though he is smaller, and to get any sort of good C string sound, I have to use ALOT of bow. Hilda on the other hand sings just fine on her own. Vibrato is easier on the Old Man.

May 29, 2008 at 02:26 PM · This is interesting! Thanks for the comments! Keep them coming!

One comment seemed pertinent to me: the distinction between the sound of the instrument itself as opposed to the sound that I make as the player. I think I understand my observation a little better now about why I think playing more than one instrument seems to improve my playing ability. My older vioin has Dominant strings, and the newer one has Tonica strings. The slight differnce in the set up must be a factor, too. The older violin has a really clear tone in the upper register, whereas the newer violin is just the opposite with a lovely G string sound. One thing I noticed in switching between the two instruments is that I absolutley listen more carefully to my intonation and tone quality. This is good news.

Another cool comment: naming your instrument! My old German Strad copy is the "Uncle Carl". If I buy this newer instrument (a 2008 european wood Guarneri pattern Jay Haide Special Model), then the new fiddle will have to tell me its name-- and I'm sure it will.

May 29, 2008 at 03:28 PM · At one point I had two to choose from - some aspects I liked better on one instrument, and some on the other. (Background history - I had a grandmother who did the early 1920's version of EBay - we had at one time 6 violins in the house, including a 3/4! Over the years, I paired things down to the best instruments, which include the 3/4, an early 1900's German strad. copy, and a mid to late 1800's rather battered, not so attractive Mittenwald with a great sound that I really like. )

I found that I would either play one instrument or the other consistently. These instruments require different handling to sound good. I finally ended up choosing the old Mittenwald. The early 1900's strad. copy is now in use by my daughter. The early 1900's 3/4 German instrument was used by my daughter, and once it was outgrown, it was put on consignment at my local violin shop.

May 29, 2008 at 03:42 PM · I have three- a cheap electric, a cheaper Chinese VSO, and a sweet-sounding, German-made copy of a Vuillaume. But I only ever play the well set up violin. I should get rid of the others.

You didn't ask about bows, but I have four of them. Most are in poor shape- I only use the good one.

May 30, 2008 at 01:38 AM · I was fortunate enough to have been able to keep all my various sized violins.

I have two full sized ones. The first is a not-so-good one my parents bought when they were looking for a full sized violin for me (many many years ago), and didn't really know what they were looking for. The second is a very nice french Barnabetti, which no doubt made my parents cringe at the price tag.

Rather than sell the crappy first full size violin they bought me, I kept that one at school to use in String Ensemble and Orchestra practices, so that it wouldn't matter so much if it got bumped around.

I used my good violin for concerts and final rehearsals, and of course, at home and lessons.

I haven't noticed a difference in my technique playing the two different instruments, but I definitely notice the tone quality. The Barnabetti wins hands down over the other one.

June 4, 2008 at 11:08 PM · Own 2, both "ultra cheepies" or "student" violins (new) off e-bay. I am a hobby luthier (have built and sold 5 classical guitars) and know I will build a coouple violins at least.

June 5, 2008 at 01:10 AM · I'm accumulating instruments. I now have them in 5 different sizes: 1/4 violin, 1/2 violin, 3/4 violin, full violin, 15.5" viola. You can line them up in a row of increasing size, they look pretty cute.

My daughter just outgrew the 1/2 and now plays a 3/4, and it sounds a lot better than the 1/2, even though they're both student instruments. I can even play the 3/4 without cringing and it feels more comfortable to my fingers--the half was really cramped.

I am getting better at switching back and forth between the full-size violin and the viola. It used to be that I would find the viola big and cumbersome and the violin like a little toy when I first picked one up after playing the other one for a while, but now I'm used to it. I play different music on each one and I don't practice them both in the same session. Playing the viola has helped my violin vibrato. I work on vibrato on the C string for a while and when I come back to the violin, it's so loose and relatively easy to vibrate. The viola also gave me an appreciation for how bad my violin D and G sound :( and has made me decide to upgrade eventually--looking forward to instrument #6!

June 5, 2008 at 03:30 AM · Karen, I can just picture these five instruments and your cute kids all lined up. That’s a lot of music and joy in this one little picture in my head. I so envy you!

June 5, 2008 at 05:25 AM · I'm satisfied to own and play on only one violin. If I did own two, my inclination would be to sell them both, and use the money to buy one that is better than either of the two.

June 6, 2008 at 03:26 AM · I have 4 violins: two are small, a 1/2 and a 1/4 that I keep for when I do school outreach string projects or things like that. I have my old full-size violin, which is a cheap factory violin, but has sentimental value, and then my current violin, the one I got after I graduated from high school. Plus my viola, but I guess that doesn't count.

June 6, 2008 at 09:02 PM · I have currently 3 violins, one new Scott Cao and two early 20th century German Violins. I also have a Scott Cao 16" student viola (which is really nice), and like Karen I became dissatisfied with the sound of the D and G on my violin (one of the German ones) after playing the viola for awhile. After buying and selling a couple violins in the search, I found another German violin by the same maker/brand (Ernst Kreusler) as my original one on ebay, which had a darker viola-like sound. Now I have a new favorite!

I should purge my collection though since I live in a small apartment which is the only thing that limits my instrument acquisition syndrome and e-bay violin gambling habit.

June 7, 2008 at 12:49 AM · I have two. My first one is a hundred-thirty year old Romanian instrument I bought nearly forty years ago. I was in graduate school school at the time, and on my salary I really couldn't afford it. I have not had it appraised since; if it has kept pace with inflation, I probably couldn't afford to buy it now. This one gets the most use; practice every day and performing at least once a month.

The second is a five-string Dahlia, bought because a) I wanted to have a second instrument on hand for those times when one or the other is in the shop for attention, and b) because I like to play Celtic music and like having the low C string. Sometimes, though admittedly not often, the Dahlia gets pressed into service in our small ensemble as a viola. The 'not often' isn't so much because of the hybrid instrument's limitations, but because I can't read the tenor clef.

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