Modern Violins

February 1, 2010 at 10:42 PM ·

Okay okay... Uh-oh, is it all that bad with moder-- cheap modern violins?
It looks good on the outside but I wonder how is it on the inside ...

*How long is it going to last?
*What are the main problems with it?
*Would you recommend such a thing for a complete beginner?
*Would my violin teacher accept such a thing? :O
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Aside from that, my mom really wants to see that I'm really determined.. When she bought me the guitar, I assure you it was the cheapest she could find, lol. But right now I'm still with that guitar, playing every once in a while and uh-oh, it's not bad at all. And to be honest, I don't see anything wrong with it, even now. Well, this is just the story of my guitar, I wonder how will it go with the violin...
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I don't quite understand what could be wrong with the violin aside from strings and the bow, perhaps even the case it's held in. Err, well, pegs could be a problem too but could somebody elaborate on that?

Cheers,
Theo
 

Replies (39)

February 2, 2010 at 12:35 AM ·

Hi, Theo --

What I have to say about "cheap modern violins" today is totally different that what I would have said a week ago.  I'm a beginning violinist on a very tight budget.  I shopped around, and settled on the least expensive violin I could find -- regularly $99.95 (U.S. Dollars), but on sale for $74.95.  I don't plan to do any more with my playing than just playing for my own enjoyment.  I figured pretty much any violin would be OK to learn on.  Not so!

I didn't take anyone with me who knew how to evaluate a violin, so I was pretty much "flying blind".  I brought the violin home, and the more I practiced the more frustrated I got.  When it came to the "E" string, I never knew what kind of sound I'd get -- a good clean tone, or a goose-like squawk!  (The goose was winning!).  I finally took the violin to a good luthier (luckily, there's a great one in my town), and he did everything but issue a death certificate for it.  Here's what you CAN (not necessarily what you WILL) find on a cheap violin (this entire list came from MY violin!):  twisted neck, crack in fingerboard, gaps between neck and fingerboard that were filled in with wood filler (which was deteriorating), nut too high, bridge too low, sound post installed on a slant, pegs not fitted to the peg box (too long -- they stuck out like Dumbo's ears!).  I took the violin back to the store where I'd bought it, and they made good with a wonderful (WONDERFUL!!) violin that I couldn't be happier with.  They took a loss on the deal, but it speaks volumes about the great character of the company (Woodwind & Brasswind).

So the best advice I can give you is, buy the best violin you can afford, but be sure to have it inspected by a very knowledgeable person -- a luthier (if there's one near you), or at least a very good, experienced teacher or other violinist who can spot defects when they see (or hear) them.  Have them play the violin for you -- some problems can be flagged by how things sound.  If not for the out-of-control E-string on my "cheap" violin, I wouldn't have known there was a need for a serious "health" examination on it.

Good luck!

February 2, 2010 at 04:03 AM ·

You present a good example of a situation that all parents must undergo when it comes to purchasing a first instrument. Logically, one would consider all of the factors involved before purchasing a "cheap" or expensive instrument. Are you really interested? Will you stick with it? Will you be able to get a decent return on the instrument once you decide to upgrade to a better instrument? Considering what you have already stated, it should be considered that you do get what you pay for, but will never get that price back if you decide that the practice that is required to master the instrument is too much of a trial. The average parent is completely unaware of the re-sale situation and most business-minded luthiers are not giving too much information out for free.

Since you have no prior violin practice experience, it may make more economical sense if you purchase a cheaper instrument and have a qualified luthier set it up properly. In my experiences, I have found very "cheap" instruments that were of unusually amazing quality, but this requires knowing what to look for in the first place. Even with a very expensive instrument one takes great chances of accident, theft and other disasters that come with the territory of any stringed instrument. Then there is the added expense of insurance, which should always be considered for any instrument of a value of over $1000.00. Treat your instrument well and it will return the favor every time.

The secret of a decent "working" violin (even a cheap one) is in the set-up. Even the finest violins are prone to cracks and such over any period of time, due to various conditions. As I hope to at least give sound advice, I would say that you should look into an instrument of around the $400 and up range and highly suggest that you deal with a reputable luthier that can assist you in making a sound choice.

The ability to purchase a cheap factory (but quality) instrument has introduced many a disadvantaged youth to the wonderful art of violin playing, and this is where the true value of the cheap instrument lies. The cheap instruments that you are possibly referring to ( I call them "penny fiddles" and own one myself that is superb for fiddle music and playing in certain elements I would never take a fine instrument into) are alright for what they are, but you will find that a finer instrument will enhance your learning experience by it’s quality. If you are not well versed in setting up violins yourself, then the cheaper ones will not prove to be a good choice.

February 2, 2010 at 04:52 AM ·

I don't know what you would consider a cheap violin (how low a price). Violinlovers.com has several low-priced and, I understand, quite good violins. I'm not sure what set-up they have. A teacher of mine bought one for a student, and it didn't need setting up, but it was in the higher-priced range. I imagine that if there is no where for you to rent, then finding a luthier to set up the violin might be problematic. Could you travel out of town? It's really not worth the effort and emotional investment to play on a violin that has mediocre tone/is set up badly, so better save up some more money for a  student qualityviolin.

February 2, 2010 at 07:22 AM ·

Well, there is cheap, and there is cheap.
If it says 'teacher approved', that is probably an overstatement.
If it does not say inlaid purfling, it definitely only has purfling by sharpie (drawn on, not real)
If it does not specify the wood is solid, it is laminated (plywood)
(This goes for both front and back)
If the company has most of their stock priced below $500, probablty anything you buy will be worth around $100 or less.
Remember that $0 is less than $100
But, there are some bargains.

The violin I have is fairly inexpensive; a Palatino 855 that has been very well set up before I purchased it used. Although it is definitely a student violin, it does have a rich sound. There may be some inconsistency when shopping in that range, but I think I got lucky.
I also have one I bought on ebay; I found a couple makers that I heard good things about, and I kept bidding within my budget; it took a couple months, but finally I got one well below what I was expecting. It was around 1/3 of the going price for that kind. I guess I had my bid in when everyone was looking at something else. I took that one in for a setup, and after a bridge adjustment, a bit of work on the nut, and a soudpost readjustment, it sounds beautiful.

If you buy carefully, when you go to upgrade, it will likely be possible to get your full purchase price back when you upgrade.

February 2, 2010 at 01:56 PM ·

I was going to suggest you contact my local shop, who have a very nice-sounding started violin and a 100% exchange policy, till I saw you're in Estonia. Your English is very good. You write like an American teen :)  If you can find someone to advise you on inexpensive violins, you can get something that is playable. The set-up needs to be good enough that you won't invent bad technique trying to cope with whatever isn't right. Sue

February 2, 2010 at 02:51 PM ·

Wow, wonderful responses. Thank you!

@Marsha - Yikes! I'll be sure to be vary of these problems.. Neck, pegs, strings, cracks, fingerboard.. How do I spot a wood filler? Is the fingerboard supposed to be flat and firm on the violin with no gaps?

I kinda get overexcited or rather worried when I think about holding a violin.. But I guess I'll force myself to hold it and test the sound ((complete beginner, well... I'm not even worth being called a beginner)).

@Jerald - Are you really interested? Will you stick with it? -- These are the things I've been thinking, pondering and worrying about the past few weeks. Are my feelings genuine? Yep, my biggest worries. Will I get a decent return when I'll want to upgrade? Uh-oh, no. Probably no. Considering I cannot rent even from all the shops I've looked in, there is not much of a chance for any exchange policies.

@Catherine - I suppose I can drag my mom with me somewhere but I don't think that going out of town will help me find a luthier << is this even spelled right?

@Roland - I think I'll keep ebay out of this :) 
The only reason why I  visit different shops in this kind of cold and snow storm is because I decided not to buy any violins from the internet.
I won't rely on hoping to be lucky because well.. I most probably won't be lucky!

@Sue - Alright. I don't have anybody to rely on but myself (instrument buying wise) so I'll just do my best by listening to your advice.

@Everyone - Okay..! I've made up my mind. I think I'll buy a violin that I cannot yet afford (for my own money) which costs 150 usd. But before I do, I hope to get some of my previous questions answered so that I won't just throw money away ;)
Ps: In case that I really will buy that violin, I'd need to wait for the next wednesday (10th) for my mom to get payed so that I can get the last..  27 dollars (universal money converter ftw).
Or perhaps if my mom will agree, then buy a better violin? There's also a small chance that my dad will get an old violin fixed up (somewhere, somehow) in the next month or later..

Thanks again.

Cheers,
Theo
 


 

February 2, 2010 at 05:22 PM ·

I think you are smart to keep the internet out of the options, for a first violin, at least. I must admit I did purchase two other violins that were unsatisfactory before I got the one I currently have! I only added that advice so if you were determined to buy on the internet, you coudl advoid the worst blunders.

Best of luck!

February 2, 2010 at 06:03 PM ·

You are very considerate! Thanks.
Luthier luthier luthier... I wonder if my violin teacher will do. Hopefully he will forgive and accept me buying a violin from a lower price range than he indicated.
 

February 2, 2010 at 06:16 PM ·

Theo, it sounds like you have a teacher lined up.  Have you talked to him/her about your budget?  They may have a student who wants to sell an instrument they are no longer using.  Are there music schools in your area?  They may have bulletin boards listing student instruments for sale.  Your teacher may have ideas about what's available in your city that you don't know about yet.  Even if it's not perfect, and not what your teacher would choose in an ideal world (who lives there anyway?), maybe he or she can steer you to towards a solution.  You are so anxious to learn, and I hope your teacher appreciates that.

February 2, 2010 at 06:18 PM ·

Your English is really excellent!  

Are you planning to have violin lessons?   Do you have any friends who already play a string instrument - violin, viola, cello or bass?   If you do, it might actually save you a lot of money in the long-term if you find out from them where they buy their instruments and where they get them repaired.  Or they could ask their teachers if they know of a cheap violin for sale in good playing condition.  Take a trip to the local music schools to see if you can find out more information, I would be so surprised if there really isn't anywhere to hire a well set-up beginner's violin in your city and it might be possible that your hire fees can be put towards the cost of eventually buying the instrument.

In the mean time, I think the best thing to do is to be patient and keep saving up your money so you'll be able to buy something that won't need a lot more money spent on it to make it ready for playing.

Good luck!

February 2, 2010 at 07:00 PM ·

@Lisa - My violin teacher is my former guitar teacher. We had 2 years of student-teacher relationship..  Two years passed since then and I suddenly had the urge to learn the violin. So I called him and arranged a meeting! I learned how to hold the bow but he didn't direct any attention towards the way I held my violin. Anyway, before I left, he told me that the price range should be 2000 + krones (translation: 180 usd). I told him that I would want him to come with me to help me choose the violin but uh.. He told me that I can handle it myself! (no comments on that)

There is only one music school in my area and they MIGHT rent instruments to younger students but that's a small possibility. There is no way I can attend that school because at least 7 years of practice with the instrument  is needed(with teachers approval),so that you could join the school.
And.. the security is pretty tight there! You need an ID card to get in..

Anyway, I'll call my violin teacher tomorrow to remind him that I haven't given up yet!!  (and of course to ask if he knows where to buy a violin BUT he really stressed that the violin must not cost less than 180 usd).

@Rosalind - Yep! I have long ago contacted my former and now my current violin teacher but we cannot start lessons until I get my violin!!! :[
Friends who play a stringed instrument... Not really. Just one who plays the piano and owns a lot of instruments but I already got every bit of information I could out of him. Well, you can be surprised because there is no way to rent a violin in Tallinn! :P

I visited every local shop, be it violin or not. -- I feel like I'm being teared up inside... The last shop I called.. well, I can't say much except that I will not step a foot inside that building if they have such inconsiderate 'bad word here in plural' working. << The type of people who would only benefit from a smack on the head.

@Everyone - .. Now I'm totally confused. I don't know what to do.. Waiting for a violin that will take MORE than a week for me to get (I'm already waiting for 3 weeks) or... UH! Fine... I'll do so. I'll wait... This has nothing to do with patience, now it's more of a durability.. But I'll call my violin teache-- .. Why would I need to call him? Right, ill tell him not to give up hopes on me because I'm still interested in the violin!!!!!!

Cheers,
Theo
 

February 3, 2010 at 06:45 AM ·

Theo,

You ask about problems with pegs and such... Let me ramble a bit.

To make a violin that will make people weep will cost many thousands of dollars. To tie a string to a board with a knothole will possibly be free. Every other violin lies somewhere in between, both in price and quality.
Every part of the violin can be well made, which requires quality materials and time. Pegs, if made of inferior material, may not hold shape; if poorly made, may not fit well. This goes for the peg holes. If the peg and peg holes do not fit well together, it may be impossible to keep the violin in tune, or it may be difficult to tune.
The material of the body are what carries the sound and resonates. If the material is not up to the task, it will likely not carry the sound. If it is poorly put together, it may have strange other sounds that are difficult to get beyond.
Further, either (or both) can result in an instrument that will be deformed by the string tension, and the top may actually deform by the bridge pressure.
The neck may be a poor angle, so it is difficult to play, or may be uneven, so it is difficult to play all strings well. Other issues may also be apparent.

That said, with some basic good materials, and some attention where it will matter most, even a $100 fiddle may be worthwhile, and if you are in the $150 to $599 range, you can get one that may last you for some years of practice. In the same price range are some pretty bad ones also, so do not go by price alone.

I could not do justice to a $20,000 violin, but I ache for a $1500 one; unfortunately, I have too many other priorities, and have to stay in the lower budget for a while. Don't worry that you first violin does not cost enough; just do (as you are) everything you can to make certain it will sound well enough.

When you get a violin, you should also make certain you recognize the bow it comes with may be your next hurdle. More likely, it will be strings. If you are buying new, it is very possible the cheapest strings are on the instrument. An upgrade in strings may make a significant difference in the sound. Shar Music has some videos on how to change the strings; you may want to watch those.

February 3, 2010 at 03:34 PM ·

Roland --

You make some excellent points!  Well-said!!!  I put on a set of Dominants and bought a better (slightly better) bow for the violin that I ended up returning because of its structural problems.  In spite of everything that was working against it, those two changes really did make a nice and noticeable improvement in the sound.  I save the Dominants when I returned the Florea.  They'll make a nice change -- when it's time -- for the Bellafina I just got to replace the Florea.  My luthier said the strings that are presently on the Bellafina are very good, and don't need to be upgraded for better sound.

I'm sure there are $100 violins out there that aren't beset by all the problems my Florea had.  Again, it's just SO important to have someone who's knowledgeable evaluate a violin before a violin newbie (like me) makes a final decision on a purchase.  Saves LOTS of frustration!!

February 3, 2010 at 08:42 PM ·

I recommend renting in the beginning if that's possible.  A lot of violin shops have a rental policy where they will apply the rent you pay for the violin to your first purchase.  The beginning stages of learning to play go by relatively fast compared to the time you'll spend playing the next violin (the "yay it actually sounds good" violin). 

As for the pros and cons of a modern one...if you wanted to find a modern-made violin that sounded good it's entirely possible.  Skilled violin makers produce beautiful new instruments every year.  Perhaps I don't totally understand the question but I think that if you decide to buy rather than rent just go to a shop with your teacher, tell the dealer your price range and pick one that sounds good.

February 3, 2010 at 09:25 PM ·

@Roland - Wonderful post! I will do my best to make sure that the violin is good enough..  I'll try playing it but I'm a bit scared ill blow everybody's ears if I do so :)
I talked to my music teacher, she doesn't know anything about the violins but she had a very good friend --a violin teacher. Looks like that teacher knows a very good place where you can buy a fiddle for 135 usd with a quality of a 350 usd violin! An Estonian has been bringing China violins to Estonia and selling those for a low price and yes, that teacher highly recommended that I go with an experienced player or a teacher but those violins are supposed to be very good quality for that kind of price range.

Aside from that, the teacher has a student who recently bought a new violin -- she promised to contact my music teacher when she founds out iff the old violin is for sale. And about the china violins.. I'd have to travel to another town but yep! Instrument is not something you can buy in the backyard :)

I contacted my violin teacher and told him that I should get it next week (max).. If the strings would be a problem , then I'd buy new ones and have my violin teacher change them. Bow? I don't think I can do much yet because I can't even play so whatever the bow is, it'll have to do for now. Anyway! I won't have a specialist with me but yes, I'll do my best so just wish me luck ;)

@Marsha - I would do that if that would be possible but dragging my violin teacher somewhere, especially in another city, isn't all that... realistic. I'll just trust myself and my knowledge of the violins that you have greatly filled, members of the violinist.

@Michael - Renting is not possible, sadly. But it would be the best option to be honest. If only it would be as easy as you stated, Michael :)

@everybody - I have no right to complain. Some people don't even have access to a teacher and use violins bought on ebay. Thank you for your advice so far. I'll definitely keep you updated.
ps: Most probably going to go to Tartu (another town) to buy that china violin!

Sincerely,
Theo
 

February 3, 2010 at 09:40 PM ·

Funny you should mention Woodwind & Brsswind, and the name Bellafina.  If you mean the Bellafina 50, it's a real bargain.

My wife and I run a music school about 15 minutes from the Woodwind & Braasswind store.  We strongly recommend the Bellafina 50 violin (and viola, cello, and bass) because they are actually built decently of fairly good quality woods, are set up fairly well, and sound great.  The bows are marginal, as are the strings that come with it.  But for $200, it's an excellent value.  Our students using these instruments do better than those buying the $99.99 one by far.  They simply play better, hold tune, and are much more rewarding for the students. And also a lot less hassle for us as the teachers.

There are obviously better instruments out there, but for the dollar it's hard to beat.

 

February 4, 2010 at 02:42 PM ·

Alright... I'll be going to the violin seller in saturday. She only has one violin so I'm going to have to make a crucial decision. If I'll get it on saturday, I will most probably make the next post on sunday because ill be too busy playing around with it :)

Cheers,
Theo
 

February 4, 2010 at 11:42 PM ·

Hi, Theo --

I'll be thinking about you and your search on Saturday.  Good luck!

I'm no expert on what to look for, but after my experience with the violin I returned, I can give you a couple of tips.  To look for a twist in the neck of a violin, hold it in front of you at eye level, with the neck pointing toward you.  Look at the pegs -- the straight part that goes into the peg box between the neck and the scroll (where the strings attach to the pegs).  The straight part of the pegs extending from the peg box (not the flat finger knobs on the ends) should form a line that's parallel to the top edge of the "body" of the violin.  My luthier could easily tell that my violin had a twist because the pegs were on a slant -- one side was lower than the other -- and they formed a line that intersected the line of the violin top.  Once he pointed it out, it was very obvious even to me.

To check for any humps in the fingerboard, hold the violin in the same position as you do to look for a twisted neck, but make sure you're looking toward a good light source.  If you notice, as you look at the light reflecting off the fingerboard, that there are any obvious light-and-dark areas, there are probably some humps in the fingerboard.  If there's a general, slight scoop to the fingerboard (like the inside of a spoon, but MUCH, MUCH more subtle -- you really have to look for it), that's good!  But if you're seeing light and shadow, that would indicate raised sections that can interfere with your playing, depending on the severity of the humps.  Again, the "scoop" of the fingerboard won't really look like a spoon -- you'd really have to examine it very closely to tell that it wasn't flat.  If you don't see the "light-and-shadow" effect, you're probably OK.

The fingerboard and the neck should meet smoothly, with no gaps in between.  The wood filler that was used in my violin showed up as an irregularity in the texture between the two.  They had painted it black to make it look like the fingerboard, but there was an obvious difference.

The only other thing I can think to mention that could influence how well the violin works for you is the curvature of the top of the bridge, and the height of the bridge.  If the bridge is too low, when you press down on the strings against the fingerboard as if you were playing, the strings will come VERY close to -- or maybe even touch -- the end of the fingerboard.  That's not good, but a bridge can be replaced if everything else looks good.  You just need to find a luthier who could do it for you.  Curvature is more dependent on personal preference.  When there's not much curvature, it's more difficult to keep from bowing one string at a time.  This is often preferred by "fiddlers", since they play multiple strings at once on a regular basis.  But if you plan to gear you playing more toward Classical music (and when you're just starting out and trying to develop your bowing technique), it's easier to play a violin that has more curvature to the bridge.  The violin I returned drove me nuts -- very flat bridge!  My Bellafina has exactly the bridge I want, and I'm not catching adjacent strings nearly as much as I was with the other violin.

That's about all I can think of that could be easy to spot.  I sure hope you find a violin that works well for you.  I was a little disturbed that your violin teacher was so disinterested that he told you that you could handle the choice of an instrument by yourself.  I wish there was someone near you who could advise you!

I'll be hoping for the best for you!

Marsha

 

February 5, 2010 at 04:07 AM ·

Marsha, I think you give great advice. thankyou.

In addition, Theodor, while you are looking at the fingerboard (sighting it down the length of the violin), just check that the tailpiece is lying parallel to the top of the violin.  My last violin that had many structural problems had a twist and was very much higher on the bass side of the strings than the treble side.  That turned out to be one sign of great problems beneath, because it meant that the saddle (The end piece of the violin that the tailpiece gut goes over) was unequal.

 

February 5, 2010 at 05:33 AM ·

@Marsha - So much wonderful advice! I'll definitely look out for these problems. If there are any of those mistakes, do you recommend that I'll look for another violin?

@Taylor - Wow.. Alright!

Okay, now I'm going to school ~ getting a bit late. After that a friend comes over and we're both going to my other friends birthday.. I'll stay there for three hours and then my mom will pick me up and we'll go celebrate grandma's birthday. Hopefully I'll get enough sleep today.

Cheers,
Theo
 

February 5, 2010 at 03:52 PM ·

Hi, Theo!

It's hard to say at what point you should pass on a potentially problematic violin.  If there's a really noticeable twist to the neck, or if the joining of the neck and fingerboard are faulty, I'd say, "Don't buy it!"  If the neck is so slightly twisted that it's hard to tell that the pegs aren't parallel to the edge of the violin's body -- it might be OK.  My luthier said his niece had borrowed a violin until she could get one of her own.  The borrowed violin had a very, very minor twist -- really hard to spot -- and she did very well with it.

A mis-match between the neck and the fingerboard would be a deal-breaker, as far as I'm concerned.  There's too much chance of a future separation.  Very minor bumps in the fingerboard (very minor!) shouldn't interfere with a violin's playability. 

I'd watch out for the problem that Sharelle mentioned.  I hadn't encountered it with the violin I returned, but it sounds like it would be a pretty major flaw.

Hopefully the sales person at the violin shop will be able to play any violin that you're considering -- enough that you can get a good idea of how it sounds.  When he or she presses on the strings while playing -- especially near the end of the fingerboard closest to the bridge -- listen for any odd buzzing or other sound that would indicate that the string is touching the end of the fingerboard.  If it is, the bridge is probably too low.  From the research I've done, it looks like having a higher bridge installed should correct the problem, but that will involve a luthier and probably another $80-100 (USD).

One other thing I hadn't mentioned -- there's a chance that the sound post (a "stick" inside the violin that conducts the sound from the violin's top to its back) might not be standing straight -- it might be on a bit of a slant.  This can be corrected in about ten seconds by a luthier, and it shouldn't interfere with playing the violin even if you can't have it taken care of right away.  The tone of the violin just wouldn't be as nice as it would be after the post was straightened.

If you do buy one of the less-expensive models (the one I returned was a Florea Recital II -- listed at $99.95 USD, and made in China), it's pretty much a given that the pegs are going to slip.  I had the store salesman put peg drops on the violin's pegs before I ever left the store (simple to do after the directions are read).  They really helped to keep the violin in tune longer.  Once you get your violin, when you're tuning it, always back the string down a little (loosen it slightly) before tightening it to raise the pitch.  That way, if the peg is stuck you'll have it moving freely before tightening the string.  If it is stuck, and it suddenly breaks free while you're tightening, it could tighten too much and too quickly, breaking the string.

I don't know what the weather is like during this time of year where you live (I've got to look up Estonia!).  Here in Northern Indiana (USA), it's very cold -- the furnace runs a lot.  If your furnace has a humidifier built into it to keep the air in the house more moist, it's not such an issue.  My furnace doesn't have one, though, so the air gets REALLY dry in my home.  This can be a real problem for violins -- not only does the wood shrink up and the pegs slip (maybe more than peg drops would be able to compensate for), but the violin can actually crack if it gets too dry (usually fixable, but expensive!).  I bought a little humidifier that fastens into the violin case -- as water evaporates from it, it keeps the air in the case at a better humidity for the wood.  The one I have is an "Oasis" humidifier -- a little bottle that releases moisture very slowly, and attaches to a magnetic strip so it doesn't rattle around in the case.  It's great!!  I tried one of those "Dampit" tube/snake-looking things that fit down inside the violin, but it didn't work as well as the Oasis.  If you get any kind of in-case/in-violin humidifer, be sure to use distilled or filtered water.  Regular tap water has minerals that will eventually clog the humidifier.  At the rate I'm going through the gallon of distilled water I bought, I shouldn't run out for several years!

For now, that's all the shopping advice I can think of.  If you have doubts about an instrument, I know it's really hard to put the brakes on and make yourself wait for something better to come along.  But if you buy a poorly-made violin that interferes with your learning and playing, you won't be doing yourself any favors.  You won't enjoy playing because of the frustration produced by the instrument.  If you do have to wait a bit longer, it'll just give you more time to save more money for a better instrument.  I know that's not what you want to hear right now, but keep it in the back of your mind.  And be sure that there's a very good return policy at the store -- the place where I shop has a 45-day approval period, so you have time to really test an instrument and see if it's the right one for you.  Within that 45 days, if the buyer decides it's not the right instrument, he or she can return it for a full refund or credit (as long as it's in the same condition it was in when it left the store).

Have fun tomorrow.  If you're anything like I was the night before I bought my violin, you'll probably be too excited to get much sleep tonight.  Good luck!  And Happy Birthday to your Grandmother and your friend.  :)

Marsha

 

February 6, 2010 at 10:24 AM ·

Marsha, excellent advice. I thought that it would be more of a violin shop too until I called the seller.
Right now she has only one violin left so I don't have a choice ;)
So yeah. There's one violin that I'm going to check out. The sound post.. if it's inside the violin then I won't be able to spot it, won't I? I probably won't be able to tell a difference either way :P
The peg adjusting/turning -- I agree with that! There are no such problems on a guitar but I wouldn't be surprised if there are on the violin. Also I heard it's good to apply pressure inside the violin when tuning so that the peg box (I believe that's how it's called) wouldn't crack from pressure.

In Estonia.. It was unbelievably cold the past three weeks but lately it has gotten pretty warm (winter wise).. Humid... I don't know about that. I suppose that if I should compare to Turkey or perhaps Tenerife, then the air is pretty dry. Never really thought about what the humid is in Estonia. Let's see... Okay, I looked it up and I don't know if it gives you much but it's.. 81% and if it's any of concern, the air pressure is 1029 hPa 772 mmHg.
Do I need a humidifier?

Yeah.. I've been thinking about this myself. Will I be able to resist buying if it is a poorly made violin? So yes, I will certainly resist if I spot any of the mistakes ill list at the end of the post to make sure I got them all. As I said before, the seller is not from an official shop so there are no return policies or anything like that. "you buy it, you keep it" policy would be the only one ;)

Oh and how did I sleep? Pretty good considering I have never done so many things on friday's after school so I was really tired. I would rather not get over excited right now, or else I would just give the money and take the violin home regardless of condition. IF I should buy the violin, I do have to say that I'd have to.. bring it all the way back to Tallinn in a car ;)
Will this result in anything else but the need to tune it? I suppose I'll run into this a lot because I would usually walk to a bus stop, sit on a bus, get off the bus and walk some more to the teacher's place.

Now.. Let's see.. Last question, how do pegs.. slip?
1)pegs
2)cracks anywhere
3)fingerboard
4)twisted neck
5)disproportional violin
6)buzzing when pressing on the fingerboard end nearest to the bridge
7)Bridge angle,height and position
8)Sound post -- however should I check that
9)String quality

I got them all?

Cheers,
Theo
 

February 6, 2010 at 03:39 PM ·

Hi, Theo --

I realize that with the time difference between here and Estonia (it's mid-morning here, but probably dinnertime or later there), you may have already made your decision before reading this.

Wow!  The old expression "stuck between a rock and a hard place" (meaning not much in the way of good options) sure applies here!  I'm sitting here with my brain spinning, trying to figure out how to advise you about the limited choices you have.  It would help a lot if I wasn't so new to all this myself.

When I was shopping, there were two relatively nearby stores to choose from (neither in my town, but no further than a 40-minute drive away).  The two stores had a combined total of probably 40 or more violins to check out.  One store didn't have anything I could even come close to being able to afford.  The other is where I bought the violin that I returned.  (It's also where my new Bellafina violin came from, but I only have that due to pure luck on my part, and a charitable attitude on theirs.)

I had the benefit of having studied violin briefly, almost 20 years ago, using an old violin that a dear friend had given me.  When it came to shopping for a new one a few weeks ago (a smaller one, because I'm short), I thought I knew what to look for, but looking back at the whole experience, I really didn't have as much of a clue as I thought I did (hence the problems I encountered with the violin I ended up returning to the store).  I'm using what I learned after recently making my own mistakes in violin shopping (so it's all very fresh in my mind!) to try to help you.

It never occurred to me until reading your post this morning that there would be so many limitations that you'd have to deal with -- only one violin to "choose" from, the added pressure of the store not having a return policy, etc.  Under the circumstances, I really think you and your mother (and maybe your music teacher at school) should try again to convince your violin teacher to accompany you and give you some input on the quality of what you're looking at.  If he still refuses to go with you, do you think you could work something out with your school music teacher (or maybe even her friend who teaches violin) to step in and advise you?  It's a very big and expensive decision to make when you probably don't have all the information you need.

Getting to your most recent questions --

1) Slipping pegs.  This goes back partly to what I mentioned about humidity.  If the air is dry, it'll dry the wood of the violin, too.  As the wood dries, it shrinks somewhat -- the pegs get a tiny bit smaller and the holes they fit into in the peg box get a tiny bit larger.  Throw in the pressure from the tension of the strings, and BOING!!  Something's got to give, and it's usually the tuning of the violin.  Violins also go out out tune very gradually, even in more humid conditions -- from just the pressure of the strings.  The peg drops I mentioned before can help keep a violin in tune longer, and providing enough humidity helps a lot, too.

2) Sound post.  The sound post can be seen if you look into the violin at an angle through the f-holes (they're called "f-holes" because they look a lot like a lower-case letter "f" in some of the old writing styles we see).  You'll probably need a flashlight.  The post will be very close to the right-hand side of the bridge (if you're holding the violin facing you, with the neck up).  Don't be too concerned if it's a little off-kilter -- that can be corrected later.

3) Tuning.  You've heard something I haven't as far as "applying pressure" inside the peg box while tuning.  I'm not sure I completely understand it, but it's something to consider.  When you want to turn a peg, draw it SLIGHTLY out -- just enough to allow it to turn easier, but not so much that you can really see that it's been moved.  After you finish adjusting it, press it back in to re-establish the tension/friction that keeps it from slipping.

4) Traveling (by car, bus, etc.).  Kids around here who are in school orchestras carry their instruments back and forth to school all the time.  If it's really cold, I'd just make sure the violin and bow have warmed up to as close to room temperature as possible before making adjustments (tuning/playing the violin, tightening/loosening the bow, etc.).

5) Humidity.  That would be a really good question to start a Discussion Thread about on Violinist.com!  At this point, I don't know what the cut-off is between needing a humidifier and not needing one.  You shouldn't use one if it's not necessary.  You mentioned that you'd checked, and the humidity where you live is 81%.  Was that indoor or outdoor humidity?  If it's indoor -- inside your house -- 81% seems pretty acceptable (but I'd still ask a violin expert).  If it's the outdoor humidity, the air in your house can still be considerably more dry because of furnace activity (unless your furnace has a built-in humidifier).  I just know that the humidity in my house is so low that I feel like I'M drying out!!  Every time I walk across the floor and touch a metal doorknob, I generate a spark that could power a lamp!  Whatever the general consensus is on the Discussion Board, I'd go with it.  If in doubt, it'd be a good idea to put a little hygrometer (it tells the humidity level) into your case (I don't know how much the "in-case" ones cost), or get one that would just sit on a shelf or table in whatever room the violin is kept in most of the time (I've seen those -- combined with a thermometer -- for around $10 USD).  Oh, yeah, and you'll want to keep the violin far away from any heat vents.  The air would be more dry there, and also the repeated temperature changes (furnace on/furnace off) can be damaging to it.

Well, that's about all the discussion points I can think of right now.  I'm looking forward to finding out how things went for you on your "quest".  Please let me know what you decided.

Marsha

 

February 6, 2010 at 03:56 PM ·

Hi again, Theo --

Just type in "Violin Humidifiers" in this site's Search feature.  There's some information there, but I have to go out, so won't have time to see what it says until later.  Maybe there will be information we can both use there.  I'm going to check it out when I get home.

Marsha

 

February 6, 2010 at 05:53 PM ·

Theo,

You wonder how pegs slip? Look on any site that sells violins, and look at the pegbox. You will see the pegs, but if you think about it a bit deeper, the pegs are really much simpler things than they are on a guitar.

The pegs are simply round pegs, stuck into a tapered hole. The string goes through a small hole in the peg, then is simply wrapped around the peg. Turning the peg directly tightens/loosens the string.

If the pegs are not well rounded, or if the hole taper does not match the peg taper, or if the hole is rough, the peg does not hold evenly. It may slip, or it may have certain 'grab points', all of which make tuning difficult.
A word of caution on pushing too hard on the peg while tuning; the hole for the peg is in some fairly narrow wood; make certain you are not pushing so hard you can cause it damage.

Another word of caution. You mention the weather; the wood is sensitive to sudden change; if you do get a violin, protect it from severe fluctuations. If you leave it in the case when outside, that will be some protection. The result could be anything from needing to be re-tuned to actual warpage or cracking (needing retuned is more probable, but why risk it?).

You also ask about the sound post; if you look through the side of the violin, through one of the f holes, you should see the sound post. There is a good picture here.
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.solarnavigator.net/music/instruments/instrument_images/Violin_sound_post_end.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.solarnavigator.net/music/instruments/violin.htm&h=537&w=670&sz=12&tbnid=BZaze-vVWY4FtM:&tbnh=111&tbnw=138&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dviolin%2Bsound%2Bpost%2Bpicture&hl=en&usg=__uT574mcRKUN1yS88pF9gcD_TnPA=&ei=SaxtS7uGA5K6swO8ufmxDQ&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=1&ct=image&ved=0CAkQ9QEwAA

February 6, 2010 at 10:58 PM ·

@Marsha - No no no no no. I didn't buy that violin yet. There's quite a problem (not with the violin, I didn't see it yet). I hate it when plans get delayed or changed. 

Looks like my mom doesn't trust the knowledge I have and thinks that it's not worth it to go and check it out, including the problem with the expenses. The trip would cost a lot.
She actually considered (and still does) just doing a money transfer to that seller and have the violin transported here..! I'll die waiting till friday.. and I do not want some random violin being shipped to me either. I guess I'll just ask my music teacher about the violin on tuesday -- I don't remember if I mentioned it earlier or not but she called a violin teacher who has a student that recently bought a new violin, so the teacher will ask her about the old violin. Is the student willing to give or sell it to me, the question would be. So hopefully I'll get some news from the music teacher. If not, then I'm going to have to take the violin that I'll get shipped to Tallinn on friday..

I don't know the violin teacher personally but I did get the recommendation for both of the violins, the students and the sellers. I'll see what I can do if I should go for the students violin.

-- By applying pressure I mean, pressing sideways(applying pressure). 81% would be outdoors. I do not have a furnace because I don't live in a house ;) I do however have.. uhm.. don't know the word for that in English. Well, it warms up the air in every room. I suppose it's pretty balanced inside.. I'll check out the humidifier posts on violinist.com tomorrow, it's.. 1 am already ;)

Anyway, thanks! I had all of my questions answered.

@Roland - Excellent explanation and the picture of the sound post helped me a lot, thank you!

@Everyone - I'll keep you updated!

All the best,
Theo

 

February 6, 2010 at 11:53 PM ·

Hi, Theo --

Thanks for the update.  It sounds like the used violin from the other student could be a really good possibility, if the student is willing to sell it.  If it served well enough for him or her to progress to needing another one, it seems like it would do well for you, too.  I hope it works out!

I see what you mean about pressure on the sides of the peg box.  Good point!

Roland gave some really good information about pegs and sound posts. 

I had a chance to check out some of the information about violin humidifiers from past Discussion Board, and opinions are all over the map!  A few people brought up the point that varying humidity can be more of a problem for a violin than simply dry conditions.  I hadn't thought about that before.  Seems to make sense.

The heat source in your home sounds like what we call a furnace here -- coal or oil or natural gas (ours is natural gas) is burned in a fire-proof metal "box", and then a fan sends the heated air from the box through big pipes to all the rooms of the house.  Is that how yours works?  In new furnaces, water is piped to the furnace.  It evaporates in the heat, and then the vapor is pumped with the heated air throughout the house.  My mother's furnace is like this, but ours is older and only pumps the dry, heated air -- that's why we have the indoor humidity level of the Sahara Desert!

I put a new bow on layaway today -- much nicer than the one I have now.  I'll have to make payments on it for a couple of months, but then it's all mine!

Hope the news will be good about the other student's violin!

Marsha

 

February 7, 2010 at 12:07 AM ·

Hi again, Theo!

I just went back and read your last post more closely -- I didn't catch the part that said you don't live in a house.  Is it an apartment?  I know a lot of apartments have radiator heat (with a radiator in every room) rather than the central heating of a regular house.  Some radiators are electric, and some pipe hot water through (from a boiler) that heats the surrounding air.  Does that sound more like the system you have?  From what I remember, if the pressure builds up too much in the hot-water radiators, there's a release valve that shoots a small jet of steam into the air until the pressure is corrected.  We could sure use a little steam in the atmosphere here once in a while!!

Now that I've cleared that up.....guess I'll go decide what's for supper!

Marsha

  

February 7, 2010 at 12:09 AM ·

I have never really gotten into technical details of the furnaces.. It has to do something with water I suppose but I doubt it evaporates anything. Reminds me when a.. screw needed to be turned just enough for the air to come out. We overdid it and well, the screw disappeared (which we found later) and the whole room was being flooded -- scary. Good thing we found the screw and got it back in place, no damage to the furniture luckily ;)
Oh, and the furnace(s) we have should be AT LEAST 10 years old, so yeah.
EDIT: Yeah, yeah. A radiator -- I just got convinced that radiators can be called furnaces.
EDIT1: Yeah, I live in an apartment and yep, it's a system with hot water.

I really hope that the student violin would be an option too.

Cheers,
Theo
 

February 9, 2010 at 01:08 PM ·

Alright, time for an update.. Tomorrow, the last lesson in school would be the music lesson so I'll have a chance to ask the music teacher about the violin.. That's it for now!

February 9, 2010 at 02:23 PM ·

Hope the news will be good!!  :)

February 11, 2010 at 05:30 AM ·

Ha! Well.. My music teacher didn't get called yet even though she should have. I didn't want to tell her that the violin teacher might have forgotten to call but w/e. I decided to visit the music university the teacher suggested to visit for an offer stand -- possibly violin sales. Also there are luthiers right inside that university! Well, too bad I couldn't find it.. All what's left to do now is to get the violin from Tartu. I'll call the seller and tell her that I want to make a deal..

May luck be on my side.

Cheers,
Theo
 

February 11, 2010 at 04:28 PM ·

Hi, Theo --

I'm sorry that you weren't able to connect with the University -- that would have been exciting!  Keep it in mind, though -- you might be able to locate it on a future try.  Maybe if you try phoning, e-mailing or even snail-mailing the University -- directed to the School of Music -- you can establish some contacts (and probably even get detailed directions on getting there).  Ask how to get in touch with any of the luthiers they might have on-staff  -- then write to one or more of them.  They might be very helpful contacts to have if you have concerns about your violin.  Or even if you don't have concerns.  The luthier I've found in my town has been a real wealth of information on violins and music in general -- not just pertaining to my own violins.

Don't automatically assume that the violin you buy from the store is going to have problems.  The one I purchased and had to return didn't have a lot going for it, but I've read reviews of the same model that were very positive.  Hopefully, you'll get one of the best ones! :)

I'm eager to hear how things are progressing -- keep in touch!

Marsha

 

February 12, 2010 at 09:03 PM ·

Ha! Got the violin ten minutes ago. At first I got pretty disappointed but then I thought it's not all that bad.

The figure, form is good, no deformations. Wood filler isn't used except for the pegbox (looks pretty awful), probably cracked in the past and got fixed up. The pegs are made of plastic. The strings aren't set as well as the bridge. The strings cut into the fingerboard a bit (I loosened them up a bit more to prevent further damage). It's just the way they are right now without the bridge which puts those in tension. The sound post.. I think it's straight. There are no cracks in the violin.

Bow: One bow hair has been loose, nothing I could do with it so i just cut it. A question now, when you tense up the hair, it's supposed to curve closer to the.. stick(lack of a better word) or the opposite way? Which way do I turn it to make it tense up? Well, I see a lot of flaws in the violin and the bow but I suppose it's suits the price and it's not all that bad. Hopefully my teacher will be okay with this kind of practice violin.

Thank you for all of your support, thanks to you, I've been able to spot these mistakes ;)
And oh, the violin case.. will do for now and I probably should buy a new bow (Don't have money now). The rosin is pretty minimalistic. Anyway, thank you!! Hopefully the violin isn't too bad to you either.

Cheers,
Theo
This leads to my next question.. I'll make a new post about it.
 

February 13, 2010 at 03:56 AM ·

Hi, Theo!

Congratulations!  Your violin arrived pretty quickly -- I thought it would take longer to reach you.

You were right to clip the loose hair from your bow.  Occasionally other hairs will probably break, or sag more than the others -- clipping them is always the right thing to do -- not pulling them out.

As you tighten the bow, the hair will move further from the stick -- when you loosen it, it'll be closer to the stick.  When you store the bow, always loosen it enough that the hair almost -- but not quite -- touches the stick.  If you store it without loosening it, the hair will stretch out and probably end up breaking.

You've probably figured it out by now, but as you hold the bow with the frog end toward you, turn the screw clockwise to tighten it and counter-clockwise to loosen it.  To play, try first tightening it to the point where you can just about get your little fingertip between the hair and the stick.  You might find later that either a little tighter or a little looser works better for you and your violin, but it's a good place to start.

And never touch the hair!  Skin oil can really be a problem on the hair.

You've probably got enough rosin to get you going for a while.  It doesn't take much.  If the bow is brand-new and has never been rosined, it'll take quite a bit initially.  After that -- if you're playing quite a bit -- it probably won't need to be re-rosined more than once every few days.  When the sound starts declining, it's probably time for more rosin.  If they sent you rosin that's very dark in color, that's a good one to use in colder weather, but you'll want to get some of the lighter, amber-colored rosin when the weather warms up (the dark stuff will get too sticky).

I'm kind of surprised about the plastic pegs.  I wonder if they could possibly be some of the new Planetary Perfection Pegs (also known as Pegheads, I guess).  From what I understand, they're pretty expensive, but everybody I've heard of who uses them really loves them.  The have tiny little gears inside the pegs (!!!) that eliminate the need for fine tuners.  If that's not what your pegs are -- if they're just plain plastic -- ask your teacher if you should plan to have them replaced with wooden pegs as soon as you can.

Right now I can't remember what else you asked or commented on.  I'll re-read your post later and see if I missed anything.  My daughter is getting impatient -- she needs the computer -- so guess I'd better sign off.

Marsha

   

February 14, 2010 at 09:55 AM ·

 Thanks Marsha!

My sister is kind of a nuisance. We're twins but geez! She is way too much of a problem. "Don't touch the violin!", "Don't touch the bow hair!!", why? It's not like they will break or anything... Arghgh. 
She causes injury. She closed the door with my fingers almost getting slammed.  When we get into fights/conflicts, she likes to grab and..uh, hurt my fingers. I'll kill her one day (we'll not really). I love my sister as much as I don't want to admit it. If she would get into trouble I would most definitely get worried. But arghh!! Should she ruin or somehow interfere with my violin adventures, I will not forgive her. Also, she is my rival. She has been interested in the violin long before I have but she has given up about in a matter of a few days. She didn't have enough resolve and passion towards the violin to continue. And now, suddenly after two or three years, she heard that I'll get a violin. It wasn't pretty.

I heard my mom comfort her "you'll get the violin when Theo stops playing at it".. NO WAY SHE'll GET IT!! Although she was interested in it in the past, she knows absolutely nothing.. The only reason she got interested is because she's an anime freak and well, to put it shortly.. "La corda d'oro".

So! This is the update for now. My lesson will be.. starting very late. Because my teacher doesn't have much time. Wednesdays 9.30 pm and 45 minute lessons. The school actually closes at 10 pm. I might sometimes get better times when somebody won't be able to make it to the lessons.

EDIT: I decided to take a look at the bridge and uh. Is it okay that it's wooden? I thought those were supposed to be plastic.
EDIT: Sound post is supposed to be wooden right? (it's wooden for me) and.. The tailpiece is supposed to be plastic? (it's plastic for me). Does it matter where the sound post is? I think it's straight but if I look from one F hole, it's closer than from the other one (significally). Does it have to be exactly in the middle, beneath the bridge?

I'll keep you updated!

Sincerely,
Theo

February 15, 2010 at 06:22 PM ·

Bridges are normally wood 

Sound post are normally wood and is positioned behind the treble foot of the bridge (the high pitch side) about 3 mm toward the talipiece.  There should be a bass bar on the other side that runs nearly the length of the top.

The tailpiece can be wood, plastic, metal or composite material.

Don't let your sister get to you, in ten years she will be your best friend in the world.

February 15, 2010 at 10:09 PM ·

Whew, what a relief. I guess all I would need right now is (probably) a new bow and wooden pegs. Haven't tested the sound of the strings yet, hopefully they're okay. The.. peg box should be fixed up better and.. Does the playing quality really.. suffer from having a fingerboard from some other kind of wood than usual? It looks like I have normal, white/biege/ slightly yellow colored wood that was just painted black. -- left me that impression from the strings that have slightly cut into the edge of the fingerboard.

Also -- I have a new update. The teacher called me up and told me that wednesday won't do, so the lesson will be on friday 7.30 pm (much better time). Can't wait to have the bridge set up and the violin tuned.. I did a little research and yeah, at first it scared me that the bridge's right side is lower than the other one but looks like it has to be like that. It doesn't have marked spots for strings, that's why ill have the teacher do this. << Does he need to know how to do that as a teacher? Hopefully.

All the best,
Theo
 

February 15, 2010 at 11:49 PM ·

Hi, Theo --

I read the e-mail you forwarded to me -- I'll e-mail you back about it when I have more time.  I told Becky she could have the computer in 5 minutes.

I'm glad your lesson has been moved to a more student-friendly time!  Not only will it be better for travel, but you and your teacher both won't be so tired, and should be able to get more accomplished.

Yep -- one side of the bridge should definitely be higher than the other -- shorter side to the right (as you're looking toward the violin top, with the neck pointing upward).

Gotta run!

Marsha 

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