Is this bridge angled wrong?

November 17, 2010 at 06:05 PM ·

I just bought my violin last weekend.  I am having an issue with squeaks and squawks that I did not have with my rental.  It is a diminishing issue as I get use to a different bridge (my rental was a fiddle set up) a new bow,  - everything is different for me and being a rank beginner these differences are huge for me.

It was suggested that maybe my bridge was not straight.  To me, it does look a little off but what do I know?  What's your thoughts?

Replies (70)

November 17, 2010 at 06:35 PM · Hi, Susan, Any chance of sending those http etc. as links?? I tried clicking on 'em, and nothing happens. Also tried typing the whole works out, and doesn't go anywhere. I don't use photobucket. Sue

November 17, 2010 at 06:46 PM ·

Susan the bridge is too thick and it should be slanted gradually and not have a thick middle like your bridge has. The top of the bridge is also too thick. It looks like a crappy job all round. I cannot see the feet so I cannot comment on the seating. I cannot see the slant diagonally so it is difficult to comment if it is correct.

My advice is to go to a luthier that knows what he is doing. Why do you have the blue thing in the F-hole, you want sound coming out of the F-hole.   

November 17, 2010 at 07:23 PM ·

 Sue, here are the links for you to save Susan doing them as seen as I was going to comment here anyway!

Sue, I agree with the above post that your bridge looks very thick, especially in the middle. I think you should take it to a luthier who can do something with it! 

November 17, 2010 at 07:43 PM ·

You made beautiful and informative photos! To me it seems as if the bridge is just a little crooked, from being pulled backwards by using fine tuners on non-steel strings. The lower side seems to have been pulled backward more than the E-string side. I think seeing a violinmaker would be a good idea.

Good luck,


November 17, 2010 at 08:13 PM ·

It looks like a bad bridge, and warped too, leaning bacK from about halfway.

The whole set up looks like its been done by an amateur, and maybe a blind one at that!!

Take it to a good repairer, but it might cost!

And I agree about whatever it is you have stuck in the f hole.

November 17, 2010 at 08:44 PM ·

Is that the bridge that came on the instrument?  Where did you get the violin?  What kind is it?

November 17, 2010 at 08:48 PM ·

Well, I've seen better bridges (and a lot worse). The bridge is warped, and I suspect that the player uses the fine tuners constantly since that would tend to pull the top of the bridge back toward the tailpiece. That, however, does not address the issue of squeaks and squawks. When I look at the end of the fingerboard, I can see ruts or depressions where the string has been rubbing as you play. I couldn't tell if much of what I saw there was rosin or wear. I'd suggest cleaning it up. Rosin can be removed mechanically. Not pretty, but effective. It can also be done with alcohol. You might want to let an experienced person do that. If that stops the squeaks, you're good to go for a while. But unless you are playing to the end of the fingerboard on the fourth and third strings, my vote says that the fingerboard scoop is much too deep. In that case, have the fingerboard planed and take care of the bridge problem at the same time.

November 17, 2010 at 10:18 PM ·

 sorry but that bridge needs to be thrown away (it is bad quality and warped) and a new good one to replace it..... agree with Peter here

over here in UK it would cost (depending on location/luthier) around £100 to £150 ($160 to $240)

November 17, 2010 at 10:33 PM ·

I was just looking at my fingerboard and it does have staining or shadowing as if there are scoops and indentions but I can not feel any and when I look straight back over the bridge to the fingerboard it looks very smooth.  I have only had this violin for 4 days.  I wonder if the fingerboard has already been filed.   When I play I tend to play closer to my bridge than the fingerboard. 

When I was trying out violins on Saturday I looked at the bridge and thought it looked odd but forgot to ask the shop owner.  I was with friends and they had packed up the violin I wanted and the bow I wanted in the case I wanted then went to the shop owner to convince her to sell it all to me within my budget which was pretty well blown at that point.  So I completely forgot to ask about the bridge.  We all loved the sound of this violin which they think is a Shen, about 20 years old.  It had orginally been in the white, finished badly then refinished.

The blue thing in the f hole is my humidifier tube.  It does come out when I play :-)  The photos where taken pretty much in the case.  I don't see any evidence of rosin build up.  It's pretty clean.  You may have seen fuzzies from the soft cloth I wipe it with.



November 17, 2010 at 10:36 PM ·

Susan, I am going to disagree here. The bridge look chunky. It also appears warped. Everything Robert says is true.

But don't spend any money just yet!  Keep the bridge so that the flat side (the side facing the tailpiece) is perfectly perpendicular to the top of the fiddle. You do this by gently gripping the bridge with both hands, clamping between thumb and forefinger and 2nd fingers. There is a description somewhere on a fiddle page about it.

Keep your strings clean. Pay attention to your bowing, and do that for another 2 weeks. Work hard at playing and then if you aren't getting anywhere, go right back to your dealer.

If you can get the dealer to get that bridge carved and positioned better, and the fingerboard worked on for free, then do it. Get advice from very experienced players who also happen to know about fiddle setup. Note that plenty of players don't know how to set up--just as most drivers can't change a tire. Not every dealer is good at this stuff. That's why you need advice from experienced good sounding players nearby about whom to trust.


Ugh, that humidifier tube in the fiddle gives me the heebie jeebies though I have seen very experienced players with $200K fiddles use them. Be careful!


November 17, 2010 at 10:41 PM ·

 the problem of getting THIS bridge shaped/thinned down is that a bad bridge cannot be shaped/thinned down, it will bend/brake under the tension of the strings if you make it thinner as it is not strong enough to be 'thinner'.

Might be lucky enough to get it very faintly thinner but will it be making any difference?  probably better off leaving it as it is until she can afford a proper one put on or what I would do I'd go back to the shop and say that I was given a violin with an ill fitting bridge/warped bridge can they please replace it, at least even if they replace it with a cheap bridge it will be a non warped one so she will still be better off as at present she has a cheap and warped one

November 17, 2010 at 10:55 PM ·

Jo, that's what I was thinking - going back to the luthier and asking them to look at the bridge.  I'll tell them the truth, that I meant to ask them about it Saturday and forgot.  They may (maybe?) replace it for a proper one.

I am VERY careful about the humidifier.  After I soak it, I let it sit for about 10 minutes so the rubber can dry.  I don't want any droplets hitting my instrument.  I value the beautiful finish too much!

November 17, 2010 at 11:02 PM ·

 Susan I think you should (in a very nice way) make the seller understand they sold you an instrument with a warped bridge (ie: unfit for purpose) and they are supposed to put it right for you free of charge.....

this is a shop you bought it from (if I remember right), I think you shouldn't have a problem in making them understand......

November 17, 2010 at 11:18 PM ·

The bridge is not up to standard but that does not fully explain the squekes and squawkes that you are getting. You have to define that better. I had bridges that tilt but no squekes and squawkes. It sounds as if something is loose. 

Also just leave the humidifier in a pocket or loose in the case. The violin is not the place to stuff a humidifier in.

November 17, 2010 at 11:20 PM ·

If you bought the violin because you liked the way it sounded, it might not be good to mess with the setup too much, unless it's causing specific playing issues. The bridge doesn't look like it was made by someone highly skilled, but it may work fine, and can be straightened. A thinner or harder bridge could result in a brighter tone, which may not be what you want, and can also be less forgiving of squeaks and squawks. At any rate, if that's a bridge the shop installed on the violin, it may be the best they know how to do, and it may be pointless to ask for something beyond their ability.

Many times, a bridge can be straightened just by moving the top away from the concave side. It may take a few such small adjustments over time before it takes a new "set". If you haven't moved the top of the bridge before, have someone coach you or show you how. It's part of routine maintenance. Rather than orienting the back of the bridge perpendicular to the top (which may not be the way it was originally fitted), I like to observe how much the orientation bends the bridge, or possibly raises the front or back of the feet.

November 18, 2010 at 12:00 AM ·

Dion - this violin has a classical set up, the rental I have been playing was a fiddle set up.  I just bought a new carbon fiber bow.  I played this violin mostly with my old rental bow and a little with the CF bow before purchasing both and never heard a squeek or a squawk..  So the squeeks and squawks could be a number of things - getting use to a different style bridge, a different type bow, maybe that it's a brand new bow?  Hard to say.  I didn't have squawks with my rental though.  Also, the squawks are getting far and fewer between.  It seems like I get more trouble with music that I know so I can concentrate on technique but if I am looking at sheet music and not paying so much attention to my bowing or fingers, it's fine.

One thing I am keeping in mind is that photos lie, no matter how hard you try to get accurate photos.  They are pretty accurate about the angle though.  So when I go to the luthier tomorrow I will tell her my concerns about angle, thickness and warpage and see what she says.  I can easily do it in a "I don't have a clue" type of way.   I don't want to offend her.  I think the bridge may have been the one that was on my violin when she got it.  Other violins in her shop have thinner bridges.  

I really appreciate everyone's input and suggestions.  It's hard when you are beginning and don't have an instructor to look over things.  I have many friends that play but sometimes it's hard getting together with them.

November 18, 2010 at 12:11 AM ·

Oh!  I forgot to thank Eloise for posting the links again!  For some reason my links didn't convert to something clickable when I did my cut and paste

November 18, 2010 at 12:15 AM ·

Susan it seems like you need a teacher desperately and a decent luthier.

Let her also check the soundpost she might have forgotten it.


November 18, 2010 at 12:33 AM ·

Dion - I need money!  This economy sucks.  As soon as I can afford it I will get a good instructor.  The luthier may be harder to find as this one came highly recommended.

November 18, 2010 at 12:36 AM ·

OMGosh!  David, I just saw you are in Ann Arbor.  I may be in the Ypsi area around Christmas to see the kids.  I'll have to plan a visit!

November 18, 2010 at 01:20 AM ·

More info on the bridge.  This luthier did not make it.  It has a brand on it and with a bright light I could make out some of the words.  It has two words forming a circle with a fancy "A" in the middle.  The top word says (I think) "Aupert"  The bottom word was too small to make out.  Below this it says "France".  

November 18, 2010 at 02:22 AM ·

Aubert is the bridge blank maker. They make many grades of blanks. The carving of the bridge is always done to fit the specific violin.

Since you are doing this on a budget, you really aught to simply find all you can to read about violin maintenance and violin making. There are lots of resources. As I am sure you didn't spend a lot on your fiddle, you shouldn't be afraid of maintaining it yourself. When I say a lot I mean less than $2k. Actually in violin terms a lot is like $50k and up. There isn't really all that much you can screw up on a fiddle doing it yourself, if you bother to learn the fundamentals. You can even carve your own bridge if you have to and it will work OK. It might not get the most out of the fiddle, but you are not at that stage yet! If the soundpost ever falls, that is important and you should get that taken care of. However I have even done them myself with a sharpened coathanger...

November 18, 2010 at 02:49 AM ·

You will be welcome Susan, unless you happen to catch me on a day when I'm varnishing. The rest of the world goes on "ignore" when I'm doing that. Happy to check out your fiddle too. Call first, because I'm in and out.

What unfortunate fate has befallen your kids that they reside in Ypsilanti? (sorry folks, it's local humor)

November 18, 2010 at 08:28 AM ·


I think this sends a message to all inexperienced players looking for a new violin (or a first violin).

Even if you have to pay them it is REALLY advisable to take with you a really experienced player and one preferably who knows something about setup too.

It is a minefield otherwise. A good player who has been around stringed instruments for years should at least immediately recognise anything out of the ordinary and the basic quality of the workmanship of the instrument and the set up.

November 18, 2010 at 08:51 AM ·

 Susan, I'm with David 100%. If the sound of the violin satisfies you....everything is said. Maybe this particular violin need a thicker bridge.

David is probably the best person near you who can give you advice. Maybe you don't need to change the bridge, but only do some tweaking here and there. Let David decide.

And.......get rid of those finetuners. Leave only the one in the E string or if you are in the need of using four of them change the tailpiece with string adjusters.

Regards from the sunny Spain.

November 18, 2010 at 08:55 AM ·

@Susan ;

"I can easily do it in a 'I don't have a clue type of way' that won't offend her"

The effort should not be too exhausting. 

November 18, 2010 at 09:01 AM ·

Susan -You are getting a lot of conflicting advice on here and you really are not in a position to know which advice is good and which is bad. You should really make an effort to have David B have a look at it because he will tell you within a minute what essentially needs to be done and the cheapest way, and what things you can leave until later. As a player and a top maker he will really know his job and be one of the best persons to ask.

November 18, 2010 at 12:36 PM ·

David B lives about 10 hours from me so it's a little hard to have him look at this issue :-)

I think the camera angle was deceptive on the thickness of the bridge.  I do know what a bridge is supposed to look like and this does not look poorly made.  Also, the brand on it tells me it was probably not hand made.  It is definitely warped and it is definitely angled.  The fine tuners were practically all the was in so last night I loosened the tuners quite a bit and re-tuned with the pegs.  I will admit, I have a peg phobia.  Finesse has never been a great attribute of mine and the pegs are hard for me to work with.  Last time I turned a peg I broke my D string so my phobia got reinforced. 

I plan to go back to the shop today and have them look at the bridge.  I'll also have them show me how to adjust it.  I wonder if adjusting will take care of the warp or if that has now become a permanent issue which will only be fixed with replacement?

@ David B - My step son was working for the University in the film department and bought a home in Ypsi.  My step daughter followed him there, got married and started a family.  Matt has now moved to London and is working with a movie producer (this kid seems to strike gold no matter where he goes!).  Kris is still living in Ypsi with her family.  We get up there about once a year for a visit. I promise to call first if I am in the area!

November 18, 2010 at 02:16 PM ·

Susan most luthiers buy bridge blanks and shape it according to the particular violin. Yours was an Aubert blank that the luthier used. But she shaped it rather badly, It should gradually thin towards the top and not be so thick in the middle. She should also have reduced the overall thickness of the bridge. A bridge can be strengthened by a dipping in oil and singe-ing  it over a flame to give it that brownish color.

I would have liked to see how the feet was seated and the camber on top of the  bridge, but the photos did not show that. Believe me you do not know what a good bridge look like.

I am suspecting that the squawks are bowing and fingering problems and has nothing to do with the violin setup.

November 18, 2010 at 09:50 PM ·

@ Dion - I meant to say that I know what a basic bridge looks like, not what a good bridge looks like.  I agree with the squawks coming from the bow and fingering.  The more I play the less of a problem I have.

This bridge is not thicker in the middle.  The photo is deceiving.  It is thicker at the feet (just a hair over 4 mm (?) ) straight up one side and the other side narrows from the feet as it goes towards the top.  It is not warped.  You can put a straight edge along the straight side and see that it is fine.  It was angled though and I got that adjusted and was shown how to adjust it.  This bridge is not a fiddle or a classical set up.  It's somewhere between the two.  Our area is a huge fiddle playing area with a lot of talent and many adults who want to learn to play ask for a fiddle set up.  Since those bridges are so flat it's harder for beginners.  Stephanie uses this "hybrid" because it's easier for fiddle players to learn on and also does well for the person who likes to play some classical, like me.   As far as the finger board, she wrote out what the distance should be between string and board and then measured it for me.  It was right where it should be

It was a very educational day for me.  When I bought this violin last Saturday, the shop was swamped and Stephanie, who repairs and sets up the violins, was very busy.  Today she wasn't.  She showed me where my sound post was, how my bridge sat in relation to the sound post and explained that the bridge is a little forward than normal because this violin sounded better that way.  She told me that she felt the nut was a little high and asked me about the action.  She asked me to leave it with her so she could file it but I'm not ready to part with it yet.  She gives free tune ups in the first year and we agreed I would bring it back in February so she could change the strings, file the nut and also file a portion of the saddle that she wasn't happy with.   I learned quite a bit today and she made a book suggestion, that I took, about the care and feeding of my violin.

I also was able to ask her about the history of my violin and see what she knew.  All of it, actually.  It was made by Samuel Shen who sent it to the states in the white in the early 1990's.  A friend of Stephanie's bought it and painted it - with oil house paint - olive green.  She was horrified.  She is the one who has cared for this violin for may years now, doing repairs and adjustments as needed.  She has always loved its sound.  She was going to show the owners how to refinish it.  I think she said the owner (who has played for many many years) planned to give it to his wife and she hated the green color.  Before they could refinish it the wife bought another violin so instead they sold it to Stephanie.  She said that's whey the color is a dark, chocolaty color, I compare it to a dark bay horse with black points.  Very similar.  The dark color covers where the green just didn't want to give up.  I think she did a beautiful job on the finish.  My husband is a woodworker so I can appreciate her efforts.

November 18, 2010 at 10:04 PM ·

I don't know why beginner adults waste a dime on instructors.  The premise is already one of impossibility.  Its not like you are a child prodigy.  How many who started lessons at middle-age have left the conservatory to tour the world as virtuosso's?  Ans: 0.  The failure rate for even becoming a decent amateur must be stunning even with great instructors. The world is awash in fine violinists.  Ever cheaper professionals are not going to save the orchestras from dying.   So whats the point?  Get a nice shiny worthless piece of paper and a pat on the back?   My viewpoint of violins is from investment.  Why allocate the bulk of your budget to instructors and then end up with a junk violin that isn't worth anything?  The reality is most people can't afford a decent instrument nevermind instructors and luthiers.   The indoctrination from the technical wizards is amazing.  How many outstanding violin concerto's have they composed in the last few decades?  Yet, like a vortex, we are supposed to direct all our funds in their direction.  They're all professionals of high integrity, as if you can't find "reputable" doctors with $ signs in their eyes.  Show me a violin that is a great investment.  No, I'm NOT interested in the violin-makers experience.  I'm interested in things like quality of wood.   Did the 25K modern instrument require 20K worth of exceptional aged maple and spruce?  Why must a 2500 instrument be a bad investment?  No, getting a junk violin and spending big bucks on instructors and luthiers doesn't work for me.  Susan's dilemma is that she went to the violin shop like conventional wisdom dictates for expert opinion and got soaked with a bad instrument.  This isn't an online ebay horror story.   Now the conventional wisdom is to spend more money on experts again.   Ridiculous.

November 18, 2010 at 10:13 PM ·

Susan my advice would be to have the adjustments made immediately, if the luthier was not happy with it, so that you can get use to it. Don't leave until tomorrow that can be done today. You never know what can happen until February, why wait. And you will also get a better set of strings for nothing now.

November 18, 2010 at 10:32 PM ·


You are absolutely right, and in fact the OP, Susan, is doing as you say--eschewing lessons and buying the best she can afford.

But there is another side to adult learners. For them, it is an enjoyable hobby and dissipation of excess cash that burns a hole in the pocket. Think of it like being a member of PCA and racing you 911 on weekends, or owning a boat, or owning a horse and chasing foxes. The fiddle costs less, and some find it more enjoyable. If they "waste" their money on instructors, it is certainly somewhat better than all the fuel burned in the other examples.

Plenty of adult players simply can't get enjoyment without instruction. If they want to burn cash that way instead of becoming antiques collectors, that isn't "wise" but neither is any hobby "wise." The wise person has no hobbies, only profitable that what you mean?

November 18, 2010 at 11:03 PM ·

Wow Frank!  I am totally offended!  I went with a set amount of money in my pocket and came home with a violin that I am very happy with. I went to a place where three of my friends have bought from and been happy with, that two local fiddlers (one who plays backup for a Grammy winner) have recommended and that MANY of my friends go to for repairs.  I like the sound, I like everything about the violin that I chose.  The bridge was angled a bit and it was fixed.  The violin is not junk.  It had a very bad finish job that was fixed.  Everything else is either fine or can be easily made fine.   Maybe in 5 years when I have been playing longer and maybe have some aspirations I will move up to a more expensive and better instrument.  For me, a beginner who aspires to jam sessions with friends and nothing more, this is a totally appropriate violin.  It's a violin that I can learn on and then maybe some day I will move up from it and maybe not.  I also do not dis on instructors.  They are very valuable.  I hope to afford one some day and plan to find one that is tough on technique because I believe in doing something well, not just doing it even if it is a hobby.  Maybe I should have rented for many years and used my hard saved money on instruction instead but there is something to be said for owning your own instrument.  Get your head out of your *ss.  Not everyone has your goals.  Some of us are just looking for a way to have fun when the rest of our life is becoming so difficult because of this piss poor economy.

@ Dion -  I totally agree with you about getting the nut shaved now but that means a couple of days without my violin.  The shop is an hour away so not so easy to get to. I may take it in before February if I can stand the withdraw I will go through.  I also have a free set of string already.  The shop owner gave me a set when I bought the violin.

November 18, 2010 at 11:13 PM ·

 Frank, to be honest am feeling quite shocked and angry at some of your comments. They are what I would call typical snobbery. Nobody is too old in any way to start the violin and become professional. Just like people still go to college and train to be nurses when they are in their 50's, it doesn't mean new skills cannot be learnt. 

I think it is shameful to attack someone over getting something they are passionate about. If you bother reading Susan's other posts and threads, I'm sure you'd realise that she has been looking around for a while, had a budget in mind, and is honestly truly passionate from what I and many others can see. I think your comments are enough to knock anybody down, and wow, they have made me annoyed... and this is coming from (technically) a child. 

Grow up. Think about what you said. I think most people agree that having an instructor but a crappy instrument may not be the ideal, but to be honest, many people have many different circumstances that you obviously aren't able to sympathise with. And that is besides the point - Susan doesn't have an instructor. It isn't like she went out and bought a VSO either. So quit making the judgements and sweeping statements please. 

November 18, 2010 at 11:28 PM ·

Frank, you totally missed the point of learning to play music.

November 19, 2010 at 03:52 AM ·

Frank, that has to go down as one of the most bizarre posts I've ever read on this site. It's also confusing.  Or maybe I'm just tired.  Or maybe I don't care enough to read it closely.  On the one hand you seem to deride adult beginners for seeking out quality instruction instead of purchasing a high quality violin (which, presumably, they could never play to its potential, without the instruction you regard as a waste of time)...but then you also seem to be criticising violin makers for not pricing their violins based solely upon the costs of the raw materials.... I'd say more...but like I said...I'm just tired...and your inflammatory and troll-like post isn't worth the time...

And Bill, your follow-on post was equally confusing.  You seem to imply that the vast majority of violinists are self-taught and that only a miserable few need to seek out instructors to enjoy themselves....or for a place to waste their excess disposable cash.   So what if it's a waste of time, you say, it may be less of a waste of time than other pursuits.  Or maybe, like I said, I'm tired tonight and fighting a fever, so maybe I've mistaken biting sarcasm for condescension. 

(Side note: I would absolutely love for one self-proclaimed self-taught player who disdains quality instruction as a waste of time to actually post some of their playing on youtube.  I would be thrilled to discover that I am the self-deluded one.)

Susan, sounds like you had a good experience with the shop owner.  One thing wasn't clear..just curious, when she moved the bridge, did it not seem as warped anymore (at least as it did in your pics)? 


November 19, 2010 at 05:38 AM ·

Bill, the great tragedy in the years to come will be adult learners attempting to learn to play a violin with equipment issues far more serious than is immediately obvious with Susan's instrument.   The professional opinion that the dealer networks will ensure good setup for retail customers is sheer fantasy.  Heck, the horizontal supply chains ensure that noone will even assume responsibility.   There will be no shortage of credentialed and experienced instructors happily presenting lessons to an adult who shows up for lesson #1 with a landfill-grade violin.  The inescapable deflationary monetary environment absolutely guarantees it.

November 19, 2010 at 06:18 AM ·

RE: " actually post some of their playing on youtube."

Why should it even matter?   The goal of technical brilliance is the worst motivation for an adult to purchase a violin.   Hard assets are in demand, and sinking fake paper wealth into a violin is not entirely crazy if done right.  Any musical achievement with the violin through a scholarly motivated self-learning is simply a bonus, not a journey into a financial black-hole thanks to the "experts".   What about composition?  Surely a grand objective far more deserving of attention than the monstrous bubble in accomplished players that already exists.   A youtube demo of an innovative melodic line that is played quite badly should be of great value.  But, not in todays media hyped world, where they so graciously inform us mere mortals that Player XYZ is the greatest technician (and narcissist) of our time, and it is our duty to aspire to be just like him/her (while emptying our pockets along with way).  My response:  SO WHAT...Innovate with regards to composition,  and stop the parroting of existing works already.  Same goes for conductors. 

November 19, 2010 at 07:23 AM ·

Frank.  Sorry, but what nonsense.

While I did learn violin at an early age (5-15) I came back to it very late (over 55) so in essence am an adult learner.  I also have the resources to buy a nice violin which I now own - but I started on a moderate one.  So thats my situation.

Lessons?  I started just playing tunes, as many as I could and to much satisfaction.  I have no delusions about attaining a professional level, let alone being a virtuoso - but I DO want to play in chamber groups and to do solo recitals that are not just listened to by a patient family but are actually enjoyed by strangers.

The only way to achieve that is by lessons - I have found a no-nonsense teacher who both has faith in me and is persistent with my technique.  It is transformative.  The intonation and bowing issues that I have nicely ignored, and that make me truly sound like a ham are slowly abating, there is a long way to go, but I am making steady, maybe even exceptional progresss.  And next sunday I will have my play my first real chamber music - first violin in a Mozart quartet with some accomplished amateurs.

So I present myself as a negation of your statements - an adult (near) beginner who has benefitted enormously from training.  And I'm not unique, no not even special since I have met many others who have followed the same course and who's playing ability is a sure testament against your claim.  Perhaps that is true for you - that buying an instrument should be your only (main?) resourse investment but it surely is not true for everyone.

November 19, 2010 at 12:27 PM ·

Hi Sean - straightening the bridge did get rid of the warped look. I think it was bending from the middle and not all the way from the base.  It looks perfectly straight now but she did instruct me to watch it and come back in if I think it's off again.  She is not against replacing it if I think that's what we need but it truly does look straight and not warped.

November 19, 2010 at 03:18 PM ·

WIth a good night's sleep under my belt I can now take much more delight in your posts, Frank. You do have a machine-gun approach, don't you?  Let me see if I have it all.  

FIrst are people who play and study the violin as amateurs: they are foolish to waste their money studying and playing the violin because the vast majority will  never be soloists or members of an ensemble -- and adult beginners are the worst example of this idiocy.   They are double dupes of 1) the vast violin teacher conspiracy to fill studios and line pockets, when self-teaching would be a preferable, if benignly foolish, option (see above statement about professional aspirations); and 2) the vast violin maker conspiracy to create and sustain demand for instruments at exorbitant prices (see your above comment about the cost of wood). And now we can add to this the vast media conspiracy that creates the viruosos for us to (foolishly) emulate -- and seduce us into valuing artistry and technical command of instruments (thereby supporting the teacher/maker conspiracy).  I get it now, finally: What I need to do above all is to buy a fiddle as a purely financial investment, stop playing and taking lessons, and start composing.  Actually, composing does sound like a good idea. Because only composers appear to have escaped your bullets...but wait, can the vast  composer conspiracy really be far off?  I can see it now... 

No one who has ever studied and played an instrument alone or with others and experienced the sheer delight of making -- of creating -- music for its own sake and experiencing that connection with the composer, with other players, with an audience could ever think the way you do, Frank.   Last year, my daughter played a piece by -- and worked very briefly with -- Nico Muhly.  At a reception after the Merkin Hall performance, he signed her copy of the music. I don't have it front of me, and it's been a little while now, but I do remember the gist: he thanked her for bringing his music to life. And every time any one of us picks up an instrument and plays -- alone in a practice room or in a packed concert hall -- or parts (gladly) with hard-earned money to learn from   teachers passionate about sharing what they've learned -- that is what we're doing.  Simple. Really. 



November 19, 2010 at 04:47 PM ·

LOL, Frank,  I'll be able to sell violins for the cost of materials, when professional musicians can perform for the cost of materials, like strings, rehairs and sheet music.

There would be a lot of rather emaciated looking, homeless people running around!

What was the cost of the wood used to make that 3 million dollar Strad that sold recently? Shoot, I would have bought it myself if it had been priced properly, say around 900 bucks. ;-)

November 19, 2010 at 04:54 PM ·

oh wow Frank. have you grown enough so that your brain can resolve the puzzle of being human with complicated things such as passion, love for the music and accomplish (in whatever level) what you want to other snorty and money obsessive?

Pardon my English, I don't know how to express my feeling toward you better. Well, I'm sure I'm an adult (beginner in violin).

November 19, 2010 at 06:06 PM ·

Thanks, Sean Gillia and Phuong Bui  -  you both said exactly what I was thinking.


November 19, 2010 at 06:59 PM ·

Um , Frank, I am an adult learner of 5 years...I play fine, I learn, I enjoy, I enjoy music, I enjoy playing in the back of the youth orchestra, I enjoy watching my kids kick my violin butt and proud of them, I am delighted and proud to be learning the violin.  So, we all have our reasons.  Violin fills my heart.  That's why I play...

November 19, 2010 at 07:01 PM ·

@ Susan: you go girl!  Straighten the bridge and go learn to make beautiful music.  I played on a horrible violin for 3 years, and I finally have a nicer one.  Sounds like you have you you love now....enjoy it!  Just keep learning! 

November 19, 2010 at 07:10 PM ·

 I too am an adult violin learner, and I can assure anyone who cares to listen that good teachers are worth their weight in gold.  A good teacher will show and explain things that are not to be found in books or even in videos, because books and videos address the generality of the teaching situation and of their nature are unable to consider the details that are particular to the individual student.
  I would not even contemplate learning the violin to any significant level without the guidance of a teacher.  There is a limit to how far beginners can teach themselves (that limit is very soon reached, as I once found out for myself), and then to discover a locked door blocking the path to further progress. Only a good teacher can open that door and take the learner through to a level where he can play music that was hitherto inaccessible.

November 19, 2010 at 08:09 PM ·

David Burgess

I think the wood for that Strad would have originally have cost only a couple of bucks!!


Yes, a good teacher is something to behold!! Not that many about. But you have put it very correctly. If only people would listen!!

November 19, 2010 at 08:30 PM ·

"David Burgess, I think the wood for that Strad would have originally have cost only a couple of bucks!!"

True, I was trying to adjust for inflation. ;-)

November 19, 2010 at 08:58 PM ·

David, can you tell how much the wood of a 1st-class violin costs the maker?

November 19, 2010 at 09:30 PM ·

Trevor, I agree completely.  You can play pretty tunes without an instructor but to get beyond that requires one on one help.  I'm hitting my brick wall now.  I'm hoping Santa brings me some instruction this Christmas :-)

November 19, 2010 at 10:38 PM ·

Hi Tobias,

Not that it is accurate or directly relevant, but I was in a high-end guitar shop the other day, trying out some gorgeous hide glued flattops made by Bourgeois and by Gibson's custom shop, and I asked about wood. The shops told me that a piece of Adirondack (that's Eastern Red) spruce for a top grade guitar can cost $1000 fully seasoned. That seems obscene to me. We use eastern reds spruce, knot free, for oars, paddles, spars too, and it sure doesn't cost that much when we buy it! But there are some interesting interviews with guitar builders, talking about wood, about harvesting in winter, storing wood themselves versus buying it etc. Evidently identifying wood as "TONE" wood is like putting the word "aircraft" before the product name. It makes it cost 10 times more.

November 19, 2010 at 11:12 PM ·

"David, can you tell how much the wood of a 1st-class violin costs the maker?"

Not with any great accuracy. A lot depends on how the cost of the wood is figured.

I bought some violin wood 30 years ago for about $250 per complete set (hard to do now). Not sure what it has cost to store it all this time. Some of it has been discarded, because wood can contain some surprises when you start working on it.

On a recent trip to Slovakia, I paid something like $350 per set of violin backs, neck blocks and ribs (no tops). That was an excellent price, considering the quality of the wood (I hope), but it will be quite a bit higher when I include the cost of the trip, store it until it's ready to use, and throw some out. And not all wood buying trips are productive.

Last year, I paid $850 for a piece of wood for a cello back, and considered it a helluva deal.

One can pay much more for wood which is supposedly already seasoned and ready to use. It requires more faith than I have in wood sellers, though. There's only one way to truly know.....

November 19, 2010 at 11:43 PM ·

The truth behind this thread is that the green violin is actually a Burgess original.  He painted it with the blood of the slain enemies from his last alien encounter, but since it was an off color, it didn't sell.  He won't admit it--his name's not on it--but that's why he takes such interest in this thread.  Susan, you got a screaming deal.

November 19, 2010 at 11:44 PM ·

LOL!  I feel sorry for Samuel Shen :-)

November 19, 2010 at 11:48 PM ·

Emily, have you been spying on me?

Susan, when a violin doesn't turn out well, I just insert the label of a competitor. ;-)

November 19, 2010 at 11:54 PM ·

Ah yes, Samuel Shen, the name of the alien whose blood you spilled.

November 19, 2010 at 11:58 PM ·

It was self-defense, and that will probably only get me "manslaughter".

While serving time, I can make my "prison violins". Just one more marketing opportunity, following in the footsteps of legends surrounding Guarneri.

November 20, 2010 at 12:19 AM ·

Ooo!  prison Violins would probably sell well with collectors.  They like that kind of odd stuff.

Emily - I am pretty sure Samuel Shen is here with a Visa ;-)

November 20, 2010 at 02:07 AM ·

Wow, this thread went off into a whole other discussion about age. I am an older person and not exactly a beginner but maybe a re-beginner, not having played in over 25 years. Here's how I look at it: What did people do before radio, TV, Internet, and video games? They sat at home entertaining each other playing music on instruments. That's traditional and being human. There is no reason to have to justify playing music.

November 20, 2010 at 04:53 AM ·

Hey, I'll generalize here a bit. I'll buy the Mona Lisa for the cost of materials....Failing that, I'll take something a bit more modern; maybe a Warhol or Pollock. I'll even pay a reasonable rate for the time spent painting it; maybe $100/hr?


On another note, I remember something from an accounting class; whatever you store in inventory is costing you; you can put a value to that by calculating the square footage it takes, and calculating building capacity (you can break that capacity down to cost per square inch per day, or even minute if you want).

Then, when you calculate the loss rate (does 10 cubic feet of wood result in one violin on average, after cutting, shaping, etc.), you can then put a meter on it, and watch the wood blanks running up a talley as they sit in your shop for 20 years or so.

Even if the storage is 1/10 of a penny per day per cubic inch, that is 1X365X20=$7.30 per cubic inch. if you store the wood 20 years. That may be enough to make a peg, or endpin.

November 20, 2010 at 05:45 AM ·

For many of us, violin playing is part of self actualization.  (Frank, you can look this up online to figure out what it means.)

November 20, 2010 at 08:04 AM ·

David, thanks for the information. It's clear that searching, selecting and storing is a part of the costs.

Btw: I am always wondering about the price policy of some industry guitars. PRS guitars charges about 500 bucks more for a guitar with a good looking flamed maple top (talking about solid body electric guitars). Now a similar plate, ready for use, costs the customer 185€, here in germany. What's the difference between a simple plain maple board and a flamed one when the better one costs 185$? 500$?

The same company offers guitars with flamboyant abalone inlayed fretboards. They do it with CNC, of course, this should cost them some hundred  bucks, but they charge the willing customer 13000$ for the inlays alone.

I'll stay with handmade instruments from makers I know, here I get what I pay for. (I play Ruokangas guitars from finland, this maker uses arctic birch instead of maple for the tops. They sound and look great, and, even though they are handmade and top level quality, they cost not more than the mass production guitars by PRS or Gibson)

Back to fiddles.

November 20, 2010 at 08:36 AM ·

 Frank, I would like to know what experience and credentials you have that merit making such statements.

November 20, 2010 at 10:39 AM ·

 It seems like Mr Ross has gone completely quiet. Maybe he's just a coward who thought he could have some power on here and get away with it? I don't think so....

November 20, 2010 at 11:29 AM ·

I know a fellow who is one of Britain's best military artists, and a very good folk musician in his spare time.  He paints battle scenes and related military material from life (i.e. from photos he takes at the time) and typically takes 6-12 months for each painting because of the meticulous detail and research he puts into it.  Currently, he has about 200 paintings in his portfolio, including one or two of the Napoleonic wars.  Next time I see him, probably at a session next week, I must ask him how old he really is ...  

November 20, 2010 at 05:16 PM ·

Frank, I totally disagree...

People who aren't able to make something for the sheer joy of it and always want a useful reason behind it or financial benifit from it, will NEVER NEVER HAVE ANY REAL PLEASURE IN LIFE. 

People who, on the other hand are confident ennough to do what they want without beeing concerned about what others think of them or if they will become great or not, will die happy of their life because they will have experienced freedom (freedom of not letting the society put ideas in their head of what has value, what is the right thing to do, what is the standard they should aim.) 

People who are very much concerned about what society values, what is economicaly wise etc are not secure and sure of themselves.  They just have been brainwashed and follow like little lambs what was dictated to them.   Sometimes, we just have to follow what society dictates for survival reasons, I'll concede on that (As an example, I myself went in science that I hated unstead of my music profession dream because I felt that it was the wisest thing to do for my survival).   But following society for survival reasons should be used as a tool to "secretly" acheive what we always have dreamed of at home and on our free time. That way, society will never have win over you nor dominate you.  You will be the winner because you won't totally have surrender to what society wants you to do:  leave everything you love to work and work and work and make money to pay the government...   Society doesn't value things like art?  Be stubburn and do so much at home and on weekends...   That's all about beeing confident and true to oneself!  Really having a head on the shoulders...

So society doesn't want adults to be good and tells them by all ways that it is useless for them to learn violin?    Who have the right to decide about that?  On the contrary, fight about that, become the most "expert" than you can in your context.  If you can, seek conservatory lessons and a good or even professionnal violin.  Practice hard and you will eventually have the biggest reward:  playing well music just for the love of it in the most unperverted way  (with the only pressure that you decide to put on yourself, without waiting after this to earn money, playing music that you enjoy most of the time and not what is expected of you or what sells well on CD and with the permission of being forgive if you do a mistake)

Also true powers of adult have often been misjudged because adults are often busy raising families or with the job.  If they had as much time and freedom as youngters, one would have interesting surprises...   It's just not fair to tell they are "hopeless" when you compare them with people in totally different age and context!   I had the luck to start as a teen and I did reach up with the other kids who started very young at the conservatory.  (not with the prodigies but what people tend to forget is that most kids are not prodigies...  just a few who start young will become prodigies.   So one can reach up with the majority of those who started very very young!)   

Therefore, many kids who started under 5 are just as "hopeless" as adult starters! (when we think about it...)


November 21, 2010 at 01:01 PM ·

 I wanted to know what experience he had to say such things because his ridiculous statements are contradictory to some of the most respected teachers in the field and I have personally witnessed adult students who have achieved things that would apparently shock and amaze such a narrow-minded individual.  For instance, I taught my mother to play the violin.  I've very proud of her. Her ability as a player would make any skeptic ashamed of themselves for saying that adult beginners can't play well.  I also helped a blind man and even though he can't see a darn thing he has collected a respectable repertoire of music that he's learned by ear.  When people hear that he plays the violin they don't really know what to expect from someone who's blind but any doubt is forgotten when he starts playing Kreisler pieces.  Neither he nor my mother play expensive instruments, they are properly set-up student instruments and they do the job very nicely!

November 21, 2010 at 03:02 PM ·

How wonderful for both of them!  I would think a blind person would do quite well with music.  With no sight, all other senses are heightened.  I would think his ear is better tuned and he could possibly pick out nuances that many of us miss.   For your mom, good for her!  I could never imagine teaching my mom to play.  I can't even get her turn on a computer.

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