Observations from a Newbie

November 19, 2010 at 04:23 PM ·

I know I am feeling the angst of a lot of adults who have picked up the violin later in life.  For me this was a childhood desire that was dashed by an overworked, single mom trying to make ends meet.  So as an adult, my husband and I have decided to give it a try and do something we have long desired – learn to play music.  There are many, many people out there like us.  I read somewhere that you only have one life to do the things you want to do.  So if I don’t pick up the violin now, then when?

I rented a violin, bought books, watched videos.  I spent time with friends asking questions and getting answers.  Some of these friends are adult beginners but further along.  Some of these friends majored in music in college and played the violin professionally.  I have a surprising amount of friends that play and they are all very helpful and supportive.  I also read a lot and researched what makes a good violin, what to look for when it’s time to purchase and tried like hell to get educated so that I would have an idea what I wanted when I finally saved enough to purchase a nice, student level violin.  

I bought that violin last weekend.  It was a very fun and exciting day for me. I couldn’t wait to get home to play even though I had just spent 3-4 hours playing a wide range of violins.   At the time, I thought the bridge on the chosen one looked a little off but the shop was swamped, the luthier was tied up and there wasn’t much time to talk.  Plus my train of thought got interrupted so it was a few days before my thoughts came back to the bridge.  I posted pictures of the bridge and got the answers that I wanted, and a few other suggestions for things I had not thought of.  Thank you to those people.  I like input of all kinds.  However, I also got a lot of stuff that I didn’t want and that no newbie wants to hear.  Judgments that my chosen violin was crap and worthy of a landfill, that I got ripped off, that the shop owner should be shot and worst of all – why even try to learn because at my age I couldn’t possibly accomplish much.  

Do you know that photos lie?  Every photographer will tell you that.  It doesn’t take much of a camera angle or change of lighting to show you something that is not there.  As a newbie, I really appreciate all of the help and support that many people on this forum will give.  Even the criticism.  If you don’t hear the bad stuff you don’t know what you need to change or improve on.  But there is constructive criticism and not so constructive criticism.  Being told my violin should be sent to the landfill falls into the not so constructive slot.  Have you seen my violin in person?  Have you played it?  No.  Then how do you know?  Do you expect me, a beginner, to skip straight to a Strad and be able to play it?  Should I have bought the brand new $350 Eastman Student violin instead?  I had that option.  I played one.  I liked the look, feel and sound of this 20 year old Shen much better so I spent the extra $400 that I really couldn’t afford and brought it home instead.

I train and show dogs.  I strive for perfection in our training.  My wall of blue ribbons tells me that I must be on the right track.  I understand what it means to work hard to achieve goals and become #1 in your chosen field.  In dog showing, I am a hobbyist.  There are pros and I compete against them all of the time.  I know they work harder than I do and I have the utmost respect for them.  Just like Violinist.com there are a multitude of dog training forums and I am on several of the best forums.  Just like V.com, we have newbies that join to seek out help and advise from the professionals and people who have trained for many, many years.  In other words, my role on these forums is reverse of where I am now with my violin.  There, I am the “expert”.  Here, I am the “newbie”.  I won’t say that snarkiness doesn’t run ramped amongst the dog training crowd.  I think we invented the word snark.  At the same time, the newbies add to the conversation, make us think about what we are doing and why, and remind us that we all started somewhere.  Their seemingly stupid questions are only stupid if they are not asked.  If you don’t know, how do you get an answer if you don’t ask?  But to answer a question by telling someone that their expensive (for them) purchase is worthy of a landfill is really hitting below the belt.  I can’t believe that anyone – anyone at all – started off playing the likes of a Strad.  Even if you have been playing since you were a toddler, I guarantee it was on an instrument no better than mine.   We all start somewhere.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and stop what will sound to some like a lecture.  Actually, I’ll be surprised if this post isn’t trimmed.  I’m not one to sit back and let people run roughshod over me.  I can snark just as well as the rest of you.  I normally choose to show respect instead.  Not everyone comes from blessed beginnings with parents that are 100% supportive.  Some of us had to become adults to finally pursue our dreams.  And sometimes those dreams get put off until later in life.  Everyone is different.  Doesn’t that make for a better conversation?

Replies (93)

November 19, 2010 at 04:43 PM · Susan, I have not read all the responses in detail, but I'm pretty sure we all know who made the comments that got you riled up (hopefully not me). I think for the most part, people here are very helpful and it is not worth expending your energy worrying about one lunatic. Frankly, the post that you are referring to was so incoherent, that I wonder if the poster was sane or sober at the time.

November 19, 2010 at 04:50 PM ·

Thanks Smiley.  Nothing was aimed at you.  You have been very kind and helpful.  Thank you.  It wasn't just the one guy.  There are others that have made snap judgments on other posts that can be seen as rude, and not just towards me.  This guy wins the booby prize though.  It's not just this forum either.  I see it on my other forums as well.  Then we wonder why we are seeing a lack of courtesy in our society.  It's reflected everywhere.  Very sad

November 19, 2010 at 04:56 PM · Yes, he just joined this forum and my prediction is that his days are numbered (Laurie are you reading, hint, hint). Keep at it. Music is a wonderful thing, and truly makes life worth living.

November 19, 2010 at 05:01 PM ·

Don't be sad by a rotten mouth. I'm amazed by the one you know who as well. So far this forum is the best support I can find, better than all the teachers I have :)

So cheer up, and stick around. It's one of rare good internet forum.


@Smiley: that's such an obvious hint hehe.

November 19, 2010 at 05:12 PM ·

Sorry for my joke about Ypsilanti. But good grief, where else can you find a water tower that looks like a phallic symbol?

See the last paragraph in this link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ypsilanti_Water_Tower

Just kidding. Ann Arboites makes fun of Ypsi, but the entire Midwest makes fun of Ann Arbor, often for good reason.

November 19, 2010 at 05:23 PM ·

Susan, I've worked in retail dealing with the general public for far too long.  I'd say that 90% of people are just terrific, 5% are problematic, and the last 5% shouldn't be allowed to leave home (or post anything on a website like this) without a keeper.  Hard as it is, try to ignore that last 5%.

The world is full of adult beginners who find great joy and satisfaction in playing music.  I'm sure you will be one of them.  It sounds like you have friends to help you, a violin shop willing to stand behind the instrument they sold you, a husband trying to start music too, and a desire to learn.  There isn't really anything else you need!

Someday you may want a better fiddle or bow.  Someday you may have the scratch to afford lessons.  Someday, we'll all win the lottery and be able to buy whatever our hearts desire.  In the meantime, you are doing the right thing by giving it a go.  Keep on!

November 19, 2010 at 05:34 PM ·

I often think that only people who were raised poor or at least of modest circumstances have the dash to become musicians.  We don't expect things to be perfect, and we won't give up the minute the piano isn't perfectly tuned or the violin isn't the best.  We can't.  It doesn't occur to us to give up because things aren't Just So because, if we had that attitude, we'd never survive.  I remember the "rich kids" in my school who took piano lessons -- their parents bought them expensive grands (who can buy a whale for a child, for pete's sake?).  They took lessons for a few months, and then gave up because it got hard, and that thing turned into a $25,000 piece of status furniture.

Meanwhile me and the other kids of much more modest circumstances kept going for years and years, and often got very good.  We played junkers because that was all we could afford -- and we didn't give up when it wasn't perfect because we had no choice.  Period.  Nothing in our lives was perfect.  So WE stuck with it, whereas the ones with the Steinways needed things to be perfect and easy to keep going, and hence gave up the minute there was a challenge.

Even when you get a better violin, keep your student one, the one you have now, and give it lots of love and respect.  People who simply must have the perfect instrument or else they can't handle it don't know how far sheer cussed bullheadedness will get you.  They think they'd give up if they had to play a modest instrument, so they figure you will.  Prove them wrong.

November 19, 2010 at 05:43 PM ·

 Hi Susan, 

I understand how disheartening being told your violin isn't worthy of anything is, and I can actually empathise (I've had similar experiences). It is horrible and it can knock the strongest of us back. But do you know what? YOUR attitude is exactly the attitude the musical world needs, the violin world needs, this community needs and you need. Your attitude will result in you being liked and well respected, it will result in you gaining many more friendships now and in the future and it will help you fulfil your dreams. Anybody who wants their 'little bit of power' on the internet because they have nothing better to do quite frankly is sad. Completely and utterly sad. 

From your threads and many posts I have come across, I immediately have respect for you as a person and someone who is learning the violin. I started young-ish (at 9 years old) at a time when my parents were also trying to make ends meet. I think not having something you want, and having a dream about something makes you feel so much more grateful when the opportunity comes along. 

Too many people who have wanted to do something before go along with the attitude of 'Nahh, I'm too old, I'd never be able to do it now,' but who is missing out on the chance apart from them? You're one of those people who although cannot afford the absolute best lessons or anything, decided to grasp the opportunity to actually persue that dream. That, I should say, is inspirational. 

Please try to not let this get you down. I also agree that the person who put the most horrible post on your thread has his days numbered, and I hope so. 

Carry on! You've got this far! 

Take care.

November 19, 2010 at 05:50 PM ·

Too many people who have wanted to do something before go along with the attitude of 'Nahh, I'm too old, I'd never be able to do it now,' but who is missing out on the chance apart from them?

Exactly.  So what if it'll take ten years to get good?  Those ten years are going to pass anyway, and you can either spend them doing something fun or sitting on the couch picking your nose telling some dork to buy a vowel.  I'll take the ten years of doing something fun, thanks.  :-)

No one would pass up a slice of chocolate cake for that reason.  "Oh no, keep the brownie thanks, I'm 44 and already halfway to the grave, why eat it now?"

November 19, 2010 at 05:50 PM ·

Susan, you have to have a thick skin if you post personal information on a public internet forum, because there are plenty of jerks in this world.  So just shrug it off and don't take it so hard.

The nasty individual in question is probably right that as an adult beginner you'll never be concert soloist or even reach a professional level of playing in this lifetime.  But I think you're perfectly aware of that and you know that's just not a good reason not to take up the violin.

A while back I wrote a post on this site about why, as a talentless amateur, I continue to waste time and money on the violin.  Maybe you'll find it interesting.


November 19, 2010 at 06:09 PM ·

Susan  -  don't be disheartened.  Frank is rude, Dion is condescending, and Peter is in love with his own opinion.   (At least this is how they come across in their comments on your "Is this bridge angled wrong" thread.)

Non illegitimi carborundum.  ;~)

November 19, 2010 at 07:02 PM ·

I just posted on the other thread, but Susan if you do Facebook, come join us at Adult Beginners Violin and Fiddle.  We'll give you all the atta-girls you need!


November 19, 2010 at 07:04 PM ·

P.S. I am 5 years in.  So, we have all these new adult students in our studio, and I see how far I have come.  You will too! 

November 19, 2010 at 07:24 PM ·

I personally love teaching adults because they ask such good questions and offer such good insights.  You have more life experience to bring to your lessons, and I enjoy having the depth of conversation after teaching mostly children all day.  Learning how to make your own music is just like learning any other new skill as an adult.  Some people take up yoga or cycling, or pottery.  Playing the violin is a discipline and a means of self expression, and can be so satisfying on so many levels without the need to strive for any particular level of perfection.  There's always someone better, skill-wise.  But I've had well over a hundred students now, and not a single one plays it the same way.

No one wants to have their instrument publicly ridiculed.  You had a question about your bridge, and you received a myriad of opinions, most of which may have been helpful.  But like you pointed out, camera angles do lie, and your best help would come from a trusted, knowledgeable person who can actually take your violin in hand and look it over.  The number one thing I tell people shopping for a violin is to find a teacher or professional and ask them to help.  There are good deals and not-so-good deals, and it pays to stick your hard-earned money on something that will actually play for you.  You don't have to spend much, but just make sure you're paying for something functional.  Your bridge appeared to be less than functional, which is why I asked questions about the rest of your violin.  The story you gave was very interesting, and not at all what I'd expected to hear.  It used to be green?  I've never heard of a green violin!  What a great story! 

Anyway, I hope you got everything worked out and enjoy the sound you get from your instrument.  Wipe the dust from your feet concerning the nasty comments, and as always, check the source of the posts you read here.  Some people are invaluable contributers with a wealth of knowledge, and some people just don't know jack.

November 19, 2010 at 07:49 PM ·

@Perter Charles: Can you stop that name calling, bolding ang capslock?

Isn't enough for stirring the other thread? You have no right to disturb the community this far.

And what is that "F ALL"?

November 19, 2010 at 07:55 PM ·

Phuong Bui


If you are disturbed seek help.

November 19, 2010 at 07:57 PM ·

Phuong Bui

It means "you know nothing."  I can transalte anything you want.

It was not aimed at you. (That means I was talking to someone else).

Get the picture?

November 19, 2010 at 08:06 PM ·

Calm down guys life is not that serious. My dog still loves me. 

November 19, 2010 at 08:12 PM ·

Yes, I do get a picture of an ill mannered man with a disrespectful personality and attitude toward a community, behind a computer, and he has no ideas about conducting in public place, does impolite things say bad words for everyone reading this thread to see and tell people who voice the truth that he's being annoying "seek help" and those words which can be anything (is there word like that in a languague?) aimed someone else.

I'm always amazed how no face internet can call out people personality in such a way.

Geeze, get a manner class and a life!


November 19, 2010 at 08:15 PM ·

@Dion: yet you're still a lucky man with a loving dog only wags his tail to great and love and even talk to you.

My dog is sound sleeping. guess I should off too, without paying further attention to new "gems" of v.com today.


November 19, 2010 at 08:16 PM ·

 Please can people stop with the immature comments and reactions? This thread at the moment is about Susan. Take any pettiness to your own private conversations please. Thanks. 

November 19, 2010 at 08:17 PM ·

Frank the troll has won this war . You gotta laugh


November 19, 2010 at 08:17 PM ·



I wish I still had a dog that loves me!!

I'm feeling very calm ... I'm going to leave the nutters to themselves!

I had a very old female nutter at the bus stop tonight - she was dragging on a fag and drinking whisky, and talking to herself quite loudly, (no mobile phone in sight) and she had the cheek to complain that I was coughing. If I wasn't at death's door I would have told her to get to the nearest politician's facility - maybe the Houses of Parliament, which were not that far away, and she would have felt at home.

November 19, 2010 at 08:22 PM ·

She reminded me of  Phuong Bui who seems to be having a bit of a problem too.

November 19, 2010 at 08:24 PM · I wish you all the best in your new found adventure learning the violin. As for the nasty people who post negative things on here, I too have been insulted and have learned to skip over certain posters, but still am at times drawn to the negative spewers like a morbid fascination. As far as critique of your instrument, there is a lot of snobbery in the violin world, it's just about one upping, people needing to feel superior, and truly they are to be pitied. This site didn't used to be this way, hang in there, both with the violin and this site. There is great joy to be had with the instrument and great information and support to be found here once you learn to avoid the ugly potholes on this road. Have fun!!!

November 19, 2010 at 08:28 PM ·

As I've said before Susan, you are getting a lot of "advice" and some trolls too. It is very hard to know which is the good advice.

But you should ignore all the rubbish (I know its very hard, believe me) about being new to playing, and your age, and all that.

People (two only probably) are speaking a load of rubbish.

You can become an accomplished player at any age - youth, strength - none of this has anything to do with playing.

So ignore the idiots, keep playing, eventually get the fiddle "improved" and maybe some lessons too when you can. Then you will realise its all been worthwhile.

November 19, 2010 at 08:32 PM ·

And thank you Bruce Bodden, thought I was the only one to have that opinion about one you mentioned. Either some snarky condescending stuff or attention getting poems.  I am starting to thing that an audio post of each player be required before they start lording it over on others. That would weed them out for sure!

November 19, 2010 at 08:35 PM ·

Maybe you would be the first the face the chop?

November 19, 2010 at 08:37 PM ·

I'm just beginning to think that some violists must be the nastiest people around?

Seems to even beat the politicians!!


November 19, 2010 at 08:42 PM ·

See?  There are LOTS of nice people out there and many had me laughing as I was reading through the posts.  The only point I was really trying to make (and I admit I get very wordy) is that all criticism is good, but realize that you are criticizing someones much loved instrument or their best efforts.  Have some heart :-)  Even Peter does have plenty to add to the conversation and can be a nice guy, I suspect when he is feeling well and over your fever, I presume?  And I agree that everyone needs a dog to love them.  Couldn't live without mine.

@ David B - yes, my jaw dropped in my first trip through Ypsi.  Whoever designed that water tower and then whoever approved it is either clueless or has a sense of humor themselves!

November 19, 2010 at 09:03 PM ·

See what you started Susan!!

Yes, the dogs are the best bit. Never have a problem with them. Their Bach is the best.

But interestingly I can see that these specialist websites have their down side too!

Maybe I'm going to take a long holiday. It's about time I blew up my computer anyway. Horrible things really.

November 19, 2010 at 09:20 PM ·


You do not have to read my posts, just skip over it when you see it, it will be very easy because it is usually very short. I commented on the bridge because I have made bridges and violas and thought I could add something useful. Susan did not take offence and it was directed at her. My rhymes is just a bit of fun on the side and meant for people with a sense of humor, something you do not seem to have. 

Any one that posts here seeks attention otherwise why bother to post. I will be honored if you just ignore me, you will be the better for it.

November 19, 2010 at 09:26 PM ·

Now, about that violin originally being green:  the shop I use had a bass around for quite awhile, a repair job that the owner was slow in picking up.  This thing was painted a dull olive green.  If that wasn't enough, each of the upper bouts featured one of those chrome silhouettes of a naked lady, commonly found on trucks' mudflaps.  Any evidence your violin had been painted by the same maniac?  I'm glad someone had the time and patience to refinish it.

November 19, 2010 at 09:35 PM ·

"I am starting to thing that an audio post of each player be required before they start lording it over on others. That would weed them out for sure!"

I think gmail has an email check that makes you do simple math before sending an email after 8pm.  They want to make sure you are not drinking and emailing ;-)

I enjoy reading most of the posts.  Sometimes it's a fine line between help, snark and outright hateful comments.  It's something we all have to remember.  You can not get tone inflection from a written word.  I always struggle to remember that as I can often be guilty of this myself.  That one guy though, geez, he needs a no drinking and emailing app!

November 19, 2010 at 09:36 PM ·

"You do not have to read my posts, just skip over it when you see it, it will be very easy because it is usually very short. I commented on the bridge because I have made bridges and violas and thought I could add something useful. Susan did not take offence and it was directed at her. My rhymes is just a bit of fun on the side and meant for people with a sense of humor, something you do not seem to have. 

Any one that posts here seeks attention otherwise why bother to post. I will be honored if you just ignore me, you will be the better for it."


Wise words!!  For the record I thought your advicefor Susan and the violin pretty sound (excuse the pun!!)

We all talk crap some of the time - well I do anyway. I can't see for the life of me what those people were on about.

Oh well, I'lll come back next year maybe.

Best wishes



November 19, 2010 at 09:43 PM ·

Peter, you might be right. I am working on doing some recording, will post the link when I have it on the site I use. How about you? What I find curious is that there are more and more people on here with nothing in their bios about their playing, experience etc. or their  violin making, yet they say some very not nice things to others and seem to be trying to sound like experts. At the same time there are very very accomplished people on here who say very encouraging things. Those are the people I come here to read.

  I will let you know when I have my latest up, and tear me down if you want.

November 19, 2010 at 10:32 PM ·

"@ David B - yes, my jaw dropped in my first trip through Ypsi.  Whoever designed that water tower and then whoever approved it is either clueless or has a sense of humor themselves!"


I'm thinking about carving a violin scroll in the shape of that water tower. Seem like a good idea?

November 19, 2010 at 10:52 PM ·


November 19, 2010 at 10:53 PM ·

Um....I would have to say no.  LOL!

November 19, 2010 at 11:18 PM ·

You don't think the city of Ypsilanti would buy the violin?

Just throwing around marketing ideas....

November 20, 2010 at 12:21 AM ·

Considering they are still raising property taxes, you would think they could afford it!  Should they hang it in town hall? They could auction it to the highest bidder.  I don't even want to meet the person who would bid high dollar on that one!

November 20, 2010 at 12:31 AM ·

Deleted. (it was an out-of-place diatribe on taxes)

November 20, 2010 at 01:46 AM ·

 Susan, disregard those comments that caused you to feel discouraged.  The truth is that whatever difficulties you may face are only has much of a hindrance to you as you believe they are worth.  I have witnessed many adult beginners attain a high standard of playing so I know it's possible.  The best thing you can do is to keep a healthy mind, healthy body and just go for it.  Take good care of your hands and be patient with yourself.  Only you can decide what you can accomplish.  Any discouragement you receive from others is mere speculation and should be taken with a grain of salt.  

November 20, 2010 at 08:42 AM ·

"Peter, you might be right. I am working on doing some recording, will post the link when I have it on the site I use. How about you? What I find curious is that there are more and more people on here with nothing in their bios about their playing, experience etc. or their  violin making, yet they say some very not nice things to others and seem to be trying to sound like experts. At the same time there are very very accomplished people on here who say very encouraging things. Those are the people I come here to read.

 I will let you know when I have my latest up, and tear me down if you want."

- Rebecca Hopkins

Rebecca, I would not wish to tear you down, however you play, and if I were to make a comment I would try and be constructive and positive. My whole purpose these days is to encourage people at all levels.

I don't have a bio anymore as I left the site for a while and when I came back some weeks later I didn't bother to re-install it, and I do wonder if there is any point.

For your information (don't let anyone else see this!) I was an orchestral player for about 30 years playing viola mainly and some violin. (All in the UK). Now I'm retired and very senile so I only play the fiddle for fun, mainly in duos, trios, quartets and quintets.

I sudied in London at the R Academy of Music with Frederick Grinke (violin) and Watson Forbes (viola and chamber music).

None of this is relevant as one is only as good or bad as the last performance one gave.

Just consider me to now be an absolute beginner - as I think that's where about I am this week.

I'm going to stop giving any advice on this messagebaord from now on (especially in the light of my present level of playing) as I think there are too many unexpected reactions from certain quarters - and I will hardly be doing much on the fiddle for the rest of this year - only picking it up again mid January next year.

There IS more to life than playing the violin and posting on here.

November 20, 2010 at 11:05 AM ·


My first violin cost me $400 dollars and is still going strong, although I do have another one now.......

Please don't be turned off by "snobs" who  think the only violin to have is an expensive one...

I was 62 when I started learning violin...I love it....I'll never be a member of a symphony orchestra, but then I don't want to...but myself and some friends who are also string players, often get together and play as a group

Keep up the good work and if you feel you need to, give the "high and mighty" a good serve...

Some of them really do need to get off their soap boxes and come back to the real world where money isn't everything and a cheapie violin is far far better than no violin at all....

November 20, 2010 at 11:32 AM ·

Just out of interest Veronica, can you tell us who the people are that have said that you need an expensive instrument? Come on, give us some names.

I would expect that a lot of people play on instruments that cost from £400 ($600US) to £3,000 ($4,000US).

Only the active professionals will be playing on slightly more expensive instruments, and maybe professional chamber music players and soloists on anything worth more than £5000 ($7KUS)

And as I've said till I'm blue in the face - its the player that counts, not the instrument.

But no matter, on here you can't win.

November 20, 2010 at 12:13 PM ·

I 100% agree with Peter. I have two violins, the older one (anonymous 'cos I don't believe the label!) has been in the family for 160 years and must be 200+ years old; the other is a Jay Haide (£700) dated 2002. Both have identical setups and are currently strung with Eudoxas. The old one has a big rich tone; the Haide has a smaller but nevertheless resonant and sweet tone and is noticeably the easier to play. The pro leader of my section in the orchestra has tried them both and confirmed my impressions, saying that the Haide would be her first choice for orchestral playing and that the old one was more of a soloist's or chamber music violin. I'm playing the Haide tonight in our opening concert of the winter season. 

I also have a couple of decent pernambuco bows, one being about 100 years old. Bow quality should never be overlooked when trying to get the best out of a violin or one's own playing; the bow is at least as important as the instrument. I'd go as far as saying that if you have 2K to spend on a violin+bow then it is worth considering a split 60:40 in favor of the bow. You'll want to hang on to a good bow because it really is an extension of yourself, whereas you'll be more likely to change the violin at some stage.

November 20, 2010 at 12:30 PM ·

Just for balance, there are also amateurs who are just as passionate about instruments as they are about music, and have very expensive instruments, or extensive and expensive collections. I can think of several who own Strads, and several more who have collections of 5 or more pricey contemporary violins.

November 20, 2010 at 12:45 PM ·

Yes, David, you are right.

My wife (a pianist) long before I met her was invited by some fiddler to play through a few things in Paris. This very rich French violinist had either a Strad or a Guarnarius (she, bring a pianist can't remember which) but she does remember the dreadful scratchings that came out!

I once played as a very young student in an amateur orchestra that had a Strad, a del J and an Amati in the first fiddle section. All three were pretty poor players!!

November 20, 2010 at 01:21 PM ·

For some people, even a $600 violin is a major investment.  It's all relative.  I can see the point of investing more in your bow.  You are more apt to keep a bow and move up from your current violin as you learn and progress.  My husband tried to make that argument last weekend.  Buy the cheaper violin and get a better bow!  Except that I found out that the cheaper violin that I liked the sound of was caving in on itself and without major repairs would be worthless in 5 years whereas the more expensive violin that I chose was well made and well cared for (if you ignore the original finish on it).

As far as collectors - I understand it with art and "pretty things" but not with instruments.  I have always thought that we are not buying a stringed instrument, we are renting it for the duration of our time together.  I hate seeing a violin stored in an attic when there is some person out there that would derive great enjoyment from playing it.  Violins should be played, not gathered and collected so that it becomes no more than another "pretty thing"

November 20, 2010 at 01:45 PM ·

And then of course there are amateurs -- true amateurs -- who own expensive violins and also know how to play them. Just saying.

Anna Karkovska is in one of those categories.

I, on hte other hand, am in neither one.

November 20, 2010 at 01:58 PM · People will write what they will not say, or if they say it, their expression & vocal tone ease the message. The reader always gets to choose what they want to believe. I do get your points. I haven't particularly found folks here to be mean-spirited. Some more blunt than others. The few whose posts bother me, I just don't read, or if I read, I don't reply. There are a fair number of adult novices, returnees & serious hobbyists here. I for one admire adults who are beginners at anything. You didn't want to hear my one-week banjo class this summer, and I clearly have LOTS of music & hand coordination behind me. Sue

November 20, 2010 at 02:02 PM ·

While it is true that it is good to buy the "best you can afford" and that one should not forget the bow in the equation, how this plays out for the beginner is a moving target.

When you start, you don't know how to play--that's because you are a beginner; You won't know how to distinguish good from bad--well you will, but it will be how a *beginner* makes that distinction.

As you learn--and this starts out quite rapidly--your newfound skills will change your perceptions of *good* and it can be dramatic!

What this means in practice is that until you know what you are doing, you have no idea what you are doing. To buy a better bow is laudable. To think that, as a beginner, spending $600 on a piece of epoxy with carbon fibers in it is somehow a better idea than spending $200 fort another piece of epoxy or a piece of Brasilian wood, is nonsense. Furthermore, as you learn right hand skills, you will gain new appreciation for what makes a good bow. That $600 will quickly become an expensive dead albatross around your neck, unless things work out so that you can "trade up" but this doesn't always happen.

Typically, you will be lucky to get 50% of what you  paid for your equipment, when you sell it. For carbon fiber stuff, this will, I daresay, ALWAYS be true whereas with good wood, it will appreciate, but you cannot know whether you got something undervalued and you most likely did not.

One thing is clear: using epoxy to make bows is in its "infancy" and what is being made now will be obsolete in 10 years. Look back at 20 year old "carbon fiber" and you will see that they are better as tomato stakes today.

So I would caution you that there is no great likelihood of keeping your bow more than your fiddle. In fact they go together--you are more likely to change both as you travel down the scale.

November 20, 2010 at 02:03 PM ·

Hello Susan,

Gotta get my two cents in, even though everyone has said what I would like to say.

How many thousands of children have started playing the violin at three or four years old and never become touring virtuosos, or even play in a professional orchestra - but continue to play and enjoy the violin throughout their lives? I don't see why an adult should deprive themselves of this experience simply because they might not become professional violinists.

I believe that music is for everyone. It is for our souls more than for our pockets.

I read a quote a long time ago from the book "Illusions" by Richard Bach"

"No one can hurt you unless you let them"

Kinda simple, but this quote has saved me much pain from the things people say to me and about me. This is a very thought provoking and inspiring book, and well worth reading.

Go play your violin and enjoy your life, that's what I'm going to do!

Thanks and Happy Bowing!


November 20, 2010 at 02:13 PM ·

Susan -- You're SO right about $600 being a major investment for some people.  Like me!  I'd probably have to save for years to afford to purchase a violin in that price range.  When I started shopping around for a 3/4 violin this past Winter, I scraped together enough to get a $99.99 VSO, thinking that I could learn on it for a while and then get a better one (as finances would allow).  I didn't know any experts to take with me when I was shopping, and I didn't have a clue on what to look for.  The cheapie proved to be unplayable (MANY structural faults!), and in a gesture of good will, the store where I'd bought it swapped a very nice German-made student violin for it.  They said that due to an inventory glitch they hadn't been able to sell it (long story -- I'll tell you in an e-mail if you're interested), so it would be better going to me than hanging out in the store.  I never saw a price tag on it, but one of the employees said it was a $400-500 instrument.  Later I did some checking around online, and found this model listed at $575 on one site and $639 on another.  There's NO WAY I could have afforded to buy a violin like this!  I saved up enough to get a low-end pernambuco bow last month ($150 from my luthier, but I suspect it would have been more in a store).  The new bow has made a HUGE difference in the sound I'm getting from the violin!

I guess my point is that when I see someone characterizing violins worth up to $4,000 as in the inexpensive range, I just about fall off my chair.  To me, that $99.99 (actually it was on sale for $74.99 -- as a wall hanging it might be worth $20.00!) VSO was -- as far as violin prices go -- inexpensive (and all I could afford at the time).  Considering my current income level, the violin I "adopted" in January is -- quite simply -- a gift from God!

November 20, 2010 at 02:18 PM ·

Hi Marsha,

Oh so very true about relative expensiveness. It will take time to allow yourself to belive that $10k is "inexpensive" but you will eventually have no other choice, if you stay in this game long enough and accept its "rules" ;-P

When shopping for violins, you are running with the Big Dogs, chasing the Fox, and being chased by the Wolves.

November 20, 2010 at 02:31 PM ·

Jeez, Bill -- I feel like I should be trying to find a nice, big tree to climb (to avoid being trampled by all those dogs, foxes and wolves!!).

If I were still in my 20's, I can see the possibility of an attitude shift in what is and isn't "inexpensive".  If that were the case, I might be playing long enough to graduate to that $10,000 instrument.  But starting as I am -- at 60 -- I think I'll be "pushin' up daisies" long before I have time to wrap my brain around spending that much.  :)

November 20, 2010 at 03:04 PM ·

There are many different way of looking at the expense. When someone buys a Strad, they don't remotely consider it an unrecoverable expense. If all goes well, they can basically have free use of it. The same can be true of much less expensive instruments, as long as one has determined that there is some track record of market demand. Of course, if you don't have the money, you don't have the money.

Even with a very inexpensive violin or bow, the picture can look good compared to a car, or computer, or cell phone, which in a short time will be totally worthless.

I occasionally purchase contemporary instruments and bows, just because I want them around. If I thought of them as an expense, there's no way I could afford or justify them. But when they are eventually sold, I fully expect to have owned them for free.

I'm not saying that everyone can own violins for free, but they can be one of the best deals around in recreational equipment, don't you think?

November 20, 2010 at 03:16 PM ·

My money for my violin purchase came mostly from a very small inheritance from my mother-in-law.  She gave me much grief in her life so my husband thought it was fitting that she gave me something I could enjoy :-)  When violin shopping last weekend, my husband was bulking a little at the price of the violin and couldn't believe a cheap CF bow cost just over $100 (cheap, I know), plus there was still the case to pick out.  My friends told him that my complete set up would cost less than our last puppy and shouldn't pee on the floor.  He quickly shut up :-)

November 20, 2010 at 03:21 PM ·

Don't forget the cost of 15 years worth of dog food. ;-)

November 20, 2010 at 03:54 PM ·

Ha!  I suggested we treat my violin purchase the way we do our dogs - my husband knows I pay entry fees for shows, registration fees, vet bills for things like hip x-rays and other things "normal" dog owning people don't shell out money for, but he never asks the cost and I don't volunteer.  In fact, I have a habit of removing price tags before something enters the house.  So when violin shopping I told him treat it the same way.  You know I'm spending money, fix an acceptable price in your head and keep telling yourself that's what I'm spending!

November 20, 2010 at 04:06 PM ·

With so many responses already, I am reluctant to add.  But I wanted to comment generally - it is a firmly established characteristic of these Internet discussions that people tend inevitably towards unpleasantness.  For some reason it is easy when reading and writing these messages for one to allow emotion to overwhelm common decency; maybe the fundamentally impersonal/personal quality of the process, an odd mixture.

Anyway, the pattern in this discussion is not unusual, and I'm sure Laurie has seen it before.  For members it is necessary to resist the impulse to be (or seem to be) unpleasant; the rules don't change because we're not face to face.

As to Susan's situation, revealing that she shows dogs successfully tells me that she is patient, persistent and stubborn, capable of dealing well with canine partners where communication is not always easy.  And if she has a wall of blue ribbons it says that she doesn't give up, and is used to having her performances judged.  All of these are demonstrated qualities that are shared by successful musicians, and I would say she has a better chance than most of becoming a competent musician.  Her joy in finally having a violin in her hands should be enough to prevent people from criticizing.

November 20, 2010 at 04:12 PM ·

"capable of dealing well with canine partners where communication is not always easy."

I always find it easier to communicate with dogs than human beings!! For a start they never answer back!! (wink)

November 20, 2010 at 04:29 PM ·

Peter, your dog must be your best friend.  LOL!  Give him a big hug, he deserves it   ;-)

November 20, 2010 at 04:47 PM ·

I've been banned from keeping dogs by my wife, on the grounds that I cuddle them too much, and I begin to smell like them!!

November 20, 2010 at 05:16 PM ·

 My screen name on another music forum used to be "lazyhound" (fairly self-descriptive).

November 20, 2010 at 05:56 PM ·

Sorry your dogs don't answer back. It makes life more interesting!

My dogs ALWAYS answer back.
The young one (11 years ond) always says 'Yes, dad!' and proceeds to do what she thought I said; it lets me know when I am communication wrong.
The older one (13 years old) looks at me, and says 'I heard. When I get caught up, and get the kinks out, I'll put it on my to-do list'.

November 20, 2010 at 08:28 PM ·

(David Burgess)

> Deleted. (it was an out-of-place diatribe on taxes)

How could it be out of place?  If I wasn't paying so much in taxes I could afford to buy that new violin I'd love to get.  (Even more important, my wife could afford a better cello.)

November 20, 2010 at 09:51 PM ·

It's kind of a polarizing issue. Look how contentious people got merely over a violin bridge. LOL

Besides, it's pretty far off track from the original post. For me anyway.

November 20, 2010 at 10:06 PM ·


Is the link to the Adult Starter Violin Fiddle Facebook page.  I listed it incorrecly before.  

November 20, 2010 at 11:12 PM ·

Polarizing, yes.  Off track, perhaps.  But man, I sure enjoyed reading that post, David!

November 20, 2010 at 11:56 PM ·

 It is a commonly held myth among classical musicians that there is a developmental stage early in life, and that once one reaches "adulthood," i.e. quits growing taller, development stops, or significantly slows.  Science has now shown that adults are in a potentially developmental stage all of their life.  One purpose of this myth is to perpetuate discrimination on the basis of age.  Of course, I'm sure that young people might not enjoy hearing that, as it takes away their one perceived superiority...developmental plasticity.

Wanna hear something cool?  I developed/manifested the phenomenon of perfect pitch...in my late thirties!  I had always had a strong ear, but I suddenly realized that I always knew what key any music I heard was in.   OK, that's all I have to say about that...

November 21, 2010 at 12:10 AM ·

"How could it be out of place?  If I wasn't paying so much in taxes I could afford to buy that new violin I'd love to get.  (Even more important, my wife could afford a better cello.)"

and from Miss Emily:

"Polarizing, yes.  Off track, perhaps.  But man, I sure enjoyed reading that post, David!"


 I'd leave this silly business and run for office, were it not for all the rabid, screaming violin-maker groupies.

November 21, 2010 at 12:15 AM ·

 Word, David.  Papa, papa, paparazzi...

November 21, 2010 at 12:18 AM ·

Benjamin - I was thinking the same thing about learning.  I tried the violin when I was in the 4th grade and the cello in the 6th grade.  Each given up for different reasons but both times I had a teacher.  Now at 41, I am self taught and am twice as far (or further!) than I ever was in half the time.  I think as an adult we know how to learn.  We know how to cut to the crap and study.  As kids, you are trying to figure it out and your heart may be in it for the wrong reasons.  I am enjoying the process of learning my violin so much more now.

David - I will definitely look you up on my next trip to Ypsi.  I'll even bring the wine!

November 21, 2010 at 12:44 AM ·


Sadly, if I'm honest for a moment, we fiddle makers lead a rather monastic existence, and are quite clumsy with anything other than wood carving tools.  This would do little justice to a 41-year-old woman in her prime.

November 21, 2010 at 12:54 AM ·

Just get those groupies registered to vote, David.  They could change the world, or at least the Ann Arbor dog catcher's race!

November 21, 2010 at 01:39 AM ·

David, some of mine and my husbands best friends are monastic monks, NOT joking!  They live down the road from us!   When I first started playing the violin I learned two songs.  I told Fr Gregory, the Abbot, that I was practicing one song just for him and when I felt i had it right I would play it for him.  He asked which song.  Well, take your pick, I know Amazing Grace and House of the Rising Sun.  Then I smiled and said I was planning to play Amazing Grace.  He said "well I would hope so!"

November 21, 2010 at 02:25 AM ·

He knew about that other song??!!!

November 21, 2010 at 02:47 AM ·

Ha!  Yes!  They may be monks but they are pretty worldly.  We stopped by their home one night and they were watching "Bewitched".

On holidays we get invited to church services with the promise of food after. (we don't normally go unless it is a special day. not our religion, just friends)  If you are musical, you sing or play instruments after dinner.  Entertainment of sorts.  I've been looking forward to joining them one day.  We stopped bringing the dogs because Truly likes to "sing along".  They are monks so they chant when they sing.  Think Gregorian chants.  Truly likes to prance around and sing with them.  She often stays with them when we travel and Fr Gregory had told me that she stopped doing this.  One day I discovered he lied (uh huh!) He told me that Truly likes to sing and dance and the music moves her.  He figured she must be Pentecostal!  

November 21, 2010 at 12:29 PM ·

Your friend sounds like a riot!

My pets aren't very musical. One cat is afraid of violas, and runs when she sees them (not kidding). But some musicians do that too, I guess.

November 21, 2010 at 03:42 PM ·

My violin practice sessions are a room-clearing event, as far as the cats are concerned.  However, several years ago I had a box turtle who would wander over and sit next to my foot while I played the piano!

November 21, 2010 at 04:21 PM ·

Ha!  My dogs prefer my husbands guitar to my violin but every once in a while my Taggy will stay and listen to me.  My brother in law is a pianist.  One of his cats likes to sit on top of his piano and sing along as he plays.

November 23, 2010 at 07:00 PM ·

We really should try and dispell the notion that the violin is difficult - it's not!!

If I can make a living from playing it, then anyone can.

It's only difficult in the mind.

November 23, 2010 at 08:32 PM ·

Peter, I completely agree!  It's only difficult if you tell yourself it is!

November 23, 2010 at 08:34 PM ·

I agree...the difficulty for an adult learner is steady, consistent practice. 

The best instrument for any beginner is one that will stay in tune.  Doesn't matter what its pedigree is or whether it's even across all strings...improvement will be painfully slow if the student is practicing on a sorely out-of-tune violin.

November 23, 2010 at 08:38 PM ·

Yes, fiddling ist easy. Anyone who spends the 10000 hours can manage it.

November 23, 2010 at 10:03 PM ·

Oh, I don't know. I've come accross people who can get pretty good on 2500 hours.

November 24, 2010 at 03:39 AM ·

Interview with Tony Hawk, the professional skateboarder (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/sports/21seconds.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=%22tony%20hawk%22&st=cse), who played the violin as a child. 


Notice his answer to the final question ;)

November 24, 2010 at 11:54 AM ·

Bruce: great interview, sounds like a really neat person.  Excellent at math, violin ... and skateboarding. 

And yes, loved the last answer, though looking at some permanently contorted violinists - and the way my shoulder has been feeling I wonder...

January 16, 2011 at 01:26 PM ·


Permit me to commiserate with you.  I was the first to respond to this thread and still feel that this is an amazing community.  But I too was recently offended by the comments of another individual.  I don't believe it was done intentionally, but the comments were particularly hurtful because they involved my father.

As circumstances would have it, my father suffered a stroke about two weeks ago and is currently in the hospital so the timing of the comments was particularly bad.  I am not looking for sympathy as we are coping with the situation.  But, I do want to point out that this board is not just a nebulous place for voicing any and every thought that comes to mind.  There are real people on the other end.  Because we do not have face to face communication, it is especially easy to write things that might be misinterpreted.  Written messages do not convey all the information we are trying to express.  I hope that we can all be more thoughtful and compasionate with our responses, myself included. 

I have learned a great deal from participating in this board -- not just about violin, but life in general.  I hope to continue learning for many years to come.

PS for those that are concerned, my father is making slow progress.  Yesterday was the first time I saw him sit up and eat on his own.  Before that, he was tube fed, or spoon fed by my mother.  I have never seen the affects of a stroke first hand until now.  It is quite life transforming.  The day before the stroke, my father and mother went out for dinner and everything was fine.  Now we are trying to figure out how to remodel their house so they can live in it again.  Since my father will probably have a great deal of difficulty with stairs, we have to convert their first floor study into a bedroom.  And we also have to figure out a way to convert the the half bath on the first floor into a handicap friendly full bath.  It is quite a lot to deal with and my mom is handling it like a champ.  I am really proud of her.


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