Are students hendered by the strings we saddle them with?

June 12, 2011 at 04:03 PM ·

My wife and I recently started playing the violin after years of playing guitars. We have a very good ear for what strings should sound like.  However , the strings that came with our violin sound absolutely horrible.

When I asked our luthier about changing strings , he said that these were "good enough".  That comment got me thinking about young students.  Is what we are giving them to learn on "just good enough"?

After pushing the issue , the luthier changed the strings to a set of D'Addario Preludes.  The strings still sound horrible.  The G string is horrendous, sounding like a malfunctioning steamboat whistle instead of a clear G sound.  The D string is almost mute in all positions other than open. In all other positions, the D sounds very dead and metallic. There is absolutely no resonance or sustain. A & E are acceptable in the open positions , and marginal in all other positions.  When asked about the next step up he(the luthier) showed us several options, but made it clear "you're not ready " for those yet , without listening to us play.

It seems the more satisfied the student is with the sounds they produced , they will be more encouraged. However , if we saddle them with inexpensive "good enough" noise makers , they are going to know it , and think that they are not capable of producing quality sound, and just give up.

I consider my wife and I students , albeit students with a musical background.  So is this how we treat our students?  I have ordered a set of "D'Addario Helicore's" to go on our new addition just to see the difference on my own.  But it seems very frustrating to be treated with the attitude , that we just arent "good enough" to play on better strings , and I think a school student must feel the same way.

What do you guys require your students to play on?  And perhaps it may be the instrument, but this sound just isn't getting it done right now.

Replies (37)

June 12, 2011 at 04:31 PM ·

It's the instrument, not the strings.  

June 12, 2011 at 04:38 PM ·

Smiley took the words right out of my mouth. It is the instrument.

Guitars are "easy" to build. Really. A $280 Yamaha sounds pretty good. Sure, a Martin D-28 sounds better, but the Yamaha doesn't make you run for the hills.  *Most* violins do make you run for the hills. Nature of the beast.

And the luthier is correct about you not being ready. Your other musical experience might as well be chucked out with yesterdays stale fish sticks. This is fiddle. New world.

Preludes are good basic strings. You can get a very good pleasing tone with them. Until you learn to get some bow control on them, you aren't really going to make any use of "better" strings. In the old days, everyone played gut, because that is what there was. I still believe in gut. But these other strings such as preludes are much less expensive and will get you going.

If you want to see what the fiddle does to make the sound, have a good player play yours, and then play hers. You'll hear the problems, and they are not the strings.

 Your talk of dead, metallic, issues with lack of sustain--all of that points to the instrument, not hte strings. I used preludes on the 1/2 size we had for my children and you could go out and get a hoagie and come back and them strings were still ringin. Put preludes on a good fiddlle, or at least a decent one with a good set-up, and you'll be very pleasantly surprised.

You will get confused reading people's posts here about "which strings should I get" etc. Don't let that get you off track. It takes experience before you can use that information correctly. Strings make a big difference, but not the way you are imagining.

June 12, 2011 at 05:13 PM ·

Joe, new strings take at least a day or two to settle, so it's not unusual that new strings sound bad...

I currently play on a rental 3/4 while deciding whether I should downsize from a 7/8... It came with unknown strings* (probably Chinese), and the violin sounded like a tin can! I changed them to a set of Tonica that I had previously used for less than 3 months, and it still sounds crappy but definitely has more rings and volume, and is now more tolerable, and easier to play. So, yes it's the violin, but strings can make a big difference. I'm going to change them to Dominants today, and see if it helps!

My teacher insists all her students' violins being strung with Dominants, if not better. However she also thinks that spending on something more expensive is unnecessary.  She said that if the parents are too cheap to buy their kids good strings, then they should go to another teacher (If they can afford the tuition, they can certainly afford the strings).  However, she let me experiment with strings, and I have tried less expensive sets, such as Tonica and Warchal, but it seems that after trying a set of something else, I always come back to Dominants. Also, she never complained about the sound of my violin when I used Infeld Red/Blue or Dominants, but complained about pitch instability (which I agree) and the sound being metallic when I used Tonica and Ametyst...

(* Tail end: green; peg end: G: orange, D: green, A: blue, E: red orange. Does anyone know what these are?)

June 12, 2011 at 05:31 PM ·

Joyce, those sound like Thomastik Visions (regular) to me, except for the E.

As student strings go, Preludes aren't that bad. They're better than Red Labels.

Chromcors are actually not bad for student-level steel strings. I once played a school violin that had a set of them on, and I found it completely possible to extract nuanced sounds from it. Helicores are the next step up; sometimes I use the A in conjunction with Dominants or Evah Pirazzi, and I know some conservatory and professional-level violists who use them for everything.

June 12, 2011 at 05:33 PM ·

Joyce you are already light years ahead of the OP. You are getting him confused.

Seriously, if you can't get a fiddle to sound really nice with a beginner, using preludes, there are only two places to look: the player, and the fiddle.

Yes, strings make a big difference, but there is a difference between "cheap crap strings that don't work" and preludes, which are quality strings.

Other thing here is the style of play. I infer that the OP is playing country music, not Bartok. steel core strings have a predominant (but not absolute) position in country fiddle. The setup is somewhat different between steel core strings and gut or synthetic core. You can switch back and forth, but there is a difference. Really there are three main setup categories. Steel core, wound gut or synthetic gut, and plain unwound gut. Each has its own range of nut groove sizes, heights above the fingerboard, height at nut etc. Helicores and other roped steel are skinny like steel but feel softer under the fingers than solid steel core.

All of this influences the string choice. How the fiddle is set up.

I couldn't care less what strings the OP gets. Heck, he can spend the money on Olivs if he wants.  But the real problem seems to me to be his fiddle, and their rank beginner bow control. Whether it is the fiddle or their skills, we cannot know, but it would be disingenuous to be enablers to their false belief that it is all the strings. Like I said, if a beginner cannot get a good sound with preludes, there is something else wrong. And no guitarist has ever picked up a bow and gone straightaway into good tone control, perhaps with the exception of two people: Jimmy Page, and Paganini. "Knowing what good strings sound like" is coming from plucked strings and bowing is a totally different mode of sound production. No relation whatsoever.

June 12, 2011 at 06:20 PM ·

You know, it's most likely your instrument...

A good violin will sound "ok" with just about any strings.  I mean...very acceptable (especially for a beginner).

I'm not telling that as an insult.  I know you have a good ear but violin is very different from anything you have ever tried!  (everyone who start violin say that)

What surely can bother the ear of a good ear beginner is almost 100% sure the instrument and not the strings.

A cheap fiddle will block in some areas, sound like a sick boat or like a goat. (and that, even non violinists can hear!)

The problem is that to have a good violin can be... quite expensive.  It's recomamded, at first to try a few months with a normal or even rented instrument, take lessons with a good teacher (anyway, you won't sound good in the first few months... you learn technical things and you can do that on any violin)

But after a few months, if you really really like it and make progress, ask your teacher to help you to find a good violin.  in addition, you'll be able to listen to your teacher playing the instrument and will see if it sounds good to your taste played by someone more skilled...

Get helped to buy an instrument, you won't regret it!

Best of luck!

 

June 12, 2011 at 06:29 PM ·

And before even talking about the instrument, in your case, since you seem to really want to play violin...

I would go TEACHER SHOPING : ) 

Investing in a good solid technical foundation given by a good teacher is the best things you can do to yourself to have the sound you want...  (and you have to listen to the teacher even though you could find the exercises are stupid or boring/baby and not what you want.  If it's a good teacher... trust me they do things for a reason and it's always for your good!)  If you have limited money, invest on a good music school rather than the instrument. 

The first teacher is the most important!

I'm not a teacher btw so I don't preach for myself or anything. I just want to help you.

June 12, 2011 at 06:34 PM ·

Kato Havas has said that a great many artists work miracles on an instrument that is not precious.  She also points out that a really fine instrument, with the wrong touch, will react more violently than a mediocre one.  I know from firsthand observation that these statements are true -- and that they apply to strings as well.

The instrument may be the problem -- but maybe not.  Ditto for the strings.

The trouble is that we can't hear and see what you're doing and/or not doing.  Ideally, I would prefer to hear and see your work for myself right in the same room; then, ideally, I would prefer to pick up your instrument, with the Preludes you have on it, and try playing it.

A clear mental concept of your target sound is key.  I loved the sound of my first teacher's playing -- and the sound of her instrument and strings.  I was hooked.  This gave me something specific to aim for.

Yet, well before I switched to gut strings -- about 6 months into my first 4/4-sized instrument -- I had been getting positive comments on my tone production from my teacher, family members, experienced players, and neighbors.  So the player is, indeed, a major factor in the end result.

Picking up on Anne-Marie's point: If you don't have a teacher, I strongly recommend that you get a good teacher.  This should spare you a lot of grief.

BTW, the change to gut strings was my idea, not my teacher's.  In fact, none of my instructors required me to use a particular make and model of string.

Hope this helps -- let us know the outcome.

June 12, 2011 at 07:55 PM ·

To answer your question, yes, they are hindered by bad strings.

Also, make sure you buy a decent sounding violin and set it up good. Even bad violins can be made to sound marginally good with the right setup and strings.

June 12, 2011 at 08:56 PM ·

A lot of years ago, I used to teach for the local Education Board. The kids hired instruments from them, and they got free replacement strings - which were awful. I used to insist that they replaced them with Dominants after I'd had a go at setting up the instrument. Now, I'm not good, but when the bridge approximated to the shape of the violin and the fingerboard, it was a great improvement (I think the bridge was taken out of a packet and shoved in place - it touched the belly in two places only). It made a huge difference to the sound and the playability. The biggest challenge was if they had a string break during the week and were given a free replacement, to persuade the parents that a new Dominant was well worth the extra.

June 12, 2011 at 09:46 PM ·

Thank you all so much for your input.  And TBH I think you all have valid points. 

1. We definitely are not what you would label as even beginning violin players. But our ears are trained to know what we are looking for , and "this aint it !" :)

2. My primarly style is "old timey" & "bluegrass", with a definite passion for the classical.  So both styles will be played on this instrument. (insert cliche about serving two masters here)

3. MY OP was made predominantly in frustration , I think. I had been playing both instruments yesterday for about 6 hours. In that amount of time , I was able to make significant progress on my fiddle. However, nothing that I changed about my technique made any difference in the tonal quality of the G or D strings. i.e  changing bow pressure, speed nor technique.  It didnt even get worse, it just stayed , BLAH ! The sound was very similar to a muted foghorn on the G , and a nice tone on open D, but horrendous in the fingered positions.  With rapid bowing , bluegrass style the problem gets hidden , but on long slow draws it is blatant.

4. Im really starting to look at the instrument , and will have another one to compare it to next week. One of the players in my luthier shop played the violin for us  when we bought it, and compared it to one similar to his. He informed us that "his" cost more than his house , and while we noted significant differences, he was still able to make good music with it. However, in hindsight, I do remember that the greatest differences were in the lower registers. My assumption at the time was that since we were getting the instrument from a luthier, that the instrument had already been "gone thru" , but perhaps I assumed incorrectly.  ( Insert speech on "assumptions" here)

5. My luthier did mention that the problem was probably in the soundpost position, but seemed to advise against moving it. Stating that it "may" simply transfer the problem to a different area , i.e. the A & E region.

6. When my inexpensive Chinese fiddle arrives, we will have a great advantage in being able to compare sounds "in house" objectively.  This way we will have no one that has a sales agenda to tell us what they feel sounds better. We are playing for ourselves, and wil have to be the final judge of what we like.  Sadly , we may end up returnign the original instrument , and finding an alternate.

Again , thank you so much for your input , and we welcome any other thoughts that you may have.

June 12, 2011 at 10:13 PM ·

Good luthiers are not afraid to move and adjust the soundpost...  They can't do worst, the goal is just to find the good spot to locate the soundpost in the instrument.

They simply play, ajust, play ajust and when they find the good spot... they know it.   It's not very long to do and one can do it as often as possible the best.  But it's not a thing to do yourself! 

It takes experience and special tools so that's why it's the maker you deal with who does soundpost adjustments.  I never heard of violinists (who are not luthiers) adjusting the sound posts themselves.  I guess one could be trained for it but... too complicated : )

June 12, 2011 at 10:26 PM ·

If I were in your shoes I'd go shopping first for a new luthier, then for strings.  The guy you're dealing with sounds rude and dismissive.  While a top-notch player can coax a sweet sound out of all kinds of trashy instruments, beginners need something that will help rather than hinder them.  There are all kinds of very moderately priced violins out there that have a pleasant tone and a decent degree of evenness across the strings. Your instrument may well benefit from different strings and a soundpost adjustment, but I wouldn't trust the guy you are dealing with to help you.

June 12, 2011 at 11:24 PM ·

@Lisa - I wouldnt call him rude by any means , but dismissive I think would be a proper term.  He seems to have that thought that we "arent going to stick with this anyway, so why bother".  All the while he is still extremely charming.  But , Im also afraid that the next closest luthier is an hours drive away.  So I think I will try a different approach with the gentleman , and just request that he go thru the instrument, instead of asking him what he thinks.  I can only hope that he actually does it , and doesnt think that I wont know the difference anyway.

June 12, 2011 at 11:57 PM ·

Joe,

A couple blunt questions:

1. What is the provenance of your instrument? (or are there two?()

2. How much did you spend?

3. What shop?

(Maybe you need to private message me.

Luthiers make guitars. Is this a real violinmaker, or a guitar repairman? His trepidation with the soundpost is a bad thing. Or maybe he doesn't want to charge you for the work to move it, partially because it is a VSO and will never sound good.

Good shops can take a $500 Romanian trade fiddle and make it sound quite good with perfect set-up. An hour's drive is nothing in the search for a fiddle. You can even get great results through the mail. I know who I would recommend.

I knew you were going to say old timey :-)

June 13, 2011 at 01:09 PM ·

Hi Joe, I just had to write because I sympathise with your frustrations.  I have come across several 'dismissive' luthiers in my few years of playing, as well as a teacher or two who have never suggested any works to my instruments to make them sound better.  All lovely diplomatic people, but I am sure there is an element to it being a result of not bringing to the table a violin from a maker of note and/or therefore expensive enough to worry about. That's the feeling I got, in any case, whatever the real reason may have been.  So it made me more determined to find someone who would spare the time to fine tune my 'babies', time that I was quite willing to pay for.  And when I finally did it paid off very well, because even though they are both of lowly trade origin, they now sound great and play easily and will take me well past the intermediate stage of playing, when my first teacher long ago suggested to get rid of them both and invest in something better!

As youngsters we may not even realise there is much wrong with our instruments or setup. But as adults we are usually well aware of what we are after, particularly nowadays with the internet to guide us in so many ways.  Yes there is a limit to how much an instrument can be tweaked but until you are satisfied that this limit has been reached, don't give up.  Do try a few other instruments as you go along, you never know what you may discover, but I strongly suspect you have a point in suggesting that students often have to put up with poor quality strings and setup, simply because nobody with any skill affords them a few spare moments to check over their instrument.

June 13, 2011 at 01:54 PM ·

Nothing more off putting to an Adult learner than an instrument that sounds awful.  I started with a horrible violin, a cheap student one from the local shop.  I changed the strings but to be honest nothing was going to make it sound better.  I upgraded to still a modestly priced violin (about £500/USD 750) , but an old and labelled one and then I couldn't put the thing down.  It's worth getting a decent sounding instrument, it will last you for ever.

I bought mine from http://www.westcountryviolins.com/  they have little sound clips of each instrument ... so you know it can sound good, even if you cant play it that well yet .

Hope you get the sound that you are looking for.. and yes.. I would change your luthier.

Don

 

June 13, 2011 at 02:51 PM ·

I don't have an answer fom the OP regarding price. This could all be caused by a lack of understanding what it takes.

500 pounds is a cheap, not moderately priced, violin. $4000 is an inexpensive violin. $10,000 is moderately priced. $25000 to $40000 is the going rate for new fiddles from the top of the heap.

If you have a $500 fiddle and it doesn't sound very good, and you ask the violinmaker to do something for it, he isn't going to be interested. Why? Because firstly, there isn't much chance he can do much to it without spending more of your money than you bought it for. None of the work he does to it will increase the violins value. It is still a cheap trade violin. He has a backlog of work to do on really fine instruments. Unless you already have a relationship with him with a good fiddle, or he is quite confident you will move up, then he knows he will be wasting his time, and your money.

Believe me, you don't want to waste your money $%#$#ing around trying to make crap sound better. Just go violin shopping instead. You *can* find great sounding instruments that cost $500, but the are miss, miss, miss (many misses) and them you might get lucky.

If you want a great sounding fiddle without shopping for months, be prepared to spend no less than $3000. That is just the way it is. And that is the starting point.

A few posts up, I talked about good violin adjusters getting a good sound out of a $500 Romanian fiddle. This is true--but within reason. The "bones" have to be good to start with. The work done is nut, maybe some fingerboard planing but generally not (want to start with good bones) a new bridge, and a new soundpost. No neck resets, no pulling off the top, no regraduatiing or changing bass bars. Note that past the bridge and the soundpost, nut, and minor planing, you start spending "big bucks".

June 13, 2011 at 03:01 PM ·

Also, most parents and child students don't have the foggiest notion what it takes to get good sound, or even what it sounds like (I mean from the buying point of view, not hte playing side). No, I am not being rude. It is simply true. To that extent the OP is on to something. I share his opinion that it is crazy to give a child a violin that does not inspire the child. But most children seem to be inspired enough, even with crap sounding fiddles. Every recital I have attended for the past decade is the same. Almost every fiddle sounds pretty bad to me, but the kids play their hearts out anyway. But I put my money where my mouth is and get the kid a fiddle with a great sound.

June 13, 2011 at 03:39 PM ·

I hear what you say but I dont believe you have to spend thousands just to get a sound that you are happy with. 

Listen to the "cheap" low price violins on that website.. it really isn't a bad sound. It certainly is more than good enough for a beginner like myself and the OP. However the bad violin I started with was truly awful and uninspiring.  My emphasis is that you shouldn't tell people they wont have a decent sounding violin without spending HUGE money.  Most of us haven't got it !  I am really happy with the sound of my violin, so much so that I cant wait to be home to play it.   (BTW mine is WP200 on that sight, the Gaspar de Salo copy and I love it).  Likewise I was constantly told that it would take years to get a half decent sound on the violin and as an Adult I shouldn't bother.  That was rubbish too.. I am producing a really nice tone after just a couple of years playing.

Don

June 13, 2011 at 03:44 PM ·

OK Don, believe what you want.

I will believe what I have found to be true.

But I agree with you for a beginner! Like I said, a properly set up beginner instrument can and will sound plenty good. For a beginner.

Ever wonder why a set of guitar strings is $5 to $10, while cheap violin strings are $15 and expensive ones $80? If guitars are cars, violins are yachts, and cellos are aeroplanes.

June 13, 2011 at 04:12 PM ·

@ Bill  --  I sent you a message with the info you requested on 6-12.    Also , I have a terrible penchant for loving to turn sow's ears into silk purses.  I have always been the champion of the lowly items.  I have a 1939 Silvertone  - Mahogany Archtop guitar that I salvaged from a person that thought it was just decoration.  After several years of detailed playing and working and adjusting , I am now the proud owner of a beautiful sounding "jazz box" that is a daily player.

I think this comes from a childhood of not being able to afford the instruments that all of the other kids had, so I just had to make do with what I had.  Everyone has always talked about how great the instruments sounded , and they couldnt believe that I was able to do the work.  But , nevertheless , mine never sounded like theirs. So I have learned to make music with what I had , and enjoy doing it. 

But the point here is that I dont want anyone to have to experience that frustration and give up , just because they dont have the drive to learn to fix instruments.  Those of us that have the ability,  need to take the time to find these students , discuss their concerns and help them cope with them.  And as and adult with the money to pay for it now, I especially hate to be dismissed because someone is "too good" to work on my instrument.   I still hold my old values of getting the most for my money , and for my playing I just cannot justify spending thousands on an instrument  YET !   I tend to wind up as a collector fo old things as an indirect result of my affliction , and as such usually end up buying the finest of things that I can afford ( without becoming lavish of course :) )   I guess as a youth I really learned to despise the uppity people that looked down on me because I never had the things that they did.  But I must say , it is this very thing that has driven me my whole life to become more than anyone ever thought I would. So it looks like the joke is on them.   HOWEVER, it now is starting to seem that I have a whole new world to conquer ;-).

I have examined this isntrument very closely ; exterior and interior. And to my laymans eyes it appears that the soundpost is just a little heavy to the treble foot side, and perhaps a little forward.  I almost believe that my luthier just accepted that this was a student instrument, and it wasnt worth his time to "fiddle" with it ( pun intended).  But if I have given him $500 for the instrument , I think he owes me the courtesy of trying to make is sound as nice as possible.  Sure , she will never be an Amati , and probably never play Paganini well, but she should at least be able to sing Happy Birthday without getting choked up.

June 13, 2011 at 04:22 PM ·

I once played on a 1000 $ Franz Gardner violin who was almost as good as a 10K violin to my ear!

It was extraodrinairy, easy to play, even, with great power.  My teacher didn't beleive it was just that little price.

I also tried a few 750$ instruments who were terrible!!!   Close sounds that buzz, nasal box sound, no power at all etc.

I guess one has to try many many in these prices and one can find a good deal... (but I insist to have your teacher chose it along with you...  A beginner can't test everything there is to test in a new violin and you do not want to get fooled!) 

The Gardner was made in Berlin in 1968.  I always suspected that cheap instruments of those days are better than cheap instruments of nowadays.  (as many other products).  Am I wrong? 

 

June 13, 2011 at 05:04 PM ·

@AMP,

I've played violins over $100K that sounded like tin cans. 

June 13, 2011 at 05:07 PM ·

Thanks Brian for identifying the strings! Yes, it looks like they are Visions (now I saw them in the color code chart)...  I did not suspect that they could be Thomastik because they were sounding so bad on that violin, and Quinn's String ID Search was not helpful... So, this reinforces the message that everyone has been trying to get across when people ask about what strings they should use - it depends on the violin and the sound one wants, and more expensive strings don't always equal to better results.

Good sounding violins can be found in any price range, and there are terrible sounding expensive violins...  Violins are not priced based on sound, but on maker, origin, vintage, condition, etc. However, easy-to-play violins are harder to find in the cheapest price ranges, because they are usually not set up properly.  There is no reason why a properly set up $500 violin is not good enough for a beginner to learn, if the sound and response are okay.

June 13, 2011 at 05:36 PM ·

Hi Joe,

OK got your message. OK well I think I pretty much gave you "everything you need to know" above. Re: soundpost adjustment. This is a no-brainer. It should be done.  However this is a skill that is not easy to come by. Ask around to the pros or top fiddlers you can find near you who they go to for soundposts and bridge carving. If he's not on the list, go somewhere else.

LOL on 39 silvertone. I have a 39 Gibson. So I guess you are making silk purses, and I am emptying them!

June 13, 2011 at 07:24 PM ·

Yes, many teachers, players, shop assistants, and luthiers are snobby about strings, with little basis for their opinions. Most of them have played very few fiddles with very few varying set-ups.

Get a set of Dominants, and a cheap plain wire E, and don't worry about what anyone says. Trust your own ears.

gc

June 13, 2011 at 07:28 PM ·

yeah It is the instrument, I am an adult beginner too and I thought my violin sounded quite good but few weeks ago I tried my teacher violin and he tried mine we played the same Etude... Ahaha how bad he sounded on mine violin he even said you take twice the effort to sound good than any of my students.

Then was my turn to try his instrument I played one open G and with only one note I knew this violin sounds so good. I did the Etude and I noticed it was alot easier shifting with the bow and was easier placing the fingers on the fingerboard.

Keep in mind violin is like a car why having car that can goes up to 360Km/Hour when you can only go 120Km/Hour.

 

 

June 13, 2011 at 07:36 PM ·

Ferrari and Stradivari are both Italian :-)

June 13, 2011 at 08:32 PM ·

Update :  4 parts aggravation  , 1 part innovation , 1 part determination , and a dash of shear stupidity !

Fashioned 1 soundpost tool from a coathanger.  Almost pooped !  Soundpost fell over when I first tried to move it !   ---  1 file and a grinder --- added point to other end of soundpost tool.  Stood soundpost back in place  as close to original position as I could determine.  Played , still sounded the same!  Whew !  No permanent damage.   2nd attempt -  managed to move the post just a fraction toward the bass side and just a fraction to the rear.  Played --  sounded different , perhaps just a small bit better.

Re-assesed the exterior situation, and noticed that the tailpiece was ever so slightly canted toward the G string.  After close examination , noticed that the bridge had enough room under the outside edge of the base side foot to insert a piece of heavy paper into.    ---  Reposition bridge toward the center and made sure it was straight.  Using the notches in the F holes as guides I positioned the bridge toward the front a "smidgen" more.   Played ---- foghorn on G almost gone.  D is clear and sweet , still a little bit mute on 2nd finger of first position , but I think that can be corrected with proper technique on the bow. 

The rest I believe may be up to the violinist, at least until I am good enough to hear and expect better.

Kids !  Do Not Try this at home !  This is an undertaking for only a desperate madman with nothing to lose.

June 13, 2011 at 11:08 PM ·

I and some others had warned you against moving the soundpost yourself... why didn't you beleive us?   That kind of attitude won't work with a teacher...  A good teacher wants you to beleive in his experience and 95% of the time... they are right (really)! 

Get and accept help by skill people (teacher, good maker etc), it's really important : ) 

My maker would kill me if I tried to move the soundpost myself on my moderately expensive violin...  According to Bill's standards.

Even on an inexpensive! 

June 13, 2011 at 11:17 PM ·

Smily, it explains it all... it's the individual not the price tagged on it!

June 13, 2011 at 11:34 PM ·

You done good, Joe.  I've moved soundposts around myself before, too. Don't know what I am doing, but on a cheap fiddle so what? And as you discovered, it did something and even seems to have fixed it up some.

There is something liberating about cheap fiddles. You can treat them more like guitars :-)

June 13, 2011 at 11:41 PM ·

Tee hee, Joe, you've just done what most of us think about doing but aren't brave enough to.  It was very funny to read, because once again I understand your frustration.  The whole reason discussion about violins is so broad and people differ in their experiences is because of the delicate and complicated nature of the instrument. Made predominantly of wood which expands, contracts, splits and warps. Bits loosen and fall off, bits tighten and jam up, bridges collapse, strange hums and buzzes appear and disappear. As you can tell there are plenty of bits and pieces that can be tweaked and messed with to see if it will help the sound and playability.  And if the above isn't enough there's always the decision about strings, chin and shoulder rest to add to the confusion.  As an adult you will be aware of the amounts you wish to spend on your instruments before giving up, and if you aren't worried about doing permanent damage then go ahead and try what you will.  It's how most of us learn anyway.  I would caution you against messing with anything expensive, but hey, once you've learned how on a cheapie...................

June 14, 2011 at 04:34 AM ·

Cliche's Cliche's !

1. We have nothing to fear but fear itself !  FDR

2. If it aint broke don't fix it ! - Unknown

3. If it is broke, try to fix it ; it ain't workin anyway , so ya can't break it -  JL

Once I had a computer that kept giveing me bluescreens. I had done everything I could think of , and the repairman said it was time to give up on it.  One night I was doing some work , and it did it again. Tried to reboot several times and the thing finally even quit powering up.  In my frustration I began kicking it under the desk.  My wife came in and scolded me for it. In my anger , I stood up and gave it a real kick in the "ask-me no questions".  The thing powered on immediately.  I politely grinned at my wife and went back to work. It was that day that I realized , if something isn't going to work ; then whats the harm in making a "bold" correction.

In this case , I proceeded with a bit more caution than a swift kick. I did nothing that the luthier couldn't un-do , so it was a bit of an adventure and journey that had to be taken anyway.  I don't know if I would even undertake it again , but it appears to have really done the trick. The old girl has been singing all day. Now the final piece of the puzzle is even more of an astonishment.  I pulled out the cheap bow that came with my new girl that arrived today , and used amber rosin on it instead of the dark that my luthier had given us.  MAN !  The volume almost doubled.  So , I took out our new composite bow , and rosin'd it with the new rosin , not as great as the cheap bow , but a significant improvement.  Sometimes it can be the simplest things that set things on fire.

Now we have a new girl that has to go see the doctor tomorrow. When she arrived , the soundpost wasn't installed ; and no Im not even going there.  The inexpensive Chinese violin I had purchased turned out to be a bit of a suprise.  I anticipated receiving an unlabled / untagged violin.  When I opened the case and peeked inside I had received a Ren Wei Shi that was manufactured in 2007.  This was apparently the "Concert" model that they were discontinuing. When I researched the issue further , the cheapest price I could find for that model by this manufacturer was almost 3 times what I had paid for it.

All construction on the new one is very clean , and everything is in good order.  The thing that I cant get my mind around is how much difference there is between the two when it comes to resonance qualities.  When handling the new one without soundpost , bridge or strings there is a tremendous amount of sound coming from her sound box.  The only way I can explain it , is by comparing it to a drum head ,when handled or rubbed , she gives alot of feedback.  My wifes instrument ( the one I almost butchered) has very little sound when handling.  A strange phenomenon indeed ( for me anyway). I guess we will just have to see.  Our new addition goes to the luthier tomorrow for a proper setup , and you can bet that I will be asking alot of questions, and being an unusually annoying customer.  I want to see everything ; this has become waaay too fascinating to miss this opportunity !

June 14, 2011 at 05:01 AM ·

@AMP

I apparently missed your earlier post before I made mine. 

1. I did listen to the experienced people.  I stopped blaming the strings , and discovered the true problem. ( Thank you to all)

2. I would have never taken this on with a cherished , high value instrument !  I knew full well what the ramifications of failure were, and was completely prepared to answer for them.  As I stated ; I did nothing that I knew could not be undone.  The risk was very minimal , when compared to the potential gain.  A gamble for sure , but the very least I stood to gain from it was knowledge , and that is priceless.

3. I have a great respect for teachers , and their wisdom.  But I have a very great disrespect for boundaries.  And when teachers put boundaries on students , our future knowledge will suffer.  Suppose that all past students just respected their teachers , and accepted that only birds could fly.  Where would we be today ?  I believe this is even more true in the music world.  Do you think any music teacher would have endorsed Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner with his teeth , or behind his back? Or would they have told Jimmy Page that it is perfectly acceptable to play your guitar with your violin bow ?  Probably not , but these guys pushed the boundaries , and we are better for it.

I do understand your concern , but what I know is this :  Teachers were once students , and if they stop learning after ceasing to be a student, our knowledge will never grow. Somewhere, someone has to get out of the box and expand their knowledge.  And that is precisely what I did today.  I took a leap out of my box and learned something.  My instrument , my risk  , and now my reward !

Now , if you will excuse me , my wife is telling me it's time to get back in my box !  :-)

Bonne Courage

June 15, 2011 at 03:56 AM ·

 To the original point of the post, Student (rental) violins are horrid but they don't have to be.  It is just the only way rental shops can afford to rent them at prices parents will pay and still make a little profit.  Not to mention having to insure them since they normally only last a couple of years before being damaged by mishandling beyond the limits that make sense to repair.  Tough market to be in.

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