2 Violins

November 10, 2011 at 07:00 AM · Is it truly nessecary for every professional violinists to own at least two violins? Or is that execissive? What are some logical good reasons for having at least two violins?

Thank you sincerely,


Replies (30)

November 10, 2011 at 12:20 PM · I find it necessary for these reasons:

1 - you have a step instrument if your main one goes to repair or get bad humoured because of weather and humidity changes (that's why many soloists go on tour with a double case with 2 violins).

2 - You may want to preserve your main instrument during outdoor concerts and situations that envolves more risk (tours to places with very high humidity, pubs, popular music, demonstrations with children around, classes).

3 - You may want different sounds for different playing situations (solos, orchestra, chamber music).

But having just one good instrument is better than having 2, 3, 4 or more bad ones, as we see in many cases.


November 10, 2011 at 01:19 PM · Basically what Luis said. That also goes for bows.

November 10, 2011 at 02:59 PM · I'm not a professional, but I've always had two violins kicking around (mostly bad ones).

Last year I purchased a 'better' spare - and found that I played it quite a bit...mostly as a 'break' from my good violin. In my case I find switching helps me focus on intonation and has been a great help in that regard.

A few weeks ago I upgraded to a better quality spare and am having fun playing it.

So, even in my case, I'm finding it a very useful tool.

November 10, 2011 at 03:30 PM · If you spend the equivalent of a mortgage, or even just a down payment for a house (say $25000) on your violin, then where are you going to get the resources for a "second" fiddle?

Sort of a strange business, isn't it? Guitarists are known to collect--and to a great extent it is worth it because you have to have a different guitar to get a particular sound. But fiddles, we tend to think about controlling the color of the sound--rather than needing another one to accomplish something tonally.

I think we had a survey like this once before here--and there was a distribution. Some had 3 or more, a good number had two, and quite a few had only one. I know two pros who own only one fiddle, not even a cheapie backup. IF you have a really good expensive fiddle and you need it worked on, the shop will happily loan you something in the mean time. That is never a problem...

November 10, 2011 at 04:03 PM · If you spend $25,000 on your good violin, you don't need to spend that much on your spare. It's a spare! $1000+ will get you a decent violin to make do with. My instructor can make my spare sound wonderful...so I imagine any seasoned violinist can do the same thing if it came to an 'emergency' situation.

November 10, 2011 at 04:24 PM · Non-pro here. I have three hand-made fiddles -- mainly for reasons 1 and 3 Luis stated, especially to get "different sounds for different playing situations."

To this, I'll add 1) repertoire and 2) room acoustics.

For Bach, I prefer a dark-sounding instrument. For Elgar or Sibelius, I need something brighter.

But that's not hard and fast. The room is a significant factor for me. In high reverb, I'll pick the dark-sounding fiddle and exploit this with darker-sounding strings. In a drier acoustic, I'll pick the brighter-sounding one and emphasize its sound with strings having strong ring and sheen.

Ditto for what Raphael said about bows -- five here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"My instructor can make my spare sound wonderful."

I can relate to this. As Kato Havas said -- I'm paraphrasing -- many artists work miracles on non-precious instruments. I've heard and seen it happen many times.

November 10, 2011 at 05:15 PM · It's not only guitars but violins - and bows too - that can help get different sound colors and be particularly good for different situations. Me? I have a baker's dozen, but offering 4 for sale. I have even more bows - I think. Instruments - and not just violins - seem to follow me home like stray cats and dogs!

November 10, 2011 at 06:33 PM · I have my childhood (19thC german workshop) violin and my 'main' (modern luthier) So I only spent on one but both serve. When I travel I take my old violin and don't have to worry so much about calamities (except the nostalgia factor sigh).

I have one bow and am currently seeking a second. I stared trying to find something that was similar to bow #1 but then decided (AKA above) that it was better to seek a different bow with its own properties....

Edit: - forgot to add that I am decicdedly not professional!

November 10, 2011 at 06:46 PM · I have different violins for different things:

A main acoustic instrument

A darker sounding violin for recording work

A cheapy for outdoor playing including playing in the rain!

A violin with a pickup permanently installed

An electric

A five string

Another spare

If you have a really expensive instrument, all the more reason to have a spare.

I wish we, like guitarists, had violins that had entirely different sounds. I'll make my erhu hybrid one day!

November 10, 2011 at 07:04 PM · Christopher,

Did you see my post showing the fiddle/'Oud hybrid?

The other bowed instruments such as the erhu, and the rababa, and the Turkish Kabak Kemane, sarangi, gdulka, etc etc will give great variation in tones compared to the fiddle.

November 10, 2011 at 08:54 PM · Hi Sean: I wasn't going to reply to this thread because I'm not a professional, but I noticed you are just down the road from me in Okotoks so I figured what the heck. For me, I can only handle one fiddle at at time because there are too many differences between one fiddle and the next, at least at my skill level. Would drive me nuts going back and forth. Well, I do have a barcus berry besides my acoustic, but I don't really count that.

November 10, 2011 at 09:44 PM · Another amateur here. When I was about 17 I used to alternate between 2 violins and my (distinguished) teacher took the view that "to stick to one instrument" was preferable. I haven't taken his advice at present, though: I have two good workshop instruments, one German (inherited), the other French, and a chinese one for travelling with that turned out to be a remarkably good buy. I can appreciate an earlier poster's comment that alternating between instruments can be good for improving intonation - I've found something of the kind too.

November 10, 2011 at 10:26 PM · I have a couple that I use for playing fiddle and leave in particular cross-tunings. I have a sweet but quiet Strad copy that I use when teaching 4-9 or 10 year old kids since my one moderately-priced professional violin is too loud and "scary" :)

November 10, 2011 at 11:31 PM · Quote from Nicky: I can appreciate an earlier poster's comment that alternating between instruments can be good for improving intonation - I've found something of the kind too.

Well, I have a question about this. I can see improving intonation with 2 fiddles by exercising your ear, but what about muscle memory? After 3 months I still have to pay attention to keep my muscle memory from reverting back to my last fiddle. Yes, the differences are slight but just enough to be a bit off sometimes. I even notice the difference between thicker/thinner gauge strings in this regard. Perhaps this is just a matter of skill level and would not affect more advanced players as much, if at all?

November 11, 2011 at 12:29 AM · I have two different violins wich I both like very much. One is more quiet and intimate but very sweet and shiny in the upper registers, the other is very dark and sonorous but very powerful and balanced.

I would like to play on my first violin sometimes, but the neck is nearly half the scope/girth (?) of the new one. It may be good for intonation to switch sometimes instruments if your ear is not paying attention anymore (should not happen anyways) but at a certain point you need to get used to your instrument! Midori wrote in her biography about years of adaptation to instruments, because of their different measures. If she needs that long I might say that an "average professional" should really be sticking with one instrument as long as it is possible and practical. One may not even notice, but the hours and hours over weeks months and years of playing an instrument not only your ear gets used to the sound of the instrument but also your body and your technique adjusts to the needs of the instrument.

Ok I am tired... of writing wrong english :D

November 11, 2011 at 01:14 AM · I have seven violins. Each has a day of the week stamped on it like my underwear. :-)) (Of course, my underwear is camouflage.)

November 11, 2011 at 03:52 AM · Bill, I didn't see it but it sounds interesting to me. I don't see how to search this forum (surely there is a search) so can you post me a link?

November 11, 2011 at 03:54 AM · Ok Bill, I found the search! That's amazing. We need more of that kind of thing.

November 11, 2011 at 04:25 AM · "I have seven violins. Each has a day of the week stamped on it like my underwear. :-))"


You can cut that in half with the old trick of turning your underwear inside out for a second use.

Might work with fiddles too, haven't tried it yet.

November 11, 2011 at 05:08 AM · SEVEN. I always thought it was 12. January, February, ...

November 12, 2011 at 01:01 PM · While having a spare instrument isn't fully necessary, it helps when you send your main instrument away to be repaired. However, in some cases, your luthier will provide you with a decent replacement violin while you wait for the repair to be finished. I currently have a spare that I use for playing outside and such.

November 12, 2011 at 02:59 PM · And if, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the loaned violin is significantly better than the one you've taken in for attention, then that could further result in good business for the violin shop and satisfaction for the customer.

November 13, 2011 at 08:24 PM · Ok wow I only one one violin and I never thought I'd need to own another, but the points raised about using one violin while the other is in the shop can not be refuted. I never thought of that.

---Ann Marie

November 14, 2011 at 12:21 AM · I bring my Amati when I don't want to put my Strad at risk. It's always good to have a backup fiddle.

November 14, 2011 at 10:48 AM · The need for a backup may be a bit overrated - most violin repair shops (in particular the ones you have a relationship with) will provide you with a loaner while yours is in. Indeed, the loaner will almost certainly be a better quality instrument than you can afford to buy as a second.

Though the need for an instrument to play in non-ideal conditions and (in my case) for business trips is more pressing. [Hi from Washington DC - can I borrow your backup Amati while I'm here Smiley?]

November 14, 2011 at 06:07 PM · Dave Snow never got an answer to his question about what happens to muscle memory if you have 2 or more violins. In identifying with N.A. Mohr's first comment above, I had ear training in mind when I said that alternating between violins benefits intonation. Also, I agree with John Cadd's comment that having 2 or more violins with different tonal qualities, as I do, can be worthwhile. Meanwhile, I would place rather less stress than some violinists on muscle memory insofar as I do not learn music by heart. But I can certainly appreciate what Dave says about developing muscle memory in terms of one particular instrument for those who have one violin. Dave may also be right about more advanced players. I am still at the stage of developing better ear training for purposes of getting all those allegro and presto semiquavers & demis in tune, and cannot claim any higher level of expertise.

November 14, 2011 at 06:22 PM · One violin is a tennis player

two violins is a tennis player who plays doubles;-)

violin and viola is a tennis player who also plays paddle tennis

In other words, you adapt. Also, think Pinchas Zuckerman.

November 14, 2011 at 06:45 PM · @ Nicky: Thanks for the further response, I appreciate it. Muscle memory with 2 or more violins doesn't seem to be an issue with most/all? of the posters on this thread. I would have problems with 2 fiddles that "played" very differently in terms of string height, neck angle etc. I'm getting the impression that this is not an issue for the more advanced players.

November 14, 2011 at 07:50 PM · Muscle memory is important, but you always have to shift your fingers a bit to stay in tune regardless...your instrument isn't static.

So the wee bit of adjusting to tone that you'd do between instruments is fairly minor.

My intonation on my violin became dramatically better once I started practicing viola - where I had to stretch my hand more in order to find the notes -

So once you find the correct pitch on any given instrument - THEN your muscle memory comes into play.

If you don't adjust to the tone of the instrument, odds are you'll be off all the time - because even the same instrument will sound different with humidity issues, new strings, etc.

November 14, 2011 at 09:55 PM · Actually, it is amazing how quickly we adapt to a new instrument. My main fiddle is petite, while my backup fiddle is more "standard." The difference in finger position is very noticeable (i.e., the notes are farther away from one another on my backup fiddle). But as soon as I play a few notes, my fingers just seem to compensate automatically. This is obviously happening on a sub-conscious level, but it requires surprisingly little time and effort to accomodate. But I do prefer my primary fiddle because it is petite. My hands are not that large, and it is easier to reach the notes with my 4th finger.

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