I'm coming at this subject from a slightly different angle, it seems a lot of folks seem to keep at least one of their old instruments as they progress, with my viola(s) I have not, previous instruments have been traded in to soften the blow of money spent on my current instrument.
Now my dearest viola is in need of some serious shop work, my Luthier put it well when he said it sounds like the instrument's sound is being run through a distortion pedal, and I will need to part with it for some weeks for the repairs to be made.
In the past when my instrument has needed work I've been fortunate in that my Luthier is a saint and has lent me an instrument. Being a nice, Midwestern girl, I feel a great amount of guilt imposing myself on him and taking something from his inventory, but in the past I haven't needed a spare for more than a few days. Now the situation is different and I've come to the conclusion that I need a spare instrument of my very own, for crap pit gigs, repairs, etc.
I've finagled, called up favors, blackmailed and now have some hang time between concerts for three weeks time in mid March to bring my viola in. All I will need to cope with are rehearsals and teaching.
My main goal is to find a spare that is of similar size and holds a pitch decently, and is on the (seriously) inexpensive side. Bonus points if it has a similar string length and the upper bouts are of a similar size. But, alas, I'm a violist and can't hope for too much in that realm.
Also, obviously being sick in the head, I'd actually prefer if it weren't a particularly great instrument...I have a guilt complex whereby if I don't play a particular instrument often, I feel the same as if I've let my cat's food bowl go empty.
That's right, I project personality and feelings on pets and inanimate objects. What of it?
So, great wise sages with both wisdom and experience, where the heck do I look?
Anything any of the shops around have to sell me is way too nice not to be a primary instrument.
My first instinct was to go the German (or Czech) factory instrument route, but 16.5-17" violas of that ilk do not grow on trees the same way 4/4 violins seem to, and when they do they're more than I'd like to spend. (700+) I've looked at the 'outfits' of Shar (hoffman), Southwest, etc. Are they any good?
Also, horrified as I am to say it, I've been considering the Cecilio instruments. I've got a (violin) student that came to his first lesson with a lower end Cecilio (he bought it before he contacted me) that he'd purchased off of Amazon. I've got to say, for the $ I don't think it can be beat...though after reading some of the reviews of the instruments, perhaps he got lucky. But at any rate, I've looked/listened to the higher end viola models, and they sound quite good for the $. I've got a top end Gliga (gama 2, maestro, whatever they're calling it these days) violin that is quite nice, but I'm unsure of how the lower end model (violas) sound (Gem, Genial) or feel.
Any input would be greatly appreciated!
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