Conundrum for purchasing a new violin

September 4, 2015 at 06:30 PM · Hello,

Here's my background, I am a 4th year University student studying theoretical/experimental physics in particle physics field.

I restarted playing violin 3 years ago, I started off with a Palatino VSO, I found my old violin, which was another VSO. I got rid of them both and reached my current 1900's German workshop violin with fake label. I kind of bought it without doing very much research. I just wanted a violin that did sound like a violin. It is EXACTLY what I was looking for, in fact, it sounds better than any other ~$800 violin I've put my hands on. I call it Campbell.

Campbell has its strength and flaws, three largest flaws are:

1. Fingerboard projection, it is easy to play double and triple stops, but extremely hard to play single string staccatos(mostly on D string) in any higher position than third.

2. It sounds HORRIBLE on a humid day.

3. Again, due to low string heights, I seem to keep hitting the top with the bow if I am not very careful(although it has trained/forced me to have much lighter grip on the bow; allowing better projection)

I have visited a few luthiers in my town, and a few other stores that sell violins, and tried violins priced at $600~$6000, some I liked the ease of play, only three that I liked the sound of better than Campbell. I found a Sig. Hoibakke violin which I can say that I fell in love with, priced at $2800.

It is heavy(ier than other violins, which I prefer), made in Victoria B.C.(humid environment), I could bounce my bow off the strings pretty darn easily(good string height) and the sound was just great(on a rainy day).

Overall, all the good things that I'm looking for(and some flaws that I will need to address if I end up getting it and decide to leave Canada[which is only a matter of time in an ideal case, I wish to end up in Switzerland]).

I have been debating over how to raise money to get this. It has been successful. I've recently signed teaching contracts which allows me to spend the money. Now, I'm contemplating that if I should actually get it.

This is because:

1. I am a full time student in a demanding program at a demanding year, I have maybe 5 hrs to practice in a week now. I am re-learning how little leisure time I have. I expect only the worse from Masters and PhD.

2. I am not "good" at playing, although I am encouraged by colleagues and neighbours, I am still just starting suzuki volume 4.

3. I am not aiming to become professional, this is entirely a hobby and recreation of mine.

I spent $20,000 on a car 4 years ago, and I am about to spend more than 10% of cost of my car into a violin. My colleagues, parents and sometimes even I think this is kind of crazy; to spend this much on a hobby that I cannot participate in frequently.

I am borrowing the violin again next week for another trial then deciding if I am going to keep it or not, until then, I could use some insight on why I should or should not get this violin.

In additions, please let me know if there are few things that I should carefully look for during my trial. I know that the nut, saddle, and heel should be replaced eventually. Pegs were well fitted, bridge was good, tailpiece finetuner is to be replaced.

I want to make a list and inspect for them because Campbell was originally badly set-up.

Replies (97)

September 4, 2015 at 08:14 PM · Wasn't this discussed on another topic already?

The advice given on the other topic still holds! But something you said here is a bit alarming: You said there are parts that will need to be replaced? Why? Why are you looking at a fixer-upper? For that kind of money you should find an instrument that should need no work in the foreseeable future!

September 4, 2015 at 09:43 PM · If your violin cannot let you do all the bow strokes that you are learning reasonably well, it sure needs to be replaced. But I think a $1000 Jay Haide should be sufficient for now. Once you are at the level of Suzuki book 7, you will have a clearer perspective of what you need from the instrument.

September 5, 2015 at 12:12 AM · Maybe you simply need s new bridge with better string spacing and arching to solve your bowing issues?

What happens if you get the new $2800 violin and find that it too sounds crummy on a humid day?

If you have some money laying around, I'd say "go for it". But it sounds more like a "want" than a "need".

September 5, 2015 at 12:36 AM · Fox, the parts that I wish to replace in the future are the nut, saddle and heel, which are possibly made of Ivory, which is not an issue as far as I keep the violin here in Canada, but if my career takes off and brings me to Switzerland, they will need to come off, or I will have to get a certificate that it's not from elephant and etc.

Also, yes, a lot of good advices do come from the other thread, however it's become quite messy and convoluted, so this is a compilation/summary attempt with a better background with specific topic for a specific violin.

Kevin, that's one of the larger factors that I am concerned by; that I may not even fully know what I should be looking for a violin. Basically in an analogy, my current violin is similar to a 10 year old getting the best fitting shoes, then turns 11 and shoes don't really fit anymore. I am concerned in case if I come across that effect again.

Seraphim, the bridge was fixed up relatively recently actually, it is just the neck of the violin that is hindering my practice mostly.

I cannot say that I "need" a new violin, but I sure do want it quite badly. Also, I have raised and saved up just the amount I need, but I'm getting cold feet and realizing "I could do so many other things with this amount of money", getting and A/C would be an example.

I think my biggest motivation for new violin would be my 2 week encounter with an electric violin. It wasn't a keeper, but I played much better on it than on my Campbell. With my neighbour's amplifier, it sounded really nice.

Also, I'm counting on the fact that Victoria, B.C. is very humid and that luthier who made the violin I'm interested in took that as an account, and/or the violin is used to the weather by now.

September 5, 2015 at 01:24 AM · I have never seen a violin with any part (nut, saddle, or anything else) made of ivory. Always ebony. Bows, yes, you can have a problem with an ivory tip and occasionally and ivory frog. But I have never seen an ivory nut--I know they exist but they must be very rare.. Frankly I can't imagine that ivory would be durable enough.

September 5, 2015 at 01:49 AM · This is not the exact violin I'm looking at, but here's a link to some of the same luthier's work:

ivory in more than just few places.

I'll post some photos during trial

September 5, 2015 at 02:36 AM · I just came up from the basement, I think I "frogged" my rib corner for the last time... I think a switch is needed.

September 5, 2015 at 05:50 AM · Ah...

The way I see it, if it has ivory, I would just steer clear from it. Not necessarily only because of environmental reasons, but because of the complicated laws involving the possession and transport of ivory items, specially if you're going to Switzerland.

For that amount of money there has to be another violin comparable in quality and sound as that one; normally the 'absolutely one of a kind' instruments start at much higher prices. Also keep in mind that unless you get whomever you're buying it from to agree to do it as part of the purchase cost of the violin, changing those parts will add a few extra hundred dollars to your bill. Your $2800 violin might end up costing you $3500.

Other than that, on what comes to the matter of spending money or not, this is how I see it: If you have the money and you are not going to be suffering through hardships from spending it, that is what money is there for! Turn that lifeless pile of paper - not even that nowadays, it's all virtual, numbers on a computer screen! - if you have it, turn it into something that brings you more enjoyment than numbers in an account balance receipt. That's what I would do if I didn't need the money for anything more vital such as food or so and if it wouldn't put me in debt.

But I wouldn't buy a $2800 instrument that might require several more hundred dollars in work unless its trade-in/resale value increased drastically afterwards. If this were a $5000 violin priced at $2800 that needed $500 in work to be worth $5000 again, then yeah! Otherwise, nope! I would keep on looking!

That's my Two-Cents.

September 5, 2015 at 06:45 AM · Everybody sounds better on an electric violin...even the cheap ones. They are MUCH easier to get a nice sound from which I why I no longer practise on mine. They make you think you are better than you really are !

Do not compare electric violins with acoustic violins : it is apples and oranges.

September 5, 2015 at 11:14 AM · Fox, the violin is being sold by a luthier, and I will be asking her soon about the cost of replacing nut, saddle and heel.

I have seen another one made by the same luthier online being sold for over $3800 U.S., that one came with a bow and etc. but after conversion, it comes out to over $5000 Cdn. Not to mention, it's 1/2 that are still being sold today.

Basically from a little bit of research, I think the price may be what it is because it's so unattractive of musicians due to ivory parts. Since It's from a luthier whom I will probably do all of the future violin related shopping with, when the time comes(to pursue my career internationally), it may not be too hard to trade the violin in.

Brian, I think I'll have to agree with you. however I was generally talking about bowing instead of the sound that came out. Basically I just love how much room I have to to bounce the bow in a lot of other violins than mine, but sound of mine beats a lot of other "easier" violins.

September 5, 2015 at 12:58 PM · when considering a new instrument I think it's crucial to have advanced players try it for you 1) so that you can hear what it sounds like out from under you ear 2) to get feedback from someone who is able to assess the qualities of an instrument.

Unless someone thinks that instrument is really good and the asking price for it is somewhere between very reasonable & an absolute steal, my first instinct is to pass this one up just because of the hassle with the ivory. In terms of access to luthiers & instruments, you are very well located. Something else will come along.

September 5, 2015 at 01:45 PM · Are you sure it's not simply bone?

September 5, 2015 at 02:53 PM · No it's ivory. Kim Tipper has sold one (probably more than one) also with ivory inlay. Kim is very knowledgeable about these things.

September 5, 2015 at 02:53 PM · That was my first reaction, "are these bone fittings?" my luthier suggested that it could be mammoth ivory, she used the proper term for it which I'm not familiar with. There is a good chance for that as well. I have not found any solid resources on how to identify elephant/mammoth ivory without taking the fitting apart and putting it under a microscope.

If it's a mammoth one, I'll be MUCH happier, but while I'm searching information about Sig Hoibakke, I came across the fact that he did use decorative ivory. Also, I will have to get a certificate to as a proof that this is not part of an endangered species.

September 5, 2015 at 05:12 PM · quick question, I've been trying out different violins more recently, I came across one that says Vuillaume in the back and also in the label.

the guy who's selling it tells me he bought it for $1200, and it certainly sounds and rings better than my German workshop violin.

I know Gunareri, Amati, Stradivari have many fakes, what about Vuillaume?

September 5, 2015 at 05:12 PM · quick question, I've been trying out different violins more recently, I came across one that says Vuillaume in the back and also in the label.

the guy who's selling it tells me he bought it for $1200, and it certainly sounds and rings better than my German workshop violin. He's selling it for $800. I did some reading on that thing, I'm telling myself "that can't be an authentic one", but it sounded so nice.

I know Gunareri, Amati, Stradivari have many fakes, what about Vuillaume?

a portion of the label was torn/missing and all I made out of it was Vuillaume, Paris and 43.

It sounded REALLY nice even with cheap steel strings that the seller put on which were falling apart. I'm planning to compare it to Hoibakke while I've it out for a trial.

this thread clears it:

it's a factory one, still sounded quite nice. I can't wait to put it up to the test next to Hoibakke

September 5, 2015 at 09:52 PM · well, all it took was me holding the Hoibakke violin and talking for me to fall for it once again. it rings just from my voice... I think we have a winner...

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I've made my decision. I'll be making my payment next week. I spoke to Olivia about replacing the ivory parts before I travel and etc.

September 6, 2015 at 01:02 AM · Congrats! I hope your new violin gives you many years of enjoyment. And with that in mind...don't overthink the purchase price. In the big scheme of things it is not a lot of money to pay for hours of music-making and learning pleasure.

September 6, 2015 at 01:45 AM · thank you, it might sound silly, but everytime I play it, the entire body of the violin vibrates and it corresponds to every little thing I do with my body.

My intonation is "dead on" without much adjustments or warm up, staccato somehow becomes natural with my bowing, double and triple stops basically rings through the entire garage parking lot. Although, fast detache sometimes gets indistinguishable from staccatos, which I have to work on.

I just love this thing...

I should also mention that I've been in contact with Kim Tipper recently to inquire about Sig. Hoibakke, the luthier. Kim told me things that he noticed about Hoibakke's violins. I got lucky because there is no ivory in the base of the neck, around endpin and on scroll. Also, that some of these violins had experimental varnish which needed to reapplied at some point.

Kim also let me know unfortunately Sig. Hoibakke passed away in 1975.

September 6, 2015 at 02:17 AM · If you love it...and have that bit of ivory replaced to off-set any border crossing and travel could well have a violin that lasts you forever. To get a fully hand crafted violin for that price is a real bargain.

September 6, 2015 at 03:04 AM · Thank you Jenny for the advice,

I have negotiated about the ivory parts, also trade in value of my "Campbell". I think I'm happy with what I agreed on with Olivia. I'm buying the Hoibakke violin from her. Besides, if all else fails, worst thing that may happen is that I ask for a trade-in in the future.

I've had my soloist neighbour look over both Campbell and Hoibakke.

I have a feeling that this may be my last violin until I've reached the climax of my career and pay someone to commision one for me.

September 6, 2015 at 03:09 AM · In case anyone was interested: origin of name Campbell:

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The As you can see, one wing higher than top spruce, and one wing is lower than top spruce

A more direct translation is "crooked smile", Campbell always had a crooked smile to me.

More Campbell pictures:

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I bought Campbell from Carlo Loso, and I ended up having it set-up again by Olivia. Unfortunately, I did not do much research before buying it.

At this point, I am bent to get the Hoibakke violin. I have put a fair amount of thought and found enough information about it.

September 6, 2015 at 06:57 AM · What did your soloist neighbour say?

September 6, 2015 at 07:08 AM · I would want to hear the violin AFTER the ivory parts had been replaced. That should be a condition of the sale ie. you should be happy with the finished violin. I do know some people who have not been happy with their own violins even after some minor modifications were done.

What are you replacing the ivory with ? Make sure it is not bone or anything that remotely looks like ivory !

September 6, 2015 at 01:22 PM · Is international travel a DEFINITE thing that's going to happen? It sounds like something in a few years as a possibility. You may want to reconsider leaving it "as-is", don't you think? That looks very classy the way it is.

Perhaps for international travel you "black out" the ivory bits with a dry erase marker so they look black, and the inspector won't give it a second glance.

Again: are you SURE it is ivory and not simply bone? Can you post a close up shot of the nut? The material looks sort of speckled, like bone from what I can see. Ivory has a particular grain to it. Your luthier may not even know the difference. My other hobby is old fashioned straight razors that sometimes have either bone or ivory scales. The differences are subtle, but definitely recognizable. If suggest you get a second opinion from someone before performing major surgery.

Nice looking violin, congratulations!

September 6, 2015 at 01:29 PM · Kevin, he said that it's a very good violin. With my VSO, he said, "it's not too bad", with my Campbell he said "it's okay", with Hoibakke, "very good", so I think you get the scale.

I will be replacing ivory with ebony. I'm going to discuss doing one piece at a time because I'll be broke for a while.

September 6, 2015 at 01:33 PM · Yes, I'm certain that it's Ivory, I will take another picture for you later today for your sake.

I have been in contact with Kim Tipper, who has been very helpful, he said that Hoibakke ordered elephant ivory regularly at his time. It needs to come off at some point. Apparently he lived only 3 blocks down from Kim.

September 6, 2015 at 10:29 PM · I think it's a shame to remove the ivory until you absolutely MUST.

It is a classy touch not commonly seen on violins of any era, and single this one out as being from a different Age.

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I don't think I will be replacing the ivory very soon, nor can I afford to.

September 6, 2015 at 11:28 PM · Also, if I'm not mistaken, I may not be the only one who's in love with this violin :P

September 7, 2015 at 12:50 AM · Glad you made your choice after so much agony! The ivory stuff looks a bit interesting to say the least(the maker must have experimented quite a bit). It won't matter too much if the instrument sounds good though. No need to think too much about the money either. If you can buy happiness, then it's usually worth it.

I think you'll almost certainly be lusting after more expensive instruments in the future though, as you improve your playing.

September 7, 2015 at 01:30 AM · I like the little added touches as well: the black painted along the edges of the scroll and the double inlay lines by the end pin.

That sure looks like bone to me, but pics are different than in person.

So, is it a done deal? You're definitely getting it? Very nice!

September 7, 2015 at 02:28 AM · Thank you everyone. Yes, I've made my decision, I will be getting it. It was absolutely nasty and humid today. I performed for my visiting parents(and they bought me an A/C before they left).

I just came up from the basement and it was really hot and humid down there. The violin didn't have as much ring as it did in my room or yesterday, but it certainly kept my ears pleased.

Shawn, please don't jinx it. I may find a "better violin" in the future, but I will not let this go. Possibly ever. With Campbell, I've had my doubts from the beginning, with this one(yet to be named), I will always cherish.

Seraphim, the saddle does look somewhat like bone, but, nut and heel look totally different than bone. With some "black stuff" inside along with certain pattern in grain. The pattern is most obvious when I turn it sideways and if I shine bright light or blue light to it(apparently 8MP camera isn't good enough).

The pattern is similar to the "true ivory tile" from here:

September 7, 2015 at 02:31 AM · Wait..

According to this:

it sure does look like bone... What would be a sure way to do this and to even get a certificate. If that can be done, this violin will stay with original parts.

September 7, 2015 at 03:08 AM · You know, I'd leave it till it becomes necessary to either remove the "ivory" or take another violin with you. It looks so integral as it is, you may decide in time that, if you must travel, taking "Campbell" or some other substitute would be preferable to altering your new treasure. You may not need to travel...why borrow trouble?

September 7, 2015 at 03:17 AM · Well, the ideal case is that I won't be traveling with the violin, the ideal case would be that I'll be moving with the violin.

I don't plan on staying in Canada forever.

September 7, 2015 at 04:29 AM · So are there actually some complications to traveling with a instrument? I'm asking because I am about to do it pretty soon(sorry to hijack the thread, but I think this should still be relevant to the OP).

September 7, 2015 at 04:39 AM ·

A policy order was amended today to allow travel with instruments purchased prior to February 25, 2014 that contain African elephant ivory

Under the latest version of the rules, a musical instrument that contains African elephant ivory may be brought into the U.S. if the instrument meets all of the following criteria:

The African elephant ivory contained in the instrument was legally acquired prior to February 26, 1976;

The instrument has not subsequently been transferred from one person to another person for financial gain or profit since February 25, 2014;

The person or group traveling with the instrument qualifies for a CITES musical instrument certificate; and

The musical instrument containing African elephant ivory is accompanied by a valid CITES musical instrument certificate or an equivalent CITES document.

Also members of CITES:

I don't sleep... apparently.

September 7, 2015 at 05:29 AM · Congratulations on deciding to get the violin, Steven!

To be absolutely sure it is or it is not ivory, I would suggest taking the violin to a gemologist, /usually/ they can tell the difference. Through your photos on the web here all we can do is speculate.

If you have access to a college campus, you probably can find someone from the gemology department, or even someone from the biology department might be able to tell you. Another option is to find a jeweler who has certifications from the GIA or IGI or some other trusted gemological institution. A very experienced antiques expert could also work, but I would go for a certified gemologist.

Usually they won't charge you anything just to look at it and say "yeah it's / it's not ivory", but you should ask for them to write a certificate stating their findings if it's NOT ivory, and keep it always with the violin. For that however they're likely to charge you a fee but shouldn't be anything outrageous. If it is ivory, make plans to have it replaced eventually unless you can get extensive documentation legitimizing the origin and ownership of the violin.

The internet is full of "how to tell if it's ivory" tutorials, but some pieces out there are really hard to tell, so, take it to an expert.

September 7, 2015 at 07:58 AM · Will a certificate satisfy a grumpy border official in some European country... or even the US and Canada for that matter ?

September 7, 2015 at 11:35 AM · NB Your violin will last longer than your car!

September 7, 2015 at 12:28 PM · I know I'm being overly generous here....but if you want to send me your violin, aid be happy to check to see if it is ivory or not!


Otherwise, the suggestion to get a gemologist or similar sounds like a good idea.

September 7, 2015 at 02:33 PM · Seraphim, sure... Right after I receive your left kidney as a hostage.

Thankfully I'm located at the capital of Canada, the department in collaboration with CITES isn't located far from my place. I just need to visit/call them to get things done. I will post my findings and compile it for the sakes of Canadian musicians here(the process of identifying/certificate for ivory/bone etc.).

September 7, 2015 at 02:55 PM · Hold on a second:

What if it IS ivory?

Wouldn't the CITES office be obligated to impound it on the spot???

Seriously, I don't think you want to take it to a government office for evaluation and possible confiscation. That is EXACTLY what you are trying to avoid!

September 7, 2015 at 03:27 PM · Why are we debating if it's ivory or not? We know who the luthier was...Kim Tipper knows who the luthier was...and Olivia is a luthier.

In this instance it's really not a mystery.

See if you can keep it intact. Always best to preserve the original if possible. And if you are not planning to move anytime may want to wait to see what happens. This is still new legislation that is finding a 'settling' point. It would be a pity to remove the ivory if you like it...and then a year later find that it is fully exempt.

OR....just replace the ivory right off the bat and be done with it.

September 7, 2015 at 08:11 PM · Well, the new resources suggest that it may be bone afterall, and someone in the past 57 years might've actually did the change already.

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Kim suggested that because some varnish has been removed by the heel. This came up when I asked him about cracks under the fingerboard. I was curious if this was possible done during original making or in its lifetime.

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The cracks seem to be well repaired, somewhat unnoticeable(I had to introduce different lighting to get a picture of it). Kim suggested that the neck possibly has come out at some point, and someone might've replaced the ivory with bone in process, and cracked the top while doing so.

I think I am going to leave it as it is and seek ways to get a piece of paper to keep in my case to say that it's bone(I'm convinced at least some parts are bone now), and focus on preserving it better and improving my play(varnish touch-up, case and eventually a bow).

September 7, 2015 at 08:21 PM · I do have mammoth ivory on my bow and I have a letter from the maker stating what it is. I still tend to take only my carbon fiber bow when I travel internationally on planes but I've never been asked & my case has never been checked, not at highway border crossings either.

Technically you should be fine as long as it's not African elephant ivory but all it takes is one slightly misguided or uninformed person doing the checking to make life a nightmare.

Congrats on your new violin. If you haven't yet, I would get a luthier's input abut that crack.... seems like a dangerous spot to have one.

September 7, 2015 at 09:24 PM · I will certainly talk to her for a while, there are few things I need to ask.

Also, darn it! Just ONCE I thought I'll end up with a violin without a wolf tone, it's on "C" again, but this time, not exactly C or C#, about halfway from C to C#, most dominant on G string.

In short, no vibrato from C#

September 7, 2015 at 10:38 PM · You have a wolf tone on the *low* C on the G string, i.e., not the one up towards the top of the fingerboard? That's not good. You shouldn't be getting any wolf tones on low-position notes, even on a fairly inexpensive instrument like the one you're wanting to buy.

September 7, 2015 at 11:03 PM · Yes, first C on G string. Slightly above it is wolfnote. With Campbell, slight soundpost adjustment and changing strings got rid of it.

Hoibakke violin is slightly G heavy anyways. I will ask Olivia to move the soundpost slightly, and ask her how long the current Obligato strings have been on there for, it either broke in or wore out as of Yesterday, it doesn't sound the same as before. It's much mellower, similar to what Campbell stabilizes to after Infeld Reds break in(Warchal Ametyst has sounded pleasant for over a month after initial break-in so far).

September 8, 2015 at 12:04 AM · Bone, eh?

I suggest naming it "George"

September 8, 2015 at 01:00 AM · In case others are interested, a Bass point of view on wolfnote:

I just learned something today, the wolfnote appears with my Carbon Fibre bow, and not with my best bow, that's why I haven't noticed it until today(it's very hot and humid=wood bow gets too soft).

Also, it shall remain nameless until I find a perfect reason, like Campbell.

It does have asymmetric c-ribs, Bass side is longer and treble side is shorter(FYI, I work in experimental physics labs and part of my job is measure flatness/symmetry down to a micron, I may sound a bit too picky but asymmetric only really means more unique to me). Can't say that I know a proper figure or term for something like that...

September 11, 2015 at 01:11 AM · Well, I did it, it's been paid for and Sig. Hoibakke's 1958 violin belongs to me.

As for wolfnote, I asked Olivia to move the soundpost, which changed sound of the instrument for the worse(lost its power), and I asked her to put it where it was.

She refitted and relocated the soundpost where the sound became even more powerful than before. She also shortened the tail gut which I'm unsure of the effects but in combination of the shorter tail gut and the final soundpost adjustments made the violin sound better overall. The wolfnote is now gone, but it resurfaces when I'm using my light carbon fiber bow, which I'm trying to sell anyways. I also found out that the current strings are quite new and I probably broke them in over the weekend.

Also, I brought a colleague of mine who plays in quartets (and has gone to Suzuki violin school) to Olivia's workshop. He liked the soft tone and look of Campbell, and liked the power of my new violin. He also told me that his group used to use 3/4 tailpieces to extend the string length between the tailpiece to bridge(anyone else do this?), and apparently it improved the sound in some way.

As for "ivory", a local gemist couldn't identify ivory/bone, and he said "probably ivory, but not entirely sure.", well I'm going to forget about it for the next 2 years-ish until I need a nut repair.

Currently, I'm barely typing this with my extremely sore fingers(from attempting to play after handwashing my car).

2 questions,

1. about the smaller/shorter tail piece, anyone else do this? Effects?

2. does anyone else find that it takes more than a month to get used to the neck of a new instrument?

Before I traded it in, Campbell's neck felt so comfortable, it wasn't like that at the beginning.

September 11, 2015 at 07:00 AM · String afterlength and tailpiece weight and material can affect the sound. You can experiment a bit to see if it changes to something that you like better.

Try removing the chinrest and see if the wolf note remains.

What don't you like about the new neck?

September 11, 2015 at 09:29 AM · "1. about the smaller/shorter tail piece, anyone else do this? Effects?"


It will make some fiddles better, and others worse. Most will sound better with a standard length tailpiece. That's why it became the standard.

September 11, 2015 at 11:21 AM · There's nothing wrong with the new neck,

Campbell had unusually larger body with small neck, new violin has average/smaller body with larger neck.

I find it easier to perform vibrato, and to get the right notes and etc. it just feels different and I'm not used to it.

With Campbell, I wasn't good enough to really notice because I was confined in the first position with barely any vibrato.

September 11, 2015 at 02:52 PM · about tail piece weight & material: the instrument & equipment guru at one of my chamber music workshops recommended boxwood or rosewood for the tailpiece & chinrest (all the fittings, really). He used to recommended the Kun Bravo shoulder rest (maple) but his latest thing is the Viva La Musica Diamond model. I tried his it definitely made a difference to the resonance of my instrument, so I now use that model.

the mention of string after-length reminded me of reading about it somewhere else here. It was Laurie's blog about Giora Schmidt & his new modern violin. In the video he goes into a lot of technical detail that I thought could be very useful in making sure a violin is set up well. There was also a very informative comment about string after-length on that blog from Gregg Alf which I'm quoting here:

"May I share something we learned recently about tuning the strings behind the bridge to a perfect 5th (usually not exactly 1/6th of the string length, due to the string windings). This is normally done by adjusting the little threaded nuts on plastic tailguts or by fiddling miserably with the knots on kevlar tailguts: A longer tailgut length will mean a shorter after-length, etc., and vice versa.

But what if tuning the bridge after length was only part of the story? Violinmakers want to get to the bottom of such questions, and some colleagues at Oberlin came up with an experiment to test it. The after-length on various violins was detuned, admirably ruining the sound. Then the after-length was retuned, but by changing the length of the tailpiece itself, instead of the tailgut length. With each instrument, the tail-gut length was kept THE SAME and a different tailpiece of the same weight and design, but different length, was used. Not very feasible for every day practice, but a nicely designed experiment.

Guess what? Tuning the bridge after-length did not make so much of a difference when tailgut length was removed from the equation. It seems that stiffness in the coupling between the tailpiece and the violin, which is also regulated by tailgut length, is equally or even more influential to the sound of a violin. When you think about it, the reason we began using kevlar tailguts to begin with was, as Giora pointed out, exactly because it adds more flexibility to this area, compared to plastic tailguts. Instruments that sound a little on the bright side, tend to sound better.

So, having a longer or shorter after length BETWEEN THE TAILPIECE AND THE LOWER SADDLE, also changes the sound. It's just that we were looking so closely at the magical 1/6th of the string length and the fun and empirical tuning to perfect 5ths, that we were overlooking the important coupling effect dictated by tailgut length. "

September 11, 2015 at 06:58 PM · It's very difficult for a player to know, from measurements, whether a violin is set up optimally, because optimal measurements will vary from one instrument to the next. So will optimal strings, tailpiece materials, chinrest location and clamping pressure, and on and on.

What our business suffers from greatly is a player or luthier putting a certain combination of parts or measurements on an instrument, getting a good result, and assuming (or others assuming) that the combination will produce a similar result on other instruments. I need to rescue instruments from such assumptions on a somewhat regular basis. Two in the last few months, both owned by high-level pro players, who had "improved" their instruments to the point that they were no longer working well.

September 11, 2015 at 10:36 PM · I see,

also, is it just me or do instruments just sound so much nicer after a nice cleaning and polishing? I do that after practice everynight, lately I've been skipping that because I am back at my full schedule in University, and often it's too late for me to even practice.

I just finished cleaning and polishing my violin and it sounds so much better than before cleaning.

September 11, 2015 at 11:57 PM · It's just you! :) If you are using it regularly and keeping it clean it won't be sounding different from session to session.

I'd be more worried about over-cleaning. I dust the rosin off...and I will clean off a spot if I see one but I have never actually polished a violin as a matter of course. I think my violins look just fine. They don't look dirty or dull.

September 12, 2015 at 12:43 AM · I see, I use the Hill cleaner/polish in small quantities for the body, chinrest, tailpiece and back of the neck, and just dry microfibre cloth(which doesn't seem to have any more clean spots left) for between string and fingerboard, under fingerboard and under bridge and tail piece.

Also, denatured alcohol for part of fingerboard/strings.

I find that during "initiation period", I remove oil from skins and other residues of previous owners off of the violin, then it stops staining my cloth. I am currently seeing brown spots(you'll probably see it from wiping your chinrest or back of the neck too) where a player would touch. Also, green from probably masking tape which was there for pricetag, and non-varnish colours from ribs(I use the varnish-no-varnish border from fingerboard to scroll as my "compatibility test" area).

September 12, 2015 at 12:54 AM ·  photo IMG_0086_zpsqnltsbqc.jpg

this is 3 years of compulsive daily cleaning. Oh, and the cloth on the right is only 2 months old.

September 12, 2015 at 12:56 AM · I'd have thought it would have been sold all cleaned up. Cleaning between owners makes sense.

Do check to see about the dangers of over-polishing. You don't want to damage the varnish.

I also never clean the strings with alcohol. Not worth having an "oopsie" (alcohol drip onto the finished surface). I use the thick hemmed edge of a clean hand towel. Works like a charm. Bonus is the towels gets washed the are always clean to begin with.

September 12, 2015 at 01:22 AM · I generally use the hill cleaner for rosin build up, and grease build up areas, and just use the other parts of the microfibre cloth for the rest of the violin.

I always disliked the feeling of taking off built up rosin on string with a dry cloth. Also, alcohol kind of acts as a lubricant for me, and I only dampen a tiny dot of the cloth, so I can't really drip onto varnish.

That little bottle easily gets knocked over though... Thankfully always 2 meters away, because that's what I do with open fluids, always 2m away.

September 12, 2015 at 01:31 AM · Three years with the same dirty cloth? Not what I would have expected from someone studying particle physics. (Insert jab in the ribs.)


September 12, 2015 at 01:50 AM · well... It makes sense to me because most microfibre loses its structure integrity coming in contact with acid or base, which is pretty much anything ranging from finger grease to cleaning solutions(for violin or for clothing).

I decided against washing them because I tried that with my car wash cloth. The "micro"fibers came apart when I started wiping my windshield from the inside, after vacuuming the whole car.

I don't think I want to cover my violin with the same stuff. Although I have read about some rumours regarding "sound enhancement" dust bunnies inside violins a while back.

September 12, 2015 at 02:26 AM · Darn particles. Never stay put. Don't think I would archive strangers DNA. But if it was a strad - maybe.

Stay pawsative,


September 12, 2015 at 02:06 PM · Steven, I'd recommend using a cloth that can be washed frequently (like cotton). The objective is to remove dirt, rosin and perspiration, not redistribute it. ;)

I also advise not having alcohol anywhere near an instrument (unless it helps you play better, LOL).

You're doing the right thing by keeping the bottle far away, but that doesn't eliminate the potential for problems. I once had to deal with major varnish damage on a Strad, when the owner accidentally laid the violin on a slightly moistened cleaning cloth to grab a phone call.

September 12, 2015 at 02:15 PM · Uh, yeah, microfiber is awesome but it doesn't last after being washed. Mine go from precision cleaning when brand new, to shop rags after the second wash. But really, re-using that dirty towel like that? Tsk, tsk! ;)

September 12, 2015 at 04:18 PM · Really though Steven, thanks for being a good sport.

Stay pawsative,


September 12, 2015 at 05:04 PM · So, is this now a done deal?

Signed, sealed, delivered unto death do ye part?

September 12, 2015 at 05:33 PM · Are you kidding? I'll request to be buried with this thing in my will.

September 12, 2015 at 06:44 PM · Oblong or dart shaped coffin?

September 12, 2015 at 07:02 PM · Spherical

September 13, 2015 at 03:25 AM · I mean, mummified holding my violin inside an octobass

September 13, 2015 at 02:32 PM · Steven? You might want to get your will in shape right now!...and do a little shopping ahead of time...or you might not have the funeral you would like! :D

September 14, 2015 at 12:20 AM · I'm sure that the military clerk will love to read my updated will. Technically, since I am registered as an wounded member with veteran status, they'll have to honour my will(meaning they have to pay for it).

Anywho, I really do not have the words to describe this, but this violin just suits my personality. With my viva la musica shoulder rest, all other violins had tendency to move away from my collarbone, and I would have to pull it back once a while. With this one, it just stays put, and just sings for me.

Now the annoying thing is that the wolfnote on "close-to" C is always there, most prone to come out at slow, light bowing, I have been avoiding playing piano on G string for that reason. As far as I am concerned, that wolf will always be there without structural change to my violin, which I refuse to do because it sounds great overall. I've been looking into a compensated tailpiece, which I will probably next summer after consulting with Olivia, because I am broke and the funds have to go elsewhere for the time being.

Also, I have been told that I need to rehair my good bow, but are these good indications?

1. I seem to use the full bow a more often on notes that I only needed to use maybe 1/8 bow.

2. At a specific part of the bow, the bow feels like it has no grip on the strings

3. At that same specific part, hair snaps, and I lost 5 strands so far.

4. My vibrato won't sound like vibrato with this bow any more.

I bought this bow in late June, I've been spending about 5hrs/day with it throughout the summer, I have fooled around with Yitamusic bows, which I put out for sale because I liked this one the best.

September 14, 2015 at 12:48 AM · There are things a good luthier can do to help minimize the distraction of wolf tones. Worth asking for help--wolf eliminators, changing after-bridge length--and I don't know what-all else.

If you have been playing +/- 5 hours/day, yeah, your bow needs to be rehaired.

Enjoy the magic; there's nothing like it.

September 14, 2015 at 03:16 AM · The funny part about the wolf around C is that it's not quite on C or C#, so it's in between. It gives me a warning when I am not playing in tune. Except, if I perform vibrato from C#, it turns the note into something horrendous.

Basically, I want to play with bridge after-length of the string, which is why I want to try the compensated, "harp shape" tailpiece.

I think also switching strings may change the wolfnote. This is the first time I'm trying Obligato strings, I think it is also the highest tension strings I've yet used. I will be using Warchal Karnoel, Amber then Brilliant after.

I am basically seeking for less expensive strings that I can rely on, and Warchal's sample offers are helping me a lot. I am very impressed with their Ametyst so far.

September 14, 2015 at 08:37 AM · My local luthier told me once that his primary tactic for solving a wolf showing up at the C / C# was to shift it to somewhere in between the two, so that it did not appear if the player played in tune, which is pretty much how you are describing the situation that you have. I wonder if you could develop a narrower vibrato on those notes to avoid "touching" the wolf?

I was having a problem with a wolf between the C and C# on the A string, and fitting a lower tension string, along with a soundpost adjustment, made it disappear entirely.

September 14, 2015 at 01:16 PM · My luthier asserts that EVERY violin has a wolf somewhere, and that, if it's on a quarter tone (between the half-steps, like yours is) be grateful, because it's much less of a problem than if it's on a pitch you use regularly. I offer that for what it's worth--you aren't going to be playing Hindustani music, are you? there it would be a perfect pain!

September 18, 2015 at 02:13 AM · Well, since I am limited by skills and taste, I stay with classical and jazz music, so I guess I am in the clear. I also find it a little bit odd that the wolfnote comes out at a very specific condition, humidity, bow, temperature and pressure on the string.

Also two things I've noticed recently:

1. My audience (neighbours, and colleagues who at least claim to enjoy my playing) don't really notice it, but I can really tell my backup bows are seriously lacking sound quality and it feels just "off" in comparison to my good bow. Do others who own more than one bow feel that too?

This becomes exaggerated when I am tired, I was running around campus since 8am, and got around to my violin at 7pm. My good bow is being rehaired for the time being. I have a Carbon Fiber bow and 3 yitamusic bows, they are just not cutting it.

2. I was walking home late with my violin in its case(I was playing in my office), and a car with very loud engine drove by and I could feel the violin vibrating inside the case, is this normal? I've never noticed this before.

September 18, 2015 at 04:02 AM · There's no real point, IMHO, in owning a bunch of sub-par bows (or for that matter, violins). Better to take all that money and put it towards a single good one. (For bows, it's useful to have a backup bow too, but if it's just a backup it doesn't need to be great.)

September 18, 2015 at 04:01 PM · Oh yes, have you ever gone bow shopping in person? You can try a bunch of different bows and they can all feel different. Since hopefully no actual shop would sell sub-par quality bows, none should be lacking in sound, but they will have different qualities. Cheap bows will have "lacking in sound" added to the list of things you'll find different about them.

And my violins 'vibrate' as well with loud noises around. The German one more than the Romanian one, for whatever reason. And I've experienced it with others too. No idea if it's a good thing or a bad thing, or if it's normal or not. But it's not unheard of.

And Lydia is right, buy one good bow once instead of a bunch of cheap bows several times. I have 3 cheap Chinese ones because I was curious as to what kind of bows you can get from Shanghai, but that's a matter on a different topic. ;)

September 18, 2015 at 06:35 PM · I must disagree...I quite like mucking about with my sub-par equipment. :D

I do agree that you need a 'good' violin and bow.

But once you have that in place - having a spare or spares is fine. If you have fun with it (and can afford it)'s worth it.

I also see them as learning tools.

By playing on different instruments you learn to 'feel' your way around...and that is a benefit to your overall development as a player. If you learn how to pull a beautiful tone on the good instrument...what do you need to do to pull a beautiful tone on the sub-par instrument?

That fine-tuning then reflects back in your playing of your good instrument. Nuances become easier to grasp.

Best thing I did for my violin playing was learn the viola. Having to stretch and adjust to find my way around the viola really helped me grasp the finer points of playing my violin.

Playing a spare violin periodically - really helps me listen and adjust my playing - and in turn I play better on my good instrument.

I don't know why this isn't a regular part of teaching quite frankly...

September 18, 2015 at 08:32 PM · Nice post, Mohr. I think that everything you play teaches you something, as long as you don't play anything bad long enough and exclusively enough to ingrain bad habits.

September 19, 2015 at 12:03 AM · " I think that everything you play teaches you something, as long as you don't play anything bad long enough and exclusively enough to ingrain bad habits."

Ha!... sorry for the tangent, but that's precisely the view I take on chamber music groups! :-P

September 21, 2015 at 01:35 AM · Last inquiry, I think...

How tight should the chinrest be?

I took Kevin's advice on wolfnote, and yes, eliminating chinrest helps reduce/eliminate the wolfnote.

I kind of removed the chinrest involuntarily, The chinrest kept on moving and making noises as I play today, and I decided to give it a tug, and it came off. I put it back on, but the cork seems to sit by bone/ivory saddle and just won't stay where it should.

I've asked Olivia, if I can swap the old chinrest I had on Campbell because that one while protecting the tailpiece, cork/clamp sits away from the saddle. Besides, it was a brand new one and I liked it.

September 21, 2015 at 03:11 AM · Thank you Jenny,

I have changed chinrests before, I was just stating that this chinrest is quite loose on this violin, and I'm afraid that tightening the clamp isn't helping because cork ends up sitting on slippery parts. I think I can tighten the clamp further, but I think it may start getting too tight.

Also, a colleague, a violinist who plays in quartets has told me to never tighten the chinrest too much because it suppresses the vibrations.

September 21, 2015 at 04:05 AM · The chinrest I'll be switching with is left mounted. It's also a product of 4 months of looking for the "perfect" chinrest.

I think the current chinrest is slipping on ivory/bone yes.

September 21, 2015 at 04:05 AM · The chinrest I'll be switching with is left mounted. It's also a product of 4 months of looking for the "perfect" chinrest.

I think the current chinrest is slipping on ivory/bone yes.

September 23, 2015 at 12:03 AM · Well, I have the chinrest back, and my good bow back. With this combination, I forgot about time and almost showed up late to my meeting.

October 3, 2015 at 02:13 AM · The new violin has been named Socia, also I've had some question regarding "played in", humidity and traveling.

Initially, I found this violin very powerful, but it was edgy, and sympathetic vibrations were almost unnoticeable.

The sound has mellowed out quite a bit, into a dark tone which I was able to achieve on Campbell. Socia now has the dark tone I am fond of, and has more power than before. It's almost as if the more I play, it turns further into something I enjoy playing. On Campbell, one thing that sold me the violin was the fact that A string vibrated so much, I could feel the traveling wave down and back on the neck in my left hand and chin.

With Socia, sometimes, on all strings, especially on double stops, the vibrations amplitude is so great, I sometimes fear that the neck is split in two while I'm play because I can feel two different vibrations going up and down angled differently. Overall the sound and power got even better. Oddly enough, even the varnish looks darker now. I didn't leave it in the sun or anything.

I found that a lot of violins I put my hands on had roughness in sound to them which I didn't like, but the owner would like it as it is. Is it possible that the violin gets played into a tone to the owner's style and carries on from then on? Call me crazy, but I think I also hear the bridge and soundpost moving ever-so-slightly until it reaches the tone that I enjoy the most.

Also, my prediction that the violin would sound good even at high humidity, in fact, it sounds the best at Relative Humidity at 85%, and at 60%, it starts sounding noticeably less powerful.

Now, here's something that stumps me, my office RH is 40~50%, it's getting cold out, and with dry air. I'm considering grounding Socia until Spring because I REALLY don't want to let the weather get to it. I live walking distance from my school/work(I work in the labs and teach while taking courses at school). Usually the walk takes 20 minutes. I really want to bring my violin to my office to play, but would you advise keeping it grounded in my well heated and humidified apartment?

October 3, 2015 at 05:37 AM · I'm fascinated by how violins seem to change their sound depending on all kinds of conditions. Unlike most instruments out there, strings seem to be so organic, almost like living things that one day have their voice at top shape, and other days they don't sound their best, just like people.

I have heard and read that to keep its sound in top shape, violins need to be played, often! Some people say that even sitting in a shop for a few weeks waiting for someone to buy it can diminish an instrument's tone, so when you buy it, after you play it for a while the sound develops back into what it's supposed to be.

Some even say that to keep a violin at top performance - and to speed up the time it takes to break in a brand new violin - they keep the instruments in places where they will be exposed to music/noise as often as possible, claiming that even the passive vibrations help! I read somewhere that museums with important violins have someone who plays them regularly to keep their sound in top shape, and that now some are replacing the guy who plays with speakers hidden in the display cases of the instruments, that will play music to them when the museum is closed. Fascinating!

So you're probably experiencing having warmed your violin back up to its full voice.

As for the change in environment, I don't think you'll harm your violin from taking it from home to work back and forth specially if you have a good case. If it's to spend extended periods of time in a moist or dry environment then that will affect it, but a day here, a day there, I doubt it.

October 3, 2015 at 12:22 PM · I was always advised to treat like a 2 yr old child. Your case will keep the cold at bay for a certain temperature differential * time. It can also be a buffer for humidity change and allow adding humidity some what. You can add a bulky insulated case cover. I haven't noticed anyone objecting to 40% to 50% RH particularly for Canadian winters. Don't think I would be comfortable practicing in a workplace environment.

October 3, 2015 at 01:43 PM · Many violins have survived travelling too and fro during our Canadian winters...take reasonable care and don't overthink it too much...

It wouldn't occur to me to practice in my office...unless I was hidden down in a little used corner of the basement or attic! But if it's okay with your department...and you are not disturbing anyone...

Although - do be aware that some people might be very annoyed at 'having' to listen to violin (or any instrument...or any type of music...) rather than it being their choice. There's a reason headphones are so common...

The whole concept of 'playing in' is interesting. It seems we all agree there is a 'settling' period...and that the violin changes sound in relation to environmental conditions (and you'll notice those changes the most the first year you own a new violin)...but a "playing in period" as it relates to vibration? I have read guesstimates of anywhere from 15 minutes to 70 From personal experience I am leaning more towards the 15 minutes estimate...

I am glad that you really like your new violin and that it's sounding 'better' for you - that might also simply result from increasing familiarity with it and learning how to draw the best sound from it...more than any settling in..

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