Appreciating your violin for what it is

August 27, 2005 at 07:44 AM · Hey guys!

I got my violin about a few years ago and I hate it because its pretty much a student violin and I'm an aspiring violinist and my violin is limiting me because it's just terrible! it's a Euro made in like 2000 and cost like 500 maybe? or 700... it isn't worth the money it costs and my parents can't afford to buy me a new one... anyway advice or inspiration on appreciating my violin for what it it? I'm in Youth Symphony and everyone has the amazing expensive violins and i have my sad student one.... HELP PLEASE!!

-Poe

Replies (36)

August 27, 2005 at 01:13 PM · Porsche,first of all I would try a different set of strings on your violin, perhaps Helicore; they sound wonderful and don't cost an arm and a leg. Second, although I know it's hard, try not to compare what you're playing with what everyone else is playing. Personally, I would love to own a stradavarius (who wouldn't) but since that isn't feasible, then I love and respect what I am playing ( a student instrument) At one of my lessons, my teacher was demonstrating a difficult passage on her Panormo violin (an incredible instrument) and it just sounded exquisite. I distinctly remember a pang of envy that my violin could never match up, and out of devilish curiosity, asked her to play the same passage on my violin. To my astonishment,it sounded almost exactly the same. Thats when it hit me, like a ton of bricks, WOW, 95% of it is the Player, not the instrument. Now, having said all of that, there is certainly nothing wrong and everthing right with stepping up to a finer quality instrument when the time is right....in your case, finances, and if you love the violin and stay with it, that time will certainly come for you.

August 27, 2005 at 01:44 PM · Poe,

There is a whole life values thing going on here. If your parents gave you the best that they could and can't afford anything else, then give them the credit and respect they deserve and just make the best of your violin. Good strings might help it sound better. Get a job and get a better violin yourself. You don't have to make excuses to other people for yourself. Be proud of what you have and make the best of it. There are lots of us that buy clothes at Walmart and get cheap haircuts and don't have the best of everything, but that's life and I for one don't make excuses for myself and how I live. I too, went thru the "everybody else has a better violin" syndrome and I think that it just made me want to play better and work harder. If all else fails, just tell the others that you're saving for a Strad. A good player can make almost any instrument sound better and I think those skills would carry through when you may get a better instrument.

Judy

August 27, 2005 at 06:30 PM · I know good violin sounds better, but if you can't afford it, love the one you with. If you hate your violin, the violin won't respond to you. Like Gary, my son's violin teacher played the passage on his $700 violin. She made it sound like she was playing on her own violin. He just got this violin and she told him to listen to each note and try to make it sound its best. It will produce the beautiful sound if you work with your violin. My son named his violin "Melody Rythem". Although its appearance is rather ugly, he is going to get to know her more and be best friends. Please don't hate her. Like others suggested, changing the strings may help tremendously. Give her a little TLC.

August 27, 2005 at 08:02 PM · Porsche, I'm saving for a better one as we speak. If you haven't already, start now, with as much or as little as you like. Stash a little at a time, and never take any money out. This is your violin fund. Just the fact that you have the fund will make you excited and hopeful for things to come. Get active in changing things.

...and all that other stuff about tweaking the setup of your current fiddle, too.

August 28, 2005 at 01:10 AM · You think your violin is bad...I have in my possesion a 50 dollar violin. Not to mention the fact that the body is cracked.

I manage with it quite well.

August 28, 2005 at 01:31 AM · Yo, I'm like the same age as you. I play for 5 years now, and have a $545 dollar violin. I've never played on a more expensive violin then mine so I have no want for anything more...

I feel like I have a really good violin, and I wouldn't dare tell me mom, or dad that I thought I needed a better one. (They bought the fiddle in 2001, and I think they are still paying it off!!)

My point, be thankfull for the krap you have. You are very lucky to have gotten hold of a $700 hundered violin. Some day you may have have better violin, but for now just enjoy! :)

August 28, 2005 at 01:45 AM · 1 more thing anyone see Good morning America today? They were showing where lost luggage goes and that it gets sold is Alambama for cheap. A lady bought a $10,000 dollar ring for $3,000. And They showed a violin on their (pretty decent looking)They didn't mention the price, but if anyone lives in Alabama how about checkin that out for me hu?

August 28, 2005 at 03:04 AM · My $700+ Czech violin is no Strad but I love it. It has a pretty flamed back and I'm only a beginner. I'm not quite happy with the Dominant strings it came with though.The E is quite shrill and the G growly. Is that normal or is it me or the violin?

My bow is really cheap and Chinese. Dun intend to upgrade the violin (buying it depleted my wallet)but would save for a bow with better response.I'm glad just to have something to play until I get a full-time job.

I thought for a long time that my violin was too soft but my teacher proved that it was capable of playing louder. It isn't the loudest violin around but obviously I need to improve my own technique.

August 28, 2005 at 03:00 AM · I have a student violin as well but I've switched out the strings. I checked other opinions about how to get a darker tone and now my violin actually sounds better. It no longer has the shrill, or "tink" sound to it. It rings very nicely. If you can invest in new strings ($30-$50), it may make a difference.

August 28, 2005 at 04:17 AM · Porche, when I was in orchestra some of the best players had the worst violins and they did just fine. The two don't necessarily go together. And do what Emily says. She's very wise.

August 28, 2005 at 08:00 AM · One thing you might be able to do is take it to a luthier and have them check that the sound post is in the optimum spot, and see about getting the best quality bridge you can buy....just having it all aligned to it's best advantage can get you a little more mileage out of the sound.

Keep in mind a lot of violins may have their price tag because the maker is now passed away, or they used some kind of extinct rainforrest wood for the chinrest (kidding), or there is a lot of gold and pearl decorating the pegs and tailpiece. THese are all items that cause the violin to cost a lot without effecting the true sound it makes. Violins also increase in value over time so your $700 violin might be worth thousands in 100 years.

August 28, 2005 at 10:39 AM · I'm also saving up to up grade to a better violin as well. I used the money I saved from my scholarship (non-music) and teaching and bought the one I'm playing on now ($1750 Aus.), then I sold my $700 Aus. Chinese violin to get a really good German bow that's worth around $1000 but because the luthier knows me well and he's such a nice bloke, he sold the bow to me for $800 Aus. So yes, start saving up NOW! =)

August 28, 2005 at 05:22 PM · Setup. Get the violin set up by a very competent person. Do exactly what they say to maintain the optimum setup. More effective than whining about only having a multi-hundred $ violin.

August 28, 2005 at 08:20 PM · When I started studying the violin, I used a not-so-very good violin which cost me about 300 British Pounds. Sometimes I was envious of the people who used much more expensive violins. In hindsight, however, I am glad that I started out on a cheap violin. The reason is that you are forced to study harder at making a nice sound, and are forced to listen more closely to the sound you draw from your instrument (harder than you would have to if you had a very good violin which did a lot of work for you). I feel that this 'training' has been very advantageous to me: I am much more sensitive to what one has to do in order to draw a particular sound from one's instrument.

August 28, 2005 at 09:04 PM · As great as a fantastic violin is, I think one benefits a lot from playing on a not so great instrument. You learn a lot about good articulation and tone production on a crappy instrument.

When I got my first good instrument, it really elevates your level (a tiny bit) once you've put in time on a less responsive instrument. To me it's like a cross country runner training by putting weights on their ankles, and when it comes closer to race time, they take the weights off and they fly.

When I got my new instrument you can notice even more responsiveness. At the end of the day, a Strad is only truly a Strad in the hands of an expert. If you suck, you'll suck on a Strad too.

August 28, 2005 at 09:45 PM · When I was in college one of my friends had studied classical guitar at the Royal Academy in London. He said that some kid with a cheap beat-up box won all the school competitions. Now that kid, David Russell, is one of the premier touring guitarists in the world today.

Make the most of what you've got.

August 28, 2005 at 10:05 PM · That's a nice story.

Apparently the famous bassist Edgar Mayer still uses a $35 fiberglass bow.

August 29, 2005 at 12:39 AM · Heres a thought. Why dont you start advertising yourself as a wedding musician? You can play at a bunch of weddings and use the money to buy a better violin that you wont have trouble loving.

August 29, 2005 at 05:27 AM · I still haven't been paid for my last wedding gig. Make them prepay, and charge them the cost of your supplies (i.e. your new violin). ;)

August 29, 2005 at 03:39 AM · Many valid comments are made above. I remember in my student and orchestra days, the best musicians had instruments that had the worst appearance. But, the sound was the thing. A polish kid I knew had a really beatup violin, without a label, very old in appearance, looked like something dragged out of a toilet, even had a funny smell, said it was made in Europe somewhere, but what a gorgeous sound that kid of 16 could make on that thing, not to mention the great skill he had.

I think it always best to face reality. Are you good enough to bring the best out of a violin?

Also, you simply can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear. You can try fiddling with setup, new strings, bows, etc, but if your violin is a dud, it's a dud. The new <$1000 east-euro violins that I have heard all seem thin and bright to me, and rather over priced. For this reason, I opted for a Chinese violin, which for the money had much better sound IMHO. I suppose you get what you pay for, and caveat emptor applies.

Still, my prof produces much better sound than I do on my own violin, so this gives me some insipration to work. When he plays mine, I can't discern too much difference in sound quality between his (expensive) violin and mine. So, I think I lucked-out when I bought it.

I suggest you compare your violin with that of a good violinst. Use the same setup and strings, have him/her play the same piece, on both yours and his/her violin, and you stand back and judge. Let's hope you did not get a sow's ear.

August 29, 2005 at 07:21 AM · Great insight, Ron.

August 30, 2005 at 12:08 AM · Re: learning to appreciate a lesser instrument

Practice Kreutzer and lots of bow studies, this will improve your tone and therefore make your violin sound better. Also play consistently in tune and you will help shape your violins sound, and bring out the resonances. Get to such a standard that you can make money from playing and teaching, and then save up for a fine violin!

August 30, 2005 at 04:50 PM · Poe,

Have you ever had someone else play your violin?

If you haven't done this already, get a skilled player to try your violin & see what kind of sound they can get out of it.

August 30, 2005 at 05:28 PM · Poe,

Welcome to the world of music where someone else is always going to have a better violin than you. *grin*

I know that sounds dismal, but honestly the farther you get in music, the more you will find people that have better violins than you. I used to have a really crappy violin that was given to me. I loved it, because it was MINE! I took pictures of it even. I knew that it wasn't as good as some of the other students in my studio who had spent $6000 on theirs. But my violin was MINE. We worked very well together until I began noticing that I was no longer working WITH the violin, but against it. That was when it was the right time for me to buy a new instrument. It was not dictated by what my friends had, but by what my skill level demanded. My parents bought me a $6000 instrument at that point. Around that time, I discovered that one of my friends played a $12,000 instrument...but I LOVED MINE!

Now, I'm in university and I have a $120,000 violin that is loaned to me (it's not mine to sell...but it's MINE to play for as long as I want) and there's still people with better violins than mine. In fact, one of my classmates has HIS OWN Guadagnini that his parents bought for over $700,000. That doesn't bug me, because I have a violin that's MINE to play. And I'm able to work well with it; it doesn't limit me.

If you are REALLY feeling that a $700 violin is limiting you as a player, you need to realize that upgrading to $1000 or even $2000 really isn't going to make a whole lot of difference. To make a huge difference that you'd notice, you would probably have to spend > $4,000. My advice is to first really think about WHY you want a better violin. Is it because your friends have more expensive violins? Are their violins actually all that much better than yours? You might be surprised if you played them without having the knowledge of their price to biased you; you may discover that they aren't that great after all, and that you're lucky to have a violin that sounds as good as it does for $700.

Best,

Preston

August 30, 2005 at 07:43 PM · I went to a local Farmer's Market this afternoon, and there was this young lady playing her violin under a tree shade. Her violin is probably something you could buy on ebay for $50-100. Her violin had a very nasal and thin sound. The varnish looked like it can withstand a fire torch. The music she was playing was a very simple minuet where she kept repeating phrases over and over again. And yet I enjoyed listening to her play! She played beautifully, she was in tune and showed lots of "musicality". I guess this just goes to show you that it's not the violin or what piece you play that can impress people, but rather how you play it.

August 30, 2005 at 10:23 PM · Couldnt agree more, however, I want a better violin. Maybe a strad or a guad, also a tourte bow, and a lovely room with a perfect acoustic to practice in. Also a nice ferrari to drive about with my supermodel girlfriend. Hmm, converting to Buddha is looking to be the better option here......

August 30, 2005 at 11:18 PM · Does Buddha give out money? I picked the wrong religion to get rich quick.

August 31, 2005 at 10:37 PM · No, they deal with being on a higher mental state, and not constantly wanting material things. Hey, who needs a ferrari when I have got legs. And a job 30 miles from my home.....

September 3, 2005 at 09:45 PM · I went to a violin shop once and asked about when I should change my student violin and the shopkeeper said, it depends on the player. Some people are so brilliant that they can survive on a student violin! (I like to think that I'm one of them ;) ).

Though I have had dominants fitted in and I don't think my violin sounds that bad. Well, when it gets angry it tends to screech and hiss a bit...

September 9, 2005 at 06:01 AM · Funny, there was another post just like this that I responded to already along the same lines of most on this one. I would like to add one bit though.

My old beat-up 75 year old $500 viola is the love of my life. The varnish is worn off exactly where I like to put my chin-rest so I never have to worry about adjusting it's position. There is a chip on the body where my bow fell out of the case before my first orchestra performance. The strings never ever seem to go out of tune since the pegs never slip at all; like they are so used to being in one position they just don't want to move just to be stubborn about it all. There is a shadow where the bridge goes so I can replace it myself and not worry about putting it in the right spot. The chin rest is even worn down a bit so it actually fits MY chin.

It's cheap, it's old, and a bit damaged. I replaced a few parts, had a major tune up a few years ago. It has traveled with me from Pensylviania, to Tennessee, to California, New York, Texas and most recently Malaysia. The case is dented from it's travels and still has most of the carry-on luggage tags on it. It sounds great and holds memories of my "musical life" over the decades.

I recently bought a cheap Chinese $250 circa 2005 cello last year, the same time I decided to learn a new instrument while overseas. It sounded not so great at first, but my teacher and I made a few adjustments and it sounds pretty darned good (better than I expected). I fully intend to let this cello start bearing the bumps and bruises of lugging around an instrument as large as most pre-teens and carry the marks of memory for me so when I get old and senile there is a visual reminder of learning something new at an old age. I could afford a better one, but this one suits me just fine for my ability and reasons for playing.

You may not cherish your violin now, but after some time has passed, it will become a part of you. Give it a little love and attention where it needs it (strings, bridge, etc). Like someone else said, as long as it's not a dud.

September 9, 2005 at 08:33 AM · Hey Poe,

I bought my violin for just a little bit over $100 and have been playing it for over a year now. I thought it was no good until I asked one of our better violinists in the band to tune it for me. I was busy fixing my pieces when I heard her playing this really beautiful passage on the violin. I thought she was playing on her $2,000 German violin. As it turns out, she was playing mine! It sounded so warm and rich, I hardly recognized it.

Learn to play better, Poe, and treat your violin like your best friend. Then you'll see better results. Good luck!

Putch

September 16, 2005 at 08:48 PM · Wow. The responses here are really interesting (and inspiring). I keep thinking about the story (I don't know if it's true or not, but it could be) about Fritz Kreisler who (so the story goes) gave a recital in New York just after World War I. There was a lot of anti-German sentiment, so one music reviewer in the newspaper said that the only reason Kresler sounded so good was because he was playing a Strad. The next night, Kreisler gave a beautiful performance of some piece, and while the audience was applauding, he raised his violin above his head and smashed into the the floor, where it broke into a hundred pieces. After a gasp from the audience, Kreisler said, "I shall now play my Stradivarius."

If it's true, it's a great story. Even if it's not true, it's a great story.

Sandy Marcus

September 17, 2005 at 01:30 AM · Yeah, and then someone brings out the cheap violin.

I heard the same story but with the name of Paganini. Kreisler seems too passive to do that! He would have more than likely got the page turner to do it for him.....

September 17, 2005 at 01:46 AM · Rent the worst violin possible for you to play on for a few days then go back to yours. You'll love it.

September 17, 2005 at 01:46 AM · Hi, John: Good point. You're probably right.

Sandy Marcus

September 17, 2005 at 07:27 AM · wouaou i like that story with Kreisler !! :))) i think its sooo cool.

I have to say, i play a 7/8 Strad,and of course i'm really really happy. but the thing is,before i was playing on really not so good violins. as soon as i got my Strad, i sounded totally different !!! and NOT ONLY because the sound is bigger or anything.it was because i was LOVING the violin. this violin is like my little sister,i love her sooo much. you know, there are times where i was just by mysekf with no one around me,and i wasnt feeling good at all. i was just crying there and then i huged my violin and then said: "see honey, also if there's no one, YOU are always with me." the more you play on a violin the more the violin LIVES with you. it grows with you. at that presise moment my violin was the only one who could understand me. perhaps it sound strange to you,but my relation with my violin is verry close.

so you know,just love your violin as you might love someone.it is not perfect of course,as no one is.it has its default,you just have to try to live with it.love your violin because it had its little jouney in your life with you...

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