Evaluating a violin's sound

February 21, 2006 at 12:08 AM · I purchased a violin from shar last summer. https://www.sharmusic.com/itemdy00.asp?T1=JGG75 is the link with pictures. My violin looks a lot like the one in the pictures, except it is a little darker brown. I was wondering what to do to "evaluate the sound". I don't really care what it is worth, because that doesn't really interest me. I want to know how good the sound is. If anyone could tell me how to find this out, I would be very happy, because I really want to know.

Danielle

Replies (29)

February 21, 2006 at 12:20 AM · Play it, and if it sounds good, then it sounds good. :)

You should just play a scale on each string and analyze the sound of each string individually. A good way to know if it's good is to actually play a REALLY good violin and see what's so good about it and then see if your violin has some of the qualities.

February 21, 2006 at 12:30 AM · Greetings,

is it possible your thinking is a little squiffy here?

A violin does not actually have a sound. You do. From that perspective how close can you get to what you want? What you can hear in your inner ear before you play? How easy is it to get there?

Just a differnet perspective.

Cheers,

Buri

February 21, 2006 at 12:29 AM · Hi,

I am sure someone will rip me apart like on other threads - Jim, feel free to drop in...

For me, great violins are about resonance and clarity. The greatest fiddles are not about power, but range of colours. For example, on a great Strad or Guagagnini you can play five inches above the fingerboard and get a crystal clear soft sound. Plus, the resonance is endless. The best way to evaluate a fiddle is in a large hall, although the skilled player can tell under the ear because they know what to listen for. But ideally, a great fiddle has a huge range of dynamics, can be played in every contact point with crystal clarity, has fantastic articulation between the notes (any scale will tell you) and has fantastic resonance, the kind that will carry. Each fiddle reacts differently and requires a different playing style (ex. Guarneri vs Strads or even models of those makers), but those above qualities are all there, or so they are IMVHO.

Cheers!

February 21, 2006 at 12:56 AM · Christian, you know I'd only rip you up kidding.

I was watching a video of Sophia Jaffee last night. My first impression was that she had a relatively choked, inward kind of sound caused by her violin. But it became apparent there was a lot of contrast within that and it suited her perfectly when you consider the whole thing. I wouldn't change anything. Anybody who thinks modern players sound the same should hear her. Not that she's the only one who's different, but just that it's quickly obvious.

February 21, 2006 at 02:00 AM · Picking a good violin is a comparison process. You need to listen to yourself play one, put it down, go to the next one and so forth

February 21, 2006 at 04:30 AM · http://www.violins.keithhillharpsichords.com/gpage1.html

February 21, 2006 at 09:15 PM · I like one that plays easily, with volume, and a mellow tone (some people call it dark, I think) is what I prefer over that shrilly tone. Of course, if you're using an amp, you can adjust that...that and volume are two bonuses I get from playing in a jazz band!

My great-grandpa's violin is my favorite to play, because it has a mellow tone, volume, and is easy to play. It fits me just right, and there's something special about it:

There are no fine tuners on the tailpiece...rather, the pegs are designed the same way they are on a bass...like screws that turn with great ease, but stay where they should every time! They are the best fine tuners I have ever used! Not having fine tuners on the tailpiece also keeps from distorting the violin's sound.

February 21, 2006 at 11:24 PM · yes Christian made a very good point.

The big difference is that a great fiddle will carry well into the last row, and a mediocre fiddle will not go past 3 feet.

But under the ear it may still sound very pleasing. That is what is hard to determine for yourself in a small room.

It is imperative to try instruments in a hall.

Bring several instruments with you and bring your family & or friends.

There are excellent (old and some new) instruments, that will project easily and will allow the player to focus on finer things, rather than trying to squeeze the sound out with a mediocre fiddle.

February 22, 2006 at 12:54 AM · I like Robby's bio- that part about the fake vibrato. So your Great-Grandpa's violin is ok. My grandpa's violin is the pits. Far from sounding good in a concert hall, it sounds bad no matter where you play it. Apparently my uncle had some lessons from a nun on it and she got frustrated with him and smashed it over his head. Not sure if that improved the sound.

One thing I find hard about assessing an instrument is playing it in an unfamiliar room without a 'reference' instrument I am familiar with. Some instruments may sound ok in the shop but when you take them home...hmmm.

February 22, 2006 at 03:07 PM · Everything sounds good in the shop...I think they build the shops that way on purpose...

Funny about the uncle and the nun smashing the violin over his head! That's too bad...didn't she know that could knock the soundpost out? Oh, well...he probably deserved it!

The best thing I can tell you to do is something I would normally not be able to do, not having another violinist in the room....have a violinist of apporximately equal skill play it, and you go to the other end of the room and see for yourself how it sounds...DON'T listen to a recording of it...it will probably sound all shrilly!

February 22, 2006 at 03:45 PM · I honestly didn't know what a good violin was until I finally had the chance to try one. It's like going out to a cornfield, picking a sweet ear off the stalk and eating it right there when all you've ever had before is store-bought canned corn. How would you ever know what you were missing until you tried it?

That said, it's important to pick a price range, and realize that if that price range doesn't go up into the tens of thousands that you probably won't get a violin that does everything. However, you can get a step up from what you have (or if you can't, why shop?).

If you have a good recording device (preferably something digital with a decent microphone that you can trust to accurately reproduce sound), then bring that with you, put it across the room and record your trials. I was able to hear the differences between the different violins I tried quite clearly.

If you find a violin you like, take it on trial. You'll typically have to leave a deposit or a credit card number as security, but any good violin shop will let you take the instrument and live with it for at least a week. Take it to a luthier that you trust and have it vetted out. Make sure that it is what the salesman says it is -- or if not, that it's equally acceptable for the price.

When it comes time to give the violin back to the shop and you just can't part with it, you know you've found the right violin. :)

February 23, 2006 at 02:45 PM · I never trust recording devices to reproduce sound...they modify it and stuff until it's so out of whack I can't stand it...everything I play into a recording device, including my deep voice, comes out all tinny because recorders don't pick up bass as well.

February 23, 2006 at 05:20 PM · perhaps it's the playback system which does not reproduce the bass well.

February 23, 2006 at 07:06 PM · If you find that your recording equipment disappoints you, then perhaps you should listen around for better recording equipment. Or playback equipment, which is indeed equally important.

Of course, if you're not going to use it, then don't bother. But then it probably isn't disappointing you terribly much. :)

February 23, 2006 at 11:04 PM · If you try the violin in a hall, which you should, you need to bring other people to hear it. You won't be able to tell if it carries from the stage. Even better is to get someone else, like your teacher, to play it and compare with your violin so you can hear what it sounds like at the back of the hall. This is really the best test. It's how I chose my violin.

February 24, 2006 at 12:11 AM · Play some notes, then run really really fast to the back of the room to see what it sounds like.

February 24, 2006 at 03:58 AM · Greetings,

Pieter is, of course, being pretty damn unscientific. All you have to do is play a slow piece and run like hell for the back of the room.

Leave it to the experts,

Buri

February 24, 2006 at 04:24 AM · Uhh Stephen... no one cares about slow songs.

Playing slow stuff is only for people who can't play fast stuff.

February 24, 2006 at 04:26 AM · It's called cloning, duh.

February 24, 2006 at 01:39 PM · I think this is more typically called clowning, actually.

February 24, 2006 at 02:17 PM · "Pieter is, of course, being pretty #!&^ unscientific. All you have to do is play a slow piece and run like hell for the back of the room."

--I thought it was a good idea...I do it myself all the time...and I've never found one that works yet...

February 24, 2006 at 04:23 PM · Rob,

You're just not fast enough...

Sorry.

February 24, 2006 at 06:36 PM · I know...my shadow beats me there, though, and he never tells me how it sounded, so I guess I'm screwed.

February 24, 2006 at 07:42 PM · Yeah... Rob you should pretty much just give up.

February 24, 2006 at 07:47 PM · That's what my reflection told me, but my imaginary friend said to keep trying...

February 24, 2006 at 08:28 PM · Well, there you go. Get your imaginary friend to help out.

February 25, 2006 at 12:00 PM · Pieter, I don't think young Robby should give up. There is always THE VIOLA.

February 25, 2006 at 08:26 PM · That's true... and you don't have to worry about sound quality since all violas sound the same.

February 28, 2006 at 03:06 PM · That's right...once I picked up my violin, but it was really heavy. Then I realized I picked up someone else's viola...blonde viola moment, I guess...so then I decided, why not? So I tried to play it, and then it all came together why violists get all the flack...violas (and I found sources later to back this up) are the hardest instruments to play because not only is it a fretless stringed instrument but also it requires learning two clefs AND is significantly larger than the violin, requiring a longer arm and longer fingers, or very very good shifting capabilities while staying in the same position...

Yeah...long sentence...my English teachers always got on me for that...

But you can't make me give it up...I've been playing for close to 10 years now and am giving my first lessons to an unfortunate girl who doesn't play classical but contemporary Christian.

Just think...one day, she'll be posting on here, sounding just as odd as I do...I will ruin her life real good...oxymoron.

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