Upgrading a Violin
I have a question about violin upgrades...
A little background: I'm currently playing a no-name mid-late 1800s German violin, and am swimming in the Bruch/Lalo territory as an adult returner. My violin is on the larger size (I'm short and have small hands too - so my fourth finger REALLY gets its stretches in for proper intonation). I had the opportunity to play on a much nicer Italian violin over the summer for a couple of weeks, and wow. I didn't have to stretch my hand so much, and the sound was so much cleaner, resonant and clearer (much less "rumbly"). (I've had my luthier do plenty of adjustments, strings are sorted, etc.)
I've never been told by my teacher, or another teacher I've been working with recently, that there's anything "wrong" with my violin. I asked my teacher about upgrading my violin, after having that nicer instrument for a bit, and they insist that my violin and I have a good relationship and there's no need to make a change at this time.
Curiosity has gotten the best of me though, and I'm wondering...
It's been mentioned that the violin seems to hold the player back - what is meant by this? Even if we don't know it as players, what are some signs that this is occurring?
I guess we would not know that a violin is holding us back until we try a different one and see what comes with less work, and more ease?
At what price point would one expect to have to jump to from a mid/late-1800s "good" and "nice" label-less German violin to a next couple of steps up violin? Does this question even matter?
Thanks for your help, and responses.
I don't think it is a "price point" thing. But, YES, a different instrument that is easier to play can make a world of difference when you are learning. They can make it possible to do a decent job of playing things that you might otherwise find impossible to do decently.
Seems to me your teacher is wrong: If you had such a good relationship with your instrument you would not feel the desire to change.
Your post resonates with my background-- similar level, returning as an adult, I continued with the violin that I had when I was 18.
Frankly, your discomfort alone is a good reason to upgrade -- or at least to trade laterally if you don't want to spend more money.
There is no harm in going out and trying a bunch of instruments in different price ranges. See for yourself what you notice at each price point. I wrote a decent 2 part article on my site: https://adbowsllc.com/2017/02/19/shopping-for-an-instrument-part-1-of-2/
Don't discredit unlabelled German violins. It's a matter of history that they're unlabelled. As Germany was trying to make its mark in violin history, they didn't want their instruments discredited or frowned upon just because they were made in Germany. So they purposely didn't put labels on them. Many of these violins are simply amazing. I bought one for 4k, and it has the sonic qualities of a 20k violin. I could HEAR more from the violin. It tells me if I'm pressing 0.5mm too high or too low.
Pamela, you should try a bunch of violins in the $2k - $5k range, and see if there's anything in that range that you like better. A trade is preferable to a sale with your current violin, since if the sound isn't great for the price range, it's less likely to sell in a reasonable amount of time (and you'd lose probably 20% of its value in consignment fees).
Lydia, good advice.
Lydia said: "You should involve your teacher in the hunt, assuming that they're a reasonable judge of playing qualities. (Not all teachers are.)"
Pamela, I think it's worth starting a hunt now even if you won't have the funds until next year. You'll need time to explore to find out what you want, and what's out there, and the experience gained will really inform your eventual decision-making.
Good point Lydia. This is all new for me, and I appreciate the advice.
I've only ever personally been to Reed Yeboah in NYC. (My teacher often brings violins down from various NYC dealers for his students who are hunting.) Julie Reed does fantastic adjustments.
Lydia - great. Will make the effort to do so then! I am already scheduled to meet with a dealer at the end of this week :)
Updating this thread:
Don't pass up the violin with the peg issue if you otherwise like it. That's an extremely easily fixable problem. (Indeed it might be as simple as rewinding the string to be a little closer to the pegbox, or applying some peg dope.)
If the repairs are properly done, it can still be a rather healthy instrument so basically, why not if it gives you the opportunity to buy something you couldn't afford otherwise. There are stories about expensive instruments with heaviest damage imaginable (except burning) which were set together again and are on stage with top notch classical music world stars again. Just remember the "Mara" chello, the most prominent example.
... or the "Red Diamond" violin...
Yes Lydia - an individual; not a dealer or auction house, or a maker. They brought it to a luthier to have it checked over before lending it to me, but I've yet to see a current appraisal. This is a bit cart-before-the-horse as I literally just picked it up yesterday and have not been able to play on it for more than a few minutes.
If I’m understanding correctly, you’re in the NYC area? You may want to check out the T2 auctions (they are held online but there are two days you can try everything in NYC). The fact of the matter is that at this price point, there are lovely violins, but you need to put in quite a bit of sweat equity to find it. You’re essentially looking for a good sounding instrument that also doesn’t have many qualities that investors are interested in.
Hi Wallace - yes, I am going to make a trip to Tarisio to check out what they have for their January T2 auction, then bring one of my teachers with me if I take a shine to a violin.
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