Which brands make violins with slimmer neck?
I have small hands and short fingers. I was able to finally stretch my fourth finger so that I can play with my pinky in first position. I move my elbow quite when reaching. However some double stops seems impossible. Hence the question: are there any violin brands with necks which tend to be slimmer? I have had an opportunity to play on 4/4 electric violin and the neck was very slim which made playing much easier.
My teacher also suggested that I should buy 7/8 violin but I cannot decide what is better in the long run.
you're probably better to look at antique violins, quite a few of them have narrower necks, you're going to have trouble finding a new violin with a narrow neck.
Thank you Lyndon :)
I feel your pain Paulina! I'm in the same position but am going to stick with my 4/4 for now as I figure it will be a challenge with any size violin until I am able to properly stretch/strengthen those muscles and open the joints. Just wondering how long it took you to be able to use your 4th on all strings in 1st?
A lot of things called 7/8 are only a couple millimetres shorter, and still have the same scale length, on the other hand some rare 7/8 are actually midway between the size of a 4/4 and a 3/4 with a scale length midway between a 4/4 and a 3/4. Sometimes 7/8ths are called "Ladies violins". I recently had a customer ask for a 7/8 violin and low and behold I could not find one out of about 40 violins I have for sale, so they are not exactly common.
I agree with Lyndon. Among my instruments I have a lovely old German violin c.1880 which plays beautifully, and has a slimmer neck. I have seen one or two others like it. A luthier told me that it was considered a lady's model. It certainly has a powerful and rich sound, though, and is full size. (I've had it for 60 years and would never part with it).
When I bought my violin, the neck was so thin that it hurt to play for more than a few minutes. I actually had a bit of wood be put under the fingerboard to bring it up to spec, which slightly affected the tone negatively. My guess is that someone had shaved the neck down, because I can't imagine someone building a violin with such a thin neck. I suppose that there are instruments out there where this has been done, but that if you had an instrument that you otherwise liked, you could always have someone shave the neck down. I don't know how common a procedure that actually is.
My old violin has a narrow neck, which I find very comfortable, but it is a 14-1/4" violin with rib and bout sizes in proportion, i.e. slightly larger than an equivalent 14" violin, and has a 2-octave Baroque fingerboard. This combination of sizes has the effect of annulling the benefit of the thin neck to a certain extent, making it a little more difficult, but not impossible, to reach beyond the 2nd octave. Thankfully, normal orchestral repertoire rarely calls for anything above the 2nd octave.
You could check with a luthier/violin-maker. It is possible to have the neck reshaped. I had it done a couple of years ago on a violin and on a viola. Professional job on both - impossible to see that anything was done, can only tell by the feel.
Best course of action would be to visit one or two violin dealers with a large stock of instruments from the 1880 - 1930 period. Many violins of this era have slightly narrower fingerboards than the ones made today.
Sometimes I wish I had thinner fingers, and other times my fingers aren't nearly fat enough.
My violin has a thinner neck than most. It's a Klaus Ludwig Clement, which is a fairly obscure modern brand from Germany.
It's not a brand thing.
The fingerboard of my violin is slightly narrower than average, just about 1,2 mm. It already makes a noticeable difference in the ease of playing.
To a large degree it's a matter of technique indeed.
Thank you all for your insights!
Initially I could use my 4th on all strings, didn't realize I was really shifting my entire hand to get it there - my teacher caught that and isn't allowing me to do that. No shifting into "1st and a bit" allowed :-) He has me working on dexterity and flexibility exercises right now - and strained my thumb on one of them last week (ugh) To be fair, the actual exercise didn't cause me to strain my thumb - had way too much tension there and am working on that as well. So it's a process and will take time to do properly. If this continues to be a problem a year from now I may explore having the neck adjusted - I didn't know that was even possible. Or wait until I'm ready to upgrade my violin and see what I can find that is slightly smaller.
My violin, 1894 Berlin, viola 1930? Markneukirchen? (dubious label). Both very playable with svelt necks, especially the viola on Campagnioli, Reger. and Bach (transcribed sonatas and partitas!)
Andrew: What I meant by "static" was that I was supposed to stretch my hand instead of moving it to reach for 4th finger position. That's why I have put it in quotation marks. I don't know how to describe it better. I mean "not to move you left hand up the violin neck / horizontally to reach with forth finger". Of course I also move my elbow more than average to reach further - at the beginning it felt awkward but now I got used to it. I will see how it goes on 7/8. Unfortunately in my city I don't have opportunity to borrow instruments and try them out so I need to factor in some risk.
I wouldn't use Perlman's technique as a good example of anything. How he plays does not apply to normal people.
Paulina - my local music store tells me that Snow is at least one modern violin manufacturer who makes violins with necks just a little smaller than others. I don't know anything about their violins but you might want to explore what they have to offer.
Catherine, I am very happy that some people who got their violins neck adjusted answered this post - it would have never come to my mind that it can be done :) I just think of violin as some sort of sacred and mysterious instrument ;)
If the rest of you is as small as your hands, you will not be well served by a 4/4 violin no matter how small the neck. When you move above 3rd and 4th position, you will have to start to reach around the end of the body then back towards you to get the notes, everything will be too far away, and the small neck will not help you there. The bow, also, will be farther from you than optimal.
Paulina - I've not come out and asked if I should consider a different size, he is focusing on our working on my strength and flexibility to allow non-modified fingering. If we can't get me there at the end of the day, we will explore modifications and other solution - but we do not want to start there. I totally agree with this approach, and most important of all, I trust him. He's been teaching violin/viola for at least 35 years and I swear he knows what questions I walk into my lesson with before I ask them! It will be some time before I consider a smaller size violin, there are just so many moving pieces and parts to this.
Michael, thank you very much for your post - it's full of detailed and useful information :)
Pauline, there are also YouTube videos by women violinists with small hands who discuss how they have dealt with a full size violin. I suspect it's easier if one has been playing since childhood without a 45 year break from the instrument. If you would like I can send you a couple links.
I'm not a Luthier, but I have read that the standard 4/4 violin has a body length of 14 inches. Stradivarius tried the "long pattern" at 14 1/4 for a while , then went back to 14. The Guarnerius model is 13 3/4, and the 7/8 violin is 13 1/2. A lot of the factory violins, intended for beginners, seem to have the extra-wide, thick fingerboard.
Paulina, play viola for a while, and your 4/4 violin will seem easy. :-)
As far as I know, some really small ladies have no problems with a full-size violin while others struggle a lot. I think it's a really individual issue because everyone is different. Those with really short arms may place the violin higher on the shoulder to make the higher positions easier to reach. In addition, these small people may also place their thumb on the side of the fingerboard when they're playing up high. Also, they may hold their violins pointing almost straight in front of them, rather than out to the side. All of these measures help to make the violin feel a bit smaller and more manageable for a small person.
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