Do you believe new violins "settle down"?
My current violin was new and very cheap and I had to consult YouTube and rewind the strings and finally even to add chalk to the pegs to be able to tune it. I have a funny idea that it will settle down and stay tuned for longer after a while, do you think this is fanciful? It is out of tune every day, but seemingly less so each day.
I can handle it, I'm just curious.
Also, I used to notice when I tuned my guitar that something would react when it reached the right tuning, as if the string or the tuning peg was returning to a familiar place. Do you experience anything like this?
Background: Adult beginner in a small town. I am checking out the 3/4 size and a few other aspects so I can settle on a higher spec instrument, but I'm starting to see that "mail order" may not be my best option even though the seller I was looking at is a luthier and has great feedback.
To paraphrase George: a good violin may get 'better' (round out) but a bad violin is just a bad violin.
If you're talking about staying tuned for longer, that's mostly a matter of the strings settling in. Every time you get a new set of strings, they need a bit of time to stretch out before they'll stay in tune.
On a very cheap violin there is a high likelihood that the pegs are badly fit and will never stay properly.
In terms of fittings like the bridge, soundpost, tailgut, etc. there is some "settling in" after a new adjustment. A fun little trick if you can't be bothered to exactly fit the bridge, for example, is to arch the feet a tiny bit and then they'll nicely hug the top after the violin's been strung up a while.
That does make a lot of sense about the strings :) and would explain why things seem to be changing over time.
My recommendation, without the proper tools, leave the peg fitting to a good luthier.
There is a reason why most professionals use instruments hundreds of years old.
I think that remains to be conclusively demonstrated however. I like to believe that age matters, but some of the top luthiers in the world will say that not much is to be gained beyond 1.5 decade of aging. That being said, they are in the business of selling new instruments, so they are not totally without bias.
"There is a reason why most professionals use instruments hundreds of years old.
I think a violin will sound better over time because first, the wood will have time to dry in case it wasn't really dry, and mostly, because when we play we create vibrations all over the structure of the violin and after a lot of hours/years, the violin is more "flexible", I believe. It's easier to make it vibrate and move. This is just what I think, I haven't read any kind of serious study about this.
Herman wrote, “you are aware that these professionals you're talking about use just a tiny tiny minority of the instruments made over time? 95% or more have wound up on the proverbial attic or dust heap.”
A lot of new violin settling down has to do with the varnish curing up, which can take years to fully cure. I sent my instrument back to the maker because it wasn't opening up as expected after two years, and he reworked the varnish and put the instrument under UV light, it made a very significant improvement. The wolf pack was gone and sound more open. UV light treatment speeds up the curing process and one should perhaps leave a new instrument out of the case as much as possible in my opinion for the first 5 years at least. The wood, which is 70yrs old to beging with has certainly not changed in any measurable way, so varnish was the only significant variable here.
I want to interject the reminder that the OP is talking about a VSO, not a fine master-made violin.
I have heard that for a brand new instrument from a quality luthier, after about the first year of playing, you should return it for a check-up and refitting: sound-post, bridge, etc.
I have owned and met low grade violins and violas which sounded pleasantly "subdued" when brand new, but with use "opened up" to be rather unpleasant.
Interesting contributions all.
No, but one settles with a violin! This is one of most persistent myths often pushed by dealers. Personification of dead wood might sound convincing (and one grasps for more control over a particular instrument), but there is nothing like a muscle to be developed over time. There are other complex psychological factors sometimes labeled as a " trap of previous investment" that feed into this belief.
Wood seems to become drier, lighter, and more brittle with time, and I imagine it can vibrate more readily.
David, I believe blind testing is also done a lot in the shops by the buyers themselves.
Adrian, can you please explain what that means "disturbs the microscopic alignment of the fibres"?
Repeated, strong vibrations can even weaken metals, so I imagine what they can do to wood fibres.. Then there are the captive resins which may disintegrate during playing, but re-form afterwards, like a sonic fingerprint.
Also, wood expands and contracts with temperature, humidity, physical forces, and perhaps sound waves. The thinner the wood, the bigger the impact.
Wood does not stay the same, that's for sure. All the changes in humidity and temperature change the different parts of a violin, and it will sound different, mostly better, because if they worsen the quality of a violin, old violins would be massively rejected.
Yes, in how many other fields does this happen, I can't think of any.
Here's one resource on the aging of wood.
Yes, making violins out of very old wood wouldn't be the same though, would it. It would like sewing clothes from pre-shrunk cotton, effectively resulting in larger pieces, if you were to cut apart a shrunk item and compare them. I don't think you can replicate shrinking in that way, it's complex.
David's right when he says to be suspect of the "truths" that are touted constantly. I feel that this applies to most things, actually. My experience has been that most things are some sort of lie. And most lies stem from the pursuit of profit. If you're in the business of selling old violins for great profit, it's in your best interest to continue feeding the myth that old violins are better. And often, the people that have the most to profit from this myth are ones that people seem to trust the most. So the myth continues.
I'm a non-expert. But my experience indicates that professionals (who presumably have the ability to judge a violin's quality) are much more likely than beginners to play on an expensive antique violin, and they are more likely to accept the 'myth' that old violins'are better.
A very valuable violin can be a good investment for a player, an investment which carries much greater personal interest and sense of connection than the more usual investments. It may also have tax advantages for one who plays professionally, compared to other sorts of investments.
it is my experience that 1700s violins tend to have different qualities of tone than new violins, this does not necessarily make them better, but different, yes. And no I don't give a damn what David's opinion on this is!!
Lesley, making violins out of very old wood should be about the same, except that changes due to oxidation and light exposure would be expected to happen more slowly in thicker, not-yet-carved pieces of wood.
David I still do not believe it would replicate the pulling and twisting effect of the original shrinking, nor the old varnish. I still think it is incalculable.
.......I did not know that! :)
That's OK, lots of people think that some of our most famous old violins have just been passed down, unaware of the heroic interventions by some freakingly talented restorers.
Yes I never met a violin conservator at any party. There must be a lot of fierce opinions about what you can add and remove for these instruments, or the ones on the next tier down. "Ax with a new handle and a new head", sort of thing.
Yup. Except that I have met some brilliant violin conservators at "parties".
Maybe they are party *animals* and I am the one who is not :)
I wouldn't necessarily call them "party animals". Showing up at promotional events is sometimes part of one's job. Some people love it, and some hate it.
I have only one experience of a new violin, that being my daughters first 1/16 violin tha cost about 500 euros. It was a fine violin of its size, bought from a good luthier who has good connections. It sounded like a 1/8 violin, it was so good, And it definately did open up and get even better after a few months of playing. And it was not just my daughter playing better lol I tried it several times too,
Maria your opinion is safe with me, I'm not ready to buy one of those antique ones just yet :)
This is off the direction that this thread has taken, but I would question the ability (or perhaps ethics) puff any 'luthier' who is seeking VSOs whose pegs do not fit.
Would this be "of any luthier who is selling VSOs whose pegs do not fit"?
In my opinion, a bowed string instrument should seem good (enough) to the buyer when it is purchased (i.e., paid for) no matter how old or new; unless you are purchasing an old instrument for possible resurrection. My experience has been that when the sound is in doubt on a new instrument (after the setup has been made as satisfactory as possible) it will probably continue to haunt the buyer - probably for life!
Very interesting, the Wittner videos are great on this thank you Andrew. And it means I wouldn't need the fine tuners.
So, what we've learned so far: Cheap new violins get worse. Expensive new violins get better. Definitely something that makes me wonder where the slope of the improvement-vs-price curve goes through zero.
Whether or not a violin gets better depends on the individual violin in question. It's like asking whether wine gets better with age. Only wines that are capable of aging well get better with age. No one would put
1) The notion that a violin improves by "playing in" I think is an old wives' tale.
The idea that the several millions worth Stradivarii *must* eventually decline in sound quality was a shock but how can it be otherwise?
Absolutely. The dirty little secret is that a lot of the surviving Strads are not great playing fiddles any more. Many of them had wood removed from their plates in the 19th century in an attempt to squeeze more sound out of them, and they have had so many repairs that they're as much glue and varnish as they are original wood.
I'm not sure improve with age is definitely the word, but older violins do sound different than new violins, especially 1700s ones, and most of my customers seem to prefer the tone of cheaper 1700s violins to better grade 20th Century violins. The 1700s violins are not any louder or brighter, but seem to be richer in tone, more complex sounds, new violins tend to be plain by comparison, but some people prefer new. The only way to know which you prefer is to compare similar priced violins from different ages.
Getting back to the OP's question, I would make two points:
For the most part, a violin will need some tuning adjustment every time you play it. Guitars too, even carbon fiber guitars with steel strings.
Yes I am happy to tune every day, I remember this from guitar. It's just that at first, the change was extreme, and now it is fine. I use the fine tuners, and every so often I will need to retune on the pegs because there is no "room" left for the fine tuners to turn.
I'm also from New Zealand. Based on the description of the luthier you said that is taking his holiday till August, I think he's Dimitri, my current violin is from him. I love my current one, great sound and not too expensive. It's a 2019 violin, so I think the sound can get even better with age. I'd totally recommend considering his violins.
Excellent hints there thank you Daniel! I will look into those names. No, it wasn't Dimitri, but now it could be :)
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