Would you buy an instrument that your teacher didn't like?
In another thread (sorry for forum-hogging - I'm in the midst of buying a viola and have lots of questions!), I referred - prematurely - to "my new viola." I have it on trial right now, and was ready to hand over my credit card. I really, really clicked with it. But then I took it to my teacher. As you already know from my title, he was not impressed.
I guess that should be the end of the story. But...having now played my way through dozens of violas at multiple shops, some priced up to 3X what this one is worth, this one stood out. It stood out for ease of playing. It's light, comfortable and responds easily. Things that were hard to play are suddenly easier. Even my teacher noticed that I was playing with more ease and fluidity. But I guess this is very personal - what's comfortable/playable for me might not be for someone else.
The thing he didn't like was that he thought it would lack projection in a hall. But is that the thing I should be optimizing for? 95% of the time, the "sound under the ear" is the only sound that will matter. The other 5% of the time will probably be chamber music workshops. I'm not a professional and never will be.
It's really hard for me to think about going back to my heavy, clunky, painful rental viola now. And no other viola I've tested has come close in terms of playability. Have any of you been in my situation and gone against your teacher's advice?
Oh wow, well... my violin got the thumbs up from my teacher (my violin was purchased from a pro-musician in a private sale), and I know someone who had a similar issue as you (teacher dis-approval of multiple instrument choices) and all I can say is that you have to do what is right for you, your ear/body, and your pocketbook.
If your teacher's only complaint is (untested) "projection in a hall" and if the sound within his studio is still sufficiently powerful, then I would just buy it. My viola (a $3500 Chinese workshop instrument) is a real cannon but not very playable and I don't enjoy it all that much. You'll really enjoy having something playable. The sound under the ear also needs to be something you enjoy because that's what will inspire you to practice.
I fully agree with Paul. Did you test it in a hall? How often do you perform in halls, even in a chamber-music setting? Most quartet performances occur in small, intimate venues. Do your quartet-mates play powerful instruments in powerful ways, such that you have problems achieving balance? (Some people don't produce a big sound.)
If you’re not a professional, and not ever going to be a professional, you should buy what you like and can afford. It wouldn’t hurt to try it out in a hall though, both with you playing, and with someone else playing. You don’t want to buy an instrument without hearing for yourself what it sounds like to others.
To follow Lydia and Mary Ellen's sage advice, I would also add that your instrument should also be comfortable for you to play, and not have physical characteristics that could put one in a challenging situation later with regards to one's physical health. Big instruments with massive sounds are fun, but try playing a three-hour rehearsal or two big musicals or operas back to back on the same day with something that requires too much effort, and one can see why professional violists tend to downsize as they get older.
I agree with Gene. You're the bigger factor in your projection than your viola. But seriously, Lalo on a 1/4? Some kinda prodigy.
Leaving aside the projection issue, it is important that your instrument not only sound good to and work for you, but you also need to check how it sounds to other people. Have you had your teacher or someone else play it for you so you can hear how it will sound to others? Whether or not you really need the projection, you want an instrument that sounds good to others when you are playing it. Good luck!
Tom - that's exactly what I was getting at with asking your teacher to clarify. (But I didn't say because, well, I'm dense without enough caffeine sometimes!)
The first thing I noticed is that you are playing a rental viola, and I imagine it may be a very bad one, with a slow response, almost no dynamic range, a dead C string. The instrument may be heavy and difficult to handle too.
What Mary Ellen Gorre said. I'm sorry, but you are the one putting it up to your chin and playing it everyday, not your teacher.
It depends. Would you buy something your parents told you not to?
I strongly recommend avoiding the phrase "get over it" when discussing anything with your teacher. If you're an adult and buying an instrument for your own use, one which the teacher thinks you should not buy, all you need to say is, "I liked this one the best." Just, please, stop there. Do not tell your teacher he/she needs to "get over" anything.
It is my experience and thus my opinion that n one of us has any idea what another person hears. Well, if you both have the same hearing (i.e., audiograph results) you probably hear the same thing of a given sound source.
Mary, I've read again my message and I can't find anything that tells the student to tell his/her teacher to get over it.
I think Paul N was saying that the teacher will likely have no problem getting over it without any prompting from M.D. That's how I read it anyway. Still, if you're thinking to yourself "my teacher needs to just
"Then you can explain that you really love it, and the teacher should get over it"
What Mary Ellen and Paul Deck said. Just be sure the projection issue isn't a problem with clarity. If it's fuzzy and unclear, that will be an irritation for you eventually.
Projection (or lack thereof):
Oh, you're right, I see how that can be misinterpreted. Of course no student should tell a teacher that, hahaha, that would be rude.
Thanks for all the advice.
The old joint-test problem. One equation, two variables.
Focus is sometimes somewhat adjustable by using different strings, but it generally doesn't wholly fix a fundamental lack of clarity. If it's currently got middle-of-the-road strings and it sounds fuzzy, different strings probably won't drastically change that. If you've got gut on the violin or other strings that are heavily on the unfocused side, clarity should come with a change of strings. That's something you can potentially ask the selling shop to do, so you can hear if it will be satisfactory.
When students come to me asking which violin to buy, I don't necessarily feel that my job is to tell them which one is the "best" to buy. My job is to educate them about the buying process, and the pitfalls to look out for:
Lack of projection is sometimes code for 'not enough sound'. While this may not be an issue if you don't solo with orchestras, it may, over time, cause tension as you naturally try to force more sound out of the instrument. As for focus, sometimes a new bridge or soundpost can do wonders for that. In anycase, if it's loud enough for YOU and you happen to like the tone, I would get it. Teachers are not infallible ;).
"Teachers are not infallible"
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