String players and their instruments
My violin is at the luthier at the moment for some Restauration work. It has been a long time coming, it had a scroll crack that needs fixing, a small crack in the lower bout (luckily no opening up required) and some varnish repairs. I bought it that way and knew it would have to happen, but yesterday my bridge fell while I tried adjusting it after it started leaning (i’ve done that so many times before and nothing ever happend but this time it just kind gave out!) and the soundpost went with it so I thought let’s do it all now in one go.
I am extremely worried about my instrument (my Mum says like a mother with a fresh firstborn) and it means so much to me, and I think generally string players are very attached to their instrument and know what it feels like to have it in for repairs. I feel off not having it in my apartment and the thought of it being drilled into (they will use wood shafts to get the scroll stable) makes me cringe. I do however have a lot of pro musicians (but no string players) amongst my friends and they all don’t really get it. “You know at the end of the day it is just a box of wood” they say.
I grew up with strings and when I first encountered the more nonchalant way people treated their instruments I was baffled. Now this got me thinking: is this just me being weird? Or am I right that I think string players are more attached to their instrument? Why do you think that is? The way they are very individual? The intimate positioning with essentially the cheek against the instrument? The way they are complex and react to so many factors that it almost feels like they are alive?
Let me know your thoughts on the whole “my violin is my baby” situation :D
At the risk of feeding some potentially unhealthy thoughts, your reaction is not entirely unusual. If you have some time you might Google Min Kym who was an incredibly gifted child prodigy who saved hard and bought a Strad. It was subsequently stolen and the effects were devastating to her, so much so she gave up playing for a while and wrote a book called "Gone: A Girl, A Violin, A Life Unstrung"
I think some people are attached to their instruments and some not so. I am firmly in the former camp.
Thank you for your replies so far! It alread reaffirms that I am not (entirely) crazy. I know the story about the girl with the Strad, and a story I also think about alot is Frank Peter Zimmermann and his Strad, which luckily found a happy ending. Of course I know that rationally it is pretty likely that i would find another instrument, and that I am the one that makes it come alive, but my emotions say something else haha.
Welcome to the "club."
Like Andrew I had one that got away but it was entirely my fault.
Ah yes! The one that got away. I testplayed a stunning one (in my memory, it was probably just decent student grade) in 2005 when I upgraded from a 3/4 to a 4/4 (I am very small so I was already 15). Unfortunately my mother couldn’t afford it at the time. She asked friends etc to help out and of course someone had one “lying around so you don’t need to buy one” and that was that. I hated it. I stopped playing shortly after because I was so frustrated that the fullsize I had to play on was worse than the 3/4 I played before and teenage me got very discouraged. I think I probably wouldn’t have stopped otherwise which is sad, because I am still trying to get back to my teenage level of playing, but that is all water under the bridge now, and funnily enough I never thought about that violin since I got mine now :D
Think of it this way: If your doctor told you that you needed a hip replacement, those are made of steel, right? You'd do it because it's the right thing for your body. Same for your violin, if your luthier is good and they say you need this or that to stabilize it, then that's what you do. That's part of loving your instrument too.
The problem with loving a violin is that its impossible to give it up if and when your playing exceeds its potential. I have changed violins several times (the last time beyond my control) and have found that the attachment, while still there, changes. Thus, it is as if I am wedded to my new violin, but it is not my baby. It is a forever instrument but if ever I had to change it I would do so with sadness but not with grief.
The fact that it's so hard (and so expensive) to get a nice violin means that we become pretty attached to our purchases.
Not always so expensive Lydia! I'm currently going through an emotional bonding process with the violin I acquired in Brompton's auction last week. I do feel a little guilty at temporarily neglecting my three other beautiful babies, but I guess like Angelina Jolie I've just got love to spare. I enjoy playing them all and relishing their different qualities. Playability apart, another factor that attracts me is their history. The latest one is dated 1809, signed underneath the table by its maker Charles Harris and cost little more than a new factory fiddle. Now, is the hide glue ready..?
Like Elise, I too have a cherished instrument -- my first "full-size" violin which is a beautiful
I'm not really into the beauty of the instrument, though I did once come upon a beautiful 7/8ths Brescian inlaid violin that I liked the sound of, but wasn't quite as good as I wanted it to be.
Humans do form attachments to "inanimate" objects (although I'm not sure if a violin really qualifies as inanimate) so getting attached to a string instrument is not unusual. Of course, there are those that play instruments on loan from collectors or museums. The weird part of the strings is that they can last so long. A lot of other orchestral instruments simply wear out over time - no so for the strings.
Thank you all for sharing your stories, they have been a terrific and touching read! I also want to make clear that I of course I am very much ok with me violin being repaired, as I know it needs it and of course want it in the best condition possible. I trust my luthier 200%, I have seen (and heard!) some of their restoring work and it is stunning so I know it is in very good hands right now. I just hate that it’s gone and has stuff happen to it haha!
I recall one that got away story, I was in the North West of the UK trying out instruments in a music shop, and came across a gorgeous 17inch viola, with cut out, extremely comfortable to play. The sound was just divine, and the price tag was modest too, something I could have afforded at the time, but decided I didn't need it. That instrument is no longer there, but I do hope it is loved.
Anna - the luthier should do the final adjustment of the sound post to your taste as you test it: you may want more G or more upper E etc. They can do magic...
Irma is around 100 yo and French and it was love at first sight.
I must say that I have no "sentimental attachment" to my violin and certainly do not anthropomorphize it. I do care for it as I do also for my camera, my car or anything expensive that I own, but it is replaceable, Yes it has a unique character, beautiful sound etc. aren't all the instruments we choose like that and I take good care of it and would hate if anything were to happen to it but in the end if it were to be stolen/destroyed I know that I could and would find another one that I find equally nice (perhaps different however).
I, like others, am attached to my very first full-sized violin my mother bought me in the early 1980s. When I returned to the violin 3 years ago (after 25 years), it was in very bad shape. I have since spent an irrational amount of money to have it fixed.
So, checking in to report: I got my violin back today.
Anna - I sympathise with your evident distress! Not to the same degree but I've also found that the attentions of a luthier don't always result in what I would consider an improvement in the sound. The anomaly is that not many luthiers are also accomplished players; their criteria as to what constitutes a "correct" setup of the bridge and soundpost tend to be more dogmatic than pragmatic.
Steve, thank you! I agree with you, and have thought this before too. I also really think that many good players would way prefer it this way, and from an objective standpoint I think it is a better instrument. When I bought it I did so with the thought of “eventually I might want more focus and can probably adjust it to get it there”. The point being eventually. I played some more this morning and feel like I might get used to it or just need to really, really, focus on some bowing technique for a bit, which might be a good thing. My dilemma is that it certainly isn’t all bad, some parts I like better than before. I think the playability is so much better that it may even make for what I don’t like. I really feel like at this point this instrument set up this way is just too much for my skill.
I have to say, I also get attached to my good violins, because it was a long and arduous journey for me to acquire what I have now. I began playing the violin on my own with a violin I was lent at school. My parents were never supportive but had to give in to the school's recommendation in my getting private lessons. They bought me a secondhand outfit for $15, bow and case included. I remember the bow had no curve, but my parents would not spend on a new bow. I played that violin until I was 18, then they bought me a $400 one which to my ears was a big improvement, but my teacher at university was laughing at it. I made a promise to myself that one day I will have a great violin and I do now, since 1990.