Owning more than one instruments of a kind...

Edited: October 6, 2019, 4:21 PM · Some comments in a parallel discussion
made me wonder what may be the reasons why some of us own multiple instruments, while others stick to the truth that only one violin can be played at a time.

Far from being a collector, I currently own three acoustic violins, and each one serves a specific purpose:
- my good one, that I use at home, in lessons, and occasionally on stage
- then another one that was cheap and beaten up but "good enough" after some repair work and new setup which I leave at my parents in law, since we often spend the weekend or part of the holidays at their place and I don't want to bother with bringing my instrument there all the time.
- Nr. 3 is a Bohemian trade fiddle which I got from a garage sale for next to nothing. It shall serve me for training my tinkering skills...

And then there's a silent violin for nighttime or hotel practice sessions.

Plus, two violas:
- again, my good one, again my main instrument, and usually "my voice" when playing in public which is 90% as a violist, and
- a really ugly looking piece of wood I got for cheap. I bought it to leave at my office and use in lunch breaks or during night shifts (noone would ever think about taking it away... The case, maybe - but never the instrument!), but soon gave it on loan to somebody in need of a proper viola. And since I don't have the heart to ask it back, I'm seriously considering looking for "Nr.3"...

Besides that I have to admit that I'm really endangered to become more of a collector, everytime I meet a nice violin that's unplayed. But yet it wasn't stronger than me. Let's see for how long...

What are your reasons for owning two or more instruments? Outdoor gigs, teaching, what else?

Replies (25)

Edited: October 6, 2019, 4:26 PM · My reasons are that switching instruments once in a while is wealthy, and gives new perspectives and fights boredom.
With me, it happens with violins, violin bows, electric basses, microphones, preamps, and keyboards.
October 6, 2019, 4:30 PM · I was always looking for something better and my old ones cost me nothing or so little.
October 6, 2019, 5:03 PM · I once had two really good violins, that did not work, it was always more a comparing than a playing.

Nowadays, I have my prime one and a Chinese one. Besides the practical aspects mentioned about having a less expensive instrument, it also helps to constantly keep the satisfaction with my first instrument high (since perception works kind of relative and we get used to things with time).

October 6, 2019, 5:22 PM · Great answer, Andrew Victor !! :D
October 6, 2019, 6:40 PM · I would like to have a second violin so that I'm not taking my Topa to jazz jams.... But I'd rather spend the same money on effects pedals and other gizmos too.
October 6, 2019, 9:13 PM · Don't even get me started!!...........
October 6, 2019, 9:40 PM · I have an electric violin that I use for silent practice, and fantasise about people wanting to hear me play it one day. I’m not god enough to need to upgrade my current acoustic violin, ( and I’d feel disloyal to Irma) , but I can see how under the right circumstances accumulation could become addictive.
October 7, 2019, 12:59 AM · I have 5 violins. Two dirt cheap Chinese jobs (one given to me, and the other strung with Helicores for country music), a Stentor, a Gewa and a Hidersine electric. I take my Gewa to string orchestra, but I might take my Stentor instead, as the crowds milling about make everything unsafe and one has manipulation skills to learn. In theory the Chinese ones are for me to learn minor luthier skills on. I'll upgrade further one day, and the Stentor can be the country fiddle, and the Chinese jobs will probably go to a charity shop.
October 7, 2019, 1:18 AM · I have a nice violin I practice on and perform with. Then, a beater I use when teaching school ensembles that I don't panic about if a student bumps into it--and I am totally comfortable loaning to an advanced student when they forget theirs. Then, an electric for performances that are better served using amplification.

Seems practical! :)

October 7, 2019, 1:50 AM · Look out Nuuska, it's a drug. My current pharmacopoeia consists of 4 old violins and 2 contemporary violas, all of which make a nice noise (over the last few years several others have come and gone because they sounded wooden, shrieky, hollow etc) and give me a buzz like a good glass of wine or a cask-conditioned beer. I tend to use each of them for a week or two, then switch. It isn't good for the intonation but with each change I tend to hear familiar pieces of music afresh. Also when multitracking myself it's intriguing to discover the different ways in which instruments blend
October 7, 2019, 3:16 AM · Next to my regular violin I have two old german or french fiddles that I leave at the places where I teach, so I don't have to carry one all the time.
Then I have a fine new one for busking, band performances (plus pickup) etc..
And one with steel strings tuned down a whole step for my Zydeco and Cajun band.
October 7, 2019, 7:35 AM · Because truly fine violins are beautiful works of visual art.
Edited: October 7, 2019, 7:45 AM · I have 6 violins. My main one, which I play in home settings and occasionally in church, is (1) a Frederich Wyss. They call it a Guarneri pattern, but they don't say which Guarneri so I take that with a grain of salt. All I know is that it was the most appealing of the half-dozen or so violins in its general price range that I tried.

My most-played next to that is (2) a GCV that's more than decent for the price. There's (3) a low- to medium-price 5-string I bought out of sheer curiosity, and after fooling around with it intermittently my provisional conclusion is that when I want a C string I'll reach for one of my 2 violas. Then there's (4) the homemade baroque-ish oddball I mentioned in another thread, and which has been getting a lot more play in the past couple of months. There's (5) a Strad copy made in 1981 by a retired cowboy in Florida. I picked it up for pocket change and since it seemed fundamentally sound I sprang for some obviously needed restoration work. It sounds surprisingly sweet despite having a back made of pecan wood that might well have come from the maker's back yard. Finally there's (6) an old supposed Stainer knockoff from (probably) somewhere between 1900 and 1920. It doesn't sound nasty, but doesn't blow me away either. Still, I find it worth keeping around just because I have a taste for oddities. This one has bass-style geared tuners that look original. Bonus: somewhere along the line someone dropped a rattle into it that looks like it came from a 3' or 4' snake. It must have sucked to be that snake, but it's an interesting touch.

And there are likely to be others. "Collector" probably isn't the right word here, but I certainly accumulate stringed instruments. It's relatively benign, as expensive habits go.

And the violas are another topic for another time.


Edited: October 7, 2019, 7:56 AM · Snake rattles are common in country and bluegrass instruments (it gives them mojo). It's very common in mandolins, I'm told. There's plenty about it on bluegrass forums.
Edited: October 7, 2019, 9:21 AM · I have two violins and for a day I had three. I am the steward of my late mother's violin. I keep the instrument in good condition, change the strings, play it on a regular basis, and simply enjoy the sound. However, if and when one of the grandchildren shows an interest in violin, and is ready for a 4/4 violin, they can have it. I also have a violin I recently bought and enjoy playing daily. I had a third - my "old" violin - but I donated it to the Bravo Youth Orchestra here in Portland. I'd rather have someone playing it than let it sit in a closet.
Edited: October 7, 2019, 10:10 AM · My "reasons" started as: first instrument was a starter, and I deserve an upgrade. True, for that first violin, a Lark. Then the reason became, the money will just rot in the bank. Now, seven instruments later, I see the cost of insurance is going up... and yet, with a Digitech Jam Man, I can play with myself on all my investments! Current "reason": It IS fun.
October 7, 2019, 10:56 AM · I have 4 violins and 2 violas, none of them expensive or excellent quality. They have different strengths and weaknesses. The two violas are a fat 16" and a more playable 15 1/2 ". For the violins, #1 is my "Tchaikovsky" violin, loud, but hard to play. #2 has good low notes, it is the "Mozart" violin or the orchestra second violin. #3 has good high notes, it is the orchestra first violin. #4 has a Baggs bridge added on, Helicore strings, easy to play, sounds good under a microphone. With a synthetic varnish, I can use it outside, even in the rain(!) I do most of my practicing, rehearsing, and teaching with #3.
October 7, 2019, 11:01 AM · I have two violins and two VSOs. One VSO is the half-sized that I started on 50+ years ago. I recently had it upgraded for the next generation (its still a good starter instrument). The other is a violin I was conned into buying un a market in New Orleans years ago. Its a lion-head Bavarian without any corner blocks. A bit of historic value, and the carving is kinda neat but you can't play it.

The first of my real violins is a German workshop Wolf brothers dated 19888 (original label) that my father bought me when I was ~10. Its more than sentimental value can has been valued at ~$5,000 (there are many orchestra violinists that play on the same brand.

And then there is the Bellini. Swoon.

The lions'head may get repurposed a wall bling... :)

October 7, 2019, 12:13 PM · Do what you want to do, unless it would result in being killed by your spouse or potential heirs.

My wife as something like five guitars now, and I haven't killed her yet. LOL

Just kidding. I love her and even bought one or two of her guitars for her as gifts.

October 7, 2019, 2:05 PM · Elise, what happened to the Newton violin?
October 7, 2019, 2:56 PM · Before 2018, I was sure that I was going to be living in Canada for a long period of time, until I left, I ended up buying the following:
1 Cello
3 Violas (sold 2 of them).
5 Electric violins (sold 5 of them).
8 Acoustic violins (sold 7 of them).

For violins, I've always had a "main" violin that I preferred over everything. At some point the main violin became too precious for me to travel around as traveling and walking conditions in Canada gets pretty bad in the winter.

I end up geting a "Secondary" violin/viola to practice in my office or to travel with. I end up hating the sound of it because it is never as good as the "main" violin, and the cycle went on.

Even now, I am looking for a secondary violin, but this time because I don't seem to practice as much because the main one is too loud.

Edited: October 7, 2019, 5:15 PM · Each old violin is an art of mystery, which I can't resist...
October 7, 2019, 7:25 PM · If I hadn't gotten into teaching, I'd probably have only my childhood/adolescent full size violin and not have ended up with everything used by siblings, who no longer play.

Instead, I have "the good one" that I bought as an adult, 3 additional full sizes (used as teaching and lending violins), a dozen fractionals (all the ones we grew up with and then some), plus a viola, two full size cellos, a fractional cello, a Kawai upright, and if being thorough, multiple keyboards and guitars, drum set, various classroom stuff. No organ, and no access to one currently, but I kept the shoes.

On a cycling forum where I used to lurk, it was said that the ideal number of bikes to own is N+1.

October 7, 2019, 10:48 PM · Ok;
3 fiddles
2 mandolins
3 electric guitars
8 acoustic guitars
1 resonator guitar
1 Octave mandolin
1 harmonium

[I am a bachelor.....go figure]

Edited: October 9, 2019, 11:39 PM · ... again some thoughts that returned to my mind while joining another thread...

My main violin is more on the brighter side, with lots of clarity and resonance, responsive, and a bit "loud under the ear" according to some more skillful violinists. It also can do pianissimo, projects well and I still feel that it's a perfect partner for me while trying to improve. It's quite unforgiving and forces me to work hard on perfect as possible technique. It's easier to hear whether my intonation sucks on this instrument than on many others. And I can still hear myself in a group, while with other instruments, collective tuning alone can be a challenge. So I'm happy to have it, and from an objective point of view, it should serve me for a lifetime.

But. As Mengwei Shen mentioned, "the ideal number of bikes to own is N+1." It would be really nice to own an instrument with a warmer sound. And as my skills slowly improve and I'm moving up the G and D string, some other and most probably better instruments are easier to produce a good tone on. (I mean around 5th position and above. This doesn't include the A and E, these are fine almost up to the end of the fingerboard.) For sure this is also a matter of bow control. And especially when trying to blend into a violin section (which rarely happens since in public I'm mainly a violist) it often feels like standing out a bit too prominent, although there haven't been complaints yet. So from time to time I start wondering about a lateral trade, or slight upgrade since it's always fun to sink some money into musical instruments. Yet I couldn't accommodate to the thought of parting with my Cinderella, so - if the weather was right - the "+1 concept" would feel better and I wouldn't risk a heartbreak...

With my No.1 viola things are different. I wished the fingerboard was a bit narrower since it would be easier to play with my tiny hands, but soundwise "it has it all", as far as I can judge. Not soloistic enough that it could stand up against a complete symphony, but enough for soloing with a chamber orchestra, what occasionally happened, and most probably will happen again. Warm, rich, full, resonant and a dream for chamber music and the viola section. When Luis Manfio teaches us about what to look for in a viola, it's as if he was talking about mine, and another viola of that quality would be pure luxury and a waste of resources. And I wouldn't even know what to look for as I do not miss a thing.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha YVN Model 3
Yamaha YVN Model 3

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases


Violin Pedagogy Symposium
Violin Pedagogy Symposium

Masterclass Al-Andalus
Masterclass Al-Andalus

Aria International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins


Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine