Best violin for country/bluegrass/blues

November 20, 2019, 3:01 AM · Hi all, hoping you can advise.

I haven’t played violin now for about 15 years, but I would like to get back into it, with the aim of eventually playing country, bluegrass, blues. I have a very basic learners violin from back when, but it doesn’t have a particularly resonant tone. I know it all very much depends on the talent of the player, but I think having an instrument with a lovely mellow sound would make a difference in some way?

I have been told German make violins are best. I’ve also been told that flattening the bridge is a good idea. But with so much choice out there I’d really appreciate some other opinions.

I basically want to buy a violin suited for the type of music I want to be playing, as traditionally authentic to the sound as possible.

Can anyone advise on what sort of violin I should be looking for?

With thanks

Replies (4)

November 20, 2019, 4:16 AM · Welcome Mrs. Chapman,

If you have not played your violin in a while and want to get back into it take your instrument to a luthier and and have it checked out as well as your bow. Maybe some new strings and a proper setup can perform wonders for your current instrument.

November 20, 2019, 4:32 AM · 1) Don't flatten the bridge unless you think you are going to be playing all southern-style old-timey music that is all drones and double-stops. For country, bluegrass, and blues, use a classical-cut bridge.

2) Go to a violin dealer with a player and listen to them try different violins to hear what they sound like. For country, bluegrass, and blues, most players prefer a violin on the darker side, but trying to find a darker violin that can effortlessly cut through a loud jam can be a challenge.

3) Try old European and American violins as well as Chinese violins. You might be able to find a real barnburner of a violin that sounds and plays great, but is not the prettiest fiddle in the case.

4) Check out Maggini models as these are not favored by classical players, but can be great fiddles (dark and loud), and are often discounted relative to Stradivarius and Guarnerius models.

November 20, 2019, 4:59 AM · I agree that taking your current violin and bow to a luthier and making sure it's set up properly and has good strings and hair is a great way to start. Then practice on it and get back into playing shape before looking to buy a new instrument.

I'll offer a different perspective -- what sort of situations do you hope to find yourself playing in? You might consider a Glasser Carbon-Composite Acoustic Electric violin. They can be bought for around $900-$1000. They are impervious to heat/humidity conditions, they can take a lot rougher handling than a wooden instrument. I have the 5-string model but they make a 4 string model and if being able to plug directly into an amp (helpful in a blues band situation) isn't important, you can get one without the electronics. I know that they have gotten poor reviews but I think that's because people who reviewed them hadn't had them properly set up. Mine came with a very tight sound and no ring to the tone, even on open strings. I checked the string length and found the bridge was 1/4" too close to the nut -- moving the bridge opened up the sound a lot and allowed the fiddle to ring. Taking it to a luthier confirmed my decision to move the bridge and he moved the sound-post to where it should be which opened up the sound even more and now it rings just like my wooden violin does.

I know that a lot of traditional fiddlers might balk at such an instrument, but once it's set up properly and they listen with their eyes closed they won't have any objection to letting you play with them.

But if you decide you want a new wooden instrument, don't limit yourself to instruments from any particular country and don't exclude any instruments based on which country they come from. There are horrible instruments from all countries and there are great instruments from all countries in each price range. So before you go shopping decide how much you can afford to spend and then try any/all fiddles you can find in that price range.

November 20, 2019, 10:18 AM · A good violin is a good violin for any genre of music. Use your ears and your bow to select a violin, not country of origin.

A lot of bluegrass and "celtic" folk music is played at a fast tempo. Consider light tension strings for maximum responsiveness.

Good quality steel are inexpensive but may be a bit too bright for slower, romantic melodies without aggressive vibrato.

There are cheap synthetic core strings that might be a better choice. Again, light tension = light weight = faster response to the bow.

The "flatness" of a bridge has no bearing on the ability to double stop. Two strings lie in the same bowing plane regardless of how flat or curved the bridge is.

A flatter bridge can make it easier to perform rapid string crossings with a small flick or turn of the wrist, but at the risk of unintentionally sounding a nearby string. Personal preference I would say.

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