Can I practice and play on different violins?
I inherited a half dozen violins and I keep playing and practicing on different instrument every couple of days. Would this hurt my playing and my intonation. Is it better to play on one instrument only?
I do that if I am not prepping for a concert or rehearsal (i.e., during this pandemic).
String players fret about the silliest things. Drummers, pianists, wind and horn players... they just sit down and do a great job with whatever is around / called for.
I have a 7/8 violin and a 14 inch viola which feel significantly different. I have no trouble switching, though I am strictly an amateur.
I'm aware that my intonation has gone somewhat to pot since I deserted my faithful violin of 20 years for a succession (harem?) of seductive mistresses. That's not entirely surprising since the vibrating string lengths among my current stable of 5 (yes, that's a metaphor mixed too far) vary by as much as 5mm which can't but have some impact on the correct finger spacing. There are also marked differences in the neck/body stop ratios so my shifting has become somewhat decalibrated too. These are subtle differences that I don't think the body can automatically detect and adjust to. Maybe it's not so apparent to a listener, but I do think it's a dangerous practice to adopt if you're a serious player.
I guess it will cost you some extra time to figure every aspect out about every one of them. So, if you have a big workload and little time, then better not. Other than that, it will give you lots of insight about what is your part of the sound vs. what is the instrument’s part. You will find out what you really like about each of them. Should be quite mind-broadening!
My guess is that if you have six violins and you practice on all of them, you'll get better at switching between instruments generally. If you're preparing for an important performance, though, I would pick one and go with it.
My teacher is always glad when she gets her main violin back from the shop. I can't imagine anyone regularly performing switching between violins more than absolutely necessary. It's anecdotal, but I read all the time about violinists getting a new strad or guarnerius, or even a new violin, and having to spend quite a bit of time learning how it works.
I would say if you are an experienced player with a firm grasp of intonation/scales/arpeggios etc. then I would see no harm. If you are a beginner to intermediate student I would say no
David, slightly different dimensions aren't really all that much of a problem. After all, if you listen to a decent player trying out unfamiliar violins, they'll still play in tune.
There are swings and roundabouts. What you lose in precision of execution you may certainly gain in the appreciation of different instruments and how to get the best out of them. Once upon a time I remember that when a strange violin was placed in my hands I could scarcely even get it to speak. Now I find it's great fun (what other reason is there for playing the violin?) to ring the changes and have learned that one's initial impressions can change quite significantly over weeks or months.
I agree with Lydia - and a bit of vibrato may give you (teach you?) intonation spacing correction by the 3rd played note. My 4 violins have VSLs of 322, 326, 328 and 328 mm - at least as I have measured them (I find it hard to precisely determine the stop position on the black nut (just too obscure for my old eyes).
Thank you all for your wonderful comments.
Thank you all for your wonderful comments.
Many great violinists past and present owned and played multiple instruments. There are pros and cons either way. As a hobbyist, I enjoy collecting and playing violins.
Paul, talking from the other end of the scale, I can ensure you that I will sound as bad on any of my four violins (of which one is disassembled at the moment) and three violas. It really doesn't matter at all whether I switch instruments or not!
I have a friend, an excellent player, who has two nice violins, one about 352mm body length, the other around 360, with appropriate string lengths. I asked him once about the problems of switching and his response was something along the line of "Oh, is there a difference?"
I can't see body length per se as a problem and find it strange that this is the dimension usually considered critical and quoted in every violin's description. It seems logically inescapable, however, that when a player who is accustomed to a "normal" sized violin picks up one with a string length 2% longer their intonation will initially be 2% flat. Andrew will (probably) argue that the brain is aware of the 2% (approx.) increase in the elbow angle and compensates by also stretching the hand by 2%, but surely that won't happen automatically and will need to be learned.
Steve I believe Michaels comment on Individualism in this field nailed it. Probably there are players with a more proprioceptive approach, but as my former teacher taught me, "we're tuning with our ears, not with our fingers". I'm not an experienced player at all, and playing "in tune" is a neverending challenge, but jumping between instrument sizes or between violin and viola (and even da Spalla, if I have the rare chance to grab one) doesn't make a difference. My ears-to-left-hand nerve adapts within a minor third.
Steve - all I know is that it works on my violins, it worked when I took up cello and when I took up viola.
Steve, the reason body size is notable is because string lengths are often/usually proportional to body size. In my friend's case, I don't remember exactly, but the string lengths are probably about 6mm+ different, which is quite a lot.
Thanks Michael, that's very informative. I just measured two of my violins, both English about 200 years old with neck grafts. Their body stops are 191 and 203 mm, neck stops respectively 131 and 126, ratios 1.46 and 1.61 which seems like a pretty big disparity. I don't habitually rely on the position of the button to tell me when I'm in 5th position, but when I'm up there and going higher I have to consciously stretch my hand a lot further on the second violin.
I am strictly a hobby violinist. I do practice on different instruments - one I inherited, my main instrument and one I bought "for fun" when it was on offer - and I find it helps me view pieces in different ways. When I am stuck, I often change the violin and the different tone make me view the piece in a different light and possibly also relaxes me a little, just because it sounds different, so that I don't become more and more tense in practising difficult passages.
Most better violins these days are either made, or have been modified to bring them to a fairly standard set of dimensions, including vibrating string lengths and proportions, and scroll heel and neck heel shapes and locations. Why? Because most better players want them that way, and have for 150 years or so. There's something attractive about the notes being in the same place.
While I agree to some extent when possible, this has not been my experience with the type I was talking about. . .the extremes of the best examples. Within limits this is done, of course.
Will giving a long Strad a conventional (or shorter) string length make it sound like a Del Gesu? I think there's a bit more going on.
Michael Darnton wrote: