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I have been playing the violin for a couple of years now and am too the point of being ready for an upgrade in instrument. My biggest issue with upgrading has just been not having the money. I've seen some intermediate level violins on fiddlershop and the professional level. As someone who loves the violin and will play for the rest of my life, I was wondering if there is a reason to get an intermediate violin instead of just saving up money and getting a professional one instead?
I am sort of in the same boat as you however I do not plan to upgrade my violin. My violin was $300 new and I have modified it with a $300 alloy frirsz tailpiece, and $200 wittner fine tune pegs , and top of the line strings (Peter Infeld). What I've listed here are a few ways to improve the tone of a violin by investing in modern fiddle technologies.
the vital question you should ask yourself - does your violin embellish qualities of an authentic violin? Is your violin good enough? If the answers are No, the you should upgrade to a new and better fiddle. If the answer is yes, then perhaps you can begin to modify you violin like I have as a stairway(new parts) to better sound rather than the escalator (new violin).
if your violin is worthy of investing in upgrades you should start with fine tune pegs so that you can remove the bulky harsh sounding fine tuners on the tail piece. This will allow the strings to interface directly with the fiddle and provide a more solemn and natural sound. Otherwise string vibrations will be traveling through rickety bolt and nut assemblies.
Second , after you've removed the fine tuners from the tailpiece in exchange geared pegs ; you should upgrade to the best synthetic strings. I've tried synthetics in the $30 , $50, and $100 range. Only in the $100+\- does the warmth match the response time. Not only does overall playability improve , but also the $100+\- string sets could make probably any violin sound epic or sweet. Remember that you probably don't want to have $100+\- strings laced to fine tuners on the tailpiece because it just will not sound the same.
While your doing string modifications you should have your bridge outfitted with parchment so that you can remove the plastic sleeve for the e string. Those plastic sleeves mute the e string ; in fact after switching from sleeve to parchment I found my e string was 150% louder.
P.S. I think the key identifier of a worth while fiddle is its bridge. Did your violin come to you with a authentic fine grain bridge? Does the bridge have a stamp? If a manufacturer of violins creates fiddles without fine bridges, chances are that they cared less about a lot of the violin making process. However if the violin comes with a high quality bridge, I feel the life expectancy of a fiddle inherently increases.
hi there, everything that has been said so far is good advice.
Does your student violin have the under tones and over tones you are looking for.
As I have resently upgraded to a better violin I can say that a student violin hasn't the voice or soul of a better built violin. I would suggest that you watch the videos that FM post for his violins and listen to them I pick on that speaks to you.
Just my two cents happy hunting.
With violins there is no fretting over the music.
I started with a 79 Euro STAGG violin in early May 2015—bow and case was included. The violin I upgraded to in Oktober was priced down from about 399 Euros to 199 and it was just a violin with nothing else included.
I think the cheap STAGG was okay for the start, to find out whether a violin could be the right instrument for me. But finally her sound didn't match what I heard on CDs with professional baroque players—it was too far off the sound of a professional violin. How could these players influence my style if the sound was so very different?
I'm still fine with the violin I bought in October. I do capture phrases I've heard on CDs before, spontaneously integrating them into my improvisations. When I manage to feel like I hit the sound of those professional players I instinctively hit the style. This wouldn't have worked with the 79 Euro violin.
Will I have to upgrade later again? Right now my rule is, my present violin would have to earn the money for another upgrade. But maybe I will come to another point where I again will hear a stark difference between my present violin and what I daily hear on CDs. In this case I will probably have to upgrade to make further progress possible. Though, this would be extremely different, because actually I should play a baroque violin and if I had to buy a professional violin, there would be no reason to not change to baroque violin. But on the other hand, I would NOT buy a professional violin to just go on with self-made spinet play-alongs. No, there must be an existing band, on a semi-professional level, to justify that.
Maybe I will just buy one of the priciest student violins on the marked in case I feel the need to upgrade. A professional violin must be earned by performing with a good student violin. But these are really complicated questions and I avoid pondering them too much. I rather focus on music.
@Alveraz20: I'd say it's partly a question of what you find out there, and your pain tolerance. The other half of it is whether this is a hobby (you don't expect to make money at all), an informal career (you'll play for money some of the time, but it's not your main source of income), or a real career (it's your day job).
The suggestion that an existing violin should pay for its replacement seems valid (with the student one being excepted from that rule) if it's going to be a money-making proposition. If so, the question would be which will get you to the professional grade violin faster - playing for money with an intermediate violin, or saving your money from other sources?
If you're doing it as a hobby, if your existing violin is driving you nuts and you find an intermediate violin that sounds absolutely wonderful to you, go for that. I doubt you would have asked the question if this is the case, though. One comment on this approach - select the intermediate as much on resale value as anything else, and almost certainly buy used. (The worst of the value drop has already happened. If it's the type of violin where the value only goes up over time, then just playing it would be "saving up" for the professional. 🙂 )
If the limits of the existing violin are just an annoyance and you have to get to professional-grade to find anything that really appeals to you, I'd wait until you've built up the money for the professional grade one.
What professional can play their music just as one and only day job? I see many college graduated musicians who do several things to make a living. Some are also journalists and write books and who does without also teaching? In today's jazz world you can be famous and nonetheless struggle to make a living. Though, some are starting as amateurs and then it pays off better and better and much better than they had expected. Benny Goodman had already given up and planed to quit after his famous 1935 gig in California when he suddenly became popular over night. What do I know what happens to me in the years to come? You cannot plan that.
I keep telling people who give me advice to do this and that: "Just give me a calendar full of well payed gigs and I do it." People expect everything for nothing, it's crazy!
I just recalled, I had tested about half a dozen violins in the store before I bought my present one in October. And there was a Yamaha for over 600 Euros, but my present violin did clearly beat her. She was the loudest, most colorful with the fullest G string. When I remarked that, the luthier fully agreed. Still I wonder how good she really is. After all I might be very lucky and she might be better than I am able to tell. I listen to CDs with solo violins a lot and after it never felt like my violin sounds cheap. To me it seems to be about the same color and brilliance—I don't miss anything.
Yessss.... interesting.... (Bill thinks for a moment... while trying to reply to all the points in one go... LOL) ... right - for me - it is "all in the individual's ear" - and not just the player - but the listener also - absolutely.... LOL - I also have a "guiding rule" as a "fiddle player" - know what - to me - the sheet ( even if it is a classical piece ) does not matter. [ Ohhhh - careful - I say that - of COURSE it matters -and I HAVE to use it to get started - what I meant was that in playing such a piece as an "amateur player" - you can take a simple classical melody and embellish, re-time it etc etc, and "own it" for yourself and make it unique to you - that's all I meant !!!! Oh - what a SHOCKING thing to say about Bach... I bow my head in shame...... ]
I just know when I put steels on and play down-in-the-dirt-fiddle-tunes - and maybe retune to GDAD or ADAE or AEAE for instance - some folks will say - "that's a bit sharp-on-the-ears" ( I don't mean musically "sharp" just a "super-present" sound with open ringing DS compared to the synthetic strings - and even THEN it partly comes down to not just the strings but also the instrument and my crazy bowing for the tune ) - so - maybe NOT just down to the steels - but I like them for a lot of fiddle tunes - as I say - "in the individual's ear" - it is all down to personal choice - and WHY NOT ... LOL
BUT - equally - for me at least - sure - it depends what you want to do /genres you like to play etc / and play with the instrument. And yes - I am WELL aware of that - and I regularly swap strings between steels and back to one of my several sets of synthetics for playing other things... ( and THAT is why I really need a second violin - so I can swap over when performing live - because someone actually asked - don't recall who it was " Why do you need more than one fiddle?" - yes - it was a serious question - and not being asked in "fun" - there are MANY reasons.... not just the difference between steels and synths - but to have, on hand, a GDAD or AEAE tuned fiddle for certain fiddle tunes).
Oh man - OK OK OK - yes I have to admit it now - I already have FOUR fiddles here -
(1) I have a "good acoustic" ( the FM Concert ),
(2) I have a real cheap EV from Thomann - but boy does she sound great with FX
(3) I have an "old" ( late 1970's cheap Chinese thing - SkyLark ) - but she is restrung as a viola and sounds 10 times better than she ever did with the "dead sounding" E string
(4) I have a 1920/30's 3/4-size fiddle off e-bay - for "experimental purposes" LOLOL
Nonetheless - I could REALLY do with a REAL "second violin" that is going to take me further than the main one I have ( and that's number 1 above ) - so - I'm saving up my pension payments to look for an upgrade !!!!
I do this ( playing fiddle ) for the sheer pleasure it brings me. I am in "early retirement" - I have NO ambitions to make any sort of living ( other than occasional tips on StreetJelly - LMAO ! ) from playing - and I just love to be "able to do what I can do" and constantly evolve.....
I am MILES away from the understanding of the detail that @Demoiselle has given us in this (and other posts) - and which I appreciate enormously - very interesting and thank you - but I am an amateur player (although a scientist/physicist at heart - the western scale is nothing more than the 12th-root-of-two to me - there yah go - well - I also recognize the "limitations" in what I just said - some will get the subtle differences between that and true open 5ths tuning....) , and largely ignorant of the developmental history of music, let alone the evolution of the instrument that is now the violin - all I know is that I LOVE the instrument - even when it occasionally gets the better of me.... but that's all a part of the journey
Heck - I was just lurking about while waiting for @Mark 's video to upload... lol - it's till going with 2 hrs to go before I can hear it !!!!
To answer the original post - well - the above is PRECISELY why I went into all that detail - and - in summary - if you feel you have "more to come" ( like I do ) then SERIOUSLY go for the best you think you can possibly afford - I have NO problem with my "number one lady" - the FM Concert - at all - I "am at home with it" - but I absolutely know for sure that after two years of daily playing - yes for sure - I can reach for more.... it is a GREAT intermediate instrument - and could last many players a lifetime, that I am sure of. I kind of recall talking to http://www.fiddlershop.com at the time of my purchase and between us - we kind of agreed - as a "relative newcomer to fiddle" but with YEARS of musical background - I would maybe see 5 years of "development" with the FM Concert before I wanted to upgrade. Well, just over 2 years in with pretty darned close to playing 2 hrs per day (not in one go) close to 7 days a week - yup - I just KNOW there is more to come....
So - that was my long-winded discourse on the OP question - a "part answer" and a discussion of "where I am" and the limitations I am beginning to see....
Dunno if that helps or not.... Just wanted to share my experience in detail, having "nothing better to compare it against"
I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes.
Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)
@BillyG I always considered myself an amateur as well. Just between the years 1985 and 1990 I was trombonist, singer and tap dancer of a pretty successful swing combo. I was looking forward a professional career then, but things suddenly changed and it all ended. If I will ever make it as a professional, it'll be as singing and dancing multi-instrumentalist—the lady who is a singing and dancing band. In the background will be a guitarist or lutenist or clavichordist or harpsichordist.
Right now I would define myself a fairly crazy amateur who strictly focuses on one style to realize it completely. The details probably come mainly from my keyboard basics, after studying the theory of harmony by figuring, trying and adapting. You just understand the basic structures of music then.
I have been thinking about the case of a college trained musician who is not lucky enough to make a living after college: Nonetheless I'd consider such a musician a professional due to professional education.
I have never tried gut strings, but gut strings are naturally what I'm supposed to use: just white, unwound gut strings. But this is way too complicated, as long as I have to organize and start my own background music. I also use plastic recorders right now, which are very good ones, but in the future I'd rather see myself playing high quality wooden recorders. Which I would have to dry after playing, as constantly retune the gut strings, which is not practicable right now: I don't have 6 arms like a Tibetan goddess. That's why I also dropped makeup. So right now not everything I want is possible and synthetic strings are the best option.
@Jacques: I also like PI's very much, prolly my favorite string. They are colorful and complex and both warm/bright...some core warmth. Unfortunately, neither of my fiddles like them. well, that's not entirely true. One of my fiddles likes the PI G, along with an Evah Gold D, a Violino A, and a Prelude E.
back to the topic. Over 40 years I've made a lot of fiddle trades. a couple I really wish I'd kept, but I was too stupid to know what I had. But for about the past 3 years, I'm completely content with the two I have. For me this makes a huge difference, not having to be distracted and discontented by something that you're not quite happy with from the instrument. It leaves one free to enjoy playing it and practicing with it.
"Striving to attain Mediocrity"
@Alveraz20 : My 2 cents in this: I started on a solid student violin, and "pimped it out" with nicer strings and much better rosin initially. There are a few more simple things that can be done to get a nicer tone and different playability, such as better bridge as noted above also. A better quality bow will also matter. All these things can be done for a modest $ amount if you are cautious and just taking small steps. I certainly noticed the difference when I upgraded my strings.
After 8 months on that violin however, I was also interested in how much better and perhaps easier, a higher quality violin would be to play and listen to. I think Fiddlerman's videos of various violins was helpful for me, as his playing is obviously very consistent so what you hear is the difference in instruments. Hard to choose but if you make a bigger step up, to a professional level one, you will notice a bigger difference.
Happy choosing, I know there are many options out there!
So I found a luthier about an hour from my house. I brought my 4 and 5 string violins and got a professionals option, (I'm not saying that you guys aren't professionals but one that could see my violins rather than just my descriptions) and its been determined I need a new violin. The 4 string he said the wood on top was a little thick, bridge is warped, sound post is in the wrong place, and the fingerboard is at the wrong arch. All are things that could be fixed but he said on this particular violin it wouldn't sound that much better and it'd probably cost what we paid for it.
Get this the 5 string he said is better but is unplayable right now because he said it's basically a 5 string with a 4 string set up. Needs work and things replaced but not worth it.
Thank you you guys for all of your advice.
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