FORUM

Check out our Forum Rules. Lets keep this forum an enjoyable place to visit.

A A A
Avatar

Please consider registering
guest

sp_LogInOut Log In sp_Registration Register

Register | Lost password?
Advanced Search

— Forum Scope —






— Match —





— Forum Options —





Minimum search word length is 3 characters - maximum search word length is 84 characters

sp_Feed Topic RSS sp_TopicIcon
How good should a beginner's instrument be?
Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 (0 votes) 
Avatar
Martha
Member
Members
January 12, 2018 - 6:33 pm
Member Since: December 24, 2017
Forum Posts: 14
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

I've been entertaining suspicions about the quality of my current rental instrument, but I'm so much a beginner that I can't be sure.

Two PRINCIPLES have percolated up in my mind, however. (Would like to hear others' thoughts and ideas.)

(1) A beginner instrument shouldn't require non-standard accommodations to play it. Analogy: I have a very dull knife in my kitchen. If I grab it, I have to do all sorts of dull-knife things to achieve basic results: poke the tip into the tomato before (attempting to) slice with the edge, etc. I know there are some players who could make (almost) any instrument sound (somewhat) good. But I'm thinking that a beginner instrument should be good enough that it doesn't require compensations to coax it. Good standard technique should be enough.

(2) A beginning player is not only bad, but is also very inconsistent. There's a gift hidden in that fact. If the best of 10 attempts, the best of 100 attempts, is significantly closer to well done, AND the instrument sounds noticeably better on those "best" attempts (preferably a lot better), AND the learner is paying attention, there is a clear, shining beacon toward improvement. If it sounds a very little better, one is more likely to not notice the difference, and plod along trying to form the correct angles, movements, etc. Possibly also ignoring the sound. 

The most and most consistent feedback you're going to get, however you are taught, is ALWAYS going to come from the instrument. So I'm thinking a beginner instrument should be good enough that it clearly--not just slightly--rewards the better moves a beginner sometimes accidentally makes. This also rewards listening.

So that's my current theory: a beginner's instrument should be good enough to not need exceptional coaxing, and good enough that it can reward and reinforce the random good move.

So: what does it take to hit those goals? And how does one assess whether an instrument is doing that, or not?

Avatar
Bob
Regular advisor
Members

Regulars
January 12, 2018 - 7:01 pm
Member Since: July 13, 2017
Forum Posts: 100
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

Oh, I hope you can get a definitive answer to your query 🙂 I have three completely different violins. Two I bought after trying several mailed to me from across the country. One is a Anton Schroetter, not known for being a very good maker, the other one is marked US NAVY with a contract number. The US Navy one I had a Dallas Luthier work over and it sounded pretty good, but VERY bright. After adding Fiddlerman strings it toned down some of the brightness and now is my favorite.

In 1999 I had a local luthier make me a new violin. It turned out pretty good, but seems to have a lot of weird harmonics that don't please me. 

I keep trying each of these violins hoping to find the one I really like the sound of, but because of my inconsistent playing abilities, one day I think one violin is best, then the next day try the other and it sounds better.

I wish I still had a teacher ( he left the state after teaching me for several years, cause and effect?  😉  ) that I could have play each one and give me feedback, but I'm now retired and live on a farm many miles from "civilization" (i.e. Dallas) and a teacher is not available nearby 🙁 

So even with more that one violin to choose from I can't decide if one of them is good enough. I guess I'll just keep practicing and see if the violins get any better (grin).

Bob in Lone Oak, Texas

Avatar
AndrewH
Sacramento, California
Members

Regulars
January 12, 2018 - 7:21 pm
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 119
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

I'm not sure what the price range is in order to meet those standards (I've never had a violin or viola worth less than $1000 because I started out on my late great-uncle's violin), but it's also a good idea to make sure you're not buying a VSO that will cost more in repair work than it would have cost to buy a decent violin in the first place.

I think the best way to assess a violin, if you're a beginner, is to go to the shop with a more experienced violinist who can play with good technique and tell you if it doesn't feel right.

Avatar
Amateur
Member
Members
January 12, 2018 - 8:27 pm
Member Since: August 29, 2017
Forum Posts: 10
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

I've found only one must-have for a beginner instrument, of any kind. That is a good set-up. The other must-have is desire and that can't be bought.

You can develop your musician's ear even with a cheap instrument, provided the setup is at least usable.

For most beginners, I would recommend purchasing from a real violin shop that is full service and getting one of their student violins. Setup work is done and they usually guarantee/warantee them. They usually have trade-up policies as well.

Having started off on a cheap violin, I'll tell you that you'll need to do your research and make your tweaks to get decent playability out of them. Any cheap violin that has not had set up work from the seller is not going to have a very good set-up.

Avatar
Irv
Members
January 12, 2018 - 9:57 pm
Member Since: December 23, 2017
Forum Posts: 35
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

I am going to second Amateur's post.  And I wish to give an example to reinforce it.

I began playing on a Cecilio electric (silent) violin since I thought that my first sounds on a violin would be so disturbing that I did not want my wife to hear it.  I am a technical person by nature and via reading (mostly topics on this forum) and looking at various Youtube videos, I soon determined that the bridge that was supplied with the violin was too high and poorly shaped.  I practiced still more weeks on it while I obtained a supply of inexpensive unshaped bridges from China for me to work with.

I was initially very happy with the new bridge that I made since it met all of the technical criteria that a violin bridge should have and the sound was much better and louder through my head phones.  But it was so radically different from what was originally supplied that my bow arm could not kinesthetically locate where the various strings were any more.  Talk about frustration.  I ended up taking several weeks to retrace my previous progress through a method book with the new bridge and I am just now getting back to where I was on the old bridge.  This could have been avoided had the instrument been properly set up in the first place.

I am aware that the majority of woodwind student instruments have badly sealing pads and the number of wasted practice hours must be in the tens of thousands per year.  It is my understanding that young student violins are rarely tuned due to the difficulty with the standard peg.  How is it possible to obtain a good ear for intonation starting with an out of tune instrument?

Avatar
Ferenc Simon
Members

Regulars
January 13, 2018 - 8:48 am
Member Since: September 24, 2017
Forum Posts: 180
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

@Martha  - Something similar has been brought up in another topic in the past. It was mainly about choosing between two violins to upgrade to and even though I painted a rather black and white picture about those two, I kinda went sidetracked and pretty much dumped my opinion about student / beginner violins in general there :)) 

Maybe you'd find that as an interesting read: http://fiddlerman.com/forum/th.....in/#p88416

 

Edit: Oh and trust me, your observations are completely correct... I started out with a 'violin' that would've functioned better as a simple toy... but thankfully I recognized the situation really fast and spent pretty much more than the initial cost of the violin just on parts so that I can upgrade it at home... Imagine if I had to have a luthier do all the work... (though most would've probably turned it down just by looking at the instrument). - In the end I managed to get it really playable and sounding really well, but at that point my real violin I had on order was ready 🙂

Avatar
Martha
Member
Members
January 13, 2018 - 12:49 pm
Member Since: December 24, 2017
Forum Posts: 14
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

Bob: I can really relate to your 3-violin quandary!

I'm going to ask a question that is both slightly pushy and slightly subtle--please just disregard if it just doesn't fit for you. Here's the question:

What if, rather than asking which violin you like best, or which sounds best, or which you are able to play best, what if you asked, What does each have to teach? That is, what that is new to you does each one ask for, or reward? If you follow where it leads, where is that? And then, is that somewhere you want to go?

If you can articulate even a tiny sliver of an answer, I'd be very glad to hear it!

Avatar
Martha
Member
Members
January 13, 2018 - 12:54 pm
Member Since: December 24, 2017
Forum Posts: 14
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

@Irv The wrongly-curved bridge is a great example of my dull-knife principle--thanks for that!

Avatar
Martha
Member
Members
January 13, 2018 - 1:22 pm
Member Since: December 24, 2017
Forum Posts: 14
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

@Ferenc Simon I read your old post. There's a lot I agree with there. A beginner needs something really decent, if not necessarily excellent, because the instrument is shaping how they play. Also shaping whether they continue to want to play, or feel like playing is possible. 

I'm just now at a stage where small improvements in the agility needed just to play a simple tune are "growing in" fast enough to be rewarding--a set of rewards not greatly dependent on the instrument. (Though I do wonder about 7/8ths and smaller-necked instruments.) And I think the instrument I have rented (from a local luthier) is probably adequately set up. So I'm not in a blind hurry.

But the E string is such a shrieker, even after I replaced it, and the A seems oddly dead, even after replacement. (And before the replacements, the E would sound--rather loudly--and visibly wiggle--if I played a B on the A string. And no, I was not touching the E string.) I wonder if it is not my badness or the string, but something about the violin itself? Maybe that's why it came with such an odd set of strings: G and D Dominants, A a D'addario Prelude (=steel core!), E unable to identify from charts on the internet. I initially attributed this mix to the previous renter's random replacement(s) (and luthier not bothering to change them for a new renter), but maybe it is related to some odd quirk(s) of the instrument itself?

Anyway: I'm romancing possibilities in the $1K to $1.5K range, with the idea that it would just be my violin from here on out. (Though that is WAY more than I initially intended to invest in this experiment! Looking at Scott Cao 750s or 850s, higher-end Fiddlerman and lower-end Holsteins in this range too, Snow, and some others.) But while not in a blind rush to dump the rental immediately, I'm not sure how much of a sedate hurry I'm in--3 months? a year? AND YET, the chances that I'll still be doing this two years from now depends in significant part on getting that "good enough" thing nailed.

Avatar
Ferenc Simon
Members

Regulars
January 13, 2018 - 7:06 pm
Member Since: September 24, 2017
Forum Posts: 180
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
10sp_Permalink sp_Print
0

Hmm... well the good thing about violins is that unlike most other things... they don't necessarily lose their value as they age. So you can always sell them at a later stage in case you want to upgrade or if for some odd reason you decide not to pursue this hobby anymore.

If I were you and unsure about how to proceed.. I would probably call Fiddlershop and ask about one of their cheaper violins, like the Apprentice.. or even the OB1. Even those will be properly set up and come with a good bow in the outfit, so you will pretty much instantly realize if your old instrument had some negative features greatly hindering your performance.

So, chances are that you will instantly receive a 'better' violin than the one you're currently renting, and of course one that you can call your own.. In any case those instruments have nothing wrong with them and can be used to learn without hindering you in any way. Like I said in my post on the other thread, I consider those the 'true student instruments' since they've got nothing wrong with them, are properly set up, and can be played on just fine. The only major difference from there on compared to expensive violins is going to be the wood it's made of (mainly the age).. and the special tonal characteristics of the sound, again from the wood. Now the other good news is that I've read on the forums that they also accept trade-ins.. so basically once you decided that indeed you want to pursue this further and want to invest in a more expensive instrument (that 1-1.5k$ one) maybe a couple of months from now..  you can simply send them back your Apprentice / OB1 and they'll subtract it's value from your new purchase. 

Anyway, it can't hurt to give them a call, apparently people here really like chatting with them on the phone and everyone is saying that they don't try and pressure you into buying anything, which is a good thing! But yea, this would probably be my 'smart shopping plan' when it comes to violins 😀 

Avatar
Bob
Regular advisor
Members

Regulars
January 14, 2018 - 9:26 am
Member Since: July 13, 2017
Forum Posts: 100
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
11sp_Permalink sp_Print
0

Martha said
...
What if, rather than asking which violin you like best, or which sounds best, or which you are able to play best, what if you asked, What does each have to teach? That is, what that is new to you does each one ask for, or reward? If you follow where it leads, where is that? And then, is that somewhere you want to go?

... 

@Martha your questions hit the nail on the head and go to the point of why I keep switching between the 3 instruments. Each has it own voice and I'm having difficulty deciding which one to stick with.

The US NAVY fiddle has the most uniform sound, but tends to be a very bright, but the setup (bridge height, string spacing, etc.) make it easier to finger. To me it sounds very good especially when playing fiddle tunes, but I'm starting to like it even for classical pieces.

The Schroetter fiddle lacks the projection power of the other two, but has a sound that is quite pleasant and even across the strings. Unfortunately, the bridge cut is not uniform and the e-string is too close to the finger board and doesn't feel right when playing. I've ordered new bridge blanks from FM to see if I can solve this problem.

The violin I had made in 1999 by William Johnson is a blonde color with rosewood fittings. It looks quite nice and had a more deep sonorous tone. Unfortunately, in the lower strings there is a tendency to "howl" (maybe woof, I'm not sure). I keep a rolled up paper towel wound through the strings between the bridge and tail piece which helps keep the howling down. When playing slower pieces (Meditation, Swan, etc) this instrument sound nice to me. 

So "what does each have to teach me"? ... that I still haven't decided on what kind of sound I want to hear when I play 🙁

Anyway I'm going to keep playing all of them and I'm sure each will find a place in my life 🙂 

Thanks for the probing questions. We all need someone else to ask them, even if we know what the questions are.

Bob

Bob in Lone Oak, Texas

Avatar
intrepidgirl
Bragg Creek, Alberta
Members

Regulars
January 15, 2018 - 8:38 pm
Member Since: March 8, 2015
Forum Posts: 189
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
12sp_Permalink sp_Print
0

@Martha This is a great question when you are just starting. If you are renting an instrument, it is a good time to potentially try a few different instruments of varying quality and price range to see if you can hear or feel the difference in sound produced and playability. Unfortunately most of us jump in and buy one, before we start to think how far this instrument will get us.

The comments above are all good. One that is a pragmatic comment is how much can you afford. Some places (like Fiddlershop, I think) will do trial periods for a few weeks, and you can return the fiddle if it is not the right one for you. The Fiddlershop also takes trade-ins, as someone noted above, I think.

Good luck with your choices!

Avatar
Irv
Members
January 16, 2018 - 12:09 am
Member Since: December 23, 2017
Forum Posts: 35
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
13sp_Permalink sp_Print
0

This is an interesting topic and I put some thought into what I would purchase, knowing what I now know (unfortunately, this changes daily) as a beginner.  Assumptions are that I am an adult and live where I can practice a violin without bothering anyone (the second is a very important consideration.  I would purchase a Cecilio electric violin of the color yellow if I lived in an apartment or was married.  The yellow is actually a polyethylene finish with dye and I believe that they are made better than the painted variants).  Here goes.

Violin -- Cecilio CVN 600 for $300.  The Cecilio CVN 500 is cheaper at $180 but I am not a fan of pistachio colored violins.  If you like a darker sounding violin and don't mind pistachio, an interesting variation would be to purchase a Cecilio CVA 500 viola in 14" (also $180) and string it as a violin.

Bow -- The bows on the Cecilio CVN 600 (it comes with two) are not bad, but the Fiddlerman Carbon Bow is excellent for a beginner and is a steal at $80.  Unfortunately, it is a tight fit in the CVN 600 case and certainly will not fit in the smaller CVN 500 case.  Perhaps others have a work around for this.

Strings -- A Fiddlerman string set is another steal at $30.  The D'Addario Pro Arte strings are not as good but are satisfactory.

Rosin -- The one I like is D'Addario Kaplin Artcraft Rosin, Dark at $10.

Pegs -- The pegs on the Cecilio CVN 600 are likely to be well fitted to the instrument.  The CVN 500 will have good material but fit may be suspect (depending upon who in the factory does it).  For convenience I would purchase a set of Knilling Perfection Pegs at $60.  You will only need a fine tuner on the "e" string if you use the Knilling Perfection Pegs, and I would look into getting a very small fine tuner for the "e" string as you improve to give you a longer string after length.  I gave up using fine tuners completely.

Setup -- Few lutheriers will have anything to do with Cecilio products.  The Rosa String Works is certainly the exception.  Jerry Rosa has many videos on Youtube and likes people to send him their instrument directly from the seller for a set up.  I am sure that he could easily install the Perfection pegs as well.  Since he sells strings I don't know if he would install Fiddlerman strings or you would have to purchase the D'Addario products.  I am estimating the fee to be $100 since the peg installation will be more than a standard set up.  I am sure that Fiddlerman would be willing to provide the same service at a similar cost.  I would certainly talk to them before I did anything since this is the only item that I did not actually get a price for before I wrote this.

I like a shoulder rest of unusual design and construction.  It is titled "Beautifully Crafted Leather Padded Violin Shoulder Rest for 4/4 and 3/4" and sells for $30 on Amazon.  

I would put a rubber practice mute in the case for $5.

With the advent of smart phones with their apps, many people use their smart phone as a chromatic tuner.  Make sure that it tells you what octave you are tuning to or you will be breaking strings.  I really like the Korg OT-12 Orchestral Tuner which is no longer made but you can get a nice second hand one on eBay for about $25.

Summing up, the cost is $645 more or less (about $100 less substituting the CVA 500 for the CVN 600).  You may be able to save 10% to 20% by waiting for Black Friday sales, Amazon Warehouse Deals, or purchasing used, but I think it unrealistic to put off the fun of learning the violin.  I hope that this is of some use or the spring board for further thought.    

Avatar
Ferenc Simon
Members

Regulars
January 16, 2018 - 5:49 am
Member Since: September 24, 2017
Forum Posts: 180
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

I don't know Irv... 🙂 Don't get me wrong, I really like your plan and how all the details are worked out. I just think that's too much 'beating around the bush' to get a cheap violin that sounds good.. and it ends up being not so cheap after all.

I mean you could get an OB1 outfit for $299... that comes already professionally set up... with the FM CF bow included.. you can probably also ask for Fiddlerman strings straight-up (though I think they match the strings to the sound of the violin, which might be better, regardless of brand), it has a way better case.. comes with a shoulder rest and decent rosin.. and it's actually a real violin and will blow pretty much any Cecilio violin out of the water that hasn't been to a luthier for a setup. That's the thing that has been bothering me for quite a while :)) that OB1 outfit just seems 'too good to be true' as a beginner outfit, yet people have bought it and are really satisfied.. I mean it's a really good offer and hard to beat.. I suppose those are the perks of having a luthier shop within your store lol. 

Anyway, I'm not such a fan of Cecilio violins (the 600 is basically the only one I really like based on what I've seen online - never actually owned one), but just going by the fact that they're mass-produced factory instruments with almost non-existent setup (again I think the 600 is the one where they really start paying attention to what they do..) they kind of remind me of my Stagg (even though that was probably much much worse than even the CVN 100 would have been...). So yea, simply based on the amount of headache that Stagg VSO caused me.. I wouldn't ever recommend buying mass-produced factory stuff to anyone really wanting to learn the violin. (That thing scarred me for life! - Oh well.. at least I learned some basic luthier work like carving a bridge and fitting pegs because of it..  so there are some positives there) 

So.. back on topic. Like I said I like the plan you laid out and that would pretty much result in a really playable, decent student violin... but then Fiddlershop strikes again... and for a bit of an extra (~$150) there's the Master outfit... which is a whoooole different kind of beast and in a totally different league than anything that Cecilio makes.. 

I'm really trying not to be biased here, but based on what I've seen so far I really like what Fiddlershop is doing, wish I lived in the US so I can order random stuff from them all the time without having to deal with customs and all 🙂 Obviously it's not magic and 'not everything that shines is made of gold' (I'm not that naiv) but compared to the rest of the market they seem fair. 

Avatar
AndrewH
Sacramento, California
Members

Regulars
January 16, 2018 - 8:27 am
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 119
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
15sp_Permalink sp_Print
0

Martha said

Anyway: I'm romancing possibilities in the $1K to $1.5K range, with the idea that it would just be my violin from here on out. (Though that is WAY more than I initially intended to invest in this experiment! Looking at Scott Cao 750s or 850s, higher-end Fiddlerman and lower-end Holsteins in this range too, Snow, and some others.) But while not in a blind rush to dump the rental immediately, I'm not sure how much of a sedate hurry I'm in--3 months? a year? AND YET, the chances that I'll still be doing this two years from now depends in significant part on getting that "good enough" thing nailed.  

Caveat: I haven't bought an instrument from Fiddlershop, and my opinion is from more than 10 years ago, so the market may have changed significantly since then.

Back when I looked at violins and violas in the $1k to $3k range, it seemed to me like it was best to just skip the $1k to $1.5k range entirely and go straight to the next tier. I didn't feel $1200-$1400 was any better than $700-$1000, but the $1.5k to $2k range was a giant step up.

That also means I wouldn't be in that big a hurry to shop for a permanent instrument. At least as of 10 years ago, I'd guess that a $500-$1000 violin would be enough to get you all the way to the level of playing ability where it's worthwhile to put down $2k or more.

Avatar
Irv
Members
January 16, 2018 - 10:01 am
Member Since: December 23, 2017
Forum Posts: 35
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

Please don't take the above post as a knock on Fiddlerman products.  Everything that I have purchased from him (violin case, bow, strings, and some lutherier tools) have been excellent and a good value.  I am sure that his violins are of equal status.  I get a kick out of purchasing low cost violins (mainly Cecilio) from eBay or Amazon Warehouse and attempt to upgrade them.  I have obtained a Cecilio CVN 600 and, although I did put Knilling planetary pegs (removing the fine tuners) and new strings on it, it is so nice that I am reluctant to do further work on it (although I believe that the sound post is too long and further from the bridge than is optimum).  

I also have a CVA 500 (14") and have no reluctance at all on working it over.

The point of my post was that paying approximately $650 should obtain a really nice beginning outfit that should remain suitable to the community concert level.  

My favorite violinist is David Oistrakh.  He had a beautiful, full tone.  I believe that Itzak Perlman said, "I've played his violin and it's not the violin."

  

Forum Timezone: America/New_York

Most Users Ever Online: 231

Currently Online:
38 Guest(s)

Currently Browsing this Page:
1 Guest(s)

Members Birthdays
sp_BirthdayIcon
Today Ashok
Upcoming MikeM70, Jols

Top Posters:

coolpinkone: 4011

Mad_Wed: 2849

Barry: 2666

Fiddlestix: 2647

Oliver: 2439

DanielB: 2379

Kevin M.: 1969

cdennyb: 1808

TerryT: 1724

Ferret: 1575

Member Stats:

Guest Posters: 2

Members: 8024

Moderators: 0

Admins: 3

Forum Stats:

Groups: 16

Forums: 56

Topics: 6996

Posts: 87234

Newest Members:

lourdesxh18, sophieir4, earlsf16, CosterTeew, stephanieuw2, RandyCak

Administrators: Fiddlerman: 12852, KindaScratchy: 1713, BillyG: 2319