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New Violin Advice.
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Ryan
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September 28, 2017 - 3:26 pm
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     Hi everyone. After lurking on these threads for awhile I figured I should go ahead and join the community and get some feedback. I am a previous Double bass player who decided to learn violin. The instrument I have been renting is a Strobel ML-85 and while there are certainly worse beginning models out there it leaves much to be desired. I have been torn between upgrading to two instruments the Fiddlerman Artist and the Cremona SV-800.  

     I have been extremely impressed with the community and costumer service that I have seen and heard about with Fiddlerman products. That fact alone makes me want to go with them. Further, I know that the artist has slighlty better fittings. However the SV-800 has better wood. While I can upgrade fittings,  I can not upgrade the wood. I am curious if anyone has any insight between these two products?

    As a side not I would consider the Master but with my current skill level and upcoming military schedule I think it may be more than I currently need and may just be better off upgrading to the soloist if and when that times come.

Thanks in advance for any advice or insight!

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
September 28, 2017 - 4:38 pm
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Welcome to the forum @Ryan 

I had a "horrid" old ( 1970's or so ) Chinese Skylark for a few years, and I never came to terms with it....  but, I wanted to play fiddle, and, having visited and lurked on many sites, I came here in 2014.

I have no knowledge of the specific instruments you mention, but, my choice of a new, and "better" beginner instrument was the FM Concert.   It has served me WELL over the last three years, and earlier this year ( a few months back ) I upgraded to the MJZ 905 - just because I was starting to feel that there was "more to come"  - but of course - I am keeping both of them ! LOLOL

Your feeling / thoughts about the Fiddlerman Community and the service and customer support from FiddlerShop are absolutely correct.   You have come to the right place !!!!!

Best wishes on your violin / fiddling journey - and of course hats_off to your military work !  All the best, and never hesitate to ask questions !

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Mark
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September 28, 2017 - 7:55 pm
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Welcome to the forum, 

 

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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MrYikes
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September 29, 2017 - 9:46 am
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Because of your upcoming plans, I would suggest getting a Mendini 300 for $60.

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Charles
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September 29, 2017 - 10:04 am
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I don't have any personal experience with Cremona. From what I've read they're a middle of the road bigger-name company. Not especially good, but not especially bad, either.

However, if you're planning to get one from someplace like Amazon, be aware of one major gotcha.  They have had no setup done on them, much less a really good setup done to your tastes.

I got a $250 Stentor as my first violin. I discovered quite a few problems, including several that rather severely impacted playability.  There wasn't anything out and out wrong with it - these weren't manufacturing defects - it was just configured very poorly. One of the worst things was that the fingerboard was scooped very deeply and the action was very high. That's extremely common with high-volume, low-price instruments, because they very much don't want them coming back to the factory for something like buzzing.

For me, though, it meant it was hard to play (I didn't know better, I thought building calluses was normal for violin playing), but even I knew that when you can't play a note higher up on the fingerboard because one of the other two strings on either side gets in the way, there's a problem.

So, to make a long story short, $350 later, I had a MUCH better violin. The action is wonderfully easy, I can play as high up on the fingerboard as I like, and a whole host of other minor glitches got fixed also. (Also got Perfect Pegs put it in it.)

If I had taken that $600 and spent it on something from Fiddlerman, I would have a still nicer violin. That Stentor is, at base, still a $250 violin. The Cremona you're looking at will probably not need $250 worth of fingerboard work.  It probably will have a fingerboard that's scooped rather more than it ought to be, but not unbearably so. It will almost certainly have a high action. (That's not a problem if you want that; personally, I hate it with a passion - gives me hand cramps.) In short, you will probably have to pay a luthier $100-$150 to get all the fiddly bits handled so that you're getting everything out of it that you could.  And there's no guarantee that you can put that off for 6 months. It might be something that's bad enough that you need to fix it in the first few weeks (mine were).  (Unfortunately for me, I didn't discover the Fiddlerman site until about 2 months after all of this.)

The same is true for any violin that you buy direct from the manufacturer, through a big retailer.  Violin companies such as Fiddlerman and Shar do setup on the instruments they sell, and it's part of the price.  Places like Amazon, however, you get it just like it came out of the factory, and their number one goal is to not get returns.

So add at least $100 to the price of anything you purchase that doesn't have the setup already done.

 

Another point - where did you get that the Cremona has better wood than the Artist? They both use spruce and maple in the usual spots, and the Cremona's wood is aged 5+ years, while the Artist's is aged 7+ years.  The early years matter the most, but generally, the longer the wood is aged, the better it is considered to be for violin making, because it will change shape less as it dries out further. I didn't see anything reading up on the two to indicate that there was anything special about the wood on the Cremona. (As far as I know, the only thing that might make wood better would be poor growing conditions, so that you would have tighter grain. (But it has to be poorer conditions that are just right. Not just any poor conditions will do. Only really good poor conditions make good violin wood. 🙂 )

Actually, if you want some competition to the Artist, take a look at the Scott Cao STV-500. The price is about $700 for an outfit, (which is comparable to the Cremona after the setup work) and I guarantee the Scott Cao will beat the Cremona.  I bought a Scott Cao 017 of shopgoodwill.com  (that's their bottom-end model). Thought I'd gotten a really good deal until it arrived, and I realized I'd overlooked the fact that it was 1/2 size. The physics of things make it hard to make smaller instruments sound good, but this one is quite sweet. Every Scott Cao instrument I've heard has impressed me.

I'll also argue in favor of the Master, if your budget can handle it. For me, the quality of the instrument (by which I mostly mean the sound) is a better bang for the buck than the Artist.  (In other words, not only is it better than the Artist, which you'd expect at a higher price, the increase in quality is greater than the increase in price between the two.  That's based on my personal opinion of them, though. YMMV.)

One bit advice on outfits - talk to them about upgrading from a Brazilwood bow to the FM Carbon Fiber bow. That bow has become the #1 seller on Amazon (by a large margin) for very good reasons. There are better bows, and there are even better CF bows - but you generally have to pay significantly more to get one that's noticeably better. Wood bows are very fragile, and CF bows are semi-indestructible. That alone makes them a vast improvement in my book.

Lessons - I'd definitely recommend getting lessons for the first month or two. A teacher can be a huge help in two important areas - getting the violin fitted to you and making sure you have the basics down so that the time you spend practicing is helping you rather than hurting you.

There are dozens of chinrests, dozens of shoulder rests, dozens of body shapes, and several playing styles.  Sorting through all that to find which chinrest and shoulder rest (if any) suit you best is NOT easy. Having someone who's worked with many different people (and who hopefully has a wide assortment of things for you to try out) will make the process a lot easier. The one rule to remember on this subject: do NOT contort yourself to fit the violin.  You have to contort your left arm and hand somewhat (it gets easier with practice). But if you have to lean your head way down, hunch your shoulders or any other position that's uncomfortable to hold for long periods, you're doing it wrong. Get different gadgets (or a different style) that let you be comfortable.

Learning the basics - if you only plan to take lessons for a month or two, be sure to tell you teacher that, and that you want a solid grounding in the basics. I would expect 80% or so of what they teach you to be about bowing. To start with, you need to know how to hold your hand to finger notes, and which fingers in which places are most commonly used to play which notes. Actually getting your fingers to play the correct note is just going to take practice, and you may have a ways to go when you discontinue lessons (depends on how much practice you put in).  There are lots of exercise books available for training the left hand (my teacher uses Schradiek, which is one of several available for free here on Fiddlerman), so knowing how to hold your hand and a rough idea of where to put your fingers is all you need the teacher for on the left hand.

Bowing, however, is where most of the expressiveness and beauty of tone of a violin comes from. The better your basic bowstroke is, the better off everything else you do with a violin on down the line will be. Make sure that before you discontinue lessons, you know what a good, clean bowstroke that produces a clean, sweet tone is, and can do it, and know what to do when it goes south (which at that stage of things, it will from time to time. In fact, it will probably be doing that for your first year. As long as you can identify the problem, fix it, and go back to learning the new whatever that distracted you from it, it's not really a problem, just a minor annoyance.

Hope you enjoyed the novel, and hope it helps

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Ryan
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September 29, 2017 - 11:43 am
Member Since: September 28, 2017
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Thanks for the warm welcome from some of you, and for all of your input and advice Charles! I am seriously beginning to consider the Master after what you had to say. I just have to convince the wife to go along with it.

MrYikes said

Because of your upcoming plans, I would suggest getting a Mendini 300 for $60.

I appreciate the advice. However, I am not open to spending any amount of money on a VSO. I previously served as a Navy Master-at-arms and later as a Navy officer. Going back in Active duty and serving a possible deployment is nothing new to me, nor does it preclude having a decent instrument or the time to learn. Especially as a Chaplain who can use it in a liturgical service.

Charles said
"where did you get that the Cremona has better wood than the Artist?"

From conversation with one of Fiddlershops customer service reps via e-mail.

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RockingLR33
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September 29, 2017 - 12:29 pm
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I appreciate the advice. However, I am not open to spending any amount of money on a VSO. I previously served as a Navy Master-at-arms and later as a Navy officer. Going back in Active duty and serving a possible deployment is nothing new to me, nor does it preclude having a decent instrument or the time to learn. Especially as a Chaplain who can use it in a liturgical service.

@Ryan I completely understand where your coming from as I too am an MA. I'm a k9 handler so I know what it's like to travel ALOT on short notice. I'd say you can't go wrong with the fiddlerman instruments. They have great quality beginner instruments all the way to professional and they can handle a lot of travel without having issues. I've boughten a intermediate and a professional level violin from them and they've been absolutely amazing every time i've upgraded.

I've taken my violins with me on several assignments and as long as I was careful about not leaving it in the heat it, and not allowing my pup to chew on it, handled it just fine with a few precautions like putting the cardboard piece on the bridge and such (it comes with the violin when you buy it. be sure to keep it if you plan on traveling a lot!) 

The set up really affects how easy it is to learn and FM really sets up his violins amazingly well. They are ready to play out of the box when they get off the mail truck. I had one shipped all the way to greece and had no issues other then tuning it up and putting bow to string.  I'd say buy the best one you can afford at the time too. the better the instrument the easier it is to play as well in my experience and I started out with a VSO as well before I found fiddlerman/fiddlershop. Good luck in your search! 

Edit: oh and I think they still have the program...but you'd have to check with them...they do a trade in program for violins you've purchased from them that go towards the price of your upgraded violin if you decide you want to upgrade violins later on!

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Ryan
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September 29, 2017 - 1:24 pm
Member Since: September 28, 2017
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RockingLR33 said
I've taken my violins with me on several assignments and as long as I was careful about not leaving it in the heat it, and not allowing my pup to chew on it, handled it just fine with a few precautions like putting the cardboard piece on the bridge and such (it comes with the violin when you buy it. be sure to keep it if you plan on traveling a lot!) 

I was wondering what that piece of cardboard that came with the rental instrument was all about. Thanks for the input, the practical advice, and for your service. I was stationed in Sigonella when I was an MA and did nothing but Alpha Bravo gate duty. One tour of that was enough for me, so I applaud your hard work and dedication.

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
September 29, 2017 - 2:08 pm
Member Since: March 22, 2014
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The "little piece of cardboard" is explained by Pierre ( @Fiddlerman ) here - hope that helps - oh - and thank you both for your service ( from someone across-the-pond from you - well done ! )

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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