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The Tale of 2 Violins
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EJ-Kisz
Midwest, US
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July 11, 2012 - 2:13 pm
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I have two violins that were made 90 years apart and seem vastly different.  Granted, there are of different makes and qualities, but they do tell an interesting story!  

Several months ago, I purchased a cheap violin to learn how to play while I slowly brought an older, rescue violin back to playing condition.  Now that the rescue violin is restrung and ready to play, I'm finding little things that are vastly different from my newer violin.  

I thought it would be interesting to share what I have found!

 

Violin #1:  Jules (The Young One):  2011 Palatino VN-450

Manufactured in China in 2011, Jules is a bright sounding, low cost yet efficient violin made for beginners.  All the conventional products work with Jules including chin rests, shoulder rests, tail pieces and pegs.  Jules needed a little "set-up" to work out all the kinks and smooth over her sound, but not much given that she cost slightly over $200.  Like the name suggests, Jules is very much young and "immature" in my opinion.  There were some growing pains in the beginning (finding the right strings, proper bridge placement, peg break-in time) and taming an almost too bright sound.  With some age and proper strings (Zyex), Jules seems to be maturing with each passing month.  I've only heard of violins getting better with age, I never thought that I would witness it first hand.  Which brings me to my next violin.

Violin #2:  Lazarus (the reborn, the rescue.....the old man):  1920 Stainer (?)

A few years ago, I was helping a friend clean out his great grandfather's old home in Chicago when I noticed a wooden case in the garbage pile.  Upon further investigation (....just opening the case), I found a violin covered in old rags and music sheets.  It had no marking inside the body but had "Stainer" engraved on the back.  In the case, there were packs of strings dating back to the 20's and 30's as well as a barely legible purchase receipt from 1922.  I took Laz to a local music shop to obtain an estimate of repair to bring Laz back up to playing condition.  The shop owner then refused to work on it and recommended that I bring it to someone who properly restores violins rather then just repairs. Further adding the mystery of Laz, regular chin rests and shoulder rests do not fit.  I've tried different settings, but it seems that Laz is not as thick or wide as Jules.  The finger boards are identical in length, but there were some odd differences.  The first is that Laz is so much lighter than Jules yet not made of junk wood.  The sound difference is incredible.  Laz has so much more of a warmer, sweeter sound than Jules.  I've heard that Stainer's were known for their sound due to their odd, bloated shape and Laz definitely has that characteristic.  It almost seems as though Jules is "skinnier" than Laz.  Truly a unique violin to me!  

 

Without any further identification found on Laz, I don't think I'll ever know it's full story, but I'm happy to have it.  Who knows all the songs that were played on Laz's finger board?  It's just interesting to think about!  And I absolutely love to play both violins as they are different experiences!  

Just wanted to share with everybody!

~EJ

2violins1.jpgImage Enlarger2violins2.jpgImage EnlargerStainer.jpgImage Enlarger 

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cdennyb
King for a Day, Peasant for many
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July 11, 2012 - 4:30 pm
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wow Eric... those are beautiful pieces. It looks almost like the top one in the sideways pics is smaller overall but probably just the camera angle.

I'd really like you to do a sound sample of each one for me so i can see how they fair in the world of nitpickin analysis we've been doing on the forum lately.

It'd be very interesting to see the sound trace difference in a 90 yr old difference of instruments.

Awesome writeup, thanks a bunch for sharing that info...

ain't violin genetics a hoot?cheers

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
July 11, 2012 - 8:23 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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Beautiful Eric.... I had a Stainer for a few years. Don't know why I got rid of it.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Picklefish
Merritt Island, Fla
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July 11, 2012 - 10:37 pm
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 So this is a pic of my two fiddles I uploaded to make a new profile pic on my facebook page. Any who, I stumbled across this post and thought Id chime in. The left is great grannies fiddle from the mid to late 19 century made in Germany, the one on the right is handmade in Romania so it says, 2007. I was surprised at how similar (not just violin shaped) in design they are. Since there are quite a few variations on the theme I thought. The newer was not purchased with the older in mind it was for my daughter who plays in school. There is definately a tone difference between the two. I honestly dont know which one I like better. Im playin the newer one because of the bridge shape to see if grannys flatter bridge profile makes a difference in my string changes. The older of the two is more yellowish and definately needs to be restored and reset. Im having fun, and feel blessed to be able to use both of them. Grannys will be used mostly for fiddlin and the other goes back to school in the fall. hats_off

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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cdennyb
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July 12, 2012 - 10:42 am
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wow PF... it looks like a picture of a single violin with a mirror off to the side showing the reflection! Amazing they are so different in age and appear to be the same or at the least a duplicate...

I'm sure up close there's a lot of subtle differences but they are beautiful.thumbs-up

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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KindaScratchy
Massachusetts
July 12, 2012 - 12:33 pm
Member Since: March 14, 2012
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Great stories and interesting analysis!

hats_off

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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Picklefish
Merritt Island, Fla
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July 12, 2012 - 5:10 pm
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I know right, must be a popular copy if they are still making it all these years. And its not a strad shape either.jimi-hendrix

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Kevin M.
Nicholson, Pa
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July 12, 2012 - 6:08 pm
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Looks very much like the violin I am building.

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cpiasminc
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July 12, 2012 - 9:13 pm
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The shape of that Stainer instrument looks really interesting.  From the picture (and I admit the lighting and the shine off the instrument may be throwing me off here), it looks as if unlike most designs, the bulging happens closer to the outer edge, and the body is a little flatter in the middle?  Is that typical?  As opposed to what we're all used to, which is slightly smaller radius of curvature in the middle and so on.  I would think, though, that you'd need somewhat thicker material around the cornices for structural reasons...

My immediate thought on having a flatter middle section is what it would do for the efficiency of energy transfer through the sound post.  Seems like it would be more efficient, but at the same time, there's the question of which frequencies are better preserved since the string movement is more tangential.

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eoj02
mooresvill, in
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July 12, 2012 - 10:12 pm
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I just think it looks cool and i love the story.

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EJ-Kisz
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July 12, 2012 - 11:41 pm
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Actually, the "bulge" is in the center of the Stainer and taper's off toward the edges.  It almost looks like the violin swallowed a football (American, that is! wink) length wise!  

What's crazy is that it's a hair smaller, body wise, then my other violins!  Just small enough to where my other chin rests and shoulder rests won't fit!  Also, if you look at the tail piece, you can see the bulge/curve on it and how it won't lay flat! lol  

Here are some older pics of it when I first started cleaning it up!  DSC08457.JPGImage EnlargerDSC08448.JPGImage Enlarger

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cdennyb
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July 12, 2012 - 11:51 pm
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OH MY, flashbacks to the days when I was restoring mine!

 

Si853458comp.jpgImage EnlargerSi853533comp.jpgImage Enlarger

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"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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EJ-Kisz
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July 13, 2012 - 12:01 am
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Nice!!  That looks like the body separation my German Strad copy has!  I have no idea where to start repairing that one! LOL  I can't wait to try though!

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin

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