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Time to upgrade or am I too big for my britches?
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courticus80
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June 1, 2015 - 9:48 pm
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I began taking violin lessons with my 10 year old daughter back in November.  I thought it might be something fun that we could do together.  I am pleased to say that I just love it!  I'm working on the last piece of Suzuki book 1 and am looking to upgrade from the Fiddlerman Apprentice.

I would like something that I won't grow out of in year or two so I am looking at the Fiddlerman Soloist, Ming Jiang Zhu 905, and an old German that I liked the sound of in my local shop.

I feel a little silly for wanting something really nice after less than I year of playing, but I also know that if you just buy what you want in the first place you end up saving money in the long run (that's what my husband says anyway).

I'd love some advice and suggestions!  Does anyone have experience with either of these violins or have another model suggestion?  I'm pretty open to suggestions and also a little terrified 🙂

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DanielB
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June 1, 2015 - 11:27 pm
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If you find something you like better, and you can afford it, money spent on musical instruments is something I have never yet regretted.  Any instrument you actually like better pays you back every time you pick it up to play for a very long time.  One of the best bargains on the planet.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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pky
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June 2, 2015 - 1:19 am
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I agreed with DanielB and I also agreed with your husband.

I upgraded mine too soon, about six months after I started - not knowing much about violin and fiddlerman had not started fiddlershop then, either. (but you seem to know what is good out there) I never really like my upgraded one, I should not have bought it then - forgot who told me, if you don't like it don't buy it, but I did. Any way, I began to experiment with strings and found that I like it better than when I first got it.

I don't know what you have right now, if you decided to wait, changing strings may be a solution for an upgrade as well. Otherwise, like DanielB said, if you found one that you like MUCH BETTER and if you could afford it, get it.

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DanielB
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June 2, 2015 - 4:08 am
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pky makes a great point.  If you haven't changed from the strings that were on your violin when you got it, then at 6 months, a new set of strings could make a vast improvement.

For that matter sometimes a different brand or type of strings can change the sound enough that it can seem like a different violin. 

One of the things I did kind of a lot of in my first couple years was trying different strings to get an idea how at least the reasonably priced ones sound.  I don't think I've ever tried a set that cost more than about 30$.  But in that range there is a pretty amazing variety of timbres and power, even staying with strictly medium gauges.

I think the best way to tell if you *need* an upgrade is when you get far along enough to notice that some flaw of the current instrument is keeping you from doing certain techniques or hitting certain notes easily.  An instrument that sounds fine in first position may sound poor in one way or another as you move up in position.  Or you might start working on techniques that use fast bowing and it just doesn't respond (start making a sound when the bow starts moving on the string) fast enough to be able to do the techniques and get a sound you are willing to keep committing to.   If you run into that kind of barrier, and especially if a more experienced player can't get the instrument to deliver on those points either, then the need for an upgrade can become desperate.  The instrument may literally be limiting your playing.

That is an extreme case, though.  More often upgrades are about better sound, or sometimes just an instrument that has something about it that makes us want to pick it up and play, something that we can think of as "magic", for lack of wanting to over-analyze the property. 

If you find an instrument with even a bit of that "magic" for you.. Well, I think it is worth more than money, and if you can possibly afford it, it is a bargain.

But don't just try more expensive instruments when looking for it.  Try any you can get your hands on.  LOL

Finding an instrument that has a bit of "magic", that YOU can sound really good on and love playing, it is part of the adventure! 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Jim Dunleavy
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June 2, 2015 - 4:36 am
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I can't speak for the violin, as I'm still on my first one and only 1 year into learning it. However, I do also play other instruments, including flute which I recently upgraded and I would say it's absolutely essential to be able to play to a reasonable standard before you spend a lot of money on an instrument.

Paying a lot of money is no guarantee that you will get the right instrument for you - you have to try out a range in your budget, and you can't do that properly until you're reasonably competent on the instrument. Mind you, if you have the money spare it certainly won't do any harm to have a good instrument - just bear in mind that in the future you might find you need to change again.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 2, 2015 - 6:47 am
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I think the key issue as mentioned above is whether you feel that you can afford it. A better instrument does two things, makes the sound that you hear more enjoyable but most importantly, it often makes playing easier. A better instrument is better for everyone and not just advanced players.
If you already know that you liked the sound of an old German violin at a local shop, ask to take it home and test it before buying it. If you like it in your own atmosphere and can play it for a week or two before committing, you'll know whether it is right or not. YOLO 🙂

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

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Mark
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June 2, 2015 - 6:58 am
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Great advice has been given here on this thread. Buying an instrument is a personal decision, If you like the way it plays and sounds to you and can afford it then whether old or new its going to be your fiddle. It needs to please you not anyone else.

 

Mark

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courticus80
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June 2, 2015 - 8:35 am
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Thank you, everyone! I changed the strings on my apprentice a few weeks ago and it made a huge difference but it's still much brighter than what I want. Not having much experience makes me nervous. I feel like a baby going car shopping. 

I didn't realize you could test drive violins for that long! I might have to do that. I really love the sound of the soloist and 905 both but am a little nervous without being able to get my hands on them. I had to return one upgrade already because the neck was just a little too thick for my hands and made those minuets difficult (I bought it for my older daughter but she decided she liked piano better, I liked the sound so much I kept it for myself... I ended up trading it in for a teeny one for yet another child).

My husbands bonus is due soon and this year it's my turn to go wild! dancing 

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Fiddlerman
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June 2, 2015 - 11:36 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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As far as testing instruments go, everyone's policy's are different but we allow returns for up to 30 days. A local shop shouldn't have a problem with you testing the instrument provided they have some type of security. A credit card on file should suffice and they shouldn't need to charge you unless you decide to purchase. They may want a deposit.
We have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. We rarely get returns but we don't hesitate to accept them and if possible find a way to make the customer happy.

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

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Uzi
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June 2, 2015 - 3:55 pm
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I have no opinion on the German violin, of course, since I haven't heard it or seen it, but of the other two options I have slightly more insight.  I own a Soloist and it's a really nice violin -- really nice and there's no way you'd be disappointed.  However, if I had to choose between the Soloist and the 905, I'd pick the 905. If I had the money to spare, I'd go for the 909 over all of them -- particularly since you'd never need another "One After 909". cheers

Also since Mr. Ming recently passed away, anybody that gets one of the last of his signed fiddles is probably making a good investment -- assuming there are any left. 

 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Hermes
Agrinio, Western Greece, GR
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June 3, 2015 - 5:52 pm
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It's always time for an upgrade, if it's really an upgrade and you can afford it!

I think that everyone should get their hands on the best violin possible. Don't let me be misunderstood though, I strongly believe that when we talk about music, we keep it to music, and the term best violin possible refers to the sound it produces when played by a certain individual...violins like people, are different, and don't befriend everyone 🙂

Besides your violin you should also consider upgrading something that many people underestimate: your bow...In my experience, it makes a huge impact on your sound, as it should fit your hand and your playing style.

P.S Don't feel that you have no experience. You have a certain taste for sure, and your violin should suit it. 

Chinese violins like the soloist and the 905 made today in some quality workshops in china, and then fitted in another country, are usually unbeatable. 

The only thing I would ask about the German, since it's an old violin, is its past whereabouts, any list or idea of previous owners, how long has it without being played and if possible a repair list. I do think that some old violins after some centuries of playing need some things to be done, to ensure that everything works perfect. I am mainly talking about neck reset or replace, fingerboard dressings or replace, bass bar current shape and not being any loose etc, record of cracks and repairs etc. I would prefer to be completely sure about all these when throwing this amount of money (I assume the German is in the same price range as the modern ones you refer to) in an old violin, besides just liking it's sound. It may save you money in the long run

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courticus80
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June 3, 2015 - 10:53 pm
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I think she said the German was from the early 1900's and I think it was $1000. I tried four or five in the same sitting and that was by far my favorite. I didn't care at all for a new German but liked a new Chinese ok. 

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Hermes
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June 4, 2015 - 8:35 pm
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courticus80 said
I think she said the German was from the early 1900's and I think it was $1000. I tried four or five in the same sitting and that was by far my favorite. I didn't care at all for a new German but liked a new Chinese ok. 

I see

You could also check (if you get that chance or can try an instrument for some days - Pierre said that it is usually possible) how it behaves in a large hall, and how it sounds when played by someone else, for example your teacher, and you are at a considerable distance

I understand that you are planning on an upgrade that will "accompany" you for some years perhaps, so these are some things to consider besides what everybody mentioned before, depending on your plans 🙂

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courticus80
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June 4, 2015 - 9:10 pm
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