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Upgrading Your Instrument Can Make You a Better Student Musician
So many people say that a better instrument will not make you a better student musician. I say, “Poppycock!” LOL
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cid
February 27, 2020 - 10:54 pm
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@AndrewH Fiddlershop sells a carbon fiber weave cello bow. I bought it about a month ago.

Carbon Fiber Weave Cello Bow

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Irv
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@cid and @AndrewH .  I have several carbon fiber bows and have tried still more.  I find them completely adequate but not responsive enough for me to get excited about them (again, I tend to gravitate to what can be obtained for less than $200).  

Fiberglass bows (glasser is the dominant purveyor but others, including Fiddlerman, market similar) are another fish entirely.

Man has no special rights because he belongs to a particular race.  The soul emanates equal and eternal from bodies different in shape and color.  It is sufficient to say ‘Man’ to comprehend therein all rights.                                                    — Jose Marti 

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

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Peter
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cid said
Not really a rant. Just interesting conversation. The forum was kind of in a lull. Thought I would ask about something that puzzled me.

I do have a question that is a swerve, though. The telegraphy you guys brought up. Is that reading Morse Code? I don’t understand where personality comes in to play. Don’t you take the code and translate it to the letters? I know it is more difficult than what I said, but where does the personality come in? 

  

Oh, yes: personality on Morse code signals is a real thing.

You don't translate the code into letters, except when you are in the early stages of learning. An experienced telegrapher hears a stream of sound (the dits and dahs, punctuated by spaces of varying length) and hears words and phrases. It's somewhat like learning to read text. In the beginning, the reader struggles to read individual words, and later reads a phrase at a time.

The personality is in the nuanced timing of the code; there's a lot of rubato in telegraphy. You can identify newcomers by their stumbling, poorly-made characters and you learn to identify individuals by their sending, even before you hear their call-sign. I mentioned an old amateur a few replies back; his name was Pat Hawker G3VA, and his distinctive rhythm changed as his arthritis advanced. One day, his signals were gone, he became a 'silent key'. I own several of his books on the technical mastery of radio communication.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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BillyG
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February 28, 2020 - 4:46 am
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Couldn't restrain myself -

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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Jim Dunleavy
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February 28, 2020 - 5:48 am
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My take on this is that you ideally should have an instrument that is an appropriate quality for your level of playing, with a bit in hand to allow for improvement while you are playing on it. Anything above that would not give you the best value for your money.

Also, while you could get a much 'better' violin if you have plenty of cash to spend, how do know it will suit you best once you reach the level the better violin is capable of? Choice of any instrument is very personal, and until you get to a higher level of playing you can't be sure the more expensive fiddle will be right for you. 

Of course for those for whom money is no object, it matters little as you can always do a sideways move if you find your instrument isn't what you really want once you grow into it.

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Peter
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I have trouble reading the simple five-letter word in that tune for some reason. Maybe it's the pitch: like most operators, my radio filters peak sharply at 700 Hz (something close to F5) and my ear tends to respond less well to interference from adjacent signals.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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BillyG
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February 28, 2020 - 7:58 am
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LOL @Peter - yeah - it seems to be more adjusted "for the music beat" than the morse.  The opening dah-dah  /  dah-dah-dah are really poorly timed, then it falls into place ,

- -   /   - - -   /   . - .   /   . . .   /   .

 

🙂

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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Irv
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@AndrewH and others.  Thinking before sleep last night.  You might have brought up an unknown potential advantage regarding the combined tailpiece/chin rest.  Jaw muscles might be enlisted to enable frequency oscillation similar to a “wa wa bar” on a guitar.   Violin vibrato for the masses, as it were.

Man has no special rights because he belongs to a particular race.  The soul emanates equal and eternal from bodies different in shape and color.  It is sufficient to say ‘Man’ to comprehend therein all rights.                                                    — Jose Marti 

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

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AndrewH
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February 28, 2020 - 8:57 am
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Irv said
@AndrewH and others.  Thinking before sleep last night.  You might have brought up an unknown potential advantage regarding the combined tailpiece/chin rest.  Jaw muscles might be enlisted to enable frequency oscillation similar to a “wa wa bar” on a guitar.   Violin vibrato for the masses, as it were.

  

I would be extremely concerned about the likelihood of damaging the bridge, especially seeing as exerting downward force on the tailpiece would pull the bridge in the opposite direction from the usual.

Also, violinists are already prone to neck injuries and TMJ dysfunction; intentionally using the jaw to produce a "wa wa" effect could make it much worse. (98% of professional violinists and violists experience a playing-induced injury at some time in their career; about 70% have to take time off because of one.)

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Peter
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BillyG said
LOL @Peter - yeah - it seems to be more adjusted "for the music beat" than the morse.  The opening dah-dah  /  dah-dah-dah are really poorly timed, then it falls into place ,

- -   /   - - -   /   . - .   /   . . .   /   .

 

🙂

  

I can't see the musical problem; a dit is a thirty-secondth, a dah is a dotted sixteenth, the element and character spaces are the commensurate rests and only the word-space would represent an technical difficulty, being a triple-dotted eighth.

However, I'd hate to have to write an extended piece of Morse on a staff; it's quite a complex rhythm when you analyse it as a piece of monotone music. I just wish I could play a stringed instrument with such precision.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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MrYikes
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February 28, 2020 - 5:31 pm
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I have not seen this attitude here at Fiddlermans where anyone is discouraged from getting a better instrument, though I have seen the reverse. We had one person state "If you don't have a violin worth over a thousand dollars, you really don't have a place on this forum". He was called to task on that and shortly left the forum, which was a shame because it was fun to talk with him. There have been other comments concerning low priced instruments hindering growth and while some of that may be true, it is also true that if a person is comfortable on the instrument they now own that is the instrument they should play....for now.
What I have seen on this forum is that, as a group, we are all happy to see someone get a new or different instrument and even happier if we get pics of it.

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Bob
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@BillyG, funny, I just heard this played on Classic FM this week. 

When I watched the TV show I didn't notice the CW, and don't know if it was played for the US broadcasts of the 12 Morse seasons. (Most of which I recorded at the time!). 

Bob in Lone Oak, Texas

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Fiddlerman
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February 28, 2020 - 7:52 pm
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MrYikes said
I have not seen this attitude here at Fiddlermans where anyone is discouraged from getting a better instrument, though I have seen the reverse. We had one person state "If you don't have a violin worth over a thousand dollars, you really don't have a place on this forum". He was called to task on that and shortly left the forum, which was a shame because it was fun to talk with him. There have been other comments concerning low priced instruments hindering growth and while some of that may be true, it is also true that if a person is comfortable on the instrument they now own that is the instrument they should play....for now.

What I have seen on this forum is that, as a group, we are all happy to see someone get a new or different instrument and even happier if we get pics of it.

Happy to hear that MrYikes. I don't like snobs.  🙂

I actually think we have a terrific group of people who frequent this forum. I am overjoyed with you guys. Thanks for being so positive.

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

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AndrewH
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I almost never see people being discouraged from getting a better instrument. The conventional wisdom is that, when a violin is referred to as a "beginner" or "intermediate" student instrument, it will do everything a student at that level needs, but may slow down the learning process and/or put the student at a real disadvantage in auditions above that level. Typically it's recommended that you upgrade from a student violin when you reach that point. (Even so, you can continue to learn on a violin that is below your level; it will just be harder.)

I suppose some people will say that a professional-level instrument is wasted on someone without professional technique, but if you like the instrument and can afford it, why not? Nothing wrong with aiming to grow into it. Besides, one of the most common reasons adult beginners start learning is that they inherit a violin or find an old violin in the attic; often these instruments are quite good. There's no benefit to learning on a beginner-level student violin if you already have something better, and "deserving" a certain quality of instrument is not an issue. (The main reason I have no experience with beginner to intermediate student instruments is that I started out by rescuing a long-unplayed family violin which is in the "advanced student" range.)

The only grain of truth to is that high-end professional instruments can be so sensitive to technique that they get frustrating for a beginner. But I think that only applies when you're still learning the basics of bowing. As soon as you're comfortable enough to make adjustments to bow speed and pressure, and not constantly thinking about keeping the bow straight, you're arguably ready to play any violin in the world.

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Gordon Shumway
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If you're not beyond advanced and you've got a $100 instrument and you want to sound better, get a better instrument (but not always).

If you're not beyond advanced and you've got a $2 000 instrument and you want to sound better, practise.

Nothing wrong with aiming to grow into it. 

But did they grow into the instrument that preceded it, or was upgrading instead of growing? Or to put it another way, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

My advice is, if you want to spend more money, seriously, double up every time. You will a) notice a (not so big) difference, and b) run out of money quickly and be forced to sell or practise.

I've seen someone on vcom say "any violin that costs less than $3 000 sounds like a cigar box". It's more likely that they couldn't make a $3 000 violin sound better than a cigar box.

Andrew

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MoonShadows
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Just read this thread and found it very interesting, and as I usually do, I started looking on the internet for other views. I found a very interesting article by Michael Sanchez from 2016: Choosing a Violin - What Price Range Should I Consider?

He touches on a lot of points about violin quality/price range for beginning and upgrading. One thing he said that caught my eye was:

I always recommend that students start off by acquiring a violin in the $1,000-$2,000 range. Why? I’ve found that through my private studio (I’ve taught over 500 private students in 5 years) that 19/20 of my students that started in this price range are still playing and enjoying the violin 3 years later. In contrast, I’ve found that about 9/10 of my students that started on a cheap violin under $500 ended up quitting before the 3 year mark. Also, you might find interesting that every student that started on a cheap violin under $500 ended up upgrading to a better instrument within 6 months (those that hung on). I’ve not once seen a student that purchased a violin under $100 continue to progress on that instrument past 6 months. 

One thing that @GregW mentioned, but little else has been said is upgrading your bow. I would be interested in what you folks have to say about this, because I am considering a bow upgrade.

I started off with the Fiddlerman's CF bow that came with my Concert violin outfit. When I purchased my Artist violin I upgraded my bow to a Holstein 1-star Pernambuco Violin Bow. Now, I am thinking of upgrading again to the Holstein 3-star Pernambuco Violin Bow, but I am open to other suggestions.

So, if you all don't mind, let's throw bow upgrades into this discussion, too.

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - A Blog & Forum for Fiddle Talk, Fiddle Music, and Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

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cid
February 29, 2020 - 7:52 am
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@MoonShadows Not a problem throwing bows in. It falls in line! 

I find a better bow has helped me, also. And it, therefore, has played a part in me continuing and in my enjoyment.

For violin, the long flimsy bow that came with my test violin was difficult. I could handle holding the violin, but this flimsy ultra light bow was flying all over no matter what I did. I used my viola bow that came with my test viola. I read up on bowing and what I found was that many violists use a violin bow (Don’t start throwing daggers at me, that is what I read.) I don’t want to change this thread to a discussion about violin bow vs viola bow, so will not say why. 

The viola bow was better. When I did my first violin upgrade it came with a bow that was better. It was not flailing all over. It was easier to control. I imagine it was better balanced and I suspect the cheaper one was not lined up right from frog to tip. The hairs did not act the same as the better bow.

I have also found some bows work better on different violins, viola and cellos. My good cello works hand in hand with my pernambuco bow. My student level cello works great with the carbon fiber weave bow I bought from Fiddlershop a month or so ago. The student cello even works better with the new carbon fiber weave bow than it does with my other carbon bows. If I swap them around, I can tell by bowing ease, AND the sound. It makes a big difference. For some reason, I was surprised, but upon reading up, I found out why.

I don’t have different bows for my viola, I am thinking about getting a better bow when I upgrade my viola Tuesday, or if I upgrade it. If I can’t find a viola that sounds fuller, I will wait until they get more of a selection. The 15.5” size has limitations, both in availability and the sound produced. I will probably get a better bow, whether I upgrad the viola or not. I am not happy with my viola bow.

My violins use different bows. My Fiddlerman Concert Deluxe matches beautifully with the bow it came with. My Doetsch sounds better with a wood bow. I do need to update that wood bow, but since I do not play that violin as much as the viola or the Concert Deluxe violin right now (simply because of my music preference for each right now), I will wait in that.

I also have a tourte copy violin bow that I purchased with a violin in Liverpool, not Liverpool, England. I know it is a copy because of the originals, only a very very few had the “tourte” burned into the wood. It is straight as an arrow when looking down it. I absolutely love the feel, the balance, etc. I can feel the difference when I play with it. The violin and bow were bequeathed by the owner’s uncle. The owner’s family is musical, but the nephew plays guitar and knows nothing about violin. The violin is fantastic. He asked $20 because it is old. I gave him $40. I was not absolutely sure of it, but knew $20 was too little. He gave me a discount on the bow, so it was a wash in my trying to be fair, I tried.

You can tell the uncle played fiddle. He played professionally and only used that violin/fiddle. Anyway, I am taking that bow in for a rehairing Tuesday when I check out violas. There is am big difference in that bow and my others. The bow is probably not worth a lot of money, but it feels good and bows good, for me. Would someone else rehair it? Probably not. But it suits me and that is all that matters.

When I bought my good cello, I brought my pernambuco bow with me, the cello guy told me that that bow was suited for that cello when he used it to play that cello and two others I was considering so I could hear them after I played them. He said he would not buy a different bow for it, so I didn’t. He had some out for me to try, but really liked the bow I purchased from them 6 months earlier with my Goronok. I did not know what he meant until I got home and tried one of my other cello bows with her. Remarkable difference with the same song. I guess certain bows are a better match for some cellos.

So bows, as far as I am concerned make a big difference in playing enjoyment, also. But, the instrument itself, I believe makes a bigger difference in personal enjoyment. I think they are equal in playing ability enjoyment. Probably did not explain that well. I think that part of it is pride. You generally have more enjoyment with something you are proud of. Some people show that with cars and either hold on to an oldie but goodie because they are proud of it and cherish it, others love the new glitz and have pride in trading or out and out buying glitz. It is the same thing with violins/violas/cellos, I suspect. Bows, I think fall into that category, too. I often look at the bows on the Fiddlershop site. That is how I noticed the carbon fiber weave cello bow. They don’t have one for viola. There is one for violin, but I like my tourte, maybe in the future, but for now, my old tourte will do. It is so good with that old violin it was purchased with. 

I think that if you can get the best, which is relative, of each (as far as you are concerned), that you want and can enjoy, and can afford, the better off you are. I do not think others should dictate that. It is your financial situation, your activity enjoyment priority, your desires, etc. It is a personal decision that should not be judged by your financial situation, or what you enjoy for activities. This is what I like doing. We don’t travel, we don’t bar hop (nothing wrong with that, we just don’t like it), we don’t go to the movies except when a new Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars comes out, for me, I play my instruments. That is my enjoyment.

I think that everything that applies to violin/viola/cello purchasing, also applies to the bow.

I probably rambled and went all over. I have not had breakfast yet. I will check back and edit this later. Coffee is done! Time for breakfast.

Back and did my edits. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Irv
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@MoonShadows and @cid .  I have been buying up examples of a $7.50 (in circa 1940) student bow for a couple of years now.  Bocaholly is accusing me of starting a museum.  By far my favorite bow.  Unfortunately, they only made them in 3/4 and 4/4 violin.  So yes, a good bow will favourably influence performance.  

Man has no special rights because he belongs to a particular race.  The soul emanates equal and eternal from bodies different in shape and color.  It is sufficient to say ‘Man’ to comprehend therein all rights.                                                    — Jose Marti 

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

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x Coach
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I just upgraded from a fiddlerman soloist to a Holstein workshop by MJZ. The Holstein is on another level sound wise. The violin is so much lighter which has helped my chin grip and my vibrato technique is much better. I anticipate my upgrade will benefit the overall sound of my string group’s next concert. Win win for all.

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bocaholly
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Irv said
@MoonShadows and @cid .  I have been buying up examples of a $7.50 (in circa 1940) student bow for a couple of years now.  Bocaholly is accusing me of starting a museum. 

Guilty as accused b-slap

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