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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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AndrewH
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The conventional wisdom is that a bow of equivalent quality costs about one-third as much as the instrument itself, though the emergence of high quality carbon fiber bows has thrown that into question somewhat in the sub-$2,000 range. Leaving aside personal preferences about stiffness and balance point, if your bow is lower quality than your instrument, you're probably going to get more bang for your buck by upgrading your bow. (This is especially the case with the extremely cheap bows often packaged with factory violins, which may be "bow-shaped objects" even if the violin is entirely functional.) It seems a lot more common for people to play with bows far inferior to their instrument than the other way around, because the bow doesn't look like something whose cost might be in the same order of magnitude as the violin.

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AndrewH
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My own experience has mostly been playing with bows well below the level of the instruments I was playing on, because of ignorance about bow price ranges for the first 10 years or so. In retrospect, using cheap student bows probably kept me from getting the best out of the instruments I had and is most likely one of the reasons my bowing technique has lagged behind my left hand technique.

I started on my late great-uncle's violin, an advanced student violin worth somewhere in the area of $1,500 -- but because the bow was missing from the case when my uncle brought it to me, he went out and bought a cheap fiberglass bow to replace it. After a year or so, I tried to get it rehaired and was told a rehair would cost more than the value of the bow, so I ended up buying a low-end pernambuco bow (about $200), which is still the only violin bow I have because I switched to viola around that time and rarely played violin after that. I'm now considering upgrading my violin bow anyway, because the student bow doesn't have the bounce I want and feels quite dead compared to my main viola bow.

I started playing viola on a loaned instrument, and at some point bought a second bow (again, a student bow) to use as a spare. Then, when I returned the borrowed viola and bought a professional-grade viola, I didn't buy a new bow immediately because I already had one. It wasn't until about five years later that I got around to bow shopping, which meant that for several years I played a professional viola with a $250 student bow. Eventually I went shopping with a $2,000 budget but ended up buying a $500 hybrid bow because I felt it was better than anything else I could find under $2,000 and comparable to bows I tried that cost up to $2,500. I still use the hybrid as my main bow and haven't felt the need to upgrade; it does everything I ask it to do quite easily, as long as it hasn't been too long since the last rehair. Besides, if I ever upgrade, it would likely be to a high-quality pernambuco bow in the $4,000-5,000 range in order to get significant improvement, and I don't want to spend that kind of money at the moment.

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Gordon Shumway
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AndrewH said
The conventional wisdom is that a bow of equivalent quality costs about one-third as much as the instrument itself, though the emergence of high quality carbon fiber bows has thrown that into question somewhat... 

In the case of carbon, my teacher's rule of thumb is a quarter.

But what's this thread about?

If Cid had said, "I've bought a better viola," I'd have said, "Joy of your new viola to you!"

But it didn't go that way.

I've spent the thread wondering if Cid is only considering forums, or if her family and friends have contributed thoughts. Cid totally disagrees with something and yet feels guilt. Strictly speaking, I'm not sure that's possible.

Is Cid hoping an abstract discussion will justify the specific?

Trying to make sense of her words, the message seems to be, "People say a better instrument won't automatically make you a better player. I agree with that - I'm actually getting a better instrument because it will enthuse me, and that will lead to more practice and better playing in the long run."

It all boils down to the Doetsch viola's tone. Cid talks of intonation, but she doesn't talk of vibrato depth and speed, and she doesn't talk of bowing technique, both of which are essential for good tone (or if you're a baroque no vib enthusiast, let's just talk about bowing technique).

Pierre uses dark rosin to "dig the notes out of the instrument" (I think I'm quoting him). Digging for tone is like digging gold out of the ground. Digging is a good metaphor. A good instrument is capable of good tone, but it doesn't give it up without effort. I have googled Doetsch instruments, and they seem pretty good to me. Pro level, according to Fiddlershop's price criteria.

Someone in the thread doesn't like third party demonstrations because style is different. It isn't about style. It would be nice if a pro could play Cid's Doetsch to her to show her what she could be aiming for.

Heinz Holliger plays a Rigoutat oboe. This is, coincidentally, the cheapest make of pro oboe. It starts around $7 000. And guess what, a beginner won't sound like Holliger on one, or on any other.

Andrew

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MoonShadows
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AndrewH said
The conventional wisdom is that a bow of equivalent quality costs about one-third as much as the instrument itself, though the emergence of high quality carbon fiber bows has thrown that into question somewhat in the sub-$2,000 range. Leaving aside personal preferences about stiffness and balance point, if your bow is lower quality than your instrument, you're probably going to get more bang for your buck by upgrading your bow. (This is especially the case with the extremely cheap bows often packaged with factory violins, which may be "bow-shaped objects" even if the violin is entirely functional.) It seems a lot more common for people to play with bows far inferior to their instrument than the other way around, because the bow doesn't look like something whose cost might be in the same order of magnitude as the violin.

  

Thanks for that feedback @AndrewH 

Since my two violins are Fiddlerman Concert ($489) and Artist ($689), it would seem myHolstein 1-star Pernambuco Bow ($279) is more than well-suited for my violins.

Jim

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AndrewH
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MoonShadows said

Since my two violins are Fiddlerman Concert ($489) and Artist ($689), it would seem myHolstein 1-star Pernambuco Bow ($279) is more than well-suited for my violins.

  

More to the point, it suggests that you're likely to get more value out of a violin upgrade than a bow upgrade. (As always with string instruments, it's just a general guideline. Your mileage may vary.)

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AndrewH
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Gordon Shumway said

AndrewH said

The conventional wisdom is that a bow of equivalent quality costs about one-third as much as the instrument itself, though the emergence of high quality carbon fiber bows has thrown that into question somewhat... 

In the case of carbon, my teacher's rule of thumb is a quarter.

But what's this thread about?

If Cid had said, "I've bought a better viola," I'd have said, "Joy of your new viola to you!"

But it didn't go that way.

I've spent the thread wondering if Cid is only considering forums, or if her family and friends have contributed thoughts. Cid totally disagrees with something and yet feels guilt. Strictly speaking, I'm not sure that's possible.

Is Cid hoping an abstract discussion will justify the specific?

Trying to make sense of her words, the message seems to be, "People say a better instrument won't automatically make you a better player. I agree with that - I'm actually getting a better instrument because it will enthuse me, and that will lead to more practice and better playing in the long run."

It all boils down to the Doetsch viola's tone. Cid talks of intonation, but she doesn't talk of vibrato depth and speed, and she doesn't talk of bowing technique, both of which are essential for good tone (or if you're a baroque no vib enthusiast, let's just talk about bowing technique).

Pierre uses dark rosin to "dig the notes out of the instrument" (I think I'm quoting him). Digging for tone is like digging gold out of the ground. Digging is a good metaphor. A good instrument is capable of good tone, but it doesn't give it up without effort. I have googled Doetsch instruments, and they seem pretty good to me. Pro level, according to Fiddlershop's price criteria.

Someone in the thread doesn't like third party demonstrations because style is different. It isn't about style. It would be nice if a pro could play Cid's Doetsch to her to show her what she could be aiming for.

Heinz Holliger plays a Rigoutat oboe. This is, coincidentally, the cheapest make of pro oboe. It starts around $7 000. And guess what, a beginner won't sound like Holliger on one, or on any other.

  

I believe that, in the past, Cid has mentioned being told that she wasn't good enough for a better instrument. That's something I've rarely if ever seen people say, and something I disagree with entirely.

Although I don't typically hear people describe Doetsch instruments as pro level, they are common in serious amateur orchestras and semi-pro orchestras, and among conservatory students, which means a lot of excellent players use them.

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Irv
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Well Gordon, I would not be too alarmed over the meanderings of this thread.  In a few days, this to will pass under the waves of past thread pages, never to be seen again (I would dare you to find it using the search function).

@MoonShadows .   My question regarding regarding the instructor’s relationship between continuance of instruction and instrument cost is as follows: can the slope be skewed by the purchase of used instruments?

I am about to conduct an experiment of my own.  I am going to let a high school student select one of my instruments from a sample pool of ten violins.  Each week, he will be given two violins for practice.  After determining a favorite, he returns the rejected and receives another possible for another week of trial.  This keeps going until all ten have been tried.  The only problem with the method is the wide variety of strings on the instruments.  

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

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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Gordon Shumway
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Irv said
I would dare you to find it using the search function. 

gorgonzola coffee1

Andrew

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MoonShadows
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AndrewH said

MoonShadows said

Since my two violins are Fiddlerman Concert ($489) and Artist ($689), it would seem myHolstein 1-star Pernambuco Bow ($279) is more than well-suited for my violins.

  

More to the point, it suggests that you're likely to get more value out of a violin upgrade than a bow upgrade. (As always with string instruments, it's just a general guideline. Your mileage may vary.)

  

My Concert is just a little over a year old and my Artist is only about 4 months old. I'll probably hold off on a better bow until I upgrade my instrument, but that probably won't be for a while since the Artist is probably more than enough violin for my ability right now.

Jim

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MoonShadows
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Irv said
 

@MoonShadows .   My question regarding regarding the instructor’s relationship between continuance of instruction and instrument cost is as follows: can the slope be skewed by the purchase of used instruments?

I am about to conduct an experiment of my own.  I am going to let a high school student select one of my instruments from a sample pool of ten violins.  Each week, he will be given two violins for practice.  After determining a favorite, he returns the rejected and receives another possible for another week of trial.  This keeps going until all ten have been tried.  The only problem with the method is the wide variety of strings on the instruments.  

  

Most likely it would.

Interesting experiment. You should start a thread to keep us apprised.

Jim

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Irv
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@MoonShadows and others.  I will, of course, submit to your suggestion.  A Glasser carbon fiber violin with be in the first pair to get him acquainted with the use of perfection pegs.  His current instrument is an Eastman that he is renting.  

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

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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MoonShadows
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Looking forward to seeing how the experiment progresses @Irv 

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Fiddlerman
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I agree that the better the equipment the easier it is to learn to play. Imagine the challenges of learning enhanced by equipment that doesn't produce sound without more effort, an instrument that sounds terrible even when you do things the right way, etc.
I have found that a better instrument also gives the student more confidence.

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

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starise
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I noticed a few years into my playing that some players didn't seem to be fighting their violins to get good sound as much as I did. With my violins I feel I need to "dig in" more. Also the tone doesn't sing the way I hear some violins sing. I mean, it's just ok on my violins. 

One player I know says he just lets the bow sit there.........well yeah, that's because you play a very nice violin with a very nice bow and you can do that. I can't do this with my violins. I can get them to respond but they are slower and seem to take a little more force...I guess you could say my violins are stubborn. I would like to move up. I know Fiddlerman sells some very nice instruments. I have 4 violins two of them were in the 1K range. One was 650.00 used. One on the 200 range...my wife watched me buy them and each time I told her I thought it was my last one. If I could recoup a decent percentage of that expenditure to buy a better instrument I would do that. Comes out to around 3k that would have been probably better spent on one instrument. Unfortunately I am not very good at marketing anything. Recouping that investment would go a long ways toward justifying another larger purchase. I'm not sure how to do that. Suggestions on how I could unload these welcome 🙂 I though each of those violins was a good violin until I played it for awhile. TBH they aren't bad violins and much better than the low end stuff on ebay, but having played some I know there are instruments that would help my playing. Same with bows. I have like 10 bows. None of them anything spectacular. If I had the 1K I wasted on a snowblower this year and the money from those violins...man I would be set to go shopping! Don't get me wrong, I could afford to buy a 4-5K instrument, but I need to save face with my better half and I also need to live with her 🙂

It's just the dumb things a beginner violinist does I guess...or at least that title belongs to me. I won't pin it on anyone else.

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Fiddlerman
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If ever I can help let me know. I know what you mean about the 1000 violins. We have had customers walk in here with instruments that they want to trade and have paid 1000 dollars. They occasionally even bring receipts. When we examine the instrument, we often recognize the instrument make or brand based on similar purchases that we make from our outside brand distributors and I often don't have the heart to tell the customer what we can buy those instruments for brand new.

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

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starise
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Thanks Pierre. I need to take the time to sell a few of these and count my loses I guess. The one I'm playing now I have to slightly fight it to play it. It's probably as good as the violins 80% of beginners play and I guess good enough to learn on.

To be honest though. I'm not really happy with it overall as something I would want to live with the rest of my life. I have been looking over your inventory, but as I say, I need to unload a few of these first and that's a tall order for someone who isn't a gifted marketer. I hate to take a loss and I think I'm procrastinating because of that. I will definitely keep you in mind when the time comes.

I guess I'm tired of buying violins and want to make a good purchase the next time. Looking for a good instrument is a true obstacle course, especially for a beginner. Things can change over time too, like the setup, bridge position, wear on the bow etc. so it's the kind of thing that is never once and done even with a good instrument.

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Mimi Aysha
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Awe, Starise.....I'm thinking a lot of us have usually had to make do or been a position of not quite being able to afford what we really want...it's hard. 

I would go for it - it's your dream...moving to something that is easier to play, that you love, would surely be worth it....I think if you had your "one" you wouldn't want all the others, so you could maybe get rid of them gradually, I'm sorry you may have to take a loss, but maybe not, you never know...and that loss would be replaced with something amazing!

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