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I see from the above that MrYikes has an interest in woodwind instruments. I played for many years in a community band on the tenor sax. I have two comments that may have some use for you.
Having an interest in all things mechanical and wanting to get a good deal on an instrument, I began looking on eBay and noticed that Couesnon Monopole saxophones from the 1950's looked interesting and were going cheap (or not selling at all) at the time. I purchased one (then several, see a pattern). The Monopole line instruments were created for a French music conservatory and all of the students needed one for practice at the conservatory. Extremely good intonation, rolled tone holes, and an unusual double socket for the neck joint. Couesnon clarinets are also very good but the Monopole issue were "discovered" on eBay and I could not afford one, so I got one of their standard issue.
My second point may save you some money on reeds. There was a French company (I forget their name but I have a box that I can find if you are interested) that put an unusual feature on their reeds. If you mentally picture the scalloped out portion on the top of the reed that has the appearance of a thumb nail, they routed a 1/4" cylinder that almost penetrated through the reed in the curved portion (base of the thumb nail). This is easily duplicated on a drill press. It really opened up the reed and I never had to reject reeds once I found this trick.
Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. —Frank Zappa
The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed. —William Gibson
Everything I've played:
Piano -- lessons age 5-17, ABRSM Diploma, continued playing regularly through college.
Euphonium -- 2 years in middle school band, 1 year of high school band, picked it up again briefly for last 6 months of college.
Violin -- self-taught beginning at 16, but stopped playing regularly after getting a viola.
Viola -- self-taught beginning a month before 18th birthday, have played regularly without interruption since starting, took lessons for 3 months at age 33.
Other instruments I've played a little but never practiced seriously: trombone, ukelele, recorder, pennywhistle, rebab, guzheng.
Other musical experience/training: about 7 years singing in choirs (age 20-27); studied composition informally for last two years of college (I had a biology professor who had formerly been a full-time composer and was one of Nadia Boulanger's students!), and in UCLA Extension film scoring program for two years in late 20s.
I took several months off from learning to play the violin, but I am back at it now. I play both acoustic and an electric violins. I tend to play the electric most, turned off, to reduce the tension with downstairs neighbors - but they still hate any sound they hear from me up here.
This month, I bought a classical acoustic guitar. At two weeks in, I am progressing with playing that much faster than I thought I would be able to play it. If only the violin was as easy to learn to play.
If I can never truly learn to be a good violinist, I am pretty sure I can be a good guitarist at some point. 😉
Being a "good" violinist is a relative term. There are plenty of good violinists that don't think that they are good. 🙂
Taking several months off from playing certainly did not help, but I am getting back up to speed now. However, I am not sure that I really have much talent for playing the violin.
I do believe I can get better than I am right now, with a few more years of practice, but I probably will never be what I would consider to be a good violin player, let alone a great violin player.
I accept that. I will keep working at it though. Who knows, maybe things will start improving for me at some point, where everything finally does click into place, and I find that I am better violinist than I thought I could be.
I do have good days now and then.
The important thing is to make progress regardless of how little progress you make. Continued progress will lead to better playing. 🙂
Yes, I am still making progress. Although I am still playing at the beginner level, I am working on some of the harder beginner pieces now. Some, I am starting to get, others, I still need to work on a bit more, but I am making progress.
I am at a point to where some of the easier tunes, that I had not tried yet, like in another lesson book, I can play through on a first try. If not perfectly, at least fairly okay for a beginner.
I suspect that picking up a second instrument is helping too. At first, it was a bit confusing, focusing on the classical guitar, and then going back to the violin. But after I decided to start doing back to back lessons, first with the guitar, and then with the violin, my playing of the violin smoothed out again, and then got a little better than it had been.
It is also handy that both instruments use the treble clef. I already knew how to read the sheet music for the guitar. Still some things specific to the guitar to learn, but that has all been coming easy to me.