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I'm always on the lookout for a good upgrade, and recently got it into my head to see what else is out there violin-wise. So far in my fiddling universe I've had 2.5 real violins: a Glaesel student violin, a VSO (the ".5" - I knew it was cheap but, damn, this thing is CHEAP), and my MJZ905 from Fiddlershop. So far my 905 hasn't held me back from doing anything, but it's quite loud (good for a concert soloist, bad for someone who wants to play Christmas carols inside) and doesn't vibrate quite as much low down. So, knowing that I know NOTHING about what's actually out there, I decided to see what's available.
Fast forward to today, I'm sitting in my living room with two violins beside me. One is my trusty MJZ, the other one is by Moon River Instruments on loan from my semi-local luthier. I can't find anything online about the second brand, but I'm really actually digging it a LOT. It has Dominant strings (I put Obligatos on my MJZ), but the strings almost sing when bowed in comparison to my MJZ. Plus, it's got that rumble down low that I like. It isn't quite set up how I want it (I like the Flesch center chinrest) but... I like it. Like, a LOT.
Here's my dilemma, silly thought it may be: my MJZ 905 cost me over $2k, whereas this little violin is only $800. The MJZ has a serial number on the tag, whereas the Moon River violin doesn't. I can find NOTHING online about Moon River Instruments but the construction of this little violin is a lot like my MJZ (although there are three tiny areas where it seems the varnish bubbled, nothing major but I don't have the same problem with my MJZ).
Arg. It's a silly problem maybe, especially for a beginner like me (I've been "playing" since 2006, but haven't really given it much attention except the past few years), but I'd like some advice. Could it be that the Obligatos have dulled my MJZ down low, and adding some Dominants to it would spice things up? It's mainly just the two lower strings (the deeper registers) where I really notice this problem. Sorry for this wall of text, I'm just kind of ranting because, no joke lol, I didn't think I'd find something that would be making me tear my hair out.
Funny fact: the Moon River violin does NOT like my Fiddlerman CF bow, but freaking comes alive with the Codabow Joule (also CF). I also feel as if it's easier to play, like the strings catch just a little better. Could that be the Dominants?
I feel so foolish thinking my $50 violin should sound good. I changed strings and added a mute, but the only way I will ever get a really good violin is to sell my baby grand or my harp. That's not an option. I have been working on the song War is Over but I won't be recording it and sending it in. It would make fiddlerman laugh then cry and then use fowl language. Well, I'm old and unfortunately for me I won't live long enough to be really good. But I'm good on piano and harp and hammered dulcimer. I never dreamt this little violin would be so hard to play well. I've worked so hard on it, and after 4 months am just learning vibrato, or spasmodic as I call it. I have just finished my 8 hour practice session, with a half hour piano break. I just don't seem to get any better. Sorry for venting, I'm just frustrated and tired. But I'll be back at it tomorrow.
May of us here have felt and still feel your frustration, the fiddle is a challenging instrument to play. But In my humble opinion it is the most beautiful sounding instrument there is. Keep up the good work, it will click one of these days.
Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.
If you are ready for vibrato after only 4 months of of playing, you are probably a lot better than you think. we all learn violin at different rates. i've been playing regularly about 9 months and I am still playing from the first half of Suzuki book 1, while others who have been playing for a shorter time can already play violin concertos. don' t worry too much about how fast you are learning. As long as you are having fun and making progress, you will have a good time.
If vibrato is not coming to you now, work on other aspects of your playi g and try vibrato later.
It is always good to hear others experiences with instruments and what they are using for strings and their progress. Thanks for posting. My advice.. just keep playing. IT is nice to have two violins and some bow options. You don't have to make any hard core decisions. Keep playing and enjoy.
I think Frustration can be part of the process. Just enjoy what you can do and don't worry where anyone else is. I use Larsens strings on my Ming. Boy oh boy my violin is loud.. but it is so nice. I have many strings I want to try .. in good time .. in good time. 🙂
Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato
Lol I read my first post and laugh because it seems like such a tiny problem now after a few days. I suppose it just startled me that such an inexpensive instrument sounded SO good; no joke, if I'd had the two side by side back when I was ready to buy, I would have picked the Moon River instrument hands down.
As it was, despite being in my mind better sounding, it wasn't better ENOUGH for me to plunk down the cash right now, or to trade in/sell my MJZ to fund the purchase. They were too alike in many ways, so I gave it back to the luthier today. But yeah, it was my first taste of just how different another violin can sound, as my two violins have been a student quality and my 905.
mickmeloche, we've all been there too. Heck, I'm there right now: trying to correct my form is making my left shoulder hurt (just the muscle, no lasting damage) and practicing is getting really hard. Today was a particularly bad day: RL stress on top of my hand not wanting to play notes correctly just made it all, BLAH. 🙁 Hopefully you can get it all together, there's still a week and a half to practice so take as much time as needed. And you're not the only one who sounds terrible, lol even with loads of practice under my belt on this song I still sound like a caterwauling tomcat no matter how "good" I play. 😛
Thanks for the support. Sorry for venting. But today, I finally decided which fingering to use for the Christmas song. One little tune and so many ways to finger it! After the holidays I'm going to take the strings off and get the black stuff off the finger board. My fingers are dented, calloused, and black. Why do they put that black stuff on there? There must be a reason. I don't know what it is, but I'll get it off. It's just nasty.
Some of the lesser expensive violin makers dye/paint the wood on the fingerboards instead of using ebony to try and make their product fit the "norms" for standard violins. I think though that some of the blackness might come from the strings, at least in my case. My A string (I think?) is silver-wound, and silver oxidation (rust) is black. Maybe it's that?
And I so totally hear you on dented and calloused fingertips!! Mine aren't too obtrusive, but the skin of my fingertips kind of feels and moves like play dough after a hard practice, as if it doesn't know HOW it's supposed to go anymore. 😛
I just keep plugging away. This week I went crazy trying to do a video of myself playing along with The War Is Over. Well, let me tell you, I am so tired. I finally got what I thought was an ok performance, and now I can't send it because it's too big. I used my iPad. It won't send it. Well the war may be over but I'm still fighting. Maybe my kids will know how to do it. Too late now, and that's ok. I learned so much. I was bowing so crooked. I thought I needed new strings. My vibrato is coming along quite nicely. But I need to keep working on my bowing. Doing a video sure taught me allot.