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Best beginner violins
What instruments would you reccommend for an adult beginner?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (7 votes) 
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EricBluegrassFiddle
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happyjet said

bfurman said
I want to clarify what I said about my son's Gliga Gems 2.  It sounds fine under ear - very pleasant, actually.  However, it has no projection.  There will be no fff playing in an orchestra.

I have a Gliga Gems 1 and play in an orchestra and it doesn't sound to quiet.

Is the Gems 2 quieter or something?

Set up has ALOT to do with this factor. But even so, no 2 fiddles even of the same brand, model or maker wont be alike.

although, orchestral players need the most powerful sounding violins in my opinion.

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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happyjet
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I have adjusted the soundpost, changed the bridge and changed the strings of my Gliga.

Could that be why?

Playing a piece is easy... Playing it right is not...

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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happyjet said
I have adjusted the soundpost, changed the bridge and changed the strings of my Gliga.

Could that be why?

I am sure its a factor....

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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bfurman
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happyjet said
I have adjusted the soundpost, changed the bridge and changed the strings of my Gliga.

Could that be why?

I don't mean to be a smartass, but wasn't that the reason you made those changes in the first place? ;)

That was kinda my orignal point about the Gligas - that the factory setup leaves something to be desired, which is a reason to rent, go with Fiddlershop, or budget for a luthier to do the necessary adjustments.  I haven't made those changes yet, but I will at some point.

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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bfurman said

happyjet said
I have adjusted the soundpost, changed the bridge and changed the strings of my Gliga.

Could that be why?

I don't mean to be a smartass, but wasn't that the reason you made those changes in the first place? ;)

That was kinda my orignal point about the Gligas - that the factory setup leaves something to be desired, which is a reason to rent, go with Fiddlershop, or budget for a luthier to do the necessary adjustments.  I haven't made those changes yet, but I will at some point.

Well, to be honest, the factory adjustment for most fiddles leaves something to be desired. Fiddlerman is different in that he does adjust them and, he'll do a custom asjustment for a customer, not every shop will. Not every shop that rents for that matter. Besides, you could buy a Violin that was benchmade by a luthier, excellent quality and totally hate the set-up and completely change it. This is because the set up is just a subjective as the player.

The problem is when there hasnt been ANY set up, as is the case with many super cheap, poorly built Violins.

So, its not uncommon for even the best Fiddles to need some form of adjustment. They are affected by temp, climate changes when they ship, maybe they get bumped around during shipment and the soundpost moves etc. Even so, with my gliga it needed very little set up. All I did was file down the bridge and flatten it and reslot it for the strings. However, I didnt have to, I did it because I like a different set up.

Even so, you can learn to do alot of it yourself if you want to. But just because the set up, may or may not be good is not necessarily a reason to not buy a violin. However, some violins are just no good, even if you DO set it up.

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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DanielB
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Setup and adjustments can do a lot.  But I would have to agree that there are probably some violins/fiddles that may not make a good enough sound for even a beginner to be content with, and where even Pierre couldn't make them sound good. 

I haven't actually met any, and I have met some "seriously cheap", but I figure the odds are good that they are out there somewhere.

The point of things like trying different strings, or trimming the bridge, or adjusting the soundpost is to get the instrument to play like the player wants and to sound like the player wants it to sound.  I think of it as a customizing sort of thing, where probably no two players would agree 100% on what is great.  So expecting it to be perfect right out of the box or even from a shop or Fiddlerman is probably not realistic.  But reasonably good in terms of being able to produce a clear and stable note?  Well within being comfortably playable?  I believe those are quite possible.

"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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EricBluegrassFiddle
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DanielB said
Setup and adjustments can do a lot.  But I would have to agree that there are probably some violins/fiddles that may not make a good enough sound for even a beginner to be content with, and where even Pierre couldn't make them sound good. 

I haven't actually met any, and I have met some "seriously cheap", but I figure the odds are good that they are out there somewhere.

The point of things like trying different strings, or trimming the bridge, or adjusting the soundpost is to get the instrument to play like the player wants and to sound like the player wants it to sound.  I think of it as a customizing sort of thing, where probably no two players would agree 100% on what is great.  So expecting it to be perfect right out of the box or even from a shop or Fiddlerman is probably not realistic.  But reasonably good in terms of being able to produce a clear and stable note?  Well within being comfortably playable?  I believe those are quite possible.

I think you hit the nail right square on the head. And, that is a cool advantage of choosing a Fiddle from Fiddleman in that it'll have some semblence of set up of some kind so at least it will be playable out of the case.

That cheapie I bought, I mean, I can't believe how poorly done the bridge and nut was done, just absolutely awful!

I often wonder if in some cases, new beginners don't realize that about some of these budget Violins and that causes them to just throw in the hat right from the get go no?

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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happyjet
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bfurman said

happyjet said
I have adjusted the soundpost, changed the bridge and changed the strings of my Gliga.

Could that be why?

I don't mean to be a smartass, but wasn't that the reason you made those changes in the first place? ;)

That was kinda my orignal point about the Gligas - that the factory setup leaves something to be desired, which is a reason to rent, go with Fiddlershop, or budget for a luthier to do the necessary adjustments.  I haven't made those changes yet, but I will at some point.

I adjusted the soundpost and changed the strings to make my violin sound better but I changed the bridge because my old one broke at a orchestra rehearsal. My old bridge was actually quite good qualityviolin-student.

I am getting a new violin soon. I have grown out of my old one.

Playing a piece is easy... Playing it right is not...

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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happyjet said

bfurman said

happyjet said
I have adjusted the soundpost, changed the bridge and changed the strings of my Gliga.

Could that be why?

I don't mean to be a smartass, but wasn't that the reason you made those changes in the first place? ;)

That was kinda my orignal point about the Gligas - that the factory setup leaves something to be desired, which is a reason to rent, go with Fiddlershop, or budget for a luthier to do the necessary adjustments.  I haven't made those changes yet, but I will at some point.

I adjusted the soundpost and changed the strings to make my violin sound better but I changed the bridge because my old one broke at a orchestra rehearsal. My old bridge was actually quite good qualityviolin-student.

I am getting a new violin soon. I have grown out of my old one.

Eventually, I'll change out the kinda cheapie soft Maple stock bridge that my Gliga came with and have a high quality French bridge or something cut for it. But, that's down the road. For right now, it works and has a great sound....so "If it aint broke don't fix it" right?

To be honest, all I had to do was lower the bridge height and flatten the arch a bit ( for fiddling ) but I didn't touch anything else as everything seems to be in order.

I was told with "most" of the Gligas the set up is usually bearable to oftentimes pretty good right out of the factory, and they were right. However, every now and then a soundpost needs adjusting, new strings etc. All of this can have a "considerable" affect on the quality of tone and even volume of any given Violin.

Some have also mentioned that Gligas have a rather warm, kinda mellow sound that doesn't project very well. I'm not sure as I think mine projects well and I noticed it fills up the acoustics of our living room "much" more than my other one, which was rather dead sounding LOL. Yet, I assume ALOT of that probably has to do with set up. I wonder if they set some of them up that way anyways coming off the line because alot of beginners and students use Gliga's and I read that students have a tendency to prefer a Violin that's very mellow. Besides Gligas market seems to be the student/intermediate Violinist Fiddler. Even so they are excellent quality and trying to compare factory Violins of virtually any caliber to benchmade, luthier built fiddles that most pro symphony players would use is unrealistic at best. It's like comparing Apples to Oranges.

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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bfurman
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My son's Gliga's bridge is actually just fine....  Thin.  Not soft.  Rays appropriately oriented.  Nicely carved.  Not too tall for my tastes.

It's not a full-sized instrument, so some lack of volume is to be expected.  Obviously, my 4/4 bow draws a better sound than the shorter brazilwood stick it came with.

We rented an even smaller instrument at his teacher's request.  It sounded fuller than his Gliga.  My city is blessed with two good shops.  One of them is owned by a luthier from Iran, who is a good and honest man with his own line from China.  I've learned quite recently that he actually travelled to Shanghai and Guangzhou to source the instruments.

The Gliga we have is a dark instrument.  Good for bluegrass and jazz.  Not my taste, but I'm not disappointed either.

I'm sure not all Gligas are the same.  Buying online is a crapshoot.  I'd buy a GCV if I had to buy sight unseen and didn't already love my current instrument.

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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bfurman said
My son's Gliga's bridge is actually just fine....  Thin.  Not soft.  Rays appropriately oriented.  Nicely carved.  Not too tall for my tastes.

It's not a full-sized instrument, so some lack of volume is to be expected.  Obviously, my 4/4 bow draws a better sound than the shorter brazilwood stick it came with.

We rented an even smaller instrument at his teacher's request.  It sounded fuller than his Gliga.  My city is blessed with two good shops.  One of them is owned by a luthier from Iran, who is a good and honest man with his own line from China.  I've learned quite recently that he actually travelled to Shanghai and Guangzhou to source the instruments.

The Gliga we have is a dark instrument.  Good for bluegrass and jazz.  Not my taste, but I'm not disappointed either.

I'm sure not all Gligas are the same.  Buying online is a crapshoot.  I'd buy a GCV if I had to buy sight unseen and didn't already love my current instrument.

True, without a doubt. I researched pretty far and wide and I kept coming back to the Gligas. Besides, on some other forums, several folks recommended these to me, some folks I consider reputable memebers of the forum.

Fiddlerman told me the same thing in the past: That fiddlers prefer darker instruments, mellower. I guess it makes sense, however my Fiddle professor has a nice Guarneri model that he's trying to unload. He says it's too mellow and doesn't cut through the mix very well when he plays with his group. He says, with Bluegrass, we need an instrument that is brighter and has a strong "A" and "E" string to cut through the jams. At least that's what he says, so I found that interesting. 

I did thin out the stock bridge on my Gliga as I mentioned. But mainly I just lowered it a little and flattened the radius arch a bit, not too much, but it's flatter. I brought it down to just 3mm off of the fingerboard at the end ( string height ) which is VERY low. It doesn't buzz but I do sacrifice a bit of volume, even so it's still much more powerful sounding than my other Violin. Bluegrass fiddlers use steel strings and prefer a much lower action to aid in the ease of playing double-stops in different positions. My Gliga plays so smoothly, it's soo easy to play. Lately I'm noticing the "G" and "D" strings beginning to liven up and open up a bit, as they were a bit weak when I first took delivery of the Violin, so it's waking up nicely.

The feet were VERY well cut and fitted to the top, so I didn't touch that. All in all, it's perfect for right where I'm at in my skill level I think and I think this Violin could easily be considered at the very least an intermediate level as well, not just beginner.

It wouldn't come close to cutting it as a pro classical instrument and would be quite inadequate. However, for Folk or Bluegrass I think it's pretty ideal.

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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Fiddlerman
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Some fiddlers want a mellow dark sound to blend in and some want brighter tones to cut through. I think it's a question of personal taste. :)

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

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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Fiddlerman said
Some fiddlers want a mellow dark sound to blend in and some want brighter tones to cut through. I think it's a question of personal taste. :)

Makes sense, and I guess as we improve our tastes in what kind of sound we prefer can change as well.

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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DanielB
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Well, one of the unavoidable problems of being a beginner is that most beginners won't know what is considered a "good" sound for the instrument, even if they get it.

At between two and a half and three years, I figure I only have a vague idea of what a violin or fiddle should sound like.  I may like some qualities and I may think I'm using sounds of the instrument "ok".. But from past experience with other instruments, I know that I'm probably still way too noob on what I'm trying to get and how I'm trying to use it.  Another couple years work and listening, and I'll have a better idea.  On my main instrument, guitar.. At two and a half years, I was using sounds that I wouldn't touch now with a 10 ft pole.  Understanding and tastes take time and experience to mature and there is just no substitute for that process and no way I have ever found to hurry it much.  It's just one of those parts of learning that take patience.  Taking time to grow into the instrument.

At first, especially if one only had text on the internet or recordings to go by, it isn't going to be easy to even tell if the instrument you have is capable of doing good at anything.  With my infamous Mendini, I'd been sawing away with a bow on it for a couple of months when a relative of my wife who actually plays some fiddle dropped by for a visit.  Musicians being musicians, of course he saw my violins and asked if he could check them out.  All the sounds I'd gotten out of that Mendini had been kind of wheezy and faltering.  But he picked it up and played on it and it was bright and strong and at close range in the closed space of a kitchen, loud enough to make your ears ring.  I didn't even know it could sound like that.  I was amazed.

He had me play on it a little bit and explained that I wasn't getting much out of it because I was just sort of lightly gliding the bow over the strings and that for that particular fiddle you had to "lean into it" more than I was and use a bit more bow and let the bow have some weight to get it to really deliver some tone.  But I'd been thinking it was a poor instrument and not capable of delivering any decent sounds.  It was a revelation to find out I just wasn't actually putting enough into it to get much out.

After a while, I became more aware of the limitations it had in dynamic range.  It could go quiet, it could go loud, but it didn't have as much of a usable palette between the two as I wanted for what I was trying to do.  So it was time to upgrade.  But I'd played enough by then to have some idea that I was running into a limitation of that particular violin that just "more practice" wasn't going to fix.  I needed something more suited to the sound I was going for.

But when you're first starting out, and have maybe only had a particular violin/fiddle for a few days, most people aren't going to know enough to really tell what it can do.  That's where a more experienced person to put the instrument though it's paces so you can hear what it can do would be useful.  If you're lucky enough have that.

I think that probably a lot of beginners decide they have a "bad" instrument based more on what they can get it to do than what the instrument is actually capable of.  In some cases, I am sure that they are probably right.  But in some cases, maybe not. 

The only thing I can say for certain is that having only played a couple of years, *I* do not know the difference for sure between the sound of a good violin/fiddle and one that is not so good.  I don't have enough "ear" for this particular instrument yet or enough experience in how the different sounds can be used to call an instrument "good" or "crap" with any certainty.  Not saying I can't hear differences, mind you.  But I don't have enough experience to be qualified as much of a judge of such things.

It will come.  It will just take some time and listening.  In the meantime, I focus on my practice and playing.  I spend time every day listening to music with violin or fiddle in it, and I let my ears develop some appreciation for the sounds.

"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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coolpinkone
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Great article Dan. Thanks for sharing your experience.  I had similar experiences in having a seasoned violinist play on my student and economy violins and they sounded  amazing.  I know what you are saying. :)

I had my friend play on my Soloist when I first got it, it was inspiring to me to know how well I will be able to make it sound some day. :)

Thanks again for your great article.  Good stuff.

hearttreble-1226cheers, Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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DanielB
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Thanks Toni!

Now Toni showing up in this convo brings up a case in point on the upgrade I mentioned.

Having recognized that I could use an upgrade, but not having anyone around that was experienced with instruments in the price range I could manage, I had to rely on recordings.  Toni had been playing about as long as I had, so sounds she could get out of her violin, likely I could also get.  I liked how hers sounded. there was more warmth, and a more relaxed sound and I could hear a better dynamic "palette" in her playing.  She was playing a Shar at the time, so that was what I upgraded to.

I have never yet regretted that.  I still like the sound of my current acoustic violin, and haven't run into any limitations that make it impossible or unduly difficult to do things I've worked on.  Not feeling the imperative for an upgrade yet.

Gliga was a serious contender.  They had some nice looking instruments in a similar price range, and a decent rep from what I could tell.  But at that time, I didn't know anyone who played a Gliga, and all the demos I could find were by accomplished players.  While that is useful, it isn't necessarily a reflection of the sound a beginner will be able to get in their first couple of years. 

It's just one of those ways you can use your head to reduce some of the risks you're taking if you have to buy from online.  Every instrument is in individual, but different makers will have some tendencies that will usually hold true in the sound of their instruments and how they are built, how they play.  Like with guitars, both Fenders and Gibsons can be quite good, but they aren't exactly alike.  Listening to typical playing on different maker's instruments is part of that process of self-education.

Of course, if you have a friend with experience who can show you the differences in person, that is much much better.  But it is not always an available option for everyone, especially very early on.

"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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Another thought on this particular topic, is that some of the comparisons mentioned would be consideration that may fall outside of "beginner" violins.

"Beginner level" is both a matter of construction and set-up.  A violin being sold as suitable for a beginner is not built or adjusted to the same specs or for the same purposes as intermediate, advanced, or professional.  Expecting a beginner violin to measure up to one intended for an advanced student or a pro is rather like.. Pardon a country expression, but "looking up a dead bear's butt for honey"..

Beginner instruments are usually designed and constructed with more of an eye towards durability and dependability than the sound.  It has to be made to survive a beginner who may not know how to handle the instrument and may not take very good care of it.  So they will tend to be a bit heavy as well as "heavy duty".  Since a beginner violin will not need to deliver great sound in a symphony setting, and will likely be rep;aced with an upgrade as the beginner advances, quality will not be the same as a higher level instrument.

Set-up is different as well.  The bridge can be thicker and less finely tuned, since it not breaking will be more of a concern than the best possible sound.  Soundpost is more likely just set to "doesn't sound horrible" than finely tuned to get the best sound possible.  That's sensible, since a beginner just learning their bow strokes isn't likely to be trying to use a lot of subtlety.  Usually a reasonably clear simple tone is all that is aimed for, not the more complex tone that a more advanced player might want.

There are physical differences on the instrument as well.  For example, a beginner instrument will usually lack the slight "grooves" running the length of the strings on the fingerboard that you would find on a more advanced instrument.  Those allow a slightly lower playing action to make playing high up on the fingerboard a bit more comfortable, and allow an advanced player to reliably coax a little more power out of the instrument without the strings buzzing.  But beginners won't be playing that loud or that high up, so there isn't any point in having them on a beginner instrument.  

In some respects, beginner instruments are a different animal than violins intended for professional or more advanced student use.  If you are shopping for a beginner instrument, you don't really get to expect it to match up to more advanced models.  If you DO  need that capabilities of a more advanced instrument, then it would be time for upgrade, and "beginner" is not what you're looking for, in any price range.

A beginner violin should hold up, hold tune, be reasonably comfortable to play in lower positions, and produce a clear enough tone for a teacher to be able to tell if you are playing right, for a beginner.  More than that, they aren't really designed, built or adjusted for.

Gotta remember to compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges.

"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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bfurman
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hats_off

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cunparis
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We were in Los Angeles on vacation last summer so we stopped by the Gliga store in Pasadena.  I let my daughter pick out her violin.  She tried four of them and picked the most expensive one (she wasn't really paying attention to prices).  It's a 3/4 size but for its size I think it has a wonderful tone.  However, as others have said, it's not loud or bright by any means.  It's dark and mellow.  I think for a beginner that's a good thing, but I can see why advanced students wouldn't like that.  My Chinese violin is much louder than hers so when we play together I put a mute on mine so I can hear her.  That would be the only "complaint" about the gliga, and for us it's not an issue since she doesn't play well and doesn't need to "cut through".  We paid around $400 for it, I forget the exact model.

I'd like to learn how to make bridges and adjust sound posts so that I could experiment with tweaking it. 

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Fiddlerman
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cunparis said

..............I'd like to learn how to make bridges and adjust sound posts so that I could experiment with tweaking it. 

Very good idea, and it's a lot of fun when you get good at it. The smaller the instrument the harder it is to learn but it's not hard to affect the sound. Some of the factors are the amount of grains, thickness, exactness of the angles (amount of contact), the length (affects the placement from the center towards the f-hole), the amount of pressure and location in relation to the bridge. Sometimes when I run into an instrument that doesn't sound good I can spend way more time than I should just to "conquer" the instrument. I can always improve the sound but not always make it sound great.

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

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