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I am a college student who finally decided that I want to learn how to play the violin. As such, I will be taking an elective beginner violin course next semester, and I need a violin I will be able to play. I wanted to get something a little better than the cheapest violins because I would like my beginner violin to be my travel violin in the future. I would also be interested in upgrading some of the parts of the violin in the future if that is suggested.
Currently, I have 3 violin outfits in mind which appeal to me: the Ricard Bunnel G1, Fiddlerman Apprentice, and Cecilio CVN-600. The names of the violin outfits have links to their websites attached. I am having difficulty deciding between these violins because they seem to have rather similar specs. Different from the other violins, however, the Fiddlerman Apprentice Violin has a carbon tailpiece with 4x fine tuners. The Ricard Bunnel G1 can have 4 built-in fine tuners on a composite tailpiece or 4 premium grade independent fine tuners on an ebony tailpiece, and the Cecilio CVN-600 has an ebony tailpiece with 4 detachable fine tuner. The Fiddlerman also comes with a composite bow, whereas the other 2 come with Brazilwood bows.
I simply wanted to know what the importance of the different tailpieces and bows was. I also wanted to know if any one else had any insight into the different specs of these 3 violins, and whether one outfit is suggested over the others.
Thanks a ton for the help!
buying online can be tricky. To have the opportunity to actually hold and play each is the best option. If your not in position to hold them yourself and listen, then can you listen to a recording of the specific instrument play? Pierre ( @Fiddlerman ) did just that for me when I bought the Fiddlerman Masters Viola. While I can not get he instrument to sing as well as Pierre did, I know it is capable to doing so with practice. As far as the technical differences between the three, I'll leave that to those with more expertise. Welcome and good luck.
@camshan - welcome !
While I cannot comment on the other violins, or specific details on the tailpiece, I can certainly attest to the attention to detail and professional set-up before shipment that goes into the FiddlerMan violins - it is not just "put in a box as received from the maker, and shipped out"
I started back in 2014 with the FM Concert, which came with a Carbon Fiber bow. This year I felt "there was more to come in my playing" and I then purchased the MJZ905 (and kept the Concert).
The CF bow is a really good general purpose bow, I like it compared to the composite bow that came with my really cheap electric violin (which I was never happy with and is now in the bin - the bow not the EV)
I would await further feedback from other folks on the forum, but, equally, you can have a chat ( on-line-text/email/phone ) with the folks at FiddlerShop just to discuss what you are looking for - I'm certain there will be no sales-pressure or anything like that, they'll just take the time to listen to you and perhaps help you towards a final decision (whatever your final choice may be)
Good luck with your quest !
I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh -
Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)
I think if you buy online you should go with the Fiddlerman outfit.. either of them 🙂 Imo even their 299 dollar OB1 is better than the other 2 you listed, simply because of the setup work they do on them to make sure it plays the best it can.. plus the shop is amazing... you can just call them and they'll try to help you the best they can.. they can even search violins for you that have desired tone.
Amazon certainly won't set up your violin and I heard Kennedy violins sometimes 'might' but other times won't either..
The actual set-up work includes stuff like properly fitting the bridge so it makes perfect contact with the body and you can play each string individually as well as ensuring that your string action is not too high, which would result in unintentionally playing more than one string once you press down on a note plus more force required to hold the notes down (my cheap factory violin from a random online shop came with a bridge that was too high for example and even if I just held down a simple 3rd finger note on the D string, the string became level with the other 2 next to it... resulting in my bow playing all 3 instead of just the one, which basically makes it unplayable - I ended up learning how to carve bridges and made my own with some hard work)
They also make sure you have some decent sounding strings on there... some factory violins come with really cheap quality steel strings that account for at least half of the bad noises beginners make, which can be really demotivating, especially if they don't realize it..
Aside from that they make sure the tuning pegs are fitted properly and can be easily adjusted while actually holding the note you're tuning to (mine had plastic pegs which instantly slipped back as soon as I let go and they weren't fitted.. some didn't even came out to be flush with the pegbox, while others protruded through by a lot)
The soundpost also needs to be in the right place to properly conduct the sound to the back-plate and the guys at Fiddlershop make sure it's where it needs to be to benefit the instrument.
These are just some examples I listed of the actual work involved in setting up a violin properly, there are probably more that we could mention.. I just wanted to illustrate the fact that violins aren't like most other instruments.. For example I would be okay with buying a guitar or ukulele from pretty much any online shop and 9 times out of 10 it would probably be just what I expect, but I learned the hard way that violins aren't like that... they're pretty much half-finished products until a proper luthier goes over them and sets them up.. (just ask Charles.. he got a Stentor Graduate which is one of their intermediate violins and they claim it is set up properly.. yet Charles had to pay a luthier about as much as the instrument itself cost just to make it properly playable) Though some of them might come out decent even without much set-up work it's pretty luck-based, especially on the cheaper models and if yours isn't going to be like that it can cause a whole lot of unwanted frustration to you.. Learning the violin is complicated enough on its own, without having to deal with the shortcomings of a badly set up instrument..
So that's pretty much where shops like Fiddlershop come in.. since first they act as an additional 'filter', because they simply send back all the products that don't meet their expectations (the factory flaws...) and then they have their own luthiers to properly set up the ones they keep and that's the final instrument that they sell, which pretty much plays well right out of the box.
I think that pretty much sums it up... hope this helps
Cheers and good luck buying your new violin, whichever it may be
Ah, you're about in the same boat I was in last year! I think both the Bunnel and Apprentice would be good choices; I've heard good things about both. You're very wise to go for a more expensive beginner outfit -- it's actually money saved in the long run. I also want to add, as Ferenc Simon did, a word about the outfit below the FM Apprentice, the OB-1. I've had my OB-1 since January and it's absolutely wonderful. I considered the Apprentice as well and compared the demo videos that FiddlerShop has for each of them, but decided that the OB-1 was more to my liking. It's definitely no less of a violin because it's monetarily cheaper--just the wood hasn't been aged as long (5 years instead of 7 I think?) I don't know if Bunnel ages their wood or not, but aging does make a difference. I've heard some 50-50 reviews about Cecilio as a whole, but the outfit you've selected seems like a solid instrument, you just might need to upgrade the bow.
Another bonus for buying from FiddlerShop is that each instrument is professionally set up before it's shipped out, and they package so that the violin does not go out of tune and is ready to play out of the box. Cecilio doesn't do setup like that, and I'm not certain about Kennedy. It does make a big difference to be more familiar with your instrument before you have to mess with tuning, adjusting the bridge, and whatnot. You'll also get an excellent outfit from FiddlerShop, no more purchases necessary, which is great when you're already plunking down a moderate bit of money!
The Apprentice comes with a carbon fiber bow whereas the others have brazilwood bows, as you mentioned. The difference is mostly in ease of playability. A cheaper brazilwood bow, from my limited experience, doesn't have as much weight to it so it tends to bounce and swing around more, especially when you're just starting out. The carbon fiber bows, at least the ones FiddlerShop sells, seem to lessen the likelihood of bouncing because they're weighted more evenly. It also helps to put more weight on the strings so while you're still learning about bowing it doesn't screech quite as much as a lighter brazilwood might. At least, those have been my findings. I'm not certain about tailpieces.
Overall, I think you have some good choices, and as I said I haven't heard very much about the CVN-600, but the other models would be good choices. Take some time to go on YouTube and find demos and decide which one sounds best to you when you're listening with your eyes shut. Hope this helps, and good luck!
GL on you purchase, I noticed Fiddlershop has a used CVN-600 outfit for sale IT a very nice looking fiddle, and sound good also you can watch a demo then call if your interested. https://fiddlershop.com/cecilio-cvn-600-violin-used
Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.
I'm the Charles that Ferenc was referring to, and what happened to me is that I got a Stentor Graduate (their 3rd from the bottom model, a decent beginner's violin, by reputation) off Amazon for about $250, and was quite pleased with myself until I got it. It had a number of issues, and the worst one was the same one Ferenc had with his - if you depressed one of the strings (medium high up, on mine), you could only hit the strings on either side of it. The string you were trying to play wasn't reachable.
That was caused by the action being too high, and the fingerboard too heavily scooped. According to my luthier, that's dirt common, because the manufacturers are much more worried about getting returns for defects than making a really good violin at that price point. Getting the fingerboard flattened and the action lowered cost me about $250, plus another $100 of other work. So that really good deal I got ended up costing me $600 for the violin. It's a fairly nice violin now, but I could have gotten a much better one spending my money another way.
So the advice I have for everyone getting a new violin is to make sure it is set up properly by someone who knows what they're doing. If you get a straight-from-the-factory one, it's unlikely it will have had that done. (See the earlier comment about preventing returns.)
I've seen one online review on Youtube comparing the Bunnel and the Apprentice, and he rated the Apprentice better than the Brunnel in all categories. It wasn't by a large margin, but in all the ways he thought it was appropriate to compare the two, he preferred the Apprentice.
I've never played either the Bunnel or the Cecelio, so I have little hard data to go on (and I'd need to have played dozens of all three before I could begin to say anything with any certainty).
I've been very impressed by Cecelio's low end - the stuff around $100. Their stuff in that range is noticeably better than almost all of the competition. As the price goes up, though, there's a lot more competition.
I would normally have argued for the Apprentice over the Cecelio except for that post Mark made about the used one. I'd check with Fiddlershop and see if they've given that their standard setup. If so, compare what that one sounded like (not at all bad to my ear) with several of the Apprentices (you can find many examples by searching Youtube for "fiddlershop apprentice") and pick the one you like better.
The standard Cecelio's (even the 600) that Fiddlershop sells are NOT set up that way. They are drop shipped from Cecelio. (Meaning Fiddlershop takes the order, handles the money, etc, but the instrument is shipped directly from Cecelio to you - Fiddlershop never touches it.) This one may be an exception. Even if all they've done is looked it over and said "It doesn't need any adjustment," you'll be better off than a straight shipment from Cecelio.
The tailpiece is a minor issue. The more it weighs, the more it leans the instrument towards the darker, richer part of the tone spectrum. (But that can also mean more muddy - your tastes will play a part in that.) The fine-tuners are a judgement call. The detachable ones mean you can take them off later, as you get better at tuning with the pegs (or get geared pegs). That's generally thought to improve the sound, a little. The built-in ones are more likely to work without glitches, but you'll have to replace the entire tailpiece if you decide you don't want them anymore. A tailpiece is a $15 part. I wouldn't base my decision between violins on it.
The bows in question are another matter entirely. The Fiddlerman CF bow is a much better bow than its price suggests. It could probably compete in the $150-$200 range. The brazilwood bows that come with most beginner outfits is not nearly as good.
The wooden bow that I got with my Stentor is an exception - basically, I got lucky and it's a much better bow that you typically get with such violins. I'd even rank it as slightly better than my FM CF bow. Nonetheless, I almost never use it, and I just bought my 3rd FM CF bow (because it was on sale). The CF bows are near-indestructible and it doesn't matter that much if you forget and leave the bow tight. The Stentor bow is nowhere near enough better than the Fiddlerman one to bother with the risk and hassle of using a wooden one.
I would contact Fiddlershop and discuss the Cecelio with them, vs the Apprentice. If the Cecelio has gotten the same setup that the Apprentice has, then especially because it comes with one of their CF bows, that might be a good deal. Even if it's just been inspected to make sure no setup like that is needed, I'd give it serious consideration. If it hasn't been set up and could use it, discuss the cost of that with them, warranty, and similar such issues and make a choice.
Even if you don't buy anything from Fiddlershop, either buy from someone who WILL do the setup, or plan on around $100 worth of luthier work after you get it.
Here's the best advice you're going to get. It will save you much sorrow, pecuniary embarrassment and gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. Call the guys at Fiddlershop.com and tell them what you need and how much you can spend and follow their advice. I've bought 2 violins from them and I don't have any sob stories about buying bad fiddles -- just money well spent.
A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright
Buying from FM will give you at least as good a bang for the buck as you will get anywhere else. It will come set up and ready to play. You might get as good a value from a store like Shar but not any better.
Your ear may not be educated enough at this point to recognize what may be the best instrument for you. That means the easiest to play on so you will learn the quickest. That means you will need to rely on someone you can trust. I've had good luck with everything I've bought from Fiddlerman.com. That looks like a good beginning student outfit, especially with that CF bow. Don't discount the importance of that item.
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