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How much of all of this is illusion?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (3 votes) 
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JiminTexas
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May 19, 2019 - 2:47 pm
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How much of our perception of music, the instruments, accoutrements, etc. is merely an illusion, figments of our imaginations? Why do we so often feel that if we had that wonderful, incredibly expensive violin or bow or whatever that our playing would improve exponentially? Is it sloth on our parts? Is it that we would rather buy it than work for It? Is it simpler than that, and that we just believe that it's better because it's more expensive, or is it that we just want to look impressive rather than be impressive? Ask yourself if you owned a Strataveri, would you truly sound any better? That is to others, not just yourself.

The search for great technique does not always lead to great music, but the search for great music does always lead to great technique.

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Irv
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May 19, 2019 - 2:56 pm
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I am playing a $30 violin bow that I am very pleased with.  The previous owner obviously had other ideas.  

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

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

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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MoonShadows
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May 19, 2019 - 4:22 pm
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I have to say I don't feel that way. I have a decent fiddle and bow...a Fiddlerman Concert violin with a carbon fiber bow. I would like to upgrade, but not because I feel it would make me a better player...probably just violin vanity, I think. Whether I had a less expensive violin or a more expensive one, I would still be the same player. I know I have a lot of work to do no matter what grade instrument or bow I own. Others may think differently.

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

My teacher tells me there are only two things keeping me from becoming a great fiddler...My right hand and my left hand. 

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HP
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May 19, 2019 - 4:45 pm
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I believe there's a glass ceiling when it comes to violins. After one point you pay more for the brand or maker, not for the quality of the instrument itself. I think it's true that a lot of people look for a simple way around. They just don't want to put in all the hard work necessary to improve.

'Armed with theory, practice becomes meaningful. Through practice, theory becomes fulfilled.' - Egon von Neindorff.

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Mimi Aysha
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May 19, 2019 - 5:52 pm
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Im happy with my fiddle - its not the price for me - I dont hitnk I could get the full value from an instrument meant for big performances by master violinists for sure - but when I blindly tried the bows that were sent from fiddlershop everyone chose the most expensive one!

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cid
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May 19, 2019 - 7:20 pm
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I don’t understand why people think people think that. I have heard and read this statement before. I don’t think people, or at least a vast majority of people feel that way. 

Sometimes I think some people associate that reasoning with a person who gets a better instrument because they don’t understand that person. Frankly, it is that person’s choice. There is a point where the lower end just does not sound good, no matter how good you play. The quality of the material it is made from does affect sound. There is a point where a student has reached the maximum that lesser quality instrument can deliver.

If someone can afford and wants a Stradivarius, all the power to that person. It does not mean that person thinks (s)he will play better. Maybe that person just wants to have one. If they can get one, so be it. Instruments come in different price ranges. Are we not to venture into a different price range because some people will think, erroneously, that you think it it will turn you into a great musician?

Why does a person buy a BMW rather than Chevy or Ford? Personally, I don’t think the BMW is worth the money. Still has 4 wheels. I don’t want one and wouldn’t spend the money on one if I had it, but if someone else wants to, no skin off my back.  

If someone wants to get a Stradivarius violin, no matter what level they play at, I am happy for that person if they can achieve that goal. It does not mean they think it will turn them into a great musician.

I have upgraded my instruments. It does not make me play better, I know it won’t. The basic sound is what I am interested in, up to what I can afford. Face it, a $60 Celilio is not going to sound as good as a Fiddlerman violin, a majority of the time. I like warm mellow sounds, not bright. From what I have found from info is that it has a lot to do wood age, quality, and Fiddlerman mentioned thickness in regards to cello (probably the same for other strings). I know setup affects it, too. These qualities cost more. I am no way one with perfect pitch, but sounds I do not like really bother me, seriously. The basic undertones need to be pleasing to me. 

Upgrading does not make me play better. The intonation is the same issue. The deal is that the basic sound is mellower and warmer when I upgrade. I am upgrading for basic all around tone. That warmer base tone makes me want to play more. The Rudolf Doetsch violin that I chose was not the most expensive one I tried, it had the warm tine I wanted.

Frankly, I find statements like that insulting, not referring to the poster here, I have heard it from others as matter-of-fact statements, not asking about it. The poster is just wondering about statements that have been made for years. That statement makes a person who hears an instrument they like the sound of kind of self-conscious about buying it. Like they have to have a disclaimer, “I know this won’t make me play better.” I think everyone knows they won’t play better. It almost sounds like sour grapes when it is stated. Again, I am not talking about the poster who is asking about that theory. He is wondering.

The violinist, violist, cellist, etc. will play more often with an instrument they love. That person actually could play better if it feels better in their hands, is easier to bow, etc. Getting that tone, be it warm and mellow, or bright, will make that person listen and pay more attention. 

I think your question opens conversation, but I believe the concept is wrong. An instrument you are proud of, in a way, does make you play better. Will it turn a student into a virtuoso? No. That takes playing, practicing, etc. Will it provide more enjoyment, encouragement? Yes. So, in a way it does make you play better, but not to the degree the statement is referring to. Is it not worthwhile to get upgrade, within your financial well being, if it brings you pure enjoyment? Should you feel guilty and have to have the disclaimer about knowing it won’t make you play better? People wondering that makes you feel like you should.

For the record, I love my new cello. I do find it a bit brighter than I like, but it is mellower and has more projection than my other two.  In a few months when I have it paid for, I will probably go cello tasting again. I can trade it in for full price towards a more mellow (the mellow ones were more expensive and I am gradually achieving my goal) cello. I want to do that before I have a chance to ding it so I get full price towards a mellower one.

Will it make me play better? Not right away. I will enjoy it even more than the one I have. I play and practice this one 2-3 hours every day because I love the sound of it so much. As a result, I have improved. My instructor is very pleased. This is more practicing and playing than the hours I did before, about 1-2 hours.  

It is more enjoyable with the basic sound tone I want. I am not upgrading because I believe it will make me a virtuoso. Unfortunately, the mellower sounding cellos do cost more. If I am lucky, I will find another at the Pawn Shop. I gave my mellow Pawn Shop cello to my niece. So, I might not have to buy a new one and trade in my current one. If I find a good one at the pawn shop again that  we have fun looking through, hey, that will be great and fun.

So, if the upgraded instrument gives the player more enjoyment and encourages more playing time, that upgraded instrument has improved that player’s quality in time. But, is it magically going to turn the player into a virtuoso? No. Do people upgrading thinking it will turn him/her into a virtuoso, I do not think they feel that way. I think that statement and those questions, are based on people who have no desire to get a more expensive instrument (sometimes better and sometimes because it is something they have wanted) having sour grapes, to a point. Maybe, it is just something that person wants to do, that instrument delivers the projection and basic tone desired. If the instrument one has makes one happy, that is great, but one should not question someone else for trading up to something that makes that person happy.

This is not meant to be insulting. I know I feel rather guilty when I upgrade and I feel I need to tell people the disclaimer that I know “it won’t make me better”, because I have heard that question and those statements so often about different items. A more expensive oven will not make you into the world’s best baker.

It will be interesting to read others’ opinions. Hit a nerve, but good topic. If a better instrument makes one play more, that player will play better, over time. I have heard that instructors will tell a student to move up in instrument. Why, if the instrument does not help a student improve? How many parents tell their child they can get a better, generally more expensive, instrument if they work for it? Isn’t that basically the same thing? Are they not saying the child or student will play better with the more expensive instrument? Pretty much the same thing, just not with a Stradivarius. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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May 19, 2019 - 9:22 pm
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There definitely is a subjective component. Indeed, part of it is in our heads.

There is a point where subtle differences sensed by us cannot be heard by others. A good test for tone and general musicianship is always an audience, even if it's an audience of one.

On the other hand, how we feel about an instrument effects our interaction with it including how we play.  Thus, non-essential differences such as aesthetics cannot be discounted off-hand.

Regarding having to justify our purchases, that comes from many of us not being well-paid professionals. It's a hobby and we often feel pangs of guilt spending money on our hobbies. It's different when the item cost can be off-set with income from it.

Most musicians I know are hobbyists or only semi-pro. I've never heard one denigrate someone's choice of instrument either way but I don't think I would associate with someone who does.

I can't speak for others but this is a hobby for me. I do it because it brings enjoyment to me. My goal is to be able to call myself a fiddler and share some music with others and to eventually play in the church. I have no plans of becoming a professional or to gain fame. The ends toward my purchases are to bring me enjoyment and hopefully to bring enjoyment to others when I get to that point.

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JiminTexas
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May 20, 2019 - 4:51 am
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After having read the replies above, I realize that there is a factor that I disregarded, and that is "why we play". If one plays because it makes him or her feel good, then I can clearly see that playing an instrument that they feel good about playing could significantly increase the enjoyment of that experience. The operative word in that last statement is, of course, if. I should have thought of that and included that in my original posting. My apologies for that omission.

The search for great technique does not always lead to great music, but the search for great music does always lead to great technique.

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MoonShadows
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May 20, 2019 - 6:47 am
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No problem @JiminTexas It's a good conversation! 

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

My teacher tells me there are only two things keeping me from becoming a great fiddler...My right hand and my left hand. 

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x Coach
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There are several reasons why I started to learn to play the violin at age 60. Here are the reasons, to inspire at least one of my grandchildren to want to learn to play an instrument and maybe play in the high school band one day so I can watch them on Friday nights, second, realized I didn’t want to spend my life in front of a tv at night and wanted to do something productive with myself, three, I have always loved music but wanted to say I am a musician because there is a difference, and finally, after I started, I realized it brought peace to my soul when I’m practicing. There wasn’t the illusion it would be easy, each day I have a new resolve to become just a little better than the day before.

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MoonShadows
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May 20, 2019 - 7:11 am
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x Coach said
There are several reasons why I started to learn to play the violin at age 60. Here are the reasons, to inspire at least one of my grandchildren to want to learn to play an instrument and maybe play in the high school band one day so I can watch them on Friday nights, second, realized I didn’t want to spend my life in front of a tv at night and wanted to do something productive with myself, three, I have always loved music but wanted to say I am a musician because there is a difference, and finally, after I started, I realized it brought peace to my soul when I’m practicing. There wasn’t the illusion it would be easy, each day I have a new resolve to become just a little better than the day before.

  

Well said @x Coach thanx_gif

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

My teacher tells me there are only two things keeping me from becoming a great fiddler...My right hand and my left hand. 

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GregW
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I enjoy visiting violin and guitar shops and trying out new gear.  Sometimes maybe I let myself become too focused on the hunt instead of just practicing.  That goes for practicing tunes I can already play and making them better..developing faster speed better tone and such as well before moving to the next tune.  I know better gear wont instantly make me a better musician..but sometimes a better instrument, gear CAN help.  And even if it doesnt, I enjoy it..I know what I can/cant afford and what the heck..its my hobby go for it.  When not doing that I can live through all of your new gear purchases if you post about it so keep it going! 🙂  lets support our suppliers and economy...if we dont do our part theyll stop making this stuff...THEN..where will we all be!  A little over the top there..sorry..  I think we are here (forum) to exchange ideas and share in our hobby so new gear is part of it and part of what makes it enjoyable.  Good discussion!

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Fiddlerman
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May 20, 2019 - 4:04 pm
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Truth is that Guarneri instruments were quite imperfect and his work was said to be a bit sloppy.
Older instruments are often worth what they are because of the name and history behind the name. Those instrument tend to be great, which is why they gained so much admiration, but there are exceptions.
As for new violins, as long as the dealer is honest, you get what you pay for.
It is however much easier to play on a great instrument vs cheap...

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

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wtw
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Agreed. And having an instrument easier to play may speed up your progress to a certain extent. I did see the difference when I upgraded.

Now even a great instrument obviously won't play itself all alone… won't spare anyone the "hard work" (meaning the "long fun") of learning 😉 !

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Mimi Aysha
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May 20, 2019 - 9:10 pm
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Yes indeed I saw the saw a difference upgrading, as I learnt on a $75 dollar amazon cielo which was falling apart after 3 months! - the bow I am currently playing with cost lots more than my first fiddle - and I believe I got lucky with my fiddle as it was a great deal and I love it! No need to upgrade for sure, I love the sound, the look, the feel, I love everything about it. But I did need to upgrade from the first one otherwise I probably would have given up!

I think its a really personal feeling too, my friend has a nice fiddle, however she likes mine better and "thinks" she sounds better, does this give her more confidence maybe? She doesn't play any differently, she just believes its better, is her playing actually improving? I really think so...this might sound weird but I think she actually concentrates more on mine, she seems to put more passion into it! So we frequently swop and laugh and play!

My driving will not improve with a better car, however I know I prefer and enjoy driving my car rather than my sons beaten up old truck - But I still get from A to B, even with no air and busted seatbelt which is just not fun!

So I believe it's the experience, at least as an adult beginner, whatever will, and can make you enjoy your passion is worth every penny you can afford to put into it. 

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pchoppin
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Fiddlerman said
 
As for new violins, as long as the dealer is honest, you get what you pay for.

It is however much easier to play on a great instrument vs cheap...

  

My violin is a good violin.  It is not worth thousands and thousands of dollars.  However, I love playing it, it is of a quality that I can grow into, it is well built (no loose parts, cracks, splits, or odd vibration issues).  It is solid.

But here's the thing... I tried many violins before I chose the one I have.  When I picked it up and played it, I knew instantly that it was my violin.  If you have ever heard someone say the violin practically plays itself, this is referring to what @Fiddlerman is describing.  A violin that has the sound and tone which will come out naturally.  That is a good violin.

Price and name can make a difference.  But generally this is much more crucial to a professional level player.  My level of playing is not yet honed enough to bring out qualities of a very valuable instrument (like a Strad worth millions of dollars).  The investment of purchasing valuable instruments is a very good idea, financially, but if you are talking about quality of playing, that is a personal and individual decision.

Professionals do not necessarily purchase the most expensive instrument they can find.  They will likely play several instruments and select one that will bring out their style and preference of playing the best.  This may or may not be an extremely expensive instrument.  But it is the best one for them.

Now, clearly, the instruments which I might look at are in a different quality class (and price range) from those that a professional might be looking at.  But the process is the same.  When I play a violin and I will listen for specific things... tone, resonance, ease of play, projection, consistency with higher notes, etc... And although a Stradivarius is going to produce wonderful sound, I probably will not be able to bring out the most that violin can produce because of my skill level.  For me, I may be very happy with an instrument that costs a few thousand dollars... not necessarily the million dollar Strad.  But it is pretty safe to say I probably won't buy the least expensive instrument either.

A beginner to intermediate player should probably buy an instrument that is the most comfortable to play in terms of ease to use and can be played without having to fight to get the sound they want.  You should probably also buy an instrument that is the most your budget can afford because it is likely that instrument will be a higher quality.. that is just the way violins work.  And like @Fiddlerman says, an honest dealer will not steer you wrong.

- Pete -

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Jim Dunleavy
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As has already been said - if you have a desire for a nice instrument and can afford it, go for it. Just don't kid yourself that the end result is about the quality of the instrument - it's at least 95% the player that matters imo. Here's some evidence for that view 🙂 .

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Gordon Shumway
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There are two things I want to mention.

But I don't want to repeat myself. My experience as a teenager was with a plastic oboe. I can't remember if I said that before.

Good music is about searching. I don't want to saying "searching your soul" but it's like that. And a cheap instrument can force a player with promise to learn to search, albeit the hard way, and that can be a good thing. Arguably it could force a kid to give up, but possibly a kid that gives up was never destined for much. However, that is inadvertently to stray from community music into elitism (but I have given up many things - I was never destined for much). Playability is great, but it's only great if you do the playing and don't expect the instrument to play itself. Every instrument has to be searched for its voice, and every piece of music has to be searched for its music.

Yes, there are rich people on every instrument who don't search, except for a better instrument to do the work for them, and it doesn't.

The second thing I want to mention is diminishing returns. That's partly where the OP's illusory bit comes in, I suspect. There's a youtube video that shows that a $270k violin sounds better than a $100 violin (even though Pierre may have made that $100 violin sound great). But, a) it's not 2700 times better; b) am I supposed to buy that $270k violin? I don't think so - I'd rather have a place to live!; and c), you will sound better on your $1k violin than your lawyer nextdoor neighbour will sound on his $270k violin, so don't worry. He'll be forced to spend $30k on a bow and pretend it's 300 times better than a $100 bow. And his dog will eye it up and think it's a chew toy, and one day he may get hold of it if the owner is not careful.devil-violin

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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pchoppin
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Gordon Shumway said
And his dog will eye it up and think it's a chew toy, and one day he may get hold of it if the owner is not careful.devil-violin

  

Which is why I do not have any pets...

- Pete -

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intrepidgirl
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@Jim Dunleavy After listening to the three string shovel, I agree that skill and level of expertise can be much more important than the instrument. Another example is @fiddlerman and his testing of a $99 violin package. I am pretty sure if I played that violin, I could make it sound quite screechy.

Having played a few different instruments by now, I do believe that a better instrument can potentially help me to enjoy myself more, and make my learning easier. I agree with some of the points here though, there is a point of diminishing returns, and likely it will take me years with my current violin before I am ready to see any advantage to moving up. 

That said, if I won the lottery tomorrow, I would likely buy a Holstein violin and a very nice cello too, both from Fiddlerman's shop. I am an unabashed hoarder.

Oh and one last note: I got my hearing aids tuned up today, and THEY make a big difference to what I hear from my instrument. Many things affect my perceived sound, and my enjoyment. Part of my illusion apparently has batteries. 🙂 

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