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Investing for Improvement in Sound and Playing
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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BlairFiddler
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January 18, 2021 - 4:59 pm
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I’m an retired but eager self-taught 'intermediate' fiddler with a $400 fiddle. QUESTION: If I had $1000 to spend, what would the most likely best investment of this money? Better fiddle? Face to face lessons? Strings? Earplugs for wife?

What about $1500? $2000?

Thanks

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stringy
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January 18, 2021 - 5:29 pm
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welcome to the forum.

To answer your question,, in my opinion for what its worth, the best way to sound better is practice more. There is a video of fiddlerman trying out a 100 dollar fiddle and he makes it sound like it cost about five grand. 

As you are an intermedaite player you may appreciate a more expensive and better made instrument, but to sound better you have to play better, a more expensive instrument may be easier to play, fiddlerman himself sells some good stuff if you are in the states, I am in the UK my violin is hungarian. I had a stentor before this one, that was a good violin and  cost about 180 quid, I enjoyed playing that as much as the one I have now, my problem is not enjoying playing its trying ro stop myself practicing😀😀 I am a very beginner by the way been only playing a couple of years

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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Mouse
January 18, 2021 - 6:39 pm
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@BlairFiddler,

Your question takes many turns. The expenses you are talking about are completely different. You have the pretty much one time expense, and the revolving door expenses.

Let us take the pretty much one time out-of-pocket expenses; the instrument, strings, chin and shoulder rests, and other accessories that will not be purchased again, or at least not even monthly.

The instrument includes the instrument, chin rest, shoulder rest and bow. These would be your expenses that would not be repeated for a long period. I would put your $1000 there. Why? The rest is recurring expense. You will have to come up with recuring every week or month. Do not overlook the necessity of a good bow. If you are in the US, I HIGHLY recommend you contact the Fiddlershop.

Why? They are excellent and trustworthy. I was never one that ever thought about purchasing anything like this online. After reading up on it and getting to know Fiddlerman through this forum, I came to realize that he and his entire staff take these bowed string instruments and their customers very seriously. I would call them, let them know your experience, what you are looking for, etc. They will help you all the way with an excellent instrument with terrific quality strings, packed and shipped in the most careful and secure way. I was floored when I received my Concert Deluxe Violin and Concert Deluxe Viola. I would HIGHLY recommend upgrading to the carbon fiber weave bow, as opposed to the carbon bow that would come with your outfit, if you can. The carbon bow is absolutely wonderful, but the weave of the carbon makes it so much better.

As for the lessons, ear plugs, etc. The ear plugs are personal choice. I happen to like the foam insert ones that are discarded after use. If they are for your wife, for heaven's sake. You are talking to Mouse here. I am WOMAN! You let your wife decide on earplugs if she wants them. Don't pick them out. Good grief. Okay, now you know my sense of humor, back to business.

The earplugs will not break the bank and I don't like reinserting something again. So, I would not put that into the $1000. The lessons are recurring expenses and the ear plugs are minimal. Strings will be replaced every so often. These expenses will recur, so, in my opinion, should not go with the $1000, or the other amounts you mentioned.

So, I would say the $1000 or more would go for the instrument outfit. And, I would suggest your first stop be Fiddlershop.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not paid by Fiddlershop to administrate or moderate the forum. I just do it for Fiddlerman. I  do not work for Fiddlershop. I get nothing for recommending them and am not asked to recommend them. None of us here on the forum are asked to or get paid to recommend Fiddlershop. That is not what this forum is about, but if someone asks, I will tell them. This is just our experience.

I hope this helps you.

PS: I love you mentioned in your profile that your grandfather played fiddle.

The Bumblebee Flies!

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stringy
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January 18, 2021 - 7:14 pm
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@mouse, do you really use an ear plug, I remember the debate about this, but I dont use one myself ,getting a bit concerned now though, what do you think? I asked on a different forum as I already had before I started violin tinnitus. On the other forum I was given the answer by a soloist dont worry unless You play in an orchestra, what do you think?

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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Mouse
January 18, 2021 - 7:57 pm
Member Since: December 26, 2018
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Yes, I do @stringy. Will PM you. I don't want to turn BlairFiddlers question away from what he needed to know. 

The Bumblebee Flies!

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stringy
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January 18, 2021 - 8:03 pm
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ok thanks.

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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January 18, 2021 - 8:39 pm
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I think it's fair to include lessons in the $1000 if you can't take regular lessons for some reason (e.g. if you can't normally afford lessons, or if your schedule makes regular long-term lessons difficult to keep up). That said, strings are a recurring expense no matter what, so I wouldn't include them unless you're still playing on the original strings that the violin came with (which are usually terrible in student violin outfits).

I would recommend spending some of the money on at least a month or two of lessons (preferably more), because even a few lessons can go a long way in terms of fixing technique and correcting bad habits. I only ever had a handful of lessons, in April through June of 2016 after self-teaching for more than 16 years, and stopped because my teacher never had evening or weekend openings. (I had to schedule each lesson individually, either when I could get away from work for an hour or two during the day, or when my teacher had a cancellation.) But in just three months I completely overhauled my bowing technique.

As far as equipment goes: with a $400 violin, you're out of the "Violin Shaped Object" price range. Although it would be nice to upgrade, what you have should be at least fully functional. On the other hand, it probably came with an inferior bow, and because so much technique is tied into the bow, for beginners a bow upgrade can help a lot more than a violin upgrade. I would also immediately buy a good rosin, because even high-end rosin is cheap and there's literally no reason to ever use the rosin that came with your violin outfit.

The way I would budget $1000, assuming a $400 student violin outfit with no prior upgrades, is: $300-400 for lessons, $150-200 for a new bow, $15 for a good rosin. Set the rest aside to save for a future violin upgrade.

Note that there's a big jump in quality somewhere around $1000 as you get from factory violins to workshop violins, so after spending $300 on lessons you're probably not going to get much improvement by spending $700 on a new violin.

If you have $1500 or more to spend, then I would definitely look into purchasing a better violin.

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ABitRusty
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January 18, 2021 - 9:05 pm
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i like the lesson idea.. instead of ear plugs  maybe buy a cheap comforter and hang on the door.  and one on the wall adjoining where your wife is.  Or those foam eggshell mattress overlays..  not acoustic panels..the comforter or eggshell foam will work.  it will knock down alot of the volume.  especially when its hung over the door.  save rest of the money for upgrades because if you stick with it you will upgrade eventually and probably the bow first.

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ELCBK
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January 19, 2021 - 2:09 am
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@BlairFiddler -

Welcome to the forum - everyone has given you great advice, but you didn't mention anything about the way you feel about your violin or the style you play! 

  1. Are you happy with the way your violin sounds? 
  2. Have you tried to improve your sound with different strings? 
  3. Are you happy with how your bow feels and responds?
  4. What kind of music do you play? 
  5. What are your goals? 
  6. Does your wife complain when you practice? 
  7. Do you have good equipment for recording and sharing how you play? 

Answering questions like these can help bring you closer to your answer. 

I'm I big fan of workshops and virtual interactive help.  I enjoy learning from many sources and people with different perspectives. 

All people learn differently. 

Glad you joined us! 

https://www.lanesboro.lib.mn.us/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/cat_fiddle.jpg

 

- Emily

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BlairFiddler
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January 19, 2021 - 9:45 pm
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Thanks for all the well-considered responses. I truly value your insights.

I'll answer more fully tomorrow. Blair

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
January 20, 2021 - 1:54 pm
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BlairFiddler said
I’m an retired but eager self-taught 'intermediate' fiddler with a $400 fiddle. QUESTION: If I had $1000 to spend, what would the most likely best investment of this money? Better fiddle? Face to face lessons? Strings? Earplugs for wife?

What about $1500? $2000?

Thanks  

If you decide you would like to invest in a better violin contact us for suggestions.

For those who are extremely self driven the importance of actual person to person lessons are not as important as with those who are not.

New strings only if the ones that you are using are old.

No doubt earplugs for the wife is a great investment. ROFL

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

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BlairFiddler
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January 20, 2021 - 6:37 pm
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Hello, New Friends,rnI re-read the suggestions you guys have made.

I live in Georgia (USA) and there are very few string players nearby. To be able to get advice and insight from all across the USA and UK is both an honor and helpful! Heartfelt thanks!!!

Someone asked me several questions which I will answer:

1. Are you happy with the way your violin sounds? Not really. It is harsh-sounding UNLESS I put a paper clip on the bridge. That helps it be more mellow.  I will admit, the harder I work on technique, the better my sound. I have three other violins and this one is the best-sounding. If I were to make a comparison to guitar, my violin sounds like Kurt Cobain. I would prefer George Benson.

2. Have you tried to improve your sound with different strings? I changed from Perlon to metal-core Helicore strings to gain more volume (I play in a weekly jam session where I am usually the only fiddler. I play with 10-20 other musicians). The Helicores made the sound louder and somewhat more pleasing, but it's still jangly and not smooth.

3. Are you happy with how your bow feels and responds? I can't say. The bow that came with the violin is wood and plays better than my other, budget, carbon fiber bow. I can't really say why. I don't do any bow gymnastics.

4. What kind of music do you play? I play mostly old-time fiddle. rnWhat are your goals? This is a tough question. I think want to continue feeling great about my playing, and to improve so that I play in a way that people enjoy in a more-discreet way. Now, I get compliments like "You can really play." and "It's nice to hear a fiddle." I'd love to know that my playing is lovely and moves people.

5. Does your wife complain when you practice? Rarely, if ever, any more. When we first got married 40 years ago, she offered that I could learn to play the violin or stay married. I shelved violin until a few years ago. She has complimented me occasionally, but the violin is a loud instrument and good practice is repetitious. I go outdoors, usually.

6. Do you have good equipment for recording and sharing how you play? I use my smartphone for recording and am very skilled in using my computer to record, manipulate, and share my recordings. I don't have much confidence that people would want my solo recordings.

Again, I really appreciate your experiences and your willingness to share your wisdom! I hope this thread will be helpful to others.rn

Blair

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stringy
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January 20, 2021 - 7:30 pm
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When you put a paper clip on the bridge you are effectively muting it which gives you the mellow sound.

I use pirastro strings, which apart from the e give a nice sound, I would have thought that gut strings would give you the type of sound you are after but they have a lot of drawbacks as well, I play a lot of Irish fiddle music as well as classical and my strings work for everything.. on my banjo I have very bright sounding strings because mellow ones cant be heard when you have more than a couple of musicians, same goes for my bouzouki ,saying that I havent played with others for over a year now so it no longer matters to me.

Without actually hearing your violin its hard to say what your sound problem is really.

Maybe some one with more experience on here than me could answer your question a bit better.

I just changed to a slightly better bow and the diference in sound is noticeable, the bow makes a huge diference,, as does the weight you apply to the bow, by letting your arm relax into it. 

If people say you are good I would be made up with the compliment, you cant be going far wrong if people like it, after al,l all musicians like pleasing their audience and you seem to be able to do that sowhy worry. why not post a vid on here and see what people say, they wont criticise but they will tell you if they see how you can improve, I have uploaded several myself got some useful comments. hope thats some help,but to be honest i am only a learner on violin I am a guitarist amongst other instruments.

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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ELCBK
USA
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January 20, 2021 - 8:18 pm
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@BlairFiddler - 

Thank you - narrowed things done a bit!

Without knowing what you sound like, I will mention there are strings that project/respond really well that are more complex than your Helicore strings. 

You don't have to share a recording of your playing with us, but maybe share one with Fiddlerman or the Fiddlershop so they can make suggestions of violins/bows to try for your way of playing. 

My fiddle I've started with cost close to twice as much as yours, a Glasser AEX.  It is considered a lower level Acoustic/Electric, Carbon Composite 5-string.  I've heard it called a tank, but I love my "Mortimer" enough that I haven't even reached a point where I want to plug it into an amp, yet.  It can be VERY loud if I need it to be (I should be wearing hearing protection). 😁

The new version of the Fiddlerman CF bow is AMAZING - don't think anyone can go wrong trying one for the quality and price. 

Exciting prospect, shopping for a new violin! 

giphy.gif

Lol Laughing Emoticons ...bowing gymnastics.

- Emily

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ABitRusty
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January 21, 2021 - 8:36 am
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BlairFiddler said
Hello, New Friends,rnI re-read the suggestions you guys have made.

I live in Georgia (USA) and there are very few string players nearby. To be able to get advice and insight from all across the USA and UK is both an honor and helpful! Heartfelt thanks!!!

Someone asked me several questions which I will answer:

1. Are you happy with the way your violin sounds? Not really. It is harsh-sounding UNLESS I put a paper clip on the bridge. That helps it be more mellow.  I will admit, the harder I work on technique, the better my sound. I have three other violins and this one is the best-sounding. If I were to make a comparison to guitar, my violin sounds like Kurt Cobain. I would prefer George Benson.

2. Have you tried to improve your sound with different strings? I changed from Perlon to metal-core Helicore strings to gain more volume (I play in a weekly jam session where I am usually the only fiddler. I play with 10-20 other musicians). The Helicores made the sound louder and somewhat more pleasing, but it's still jangly and not smooth.

3. Are you happy with how your bow feels and responds? I can't say. The bow that came with the violin is wood and plays better than my other, budget, carbon fiber bow. I can't really say why. I don't do any bow gymnastics.

4. What kind of music do you play? I play mostly old-time fiddle. rnWhat are your goals? This is a tough question. I think want to continue feeling great about my playing, and to improve so that I play in a way that people enjoy in a more-discreet way. Now, I get compliments like "You can really play." and "It's nice to hear a fiddle." I'd love to know that my playing is lovely and moves people.

5. Does your wife complain when you practice? Rarely, if ever, any more. When we first got married 40 years ago, she offered that I could learn to play the violin or stay married. I shelved violin until a few years ago. She has complimented me occasionally, but the violin is a loud instrument and good practice is repetitious. I go outdoors, usually.

6. Do you have good equipment for recording and sharing how you play? I use my smartphone for recording and am very skilled in using my computer to record, manipulate, and share my recordings. I don't have much confidence that people would want my solo recordings.

Again, I really appreciate your experiences and your willingness to share your wisdom! I hope this thread will be helpful to others.rn

Blair

  

Blair @BlairFiddler

Have you tried heavy vs medium helicores?  also.. these project close to a helicore in my opinion...not as brittle sounding to me on 1 of my fiddles that didnt like helicores.  they are a pain getting to settle in though.  took almost a week.   They also feel a little more loose at first under the bow.  i guess if helicore and obligato had a kid..this would be it.  

https://fiddlershop.com/produc.....string-set

and..if you get a chance, try a codabow luma.

are you northern Georgia, close to Chatt?  Sounds like youve got a good group going.  What tunes usually come up at your jam?  

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