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violin quest trip


oldbeginner

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I'm in my 40s and just started violin last year. Dad is a fiddle player. I've been playing violin just long enough to get about half way through the Essential Elements Book 2 and my teacher has decided it is time for a better violin. My current violin is a cheapo Bestler (yard sale) and a $40 fiberglass bow.

I've been eagerly saving my $$ for awhile now and have enough to get something in the $1500 or lower range. Next week I plan a long trip from Alabama to Wisconsin and plan to visit at least 6 violin shops on the way to try out a few violins. I can't wait to make the trip and will probably enjoy it more than the actual purchase.

Anyway, I'll try several but wanted anyone's advice about the following new brands: Gilga Maestro, Scherl & Roth 301, Cao 750, Eastman 305, and Stringworks (any). I'll also be trying out some used instruments as well at Elderly Instruments in Lansing, MI.

Plan to get an Arcos Basil bow (or similar quality) as part of this trip.

Need something appropriate for both fiddling with dad and hopefully a beginner orchestra in few years.

Any advice on the violins, bows, or shops in TN, KY, IN, MI, or WI would be appreciated.

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Aren't there any decent shops in AL that you could rent from? I am renting my violin from a local luthier and it has given me that opportunity to increase the quality as my playing improves as well as try several different makers over an extended period of time.

As far as the places you have mentioned, both Elderly and Stringworks have excellent reputations. I hate to recommend a particular instrument since every person has different needs. Since you'll be in Lansing, Ann Arbor is about an hour and a half east and you could see what Shar has as well.

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Beleive it or not, you can get a very good instrument for $1,500. However, if you're just starting out, make sure you get plenty of friends whose know sound quality to help you. I am an amature player/collector. I've made some mistakes earlier on, when i though i knew what good sound should be, or what kind of sound would suit my taste.

The first thing you need to determine is what kind of musics do you want to play? for some fiddling or folks musics, there's no need to spend too much money on the violin. You just need to get a lound one with steel strings. Although there are many good sounding new instruments that aren't too expensive from China, Germany, and eastern Europe; we do not know how they are develope as they getting older. If you look real hard, you can find some older "trade" violins that are very good quality and excelent sounding. For example, the German violins that was sold from Sears and Montgomery Ward at around the turn of 1900s. They are usually have a stamp on the back button with "stainer" or "Klotz". Also, the french "shop" violins of JTL or Collin Barzen ( may be more). These instrument may retail in the violin shop for $2000-$3000. But, you may find them cheaper on Ebay...Good luck

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As for decent shops in Alabama, maybe, but I don't know of any in the northern part of the state and Nashville is just about as close as B'ham for me and they have 3 good shops that I know of. My city metro area has a about 60,000 people in it and we have two violins priced over $250 (really only 2...both Scherl and Roths) in three music shops.

I drove to a larger city near here, called before I went and was told they rent and sell violins. They had a few for me to try that they had picked out before I left home. ALL literally were out of tune, which I very politely mentioned but was told that I was wrong. The G and D were tuned together and the A and E were together but D and A weren't close to the same. I decided not to argue with someone who "repairs and set up our violins" but I do know how to tune one...I just wasn't willing to turn the pegs to risk breaking a string at a place that didn't even know this basic thing. Why bother?

At any rate, I have learned that the quest to purchase is often more enjoyable than ownership (e.g. my house) and so I'm going to have a blast on my long distance quest, realizing that buying as near home as I can has its advantages.

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There are many reputable shops that will send you violins to try at home. That might be your best bet since you need more than a half-hour to judge an instrument. Also, your judgement can be affected by the environment in which you play. Don't even try "music shops" that aren't string instrument specialists. Try Shar ( www.sharmusic.com ) and Loxahatchee Vintage Strings ( www.lvstrings.com )for mail order.

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I would suggest that you learn to tune a violin before you set out on your trip. Tuning the instrument is a fundamental skill for violinist at all levels. You need to be able at least to test the tuning each time you play and sometimes during your playing sessions. And you need to make sure that the pegs on any violin you consider buying turn smoothly: if not, the shop can and should adjust them for you before you buy. Violin dealers expect their customers to tune the instruments themselves. It isn't hard: first, you test the A against some standard such as a tuning fork or bar or a metronome with an A tone. Then you tune the D by playing the A and the D together and turning the peg until the sound no longer sets your teeth on edge, or rather until you hear a perfect fifth--your ear will tell you when you reach that spot. Then you tune the G against the D and the E against the A. (The E and maybe the other strings too will be equipped with a fine-tuner in the string holder, which makes the task even easier, and if you buy a violin you might want to ask the dealer to install fine tuners on all the strings.) Don't worry about breaking a string--if you turn the pegs gently (which you can do if the pegs are properly adjusted), that shouldn't happen, and if you can't turn them gently, it's the dealer's fault. Anyway, eventually strings break and have to be replaced. Good luck with your search!

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I don't believe Oldbeginner didn't know how to tune, just that he wasn't willing to argue with a shop owner(or sales person)) that didn't know how to tune.

Your advice on pegs (and tuning in general) was very good. A lot of beginners don't know what to expect, eg smooth turning but, non-slipping pegs. And, if the pegs aren't smooth it is the shop's problem and not the client. Of course reasonable care must be taken by beginners and not turn like they would a lug nut while changing a tire.

For a beginnier in any field (e.g. music, computers, etc) they are somewhat intimidated by store owners/workers. And, often stores have to rely on beginner (knowledge wise) help just to cover the hours of operation.

Those of you up north (USA) have lots of choices for stringed instruments and specialized dealers. They are few and far between in the south. Plenty of general music stores but, not many real specialists or luthiers.

Oldbeginner, have a great trip and try as many violins as time permits. Line them up ahead of time though 'cuz' even up north, they don't have a violin shop on every corner!

Regis

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Hi All,

As I understand it some violins sound great only for lower

positions. Some are good for all positions but not necessarily fantastic for first position playing. It takes a long time at least for me to get a fair assessment of the quality of the instruments. Particularly, it is hard to try ( or comparing them) violins while you are traveling.(such as in different rooms, quiet or noisy , different bows ,tiresome etc)

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Thanks for the information. Just need to be a little less passive regarding tuning those violins. I do know that if I find one in which I like the setup and sound that I need to test the pegs before I purchase. Thanks for the advice.

But...it's hard to explain...but how do you tell a woman who just told you that she does her own set-up and repairs that she does not know how to tune a violin. Honest, I walked out rather stunned. When I mentioned they were out of tune, she got out her tuner and tested a few strings and said, no, they are right on it. They will be ice-skating in hades before anyone could convince me that the strings were in tune. Either a) the meter was in error or :) she didn't know how to work it, c) she was deaf and a great lip reader, or d) I was hallucinating for the first time. But I grew up with a fiddle player, I have played guitar with fiddlers for a long time, and I know how to tune an instrument. You know...after a while you can just hear it. It just wasn't worth arguing with someone with whom I decided not to purchase anything from because of that one facet.

And I had nto thought about tone in anything other than first position. Need to watch that I don't get overly sold on something that just sounds good in first position.

Anyway, back to my original question. Any pros and cons regarding especially Stringworks, Scott Cao 750s, or Gliga Meastros/Gamas?

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Some advice:

Even if you don't play in the upper positions yet, test each string all the way up to the end of the fingerboard by moving your finger up the string at half-note intervals. Watch out for wolf notes in the area of b flat to c sharp an octave above first position on the G string. Even if you've never heard one before, you'll recognize one instantly. A wolf will drive you crazy as your playing advances. Also, make sure there are no sharp discontinuities in sound quality across the whole range of the instrument. Try playing a piece in quick tempo as fast as you can to see how responsive the instrument is.

I hope you enjoy your search. But be careful--no matter how much money you're prepared to spend, the dealer will always show you a violin in a price range that's just a little beyond what you can afford. And that's the violin you'll fall in love with and will have to buy. Once you get bitten, unless you are Bill Gates (or David Fulton) your violin lust will soon outstrip your wallet!

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Hey thanks for the very practical tips on buying a violin. I went with my dad to a fiddlers convention tonight and a few violins were for sale in tents around the place. I tried a Scherl & Roth and yes, I did turn those pegs (thanks BillW & Regis) and the G string wouldn't stay put. Then I tried a Pfretschner (sp?), same problem...both were priced around $250 with case and bow. Lastly, I tried a Gulden ($300) and the pegs were fine, sound was good in first position, but I noticed some white in the seams around the table in one spot and around the neck...I'm assuming a repair job that wasn't exact...or maybe Elmer's glue? I passed on all three.

I also saw about 50 old bows for $25 unhaired (or whatever you call that) but don't know a thing about bows so I passed on those as well. At least I got the monkey off my back regarding turning pegs in front of the owner and learned a lesson. Have to figure out where a Bb is that high on the G string before my trip...I will find it. I'm trying to remind myself that I don't know enough to spend a lot. Thanks.

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" how do you tell a woman who just told you that she does her own set-up and repairs that she does not know how to tune a violin. .........." Quoted

Hi all,

I think the lady could be just a luthier but not a violin player. You might be right about the meter but the battery could be low. I had a similar experience . One time I visited

a violin shop. A young lady took a violin out and tuned it;she

seemed quite carefully in tuning it and after a while she handed it to me. I took one of their bow and started to play it. My playing of that time was terible and right out embarrassing. The violin was slightly off tune. I checked it with my quartz tuner indeed it was.

after that I make it a rule: Never play a single note if a violin is not in tune.( you test their violins and it is not avoidable to show your ability, a fair game. I didn't blame anyone). I think Shopping a violin should be exciting experience. Enjoy it.

( Just my thought to share with you,and all)

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Just a clarification: The pegs on a violin sold by an individual in a casual sale (as at a fiddlers' convention) might be sticky, but that is a problem that can be fixed, for a price, by a repair person. If you are looking at violins in a dealer's shop, however, the dealer ought to have the instruments in as good a condition as possible--properly set up and with pegs that turn smoothly but hold in place. Another issue relating to a violin's condition: the fingerboard should be smooth. After years of front-line service, a violin's fingerboard can develop washboad-like bumps at the intervals where the fingers press the strings. This can be corrected by (I think) replaning the fingerboard or, in extreme instances, by replacing it entirely (an expensive proposition) but if you are looking at older violins in a dealer's shop, the dealer should offer you violins with smooth fingerboards or be prepared to fix the problem for free.

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I don't know much about music theory, but one thing I've learned from reading people's posts on this board is that using a digital tuner will result in "equal temperament" tuning, which is not what you want when you're tuning a violin. I've found a couple of interesting posts on the matter, here and here.

Could this be the problem with the woman who tuned the violins oldbeginner was looking at?

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You are right about "open fifth" and "quartz tuned" are not

the same. I noticed it but I could not figure it out until you call my attention. I know the theory, of which it says "equal temperment" is only a compromise. So true, I did not pay attention to it.

Thank you for this good discussion.

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Chronos, I don't think the problem with the tuning of the instruments at that shop was due to the equal temperament issue unless it is substantially different. I doubt my ears could detect a very small difference. But I did not know about the digital or quartz issue at all. Still a neophyte. Thanks for the information.

I'm headed out for my violin quest trip at 7 AM tomorrow! I think my my dad is slightly concerned that his 44 yr old son will get "took to the cleaners" by a slick violin salesman...he may be right, but the advice of the forum has at least helped with that some. Thanks.

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Just wanted to update everyone on my search for a violin and tell you about the shops I visited. I ended up buying a 1997 Franz Sandner Master 65F on consignment at Nashville Violins for $1200 (my price limit). And got a few accessories.

The shops I visited were:

Violin Shop in Nashville. Great little shop with wonderful service and staff. Fred Carpenter runs this one and I'll be back there in the future for other things. Had a wide variety of violins (eastman, etc.) both in my price range and far above it. No pressure.

Nashville Violins. They did some repair work on my dad's violin, rehaired a bow, etc. and I liked what they did. This obviously influenced my decision. Dave Wascher let me play and play and play in a practice room with a variety of instruments...and my playing is pretty bad. Very wide variety of instruments, lots of used ones and several new. Low pressure. I'll be back there a lot. No pressure.

Mark Edwards violins in Louisville. Works out of the basement of his home. Mostly deals in new violins and had a ton. Almost bought a Paesold 804. Little more pressure than the others but not too much. Nice shop if you are looking for new advancing violins.

Elderly Instruments in Lansing, Michigan. Wow! This was one of the best used instruments shops anywhere. So very much from which to chose and if it had been a tad closer to home, I think I would have bitten on a used Scott Cao 800. Violin room is small but packed with violins...wide variety of prices. And a huge music roon. Bought a few videos. No pressure.

Stringworks in Appleton, Wisconsin. Nice showroom. But strictly new instruments and only the Stringworks line. The instruments sounded great, but not better than the Sandner I had tried at Nashville. No pressure.

On my way back I stopped at two shops in Indiana...Casa de Sol and Franks violins...both were closed on Mondays. Picked up the vilin in Nashville and headed home.

Lessons:

1. Call before you visit to get operating hours. Do not expect any violin shop to be open on Monday...it is the exception, not the rule for one to open that day.

2. Expect most violin shops to open at 11, 10 at the earliest. Only Stringworks was the exception...opened at 8.

3. It is near impossible to compare instruments from shop A with those in shop B, because of acoustical differences in the rooms, string configurations, etc. But you can tell differences between violins within shops.

4. Most violin shops have wonderful human beings as sales persons. If you visit one that doesn't, go to another.

5. Most violin shops do know how to tune an instrument

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I think others may have told you already, but the Peg issue, most of the time is not a big deal. Many time, the pegs are slipering be cause the strings are not strung up correctly, or the pegs are not fitting on the holes correctly. If you line-up the string in such a way that it locks itself against the peg wall, it will never slip again. If you don't quite undersatand my description...i will try again.

cheer,

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oldbeginner:

You are doing the right thing. My advice is keep playing as many different violins and bows as you can and look for the ones you like. Just look the salesperson in the eye and say "not today." Until you find that right instrument or bow. Then leave the store and it will call to you until you return for it, fiddle or bow. I think bows call louder.

-dogma

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"Until you find that right instrument or bow. Then leave the store and it will call to you until you return for it, fiddle or bow. I think bows call louder."

It will call you. And it will cost more than you can possibly afford in this lifetime.

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Quote:

Anyway, back to my original question. Any pros and cons regarding especially Stringworks, Scott Cao 750s, or Gliga Meastros/Gamas?


I don't know stringworks or Scott Cao since neither of those are supplied in the UK.

Gligas are delightful but go for a Gama and save the money. Also, get one online from http://www.violinslover.com (that way you will only use less than half your budget and will have plenty left for a good bow)

The only thing that might make you NOT like Gligas is if you particularly want a bright and loud violin.

Liz

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi oldbeginner,

Well I've got you beat. I'm 51 and just started playing the violin about six months ago. I love it and wish I had started years ago.

I'm certainly no expert on the subject, but after a lot of research I decided to buy a Gliga Maestro violin. I could not be happier with it. As a matter of fact, I liked it so well that I ordered another one! I believe Gliga Maestros are the best kept secret around. And I feel like they will one day be a much sought-after instrument. I can't say anything about their lower priced instruments, but the upper end ones are great! Remember, even the old masters' works were once new violins!

Check out violinslover.com for Gligas. They will let you try one out for a week to see if you like it. Good luck!

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