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Advice needed on a purchase


Guest mojojojo
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Hello and thanks for the forum I'm in a bit of a conundrum. I've got my eye on an older fiddle made by Robert Forberger. I've never heard of this maker, but that doesn't mean anything, I'm ignorant about makers and stuff. I played it for a week and like the sound, which is on the dark/sweet/quiet side, and it's more responsive than my old fiddle too. I took it back, deciding to think on it a few days, because it's over $2000, which is alot for me, but I could manage it if I watched my pennies for a bit.

My current fiddle is a German trade fiddle, which sounds harsh on the A and E, and seems a bit sluggish on the triplets compared to the Forberger (I play old time and Irish). I tried a half dozen different kinds of strings on it in the past thinking that would help, but they either they sounded dead or shreiky to me.

So today I took it into a different violin shop, to try out what they have to offer and see if they'd do a trade if I found something I liked there (the other shop won't do a trade). Two people at the shop played it, and said "we'd really like to sell you another fiddle, but we think that with a good set-up, your fiddle has the potential to sound better than anything you could get for that price." Estimate on repair is $400 for a new bridge, soundpost, tailpiece, planing the fingerboard, and strings. I tried out a couple fiddles there, and took home a nice-sounding Chinese instrument ($1800) to play on. Although it's nice, it just didn't pull at my heartstrings like the Forberger.

Is it worth putting $400 into a German trade fiddle? I'm kinda curious what it will sound like - the things they said were wrong were that the sound post was too short, and the bridge wasn't fitted very well (which surprised me a bit because I just had those two things done by the shop that has the Forberger 2 years ago), and they said my tailpiece sucks (does a tailpiece have that big of an effect on sound)?

OR, should I put the $400 toward the Forberger, which is from the shop I got work done at 2 years ago. What if the work to my old fiddle doesn't change the sound that much? And now I'm wondering if the Forberger needs more work on top of it's purchase price - I didn't think to take it to another shop to have it checked out to see if the soundpost is the right length, or if the bridge is fitted right.

If I did get the work done on my old fiddle, would it make it more sellable, if I didn't like the sound after the work? Would I recoup the $400?

Help! Thoughts?

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Nobody would know what future will bring. What price will be for your violin if you decide to resell it in future.

Buy a violin you like (as it is) and spend money to correct any obvious defects

that your trade violin may have or your new purchase may have.

For example the bridge is too high, sound post too short, neck angle too low,

tailpiece too heavy, fingerboard needs planning .. etc.

Violin shop people know these things very well and will tell you these work are necessary to be done in order to bring out

the best of your violin. My guess you will recoup some of your $400. Meanwhile your enjoyment of playing the violin.

pays back a lot. Don't forget that.

PS, My guess that add some a weight on E and A string behind the bridge will help to balance.

It helped me when I put a ring on these strings. (see photo below, not on E, in my case)

Wish you a lot of luck whatever you decide.

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Sounds like there are some issues to sort out:

-- Which of the two shops that you have visited do you trust? Talk to as many musicians, preferably professionals and teachers, as you can about the two shops. If one shop is telling you that the work done by another shop was not done well, there's a conflict to resolve about which shop you want to deal with.

-- What would be the value of your German trade instrument in tip top shape? I'm guessing that the max value of that instrument in tip-top shape would be about $2,000, retail. But that's just a guess. Its actual value may be considerably less, if it isn't an especially good instrument, even if it's all fixed up. If you tried to sell it in tip top shape you would get about half of retail. So that means $1,000 or less.

-- The $400 cost of the listed improvements, new bridge, new soundpost, fingerboard planing, new tailpiece, new strings, sounds a bit on the high side for a German trade instrument, but not unreasonably so, if the shop does careful work. I would think that $50 for bridge, $100 for new soundpost, $100 for fingerboard planing, $30 for tailpiece, and $30 for strings ($310 total) would cover expenses, depending on where you live. So $400 isn't unreasonable. However, if they want to put on a set of $100 European strings, you might ask for less expensive but good quality strings such as Helicore. You might also ask what is wrong with the tailpiece. In short, get an itemization of their charges, and see where they're directing most of that $400. Maybe there's room for adjusting prices down without compromising quality much.

-- Do you harbor any desire to retain your current instrument? Are you really eager for a different one?

I don't think you would regain all or even most of your $400 if you were to resell the instrument. So, if you're pretty sure you want another instrument, I don't think fixing the current instrument for $400 is worth it unless all fixed up that fiddle would have a retail value at or greater than $2,000.

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Tailpiece, chinrest etc maynot be more than slight cosmetic changes in sound,but finger plane is some thing that may effect fundamentals of sound. If it is done properly, it may bring what you desire. Again a good bridge tuning can easily cure the harshness(sour, edgy sound).

On the other hand you will have the problem persistent with every bridge or finger plane change.

Usually they are finished, regarding how they look rather than how they work.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
mojojojo

and they said my tailpiece sucks (does a tailpiece have that big of an effect on sound)?


I'm curious what the tailpiece on your fiddle now is like? Ebony, fine tuners? What strings are you using (sorry if I missed that)?

The price you quoted seems well within the normal range for violin shops. Fiddle players are generally used to a simpler level of work. A well cut bridge is a beautiful piece of workmanship that doesn't come cheap, but not everyone appreciates or even likes a normal violin setup. If you do, then the $400 could be money well spent.

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Thank you for your replies. It really helps to know what others think!

Yuen, yes I agree on not knowing the future. I have a feeling that the work will help, but I'm not sure how much. The ring on your fiddle is something I never thought of, and is a good idea. Thanks! And you're absolutely right about the enjoyment. I don't play my fiddle as much as I should because I get frustrated with the shrillness. That's why I enjoyed playing the Forberger so much, the noise I made with it was nice, even with my amatuer level playing skill.

Sunnybear, I know you're right. It is kinda in my blood to get that Forberger. I've played at least 30 fiddles in the last couple weeks, and that's been the one that I keep thinking about. And yes, I was pleasantly surprised when they said, 'fix up yours for $400 and then see what you think. If you don't like it, you can trade it in.' But so far, none they have at the moment make my toes tingle.

Skiingfiddler, I'm not sure yet how to answer your question. I am kind of sentimentally attached to the trade fiddle. But I do know a player who LOVES it, and if I got the Forberger, I wouldn't mind selling it to him (if he still wants it), if I knew it would have a loving home. On the other hand, if the repairs really make it sound and play great, I'm just as happy keeping it...as long as I can get the Forberger out of my blood

Thanks Selim, that's what I was wondering about the tailpiece. I just remembered they said mine was a little too long (or something) because the scale length of my fiddle is slightly longer than 'standard'. So it sounded like it needed to be changed. They're putting on a Wittner tailpiece, they seemed to like those alot.

It is great to be able to get people's input!

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Mark, I believe it was a wooden tailpiece (it was black, but I'm not certain it was ebony...I know it wasn't plastic) with 4 fine tuners. I don't really need the fine tuners, so if they effect the sound I'm fine without them. I was using Tonica strings. I don't know enough about set-ups to know what works for me yet. I don't think too short of a sound post and a poorly-fitted bridge worked very well though I think I need to find a book on how to recognize a good set-up. Can anyone recommend one??

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I would definitely remove 3 of the 4 fine tuners from the tailpiece if it's a wood tailpiece with add-on metal fine tuners and you are using Tonicas, which are synthetic core strings, not metal core. (Keep the E tuner.) Those extra 3 metal tuners back there put a lot of weight on the tailpiece and dull the sound. I removed 3 tuners from a similar setup I got on an inexpensive Chinese violin and it made a lot of difference in sound, for the better.

If you want to use metal core strings and feel you need fine tuners for G, D, and A, get a tailpiece with integrated fine tuners.

By the way, Tonicas are good strings, assuming they are not too old.

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The $400 estimate for the work sounds high to me. I'd say more like $300 or less. (bridge $50, soundpost $30, tailpc. $25, plane fingerboard + nut if necessary $75-90, strings $100 or less). Have you tried the Pirastro Synoxa strings? The instrument that I'm playing now sounded kind of dead with Tonicas, but really came to life with Synoxas. The old German trade fiddles can turn out really nice, but part of that is determined by the interior work. If the interior of the top is roughly gouged out with a carved in bass bar, then the chances of it turning out really well without some interior work are not really good.

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Thanks for the input FiddleDoug. I'm kinda feeling stuck about pricing. The other shop charged me $150 two years ago for a new bridge, new sound post, and new strings. He said he'd been doing violin set-up for 20 years. However, according to the new shop, the soundpost was cut too short and wasn't even near the spot it should be. I haven't dropped it or anything, but then if it's too short, is it possible just the vibration of playing made it move that far? They also said the bridge wasn't fitted well, and wasn't where it should be in relation to the scale length of my instrument. So, it seems to me the $150 was kind of a waste of money. The new (for me) shop is the most popular in town, and seems to do alot of business, so I'm hoping the $400 will be worth it. I didn't know getting a violin set-up would be so complicated. I don't know who to trust.

But then as others have said, if it isn't just set up, and the violin doesn't have that voice in it to bring out, I'll be wasting $400 more. That's precisely why I'm in a conundrum. It's just a gamble I'm going to have to take, I guess.

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Just an impression but I think youre better of with the original

shop, the new shop recommending a Wittner tailpiece, that just

doesn't sound like good advice, sounds like there just after youre

money, I know a big shop would charge something like $400 but a lot

of newer shops that aren't as good charge just as much, theres a

local guy been in business for three years charging $120 to fit a

bridge, I charge $40, $30 to level a fingerboard, $30 for a

soundpost etc, so you don't necessarily get more for youre money at

expensive shops, sincerely lyndon

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If you have played 30 violins and the Forberger stands out then buy it. You show an amazing maturity compared to so many posters who buy something sight unseen off of ebay and then grandstand about how wonderful it is and what a good deal they got--despite having little or nothing to compare it to.

The process of comparing and contrasting a couple of dozen instruments is by far the best way for MUSICIANS (not speculators) to purchase an instrument. You may not get the best monetary deal, but you will know that you have an instrument that is right for you--and the best of many that are available. Then get back to practicing and playing.

Keep your trade fiddle as a spare--at your convenience show it to different repair people--a consensus will emerge about what it does and does not need.

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Thanks Lyndon, I appreciate your time to reply. I think they may have recommended the Wittner because my old wooden tailpiece had 4 fine tuners on it, and they assumed I wanted fine tuners. I didn't know what a Wittner tailpiece was until I looked it up online. So I need to tell them I don't care about fine tuners and just get a regular wooden one, or keep mine if it was decent to begin with... ? I don't know how to tell if it was decent. I mean, it held the strings where they belonged, or so I thought...

I'm embarrassed I'm so ignorant about this stuff. Honestly, I just play it, and change strings once in awhile, like my guitar. NOW I'm realizing how complicated this whole set-up business is, and how much I need to learn! Thanks for being patient with me!

Brokenbow, I have a hard time buying anything online. I'm odd that way One thing I already knew when I started this adventure is that violins all have their own voice, like people. So I would have to actually play them to know them. I've heard cheap ones that sound better than expensive ones, and ugly ones that sounded better than pretty ones. That's one of the things that I find so wonderful about this instrument.

Now if I can only feel as warm and fuzzy about my bowing skills, I'd be set :-D

I think you and Sunnybear are right. I should get the Forberger. I can't seem to get it out of my mind. Maybe some players wouldn't think it's that great 'cause it's kinda quiet, but I liked it quite a bit. Maybe I should go get my old fiddle before they start working on it, and get some more opinions on the repairs too. I can always take it back.

Thanks for all your help.

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As a professional performer, I always recommend to try in person, but I did recently take a chance on one online to add to my collection. It entertains me immensely. Not only is it different than what I normally pick up in my region, but it has a very interesting sound. Not my usual taste but I rather like it. It doesn't suit me for stage, but I like to play it at home. My latest stage violin is 1920s and has been nicknamed the "Commanding Presence" for its deep robust baritone. It was love at first sight. The recent acquisition can't compete in volume and sheer cleanness and roundness of sound, but it "talks" more. I like that. It's small, very sweet, and slightly reedy, and Schindler's List sounds marvelous on it for some odd reason.

So I guess I'd say my opinion on online violin purchases has changed somewhat. If the price is right and the seller has a good reputation and return policy, it can be a way to get an interesting instrument for a good price. Always a risk though, of course.

Rose

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It is not easy to find the perfect fiddle, but if you can find something that you like, then it is a sure deal. It will not be possible to make your current instrument sound just like the other one that you already know that you like. Yours could be better, but it won't be the same. I would say buy the one that you found that you like, and then fix up your other one when you get the chance. You may have 2 good fiddles.

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Rose, your new violin sounds wonderful. I'm happy you've found two you love so much!

I took the great advice and bought the Forberger! I *love* it. It sounds even better now that it's being played every day. I think I know what you may mean by 'talking', Rose...mine seems to do that too. At least, it does to me! I'll post some pics in a new thread to show it off, since I want to see if anyone's familiar with this maker.

I was lucky enough to speak to the repairman at the violin shop I took my trade fiddle to. He had it on his workbench - it was next in line to be worked on, just as I called. He said the bass bar was 'not right', the neck was slightly twisted to to bass side, and the sound post was definitely cut too short. His words were almost the same as yours, Nashville Violins. Except for the 'good fiddle' part... he didn't seem to think it was so good. But I don't think he played it! The A and E are harsh, but the D and G are nice! When my bank account recovers, I'll get a new sound post and bridge, and adjust the tail piece. Then I'm going to string it up with something that does well for cross-tunings (maybe Helicores) and use it for old time jam sessions... I think it'll cut through the din.

Thanks again! You've all been wonderfully helpful.

Dawn

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I am sure your bank account will soon recover. No one (player) can walk away from a violin she (or he) loves.

It is not an overstatement for sure.

PS. In my experience, luthiers do not have to play the violins to know

these things (wrong here and there). Many times it turns out amazingly accurate.

However, for sound post adjustments (in my local

shop) their records have not been good. It may be tough to adjust

sound post. Most times it does not do anything.

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I think that was a good move. Often your gut feeling will tell you when it's time to move to the next fiddle. Other times practical circumstances will dictate that: i.e., my boss put in an emphatic preference for the "Commanding Presence" instead of my former (smaller and sweet) stage fiddle.

When younger, I used to measure a good instrument in terms of sheer volume and dark tone. But the more violins you play, the pickier you get! Then it progressed to good vs. bad tone--all in black and white--one "flaw" would instantly eliminate a violin from my choices. Now I look at them like people: no one's perfect, but it's sometimes that uniqueness that speaks straight to the heart, more than perfection.

Lots of violins fit all the "criteria" but are missing that special something you heard in the Forberger.

But remember, your first fiddle has its own voice too, and you've been through a lot with it. I still have my first one. Actually, I have not two but twelve or so violins. Of those, one is for stage, one for my personal enjoyment, two are well-loved for old time's sake, four are repair projects now for sale, and the others are miscellaneous. The point is--I'm sure your collection will still grow and you will find something different to love in each one. It's addicting.....

quote:


Originally posted by:
mojojojo

Rose, your new violin sounds wonderful.
I'm happy you've found two you love so much!

I took the great advice and bought the Forberger! I *love* it. It sounds even better now that it's being played every day. I think I know what you may mean by 'talking', Rose...mine seems to do that too. At least, it does to me!
I'll post some pics in a new thread to show it off, since I want to see if anyone's familiar with this maker.

I was lucky enough to speak to the repairman at the violin shop I took my trade fiddle to. He had it on his workbench - it was next in line to be worked on, just as I called. He said the bass bar was 'not right', the neck was slightly twisted to to bass side, and the sound post was definitely cut too short. His words were almost the same as yours, Nashville Violins. Except for the 'good fiddle' part... he didn't seem to think it was so good.
But I don't think he played it! The A and E are harsh, but the D and G are nice! When my bank account recovers, I'll get a new sound post and bridge, and adjust the tail piece. Then I'm going to string it up with something that does well for cross-tunings (maybe Helicores) and use it for old time jam sessions... I think it'll cut through the din.

Thanks again! You've all been wonderfully helpful.

Dawn

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