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What to listen for when buying a better instrument?


kreisler13
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Hi, it's been a very long time since I've posted here but I've got a question for everyone. I'm in the market for a new violin since my current instrument (c. 1900 Czech instrument, I love it) was damaged in a flood. My price range is flexible, anywhere from $2K to $10K. So far, I've played a bunch of instruments that have all sounded different under my ear, and while I've liked some more than others, nothing has grabbed me yet.

This leads to my question: 1) Should I hold out until I find something I absolutely love, or will that not happen. 2) What's the difference between how a violin sounds under your ear and how it sounds to someone standing 20 feet, or a concert hall away? I had the opportunity to play a few Scott Cao violins at a wide price range and I didn't really like any of them. They sounded shallow under my ear - resonant and clear, but no depth. I also played a violin from the 1880s with a Storioni label that many people have previously liked, but it sounded incredibly nasal under my ear. I prefer instruments that are resonant and powerful under my ear, mostly because I'm usually the only one hearing myself play (I'm no soloist), but would want a violin that translates acceptably in all forums. So how closely does the sound under your ear mimic what a listener hears? What should be a disqualifier for an instrument and what should I overlook? For reference, the violins I've liked the best so far is a Collin-Mezin from 1900 and a 1792 Voigt, both for the sound and the resonance.

Am I listening to the wrong things?

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I would say most instruments sound different under the ear, furthermore they often sound different when others play them. So in a sense you can never hear what you sound like to others. ;-)

Speaking practically, since you play mostly for yourself, you should pick an instrument that sounds best to you. But check out how it sounds from the outside. I would not bother trying in a hall since the acoustics of the hall often dominates the sound of a violin and also you're not likely to be playing in front of an orchestra.

Trying to find the "perfect violin" is like trying to find the perfect mate....good luck !

Oded

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I have a violin that sound rich and warm under ear, that is pretty quiet and depth-less, which caused me a little problem where I can't listen to my playing quite reliably when playing in loud situation.

However, I let my (even a beginner) friend play, the sound is so much different - intense, rich, focused, and doesn't have any harshness at all, though still a little quiet. Then, listening far away from the violin, playing together with e.g. grand piano, the violin will sound big and will not drown by the sound of the piano even with the cover fully opened.

And it doesn't mean it has 1 dimensional sound - it's got broad dynamic range, color control, clarity of tone, as well as balance across the strings up and down. It has everything I want.

It was a brand new violin, and well below your maximum budget...

I don't quite care about the power and depth under the ear, it sure sound very gentle to my ears and I'm more than willing to practice with it all day long.

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Hi, it's been a very long time since I've posted here but I've got a question for everyone. I'm in the market for a new violin since my current instrument (c. 1900 Czech instrument, I love it) was damaged in a flood. My price range is flexible, anywhere from $2K to $10K. So far, I've played a bunch of instruments that have all sounded different under my ear, and while I've liked some more than others, nothing has grabbed me yet.

This leads to my question: 1) Should I hold out until I find something I absolutely love, or will that not happen. 2) What's the difference between how a violin sounds under your ear and how it sounds to someone standing 20 feet, or a concert hall away? I had the opportunity to play a few Scott Cao violins at a wide price range and I didn't really like any of them. They sounded shallow under my ear - resonant and clear, but no depth. I also played a violin from the 1880s with a Storioni label that many people have previously liked, but it sounded incredibly nasal under my ear. I prefer instruments that are resonant and powerful under my ear, mostly because I'm usually the only one hearing myself play (I'm no soloist), but would want a violin that translates acceptably in all forums. So how closely does the sound under your ear mimic what a listener hears? What should be a disqualifier for an instrument and what should I overlook? For reference, the violins I've liked the best so far is a Collin-Mezin from 1900 and a 1792 Voigt, both for the sound and the resonance.

Am I listening to the wrong things?

+++++++++++++++

Just buy something decent.

I wonder myself if there is such thing "perfect violin". A good player can make almost any violin sound

perfect. I am not that lucky. It is a kind of situation that you think you know the violin and then find yourself later not sure.

I have tried many violins. Not many worth your trouble of bringing home to try.

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Based on the smattering of instruments you mentioned, it doesnt sound like you tried a whole lot. In your price range there are tons of decent instruments. In that price range I would expect to try a dozen end early 20th century german/czech instruments (Roths etc), at least a dozen more French instruments, some more older 19th century instruments, some older handmade American instruments, etc... Of course you might not live in an area that has many shops. In a typical larger city you could see 20-30 good instruments in that price range in one day (but take more time than that). It would be worth a trip. Take your time, take friends to help, have fun.

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The one Stradivari I had the opportunity to play (1690 Ex-Auer) was very soft under the ear, but projected exceptionally well. I think you will fall in love with the violin you are equipped to handle right now. As you progress, you may ready to do this again in 5 years or so...

If you buy from a shop that gives 100% trade - in value, you aren't risking as much.

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Hi, it's been a very long time since I've posted here but I've got a question for everyone. I'm in the market for a new violin since my current instrument (c. 1900 Czech instrument, I love it) was damaged in a flood. My price range is flexible, anywhere from $2K to $10K. So far, I've played a bunch of instruments that have all sounded different under my ear, and while I've liked some more than others, nothing has grabbed me yet.

This leads to my question: 1) Should I hold out until I find something I absolutely love, or will that not happen. 2) What's the difference between how a violin sounds under your ear and how it sounds to someone standing 20 feet, or a concert hall away? I had the opportunity to play a few Scott Cao violins at a wide price range and I didn't really like any of them. They sounded shallow under my ear - resonant and clear, but no depth. I also played a violin from the 1880s with a Storioni label that many people have previously liked, but it sounded incredibly nasal under my ear. I prefer instruments that are resonant and powerful under my ear, mostly because I'm usually the only one hearing myself play (I'm no soloist), but would want a violin that translates acceptably in all forums. So how closely does the sound under your ear mimic what a listener hears? What should be a disqualifier for an instrument and what should I overlook? For reference, the violins I've liked the best so far is a Collin-Mezin from 1900 and a 1792 Voigt, both for the sound and the resonance.

Am I listening to the wrong things?

My advice is to find someone whose advice and ear you trust. Michael Darnton used to write that there is a period time during which you are learning how to handle a new violin. Apparently most violinists, in searching for a new violin, want one just like the one they have been playing. It's comfortable. What they might need is something that is NOT comfortable for a while.

(And of course I have the perfect violin for you.) :)

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Wendy Moes, a rather famous violinmaker, had an article in Strings a few years ago about finding a new violin. It is reproduced on the Moes and Moes web site: http://www.moesandmoes.com/org/articles_2.html and has a lot of good advice.

In general when looking for something like a new (to you) violin there is a pitfall to be avoided, namely insisting on finding the best one. The problem is you will never be satisfied because no matter how much you like a particular instrument there might be something better out there. In picking out a new instrument you have to like it, of course, and at the same time every instrument you try will have some flaw. You need to decide what is most important and what flaws you can adapt to or ignore. the Moes article talks about doing preparation work. I just finished reading Arnold Steinhardt's book Violin Dreams, much of which is devoted to his searches for better instruments. As a professional concert violinist and first violinist in the Guarneri Quartet he had talent and resources that most of us don't have but he went through long searches for instruments and talks about them in detail, including even instrument searches when he was a teenage student. He has owned and eventually been dissatisfied with some really top name instruments: Pressenda, Guadagnini, Serafin, Guarneri and his experiences searching sound a lot like those we all go through.

One more piece of advice. If you are taking lessons from a good teacher have your teacher play any instrument you are seriously thinking of buying. There may be tonal or mechanical deficiencies you can't appreciate but which would weigh against the instrument.

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Wendy Moes, a rather famous violinmaker, had an article in Strings a few years ago about finding a new violin. It is reproduced on the Moes and Moes web site: http://www.moesandmoes.com/org/articles_2.html and has a lot of good advice.

In general when looking for something like a new (to you) violin there is a pitfall to be avoided, namely insisting on finding the best one. The problem is you will never be satisfied because no matter how much you like a particular instrument there might be something better out there. In picking out a new instrument you have to like it, of course, and at the same time every instrument you try will have some flaw. You need to decide what is most important and what flaws you can adapt to or ignore. the Moes article talks about doing preparation work. I just finished reading Arnold Steinhardt's book Violin Dreams, much of which is devoted to his searches for better instruments. As a professional concert violinist and first violinist in the Guarneri Quartet he had talent and resources that most of us don't have but he went through long searches for instruments and talks about them in detail, including even instrument searches when he was a teenage student. He has owned and eventually been dissatisfied with some really top name instruments: Pressenda, Guadagnini, Serafin, Guarneri and his experiences searching sound a lot like those we all go through.

One more piece of advice. If you are taking lessons from a good teacher have your teacher play any instrument you are seriously thinking of buying. There may be tonal or mechanical deficiencies you can't appreciate but which would weigh against the instrument.

No fiddle player wants really to find the perfect instrument, there'd be no excuses then.... :)

I thought Steinhardt has a cut down Storioni which he has had for many years.

For those interested, his recent Bach solo recording of the Gmin Sonata and Dmin Partita is wonderful - can be downloaded from iTunes.

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Wendy Moes, a rather famous violinmaker, had an article in Strings a few years ago about finding a new violin. It is reproduced on the Moes and Moes web site: http://www.moesandmoes.com/org/articles_2.html and has a lot of good advice.

In general when looking for something like a new (to you) violin there is a pitfall to be avoided, namely insisting on finding the best one. The problem is you will never be satisfied because no matter how much you like a particular instrument there might be something better out there. In picking out a new instrument you have to like it, of course, and at the same time every instrument you try will have some flaw. You need to decide what is most important and what flaws you can adapt to or ignore. the Moes article talks about doing preparation work. I just finished reading Arnold Steinhardt's book Violin Dreams, much of which is devoted to his searches for better instruments. As a professional concert violinist and first violinist in the Guarneri Quartet he had talent and resources that most of us don't have but he went through long searches for instruments and talks about them in detail, including even instrument searches when he was a teenage student. He has owned and eventually been dissatisfied with some really top name instruments: Pressenda, Guadagnini, Serafin, Guarneri and his experiences searching sound a lot like those we all go through.

One more piece of advice. If you are taking lessons from a good teacher have your teacher play any instrument you are seriously thinking of buying. There may be tonal or mechanical deficiencies you can't appreciate but which would weigh against the instrument.

++++++++++++++++

Your quoted article below has covered all the basic points of buying a new instrument. Good link.

Worth repeating.

http://www.moesandmoes.com/org/articles_2.html

I have read the A. Steinhardt's book too. Everyone has his or her own idea or dream. Like chasing a rainbow.

Sorry, nothing new I said here except a lot of agreements. :)

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Yes, everything was covered in the above posts (for the price you're willing to pay you should not get anything else than a perfect instrument), ask a friend violinist to come with you (as I guess you're playing in an orchestra, again given the price range you must be at least a semi professional).

Funnily I recently change my string from Obligato to Eudoxa (I wanted to try gut core strings) and for the first few days I thought my violin had gone mute! So when I went for my lesson I did ask my teacher to play it. And to my surprise the violin sounded pretty loud. I did play myself and asked her if it was really that loud ans she said yes. But it still sound really soft under my ear.

Try some new violins (old doesn't mean good) and maybe some of the members of this forum could post some sound samples of their violins for you to listen.

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No fiddle player wants really to find the perfect instrument, there'd be no excuses then.... :)

I thought Steinhardt has a cut down Storioni which he has had for many years.

For those interested, his recent Bach solo recording of the Gmin Sonata and Dmin Partita is wonderful - can be downloaded from iTunes.

Yes he has that Storioni instrument. It belonged to Joseph Roisman, first violinist in the Budapest Quartet, before Steinhardt got it. How he got it is detailed in the book. But he went through many other instruments before finding the Storioni.

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Update: I tried a bunch more today. Does anyone know anything about Durrschmidt violins (mid 20th century) and Sebastian Freymadl (late 20th century - current Italian). I thoroughly enjoyed both.

The name Wilhelm Durrschmidt was used for several decades of the 20th century. The original Wilhelm Durrschnmidt instruments originated in Markneukirchen in the 1920's. The name persisted after WW2 and were probably made in Erlangen. I have one from the 1920's and it is a very nice work shop violin. It has a grafted scroll and nicely flamed two piece back. The varnish is quite dark and has what would be best described as a patinated "gypsy" finish and not a Strad or Guarneri model. Probably similar in value to a Heberlein.

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I have a solution...although it is by no means novel. The answer is quite simple....own more than one. in fact own several. hang them on the wall in such a fashion that they are within reach and ready to play. Warning collecting is addictive to the ears and eyes. Hang them on the wall in such a fashion that they are easily seen and within reach..ready at a moments notice to be snatched from the cradle and brought to life. They all sing..and they all talk.

When you have enough you will find that certain sounds in the room will cause whispers...echoes...resonances at various frequencies. Doesn't hurt to have a couple ancient cellos and viola or two. Now mandolins.....hmmm well ok.

Only keep the ones you like the sound of... you will find that each and every one has its own unique voice..and the beauty is in picking the one that fits the mood....the right tool for the right job as the saying goes. Anywhere from cutting contrast to slght variance as a shade of color. Take the same toon....a little jig or reel , a classical passage..doesn't matter. Play it on one ..then the other...in any order..as many as you wish. I agree that there is no perfect sound...but man it sure is a blast shopping!!

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Hi, it's been a very long time since I've posted here but I've got a question for everyone. I'm in the market for a new violin since my current instrument (c. 1900 Czech instrument, I love it) was damaged in a flood. My price range is flexible, anywhere from $2K to $10K. So far, I've played a bunch of instruments that have all sounded different under my ear, and while I've liked some more than others, nothing has grabbed me yet.

This leads to my question: 1) Should I hold out until I find something I absolutely love, or will that not happen. 2) What's the difference between how a violin sounds under your ear and how it sounds to someone standing 20 feet, or a concert hall away? I had the opportunity to play a few Scott Cao violins at a wide price range and I didn't really like any of them. They sounded shallow under my ear - resonant and clear, but no depth. I also played a violin from the 1880s with a Storioni label that many people have previously liked, but it sounded incredibly nasal under my ear. I prefer instruments that are resonant and powerful under my ear, mostly because I'm usually the only one hearing myself play (I'm no soloist), but would want a violin that translates acceptably in all forums. So how closely does the sound under your ear mimic what a listener hears? What should be a disqualifier for an instrument and what should I overlook? For reference, the violins I've liked the best so far is a Collin-Mezin from 1900 and a 1792 Voigt, both for the sound and the resonance.

Am I listening to the wrong things?

++++++++++++++++

Again, the feeling that you got in trying all kind of violins, will simply repeat.

My teacher has a 60k violin and yet he told me he is looking for a "better violin".

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