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HOW DO YOU TRY OUT VIOLINS?


Will L

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As a player, do you have any advice, ideas, opinions, techniques, methods, or tricks, on how to test a violin?

1. Understand what you are looking for when testing an instrument. For example: particular tone quality, facility of getting the sound, response, condition of instrument, is it powerful enough, can you get a good sound when playing softly, are there difficult wolf tones, is the tone consistent from string to string and in all positions.

2. Play the instrument and see whether it meets your standards.

3. Take it home and give it an extended trial. Play it for other people and in different types of venues e.g. chamber setting, in a hall, with a piano or other instruments.

4. Have another good player (your teacher?) play it and see if you like how it sounds and get that player's opinion.

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You don't really need to play it at all, just look at the label and the price tag. The quality of a violin is in direct proportion to A. the age of the violin, B. the asking price, and C. the number of vowels in the maker's name. In fact, if the name ends in a vowel then it's probably going to sound better than if it ends in a consonant.

Also pay careful attention to the varnish - unless you're one of those players who closes their eyes, you're going to spend a lot of time looking at the thing, and it ought to be pretty.

If you insist on playing the violin before buying it, best to go to a big hall with sumptuous acoustics designed to make musical instruments sound terrific, and play some lush Bach with lots of double-stops and chords. It's easy to be discouraged by the sound of single notes ....

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Play it in the hall for several of your friends so they can compare it unfavorably with their own, and tell you the MSRP is an outrage.

That's great LeMaster. And a big kernel of truth.

This is a sad story on the matter. Manuel Compinsky was a fine violinist and teacher in LA. One day we were talking about violins that we should have bought. Like many violinists, he played sessions in the recording studios. Once, he was trying out a GB Guadagnini that he loved. He took it to some sessions and asked for his friends and colleagues to play it and give their opinions. Of course, by the time it was over, every single one had found something bad to say about this that or the other. He got talked out of it and returned it.

He said, "Will, after thirty years there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of that violin and realize what a mistake it was to listen to others."

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That's great LeMaster. And a big kernel of truth.

This is a sad story on the matter. Manuel Compinsky was a fine violinist and teacher in LA. One day we were talking about violins that we should have bought. Like many violinists, he played sessions in the recording studios. Once, he was trying out a GB Guadagnini that he loved. He took it to some sessions and asked for his friends and colleagues to play it and give their opinions. Of course, by the time it was over, every single one had found something bad to say about this that or the other. He got talked out of it and returned it.

He said, "Will, after thirty years there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of that violin and realize what a mistake it was to listen to others."

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. In my case I was selfish with my colleagues because I didn't give them the chance to criticise because I couldn't afford to bring it home. It was the "Spanish Strad" and was available from Moennig for $55,000

Today that wouldn't be an outrageous sum, but the early 80s was a long time ago, and as the saying goes:

"Had I had a million dollars to put into that deal I'd be a rich man today." I'd have loved and adored that cello to a fare-thee-well.

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As a player, do you have any advice, ideas, opinions, techniques, methods, or tricks, on how to test a violin?

I recommend to my customers:

1. Try as many violins as you can. That way you get a better idea of what's out there, what you like, what you don't like, how much variation there is, how much things cost, etc.

2. When trying violins, play something that you are comfortable playing so that you can think about how the violin plays and sounds rather than struggling to play something that's too hard for you. Less accomplished players might just play scales.

3. When comparing violins, play the same thing on each one to eliminate the music as a variable.

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He took it to some sessions and asked for his friends and colleagues to play it and give their opinions. Of course, by the time it was over, every single one had found something bad to say about this that or the other. He got talked out of it and returned it.

With friends like that... dry.gif

Having a good friend play helps one evaluate the difference between the "under the ear" and "the back of the hall" (or "small hotel room," if you are buying a Strad or Guarneri) sound.

Some people get stuck in a rut, sound-wise: they always go for sameness. Better to evaluate what you have, and where you would like to go.

Barring that, you could start your own business, and keep the good ones to yourself for awhile, then sell them off and try again. Right Martin? tongue.gif

P.S. I like to play the open strings first, holding the violin like in my avatar. Then you don't have to trouble your "good friend" until you find a few you like.

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Try a few of different price levels violins in order to get a feel the quality difference. Most commercial violins below $2k are not

good or they have a lot of repairs. Stay away of this kind. Stay away the other end too. Some are of higher price without justifiable

features or reasons. Important thing is that you should be polite. Do not say anything negative in front of other people. Keep the negative

comments within yourself.

Once I met a very good player who was in a shop to try violins. I asked him to play it for me. He did but he would not make any comment.

Everyone has their own perception of things. It is better to keep them in yourself. After all, beauty is only in the eyes of beholder.

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If you can't play well enough to make your own mind up about the quality of a violin then get someone who can to test it for you.

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

True, but how can you apply it to a real situation? For example, once I was told that that violin would sound outstandingly good

if you use high positions. It makes up the the mediocriity of the first positon. (The notes close to the end of the fingerboard).

I said I am sorry, I do not play that high. 90% of time I use the first, third and fifth positions.

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