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Ted_B

Can you turn a trade violin into a pro-quality instrument?

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6 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

All violins are made of wood. I remember a couple of years ago doing major restoration work on a Gagliano cello, and thinking every day what disgusting wood he had used, and why he hadn’t stoked the fire with it. The Böhmerwald around the Saxon/Bohemian area had whole hills of good violin wood, to the point that they even exported it for violin makers elsewhere. In fact, the roughly “hogged out” (© Ann Arbour) bellies, can only be done with split wood, and not with the Gaglianos short grained stuff (try it). The contention that the “clasical Italian” wood is one thing, and the Saxon wood an entirely different inferior substance is risable.

What the heck are you blathering on about?

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1 minute ago, Wood Butcher said:

Seems you don't know much about wood yet, but if you keep reading it, you may learn something.

So how many spruce bolts have you split?

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16 minutes ago, Blank face said:

#

#And I guess I have no problems to understand Jacob, probably because it's not my first language.:)

it's not theirs either

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32 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

The contention that the “clasical Italian” wood is one thing, and the Saxon wood an entirely different inferior substance is risable.

Oh great... now we have to look up "risable". :lol:

I still think there is such a thing as good wood and bad wood... but not necessarily defined by where it comes from.  Wood varies.  However, if you're picking out wood from the stack in front of Walmart, the odds are that it won't work out very well.

My contention is that trade fiddles are just made of whatever wood can be easily and cheaply obtained, whereas good makers might develop some skill in identifying better-performing tonewood and where to get it.

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10 hours ago, Ted_B said:

Just a good overall instrument that advanced or even professional violinists wouldn't mind playing. 

Hi Ted.  You state that you are an "adult beginner/intermediate violinist."  

Having considered myself as an "intermediate violinist," though I have been a substitute in a couple of professional/semi-professional orchestras and mainly community orchestras, perhaps I can help.

I am NOT a luthier nor do I have any skill set within that area of expertise.  These other guys, most of whom I have great respect for, would have the technical answers.

Here are some questions to consider:

1. What does it mean to have an instrument "that ... even professional violinists wouldn't mind playing?"  I have a friend who is a professional violinist who has many featured solos in pop music, major theatrical released movies, etc.  As I recall, he plays on a couple of Chinese violins along with his main instrument.  

2. Why "professional?" Are you that good?  That is a serious question.  Is your goal to be a concert violinist?

3. Has anyone told you that your current instrument sounds bad or that you need an upgrade? I have had students get through college with "trade" instruments (whatever that may really mean).  Mostly older German violins from the 1900s.  An acquaintance of mine graduated from Berklee College of Music using a Chinese violin.  None of these people needed anything more than what they had until a subsequent teacher later on told them it was time to upgrade.  

4. Do you know what qualities in a violin would make you happy?  I currently use a "trade" violin.  It sounds (to me) amazing.  I am happy.  It plays with relative ease, I rarely struggle getting an even tone on any string from any position and have played many recitals with it.  

5. Are you looking to show off?  Funny story...my partner was at a stop light in our electric car when a Ford Mustang muscle car showed up.  He revved his engine like crazy.  Keep in mind that with tax incentives, we paid $5,000 out of pocket for our car.  The light turned green and my partner accelerated to the  next light in the blink of an eye.  Notwithstanding that an electric vehicle has instant torque, the point is, in the hands of a capable driver, you still get from point A to point B without having to be machismo about it.  Do you believe that a "professional" quality violin will make you play any better?  To a certain extent, it may help, but at the end of the day, you still have to have the necessary skill.

From what little you posted about yourself and your goal, a $2k to $3k violin would not be so detrimental to your playing.  I would say that unless you are a late bloomer and quite, quite good, a $5k to $10k violin (that sounds good and is easy to play) can easily be your forever instrument but is NOT necessary for someone who plays for fun. 

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11 hours ago, Ted_B said:

I'm an adult beginner/intermediate violinist and am considering purchasing a violin that will serve me for the rest of my life. Let's say my budget is around $2-3k. All I care is nice sound and proper setup for ease of play. It doesn't have to be pretty, flamed, old, French, etc. Just a good overall instrument that advanced or even professional violinists wouldn't mind playing. Anyway, today I spoke to a luthier (also a violin store owner) who told me that he can take any trade violin, open it up and with a proper set up make it sound as good as any professional level violin. I really don't know what to think of that. He offers to sell me one although he sells new professional level US made violins that cost five times more, but he claims that his overhauled trade violins are just as good. Any thoughts?

1)  Listen to Don, Brad, and David. 

2)  Shop around some more.  The guy you talked to sounds very ummmm..............overconfident to me.   There are few absolutes in this business.

3)  While it may be chump change to some on the board, $2K to $3K is still serious money when shopping violins.  Take your time and try out several.   You'll eventually find what you want.  :)

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I agree.

I just want to add:  that if you really do have your heart set on something - it might not be ideal to compromise.

So...let's say you try out everything - new, Chinese, old, refurbished, etc. (and that way you know what's out there)...but way way (way) down, in your heart of hearts, you really want an old trade fiddle...get an old trade fiddle.

Just make sure it's a good one - and don't rely on someone (who is going to profit from the sale) telling you it's a good one.

Best way to know if a fiddle is good is to take it to a professional player and have them put it through it's paces.  And - that is actually something worth paying for.  I imagine most would do it for free (if you ask nicely), but I'd be willing to pay them for their expertise.

p.s. Having a pro play your violin is also a valuable teaching moment.  It gives you a very good idea of what the violin is capable of and what you can aspire to sound like!

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Your taste will likely change over time, so it is unlikely that you will keep liking the same thing. It is not inconceivable that you would dislike playing a high end Instrument. Some of the advantages these instruments have to high class players become apparent only when played very well and are not within the reach of normal mortals. 

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Old SAXON and Schoenbach instruments: It is still a very common thing in post soviet countries to repair/regraduate/awake from state of dead/ etc . It is possible to make them sound louder, respond better, but they still are trade violins and their tonal qualities and colours never reach class of good violins. Same , but much worse  with Chinese  instruments  - they are still Chinese instruments... interesting, why there are so active Chinese propaganda people? I'm personally not a big fan of Alieexpress/AliBABA fashion style and taste.  No musician  will ever choose those instruments to be his main instrument, as second instrument to play in bad weather  - direct sunlight/rain - yes, probably. But it is not a valuable instrument at any sense - designated not for soul, but for smal budget only.Never invest in those 2 categories. Slightly better choice is german trade crap as Chinese crap.

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33 minutes ago, mathieu valde said:

Old SAXON and Schoenbach instruments: It is still a very common thing in post soviet countries to repair/regraduate/awake from state of dead/ etc . It is possible to make them sound louder, respond better, but they still are trade violins and their tonal qualities and colours never reach class of good violins. Same , but much worse  with Chinese  instruments  - they are still Chinese instruments... interesting, why there are so active Chinese propaganda people? I'm personally not a big fan of Alieexpress/AliBABA fashion style and taste.  No musician  will ever choose those instruments to be his main instrument, as second instrument to play in bad weather  - direct sunlight/rain - yes, probably. But it is not a valuable instrument at any sense - designated not for soul, but for smal budget only.Never invest in those 2 categories. Slightly better choice is german trade crap as Chinese crap.

The better Chinese workshop violins are excellent value for money. Nothing remotely crap about them.

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2 minutes ago, Bodacious Cowboy said:

The better Chinese workshop violins are excellent value for money. Nothing remotely crap about them.

Exactly - value for your budget, but not for soul. It is crap as everything other cheap staff made in China.Russian cars also are cheap and probably value for someone with very tight budget. But they are crap. Same situation.

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I cannot agree with the above statement. China is today what Germany was 100 years ago in violins, building everything from stuff I wouldn't burn in the wood stove to first rate instruments. Probably larger numbers of the former than of the latter, but the same was true 100 years ago. It's just that many of the worst old ones have been binned by now (not all of them though, we see a few here from time to time). A decently made student violin that has been set up properly can be just fine regardless of when or where it was made. The goal at first is to get an instrument that you will outgrow for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. The lifetime instrument can come on the second round.

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28 minutes ago, mathieu valde said:

Exactly - value for your budget, but not for soul. It is crap as everything other cheap staff made in China.Russian cars also are cheap and probably value for someone with very tight budget. But they are crap. Same situation.

Sorry, I don't mean to offend, but this is utter rubbish.

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9 minutes ago, Bodacious Cowboy said:

Sorry, I don't mean to offend, but this is utter rubbish.

Give him a break; he had to write it using soul depriving Chinese electronics

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I’m glad I don’t live in America. Just imagine, you go along to an orchestra rehearsal, and everyone is sitting there with some new Chinese fiddle. Yuk!

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8 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

and everyone is sitting there with some new Chinese fiddle.

Did you say Chinese?  But it says Cremona inside!  :)  Just kiddin'

Jacob, you are due to visit America again, not everything is as bleak as you imagine!

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10 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

I’m glad I don’t live in America. Just imagine, you go along to an orchestra rehearsal, and everyone is sitting there with some new Chinese fiddle. Yuk!

I see that your understanding of our orchestras is as profound as your earlier knowledge of our church architecture.   :P:lol:

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4 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

 In fact, the roughly “hogged out” (© Ann Arbour) bellies, can only be done with split wood, and not with the Gaglianos short grained stuff (try it). 

"Hogged out" is the prissy East Coast spelling. Real he-man midwesterners spell and pronounce it "hawged out". ;)

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32 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

I see that your understanding of our orchestras is as profound as your earlier knowledge of our church architecture.   :P:lol:

Yes, an all Chinese string section would suit one of your corrugated iron Nissan hut Florida churches magnificently

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43 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

Yes, an all Chinese string section would suit one of your corrugated iron Nissan hut Florida churches magnificently

Would that be a church like this, in Austria, with the primary metal source coming from failed-and-recycled BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche automobiles, along with more than a smattering of melted beer bottles and cans included in the mix? ;)

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18 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Would that be a church like this, in Austria, with the primary metal source coming from failed-and-recycled BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche automobiles, along with more than a smattering of melted beer bottles and cans included in the mix?

At least the steel was good enough to recycle.  American cars (automobiles) would have long since rusted away.

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5 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

All violins are made of wood. 

The Lewis & Clark folks would like a word about that...

meanwhile, The art of buying unfinished boxes, i.e. “trade instruments” opening them up, finishing them out, slapping on some world-class varnish, set up and pixie dust and turning them into glories such as have never been heard, is probably something that this luthier was referencing.

And of course he can make it, “professional” quality. He finishes it, you play a couple of scales, and he says, “There! See? Professional quality! Now pay up.”


“But this sounds pretty like any other run of the mill fiddle?”

“No no no… That’s professional quality if I ever heard it! Now pay up!”
 

Fortunately or not, the phrase “professional quality” Is entirely subjective, so the claimant is not entirely wrong.

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