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Thread: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

  1. #26
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Cary: you are in or near a large city. You can visit these places and see what they have (a big advantage). For instance (and I don’t personally know this store) I found The Sound Post and here is a listing for intermediate violins: https://www.thesoundpost.com/en/stor...olins/advanced
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    GM - ever try playing in positions other than 'proper' classical? I also grew weary of that position - which is certainly unnecessary for a bunch of fiddling. When I got into hdgfl I started playing off my shoulder, down to my chest, etc which greatly alleviates the pronation of the hand/wrist - also lessening the stress on the bow arm. After a few years, it felt novel to put it back up on my shoulder.

    I still prefer the shoulder, but I don't use a shoulder rest on my hdgfl and so I can shift it around to various positions and angles of comfort. Of course, this wouldn't work for classical violin and playing up the neck..
    In fact, I had fiddle lessons from David Greenberg, who is not only a fine Cape Breton fiddler but a concert violinist of international repute. He explained to me that the "incorrect" violin positions and bow holds used by many Cape Breton fiddlers were more effective for the sound they wanted than was the classical position and grip. I'm sure this is true of many other styles as well.
    Last edited by Ranald; Nov-04-2022 at 8:28pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Cary: you are in or near a large city. You can visit these places and see what they have (a big advantage). For instance (and I don’t personally know this store) I found The Sound Post and here is a listing for intermediate violins: https://www.thesoundpost.com/en/stor...olins/advanced
    This is a fine store where many viol musicians from the NAC Orchestra buy instruments and have repairs done. The owner is a nice, helpful guy. I recommend them, but I had to wait some time to get a bow re-haired as he's busy. I usually get maintenance done at another shop now, but I wouldn't hesitate to buy from The Sound Post.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    In fact, I had fiddle lessons from David Greenberg, who is not only a fine Cape Breton fiddler but a concert violinist of international repute. He explained to me that the "incorrect" violin positions and bow holds used by many Cape Breton fiddlers were more effective for the sound they wanted than was the classical position and grip didn't work as well. I'm sure this is true of many other styles as well.
    For sure - style often dictates technique. Classical ergonomics optimizes accessibility for the hands and arms. Conversely, much fiddling is played in first position, so the hand can support the instrument - rather than pinning it to the shoulder with the chin. (In the case of hdgfl for example, we can flatten the bridge, drop the fiddle to the front of the shoulder, and rotate it vertically - so bowing is more up/down than left/right: this totally reduces the pronation necessary for classical ergonomics.)

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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    I'd recommend a better quality Chinese workshop instrument for value for money. BUT, you need to know what you're looking at or have a friend who does - they vary a lot, and some still have very narrow fingerboards. Some luthiers buy them in , give them a good setup, and sell them for a fair premium on what they paid. Some try to get premium prices for 'rebadged' Chinese workshop instruments. However for maybe $400 or thereabouts you can buy a decent Chinese workshop violin that with a $250 setup and strings will play like a $4000-$5000 19th century workshop French or German violin - I've done that a number of times. Age and name premium is big in the violin market, like any antiques. General advice is that a new fiddle will generally 'play in' so the sound improves over time, but if you don't like the sound straight out of the box (maybe with a more experienced fiddler playing), it's possible you never will, so don't buy it if you're not sure.

    Strings - Helicore are a mid range steel core wound string that responds fast for folk decorations, plays well and lasts. They benefit from a fine tuner tailpiece. I'd suggest starting with a standard classical violin bridge setup and curve, and see how that goes. If you prefer it flattened a bit to enable playing more than one string easier, you can get that done - but you may find you accidentally then hit other strings.

    Bows - Carbon fibre bows are usually good playing value, especially when you sit on one, catch it in a door or drop it on its tip and it doesn't break (done all of those).

    If you get violin lessons, a good modern teacher should be open to all musical styles and ideas - the older style ones were often kinda blinkered about anything but classical

    Fiddling is great fun - I know a lady who started at 74 and is enjoying iy coming up for 80. If something starts to hurt though, find out why, and don't try to play through it - I've made that mistake more than once.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    For sure - style often dictates technique. Classical ergonomics optimizes accessibility for the hands and arms. Conversely, much fiddling is played in first position, so the hand can support the instrument - rather than pinning it to the shoulder with the chin. (In the case of hdgfl for example, we can flatten the bridge, drop the fiddle to the front of the shoulder, and rotate it vertically - so bowing is more up/down than left/right: this totally reduces the pronation necessary for classical ergonomics.)
    "hdgfl"? Apparently, in German, it's short for "Hab Dich Ganz Fest Lieb" which translates as "Love you very much," but I don't think that's what you mean here!
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    "hdgfl"? Apparently, in German, it's short for "Hab Dich Ganz Fest Lieb" which translates as "Love you very much," but I don't think that's what you mean here!
    I am pretty sure his shorthand for Hardingfele or Hardanger fiddle.
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Huh, i frequent reddit's sub on that and just saw a Toronto thread (which isn't that helpful) https://old.reddit.com/r/violin/comm...oronto_canada/

    But that sub does have lots of recommendations for quality used violins (Shar, Fiddlerman, Kennedy). One of mine was from Bernunzio in Rochester I'm quite fond of it tho it's held together mostly by hide glue. That's if you have to buy without having a teacher /experienced player advising you. But i think would be better off paying what a good teacher asks about getting a good instrument, bow, case, sound post, bridge, tailpiece, shoulder and chin rests. That's a lot of little pieces that have to work together. Oh, then strings, rosin. Tuners, I have a couple family members who were very serious youth orchestra players, I'll have to ask how they tune.

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    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    I’d like to echo mxr’s advice there are some good workshops in China, & also in Eastern Europe. I have bought some nice, good value fiddles from the yita music store. They have on line auction store on eBay that’s worth checking out. Another good read for later music learning is “Laws of the Brainjo” by neurologist Josh Turknett.

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    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Hey all, I lost track of my own thread! Thanks for the advice, all. I'm continuing to improve by leaps and bounds (as one does at the start!). So there was a used Eastman fiddle at the local large music store (Long and McQuade for Canadian readers) and I bought it since it's returnable within 30 days. It's their lowest model but is still a lot better than the Stentor. And the price was good. so I was going to keep it but then my friend gave me another fiddle to try, that belonged to her aunt who died last year at 97. And I really like it. Loud, resonant, and sounds really good in my ear. I'm hoping to get a long term loan or maybe buy it from her. I don't think it's especially valuable--someone suggested it's a post WWII factory fiddle. But it has a nice back and plays easily and I'm feeling attached already and I like that it comes from my friend's family. Here are some pics in case anyone can tell me (and the owner) anything about it. It has some wear on the top but no cracks or other issues.Click image for larger version. 

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    Cary Fagan

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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Yeah, probably an old German factory fiddle. Might even be from before WWII. Probably from Markneukirchen—a big area for instrument production. And tons of those were imported and sold by music stores and catalog houses like Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward.

    If it is now yours, maybe have it checked out by a luthier who can probably tell you something and also set it up properly. It looks like old strings which you shoud really change.

    It is very hard to tell much from a few photos even from some very good violins. I assume there are no markings or labels and, of course, labels often tell you nothing unless they are relatively truthfu.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Nov-07-2022 at 10:23pm.
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Congratulations on getting a fiddle, Cary. I hope the one you like works out for you. It looks a bit like my German-made fiddle from about 1875, but I wouldn't attempt to put an age of your friend's violin. Take it to Heinl's (Geo. Heinl & Co.) or another good violin shop -- I see that there's also a Sound Post in Toronto -- and they'll likely tell you after a glance where and when the fiddle was made. They'll also give you an honest assessment of its value and what work it needs. Expect some. Somewhere along the line, you might want to return and try out bows. Anne Lederman's a good but pricey fiddle teacher in Toronto. Enjoy playing.

    Hmm...has anyone mentioned the price of strings?
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post

    Hmm...has anyone mentioned the price of strings?
    Shhh - don't want to scare the man off when he's getting going so good! Quality violin strings look expensive, but a good metal core string set like Helicore can last a long time (months, or more...) compared to plucked instrument strings, even with extreme weather and humidity changes. I wouldn't use cheaper metal core strings like Red Label unless you really want a scratchy down-home sort of sound (yes, there's a place for that...). In the way of adjustment, it's worth getting any violin family instrument that's new to you checked for sound post alignment and fitting. It can make a big difference to the sound of your fiddle, and even if it looks OK to a player, it might e.g. not be a good contact fit, which will lose you some sound. Sometimes an old sound post will just fall out when the strings are loosened, which might mean it's too short and needs replaced, sometimes the ends are rounded and don't contact the top and back enough. Just don't look too hard if your luthier moves the sound post ends under string tension .

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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Hi, thanks all. In fact, I put Helicores on it yesterday and they certainly made it sound better. Now this fiddle still belongs to my friend and I believe she's happy to have me play it but I don't know if she wants to keep it in her family or not. So I'll respect what works best for her.

    The sound post looks fine but you never know. I am aware of both the Sound Post and Heinl's (I live in the city, they aren't far); Heinl's once repaired a mandolin for me. From what I can see looking at lots of listings, this fiddle looks like it's 'worth' about 500 dollars. (Any opinions?) But I'm going to suggest to my friend that she take it in for an appraisal if she cares to. First, though, I'll take it to my Wed night jam.

    I was about to keep a used Eastman VL80 (their lowest priced model) that I brought home from a nearby Canadian chain music store (Long and McQuade, but it's actually a good store generally and is around the corner from me) that is much better than my Stentor. It was well priced at $350 Canadian (250 u.s.). I have 30 days to take it back so I'll keep it if for any reason the old fiddle (I've nicknamed it Auntie) can't stay with me. Will update!

    Meanwhile, someone in the jam has introduced Baltimore Johnny so I have to get back to practicing the mandolin...

    as for "getting so good"--I just say ha, ha, ha. I've been using peghead nation, alternating between beginner bluegrass/oldtime and beginner Irish. I have worked hard to banish from my mind the "myth" that fiddle is hard to play. That's just what fiddle players say to keep the rest of us away. (That's my line and I'm sticking to it.)
    Cary Fagan

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    I guess the violin is common grade export article from Markneukirchen/Schoenbach factories from 20th c, perhaps first half. If well preserved (no cracks) and plays well may be worth several hundred USD.
    You can post few pics on maestronet forum here:
    https://maestronet.com/forum/index.p.../4-the-pegbox/
    and ask for rough evaluation. There are some experts there who know these violins inside out and will tell you (sometimes a bit plainly) what it is and what it's worth.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Looks like a decent kind of German factory "fiddle" but I have no idea of the market for these things anymore, and the prices can range quite a bit, depending on some things not obvious to the lay person. Plus, like guitars and mandolins and about everything else, China has shifted that market.

    The bridge looks back a bit far (lots of marks showing where it has been in the past), which may have been done because the soundpost is not quite where it should be. A shop visit is probably in order, and as you and others say, likely the best place to get a ballpark evaluation.
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    I posted on that site, Adrian, thanks. And Keith, I did shift the bridge. It could probably use a new one.
    Cary Fagan

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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    If it is a $500 fiddle, an official evaluation (e.g., for insurance purposes) is relatively expensive, perhaps a fifth of the price of the fiddle. However, if you or she drops into a viol store, they'll likely look over the instrument at the counter, and tell you the approximate value, as Hogo says (above), "sometimes a bit plainly." Some small violin shops are run by eccentric, cranky and blunt perfectionists who seem insulted by the very existence of low-quality violins, and who may suggest you throw yours in the garbage. Their skills as luthiers outweigh their interpersonal skills. This isn't a criticism of small shops; there are many run by friendly, helpful luthiers. I get my bow re-haired by a Hungarian luthier, who seems to scare away many first-time visitors. However, we always sit and have a long talk, a few laughs, and he shows me his latest projects. Be warned, sooner or later, you'll run across some cranky violin luthiers, but the two Toronto violin stores named in previous posts are (again, in my experience) gentle with their customers. Long & McQuade employees will generally be polite but, in my experience, don't have viol expertise.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Some small violin shops are run by eccentric, cranky and blunt perfectionists who seem insulted by the very existence of low-quality violins, and who may suggest you throw yours in the garbage. Their skills as luthiers outweigh their interpersonal skills. This isn't a criticism of small shops; there are many run by friendly, helpful luthiers.
    Many, many years ago when I lived in New York City and just was starting to play fiddle I walked up and down 57th Street where some of the most respected violin shops were located back then. I went into a few shops with my low-end old German fiddle and was met by that attitude. Eventually I came across one shop run by a young guy about our age who inherited the shop from his father who was a violin maker. A really nice guy and not judgemental. We became friends back then and I gave him all my meager violin business back then.
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Nice story, Jim.
    Cary Fagan

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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    I echo what others have said about buying from a violin shop. I actually played mandolin before violin as a kid growing up in Montana. We had a cabin with no phone or TV. We had a not that old Kay mandolin hanging on the wall and it fit me just right We sat around at night and played music together. Then in grade school I joined orchestra as we had 3 German import violins. I still have my dad's, my grandfather's, and mine which got gut strings for classical. Now I play my grandfather's fiddle as I'm getting back into fiddle at 64. It as been property set up at a violin shop. It's not great but I have sentimental interest in all three. When I was in orchestra I could really tell good from bad. Your chances of getting something decent at a violin shop are really the best be it an old import or a modern instrument. You can get a decent bow there too. Best wishes.

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    Now that I had closer look at the pics I'd say it's more likely post WW2 as the shading looks sprayed with quite even transitions.
    These violins go for $150-500 online but you never know what you are getting, more often than not they have old cracks and missing parts or other surprises so putting them to playing order may cost several hundred $. In brick and mortar violin shops the prices will be generally higher depending condition and tone but they will be setup and ready to play. This one looks in good condition (may need some fingerboard planing or minor setup but no cracks or loose seams) so if it plays well the selling price may be closer in the upper end. You may ask some more experienced players to evaluate the tone and playability for you.
    Adrian

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    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    I'm hoping one or two fiddlers will be at the jam tonight and can try it, including one who's a luthier. I've done a lot of mandolin and guitar repair and it looks ok to me. I've also googled about checking it over and what to look for in the sound. My ear isn't as developed as it will be in another year or two but I still am going by it and like what I'm hearing. It's louder, more resonant, seems even over the strings, isn't nasal like the other old fiddle I didn't like. At my age I'd rather stick with the same fiddle but if it ends up not pleasing me than I can always move on. I don't need a great fiddle just a decent one that won't hold me back and will put out some good tones. While a check up at a violin shop is prob a good idea, it's playing fine now so I would probably wait on that. I do appreciate all the suggestions and will update.
    Cary Fagan

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  32. #49
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    I also have old German fiddle perhaps hundred years older than yours, which gives it a lot of cool patina but also lots of wear and several cracks and seam repairs that I had to re-do. It also has completely new edges of top (doubled edgework) which would be totally not worth its value (probably couple hundred EUR) but someone in the past loved it enough to care. It's nothing special in eyes of top classical folks but could be good player for me (I'm starting with some fiddling as well).
    Fiddling doesn't require same standards as classical and often those old fiddles are better suited for old time fiddling than Stradivari's masterpiece.
    Adrian

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    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: violin buying question to you trusted cafe goers (NMC)

    One thing I've just noticed is that the neck angle on the fiddle is less than standard. As a result the bridge stands at about 29mm when standard is 33. Does that seem like a problem?
    Cary Fagan

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