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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: First Fiddles


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banzar - Posted - 06/22/2007:  22:03:09


Ok..since we are all on newbie status and being that I have contemplated for a LONG time on learning to play...what is your advise and what should one look s for when shopping for a fiddle?

I've been on Elderly's and Bernunzio's site and seen some nice "LOOKING" instruments (and some mighty fancy ones too) but what specifically should I be concerned with testing from fiddle to fiddle? I know that some fiddles can look rough around the edges but sound fantastic to an experienced player but ...let me repeat I am not that person when it comes to the violin.

Also...just to add another questions into the mix.
So many banjo players, including myself at times, suggest that the Goodtime is one of the best banjos for the buck to begin on...what then is the "Goodtime" Fiddle?

Thanks




Edited by - banzar on 06/23/2007 00:26:22

Twelvefret - Posted - 06/22/2007:  22:17:55


Eastman Violins are handmade and reasonably priced.

Gianna Violins is a reputable internet dealer located near Knoxville, Tennessee. They have a web site and the owners name is Steve Perry;

chuck

M-D - Posted - 06/23/2007:  00:13:13


Something to consider: Both Shar Music and Johnson Stringed Instruments have rental programs, too. You can rent a lot of instrument ($2,000+) for less than you'd probably think. The rental duration is variable, too, so trying different instruments is an option.

bosco - Posted - 06/23/2007:  01:45:11


Wow, now, Shar sells cheap violins as fiddles. They even have "Electric Olde Time Fiddle"!!
Bosco

Konnichiwa, arigato, sayonara

banzar - Posted - 06/23/2007:  10:20:55


isn't an electric fiddle an oxymoron?

thanks for the site references...looks like I need to look more carefully at the those rental programs. Could be a new fiddle in my future.

Rachel Streich - Posted - 06/23/2007:  10:49:09


My first advice would be that if at all possible, you should visit a real brick-n-mortar violin shop, where you can look at and try out a bunch of different instruments in your price range before you buy. If you don't play fiddle yet, try to bring a fiddler friend with you who can play them for you so you can decide which one has the sound you like best.

If that's absolutely not doable, because you live too far away from a city with a violin shop -- then the Internet may be your only option. Eastman Violins seems to have a good reputation but I can't comment on the quality of their instruments as I've never played one. Gianna Violins has a very good reputation -- Steve Perry is a regular contributor to another fiddle/violin forum similar to this one (Fiddle and Alternative Strings Forum) and based on what he's written there, and on what others on that forum have written there about doing business with him, I would suggest contacting him.

Alternatively, if you have plans to attend any of the major old-time or bluegrass festivals this summer -- there are always instrument vendors there selling fiddles (as well as banjos and guitars and mandolins and what-not). If you're going to one or more of these festivals anyway, consider doing some fiddle shopping while you're there.

And DON'T FORGET A BOW! The biggest mistake newbies make when purchasing a fiddle is to blow all their money on the fiddle and cheap out on the bow. IN REALITY -- keep in mind that a "fiddle" is really 2 pieces of equipment -- the violin itself and the bow. The bow is as important to the overall sound and playability of the instrument as the fiddle is. You're much better off, at least in the beginning, with a cheaper (but properly set-up) fiddle and a good responsive bow that handles and plays easily, than with a more expensive fiddle and a cheap bow that will be hard to work with and makes you feel like you have to fight with it to get it to do what you want. Good wood bows can easily cost as much if not more than the fiddle. Fortunately, there are a few companies making good bows out of carbon fibre, or fibreglass, that are inexpensive but much better than comparably priced wood bows. Coda makes really nice carbon-fibre bows -- I have their Aspire model and really like it. I think I paid $260 for it 4 or 5 years ago. Glasser makes a nice fiberglass bow for even less money, maybe $100-200?

Hope this helps.......

Rachel Streich - Posted - 06/23/2007:  10:56:20


quote:
Originally posted by banzar

isn't an electric fiddle an oxymoron?




No more than an electric guitar is an oxymoron........

Obviously, you probably wouldn't want a solid-body electric fiddle for old-time or bluegrass, but if you play in a rock or jazz or contemporary country band, where a miked-up acoustic violin would have feedback problems or problems being heard over the electric guitars and drums -- an electric fiddle might be just the thing you need

banzar - Posted - 06/23/2007:  11:55:13


quote:
Originally posted by Rachel Streich

My first advice would be that if at all possible, you should visit a real brick-n-mortar violin shop, where you can look at and try out a bunch of different instruments in your price range before you buy. If you don't play fiddle yet, try to bring a fiddler friend with you who can play them for you so you can decide which one has the sound you like best.

If that's absolutely not doable, because you live too far away from a city with a violin shop --





I live two blocks (is that close enough?)from a violin maker and Fred Oster shop here in Philadelphia. Might pay them a visit this coming week.

Great advise Rachael...hope it helps other beginners like me.


Rachel Streich - Posted - 06/23/2007:  12:13:01


quote:
Originally posted by banzar

quote:
Originally posted by Rachel Streich

My first advice would be that if at all possible, you should visit a real brick-n-mortar violin shop, where you can look at and try out a bunch of different instruments in your price range before you buy. If you don't play fiddle yet, try to bring a fiddler friend with you who can play them for you so you can decide which one has the sound you like best.

If that's absolutely not doable, because you live too far away from a city with a violin shop --





I live two blocks (is that close enough?)from a violin maker and Fred Oster shop here in Philadelphia. Might pay them a visit this coming week.

Great advise Rachael...hope it helps other beginners like me.




Well, jeez -- here I was feeling sorry for you, thinking you had to buy online, sight unseen, because you didn't live anywhere near a violin shop I dunno about you but I've never yet bought a musical instrument of any value online -- I prefer to try out a bunch of different instruments in person and fall in love with a particular one before I whip out my credit card and take it home

Glad I could be of help.

banzar - Posted - 06/23/2007:  12:34:49


quote:
Originally posted by Rachel Streich

quote:
Originally posted by banzar

quote:
Originally posted by Rachel Streich

My first advice would be that if at all possible, you should visit a real brick-n-mortar violin shop, where you can look at and try out a bunch of different instruments in your price range before you buy. If you don't play fiddle yet, try to bring a fiddler friend with you who can play them for you so you can decide which one has the sound you like best.

If that's absolutely not doable, because you live too far away from a city with a violin shop --





I live two blocks (is that close enough?)from a violin maker and Fred Oster shop here in Philadelphia. Might pay them a visit this coming week.

Great advise Rachael...hope it helps other beginners like me.




Well, jeez -- here I was feeling sorry for you, thinking you had to buy online, sight unseen, because you didn't live anywhere near a violin shop I dunno about you but I've never yet bought a musical instrument of any value online -- I prefer to try out a bunch of different instruments in person and fall in love with a particular one before I whip out my credit card and take it home

Glad I could be of help.





Na..I don;t want to buy or rental some instrument online but I can tell you now those two places I mentioned....have VERY expensive violins. Mostly for seasoned professionals and/or collectors...aka NOT ME.
So my question still stands...

I'll still have to go try out a few fancy ones out before I look at stuff in my price range. With guitars and banjos I know how to what to look and listen for but violins....I am lost. Better start now.

Thanks again for the advice, Rachel.
You're going be a great help here on FHO.

Have you ever been to Fred Osters shop before?
http://www.vintage-instruments.com/



Rachel Streich - Posted - 06/23/2007:  14:18:46


quote:
Originally posted by banzar

I'll still have to go try out a few fancy ones out before I look at stuff in my price range. With guitars and banjos I know how to what to look and listen for but violins....I am lost. Better start now.

Thanks again for the advice, Rachel.
You're going be a great help here on FHO.

Have you ever been to Fred Osters shop before?
http://www.vintage-instruments.com/







Thanks Banzar

As for what to look for in a good violin -- to a certain extent its not all THAT different from evaluating a guitar -- you want to make sure its in good physical shape, no obvious cracks and so on, or if there are, you should be able to see that they've been repaired; no open seams around the edges, no strange buzzes or rattles when you bow or pluck the strings (could be a sign of an open seam or a loose bass bar inside needing to be reglued). Pegs should turn smoothly yet hold tune without slipping. I use steel or steel rope-core strings, so I insist on a fiddle with fine tuners at the tailpiece on all 4 strings; if the one you're looking at doesn't have them or has one only on the E string (as many instruments do if they're set up for classical music), you can add them later or replace the tailpiece for one that has the fine tuners built in, if you want to. You want to make sure the neck is straight and that there are no wierd little bumps or dips in the surface of the fingerboard. That kind of thing. All of this should be a complete non-issue if you're in a fine violin shop like Fred Oster's but necessary if you're evaluating a flea-market or garage sale find, or an E-Bay purchase.

Once you've determined what kind of condition its in, play it. How does it sound to you? Some fiddles are brighter and more brilliant-sounding, some are darker and mellower in tone. After you try a few, you'll get a sense of what you prefer to hear. Does it sound even, in tone and volume, on all 4 strings across its range? Maybe it sounds great on the 3nd and 4th strings but thin and screechy on the 1st string. Or maybe the top strings sound great but the low end is muddy. Like that. Does the tone and volume wimp out when you play up the neck? If you're not already a decent fiddler, this is where its VERY helpful to have an experienced fiddler help you evaluate the instrument(s) by playing them for you, so you can focus on listening to the sound rather than trying to decide if that screechy 1st string really is a fault of the fiddle or of your own playing

Then if you know how to play at all, you should try playing it yourself to get a sense of whether you're comfortable with the instrument or not. How does it feel in your hands? Different violins may be slightly smaller or larger with corresponding differences in fingerboard width and scale length; how does this one feel to you? Is the neck profile comfortable and is it finished smoothly with no little bumps or rough spots?

If you're evaluating more than one fiddle at a time, be sure to use the same bow on each one. The bow you use makes a distinct difference in the tone of the fiddle, so you want to eliminate that variable; you don't want to confuse the issue by using different bows on different fiddles. Pick out the fiddle you like, and then once you've settled on that, try different bows with it to see which bow sounds and plays best with that particular fiddle.

Finally, since there really are few or no "brand names" to look for in buying a used fiddle (especially in the under $1,000 price range), it all boils down to finding one YOU like. Remember that this instrument is going to be your "voice" -- is it what YOU want your "voice" to sound like?

Hope this helps

And, no, I've never been to Fred Oster's shop in Phi


Edited by - Rachel Streich on 06/23/2007 14:37:10

oldtimer - Posted - 06/23/2007:  21:44:16


In contrast to Rafe's $3000 fiddles, here's a good bargain for a beginner. I bought one of these from Miss Lucy for 99 cents plus $55 shipping, and I'm surprised how good it sounds. I have 25 or 30 fiddles, but I bought this out of curiosity. Of course, I tweak the set-up a little but it's hard to beat for $56 total including a decent bow and case. I'll post an example of me playing it on my hangout home page.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl...220126356541

stay tooned....
Glenn Godsey



"Time passes unhindered"


Edited by - oldtimer on 06/29/2007 14:37:34

J-Walk - Posted - 06/23/2007:  22:42:49


I wonder if Miss Lucy would let you pick it up in person and save the shipping charge? :)

A few years ago, I bought at $50 fiddle from Amazon. I knew absolutely nothing about fiddles. I finally got it tuned up, and I just couldn't play it. Seemed impossible to me. Fast forward two years. I had the opportunity to play a REAL fiddle (either wormfiddler's or Banjo Brad's I forget), and got hooked immediately. I realized that those things are actually playable. It turns out that my $50 fiddle was unplayable due to the high action. I mean, REALLY high. I bought a playable fiddle, and I'm really enjoying it. I wonder how many others got turned off because they bought a crappy fiddle?

BTW, that $50 fiddle looks pretty good hanging on the wall, though. I've paid more for wall art that wasn't nearly as nice looking.

bosco - Posted - 06/24/2007:  05:00:34


quote:
Originally posted by banzar

[quote][I live two blocks (is that close enough?)from a violin maker and Fred Oster shop here in Philadelphia. Might pay them a visit this coming week.




Great! Give a visit Fred Oster shop. Itwill be a reall treat. I think Rafe still works for him.
And here is an another good shop around your area:
http://www.violinsandbows.us/
She is a bow maker. She made bows for fiddlers like Rafe and Bruce Molsky.
I know some violin shop/maker doesn't wanna hera F words but not those folks
Bosco

Konnichiwa, arigato, sayonara

banzar - Posted - 06/25/2007:  09:25:32


This is all great advise!
Like the BHO, the FHO is been a fantastic help!
Now I feel somewhat more prepared to venture into a shop and start plucking on the strings.

I will report back on what I discover in my fiddle buying voyage.

seanray - Posted - 06/25/2007:  09:26:00


I normally shy away from eBay but I got lucky when I stumbled across the user pahdah_hound
He sells nice old violins that are set up very well. All of his auctions are reserve free and he's gained quite a following so the prices have gone up a bit but I lucked out on an early 20th century German violin that I absolutely love for under $300. It's not the prettiest or best sounding violin if you're used to high end violins but it's way better than anything new I looked at that cost over twice as much.



http://www.seanray.com

M-D - Posted - 06/25/2007:  10:09:55


Jesse, pahdah_hound, has a sterling reputation. Few who sell fiddles on eBay have a 100% positive feed-back rating. Consider that, then consider how many he's sold. In addition to SeanRay's post above, he offers a 100% money-back guarantee, and manages to come up with some great fiddles.

_________________________________________________________________

M-D



gtaunton - Posted - 06/25/2007:  12:32:01


Besides the bow, don't forget a good set of perlon core strings. DON'T BUY CHEAP STRINGS!

The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD (Isaiah 38:20, NIV).

gtaunton - Posted - 06/25/2007:  12:37:51


I bought one off eBay for $9.95 plus shipping of $75 (yes, I knew what the shipping was before I bought it cause it was in China). Got the thing in, set it up and it's sounds fine! Spruce top, flamed maple back and sides, inlaid perfling, and one-piece back. Becareful dealing with eBay though........

The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD (Isaiah 38:20, NIV).

FiddleNewb - Posted - 06/25/2007:  13:29:52


Im a newbie who knows very little about fiddles. im a banjo picker with delusions of granduer. bought an el cheapo fiddle off ebay (China via California) set up bridge and new strings. not all that purdy' but playable..fiddle $45...new strings $20...new bridge..$4...total cost about $70...ok

..not violin but fiddle.

Rachel Streich - Posted - 06/25/2007:  14:24:42


quote:
Originally posted by gtaunton

Besides the bow, don't forget a good set of perlon core strings. DON'T BUY CHEAP STRINGS!




Not all fiddles sound good with perlon core strings. Some really sound much better with steel-rope-core or solid steel core strings.

If you have an overly-bright sounding fiddle, then perlon-core strings like Tomastik Dominants will soften and mellow out the tone somewhat. If your fiddle is quiet and mellow sounding, solid-steel core strings will add brightness, clarity and volume to your sound. Steel-rope-core strings will give a sound somewhere in between. My fiddle has a warm, dark, sweet tone to start with, and perlon core strings just make it sound muddy. But I find that D'Addario Heliocore (steel-rope-core) strings sound great on it. I haven't tried solid steel-core strings but I imagine they'd add even more brightness and clarity to the tone than the steel rope-cores do (whether I like that or not would be another question).

Bottom line is -- every fiddle is different. The strings that sound good on one fiddle may sound crappy on another. The only way to know for sure is to try different brands and different types of strings and see which ones YOU like on YOUR fiddle.


oldtimer - Posted - 06/25/2007:  22:38:41


quote:
Originally posted by Rachel Streich

quote:
Originally posted by gtaunton

Besides the bow, don't forget a good set of perlon core strings. DON'T BUY CHEAP STRINGS!




Not all fiddles sound good with perlon core strings. Some really sound much better with steel-rope-core or solid steel core strings.




All the old fiddlers I ever knew used steel strings, but I think that some are changing nowadays. I have been trying ProArte and Zyex on a couple of fiddles lately, but I have played steel strings forever, Check my recording of Ragtime Annie...those are heavy (orchestra) Prim steel strings, which I have used for decades. But, on that recording tonight, I notice that I need a heavier 'E' on that fiddle. Tony Ludiker, five times world champion, told me he uses Prim heavies. So have a lot of other great fiddlers.

stay tooned....
Glenn Godsey


"Time passes unhindered"


Edited by - oldtimer on 06/29/2007 17:11:51

Rosin - Posted - 06/26/2007:  10:37:26


i got a brand new $69 left handed fiddle off ebay a few months ago and its definitely good enough to see if i was going to stick with it. i figured it would be a pile of junk that would fall apart the first day but its still going strong and i like it so far.

Rosin
(AKA Tundraman)

Jerry Byers - Posted - 06/26/2007:  10:57:24


I'll second Steve at Gianna Violins.

_____________________________________
Jerry

'04 Altman M-F5 #5
'05 Mid-Mo M-2
*something new is in the works*

Buckstrips™ - Strings Without the Ring

woody30 - Posted - 06/27/2007:  09:21:25


Rachel, Thanks for the info on strings, I wouldn't have thought of that until I wasted my money on strings I thought would be good for my fiddle. Being a banjo player I'm starting to learn some good things here. Tim

kabulrocks - Posted - 06/27/2007:  09:42:44


How often do you change strings on a fiddle? I change strings on my guitars regularly. I suspect it would be the same for a fiddle?

Rachel Streich - Posted - 06/27/2007:  11:07:20


quote:
Originally posted by kabulrocks

How often do you change strings on a fiddle? I change strings on my guitars regularly. I suspect it would be the same for a fiddle?




Not necessarily. Fiddle strings are a lot more expensive than guitar strings, so if you're on a budget you may not want to -- or be able to -- shell out $30-40 for a change of strings every month or whatever. Even cheapo strings are $15-25 a set compared to guitar strings which are....what? $5 or $6 a set?

Fortunately, fiddle strings don't seem to wear out or go dead as quickly as guitar or banjo strings do, maybe because you're bowing them instead of picking them, and there are no frets for them to be pressed against. I do notice that new strings sound better than old ones but they go dead so slowly that I don't really notice the deterioration in sound as it happens. So I generally keep a set of strings on my fiddle until either (1) I break a string, which is rare, or (2) the winding on my A string starts to wear out and come undone -- which depending on how much playing I do, can take 6 months to a year. Then I just replace the whole set. Of course, YMMV.

Jerry Byers - Posted - 06/27/2007:  11:20:01


I go through 4 or 5 sets of strings a year on my mandolin. I pay close to $12 a set (EXP-74's). It's all relative.

The best option is to keep them clean - wipe them down after each session. Occasionally, I will rub them down with a string conditioner. I'm assuming the Bronze and Phosphor Bronze compositions used on guitar and mandolin have a more corrosive behavior.

_____________________________________
Jerry

'04 Altman M-F5 #5
'05 Mid-Mo M-2
*something new is in the works*

Buckstrips™ - Strings Without the Ring

dpopefiddle - Posted - 06/29/2007:  17:16:00


Folkmusician in Redding, is a reputable dealer with great prices.

What a legacy we leave - a poisoned earth and a malignant mankind.

kmolines - Posted - 06/30/2007:  14:23:59


I recently bought a very nice fiddle from Gail's Violin Shop in College Park MD. My suggestion is to try out five or six fiddles in a specific price range (I asked for th $500-$800 range) and even tried some that were $350.
Play each fiddle with the same bow and the same three or four songs. Compare each one in terms of tone, response, and action (how high the strings are). Have a friend with a good ear come along to help out.
At Gail's if you are a new player, the staff will play the instruments for you (make an appointment though)
One thing to watch out for is if you already have a fiddle and want an upgrade, be prepaerd to have your ears adjust to a different sound. Some players make the mistake of rejecting an instrument because it sounds different.
I eventually bought a $450 new fiddle that had a beautiful rich tone--one that to my ear sounded better than more expensive ones and older instruments.
Also, if the action is too high (or low) this can be adjusted by modifying the bridge, which any good shop should be able to do.

And definitely don't skimp on the bow--my first bow was an inexpensive bow and was so unbalanced it was a challenge to play quick rhythms.

Hope this helps

Karyn

quote:
Originally posted by banzar

quote:
Originally posted by Rachel Streich

quote:
Originally posted by banzar

quote:
Originally posted by Rachel Streich

My first advice would be that if at all possible, you should visit a real brick-n-mortar violin shop, where you can look at and try out a bunch of different instruments in your price range before you buy. If you don't play fiddle yet, try to bring a fiddler friend with you who can play them for you so you can decide which one has the sound you like best.

If that's absolutely not doable, because you live too far away from a city with a violin shop --





I live two blocks (is that close enough?)from a violin maker and Fred Oster shop here in Philadelphia. Might pay them a visit this coming week.

Great advise Rachael...hope it helps other beginners like me.




Well, jeez -- here I was feeling sorry for you, thinking you had to buy online, sight unseen, because you didn't live anywhere near a violin shop I dunno about you but I've never yet bought a musical instrument of any value online -- I prefer to try out a bunch of different instruments in person and fall in love with a particular one before I whip out my credit card and take it home

Glad I could be of help.





Na..I don;t want to buy or rental some instrument online but I can tell you now those two places I mentioned....have VERY expensive violins. Mostly for seasoned professionals and/or collectors...aka NOT ME.
So my question still stands...

I'll still have to go try out a few fancy ones out before I look at stuff in my price range. With guitars and banjos I know how to what to look and listen for but violins....I am lost. Better start now.

Thanks again for the advice, Rachel.
You're going be a great help here on FHO.

Have you ever been to Fred Osters shop before?
http://www.vintage-instruments.com/







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