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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Fiddle recommendations for beginner

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birdseyemaple - Posted - 05/10/2019:  12:04:35

Hi All,

This is my first post. I am a clawhammer banjo player who picked up fiddle a few weeks ago. I am enjoying it. Currently am learning on a loaner but would like to invest in a good workhorse fiddle that has a good tone for old time music and will play well (for example, the quality of my current loaner fiddle makes it somewhat difficult and undesirable to play in contrast to some of the higher end fiddles my friends own that I've played). From my banjo playing, I know how important a good instrument is to learning, but I don't need any frills or fancy add ons. I don't even know where to start. Not too many local options available to me, so tapping into the fiddle hangout hive mind for recommendations on how to find the right violin for me.

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 05/10/2019:  12:50:38

Welcome and good luck with your fiddlin. I have no clue what your budget is. Spend as much money as you are able. As you point out a cheap instrument is undesirable. Look at the classifieds here on this site. THere are many desirable instruments. Keep in mind that a poor bow will make a good instrument more difficult to play. Pernambuco wood or carbon fiber are currently the "best" bow materials. Bows are all about balance and flexability. In import instruments the current Eastman brand crop is a solid student grade starter. There are literally thousands of German import instruments from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that run the gamut from trash to professional grade instruments. Those being made in Markukirchen and Mittenvald are often at the top of the heap. Ernst Heinrich Roth is a good company to look at in used violins. Spend as much money or more on your bow than you do on your fiddle as a good bow can move from case to case. So a violin , case, bow, set of strings .. I recommend Prim, tuner, rosin, shoulder rest and mute. THen spring for some SKYPE or in person lessons to get started. Bad habits are difficult to break and it is better not to develop them. If you read music great if you don't then invest some time learning. 1,000.00 $ will get you started 2,000.00$ would be better. You can do it for 300.00$ but you will be spending more money sooner. Play on! R/

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 05/10/2019:  14:40:29

As Richard Calvert says, get one of those old German "trade violins" from the late 19th and early 20th Century. They look great. They have enough tone to allow you to grow. They have enough charisma to make you want to play and to keep you from gnashing your teeth as you wonder "what the heck did I do?"

ChickenMan - Posted - 05/10/2019:  14:54:36

What is your budget? $500, 800, 1000? Depending on that, there are very reputable folks here who sell both revoiced oldies and new finished "white" fiddles from China near those price points (I think). $3000 seems like waaay more than you need to spend now. Hell I played on a $75 fiddle for 15 years before I felt the need for an upgrade. Perhaps you will find the "need" to aquire more fiddles down the road smiley when you've squeezed all of the notes out of your first purchase. 

Edited by - ChickenMan on 05/10/2019 15:00:25

farmerjones - Posted - 05/11/2019:  13:11:53

Find out where the kids are renting for the school orchestra. This Rentor will have good playable units. (he doesn't want more work for himself) He/She will often have some for sale too.

I started on a Musicains Freind $80 Cremona. I took it to one of these rentors, to get it playable. I could have saved a step.

Best of Luck, and Welcome!

birdseyemaple - Posted - 05/11/2019:  18:52:18

I bit the bullet and spent about 1000 dollars on a beginner outfit from a local violin maker I found after my original post. I think I probably overpaid a little bit but the setup was quite good and they have a full value trade in to upgrade. I brought my rental in to compare against it and my new fiddle is undeniably better in tone and playability so I just went for it. It seems to be made in China but my impression is that this is common for more contemporary fiddles. The bow also felt very good compared to the rental now. Thanks for all the great advice. I am excited to continue playing.

birdseyemaple - Posted - 05/13/2019:  06:34:13

The tuning pegs on my fiddle stick out the other side a few centimeters (all 4). I have not seen this before but also don’t have any specific problem with this. Is this common with fiddles?

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 05/13/2019:  14:44:05

My fiddles, from the most expensive to the cheapest, all have variations in the amount the pegs stick through their holes. Has it ruined things? I have no idea. Is it a case of sloppy workmanship? Who knows? All I care is if the pegs work well...that they hold tune and that they don't take too much finger moxie to twist. I also have to say that, as time goes on, variations have developed, whether from my own clumsiness or from the very idea that wood must scrape wood.

bluenote23 - Posted - 05/13/2019:  15:30:49


Originally posted by birdseyemaple

The tuning pegs on my fiddle stick out the other side a few centimeters (all 4). I have not seen this before but also don’t have any specific problem with this. Is this common with fiddles?

The only problem I see is that this is the sort of thing one sees on older violins. I always thought that the constant pushing of the pegs while tuning just bore the hole larger and the peg, over time sunk deeper into the hole. At some point, the hole becomes too big and you have to do something about it.

Now I don't know how long this takes. I have a fairly modern 16 year old instrument and my pegs stick out a few milimeters.  A few centimeters is around an inch.

Edited by - bluenote23 on 05/13/2019 15:32:49

captainhook - Posted - 05/13/2019:  16:21:54


Originally posted by birdseyemaple

The tuning pegs on my fiddle stick out the other side a few centimeters (all 4). I have not seen this before but also don’t have any specific problem with this. Is this common with fiddles?

MILLIMETERS, NOT CENTIMETERS, unless these are something like lute pegs. If this is a new fiddle, it was just a shortcut. It takes time to trim the pegs and finish the ends. It is better than the more common trick of the pegs not sticking out at all, but it doesn't make the dealer look good. The more important thing is for the string holes to be properly located.

birdseyemaple - Posted - 05/14/2019:  00:12:00

Here is what it looks like. Few mm is probabably a more accurate description. 

Edited by - birdseyemaple on 05/14/2019 00:13:45


Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 05/14/2019:  02:01:31

Yeah, those guys are pretty deep.

birdseyemaple - Posted - 05/14/2019:  10:17:01

Is it of concern in and of itself? It sounds good and stays in tune. The e seeing does appear to take a somewhat acute angle towards the tuning peg. The dealer is a guy with a good reputation for excellent setups but it was my first time shopping for a fiddle.

bluenote23 - Posted - 05/14/2019:  11:55:45

It could be just as Lyle says and the maker did not trim the pegs. My pegs are 3.5 cm long not counting the peg head part. So the dowel part that goes into the hole is 3.5 cm. Could be that yours are longer by the amount sticking out of the hole on the other side.

Dick Hauser - Posted - 05/24/2019:  13:28:03

Why don't you check out Burt Royce's fiddles ? He buys used instruments and restores them. Lots of raves about his fiddles. He is a member of this website and post info on Youtube.
He can sell you a fiddle that will take you a long way. He lives in Plant City FL..

I play banjo, fiddle, and guitar. IMHO the fiddle is the hardest instrument to play. You make a mistake and everybody notices. Small changes in playing technique create big changes in sound.
Playing well seems to be a very lengthy project.

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