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Better Instrument and bow has helped a lot

Posted by bj on Sunday, May 25, 2008

Okay, so I'm still awful, but I'm less awful. I recently invested in a better fiddle and bow to replace the China Cheapie I got started with.

I got the bow first, a tabary prism that weighs half as much as the china cheapie bow. Much better balance and control with this bow. I'm not fighting with it, so many less squeaks and squawks (though they hadn't quite disappeared completely!) Made me realize that I might actually be able to make this sound like something someday. For the record, Conrad online has an exceptional price on this bow, 2/3 what most of the others are charging for it, which brought it into my price range, luckily!

Then I got my new old fiddle. SWEET! My left hand fingertips no longer feel like they've been put through a cabbage shredder! And the sound I'm making has improved 100%! That's not to say I've become a good fiddler overnight, since I haven't, but I now can almost stand to listen to myself practice, AND practicing doesn't literally HURT, so I practice at least twice as much. And this fiddle seems more forgiving too, even less squeaks and squawks (though they still lurk, and jump out at me when I start to get cocky . . . ) The strings are much closer to the fingerboard, so my left hand sped up and got more accurate pretty much overnight. Still not perfect, but a lot better.

This fiddle has a fiddler's bridge, where the china cheapie had a classical bridge. So I'm finding drones and double stops to be much easier (though single note melodies are now more of a challenge.) I may eventually try to file a bridge to a profile halfway betwixt and between to see if I can reach a happy medium, since I do like to play melodic stuff.

I've very very pleased with my upgrades, though I'm having a feeling this could be dangerous. I could easily become a fiddle junkie . . . the search for the ideal instrument resulting in a whole wall filled with them . . .

Those of you who are just starting out on this road, as soon as you know you want to keep following it, invest in a decent instrument and bow. You'll be very happy you did.

8 comments on “Better Instrument and bow has helped a lot”

FiddleJammer Says:
Sunday, May 25, 2008 @4:13:52 PM

Hey, good for you! You gave a really good description of some things to look for when shopping for a fiddle. Glad to see your satisfaction and progress.

bj Says:
Sunday, May 25, 2008 @4:53:45 PM

Thanks, FiddleJammer! Yeah, I'm really happy with this Fiddle. And even more happy it was handmade in the US, in the heart of Fiddle Country. Apparently more than one generation of this family, the Stockdale family of Springfield MO, made fiddles. I'm a history buff, so it's even nicer to own a fiddle that I know a bit of the history of.

fiddlerdi Says:
Monday, May 26, 2008 @6:30:55 AM

A good instrument makes a world of difference! I didn't know about those fiddlemakers in Springfield. I live next door in Kansas. I'll have to check into that.. I am sure this is also very motivating for you practice and playng. A good bow is also the best way to take a step up. Keep up the good work!

bj Says:
Monday, May 26, 2008 @7:13:34 AM

Thanks, fiddlerdi! Yes, the practicing has increased a lot, nearly double. I usually do one 30-45 minute session later in the day, but I do 5-15 minute sessions on and off all day long, with the first one usually before I've even had my coffee in the morning. I'll sometimes do as many as 10 mini sessions during the day. It does help that I work at home. :)

bsed Says:
Monday, May 26, 2008 @5:59:40 PM

You vindicate me. I have stated in I don't know how many posts in response to beginning fiddler's questions that if you're playing a fiddle that's hard to play & uncooperative, you ain't gonna want to play for very long. End result: It'll either retard your progress or stop it altogether. So good for you!!

bj Says:
Monday, May 26, 2008 @6:28:52 PM

bsed, I'm glad I (inadvertently) vindicated you. Really, the difference is startling. (though I still sound awful) but with the amount I'm now practicing, it seems to be moving forward a bit more quickly now. I hope. Please. :D

The bow was just as much of an improvement as the fiddle was, though in a much more subtle way. I'm glad I got one and then the other, so I could appreciate the differences more. That Tabary Prism makes my bowing so much smoother. Most of the time. Until I try to go faster than I can handle or try to get fancier than I'm ready for . . . at which point I may as well be bowing with a two by four.

Blu Says:
Thursday, May 29, 2008 @8:00:54 AM


I see from your posts that you are in Easton, and have played since 2007.  I am in Trout Run, PA, and I started playing fiddle a year before you did. 

Fortunately, I replaced my cheap auction fiddle with a very nice fiddle pretty quickly.  I figured that at my age (now 55), I did not want to waste time fighting my instrument.  Being able to hear and to enjoy the sound of your instrument is much more critical in learning fiddle than it is in playing fretted instruments.  Your playing will definitely improve more quickly with a quality instrument.

I agree that short practice sessions can be a big benefit.  I get 15 minutes to a half hour in before leaving home for work.  I try to structure that time to work on something specific and focused. 

I see that you have an interest in swing, jazz, gypsy, or whatever we wish to call it.  If you have time to do so, you might want to check out Regina Carter playing Lady Be Good on YouTube.  Incredible.  Perhaps equally great is the bass playing on that cut.

Best wishes. 


bj Says:
Thursday, May 29, 2008 @4:58:11 PM

Thanks, Blu! Yeah, us newer fiddlers who are older than X-gen need all the help we can get, since we have less than a whole lifetime to get good at it. :)

Re Regina Carter I'm way ahead of you. My fave stuff of hers was when she played jazz on Paganini's Violin, much to the chagrin and delight of its curators, who waffled between loving her mastery of the instrument no matter the genre, and wanting to castigate her for daring to play anything but classical on it!

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