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Fiddle Lovers Online


Sep 21, 2021 - 7:09:13 AM
2 posts since 8/21/2009

I play mandolin, bluegrass and folk styles. I like it because it's easy to find jams where I can play with other people which is my main goal. I'm not a super musician but can keep up on rhythm up to an intermediate BG tempo. And I can take a break (play a melody) if I know the song or improve over the chords if I don't.

I'm getting some forearm soreness from the impact of picking and worried about repetitive stress and not being able to play any more. So I'm wondering if I should pick up a fiddle and just try to learn simple back up, aka bowing single strings and double-stop rhythm. Then I could switch off at jams. Play mando on songs I know a break on or if I want to sing a tune and play fiddle back-up part of the time to avoid too much picking stress.

So, I don't know anything about buying fiddles. Don't know how much to spend and if I can afford something that's playable. If I jump in, it would be nice to find something used to save a bit of money. I look at ads and of course I see people asking $275 for something that goes new for $285 at some web site. I know I want to avoid super cheap. (Yes, I've read about the whole Violin-Shaped Objects thing and do not want to end up with something so cheap it is unplayable.)

What I wonder is if a student fiddle in the $400-600 range new would be good enough? Then if I see an ad for a model, I can look it up and see what it goes for new and if I can find a fiddle for $200-300 that sells new for $500-600, would it be good enough to learn on? Example, I saw a Lisle 117 in a local ad virtually new (I looked it up and it went new for $595 new) seller wants $300 for best offer so I might be able to get it for less than $300.

Another option would be rent at a local violin shop for about $100/quarter to give it a try. If I like it and rent for a year, I'd get $400 for credit toward buying but the local violin shop new violins start at $1500 (but they'd likely sell what is rented for less). That would let me try it but if I stick with it, it's a bigger investment, but maybe better quality. And if I won't know the difference between a $600 (new) instruction and a $1500 instrument, buying a used one that looks good might be cheaper than rent and I could sell it if I lose interest.

The second thing I'd like to ask about is who long it would take to learn to bow well enough to play simple rhythm? I already know where the notes/double-stops/chords are on the mandolin, read notation, and know theory (chords, scales, modes, etc.). And I have software that plays backing tracks I can play along with. I'm pretty good at self study.

Sep 21, 2021 - 7:49:17 AM
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747 posts since 8/10/2017

Take a friend who can play the fiddle with you to check out any violins being sold. He can play it and let you know if it's decent. He can be your second opinion.

I saw my fiddle on craigslist but I thought the ad sounded like a scam. My friend likes to go try all the fiddles he sees on craigslist as some kind of hobby. He tried the one in the ad and told me it was a great fiddle and I'd probably really like it. So I tried it out and yeah, it did seem pretty great. Even I could get a good sound out of it. So I bought it even though I still think the story in the ad was probably a lie.

Edit: I don't know if there's a super direct correlation of price to the kind of quality you'd need for your purposes. My fiddle was $600. I have yet to play anybody else's fiddle and think it's better than mine. I think mine is the best one I've ever tried.

Edited by - sbhikes2 on 09/21/2021 07:50:49

Sep 21, 2021 - 8:27:17 AM
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1983 posts since 8/27/2008

Playing fiddle has its own stress injury dangers. You might have some technique issues on the mandolin that cause problems and you should work on correcting that. Beyond that, sure learn the fiddle too. I play both and am glad I do. As for shopping for one, there are just too many possibilities. Shop with someone you know who's a fiddle player so you have some advice. Price isn't necessarily the factor (except a limiting factor). You want an instrument without potential issues like developing cracks, etc. Of course you want it to sound good. Sometimes that doesn't cost a lot.

Sep 21, 2021 - 9:10:37 AM

5401 posts since 9/26/2008

I'm not sure what you're doing, but your forearm soreness is likely related to squeezing the pick too tight or not using your wrist enough when strumming.

Most starter/beginner fiddles are fine to start on. The more important thing is the set up of said fiddle. Whatever you get, be sure to have it looked at and set up by a luthier who knows violins/fiddles and not just guitars. The set up can make it break your learning experience.

As a former decent mandolin picker (thumb arthritis on my picking hand ended that as well as my first love, the guitar) I can add that you should spend exclusive time with your fiddle and not switch back and forth to the mando,particularly at first. The strong grip and firm finger placement needed for the mando are detrimental to fiddling, which requires a relaxed easy hand for best results. I played both in a BG band and hated how much effort it was to relax my fingers when I would switch to the fiddle, not to mention the slight differences in finger placement. I mean, they're close but not the same.

My most expensive fiddle I got used less than 10 years ago for $400. It is an $800+ Eastman and plays great. The other 4 I have were all purchased for less than $200.

Good luck and as Diane said, if you know a fiddler, have them help you evaluate your choices.

Sep 21, 2021 - 9:15:18 AM

5401 posts since 9/26/2008

As for how long it takes to learn the bow the short answer is: as long as it takes. The bow is not a pick and that's the hardest thing to get in your head. There is plenty of advice here and elsewhere on the internet on how to learn to bow in the right place with the right angle with the right pressure with the right speed with the right rhythm.... devil

Sep 21, 2021 - 9:24:56 AM
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1983 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

I'm not sure what you're doing, but your forearm soreness is likely related to squeezing the pick too tight or not using your wrist enough when strumming.
 


It's hard to say without seeing you play. I play (and occasionally teach) with my right arm coming over the mandolin over the tailpiece, so almost parallel with the strings. The playing motion comes from the shoulder and elbow, finally the wrist, becoming more relaxed each step of the way. I think Chicken man means a loose wrist too. Too much tension there will give you problems. Your grip on the pick should be just enough and no more.

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:23:10 AM
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2419 posts since 10/22/2007

Lots of good advice here. I'd say go for it! I play fiddle mostly, but when I get the urge to sing, I bum a mandolin, and thump along with that. Definitely different muscle groups when it comes to picking vs bowing. To me it just seems easier to pull a bow. I can also control sustain, and pitch at will. Some find it hard adjusting to their new found magic powers.

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:29:30 AM

2 posts since 8/21/2009

Follow ups...

I know my pickin' hand issue is with holding the pick too tight and tension. I have to take a big of time off and then work on loosening up big time.

Unfortunately I'm not friends with any fiddle players that live close to me to ask "can you take a few hours out of your day to come look at fiddles with me."

Sep 21, 2021 - 2:20:56 PM

5401 posts since 9/26/2008

quote:
Originally posted by learn2turn

Follow ups...

Unfortunately I'm not friends with any fiddle players that live close to me to ask "can you take a few hours out of your day to come look at fiddles with me."


Yeah, I didn't either.

Here's a link to a five year old discussion here on FHO that mentions the handful of brands names that come up whenever this topic pops up. Lots of good input on it

Beginner violin suggestions

Sep 21, 2021 - 4:01:25 PM

4 posts since 1/5/2019

You should absolutely pick up the fiddle, but not because of the pain issues you're experiencing with mandolin. Re-learning your mandolin picking motion to not cause repetitive stress ought to be much easier and quicker than learning to bow a fiddle. A few lessons with a good mandolin teacher either in person or via Skype ought to set you on the right track.

But otherwise, IMHO every mandolin player owes it to themselves to pick up the fiddle, and every fiddle player ought to learn mandolin!

Edited by - jimbopicks on 09/21/2021 16:03:55

Sep 21, 2021 - 4:56:59 PM
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2769 posts since 9/13/2009
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I don't think your issues with the mandolin gives great reasoning to "should" pick up the fiddle. (should probably address mando issues on it's own merits).

Not to say, you shouldn't; or predict your success/failure, just heads up why many give up, esp those used to frets and picks. Motivation is an important aspect for most folks, especially with fiddle. It's not a simple substitute to mandolin, (despite same tuning) it's quite a different beast... which many struggle with learning to use and control the bow to intonation from lack of frets. The actual desire to the create the sound of the fiddle is motivation on it's own. Not saying impossible without... but for most, really requires good motivation, desire to get through those struggles and frustration.

That said, I don't want to discourage you, perhaps there is more desire to your motivation.

How long is always a tough question; a lot of individual variables. Measured more in hours and effort put in than calendar... aspects of cognition, prior experience that can be transferable. More important are defining different goal and differing metrics of accomplishment/success (what's minimum to qualify?). Becomes a lot of apples to oranges comparisons. FWIW, the goal doesn't have to be "become a fiddler".

FWIW, I did take a similar path (though motivated by sound/texture), in I played other instruments, initially not necessarily any desire to be a "fiddler", but add a tool, little fiddle sound for variety/texture, mostly just seconding; and some simple melodic lines and fills for songs (was guitar in country rock band at time); not fiddle tune based, nor fireworks. In my case, might have been benefit that I was a bit oblivious to that message of difficulty/time (that others often describe), rather had a "how hard can it be?" attitude. Actually didn't find it that difficult nor took long... within a couple of months was starting to play with others/band in those simple limited capacity. Just a few songs at first, gradually included more. YMMV.  Might not qualify as "being" a fiddler for others; but enough qualitative to meet my above simple goal/satisfaction as a tool.

Sep 21, 2021 - 5:41:52 PM
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Earworm

USA

231 posts since 1/30/2018

Proceed at your own risk. It’s hard to dabble once you’ve held your first fiddle.

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:44:58 PM

cunparis

France

148 posts since 11/4/2012

I think you get what you pay for and a good sounding violin can be expensive, unless you are lucky. I think if you can afford to get a better quality violin you can get a better deal and be able to resell it if you want to upgrade and get most of your money back. Good violins hold their value.

I bought and sold many violins due to my upgrades and my kids outgrowing their violins. I have purchased new from two of the brands mentioned in that other thread linked to above: Gliga & Shar. I paid around $100 for a Shar violin (kids size). It was blemished so it was cheaper. I've had two Gligas, the one I hand picked out in their LA store was fantastic. The one I ordered online from them (same store) was average.

The thing about a starter violin is if it doesn't sound good you won't be as motivated to play it. My first violin was a chinese one from a well recommended luthier. I called it "The Red Screamer". I paid two different luthiers money to try and improve the sound but it still didn't sound good so I sold it.

If you don't know someone who plays violin who can test it out for you, I would buy from a reputable seller such as Gliga, Shar, Fiddlerman, etc. Buying there, blemished if you can, and reselling later may be cheaper than renting.

For the bowing question.. it took me many years before I actually liked my tone. There are so many variables and getting them just right while playing a song is not easy. Simon Fischer's DVD Secrets of Tone Production is very good. And what's interesting is now I'm learning double stops and all my initial bow issues with too much & too little pressure are back when trying to play two strings at the same time. It sounds terrible! SO that's an interesting experience.

I'm dabbling in mandolin so I encourage you to try the fiddle. The synergies between the two intruments is really cool and learning one helps the other. Good luck!

Sep 22, 2021 - 11:12:41 AM

2384 posts since 10/1/2008

Well .... 600.00$ will usually get you a reasonable starter outfit. Eastman is a top contender from the Chinese market. A proper set up on a violin is imperative to it's playing. A poor set up and you will be continually fighting to get a decent tone . A good bow will also add greatly to your early efforts in learning to play. Lastly , take some lessons to avoid starting with bad fiddling habits. They will be tough to break later on. Listen to and watch your favorite fiddlers on YouTube. Much can be learned. Play daily as much of your hand and bow placement rely on muscle memory. Tension is you main enemy ... if you are tense you are doing something wrong. Enjoy the journey. R/

Sep 22, 2021 - 11:43:15 AM

9409 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by learn2turn

Follow ups...

I know my pickin' hand issue is with holding the pick too tight and tension. I have to take a big of time off and then work on loosening up big time.

Unfortunately I'm not friends with any fiddle players that live close to me to ask "can you take a few hours out of your day to come look at fiddles with me."


Ken, don't underestimate the joy that many fiddlers would have helping you find a fiddle..Think "guy in a hardware store" wink

Sep 22, 2021 - 11:49:41 AM

1983 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by cunparis

The thing about a starter violin is if it doesn't sound good you won't be as motivated to play it. My first violin was a chinese one from a well recommended luthier. I called it "The Red Screamer".

I agree. That can't be stressed often enough to beginners or parents buying a starter instrument for a child. It's true for all instruments. If you start out on a piece of crap you're probably not going very far. Instrument should have reasonably good tone and playability. Since a beginner can't even play yet a poor instrument is an interest killer.

Sep 22, 2021 - 11:55:44 AM

DougD

USA

10290 posts since 12/2/2007

learn2turn - Johnson String Instruments/Carriage House Violins is a large shop in your area: johnsonstring.com/
I don't know what they have in your price range, but their rental rates are about what you mentioned. It might be a bit intimdating to contact them, but I'm sure they're used to dealing with beginners.
Fiddle and mandolin is a common "double," but as others have said, they're not as similar as you might think. Also, the violin is not an instrument that lends itself to "dabbling."

Sep 22, 2021 - 1:29:59 PM

1873 posts since 12/11/2008

As Doug says, the violin/fiddle is not an instrument that lends itself to dabbling. When you're starting cold, just trying to get a note out can be a major source of frustration. I mean, what sadist invented the instrument anyway? Well, here's a hint -- The Devil's Box.

Sep 23, 2021 - 11:33 AM
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RobBob

USA

2741 posts since 6/26/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

As Doug says, the violin/fiddle is not an instrument that lends itself to dabbling. When you're starting cold, just trying to get a note out can be a major source of frustration. I mean, what sadist invented the instrument anyway? Well, here's a hint -- The Devil's Box.


I had a friend who said that the Devil didn't make the fiddle, he made the bow.

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