I am a novice player (I've been playing for about 7 months), and my amazon 200$ violin just isn't helping me advance anymore. I've been scouring craigslist and facebook marketplace for older, more antique fiddles... But I am finding it hard to figure out which ones are good quality. It seems like looking at the f-holes for inconsistencies is a good way to figure out if it was handmade, and I have heard that inlayed purfling is a sign of higher quality, but I have also heard that one piece backs are preferable to two piece backs- however, I have seen a decent amount of higher end violins with two piece backs.
I guess what I am asking is, how do you figure out if a fiddle is good quality or bad from sometimes not great pictures?
And where would I look to find a good quality, older fiddle under 800$? I know my budget isn't helping my search any...
Hmmmm ... Check a fiddles resonance by humming or singing to it. It will either respond or not. Do keep in mind that a poorly set up instrument is always difficult to get a good sound out of. The bad news here is that a good setup on a violin is a good chunk of what you are prepared to spend on a new to you instrument. My advice is to continue putting up with your current instrument, try changing the strings, save some more money and continue playing as many violins as you can. Eventually you will find one that suits you and your budget. Be patient, fiddles are like cats, one will turn up eventually. Lastly, ask any players that you run into if they have a fiddle that they are no longer using that they may wish to sell. Good luck,. R/
The best thing is being able to try out several fiddles before buying... here in the North East there are many places that have fiddles and many within your price range.... if you are having to have one shipped to you, make sure that you can return it within a trial period....several players here in the Hangout have bought fiddles from Royce Burt and were happy, the other guy you may want to contact is KCstrings, Michael Richwine.... he always has a handful of fiddles available...
There are music shops that sell fiddles and many more that sell violins. They are worth visiting. Violin shops tend to be more expensive. Antique stores and second hand shops sometimes have them. But the real place to find fiddles is to get into the fiddling community in your area and find out who is who. There are always folks that have fiddles, fix fiddles and know might have one for sale. Enjoy the journey and if you happen by Black Mountain, NC, there are several fine fiddles in Acoustic Corner, a music store there.
Find the person that rents to the orchestra/band kids.
The problem with being a novice is you don't know what you don't know. When you learn to play better, your cheap fiddle will sound better. You can pay a small fortune for a quality fiddle and it will squack and squeak like a cheap fiddle until you learn to get the sound out of the fiddle that it is capable of. You can go to fiddlershop.com and listen to videos of them playing cheap to expensive violins. The cheap ones sound pretty damn good in their hands. If you aren't taking lessons your best investment would be to find a teacher, learn some basics, and let them assess your fiddle. If it is decent, invest in practice before you invest in a more expensive instrument.
You can get a new fiddle that will meet the approval of a top professional fiddler for $800.00. I've offered them here, but they get ignored and always end up selling through word of mouth/ personal referral. In the attached video, there are fiddles from $300 to $8,000 in price.
The first one linked to, the Southwind, sold for $800, later but the favorite for sound that day was the "unknown Mittenwald" that I had just done the most basic preparation and setup on. The no'2 fiddle in ranking also sold for under $1000.
crunchie812 ’s point about not realizing what you don’t know as a beginner is very good. It’s such a complicated world to wade into, and even if you’ve been in it for a long time, there’s still always more to learn.
Some key things to look for in a violin:
1) Condition. This needs to be the first consideration. You don’t have to buy something in pristine condition, but you need to be prepared for the potential problems that may arise and you shouldn’t be paying full price for a damaged instrument. Damage is forever, even if perfectly repaired, so be mindful of that. If there have been repairs, be certain that they’ve been done properly.
2) Authenticity. If the violin claims to be something, be sure of its attribution. There are a lot more fakes than genuine articles out there, and you can get badly burned. This happens even to major dealers sometimes, so caution is crucial.
3) Quality of construction and materials. A violin made poorly is liable to suffer from a multitude of problems over time. Poor materials will not yield good results in the long run. If the wood is still green, the instrument is going to have issues and will undergo drastic changes for years before settling down.
4) Setup. Regardless of what you’re buying, a good setup will make all the difference in how the instrument performs.
These things are not easy to discern when you’re new to the instrument. To make a good decision, you’ll need the guidance of someone who can explain all these aspects in a violin.
You’ll probably see all kinds of comments about just playing everything you can and either just picking a firm price and looking at everything up to that level or ignoring the price tags and labels and just playing blind to see what you like. This is very bad advice. If you do this, you are much more likely to make a bad choice. Violins change over time, so what sounds nice at one moment might not another or in a different room. There are tons of wrecks that sound good but fall apart and end up becoming money pits.
Check out Royce Burt. He post his work on YouTube and you can get an idea of what they sound like. He does some nice work and is a pleasure to correspond with during the transactions.
I will second Sidney Watson's post. Check our Royce Burt's website and youtube channel. He is sure to have a fiddle that will meet your needs at a reasonable price point! He's the real McCoy! -- A happy customer!
Thank you for all the replies! I have some good starting points to go off of now (and strings to go buy because mine are unraveling). Thanks again!
Native603 I have shared my story on here a few different ways but I found my fiddle, browsing an antique store. I had always wanted to play the fiddle and this gem was only $45. What was there to lose? Long story short, I had a $150 set up and it's been a glorious 6 months.
It's not what you spend. Enjoy the journey!
'Handmade Chinese Violin' 3 days