Learn how to choose the best violin possible by inspecting the craftsmanship of the instrument and feel confident in knowing what to ask the seller with this 14 part tutorial and checklist that includes a free PDF checklist to download and take with when viewing instruments and an accompanying video tutorial.
This is part 2 of 2 from the How to Buy a Used Violin series. The first part shares 9 guidelines to help take the confusion out of the process of purchasing a used instrument. The second part focuses solely on what to look for when inspecting the craftsmanship of a used violin.
Click HERE to view Part 1: 9 Guidelines for Buying a Used Violin (+ video and free PDF download).
When purchasing any violin and especially a used violin, it is important to do a thorough inspection of the craftsmanship of the violin, bow and violin case before buying. Any repair or necessary upgrades such as new strings, bow hair or violin case will increase your investment and should be budgeted for.
Below is a checklist of what to review when inspecting a used violin. I recommend downloading the accompanying PDF to bring with you when viewing instruments and viewing the accompanying tutorial video to see demonstrations.
1 - Are the seams glued shut? Visually inspect and gently tap around the outside of the instrument to hear a change in the acoustics where seams have come unglued.
2- Are there any cracks? Do the cracks stop at the purfling or extend all the way to the edge? Cracks that stop at the purfling are normal in older instruments and repairable if done in a timely manner.
3- Is the purfling inlaid or painted on? Actual inlaid purfling protects the instrument and indicates a higher quality construction. Purfling that is painted on is solely decorative, does not protect the instrument and usually indicates a lesser quality instrument.
4- Is the bridge too high and/or not properly fitted to the instrument? You will know it is too high if it hurts your fingers to play. This is an easy and economical fix that a local violin shop can accomplish. To see if the bridge is properly fitted to the face of the instrument visually inspect for a solid fitting between the feet of the bridge and face of the violin. You can test this by taking a piece of paper to the edges of the feet of the bridge to see if you can slip it underneath.
5- Is the sound post in the correct location? The sound post is the dowel located vertically inside the violin and is held in place by the tension of the top and bottom plates of the violin. Sound posts are significant because they transfer tone via the vibrations made when the bow contacts the string. Sound posts are so important in creating the beauty of sound in a violin that they are sometimes referred to as the “âme,” a French word meaning soul or “anima,” the Italian word for soul.
Sound posts need to be in a highly specific location in order for the instrument to produce an optimal sound. Sometimes a simple adjustment of the sound post makes a world of difference in the sound of a violin. It is worth playing around with this variable on an instrument that is catching your interest but just seems to be a little off in reaching its potential.
6- Do the pegs move easily and hold their grip? Ideally, pegs are easy to move and properly fitted to the holes in the pegbox which allows for ease of tuning and maintenance of pitch.
7- Is the bow stick warped? When the hair on the bow has been lost more on one side than the other then the bow will start to warp. Sometimes all that is needed to address this issue is a new bow rehair. However, if the bow has been left in this position for too long then the stick will have permanently been warped out of place and requires recambering.
8- Is there enough hair on the bow? Bows lose hair on a regular basis, this is normal and easily addressed with getting the bow rehaired.
9- Is the hair on the bow dirty? At the frog of the bow it is normal for approximately an inch of dirt to build upon the bow hair as a natural result of correct playing technique. However, often times hair has been touched throughout the length of the bow which results in slippery spots and compromises the tone. If this is the case then bow hair can either be cleaned or replaced.
10- Does the violin need new strings? New strings are essential in evaluating the potential of an instrument. Old strings create a dull sound and are not able to maintain the center of the pitch. The quality of strings will also make a difference and in my opinion, some of the least expensive strings will compromise the quality of an instrument and should be avoided unless it is the only option available to your situation.
11- Is the chinrest adequate for your playing needs or will it need to be replaced? The chinrest should help a player make the instrument feel ergonomic and facilitate natural playing. If you like the instrument overall but it feels uncomfortable know that there are dozens of different styles of chinrests and even some custom fitted options to help facilitate your unique playing needs.
12- Does the violin come with a case? Not every violin includes the case so do not assume this will be added into your purchase. If the instrument does include a case check if the case closes securely, is weatherproof and truly protects the instrument.
Additional Questions to Ask the Seller:
13- Does the instrument come with any accessories like a shoulder pad, music stand or sheet music materials? It never hurts to ask if extra things are included in your purchase.
14- Who is the maker of the violin, what model is it and when was it made? The label on the inside of the instrument (visible by looking inside the “F” holes) will list this information. You need to know that makers have several tiers of instruments ranging from lower to higher quality models. In other words, just knowing the maker is not enough and you will also need to research what levels of violins that particular maker creates.
Click on the image below to download this checklist.
Happy Holidays! If I had a magic wand and could give all of you the gift that I really want to share with everyone reading this, it would be an event that drew us together into a *giant play along of holiday music with plenty of time scheduled for getting to know each other and eat cookies.
How exciting would that be?
That is currently impossible for me to organize, BUT, I can share some of the most favorite tunes from the holiday season with you so that you can play music and of course, eat cookies. Please enjoy some free downloads of Jingle Bells sheet music arranged for violin: a duet version and a LARGE print with fingerings for beginners version. These are currently posted on my FREEBIES page.
There is no shortage of ways to be musical and connect with this great joy that we share:
So, please head on over to the M4YV FREEBIES page to download a Jingle Bells duet from the Holiday JOY! collection. I made a slight change in this from the original publication so you may want to download again if you received the original arrangement 2 + years ago. I created this duet for my studio and it is designed to have a majority of players play the melody so the accompaniment part may sound a little overpowering with just 2 players.
Also on the FREEBIES page is a LARGE print version of Jingle Bells for beginners. This is featured in the LARGE Print Music for Beginning Violin collection. An enlarged format is perfect for any musician who is new to reading music since it makes it much more accessible.
BONUS - Both of these collections are on sale at 50% off thru the end of the month.
Happy music making and thank you for your support!
"The sound of over 4,000 violinists playing together in harmony was like nothing I've ever experienced, and it was made all the more amazing to think that the last time anyone heard a sound like that was over 80 years ago, when the last record was set in at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1925."
Do you know what finger patterns are?
If you have not started finger patterns yet, then today is the day!
It will take you about 4 minutes to learn the finger patterns and then 1 minute/day to practice. You will benefit immensely from mastering finger patterns and they will help you build technique, make music theory applicable to violin playing and aid you in learning your repertoire faster.
Keep scrolling to learn more.
The best way to learn finger patterns without an instructor is thru either a chart or a tutorial video (like the ones below) .
I like to teach them in the sequence displayed below and include the less common finger patterns of 1-2-3 and 2-3-4 together as well as all fingers together (half steps) and all fingers apart (whole steps).
Once you have these mastered, the next step is to start applying them to your music. Now that you are thinking in terms of half-steps and whole-steps, mark these into your music so the concept starts to click. After a while of using finger patterns, you will notice you learn pieces faster and have improved intonation.
Did you catch the fun pop reference?
Here are some hints:
The sci-fi TV show and movies Star Trek & character Spock
Have a violin finger pattern tip?
Please let us know in the comments below, thanks!
For the Winter/Spring 2017 free *seasonal download (available here thru June 2017) I decided to do a small collection of folk tunes. After years of being immersed in complex compositions by composers such as J.S. Bach, D. Shostakovich and C. Debussy what captures my attention now is the simplicity of folk music. I don't know why I like these so much - is it because I value simplicity in all areas of my life? I have also speculated that after doing music for so long (37 years) at this point even the most complex sounding compositions always have simple formulas behind them and I like the puzzle of trying to de-code what this simplicity is.
Probably the most unique tunes in this collection are the Icelandic folk songs. I had the opportunity to teach in Iceland one summer and loved that their folk music and children's songs were in mixed meter. This was so different than my early musical exposure and even inspired me to write a piece called Reykjavik Shines for String Quartet in 3 Movements. If mixed meter music thrills you as much as it does me then feel free to view the score of this really quartet by clicking HERE.
WHY ARE THE COUNTRIES SO LIMITED IN THIS PACKET? Maybe you wondered why I did not include more diversity in the pieces in this collection. I really wanted to and even began drafting some other tunes but the limiting logistics of time and energy were a factor. Also, certain traditions of music do not translate easily. For example, my favorite thing to do in my free time is capoeira which is a Brazilian martial art that combines music and movement. I know dozens and dozens of songs from this portion of my life but struggled to find ways of transcribing them for this little collection of folk music - maybe in the future?
WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD SOMETHING? If you have a PDF of a folk tune that is not copyrighted and would like to post it on the FREEBIES page here at Music for Young Violinists please send me an email. Sharing is fun :)
* This is the 2nd to last free seasonal download I will do. The final one will be published in Spring 2017. I would be so grateful if you passed this good news on to your friends while this opportunity exists - thanks in advance!
(in the Keys of A, D & G Major)
I have a young student who plays with a passionate and focused tone and is very devoted in her practicing. She is progressing beautifully but after many years of lessons she still struggles to execute down and up bows correctly. Doing review pieces to fix this issue is counter-productive since she has ingrained incorrect bowing patterns into her old repertoire. Doing the same scale 20x/day would help but does not create a compelling assignment and she would likely zone out and resume playing incorrect bowings.
In an attempt to help her master down and up bows, I created the 7 Bowing Studies for Beginning Level Violin in the Keys of A,D & G Major. Since the focus of these studies is bowing they are kept to one octave and done 3 times in keys with parallel finger patterns (A, D & G Major) for ample repetition of the bow strokes and to keep the left hand as simple as possible.
These exercises can be used in two ways:
1- Individually to help with a specific technique needed in repertoire.
2- As a series for students who need more support organizing their down and up bows.
Features of this resource include:
Head on over to the FREEBIES page here on Music for Young Violinists to download these sweet coloring pages that playfully illustrate a duet, trio and quartet. Coloring sheets are fantastic for keeping in your studio and at group classes for your youngest musicians when they need a break.
The FREEBIES page is always rotating in new material so please check back often.
Hi! It's me, Heather. I absolutely love working on the Music for Young Violinists project and all the many facets: blogging, website, music, teaching materials, freebies, videos, newsletter and giveaway contests. The best part is connecting with you so feel free to drop me a line. You can learn more about me on the "ABOUT" page. Thanks!