Common Misconceptions Regarding the Violin, the Player, and the Bow

by Cheryl Macomber, Violinmaker

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My playing is not worth a more expensive instrument.

Absolutely not true. Your playing will improve and be greatly enhanced by a much better instrument. Generally, the more you pay for an instrument, the better the tone quality, the enjoyment, the flexibility, the less frustration, and the greater the ease of playing

A totally hand made instrument is of much better quality than a manufactured or partially hand made instrument. If you can afford a better instrument, buy one! It will make your playing much more enjoyable, and… if you buy from our shop, we will apply the price of the first instrument you bought here to the price of the next upgrade!

What causes the different price ranges of cheaper instruments?

Generally, the wood quality is better and will be more resonant and responsive for the more expensive instruments. Also, the varnish details and accessories will be of higher quality. A fine instrument is made by one person, so that all the parts are made to fit perfectly with each other, rather than having to be under pressure, because the parts have had to be forced to fit.

I didn't have to tune my old violin at all. It just stayed in tune all the time.

A good violin is very sensitive. It will tend to adjust to the different temperature or humidity of the room. When you take it on a trip, it will take a little time to adjust to the new environment! If it is cold or hot outside, your special handmade instrument will adjust. Sometimes, it will sound a bit different. This is all because the instrument is very finely made. It is made with great care so that each part can vibrate and freely reverberate! In order to take care of your instrument, make sure that you never leave it in the car. It can get too hot or too cold. This will not only affect the tuning, but could damage the varnish or cause cracks in the wood or seams. Try to keep the instrument at a constant temperature. If your house temperature is not consistent, consider placing a cotton drape over the instrument to help protect it from sudden leaps of temperature. If you are travelling, consider wrapping the case in a blanket. Treat your instrument as though it were a child, which needs a coat in the cold, etc. Keep an eye on the bridge, and make sure that it is not leaning forward toward the fingerboard. If it is, carefully pull it back with two hands. If you are not comfortable doing this, bring it in to the shop. We do this at no charge! You don't want your bridge to warp, and the sound will be much better when it is upright!

It looks easy and inexpensive to make an instrument. My child could do it for a project.

We use the best quality wood from Europe, which is much more expensive than American wood. This wood has to age for at least 15 years—the longer the better. Wood that has been aged and is of good quality is very rare and difficult to find.

Carving the top, back and scroll, requires a very strong hand and arm, and very good wood working skills. It also requires a very artistic eye, with eye hand coordination to achieve the expected results.  Very young children can be encouraged to develop strong muscles through hand milking a goat or cow, or doing yard work such as pulling weeds and hoeing.

They can be encouraged to develop their drawing skills concentrating on accuracy and beauty.

They could learn wood working skills from their dad, such as learning the safety rules for machines, gouges, planes, and knives. They can also learn to carve using gouges and knives.

By the time a child reaches their college years, their muscles should be developed more fully and they will be better prepared to enter the violin making field if they so desire.

Generally, training in the violin making field requires 3-4 years of learning, and there are many violin making schools from which to choose.

Kits are a good choice for the young budding maker. They can assemble a violin, without the risk of cutting off fingers or of stabbing themselves, trying to carve the wood. Most of the hard work has already been done for them. The final steps of putting the kit together may be quite difficult, such as cutting the bridge and setting the soundpost. These can be done by a violin maker for a small fee. Just keep in mind, that the quality of the wood in these kits is very low, but that is the purpose of the kit—to make something that is easy and that is not expensive in case it becomes damaged.