I have been shopping for the past couple of weeks for a violin. There are lots and lots of violins for sale on the internet. eBay, craigslist, Amazon, online shops, etc etc etc. There are more brands and names and labels than you can shake a stick at. I suppose I can get any decent violin of whatever brand name that was made out of who knows what in who knows what factory. No matter what violin I get I’m still going to sound like me (i.e. awful!). But, the character of the instrument adds (or subtracts) from the overall experience so I want to make sure I get something that I am proud to own and want to lovingly maintain. The instrument must draw me in as much as I am drawn to it as well.
First… it has to be European. I have always felt that if you wanted to get the “original” sound then you need to get as close to the “original” instrument as possible. If you want the tone of a Fender Stratocaster then get a Fender Stratocaster. If you want the warmth of a Gibson Les Paul then get a Gibson Les Paul. If you want the shred and grind of Steve Vai then get an Ibanez. Each guitar is unique in its design, heritage, and tone. I know that I will want to starting practicing and learning European and European influenced music. To that end, I want a European instrument. Obviously, I’m not going to get an original Stradivarius. I’d be lucky to get a European copy of a European copy of a Stradivarius. Getting a Chinese copy of a European copy of a European copy of a Stradivarius just adds another level of separation that I’d rather not have.
Second… it has to be “old”. Every instrument has a story to tell. Some stories are sad like being cased in a closet for decades. Other stories are happy with scenes of beautiful music and dancing. A few are dramatic with people struggling through something whether it be the music specifically or something in their lives. I feel like those stories come out of the instrument when you play it. Maybe it’s just my imagination going wild with make-believe stories. If it helps me play more then so be it. The downside is that the instrument may require some technical work to it before it can be played. I don’t want a full blown restoration project but a little setup work could be fun. Learning something about the setup can bring you closer to the instrument and the music you play with it.
Third… it has to be whole. That means no cracks, splits, holes, or breaks. If there’s to be any of that then it ought to come from me. It’s not that I don’t admire the scars of past owners. The scars could have very interesting stories behind them. I just want something reliable that isn’t going to fall apart on me. If I did the damage then at least I know what to expect in terms of life, tone, and durability. The last thing I want to do is get something that is so fragile I can’t play it. I don’t want an “art violin” that is nothing more than a museum piece of gawk at. It should be something that can be played.
Fourth… the sound has to be even across the range. Sometimes “warm” violins lack the edge that can cut through a diamond. A “full” violin can sound boomy as if someone were shouting through a barrel. A “bright” violin sometimes misses out on the depth that a “warm” violin has in spades. So, the violin needs to be “even”. It’s the tone that you hear when someone plays the violin with long slow strokes across the entire range of pitch and someone says, “Wow, that was really beautiful… what was that?”
I know it’s a tall order but I know it exists. To get one point I’m sure I’ll have to buckle on two. The hunt is on!