Essential Violin Information

Pernambuco or Carbon Fiber? Your Guide to Finding the Right Violin Bow.

No matter where you are in your journey as a violin player, having the right bow is just as important as having the right violin. But finding the perfect bow to match your instrument can be tricky and sometimes downright confusing.

A bow is very individual to a particular player. Some prefer a heavier weighted bow that will dig into the string and produce a loud sound. Some prefer a lighter weight bow that will not tire out the arm too quickly. Bows can also be individual to the instrument as multiple bows of the same model might play differently on the same instrument. One mistake players often make is to put the majority of their budget into the instrument, and then skimp on their bow purchase. Because bows can make such an impact on the sound of an instrument, it is wise to make sure the quality of bow you’re buying will match the quality of the instrument.

Violin Pros prefers bows made of wood or carbon fiber.

Wood is the traditional material for bows. Quality wood bows have a good flexibility while still being sturdy. Many wood bows are made of Brazilwood and Pernambuco because of their flexibility. While wood bows are weighted nicely, they are also more sensitive to changes in humidity and temperature, which can cause warping. Having a good violin case helps prevent this.

Recommended wood bows:

Knoll 303K Brazilwood Bow

The Knoll 303K is an octagon Brazilwood bow from a company with highest bow making pedigree. For three generations the Knoll family has been hand crafting violin bows. The Knoll family's craftsmanship is well displayed in the 303K as it is an affordable, high quality, and great sounding bow. Advancing violinists will appreciate the Knoll 303K. The bow is a good match for the Scott Cao 750, 850, 950, and 1500 artistic series violins.


Döerfler DO17 Pernambuco Bow

Döerfler's Pernambuco bows use only selected woods that have been stored and dried for approximately 30 years. Thanks to its great hardness and density, this wood type is the only choice for bow making of a high standard. Pernambuco wood comes from the northern and east-central parts of Brazil. The tree from which the Pernambuco is won is called Caesalpinia echinata, also known as Pau Brasil.



Economy Pernambuco Violin Bow

This octagonal Pernambuco bow is ideal for beginning and student violinists on a budget. The grip is made with imitation whale bone or silver and the bow has a fully-lined paris eye frog. This Pernambuco bow will pair well with beginning and student violins, such as the Scott Cao 017, 500, 600, or the 750 models.




Codabow Carbon Fiber Violin Bow - Diamond NXCarbon fiber is the newest bow material. Carbon fiber bows are typically made with a woven carbon fiber stick. Because of this, these bows have all the flexibility of wood without any weak areas and are typically lighter in weight. Because they are made from a synthetic material Carbon fiber bows are resistant to weather issues, such as warping. They are also sturdier and will likely hold up if dropped or whacked against a music stand.

We at Violin Pros have played on all types of bows from many makers and our featured bows have a consistency in their manufacturing, a good weight, and produce a quality sound. Happy bow browsing!

 

June 16, 2014 by Deidre Hamilton
Tags: How To

3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Violin Case

As we all know, violins are delicate instruments that need to be well protected. When choosing a case to keep your violin safe, consider these three questions:

 

1. How valuable is your violin?

If you’ve made a significant investment in your violin, you should choose a case that reflects and will protect this investment. You don’t want to put a $1,200 instrument in a $60 case as it will not get the protection it needs. Also, higher quality cases can be used for a long time and you will not need to replace the case when you buy a new instrument. If you have budget constraints, consider buying a less expensive case and then upgrading in the future.


2. What level of protection do you need?

Violin cases are primarily constructed of wood or fiberglass. Wood cases are the more economical choice but are less strong than fiberglass cases. Fiberglass cases weigh about the same as a wood case, but are much stronger and traditionally come with more accessories. While it is primarily the violinist’s responsibility to protect his/her violin, a strong case can provide greater assurance and protection. If the violin is being transported often or if the violin is being handled by a younger person, a stronger case is a better option. Also, some cases come with a lock, which offers more security if the case is often left in a public place, such as a school classroom or backstage.


3. What are your storage and transportation needs?

Different cases come with different accessories and compartments. If you have a lot of sheet music or bows, look for a case that can accommodate these. Often, cases have between one and four compartments and between one and four bow holders. Be sure to choose a case that meets your storage needs.

Also, if you plan to transport the violin quite a bit, consider the weight and portability of the case you buy. Options to consider would be comfortable handles and backpack straps. Also, if your travels cause your instrument to experience changes in temperature and humidity, check out cases with a thermometer and/or a hygrometer so that you can monitor the temperature and the humidity level inside the case.


Based on your answers to these questions, here are some case recommendations from ViolinPros to consider. All Bobelock cases have an arched top so that, if the case is being crushed, the case will not collapse on your instrument.


A Good Case: Bobelock 1002 Oblong Case

Bobelock 1002 Oblong CaseThe Bobelock Oblong 1002 is one of our best selling cases and sets the standard for durability, protection, and style with plenty of choices to satisfy all players. Built using a five-layered plywood construction in the traditional oblong shape, the Bobelock 1002 violin case is covered with a durable nylon canvas cover with an outside music pocket. The velour interior is available in multiple colors and features two bow holders and an accessory pocket. Available in multiple sizes, the Bobelock 1002 is a good choice for both student and advanced players.


A Better Case: Bobelock 16002 Puffy Oblong Suspension Case

Bobelock 16002 Puffy Oblong Suspension CaseFeaturing luxury and style at an affordable price, the Bobelock 16002 has a bonded velvet interior along with a brightly colored padded cover. The arched top of the case provides solid protection for up to four violin bows while the fully-suspended violin bed will protect your instrument. Additionally, this Bobelock case features a french fit body form, a hygrometer, and a large accessory pocket with a solid brass hinge. At 6 pounds, the 16002 is Bobelock's lightest oblong violin case.

The Best Case: Bobelock 1060 Oblong Suspension Case

Bobelock 1060 Oblong Suspension CaseIdeal for players who want to keep their instrument safe, the Bobelock 1060 has a luxurious velvet interior with a new-style glossy, colorful, and strong fiberglass exterior. The 1060 features a large accessory pocket, hygrometer, tough flip latches and a weatherproof valence. A unique padded slipcover comes with each case for traveling and includes a large music pocket. Fiberglass cases are known for their strength and insulation, and when teamed with the suspended violin bed, you can be sure your instrument will be safe for years to come.

 

 Check out all the cases we offer!

 

 

June 06, 2014 by Bold Apps

3 Steps to Choosing the Right Violin Strings

When it comes to choosing violin strings, the choices can be a bit overwhelming. Different strings can cause both subtle and profound effects on the quality and volume of your playing along with the playability and responsiveness of your violin. Yet, in three easy steps, we’ll help you find the strings that are right for you.

Watch our violin string comparison videos!

First, determine what kind of player you are and what kind of sound you want.

When considering which violin strings are the best, there’s no simple answer as each player is unique and each instrument is different. The kind of music you play is also a large factor. A bluegrass player may prefer the brightness of a steel string while a classical violinist may desire the warmer and richer sound of a synthetic string. Once you’ve determined what kind of sound you want, let’s move on to choosing the string.

Second, choose which type of string you need.

There are three main types of violin strings: gut strings, synthetic strings and steel strings.

Gut strings, mostly used by professional players, produce a warm and complex sound. Yet, these strings can be difficult for less advanced players because they go out of tune frequently and are very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity.

Synthetic strings, most commonly made of nylon, continue to grow in popularity due to their stability and ability to stay in tune. There are a variety of synthetic strings on the market, and ViolinPros has chosen these three to recommend:

  • Pirastro Evah Pirazzi: Brilliant and responsive, the Evah Pirazzis are a modern synthetic core string that produce a powerful, big and dark sound. These well-rounded strings have a short play-in-time and outstanding resonant decay.
  • Thomastik Vision Solo: With an advanced synthetic core, these strings boast superior tuning stability. The Vision Solo creates an energetic and intense projection with a warm tone and focused harmonic content. Quick bow response and short play-in time are also characteristics of these strings.
  • Thomastik Dominant: The sound of the Dominant string is full and mellow, yet rich in overtones. Other advantages include an effortless response, intricate fingering, and tuning stability even under extreme atmospheric conditions. Theses strings are similar in tone and response to gut strings without the drawbacks.

Steel strings, perfect for beginners and popular with country and folk fiddlers, are very stable in pitch and have a simple, clear and direct sound. They tend to lack complexity and are good for smaller and beginner violins. Recommended steel strings include:

  • D’Addario Helicore: These warm-sounding steel strings are very responsive and produce a clear tone. Helicore is known for excellent pitch stability and longevity.
  • D’Addario Prelude: Prelude strings have the warmest sound available in an affordable, solid steel core string design. These strings are the preferred choice for student strings due to their unique blend of warm tone, durability, and value and excellent bow response.

Third, buy and try!

Now that you’ve decided what kind of sound you want and what kind of string will achieve it, purchase a set and try them out. Your individual string needs are unique, and some instruments respond better to some strings than to others. Choose a string that is optimal for the style of music you want to play and give it a try.

Wanting to hear these strings played before your purchase? Check out our violin string comparison videos!

June 02, 2014 by Deidre Hamilton

The Importance of Proper Violin Setup

Often, you will hear violin dealers talk about violin setup. Violin setup refers to the final adjustments made to the violin before it is ready to play. These adjustments are extremely important as poorly setup violins are very difficult to play and tune, while properly setup violins will bring out the instrument's beautiful tone and be much easier to maintain. Additionally, it can be very time-consuming and frustrating for orchestra instructors to attempt to tune a poorly setup instrument before a class or lesson. 

Recently, a customer brought in a violin for setup. This particular instrument (name purposely removed) sells for $93 online and the problems it has are very common among cheap violins.

Below is the is product's online description:

"This best selling violin is hand-carved and meticulously graduated to maintain consistency in tone. This violin outfit is a student favorite because of its fine tuner tailpiece and lightweight case. •Solid Hand Carved Spruce Top •Solid Hand Carved Maple Back, Sides & Neck".

As you will see in our comparison, the only meticulous time spent on this instrument was writing the product description.

To show our customers the difference between properly setup and poorly setup instruments, we took pictures of this violin and compared it to one of our popular student violins, the Johaness Kohr KR10. In the photos you can see the visual differences between the two violins, and determine for yourself which you'd rather play. 

 

Tuning Pegs:

Poor Violin Setup vs. Proper Violins Setup

 

The holes for the violin pegs are tapered and friction holds the pegs in place and keeps them from slipping. In the photo, you can see that there is space around the pegs on the violin on the left while the pegs are flush on the violin on the right. The additional space will cause the pegs to slip while the flush pegs will stay in place. Additionally, you can see that the wood on the poorly setup violin has been stained to look like ebony, but is actually a soft white wood that compresses and shrinks. The repair cost to taper and fit a new set of ebony pegs starts at $75. 

 

Violin Neck:

 

Comparing the two violins, you can see that the neck of the poorly setup violin has moved significantly. Instead of building the neck with industry-standard solid ebony, the violin makers used white wood and stained it black. The  wood was not aged before it was installed and the soft, non-aged white wood dipped and twisted as it dried out. This causes the height of the violin strings to be different along the neck. The violin strings touch the neck in some places while being too high in others. A violin setup like this is nearly impossible to play and can  ruin a students learning experience as trying to play a violin like this will be very frustrating. The repair cost to plane (flatten) a violin neck and re-string the instrument starts at $150 plus the cost of new strings. 

 

Violin Bridge:

 

 

The bridge is a crucial part of the violin setup as it holds the strings at the correct height above the fingerboard and the correct distance from the other strings. Additionally, the bridge transfers vibrations from the strings to the violin, which then produces the sound. In the picture above, the violin on the left uses a bridge that is low quality maple while the violin on the right uses a high quality Despiau bridge. While difficulty to see in the picture, the feet on the bridge of the poorly setup violin don't fit snug to the violin surface, which hinders vibration transfer and causes the bridge to slip out of place. The cost to replace a bridge is normally around $75 but can be more depending on the quality of the bridge purchased. 

 

Violin Finish:

A violin's finish makes a big difference in both tone and overall appearance. Cheaper violins are traditionally sprayed with polyurethane which is very glossy, slick and hard. Common problems associated with a poly finish are bridge movement, fall down and cracked tops. These problems significantly hinder the violin's ability to be setup properly, and thus the playability of the instrument. Additionally, hard polyurethane finishes hinder the vibration of the violin's wood, negatively affecting the tone. 

Higher quality violins use an oil varnish that is hand-rubbed onto the wood. This process allows the violin to "soak up" the varnish and bring out the flamed texture in the maple. Varnish does not create a hard surface, so bridge movement is not an issue and string vibration can be fully transferred throughout the instrument. 

 

Selecting a properly setup Violin

I hope this comparison will help you make a more informed decision when choosing a violin for yourself, your student, or your child. At Violin Pros, all of our violins are professionally setup by award winning luthiers before shipping the instrument. If you are looking for an affordable instrument for your student or beginning player, we recommend the Scott Cao 017 outfit and the Johannes Kohr KR10. We have sold a bunch of these instruments to happy customers and use these violins in our orchestra rental programs.

 

Note: Repair cost estimates were created using an average cost from several string shops including our own.  

September 17, 2013 by Dan Haggerty

How to Choose a Violin for a Beginning Player or Student

The famous Comedian/Violinist Jack Benny’s famous line as he held up his violin was “If it isn’t a $30,000 Strad, I’m out $120 bucks!” Today Benny’s Stradivarius, donated upon his death to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, is worth several million. ;) With violins ranging in price from $75 to $2,000,000 and bows from $19 to $100,000, what should the average beginning violin shopper expect to spend for a good quality, entry level, beginner student violin?

If you read reviews from legitimate sources such as Strings Magazine, you’ll see that the same violin brand names pop up regularly. Some of the brand names that you will see are GligaHofnerJohannes KohrEastman, and Scott Cao. When purchasing a violin for your student, buying a brand name instrument will ensure that you will get a quality violin that is properly setup and ready to play. Also, many of the well known violin makers offer a beginning violin package (referred to as an outfit) that includes a bow and case. These violin outfits provide the best value for the money, and traditionally run around $400 for everything. These violin packages are normally available in fractional sizes as well, so you can find the right size violin for you or your student. When making the final decision, insist that the violin is strung with quality perlon core strings such as Dominants.

Each of the “name brand” manufacturers offers entry to professional violins costing several hundred to several thousand dollars. Avoid the least expensive beginner instruments, even from reputable companies. Why? They are trying to compete with the junk offered on the internet. There are too many corners cut trying to compete. Spending just a little bit more promises a much easier playing and better sounding student violin.

If you are searching for a quality beginner student violin, compare the Gliga Gem IIEastman 100Johannes Kohr K500Hofner AS-060, and the Scott Cao 017. Ask the dealer for a professional setup, which is crucial to the playability and tone of the violin. For more information about setup, see our article "Importance of a Violin Setup". If you are looking at a Scott Cao, ask that it is set up by the Cao company, which is standard practice at Violin Pros. Scott Cao's 017 violins are constructed in Cao’s China factory, they are adjusted or setup in their California workshop where their finest violins are constructed. No matter the company, it is well worth an extra $75 to get a master builder to setup the violin's sound post, carve the bridge, and true the pegs so your instrument can sound as best as possible. 

Good hunting and please remember to contact us if you have any questions about choosing any level of violin.

February 28, 2013 by Pat Haggerty