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01-28-2016, 11:42 AM   #1
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Anybody knowledgeable about violins? Is this old violin junk?

I played violin when I was younger, and I've acquired a few violins over the years thinking I might try to take it up again. But I'm doing some early "Spring cleaning", and I'm wondering whether this one old violin is worth keeping and repairing, or if it should go in the Goodwill pile since I already have another violin that is in good shape. The pegs slip, so it would need some work before it could hold a tune. It looks like the top is also cracked, but I'm not sure if the crack(s) would need addressed. I'm not able to see any kind of maker's label inside the body to help me identify it.

You can click on any of the pictures for the full-size image.




















Last edited by Edgar_in_Indy; 01-28-2016 at 12:17 PM.
01-28-2016, 11:47 AM   #2
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Even a simple student violin has value. If the money isn't worth keeping or selling it give to a middle School Music Department for lending to those who can't afford the $125 a year rental or normal $600 purchase price.
01-28-2016, 11:53 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
Even a simple student violin has value. If the money isn't worth keeping or selling it give to a middle School Music Department for lending to those who can't afford the $125 a year rental or normal $600 purchase price.
I'm not sure the school would be too interested in a violin that doesn't hold a tune. The pegs probably need to be bushed (I think that's the word!) but if somebody can get the violin for next-to-nothing at a Goodwill, then it might be worth it.
01-28-2016, 01:27 PM   #4
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Oh - OK, I get that. Sometimes the teachers in my kids' program did simple repairs themselves, like re-corking a donor clarinet or fixing a pad on a flute, but I know nothing about violin pegs
QuoteOriginally posted by Edgar_in_Indy Quote
I'm not sure the school would be too interested in a violin that doesn't hold a tune. The pegs probably need to be bushed (I think that's the word!) but if somebody can get the violin for next-to-nothing at a Goodwill, then it might be worth it.


01-28-2016, 01:28 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I played between the ages of 7 and 16-ish at quite a decent level. That looks like a nice instrument with lots of age-related character and no real damage (the splits in the top will be from changes in humidity over time). Probably ebony fingerboard and pegs (fingerboard may be a replacement due to lack of apparent wear, but if so, it's nice)... The top splits have likely been repaired before if that was a problem, and needn't be an issue unless you hear bad things, or see the top bending unevenly, as the strings are tuned up to pitch. The slipping pegs are easy to fix with a little careful sanding. The chinrest and tailpiece seem to have been replaced with quite nice modern items. The carving on the back is pretty, and the figuring in the maple back and sides is attractive. Scroll looks in good order and hasn't been banged into things. I'd say it's either worth keeping or selling. Without a maker's mark or label, it might be difficult to identify, but I think you'd get a lens or two out of it (and not the $25 eBay specials, either)

Last edited by BigMackCam; 01-28-2016 at 01:36 PM.
01-28-2016, 01:33 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
I think you'd get a lens or two out of it
Lol, that's a rating system I can appreciate! Thanks for your input!
01-28-2016, 01:47 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Edgar_in_Indy Quote
Lol, that's a rating system I can appreciate! Thanks for your input!
You're very welcome I just looked at a couple of the full size photos... the splits have certainly been glued before, so unless you find any obvious instability at tune-up, I suspect it might not need any work other than gently sanding the pegs. It has clearly been "fixed" before, and that's probably when the new chinrest, tailpiece and (possibly) fingerboard were added. It looks like a lovely little instrument
01-28-2016, 01:58 PM   #8
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Played violin for quite a few years (better: I played with a violin, and the instrument lost). I would concur with pretty much everything BigMackCam. The manufacturer may have a label visible through the E-string side f-hole. Without knowing the manufacturer or hearing the instrument, better, taking it to someone who knows violins and can evaluate the tone, it's impossible to predict a realistic value. Visually it's a fairly attractive, but manufacturer and sound will determine price.

01-28-2016, 02:39 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by WPRESTO Quote
Without knowing the manufacturer or hearing the instrument, better, taking it to someone who knows violins and can evaluate the tone, it's impossible to predict a realistic value. Visually it's a fairly attractive, but manufacturer and sound will determine price.
Agreed. And, while manufacturer would arguably have much greater significance on value (a poor sounding instrument from a well-respected manufacturer will still have good value), a nice-sounding instrument from an unknown manufacturer will often have at least reasonable value - especially if a respected country of manufacture can be determined or guessed (often possible even without a maker's label). So, yes... have someone check it out for tone. Ideally not a shop who might want to buy it, as some will obviously play down how good it is (*if* it is )...

EDIT: I sold an absolutely horrible Chinese-made "Lark" student viola (as opposed to violin) when I was 17... some 29 years ago... Varnished (it would be a stretch to say lacquered!) like it was a piece of discount furniture. It was in good condition with a few chips in the varnish here and there, and with a nasty cardboard case, but it sounded OK. Good enough for a new student, for sure. I think I got 100 (about $150). Conversely, a friend of mine received a not-very-collectable but extremely nice East German made violin as a birthday present. Sounded beautiful, but wasn't from a particularly well-respected maker, though nicely made. His grandparents paid nearly 300 ($450) around 37 years ago!

Last edited by BigMackCam; 01-28-2016 at 02:48 PM.
01-28-2016, 04:15 PM   #10
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The cracks can be repaired as long as you can find a skilled repairer. With string instruments they generally sound better the older they are ( something to do with the varnish aging), Also the price goes up if it is made by a decent manufacturer. The carving on the back indicates to me it may be an instrument of German origins.
01-28-2016, 04:35 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
With string instruments they generally sound better the older they are ( something to do with the varnish aging)
It's actually more down to the wood and how it changes over time due to the vibrations caused by sound, if many tests are to be believed. The more an instrument is played, the better it will generally sound. I can testify to that with acoustic guitars I have, and (in a few cases) still own. A guitar that hasn't been played much will generally sound "tight" or "narrow" in its frequency range... a kind of compressed sound. The more it is played, even over a short time like a few months to a year, it will "open up". I think there are some guys who will even stand a guitar next to speakers and play music at it for weeks on end to speed up the process. I'm not sure if that works, but I know for sure that playing a wooden instrument repeatedly over time causes it to respond differently (and this happens even with waxed, rather than lacquered / varnished instruments)...

---------- Post added 01-28-2016 at 11:38 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
The carving on the back indicates to me it may be an instrument of German origins.
Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if this was a GDR-built violin...
01-28-2016, 05:10 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
I know for sure that playing a wooden instrument repeatedly over time causes it to respond differently
I think this has more to do with the player rather than the instrument. I own several flutes made of different materials,.925 and .970 silver, 14K and 19.5K gold, Platinum/Iridium alloy ,Grenadilla and Cocuswood. The Cocuswood instrument I have is 109 years old - I had it restored to playable condition and it sounds different from the modern Grenadilla instruments I own*, but it has a different acoustic scheme to modern instruments (some notes have greater tonal flexibility than any modern flute) But again, even my silver flutes play differently than my gold ones, and my platinum flutes are different yet again: there is a different "attack" to each note, which I gather is due to increased acoustic impedance from denser materials - you can push gold and platinum flutes harder than you can without the shrillness of silver.

*As old as the instrument is, the mechanism is in remarkably good condition.Though I would love to have a replica built with modern techniques and materials.
01-28-2016, 05:24 PM   #13
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Also V-A-V what makes a violin sound good. The skill of the maker doing the final shaping of the sounding board using thumb planes, the precise way the wood has been thinned, how much and where, profoundly impact how the violin, well, "sings." Good instruments will fill the largest concert halls effortlessly.
01-28-2016, 05:30 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
I think this has more to do with the player rather than the instrument
That's interesting (your whole post - great info, I enjoyed reading it - I have no experience of wind instruments except for playing alongside them, which I loved), but I (respectfully ) disagree with that first statement. As an example (one of many I could describe), I bought a brand new Gibson J-45 acoustic back in the early nineties. It sounded good, but tighter than I had expected. Still, it was a great deal, and I figured I would give it a try on the basis that there is always a good market for Gibson acoustics (I collected them for a number of years). Well, over the course of 6 - 12 months, that became my main guitar - more because of playability than sound, initially... but, over time, the sound opened up. And that wasn't just subjective to me, the player. The recorded sound was fuller too, and noticed by others. It ended up with a rounder bottom end, a slightly less compressed mid-range, and a noticeably clearer high end. Another example - a Guild DV-6 acoustic I've had since new and still own. Lovely guitar, sounded great from the get go for listeners, but for the player, the bottom end had a nasty harsh sound - an almost metallic "plink" on bass notes hit with a plectrum (it was fine finger-picked, however). Within... I can't recall, I'm guessing... a year (?), that had mellowed out to the point where it sounded just fine for the player (no noticeable change for the listener, I'm told)...

EDIT: I should have mentioned, I used the same make / gauge of strings on both guitars, throughout the time referenced

---------- Post added 01-29-2016 at 01:03 AM ----------

An interesting article in support of what I'm saying (which still doesn't guarantee I'm correct, of course):

Acoustic Soundboard: The Sonic Effect of Time and Vibration | Premier Guitar

Last edited by BigMackCam; 01-28-2016 at 05:35 PM.
01-28-2016, 06:23 PM   #15
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I will also point out that there is fundamentally a big difference between stringed instruments ( Violin,Guitar,Harp,Piano) Vs Aerophones ( Flutes,Oboes,Trumpets,Trombones) With an aerophone: the body of the instrument is intended as a vessel for a vibrating column of air, rather than a stringed instrument where the body of the instrument being a resonator for a vibrating string. So the properties of the materials used - as well as the quality of craftsmanship will play a different part.

For instance you can have two harps : one made of dense, but carefully thinned wood, and one made of less dense, but thicker wood - the instrument with the denser, thinner wood will sound better because it will be more efficient at transmitting sound, the denser wood will resonate better and amplify pleasing harmonics. However, the instrument with the thicker, less dense wood will sound dull and and higher harmonics will be muffled leading to an unbalanced sound. Craftsmen spend a lot of time finding the perfect ratio of density and thickness to transmit sound efficiently as possible. Considering the century they were made in Stradivarius Violins are remarkably fine tuned acoustic designs - practically all modern violins are copies of Stradivarius instruments ( good business is theft)

QuoteOriginally posted by WPRESTO Quote
What makes a violin sound good. The skill of the maker doing the final shaping of the sounding board using thumb planes, the precise way the wood has been thinned, how much and where, profoundly impact how the violin, well, "sings." Good instruments will fill the largest concert halls effortlessly.
Exactly. Also a well made Bow for the instrument is a must - I know symphony orchestra players with $40,000 carbon fiber reinforced bows.

Last edited by Digitalis; 01-28-2016 at 06:30 PM.
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