Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

I’m looking at learning the fiddle, went to the local violin/cello shop and was advised to look into what kind of fiddle setup/ strings etc I would want, that would be more suited for ITM. Help! This is all totally new to me.

All advice/pointers muchly appreciated. :)

Re: Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

It depends on who you talk to but I think it would be useful if you made sure to by strings that are not overly sensitive. As a beginner it can be frustrating bnough to get a good sound out of the violin without super sensitive strings getting in the way. I would reccomend buying a decent priced violin as well. I would not go out and spend a grand, but if you buy a instrument that is really bad that can also make life more frustratiing. As far as chin rests and shoulder rest, just experiment around and see what feels more comfterable. None of them will feel extremely comfterable as the feel of a violin on your shoulder is new to you. Just make sure you feel like the violin is supported when you rest your chin on the chin rest without muscle strain in the neck. The longer the neck you have the higher shoulder rest or chin rest might have to be.
Make sure you buy a wooden or fiberglass bow. Plastic ones usually tend to be bulky and hard to control. Make sure you also buy an extra set of strings, and a tuner. Hope I could be of help.

Re: Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

Find a teacher or make friends with a fiddler. Get them to help you shop. :)

Re: Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

Thank you to you both, muchly appreciated. :)

Re: Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

Hey Morgana—another harper turned fiddler, welcome to the ranks!

I was lucky enough to borrow a fiddle from my teacher until I was sure I would continue on. Unfortunately "a grand" isn’t really all that much when it comes to a quality fiddle. So if you’re pretty sure you will stick with it, I would spend at least about that much. Am I way off here? The only problem is it takes at least 6 months or so until you have enough skill and ear developed to be able to tell which fiddle to choose. Zina’s idea of a fiddler friend to go shopping with is a great idea then.

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Re: Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

Well, what I did (having played viola as a girl), was I bought a good quality intermediate student fiddle for about $400 at a pawn shop. I figured that it would carry me past the beginning stages without too much aggravation, which it did.

The only trouble was that I then couldn’t afford a better fiddle for quite some time, after I passed the beginning stages; everyone who I took lessons from and such told me that they thought the fiddle was holding me back. (The fiddle, while a good student fiddle, wasn’t as responsive as I needed, and the lower end sounded like I was playing a kleenex (TM) box full of wet tissues.) When I finally did get a really nice fiddle (thanks, Will), I discovered that not only had everyone been correct, but that I now have problems overplaying the new fiddle from the bad habits given me by the old fiddle.

I would say to buy the very best fiddle that you can afford. If you can afford $300, then spend that much. If you can spend $3,000, then spend that much. (And if you can afford the latter, let me know, I know of someone who has a very nice fiddle with a nice pedigree for sale for that price who would be willing to ship it to Oz.)

Oh, and btw

Don’t worry *too* much about buying a fiddle and then not sticking to it. If you buy a fiddle for what it’s worth (rather than a cost overinflated fiddle), you can generally re-sell it for at least what you bought it for. That’s not necessarily true for new beginner’s instruments, though, but older, generally more expensive fiddles.

When you find one that you like the voice of, take it to a violin shop (or two, or three) and ask them to give you a valuation on it so you can see about how much you could resell the thing for. (Most shops will allow you to take the fiddle home with you to play on for a bit — some will ask for a rental fee and/or deposit.)

Most Irish fiddlers seem to like dark voiced fiddles, though I tend to like them a little more brilliant and bright than most. Don’t worry if you do as well, just find a fiddle that makes a sound that you love. Since you can’t play well enough to get a decent sound out of a fiddle yet, take along that fiddling friend and ask them to play each fiddle for you.

I don’t know of any fiddler who doesn’t enjoy playing bunches of nice fiddles, so offer them a drink or two as recompense and know you’re giving them something nice to do something they’d love to have the excuse to do for free! :)

Oh, and — when you go shopping, if you can only afford to pay $300, tell the shop that, but do be willing to listen to fiddles that cost up to about $500 — but DO NOT try fiddles that cost $3000. You’ll only break your heart by falling in love with one you can’t afford (yet).

Whatever you do, don’t go the E-bay route unless you first pass a possible buy past a knowledgeable fiddle person.

And even more btw…

As regards to setup, I shouldn’t worry about that overmuch. A set of Dominants or Prims or whatever is just fine, or even the Super-Sensitives that you get on most student fiddle setups.

Don’t listen to those who want to put a "fiddle bridge" on your fiddle just yet. (These are bridges where the top curve is carved flatter than the curve of the fiddle and fingerboard to make it easier to double-stop.) That will just make it harder for you while you’re a beginner.

A regular set up will stand you just fine for a while; the only reason to fool around with strings is to (slightly) change the tone of the fiddle voice and/or compensate for any defects of response or such. Your ear won’t even be able to hear that sort of thing for a few years, so I wouldn’t bother. :)

Re: Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

Also feel free to try out the feel of the fiddle without a shoulder rest. Not every fiddler uses them. Just be careful that if you choose not to use one that you aren’t straining your neck.

I spent 600 dollars on my fiddle. Bought it from my teacher brand new three years ago. It’s apprentice made and therefore doesn’t have a label and therefore wouldn’t sell for as much. I’ve also been offered three times that amount for my fiddler by professional fiddlers. So, it’s not always about the amount of money so much as the tonal quality.

Good luck!

Re: Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

Thank you so much to everyone for their imput. I ended up spending approx $700 for a 1973 Kaiser - the sound lept out and latched onto me the instant I heard it played. I was less concerned with age/label etc and more instant in what the sound was like.

So far I have manged to scratch out a few nursery rhythms and a scale or two, although I can’t reach the G string yet (but I’m told that will come with time :) I’ve been given the name and number of someone who teachs Irish fiddle, so hopefully I’ll be able to hook up a lesson soon.

I still intend to continue with the concertina, which I adore, but couldn’t resist the extra challange of the fiddle!

Re: Fiddle setup for a complete beginner

Good concerns for picking an instrument. Like I said above, my fiddle is pretty new in terms of fiddles, but it has always had the most beautiful dark tone. Have fun with learning the fiddle alongside the concertina. Oh yeah, I’m jealous of you finding an Irish fiddle teacher. My own Texas old-time fiddle teacher lives to far away for me to take lessons now that I’m in college.