When it comes to trying and comparing different instruments, we have found that there is not a lot of useful and reliable information out there, and often players with little experience are just left to their own devices.
This is why we decided to put together this guide with tips for trying high-end professional violins, violas, or cellos. Choosing the right instrument is an important and sometimes daunting decision for any musician.
In this article, we'll share our best practices to help you feel confident about choosing an instrument that’s right for you.
My name is Pedro and I’m one of the founders of MyLuthier, where we specialise in fine contemporary Violins, Violas, Cellos & bows from today’s best makers.
So, whether you are actively looking for a new instrument, or are just curious about the world of violin making, I hope that you will find this article useful. Let’s get to it!
First of all, and this may seem obvious, but we are always surprised at how often people forget to do this, to bring your own instrument to compare.
Playing your own instrument first gives you a feel for the room and a frame of reference. Room acoustics play a big role in how we perceive the sound of an instrument, so it’s important to start with something you are familiar with.
Once you are comfortable and warmed up, move onto a new instrument, and maybe start with a scale to get a feel for the instrument’s response and tonal qualities.
Now, particularly if you are looking for your first serious violin, viola, or cello, and are coming from maybe a student instrument, it’s quite possible that you have grown used to a certain type of response and adapted your playing to it.
We sometimes see players trying instruments in a bit of a restrained way, keeping their playing within their comfort zone and around what they are used to.
We strongly encourage you to do the exact opposite. Explore different points of contact between the bridge and fingerboard, and don’t be afraid to make an ugly sound to test the limits of the instrument.
Now, when it comes to forming your own opinion, it helps to have the right vocabulary to describe the sound either to yourself, or to a dealer or friend.
Try to avoid words such as like or dislike, as they are not particularly descriptive or helpful.
Knowing how to accurately describe sound and response is a very useful skill to have because it makes you more confident about your choices and allows the dealer to better understand what you are looking for.
Warm, Bright, Clear, Mellow, Dark, Responsive, Strident etc are some examples of the vocabulary that can help you better describe the sound you are looking for.
It is also important to be realistic about your budget. High-end professional instruments can be expensive, so it is helps to set an achievable budget beforehand.
Avoid falling in love with an instrument that is outside of your budget. It is easy to be less critical about a very expensive instrument that you can’t afford, leaving you with the feeling that you will have to settle for something that is not as good. While it’s fun to try all sorts of instruments, and it is definitely something we recommend, if you are actively looking for something to buy, it’s best to stick to your budget.
Once you feel more confident and have identified the qualities you are looking for, narrow down your choices quickly. Spending too much time trying out instruments that don't fit your criteria can be a waste of time and energy. Trust your instincts and don't be afraid to eliminate instruments that don't meet your expectations.
At MyLuthier, we work very hard to have a good selection around any budget, so you can be confident that whatever you choose, will be a worthwhile investment at that price range. You can also take advantage of our trade in guarantee, which gives you full credit back towards a different instrument in the future. This gives players piece of mind, knowing that there is an immediate path to upgrade!
Obviouslly, don't rush into a decision, but at the same time, don’t set an arbitrary timeframe if you don't have a precise idea of what you are looking for.
So often players come to us at the beginning of their search with the idea that it will take them at least a year to find the perfect instrument. This is only helpful if you already know what you want, and are willing to use that time by going around actively trying different instruments and being proactive about your search. Otherwise, you risk missing out on a good instrument, simply because the timing wasn’t right.
We hope that these tips have been helpful in your search for the right instrument. Remember to be patient, keep an open mind, and trust your instincts when making your final decision. If you have any thought or questions, please leave them in the comments section or feel free to reach out to us at MyLuthier.co!
Pedro Silva is a cellist and one of the co-founders of Myluthier.co. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2018 with a Master of Arts in cello performance, studying with Guy Johnston. He enjoys an varied freelance career as an orchestral, chamber musician and frequently collaborates with Early Music ensembles and West End productions.