Do You Want to Make Your Cheap Violin Sound Better? Here are 5 Things You Can Improve, None of Which is Your Technique.
When you begin a new hobby, such as learning to play the violin, you sometimes don’t want to or can not invest too much money at the start. Luckily, there are many places where you can buy a cheap violin or a beginner kit.
What makes these instruments affordable at this price is the quality (or lack thereof) of the material used in building them, as well as their construction. Most of the time that means they are a precision manufactured instrument, as opposed to one that is handcrafted by a skilled violin maker / luthier.
The issue with this is, as you progress in your technique using one of these instruments, you may find that the sound you are producing is not what you were hoping for. This time, it really might not be you. It could be your instrument.
If so, there are ways you can upgrade your cheap violin to sound like a more expensive one, with little cost. Here are 5 things you can improve, none of which is your technique, that will make your cheap violin sound better.
“Open up” the sound on your cheap violin
A new violin, or one that has been sitting a while, has a lot of things that start to vibrate more freely when they physically loosen up. This means, the more you play it, the more your sound will change, becoming warmer. The wood, the glue (especially at the purfling), and the varnish will change over time and with playing. Therefore, if you feel your cheap violin sounds a bit cold when you first play it, know that the tonal qualities will improve the more you play.
1. Invest in good violin strings
Most cheap violins and beginner violin kits come fitted with steel core strings. Steel core strings are great for beginners because they stay in tune easily, but they have a tinny-sounding tone as a trade-off. Switching to a new synthetic core string will immediately change the tone, sound, and feel of your instrument.
Many companies make synthetic core strings at a reasonable price for beginners. Alphayue by Thomastik-Infeld is one of them. Fiddlerman violin strings by Fiddlershop is another.
2. Use a different rosin on your violin bow
Nicer bow rosin, just like better strings, can greatly affect the sound your instrument produces. Most string companies sell bow rosin to match a particular string’s tonal values. For example, if you buy Dominant strings, they advise to buy the Dominant rosin to match.
If the strings you have decided on do not have rosin designed to go with it, spend a little extra and upgrade your rosin. You can research online to find out what might work for you. See my post on violin bow rosin to get started.
3. Upgrading your violin bow can make your cheap violin sound better
A good violin bow costs only a fraction of the price of a good violin, but makes just as much difference in sound.
Like a cheap violin, a cheap bow is made of lesser quality material and not well crafted. Furthermore, they are usually heavier than a better quality bow and have less balance. Therefore, a new bow may be easier for you to control as you advance in your right-hand technique.
You can find some very nice middle-of-the-road violin bows for advancing students that may be well suited for you. There are even carbon fiber bows created to equal the performance of finer wood bows that are worth checking out.
A nicer violin bow can make all the difference in the tone you bring out of your instrument.
4. A new bridge for your cheap violin can bring out it’s true colors
The function of the bridge is twofold. Firstly, it holds the strings in the proper playing position over the body of your instrument. Secondly, it transmits the vibrations from the strings into the body. These vibrations bounce off the sound post and bass bar, resonating out the f-holes. This is how a simple string vibration can be heard in the back of a concert hall.
To do this properly, the bridge must sit perfectly flush along the contours of the body of your instrument. If it is not, all of the vibrations are not all going down into the body, therefore your sound quality suffers.
Machine-manufactured violins usually have a manufactured bridge as well. A violin maker can handcraft a bridge specifically designed for your instrument. Doing so will bring out the violins’ true colors and tone when you play.
5. Check the position of your soundpost
The soundpost is a tiny wooden dowel inside your violin. Its function is to hold the face of the violin in place and aid along with the bass bar in the projection of sound from your instrument.
Depending on where your soundpost is inside your violin, it can dramatically alter the tone. If it moves the slightest bit in any direction it can completely change the sound. It can become louder, sound darker, more bright, or more clear.
I would not try moving it yourself because it requires special tools to do so. The violin maker will know exactly how to adjust it properly.
The tone of your instrument can sound brighter or more warm depending on the strings you choose. Better quality bow hair on your new bow will make for easier bowing, especially when you have applied your new rosin. Playing more frequently not only helps you advance in your technique but will also open up the sound of your instrument.
All things considered, there are many things you can do to make a cheap violin sound better. This allows you to have extra change in your pocket while you enjoy your newfound hobby and savor your love for the violin.