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Thread: Mandolin to Violin

  1. #1
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Mandolin to Violin

    Well, other then a quick pop in here once in a while life has pulled me away from a lot of what I liked. I have begun Mandolin again and am quickly getting back to where I was but I have a strong desire to also try my hand at Violin. I know some of you here play both is it a large leap to learn along with Mandolin. I will be trying one way or the other because I am stubborn and have the desire but opinions do help me understand the adversity that may or may not be associated with doing this. Thanks for any suggestions or comments. My plan is to start with a Maestro or Soloist III from Stringworks. I would rather work with a bit better than a beginner instrument. I also think, from the very few clips I have heard, that it will sound good with my OldWave A. Planning on starting with Celtic style music.

    Thanks in advance for any help!
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Violin is pretty easy. No frets to trip over, and a big stick. But only if you have excellent trained hearing for intonation, and can relax into the instrument.

    The Stringworks instruments are fine. Lots of choices. I don't know how well Stringworks sets instruments.

    For Celtic, I like Prim strings and a pretty big, slightly hollow (just a bit) sound.
    Stephen Perry
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    I'm a violinist who also plays some mando, so the other way around, but I can give you some ideas.

    The big advantage is, of course, that the two are tuned the same way, so tunes can easily be transferred from one to the other, and you won't have any trouble reading sheet music, if that's something you want to do.

    The bad news is that, well, violin is a really hard instrument in certain ways. The position you hold it in is very unnatural. There are no frets, so your finger placement needs to be much more precise than on a mandolin. The bow is way trickier than a pick. Obviously good picking technique goes a long way, but bad picking technique can still produce music. Bad bowing can just produce a mixture of crunching and squeaking.

    So, knowing that, my personal advice is to work on the bowing arm first. Producing good tone is really important, not just for your listeners, but also for keeping you motivated to practice. I would advise finding a teacher, even if you don't do many lessons, just to make sure your basic technique is good. If I had to give you just two things tell you to keep in mind, myself, it would be first to make sure you get a good shoulder rest/chin rest set up so you can hold the violin on your shoulder easily (without support from your left hand!). This is one of those things you should really go into a shop for, as both are very personal to your body. Second, for your bow arm, you should only move your forearm. Your upper arm, shoulder to elbow, is not part of the bowing movement. They only move to help you play the right string. The actual motion of pulling the bow across the string is entirely forearm, wrist, and fingers. I've worked with people holding a violin for the very first time, and the simple act of holding their elbow still improves tone quality so incredibly much. It'll also give you way more agility/control for faster fiddle tunes.

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    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Good news: violin is pretty easy
    Bad news: violin is really hard
    Reality: schedule 10,000 hours
    Enjoy

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Got it Thanks everyone! And the bit about the bowing arm I didn't know so I have already learned! Thanks again!
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  9. #6

    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    I come to mandolin from fiddle/violin, and that was relatively easy. Now violin is not particularly easy, as others have mentioned, especially when you consider the bow. The are tons or ergonomic issues with violin, and of course no frets and then that pesky bow which can take years to learn to hold and bow smoothly. But definitely try it. I find the mandolin and fiddle can reinforce each other in terms of the fingerings and scales, but of course, the are both completely different instruments in other ways. Probably the hardest thing with the violin is learning to play as relaxed as possible. Any tenseness in the body will show up in the sound of the violin in a negative way. This is true for mandolin, too, but in a much less crucial way.

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  11. #7
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    I recommend at least a few lessons with a highly qualified instructor. And a bow of at least medium to upper student grade [$100 to $150 range new], and a good shoulder rest.

    Then you'll have to grapple with it. Half of the problem with learning the violin is getting physically comfortable with the instrument, and learning to be flexible rather than tight. The other 3/4's of it [thank you Yogi Berra] is the bow.

    When I teach violin, the whole first lesson is about holding the instrument in a relaxed manner without straining yourself or dropping it. Most of the time the second lesson is about how to hold and move the bow, and the third lesson is usually the same as the second!

    With a little luck, the bow will become part of your body instead of a strange, uncomfortable tool in a year or so. If it only takes six months, you will be ahead of the game.

    Good luck, and lots of patience. If you share your home with family members or pets, get a mute or stick a clothespin on the bridge so they don't do horrible things to you . . .

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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    I recommend at least a few lessons with a highly qualified instructor. And a bow of at least medium to upper student grade [$100 to $150 range new], and a good shoulder rest.

    Then you'll have to grapple with it. Half of the problem with learning the violin is getting physically comfortable with the instrument, and learning to be flexible rather than tight. The other 3/4's of it [thank you Yogi Berra] is the bow.

    When I teach violin, the whole first lesson is about holding the instrument in a relaxed manner without straining yourself or dropping it. Most of the time the second lesson is about how to hold and move the bow, and the third lesson is usually the same as the second!

    With a little luck, the bow will become part of your body instead of a strange, uncomfortable tool in a year or so. If it only takes six months, you will be ahead of the game.

    Good luck, and lots of patience. If you share your home with family members or pets, get a mute or stick a clothespin on the bridge so they don't do horrible things to you . . .
    I would have to disagree that the high range of student bows is $100-150. I have a couple decent bows that are in the $300 range and I would still consider them student bows, same with some costing much more. Pernambuco bows in the pro range can go from $1000 all the way to $20,000 for a top orchestra musician, and even beyond.

    I should add that the high end of the student range would be that $300-500 range for pernambuco.

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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    A good $100 - $150 bow will be enough to get John started. After he gets through the first year, he can upgrade if he wants.

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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    A good $100 - $150 bow will be enough to get John started. After he gets through the first year, he can upgrade if he wants.
    I can agree with that. Don't mean to nitpick with you, but I often find people, including myself, taking the bow for granted and not investing much into it. It is clearly 50% of the sound of the violin/fiddle, not just an add on. I never realized how much difference there is in bows until I played--and owned--a much better one. It makes a huge difference. But yes, a beginner would be best served with an entry-level or mid student bow.

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  19. #11
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    I think every musician would benefit from some serious time with a violin. As a pianist and guitar player and a dabbler in many other instruments, the violin was the most ear-opening experience for me! When you donít have frets or keys, the slightest change in placement of a finger and even the angle of that finger affects the pitch. Suddenly you have to listen in a much deeper way! And the bow controls that note from attack through sustain until release. You have such amazing control of the note.

    A decade or so ago I spent some year or two with a violin. I eventually decided I just couldnít spare the time needed to keep my skills at a decent level. Last week I decided to start again and I was horrible! But I again enjoyed the deeper listening that the stringed instruments require and am willing to practice a little each day to see how long it takes me to be able to really enjoy the violin again.

    (By the way, Iím involved with FIDDLING. Iím not sure I would bother trying if I were interested in playing classical music- I definitely donít have the time or skills for that demanding genre. Yes, good fiddlers have mad skills, but a lot of local groups of musicians are a lot less demanding if you can use a fiddle to add some flavor to bluegrass and country songs. )
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  21. #12
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    I actually already had a budfget in mind for the bow of between 250- 400 so that should be acceptable for now and the foreseeable fututre. The Bow I was looking at was 275 and the violin was in the 1500 range. I have sold some gear and will sell a bit more to get to my goal. I talked with stringworks and they gave me some sugegstions and I decided after the emails where I would sit price wise. I have not decided on a case of any type. I have the tools and supplies to build a nice case but that will depend on my get up and go at the time and the price of the instrument I land on. Thansk all. I appreciate the input.
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  23. #13

    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Yes, you can get some serviceable bows in that range that could last you a while. In live gigs I play a modern German pernambuco bow that is about $300 and it works fine for country, rock and bluegrass. I have better bows that I save for recording or more intimate venues. But there are a lot of good bows to be had these days. Cases you can find easily and even some less expensive ones offer a level of protection better than most.

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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    OK … I did this dance seventeen years ago starting out with an early 20th century German import fiddle and bow. I took lessons , went to workshops played alone and with friends. I still play a 20th century German import instrument and bow. Granted it is a different pair and considerably more expensive. < sigh …. So it goes ... here are some things I learned … R/
    1. Learn both open and closed position scales and arpeggios. They are the door to improvisation.
    2. Take some lessons. Bad habits are tough to unlearn.
    3. Every time you pick up your fiddle to play , tune it.
    4. Play every day … a lot of this is muscle memory.
    5. Practice your scales early on with your tuner. It helps with intonation.
    6. Play with a loose grip on the bow and don’t over grip when noting a fiddle. Tension causes short and long term problems.
    7. Listen to many fiddlers. Both passively when you are doing other things and actively with your fiddle in hand.
    8. Learn fiddle tunes in standard as well as non standard keys. This helps to learn the fingerboard.
    9. Play out in public as soon as you feel like you are able. Watch other fiddlers whenever you can. You can learn a great deal that way.
    10. Change your strings two or three times a year. Your fiddle will appreciate it. Opinions differ on this.
    11. Practice bowing some with your shoulder trapped against a wall or door frame. This makes you use your wrist in bowing.
    12. When you think you are ready for a new fiddle buy a better bow first.
    13. Always listen and play in context with those you are making music with. Intonation can and will drift.
    14. Be patient.
    Luck, R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    I think I will stop by a store and rent one for a couple of months and see how it goes. Ironically enough one of my studies in martial arts involved tight space maneuvering. The arm was generally considered strapped to your side and all motion was from the elbow to wrist and wrist movements in conjunction with tight foot work. Now the foot work probably won't help much unless I try to play with my feet, no happening, but the elbow to wrist and wrist work I anticipate being very beneficial. I hope I am right but at the moment I am very positive about it. Ya all can laugh at me later but I am setting a goal of no squelchy string within a week or two. possibly unrealistic but hey we have to have goals! Being an old crusty Jarhead means my goals are generally very aggressive.

    Tuning won't be an issue I tune constantly, must be five tuners floating around my house and I have three stobs within reach at this very moment. Srobo clip is in my mando case, strobo HD is mounted on an arm on my desk 590 auto strobe in a case under the desk, not counting a couple of other tuners in guitar cases, apps on iPhone etc. Strobo clip and HD are my goto tuners since I got them.
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    A bit more than tempted to try and carve one myself.

    Out of curiosity what makes for a good bow. Going on price won't get it done because someone could sell me an expensive pos and I currently wouldn't know. I was actually first looking at one of the NS electric violins but decided I much prefer the acoustic tone. but that leads me to wonder about bows made of composites are they any good? they are very inexpensive so that makes me wonder if it's just a gimmick.
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Lol about so many tuners. I too accumulate tuners and I couldn't tell you how many I have in drawers, on shelves, and in instrument cases. I'm guessing at least 20 but I'm sure I would be surprised by the tuners bought 20 or 30 years ago that I've forgotten that I even have. A Peterson Stroboclip HD is my current favorite.

    Since I've just recently started messing with fiddle again, I've read quite a bit about improving intonation on the violin/fiddle, and interestingly there is a consistent suggestion to avoid tuners! The guidance seems to be to tune the A string with a tuner, then learn to tune the other strings by ear. For intonation of scales, using a drone note from a tuner or CD will teach you to hear, not see, the difference in your pitches. Also suggested to play along with other instruments in one way or another to help you to learn to adjust your pitches accordingly.

    Last night I tried playing St Anne's Reel along with iRealPro at a slow tempo. It was surprisingly more difficult than playing the same tune on my own, but then I was now having to keep up with the accompaniment (even though slow) all while listening and adjusting pitch. I'm planning to continue to use iRealPro regularly for my fiddle practice. Nice that I can quickly adjust tempo and key on iRealPro for any tune.
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  31. #18
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Out of curiosity what makes for a good bow. Going on price won't get it done because someone could sell me an expensive pos and I currently wouldn't know. I was actually first looking at one of the NS electric violins but decided I much prefer the acoustic tone. but that leads me to wonder about bows made of composites are they any good? they are very inexpensive so that makes me wonder if it's just a gimmick.
    I have some inexpensive bows but couldn't tell you if they are any good, and I could go to a shop and try bows but at this early point in my fiddling I wouldn't be able to tell a good one from a bad one. After some research, I bought this carbon fiber bow that had some good reviews. Sturdy and relatively inexpensive, so I figured I didn't have much to lose. So far it feels ok and I'm getting some nice tones from my fiddle.

    https://fiddlershop.com/products/fid...ber-violin-bow
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  33. #19
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Out of curiosity what makes for a good bow. Going on price won't get it done because someone could sell me an expensive pos and I currently wouldn't know. I was actually first looking at one of the NS electric violins but decided I much prefer the acoustic tone. but that leads me to wonder about bows made of composites are they any good? they are very inexpensive so that makes me wonder if it's just a gimmick.
    Another violinist-since-childhood here.

    Depends on what you mean by "composite." If you're talking fiberglass, $35 range, run the other way. Carbon fiber bows, OTOH, can be quite good. There's a general rule of thumb that if you are spending under $1000, you can probably get better performance from CF. Like with anything else, plenty of disagreement out there.

    Pernambuco, the only wood used for decent bows, only grows in Brazil. It is on the CITES list, although not (yet) prohibited for export. A few workshops in Brazil make very nice bows, having access to the wood, including L'archet Brasil, Arcos Brasil, and Water Violet. One of their nickel-mounted bows would probably be in your price range.

    If you are looking at carbon fiber, it looks like the street price of CodaBow's NX series is under $400, so would fit your budget. That particular bow would last you a good long time.

    You won't be able tell at first what's a good bow and what is crap. Balance, evenness of tone along the length, the ability to pull a good tone out of your particular instrument are all necessary, but difficult for a raw beginner to assess. Another reason why buying from a trusted source is important. $100 bows are infamous for hardware malfunctions. Having a violin bow rehaired costs +/- $60 bucks, so that gives you an idea of what kind of bow you get for $100.

    If you are looking at taking lessons, choosing a bow is where a teacher could help. Have a friend who plays?

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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    I'll second the recommendation for CodaBow. I've still got one of their old student lines I use with my beater. I don't mind using it too much, which is kind of impressive considering my nice bow is worth 10x as much. They're good quality, virtually indestructible, and come with a lifetime warranty. I'd never choose to use one in a classical concert setting (but I'd probably be okay if I had to), but they're probably your most reliable option as a beginner. Wood bows are a much more personal thing (and very violin dependent), so none of us can help too much there over the internet, and I don't know other carbon fiber brands very well.

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  37. #21
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    I'm trying to do much the same thing, learn to play fiddle starting from mandolin. Taking some lessons would have been wise, but I have been doing it on my own. All I aspire to do is play fiddle tunes passably well, and enjoy it. I'm close on the first on a good day now, and successful on the second.

    For me, playing along with fiddle tunes on youtube has been a lot of fun, and is currently seeming to help my playing a lot. You can slow down youtube videos, so you can play at half or 3/4 speed and work on your intonation and phrasing. It's working for me. Someone made a comment about playing with other people, and that really seems to hold true on fiddle, even more so than other instruments, or so it seems to me.
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  39. #22
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Anyone I knew that played violin has moved now or was in my hometown. I saw the coda bows on the website. The shop is willing to record some clips take my budget into mind and help me out so that's good. They have been easy to work with so far. Might need to make a trip there when the time comes.
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    I have tried on and off to learn fiddle/violin. My best chance was going to lessons with my son when he was a child. We were both learning but he dropped his interest and I was taking mandolin lessons at the same time. I chose to continue with mandolin but would revisit violin. I couldn't stand to hear my own noise while practicing. I wonder if an electric violin with headphones would be less painful. It would be private, at least.
    Cabin Fever String Band

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  42. #24
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    As I mandolin player, I have often felt compelled to cram as many notes as I could into breaks and tunes. However, as I have progressed on the fiddle, I have found I do much better by taking out notes that I would otherwise have played on the mando. Makes for easier and smoother bowing. With the fiddle, I try to keep it simple and concentrate on tone, taking advantage of the nice sustain. I have tried to apply this thinking back to my mandolin playing as well; a well placed rest adds to my mando playing.

    Hope this helps.

    Tim

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    Default Re: Mandolin to Violin

    Re Tim's above -

    That's a wonderful benefit of a non-plucked instrument, be it bowed string, reed or voice: it requires focusing on each single tone. Where we're seduced by the ease of tone production on a plucked string - because in comparison to other it IS easy - the necessity of controlling a tone from start to finish enables great expression.

    So, it's not as easy; nor would we want it so.

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