I have taken over a talented, very keen, self-motivated 12 year old violin student who is smaller than others her age. She is playing still on a basic Antoni half-size violin which I think still suits her (arm to scroll test). She asked about it's sound not being pleasant - the bow makes a noticeable hair on string impure sound even when I play it (!) Is it worth buying a better quality, more expensive same size violin? Her next exam will be Grade 5. She wants to go in for an audition in March to join the Dublin Youth Orchestras which has different age levels, with some overlap, accommodated in Junior, Inter, Concert and Symphony orchestras.
Half size violin with better sound
Posted 24 January 2020 - 12:15
I would try changing the strings first, and make sure she's using a good rosin. Do you feel it's the violin or the bow?
A half-size instrument does sound very small for a 12-year old. I have always been considerably smaller than others of my age, and began at 10 years on a three-quarter size. I think I would check the bend in her left elbow, and measure her too (neck to wrist). If there is an opportunity to try her on a 3/4 instrument, I would do that, and see which she finds most comfortable. It could be that she's on the verge of a growth spurt, and will then need the larger size anyway.
Posted 24 January 2020 - 12:44
Thank you for your advice. I'll check which strings she has first. I think it's a combination of both instrument and bow. The violin feels a bit awkward to play and the violin and bow would be basic - under €100. The teacher my pupil came from is a professional player but I don't know if they'd already bought the violin before they started with him. Could you tell me what measurements I would expect to get to suit which size violin? I've only done the 'test' of put the left hand round the scroll. When her arm is in first position I suppose she does have quite a bend in her left elbow.
I think my best plan is to go with her to a proper violin shop in Dublin (a better one than the general music shop where she bought the half size one) so she can try sizes/sounds. It's amazing how good a sound she does make with what she has, but she's so aware of it's drawbacks and has such potential that I want her to have better 'equipment'. Her mother is a single parent of two children who works full time. How much would you expect to pay for a step -up half size/threequarter size?
Posted 24 January 2020 - 14:51
I’m a parent, not a teacher but have encountered this issue with my children.
Changing the strings definitely helps. Moving up from basic strings to firstly Alphayue, then Dominants improved the sound a lot. A new bow, even an inexpensive one might help too if the hair is worn on the old one. My children are both small for their age and our eldest was at the same grade as your pupil when we decided to upgrade the violin. After a couple of visits to local shops and a few trials of different violins they set their heart on a French antique instrument. The price was a bit beyond us though so we started looking elsewhere. The violin we ended up buying cost in the region of £250 but we bought it off Gumtree, the family selling it had the receipt from the shop they had bought it from and we then got it appraised by another local shop before committing. The bow cost just under £100. I appreciate that this is beyond many budgets, we took the decision as we knew both children would benefit. Our youngest is still playing it and is now also approaching Grade 5.
The other thing that’s worth looking into is instrument hire. Many of the parents we know from the local youth orchestra have taken this route and it might be more manageable for some.
Posted 24 January 2020 - 17:53
Thank you for your reply. As far as I know there is no instrumental hire scheme here in Ireland, except for rental-purchase for wind instruments. I'll check out the bow too.
Posted 25 January 2020 - 06:46
If at all possible it would seem a good time to move to a 3/4 - she is going to grow out of the 1/2 size, probably within the next year, unless she has some kind of actual growth problem, and it would be silly to change to another 1/2 size. That said, changing the strings should make a big difference.
Having the bridge and soundpost checked/ renewed may make an even bigger difference, but sadly unless you can find someone who will do this pretty much for free it is a waste of money on a really cheap instrument and will be taking money away from a future upgrade if the parents cannot afford it. I taught myself to do minor repairs over years of being the only person to keep a fleet of school violins in use. I also bought one or two better small size instruments to keep and rent out for a very nominal sum, upkeep costs, to private pupils in just this sort of situation.
You say the violin is awkward to play. Why so ? Does the bow work OK on your own violin ? It's not one of those awful things with nylon hair is it - they make the most dreadful noise on the string, like having off road tyres on a car lol. First thing I'd do if she really can't cope with a 3/4 which tbh I would be surprised, is, after fitting better strings, get another bow. This doesn't have to be expensive, most of my pupils, currently cellists, have bows bought (by me ) off a well known auction site and they mostly seem to work very well. If you are lucky enough to have a half decent violin shop not too far away, go there and get one but try it out yourself first -or get the parents to buy on approval. I certainly would not ask them to get a 1/2 size bow, a 3/4 will almost certainly be manageable and will be a useful spare when she gets a 3/4 violin.
Watch Gumtree and other sites for 2nd hand instruments, lots of children give up around the stage of moving to secondary school and you never know, there may be a decent little fiddle looking for a new home.