Sometimes Better Really is Better

I started playing violin 4.5 years ago on a borrowed violin that probably cost $200.  At the beginning I thought I sounded bad because I was bad.  And it was largely true.  You hear about multi-million dollar instruments that sound better than the average fiddle and wonder how that can possibly true.  After all, it’s just a wooden box, right?

A year later, I was offered a $500 violin to purchase.  It was being traded in by one of the kids in my teacher’s studio.  But when the dealer saw me with it he instantly knew it didn’t work for me.  You’d think that a beginner who has played for one year wouldn’t know the difference between a good violin and a bad one, but this one didn’t do it for me, and even I could tell.  So I ended up with a $1,200 instrument.  Now, it’s easy to say that a dealer talked me into paying more than I should, but the difference between $200 and $1200 was way bigger than $200 and $500.

The next upgrade, just last year, was a significant one in terms of value – not just in cost, but in playability and sound.  At the same time, I bought a better bow too.  A $120 bow and a $200 bow were terrible in comparison to the new stick.  I know it’s hard to explain how a stick can make a difference in your playing.  It’s really something you have to experience.

If you can’t hear the difference in a bow or an instrument, it’s OK.  That just means you haven’t outgrown your instrument yet.  Or, it might just mean you haven’t tried one that is better than you are.  The funny thing is, the better your instrument is, the more you learn from it.

It may take me a while to deserve the instrument I have now.  I’m finding that the better you get, the harder it is to get better.  Improvement happens slowly, and you have to be OK with that.  I’m trying really hard to be.

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One thought on “Sometimes Better Really is Better

  1. Interesting. I jumped after six months playing from a rental to a 1920 German violin and pernambuco bow. I decided to commit to playing and did not want to upgrade for at least five years. So far so good three years after that – in fact the violin has played in well. I think I got a good deal.

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