We've all been there — your current instrument isn't playing as well as you'd like, but you're not ready for a new one yet either. The tone is off, or it's not as vibrant as you'd like it to be. Or it's just plain hard to play.
Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a new violin, you can make some upgrades to your old one at a fraction of the cost.
In this post, we'll go over five ways you can instantly improve the sound and playability of your violin. These tips are also applicable to viola, cello, and bass.
1. Changing to New Strings
There are two main reasons why you might want to change out your violin strings:
The strings are old and have lost their vibrance
You want to get a different sound and response from your instrument
If you've had the same strings on your violin for over a year, it may be time to switch them out. Old strings will eventually start to sound dull. Plus, the repeated tension from tuning and bowing slowly wears them out. Combine that with oxidation, and after a while, they lose their life and resonance. Simply replacing old strings on your violin will immediately put new life back into it.
In addition, if you're not happy with the tone you have now, changing to a different brand of strings can make a world of difference. There are all kinds of strings designed that cater to different player's needs and wants.
Manufacturers produce strings with different properties ideal for different situations. Some can give your violin a rich sound that blends well in an orchestra. In contrast, other strings offer a brighter tone for more soloistic performances. With so many options available, it's easy to customize your sound. Try experimenting with different sets and see which ones fit your needs best.
2. Upgrading Your Bow
The bow plays a vital role in the sound of your instrument. Playing your violin actually causes the bow to vibrate as well as the strings. Dense materials like fiberglass or plastic will absorb and insulate sound rather than resonate.
Carbon fiber bows are becoming more and more common and are an excellent choice for beginners and intermediate players. A good carbon fiber bow is lightweight, strong, and will often sound more pleasant than a wood bow in the same price range.
Speaking of which, not all wood bows are created equal. Inexpensive wood bows can warp easily and may not have as good of sound as a quality carbon fiber bow. Suppose you're an advanced player looking for a high-quality bow. In that case, a bow made from Pernambuco or Brazilwood might be ideal for you.
When shopping for new bows, always try them with your instrument. Each one will have unique characteristics that change the tone. Find the one that's flattering to your violin's sound!
3. Trying New Rosin
Rosin is primarily made with pine tree sap. The best rosins are made with purer sap, resulting in a smoother, more consistent tone. On the flip side, cheap rosins tend to be grittier and produce more dust. For softer, stickier rosin, look for dark cakes. If you want, try rosin with added ingredients like beeswax, gold, or other materials.
There are many types of rosin on the market. Most beginners won't tell much difference between them. But as violinists progress and experiment with their setup, they will develop their own preferences.
4. Replacing the Bridge
Every piece of the violin affects how the instrument sounds—even something as small as the bridge. Without it, your violin won't make a sound.
Your bridge does two essential things for the violin:
Holds the strings in place at the correct height
Transfers vibrations from the strings into the body of the instrument
Not all bridges are created equal. Some are made with higher-quality wood and have more care put into their construction. One of the fastest ways you can improve your sound is by swapping out the bridge for a nicer one.
A bad bridge can have a number of issues that negatively impact the sound:
The wood is warped and lost its original shape
The curvature of the bridge might be too high or too low
The bridge's feet don't match the contoured shape of your violin
The bridge isn't fitted to the instrument, and it won't transfer sound as well
It's too thick, absorbing vibrations before they reach the body
It's too thin, making it prone to warping and breaking
Adjusting the bridge is best left to a professional. If your bridge needs to be adjusted or replaced, take your instrument to a repair shop or a trained luthier. With the right tools and years of training and experience, they can provide the specific care your bridge needs.
5. Adjusting the Sound Post
The sound post is hidden away inside the violin, wedged between the front and back plates. It plays a huge role in the structure of your instrument. First, it helps provide structural support to your instrument.
Second, it connects the front and back sides of your violin, transferring vibrations between the two halves of the instrument. Moving it only a millimeter or two can have dramatic effects on your sound. Moving it one way can muffle the sound, while moving it another way can brighten the tone.
Sound posts are custom-fitted to each instrument and should be adjusted by a professional technician. Have a trusted luthier take a look at your sound post, or take it to your local repair shop.
6. Changing the Pegs
While they might not directly impact your sound, pegs are still essential to your violin. Old pegs can wear out over time, and also wear down the pegbox. Bad pegs mean your string instrument won't hold its tuning for long. Occasionally they get bad enough so that pegs won't stay in place at all.
If your instrument has trouble staying in tune, it may be worth looking into replacing your pegs. You might even want to try something like geared violin pegs, which hold their tune really well and won't damage the pegbox.
7. Take Your Instrument to the Repair Shop
Sometimes, the issues with your violin aren't so obvious. You may be happy with the setup, but something isn't quite right about it. You may need minor adjustments to parts like the bridge or soundpost. Or there may be some other underlying issues with your violin that only a repair technician can take care of.
A professional repair technician can get your instrument into top shape and sounding like never before. Summerhays Music Center of Orem has a full-service repair shop for string instruments. If you need violin repair services in Utah County, stop by the repair shop anytime or reach out to us if you have questions.