Determining the right time to Step-up your instrument or your student’s can seem overwhelming, especially given the variety available to choose from. Though many violins and violas are similar in appearance, not all are created equal, and playing the right instrument can make a world of difference for developing talent. With the guidance of both your instructor and Vermont Violins’ friendly staff, we can help ensure stepping-up to a new instrument will be a fun and exciting stage in your musical growth.
Like athletes who upgrade their gear each new season, musicians require higher quality instruments to continue their musical development. String instruments are typically valued based on the quality of wood used, craftmanship, and set up. Additionally, three components of sound tend to be used when evaluating each instrument: Overtones, projection and complexity.
The overtones of an instrument create the ‘ringing’ sound when played correctly. For example, a violin with higher overtones will reward proper technique with a crisp ‘ring,’ while improper practice will cause the instrument to sound dull and flat. Though some musicians can be discouraged by the learning curve of their new instrument, this increased sensitivity helps instructors pick out mistakes. Experienced musicians who step-up are more likely to polish their technique with the higher quality instruments.
Projection is all about volume. For musicians and performers, projection is of the utmost importance. From an educational standpoint, the increased volume aides in singling out mistakes, as they are easier to hear, likewise easier to correct. Instruments with different levels of projection also require different bow techniques, something any developing string musician will learn over time. Stepping-up to an instrument with increased projection will help students develop the proper techniques for the dynamic ranges and sound manipulation typically utilized in both performance and audition.
The complexity of a string instrument can vary from simple and clean, to deep and rich. A seasoned bluegrass player would choose a different instrument than a classical soloist as each would be looking to achieve a different sound. The quality of wood can play into an instrument’s complexity as well. For example, Italian Poplar is sometimes used in crafting violas and cellos to create a sweeter, darker tone, rather than Maple and Spruce, which are typically used in crafting these instruments.
Specific instruments can offer a unique sound, differing from that of similar models made at the same shop. Amati or Guarneri models for example, tend to have slightly shorter dimensions with higher arches, creating a darker, sweeter sound than that of an instrument with flatter arches and longer dimensions like those of a Stradivarius. When upgrading to nicer instruments, musicians typically look for more complex or richer soundscapes. Creating a more intricate sound directly correlates to the multifaceted overtones, enhancing the overall sound quality while still reflecting the personal prowess of the performer.
So, when is the right time to Step-up? While every musician is different, most players upgrade every two Suzuki books; this typically translates to once every two years. Step-up instruments provide a more dynamic range, allowing developing musicians to expand their intonation, while still providing them with the quality to learn new positions and explore further enhanced sounds.
Personal and family budgets can play a major factor in instrument acquisition. Thankfully, managing costs can be easy when renting from Vermont Violins. To help control costs, we offer a variety of rental levels. Additionally, we will transfer rental credit from your old instrument to your new one, providing a more seamless transition. If you, your child or student have any questions, our friendly and knowledgeable staff is ready to help pair any musician with the perfect instrument to continue his or her development in a fun and productive way.