The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #59947   Message #958131
Posted By: wysiwyg
23-May-03 - 07:21 AM
Thread Name: Cheap fiddle, so what
Subject: RE: Cheap fiddle, so what
A friend of mine went through three cheap fiddles (2 via internet) before finding her prize-- a Chinese-made model. (Her internet purchases all came with return/refund provisions.) The tone is gorgeous, the finish is cleanly done, the wood is lovely. But the tone-- no one who has heard it can believe her luck. And I think that's what it is-- luck. Somewhere in China, in the midst of a fiddle-making mill where they crank them out in bulk, there is a luthier hiding among the makers... maybe there is more than one, maybe the odds are not so bad on finding one.

Although it has a few minor problems, these were successfully corrected by a local fiddle-selling music shop. Some of the problems were a result of hasty and clumsy setup by the seller, and some were intrinsic to the construction such as slightly misplaced f-holes making bridge placement a bit tricky. They specialize in the bluegrass trade, so they have seen and repaired quite a few fiddles that had been lying unused in attics, and they know that in instruments, a treasure has to be heard to be found. They were very happy to work on her fiddle, and to tell her what she needs to know about it if she ever takes it to a luthier for other work. They were respectful enough to realize that she will come back to them when she's ready to upgrade, and purchase a good used fiddle. In the meantime, they make a good living at selling strings and books and recordings and bows and..... so they are just happy to see a new player start up.

My husband started teaching himself on a fiddle that had had a big hole punched in the back. His brother is the insurance man who settled the claim, and he had hung it up as wall art. Hardi put a patch over the hole to stabilize it from further damage, and used it, despite the low tone and deadened volume, to decide whether the fiddle was indeed his instrument. White formica looks really funny on the back of a fiddle, but the excellent luthier he took it to, to see if it should be repaired, was also very respectful. This man is a fine, fine luthier and has excellent taste in violins! He explained that the cost to disassemble and remake the two back halves would be too high, although it had been a very good (valuable) violin... so Hardi eventually added another very good used fiddle to his stash (and later another one). But the patched fiddle hangs in his office for those odd moments when he can spend a little time working out fingering, and so forth.... he sometimes lends it to people who wonder if they should take up fiddle... and the diminished volume and value make it a great travel fiddle too.

So I would just consider this a starter instrument, and find a good person to work on it and get it set up just like you want it. If you can't find one, PM me and I'll get you in touch with our bluegrass folks. You can trust them to be truthful, respectful, and reliable, if you want to ship it to them.