Wednesday, February 9, 2011

5-string violins

Today's obsession: 5-string acoustic violins. A crude explanation is that it's a violin with an added low-C, which is the low string on a viola. So it's like a violin and viola combined.

Bottom line, I want one.

Once upon a time, I played electric violin in a string of really loud bands through lots of stomp boxes and a Fender Deluxe Reverb; my instrument then was an early model 5-string solid body Zeta.

And while I don't miss the nasal tone of the Zeta (or how freaking heavy it was, even being a cutaway with hardly any body to it at all, or how you needed an allen wrench for the top tuners), I find lately that I miss that low 5th string.

Fact, I'm not a millionaire. Decent violins of any type are expensive. (Mine, at the high-end of student, was $1500 20 years ago. Serious symphony players will this much or more just for their bow. A violin maker's site I was reading today had a little quip about how surprised you might be at how reasonably priced a professional level hand-crafted violin can be, and that his were $18,000. His implication being that $18,000 (which is $6,000 more than I paid for my truck) was reasonable. Maybe it is, but that's out of my price range...

A quick few hours research, and I determined that a decent 5-string will set me back at minimum $1,500 (this would be designed by respected luthier and not just a 5th string crammed onto a regular fiddle; while it would be made in China, there are great instruments coming out of some folks in China, and this would be with his oversight and QC). Here's the one I'm looking at:


(Despite the appearance of the photo, I don't think it actually glows. Though it would be cool if it did.)

I also found a hand-crafted model I'm interested in from a maker in Georgia for more like $4,000 - 5,000.


Made by Barry Dudley

$4-5k is a lot of money to someone like me, for whom music is not much more than an elaborate, time-consuming and expensive hobby. But still damn cheap for a good hand-crafted violin. I read some really good reviews. Some really good players use his 5-strings (notably for me, Tania Elizabeth from The Duhks). Emailed the guy with a few questions, and he sent a lengthy reply the same day. So thinking (sight unseen) that this is the one I want.

I do need a 2nd violin (I don't have a playable spare, just a crappy old pawn shop one that I dearly love but is the violin equivalent of a "beach guitar"). It makes sense that my current fiddle should become the spare, and I should step up to a nicer intrument. I'm wondering if I can combine these two goals, and get a better instrument, with the added bonus of gaining a 5th string.

Not sure, but thinking the $1500 made in China instrument would be perhaps comparable to what I play now. The $4000 hand-crafted would probably be a big step up. I'm going to see Tania Elizabeth play a show in Wimberley in April, so I'll be able to get a closer look at the Barry Dudley 5-string then.

So, just thinking aloud, so to speak.  This is what I was obsessed with today.

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