Instruments, Accessories & Learning Aids
Buying or renting an instrumentIf you need a fiddle, my advice is to rent one initially. Buying a violin is big undertaking, and expensive: I'd estimate $500 minimum for a decent violin, bow and case, and you’ll get a better-sounding instrument if you spend $1000. You can always resell with no depreciation; buying a violin is like putting money in the bank. To purchase a fiddle, try the places listed below. I am no expert at repair or appraisal but am happy to give my humble opinion on violins you are thinking of buying or restoring. Just bring them to your lesson and I'll try them out. If your violin needs work, please take it to a reputable shop. An inexperienced repair-person can make a fiddle unplayable or even wreck it.
- Race Orchestral Strings and Ithaca Talent Education shop (both at Ithaca's Suzuki school, 607-272-6006), rentals and accessories
- Geo Kloppel in Newfield, 607-564-7026, bow rehairs, bow repairs, gek2[at]cornell.edu
- MacBlane Stringed Instruments in Preble, 607-749-2594, repair, violins for sale
- Hosmer Violins in Syracuse 800-846-1990, repair, violins for sale
AccessoriesMuch as I love to support Ithaca's local music stores Hickey's and Guitar Works, their prices do tend to be quite a bit higher than online sources for strings and accessories. The String Centre website has inexpensive strings, fiberglass and carbon-fiber bows, tuners, metronomes, shoulder rests, etc.
Rosin: Any kind of violin rosin will do, but it lasts a very long time so you can splurge on a medium- or high-quality cake if you like.
Electronic Tuner: Get a clip-on chromatic tuner that works for violin.
Shoulder Rest: Most everybody eventually decides they want something to raise up the fiddle. You can get foam pads from Ithaca Talent, or the Resonans rest or the nicer Wolf adjustable rest from the String Centre. Try them at your lesson first.
Chin Rest: Most people seem to prefer a chin rest that extends over the tailpiece and doesn't have a high ridge. The best way to find one that is comfortable is to go to a violin shop and try them out. You may even be able to swap yours for one you like better for little or no money.
Fine Tuners: You'll find that a tailpiece with 4 fine tuners is a god-send; less time fussing with pegs and more time playing with an instrument that is in perfect tune. You can buy the fine tuners and install them yourself (or with my help) but a better solution is a tailpiece with the tuners built-in. Another solution is planetary pegs, which I now have on my fiddle instead of fine-tuners. Either a tailpiece or planetary pegs needs to be installed at a violin shop.
Strings: I recommend Dr. Thomastik Dominant strings. The cheaper Pirastro Piranito strings are more metallic sounding, but acceptable. Make sure to specify ball or loop end depending on what they attach to on your tailpiece. Always keep a full extra set on hand in case you break a string. I can teach you how to change strings.
BooksThese fiddle books can be found (or ordered if not in stock) at local music stores or over the internet. However, I teach mostly by ear. Only buy a book if you like learning from books and want me to teach you how to read music.
- Beginning Country Fiddle by Marilyn Bos (Oak Publ.) is good for beginners.
- The Irish Fiddle Book by Matt Cranitch (Ossian Publ.) is good for beginners and beyond.
- Fiddler's Fakebook (Oak Pub.) is good general tune collection for fiddlers at any level. It includes tunes from many American and Celtic styles.
- Danse ce soir! is my own tunebook of Quebec tunes.
What to bring to your lessonFiddle, bow, rosin, extra strings, electronic tuner, shoulder rest or pad if you use one, cloth to clean rosin off fiddle and strings
Staff paper or other notebook, notes and music from previous lessons, up-to-date repertoire list
Keep your equipment and material organized, and bring it to every lesson. If your tuner, notebook, and/or shoulder rest don't fit in your case, attach a drawstring bag to your case handle.