I got a violin which has been in my dad's basement for many years, with the intention of learning to play. I've been trying to tune it though, and the knobs are so hard to turn i can't even get some of the strings to the proper pitch. Also, I notice that by the time I'm working on the third string, the first one has dropped half a step. That can't be normal. Any idea as to what I could do? I don't think there's any professionals in the area to deal with this...
Also, would it screw things up if I restrung it in reverse? I notice that the thing the strings rest on is higher toward the G string. The violin is left-handed and I am not.
First of all, all violins are go on the left shoulder if thats what you are talking about. Learn to play that way. Second, you can buy stuff at your local music store to fix the peg sticking problem. Thirdly, the pitch going down after you have tuned the rest is totally normal. The strings need time to re-adjust after it has been in the basement so long. Tune it until it doesn't change
I think you can just change the pegs and the bridge. Actually, the bridge is not curved evenly, it is one higher than the other, the higher part of the bridge is for the G string and the lower is for the E string.
Check the soundpost before tuning to pitch, looking through the F-holes you should see a wooden pin inside the violin between the belly and the back near the bridge. If it's missing or fallen over the belly might be damaged by tuning the strings. It's normal though that the pitch of the other strings falls when tuning one of them,the increased tension will "flex" the violin. Also it will probably keep falling on its own at first if the violin has not been played for a while, it'll need to "get used" to the string tension. And if you buy new strings, they will drop in pitch at first because of stretching. The tuning pegs are conical, so pulling them out while turning will loosen them and pushing them in will tighten them.Peg dope/compound will also help with sticky pegs. The bridge is supposed to be higher at the G-string side since the lower strings vibrate in a bigger arc and so they need more space not to hit the fingerboard and rattle. Good luck with the violin!
Check out the bridge. if its bent or cracked i'd get a new one but keep the old bridge and ask if the shop shapes bridges. the bridge shape for each violin can be unique depending on size etc and when you buy a new bridge it isn't usually higher at one side like the one on your violin is. with all of the pressure across the four strings (there is a huge amount of pressure between button and pegs when a violin is in tune)if your bridge is cracked it might collapse. you might have to shape the bridge yourself. all you need is a u shaped craft saw and some sandpaper. mark clearly where each string should sit and trace the original shape onto the new bridge.
it wouldn't ruin the violin to string it in reverse, you just have to change the bridge around. but your technique won't be the greatest and the violin will not project sound quite so well. also if you want to play in groups with other violins you wont be well liked. you'll be sitting the wrong way and probably poke someone in the eye. make it easy on yourself and learn the proper way. i know my teacher refuses to teach people who don't play conventionally. i don't know if she is the only one....
I am a member of a swedish violin building society and have concentrated on renovating violins.Usually "factory violins are ruled out as good violins but that is a mistake. In year 1900 You could by a factory built violins in a prisranche from 10 to 1 000 us dollars,depending on quality. So therefore alvawys "tune up" Your old family violin before You rule it out.There are some small things that You should do on any violin.
About the pegs.
1.You can use soap or just a pen(graphit) to lubricate the peg or the special compound.
2.You will find that now they are too lose. Then use a piece of chalk to "unlubricate". You must try to find a balance between chalk and the lubricating compound.
3.An other trick. The string should be winded towards the wall of the pegbox at the thick end of the peg. That will create a force keeping the peg locked.
4.Look at the bridge in front of a lamp.Then You see if it is well fitted to the body. If not, You will have to adjust it by a pro or by a semipro in an violin building society.
Is the bridge leaning backwards or forwards? Loose the strings a little bit, put two fingers at the feets of the bridge and gently pull woth TWO other fingers to a straight upright position.
4. Doe You have separate fine tuners on the tail piece? Look up!In this case look down to check out that the bottom of the fine tuners does not scratch the body, destroying the tone. Your are better up with a new one with the fine tuners built in.
5.Do You have the correct distance between the tailpiece and the bridge. Should be around 50-53 mm. Usually the end of the tailpice should be almost in line with the bottom of the violin.
6. The bridge should be about 28 mm high.
If it is lower it will affect the tone.
Sometimes the neck has "sunk" by time and in order to compensate the bridge has been made to high.That creates a distance between the strings and the fingerboard which makes the violin hard to play and affects the tone.
If so, let a pro modify, so that the neck will have have the correct angle(You can meausre yourself.The end of the fingerboard should be at least 20 mm above the body. The e-string should be about 2.5-3mm abowe the fingerboard and the g about 5,5 mm. In some cases the fingerboard is twisted.It should worked out so it forms a little valley between the top and bottom so that the rest of the string between your finger and the bridge is in the air.
7.Strings. They are aging so new ones is a must on an old fiddle.
8.I almost forgot. Before You put on the strings, pull out the tailgut, and take a look inside the violin in front of a strong lamp.
Then You will se if top and bottom of the body are well glued.If not DO NOT TRY TO REAPAIR YORSELF? You do need pro or semipros .The will use the correct glue,"varm hide glue".
You will also see the soundpost.It is leaning? Time for pro or semipro.
You will se the bassbar. It must be well glued to the top of the body. If the ends are loose it will disturb and destroy the tone.
At last, after playing do always clean the violin from resin.Although some people thinks it looks very professional with the white resin on the violin, the resin will darken and make your violin ugly..DO NOT CLEAN and old violin with spirit. Usually older violins are painted whit "spirit-colour".You can guess what will happen. If You have the possibility join a violinnbuilder society. Yo won´t regret it.
Do not hang the violin on the inside of an outerwall.That will create temperaturechanges violins not like. Inner wall and best on ha hook that creates some distance to the wall.
And Finally and most important.Keep it tuned and play on it whatever You family says.
Then You will find that the sleeping beauty wakes up.It coluld take some time but it willhappen.
I'd like to point out there is no "left-handed" and "right-handed" violins. I think you should take it somewhere for them to take a look at it because it's been in a basement for years. I'll bet the wood is warped because basements tend to be moist.
There are lefty violins. I myself am lefty and toyed with the idea of learning left handed but gave that idea up simply because of all the trouble I had learning guitar and bass left handed. Stick with righty.