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Love is like a violin
Stentor Conservatoire Violin
Member Name: goosey
Stentor Conservatoire Violin
Date: 04/06/12, updated on 22/10/13 (518 review reads)
Advantages: Good tonal quality, ideal for advanced students
Disadvantages: A tad pricy for beginners.
Once upon a long ago, when I was a very small child, my parents took me to our town's Christmas concert, where local talent entertained the rest of the community. Among the performances was a violinist; a lady who I thought was a Romany gypsy because she was wearing large hoop earrings.
Ahhh, the perfect logic of a child.
I was awe struck, not so much by the lady, but by the violin and how wonderful it sounded. Cutting a lengthy story short, I remember thinking "One day I am going to learn to play a violin." Such was my determination that, several years later on leaving junior school to start secondary education, I was delighted to learn that the school had an orchestra and taught music to anyone interested enough to apply.
I remember that thrilling moment when given my first school violin to hold, the lingering smell of a specially formulated linseed polish and rosin, the smoothness of its mahogany coloured wood, the beauty of its contours, and a dull twang as I plucked an untuned string. It is a moment that even now, I cannot describe adequately, but will, I'm certain, be understood by any violinist or stringed instrument player. It was not long before I had picked up the basics of tuning and learning to read music, thanks to my childhood sweetheart, a brilliant musician even then.
For any kid showing reasonable musical abilities, private tuition with a professional music teacher was recommended. The person who became my teacher was Mrs Maxwell, the very lady I had seen about five years previously at the concert playing the violin.
It was a very enjoyable period of my life, I was given a mellow toned, old violin, by a friend of my father after he, the friend, had heard me performing in the local annual concert, and as I progressed joined several amateur orchestras. I preferred just playing in local groups and was content to be an average player rather than a professional musician.
However, years later and after a long break from playing, for various reasons when working in Oxford, I was feeling a tad short of cash and sold my violin, a deed which I later came to regret when I found more time to indulge in hobbies and interests.
Recently, I bought a Mandolin, which although fretted, has the same strings as a violin, but in duplicate. This awakened my desire to play the violin again, so I searched the internet for a reasonably priced violin.
It is well known that the older a violin and one that has been played a great deal, has a more mellow tone than a brand new violin. However, tonal quality does not only depend on the age and use of the instrument, it also depends on the maker, wood, sound post position, quality of strings and various other factors.. but seeing as I was the only one, apart from my poor dogs, who was going to hear it, I decided to see what new violins were now on the market and the costs. A Stentor Conservatoire Violin, reputedly of good tonal quality and reliability caught my attention.
On searching the internet and comparing prices, as you do, I eventually decided to purchase a Stentor Conservatoire violin kit from Djm Music who were selling them about £30 less than those on Amazon, at that time. It was not the least expensive of the Stentor violins in the catalogue, nor was it the most expensive. I paid £179.99 post free. However, I believe they may now be cheaper on Amazon, so it is worth researching other sources.
There are about twelve Stentor violin models, each made in various sizes; the smallest being one sixteenth normal size, and the largest is full size, known as 4/4 size. At the lower end of the price range is the standard model made in seven sizes from one sixteenth to full size. Next are the Student I, and Student II, made in six sizes starting at one tenth.
In the mid price range section is the Graduate and Conservatoire, produced in three sizes, half, three quarter and full size, designed for the advanced student and graduate musicians respectively. At the top end price-wise are the Messina and Elysia made, in five sizes, from quarter to full size, with professional violinists in mind. I believe there is a seventh model called the Arcadia, probably top of the range and most expensive, but cannot find any information on its cost The quality and price increase with the higher grade materials used in the instruments.
The prices start from £60-£80 for the standard model, rising to £70-£90 for Student I, £115-145 for Student II, The Graduate £140-£180, the Conservatoire £180 - £230 the Eylsia £365-£509 and Messina £420-549
All the Stentor violins, violas and cellos, are hand carved from selected tone woods, which are woods that carry sound waves. They are produced in China by skilled craftsmen and sold worldwide. The headquarters is in Reigate England.
I was like a kid waiting for Christmas, but at last my violin arrived safe and sound, well protected in mounds of bubble wrap.
Included in the package was an impressive, deluxe case; a hard outer shell, covered in black canvas, with zipped closures. The inside is very plush, velvet lined fitting the contours of the violin, fixed into one of the stays is a hygrometer, which shows the relative humidity surrounding the instrument.
Draped across the violin was a double sided, soft cover, one side of which is a silky material, the other, a velvety material.
A Velcro strap is positioned to fix across the top end of the finger board, to secure the violin when being carried. At the end is a covered tray to keep spare strings, mutes and rosin. Fixed at various points around the case are loops where a long, adjustable strap can be attached. There are two fixed handles, so that the case can be carried over the shoulder or as a hand case.
The Conservatoire Violin
The Conservatoire violin is handcrafted from a selection of these tone woods. The Ribs and back are carved from flared Maple, the table carved from Spruce, the neck is carved from solid Maple (different from flared Maple) The fingerboard, pegs, tailboard and the bow frog are made with ebony, a black, hard wearing wood. In less expensive violins, these pieces are what they call ebonised; made from either rosewood or softer woods and dyed black to look like ebony.
The body finish is a glossy shellax varnish. The purfling ( a double stringing pattern) around the edges of the body, back and front is inset into the Maple. In the less expensive violins the pattern is painted on rather than inset rosewood or ebony. I asked a violin maker the purpose of purfling, and was told that it actually strengthened the violin.
The strings supplied were ropecore, which are multi-stranded steel cores; they do not have rope in them.
The chin rest is made in the Teka style, for me, this was not comfortable, so I changed it to the Strad style.
The bow, was well balanced and strung with natural horsehair. A slab of black rosin was included.
When I removed my new acquisition from its protective covering, I was very impressed with the quality of the case and instrument. The violin was all but ready to play; bridge in place and strings, slackened but tight enough to keep the bridge from slipping. The chin rest was good, but not the style I was used too, so I ordered another style, which was easy enough to fit. The strings were all metal, and the tailpiece fitted with adjusters, which allow fine-tuning of the strings.
I have a clip tuner, so found tuning the violin reasonably easy, the pegs were a tad stiff to begin with, but adjustment soon rectified the problem. The strings were new and required stretching, so at first they went out of tune very quickly. Once stretched, the instrument kept in tune very well indeed for long periods of time and didn't appear to be affected by small increases in temperature, unlike gut strings which, I remember required tuning very frequently.
The bow, needed rosin applying before it could be used. Then I was ready to check out the tonal quality of the instrument, at which point my collie cross, Moses left the room and my Yorkie, Mollie, came to investigate the strange noise.
I was pleasantly surprised by the tone, I do not know what I was expecting, but it was certainly more mellow than anticipated. Not as good as my 100-year-old violin, but that could be down to technique, for this was the first time I had held a violin for over 30 years.
It took a while to get up to a reasonable standard again, plenty of practise, to get the fingers flexible. However, I am happy to be reunited with the joys of playing music once again.
My collie, leaves the room when I unzip the case, but returns when I start playing, so he can tell the difference between a duff note (of the zip) and good note of my violin.
I would certainly recommend a Stentor violin to anyone wanting to learn the violin, but a cheaper model to start with.
Summary: Until you hold a violin you will not fully understand its wonders.