Monday, June 22, 2020

Some information about Germantown Violin Co. student level violins

Some information about Germantown Violin Co. student level violins


What is a “student instrument?”

We often hear the phrase “student instruments.” What is that? What does that even mean? Often the term student instrument is used in opposition to “professional instrument” or “step-up instrument.” In general, a student level instrument is an instrument designed for someone just getting started as a musician, and/or an instrument that can be played as a student progresses through middle and high school. Obviously, the difference between a brand-new string player and someone who's played for five or six years can be pretty large, so the meaning of this term may not always be easy to understand. In our case, we use the term student instrument to describe instruments that are designed for beginners or players in their first and second year of playing.

Lots of choices!

When you do a Google search for student level violin you will find that there are a lot of instruments out there, and choosing an instrument for a beginning violinist or violist can be a daunting task. If you will indulge a small amount of self-promotion, I would like to take a small bit of time today to talk about the two instruments from Germantown Violin Co that are in the student level instrument category: the Wilhelm model 85 violin and viola, and the Gafiano model 105 violin and viola.

Fully carved construction.

These instruments are both fully carved instruments. That means that both the top and the back are made from one single piece of solid tonewood. This is a critical element of creating an instrument, as this single piece of wood is going to resonate much better than a laminate product will. Laminate construction definitely has its advantages: laminate is stronger and will tolerate getting beat up a little bit better than solid wood construction will. However, it is widely accepted that solid carved wood produces a much better tone than laminate construction. And after all, tone is what we're going for when we're trying to get new musicians off the ground.

The “Gafiano” instruments.

Let’s start with the model 105 Gafiano violin and viola. As I mentioned before, this is a fully carved instrument. This is a hand-built instrument with a hand-carved top and back. It is finished with a lightweight spirit varnish. Spirit varnish is lighter weight and allows the wood to resonate more freely. It allows the sound to project a little bit better. All the fittings on the model 105 instrument are solid ebony including the fingerboard and the pegs. Solid ebony adds a little bit of cost to the instrument, but it is absolutely vital to having an instrument that will last and perform for a long time. Many economy violins and violas have fingerboards made of pine or other white woods that have been painted to resemble ebony. These softer woods simply cannot tolerate the pressure from a player's fingers over time and will often warp and dent and make the instrument impossible to play correctly. Ebony is the standard material, and we make sure that all of our instruments have Ebony fingerboards. The pegs are also made of ebony and are custom cut to each individual instrument. It sometimes comes as a surprise to nonmusicians that pegs are not interchangeable between instruments. On a properly constructed string instrument, the shaft of each peg is tapered. This taper allows the peg to “lock” into the holes in the peg box and hold its tune. The holes in the peg box must be custom cut to fit the shape of the peg. Our luthier spends time on each instrument making making sure that the peg fit is perfect for each instrument.

The “Wilhelm” instruments.

The model 85 Wilhelm violin and viola are essentially the same as the Gafiano with two key differences: First, while the instrument is fully carved, it is more machine carved than hand carved. You still get all the advantages of a carved instrument, but the sound quality isn't quite as perfect as a hand carved instrument would be. Second, the 85 model has an oil-based varnish as opposed to a spirit based varnish. The advantage to an oil-based varnish on a student instrument is durability. The darker, reddish-brown lacquer finish tolerates bumps and dents more easily than a thinner spirit based varnish would. This makes the Wilhelm a perfect choice for fractional instruments designed for smaller players that are still learning how to handle the instrument properly. The oil-based varnish on the Wilhelm can tolerate these bumps and bruises more easily.

Set it up!

Finally, we need to talk about setup. All of our instruments are professionally setup here in the United States in our shop in Gaithersburg MD . This includes cutting and fitting of the bridge, shaping and fitting the pegs as mentioned above, and stringing the instrument with Preludes strings from D’Addario. The instruments are then test played an packed in lightweight cases with an accompanying brazilwood bow. Once the outfit is together it is ready to send off to your local music store for you to take a test drive!

We're extremely proud of our instruments. We take pride in selling instruments that, while affordable, are still genuine instruments that will help musicians from beginner to experienced along their musical journey. We invite you to visit our website at, or visit one of our local dealers where you can play the instruments in person. We are certain that you will be impressed with what you hear!

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