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Fiddle Shopping: Lessons From Past Purchases

My first banjo was bought online in 2008. About a year later, I wanted something different. My mistake was buying an instrument sight unseen, or rather sound unheard.

There have been times during my search for a fiddle that I've come close to buying some cheapo from some so-called "reputable" website, but my experience buying that Recording King taught me better. Not that the banjo was bad. It just didn't have the sound I was searching for, mainly because I didn't really know what that sound was.

Now, having played old-time music for a few years and hearing other fiddlers, I'm already leagues ahead of that first instrument purchase because I have an idea of what I want my first fiddle to sound like. While I have no clue how to play anything on the fiddle, I've been lucky to have someone on hand to play the instruments I've been considering in a way I hope to one day be able to play.

My first stop was Studio Strings in Wadsworth, Ohio, where the proprietor is interested in and plays some old-time, and he played me some of the instruments he had in stock in my price range.

My second stop was a music store in Medina, which taught me I should stick to stores that specialize in violins.

Third was a visit to the workshop of Peter Horn, a luthier based in Brecksville, where I had a fiddle-playing friend meet me to go through some instruments.

My search has uncovered three options so far, yet I'm not done looking for my fiddle. I'm torn between the reality of my finances and the desire to buy the best fiddle possible.

My biggest concern is trying to avoid buying a fiddle that I'll want to replace next year. Had I put this much effort into buying that first banjo, perhaps I'd still have it.


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I have now been playing banjo for eight years and fiddle for four years. My focus remains on the fiddle, as I try to learn general technique and tunes. Time spent playing banjo was mostly to keep up with a handful of tunes I like most.

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