TMX Violin Selection Methodology for Professionals

The perfect violin or instrument for a collection or musician and player is indispensable for anyone’s musical development. Whether you’re a student or adult who is just starting out, or an instrumentalist midway through a long and complex musical journey; whether you’re a budding professional at the cusp of your professional development, or a seasoned musician at a firm place of maturity in your career and now seeking that special pizzazz, special edge, or je ne sais quoi to your already finely-honed music playing, choosing or selecting the proper or best instrument for you at just the right stage of your musical journey can provide just right starting point, lynchpin, or point of perfection to cap or consolidate your musical career. Here, Master Luthier Tong Ming Xi provides a few helpful hints, tips, pointers, and all-round good advice for all on this musical road. Here, we provide answers to those seeking them to some age-old questions regarding how one is able to choose the best string instrument for oneself.

The true mission of the violins is to imitate the accents of the human voice, a noble mission that has earned for the violin the glory of being called the king of instruments. Charles-Auguste de Beriot

How does one choose a good violin or string instrument for you?

Here, at the Tong Ming Xi Gallery, we advocate the three-pronged ‘Hear-It’ method for instrument selection. Selecting a violin based simply on these three basic premises can help you a long way. The three buzz words in this method are, quite simply, ‘Sound, Stage, and Sense’. Let me extemporize briefly on them all:

1. Sound

First, you need to know the sort of violin or string voice that is attractive to you. This ‘sound’ component to the TMX violin selection methodology is something that you need to be very personally aware of. Being aware of the dimension of ‘sound’ will be a most helpful rule-of-thumb in the selection of a violin or string instrument. Different violins have different temperaments, personalities, voices, and sonorities. And different people are drawn to different types of violins or string instruments correspondingly. Some people are drawn to violins or string instruments that evince brightness, brilliance, and a keen or sharp clarity of projection. Others may prefer string instruments with a darker acoustic profile – violins with a richer, darker sound, for instance, or else violins with stronger lower to middle registers. Whatever the case, being aware of the dimension of ‘sound’ will be a helpful rule-of-thumb in the selection or whittling down of violins or choice string instruments that you may be looking at. You may want also to think about how easily the violin ‘sounds’ while you are trying to play it, i.e. its ‘playability’ or ‘ease-of-play’, and also how mixed its tone colours or acoustic profile is. You may want also to watch out for how evenly it sounds across all strings, and the clarity or sonority of its projection. Being aware of the ‘sound’ of a violin is a first and essential step in your violin selection journey.

2. Sense

Secondly, the TMX violin selection methodology recommends that you be aware of the component of ‘sense’ in determining your violin or string instrument selection and purchase. A few key questions in this ‘sense’ component include asking yourself if:

  • The price is sensible for you
  • The sound of the violin is evenly aligned enough for you
  • The name of the maker, or else the origin, provenance, and nationality of the violin resonates with you
  • You are thinking of making, as a collector or otherwise, a long-term investment in the violin or string instrument
  • The violin is visually and acoustically strong and is also well proportioned and well built
  • The finishing and design of the violin fit your style

All these are essential components to the concept of ‘sense’ that we at the TMX Gallery urge you to consider our violin selection methodology.

3. Stage

Thirdly, you need to be aware of the kind of environment or ‘stage’ on which you will be most frequently working on, perfecting, or performing your violin or string music. This is the ‘stage’ component of the TMX violin selection methodology. Violin or string instrument playing is a highly interactive process: where it is that you are most likely to be playing your instrument will acoustically alter the sound of the violin. Also, the ‘stage’ or where it is that you will be playing will dictate that different types of sound that you will differentially need, for the most predominant occasion. Where a violin is most frequently played will affect how the violin sounds, the violin ultimately chosen, and also, by definition, the instrument selection process. This ‘stage’ or a location and objective specific dimension to the TMX violin and string instrument selection methodology is a unique second step in your violin selection journey. We urge you fully to consider the acoustic uses to which your violin or string playing will be put. A few places or ‘stages’ on which a violin or string instrument may be selected include:Graded Examinations or Examination Studios (ABRSM Music Examinations, Trinity College London Music Examinations, Australian Music Board Examinations, for students from Grades 1-8, or else for school or O-level, A-level, and IB-level music performance examinations)

  • Graded Examinations or Examination Studios (ABRSM Music Examinations, Trinity College London Music Examinations, Australian Music Board Examinations, for students from Grades 1-8, or else for school or O-level, A-level, and IB-level music performance examinations)
  • Leisure (Rooms, Small Chambers)
  • Diploma Examinations (Recital or Concert Stages)
  • Competitions (Youth Music Competitions)
  • Degree Programmes (Range of Locations)
  • Competitions (University-level)/Recitals/Auditions for Jobs
  • Orchestral Positions and Concert Halls
  • A recording studio
  • Instrumental Teachers and Educators
  • A mix of the above, or a range of movable locations that may require both projection and a sense of chamber-music type quietness or intimacy from an instrument.

Before or while you are at the violin gallery

While the TMX violin selection methodology recommends the trio of ‘sound, sense, and stage’ for assessing proper suitability in its violin or string instrument selection, we also recommend a few other helpful or fruitful technical steps that you may choose to undertake prior to coming down to the violin gallery to select for your perfect violin. Selecting or choosing a good violin or string instrument requires time and a know-how that can be pretty exhausting. Since it is both a tiring and an exhaustive process, it is best that you come absolutely prepared with these TMX’s Fundamentals in choosing a violin.

Firstly,

do come prepared with a few short excerpts to test the range, versatility and style of your violin or string instrument on hand. Here are some examples of passages are likely best to be short excerpts of approximately 8 bar phrases that exhibit the following:

  • Fast passages that involve clarity of sound, strength, and articulation
  • A passage that consists of melodious and expressive passages
  • A passage with a spicatto section

The TMX string instrument selection methodology recommends coming with all three passages as illustrated above.

Secondly,

do feel or be prepared to play these phrases that you have specifically chosen from memory, if possible. Playing from memory will let you concentrate completely on the sound more.

Thirdly,

you should feel prepared to rank these pieces according to your individual liking. Even better yet, we suggest that you bring a friend, teacher, colleague, or parent along, so that you can get them to hear what the instrument sounds like from the edges of the room, as opposed to just simply from under your ear. It makes a huge difference to test, acoustically, for how an instrument would sound at the end of a hall, as opposed to simply close to you. Test for all these effects. And in the company of good friends. At the TMX Gallery, we are your friends, helpful assistants, and consummate artists and experts at this process. We are also ever pleased or happy to help you with helpful advice or assistance, and ever able to balance considerations about sound, beauty, aesthetics, form, function, suitability, or even price, if such may be an issue for you. We will do our best to match you with the perfect one or two instruments that are the very best for you. Come to the TMX Gallery personally and ‘Hear-It’ for yourself!

Music is harmony of musicians, notes, strings. We bring together the best of string and wind instruments and unite them on the stage, as are the musicians who play them in harmonious unison to create the music you treasure. Tong Ming Xi and Brando Team