I have to admit that I feel.somewhat ridiculous about the fact that two days ago Brian and I had a big discussion about budgeting and getting focused on paying down the big cabin debts…. And then yesterday I went out and purchased a new violin on a layaway plan. But there it is. That’s exactly what I did. I’ve been pondering a new instrument for a long time with various motivations.
At first I wanted to get a cheap instrument for taking camping, then I liked the idea of five-string, then I wanted to upgrade and get another classic violin like my Stainer copy, but an older/higher quality version, and then I was confronted by the fact that I need to be able to plug in at shows and I really dislike most of the attachable pickups on the market (and mini-mics aren’t an option because they cause feedback on my vocal mic). I had read about these Gage Realist 5-string Violins on the Internet and listened to all the audio reviews of them – liking what I heard about and from these instruments. It’s one of the only electric-acoustics on the market at a non-custom price which was also attractive to me since I wasn’t prepared to spend more an a couple thousand dollars. Because I am taking the week off work to complete my term paper (very close to done!) and Brian took yesterday to hang out with me – we decided to go down to Long and McQuade and check out the Realist 5-string that they had in stock. Needless to say, I didn’t just try it out – but decided instead to purchase it on a lay-away plan (Brian offered up a decent downpayment towards it). I was far too attracted to the hassle-free pick-up with phantom power and the ability to get by without a pre-amp – to just walk away from the thing once I picked it up!
The amplified sound on this instrument is great, but as it’s a new wood instrument, I expect the acoustic sound to get somewhat better with regular playing over the next few weeks. Unplayed violins always sound a bit “crunchy” to me, attributed to the tightness of a wooden body that hasn’t had much resonance. If I had a stereo with a big speaker, I would simply put the instrument on top of it for a week or two to loosen it up, but given the fact that I don’t have much of a stereo setup, I’ve got to play the life into the thing. Still and all, this violin has a really resonant, almost reverberant sound – and the extra low string (which gives it the range of the viola) is pretty fabulous.
Unlike my lifetime violin (I’ve been playing my Stainer copy for 30 years), the low range on the Gage is really rich. Also unlike my lifetime violin, this instrument is full-sized and it’s got a significantly wider neck and body (my Stainer is a 7/8 and those violins are known for their slender build). So it’s going to take some regular playing to get used to and build up the musculature in my shoulders for a bulkier instrument. Since there is a 30-day return policy, I’m aiming to play as much as possible between now and early January to ensure that it is the right sound and feel for me. But so far, so good – I’m pretty excited about its tone quality and feel already. I’ve got a gig in two weeks time and my goal is to play this on stage – so I’ve got a lot of playing to do between now and then! (not to mention three sets of song lyrics to memorize – yikes!)