The Purple Violin: Everything You Need to Know
Tradition meets modern style.
The orchestra swells, unleashing a crescendo of aural bliss. A soloist emerges from the group, filling the concert hall with beautiful phrases, pulled out of the violin as if by some preternatural gift. It's a familiar sight and sound in concert halls across the world. The violin, with which everyone is familiar, is one of the most important instruments in an orchestra. It has rich tradition going back for centuries. But wait - something is different this time. The violinist isn't playing any old violin. This one is purple!
Ever since its debut, the purple violin has become a particular favorite of strings fans, and a collectors' item for many aficionados. Many different music companies and manufacture carry these colored or painted violins. Some of the more popular brands or varieties include Antoni, Gliga, Intermusic, and Harlequin. The purple violin is constructed like any other violin, except with one important step changed: instead of the usual varnish, applied to give the violin its traditional brown color, a colored varnish is used in its place. In lower quality instruments, purple paint is applied. Aside from the standard acoustic variety, some purple violins are actually electric, instruments that are plugged into an amplifier to give the instrument a more modern (electronic) sound.
People buy purple violins for a variety of reasons. Some want to play them, perhaps in a jazz band or other informal musical group. Some like to play them at home, and desire a less traditional violin, one that may reflect their cool, hip, modern personality and playing style. Others buy them just because they look amazing, preferring to hang them on their wall or otherwise display them. Whatever the option, the purple violin is, at the very least, a great conversation piece.
In fact, purple is not the only color violin available. While the purple violin is very popular, other color choices include blue, red, yellow, pink, or even tiger stripes! The crazy colors are not limited to just the body of the violin. Some get their bows, neck rests, and other accessories in matching or complementary colors.
Because they look so cool, they are a great option for younger children who are just getting started with the violin. Because sound quality is not much of a concern for most beginners, having an instrument with a striking color may actually encourage children to practice. (This also might encourage those adults who have trouble committing to stick with their new hobby!) The instruments might not be suited for students past the third grade, many of whom are beginning to play in more competitive settings, due to sound and performance issues (see below).
While painted violins are very striking and edgy, they have some disadvantages. First, the quality of the sound itself (the "timbre") of the violin is, on the average, quite poor, as the violin itself is of rather cheap construction. You may have a hard time finding a high quality painted violin, as not many people will volunteer to paint an expensive instrument! Indeed, it is perhaps the varnish or paint itself that affects the sound, as small variations in the body of the violin can produce drastic changes in tone quality.
There are ways to improve the sound quality of the purple violin, however. Playing skill, obviously, will be an important variable in how good the violin sounds. Adding higher quality strings to the violin or using a better bow may help. Playing the violin in more acoustically nurturing settings will also be beneficial. Overall, however, only purchasing a more expensive, but traditional, violin will allow a violinist to maximize the beauty of his or her performance.
This con is related to the second: the violin is fine for playing amongst family and friends, with a band, or in bars or coffee shops or other small (informal) gigs, but is often considered inappropriate for playing in a more formal setting, such as an ensemble or full-blown orchestra. The professional orchestral world is still conservative and clings to its traditions and customs, built over hundreds of years. Most of these more serious settings will require a more traditional violin, as this is what everyone else will be using in the group (and formal performances usually have stricter dress codes in order to increase overall professionalism). It is because of this that few top quality violins in untraditional colors are available. Think about the market for such expensive violins: those who would buy them, professional players, have no use for them in a professional setting. In addition, there are few amateurs who will want to shell out the cash for an expensive violin, purple or no.
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