V.com weekend vote: Have you ever used a violin on loan?

May 10, 2019, 12:24 PM · A recent story described how Indiana University lent a Guadagnini violin to Joshua Bell during the early days of his career. The violin is now being sold, but it made me wonder, how many of us have relied on a loaned violin, at one point or another?


Certainly many of the finest touring violinists of today rely on such loans, often for their entire careers. After all, who can afford a $12 million Stradivari violin?

But honestly, sometimes it's hard to afford any violin at all, and the loan of a very modest instrument makes a very big difference.

I've mostly played on violins that I have bought (and one took seven years to buy!) but I do remember one very important instrument loan: my very first violin, when I was an eight-year-old public school student. I may have never started at all, without that! I was lucky that my school had a program and that it had some violins to loan.

Have you ever played on a loaned violin? Was it from your school, from a teacher, from a foundation, or something else? Did you borrow a violin for a long period of time? Did you borrow a higher-quality violin for a special performance or competition? Have you ever lent a violin of yours to a colleague, student or relative? Please participate in the vote and then tell us all about your experience with loaning - or lending - instruments.

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May 10, 2019 at 07:35 PM · When I started to learn the violin I used one that a friend lent me. A very basic and weak instrument, but it gave me time to search for a better one. After two months I got my first violin from a a local luthier, and after four years the second one, from the same luthier. Later I lent my first instrument to a boy from my church who was beginning to get lessons and could not afford one.

May 10, 2019 at 07:57 PM · I was going to answer no to this, but then I recalled that my first violin was loaned to me by my next door neighbors. I was 15 years old and charged with caring for their dog while they were on a long vacation. I 'discovered' the violin in their family room, and when they returned I asked if I could borrow it. They were delighted by my interest, and generously loaned it to me for probably about a year, until I got my own first violin.

May 10, 2019 at 08:16 PM · During maintenance/repairs that took more than a day or two my LVS would loan me a comparable, occasionally a slightly better, instrument to use while mine was in the shop. No long term loans though.

May 10, 2019 at 08:54 PM · The most common thing in Germany is to loan an instrument from a luthier or a music shop when you start out learning the violin. It gives you the possibility of having time to test whether you stick with it or not. Most people have a loaned instrument for 6 to 12 month before they either buy that instrument or search for another instrument to buy. And this is not only the case with violins, it is quite common with most instruments. I did it with the flute as a child (I bought the loaned one) and now with the violin (I eventually bought a different one) and I have a friend who even loaned a piano before she decided to buy it.

May 10, 2019 at 08:56 PM · I voted "on loan from my school," which is true, but I also currently have the use of a Kuttner from a private individual.

When I was at Oberlin, I had the use of a school instrument for nearly four years as I didn't own a violin that was remotely good enough. I finally bought my first professional violin just before the second semester of my senior year.

I also loan out my "picnic violin" (Chinese student model that I use for outdoor weddings) fairly often to students when their instrument is in the shop; I also loan out carbon fiber bows to students on occasion.

May 10, 2019 at 09:29 PM · I voted "Yes, on loan from my private teacher", but in truth I was renting it from her. It was when we agreed to switch from violin to viola and I rented it for 2 or 3 months.

When she encouraged me to buy it, I also tested 2 violas from local shops. I don't think she was very happy when I chose a new, slightly more expensive Scott Cao viola over her generic German one made in 1949.

May 10, 2019 at 10:04 PM · I have a 3/4 size, German made violin that I loan out. There are two conditions: that the child consider it as their own violin and that they return it when they have grown out of it or if they stop playing.

I've loaned it out a couple of times for years on end.

May 10, 2019 at 10:37 PM · My first violin was a renter from s music shop on town here, it was ok ??. But, I waited three years until I was sure I was going to continue before I bought a “real” one ??.

May 10, 2019 at 10:50 PM · EDIT on first paragraph for clarity: I voted "No." The nearest I've had to a loaned instrument was a rental instrument, till I was able to move up to 4/4-size. So that doesn't count.

Other than this, although it doesn't count, either, in the true sense of a loan: two in-home trials, summer 2005, in two separate 2-week periods, giving me plenty of time to try out four fiddles. I paid shipping and handling charges to and from the dealer -- plus insurance. I ended up selecting two of them. I'd saved up enough to pay cash for both.

At the time, I had on hand only my second and third 4/4-size instruments. I'd already handed my first one along to my second nephew, once he was big enough to handle it. Now I felt like enlarging my collection slightly so that I'd have a couple of backups if my main working instrument needed repair. Then I wouldn't have to get a loaner for the interim. Additionally, having two other working instruments gives me more options for types of sound. No one instrument, in my experience, has it all.

Haven't loaned out any of my instruments yet, although I'd be open to loaning the 2nd 4/4-size fiddle to a student in need. I'm not a teacher, so I probably won't know firsthand of such a person. It would have to have a little reconditioning first. I haven't played it for years.

May 10, 2019 at 11:05 PM · While I have never used a loaned violin, I have loaned out an inexpensive but very playable "loaner" (currently not on loan) and more recently I have loaned out a very nice violin to a student who is in the process of choosing a good violin that should last at least through highs school and into college. I have loaned out another very nice violin to a student moving up from a 3/4 to 4/4/ so that she can get used to the size and feel before looking and making a final decision this summer - also to go through high school and maybe into college.

When I was in school, you purchased your instrument: schools didn't have them to loan, nor were there many choices for rental or rent to purchase - you purchased and paid for it in installments as you went. That did mean that there was no contract to get your final instrument from where you had gotten your previous instrument. I ended up with 2 very nice instruments through a funny set of circumstances and am willing to loan them out to "responsible" students.

May 10, 2019 at 11:27 PM · I played a viola on loan from Caltech for about 4-1/2 years when I first switched from violin.

I started out learning on violin, even though the viola was what I really wanted to play, because there was an old violin in the family that was available to me for free; I always intended to switch to viola at the first opportunity. That opportunity happened when I went off to college. Caltech had no music department, but had an orchestra (shared with Occidental College) and a recreational chamber music program. The chamber music program owned three violas that were intended for loans to violinists who were playing viola in a chamber ensemble. About halfway through my freshman year, I was able to get a viola on a much longer-term loan; at the time they were very happy to have me switch permanently, even though I was not a very good violinist and mainly playing piano. I kept the viola for the rest of my time at Caltech, including for the year that I was on staff after I graduated. They even let me hold on to it when I was pushed back to violin due to a sudden glut of violists and shortage of violinists on campus. I finally paid money for a string instrument for the first time in my life when I returned the loaned viola and bought my own.

Other than that, there have been a few times that I've gone to a chamber music reading session and borrowed a violin for a piece or two because I only brought my viola. Not sure that really counts, though.

I've loaned out my violin once, to my girlfriend just as she was restarting as an adult. She used my violin for two or three months, until she had the opportunity to go visit family in Southern California and retrieve her own violin from her parents' house.

May 10, 2019 at 11:42 PM · I have been lent violins on several occasions. The first time was by a friend because I needed a half size and the one I bought was not nearly as good as my friend's violin. Then I played on a very nice 3/4 violin from the music school because I was having such a hard time finding one that was good enough for me that my teacher said there's this really nice violin lying around doing nothing so I could have it. I was also loaned a 4/4 violin strung as a viola and my current 15.5" viola from the music school because I have no viola. I would love to own one in the future.

May 11, 2019 at 12:15 AM · Some years ago I took my old violin to my local luthier's shop to have a repair done to a split that was migrating from the saddle towards the bridge (not unusual for old violins, so I'm told). I was asked if I'd like to borrow a violin for the period of the repair - and I could choose one from the display room. Which I did, taking my time over the choosing. I liked what I'd been loaned so much that I bought it a couple of weeks later. It has been with me now for quite a few years and gives good service as my #2 violin.

May 11, 2019 at 12:43 AM · Note: I do mean loaned or borrowed - renting an instrument is a different thing.

May 11, 2019 at 02:36 AM · I loaned a violin to a lady in our church orchestra. When she returned it, it was shiny- or should i say greasy. I asked her why and she said she put mayonnaise on it to clean it and didn't it look good?

I was horrified. but on the plus side, the stuck on rosin did easily come off.

May 11, 2019 at 04:15 AM · Eek. Lemme guess... the mayonnaise thing is the reason she needed to borrow a violin in the first place?

May 11, 2019 at 06:56 AM · Not violin, but I used loaner Violas, from my college, and then later a really good Roman Teller Viola owned by my band director, Nati Cano. I loaned my 19th cent. french violin to a friend. I have never owned, or played a high-level violin.

May 11, 2019 at 09:55 AM · I was going to answer “no” to this survey, but then I recalled one special incident 50 years ago when I was sent to a remote village to do hard labour by the Chinese Communist Government.

One night a huge booming sound woke me up. I got up and investigated what had happened. It turned out that a rat on the beam of the farm house had attempted to eat the maize dangling from it. The rat had gnawed off the rope that tied up the huge bundle (over 100 kg) of maize, which had it fall down to a wooden bed where my violin was. Fortunately the bundle failed to hit directly on my violin case. Yet it slightly touched its brim and my violin fingerboard was snapped off the neck as a result of the impact. I had no violin to play and it was definitely no way to find someone to repair it. At that time, a friend of mine, who had stopped playing, offered to loan his violin. I was so glad that my learning process was not interrupted. A few month later when I went back to Shanghai to see my parents, I found the repair department of a violin manufacturer and had my instrument repaired there. Its sound was not affected yet there was an ugly wooden patch on the back, which remained till today.

No, I have never loaned my violin to any one. I have never even let anyone else to touch it, unless someone is really a good player. Mine is a German copy of Stradivarius 1731 with a history of at least 100 years and it has very clear and loud sound, which I inherited from my Dad. It means more than a treasure to me. As long as I'm still alive, I won't let it leave me, except when my grandson, who will be one year old this month, is old enough to play this 4/4.

May 11, 2019 at 05:40 PM · Wow! 122 That is an amazing story! What was it like to play the violin in a remote labor camp? Were there others to make music with? Thanks for sharing!

May 11, 2019 at 07:13 PM · I voted no. However:

One day when I was about 17 my father brought a violin case home from work and showed me the instrument in it. He had been given it by someone who had heard through the grapevine that he had a son who played the violin. An aged relative of that someone had died, leaving behind this instrument and the family did not know what to do with it. I was supposed to find out if it "worked". It looked pitiful, two strings had snapped and it was dusty all over. But it had a label on the inside: "Gustav Lütschg, fecit Bernae, 1918". I put a new set of strings on, dusted it and tried to play. It sounded surprisingly attractive right off the bat. There was no timeline arranged so I kept playing it. It was soon clear that it was much better than my own violin (a 1000 dollar student violin, rather good as such).

Long story short: After a few months my parents were being generous and bought me the instrument for what my teacher considered a fair price. So in fact I had it on loan for about half a year before it became mine. He said if I ever wanted to upgrade I would have to buy "an Italian", otherwise I should not bother. It still is my (only) instrument and I love it very much.

BTW you can look up Gustav Lütschg here if you are that interested: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Lütschg

Also here (sorry, I have only German sources): http://galerie.geigenbauer.ch/index.php?id=672&L=1&id=672

May 11, 2019 at 09:06 PM · The very first violin I got my hands on was one I got from a friend's relative on free loan to be able to play together with my son who had just started then. It was a weird french piece of wood, nicely made basically but in heavy need of professional care. The neck had sunken, and significantly pointed to the left. Wasn't easy to achieve anything similar to intonation on that one, I soon returned it after a few weeks and got my first (and last) rental.

But although all it's imperfections, this was the one that got me started, and I'm keeping it in positive memories.

May 12, 2019 at 10:14 AM · Hi Jocelyn,

Thank you for your interest in my post. The situation of my status 50 years ago was not that of a labour camp in the era of the Soviet Union in Russia. Actually the youth in China those days were sent to live with the paseants in remote areas, who were extremely poor. The youth had to do hard labour together with them and were able to make a living on their pay, which was worth 5 US cents a day, with little left after they used up that amount of pay for basic food. There was no enjoyment for music; the young people gathered together to sing sad songs to express their desperate helplessness and hopelessness, plus their deep feelings for their hometown and their parents and friends in the big cities.

May 12, 2019 at 11:55 AM · Perhaps 'loaned from a luthier or dealer' would be the most common type? Smart dealers loan instruments hoping that you will fall in love with them - as I see worked great above!

I borrowed one once - a rather expensive Italian one - and put a ding in the back of it :( :( . It was caused by a bit of grit in the case - I fessed up when I returned it - and the dealer was very understanding (as a result we have had a great relationship ever since and, 5 years later, I actually bought my latest instrument there).

May 13, 2019 at 11:56 AM · On loan from school was my option. But perhaps from an organisation would have been better. When I first started learning the violin, I was having lessons through the local county music service, so instruments were loaned to students. I started on a 1/2, moved to 3/4 before a full size violin. Then moving into highschool, I was fortunate to be loaned/given a full size violin from my step-mum which I used until I saved up for my own slightly better instrument. Then given a lovely violin for my 16th, which I still use. I do not need or want anything more than my current violin.

May 13, 2019 at 04:32 PM · I played on a beautiful Villaume that my teacher lent me. He used it at his Carnegie Hall recital when his strad was not up to being played but the programs were already printed that he was using his strad for the concert. He played on the Villaume and no one knew the difference. It was a wonderful instrument and I enjoyed playing it.

May 13, 2019 at 08:32 PM · At my first violin lesson my teacher determined that the full sized violin I had borrowed from a friend was too large for my small frame so he loaned me a 3/4. I played on that instrument for 17 months until I could afford to purchase my own. As a consequence, several years later when I was in better circumstances, I gave my campfire fiddle to my former teacher so that some other student could have the benefit of a long term loan. Two young people used it for a year each, and a third one purchased it.

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