FAQ

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Where are you located and what are your hours?

We are open M-F 10am-6pm and Saturday 10am-4pm. Please click here for directions to the shop.

What are the parts of a violin? What are the parts of a bow?

Parts Poster

What instruments do you sell?

We sell violins, violas, cellos, and upright double basses.

Are you currently selling any instruments made by Dustin Williams?

Dustin is so busy with repair with repair work that he hasn’t had time to build a violin recently! So, unfortunately, we do not.

Do you do instrument repairs?

Absolutely! If it’s broken, we can (almost certainly) fix it.

Do you carry mandolins and guitars?

We do not carry mandolins or guitars.

Do you do repair work on other string instruments such as mandolins and guitars?

We only do repair work on violins, violas, cellos, and upright double basses.

Do you sell gift certificates?

Yes we do! Please come in and see a member of our staff for details.

Why should you stay away from cheap violins?

Cheap violins are just that…cheap. There are plenty of places (usually online, some not) that sell violins for $100-200. Often these are tempting because they come with a bow and extra strings and a case. However, these violins are usually of horrible quality, the bows sometimes have fake horse hair, and the strings are also usually strands of steel instead of real strings. These instruments are so bad they often make learning the instrument difficult if not impossible. It is SO important to have a quality student instrument – we cannot possibly stress this point enough. That’s why we have an affordable rent-to-own program that works with your budget AND ensures a top-notch instrument for you or your child.

I found an old violin in my grandmother’s attic and it’s a Stradivarius! How much is it worth?

We hate to break it to you, but violins from grandma’s attic are usually not real Stradivarius violins and they are usually not much. We are more than happy to take a look at it and do our best to tell you about the instrument you found, but in reality 99.9% of these finds are knock-offs and pretty poor knock-offs at that. But you never know! Once in a while we run across a good attic find. Before you bring it in, check out the Encyclopedia Smithsonian’s run-down on how to recognize a genuine Stradivarius.

What should I look for when purchasing a string instrument?

We have lots of suggestions – please see our instrument buyers’ guide for more info!

What are violin strings made out of?

In the beginning, strings were made out of stretched sheep gut called “catgut”. Some players, particularly Baroque players, still use gut strings today. However, most players’ strings today have a synthetic or steel core, which may then be wound with various other metals such as aluminum or gold. The core and windings may change from string to string.

Is the bow really made with horse hair?

Yes! 100%. If it’s not horse hair it’s not really a bow.

What are the different kind of bows? Which kind is right for me?

Bows are generally made from three types of material: brazil wood, pernambuco, and fiberglass. Pernambuco bows are generally the most expensive because the type of wood is rare and many people prefer the sound they get from a pernambuco bow over anything else. Synthetic materials are gradually gaining popularity. Fiberglass bows used to be associated with beginning to intermediate students only, but new advancements in synthetic bow technology is catalyzing the creation of professional-level bows. When it comes down to it, a bow is a very personal matter. You may love how a certain bow plays on one instrument and hate how it plays on another. Many professional musicians have at least two bows and often a different bow for different instruments.

Double basses are the only instrument that have two different styles of bows available for their use. The French bow looks most similar to cello, viola, and violin bows, and is played with an overhand grip. The German bow has a longer frog and is held with an underhand grip. French isn’t necessarily better than German, or the other way around. The bass bow used is personal preference and usually depends on what style bow the teacher plays.

What are bow bugs?

Dermestids are a type of beetle that prefers dark, quiet places to live. They will eat just about anything – including bow hair. If you have an instrument that’s been in an attic or under the bed for a long time, don’t be surprised if you find many of the bow hairs broken in the middle of the bow rather than the ends. This is where bow bugs like to chew. You may also see reddish-brown shells from the bow bugs molting. If you’re not sure whether or not you have bow bugs or not, it is always better to assume you do. Luckily, they can be eradicated. Take out the instrument and vacuum the case. Then, leave it open in a well-lit area for a few days. The bow bugs will leave and find somewhere darker where there is more to nosh. Whatever you do, don’t spray bug spray or insecticide in your case – this could damage the instrument and any bows in the case.

What size instrument does my child need?

It’s hard to say without seeing your child in person. Please come in and let us size you for an instrument!

What is the best teaching method for string instruments?

There is no one “best” method for every person. There are several teaching methods out there, and we carry a lot of them. The method you use will be dependent on the teacher you choose and the style you wish to play.

I’m not as young as I was once. Is it too late to learn the violin?

It’s never too late! Learning an instrument will help your brain stay young. Come in and see us – we welcome learners of all ages.

How can I prevent injury when I practice?

Injury prevention is a crucial part of playing any instrument. Taking lessons from an experienced teacher is the best way to learn proper playing technique so you can stay injury-free and play all your life! Pro tip: if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong! Pain does not equal gain in playing an instrument.

Do you sell electric violins?

We do not sell electric instruments. We do sell and install pickups to electrify violins, violas, cellos, and double basses.

Do you sell instruments in funky colors like pink and lime green?

We do not sell instruments in “funky colors”. Painting wood like this can negatively affect the sound of an instrument. We encourage people to stay away from funky-colored instruments because they are often poorly made and difficult to play.

What do I need to do to properly maintain my instruments and bows?

First, remember that instruments and bows are fragile and need good care. This requires a good, sturdy case before anything else. Then there are a few more things to keep in mind. Never keep your instrument in a hot or cold car – or in the car at all, if you can help it! Extreme weather can cause open seams and even bad cracks that are difficult and expensive to repair. Another thing to watch out for is humidity. Many people think they need to humidify their instrument, but in humid climates like Nashville this is usually unnecessary. Even in drier climates, a case humidifier is a better choice than one that goes into the instrument. The latter can cause significant water damage inside the instrument.

Finally, a few thoughts on routine maintenance. Make sure you always loosen the bow when you are done practicing or playing. This will keep your bow hair and stick healthy. Also, wiping the strings and the instrument with a microfiber cloth will remove rosin build-up and help the strings last longer.

How do I know when my bow needs rehairing?

A bow in need of a rehair may have several symptoms: dark, dirty hair at the ends; uneven tone; and unwillingness to hold rosin are all signs that a bow may need a rehair.

How do I know when to change the strings on my instrument?

The easiest way to know is when a string breaks! But that’s not the only sign your strings need replacing. If you see tarnishing on the strings, or if they begin to unravel at the top or bottom of the string (or anywhere in between!), you need to change your strings. If you don’t want to do this yourself, we will do it for you at no charge!

Do you carry instrument cases?

Yes, we do. And if we don’t have what you want, we’ll order it for you! Also, if you purchase an instrument from us, you receive 20% off the case of your choice.

What accessories do you carry?

We carry strings, cases, rosin, shoulder rests, method books, orchestral mutes, practice mutes, fingerboard tape, microfiber cloths, humidifiers, polish, metronomes, tuners, chin rest covers, pickups, bass quivers, tailpieces, chin rests, fine tuners, tuning pegs, and more! Call to see if we have something that is not listed here.

How do you determine the price of an instrument or bow?

Many factors go into determining the price of an instrument or bow. The luthier, quality of craftsmanship, age of the instrument, and previous owners of the instrument can all help determine value. A trained eye can catch poor craftsmanship and knock-off copies of Stradivarius and Amati. Dustin carefully inspects and researches each instrument we sell to put an accurate value to each instrument. We never overcharge or pretend we have something we do not.

Do you have a rental program?

Yes, and it’s a good one! Click here for more details.

Do you have used instruments? Are these less expensive than new instruments?

Many of our instruments are “used”. Here’s a secret about string instruments: the more they are played, the better they sound! Older instruments are often much more valuable (and therefore more expensive) than new instruments. Of course, this also depends on the reputation of the luthier. The quality, age, and reputation of Stradivarius instruments are factors that make those particular instruments so valuable.

Why are open seams such a common problem in string instruments?

Wood is a material that naturally expands and contracts with humidity and with the seasons. Some seasons are worse than others, but almost every season there will be instruments to which the humidity causes the seams to expand and break the glue in the seam. This is not a big deal but it is important to fix. It’s an easy fix and often only costs 10 or 20 dollars! But it will cost much more than this to undo damage caused by trying to fix it at home with Elmer’s glue or wood glue, so please don’t try it at home.

If I describe it to you, can you tell me over the phone how much my instrument is worth?

We can do our best, but it is very difficult to tell without seeing it in person. If you think you have a Stradivarius, it is impossible to tell without seeing it in person (but you probably don’t – just so you know).

If I describe the damage to you, can you give me an accurate estimate for repair work?

We’ll do our best over the phone, but many times there are “hidden” problems that are only uncovered when you bring your instrument in for inspection by a luthier. Unless you live 100+ miles away, it’s always best to bring it in for the most accurate estimate possible. The same goes for photos. You can email us pictures if you wish, but it is hard to assess the true damage at a distance.

How much will it cost to have my double bass set up?

“Set up” can mean a number of different things, so it depends on what you want done! If all you need is a soundpost adjustment, we can often take care of that at no charge. If you need a new bridge, a fingerboard plane, and new strings, you’re looking at hundreds of dollars. Call or come in to discuss your specific needs and then we can give you an accurate estimate!

Why are 3/4 basses considered full size?

Unlike other instruments where the adult size is 4/4, most adult players only need a 3/4 bass. Occasionally, if a player is over 6 feet tall, they may use a 4/4 bass.

Can you replace the bridge on my instrument?

Absolutely! We cut great custom bridges here at Williams. Each bridge is custom-cut to fit your instrument perfectly, so this takes time and skill. We ask for a full day with your instrument in order to properly fit the bridge.

Do you carry pickups to electrify my instrument?

Yes! We carry several pickups and can install them for you as well. Call for more information.

Do you offer lessons at Williams Fine Violins?

Yes! Click here for details on the instructors here.

Do you offer appraisals?

We do verbal appraisals for free. Written appraisals (usually for insurance purposes) cost $50 each.

What are violins made out of?

The top of the violin, sound post, and bass bar are made out of spruce. The back, sides, bridge, and neck are made out of maple. The fingerboard and pegs are made out of ebony.

Does my case need a humidifier? What kind of humidifier is best?

Many people think they need to humidify their instrument, but in humid climates like Nashville this is usually unnecessary. Even in drier climates, a case humidifier is a better choice than one that goes into the instrument. The latter can cause significant water damage inside the instrument. Come in and see us for a good case humidifier if you are having trouble maintaining humidity in your case.

What is peg dope?

Peg dope is a gummy substance applied to the tuning pegs of an instrument to ensure smooth operation.

What are peg bushings?

Over time, the pegs turning in the peg holes will cause the wood to wear down and eventually the pegs won’t fit the holes anymore. To solve this problem, the peg holes are filled in with wood, sealed, touched up with varnished, then recut. The pegs will either be fitted to the new holes or new pegs will be made, if necessary.

What is a sound post?

A sound post is a small dowel-shaped piece of wood that stands up between the top and bottom of the instrument. It is held up by pressure and placed in a spot to ensure an instrument’s resonance. It does this by giving the sound waves a vehicle through which they can travel and resonate most effectively through the instrument and then on out into the air.

What is a “wolf”? How can I fix it?

When the indigenous resonance of a violin matches the resonance of a note, a sympathetic overtone is produced that creates a “barking” sound called a wolf tone. Wolf tones are most common on cellos, although they may occur on other instruments if the sound post is poorly placed. Wolf tones are corrected on cellos with wolf eliminators, which are metal tubes that are typically fitted around the G string. On other instruments, they are usually corrected with a sound post adjustment. Check out our video for an example of a wolf tone on a violin.

My violin is buzzing when I play it. What might be causing this?

Buzzes are a common problem that are almost always an easy fix. There might be a loose plastic piece on a string, or the tailpiece or chin rest might be loose and vibrating against the instrument or against one another. Sometimes buzzes can be caused by open seams, which are also easily fixed with some glue and overnight clamps (but don’t do this yourself – bring it in to us to glue! We have special glue that will not harm your instrument!). Occasionally, a “universal buzz” (buzzing on every note) may be caused by a bass board crack or a very wide open seam.

What is varnish?

Varnish is the final coat of protective sealant that goes on a violin and is also the final artistic touch to the instrument. It is made from walnut or linseed oil and mixed with oxidized resins to produce certain colors. Over time, varnish inevitably becomes chipped or cracked, but varnish can be matched with relative ease and chips can be covered up and look like new.

Why do some violinists and violists get a dark red or purple mark on their neck?

This happens for one of two reasons. First, an allergic reaction to the metal on many chin rests can cause this mark. Second, even if you have a Whittner chin rest (which are hypoallergenic and have no metal parts to cause an allergic reaction), if you’re practicing 4+ hours/day, you will likely have this mark no matter what.

Is it important to use a shoulder rest if I want to play violin or viola?

We encourage the use of shoulder rests at all levels of playing, but especially for beginners. You may see some professional players practicing and performing without a shoulder rest, but this is because they have been playing for several years and know that’s what works for them. It is always best to start out with a shoulder rest because it helps ensure proper technique, form, and even helps to prevent injury from unnecessary tension.

Can you recommend a good summer camp in Nashville for string players?

There are lots of wonderful summer music camps for string players, and many are right here in Nashville. The Fine Arts Summer Academy (founded by the Annie Moses Band), String Crossings at Belmont University, and NashCamp Bluegrass Camp are all in Nashville. If you go a little further out: the Steve Kaufman Acoustic Kamp is in Maryville, TN; the Fiddle & Pick camp is in Pegram, TN; and the FiddleStar camps are in Ridgetop, TN. 

Can we take instruments and bows out on trial?

Yes. We have a 7-10 day trial program for you to take an instrument to play and show to your instructor. This is a vital step in choosing your instrument and we want to make sure you love what you purchase, so we absolutely encourage a trial period!

Do I need to make an appointment to try instruments or to get my instrument repaired?

Nope! You can bring it in any time we’re open and there will be someone to help you. If you happen to come in when our luthiers are out of town, you might have to leave your instrument for one or two days. If you need something fixed in a hurry, give us a call to make sure everyone is in the shop and available to help you right away.

What is a sound post crack?

When an instrument has a sound post that is too tight, or the instrument received trauma on the top side, a sound post crack may occur. This type of cracked is named for its location – the crack will either be where the sound post meets the top of the instrument or the back of the instrument. While the cracks are undesirable on the top, they are less dangerous than if the crack is on the back. In luthierie, this is referred to as the “kiss of death” for many instruments. A back sound post crack can cause immense depreciation of an instrument,even if repaired. The best way to prevent sound post cracks in violins and violas is a good suspension case is a great idea. Sound post cracks used to be much more common because case technology was not very good.

What is a bass bar crack?

This is a type of crack that runs along the side of the bass bar and the top of the inside top of the instrument. This is a crack usually caused by trauma when an instrument is hit or falls or is otherwise damaged with force.

Can a bass bar come loose?

Yes. Sometimes the ends of the bass bar come unglued. This causes a “universal buzz” throughout the instrument.

Is there a minimum or maximum number of months I have to rent an instrument in your rental program?

No! You can rent for as little or as long as you’d like. We encourage you to purchase the instrument after a year, because this is when the amount of your rental price going towards purchase shifts from 100% to 20%. However, you can keep renting if you wish to do so.

Do I have to buy the instrument I’m renting?

No! You’re under no obligation to purchase the instrument you rent.

Do I have to wait for a certain amount of time before I can buy the instrument I’m renting?

No! You can purchase the instrument at any time. Give us a call and we can do it over the phone so you don’t even have to leave the house.

What credit cards do you take?

We take Visa and MasterCard.

How do I clean my instrument? What about my bow?

After each practice session you should wipe off the strings and the stick of the bow with a microfiber cloth to remove rosin and prevent buildup. If you want a thorough clean that makes the instrument shine, we sell instrument polish that is specially-made to clean the wood on your instrument. Don’t use household cleaners (especially not alcohol!), as these will damage the varnish and may cause other problems with the instrument.

How is rosin made?

Rosin is made from tree (usually pine) sap, which is heated at high temperatures to boil off some of the chemical components and create a solid block of resin. Did you know that rosin is also an ingredient most kinds of soda?

What is a bridge warp? Why does it happen?

 A bridge warp is a fairly common problem in string instruments. This happens over time when the weather changes, or it can happen when the bridge is made from wood that is too soft to support the pressure of the strings.


©2017 Williams Fine Violins // 1218 17th Ave S. Nashville, TN 37215 // 615-429-2927