Antique Violins

How to recognize which class of instruments could ever be deemed as antique. So many musical instruments are relatively new. Many are developed as an improvement or to duplicate classic instruments of the past. Someone trying to recognize which family of musical instruments could ever achieve antique status could be a little daunting. I’m going to give you an insight into one family that is been around for a long time.

antique violins

The violin. It didn’t start at out as the violin. Its first appearances on the scene were as the fiddle or the lira da braccio. If you want to measure the time that these first came around, you can go all the way back to 5000 BC among the Indies tribes of Peru. They didn’t have the refined methods of creating strings similar to the ones used now, but then used rope which was polish down very finely to create the first sounds.

The first methods of play were primarily plucking. A similar method you would use in a banjo or guitar was applied to these instruments. They gave off a sharp high pitched sound due to the small size of the piece, and we’re easy for most people to learn. Later down the line the introduction of the bow revolutionized the play of the instrument. This was a tool with its own set of tight strings that would run along a perpendicular axis to the instruments strings. They created a smooth and mellow sound which could be stretched into longer tones than mere plucking. It also allowed for multiple strings to be played at the same time which literally created dozens of extra notes for the player. That’s just a little history of a violin, so if you are an antique hunter, and are thinking about specializing and in specific market, just know that the violin holds a lot of history and may just be what you were looking for.

How I Got Into Antiques

The best times my father and I had were going to yard sales on the weekends looking for musical instruments. Especially antique ones. He would find a piece, and then haggle with the owner over price. Afterwards, we would go for ice cream and head home. The rest of the afternoon would be spent in his workshop‎; refinishing or rebuilding these pieces of musical history. It was funny, a lot of times he would throw out most of his inventory because he was just looking for one part. Like a mouthpiece or horn section.

horn mouth piece

For a while, I would see so many musical instruments come and go, but never knew what happened to them. I found out later that he sold the finished units to collectors. It turns out that the antique music business is very lucrative. There are lots of collectors looking to own a part of music history. There are shows and conventions all over the world.

He enjoyed going to the big gatherings, but he was partial to the bazaars and garage sales. It was like a treasure hunt for him. He was always on the prowl for an instrument that may have been played by a famous band member. He relied on sellers naivete of the top stars in jazz and classical to hopefully unearth a rare find. Most of the time there was no such luck, but he usually walked away with something he could fix and sell.

convention for music

He made a nice living off of rebuilding old guitars and trumpets. I often wondered though: why this instead of maybe cars or coins? It happens that his father shared with him his love of early jazz. That time they spent together listening to records and going to concerts was how they bonded. Now, he and I are able to share the same experience every weekend. I am sure that I will want to bring that same love of music with to time that I will spend with my children.

Antique Drums


antique drum set

One of the oldest musical instruments known to man is the drum. Ancient cultures first utilized this musical instrument as a tool, rather than for entertainment. It symbolized different events of the day. When It was time to gather and eat; they would beat a drum. When the men would gather for the hunt, they would once again beat a drum. You have to realize that there were no clocks back then, so an official “timekeeper” was in charge of the changing of activities.

As groups started to become more civilized, and efficient, they had more time to actually celebrate their good fortune. Since the drum was the only noisemaker they had, it became a method to give sound to their stories. Many of the earliest antique models were simply made out of hollowed trees and animal hide. Since keeping rhythm is an inborn human skill, these celebrations eventually developed into dancing extravaganzas.

Fast forward to medieval time, they learned that different size drums produced a variety of sounds. They would fashion many of them together to be able to shift from one to another quickly. They would attach old bells to them to add a higher note, and transition from one part to the next.

medival drums

As time moved on, designers learned to create curved shells for the drum, instead of carving out the insides of an old log. They experimented with different thicknesses of skins to create deeper sounds. The instrument started to become more than just a beat mechanism, but became an integral part of the ensemble.

These days, there are so many different types and styles of drums that it boggles the mind. They can produce ant desired sound, and if that is not good enough, you can get an electronic set that is fully programmable.

Despite all of the advances, many players still favor the more antique and traditional models. They feel that the sound is truer, and gives them a gratifying link to the past. Rock drummer Jon Kois is one of those “old schoolers”. He plays with newer bands, but always chooses the older sets to play, and just re-tunes them to bring them back to their traditional glory. His latest find was at an antique fair in Eastern Pennsylvania. He acquired a Ludwig 5-piece set from 1969. Still with the original paint.

When he teaches his course called drums for beginners he insists that his students learn on a vintage set in his studio, similar to the one he owns. Even if they go back to their more modern instruments they will get a feel for how the drummers of the past played.