Renting a Learner's Viol
Members of VdGS/Pacifica can rent an adequate viol from the Chapter's rental collection for $25-$35 per month. Contact John Mark.
Members of VdGSA (the national viol organization of which Pacifica is a chapter) can rent a viol. For availability and rates, see the VdGSA rental page.
Sources for Used Viols
Airplane Travel Tips
Pack your viol in preparation for the worst--it might be taken away from you and flung onto a baggage carrousel, perhaps landing upside down. Use the strongest case you can find. Lower the strings a bit but not so much that the bridge could fall. Secure the neck with cord and pack small cloth items around the pegs, neck, and bridge, and under the tailpiece. Bits of foam or your underwear work equally well. Secure the bow with twist ties so it doesn't fall on the viol, and protect the top of the viol further with a piece of foam or more socks. Since airline cabins and baggage holds are terribly dry, include a Dampit or sponge inside a plastic bag. Pack extra padding around the instrument so that the viol cannot move inside its case and, most important, support both sides of the bridge. Lock and/or tape the case.
Aim first to get the viol on the plane with you in the passenger cabin.
If you have a treble or tenor, hold your viol unobtrusively at your side and don't mention it to the airline staff ahead of time. Just walk on as if you had every right to be carrying this long thing. You may have good luck boarding with it if the plane is not full. Try to be one of the first passengers to board, for the obvious reason that you must find overhead bin space for your viol. Overhead bins are especially large on 757s.
If you have a bass, all bets are off, and you will do well to assume the air of a famous soloist on his/her way to a concert that very evening, carrying an irreplaceable instrument that if damaged would break the hearts of ticketholders from around the world.
If all these tactics fail and you are stopped at the boarding point, this is ideal, for if you have gotten this far, you can be sure your instrument will be hand-carried to the baggage compartment. If you're lucky, it will be the last item loaded and the first item unloaded, also hand-carried at your destination. At the moment of relinquishing the viol, slap a huge sticker on it that says "HAND CARRY."
When retrieving your checked viol, look quickly in odd places such as "Outsize Baggage" areas. If it's hand carried, it may end up there. But as soon as the carrousel starts to spit out bags, station yourself or a friend right at the opening in case your viol is spit violently out.
If you are fairly sure your viol well be wrested from you and flung heartlessly on a carrousel, you might prepare as Washington, D.C.-area performer and teacher Tina Chancey recommended in the June 1998 issue of the VdGSA News: make a gamba duffel.
A five-foot-long gamba duffel. "While nothing in this life is sure," wrote Tina, "I've used my gamba duffel for six years now to carry my Tourin six-string on more than 60 flights ... and nothing has broken yet." She created a duffel out of heavy-duty canvas. Inside she puts a mattress of dense 3-inch foam to support the neck. She pads the instrument as usual, locks it in its case and stands it on its side inside the duffel and mattress. The result is disarmingly light and bouncy, she says, like a Pillsbury Dough Boy, and she thinks its comical shape and blue color disarm airline check-in personnel--usually she doesn't have to pay over-size charges.
Bob Buzzard of San Diego has an ingenious method that also gets you a little revenge on the baggage handlers: Pack your viol inside its case and pack the case inside a huge box, clearly labeled fragile and identified, but that includes no handle. "If they can't pick it up by a handle," says Bob, "they can't fling it."