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Violins made in China. What are you own experiences with them?

Instruments: It seems that easiest way to get a negative reviews regarding the quality of a Chinese violin is to let others know it is Chinese before you play it. It is absolutely psychological.

From Emil Albanese
Posted November 2, 2007 at 02:16 AM

It seems that easiest way to get a negative reviews regarding the quality of a Chinese violin is to let others know it is Chinese before you play it. It is absolutely psychological. There are many wonderful violins that are exported from China at very reasonable prices. Yet, I often hear negative comments before anyone has experienced the feel or sound. Of course there are low level factory violins that will perform comensurate with the price. But there are also many nice ones that can be gotten in a very very modest price range.

Some sellers try to allay the concerns of consumers by boasting the virtues of their own quality controls. One seller of violins claims to have the violins made in an overseas workshop and then brought here to be properly set up. It is almost illogical that you would entrust a Chinese luthier to select the tonewood and handcraft the instrument but for some reason the bridge, accesories and soundpost are a stretch?

I am very suspect of the 'we import them from China and regraduate them to certain specifications', as well. If you really want to impress, take a 14" wooden shoe from Holland and regradute that into a fineinstrument. Turning an already well made violin into a well made violin is not very magical.

What experiences have others had with violins fron China?

Has anyone used a modestly priced one as their primary one professionally?

From T Net
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 02:28 AM
Personally, it doesn't matter to me who made the instrument. I am all about the quality of sound. That said, cheap instruments generally sound unpleasant to the ear. I'm talking the under $250 category. To ask about a moderately priced instrument is too general. We all have our own idea of what 'moderately priced' means to us in terms of dollars. To me it would be say around $800. The next person might consider an instrument valued at $1500 to be moderate.

The bottom line however is to buy the best instrument you can afford. Doesn't matter who made it, what it's heritage is, or how inexpensive it was. What's most important is you have an instrument to play, to learn on and to enjoy.

From T Carlsen
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 05:36 AM
I once helped audition a $2,000 Chinese violin that was visually an amazing duplicate of a old, expensive Italian master violin. It was so well "painted" that I thought it could fool some naive buyers. As I looked at it, I thought that it must have been painted by hand with painter paints -- maybe lead paint.

It sounded fine, although the fingerboard/neck set-up was a little odd. I wonder who made it? Where was it manufactured? What will be the level of quality over time? Will anyone buy it when I want to sell it? How will it sound in a few years?

Good violins made by skillful craftsman of quality woods are suppose to get better with age, but some lower-price violins actually get dull. It's called the "new instrument syndrome." If you search the internet you will find an article in Strings magazine about this.

The quality of the wood is so important when making a violin. Violins are best when they are made with aged maple that has come from trees grown in high altitudes, such as near the Alps and then aged. Some woods have been aged many decades and even over 100 years. The trees grow slower at high altitudes, which makes the wood grain more compact. And then the wood needs to be the correct thickness. Too thin wood can sound more appealing at first but then is more vulnerable to break later under the tension of the strings.

The varnish used to make a violin is also very important. Indeed, exceptional varnish is considered one of the reasons why the million-dollar Strads and del Gesu violins sound so great, I read. Master luthiers guard their varish recipes, often passed down through generations. Bad varnishes can muffle a violin. How a varnish ages over time is also very important, I read. Some varnishes can harden over time and dampen the ability of the violin to vibrate. How will certain Chinese violins age?

For the Chinese violins that are a good value, such as Snow violins and other brands, this is not a big concern for the price. You are getting a good violin for a lower price. But I would be a little cautious when investing money on a more expensive instrument.

China has the potential to make great violins cheap, but for now I would like to see more.

Sound and playability are critical when buying a more expensive instrument, but so is the quality of the craftsmanship, because you want to have confidence that your investment is still going to sound good in a few years. This is a general statement and not targeted at Chinese instruments.

Other factors in a purchase include the the marketability of that violin, because someday you may need to sell the instrument. Factors include the quality of materiels, the reputation of the maker, such as a master maker or at least under a master's supervision, the appearance (such as flaming) which can affect it's long term value, and the general condition.

I once was shown a different violin for $2,000 that had varnish that was horribly uneven, as if it had port wine stains. It sounded fine at the audition, but could I ever sell the thing? And with that inconsistent varnish, how will it sound over time with the varnish so poorly applied unevenly?

As I have said elsewhere, for the $2,000 to $5,000 range, you can find quality violins made under the supervision of a master maker. I think master luthiers in Eastern Europe are making great violins for the under $5,000 range because labor costs are lower in Eastern Europe, yet the makers are master certified. Makers in Sofia (several makers under the Sofia name), other areas of Bulgaria, Hungary, and Luby, Czech Republic (such as Josef Holpuch) come to mind.

Above that price range, you have other choices, including used violins of good reputation and various other master makers, including in America.

That's what I think. I think the potential in China is tremendous, and I would buy a good value Chinese step-up violin but not an expensive one - yet. I think we need to know more about the various Chinese makers and methods.

From Joe Fischer
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 04:18 AM
Chinese violins are accessable to the general public.I've owned several and most were just fine.
For the beginning student,they are a godsend !
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 04:21 AM
we are now seeing extremely good chinese violins at evry reasonable prices here in Jaapn. Very reputable shops run by people I trust bring the insturments over, make sure they are in good playing order and sell them for between 300 and 400 thousand yen. Thats about 3500 dollars. They are very well made, attractive and sound exactly as an insturment in that price range shoudl sound.. I give them the same playign time I do any otehr instrument when helping a studnet select one. They do have a tendency to be a little light which might account for the easy playing right from the beginning. Does that suggets that somewhere down the road they may burn out or crack too easily? I don`t know.
From T Carlsen
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 05:42 AM
You can get a quality Markneukirchen Germany violin, finished by a reputable American luthier, for only $1,020 at www.fineviolins.com. Plus you get a free pernambuco bow and case. Or you can get a fabulous mastercrafted Czech violin made by a certified master luthier on sale at www.jimlaabs.com/scripts/prodlist.asp?idCategory=367 (Although each instrument is always slightly unique.)
From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 04:58 AM
Well, I am no authority, but I do reside in China, and have sampled many local violins - some over $7000 here. When you start paying +$3500 locally, you get very good build and finish quality. But the sound is lacking from what I call a true concert quality violin - and this goes for the Cao ones too IMHO. Where the Chinese fiddles break down in all cases I have tried so far is the attack. When they are played for maximum attack and volume (say the G string), each one has "cracked" the sound. Chinese fiddles can sound ok on the E and A strings, but the D and G lack depth and power. So far, all cannot produce adequate tone in the upper positions. This is not to criticise: only to state a personal opinion about the pros and cons.

Chinese woods are not equal. There are 2 sources: north and south. The southern maple has broad flaming. The northern has narrow flaming, and can appear as stripes. The northern wood is what you want: it has the potential to improve sound with age. The southern wood will not improve sound as it ages. Northern wood will always cost more, and could keep its value. Southern wood has almost no resale value.

Overall, I find the better Chinese violins good for beginners, as they can be a low-cost useful learning tool. For the 1/8 to 3/4 size, perhaps Chinese can't be beat for price. But any serious student at the 4/4 size will want something better. Certainly, no advanced student in China plays on a Chinese violin - this is very evident by a tour of the conservatory. So, this says something.

Everything has a price for the quality. Chinese luthiers have certainly improved, and can now offer a reasonable quality and price, and fill a market need. Nothing wrong with this, and an advantage for the beginner.

From Frank-Michael Fischer
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 05:45 AM
On one of my flights to South East Asia I had the opportunity to fly along the Himalayas. Impressive! So I went back to my school maps comparing the size (not the height) of the Alps (slopes for violin wood) with the Himalayas again: There must be at least 100x more slopes for violin wood at the right altitudes there, on the Chinese side alone. Just because of this geographic advantage Chinese could (and most likely will) outmanufacture Alpine makers easily. Ofcourse this only if the right wood really plays a role in violin quality as all experts explain here over and over again.

The aging argument sounds very strange to me, too. With wine I can still understand it: Rotten grape juice tastes less awful if you give it more time to get rotten - possible. But violins? Who else than violinists and other string players would invest into a unfinished product? Imagine a painter (e.g. Rembrandt) buying a rather expensive brush knowing after 200 years of use it will be the best brush in the world?

One could buy a $2000 violin every year and burn it after a year and this for 50 years and spend about $100000 in total without getting nervous how the instrument will age.

Europeans broke Chinas porcelain and paper monopolies; China will break the European "good violin" monopoly in no time. Violinists should use this to their advantage, by putting much, much more price pressure on non-Asian vendors and by supporting the Chinese competitor as much as only possible. If - what I seriously doubt, because I know leaders and soloists playing $2000 Chinese instruments today already - Chinese will never be able to produce good instruments then there could be a niche for European and other manufacturers who will then depend on Chinese wood, most likely.


From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 06:14 AM
I've yet to play a Chinese instrument that didn't make me cringe. Not because it was Chinese. Merely because every Chinese fiddle I've played so far has been unspeakable garbage. Sometimes I knew ahead of time what I was playing and sometimes I didn't. But without exception, I've yet to come across a laudable fiddle from the Far East.

That being said, I certainly haven't tried those instruments in any comprehensive or even orderly way. I just played what was put in front of me at various times. Perhaps out there, somewhere, is a wonderful Strad-like fiddle from Guangzhou. And, perhaps, there is a purple moocow prancing along in the fields of Ireland. I can't prove there isn't one. But I've yet to see evidence that there is.

Mere assertions that SURELY one day the Western hold on violinmaking will be broken don't qualify as proof, though. If past performance is an indicator, the future holds more cheap, mass-produced, crude pieces of factory-made firewood flooding the market from the East. Which should give Dr. Nagyvary all the ammo he needs to once and for all prove that he is Antonio Stradivari reborn.

From Julie Slama
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 01:33 PM
I haven't seen the top end of the Chinese violins, but my experience with the entry-level and step-up ones is that they don't yet match the Germans in sound quality. On the other hand, the Germans also tend to be more expensive for the entry-level range, so you're getting what you pay for.
I for one am grateful that the cheaper Chinese violins are there, as they make it possible for kids without a lot of money to get into violin playing.
I'm no luthier, so I'll leave it to others to judge the workmanship, but what I find is that they tend to lack depth and color. A German in the same price range from my experience tends to have a bit more character, although the Chinese ones are occasionally very 'pretty', cosmetically speaking.
Just remember, 'made in Japan' used to mean poor quality, too. ^o^
Give them a few years.
From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 02:24 PM
I should hasten to add a vote for one of Julie's points. Namely, that the Chinese fiddles, horrible or not, are affordable and make a good entry-level purchase for someone just starting out with lessons. As I constantly tell parents worried about buying a good violin for their kids who are about to have their first-ever lesson, it needn't be good. It need only not be crippling or grotesquely flawed. In other words, if (as on one of my students' instruments) the bridge and fingerboard are so screwed up that the strings practically lie on the fingerboard, the fiddle shouldn't be played. But if the fiddle is workmanlike and merely has an unpleasant sound, it's more than adequate for learning how to place fingers, hold the instrument and hold the bow.

My usual analogy is that one doesn't need a Formula One car, or even a "mere" Ferrari, in order to learn how to drive. As a beginner, one wouldn't be able to appreciate or utilize what tools of that caliber have to offer. What makes a Ferrari better than a standard Volvo comes into play only at the level of comparison between two professional drivers.

From al ku
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 02:46 PM
the only problem with a chinese-made ebay $19.99 special is that it can look very heavy when playing it:):):)


From Bruce Berg
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 04:07 PM
I have seen a good number of the "higher end" Chinese (i.e. around the $3000-$3800 range) and workmanship is excellent as well as setup. They tend to sound much better than other instruments of that price range. However, tonal quality varies quite a bit between instruments since they are made by individual makers, not mass produced. Some sound great, but there are duds out there, just as with other violins. So if you are looking for this type of instrument be picky and look at a bunch of them. The students of mine and of my colleagues have been very happy with them, especially given the price.
From Wayne Rogers
Posted on November 2, 2007 at 08:23 PM
I've recently been looking at violins in the sub-$10,000 region and have played over 50 instruments: Old and new European trade instruments, new Romanian instruments (at Gliga in LA), new Chinese at Scott Cao (at Scott Cao in Campell) and Ming Jaing Zhu. I have to say that there are a lot of clunkers out there (mostly old European instruments), but the overall sound of the Cao and Zhu violins is consistently good, even at half the price of comparable Europeans. The Gliga's were a little less consistent, but prices were lower and the sound was deeper. For my taste, the combination of sound and workmanship of the Cao's were the best. I still haven't given up my old German violin though.
From Sean Gillia
Posted on November 3, 2007 at 02:39 AM
I confess I find myself wondering exactly what people mean when they speak of Chinese violins -- as if they were all the same. Now, maybe we can make some useful broad observations about low-end mass-produced student instruments (the same way, for instance, we can speak broadly of student instruments from Romania or Germany), but I'm not sure how meaningful these generalizations are when we bring them down to individual fiddles made by individual makers, many of whom have received their training abroad, and even get their wood from the same European sources every other maker does. How meaningful, in these cases, is country of residence? Was Feng Jiang a Chinese maker when he worked in Beijing? Is he an American maker now that he makes his fiddles in Ann Arbor? (I don't know, but he sure prices them like high-end modern-maker fiddles, and by most accounts, for excellent reasons.)

My daughter plays a violin made by Feng Jiang's brother, VSA silver medal winner Shan Jiang (http://www.jiangviolins.com), who happens to reside in China. She really likes it, so does her teacher, and it seems to me that the price I paid (slightly under $7,000), while high for a "Chinese" violin, was just right for a Shan Jiang violin, and represented an excellent value compared with similar-quality U.S.-made fiddles -- that is to say, fiddles made by VSA-award-winning U.S. makers.

From Royce Faina
Posted on November 4, 2007 at 12:54 PM
I have a violin made in China and quite frankly even with the cheap steel strings I was impressed. After switching to Dominants it really sings! Very good responce, tone, warmth, etc. And this is one of the $100.00 low end violins. The bow is not to my taste. Soon I'll have my 140 year old bow rehaired and ready to do battle.
From Mark Merritt
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 03:33 AM
About 6 year ago I bought a Chinese instrument from Shar (I live in Ann Arbor, so I actually went to their showroom) for $900. (It was from the Lamberti line, but they no longer carry that specific model.) It sounds better than a lot of instruments that I have played in the 6-7k range.

There's a lot of poor Chinese violins out there, (my violin actually doesn't really look or sound anything like any of the other lamberti instruments that I've played) and my instrument has some peg box issues; I'd be hesitant to drop five figures on one, but you can really find some amazing deals if you look around- I've probably spent twice as much on bows as I did on my violin, and I'm using in college now.

From Kristian Rahbek Knudsen
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 10:11 AM
I think the field of chinese violins has diversified to some extent lately. You still have awfull VSO's out there but also makers like Shiang Jiang with a VSA silver medal and another chinese maker(name escapes me)who took a gold medal in the last VSA competition. I am under the impression that these guys use european wood for their insturments. I have tried a couple of Shiang Jiang's instruments and they are not bad at all. In fact There are a couple playing in the Royal Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra.
I would say they are not a cheap shortcut to a Strad but definately excellent value for money.
From Shawn Smith
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 01:01 PM
There are some good workshop violins from China. Avoid the factory made models though.
From Howard Harkness
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 05:41 PM
I have bought (and sold) about 100 Chinese violins. I have found that the factory-made violins are not too bad if you skip the lower 3 or 4 levels that are offered. The main problem with these instruments has been poorly-fitted pegs, and occasionally poorly-fitted bridges. Most of them can be greatly improved with minor re-planing of the fingerboard, a new bridge, and careful fitting of good pegs. I also toss the strings that come with them, and install new perlon-core strings (also from China).

The result is a reasonably decent-sounding instrument that is suitable for a beginner that can be priced low enough so that the family is not financially strained. For a student who will be studying more than just a few months, it turns out to be much cheaper than renting an instrument, especially since I guarantee to buy the instrument back for 50% of the selling price for as long as the instrument is in good shape (the instrument can usually be sold for more than that, but it is sometimes more convenient).

Of course, these are not world-class instruments, and a serious student will be looking for a better violin in a few years. I tell my customers this up front, and they know what they are getting, and are generally happy with it.

From Cathy Gray
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 06:05 PM
My first experience w/ a Chinese violin:
Several years ago I was teaching in a public school and there was one violinist whose violin sounded horrible. Every day I would hear it and think how horrible it was. I finally asked the student if I could look at it. Inside there was a label that said "made in China" and there was no soundpost. I immediately adopted the impression that Chinese violins were bad. But I have heard many people since then tell me there are many very good violins coming from China.
From william greener
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 06:19 PM
I have three Shan Jiang violins (Beijing) that I purchased from his brother, Feng Jiang (Ann Arbor). Feng and Shan are multiple gold and silver medal winners, respectively, at VSA (2004, 2006). The instruments are excellent in every way-beautiful workmanship and sound quality. Shan's medal-winning entry at 2006 VSA was easy to recognize among the 300 or so violins in competition. I have two friends who own and play Shan's violins as their main instrument. Even at $7,000, these instruments are high in value.
From Daniel Nathanson
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 08:32 PM
For those interested in getting to know a really good Chinese violin brand, may I invite you to have a look at what we offer here at SNOW Violin :). Affordable, great sounding and looking, I really am proud to be part of such a company that cares so much for the instrument and the people that play them.
Come and learn more about us at - www.snowviolin.com or add us as a friend if you have myspace - www.myspace.com/snowviolin.
From James Kytonen
Posted on November 21, 2007 at 12:09 AM
"2006 VSA Competition Winners
November 6 - 12, 2006

2006 Winners

Gold Medal
Ming-Jiang Zhu

Silver Medal for Workmanship
Borja Bernabeu 17
Raymond Schryer 88
William R Scott 197

Silver Medal for Tone
Jeff Phillips 136
Zu-Liang Wu 37

Certificate of Merit for Workmanship
Feng Jiang 60
Krzysztof Krupa 45
Philippe Mahu 192
Jan Spidlen 43
Shiquan Zhao 187

Certificate of Merit for Tone
Dorian Barnes 158
Jan Bartos 157
J. Peter Bingen 195
Xueping Hu 120
Feng Jiang 60
Shan Jiang 34
Ryan Soltis 121 "
This List will speak volumes if you choose to read it in it's entirety here Violin Society of America

I tell my clients, without hesitation, if your purchase is under $6,000,Play It....doesn't matter country of origin or age....(if you like the sound and it's vintage Great....it will probably remain that way...if new...good...only gets better..)

Play them...Enjoy them...Share your music with us...!!!

Violin Works

From Emil Albanese
Posted on November 21, 2007 at 03:11 AM
Well said, Jim. I agree.


From Sean Bishop
Posted on November 21, 2007 at 02:56 PM
As a dealer whom normally sells college level and above instruments last week I saw (and bought) some of the Jay Haide antique range. The quality is quite amazing for the price and I would be very very scared if I was a maker (and not Chinese!)
While people talk about levels of quality with the made in China label just remember before the cultural revolution China was the word in quality antiques and artifacts!! They will rise again!
From Eitan Silkoff
Posted on November 21, 2007 at 09:51 PM
My very good friend has a chinese teacher. He is an amazing violinist. Him and his brother traveled to America to earn more money. Coincedently his brother is a master violin maker. My friend spent $8,000 on her instrument that was made for her. It is a quality instrument. Don't get these bright, orange-colored new-age violins. If you're going to buy a violin, spend at least more than 3,000.
From Gerry Branca
Posted on November 22, 2007 at 12:21 AM
China made instruments do offer the "budding" student the opertunity to afford an instrument and not just rent.
I sell both china made and reconditioned vintage instruments in my repair shop,but the instrument is played first to see if the buyer likes the sound quality. Usually the price is commensuret with the quality of sound because the instrument was given the attention to tune the wood as it was being made as well as tuning the chamber after the instrument was assembled.
China bought up a lot of vintage American and European instruments to copy their design and accoustical quality to mass produce instruments.
This is the current trend in the market today. It is flooded with instruments.
Make a wise choice and play the instrument first. If you want to buy just for price - go to E-Bay - but you probably won't get what you paid for.
The new china made instruments of quality sound that I deal with usually retail in the $1500 to $3000 price range and are made with 100 year old select solid woods.The higher range are also more highly decorated for looks as Stradivarius did on some of his violins.
Know the individual or company where the instrument comes from and you will not go wrong in what you can afford to purchase.
I know of some Luthiers that take a China made instrument and correct it acoustically and then sell it. I have hear the vast improvement in sound and it is incredible and at a great affordable price!
The Violin Doctor Gerry
From David Burgess
Posted on November 22, 2007 at 12:59 AM
From Gerry Branca;

"The new china made instruments of quality sound that I deal with usually retail in the $1500 to $3000 price range and are made with 100 year old select solid woods."
And what steps have you taken to verify the age of this wood? ;)

From Jessie Vallejo
Posted on November 22, 2007 at 05:50 PM
I thought my Landi Sheng was a decent Chinese violin. Only thing was that there was varnish on the neck...slightly annoying.

It had a nice, sweet sound. I'd love to have that back for a teaching or travel violin (my Scherl & Roth, then made in Germany is okay, but just doesn't ring anywhere close to my good violin now, or the Landi Sheng).

From Roelof Bijkerk
Posted on November 23, 2007 at 10:12 PM
I have like 2 white violins put together again after harmonising plates.....

They are fine.

Have I think three more.

From Bart Dzieciatko
Posted on July 8, 2009 at 07:42 PM

I started with chinese violin. It was good quality after upgrade given by a luthier but not exceptional. Mine was a bit heavier than other violins I had pleasure to try. After that I realised that I needed a chnage and that I needed something that will satisfy my level of playing.  I got strunal Czech violin and it was so much different. After that I got violin from German manufacture.

I really don't know what to think about chinese instruments. They are cheap and often oddly made but luthier can do some tricks to prove their sound and it's not that expensive to do.

From Chris Dolan
Posted on July 9, 2009 at 02:50 AM

I've played one violin known to be of Chinese origin (I am sure there are quite a lot of them around disguised as something else).  The instrument was new and of good, clean workmanship, however it was re-graduated and varnished here in the states.  The sound was even and full, with a nice sizzle.  Were it not for the fact that I am currently playing on a much older German instrument from 1894, with absolutely gorgeous tone, I would have been tempted to take the Chinese violin home for a trial (given the asking price and all).  No, it was not the perfect violin, but neither was the Lorenzo Ventapane I played a few weeks earlier.

From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on July 9, 2009 at 03:22 AM

FWIW To comment more about woods:

cured 100 years?   extremely unlikely.  the tree may be 100 yrs in age, but not cured this long. but the Chinese do cure their woods.  based upon my conversations with the luthiers, this ranges from 3 to 20 years.  some luthiers use imported tone woods,so even greater variation for age.

I am not biased or impressed by brand names.  To me, a violin should sound and play well: who made it and where are irrelevant to me. I am ever on the lookout for "the steal" or the "hidden gem".  Alas, it just so happens that each end every violin I have ever heard having a proper sound commands a high price, regardless of the luthier, nationality, age.

whatever the woods, finishes, methods, the simple fact is I have yet to hear a proper sound come from any Chinese violin I have tried. they can be sweet on E and A strings, but the D and G are always a "closed-in" sound.  the overall tone can be pleasant, and well balanced, but muted. the sound cracks when played with vigour.  to my ear, all the ones I have tried and heard have a touch of ErHu in their sound.  great value for learners, but I think any aspiring or accomplished player will want something more.


From Gene Wie
Posted on July 9, 2009 at 07:51 AM

Globalization has ensured that talented makers, regardless of their national origin, have had the opportunity to study under masters from the world over and as a result there isn't an identifiable national characteristic to handmade instruments although certain shops tend to have similar traits spread throughout their instrument lines (ala Scott Cao). And places like the William Harris Lee workshop in Chicago has been both the training ground and home for makers from many different countries (including China) and quite a few of those developed makers return home to share their acquired knowledge with others, improving their craft at the local level.

The reality is, the thousands of kids that I interact with every year here play on excellent instruments that cost somewhere in the $500 range, most made in workshops in mainland China. They are superior in every way to the $1500 German clunkers of the 80's, and never before in history have we had this quality of "student" instrument. My little 4th graders actually have true violas with tall ribs (albeit 12" in the length) that sound pretty good  instead of restrung violins, because these workshops are willing to produce high quality fractional instruments.

"Proper" sound? That's an impossible standard...find ten people on this board and you'll find ten different opinions on what a violin is supposed to sound like.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 9, 2009 at 12:20 PM

 I recently bought a $1500 Carlo Lamberti violin from Shar, which I think is one of those made in China set up in the US brands.   I've been trying to let other people form their own opinion about it by just having them listen to it before I tell them that it is a Carlo Lamberti from Shar, and when I do that, the comments are uniformly very positive.  

My teacher thinks it was a great deal, financially.  And I think that's maybe the most important point here in this price range.  I couldn't afford more, even though I would have liked to.  And I'm not a professional, I don't depend on my violin for my living.  

Getting this new violin really made a difference in how I feel about myself as a violinist.  I like listening to myself practice more, and practicing is more rewarding.  I had gotten the same sort of  benefit a few years ago by buying a good student viola that I really liked the sound of.  I was almost ready to make the viola my primary instrument because I enjoyed its sound so much more than that of the violin.  But now that I have a violin that I like just as well, I'm realizing it's not the viola, per se--I actually like both instruments about equally well, for different reasons.  

I don't think I could have done that in the violin market the way it was 20 or 30 years ago.  Thirty years ago, what was available in my price range was what I was playing on before (a German factory instrument, about 150 years old, but of uncertain provenance otherwise)--and the difference is really quite amazing.  So I'm grateful to the Chinese makers who've raised the bar like this.

From Chris Dolan
Posted on July 9, 2009 at 05:19 PM

Very good points, Karen.  The thing with violins is that they are all different, just like people, and as such there are always exceptions to the rule (the violin I play now being one of them, it being an older German instrument of questionable provenance, but with great arching and fabulous tone).

From Cristian Gruber
Posted on July 12, 2009 at 12:28 AM

I don't understand all this stigma around Chinese violins. Personally, I own a Chinese made instrument and it plays fine and sounds wonderful. I guess that with so many cheap run off the mill things being made in China these days people just naturally assume that a Chinese made instrument is naturally mediocre. I don't know.

However, all I can say is that mine is a very good violin, mabe others have had different experiences... 

From Jessie Vallejo
Posted on July 12, 2009 at 05:54 AM

My experience...

As a teacher, and for entry level instruments, most of the Chinese ones I've seen with students ( contrasting Gene's experience, but I'm sure there are wonderful entry level ones out there) had major problems with the pegs and just the violin feeling like every part was NOT carefully measured.

However, I know a few dealers who have been dealing Chinese violins...one in Maywood NJ and the other in Syracuse NY....these instruments they get are decent...My Chinese violin (Landi Sheng, I believe, the La Crescenta model) was purchased from Richard Gagliardi in Maywood, and was great....I loved it...it was only $1500, so it wasn't a professional instrument by any means, though I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only weird thing about it was that there was too much lacquer on the neck of the instrument, and the lower range didn't get as smooth and deep as I wanted...other than that it was wonderful to play on and I miss it. I only gave it up because there was no other way I could afford the next violin I purchased.

http://www.violinist.com/media/367/  ...this is me playing as a sophomore in college with the Landi Sheng...it definitely wasn't a bad violin (though I am not the greatest violinist ;) ) but maybe it will give you some idea...


From Anna Meyer
Posted on July 12, 2009 at 01:52 PM

I owe a Chinese violin and it´s a great instrument in my opinion. Many students in my music conservatory use Chinese violinst and they are all extremely good instruments. I once got a really nasty comment about my violin. It was following: "So you´r violin is Chinese, my teacher says all Chinese violin suck." Just like that my violin was deemed a bad one just because it was Chinese made. In my opinion China produces just as good and bad instruments as any other country. I´ve listened to both excellent and extremely bad sounding Chezch instruments and German as well.

So why in the world should the "nationality" of a violin be able to say whether the instrument is good or not?

From Michael Richwine
Posted on July 12, 2009 at 02:07 PM

Bigotry overrides objectivity in a lot of people.

If it weren't for China, lots of beginning students would be paying lots more money for much less instrument. I agree that there are some pretty good step-up instruments coming out of there as well, drat it! (Haven't had a chance to look at any pro level instruments.)


From Ken MCKAY
Posted on July 12, 2009 at 03:20 PM
I have sold a lot of Chinese violins and they have made some great music! Ming Jiang Zhu is my favorite, Snow, Cao are also good. I would not underestimate the value of a good "rework" or and nice set up.
From Surapol Pairojtanachai
Posted on August 23, 2011 at 02:31 AM

If you have tried Ming Jiang Zhu's violin, your perception about Chinese violin may change. His violin is always light in weight and very very easy to play. I have talked to Mr. Zhu. His secret is in the wood. He only uses high quality wood that is particularly strong, so the plate can be made thinner, yet hold its integrity for develop better tone while aging.

You may visit www.bestviolinstore.com for Mr. Zhu's high end violins. We carry from model 909 to 920, and these violin are sold with signed certificate from Mr. Zhu. We offer a very low introductory price you will not find anywhere. As always, your total satisfaction is guaranteed.

Thank you,

Ilya Gringolts

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