From Thomas Karlin
Posted November 5, 2008 at 04:05 AM
Does anybody know anything about Lark Brand violins? All I know is that it comes from China because there are Chinese characters in addition to the English text on the label. Any info is greatly appreciated.
my first violin was a Lark. It was junk. The varnish was very thick and it chipped off. The fingerboard wasn't real ebony and the sound was terribly small and nasal.
one of the cheapest brands in China. disposable violins. used here for very small children only, and in schools.
I think my first may have been a Lark. Not a good way o start. A small Strad is always the insturment of choice.
Lark is a name brand of one of many, many Chinese companies that also possibly have other brands on the market. It is often difficult to track down the company itself, as the violins are made by various processes in a series of different factories. You will possibly discover most luthiers are adamant in their opinions as to the inferior qualities of Chinese violins. As I agree they cannot be compared to a "master" instrument, which can run in the price range of $5000.00 and up, one cannot understimate the economic value of the Chinese instrument. Imagine that you give a student, or your child, particularly a young one, a very valuable violin and it ends up as a wreck due to a child's lack of understanding of the value of things. If the violin is considered "disposable" one rests a little more easier. In addition, the access to cheap and affordable violins is the fact that the child may not really be serious about playing. It is very difficult to get a good return price on a master instrument, as depreciation has occured by ownership and possible wear. Not all Chinese instruments are poorly made, and I have several that are comparable to finer violins. Most people cannot tell the difference and it seems to be the furthest thing from thier minds as they are enjoying the music for the music's sake.
If the violin is for you, and you are just learning, it makes a fine tool for proper introduction to the violin, without morgaging the house. Make certain, if you don't know how to do it, to see that the set up is done properly. The violins are usually shipped with the bridge removed. This is obviously a saftey precaution. The bridge ( and often the nut ) will have to be fitted properly and a good luthier can do this for you. This will render the violin playable and you will be surprised at the sound after you have played it for awhile. I set my instruments up for my taste and have so for over 17 years. I have learned much from professional luthiers and trial and error. It is how one learns.
I find them useful for many reasons. I am a professional and have possessed some fine instruments in the past. For personal religious reasons I no longer possess items of any considerable value. I would never consider keeping such valuables in my own possession, even if it were the opposite case. Often it comes down to a social status issue which I do not practice nor condone. Factors such as theft and damage would be highly probable and I live in an enviroment where robbery is very common. I don't worry much about break-ins as I do about street theft. Thieves who see a person with a violin case, or any instrument case,at that, tend to believe the instrument is some sort of rare treasure and usually will go on that instinct and commit a crime. I have experienced it too often, where I quietly stand and deliver, and usually catch the culprit afterwards by their own ignorance and common mistakes.
I find in my practical and professional work, predominately fiddle music and early classical and baroque works, that many Chinese instruments have proven to be a blessing. Their sound is less "refined" and that makes them viable for certain types of music. If they are electrified, then the whole idea of acoustical properties of the instrument is overridden.Certain crowds can tend to get rough and instruments go missing when one takes a break. This is very common in the public venues, but could happen in a classical recital situation, as well.
Keep in mind it is not the instrument that makes the player, but rather how the player masters the instrument. An accomplished violinist or fiddle player can make an inferior instrument, with the correct setup, sound like an exceptional instrument.
In my experience, Larks are about the lowest-end violins I know of. Poor tone production and pegs that will not work. They come with a nasty, lightweight bow that is likely to warp promptly, and hair that won't hold rosin. If you want a kid to quit, buy him one of these.... I know from your previous posts that $$$ is a big issue as far as instrument & lessons, but as with all things, you mostly get what you pay for. And there is your time, frustration level, rate of progress, and developing bad habits to compensate for a terrible instrument to consider in your cost equation, too. Sue
Mr. Archer's post is 100% correct. Read it again just in case you missed something. Itzak Perlman plays one of the sweetest sounding, most valuable Strads in existence, but..... I am certain he could make a cigar box with a fancy neck and strings sound like a violin. Only buy a Lark on a lark, unless you have no other option. ;-)
My recollection is that "Lark" violins come from the state-run factories. As such, these instruments (especially older Lark brand instruments) were made with huge quality variations in raw materials and with little/no quality control. Basically, they're slapped together quickly and badly in an assembly line.
I have had two Lark violins over the years. The first, which I purchased for an adult student in 1992, came from Sears. It was wholly unplayable until I upgraded the bow-shaped object, and replaced both strings and bridge. After that, it was OK for someone who wasn't destined to get past Suzuki Book 2 (I accurately predicted the interest level of the student). The second Lark violin came to me in the past year--I bought a used violin case for a few dollars and the previous owner threw in the violin. That should tell you something. The wood is exceptionally thick and soft, the nut is several millimeters (!) too high, and I think the thick varnish is all that's holding it together. I may practice doing a setup on the instrument, but I have no expectations that it will sound even as good as the $20 dayglo Chinse VSOs that saturate eBay. My $25 metallic purple VSO is a better made instrument in all ways, even with its plastic pegs and birch-soft painted fingerboard.
My understanding is that any worker at the Lark factory (factories?) that shows any talent quickly leaves for one of the private workshops / factories.
Are lark brand violins still being made today?
My second violin, a half size, was a lark. It was a fluke violin, with a warm tone and a really decent sound! I still have it, I don't have the heart to sell it, it's something quite special!
Believe it or not, I am fairly certain that brand new (as opposed to warehouse stock) Lark violins are still being foisted on the market. I can also imagine that there's substantial back-stock in the warehouses--the state-run factories historically measured their value by their productivity (not by their quality), and production often exceeded demand by a fair margin.
Looking around, it would appear that "Lark" remains an established brand outside the United States. At least, a quick internet search couldn't find any US-based companies proudly proclaiming themselves to be dealers of Lark instruments.
There may be two ways to read your question. Either you are considering buying a lark, or you have bought one.
If you have bought one, then you may be considering what opportunities this instrument have to improve. If you are considering it, you are probably interested in not investing much, and want to get the best of a small investment.
For the first, if you have one, to improve on it much, changing the bridge may be something you can do for a small cost. When you buy a bridge blank, you will need to adjust the feet so it gets optimum contact with the body (rasp, shave, sand, or somehow alter the shape of the feet in small increments; can be fun but tedious).
You can change the strings, but that could set you back a bit more.
Other things will probably only be realistic if you pay someone to do the work, and it will possibly cost about as much as the value of the violin.
If you are considering a Lark, if you have an opportunity, first see how it sounds relative to a much better violin (something in the $800-$1500 range). Consider how much you would be trading off, and if it is worth it. Even on simple things like 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' you can hear how the violin carries the sound.
I do not suggest purchasing a $1500 violin, only recognizing the difference. If you are also looking at another inexpensive violin, compare it to the higher end also, not against another 'beginner' violin. Then you can find the one with the flaws you are more willing to accept.
I learned a lot about violin setup, and built up an excellent toolbox. I thought of patenting a soft rubber bridge!
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