From Cynthia Matthews
Posted November 3, 2009 at 06:35 PM
Our son needs a better-than-Suzuki half size violin with a great tone. He is a small-sized 9 year old with talent and is playing at a RCM grade 8 level and until now we have been outfitting him in Suzuki violins because they were easy to resell. We would like to now find a nicer instrument but have no idea what to look for etc. We also wonder if we get a more expensive half size instrument, will we have trouble reselling it.........
Any instrument recommendations or suggestions?
With fractional instruments that your child will outgrow quickly, I'd recommend dealing with a reputable shop and trying violins until you find one that all (you, student, teacher) are satisfied with. Most good shops will allow a full trade-in allowance on the next size up providing the instrument is returned in good condition. This way you can minimize your outlay during your son's growing years. If your child continues to improve and the time comes to purchase a very good violin or order an instrument from a luthier, you will have the best possible student instrument to sell if you want to.
There are fractional sized instruments manufactured in the Czech Republic and in West Germany that are a step up from the Suzuki violins. They will show some improvement in tone, but not a lot, as the limitation in the tone is imposed by the small size of the sounding box, and the relative over-thickness of the wood (fractional violins constructed to exact proportions, in terms of thickness of the wood, would be too fragile to use). The real benefits of better quality student instruments are in the trimmings: nice fitting pegs, better strings, bridges, etc. As a violin teacher, I really appreciate this aspect, as I'm sure your child's teacher will as well. I'm not sure about the resale value. Occasionally, I have had parents ask about better instruments, but not too often. Within the context of the cost of lessons, however, the purchase of a violin is not a major cost.
In general , most parents does not understand how importance to the kids of playing on decent instrument . Having playing on a decent instruments when growing up was a valuable learning experience that is irreplaceable. As a violinist and teacher , I always stress the importance of this , especially for those talented young students with sensitive ears . Well, but what is a decent instrument ? in my opinion , it should not just sounding "good", it have to be a sensitive instrument , with good comunications to the player . Helping the students develop a good tonal production skills .
However , because the market for the "prodigy" was slim , not many makers from now or the past has put much concern into this. Recently , I'm requested to looking a decent 1/2 violin for someone prodigy kids. Without much luck , there wasn't many to choice from out there .
As a maker myself , I accepting the commissions , to made a 1/2 violins for them .Using the best material , with the best effort of mine. Charging half the price as my full size violin only , and giving 100% trade in when they approaching to bigger instrument . Time consuming for me , and paid less . But for fun and for those little talents sake , I think it might worth the troubles .
From what I've read and heard, there are many decent fractional Chinese violins being sold today, some by major mail-order shops such as Shar.
I don't accept the notion that a beautiful sounding 1/2 size violin can't be made. It might sound 'different' from many full-size violins, but I don't see why it couldn't still have a lovely sound that projects well. Inherently, violas are much smaller than they should be, and though most 16" violas don't sound the way a proper 21" viola would, many sound beautiful nonetheless.
Agree with the above--I don't know about your area, but I know here in the Chicago area there are indeed shops that deal in finer fractional-size instruments, and I would guessrom your location that there are in your area as well. Does your teacher have any suggestions? You can always visit through the yellow pages of violin shops in your area, but seeing if someone you know has any recommendations might make life easier :)
I don't think you need to spend a whole lot of money to get a good fractional. Maybe unless you are performing professionally like Sarah Chang.
Would Gligas be good enough?
A small half size can be had at reasonable price. I obtained an old French 1/2 violin from Andre Jutras (a French maker who has married a Hong Kong girl and settled here) some two years ago for less than US$2K. It used to be his daughter's personal violin and is now my daughter's. Of course it does not have the sound of a decent full size violin but it certainly sounds better than many other 1/2 violins we have tried. It is very easy to play too.
Thanks for the suggestions.........his violins so far have been Suzuki's, all in the 400-450 CAN dollar range. We have been advised by a very experienced teacher to get him a violin in the 1500-2500 CAN dollar range. This is a little expensive for us at this point. His own teacher does not have any suggestions per se as she has not had experience with more advanced students needing better quality instruments yet. Someone suggested too, that there are possiblities for a promising student to rent/ be loaned a very nice instrument while he is at this size. Has anyone else heard of such a thing?
I would suggest to try out Gligas. They have a big range of fractionals of differenyt grades/budgets. They have 1/2 sizes that range from USD300 to USD 1000+.
They are definitely (a couple of) steps up compared to Suzuki entry level ones.
My younger son is using his second Gliga (1/8, now 1/4), we like it, and his teachers said that they are good fractionals. My older son is using a Suzuki, and his teacher said his younger brother's violin sounds better than his, much to his displeasure!
I have had my little-size students on Jay-Haide instruments, when I can: all sizes from 1/4 through 3/4.
I have found these to be very good instruments. All of the lowest-level Jay Haide instruments are priced the same, regardless of size. As a consequence, it seems possible to find even nicer 1/2 and 3/4 size instruments for the price than the 4/4 instruments, which may (in my opinion) be moved into a higher price category. Because I live only a few miles from Ifshin Violins in El Cerrito, CA, I can actually take the students over to the dealer and select what seems to be the best instrument in stock. ( http://www.ifshinviolins.com )
My students usually rent these smaller instruments, although about $300 of rental fees can be applied to a purchase, and if you do purchase, up to 100% of the price can be applied to an upgrade later. Ifshin's rental charges are very reasonable, one rents month-to month (no long-term contract is necessary) and the monthly rental is only about 2% of the purchase price.
Have you discussed this issue with your son's teacher? My niece rented a very nice half size Jay Haide violin from Ifshin (they live nearby in Oakland). It's not easy but not impossible to find a small instrument with a more refined sound, which I think is important when you have a child who is advanced but also small for his age. When my daughter was 10 and very small for her age, we bought her a Mirecourt violin that measured between a half and three-quarter size- I think it was from the turn of the century. It took us about a year to find it and she played it until she got a full-size instrument at 13. Her teacher listened to every instrument we auditioned, and this was was very superior to anything else we found. By coincidence, she recently ran into the 11-year-old boy who owns it now, having bought it from the same dealer (we traded it back), even though he lives 600 miles away. Good luck with your search. You might want to try dealers who specialize in fractional instruments.
It sounds like many people have given you good advice. So far, I have only dealt with one person for my son's violins as I always receive 100% trade in and I really think he has a good eye for quality violins. He's up in the Seattle area now after being in So. Cal. for a long time.
My son's 1/2 size was $700 and it had a terrific sound; his 3/4 for $1600 had an even better sound. I think you could find a really nice fractional for less than $1000. I agree to save your money for the full size when the time comes. (That's what I'm doing with my middle son's cello-saving my money!) It appears that young, gifted musicians like your son can still produce beautiful sound on inexpensive instruments. :-)
There would be some value-- either commercial or philanthropic-- to commissioning a good maker to make some fine fractional instruments, whether or not 1/2 size is too small. A subsequent rental or lending program would put it into the hands of the appropriate 10-year-old, of which there is a steady supply coming. The parents wouldn't have to deal with making a large-ish investment and getting hosed on the resale after a year or two. The students would be able to shine in their Boston Pops appearances or whatever.
Yes, definitely, and if anyone knows of such a program or service, please let us know!
Some, perhaps many, makers will accept commissions for fractional instruments. Some would add a slight premium above the usual price for a full-sized instrument.
My daughter had somewhat nicer workshop instruments in 1/2 and 3/4 size. The difference in tone quality and volume between these two sizes is considerable. I would not spend a great deal of money on a 1/2 size violin because the potential just isn't there even if it is well made.
Because (as stated above) fractional instruments are transitional, over spending does not make sense in my opinion. We have carried many different 1/2 sized instruments at different price ranges in our shop and have decided that our higher end 1/2 sized instruments should fall in the $750 to $1,250 range with 3/4 going a bit higher. Thsi range allows a significant improvemt over your current violin without breaking the bank. make sure that the shop you purchase from has a trade-in program (most reputable shops do) since at some point you'll need to move up to a 3/4 and would like to use this instrument to trade in. After all, as I tell our customers, if it was good enough for us to sell, it should be good enough for us to take back. We have had good success with the Iesta 1/2 size instrumentsas far as providing a nice tone and good playability in a fractional sized instrument.
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles is in New York to cover the biennial event at The Juilliard School, including classes by Brian Lewis and Sarah Chang.
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!