Should I buy a new violin now or save money for a better one?

August 25, 2016 at 06:01 PM · About ten years ago when I was 14 years old, my dad bought a made in China violin for $100, which I have kept safely until this day. I played on it for a couple of years, after which I stopped and have re-continued again not so long ago. I am sure I will play violin till I die because it is an instrument I have and will always be mad about. I am not flattering myself but the instrument was so easy to me. It made me complete as if the violin and I are made for each other. I have always wanted to buy an expensive violin but the truth is I only have around $400-500 now and I do not know if that will make a huge difference. I took my old violin to a luthier (a decent one) who did minor adjustments and said the violin is ok and nothing inherently wrong. I then took it to my old music teacher who told me that the fiddle I have is sufficient enough for practice and buying an expensive one is totally upto me. I have a gifted ear from a young age and can do weird stuff when it comes to music. I do it as a hobby and currently work full time for an IT firm and have no intention on becoming a professional violinist. I will go to university again for a master's degree, and hence I can't spend a lot of money on a violin for now. Is an upgrade worth it right now or should I wait 2-3 years and get a $1000-2000 violin. In order to improve the violin, I now use a Teller bridge, Pirastro rosin and Thomastik Dominant strings and it does make a noticeable difference, although it will never match a fine instrument.

Replies (10)

August 25, 2016 at 06:36 PM · I'm not sure that $500 will reliably get you a better instrument. Part of that, of course, depends on how good your current one is.

You don't say what your bow is. As your technique develops, that is one thing worth getting right. There are a few carbon fiber models less than $1,000 that will handle really well even if they don't get the fantastic sound that the best wooden ones can help produce.

August 25, 2016 at 07:40 PM · Gautam, here's my advice as a hobby violin player.

I too had a $100 violin since childhood, that I wasn't particularly fond of, unlike your case.

As I progressed in learning, I realized that it felt 'empty' as if it was missing something. As an impulse reaction, I bought locally a german workshop violin for $800, there was a significant improvement, but I could not claim that it was totally worth it.

While getting work done on the workshop instrument, I ended up finding an instrument that I really fell for. I mean, it put the missing pieces together, and it really really complemented me.

I ended up buying it for $2000+trading in the German violin, which made me to take up few extra jobs I hadn't planned on.

To summarize, do not buy a violin because you want to experiment with what a "better" violin sounds like. Approach your local shops and luthiers, as to that you wish to know what a "good" or better violin sounds like. My luthier at least lent me few of her violins, with no obligations to buying it as a "trial" or etc. I however did buy one anyways.

Get your fingers on all of the violins and bows that you can try, and if you REALLY believe that whatever ~$500 can get you is a great improvement, go for it. Also, keep a budget for a bow also, as for me, it played a largest role in improving my techniques.

August 25, 2016 at 09:32 PM · I agree with the advice to wait, try as many violins and bows as you can, and save, save, save.

Shopping for an upgrade involves a long learning curve, so it's definitely too soon to BUY, but it is definitely time to start to TRY other instruments, to learn what is good/desirable, and what is bad/undesirable about them. There is too much to go into here (set-up, sound projection, neck projection, und so weiter).

For now, you can definitely improve your current instrument by getting better strings. Ask for samples of Obligaro, Warchal, and others...I find the Dominant E in particular is a string I can live without.

Embark now, the upgrade journey is a huge education! Fortunately, violin AND bow trials are free and endless...

August 25, 2016 at 09:57 PM · Wait. You'll likely start seeing a significant difference when you get to $2k+ instruments.

I would suggest not buying more expensive strings, but it's possible that there may be other strings in the same price range as the Dominants that are a better match for your violin. But they are unlikely to make a big difference. In fact, you might want to consider less-expensive strings so that you can put away a little more money towards your future upgrade, or towards a better bow.

August 25, 2016 at 10:22 PM · It's logarithmic. You see a change when you put a zero behind the price of your last violin.

August 25, 2016 at 10:23 PM · I agree with the advice in the last two posts. I'd feel really bad if someone bought one of my violins based upon reputation alone, without having compared it with many other violins.

I got an email yesterday which said,

"After trying 22 different violins from some of the best modern makers, yours again, in my mind, stood out amongst the rest. I am glad my search for now is over and I am absolutely in love in with my new violin. It is a joy to play"

That's the stuff that means a lot to me, and no, I didn't make any money off that sale.

The person was talking about an older used violin I had made, that he found at a dealer.

August 25, 2016 at 10:47 PM · I liked the violin of yours that I tried at Mondo Musica about two years back, David. :-)

(I tried everything in the batch of contemporary instruments that it was displayed with.)

August 25, 2016 at 11:13 PM · Heck, Lydia, I'm not the best at social skills, and I'm mostly too bored at exhibits to want to participate in them much any more, so it would have been really nice to make your acquaintance.

I recall that Rapheal Klayman came up and introduced himself, and in hindsight, I didn't handle that very well either.

About a year later, at the Indianpolis Competition, Laurie Niles suggested getting together for an interview. So what did I do, but point her off in the direction of Sam Zygmuntowicz. LOL

I go in and out of varying states of shyness, and in that particular situation, I'd just flown in from Moscow with the flu, trashed from judging a violin making competition, and was mostly looking forward to getting back to my room (which the hotel had given to someone else, because I didn't arrive on time, despite my having already paid for the room). Perhaps Laurie can forgive me now.

Despite my admitted social ineptitude, I'm not a bad wood carver though. ;-)

August 26, 2016 at 05:18 AM · Thanks for all your kind replies. I have found a person, not very far away from my home, who is a violin collector and has a couple of copy Strads (made in Germany) and many antique German and Italian fiddles. He has a copy Strad which is more than a 100-150 years old, which falls under my budget. He has invited me to come and try the fiddle at his residence if I am interested. Should I give it a try or focus only on new fiddles?

August 26, 2016 at 06:38 AM · Gautam, you should definitely try it. Never miss an opportunity to play an instrument!

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