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What are the good violins brands?

Instruments: What do you pay for a really good violin? Does the brand really matter in the end?

From Niko Gordon
Posted July 4, 2004 at 06:29 AM

I'm just starting to learn the violin, and have a really cheap one (It cost only $100 new). I'm trying to learn about what brands or models are good so that eventually I can upgrade to a better one.

What do you pay for a really good violin? Does the brand really matter in the end?

Thanks,
Skye

From Aaron Ong
Posted on July 4, 2004 at 07:48 AM
Well Niko, most good violins do not have "brands". Rather they are known by their maker's names. A famous example would be violins made by Antonio Stradivari of Cremona, Italy. His violins regularly run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. His "Messiah" violin has an estimated value of 10 million sterling pounds, the most valuable in the world I think (Source: BBC.com) Of course most good violins come in affordable price ranges too. A good violin for performance or advanced practise would cost from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

A cheap violin is a good idea for a beginner like you but you should think about upgrading as you go along. - AARON

From Maximillian Tresmond
Posted on July 4, 2004 at 02:25 PM
Isn't Il Canone the most valuable violin?

I once read that in the 1920s, a gentleman offered to pay twenty-five million dollars for the instrument.

From Aaron Ong
Posted on July 4, 2004 at 03:15 PM
Well that's news to me, Max. Violinists, what's your idea of the most expensive violin in the world today? - AARON
From owen sutter
Posted on July 5, 2004 at 02:45 AM
well they're worth whatever some fool will pay for them but i do believe the canone is the violin thats had the highest offer. But in a case like that they're not paying for the quality of the instrument, its just extremely collectable because it was paganini's
From Rowell Jao
Posted on July 5, 2004 at 03:17 AM
i think i read that they use the canon for the paganini violin competition, whoever wins the competition gets to perform paganini's 'canon' violin
From Maximillian Tresmond
Posted on July 5, 2004 at 02:46 PM
It would be a thrill to play the Canone, just for the history.

I have always, thought, and this is just my own idea, I'd appreciate other thoughts, that most expensive does not necessarily mean the best.

Like Owen said, the price of Paganini's violin is that high because it was Paganini's.

Not that it isn't a bad violin, I'd render a guess it is phenomenal.

However, what it boils down to is that every violin consists of the same thing: A spruce top, maple sides and back, maple neck/scroll. The entire quality of the violin rests on the craftsmanship of the maker.

For example, I use a violin made in 1917 by a gentleman in New York, William Fletcher. I was told that it could be worth anywhere betwenn 5-10k. However, it can out-perform a Sebastian Klotz, which sells in the 15k+ range. The Klotz is more expensive, because Sebastian was a premier dealer/maker in Mittenwald. The same is true for Vuillaumes. Buri commented a little while back that many JB Vuillaumes were have very poor sound, something which compares to a real low-end violin.

Either you are in the market for a tool which can bring you and others years of musical delight and playing enjoyment, or you want to collect.

All violins have their charms, but when purchasing one, don't think that the best violins are millions upon millions of dollars.

Do a blind test, see how it sounds, judge the box.

From owen sutter
Posted on July 5, 2004 at 11:15 PM
yes but many vuillaumes also have incredible sound, check out hahns for instance
From boyd x
Posted on July 5, 2004 at 11:47 PM
how much is the most expensive bow??
From matthew albanese
Posted on July 6, 2004 at 12:54 AM
im pretty sure bows can get in the hundred thousands. i've played on bows up to 50k, and there's a reason they cost that much. i'm gonna stick to my bow for a while though.
From Maximillian Tresmond
Posted on July 6, 2004 at 08:24 PM
Yeah, Hahn's does have an amazing sound.
From Linda S
Posted on July 7, 2004 at 03:50 AM
Niko - While the conversation above is interesting, it isn't helping you much. Buying a violin is not like buying an appliance. There is no one good brand and prices can range from several hundred dollars for a decent beginning student violin up to the millions for antique instruments. When you are ready to upgrade, you will want to consider several things? First of all, what are your needs and goals? and second, what is your budget. As a very general rule, the more you spend, the better the instrument. However, lots of folks will tell you of liking certain less expensive instuments better than more expensive ones. Modern instruments are less expensive than older ones and often sound quite good.

Once you get ready to upgrade, you will want to find a luthier - a person who makes, repairs and sells stringed instruments. Tell the luthier what your requirements are and what your price range is and s/he should be able to present you with a number of different instruments that fit your criteria. Then the fun begins. You try the different instruments and decide which one you like best. Similarly priced instruments will sound and feel differently. Often a luthier will let you take several instruments home to practice on for several days before you decide for sure. Also, your private teacher should be an excellent resource for helping you to choose a violin which is right for you. (Just make sure your teacher is independent and not receiving a commission from a seller for making a recommendation for a specific instrument.)

As you improve, your requirements will probably change. A dealer that will take back his or her own instruments in trade is a good thing. For example, the luthier I deal with will take back any instrument that he has sold for the price paid less wear and tear. That way, when I trade up I don't have to hassle with trying to find a buyer for an instrument I have out grown musically. Hope this helps.

From jennifer hardeman
Posted on March 11, 2009 at 07:16 AM

I have a violin with  only a lable reading "bought sept. 1917" no name nowhere! how do I find out the maker if there is no name anywhere? and the price its worth.

From SAM MIHAILOFF
Posted on March 11, 2009 at 09:55 AM

Jennifer, this may indeed be an impossible undertaking, unless you can contact Mr Peabody and Sherman

nopity.gif No Pity image by TGrosjean

From Julia Avila
Posted on March 11, 2009 at 03:21 PM

I think if you take it to a luthier who does a lot of appraisals s/he might be able to give you an estimate of what the instrument is worth - even if they don't know the maker.  A lot goes into the value of the violin and maker is only one component. 

If all else fails, pray the antiques road show is happening somewhere nearby!

From Mike Harris
Posted on March 11, 2009 at 09:14 PM

Of course, you can get 5 vastly different opinions from 5 different luthiers or shop managers as to origin and value. 

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 11, 2009 at 10:49 PM

To respond to your question, I would say a couple thousand dollars (can or us) to have one that sounds and play professionnally.  It's really expensive but at this price it keeps its value and take some over the years.  Maybe it's less risky to invest there than in the banks these days!  However, do not get fool, even at these prices, take one that plays much better than its actual price.  Such deals do happen and if you have it test by a good professional violinist, he or she can help you to find one of these deals! But don't forget the bow that must quite expensive too because the bow is what makes your playing (well articulated or not).  A good bow is really important. Some say more than the violin. 

But, it's better to play a less expensive one that to not play at all!  Good violinists can do an extrordinairy sound out of a scrap...   Lessons are probably more important for a beginner that has to choose between the violin or the lessons!!!

Anne-Marie                         Good luck!

From Roland Garrison
Posted on March 12, 2009 at 03:11 AM

If you are currently playing a violin that cost $100.00 new, then you are probably not going to look for a violin that cost $2000 for your next violin. One thing you may consider is that for some players, the car they drive cost much less than the bow they use, and the violin they play cost more than the bow. And they do not drive $100.00 cars.

So, I would consider a different question: What can I do to get the best violin for my budget for my next violin?

The answer would be to find shops that will let you try the violin. Do not buy a violin from a shop (or ebay) you cannot exchange the violin if after trying it, you do not think it is suitable. Possibly find a good used violin, but recognize you will be trading off the opportunity to exchange it for a lower price (if you do not get a 'significant bargain', avoid this route). Use your teacher to help you make the decision on which violin is best (preferably by trying it, showing it to your teacher, and playing it for you teacher).

Hole this helps. I am still learning, and was very lucky to find a fairly good 'step up' model for a very low price on Craigslist. I had about three I was going to try, I stopped by this one, and it was from a high school student (concertmaster) who lost interest after graduating. It was not only very warm, but very well set up (see comments on luthier assistance; well worth it!). Once I tuned it and started playing, I realized I would not find another violin that played that well in my budget.

 

From Ken MCKAY
Posted on March 12, 2009 at 02:00 PM

Skye,

I noticed you are in Detroit Michigan. There are a lot of local shops that service and sell stringed instruments there it that area. A lot of them would be happy to rent (to own) you a violin as you progress. You could buy a violin from an online source but that leaves out the service which is important to a beginner. I think you will be fine with a violin in the $800 - $1200 range. And many shops will rent one for around $30 per month.

 

"Branding" is a way for a violin or wholesaler to create a perception of quality from their product. Some brands are all of equal quality and others fail to deliver this. Strings magazine and other sources try to help consumers like you find a good brand of violin or outfit. I haven't seen anything recently that is really up to date though. Trends come and go and what the players are left with are either a violin in a case, or a hopefully trusty companion. To get the "trusty companion" violin at this time (2009), my opinion is to start looking at violins in the range of $1800 to $2400 and better yet $2800 to $3600 will get you a nice German or eastern european made or Chinese Workshop violin.

 

But at this time I think your best advice is the $800 to $1200 violin and a good teacher.

 

 

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 12, 2009 at 02:28 PM

The one who post the " if you play with a 100 $ instrument now, you probably won't want to play with a 2000 for your second one" is right but I can offer another point of view here.

Is it your burning passion and do you want to play for the rest of your life?

If one day, the answer to this question is yes and that you can afford a violin like those I mentionned, don't lose time. A good instrument does play better. How much better? I was able to notice the difference in one year of playing.  Try some and if you notice they play better, you can start to benefit from one...   If you don't notice any difference, you are probably are not ready but even so I really believe that it is a great luck to be able to learn on a great violin.  I do not come from a musical, understanding or emotionally supportive family but I am so greatful for one thing: they made sacrifices for me to have a very good violin almost when I have started.  It's an invaluable tool even if you eat rice crispies and peanut butter for the next year just joking.  But, I do not have a car, cell, ipods etc (oh god, no cell...call me old fashion! half of the planet now has one!)

Anne-Marie

From Tim Sanchez
Posted on December 6, 2010 at 04:42 PM

I was told that if you don't know how to play violin, It does not matter if it's the best violin in the world but it wil not sound good.

I've been learning for a coulple of months now, and I just bought a cheep violin for like 75$, I was thinking about buying a new one, but I was told by my grand mother that she has a stradivarius she used to play as a child, and that she wil gift it to me, unfortunatly it was not signed by Antonio Stadeveti but it  was made in his shop, it has a price of around 10.000$ today, but was like 2.00$ back then when she bout it, I prety exited about getting it prrobably for my birthday next year.

I've been told that stadiverius is one of the best violin brands, in the world. (sorry about my grammar, I'm not that good at english) 

From Susan Young
Posted on December 6, 2010 at 06:18 PM

Do what I did.  Go to different shops in your area that sell violins.  Ask to play them.  Make notes of the ones that you like then go home and research those makers.  Also ask other violinists or fiddlers about their violins.  Many will let you play them.  You really need to figure out what sounds you enjoy - bright and crisp or deep and mellow.  Every violin has it's own personality of sound.  We have a nice shop in our area that deals in all stringed instruments.  The shop owner enjoys repairing and refurbishing violins and you never know what she will have for sale.  I did not buy my violin based on who made it.  I bought it based on the sound and the ease of playing.  You can go on eBay and buy a cheap violin supposedly made by someone well known and respected and hate the sound of it and it's also possible to find a violin with no label and no known origins but to your ear it's perfect.

Also keep in mind, many violins are not the originals.  They are copies.  A client of mine has a 1700's era violin made by Maginni - according to the label.  Upon research we discovered that it is more likely an 1880 - 1930 German copy.  Doesn't mean it's worthless or has a bad sound, it just means it isn't necessarily what you think it is.

From LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO
Posted on December 6, 2010 at 07:58 PM

Most factory made violins will have to be sent to a luthier for adjustment in the pegs, upper nut, a new bridge and post, and new European or American strings, otherwise they will be hard to play and sound bad.

Eventually the new good strings and these services may cost more than the violin, but I consider them essential.

www.manfio.com

From Sherman soothoo
Posted on December 7, 2010 at 07:06 AM

 Hi Niko,

I must agree with Roland Garrison.

1)look for resources to help you: ASK your teacher and go find around the local luithers around your place if your really decide to buy a violin. Ask even your friends to come along with you and give you options and resources where you can find a reliable luither. Most importantly is to try them(violins) out. at the end of the day you, when you leave the shop you must feel good about the violin you bought because you're going to play it for a few years or sometime until you decided to change one.

2)Spend time!!: you really need to spend time doing up your research and thinking what you want for the next violin upgrades. Spend time thinking and discussing with your teacher what you want and what kind of sound or tone u desire. work out your budget and see where is the best place to fit your budget. Once all of these are slotted out them go find your luither.

Do not anxious or nerves to try them out at the store and spend your time trying them. Take your time!! At the end of the day, if you don't like the violins offer its okay not to feel bad about it and just go home, u can always come back again. most importantly is spent time thinking what you like and recalling them.

I remember that some shops they will give you a bow along with the violin, so used the bow and play the violin to test the sound out. If they don't then use your bow to test the violins out because every violin react with different bows :D

Hope these helps. Btw... I bought 2 violins over ebay and they are really good. I brought them to my local luither and he say the tone and sound quality is really impressive. So enjoy looking for your next violin and please keep us updated!

Regards,

Sherman

 

From Richard Karneth
Posted on May 5, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Reading though the comments, I have doubts as to beginners buying beginners’ quality violins. My comment does involve shelling out more money though. For a beginner to end up using a violin with bad overtones and wolf notes, I think, nothing could be worse. I beginner using a violin costing, say, between 1500 or 2400 dollars would ideal. No? Yes! A poor sounding violin could only be harmful for a student of the craft to continue onward with any REAL hope of enjoying playing music. Usually there's a parent involved here, and that parent needs to use his or her head to consider what I've had to say here... do their research. One can get started with a great sounding guitar (and pick) for $1000, and get a great sound while practically mastering the use of the pick light-years ahead of mastering just the bowing aspect of learning the violin. A great sounding violin (and bow outfit) will cost about three times that amount. Please! Have a heart when it comes to treating the children to new instrument of their own. If there are no available funds for a well-sounding violin, or viola or cello or bass, perhaps we should point our kids to a guitar or flute or something else... lest they’re hell-bent on violin. A piece of junk is no gift. There is always time to 'wait', too. Right? You could always rent a high quality instrument, too, which would be a fine alternative.
From Noriko Okamoto
Posted on May 5, 2013 at 11:42 PM
I myself am a novice on a tight budget surviving a year and half. I believe that beginners should use (not necessarily own) a decent sounding instrument. Good instruments can tell you many things, especially intonation, which I think is a crucial thing to learn as a beginer. You can have such an instrument without breaking your bank account (I did). So here's my personal experience (I may be wrong). I started with a rental violin. When I rented it, I compared the sound of many different violins some within budget, some not. I anyhow picked up one knowing the sound is tolerable but not my liking. For three months I played on it and learn how to play a scale, listed up what I don't like about the rental instrument (hence, a list of what I like to have in my own violin) and went on an instrument hunt - to a local classified (craigslist, kijiji... you name it). It depends on where you're, but in my case, there are constant flow of second hand instruments. They tend to match my small budget, though for a reason - I have to judge the worth of an instrument by myself. So I googled and learned what to check to find out healthy/functional instruments. If you have experienced teacher and friends, they can be a good source of information (though some people never buy instruments on a classified, so may not have a range of experience to see awful instruments...). There are some thought I personally have when I look classified ads.

(1) Bridge/soundpost are not set, all strings are gone: I don't have ability to judge the condition of instrument without playing. So I avoid this kind.

(2) Tapes on finger boards: I am skeptical about the instrument with tapes on - as the last player never played more than couple months for some reason. It may be because personal reason, awful teacher, etc, but maybe instrument didn't give the player a proper response. You should ask the reason why the previous owner gave up.

(3) The person selling instrument does not know about the instrument - It may have belonged to a family member, or may be found in an antique shop or estate sale. Whatever they say (good looking, good sounding, good playing condition etc) I don't take seriously. You have one less source of information - though sometimes more information could confuses you. Sometimes you may score a bargain as the person selling it doesn't know how good it actually is. In the end of the day, how it plays is all that matter....


Anyway, you need to know a good luthier (person who takes care of your violin) even if you buy it through a classified or through a shop. That's a reason some people strongly recommend that you buy an instrument through music shops as there's an in-house luthier in most cases. I guess finding a good luthier in itself could be worth a thread, as not all music shops/luthiers are at the same standard.

From Vanessa Gouw
Posted on May 5, 2013 at 11:49 PM
but at the time Richard and Noriko posted their comments, Nikko now is already advanced player i think. He posted it in 2004.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 6, 2013 at 04:03 AM
Hi, in the "cheaper" violins but better than what you have now and really good for the price (as it can play anything super easilly even professional peices, even playability and sound all the way up etc.) I would say to try some Eastman Strings violins.

They have various qualities and they are made partly in China or Romania and USA.

I recently bought one thinking it would be only suitable to play outdoors... gee that I was wrong, I love it!

It maybe sound a tiny bit "tinny" or "nasal" but the rest is as good as many professional violins (I find)

I read an article who said that cheap Chinese violin for students used to be pure scrap and awful but that nowadays, they had to meet some standards to stay competitive and, now, their violins are fairly good and surprizing! It is now said that usually Chinese student violins outbeat by far European cheap instruments because of the making costs etc. In the very advanced instruments, it's less the case though...

You can still have a citrus from China but a lot less likely than before of you take the time to try a few.

Good luck!
Anne-Marie

From Noriko Okamoto
Posted on May 6, 2013 at 07:44 AM
Vanessa,
sorry if my writing was vague, but my post was in response to Richard, not to OP. My point was, you may have a decent student violin for few hundreds dollars if you're up for a challenge/risk. And I shared what I've done so far to manage it.

Through a classified, I got mine at $350, spent $150 for repair/setup. My luthier says it's worth somewhat between $1500-2000.

Seriously, as a beginner, if I was told to spend more than 1000 for an instrument on top of a bow and lessons, I wouldn't have started. But as Richard said, some student violins are painful to play. So I thought my experience may encourage some potential violinist to start the instrument without braking their bank account...

From Vanessa Gouw
Posted on May 6, 2013 at 09:59 AM
Hey Noriko! :)

I actually didn't really get what student violin means until I got a guest at my home with his student violin. He's beginning to learn violin few months ago, still plays all notes false. I took a look at the violin he rents, I could see how the violin is set up, the bridge is too wide, the distance between the strings are not correct, his teacher was very critical about the violin he rents and said,"if you ever plan to buy a violin, don't buy this one!" -- I had the same opinion as his teacher. The seller claimed that it's been set up carefully, etc, but I wasn't convinced!

But to me, there's only decent and a not decent violin. a cheap factory violin? I don't even think to buy, not decent and the set up can be more expensive than the violin itself, not worth it! and the strings will also be more expensive! a violin that's unable to be played in higher positions? Not decent!
Is a violin a student violin because it goes wrong when played in higher position? or, because one can't make a good/better sound out of it? or is the distance between strings incorrect? or, type of wood? not neatly made?

Here in the europe, the range of decent violin is minimum 400 euro, but most of the time, (dutch) luthiers have a minimum range of 600 euro, no less.

This year I'm thinking whether to buy a new violin, or to repair my violin. But I decided to just let my violin repaired (it's defect in the area near by the tailpiece button) and let the luthier clean the inside of it, because I really don't know yet what I want and why I want a new violin, lol. My violin is just okay in higher positions, haven't found wolf tone; it's a pretty decent one and I know I can use it for another few years. During the time, I'm saving money to get a much better one and I think that during this time I'll know what I want for my next violin.

Maybe Richard doesn't know that here in europe, you too can buy a violin made by european luthiers for less than 1000 euro.

From Noriko Okamoto
Posted on May 6, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Good luck with your violin repair, Vanessa!! :)
From Jack Shepard
Posted on May 7, 2013 at 02:27 AM
I've heard that "Snow" makes some good beginner/intermediate instruments and the price range is in the low thousands.

My first violin was purchased through the shop that I rented from. In my second year of violin playing I requested to rent one of their top violins (valued at $2500) and then bought it with a nice discount after renting it for awhile. The violin was made in China with wood chosen by a well known luthier who makes many fine violins (he has shops in the U.S. and China).

Bottom line, have an experienced violinist or violin teacher help you out with this.


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