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Chinese violins

Instruments: is it true that chinese violins lose their original sound after a few years?

From Jiji Goosby
Posted February 6, 2005 at 07:05 AM

A Chinese lady I met at the string camp my child attended commented that chinese violins often loses their beautiful sound after a few years. (of course she was talking about the fractional size vilions.) Is it true? I know I will have to look for a larger size violin soon and wanted to know what I need to be aware of. My budget is under 2k including a bow. Do you have any suggestions on 1/2 size violin?

From Michael Avagliano
Posted on February 6, 2005 at 04:28 PM
It's not so much that the violins are Chinese, it's that they're cheaply made. If you use wood that's not properly seasoned, if you make tops so thin that they collapse after a year (or less) of string tension --- there are a dozen ways to make a violin implode soon after it's finished.

There are well-made violins coming out of China. I've seen more than a few that are frighteningly good. The trick is to know that you're getting one of those, and the best way is through a place that has some accountability, i.e. a violin shop or other established business. The business will nkow that it has to stand behind those instruments, which makes it much less likely that they'll be selling violins destined to give them a bad reputation.

From janet griffiths
Posted on February 6, 2005 at 06:03 PM
Chinese violins (at least at the cheaper and smaller end) are not renowned for their beautiful sound.They do however,because of their cheap price, provide young children with the oppotunity of learning the violin without parents forking out a fortune.After a first chinese violin I usually recommend that my students move on to German,Czech or Rumanian factory made violins which cost more but are of better quality and can easily be resold or exchanged when grown out of.The next violin one hopes will be a handcrafted violin but it does rather depend on parents income.
From Jiji Goosby
Posted on February 6, 2005 at 07:14 PM
Janet, do you have any recommendation on violins that you liked for your students? My son has Karl Wilhelm violin made in Romania which we liked, but projection is not that great. With a fractional violin, I know you can't ask much. We tried Eastman at a violin shop and he liked the sound of it, but do you think it will lose its original sound in a few years? Any suggestions will be great!
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 7, 2005 at 12:01 AM
Greetings,
I don`t know how cheap they are or if they are stillas good. but the Suzuki beignner instruments used to be a cut above average with veyr good quality control.
Sometimes, when good wood and technology accidently gelled a complete beginners insturment from them can sound very good indeed.
Cheers,
Buri
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 7, 2005 at 02:33 AM
If you go to a violin store staffed by professional violinists, and not the el cheapo school band instrument store, you can get very good Chinese violins, and they will last. I speak from lots of experience with my students and my local lutherie.
From janet griffiths
Posted on February 7, 2005 at 11:23 AM
Jiji,your son will have grown out of the violin long before it loses its original sound.However one or two observations.
1)at the smaller end of the scale it is often pot luck,sometimes cheap chinese can flower surprisingly whilst more expensive german violins never open out.
2)making sure that once the violin is purchased it is properly set up can go a long way towards improving tone.Take the violin to a luitier to control the shape of bridge,the pegs and to fit with a tailpiece with fine tuners (children can then easily tune the violin themselves).
3)make sure you use good quality strings.
4)make sure that the bow is kept in good condition and is not overtightened.
Violins readily available in my area may not be available in your area.Ask to try various violins although as I said before it is often pot luck.
Good luck
From Stephen Perry
Posted on February 7, 2005 at 11:34 AM
Having had good quality Chinese, German, Italian, Romanian, Czech, English, American, Japanese, and Bulgarian violins apart, I can't see any reason why any of these would die after a few years. Junk has come from most of these countries, too. The country of origin doesn't count. The quality of wood (including treatment and aging), other materials, design, construction, finishing, and setup do count.
From Alan Wittert
Posted on February 7, 2005 at 07:53 PM
Not at all. You just want to play them again an hour later.
From Orlando Mendoza Jr.
Posted on February 8, 2005 at 11:39 AM
Chinese violins (most but not all) are made using wood that is kiln dried unlike most european violins which are made using wood that has been allowed to dry in open air in a span of 4-30 years. I personally know a Chinese musician who shares ownership of a popular chinese violin brand. He confessed that in the southern China, woodworkers and carpenters are very good craftsmen. He comissions some of them to make those violins.
From Michael Molnar
Posted on February 9, 2005 at 03:57 PM
Steve Perry is right. Every country has its good and not so good violins. In defense of Chinese violins, I suggest examining any of the higher end Eastman Strings violins such as their 305 model. Check the Strings Magazine review of the Eastman 305 which can be found on the Strings website.
From Liz Ward
Posted on February 9, 2005 at 08:12 PM
Goodness me, some of the information being shown here is way out of date. There are plenty of Chinese companies now using naturally dried wood. German violins, at least the ones I have seen, just don't compete these days with the Chinese and East European ones.

I'd go for a Gliga Gama if it were me (which won't surprise anyone!), the full size Gligas are rather quiet but I am finding these days that the smaller ones seem to be considerably louder than I would expect for the size. We had a 3/4 in recently with quite a huge projection and resonance, at least to my ears. Yes you're way under 2k with that, but that does leave room for a good bow and a professional set up.

The Chinese ones I have come across that sound good (I am sure there are many more) include Jinyin (Primo) and Tian Yin, also some others which you are not likely to find in the US.

Liz

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 9, 2005 at 08:17 PM
My experience with entry level German violins has been different. They sometimes sound better than Chinese ones and always cost more.
From Stephen Perry
Posted on February 10, 2005 at 03:16 AM
http://www.eastmanstrings.com/eastmanstrings/workshop/workshop.htm

Incidently, wood drying by kiln isn't necessarily an evil thing if done correctly.

The wood in the better Chinese violins seems rather nice. Indeed, one can buy Chinese made violins of European wood. I've also seen "European" violins of wood that looked quite Chinese.

Angels Instruments, Eastman, Snow, etc all have rather decent violins. Indeed, the upper end Mark Moreland series from Eastman is quite impressive. See http://www.markmoreland.com/ I have a couple of these in the shop now and they always attract favorable comment. Even the VL605 and VL405 from Eastman are really quite good. And of course, the Angels CA01AT and Eastman VL305 faired quite well in a Strings Magazine review.

I chalk up the negative comments against all Chinese violins to pure and simple racism. In contrast, the Italians seem pleased that I'm making Italian school violins.

From Henry Liao
Posted on February 10, 2005 at 06:42 AM
"I chalk up the negative comments against all Chinese violins to pure and simple racism."

Agreed, before I looked on this board I didn't know there was a notion around that Chinese violins were of poor quality.
On the contrary, people I know put Chinese violins in high regard.

I checked out several violins in China this past summer and I must say that they certainly do range in quality, and that many instruments are "mispriced" relative to their sound quality.

I obtained a Chinese violin for an incredibly low price, and it has a wonderful tone of a concert violin.

However, I did not look into the quality of non-full size violins so in that regard the rumors may be true.

From Henry Liao
Posted on February 10, 2005 at 06:42 AM
"I chalk up the negative comments against all Chinese violins to pure and simple racism."

Agreed, before I looked on this board I didn't know there was a notion around that Chinese violins were of poor quality.
On the contrary, people I know put Chinese violins in high regard.

I checked out several violins in China this past summer and I must say that they certainly do range in quality, and that many instruments are "mispriced" relative to their sound quality.

I obtained a Chinese violin for an incredibly low price, and it has a wonderful tone of a concert violin.

However, I did not look into the quality of non-full size violins so in that regard the rumors may be true.

From Christian Vachon
Posted on February 10, 2005 at 03:26 PM
Hi,

Yes, I agree with the above quote. There was an article in Strad describing China as the new Mirecourt a while back. There are some poor instruments like everywhere else (look at a lot of the junk currently coming out of Cremona), but some really terrific instruments, and the prices are very good as is the craftsmanship in many cases. As for the European wood thing, well... I have been told that good European would is more and more scarce so that the wood problems are not only with Chinese violins.

I am suspicious of the artificial drying process which creates an immediate sound that doesn't last. I thought that this was the reason many Vuillaumes sound so bad.

Cheers!

From Mike Harris
Posted on February 10, 2005 at 04:50 PM
I don't think it's racism so much as this: there will always be some place with cheap labor that's cranking out lots of junk. In the 50's and 60's "made in Japan" had such a connotation but I think it had to do with the product and not the culture.
I'd love to have a top of the line Snow violin, but I did return a Chinese-made viola which had a hairline split in the top, which, according to local luthiers, was due to the wood being too "green." I've played 3 examples of the same Eastman model in one sitting, only to find the quality amazingly varied. So it's about the particular instrument, as it ever was and ever shall be. Amen.
From Stephen Perry
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 01:05 AM
"I don't think it's racism so much as this: there will always be some place with cheap labor that's cranking out lots of junk."

Siri Lanka. Romania. Why single out China so strongly? This is persistant undercurrent, and not just against low-end instruments.

"In the 50's and 60's "made in Japan" had such a connotation but I think it had to do with the product and not the culture."

I suspect we'll find support for the racism aspects of that as well.

". . . Chinese-made viola which had a hairline split in the top, which, according to local luthiers, was due to the wood being too "green.""

Maybe. How can one tell if something was too green? That would be an interesting discussion. I've seen such failures on European violins. I don't see how it means anything. Take any violin and dry it to 22% humidity. It will crack and distort.

"I've played 3 examples of the same Eastman model in one sitting, only to find the quality amazingly varied. So it's about the particular instrument, as it ever was and ever shall be. Amen."

Quite so, within certain limits. Although what "quality" means remains somewhat elusive. Different folks like different things. And some people are better at varying a setup to bring out the best in a particular instrument.

I'm very far from the first person in the violin world to be driven to the conclusion that racism is part of the drive to discredit Chinese (and other oriental) work. It shows up in mandolins and guitars as well, often supported by distorted and twisted logic. Worked for the KKK, so I suppose it will work elsewhere.

From Michael Darnton
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 01:54 AM
Steve, you're not old enough to remember what Japan was sending to the US in the 50s. If you were, you'd have a different perspective. In the rush to be politically correct, several people here seem to have "forgotten" that both China and Japan *first* imported some pretty pathetic crap into the US. Times have changed, and Japan=Sony, and China=high quality industrial stuff, but that's no excuse for revisionist history.
From Sam Li
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 02:28 AM
Hmmm, I know some Chinese violinists that lose their sound...
From Bernard Hsiao
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 02:49 AM
Michael, what exactly are you talking about???
From Stephen Perry
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 01:54 PM
I remember well the junk Japanese stuff. I also remember the rampant racism against people of Japanes extraction, including my Judo instructor. Certainly the stuff wasn't very good, but the racism that went with the discussions of the stuff wasn't required. From the same period of time (late 50s).

The early Chinese stuff exported to here was similarly poor.

This isn't unique though. I only rarely read rants against Korean instruments or Siri Lankan instruments or bottom end European instruments. The Chinese seem singled out.

I've also heard some quite racist comments from violinmakers and dealers who should know better about Chinese makers who have put in VSA entries and so on. I don't hear the Italians complaining bitterly about our violins etc.

Same thing in bluegrass circles, how a maker who can't play bluegrass can't possibly build a bluegrass instrument, even though the most famous bluegrass instruments were made before the genre existed.

I still see racism as a driver for much of the anti-China sentiment. I've had this mentioned to me by several instrument makers, including violin makers. So my observation isn't isolated.

At least we'll likely see production shift from China back to the US a bit as their costs rise and the selling (or at least loaning via increasing debt) of America continues.

From Michael Darnton
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 06:18 PM
I don't deny racism exists in the world, but it doesn't account as a blanket reason for *everything* that involves people of different races. If it did, then the Sri Lankan violins would catch it, too, and they don't. But the reason, in my opinion, is because the Sri Lankan ones I've seen don't even qualify as violins, and aren't seen in violin shops, therefore they're essentially non-entities. Likewise, I don't think I've ever seen a Korean violin. On the other hand, I've (maybe not here) referred to cheap eastern European violins as often looking like they're made by people who've never seen a real violin. I know there are many people who would say that comment was racist if I said it about an Asian violin rather than an Eastern European one.

And they'd be wrong: In short, as a blanket criticism, racism is often a short-cut for lazy thinkers.

From Mike Harris
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 08:45 PM
I don't know that I've seen a Sri Lankan violin...I've seen lots of Chinese, some good, some bad. But there are lots and lots out there, so that's going to invite comments. Personally, I don't think many of the comments involve racism, I think they involve judgment of the instruments. Possibly some of the people have seen the bad ones and not the good ones. If they have seen nothing but Snow violins or Eastman f-hole guitars they might think they were all good. I think in time the ultra-cheap junk will mostly fade away. The market will take care of it.
From Alan Wittert
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 10:57 PM
I recently purchased a Jay Haide (Chinese) violin and it is marvelous! (l'ancienne model) It was much better than a wide variety of $2400 French, German and American models I tried in the same range.
From Stephen Perry
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 11:00 PM
I see your point Michael. What I see all too often is the all-Chinese-work-is-crap statements. In my work this is applied to guitars, mandolins, and violins at various times by the racists in crowd. This is quite spectacular in action. For example, several times someone has been playing a [violin, mandolin, guitar] at a [show or festival] and made a positive comment along the lines of "Chinese makers have really come a long way - this is a great instrument for the money" followed by bristling in a person previously listening calmly or even complementing the instrument. Sometimes accompanited by some kind of tirade about how the Chinese stuff will all fall apart and is really built like crap, even if it is "OK" now. The subtle forms are along the line: if a European violin cracks, it was because of low humidity. If a Chinese violin cracks, then it was because the wood was too green. I've heard these explanations about cracked instruments from the same person before. I'm sure an individual completely unaware of the bias.

But enough on this. There's cheap junk from many countries and folks who will blame the country of origin. There's even junk made in this country, along with great stuff.

From Michael Darnton
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 11:48 PM

I didn't intend to mention it, but I'm a partner in a company that sells the Jay Haide ancienne models, as well as the rest of the line. They're particularly good, as you said. So obviously I'm not one of those dealers who's trashing Chinese instruments.
From j d
Posted on February 21, 2005 at 07:54 PM
reading this post reminds me of a conversation i had with an older european violin maker a while back.i was asking him about his opinions of chinese methods,craftsmanship and quality etc.his response was something to the effect of "well the chinese were building pretty nice stuff when most everyone else was crawling around in caves in england and germany italy etc..." hehe!
From Ben Clapton
Posted on February 22, 2005 at 05:02 AM
I'm currently trying to sell my old chinese violin. a copy of a strad prelude, hand made in 1995. it's been played on and off over the past couple of years, and I had a friend use it last year for his end of school exams instead of his stirling. It's a very good violin, worth around $1000 (from what a valuer estimated).

I took it to a shop the other day, and the guy could only offer me $500 for it, as they only sell german instruments there. I had a look at the $500 german instrument they had there (a Stirling if I remember) and I couldn't see why he would say a german instrument would be better.

This violin is already broken in, it's been around for 10 years and still has a great tone, it's very easy to play, but no, $500 is it.

We shall see...

From Liz Ward
Posted on February 22, 2005 at 09:45 AM
I'm surprised it would be that high.

Liz

From Ben Clapton
Posted on February 22, 2005 at 03:02 PM
liz,
it was $1500 when i bought it, and is still in good condition. I don't care whether german violins are better than chinese or not, surely you should actually hear the violin and give it a bit of a play before saying if it's worth that or not.

As has been said, you can find some chinese gems, just as you can find german pieces of coal. Just because alot of the chinese violins aren't quality is no reason to say that they all aren't.

From Liz Ward
Posted on February 22, 2005 at 03:35 PM
Yes of course, but the plain fact is that value has very little to do with tone. I personally don't know of any Chinese violins that would have been worth $1500 new, that were being made ten years ago, that's why I was surprised. I am in the UK though and Chinese violins are a lot more highly favoured in the US than they are over here.

Liz

From Mike Harris
Posted on February 22, 2005 at 08:49 PM
If he offered you 500 then chances are he thinks it's worth 1000 (standard dealer markup), so you should rightly compare yours to those (1000 dollar) instruments.
From Mang Tian
Posted on February 27, 2005 at 07:45 AM
Hey:
I'm from China, a native.A violin from any country can meet the same situation---if they are cheap. So whether a violin will lose its great sound depends on how much you paid :),in china there are violins that are pretty good, make sure u find the right way to get one.
From Michael Molnar
Posted on February 27, 2005 at 11:55 PM
I believe that the better Chinese violins (viz. Eastman Strings) are a fantastic bargain for Americans until China is forced to change its exchange rate. This may present a good business opportunity for long term planners.

BTW, here is a very apropos quote from the Eastman Strings web site. I think it sums up this discussion.


"Many of Eastman Strings’ instruments are crafted in our Beijing workshop, and most of our bows are crafted in workshops in Suzhou, Shenyang, and Beijing. While some teachers and players have had negative experiences with some of the infamously bad instruments and bows imported from China, there is no relation between those and the high quality handmade products from our workshops. Remember when Japanese goods once suffered from a poor reputation based on the worst of trinkets that for many years flooded American markets? Now look at the excellent reputation for quality enjoyed by Japanese automobiles and electronics. Chinese products still often suffer from a reputation earned in earlier times, but Eastman Strings is at the forefront of the new generation of outstanding instrument and bow makers that leave those lesser products in the dust!"

PS: I do not work for Eastman Strings, nor do I have any vested interest in them except a couple of their better violins which I love.

From Mike Harris
Posted on February 28, 2005 at 04:31 PM
Eastman makes pretty good instruments. If you check around post here (probably earlier on this thread) you will find names of those we like even better. I like the Snow instruments, for instance.
From Andreas Lantz
Posted on February 28, 2005 at 06:18 PM
I love the timbre of the Erhu very much but I am not familiar with chinese violins.

The Erhu can make this gorgeous sopranolike sounds then morph into a more regular tone.

I don´t think you can do those sounds with a regular violin.

How are Erhus built and what creates this sopranolike timbre?

From Bill Platt
Posted on February 28, 2005 at 11:36 PM
Hi Andreas,

Erhus are indeed amazing. I had the absolutely amazing luck to meet a player "off the boat" as it were (very little english) who was playing in Central Park. I listened for 1/2 hour. Then, he motioned to me to try it! It was great fun--and totally different. Two strings, no fingerboard. Your bow hair is between the strings (you have to destring to take the bow out). You work the bow hair with your fingers---you have all the harmonics as well as a stopping effect at your disposal.

The body is very small--it looks like it could not possibly work. But, it does, because it is like a banjo--the bridge is on top of a stretched skin. That is where it gets so much volume. (Incidentally, there are many other places where a stretched string is part of the game--afghan rebab, indian sarod to name a few, both bowed and plucked).

There is(are) a good website(s) on the Erhu.

Great way to wrap up this discussion, too, as the Erhu is a perfect example of something produced from pinnacle skills--before the European encroachment.

Interesting to realize that not long ago, the only stuff we could get from China were those fine (traditional) things: silks, tea, jade, pottery, wood carvings, etc. Now, we are in a (very) new era. Or perhaps a repeat. My gr.gre.grandfather was in the "original" china trade--moving pottery etc. The pottery that came from China was different from the domestic Chinese---they did not have handles on their cups--but old "China" here does. remember Macau etc. And I think it is also worth noting that many have reservations about the current china trade that are not racist,; but rather are political and economic. (It is still a communist country--do not forget Tiananmen).

Do find a way to experience the Erhu live--it is a fantastic instrument. It is another whole way of making sound.

We are so easily trapped into this sort of ephemeral chase for the "perfect" violin. What does it sound like? "A Stradivarius" What does that sound like? Like (fill in the blank)--"I know it when I hear it" or even worse, "I don't know what it sounds like, but he does". When you hear an erhu, it makes you wonder: what is wrong with a bit of variety?

Best regards,

Bill

From Andreas Lantz
Posted on March 1, 2005 at 07:01 AM
Thank´s Bill!

Do you know what creates that sopranovocals tone that you can get from an Erhu?

From Ohsung Bryan
Posted on April 23, 2008 at 08:41 PM
I got one chinese violin from Ebay.
Seller is Old-violin-house. I think it looks great. I am very beginner so I don't know how I can evaluate this violin. But I got recorded the violin sound. If you are good violinist and know about violin sound, please listen to my violin sound and tell me if you like or not.

I will link the page that I put my violin's picture and sound clip. I wrote down some story about this violin in Korean. But you can still see the picture and listen to sound clip.

Here is the web address;
http://cafe.naver.com/violin79/39068

From Bob Annis
Posted on April 24, 2008 at 04:20 AM
I have no doubt that Chinese violins have the potential to be as good as any, all depending on the skill of the maker and the quality of wood.

My only problem is the political aspects of supporting their economy. The govt is pretty nasty, and I don't believe in sending them hard currency, but that's tilting at windmills, since every fast-buck corporation in the West is sniffing around at what will be the world's largest middle class in another 20 years.

I hope to be in a better place by then, but the mind boggles at the potential. Imagine what the 1980s world economy would have looked like if there were a billion Japanese, at the top of their game.

From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on April 24, 2008 at 06:29 AM
Most violins in China are mass produced, and without labels of the luthier, as noted by others. So, one guy carves scrolls only, another back plates, another top plates, etc. This is supposed to give consistency, and lower costs.

But, a few are indeed made by a single luthier, and these will bear a proper label.

AND, political prisoners are not employed. geez. some of things you hear - as if a prisoner can be taught how to be a craftsman.

Many of the better Chinese violins have excellent craftsmanship. The only weakness is the sound.

Chinese violins are gaining popularity for good value, but I have yet to find any that come up to what I call a concert quality. One must be very discerning to find the good deals, and be prepared to search far and wide.

I have noted certain attributes about Chinese violins, inter alia: (1) they are all lacking in sound in the lower registers. (2) they all seem to "crack" the sound when played with vigour. (3) they do not project. (4) they do not improve with ageing or playing, so the sound you have today is the sound you will have forever.

There is a big difference in price and sound, due to the woods. (1) Some Chinese violins are made from woods that grow in the south. These southern woods have large bands for the flaming. These are the cheaper ones. These are the ones that will have less soudn over time. (2) Others have northern woods. These woods have narrow bands for the flaming. Violins of these woods tend to sound better overall, and are higher priced.

If you pay $1500 in the US, you can be assured the price in China is about $500 or less.

Finally, I see no orch member in China playing on a Chinese violin.

hope this helps.

From al ku
Posted on April 24, 2008 at 10:17 AM
to bob, if your beef is with the chinese govt, then take it on... join the tibet protest, the olympics protest. as far as i know, not a single violin maker in china is govt owned. not trying to sway your feelings toward china in general or in particular, i wonder what you will do about posting on v.com if you realize there is a good chance components of your computer might have been made or processed in china:)

ron, great info since i am always curious about chinese violins and you are in a good position to offer a good perspective. i wonder if you have had experience trying "chinese" violins made by VSA winners?

From Sean Bishop
Posted on April 24, 2008 at 01:18 PM
I generally sell violins north of $10 000. I bought a few J.Haide violins to cover the odd cheaper request........my chap set one up.....it sounds better than most of the violins in my shop!! Looks good too!!!
The revolution has started........
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 04:13 AM
Ron, I would take a grain of salt on what the Chinese pros say about their violins. I’m not at all surprised they all like to use non-Chinese violins, as this is entirely consistent with the pervasive tendency among the people on China to hold deeply that the stuff from the West is automatically always superior no matter what. Also, because of the prestigious status of western-made violins in China, I won’t be surprised that if it turns out some pros are either playing a forged western-made violin or simply not telling the truth when asked what violin they are playing, as we all know how easy it is to fake labels.

The violin I recently brought from Shi Ruilin is definitely a much better instrument in every respect than the ones I tried here that are made in the west within the similar price range. My lutheir confirmed this. And you know Shi is not even nearly close to an international prize winner like someone as Jiang Shan.

From jake bush
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 04:09 AM
I don't know, I've played numerous violins by Shan Jiang and his brother Feng Jiang and while they're nice instruments, they're still blown out of the water by the top US and European makers.
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 04:15 AM
I’m curious Jake, who did the setup for Jiang’s violins that you’ve tried?
From jake bush
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 04:21 AM
His brother, I believe.
From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 04:19 AM
Yi Xi:

You make a valid point: some luthiers are better than others. Also, no doubt a violin bought here will be about 1/3 the price you would pay retail in the USA.

The best luthiers in China are no longer inexpensive, and their prices can rival those of EU and USA. Once the price reaches international, I think it prudent to research thoroughly and patiently, with an open mind.

I do not denegrate any nationality. I intended to inform about woods and factory made violins, based upon knowledge shared with me by the luthiers and pros here.

If the Chinese do not buy China, well I can say nothing about such bias. I have yet to meet anyone anywhere who has no biases. As a whole, I find all violinsts very "traditional" (though anal retentive is a better description).

But, the fact remains that of the violins my prof and I have tried, factory or hand-made up to about $4000 (in China), all are lacking in sound in some way or other. Mostly, I find the better Chinese violins are rather good for E and A registers, but they lack mucho in the G register. None I tried yet have any real projection power. But, this will very likely change, and perhaps soon.

So, China is coming of age for violins, re quality and price. Overall very good value, with the better ones getting expensive. All the more reason to shop and compare with prudence.

glad to know you are happy with your new violin. hope to hear you some day!

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 05:45 AM
Very well put, Ron.
From Sean Bishop
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 10:00 AM
Jake
The violins by Shan Jiang....what maker comes close in Europe or the States for the price? None.
From al ku
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 11:11 AM
this situation reminds me very much of the auto industry in the 80's where japanese car makers send over little sporty cars like honda or datsun that people thought they would rust and crumble in 2 years...have you driven a lexus lately and a GM rental car from the airport?

the thing is that people are not comfortable with change and most fail to see potential at the early stage. (by the time you felt comfortable buying your first internet stock, the pros did the selling).

the writing is loud and clear: how to refute the consistent and persistent strong showings in VSA competitions which are blinded? i am pretty sure some posters here will argue that the expert judges do not know what they are doing, that they never tried chinese takeout that make them go hungry in couple hours, that the hidden dragons and crouch tigers are to be found on v.com. dudes, be real!

if the prevailing argument that comtemprary violins offers good sound and value, base on what should modern day chinese violins be subjected to a different standard? really, it is not even bias, but simple illogic.

isn't it the case that most v.comers will have difficulty telling chinese made violins apart from european or american ones, um, without being told what is what? and if told what is what, then everything becomes so obvious and everyone a sinoviolinoexperto?:):):) (no, i am not talking about 99 cents special on ebay and eggrolls in your chinese takeout)

IF i am a luthier, i will definitely be concerned with what chinese craftsmen are up to because what lurks in the dark may very well affect my business. in the case of iffy makers, hey, may want to look at another line of work. while doing that, i would feel better bashing china instead of picking on myself.

image problem with chinese products? sure. but having lived in america, beyond apple computer and harley davidson and such, i find american products comparatively worse junks and american workers' attitude pathetic. so pathetic that american businessmen bring their businesses elsewhere! :) explain that.

re: getting european tone wood. not a luthier here but it is a tradition for luthiers worldwide to get certain tone wood from europe. it is not a chinese thing per se. it is a violin thing per se.

re: players in china not playing chinese instruments. again, it is a violin thing, not a chinese thing. i don't see american orchestra players flock over to american violins either. the italian varnish is just too pungent!

re: ebay violins if labelled with the word italian on the title will get more hits. duh.

From Christian Abel
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 10:59 AM
It's funny. When the issue is contemporary violins being made in Cremona, the argument is that country/city of origin doesn't really mean anything anymore, but when the issue is Chinese violins it seems to mean a great deal.
From al ku
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 12:07 PM
as ron stated earlier, we all hold certain biases as we go through life. we need to be "biased" in order to make distinction between what is considered beautiful vs ugly, good vs bad, acceptable vs unacceptable,,,and chinese vs non-chinese.

i have no problem voicing my own opinions and accepting others, as long as there is an attempt to make some sense. may be that is too much to ask since most have not been to the other side of the globe and therefore to some the world spins around where they stand. people in the west are "we" and others are "they" or chinese:):):) quite a beautiful microcephalic concept!

shush,,,be nice now.

From jake bush
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 12:53 PM
Sean:

Ay, not many US and European makers are in that lower price range. But, more expensive Chinese instruments (7,000+), still get shut down by the really great American makers who aren't charging much. Kelvin Scott comes to mind, for example. His instruments run a bit over 10 grand, and still shut down all the VSA winning Chinese makers I've tried.

Actually, I've tried quite a lot of instruments by lesser known makers who sell in the 2,000-3,000 range, and these instruments are often on par with the much higher-selling Chinese instruments.

It's not bias against Chinese instruments or anything of the sorts. I began violin on a Chinese instrument, and the country is making nice violins at affordable prices, there's no argument there.

But, when it comes down to it, all the VSA winning Chinese makers I've tried are "bleh" violins when compared with Burgess, Greiner, Curtin, Alf, Croen, Needham, Darnton, Scott, etc.

Of course, all those makers except Scott cost in the 30,000$ range, so whether or not the difference in quality is worth it money-wise, it really depends.

From al ku
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 01:14 PM
jake, i have no intention to dispute your personal experiences, particularly not knowing your background with violin. the world is pretty big and it is tough for one person to know it all.

unless you are in the business of dealing violins as sean apparently does, like putting one's money where one's mouth is, like seeing in depth day and night, like picking and choosing what may sell, i will put more weight on sean's assessment and observation.

the fact that you even bothered to compare vsa chinese winners with top american makers in a way is quite revealing and suggestive.

further, the marketplace is quite fluid so that trends are being set as we speak.

From Sean Bishop
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 01:54 PM
Jake.
To say the top Chinese makers do not get near the names you mention is just wrong.
Feng Jiang......worked and trained with Gregg Alf and I would consider him to be on a par level. I have sold a few violins by the makers you mentioned....ask Kelvin Scott what he thinks of Feng Jiang violins?.....
I had a violin by Shan Jiang last year that I sold to a very fine and talented violinist......I showed the violin to Peter Biddulph whom told me it was one of the finest modern violins he had seen.........Charles Beare gave Shan a silver medal and a gold to Feng at the VSA comp. .......does that say something?
People have come to think of Chinese products as cheap copies of the originals...but think back just a hundred years ago and China was regarded as a producer of the finest artifacts.
From Henry Wang
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 05:15 PM
Jake:

Only on March 10, you started a thread titled "Modern Violins" in which you said you wanted to upgrade your violin and were asking who are the best modern makers. You also mentioned "I live in the middle of nowhere, so going out and finding instruments to try is difficult." You don't even have a driver's license, and you said your parents were too busy to take you out of state to check out violins. The only source you knew then is Shar. Now only in about a month's time you seem to have tested all the great makers' works including "Burgess, Greiner, Curtin, Alf, Croen, Needham, Darnton, Scott" and other top Chinese makers. I wonder how you could have searched so efficiently.

From jake bush
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 05:42 PM
Henry:
Yes, I was having large difficulties trying instruments at all, and my parents were no help! My grandmother, however, has been absolutely amazing in her support for me. Her husband passed away only a few months ago, so she and I have been spending lots of time together, and she's like a second mom to me now. She's taken me traveling through most of the States with her, and in the past two months I've been able to try out tons and tons of violins in many shops.
Since most shops don't carry modern makers, I tried to visit the workshops of those I could, and visit owners of instruments otherwise. Private teachers, people selling their moderns, etc. Shar is quite helpful as well.

It all depends on particular instruments, of course. I am simply saying that, while many Chinese instruments I tried were pretty nice, and would suit the needs of many professionals, they don't hold a candle to some astounding American makers I tried.
I don't doubt that in the future there will be Chinese instruments that will rival American contemporaries.

As for Feng Jiang, yes, he's a very skilled violinmaker, and I thought his instruments were quite a level above his brother Shan's (perhaps due to Alf's training, I don't know) and I'd say that Feng's instruments are pretty close to Alf's in quality.

From al ku
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 06:05 PM
is this the case where if one tried one violin, one can say...in my experience,

if two, one say, time and again,,,

three time, jeffrey holmes will be out of business soon.

From Sean Gillia
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 06:31 PM
While I don't know how many Jiang violins (Feng or Shan) Jake has tried, or whether what he thinks "blows away" top US makers is what I would think blows away US makers, I do know that the VSA judges most definitely do not share his opinion -- as they have awarded Feng Jiang and Shan Jiang multiple awards these past several years.

I also know that the marketplace doesn't agree. The fact of the matter is that Shan's violins are in high demand these days and are well regarded by many, many fine players. For $7k, these are pretty awesome instruments. By way of some objective comparison, fiddles by other VSA winners are routinely much higher priced.

Full disclosure: my daughter plays on a Shan Jiang (Actually, Al, re your comment above, we purchased it from Jeffrey Holmes! He gave it a first-rate setup and he's been watching over it ever since we got it). The fiddle has been highly praised by virtually all who've heard it. It certainly doesn't fit Ron's description -- with regard to its bottom end, ability to project in a large concert hall, etc.

(As for his brother Feng, I don't think he's sweating Jake's earlier dismissal of his fiddles either -- not with a price tag nearing $20k and a multiyear waiting list.)

From David Blackmon
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 05:55 PM
To say that chinese violins are sub par is just pure nonsense.....I have played many great violins from chinese makers.....the problem I see is the resale value....some people...dealers included.....have a negative bias toward any violin with a chinese name.

David B

From al ku
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 07:39 PM
"negative bias toward any violin with a chinese name."

to dispel any market confusion, it is time for the brothers to reveal their given name: Ferdinando Gianni and Santino Gianni.

From Julia S
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 08:01 PM
I know someone who has a violin made by Feng Jiang. I think it sounds quite beautiful.
From David Burgess
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 07:47 PM
Is Feng Jiang a Chinese maker or an American maker?
I think of him as American, but I suppose that could change if he should ever move to China. ;)
From jake bush
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 09:58 PM
I'd consider Feng an American maker as well.

Like I said, no bias. A person's ethnicity has no affect upon the quality of violins they make. That's simply ridiculous. But for now, the trend is that the makers of highest quality (from what I've tried, at least) reside in America/Europe.

This may be because America has more violin making schools, or a larger market for high-end instruents, or whatnot. No idea.

I also think Shan Jiang instruments are pretty nice for the 7,000$ mark, but I definitely wouldn't go above that. There's no comparison between his instruments and Kelvin Scott's, who charges only a few thousand more.

I am not arguing against VSA judges. Personally, I think the problem is that the very finest makers in America simply don't compete in the VSA because they're either judges, or they've won so many gold medals, they're exempt. All the makers I listed as completely blowing away Chinese violins, don't enter in the VSA as far as I know.
It seems like most of the competitors are makers aspiring for fame, not those who have already achieved it.

From Sean Gillia
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 10:52 PM
Jake, Of course, you're entitled to your opinion of Shan Jiang's violins (although, I have no idea how many have you actually sampled), but it's just that -- an opinion -- and there are many experienced luthiers and players who disagree with your assessment.

As for makers who enter the VSA, Kelvin Scott, whom you've been championing (apparently for good reason, by all accounts), certainly does compete in the VSA. In the last competition, for instance, his viola won a gold medal. His violin entry, however, did NOT receive a medal or any other award in that very same competition -- while Shan Jiang's received a certificate of merit for tone. So, again, regarding your considered opinion that there is no comparison, other distinguished evaluators in a blind test would beg to differ.

From David Burgess
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 12:36 AM
Jake makes a good point, in that makers who have won gold medals in three VSA competitions are not allowed to enter any more.

I have mixed feelings about this rule, but understand that the goal of the VSA is something other than to create a hierarchy in the violin trade.

Quoted from their web site;
"The Competition's objective is to inspire the creation of outstanding, artistic, concert-quality instruments and bows."

Once a maker has met this standard, there may be no reason for further inclusion in the competition.

In my humble opinion, Kelvin and Feng will eventually get booted on that basis. But one never knows, because makers tend to be enigmatic people who are capable of throwing surprises. Makers can make huge leaps, and they can also backslide.

From jake bush
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 11:54 PM
Sean: I tried three of Shan's instruments, so I can't speak for his violins as a whole. Perhaps they weren't the finest of his work, I don't know. I can only say that I tried 2 of Scott's, and three of Shan's, and that both of Scott's were a league above Shan's, and that the violin which I began violin on (a 2,000$ Chinese instrument) was about equal to Shan's.

All depends on the specific instrument of course, but if anyone thinks that the higher end violins being produced in China can compete with the top American and European makers...well, contact the makers for a trial and compare them side by side for yourself.

It's just my humble opinion that, as of now, Chinese instruments are put to shame by the likes of Seifert, Greiner, Burgess, and Needham. In the future, I don't doubt that there will be equally wonderful makers in all parts of the world. But for whatever reasons, the current trend of quality seems to be that of American/European makers being superior. I am guessing this is mainly due to violin-making being much newer to Asia than it has been to the West.
Given time, makers in Asia will likely rival their Western contemporaries.

From Sean Gillia
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 02:49 AM
Jake, it is your opinion, and you've stated it honestly, if somewhat bluntly.

In reference to your statement that the Scott you tried was a "league" above the Shan Jiang -- maybe. But I repeat -- because I think it's a telling point -- that the experienced VSA judges in a blind test did not share your opinion in their last competition. In fact, Scott's violin was shut out. Shan got the certificate of merit for tone. It does make you wonder whose violin was a "league" above the other's. At the very least, you might concede that Shan's violin wasn't exactly put to shame.

I guess my point is that your opinion is not necessarily the final word or the consensus view on the matter of Chinese violins, and that some folks who know what they're talking about actually don't share your view. I mention Shan Jiang only because you did, but the same might be said for other high-end Chinese makers, several of whom have won gold medals in the VSA competitions in recent years.

The VSA isn't the be-all and end-all of violin quality. Many great makers don't enter and don't need to enter, and some (as Mr. Burgess noted) get booted after winning 3 golds. It's simply that -- given that we're all here just talking in the ether, and apart from the several highly esteemed makers, players, and expert dealers/restorers who do provide their honest opinions here, we have no way of knowing who amongst us would be able to discern the difference between a Strad and a Skylark -- it is simply a way of seeking some sort of objective evaluation to lean on, something reliable in the rather thin air of the internet.

In the real world, of course, it all comes down to our ears. And that's as it should be. I hope you found an instrument you're happy with. Meanwhile, we'll have to agree to disagree regarding your broad conclusions.

From Ian Burkard
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 02:55 AM
I lose my sound after about a year.
From jake bush
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 02:56 AM
I'd not say it's a telling point really, since in such competitions only one instrument is tested, and usually one the maker feels is their best available. Makers could easily get outside help just for their submission violin, for example.
Well, what the VSA judges decide is their decision, naturally. Maybe that instrument was wonderful, and maybe Scott's submission was nothing special.
I am just saying that from the ones I tried, and from the input I've received about most modern makers, my conclusion is that Chinese instruments aren't yet on par with the best contemporary makers.

It's all personal opinion though, so like I said, if anyone wants to see if Chinese instruments hold their own against a Seifert or Needham, etc, try them for yourselves and make your own conclusions.

I'll let the matter rest since I've said my piece.

From Benjamin K
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 06:19 AM
"a Chinese maker or an American maker?"

What does this have to do with the origin of a product?

If a French wine maker moves to Australia to make wine there then his wines become Australian wines. If a Californian wine maker moves to Italy to make wine there, then his wines become Italian wines.

Apple stamps its products with "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China". Even though the question whether a Mac or iPod is then is a US or Chinese product becomes somewhat more difficult to answer, the ethnicity or nationality of those involved in making the product has *absolutely* *no* *relevance* *whatsoever*. It is the location(s) where the product is made which counts.

Note that trade regulations about the origin of products do not make any exceptions for musical instruments. The rules apply to violins just as they apply to wines and electronic devices. A Chinese violin is thus an instrument which is made in China, regardless of who made it.

From Christian Abel
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 06:36 AM
I really hope David Burgess doesn't move to China. I would hate for him to become a Chinese violin maker putting out Chinese violins. By all accounts their lower register would suffer tremendously.
From Benjamin K
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 06:40 AM
If David moved to China making violins there, he'd be an American violin maker making Chinese violins unless he'll get naturalised in which case you might then consider him an American-Chinese maker making Chinese violins. Contrary, if he moved to China and get naturalised but commuted to the US for work (maybe Guam since it's a little closer), then he'd be a Chinese or American-Chinese maker making American violins ;-)
From David Burgess
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 11:30 AM
From Christian Abel;

"I really hope David Burgess doesn't move to China. I would hate for him to become a Chinese violin maker putting out Chinese violins. By all accounts their lower register would suffer tremendously."
---------------

That's why Gregg Alf, Joseph Curtin, Feng Jiang, Jeffrey Holmes, Sharon Que, Mark Norfleet and I live in Ann Arbor. We like the tone quality that Southern Michigan imparts, LOL.

Something to do with the earth's magnetic lines of flux.....
We need to give credit to Henry Ford for noticing this first though. Nothing sounds quite like a Model T, and the sound of the flathead Ford V8 was legendary. :)

Who isn't impressed by the awesome sound of the World War II bombers produced at the Willow Run factory, about 10 miles from Ann Arbor?

If you like the Harley Davidson sound, you might consider a violin made in Milwaukee. Contrast this with the sound of the Italian Ducati (lacking core and richness) or a Chinese moped, and I think you'll be well on your way to understanding regional sound profiles. ;)

From al ku
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 11:48 AM
i think we all know what we are talking about here and it has nothing to do with violin. in the midth of poking fun at cheap chinese junks which more and more americans are finding to be unaffordable with their finances, grandiose gesture of trying to make our sophomoric voice sound authoritative, a little cute self serving agenda here and there, it is about being unfair and yet trying hard to sound otherwise, about being ignorant and trying to sound otherwise. really, you see one, you see all.

to that, i'd say the global economy will be our best teacher, time the best judge and baby, we've got a long way to go:)

couple facts to munch on with your coffee:

1. in terms of trade imbalance between china and the us, driven largely by us consumer demand, the current ratio is: us sells to china one dollar and in return, china sells to us 200 billion, per year.

2. china now holds close to one trillion dollars of us bonds. translation: the us borrows money from china; china loans one trillion dollars to the us to fund us federal govt spending. your medicaid/medicare, think china. to patch big holes in social security, think china...

care for a refill?

From Benjamin K
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 11:37 AM
That begs the question: Is Ann Arbor spelt with a 415Hz A or a 440Hz A?
From Gary LaCom
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 11:52 AM
David,

You might be onto something. I love the violin, and I'd love to have a nice little deuce coupe. Maybe there is a correlation here that needs closer examination. What about violas, cellos and basses made in the Ann Arbor area? Do they also have superior sound?

From David Burgess
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 11:49 AM
From al ku;

"I think we all know what we are talking about here and it has nothing to do with violin. in the midth of poking fun at cheap chinese junks which more and more americans are finding to be unaffordable with their finances, grandiose gesture of trying to make our sophomoric voice sound authoritative, a little cute self serving agenda here and there, it is about being unfair and yet trying hard to sound otherwise, about being ignorant and trying to sound otherwise. really, you see one, you see all."
------------------------
Jeez Al, it seems like you're being a little hard on people who suggest that China might be a little behind the West when it comes to producing Western art (or crafts). (I don't have an opinion on the matter)

Would you defend Westerners as vehemently if a Chinese person claimed that Chinese literature written by British people isn't quite up to speed?

If not, is this indicative of cultural bias on your part?

From al ku
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 12:23 PM
"it seems like you're being a little hard on people who suggest that China might be a little behind the West when it comes to producing Western art"

a little behind? more like lightyears behind, imo. yet, that is not the point i was making.

"Would you defend Westerners as vehemently if a Chinese person claimed that Chinese literature written by British people isn't quite up to speed?"

i certainly would, if in my opinion the chinese person sounds moronic and not factual. if the british work is indeed garbage, i will state it as such. may be it sounds absurd, but i am not as race/culture sensitive as many others here. so you know, several heads of chinese language dept of ivy league schools happen to be non-chinese.

"is this indicative of cultural bias on your part?"

no. everyone is fair game, including myself.

From David Burgess
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 01:28 PM
From Benjamin K;

"That begs the question: Is Ann Arbor spelt with a 415Hz A or a 440Hz A?"
-----------
I'll need to check, but since the name of the town contains two "A"s, and there's some early music activity here, we might have one of each. ;)

From Sean Gillia
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 02:18 PM
It may be best for this thread to spin its final posts out in humorous fashion (the thread was twisting into a repetitive knot before that point, at least partly due to me), but I would just add a few thoughts:

Maybe the VSA competition tells us nothing, but to me, when I read winning names like Ming-Jiang Zhu, Zu-Lian Wu, Shiquan Zhao, Xueping Hu, Shan Jiang, and Wei Yang it tells me that Chinese violins are indeed becoming competitive with some of the best violins produced in America. (Indeed, it's hard to draw any other conclusion that doesn't involve making silly assumptions about Chinese makers getting outside "help" making their submission violins -- see above).

On the other hand, someone (who really knows what they're talking about) recently suggested to me that what some of the Chinese violin makers may lack in comparison with their American peers -- at least at the moment -- is participation in a larger community of makers sharing ideas, the most up-to-date construction/varnish/setup methods, with greater exposure to more of the world's great older instruments for study purposes, etc. To me, the idea makes sense, paritcularly if we look at someone like Feng Jiang, a talented Chinese maker who began his studies in China and then emigrated and continued his studies in Ann Arbor. I don't know enough myself to say whether his violins have improved since his arrival in the States, but I'd bet they have, I'd bet a super-talented maker like Feng Jiang did learn from his time with Alf, from his exposure to a great living maker and also to more great older violins etc. and that it has helped him to make better violins (maybe better varnish, better and more authentic looking antiquing, a better setup etc.), better perhaps than he would have been making had he remained in China. And maybe these experiences, more than the mere fact of his geographic location, are what make him an American maker.

Just a thought.

From David Burgess
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 03:31 PM
Feng also attends the VSA/Oberlin College violin making workshop, so he has exposure to some top makers from all over the world.
It seems like a high percentage of competition winners or well-known makers have been associated with one or more of the Oberlin summer programs.....and that would include at least half of the makers on Jake's initial list of eight that he likes.
From jake bush
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 04:25 PM
Yes, the higher amount of exposure here in the States is likely a leading factor.
Perhaps there's a larger market here for higher-priced instruments as well, and thus there's motivation backing the market.

With China producing such a high level of violinists now a days, it would make sense to me if we soon see the high-end violin market in China skyrocket to accompany advanced and professional players.

From Sean Gillia
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 04:43 PM
Yes, exactly. The Oberlin workshop is a perfect concrete example of what I meant by a community of folks sharing ideas.

And yet, I would ask (sincerely), how then does one explain the rapidly increasing numbers of Chinese makers nabbing top honors in VSA and other competitions -- even when stacked against these same Oberlin workshop folks, even when they are (presumably) evaluated by judges who may well have also attended the Oberlin workshop?

Could it be that the judges' views actually have some merit?

Could it be that a few Chinese makers are actually making top-flight violins, even in the relative though rapidly diminishing isolation of China?

Or.. is it that these makers have already hopped a plane and attended the Oberlin workshop? And if they haven't, what happens when they do?

From al ku
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 06:09 PM
"participation in a larger community of makers sharing ideas, the most up-to-date construction/varnish/setup methods, with greater exposure to more of the world's great older instruments for study purposes, etc."

sean, that is a good point. i am sure there are great makers who are also good people willing to share their skills with others. HOWEVER, just like in any other fields, there is also an issue of protecting one's turf and intellectual properties. with the surge of chinese economic power, the surge of a few talented chinese makers, the surge of military and industrial espionage from china, with the average (or below average:) mindsets of of the west, it may be a tough sell.

in other words, people tend to be helpful,,,to a point:) looking back at the history of violin making, it seems that record keeping and the zeal to share knowledge to preserve the art are not necessarily a priority.

business is business. i understand that.

From David Burgess
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 08:15 PM
Al, I agree about mindsets of the West. Americans have a cushy lifestyle compared to much of the rest of the world, and many may have gotten soft, losing the benefit of "staying hungry". We'll see how this plays out.

The old French bow makers were known for finishing a stick by noon so they could afford to buy lunch, yet they have the highest value today. China may inherit this tradition. The Chaldean immigrants at the local convenience store seem to think nothing of putting in 18 hour days.

To continue on your post, I "believe" I've heard varnish lectures which didn't present what the speaker actually used. There's still protection going on, but Oberlin might have reduced it to its lowest level yet. It's hard to conceal what you're doing when it's done in front of other makers.

Sean, thought provoking questions. I'll assume that Shan has input from his brother, but I don't know backgrounds of the others.

To me, violin making is a meritocracy without national or ethnic borders. I'm one of the judges who gave Feng a gold medal (albeit, without knowledge of ethnicity).
In a more recent competition, he only received a "certificate of merit". Go figure. ;)

A lot of current Cremonese production (I'm told) goes to Asia. Why don't they buy locally instead? Stereotypes persist in all cultures.

From al ku
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 08:53 PM
david, i deal with people all over the world for business and they are essentially the same type, meaning, they can donate millions of dollars for foundation/charity after they have made it, but they will not give their competitors one inch or one breath of fresh air if they can help it:) that is human nature, always has been, always will be. it is the engine that propels us forward with its own beauty. i don't expect violin makers as a whole to deviate much from this "norm". on that, i am sure many posters here are highly appreciative of whatever people like you can share with us here. (but i swear, no one has ever cautioned not to gluteus maximizing on violin:)

there is no doubt that the american society has gone softer with time. there will always be shining stars regardless, but the work ethics and the drive for excellence for the average individual is possibly lower than say, 50 years ago and very likely lower than people in developing countries like china, as you have pointed out. easier access to knowledge or the appropriate training environment is only meaningful if people can take advantage of it. if a kid in china is crazy about making violin, trust me, he will find a way regardless, oberlin school or not. similarly, look at people attending post graduate studies (not violin) in the us. they are mainly chinese and east indians. how did they manage to train their minds in adverse conditions?

sean, want to brush the issues under the carpet and wrap up with humor? i'm game. (caution, you did not specify high grade humor)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qtrAMK7_Qk

From Bilbo Prattle
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 09:15 PM
"nd the drive for excellence for the average individual is possibly lower than say, 50 years ago and very likely lower than people in developing countries like china, as you have pointed out."

I'm not so sure this is really true.

1. Think about the tough neigborhoods that served as inspiration for "West Side Story?"
2. Think about the record application rate for Ivy League today.

What does that say? That there have always been losers as well as winners, toughs as well as sweets, diamonds in the rough, immigrants and established.

I think this soft thing is true in certain respects but not in others. Mostly I think it is something we tell ourselves as a flatulation.

20 years ago it was always "those Japanese, they work so hard, their kids are brtighter and do their homework, they do lean manufacturing and Just-In-Time" blah blah blah. Of course Just in time was developed in the US and exported as an idea...along with so many other things.

Notice that we don't hear about the Japanese any more? They haven't gone away. We are merely ignoring them in favor of worrying about the Chinese.

U.S. media are like media everywhere: jingoistic, profit-driven, sensationalist, simplifiers. If you don't look past the easily consumed media, you won't see what is real.

To see what is going on takes living out there.

From al ku
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 09:42 PM
there is a documentary out there on screening status called 2 million minutes. here is a schedule: http://www.2mminutes.com/screenings.html

here is a clip on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPQydJg1RkQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS_QENuOYL8

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 11:18 PM
Al, I love your punchy writing and all those videos! Do you have a video spy works for you full time? :) “Be a man” is just too funny. Thanks for sharing!
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 11:37 PM
Al, that ratio might be right, but I wonder what would happen if you could simply turn off Walmart?
:)
From al ku
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 11:54 PM
i look at the us/america as a marriage with division of labor: china focusing on manufacturing and america on service and high tech, each playing to its stronger hand respectively. that is why it was not a bad idea for ibm to sell its computer division to a chinese firm and retain its consulting business, or a luthier to gravitate toward service instead of making new violins. to me it is academic, a phase of geopolitical economical evolution. if you are in the garment business and filing for bankrupcy, it is understandable that you may be bitter.

americans love to buy big (big junks if you will:), thus the negative saving rate. china, with its large manufacturing base, says, come on down!

with the current trade imbalance, both parties are playing a high risk game because if america stops buying or cannot afford to buy more, china's economy will take a big hit. but here is the catch. china as i said before holds a sheet load of us currencies. if china is forced to sell off us currencies, it will send us interest rate WAY up.

look at the current housing mess where there is no buyer with already lowered interest rate. america will go into deeper recession if adversely affected by a china downturn.

so, one goes down, both go down.

stop shopping in walmart? america is too heterogenous to band together. everyone is fighting for something, but rarely for the common cause. it is easier to say but millions of wage makers rely on cheaper alternatives.

From David Burgess
Posted on April 27, 2008 at 09:28 AM
It's a vicious circle. We American makers need to shop at WalMart because of price pressure from Chinese violins.... ;)
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 27, 2008 at 12:37 AM
Almost nothing we buy at Walmart is a necessity, I think. It's more like a party over at inexpensive stuff's place.
From Blaine Nierman
Posted on April 27, 2008 at 01:11 AM
but David,

those oldmid '70's Ducatis (when you can keep them running) definitely get the "cool factor" vote....

but I really like the '76 BMW r75/6..of course not as cool b/c it's made in Germany

From David Burgess
Posted on April 27, 2008 at 01:45 AM
Classy bikes for sure.
Harley may be merely riding on the coat tails of the "Sawzall", also from Milwaukee, the official demolition tool of the domestic "manly man", and the only implement in Harley repair shops besides several large hammers, euphemistically described in the repair manual as "persuaders". ;)

From Benjamin K
Posted on April 27, 2008 at 07:18 AM
Didn't the Chinese buy some German motorbike brand called Kreisler, including the whole factory? like 15 or 20 years ago or so.
From Benjamin K
Posted on April 27, 2008 at 10:54 AM
And how many people who give poor Chinese labourer's low pay as a reason why they won't buy or trade in Chinese products of one kind then turn around and use Chinese products of another kind where suddenly they don't show that kind of sensibility.

Sir, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, if you own a TV or any kind of electronics in your house, which you most certainly do as you did post on this forum which requires a device called a computer, then I have no choice but to call you a hypocrite.

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