How honest are violin shops
I will be upgrading my current violin, but there are no violin shops near me that sell violins above student quality. I will be buying online from a reputable shop, but I can only trial 2 violins and I'm worried they may just pick out their worst 2 at my price point to send to me. How likely is this to happen? I'd like to think people aren't that underhanded, but it is a business and there is an incentive for them to do that.
Depends on the shop!!
Would it be fair for me to mention the shop?
Yes you can mention the shop.
The shop is Johnson's Strings.
In my experience Johnson String Instruments (JSI) is a good shop. They have a good reputation. I have not bought a violin from them but I have bought a case and I think it was a good value.
I mention the shop I deal with all the time here (they are also known internationally - Ifshin Violins). Johnson strings also has a fine reputation.
I never bought a violin from them but I get my strings from Johnson's and they have always been great as far as customer care goes.
I agree with Andrew that more opinions are useful, but be ready for the possibility that if you show two people two violins, you can get two very opposite opinions. If you find yourself in that situation you either trust your gut or blindly follow your teacher. After all your teacher has to listen to the damned thing too.
As a rule a violin shop is as honest as a used car dealership. Some will be great, others won't be.
Mr. Victor, does Ifshin ship violins for trial? I looked their website, I can't seem to find any information about it.
Paul, you are concerned if the online shop would send your their worst violins for you to try. What makes you think this is good for business? It's a trial, right? I would think it'll hurt their business if they knowingly send you violins that you won't buy due to the poor quality. My question is how long the trial period you'll get and what is the return policy. You should ask for one month trial and be prepared to pay for the return cost. This way, you can ask your teacher or those who are more experienced to help you with the final decision of purchase.
As mentioned before, the problem begins once you open your mouth and answer "how much are you willing to spend".
Basically all shops will do trials. I think you might be misunderstanding Johnson's trials -- as far as I know, most shops will ship you only two or three fiddles at a time, but you aren't obliged to buy any of them. If you don't like them, you can send back all of them and ask them to send you a new batch of trial instruments.
Speak to them on the phone, I don't think shops like Johnson's send you their "bad" violins...they will most likely try to send you the right ones. Tell them what you're looking for. And if you don't know what you're looking for, find out ;). Talk about dimensions, sound, playability, etc...you can get closer to what you want by communicating. Still a crap shoot, however... Good luck!
Paul M. You can contact Ifshin by email, or a link on their website, or telephone. They have an excellent staff (all competent musicians) and a top quality repair shop in their 13,000 sq. ft. solar-powered structure. I Have dealt with them for the more than 20 years I've lived in the SF Bay Area.
Its in a shop's interest to send the best at any price point that they have to offer in the best setup and playing shape if they want to have a sale. Customer service is a necessity to building a good reputation. Since inventory goes in and out on approval, things that are sent are also what may be available at the moment.
I think that Johnson's is reputable. I think Shar is, too.
Paul, as long as you're paying for shipping, Johnson/Carriage House will let you try several, two at a time. Even though basically all shops do trials, very few are set up to do long distance trials as well as they are. Our salesperson has been great to work with; their inventory is online and up to date, and shipping is both encouraged and easy to do. A couple of things to be aware of there - they have instruments they own as well as consignments in inventory. When you're trading up, it has to be towards something they own...you have to ask which is which. Also I have the idea that things can get pretty competitive for the staff there, and the high pressure sales thing came out more than I cared for with one person there, so look for a good fit/connection with your salesperson.
Since Moennig's is long gone, I'll relate that a number of times over decades of playing I requested instruments. And I could swear that the first batch they sent every time was inferior to the second.
The comments by Scott Cole reminded me of the violin I bought from Wurlitzer, also gone for many years.
I agree with Scott Cole. My experience with violin and acoustic guitar shops is that the first few instruments they bring out are going to be dogs that they can't sell. As I rejected the first few, they got better and better.
You might want to try Fiddlerman. He sends his rejects back to the maker, not to the customer.
I just bought a JonPaul bow from Fiddlerman. They not only matched a competitors price, but beat it! Highly recommended.
Yeah I'm on board with fiddler man too.
Rocky, erm... I don't think I'd like to have for assessment a violin with "no strings attached" ;)
Just wanted to chip in one anecdote: I had some good experience with Shar when I purchased/upgraded my daughter's fractional violins (1/4--> 1/2; 1/2--> 3/4) until a few years ago. It was an mail order for both cases and multiple trials/return were involved.
"If you can, bring what you are buying to someone else for an inspection."
"If you can, bring what you are buying to someone else for an inspection."
Paul M, what's your budget? You mention that you're not buying a student-grade fiddle. Seriously consider taking a fraction of that budget and flying to a major city with a lot of violin shops, such as Chicago or NYC. Look at a lot of violins in person. Trying two at a time is probably not going to cut it if you're investing in a professional-grade instrument. That's especially true if you haven't previously tried a lot of higher-quality violins, as you're going to have to get a feel for what the trade-offs are at your price point.
There was a woman on Maestronet this spring asking for advice on a particular violin that her son was interested in purchasing. I and a few sane other members said they thought she was overpaying for this instrument. I recommended that she take this instrument out on trial and have someone else look at it as well as give her a price they would be willing to purchase it for right at that time to give her a different perspective of what this instrument could be worth if and when she wished to sell it in the future. A lot of noted luthiers chastised my opinion and cited it was unethical to do this and other reasons that were not in this woman's best financial interest.
" "If you can, bring what you are buying to someone else for an inspection."
@Dennis R. You know what to do if you want to be listened to ;-)
Honestly, from the point of view of a non expert I say this, there is a lot to be said about the role of advertising in colouring the description of violins (especially online) by (some...many?)vendors and consequently the expectation/perception of vulnerable buyers.
" @Dennis R. You know what to do if you want to be listened to ;-)
Why isn't it common that violin shops provide audio samples of violins? i.e., a decent violinist playing a scales (variations forte, piano, vibrato), all recorded in the same room with the same microphone.
How honest are violin shops?
I think you might like my shop!!
There are some shops that are now posting sample videos on YouTube of particular violins, or who offer sound samples on their websites, but I don't think that these are very useful.
Han N asked:
Lyndon, what if your customer asks for a good Chinese violin? Will you be flexible about such wishes?
OK Han, I challenge you to write down the properties/specifications of your own violin, in such a way that we can all understand what it sounds like. ;-)
A dealer once explained it to a non-playing friend of mine: "It's like choosing a lover."
If my customer asks for a new violin, be it Chinese or other, I would direct them to one of my competitors that specializes in such, I am an antique violin shop, why would I sell new Chinese violins, The ones in a comparable price point don't even compete with mine IMHO.
After a few violin buying experiences in which I felt I'd been taken advantage of, I'm now very skittish about buying a violin - even though I'm currently looking for a nice upgrade. I've amassed a small collection of auction catalogs from Sotheby's and Skinner's. (They are great "eye candy" if nothing else!) I've invested my $100 for a year of access to an online auction archive. I lurk on violin sites, and read violin books. Often I can't find much of a record on a particular maker in whom I might be interested. I wonder where the violin merchants are getting their insider info. (Where is the Kelly Bluebook for violins?) In one case, for a violin that was being offered for 9k, it appeared that the auction record for that maker was less than 1k. I think that recently I told a violin sales rep something that she didn't know about a particular violin. Maybe that impressed him/her. Maybe I'm making progress. Meanwhile, I tell myself to just keep trying to improve my skills and to be satisfied with what I have.
David, "hand-made in China, student violin". I think that will give you a fairly good idea of what it sounds like. :-) Anyway, I don't have enough playing skills, nor experience with other violins, to claim that I can. Normally (in my job), I talk to people that have relevant experience or that ask me to design a device and keep asking questions (e.g. "what if" or "does that mean that...") until it becomes clear what it is that we're looking for. But in violin land, this doesn't seem to work.
I think there is a market for an intermediate class (between buyers and sellers) of professional experienced players to be paid for testing violins for beginners and giving them feedback..and without doing backdoor business with one of the shops concerned.
John Minnich wrote, " I wonder where the violin merchants are getting their insider info."
There are professional players that deal. But they normally help players choose expensive violins.
"hand made in China" says nothing about the sound or quality of a violin, neither does "hand made in Germany".
I spoke with the Professor of Violin at my university, he said he will see what he can find for me. This is probably the best route, if he can't dig something up for me, then I'll resort to the online deal.
Hand made is one of those funny marketing terms that really means nothing.
Use your judgement, professors and music teachers have not always been any more honest in selling violins than violin shops, and tend to be ten times less knowledgeable and likely to believe fake labels etc. So use your best judgment.
Michael: "The pieces themselves can be made by machine, hand, or robot."
I had a fairly bad experience in buying a violin I have since nicknamed " the brick".
Timothy, I hope it was not too expensive
@tammuz kolenyo, It is an intermediate violin on the low end of intermediate violins. I'm out 1000.00. Could have been much worse. I have to be optimistic :-)
Maybe the dealer you bought it from has a trade-up policy. That way they can fleece you for even more next time.
Has you luthier ever seen the Plowden??
Lyndon, I am not sure if he has ever seen it. I only know the large prints he showed me of it's likeness in one of his reference books.
Ashley, did you read my post for what it is? no where do I say it is not a good or bad instrument or that it is or is not successful as a copy. However, the language used: "work of art" and "hands of a passionate craftsman" I find to be irrelevant. It reminds me of when in bargaining situations, a vendor offers a lower price, claiming that she or he is proposing "just for you". It is a linguistic trap. It is an expression that lost its literal meaning a long time ago and is part of a ritual of selling, an advertising incantation. Same goes for "work of art from the hands of a passionate craftsman". Im not commenting on the instrument(or instruments, which are not likely to be exactly the same -especially if the hands of a passionate craftsman are involved...so how can one generalize) itself.