Looking for a 10k-15k modern violin.

Edited: September 7, 2017, 6:20 PM · Greetings!

I am a student currently in the last year of my DMA program in Violin Performance. Currently, I play on a wonderful loaner Martin Fendt Violin from ~1820. The violin is in the 20k range and I will most likely be giving it back to the original owners at the end of the program as that was the plan we agreed upon.

I have decided I would like to purchase my own instrument, but would really like to keep it around 10k-15k for a first violin out of school. Does anyone have a luthier in this range they would recommend? I'm willing to try anything. Right now I am tending towards a modern instrument, but am up for anything. I'm not even sure where to start looking, honestly. Any suggestions would be great.
Thanks for your help :)
Tim

Replies (57)

September 7, 2017, 6:29 PM · The range of 15-20k is VERY crowded with modern instruments. In fact, I'll bet that 90% of all modern American instruments fall in this range.You'll likely get all sorts of suggestions, but the best thing is probably pick some shops with a good selection and start looking.

Is the Fendt still a possibility if you can afford it?

September 7, 2017, 6:35 PM · 10-15k for a modern American is either a second tier maker, or an up and coming master that will soon be selling for 30,000 etc, I would not rule out antiques, I would compare many violins in the price range and use your own judgement, one persons recommendation will be for their own specific preferences in tone and playability, not yours, so advice on given makers may have limited value, that and no two violins are the same, even by the same maker.
September 7, 2017, 6:44 PM · Thanks Scott and Lyndon, - There are many things I like about the Fendt, but I've also developed a few things I'm not so crazy about in the instrument either.
Regardless, would also like to give it back to the owner as it is a complicated relationship.
September 7, 2017, 7:02 PM · Go out and try as much as you can. You might find gems for less than what you expected.

Do check this out. Fine violin that fit the need of a soloist without breaking the bank.

http://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/201410/16309/

Edited: September 7, 2017, 7:10 PM · there is this person who s a member of the american federation of violin and bow makers.
Antoine Nedelec
7011 Hammond Ave Dallas, Texas 75223 (214) 328-9160 antoine1644@yahoo.com.
I have no idea on price, etc. However becoming a member is not easy. You have to be in the business for 10 years and submit copies of your work, etc. You can look at the VSA web site for past winners of competitions, however since they "won" they will be charging more that 10K.
Casey's advice is best....go try as many as you can....talking about it won't help....
Edited: September 8, 2017, 3:40 AM · If you are looking for 10k-15k modern, you will get a 10k-15k modern violin. No less, no more.
If you are looking for a violin to match your internal concept of sound , you may or may not spend 10k-15k.
September 7, 2017, 8:37 PM · If you wish an excellent sounding violin in that range, probably at about $12k see http://www.timothyjohnsonluthier.com/ He is a professionally trained maker who sells instruments through http://www.davidbrewerfineviolins.com/
But you might get a better deal working directly with him since he is in the Waco tx. area.
September 7, 2017, 8:55 PM · There are a zillion contemporary luthiers making violins in that price range, although I suspect an increase to the $20k range will give you a broader selection from more established makers.

You might look around your musical community, too, to see if anyone is upgrading and has a serviceable professional instrument in that price range to sell.

September 7, 2017, 9:33 PM · I'm with Casey on this one. Try a variety of affordable violins and pick your fave. There are definitely cheap gems lying around that cost less than you expect. I do see the point of setting an absolute minimum price range (perhaps $5000, there's a very tiny chance that there might be something you love that costs less than that, since I know a professional teacher who plays on a violin that costed $1000 in addition to owning an old practice violin with zero projection and lots of complexity that costed maybe $3000).
September 8, 2017, 1:33 AM · Thankfully, there's a lot of good instruments in that price range that you can play for a career. There's always going to be those that insist that a certain price point is "necessary" but we know lots of folks who make their living on reasonably-priced modern fiddles from contemporary makers.

A buddy of mine won his last three professional orchestra auditions on a viola by Bronek Cison.

September 8, 2017, 3:11 AM · I dont know if they are still in this price range, but Radke used to be. He makes good sounding and playing violins. Not really beautiful lookong most times but definitly worth a try and I remember he also had some in US shops.
September 8, 2017, 3:35 AM · Beware of the age old saying of new violin improving with time - not entirely true.

I owned two violins from two different maker from Cremona region (one being Japanese who made the violin in Cremona), both are really fine violins but they already have the qualities that I was looking for. They improved over time but did not change the character. And improvements usually due to new soundpost or bridge and adjustments.

If you don't find you like the violin in particular way, it probably won't improve the way you want. A good violin will be good from the get go.

Happy hunting!

September 8, 2017, 4:38 AM · I play on a violin by Anton Krutz. They are based out of Ks but like others will do shipping trials if you can't get up to their shop. He's a great guy.
Edited: September 8, 2017, 5:01 AM · I play a Topa violin, which I like. Yixi Zhang on v.com plays one too. You can find them at dealers.

https://superiorviolins.com/products/wojciech-topa-violin

I have tried two Topa violins in addition to my own, and one Topa viola. One thing I have noticed is that his violins are very consistent. The viola was absolutely breathtaking.

In terms of quality and sound, you just have to find something that you think will have the qualities to take you to the next level violinistically. You should not make this purchase without help from your teacher or another trusted pro.

As far as value is concerned, in this price range you're probably paying about 2/3 for the instrument and 1/3 for the reputation of the maker. As the price goes up, the proportion of reputation gradually increases. Strads are 90% reputation, that is what makes them good investments.

September 8, 2017, 8:37 AM · "10-15k for a modern American is either a second tier maker, or an up and coming master that will soon be selling for 30,000 etc"

Lyndon's comment illustrates the problem of modern violin prices: does the price reflect the sound and quality, or simply the perceived market value?

That's why I don't necessarily agree with Rocky's comment:" If you are looking for 10k-15k modern, you will get a 10k-15k modern violin. No less, no more."

The problem is that as soon as a maker gets a VSA medal, or perhaps a couple of people in a major orchestra or a concertmaster buys an instrument, the maker may suddenly feel justified in jacking up the price. Potential buyers rely on these validations to determine a violin's worth. What happened to the price of a Zig when Stern's Zig sold for $130,000 at auction? It went up, of course.

Often a 10-20K instrument looks and sounds like a 10-20k instrument. But not always. Prices reflect only what the maker or shop thinks people will pay.

September 8, 2017, 9:06 AM · Smiley had a great thread a few years ago and wrote up a synopsis. My hunch is that the instruments he was looking at would be slightly out of your price range but his process might be good to read about:

http://www.violinist.com/blog/smileyh1/20095/10115/

(and here's all the advice people gave him: http://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/15575/)

September 8, 2017, 9:18 AM · Here's another thread that might be useful:

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/22824/

Edited: September 8, 2017, 11:16 AM · The OP is a professional violinist so I imagine he would have tried different violins and knows what he wants from a violin.

Timothy, as many suggested, your price-range will give you huge amount of choices. It's a matter of narrowing down to a few makers and then try to find the best fit for you. These days you don't need to travel far to purchase a violin, as many violin dealers will ship the instruments for free to let you try. Once you've set your heart on one or the other violin, then you can shop/negotiate for the best price and trial period.

As Paul mentioned, I've got a Topa and I'm extremely happy with it. I bought it last winter through an online dealer with one month trial. I'm not a professional player, but I know a few professional violinists and violists here in Canada play on Topa. One of the chief characteristics of Topa is that it sounds like a mature old instrument from day one. They are well-balanced, playable and have warm tone and rich pallette.

Obviously prices don't necessarily reflect quality as other stated. For instance, the prices of violins come from Cremona will likely be higher than those from East-European makers. Same maker can double the prices of their violins within days after they've won a major competition. That said, I doubt you'll find the tonal quality/pallette you want in a $5,000 violin in today's market.

You may also want to check VSA (https://www.vsaweb.org/2016-Competition-Winners) to see who have won prices and contact some of the participants to see if you'll find one that is within your price range.

Edited: September 8, 2017, 9:43 AM · I think all the op asked for were a few makers names so he can try out the violins and does not miss a gem.
Sadly I know only makers if you go 20-25k and dont know newcommers I can recommend despite Radke.


I am confident he knows the rest.

September 8, 2017, 10:32 AM · I think multiple people (including Scott Cole?) have recommended John Harrison in Redding, CA.
September 8, 2017, 10:38 AM · PS: take your time! I think I rushed my shopping experience last year a bit--it didn't feel like it at the time, but in my price range I probably could have looked further afield. I tried a couple of Topas and didn't like the sound under my ear, but the faculty at Stanford were impressed with them (under someone else's bow) and it's possible I just wasn't skilled enough to coax out the nuance. I ended up with a bright, rich, even-sounding Heberlein that felt like a bargain at $8500. Everyone who tried it liked it, and I was so thrilled by the clarity of sound and ease of playing (compared to my student violin). But now I'm wondering if I should have held out for something with a broader range of tonal textures. Considering what you've been playing and your skill level, I'm sure you won't make the same mistake. Have fun!
September 8, 2017, 3:20 PM · There's no reason you can't go into a good shop and ask to play "their best violins at or below $15K and then spend time playing them. It is a good idea to always bring a trusted friend/teacher/colleague with you. If the shop as a larger room or recital hall (like Robertson & Sons in Albuquerque) then you can get a better sense of how the instruments fill the room. You could also bring a zoom recorder to get a more "objective" sense of the sound across the room. As others have said, there are many modern makers and most, if they are not "big names" have instruments in this price range. The only specific current maker I'm familiar with is Yoshikai out of Durham, NC. Beautiful workmanship and first rate sound. I have a superb viola of his, and have seen his violins & cellos as well. He keeps a low profile, though.
September 8, 2017, 3:46 PM · I don't think you should limit yourself to trying violins you can afford. If violins costing twice as much are better, wouldn't you want to know how?
Edited: September 8, 2017, 5:50 PM · Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions, ideas, and opinions. I'm excited to start the search! I really appreciate you all taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
September 8, 2017, 6:00 PM · Paul, you raise a good question. You can try unaffordable violins just for the heck of it. I actually did that once and even asked for a teacher evaluation. I didn't buy it, however. I'd say that it is not a good idea to buy a violin, hoping it will change tonally over time, and in most cases, for the better, since degree of tonal change varies from violin to violin. Some violins change a lot over time, whereas others don't. When a violin's sound changes dramatically, it's usually for the better. An exception could be violins that have recently come out of long-term storage. During a long-term storage period, violins can lose their resonance and projection, and sometimes, complexity. However, after a violin that has come out of long-term storage has been played actively for several weeks and has had its strings changed, tonal improvement can be quite evident. However, when you come across an inactive violin during a violin shopping trip, I would not put it under consideration for further evaluation unless you believe that it has the potential to possess all of the qualities you're looking for after several weeks of activity.
Edited: September 9, 2017, 6:05 PM · Scott, I find odd that you disagree, while stating essentially the same. We keep having asked the same question: x-dollar violin
What does an "x-dolllar" violin mean? It means market value. It does not mean sound quality. Once one gets trapped into "x-dolar violin" frame of mind, one is not free to chose using different and more relevant criteria.
It is entirely possible that one will find a great violin with less money. It is also possible that one will not find a great violin for that amount of money, or more.
Buying a violin is not equal to buying a car, cell-phone or other massively produced and advertised item.
This society works on consumerism, and sadly, violin market has succumbed to the same disease.
Edited: September 9, 2017, 2:54 PM · You can never predict the chemistry that there may or may not be between any given player and any given instrument. But I will recommend in this price range the maker, Vittorio Villa of Cremona. I am not his sales agent but I have become his friend. You can easily Google him. His violins may be found, among in many other hands, in the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Shang Hai Quartet. I am the proud owner of 2 of them.

On my website, http://rkviolin.com I have relevant articles about him and my violins of his in my blog section: "My Pilgrimage to Cremona" and "A Tale of Two Fiddles". They have both improved with some adjustment and a lot of use. My overall favorite has done well in comparisons to a Strad, 2 Guadagninis, and a Guarneri Filius Andre, as well as some top moderns by Curtain and Sam Z. - and not only in my opinion.

He is very busy and often approached by people who are not serious. But if you are seriously interested in considering commissioning a violin from Vittorio, let me know and I will recommend you to him. It will be better than a cold call. You can reach me at violinist@rkviolin.com

And with this and just one other response in another thread, I intend to take a long break. With increasing business in performing and teaching and other reasons, like "Fez" from the tv program, "That 70's Show", I will say "Good Day".

September 9, 2017, 3:37 PM · I like how everybody writes Sam because the family name is hard to remember.
September 9, 2017, 5:36 PM · I have a personal favorite that might be a little out of the range. Douglas Cox makes wonderful instruments, but he charges $20K. If you are willing to stretch your budget, I think he is a really good choice.

I do know a fine Chinese maker, Zheng Quan. He charges about $10K and his instruments are really nice.

However. I do encourage you to look at violins that are in and below your price range. Price doesn't necessarily determine everything.

September 9, 2017, 5:47 PM · Marc, what's so hard to remember Samuel Zygmuntowicz? It's nothing like this Welsh name:

Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch

September 9, 2017, 6:10 PM · I would not like to be his teacher and have to do roll call with that name!
September 9, 2017, 8:39 PM · North of the border, they often charge in Loonies, which can help. Raymond Schryer and Hermann Jantzen are excellent options.
September 9, 2017, 8:48 PM · Joel Shewchuck is a great maker ,also from land of the Loonies.My former teacher Steven Staryk has one and is happy with it,replacing his ex Barrere Strad.I think it fits your price range Timothy.Just my two cents worth.
September 9, 2017, 9:14 PM · Buy a ticket to NYC for Oct 14-16--the modern maker exhibition that Julie Reed has every year. http://www.reedyeboahviolins.com You will see an incomplete list at the website, and she usually has about 40+ makers represented. Some are very well established (and out of your desired price range), but you will probably see many that are.
September 10, 2017, 8:03 AM · stay well Raphael!
Edited: September 10, 2017, 8:26 AM · Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch is a small place in Anglesey, an island immediately off the N-W corner of Wales, reached by a road bridge. If you understand Welsh orthography the name isn't too difficult to say - just take it steady. If pronunciation is a problem then it's fine to refer to it as Llanfair-PG; the locals will understand.

Like many place names, Llanfair-PG is a description (fairly detailed in this instance) of what and where it is.

September 10, 2017, 10:27 AM · I keep collecting interesting names for boats and rock albums-- that might make the list.
September 10, 2017, 8:48 PM · If you're still looking for suggestions, I play a mid-tier Klaus Clement.

http://www.clement-geigenbau.com/Wordpress/

He has violins within your price range, but the only person that has any in stock in the US is Paul Weissmeyer in Boston. Funny enough, these bad boys are much easier to find in Asia.

September 11, 2017, 5:50 AM · I wonder how these lower tier modern makers would compete against a top ranked 20s EH Roth for somewhat less money, Or a good Heinrich Th Heberlein, pre 1900 or an older Colin Mezin from Mirecourt
September 11, 2017, 5:58 AM · Some of the really good Roths are quite competitive in my opinion. Others seem to agree:
link to violin tone evaluation by Martin Swan
Edited: September 11, 2017, 6:38 AM · Its hard to compete with the EH Roth quality of workmanship, either, at least with the 20s and 30s ones.
September 11, 2017, 6:53 AM · Ironically his succes as a maker made his bad name, he was good enough to get a name helping to sell manufactured instuments.
You are right, the workmanship can be superb too.
Edited: September 11, 2017, 7:04 AM · The only Roth with a bad name was the brother that founded Scherl and Roth. Terrible quality violins!!

Rumour has it that EH Roth made the top end models himself.

September 11, 2017, 7:11 AM · There are also a lot of low tier EH Roth around.
The ones he made himself are signed, afaik.
September 11, 2017, 7:21 AM · But even the low tier Roth 1700 model from the 20s is a very decent $7,000 instrument IMHO
September 17, 2017, 3:45 PM · When customers come to my shop and ask to try instruments in a certain price range give those to try as well as below and above with out them knowing what is what
On more than on occasion they have bought a lower priced one they picked based on tone,power, response etc. They were then happy being able to invest in a nicer bow to optimize the instrument.
September 17, 2017, 4:58 PM · Funny, the OP asked for good contemporary violin makers in the $10-15K range, Lydia suggested "There are a zillion contemporary luthiers making violins in that price range", but all except a couple suggestions are in the $20K range. Really, I don't see the contemporary maker's market being that crowded in the OP's price range, on the contrary, given the evidence, perhaps rather limited actually! I think Lyndon got it right, "10-15k for a modern American is either a second tier maker, or an up and coming master"... who are?
Edited: September 17, 2017, 5:49 PM · Bertrand Bellin is an absolutely first rate maker in Germany who is in that price range; his resume and client list are very impressive. I tried a Bertrand Bellin/Roger Hargrave collaboration violin (modeled after the "Lord Wilton" Guarneri) a few years ago at Rare Violins of New York that was outstanding.
https://www.bertrandbellin.com/
Edited: September 17, 2017, 7:34 PM · A good point-- once you get away from Greiner, et al., prices seem to droop a little faster across the Atlantic.

As long as you're looking outside the US, Martin McClean in Northern Ireland gets good reviews and is said to use much the same system as Howard Needham.

September 18, 2017, 9:44 AM · Not realy, I can tell you a long list in the 20-25k range in Germany, also in Italy, GB and France. All four states have also makers above 30k per violin.
Roger, the common violin maker places his violin in the 10-15k range. All others are usually already quite accomplished if they ask for more. I am positive you will find makers in every big city in this price range. The problem is, we usually know about the accomplished onces only as soon as we leave our direct area.
September 18, 2017, 9:49 AM · Btw, I second Bellin as worth a look if he is still in this price range. The workmanship is also on a high level.
September 18, 2017, 11:48 AM · Adding to the confusion is that not all violin makers are masters of "the set up"...finding a person particularly skilled in this area is an insurance policy against whatever violin you finally decide upon. It sometimes takes a year of playing before you really start to hit a wall with an instrument - and unless you find that genius violin from the start, you'll need someone who can figure out if it's the violin itself, or the thousands of things that can be changed to make it a much better playing experience.

It's a balancing act...a great violin, a maker with a good reputation, affordable, feels good and maybe even looks good... And then the possibility that, imho, most violins are not set-up to be at their very best... it ends up being, often, a leap of faith.

September 18, 2017, 12:38 PM · Thats right, the setup often is not taken care of enough.
I had a violin that changed completly after a 15 years of beeing okish to beeing a great one with a new setup. The old setup was very poor though.
September 18, 2017, 12:41 PM · If I were in your shoes (and city) I would contact shops in Albuquerque (Robertson +) and Dallas (???) to find out what they have in and around your price range and then if it seemed promising I would visit the relevant shop(s) and test instruments (and bows?) and of course tote along my own stuff for comparison.

In my experience (not that extensive in trying more than a few dozen violins) I have found that there is some variation in the instruments (and bows) of any given maker and great variation in price at given performance points. A future Stradivarius's promise may be present in early work before the market price recognizes it ( think my father paid about $100 for his Scarampella 85 years ago --- I never liked it, but…).

September 23, 2017, 4:39 PM · "As long as you're looking outside the US, Martin McClean in Northern Ireland gets good reviews and is said to use much the same system as Howard Needham."

Thanks for the mention Stephen. The 'method' I use is entirely the result of decades of meticulous and insightful research and study by Geary Baese. I'm very fortunate to have him as a teacher, friend and mentor.
When i began studying with Geary I realised that there was a huge difference between making copies of Cremonese instruments and Cremonese violin making. His own violins are inspirational.
Warmest regards,
Martin McClean

September 25, 2017, 2:44 PM · https://youtu.be/SFyhpq-wvqQ

All four are instruments by Charles Coquet,gold medal in the last Cremona Triennale Competition. His violins go from 14k non antiqued to 16k antiqued,prices in euros, the same for violas I think.

October 1, 2017, 5:03 AM · My #1 violin belonged to my mother who inherited it from her grandfather, and he in turn from his father who had acquired it in 1850. In 1920, my mother's violin teacher, Maurice Alexander, a soloist and former leader of the early Proms orchestras at the end of the 19th century, offered to buy it for £100 (quite a substantial amount in those days, and a dealer's markup would probably double the figure), but fortunately my grandparents had no intention of letting this particular family heirloom leave the family.

What is that violin? My local luthiers aren't quite sure on an initial inspection - it's probably late 18th-c German or French, with more emphasis on the German. But nobody is believing the label inside! Anyway, I like it very much and intend that it will stay in the family when I'm no longer playing.

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