Inform me on "step up" instrument brands
As an adult beginner violist, I may be looking to upgrade some months down the line. I don't have a local shop, so no one to school me on the brands. I am an experienced guitarist so I am familiar with some makers importing Pacific Rim instruments fully or partially finished under their name. How does it work with violas? Are Eastman, Doetsch, Klier, et al, all from different factories, or made in same factory with different specs? Finished in different US shops or one US shop distributing several brands? Curious to know how this works in order to make a more informed decision when the time comes.
What kind of violin are you using now?
Louis Carpini viola from Kennedy Violins.
Here’s how I did it with by violin:
I would possibly purchase via internet sale. I have done that with guitars with no problem, but there seems to be much more variability in the bowed instrument sector, hence my confusion. For example, a Martin 00-18 is pretty much the same no matter where purchased, as all are finished in Martin factory. Same for Collings, et al. For bowed instruments looks like Eastman is responsible for several different brands if you look at the website, so are they all really Eastman, built elsewhere and sent to Eastman to finish, or exactly how does that work? Atlanta would be the nearest place to me with a good selection, but those shops appear to have a number of the Eastman brands. Just curious how all this works. Most likely for a viola purchase I will go to a shop somewhere and play in person.
Eastman is just a marketing brand for mass produced factory Chinese violins, whether they're made at one factory or more than one factory I wouldn't know. The Eastman's I have tried are not that impressive, but they're not expensive so, its up to you.
The universal advice is don't buy on Amazon, because even many of their "intermediate" violins are terrible, and that if you have a dedicated violin/strings shop that's the place to go and look. After that, people also say that several of the online shops are pretty good (Shar, Southwest Strings).
If you do use the internet, you should check and see if they allow returns so you can fully try the instrument before finalizing your choice. You can also check out catalogues (Sharmusic, Tarisio, other instrument shops?) instead of actually visiting shops if it's just the brand and price range you seek after.
Everyone's taste in violins is different, you need to find a way to go to a shop and try out multiple violins in your price range, mail order should be a desperate act of last resort IMHO
A lot of people like the Jay Haide instruments sold by Ifshin (if you're looking for another option in the intermediate price range). But in my experience they vary considerably in sound and you'd want to try a bunch of them out before settling on one. If you live somewhere with a lot of conservatory aspirants, a better solution might be to buy one from someone about to upgrade. I think Lydia indicated that kids in her area were playing $$$$$ instruments; surely some of them had an intermediate-grade 4/4 size instrument first.
Around here, Hiroshi Kono workshop violins (at about $2500) are considered a great student-grade violin. They're not entirely consistent so they do need to be tried, but the better ones are about as good as instruments in this price class get.