I have no idea; I obviously haven’t heard even a fraction of what’s out there (and there’s a lot). And I'm certainly not an expert! But my unreasonably ambitious 8-year-old (currently working on Paganini Caprice No. 24, among other things) is always getting comments on how good his quarter-size one sounds (he gets more sound out of his quarter than his current duo partner gets out of his half), especially his G-string — always the weak point of fractional instruments -- and I wish someone had let us know about this option sooner!
For most students, it probably doesn’t make that much difference what sort of instrument they have. We too were in the grind of higher-end Chinese instruments in the $600-700 range, for years, and had no idea that for just a couple of hundred more, you can get something much more like a real instrument. If your aspiring young violinist is showing any promise at all, or even an interest, or if you’d like to give them a *chance* at showing promise by letting them have an instrument that can actually respond to proper bowing (i.e. give them the feedback they need), then consider getting a Kono. Hiroshi Kono is a Japanese luthier who also sells in the US via a few dealers. We got ours via Bill Weaver in Bethesda, MD.
From time to time we’ve compared my son’s Kono with other quarter-size instruments, and have gone to reputable violin shops to try some out. Our experience is limited; we’ve tried a couple of places in and around Los Angeles and one in Munich (Germany). Most of the instruments available are the usual Chinese ones. These can be ok, but the Kono always stands out. More surprising is that it obviously beats the more expensive instruments we’ve come across, too. Most shops don’t stock expensive quarter-size violins, but you can find some at three or four times the price of a Kono that can’t begin to compare to it. My son is rather scathing after these comparisons: "That $2000 one was totally feeble compared to mine!” he’ll say, "Did you hear that squeaky G-string?" Or: “Nothing in that shop came *close* to my violin!” In most cases, even the dealer agreed that we were better off with what we had.
My son is just about ready for a half now, and he won’t hear of anything other than a Kono. Like all kids at this stage, he’s impatient to get on the larger instrument, but he’s also reluctant to part with his current one. Only the thought that he can move on to a larger version of the same thing keeps him enthused about making the change. We’ll obviously keep an open mind about anything that comes along; when an 8-year-old is that advanced, he should obviously have the best instrument we can afford, but if it lives up to his expectations, I suspect he’ll feel the same way about the Kono half as he now does about his Kono quarter, and in a year or two he’ll be insisting we move up to a Kono 3/4.Tweet
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