Weekend vote: What does playing violin, viola or cello cost you per month?

July 27, 2018, 12:22 PM · Is playing violin an activity for the rich?

violin and money

It's a legitimate question, once you start adding up the costs of the instrument itself, instrument upkeep and repair, lessons and school fees, sheet music, memberships in organizations, new strings, bow rehairs, accessories, etc. It's not difficult to run a very high bill!

For example, I know that during the seven years when I was paying off my violin loan, that monthly number was quite high. That's not to mention the cost to my parents during the years I took private lessons as a child and the years I went to college for music. Now that I'm a teacher and a professional musician, I still spend quite a lot on memberships to various organizations and the musicians union, not to mention those basic costs like strings, bow rehairs, etc.

What would you estimate that you spend per month, on average, on playing your instrument? The vote has amounts in US $, here is a link to a currency converter if you need to figure that out for the vote. Please give us your answer, and then tell us a little bit about both the regular and exceptional expenses that you (or your parents) have taken on as part of your commitment to play a stringed instrument (or as part of your commitment to help a child learn to play).

Thank you to Margriet Snellen for the idea for this week's vote. I always welcome your ideas! If you have one, please click here to e-mail me.

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July 27, 2018 at 05:53 PM · I take private lessons (adult learner) once a week, plus if you add in new strings once a year, rehairs twice a year and accessories like rosin, tuner, etc. , definitely in the 200 to 500 dollar range. Not rich, retired!

July 27, 2018 at 08:14 PM · I came up with $72 USD per month, rounded to nearest dollar. No longer in school -- the items I came up with:

Strings - 3 sets for 3 fiddles -- every 5 months.

Bows - 4 bows re-haired every 6 months.

Rosin - 1 every 2 years.

Strad Pads - 2 every year.

Foam Earplugs.

You guessed it: I don't re-string all 3 fiddles or re-hair all 4 bows at the same time.

July 27, 2018 at 08:33 PM · It's a legitimate question indeed. And the number I chose was just a best guess. I'm not currently taking lessons, but there's that bow I bought a month ago. One could argue that I didn't really need it, but I sure do like it. And then there's the electric violin I just bought, so now I have two of those. Etc...

When I adopted my rescued Shih Tzu a few years ago I kept a file with the receipts for all of my expenses for her. After two years I added it all up and found that she costs me about $100.00/month. That number will rise as she ages. I've never done anything like that with my violin habit. I'm not a professional. I think I should keep track. But if the house was on fire and I could only grab one thing on my way out, there's no doubt that it would be my dog. Unlike my violins, my dog has no economic value, but the violins and bows wouldn't feel the pain.

July 27, 2018 at 09:23 PM · Actually the cats cost more than the violin on a monthly basis. Maintenance isn't all that expensive as I'm pretty OC about maintaining my instrument so that it doesn't need to go to the shop.

The rewards far outweigh the costs.

July 27, 2018 at 11:12 PM · I have a very dedicated middle-schooler, and he averages about $1200 month. Large expenses are tuition, accompanist fees, and summer programs. His music program tuition is around $10,000 for 9 months (thankfully next year he has a large scholarship that covers a bunch of that), plus a chunk of change for summer camp, which varies depending on the program. Accompanist fees average about $100 month, plus strings every 3-4 months, 2 bow hairs a year, and odds and ends like rosin. Being a music student these days is very expensive. But we choose to sacrifice for it. I may not have any bedroom furniture, our one car is 10 years old, and I still can't justify the expense of a smartphone, but by golly my kids get their music lessons!!!

July 27, 2018 at 11:56 PM · I take lessons once a week. That probably adds up to around $150/month. I'm very content (oddly) with a cheap student bow, so no rehairs yet. I buy strings 1-2 times a year for around $30/set, but it's hard to count (please don't ask me why, since I'm going to end up sharing a ton of personal information if I try to explain).

July 28, 2018 at 02:07 AM · Depends how you define "rich." Three quarters of the people in the U.S. with full time jobs live hand-to-mouth. 50% have less than $400 in savings at their disposal.

July 28, 2018 at 08:16 AM · I bought my very expensive violin when I had zero income as I was between careers, but I bought it outright with inheritance money. It will never pay for itself as my income from teaching is only about $20K/year, but it should be an OK investment given it was made by someone with a "name", and I fall in love with it again and again each time I play it.

July 28, 2018 at 03:23 PM · Lessons, 100 per month.

Rosin, Bow Rehair (x2), strings = 225 per year, max.

After purchase of instrument, bows, case, etc., it's been pretty reasonable. I change strings every 6 months or so.

July 28, 2018 at 04:37 PM · I'm adult learner and my teacher is professor of state conservatory and professional violinist. An individual course per week costs more than half hundred American dollars, which is among highest in this region. I am content with what I have learned because my professor is willing to teach me and correct my errors. I have two Hungarian-made violins, a 3/4 size and a full-size one cost about $4,000. The biggest problem is that in the future if I move to another country I will have problem to find a new teacher.

July 28, 2018 at 05:53 PM · I take lessons from 3 different teachers each week (different styles completely) so that adds up...I won't be doing that forever tho. And i figured in what it costs to playin or local orchestra so i choose the $200-500 figure... hopefully that will go down by next year.

July 28, 2018 at 07:13 PM · I just started and so one might count the initial investment in the instrument into the calculation. The bi-weekly lessons are about 180 $ a month.

If I compare it to flute which I have learned in my youth and had some refresher lessons a couple of years ago I would say the cost are comparable. For the violin you have some maintenance costs (strings, rehairs) but it is the same with a flute for which you have to change the pads for example.

July 28, 2018 at 07:26 PM · let's see, £40-£60 a month lessons, £30 new strings every 6 months, £40 once a year bow rehair (though my current bow is only 7 months old). I'm still on my student violin, but putting aside approx £500 a year for a decent fiddle when I feel ready.

July 28, 2018 at 09:43 PM · Assumed that my violin, viola, second "junk" viola (for the office), silent violin (recently bought second hand for nighttime practice sessions and travelling), cases and the whole bunch of bows are already paid, the running costs per year are approximately €2010, which places me in the sub-$200 region according to todays exchange rate (annual expenses of $2346,18). If I divide this through the hours I'm engaged with one of my instruments (adult learner, on average maybe 60-90 minutes per day, but let's calculate it on the safe side with one hour per day) one "operational hour" per day costs me around $6,42 in total.

€ 250 on strings

€ 1400 on lessons

€ 70 on public transport to get there

€ 250 on bow rehair

€ 40 on rosins (seems that I'm a collector of these...)

If I would only have to care for one instrument instead of four,these costs would be a bit lower,but not a lot since the biggest part of the budget goes into lessons.

If I wouldn't have stopped smoking, my daily pack of cigarettes would cost me €5 = $5,84. Lots of people smoke more than one pack per day, especially in the lesser privileged population strata.

Is smoking cigarettes an activity for the rich? Doesn't seem so to me, in my observation. Same with playing a stringed instrument. It's rather a matter of priorisation. Not everyone will be able to afford a 10k+ instrument, but as we all know this isn't necessary but just optional, almost no matter your skill level.

July 28, 2018 at 10:58 PM · Where in the world do all of you go for these cheap bow rehairs? I have to pay a hundred bucks for a decent rehair on one bow.

July 29, 2018 at 01:29 AM · My costs per year (not per month!) are:

Expendable items (2 sets of strings, 2 bow rehairs): $320

Rosin is negligible because it's a $10-20 purchase every 5-6 years.

Community orchestra dues: $80

Summer chamber music workshop: $450

(including a portion of the meal plan for cost above my normal food budget)

Other instrument maintenance has totaled about $400 in the 8 years since I moved to my current city, so it's fair to call it about $50 a year on average.

This summer, I've spent a total of $800 on an introductory Alexander Technique program and a custom chin rest, but those are likely to be one-time expenses. I've spent approximately $130 on sheet music in the last 8 years; printer ink and paper for IMSLP printouts are cheap enough to be negligible. My last instrument purchase was in late 2005, my last bow purchase was in 2010, and my last purchase of any accessory other than the chin rest was a shoulder rest in 2015. I do not expect to ever buy another instrument, and bow purchases are likely to be infrequent as well. In the last 8 years, I've spent about $1800 on these miscellaneous expenses ($225 per year), $800 of which has been in the past 3 months. I expect these expenses will return to prior levels from now on, so $150 per year is probably a better estimate.

That means my total cost is about $1050 a year, or just under $90 a month.

July 29, 2018 at 01:51 AM · I am fortunate enough that my parents purchased my violin, bows and case and I don’t foresee replacing any of those anytime in the foreseeable future. I am fortunate enough to work for a music company and I receive free bow rehairs and most maintenance for free and sometimes have recieved complimentary sets of strings. So my only expenses are the occasional purchases of sheet music but I use IMSLP for the most part, And then random accessories here or there like trying a new rosin. I’m also not currently taking lessons and don’t have any other fees so my plan cost is super low at this point since I finished up school

July 29, 2018 at 02:21 AM · Okay I finally decided to open up Excel and do some figuring.

My violin lessons

Daughter's cello lessons

Other daughter's violin lessons

Luthier services

Strings and other misc. merchandise

Sheet music and method books

Cost of daughters' instruments divided by months of use before college

Cost of my instrument divided by 360 months (est. 30 years of use)

Suzuki camp for the three of us every other year, near home

Student orchestra fees

Travel to competitions

When I figure everything up it comes to somewhere in the $1200 range (per month).

July 29, 2018 at 04:55 PM · Cheaper now, because I have an instrument and supplies. As a child- lessons, instrument purchase, music, orchestra trips, contest entrance fees...Yikes!!

July 30, 2018 at 02:30 PM · I think it's all a matter of perspective. People will pay what they can afford for something they enjoy. Someone will go out and spend $250,000 for an RV that gets 8 miles to the gallon so they can drive around the country. That ain't my cup of tea, but so what? Others will buy an expensive boat that is moored to a dock far more often than it is actually used. If you want to talk with musicians who spend money without reservation, just talk to guitarists. They're happy suckers for all sorts of gizmos, legends, and myths attached to these things. It's an entire industry. After all, they don't call those stores Violin Centers. It's Guitar Center for a reason. They know the attraction of owning several guitars simply because they look cool. Frankly, if they can afford it, I say go for it. Now, the difference between all of that and playing a violin is this - playing a violin is an investment in creativity, persistence, overcoming difficulties, and seeing accomplishments with a perspective of long term satisfaction rather than quick thrills. Instant gratification is a pipe dream since it's just plain hard to play one of these things. I've been trying for 14 months and I'm just starting to get something that sounds good. I don't care, though. I'm having a great time. There is a little 4 year old girl who takes her lesson just before I do. Last week, when her lesson ended, she came running to me with her small violin. "Michael!" She said, "I can play the first line of Twinkle Twinkle!" She was jumping up and down and giggling. That little kid is going to keep on going, she's going to get frustrated, but she's going to stick with it. In the meantime, someone's RV is going to run out of gas, the boat will sink, and the guitars will just lie in their cases unplayed. Budget wisely, spend what you can, and keep it all in perspective.

August 2, 2018 at 02:31 PM · Well said, Michael! Sometime if you ever get an urge to play guitar, try a mandolin. Relates nicely to violin and lots of fun! I started as an adult on both and am having a blast.

August 2, 2018 at 10:20 PM · I went from guitar to mandolin to violin to viola. I still play all four, although guitar not so much. At bluegrass jams I play fiddle and mandolin, and I play viola in an amateur orchestra. I've had a number of years to amortize the cost of these instruments, and I'm not currently taking lessons, so my expenses are well into the below-$200/month category. And a good thing, too, since I'm spending lots on other things.

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