V.com weekend vote: My violin cost about as much as....

August 15, 2020, 6:55 PM · How much do people tend to pay for a violin, and how does that relate to other things we typically buy?

cost of violin

Recently I started thinking about the cost of violins when several of my students had to buy new ones.

One parent - also a professional musician, did a "taste test" on a half-dozen violins, not looking at the prices, which ranged from $300 to $2,000. After deciding which one sounded best, the parent did the big reveal, only to find that it was actually the $300 fiddle!

It's great when you can find a great-sounding violin for a low price, but it typically requires an expert to do the selecting, and more often it's the higher-priced violin that sounds better. How far does one need to take this, though? Recently our Violinist.com discussion board has had members talking about whether or not advanced players need a $10k+ violin.

Personally, I've owned violins in many different price ranges, and the most expensive one certainly has been the best of them.

That brings me to the question: What did your violin cost? I've purposely made this a little bit vague, relating the cost to other purchases people typically make: a watch, computer, a car, a house. Yes, I realize those things can vary as well, but I'm looking for an approximate range; and if you bought your instrument many years ago, you can compare it to what these items also cost at the time.

And let's talk about what it cost, not about what you believe it is now worth, for the sake of the poll. It's too easy to enter the realm of fantasy here -- though happily, fiddles do tend to increase in value. If you are borrowing your violin, you can choose the cost that the owner paid for it; same deal if your parents paid for it. Also, please share your thoughts about buying a violin, violins as investments, etc., below in the comments section.

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Replies

August 16, 2020 at 12:30 AM · I voted "It was free" because my violin is a family heirloom that has been in my family for 170 years. I have the pleasure of being its current custodian. No idea of the precise circumstances of its initial acquisition except for a note in the family Bible that it was bought in Wales in 1850 from an Irishman - perhaps he was fleeing the Irish Famine, who knows? How much was paid is not known.

My Mother started having violin lessons on it in 1918 and her teacher, a professional soloist, offered to buy it for £100 - a substantial sum in those days. This offer was refused by Mother's parents and lessons continued under that teacher for several years up to Associate level.

August 16, 2020 at 01:04 AM · I was gonna vote something like "a reliable used car", but I wasn't entirely sure what "new" meant in the context of this vote

August 16, 2020 at 01:17 PM · Being a family "Attic Fiddle" the acquisition cost was zero. However, the subsequent rehabilitation and restoration as well as the replacement of the poor quality fingerboard, pegs and tailpiece (all done over time as the fittings deteriorated to the point of unworkable did add up.

The basic instrument is excellent and shows craftsmanship and care. At around 13 decades old, it is a mere teenager with many decades more of live ahead.

August 16, 2020 at 03:10 PM · The good news -- great news, if you're a violinist -- is that violins at all quality levels cost MUCH less than they used to.

About 40 years ago, my parents spent $5,000 -- an insane amount of money in those days -- for a professional quality violin made by a master luthier.

Today, I could by a violin with the same level of wood, craftsmanship and sound for about $2,000. People sending students to conservatory spend more because they can, but not because they need to.

A luthier friend recently pointed this out to me -- the golden age of violinmaking was not Cremona in 1708. It is America in 2020. There are more well-trained, dedicated and talented violinmakers working in the USA today than there have ever been in any place in the world.

For $2-4k there are beautiful handmade violins from young masters that are absolutely top quality -- these are people who will be able to charge $10k or more once they're established names. But like young artists, their work can be purchased at a bargain price early in their career.

And for even less -- $1500 to $2500 -- there are high-end workshop violins from China and eastern Europe that, properly set up, would compete well in auditions with violins that cost 10x as much.

And if you're looking for student quality instruments, the quality available under $1000 is just astonishing compared with 20 or 30 years ago.

I have a Chinese workshop viola that I bought for $250 (good strings and a new bridge brought the total to $450) that holds its own very well playing with professionals. It's a vastly better viola than the German viola it replaced, which cost 10 times as much 25 years ago.

A $250 viola, on average, is certainly not going to be as nice to play on as an $8,000 viola, but my point is that price just is not an obstacle any more if one wants to play a stringed instrument.

Even in the world of antique violins there are bargains as long as you don't care about whose name is on the label. There are excellent German and French workshop fiddles from 100-150 years ago, with fantastic quality European wood, that can be bought for around $1,500-$2k.

August 16, 2020 at 07:25 PM · My violin was free (an "attic fiddle"), but because my main instrument is viola, I voted "new car" even though the question specified violin. My viola (a modern American viola purchased in 2006) cost slightly less than my car (which I bought new in 2010). I probably spent a lot more on it than I could possibly justify with my playing ability at the time, but I was taking on a lot of debt for medical school anyway and the cost of the viola seemed like a drop in the bucket. 14 years later, though, I think it's fully justified given the repertoire I'm playing and the ensembles I'm playing in.

That viola is also the only string instrument I've ever had to pay for. I've only had the one violin. When I first switched to viola, I was able to borrow a viola for four years free of charge, and only started shopping for my own viola when I had to return it.

August 16, 2020 at 11:09 PM · A super fancy Mac Pro...

August 17, 2020 at 01:11 AM · I'm one of the"free" family heirloom fiddle folks. The story i was told is my great-grandfather took two violins for some repayment on a business trip to Europe in about 1930 and brought them back. Of course the maintenance costs on a good old violin can easily add up too the cost of a good new instrument (and have).

August 17, 2020 at 02:10 AM · My violin cost more than my car. The car was a gently used Toyota Corolla with about 20,000 miles on it, for context.

August 17, 2020 at 04:44 AM · The one that I consider as "my viola" (the 1st instrument comes into my mind when people ask me about my viola) cost about 1.5 x 1hr of lessons with my teacher.

The glasser viola I bought at the beginning of the year cost me about four or five good hearty family meals if we are eating out.

My main viola (which my teach lends to me) should cost about a new 16 inch Macbook Pro.

August 17, 2020 at 04:59 AM · I have 4 violins and 2 violas, the best violin is worth about $2000.

I could afford something better, but I don't trust myself, I am a little clumsy, I am no longer young, and I play in some risky situations. Rule of thumb; a good student grade violin will cost as much as a used car, a Pro-level Violin will cost as much as a new car, a soloist-grade instrument will cost as much as a house.

I had a teacher in Los Angeles who did a lot of union-scale recording sessions. One day he told me that he was trying to decide whether to buy a violin or a house. He bought the violin (a Guadanini ?) Several years later I heard that he bought a house,- in Malibu.

August 18, 2020 at 01:22 AM · I said a new car, because that is what it is worth today. When I bought it almost 50 years ago, it wasn't nearly that expensive. To be honest, I don't know what it would compare to in 1970 prices. At the time it was considered "modern Italian" so not too pricey. Now it is considered "20th century Italian" so a lot more.

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