V.com weekend vote: How much have you spent, over a lifetime, on violins and violin equipment?

January 28, 2023, 9:24 PM · So how much have you spent, over a lifetime, on your violin (or viola or cello) habit? More specifically, how much have you spent on instruments and other instrument equipment? (For the vote, we are going to exclude sheet music and the price of lessons).

money violin

I actually thought of this vote thanks to Reddit, where I came across an article that had some very interesting statistics on guitar players. Apparently, a Fender Guitar study done about five years ago found that when it came to beginning guitar players, "90 percent abandoned the instrument in the first year." But the 10 percent that stayed with the instrument spent an average of $10,000 on hardware over their lifetime, buying five to seven guitars and multiple amps.

While $10,000 is a lot of money, I'm pretty sure violinists, violists and cellists spend more. Way more, depending on when you bought your instrument.

These days, a student violin with a bow and case can easily be $5,000. A professional violin? Well, it can be anywhere from around $5,000 (perhaps bought a while ago) to multiple millions of dollars, if you are a soloist! And that is not counting years of buying strings (which can run $100+ for a set), a bow, re-stringing said bow, a good violin case, having multiple instruments and bows....

So if you had to guess-timate, how much money do you suppose you've laid out for your violin, bow, and supporting equipment over your total time playing? For the vote below, we used dollars; right now the euro is very close in value to the dollar, so you if you are counting in euros then just use the same values. If you are counting with another currency, here is a currency converter site.

Please participate in the vote, then share your thoughts, experiences, etc.!

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January 29, 2023 at 04:03 AM · I voted over $30,000, but it's in the low $30 thousands. But I've had many years to accumulate costs, including a $10,000 commissioned violin and 5 lesser violins, cases, multiple bows, re-hairing, shoulder rests, stands, and all those sets of high-end strings. I didn't include fuel costs traveling to rehearsals and concerts, music and lessons. This was a great question, Laurie! Thanks. I'll be checking back for more comments.

January 29, 2023 at 04:03 AM · My “main” violin is an early 20th century Italian instrument. Not cheap. But the one I prefer to play is a $250 Chinese machine made Amati copy.

January 29, 2023 at 04:18 AM · My cost breakdown over 23 years of playing string instruments:

Instruments: $15,000

100% of that cost was for my current viola (modern American). I paid $0 for the other string instruments I've played: my violin was rescued from storage and previously belonged to a long-deceased great-uncle, and the viola I played before my current one was borrowed.

Bows: $1,100

Have purchased four bows: three inexpensive student bows (two for violin, one for viola) and one C.F. Iesta hybrid viola bow that I actually picked over bows that would have cost 5 times as much.

Chinrests and shoulder rests: $400

This includes the $180 total cost (including fitting session) of a custom-made viola chinrest.

Cases: $400

Strings: $3000-3500 (estimated)

I'm estimating 2 sets of viola strings per year from 2010 to present, 1 set per year from 2001 to 2010, and 6-8 sets of violin strings in total (I rarely play violin).

Maintenance: $1000-1500 (estimated)

Includes bow rehairing.

Miscellaneous: $200-300 (estimated)

This category includes all other equipment related to playing string instruments: for me this means rosin, mutes, peg compound, metronomes, music stands, and stand lights.

Total is likely somewhere in the $21-22k range.

January 29, 2023 at 05:03 AM · This is an awfully difficult question to answer. Somehow inflation has to be calculated in, especially for those of us who are drawing Social Security.

Another question is: should the money my parents spent be included (SFr. 6200 for the instrument and the bow, I have no idea how much for lessons)?

Anyhow I voted 10 - 30k and I think now 30 - 60k would be more correct if my parents' spending is included as I think it should be.

January 29, 2023 at 07:17 AM · Per Laurie: "For the vote, we are going to exclude sheet music and the price of lessons."

It is hard to precisely calculate everything, right? I went with the +$30k range. I'm in my 70s and have been racking up expenses for a long time!

January 29, 2023 at 11:07 AM · I must have spent over $30K but recouped several thousand through selling at auctions. Somewhat like Corwin my current favourite violin cost about $200 so I guess I need to "go figure".

January 29, 2023 at 01:28 PM · I included my kids.

January 29, 2023 at 03:47 PM · I have bought over 6 violins. My first was a Stentor for $600, followed by several travel Amazon cheapies, then a Petrov for $2000, then a 1916 Moody for $10,000. I went from cheap bows to a carbon fiber then a $250 H Luger and finally to a $1000 H.Luger. Each violin has had at least 2 cases. I give free lessons to kids in the park and found a good case is critical to open and close quickly because of rain. I need a new case that auto clasps when you close it because I thru my Moody across the sidewalk last week as I slung my case on my back. I find the zipped fabric cases are a joke for high school orchestra groups. I guess I have bought 10 cases at $250avg. The case should "auto" hold the bow and shoulder rest without velcro straps. Sheet Music has been a big expense. The tuners, rosin are minor. I tend to buy 4 strings sets at a time. and usually carry 2 to 3 sets with me at all times. At Amazon my strings are about $50 per set and I have probably use 20 sets. I replace the active violin strings about every 6 months. I have had my bows re-haired 5 times at about $100 for the Pro package each time. I had to reset the sound post twice and annual violin readjust cost about $100 each. But I made $15 busking in the park last week. just kidding.. I started playing about 10 years ago at 65 years old.

January 29, 2023 at 04:02 PM · I agree, there probably should be an inflation factor. I bought my violin in 1973, when it was "modern Italian, 1939" for $500 and now it is appraised at $25K. I have bought bows, cases, strings, a teaching violin, a viola etc. so the outlay was $30K, but the value is much more.

January 29, 2023 at 05:06 PM · What an interesting question. I voted between $5000 and $10000. My violin cost about $400 (bought in France in 1966), my viola cost $2500, I have two $800 bows (one for each instrument), a couple of shoulder rests that were not expensive, a $100 portable music stand, and a couple of stand lights. I should also add in something like $750 in repairs to the violin over the years. If I add in strings and bow rehairs, I am probably somewhere north of $10000, now that I think about it.

January 29, 2023 at 05:30 PM · I think we can all agree, it's an expensive habit! ;)

January 29, 2023 at 05:51 PM · Between $10k-$30k. We have two violins and a viola in active use totalling *$7,000, as well as a bunch of fractionals we've purchased ranging in price from $100-$500 each, as well as strings, a bunch of fractional and full size bows (all under $200 each), so I think it probably adds up to $10-$15k.

January 29, 2023 at 09:17 PM · @Laurie - there are a number of habits that are significantly more expensive. But, one expensive habit is enough for me. Although, averaged over the years, I suspect playing violin/viola is not that bad. The one-time costs, e.g., buying instruments, bows, etc., are obviously significant. but the instruments and bows last. The ongoing costs, at least for amateurs, are probably about $600-$800 per year for new strings and bow rehairs, assuming new strings for two instruments and bow rehairs twice per year. That's pretty reasonable, IMHO.

January 29, 2023 at 10:15 PM · Its as expensive as you want it to be.

January 29, 2023 at 10:40 PM · If a musician is a professional, I don't see any problem with spending over $100,000 on a violin and equipment. Put this in perspecive with other professions. If you're a plumber, carpenter, or any similar profession, a truck can cost $50.000, and will have to be replaced every 200,000 miles or so. An office for a business can rent for $2,500 a month. Those costs don't count equipment. To buy a violin that will last a lifetime for $75,000 is actually a good deal in the long run. It seems all a matter of perspective. If you can afford it, if you're good enough, if you have a good chance of making a living with a fiddle, go for it. Now, if you're in my situation - an amateur who plays for fun, my equipment - my mom's old fiddle, another violin I got for $5,000, and a mediocre viola I bought on eBay, I'm doing just fine. For someone like me to spend $50,000 on a fiddle is a rather dubious choice.(Plus, my wife would KILL me.) So, keep it real, and do your best.

January 30, 2023 at 12:08 AM · "The ongoing costs, at least for amateurs, are probably about $600-$800 per year for new strings and bow rehairs, assuming new strings for two instruments and bow rehairs twice per year."

Note that this is a high-end estimate. You only get there if you're living in a climate where changes in humidity make two rehairs per year necessary, and playing each instrument an hour or more per day.

In practice my ongoing costs are substantially lower. Living in California with a relatively dry climate year-round, I go through two sets of viola strings per year but tend to get my primary viola bow rehaired only once a year. Also, I play my violin substantially less, so it needs new strings every 3-4 years or so and a bow rehair every 6-8 years. So my average ongoing costs at the moment are more like $300-350 a year, including the cost of occasional repairs.

January 30, 2023 at 01:47 AM · I also play both violin and viola regularly, and yes I do not rehair or change my strings as often as I should, but if I changed strings on both instruments twice a year and rehaired both bows once a year, that'd still only be around $400/year for me. Mind you, I do use relatively modest strings, so that factors in.

January 30, 2023 at 12:59 PM · Obviously, the ongoing costs will vary depending on where you live, how many instruments you have, and how much you play. Still, even with my "high-end" costs, it is pretty reasonable for something that gives so much pleasure and opportunity.

January 31, 2023 at 03:22 AM · I don't spend $600 on string an bow rehairs every year. I have a violin and a viola and I put new strings on my violin annually and my viola every two years, and bow rehairs maybe every two years. You do the math; I don't have time.

January 31, 2023 at 03:24 PM · depends if you count bows, also what about viola?

February 1, 2023 at 04:30 AM · It’s over $30k for me but I stopped counting a long time ago. and this is why:

I’m not professional violinist but violin is not a hobby for me either. It’s a necessity if I want to live happily fulfilled intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Five years ago I took an early retirement to pursue full time violin studies. That’s one of the best decisions I have made in my life, other than leaving China for Canada in 1986. Every penny I spend on things related to violin (including lessons, courses, sheet music, related travels etc) I consider money well-spent. As my grandmother used to say, “that’s what money is for!”

February 1, 2023 at 02:53 PM · My guess is over $5000 but under $10K. I really don't want to think about it but, now you have me thinking about it.

Beginning with the restoration of my Wife's Great Grandfather's instrument, new cases, strings, a tuning (back when the practice of tuning the plates was starting). An affair with a Reinhold Schnable violin that didn't work out, replacing the fittings (pegs, fingerboard, Tailpiece, chinrests, and regular maintenance,... I really don't want to think about it - but I did.

Although amortized over almost 50 years it works out to about $100/year so I guess thinking about it tells me that it wasn't all that expensive.

As hobbies go, this one turns out to not have been all that expensive after all. Of course, if I add in all the lessons, sheet music purchases,... still not all that expensive considering the pleasure I get just playing for myself as well as assisting others in learning how to play.

February 4, 2023 at 03:59 PM · Not including cash purchases of replacement strings from my first few years, I've arrived at around $1800. This includes shipping costs. Purchases I've made include an electric violin outfit (with amp and pedal), cables, replacement strings, replacement bows, a chinrest, shoulder rests, an acoustic guitar, and a rabab from Jordan. I haven't included repair costs since the question was hardware purchases. I am blessed to have received my acoustic violin as a gift nearly 25 years ago and to have a community orchestra lending me an acoustic viola.

February 5, 2023 at 03:13 AM · My guess-timate is $10,001-$30,000. My parents helped out with my first instruments while I was still in school. Since then, I purchased 2 fiddles on my own in summer 2005 after a long in-home tryout comparison and have puchased 4 bows. I now have 3 active fiddles and 6 bows. Strings add up, too. I change mine about every 5 months for each instrument, not all at the same time.

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