violins over the years, and have written this article to help open up your thinking to the common myth that violins for sale made in China are not worthy of purchase. I worked as an instrument rep for Guarneri House Grand Rapids for 3 years in the mid 2000's, and then for Nashville Violins in the late 2000's. Trust me when I say I've seen it all and played on just about everything in the $2,000-$3,000 range.I have played hundreds of
I have played hundreds of consignment instruments over the years including many German copies etc. that are in the 2-3K range, and I have never found one violin for sale in this price range to sound better than the best Chinese instruments that would be the same price. When an appraiser evaluates something other than Chinese (and you have good craftsmanship), the price is going to be higher. Here is what you have to understand about the pricing of an instrument.
If you didn't follow me there, what I'm trying to say is that if the goal is to find a great sounding violin (I'm assuming you aren't looking for an antique for your wall), you need to make sure it is Chinese. I have done hundreds of tests over the years and played on pretty much everything out there (I have seen them all through teaching privately), and every violin that sounded good in this price range was Chinese (the bad ones were non-Chinese). Being that I am now a dealer, I understand the reason why that is and am telling you that many brand names are made to disguise that fact. I hope nobody gets upset with me there, but it is true.
When I first started promoting violins, I had two middle-men that I would work with (I won't mention names). I relied on them to ship out the Chinese instruments that I loved (at first I thought 100% were as good as the ones they sold me on). Over time, I started to notice customer complaints out of some of the violins they would drop-ship, and it seemed almost like a crap shoot (some customers were thrilled about the quality of each violin while others were angry). Finally I came up with a solution to this that I'll share with you. It involves obsoleting drop-shipping and focusing heavily on quality control.
I recently found a Chinese guy that plays in a professional orchestra that is obsessed with the sound of each violin he sells to me wholesale. He was actually the first one to explain to me that the distance between the bridge to the start of the tail piece should be 5.5 cm on a violin. I was skeptical but after he adjusted a violin for me, I was shocked at the difference (projection increased x2). He is that kind of guy, and he was very real with me about the process in China.
What he does, is he gets the structure of each violin created in the base shop, and then pays workers 8 times more at another shop to do the detailed work (fingerboard setup etc). This raises the consistency to about 85%, and he goes to China 4 times a year and picks only the best ones out of the bunch. We played all these violins at the NAAM show, and were blown away by the sound quality and consistency. He believes in doing all the hard work up front with instruments (quality control), so that customers don't complain and want to return the violin back to him. Certainly this is someone that I hope to work with for a long time, as he carries the same vision of consistency and sound quality that I want to provide to the violin world. This sort of process is what helps the quality of finding a good violin for sale.
I'm now working with three lines of violins that go through this process. The results speak for themselves. So far every student that has tried out one of these violins, they have bought one, and each time they went through an intense approval process. I personally bought one that I find plays like it should be in the $8,000-$10,000 range, but it is only $2,500 retail.
Here is a link to my violin shop where you can find a quality violin for sale. I highly recommend the Vitale, Tia Bruna and Damiano violins for the under $3k price range.
So in conclusion, be open to trying out violins in this price range and keep in mind the ones that sounds the best are going to be Chinese 99% of the time. Keep in mind the consistency though, and if you get something that doesn't seem good, send it back. If you find a shop that has already done quality control for you though, that is when you are going to be thrilled with your purchase the first time.
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