The great violinmakers of today are a truly great bunch!

December 25, 2006 at 03:58 AM · I just want to clarify a few things that may have been misunderstood in my previous thread: the 4 other players and I did not go into this to hold our own “contest.” They are just players who know each other, as players usually do, and they started picking each other’s brains as they realized that they were all in the market to by a great modern, in order to help each other make this really important decision (shelling out 20 K, is not taken lightly, especially since a few of the players have been saving for this for a long time!).

I joined the “communication” because they are my friends and I too want a few fiddles soon. That is it. And I do not think anything shows the serious intentions of the group more than the fact that 2 fiddles have already been bought, and 2 commissions made.

I ran the thread to get more input, and to help others know about these great makers. And since I ran the thread many have contacted me and given me their valuable opinions. I was also able to answer their questions about particular makers, and in the end I had nothing but positive things to say about these makers because that is how we feel about most of them!

What everyone should know is this: out of all the fiddles we tried, only one did not impress us. To put in another way: almost all the makers lived up to the hype about them. They were all that good! In fact, most of the time we could only say, “great fiddles in their own way, not one better than the other, but just great in different ways.”

The other thing all should know is this: all the makers we have dealt with so far have been great guys! It is really hard to think of a nicer more passionate profession! If all occupations were full of integrity and passion and kindness as these men are the world would be a much better place! Just a great bunch of men!

Someone asked how we tried all these violins. There are a few collectors who have a collection of moderns, and they made this collection available to us. We have also paid our share in sipping costs! LOL

One last statement: the only way to buy a fiddle like this is to personally listen to them, and personally play them. The group as a whole is impressed by the work of Needham and then Burgess, more than any other, but that is just our opinion. And that opinion is somewhat weak because one person bought a Greiner, and another may commission a Borman very soon. And most of us want to try many of the violins again, which I stated before. This can only mean that most of the violins are so great in their own ways that we need to play them again to form more solid opinions.

In the end there will be no “rankings,” there will only be violins tried, appreciated, and some bought. The makers of today are truly special, and most are worth al the hype given to them

To answer why we liked the Needham strad so much: It was the “biggest” sounding instrument we played, the most “cremonian” instrument, and to use a word that has become an integral part of our communication—the thickest sounding. To us what makes the del Gesus and Strads so great is the thickness of the sound. The Needham has this, and had no weaknesses, other than the fact that the G is so huge that it overshadows the rest of the strings. This only bothered one player among us, but is has bothered others who have tried it, which again shows that the only way to really choose instruments like this is to play and listen to them yourself.

And if you look at what I wrote you will see that my conclusions are in line with the members of this forum; Emil has raved about Needham for a long time. Borman has often been spoken highly of in threads. And all of you who have tried the makers we mentioned have liked them. In the end, our opinions are much like yours.

A blessed Christmas to all! Especially violinmakers, who seem to be a truly great bunch of men!

Replies (33)

December 24, 2006 at 07:00 PM · I noticed I wrote "sipping," when I should have written, "Shipping." But the more I think about it, "sipping" is also accurate! Playing a few great moderns back-to-back can really confuse you and at times has led us to "sipping." LOL

December 25, 2006 at 04:31 AM · thanks for clarifying. i look for a big G in a violin also. now i'm going to have to track down a Needham myself :)

December 25, 2006 at 05:01 AM · Raymond,

I enjoyed your quest and comparisons greatly. I am glad you have such faith in modern instruments! As a luthier I would want to have a crack at a sound post adjustment on the Needham to tone down the G a bit though.

Let us know what you decide.

December 25, 2006 at 07:15 AM · I do not think the player who bought the Needham woudl let you tone down the G! LOL He loves it that way! And I think if you heard him, like I did last week when he was palying first parts with a quartet behind him, you would not want to tone down the G either.

But to each his own, many who have played it did not like the fat G, others loved it. As for me, I just wish I could sound like the player who now onws it! LOL

A blessed Christmas to all!

December 25, 2006 at 06:20 PM · I have a colleague, who would like to unload their Needham.

Are you interested, if so let's be in touch.

December 25, 2006 at 06:40 PM · Thank you for thinking of me Gennady! But I still have a handful of makers to check out before I make a decision. And if I do choose a Needham, which is the direction I will go in if the other makers do not impress me more than his violin did, I will commisson one from him. The reason: there is a huge difference between the work Neeham is doing now, and the violins he made before. He would tell you the same. Which is not to say that he was building vilions carelessly, but that he seems to have tapped in on some things that make his instrments very "cremonian." And what I would order is his Strad copy, but from what I understand most of the new stuff he has out there are del Gesu copies, and his two models sound very different. Some have liked his del Gesu copy better, while I liked his Strad copy better. To each his own.

Have a great Christmas everyone!

December 31, 2006 at 07:42 AM · one more thing to add: not only are these great makers really great guys, they are also funny as hell! I mean they really have great personalities and are just fun to talk too!

December 31, 2006 at 10:39 AM · I agree. Also, I find that makers are much more genuine than a lot of dealers.

I'm so sick and bloody tired of playing something for some dealer, then him telling me it sounds much better than what I've got, when sometimes it doesn't. Somehow makers seem far more proud in what they sell, and most don't see you as just a dollar sign.

January 1, 2007 at 10:06 AM · Me too PV. I've played crap that many dealers try and sell. It is obviously crap and yet they will say it is great. Amazing what some people will say when they stand to make money from it.

MP.

January 2, 2007 at 09:35 PM · Pieter: "I'm so sick and bloody tired of playing something for some dealer, then him telling me it sounds much better than what I've got, when sometimes it doesn't. Somehow makers seem far more proud in what they sell, and most don't see you as just a dollar sign."

and Michael: "Me too PV. I've played crap that many dealers try and sell. It is obviously crap and yet they will say it is great. Amazing what some people will say when they stand to make money from it."

While I don't doubt you have reasons for your statements, I find it a bit of a shame that a positive statement about contemporary makers is presented, without prejudice or comparison to others, only to be quickly tarnished by negative, rather distasteful, overly general, posts.

I am a dealer as well as a restorer... so I think it natural that I'd take a bit of an offense to the above statements. Speaking for myself, I sell both old and contemporary instruments... I choose to purchase or represent instruments that I like, enjoy and admire. I also choose instruments I feel a specific client, or group of clients, would like. That's the service part of my job... but the primary factor stays in place... I avoid instruments that others might desire if I don't like them myself. I don't carry, or work on, student instruments... so I don't have to worry about compromising my tastes to fit that segment of the market. I devote a certain amount of my time, money and expertise to non-profit organizations like the VSA and Chicago School of Violin Making. I participate on Internet forums which I feel have the potential to educate. I'm not alone in this. Several dealers and makers participate on this (and other) boards and devote time to worthy organizations.

I have a great many friends who are makers... Great people. I enjoy their company. I've worked for/with/and even employed several. A great many are quite gifted, dedicated, hardworking craftspersons. I agree with and appreciate Raymond's statement.

I have a great many friends who are dealers and am pleased to know a number of (who I and others) consider very accomplished experts in the field. Great people. Also gifted, dedicated, and hardworking.

While neither group is imune to persons of questionable ethics, dedicated individuals in both groups have a real passion for instruments and have made great efforts to build and maintain reputations. A dealer who wishes to maintain their reputation understands that instruments they offer have everything to do with that reputation. Makers who wish to maintain their reputations realize that what they make and sell has everything to do with their own reputation.

To both of you: Try hanging out with a better crowd and take some personal responsibility. I'd say your reactions have as much to do with who and where YOU choose to shop than those nasty 'dealers" as a group... or maybe you're choosing to shop at larger dealerships and seeing one of the sales reps in the front room rather than the dealer themselves. You do understand that their primary JOB is to sell YOU an instrument, right?

That's my rant.

Happy New Year to all!

Jeffrey

January 1, 2007 at 07:59 PM · "Also, I find that makers are much more genuine than a lot of dealers"

A lot does not equal "all". I'm not going to get into details here, but I've now had experiences (all of them very friendly) with many dealers. Also, I am friends with people who have very recently been shopping for violins, some of them rather valuable. I am not making up ghost stories. I've realized (as someone pointed out to me), that players will quickly say a whole different set of things amongst themselves when no one in the business of selling is present, and what you hear can be very interesting.

In any case, I now know for the most part who I like and who I think has a bit too much of the used carsalesman vibe. I'll just keep the specifics to myself, and I apologize to anyone who felt maligned by this general, very unspecific statement.

January 2, 2007 at 05:38 AM · "Also, I find that makers are much more genuine than a lot of dealers"

Let's examine this a little further...

"a lot of dealers" = a large percentage; a significant number.

"makers" = no exclusions; you must mean all.

...and, I feel the negative statements did nothing to contribute to the quality of the discussion. Until you made the comparison, it was not a factor of the discussion.

I think someone said youth is wasted on the young, Pieter. Maybe they are right at times. :-)

January 1, 2007 at 11:27 PM · Edit;

My post got caught in the middle of something. I'll post it again later.

January 1, 2007 at 11:44 PM · What a dissapointing cop out. I'm young and stupid. How alarming it is therefore that people 3 times my age with 3 times the bank account to spend are even more ardent about the same subject as I am. Also, you would not believe things people in this industry (all apparently this wonderful network of "friends") will say about another, when a buyer like me, mentions that I was just in their shop/spoke to them about an item.

In any case, I'm not going to take this any further because apparently everything on this site must be positive. Or actually, people don't mind negative criticism as long as it doesn't affect them. Interesting.

January 2, 2007 at 12:57 AM · I think the bottom line here is that the people in the violin business--players, makers, dealers--are all, as far as I'm aware, human beings, and share a remarkable number of human traits, from being nice people to con-men, to total jerks (I guess that's a triangular map rather than a linear one). I don't think this should really come as a surprise to anyone. As with any human, too, the way you are introduced to someone (the most basic of human traits is that you're either friend, or foe--one of them or one of us, and the ways this can be determined are multitude) and the way you treat them may or may not affect the way they deal with you (some people are professional, some are not). Is anyone surprised?

January 2, 2007 at 01:17 AM · Some dealers are good, some bad. No different from any industry. PV's frustration may be appropriate. At the moment I am trying to sell a Violin. I bought it for $9K and will probably only get $4.5K max. All the dealers I take it to tell me I got ripped off. So much for the "great investment" it was supposed to be!

One instrument from one shop the dealer tells me is great. I take it to the next shop for an "objective opinion" and am told it is only worth half. I take an instrument from this shop back to the first and am told the same thing.

Though recently I received some good info from a shonky dealer, perhaps turning over a new leaf.

I have been very impressed with the comments of the makers/dealers on Violinist.com. Keep it up.

MP.

January 2, 2007 at 02:02 AM · Where there is money, there are unscrupulous people. Expecting a near perfect world in the violin industry is a bit harsh or hard pressed. It is also understandable, when someone gets shafted, that the bitter taste tends to linger.

What I find about makers though is they seem to be very generous with their knowledge, and their time to explain things, which makes violin message boards a great place to learn the instruments and to hang out.

Thank you all.

Happy New Year!

January 2, 2007 at 02:55 AM · From Raymond Paul;

"one more thing to add: not only are these great makers really great guys, they are also funny as hell! I mean they really have great personalities and are just fun to talk to!"

______________________________

Raymond, you and the studio people have also been a pleasure and a blast to interact with!

The whole situation was pretty intimidating from a maker's perspective though. ;-)

David Burgess

http://www.burgessviolins.com

January 2, 2007 at 03:11 AM · Happy New year everyone!

That's an interesting point for me (i.e., the ability to talk 'ad nauseum' about the instrument made by the person you're talking to rather than obtaining a more limited amount of information about an instrument from a reseller).

My experience is that all instruments (just like all people) have their own unique 'personality'. One, for the most part, cannot say that every instrument, even by the same trusted maker, is the perfect instrument for them. That's why the ability to ask questions "until the proverbial cows come home", for me, is an important facet of instrument purchasing. But then again, so is a trial that is long enough for the player to get a personal understanding about an instrument. And of course it's always advisable to have several friends, whose opinions you value, tell you what they think too!

January 2, 2007 at 08:10 PM · Pieter:

You have my sympathy. The violin market is fraught with difficulties. The essential problem is that it is very, very inefficient(in the economic sense). This makes it pretty much an insiders game. It is much easier for middle men in the violin business (that's what dealers are) to be less than scrupulous than it would be for, say, real estate brokers.

Kevin

January 2, 2007 at 08:46 PM · I think it's worth noting for those who haven't followed it that Pieter has been offered a considerable amount of FREE help and advice by Jeffrey over the past few months on both this site and MNet. Yet according to Pieter, Jeffrey's not allowed to counter Pieter's sweeping statements with both logic and good sense.

Those of us who've seen the substantial amaount of FREE help and assistance offered to so many by Jeffrey - someone who makes their living, in part, by charging for such help - know who to have faith in.

I also think it's worth noting Michael D's observation that everyone involved in (everything) is likely to exhibit somewhat human traits - both good and bad. ;)

Neil

January 2, 2007 at 09:20 PM · Neil, I've already thanked Mr. Holmes as best as I could over the phone and on the internet. I've acknowledged his willingness to help others, so perhaps you should check your facts.

January 2, 2007 at 10:14 PM · Thanks Neil. I appreciate the acknowledgement.

My intention was actually not to aid in this thread turning the corner from one that was complimentary to contemporary makers. I think many have earned the kudos they are getting here.

My post was admittedly in reaction to what I felt were wide, sweeping, comments about dealers in general (and I did mention that the profession is not imune to ethical difficulties, like any profession, and that there may be a reason that the original posters felt the way they did…), but the real point is that I felt that the comparison, a tearing down of another faction or group, was unnecessary and did not contribute to the discussion.

In fact, this action has the potential to degrade the complimentary sentiment… The message becomes: “Boy those new makers are great when you compare them to those dealer schmucks.”

So… I've said my piece... and I apologize for my part in taking this discussion off track and hope y’all get back to, what I thought, was a pleasant thread.

January 2, 2007 at 11:07 PM · Pieter again you miss the point. If you're so thankful for Jeffrey's help then surely there was no need to make such sweeping derogatory statements about his profession.

Anyway, I would also be hopeful the thread will return to a more positive note about the topic orginally raised.

Neil

January 3, 2007 at 12:17 AM · Neil... just get over it. I am not going to change my generalization, and I'm sure Mr. Holmes and his colleagues have no reason to think that I am talking about them. This is a free website though, and I've made no indictments, just sharing a widely held frustration.

------

But I agree, it's bad to sidetrack the discussion. Again, I will say that the makers that I have encountered are thus far great people. It's just unfortunate if you live in Canada, with our unbelievable customs policies, to get to try some of these instruments unless you know someone who already has one. It's made my search for another instrument very difficult.

January 3, 2007 at 07:46 AM · Michael Parry writes: "Some dealers are good, some bad. No different from any industry. PV's frustration may be appropriate. At the moment I am trying to sell a Violin. I bought it for $9K and will probably only get $4.5K max. All the dealers I take it to tell me I got ripped off. So much for the "great investment" it was supposed to be!"

Try taking the instrument you bought back to the original dealer that sold it to you. See what they will give you for a trade-in to see if you got ripped off. If they refuse to take a trade or duck the issue or give you a very low-ball number, then you know you've been had.

January 4, 2007 at 02:25 AM · They my take it as a trade in, but I would be trading it in to buy another rip off instrument from that shop!

I want to put that instrument back in the market at an appropriate price. Someone has to do it.

MP.

January 4, 2007 at 09:41 PM · "Try taking the instrument you bought back to the original dealer that sold it to you. See what they will give you for a trade-in to see if you got ripped off. If they refuse to take a trade or duck the issue or give you a very low-ball number, then you know you've been had."

If the rip-off was for real, what can one do as a consumer? Any agencies one can go to?

January 5, 2007 at 01:18 AM · I think it would be difficult to get a consumer protection agency excited about something which was worth less than you paid for it after some time and some use.

The bowed string family instruments are interesting though in that one can purchase one and use it for years, and maybe make a profit, maybe break even, maybe take a bit of a loss, but still come out much better than most consumer products including other types of musical instruments.

How much is a ten year old computer worth?

David Burgess

January 5, 2007 at 02:14 AM · That's a great point. There's not many things that hold their value like instruments. The only time I ever lost money was because there was a 20% commission.

January 5, 2007 at 03:46 AM · Agreed. Agencies for future reference?

Early in 2003, my IBM cost over $3,200 direct from IBM, and I think I should feel lucky if I can fetch over $400 on eBay these days. That said, when a new car gets out of the lot and comes back with 50 miles on the odometer (???), it is a used care, and a good-bye to $2,000 to $3,000 instantly.

Ah, at least I've been enjoying my laptop for the last three years (and no plan to part with it yet). :-) I hope you also enjoy your violin, MP.

January 5, 2007 at 11:03 PM · I don't use that violin. I haven't played on it for a while. My main instrument is a 1992 Gregg T Alf (Booth Strad model).

MP.

January 6, 2007 at 12:41 AM · About dealers and makers- I often feel like I am the one who is being unfair or a jerk. These people help you out for free, have let me walk out of a shop with over $50k worth of instruments or bows, and then usually get nothing from it. The last time I looked for an instrument was about 3 years ago. It came down to one from a large dealer where I worked with a salewoman who obviously didn't care much about me, and a small maker/dealer. I brought the instrument from the large dealer to the maker and his reaction was so honest. He played it and said it was a really great insrument and it was a tough decision for me. I ended up getting the violin from him though, and how genuine he was affected the decision. I ended up making the right decision too. Later on I found out the that large dealership fired that salesperson for how she was treating customers. She obviously wasn't a reflection of their normal business practices.

Back to what I was saying though- I understand where they come from and that's why I feel like I'm mistreating them. I have been looking for a bow for the last 2 years, and have probably tried over 100 from dealers and makers on the east coast and in europe when I've been over there. I feel guilty because they work with you and are generally very nice to work with, then I take their bows for trial when they might be able to sell them to someone else, and I haven't given any of them a single dollar (well maybe I buy some strings or something from them). So I understand if a dealer would get a little fed up with that stuff, since I'm only one customer and I'm sure most of their customers do the same thing. On the other hand I can't just drop thousands of dollars on something because the person is really nice to me.

Anyways, I am thankful to the makers and dealers on this site who help us all out and hopefully one day I can give one of them my business.

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