My basic dilemma is this: not enough money. But since that's everyone's dilemma and it's not going away any time soon, I have to be more creative.
Ideally, I would like to buy two instruments in the future, a violin and a viola. I own a violin that I can play on, but it's a German factory instrument only worth about $1000 and I have outgrown it and become increasingly dissatisfied with its sound.
I don't own a viola at all, I've rented a high-end one from Johnson String Instrument, a Mueller viola, that I rather like the sound of. Whenever I play it right before or after my violin I'm always shocked at just how much better it sounds than the violin. It has a rich, warm tone that is what I think I'm looking for, although richer and warmer would be better and probably possible if I spent more money. I've tried out all of the high-end rentals that Johnson has in the size I want (15.5"), and I like the sound of this one the best. However, it's a bit beat up--it has two obvious flaws in the finish--and it's not visually all that attractive. Furthermore, it's in a *really* ugly case. The case is well-made, by Bobelock, but the exterior is black and the interior is a kind of golf-course green that I cringe to look at (apologies to anyone owning a case with a green interior--but YIKES!)
Johnson is having a double your rental equity sale coming up very soon. Taking advantage of the rental equity that I've accumulated, and doubling that, I have equity that amounts to $900+ that I could put towards buying my rental instrument. This means I could nearly, maybe even completely, buy my rental "outfit" outright next week without spending any more money. I'd have to insure it, which would cost a little more on my policy, and pay for routine maintenance myself (Johnson nicely includes that and insurance with the rental), but overall it seems like maybe it's a good deal. At least I'd have a viola to play on and I could stop renting. I'd be ahead of the game where I am now.
I'm leaning towards doing this and trying to get them to throw in a better case (or spending my own money on a better case, which I could still keep if I get a better instrument later). For my "real" rest-of-my-life instrument, I want to spend more time looking and shopping around, and I might rather go somewhere like Reuning and Sons than Johnson, who cater largely to the student and rental market in the first place. And while I do all this thinking and shopping in the meantime those rental fees will continue to pile up unless I take some action. And if I buy it now I could trade it in later and recoup some of the value that way. I mean, I've already spent the money on the rental. I think I've got a lot to show for it in terms of increased viola skill and enjoyment of playing the viola, but otherwise, the money is just gone.
However, given how I've come to feel about my violin, I think I'm likely to outgrow this viola, too, sooner rather than later. I like the instrument but I don't love it. I'd date it, but marriage? Not so much. I'm a little hesitant to become the owner of a second okay-but-not-stellar instrument, although the knowledge and determination that this will be temporary might be enough for me to deal for a year or two while I save and shop. I am an amateur and don't anticipate making any money off performing, although I do hope to perform more in the future.
If you were me, what would you do?
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