My story, I'm looking for a violin

January 28, 2008 at 12:30 AM · I used to play viola when I was a youngster. I remember I was good at it and I loved it. You know the drill, teach comes in and offers to let your 4th grade class learn a stringed instrument. I jumped at the chance.

I chose a cello, I loved the deeper tone. At 9 years old, the thought of lugging that bigger instrument back and forth to school (1.5 miles) every day would be such a chore never occured to me.

I switched to viola in the 5th grade. My school had a wonderful teacher and orchestra program. I didn't know how lucky a kid I was until we moved.

9th grade. We moved and I was packed off to military school. Which surprisingly did not offer orchestra. I did not own my own instrument and my playing days ended.

Here we are 25 some-odd years later and I decided I want to play again. I chose a violin this time. Its coming back, more quickly than I thought it would.

I just wanted to play, I bought a cheap, (yet o so beautiful) VSO from ebay and started practicing. I knew my violin was cheap and not a real instrument by any means. I also thought it would at least give me an idea on if I were acting to a quick whim, or did I really want to play.

Lesson learned, I really want to play! I am in need of a new violin as I have outgrown this VSO rather quickly.

Now the problem, I live in small town rual Texas. There are no violin shops, music stores, classes, nothing like that anywhere in the area. I can practice and learn on my own. Although, I would rather have an instructor or at least a friend to play with!

I can't buy a violin on my own though. I have to mail order. (I MEAN it, there is nothing out here)

I dont want another VSO. I'm poor, so's I dont have a ton of money to spend on a decent instrument. $500 tops...although $350 is more in my price range.

Can any of you recommend a dealer or brand for a decent violin on the internet?

I am more interested in sound than anything...although I have to admit, I would like to love the look of my violin too.

So far I am looking at the Eastman Violins...I hate the way they look though. I don't care for the classic shiny varnished violins that seem to be so popular. Aged looking darker violins are more to my taste.

I love the instruments "yitamusic" on ebay has. Just looking at them makes my heart sing. I would rather have the Eastman when it comes down to a question of play-ability

Does anybody know anything of these instruments??

Are they worth buying?

Does anybody know of another brand I can buy (and afford) and know I will at least be able to play the instrument and enjoy it?

If anybody out in the heart of East Texas Lake Fork area plays give a holler!! I would love to hear from you!

Replies (22)

January 28, 2008 at 02:08 AM · Your price range is on the low end, so please put your expectations in context. Beware of cheap violins that are not very good.

The Eastman violin you mentioned is considered a good, reputable violin for the lower price range, and Eastman violins often sell for more. You may have a great deal. There are other good names at the low end (such as Snow). Look around and learn.

MAKE SURE YOUR VIOLIN IS SET-UP PROPERLY. Having to pay $150 to set-up your violin suddenly makes the cost of your violin not what you expected.

By the way, "the standard" good brand of violin string for your money are Thomastik Dominant stings. You can buy them at www.johnsonstrings for $39.95. Beware of some of the really cheap strings. For the money, Dominants are a safe choice. There are better strings out there, but you have to pay more money and it takes time to experiment with the different brands.

Also, the more you can spend on a bow, the better. A really bad bow can cause more problems than money saved. With that said, you can get a very usable bow for your price range. With an Eastman violin using dominant strings, you will have a really nice outfit.

By the way, the link at the top of this web page titles "violin shops" has a listing of violin shops across the country, including Dallas, Texas. Maybe you can pay a visit to one of those shops.

Owning a violin means establishing a relationship with a shop somewhere for ongoing adjustments to your violin as needed.

A really great book that explains the basics of owning a violin for beginners is “Tipbook - Violin and Viola: The Best Guide to Your Instrument” by Hugo Pinksterboer. You can buy this new for about $10 new at and used for about $6.50. This outstanding book is packed with great information -- everything from basic bridge maintenance, construction of the violin, brands of bows, to types of strings. This book was formerly known as “The Rough Guide to Violin & Viola: The Essential Tipbook.”

UPDATE: I changed a couple lines (above), including changing the line "put your aspirations into context" to "put your expectations in context." Thanks for correcting me. That was not exactly what I had originally meant to say.

January 28, 2008 at 01:18 AM · Abra,

Todd's advice in the post above is very frank and true, though I must admit that the way he worded it may have put you off (no offense, Todd! :-D)

While it's true that you should always "put your aspirations into context," remember that you're still in a very enviable position!

Imagine all the rich people out there who own Stradivaris and del Gesus but can't even play a decent note on them!

Going back on topic...

I recommend striking up a correspondence with any eBay violin seller (of course, make sure of his reputability first: check his feedback, website, profile, etc.) and ask to personally test the violin before agreeing to buy it.

I understand your concerns about living in a "small rural town" with no direct access to music shops; however, a life-long investment like a good violin just can't be left to chance.

If you really have no other option than to order online, at least make sure to keep a healthy and detailed correspondence with the seller/luthier so that they have an idea of what to recommend.

Hope this helps!

January 28, 2008 at 01:43 AM · oh, I'm not put off at all...any information is helpful. I know my budget is on the extremely low end....which is why I am trying to make sure I buy something I can at least play and enjoy instead of becoming frustrated. The Eastman low end violins are afforable to me. I have found both on the internet for less than $500(the 80 and 100)

Is their rep really that good??

Here is the ebay site for that other fellow.

A trip to Dallas probably won't happen. I get lost easily and don't deal well with the traffic. (that's another thing we don't have out here) Not to mention, the ones listed on this site in Dallas were way out of my price range.

Learning again isn't as hard as I thought it would be. I'm ok in the books and cd department. I remembered songs from long ago almost instantly, I can read music ok, and the books and cd's and web tools I have found are working great.

thanks yall!!

January 28, 2008 at 03:15 AM · Forget ebay unless you can afford to buy a violin that's not so hot. While I've done well on ebay, every violin (with one exception) has needed strings and setup, and sometimes expensive repairs.

Here's a suggestion or three. Take a look at Gianna Violins; Steve Perry is a straight-up guy who you can trust. Take a look at George Gruhn's shop; he has some fiddles in an affordable range. Harry and Jeannie West (just google these folks for website info) also sell a variety of less-expensive instruments. Make sure you arrange a trial period, so if you don't like what they send, you can get your money back. You'll be out the shipping, but it's a far better deal than ebay usually is.

These people are all from the "folk" side of the violin world, but that shouldn't bother you too much. Some phone conversation describing your needs should elicit a favorable response.

The Gruhn shop in Nashville is a pretty big outfit. I haven't dealt with them lately, but they've given me good advice in the past.

If you MUST consider ebay, Jesse Kamien is about the most honest violin dealer there. He sells under the name "Pahdah_hound" and offers a complete money-back guarantee, including refunding shipping costs. However, since he's got himself an excellent reputation, a lot of people follow his auctions, so it might not be easy to find a bargain. You could maybe email him, see if he has something in your range that he'd sell outright. (He has a website for non-auction sales; I think.)

If you call all these folks and can't find what you need, email me.

Good hunting.

January 28, 2008 at 03:13 AM · Send your VSO to a luthier for an evaluation. Getting it set-up properly will make a load of difference. Also, consider your bow... better bow will help almost as much as a better violin.. sometimes more. the guy is honest, and very very good... do not tune out because of the folk fiddle look to his site...

call him... he will take time to speak to you

January 28, 2008 at 03:22 PM · Yeah,Todd's probably right,but I got a Yita through Dan Maine at Veritas Violins on E-Bay.I showed it to my luthier when I had my "real" violin repaired, and she didn't toss it out the window like I expected.The soundpost had shifted during shipping,so she fixed that,cleaned up the nut slot on the E string,adjusted the bridge,played it, said it was "nice and comfortable" while playing some kind of Mark O'Connor shred-o-matic piece I'm not smart enough to even understand.I paid 268 bucks for it on auction.She charged me 50 bucks,including a set of Dominants.I also bought a Codabow Aspire from her which is probably the best investment I ever made in my violin sickness(220 bucks).

I have been watching the Padah Hound store,but everything there is out of my price range,too.I really think that high-end violins are for high-end violinists,and the cheaper stuff is for us bottomfeeders.I'm a guitar player,and I own several high-end instruments, but my all-time fave is the 300 dollar Chinese Squire....go figure.....

January 28, 2008 at 06:30 PM · I can sell you a decent violin that will sound better than an Ebay VSO (my travel violin) for $300 with case and bow, deluxe boxwood fittings and a new set of Imfeld red strings. You'll need to add about $50 for shipment. I'm about to move and I'm emptying my closets. You can send me a private message if you want to know more.

January 28, 2008 at 06:48 PM · Hello congrats on looking to start playing the violin. If you want to upgrade and stay within the $500 limit my first bit of advice would be to rent from an online retailer like You can get a very nice instrument to practice on and rental fees go towards a purchase of a violin.

But if like me you simply want to own your own instrument (can't blame you there, owning an instrument you love IMO can motivate you to play), and you have to order it through mail order or online. I would try three places online (great violins, each play tested and set up perfectly, they offer full trade in value for upgrades, and a 14 day no hassle trial on all instruments.), (again 14 day trial, full return and full trade in policy, they sell a Virtuoso violin for $545 and again the set up will be very nice. I tried a Kallo Bartok from them but there were some issues with the attention to detail). And lastly you can try a this site sells Gliga instruments, he's a Romanian maker that sells IMO very hard to beat instruments in the price range he sells them in. They're fairly common instruments but very nice. When looking and trying a lot of different instruments I ended up buying a Gliga Maestro for $1,200 and it was just as nice if not nicer than some other violins I looked at in the $1,800-$2,000 price range (one from Shar I loved a KJS Premier Artist but it was $2,400 too much money for me). Anyway Gliga sells I think the Gems I for $400 and a Genova for $580+. Again this violin has at least a 7 day trial if not longer.

I haven't tried ifshin violins but you may want to see if they have anything in your range. There's nothing wrong with purchasing online just make certain that they offer a trial period with a no hassle return.

January 28, 2008 at 07:08 PM · .

January 29, 2008 at 12:01 AM · I bought a Gliga on eBay ( last year for $200 (no bow, no case). It doesn't match my "real" violin, but it's nicely constructed. It has a decent sound (remarkable for $200) and is very playable, which is often not true of cheap violins.

January 29, 2008 at 07:10 PM · I think Gliga's secret is that there is no middleman. You are buying direct even though their office is in California--it's all in the family.

I have two gligas in the house and they work well. Yes they seem good for the $. I haven't tried the "expensive" ones from Gliga yet, though.

January 29, 2008 at 08:17 PM · A little known fact about Gliga's workshop is only 20% of the instruments that leave their shop leave with the name Gliga attached to them. They ship 80% of their instruments as "whites" all over the world. So that nice "German" violin you're playing may very well be a Gliga.

I don't know if mine is "expensive" per se $1,200 seems pretty intermediate if not student level. But to me it sounds great, my teacher recommended it over two other violins I had him try out, one was over $800 more, the other was $600 more.

I could see in 40 years the "Gliga Maestro" being akin to the Juzeks that are sought after today. Juzeks were very common but had a good reputation for being sound instruments.

January 30, 2008 at 01:14 PM · My local shop, String House of Kanack, does a brisk trade in mail-order violins. They have a decent starter outfit for around $500, but if you save your bucks for a while until you have closer to $1000, you will be happier for a longer time. Their "Tartini", a lightweight case and an Arco Brasil carbon fibre bow would be around $1000. If yu phone them, they would pick out something to meet your description of the sound you want. I do a lot of business there; I don't get any kickback. Sue

January 31, 2008 at 10:16 AM · You guys are awesome here! Thank you so much for all the advice and feedback! I guess I have a lot of research to do, but now I have a good idea where to look.

As far as saving those pennies...I had to save em to get where I am now. I just want something I can at least practice on and sound decent for now. With something to actually play on, I won't mind so much saving for a couple of years to get what I really want.

My hometown is having their annual "Ole Settlers Reunion" this weekend. There is supposed to be a fiddling contest. I can't wait! Maybe I'll get to meet someone out here that plays!

Again, thanks so much!


January 31, 2008 at 02:10 PM · Re: Yitamusic

I bought a yitamusic "T19" violin about 4 months ago on ebay. The "19" is the one below their top grade "20", the letter denotes the luthier who makes it, they have several, a makers certificate is supplied with the violin. The body is "sound" and looks great but needs some setting up. I dumped the strings and replaced with dominants, also awaiting a new bridge which I expect to improve things. The body seems slightly heavier than more expensive violins. Have some doubts about the bow which bounces quite a bit, but considering I paid just over £100 ($200) for the whole package including case and P&P I can't complain. The overall sound is strong and bright, perfectly practicable. I find it needs an ebony mute while practicing because the violin is very loud. I've heard some orchestral professionals actually seek out these instruments for their "powerfull sound".



January 31, 2008 at 03:53 PM · I think mine's a T-19,it's the one with all the scroll work around the ribs and on the pegbox...Dan the installed another fingerboard and trim pieces with inlay..I bought it because It looked cool but most importantly,because it gave me a visual reference for the intervals...I was having a really hard time adjusting to the scale length and it really helped.I sounds pretty good,lots of upper mids,etc.My luthier pitched the strings out the window and installed dominants too, and wants to replace the bridge on my next trip over there, so I think I'm going to have her put the Baggs bridge on that one instead of my "real" one.It needed some minor nut work as well.It's built like a tank,though,really stout.I wouldn't hesitate to use it at a rowdy bar gig,one could easily bat flying beer bottles back into the crowd with it (try that with your $30,000 instrument!)...

February 1, 2008 at 04:22 PM · I have a Gliga too and would heartily recommend it. There is an online company in England whihc is an agent for Gliga and their site has a lot of very helpful info about Gliga instruments (though pricing is of course in pounds sterling)

February 1, 2008 at 05:23 PM · RE: Yitamusic

I have purchased in the past a Yitamusic either T20 or M20 violin and a "snakewood gold mounted bow" off of E-Bay. They looked awesome like works of art, but didn't play well at all. The bow was the first to go, gold, shells, and fancy snakewood or not it was such a weak stick it couldn't pull a tone at all, my $25 brazilwood bow was much better and I'm not exaggerating. As for the violin I tried getting a new bridge cut and puting some vision strings on it, but at the end of the day I was not happy with it and neither was my teacher. It was loud I'll give it that, although simply being loud isn't necessarily a good thing. If you buy one typically the T20's sell for around $300-$350 but be prepared to take it to a luthier and pay another $100-$150 to adjust the soundpost, plane the fingerboard, adjust the nut, cut a new bridge etc... (not so much of a baragain anymore) I ended up selling it for about $50 less than what I bought it for so it wasn't a disaster or anything.

I tried a Gliga in the same price range and they sounded much better IMO.

To the OP I would try and extend your budget to around $500 for the violin. At that budget you can get an instrument that will keep you happy for a long time. And concentrate on online sellers who will sell the instrument with a complete set up ready to play. I can't stress that enough. I kno from experience and pride the set-ups of the instruments they sell.

February 4, 2008 at 08:04 PM · Thanks so much everybody. I think I have found what i am looking for. I still look at those Yati violins on ebay and drool....but if i can't get to a shop to buy one, i definately can't get to a shop to get an ebay violin set up properly. i am beyond excited about getting a new one. One day, i hope to own a Townsend violin. It will be a while, but not impossible.

March 5, 2008 at 07:15 PM · Abra,

I'm curious to know what you decided to do.

If you haven't purchased a violin yet, what are you considering?

I hear you about the Yitamusic violins -- they are visually stunning. I purchased one of their mammoth ivory/gold mounted pernambuco bows and am generally happy with its quality.


Phoenix, AZ

Blue Line String Players

March 5, 2008 at 07:55 PM · Bill Townsend and the Amati Foundation contacted me. He is helping me in my quest. Bill is my new hero by the way!! I trust him completly to make good decisions for me concerning this. I sent him a check yesterday for my new instrument....I can't wait to get it!

March 6, 2008 at 11:43 AM · I hope you found a nice one if not I got a decent Stradivarius copy which you can have for whatever you offer as I don't use it as i got some others as well. Just let me know.I learned on it and it has a lovely sound. regards louise

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