Can good players trust the Elite makers?

February 18, 2008 at 01:39 AM · I am going to be commissioning for a great modern soon. I’ve made a boatload of money lately, and I have work scheduled on both coasts of the US, and in Europe, so I have the opportunity to check out a lot of makers.

I have already done some of the work by taking to many on here, including two of the “studio guys,” who have played a ton of great moderns. Maybe best of all is the fact that I already played a great modern that I loved so if I come up with nothing better I will still be more than satisfied.

My question: there are three very famous makers that I would love to check out (one in the USA and the other two in Europe), but all 3 have such a very long wait period, and both sell to so many big-name-elite players, and this makes me worry about what class of instrument I will end up getting from them. I have heard so many stories of players getting a violin that was meant for another player but did not work out, so the maker shipped it out to try to sell it to another. And I have also heard that some of the big shot makers will often send their best violins to the elite players, so you may not see the violin you commissioned if your violin turns out to be a bit spectacular—they will send it out to the elite player and you then send you out the next violin they make, unless that one is unreal too.

How much of this do you think goes on in this business?

Replies (51)

February 18, 2008 at 01:45 AM · I'll message you privately

February 18, 2008 at 04:30 AM · I tried a lot of violins and will soon by one from either Needham or Burgess.

In trying so many I saw what you are talking about. I have heard sooooooo many stories about a few makers who send their best fiddles to the big name soloists, whether or not they were making it for you.

I also talked to a player who was sent a fiddle "early," turns out many others had commissioned a violin from hin turned it down.

Two guys from Europe? Let me guess: A guy from France and the other is from Germany! hahaha. I know I am right cz i heard it over and over.

In usa: my guess is the guy from L.A., or the guy from NY, who i heard this about as well.

This maybe a problem all over.....

In the end though, any good player will be able to tell the difference between a great fiddle and just another fiddle. As for the the two from Europe, I would not waste my time.

Oh and "hi" Pieter! How have you been?

February 18, 2008 at 06:47 AM · hey Jan, I'm good. The new violin is amazing, glad I bought it.

February 18, 2008 at 01:48 PM · "Can good players trust the Elite makers?"

Yes and no.

Some makers have been known to play all sorts of games in pursuit of name recognition. One of the most powerful still is being able to claim that well-known soloists play your instruments, and there are many ways to accomplish this.

I can't think of any reason why this would have so much currency, unless many musicians don't entirely trust their own judgment, so they look for someone famous to indirectly affirm their decision.

So I guess you can see why being selective with customers would be tempting for a maker. If you had a choice between a playing venue which was obscure, versus one with a lot of exposure and prestige even if you had to play for free, which would you choose?

My personal choice is to try to treat amateurs and students exactly the same way as high-profile players. Doing this isn't easy, but one thing I've done to help avoid the temptation to favor certain players is to promise myself that I won't use "Who Plays Them" in advertising or on my web site. I don't even keep a list.

Yes, I feel a little bad about making someone with a reputation wait while I finish up some fiddles that will go into obscurity, but sometimes you just "suck it up" and do what you think is right. It's probably stupid, but I guess that's what I get for being a preacher's kid. ;)

I'm working on a fiddle right now that has the potential to generate a lot of exposure. I could have had it done by now, but I had some other things to get out the door, sticking to the order in which I received the commissions. Fortunately, the person it's going to seems to understand, and be supportive of my conservative, old fashioned way of doing things.

Ha ha, here's one thing that helps. Sometimes, "average" players don't like the same sound and response that the really "hot" players prefer, so there have been one or two cases where I've been able to offer an outstanding "reject" to a better player. LOL

By the way, I need some new gym shoes. What is Michael Jordan wearing these days? ;)

So I know I haven't really answered your question, Andreas. Just thought I'd try to shed a little light on this from a maker's perspective. I like to see things done a certain way, but I guess I can't come down too hard on the makers who prioritize for exposure.

February 18, 2008 at 01:02 PM · M. Jordan doesn't go to the gym these days, David...hehehe

February 18, 2008 at 01:37 PM · Ha ha Blaine, are you trying to turn my gym shoe decision into something practical? (wink)

OK forget about Jordan. I want shoes from whoever has the longest waiting list. ;)

February 18, 2008 at 02:18 PM · Mr Burgess,

Thank you for candid assesments. I am not religious but I am glad there are preachers with kids. We are not advanced enough to commission a violin. If an excellent reject comes your way again, we would like to try tho. Thank you.

Ihnsouk

February 18, 2008 at 06:17 PM · I'm going to be brually non-PC on this one (who, me?) and take the other viewpoint, with apologies to David:

This subject calls into question the whole notion of commissions in the first place. Why commission something at all, since there's no guarantee of getting what you want? Well, ok, we know the answer, but what exactly are you ordering? Are you ordering a violin made with such & such EXACT piece of Spruce? No. You're ordering a violin made by a particular maker, and trusting his reputation to deliver something you will be happy with, within a certain time-frame. that's it. Most makers let you turn down the first offering, maybe more than once.

OK, lovely. -but if you have the right to refuse the first one, doesn't he then have the right to decide which one to offer you? You can't have it both ways. If you want to order a particular set of wood, with the understanding that no matter how amazing that wood turns out, it ends up in your hands and not Perlman's, then you also should not be able to say "no" should the resulting fiddle not meet your needs.

Any maker who accommodates a buyer further than this is a saint, IMO. -And any maker who crafts that one-in-one hundred masterpiece, while working for some rich amateur, and DOESN'T offer it to a famous player, is insane. Who ever said life is fair?

February 18, 2008 at 06:17 PM · And one more point, which sort of echos David's point that different player's often need different amounts of responsiveness:

If you are paying a master luthier and trusting him to deliver to you what you want/need, I assume you:

A: Have a clear idea in your own mind what kind of fiddle that is, and

B: conveyed this information to the luthier in a clear, unambiguous manner.

If so, then the luthier may well decide not to offer your the first violin he finishes for you, or the second... and he would be doing for you exactly what you paid him to do. I'm not saying that this is what's going on with the infamous European duo, but it's another side of the coin & something to consider.

February 18, 2008 at 06:29 PM · That's a little paranoid...

February 18, 2008 at 06:44 PM · A good maker will have a consistent work in terms of sound and look. So, if you have played an instrument you liked there is a great possibility you will like the instrument you have comissioned.

Almost all art works we see in Italy were comissioned... Michelangelo received the comission to make his "Pietà" when he was in his early twenties, so Bernini when sculped his "Apollo e Dafne". Most Cremonese violins were comissioned too.

February 18, 2008 at 07:26 PM · Allen, I am not saying life is fair, I am saying if this really exists with some makers than I do not want to be part of that maker's future plans.

David, your ethic is great, and I knew it would be. Unfortunately not all makers are like you. I will, as I just wrote you, take a serious look at the fiddle that you will have out in CA. I assume that is the high profile player you are talking about since he seems to be the busiest and most sought after player in the recording industry (my borther is making a living doing arrangements and he has told me about the ability of this player in the studio).

Jan: Yes we are talking about the German and the Frenchman! LOL And the US guy is out in New York. I'll write to you so we can compare notes. Too funny! If the both of us know this about these 3, then how many other do too? LOL

Allen: I am hardly an ammature, but when a player just told me he got his ax by having a VERY famous soloist contact the maker, well to me there is a problem. At least it is a problem to me, and as a buyer I don't want to put my self in that position.

Yes it is true that a player has right of refusal, but who wants to wait for a year or two just to get a fiddle that does not compare to what you tried from that maker (before the commission) because he sent his better fiddle to a big name? Now you are sending it back and looking again, having wasted a few years waiting. And this does not count the time a player took to look into that maker and try a fiddle from that maker, which often means traveling or shipping costs. A lot of wasted effort and time setting up a contract that a particular maker will not keep if he "knocks one out."

And is this not agaisnt the contract you sign with most makers. They say you are at such a place on the list...etc. They do not say that you are at this place on the list, but you may move up if he has a lemon rejected, or may move down if he knocks out a great one, which he will send to a big name soloist. Which maker tells you that? And if they don't tell you how it actually is than is that not lying? Do you want to call that kind of business ethical?

David, you said do not palyers want to play at better venues? Yes, of course. But I think it is not ethical to turn down a job after you have taken it just because a better one came along (unless the people involved do not care). So yes I take the best job, but then I keep it, much like you are doing. Again, I wish all had your work ethic.

From a players stand point the asnwer to this may be consistency, which is why Needham and Burgess are at the top of my list right now. I have heard that they are incredibly consistent.

Oh as for the Frenchman: he later had a fiddle available for this player, when he said he would not for another 3 years. The player went ahead and received it and compared it to the fiddle he got from the same maker through the big name player. No comparrison! LOL

Oh and somehow the Frenchman had gotten the finish wrong? Why is that? Answer, he did not get it wrong, it was meant for another player who had turned it down because it was not up to the standards of the others he had played from that maker. It was a different finish because he did not make for him!

I understand it from a makers view too....why sell your best fiddle to a good player when you can sell it to a soloist who will make you that more famous. I understand this. But if this is how it works with a lot of makers than for me those makers have to unfortuately be off my list of potential makers.

Why commission a fiddle from a great maker if the best you will get from him is a second fiddle? For me this has taken a few makers off of my "must try" list.

February 18, 2008 at 08:24 PM · No answers just more questions, even if they look like statements they're only expressions of very debatable notions.

Buy from someone who actually has a reasonable oeuvre.

Not everything on a violin requires an artist. Some things only require skilled craftsmen. Stradivarius had assistants. A productive maker will undoubtedly have assistants.

Good materials are a necessary but not sufficient condition of a good violin.

There are many brilliant experiments in the world that have not passed the test of time. Beware of people who say they have the original varnish or the original wood treatment. Perhaps they do but can they make violins? I know one maker (not in College Station TX) who claims both but everyone of his violas and cellos has a major structural failure and his violins have some problems too. It is not hard to say every one because he hasn't made that many.

Ask for references. They are worth a premium.

When you take the violin be sure to get the maker's certificate of authenticity.

Study violin tone before you shop. Violins that win most contests don't have to be played to win.

Once upon a time a bright sounding violin was considered a good violin.

What pleases your ear may not be getting passed your ear. Play it in a decent sized room and take along friends who play like you do and listen to them play it. Compare it to reference instruments. (I realize you may not be playing what you're purchasing but if you can use it as a reference point you should have some expectation of what you'll be getting.)

February 18, 2008 at 08:58 PM · I think people who win a VSA medal for tone generally had their instruments played. Which is also why they have pro musicians to play for the judges.

February 18, 2008 at 09:37 PM · Pieter is correct. VSA tone certificates and medals are awarded due to the playing judges recommendations. At present, a VSA gold medal requires that the fiddle pass muster of both the workmanship & tone judges.

February 18, 2008 at 11:05 PM · From Corwin Slack;

"Stradivarius had assistants. A productive maker will undoubtedly have assistants."

---------------

Stradivari had assistants, but we don't really know what their duties were. There's strong evidence that pegs and other accessories were made in the shop. Maybe even cases and strings? Who went out on trips looking for wood? If I can't find wood in Ann Arbor despite the high number of makers working here, it would surprise me if there was a local source in Cremona.

To me, the fiddles attributed to Francesco and Omobono don't look much like the work of the old man, so I don't know how much they may have been involved in the actual making beyond some foundation work, like planing ribs to final thickness. Records searches have failed to support previous assumptions that certain other makers trained and worked there.

Some makers today have assistants, and some work alone. You might be surprised how fast some of the traditionally trained makers can work, at least if they don't spend an excessive amount of time on violinist.com. LOL

February 18, 2008 at 11:12 PM · Jeffrey, are there any other tone contests beside the VSA's? I think that most awards are for craftsmanship not tone. I think that tone is an even more elusive quality than the aesthetics of violin form.

February 18, 2008 at 11:52 PM · The making of a fine violin is a synthesis of craftmanship and tonality thereof.

A pleasure to perceive and play.

An art-form in wood.

A lovely voice which sings and,in a way,has a soul of its own.

February 19, 2008 at 02:16 AM · Corwin, until Jeffrey answers, the Cremona contest results are also a composite of tone and workmanship.

Some other competitions partially or completely separate tone and workmanship awards, though I'm not aware of a current competition that doesn't include sound.

One thought is that the workmanship judging might be most useful to a musician, because musicians can evaluate sound on their own.

My biggest reason for posting again though is that I may need to clarify some things I said earlier. I truly appreciate the compliments on ethics etc., but I need to confess that it's not entirely selfless.

I used to associate human value with achievement. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with this, and it's probably largely responsible for where I am today.

But I feel that my life has been enriched by opening to other definitions. Who is more passionate about music than an amateur, someone who plays for love and no money? How many concert goers are current or former amateurs? Could it be that fundamentally, they support us all?

So while there's some "marketing" pain in selling to an amateur, there's also some joy. I've met the neatest people..........

Take the former pro bassoon player turned businessman and amateur violinist. Best ear I've ever run across, except maybe for the fabled LA studio guys.

It's a little painful to hear Andreas speak about the shortcomings in our business. Nevertheless, I hope that it will contribute to improvement.

February 19, 2008 at 03:26 AM · I have to say that having spoken with a lot of makers, I have no qualms about saying that most of these guys are totally passionate about the quality of their craft and making something incredible. All the ones I've met/spoken with aren't interested in just filling a commission, but making a real winner that can compete with big dollar instruments, and they're proud as hell when they succeed.

The only reason I couldn't go with many of the guys I would have liked to is because I needed a violin in a very small timeframe and couldn't wait 6 months/several years. Fortunately it led me to an incredible violin at a price orders of magnitude less than what I was prepared to spend.

I have quite a bit more confidence as a consumer in dealing with violin makers than I have with some of the major violin shops.

February 19, 2008 at 03:34 AM · If you are that concerned about receiving a reject, you can always commission an instrument which is less mainstream. Do you really need to commission a YASC (yet another strad copy) ? How about an amati copy or double purfling or some nice inlay work etc etc?

This will not prevent the maker from offering your instrument to somebody else first, but it guarantees that he can't just give you some other instrument he had lying around. He'll have to make a new one for you. Come to think of it, this may just give him enough incentive to actually keep his word.

February 19, 2008 at 03:48 AM · Sorry but that's a horrible strategy.

Don't you want a violin that sounds good and fits your needs? Not many makers have a tested and proven model for making things like that, so the chances of you getting their best work really isn't that high. What's wrong with a strad copy anyways?

February 19, 2008 at 04:13 AM · likewise, what's wrong with an amati or guadagnini copy?

even if you go with a strad copy, double purfling or custom inlay work won't make the violin sound bad.

February 19, 2008 at 04:44 AM · A lot of great discussion on here. let me first say that I hope I have not offended anyone. In this process I have talked to a lot of palyers who have done extensive work to find a great modern, and for the most part they have nothing but great things to say about the makers they got to know.

I think that both Pieter and Ben are right, in their own way. I do not want a maker making something he is not use to, I want him making what he has come to know so well. On the other hand, if you could get a maker to maybe make it "your color, or something like this," it may safeguard against this.

David, don't get me wrong, as a whole I am sure that makers are a great bunch of guys, still, this problem obviously exists to a great extent, and the cases I heard about, which I know to be absolutely true, were really bad.

But again, when I have talked to the "studio guys" and others with so much experience trying modern fiddles, they have raved about the makers they have gotten to know: Needham, Bellini, Scott, Burgess, Croen, Joan C., Grubuagh, Curtin, Widenhouse, just to name a few. We should not think that all makers do this just because a few of the big names do. Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Great thought by all!

February 19, 2008 at 05:04 AM · Benjamin,

Why would you get something like double purfling and those inlays just so you don't get screwed? It might not make the violin sound bad, but I doubt most makers do that, and you'd definately pay a time and money premium to get that.

Also, there aren't many makers specializing in Amati and Guadinigni, so it narrows your choices. The great Strad and del Gesu models have proven to be superior to most other makers, so why WOULDN'T you want one of those? Actually think about what you're saying.

February 19, 2008 at 07:18 AM · If there's as much accidental difference in a maker's work from violin to violin as is being implied here, I don't know if I'd commission one at all. If you're worried about a maker just slapping one together to stick you with, probably not. But literally trust, no. Don't trust anybody when money's involved. I'd get a firm delivery date, and written terms, and so on.

February 19, 2008 at 05:26 AM · Yea that's another point, I have to agree with Jim. If a maker is that inconsistent (unless he went through a rennaisance and has started making violins with a different thought process like Needham or K. Scott), then don't commission from him.

I'd bet the farm on a maker like Burgess, Bellini or Boreman, who are all very consistent as far as the fiddles I've gotten to try.

As for not trusting people with money, I don't totally agree. For every criminal or just bad apple I know in this business, I can name a lot of very good guys. The makers (bow and violin) I've commissioned from have impeccable business ethics and money was always the absolute last step in the equation, a lot of the time it wasn't even discussed until the last moment. I've also found a great independant guy who sells my "mistakes" who I trust a lot. There's a lot of peopel you can trust, so I wouldn't be too paranoid about it.

February 19, 2008 at 07:21 AM · Yeah, you don't have to keep it, but if turns out you don't like it, you wasted a year of your life waiting for it.

February 19, 2008 at 05:20 AM · Of course you only go for personalised featuers if you actually like them. [with a very strong emphasis on "of course"]

At the danger of sounding like a smart ass, which is not my intention, please allow me to draw your attention to the use of the pattern "Well, you can/could always ..." in English. It is generally used in the context of "all other things being equal, there is this one thing which may make a difference". Consequently, if all other things aren't equal to you, then such a statement won't apply in the first place.

February 19, 2008 at 05:34 AM · Andreas, if you don't like fancy features such as inlay work in your violin, perhaps you like bird's eye wood, that alone may do the trick making your instrument different in look from most of the other instruments commissioned with a particular maker.

February 19, 2008 at 05:44 AM · Yes Benjamin thank you I'm incredibly aware of this fact, but all things aren't equal, and again you're demonstrating an appalling lack of knowledge by saying these things.

This guy is a real violinist who wants a viable, professional level instrument. All of your suggestions so far have been inane.

A) Get decorations - that has nothing to do with anything, and I doubt almost any of the top makers have ever done that, which limits his options and ups the price/time it would require.

B) Get an Amati or Guad model - almost no one does that, meaning that you'd actually be taking a LARGER risk (when your reasoning is that you're mimizing it) that you won't get a great violin

C) Birdseye maple is almost never used because it's less stable and harder to work with. There's very few violin makers now and throughout history who used it.

So, all of your suggestions about deliberately commissioning something different and esoteric are actually drastically increasing the risk of the buyer getting a mediocre, overpriced product.

Do you understand that now?

February 19, 2008 at 06:34 AM · Pieter, since you seem a little too zealous to show what a total idiot I am for thinking that a "real violinist" could possibly ever like personalised features or god forbid that anything but a strad copy could possibly sound good, I don't think it would make any sense for me to further explain myself to you.

Besides, the original poster to whom I actually made this suggestion has quite obviously understood me perfectly well without blowing anything out of proportion.

Rest assured, whatever bad thing happened to you today, you have my sympathy and if it makes you feel better to let your frustration off on me, be my guest, I won't hold it against you.

February 19, 2008 at 07:18 AM · Benjamin,

Do you not understand that most makers study Strad or Guarneri most of the time and model their best work after that? I love the violins of Bergonzi and Montagnana for example, but few people devote their time to making these violins.

The gentleman who originally posted has made it clear that he wants to get a very good violin, and just about every suggestion you've mad would go quite a way towards hampering that in the real world. It also relies on this strange premise that by having a violin maker draw all over it would prevent it from being given to a superior player (which happens with very few makers, of which he's already said he won't be considering anymore). It's a pretty simple concept to understand.

In any case he's too sensible to listen to any of that and I've already corresponded with him about makers to look for.

Hope he finds what he needs.

February 19, 2008 at 07:22 AM · When I get frustrated I go for a walk, or if I get really upset I go running in the park. Not only does it flush out anger, it also sharpens the senses. I can really recommend it.

February 19, 2008 at 07:54 AM · When there's a mosquito I slap it as hard as I can.

February 19, 2008 at 10:17 AM · When I go for a walk, I swat lots of mosquitos, so I run instead.

February 19, 2008 at 11:26 AM · The title of the thread is can "Can good players trust elite makers". Perhaps it should have been can good players trust themselves? No one twists your arm to purchase a $20000 violin and it shouldn't matter who liked or rejected the violin before you decide if it is right for you.

February 19, 2008 at 02:14 PM · Michael you are missing the point: the question is can you trust some of these really high prized makers to make a great violin for you, or will they ship those to the elite soloists.

Sure my ears and hands tell me whether a violin is great or not, but my ears and hands can't put 2-3 years back on the clock when I have been had because I trusted someone to make the best he can and send it to me, when in truth he made the best he can and sent it to the Elite soloist, and then sent me the next one that was not nearly as good. I then refect it, and find myself many years behind the mark.

Does this make sense?

There are many makers I already trust, but there are also a few that I know make super violins when they nail it, and I would like to look into those makers as well, but I just don't know if I may be wasting a few years if I do.

I'll probably stay away from them (the Frenchman and the German for sure, the guy in N.Y. I will still look into, but probably discount for the same reason),

The other consideration is how many more do this too?

February 19, 2008 at 02:39 PM · A naive question; Why do you commisssion a violin? Is it to get in line of reputable makers since they sell faster than they make? Reading the thread, I get the impression that people prefer a standard violin, stradi or guaneri, standard finish, etc. Another question I have is How would makers feel if players commission more than one violin at a time with intention to reject all except one? Don't worry I don't plan to do that. Someone brought up the fairness of giving the commissioned violin to someone else. If that's thought to be fair then players get to commssion more than one at a time. Maybe many already do, I wouldn't know.

Ihnsouk

February 19, 2008 at 04:38 PM · Andreas, you could always avoid the problem altogether and spend your boatload of money on an older violin, yes? No waiting period that way, no doubt about quality...

February 19, 2008 at 04:40 PM · I don't actually understand why one has to go to an "elite" maker in the first place. Do you really think that only the celebrity luthiers make high quality instruments? If so, then I have a bridge to sell to you.

I used to have all my suits tailored at one of the big name tailor shops in London Regent Street but these days, simply by virtue of being much closer to Hong Kong, I have my suits tailored in Hong Kong. The fabrics are the same, the quality of workmanship is the same, but the price is only 1/3 of what I used to pay in London.

The difference is the London suits come with a label that gives you bragging rights. Oh and yes, in Hong Kong it takes only 3-5 days to get your suit, whilst in London you wait 2-3 weeks if not longer.

If anyone suggests that the Chinese tailor employed by that highly recognised London tailor shop is by virtue of being in London more talented at his job than the Chinese tailor employed by that highly unfamed Hong Kong tailor shop, then again, I have a bridge to sell to them.

Go ahead and call me an idiot for not understanding that violins are not suits. Well, I know that already. But have you asked yourself how much you might have bought into brand mythos. It's so easy to fall into this trap.

Come on, how likely is it that there is only a dozen or so luthiers on the entire planet who can make really good instruments and all the others are substandard. No matter what names you are going to call me, but that's just utter nonsense.

February 19, 2008 at 05:26 PM · Benjamin,

That's why I recommended to him that he not go with certain names. He can get the same quality (perhaps even better) for a lot less, with less hassle and worry.

February 19, 2008 at 08:09 PM · Andreas,

It sounds like you want protection from your commissioned instrument turning out great, and then being sold out from under you to a famous player.

Since I am a lawyer (and a mediocre musician) I tried to think of some protection for you. If I had this worry, I would do two things.

First, have a written contract which gives you the right of first refusal, and provides for what we lawyers call liquidated damages of a particular sum (say $20,000) if the maker violates this part of the contract. Liquidated damages are used when the actual damage for violation of a contract would be difficult to determine - so the amount is agreed upon in advance.

Second, be sure that you get photos of or see the violin in the construction phase so that you know which instrument is yours. For my viola, I chose the wood and the maker sent me frequent photos of the progress, so I knew what my viola looked like before it was finished. I even had some of the wood which was cut in the early phases, and no reason that could not be supplied to you.

If the maker wants to enter it into competition, agree to loan it to him to do this. Then, if it is really great, he will get some benefit from selling it to you. I did this with my viola and was pleased when it tied for first place at an Arizona competition, and the maker was also grateful.

I think that this would protect you pretty well. Considering how important reputation is in the business, I doubt that your instrument would be sold out from under you when you know for sure which instrument is yours.

February 19, 2008 at 08:42 PM · this is something i like about lawyers, always cooking up brilliant ideas. a paranoid customer walks in the door with a contract in his trembling hand. the maker, busy with orders and not the most eager to see lawyerly arrangement, says: i don't have to sell anything to you, do I????!!!

now what? since plan A is shut down, what is plan B?

if a person is not trustworthy, contracts are not going to stop him.

February 19, 2008 at 09:26 PM · save yourself a myriad of headaches and counseling fees.

buy a violin already made.

you'll find one eventually to 'suite' your expectations.

aside:

last time i bought strings they were $35

now,the same strings are $53 -- Infelds...

February 19, 2008 at 09:17 PM · As for contracts and clauses...

They are your last resort. You are looking at international law and enforcement would be more expensive then the price of the violin.

February 19, 2008 at 09:30 PM · Claude, your point is a good one. From a technical standpoint, a way around that is to provide that the losing party pay attorney fees, which is commonly done in the US.

From a practical point, the idea of the contract is not to foster litigation, but to avoid it.

If the maker understands that the buyer has the absolute first opportunity at a particular instrument, and that the buyer can identify the instrument, it is extremely unlikely that he will do otherwise.

If there is no discussion about this point, the maker may feel that he is justified in holding back an instrument if it turns out extremely good.

Actually, this has not been my experience with makers, but the poster was concerned about this, and it is not my place to say whether or not this is being too cautious. It is a simple matter to agree with the maker on this point and put it in writing before he puts his money down and agrees to a long wait.

February 19, 2008 at 10:33 PM · Robert,

A number of makers have contracts that their lawyers have already drawn up. But yea, I wouldn't do anything like this without at least some informal paper agreement on record.

February 19, 2008 at 10:54 PM · Pieter,

I agree, and if you are presented with a contract, read it carefully.

Another point to consider is the deposit. I am very reluctant to pay much up front for anything which will not be delivered for maybe years. What happens if the maker dies, becomes disabled, or retires or goes through bankruptcy? Likely, your deposit is gone. There should be no need for a large deposit for a maker who has a waiting list.

Another point to negotiate is timing - what if the maker gets so far behind or encounters other problems so that it will be much longer than anticipated? Can you get your deposit back? What if you find the violin of your dreams while you are waiting for your instrument to be started or finished?

As others have mentioned, there is a lot to be said for buying an available instrument. I know that within recent times some top makers, William Scott and Grubaugh & Siefert, have had instruments available to purchase. I purchased a very fine Michael Darnton violin that was passed over for many years by other players at a major shop - their loss and my gain. If you have the $, there are great instruments out there.

It would not concern me that an instrument had been declined by somebody else, although, for resale, I would desire that it be recognized by top pros as a fine instrument.

February 20, 2008 at 03:34 AM · The only reason I brought it up is because there were a few makers that I also wanted to look at, which does not mean that they are the only ones that I want to look at.

The whole thing seems to be causing a lot of fuss that I did not mean to create.

What I will probably do is not bother with the three makers that I am thinking of, and hope that the others are not like them.

As for choosing an old violin: have two, selling one because I can make a lot of money for it. The other sounds as good but does not have the name.

I am not one who thinks that moderns are always better than 100-to-200 K. older violins, but I have played and heard enough of the elite moderns to know that many are better than the expensive old Italians (I am not speaking of strads and del Gesus...do not want to open that can here!). Why pay for an antique status? I saw this best when my stand partner was blowing me off my stand with a Bellini that cost him a fraction of what my Italian cost me. It would have been OK if the tone of my instrument had been better, but his violin beat mine there too. At that point I saw the foolishness of buying an older violin and paying all that extra money for nothing.

Pretty much all I have to say. I'll let everyone else fight it out if they want to.

February 22, 2008 at 03:51 AM · andreas,

money seems to dominate your posts

go for tonality

and easiness to play,no matter the age,maker or price !

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