E-bay violin success story

October 7, 2008 at 10:09 PM · Well, I bought a violin on ebay last week, just as an experiment, and I'm extremely surprised. The violin shipped from shanghai. The violin itself cost 4.00, shipping $58. I wasn't expecting this thing to sound good at all, and it got here today, and my jaw is dropped. I would put this violin in the $2,000-2,500 range. And the craftmanship is beautiful, I love the pegs, the portrait carved into the tailpiece.

I just cant shut up about this thing! For what cost me about 60 dollars, I got an ok bow, a very nice case, and great violin.

Replies (99)

October 8, 2008 at 01:29 AM · Great, congratulations! :)

But that still begs the question... How does it sound?

October 8, 2008 at 07:00 AM · I did the same thing: It is a 5-string violin. I won it for $9.00 ($40.00 shipping) It amazed me when I recieved it, as to both the excellent workmanship and sound. That was awhile ago, and it has improved in sound since then, through regular playing and fitting improvements. My investigations tracked down the maker(s). It is a Berkeley instrument. They are well known for woodwind instruments. They are made in China, usually by many hands, and sometimes not under the best working conditions ( I am not saying this in order to spark a political discussion, just an observation) Nevertheless, I had it appraised and come to find that it is worth about $500.00 and that the workmanship is very high-end quality.It possesses all the right elements for a fine student grade violin. Yes, these things happen, and I can predict that China will be turning out many fine violin, much like Germany did in the early part of the 20th century. It helps to obtain for students a fine instrument at a reasonable price. It seems both logical and ecomonical in the long run. If one can afford a master instrument, than by all means buy one. But I've always thought it utter foolishness to hand a beginner student, particularly a young one, an expensive violin.

October 8, 2008 at 01:33 PM · The problem is that there's also a lot of real junk instruments coming out of China. For every success story there's a failure.

How does one know the difference by looking at a picture?

October 8, 2008 at 04:13 PM · Come on folks!!!!!!!! Be realistic. The wood costs more than that, and the chinese generally buy the worst grades of minmally aged wood available. I wouldn't even classify it as tonewood. No one here that has stated that they had a "positive experience" with these instruments ever mentioned their skill llevel, or a word about tone quality. A $9 violin is nothing more than a toy. If you think they are so good why don't you buy a shipping container of them and try and sell them? You may be able to get them for $2 a poece wholesale. I'll wager that you get everyone of them back, and have to refund the customer's money. I would'nt make you a pig shaped cutting board for $9. When someone comes into my shop with one of these, asking me "tweek" it a bit to make it sound better, my hair stands on end. Don't get me wrong, there are some fine Chinese instrument makers that build them one at a time, their prices competitive other fine makers around the globe. "Fairy tales can come trur, it can happen to you, if your young at heart." GG

October 8, 2008 at 06:29 PM · Well, the sound is very nice and open. Nothing like a student model. I knew when I clicked the confirm bid button that this thing would most likely sound like crap...

It got here, and I opened it up, everything looked good, and I played it... The tone keeps maturing more that I play it. I'm home sick today and lost my voice, have a stuffy nose... So no school! And I've got all day.

I have both of my violins on the bed, and I keep picking them up and comparing sound.

The sound on the new violin is a little less refined, and it's louder, but still amazing for the price, and better than my student instrument that was about a thousand dollars.

So ya.... I always said I would never buy anything off ebay... But look at me now.

Here's a link to a violin very similar to the one I bought(they may even be the same maker):


So now I have two violins... One for 3k, the other for about 60 dollars...

October 9, 2008 at 05:27 AM · I am aquainted with the instrument you purchased, and you have done very well, indeed...


Interesting post:

"No one here that has stated that they had a "positive experience" with these instruments ever mentioned their skill llevel, or a word about tone quality."

I am a professional violinist (over 20 years) who is also well versed in what works in an instrument and what does'nt.

And I mentioned something about the tone:excellent.

Alhough the tone of the post is defensive and somewhat blunt in opinions, GG makes an interesting point:

"If you think they are so good why don't you buy a shipping container of them and try and sell them?"

I've been offered $800.00 for my "toy" instrument. I think I keep it for now.....

I understand the point of the rather defensive post now. Competition is always something to consider in any business. Some competion fosters fear. Fear fosters resentments. I should hope that the poster will bear in mind that not all people can afford a fine instrument and it is a positive aspect that some students are able to at least obtain a decent instrument for their use. It is a good thing to offer, once in a while a break to your less wealthy customers. Stradivari was well known for this act of charity, and I myself have had the blessing of knowing a luthier who both loaned and sold me very fine instruments at a discounted price, including some major overhauls that were necessary. He always enjoyed when I came in the shop and played his newest aquisitions. Who knows, later when they become famous (and rich) they will buy a better instrument?

October 9, 2008 at 06:37 AM · Hey Paul,

I clicked the link and was fairly impressed. Good find! Do you want to link us to the one you got?

My question is: why is it that decent quality instruments are appearing on the internet for very cheap? Is there any illegality involved? It looks awful sketchy to me.

In fact, I just did some googling, and it seems that this violin: http://abmusika.com/cgi-bin/online/storepro.php (the Bird Eyes one) is by the same maker and priced at what is your estimated value of the violin. It even has the same sales pitch as the ebay violins. What is going on?!


Okay, I've been snooping around this seller's site (http://stores.ebay.com/yitamusic-violin_W0QQcolZ4QQdirZQ2d1QQfsubZQ2d33QQftidZ2QQtZkm); there are gold-plated bows for insane prices, and good violins for under a dollar - and judging from Paul's story, these people at least send you what you buy. How is this possible?!?! How can you cover the manufacturing costs of any violin, let alone a good one, for a dollar plus shipping?! There is also a shockingly high disparity between prices - some violins (I'm assuming they are all of approximately the same quality) are nearly 100000% of others! Either the pricing system is messed up, or the people running the site don't know what they're doing, or this is some giant scam or illegal operation (lol). If someone knows or thinks they know what's going on, can they please let me know, because I sure as hell don't.

October 9, 2008 at 12:30 PM · well, lets say you have 100 items for sale each with different pricing, ranging from 1 dollar to 1000 dollars, you would think some people will flock to the one dollar item because it seems more affordable. when they get it, like paul did, with the thinking,,,what can i go wrong with a dollar to learn a lesson. then paul is pleasantly surprised (gambling with his parents' money is less risky:) and now he looks like a winner. he is so excited about his conquest that now the entire v.com knows about it. so, instead of buying an ad on v.com, paul did it more effectively for the vendor. (just imagine the vendor really does put an ad here,,,how powerful the one-two punch will be...)

as a retail buyer, we look at the pricing of one item. as a manufacturer/wholesale buyer, they look at the whole bundle. how much does this one dollar item really cost? meaningless, because they look at the bottom line of the entire stock. they "give away" a few and make up with the rest.

so, after paul's one dollar purchase, he may wonder,,,gee, if the one dollar violin sounds like this, what will the 1000 dollars violin sound like. dad, we need to talk..:)

(anyway, good luck with value seekers out there. with global economy coming to a screeching halt for at least 3-5 yrs, it will be interesting to see how pricing from china holds up, in terms of supply and demand. (for that matter, pricing of violin from anywhere)

with my contacts, in other fields, manufacturing costs in china are going up, shipping costs going up, some are already relocating outside china or cutting back... good for global warming, eh?

October 9, 2008 at 02:14 PM · Paul,

Did the violin come ready to play or did you have to have to do some set up, e.g. new strings, new bridge, new sound post.

October 9, 2008 at 02:40 PM · Yes, all 3 of you have very interesting points.

The other violins they have end up going to 200-1,000... I got lucky and found this one in the last hour or so of bidding... The "store" started the bidding at $.99 (this is a way to bring in many buyers, and almost always works out in the stores favor). So then someone bid $1.01 another person did like 1.50, and at the last minute I did one-click-bidding, and ended up with the violin in my favor at the end. I'm guessing people were just sitting on the auction til the end to save as much money as possible.

But here's another example: I was bidding on a violin that I've seen in shops that retails between 1,700 and 2,100; and they started the bidding at $49... By the end of the auction, the violin was up to $600. So as you see, this whole ebay game is a way of drawing people in.

I bought the violin just because I wanted to have another instrument to play on. I still love my Kirschnek, and would die without it. I'm not upgrading til around christmas time next year... A violin in the 10-12k range. I have to dig up that old thread about the andrea bang violins, as in the fact that if they are in my price range, I would like to play one to see if this is all true.

But lets go off subject a bit... As I commented in Laurie's blog a few days ago, Dr. Wang, the director of violin studies at weber, came to our orchestra class and worked with us. He had to violins, One was a french one, which name I can't remember, and the other a strad. I personally liked the french one much more, in appearance, and sound. And he said the strad was three times as expensive as the french violin. So in my opinion, and by all the blind tests that have been done, people only prefer guarneri or strads because of the fact behind of the violins origin.

And Charles, They dont intend to sale them so cheep, it's just once the thing is entered into ebay, you cant change it. By this, I mean if you put something in for a dollar hoping it will sell for 500, and it only goes for 40 dollars, there's nothing you can do about it. But I was reading their descriptions, and they phrase their words as if the maker is deceased... Like they use "Dan Sun was a master maker from a world famous German workshop". And I dont know...

Maybe it's because all chinese products sell for so little; Who's to say it should be any different with violins.

Sorry for any typos or mispellings... This sinus infection is still screwing me up

UPDATE: Damnit... They're way out of my price range by 20 grand... With all these wierd Nagyvary violin threads being brought up, they're making me curious...

October 9, 2008 at 02:19 PM · Anthony: Yes, everything was fine when it got here, I was worried about the sound post dropping or bridge breaking, but it was ok, just took some time to tune, and set the bridge in exact position.

October 9, 2008 at 04:54 PM · I believe the sales term for it is "loss leader".

The simple truth is that sometimes people get lucky at auction (any auction -- be it eBay, Tarisio, or Sotheby's) and sometimes people don't. It's not necessarily a game that I'd like to play on a regular basis.

Paul, you mentioned up there somewhere that you were prepared for the violin to be practically worthless. That's the attitude that customers have to take when purchasing a violin like the one you bought. If it turns out to be more than adequate for your needs, then so much the better. But if you're not prepared to take the risk, then you're better off going to a reputable shop and getting an instrument from someone who is knowledgable and willing to back it up with service if necessary. Yes, it will cost more money, but that's the cost of the peace of mind you get knowing that you have someone to take it back to if something does go wrong.

Speaking from the slightly biased point of view of a violin shop owner, of course...

October 9, 2008 at 05:51 PM · That's interesting what you guys have to say. I do understand how auctions work, but starting a 1-2k item at a dollar is just idiotic IMHO. It's not just idiotic - it clearly displays either thoughtlessness, brainlessness, gross incompetence, lack of information, or a combination of those. And $200 is an awful small sum to pay for a violin worth $2000.

Al, it's interesting what you say about selling their violins cheap as advertisement, but it just doesn't work out. The customer base is too small, and they just can't have enough capital. A big company like McDonalds or Sears can sell items for cheap in order to draw other customers in, but who ever heard of selling a Stradivarius (or any violin, the analogy still holds) for 10k in order to get people to buy the 10m one?

PS It is Yom Kippur, and I am lightheaded from the fast...

October 9, 2008 at 10:23 PM · everyday i get lightheaded after reading v.com posts, esp my own:)

um, charles, if you think you know better about the vendor than the vendor itself, i will take your word for it, but only today out of courtesy:) i love my jewish friends--they really know their chinese food and fill my kids' calender with many holidays.

if you have been to business school, one of its first marketing classes discusses the value of a goodwill. you visit a luthier and come out with a "free" piece of rosin, you go to a supermarket and get 2 dozens of eggs for the price of one,,,

agree this outfit is not macd or sears, but to start an auction at one dollar is not a fluke, or thoughtless/brainless. it is actually a very efficient way of trading, that the market decides, which works very well in the long run.

it just happens that there are moments of inefficiency and paul took full advantage of it.

i don't want to argue with you; you will understand one day when you run a biz.

October 9, 2008 at 10:29 PM · Someone criticised my initial remarks on this subject as being defensive... maybe so. But, let me ask you to consider this scenario: The wholesale cost of the violin (with accessories) is $20, the bow $5, and the case another $5. For a grand total of $30. Now, as we all know, shipping is very expensive, unless you pay by the pound as in sea container shipments. This is the only way the seller could possibly be making $20 on the transaction. I do not think my estimated costs are too far out of line when you consider these low end Chinese factories are nothing more than unregulated, government subsidised sweat shops... encouraged by the greed based economics of the "Global Economy." Maybe I should ask my apprentice to move into the shop, work for $0.50 aday, and be happy to get a bowl of rice and a hard boiled egg every day? Feel any different about that $60.00 violin now? Now, I am not directing my comments to people, through no fault of their own, have bben burdened with limited resources to work with... especially after what has happened in the last few weeks. I do not know a single maker that would refused to work with a person in need... especially one that exhibits talent, and sincere desire to play. I have given instruments to children whose parents could never come up with the money to buy one of my instruments... I ask them to invite me to their recitals, or come by the shop ocassionally and play for me, in lieu of payment. I donate high quality instruments to schools, and organizations that promote education, and sponsor merit competitions. I am not alone is this behavior either. Many makers do exactly the same and respond to need when it is apparent. Amen.

October 10, 2008 at 03:24 AM · I doubt it's a "loss-leader." Another possibility is someone in China got a great deal on these for some reason, maybe even free. Some buyer backed out of a big deal and they traded these for something, or somebody found the abandoned crates of them after they sat in a warehouse too long. Or the owner was found to be an enemy of the state and his property was handed over to a liquidator :) Or maybe they have to meet a quota whether they have a buyer or not. Who knows what happens over there... Could be exactly the same thing as you'd normally pay a lot more for. Most likely is. Because I don't think anybody's in the $4 violin making business.

October 10, 2008 at 04:11 AM · I'm curious to know what you all think on this violin....


October 10, 2008 at 05:00 AM · In the last picture, the scroll is pretty bad, and the pegs don't fit their holes at all. The way a scroll looks can be a good clue about a fiddle's quality. Also, I think the antiquing is used to camouflage some shady details in the woodworking. Maybe these are a different breed after all. But for the $62 you spent, you can't go very far wrong :)

October 10, 2008 at 05:54 AM · Paul, I just checked the site you gave the link to, and the violins there now range in price from $124 to $293. Where are the ones you can get for $4?

October 10, 2008 at 06:37 AM · In the spirit of adding to the discussion, there may be other reasons for selling something for less than the cost of production.

If you have a process set up to generate a product, violin or widget, you have to buy materials, do whatever processes you perform, and then deliver the finished goods. There may be times in the process when you have extra production capacity, but not extra storage capacity. You then have a choice; do whatever you can to reduce inventory, or scale back on your productivity. If you scale back your process, it takes time and effort to get back into production. Further, if there is skilled labor involved, if you let anyone go, they can usually find work somewhere, so they may not be available when you need the resource again; you then need to train someone new.

So, there may be short periods when you can produce for the cost of the materials, or even below that, to maximize your profit. If you try to make a profit on each unit, then you keep resizing your process, and the overall loss is more than the loss from the few times you sell with no profit.

(or so I've heard...)

This doesn't even begin to cover the concepts about the cost of storage when inventory doesn't move (every square inch of storage has a related cost; if the cost of storage per month is high enough, then it may be possible that trying to hold on to the inventory costs more than giving it away free)

October 10, 2008 at 09:24 AM · I also won a great violin on e-bay!

A French old violin, and when my teacher played it he said he liked it better then his own violin, he also plays on a Georges Chanot, he said he had played a violin similar to mine that is worth 60 000 euro. So i guess you don't always have to pay a lot of money to get a decent violin... or maybe it's that you sometimes have to pay a lot for an average violin.

October 10, 2008 at 12:44 PM · "... or maybe it's that you sometimes have to pay a lot for an average violin. "

Sadly, this is the reality. There are thousands of mediocre violins, old and new, in the market place and most of them terribly overpriced for the sound they produce.

October 10, 2008 at 12:59 PM · That's great Sarah...

The first one I ever bid on was a Friedrich August Glass violin from the 1800's... It was a beautiful violin and I wish so badly I could have owned it but the pricing shot up so badly.

October 10, 2008 at 01:28 PM · What do you all think of this bow...


I agree with their pricing around 800 dollar value. I played bows at a violin shop in salt lake last year, and the german bows were about that price, and this one looks similar. I know you can't know the value of the bow buy looking at it, but ... you have to take risks. The weight is 64 grams, and that's the heaviest I will have if I bid and win. I have 2 carbon fiber bows, one is very light, the other on the heavier side, and I have 1 wood bow which is on the lighter side. So this will give some variety.

This could end up being a good bow, or not so much...

October 12, 2008 at 01:05 AM · I looked at the Chinese "Stainer"... j u n k. The scrol looks like a beaver made it. The pegs are cut and fitted miserably. All that dark sprayed lacquer toning in the C bout region IS hiding something, prpbably wood filler. The purfling is sloppy and the edges rough. Definately a $20 wholesale violin. Guaranteed the unseasoned spruce topis going to split, even if you keep it in an atmosherically controlled environment.

Say,does anyone know where I can buy a handmade Italian violin case for $4? Not one that just flew over Italy in its way here! ;-)

October 12, 2008 at 07:33 AM · Mr. Gammuto,

With all due respect, and I mean no disrespect to either you personally, or your impressive training and over 39 years of experience. In your previous posts you have made it plainly clear that you do not favour the violins that are, in all possible truth, inferior to yours. With this in mind, I think you are missing the central point of the discussion...It is not a question of the value of any particular instrument, but rather on of ecomony that comes into play. You did state that you are aware of an economic crisis, possible of global proportions, and that makes you aware of the situation at hand. If money becomes a difficult situation we, An I do not mean just makers and players, but everyone, respectivly, are going to feel the pinch. I have to reiterate that not everyone is rich, and if things get worse, even the rich will not have means to buy a $9.00 violin, let alone a $9000.00 one. The average musician is always on the watch for a bargain, as most are limited as to funds. The advantage of "cheap" violins is that they are accessible to lower income students, and this allows them to get started on a wonderful instrument. Later they will buy a more expensive instrument, possibly the one of their dreams. Most will give up before their parents would even have saved enough money to upgrade the instrument, should they continue on. In my experiences, as a consumer, often I find that many cheaper items of all sorts, are in many ways superior, in both price and useful lasting service, than many name-brand items. It is intelligent economics that will have to rule in the future, as we are all suffering from the wanton spending of money in the first place. Believe it or not, I read a post here that proposed the insane idea that one should invest in expensive violins, and not the stock market. I was stunned. Where is this money going to come from? Maybe it does grow on trees, after all: in the form of a violin? A new house? I'm stumped (no pun intended) The new rule will be: save,save and sacrifice and save some more. The original poster simply stated a fact, not a debate question. Your comment about sweat shops and so forth was unwarranted and I feel you were attempting to introduce a guilt complex into anyone who may consider buying such an instrument. There are too many products, Chinese or otherwise, out there that would make that argument true, and we would all be guilty, as a rule. He is proud of his economic triumph and not overly concerned, it seems, with the social status that he may obtain by possessing a master instrument.

October 12, 2008 at 12:53 PM · i would like to think, based on my limited experiences, that not all well made violins sound great and not all poorly made violins sound bad.

based on similar rhetoric, not all expensive violins sound great and not all cheap violins sound bad.

to many, to find a great sounding violin at a cheap price is a dream, something that make people stay off bed and stay put on ebay. it is violinist's version of money for nothing and chicks for free.

however, the search of a better sound can take an interesting turn because it can turn people neurotic. elman used to get his soundpost adjusted,,,everyday! :)

October 12, 2008 at 12:25 PM · Jerald, thanks for your comments. I was in that situation when I was a kid of not being able to afford a fine instrument. I played on very average quality fractional instruments that cost ~$200 or less for most of my time in school. Sure, it would have been better for me musically if I'd had better instruments, but much worse than the way the instruments sounded were the snotty comments from other musicians. (Public school teachers never said anything, at least not in public, I think they knew and understood.)

I'm really happy with what I see available today in a modest price range vs. 30 years ago. But I still sometimes see that same dynamic at work in my kids' school program, where people sniff haughtily and make disparaging comments about inexpensive instruments, and when the kids who have those instruments hear that, it hurts!

October 12, 2008 at 01:57 PM · Oh Karen, it does hurts. I didnt know this sort of pressure exists, comparing violins!

October 12, 2008 at 02:57 PM · Well, I'm running into a different problem now. I was contacted a few days ago about a certain instrument (definately not an ebay vioilin; This one is 15 grand). This violin would be the violin of my dreams, but I cant have it because of the economy crisis. The son of this maker is the one who contacted me, and is willing to send me violins for trial, and then offer a monthly payment option. I was just so happy to see that there are people who arent attacking life as a salesman, and as someone who just wants to help.

I told him that I obviously couldnt afford the violin now, but would possibly be able to in the spring time. Looks like I've got to spend my weekends busking in salt lake for now on?

October 12, 2008 at 03:39 PM · Money always has and always will cause a layering in soceity. 'Have' cliques and admires itself,

'havenot' aspires and strives. The stuff of ulcers.

Cheer on the guys who find bargains, I'm one. Enjoy the fray. In fifty years somebody else will be playing or burning for kindling all these lovely little wood boxes and redefining perfection...I wonder what mechanical contrivance will suceed the once unknown/now indespensible shoulder rest? Will it have cup holders? Heat and massage?

All the best, Carol

PS. My spell check is dead and the dictionary packed. Read at your own risk...

October 12, 2008 at 10:57 PM · Carol, your post displays true wisdom, insight and perception of reality in a wonderfully brief statement. Your right, they are only "vain things" like all material things of the world...

October 12, 2008 at 11:29 PM · Mr. Archer

This is a quote by Jon Gertner from Money Magazine.

"Over the course of the past 50 years, few things, if any, have appreciated as dramatically as antique violins like the ones in Bein's Chicago vault. Even during recessions and depressions, their prices have remained steady, and during hot decades such as the 1980s and 1990s, the rates of return on some instruments have made stock and real estate gains seem sluggish."

I don't think it inane the idea that a musician might be better off investing in a violin by paying off a loan instead of paying into a stock retirement fund. When the musician retires his gain from the sale of the violin might be substantially more than some stock funds he might have otherwise invested in. Another benefit would be he would have a great instrument that would serve him well throughout his career. Remember the operative word is "might" and past performance isn't necessarily and indicator of future returns.

October 13, 2008 at 12:37 AM · Thank you for the useful information. I don't know if I would personally take the risk (buying a quartet of genuine Stravari instruments and hoping that they will appreciate in time), but I can see it working for those who may have the funding, possibly on a corporate level? I know of musicians that have vintage instruments of all kinds, and they very protective of them. The insurance alone, that they pay, boggles my mind. I take it that the insurance company is safe? I would have to also hope that the laws of supply and demand will work for me.

In my original post, in did not call it inane, but rather, insane. It would seemingly be correct to assume this acton would be as such, given the evidence I've seen so far with the way some business has been conducted. Where is the logic in buying something that one cannot afford, and believe the future circumstances (or interest rates) are set in stone for that individual? Still, as a lower income individual, often to my own blessing, I may be safe in saying many are with me on this opinion: that investing in commodities that the overall general population may demand, in the event of total economic disaster,and in order to simply survive, would be much wiser. Master works of art are usually not something that can fill the belly or the gas tank, but have been known to heat a small house for a number of hours. People cannot buy them if there is no money to buy them with. I hope I am not being too dismal, or frightening anyone, in my view/predicton of the present/future situation(s). I am confident that my resources are very reliable: it's the people who have already lived through it once, and I myself have systematically witinessed the advent of such an incident, slowly emerging, but invisible to most, through wanton, extravagant and unnecessary spending.

October 13, 2008 at 01:09 AM · "Remember the operative word is "might" and past performance isn't necessarily and indicator of future returns. "

the other operative words are "some" as in "some" instruments and "some" stock funds.

unfortunately, one has no idea if the money mag writer treated his own write-up as an academic exercise or a personal investment philosophy. often people behave differently when giving advice vs putting one's own money where one's mouth is.

it will be helpful to attach a disclosure at the end of such article stating that the author himself does or does not have any of his money in antique violins.

agree? (wink)

October 13, 2008 at 02:13 AM · I saw a link to the E-Bay violin in question and I'll add my two cents. I bought a Yitamusic violin on a whim because I liked the birds eye maple, when it got here the strings were garbage, the bridge garbage, the fingerboard and nut needed work, the pegs were so green you couldn't even tune the instrument. The varnish was so thick and new that it came right off underneath the tailpiece. Total piece of garbage. I never did actually play it since it would've cost me about $300 to get this piece of crap playable, so it hangs on my wall instead... I'm surprised to see folks, "professional" violinists saying how the craftsmanship and quality are so high on these yitamusic fiddles. I'm really shocked because as a novice I can see that it's nothing but a factory junker.

I do have an E-Bay success story though I bought a violin from 1916 handmade from one maker for $650 from a reputable dealer Pahdah_hound and took it to Kolsteins and put $400 into it and had it appraised at $4,700.

I agree with Giovanni these violins folks have linked to are j u n k. I am only being so adamant here so people don't go running out buying one of these and losing the $200+ these violins typically get. They are GARBAGE trust me, take that $200 and save until you can maybe snag a fiddle from pahdah_hound for $700, not often because most people are aware of the great vioins he gets, but they do come around. If you must buy from E-Bay he's the only one I would take a risk on and he gives a full 14 day trial on all violins no questions asked refund.

I've bought two of these Chinese violins that sell a lot in quantity on E-Bay and get good reviews from people and look stunning. But when I played my other Chinese junker the tone was terrible, it felt, looked and sounded cheap.

October 13, 2008 at 02:21 AM · i am no expert in violin but isn't it some sort of common sense that, aside from the level of those reputable makers who contribute to this forum, buying freshly made violins of questionable origin is not that great of an idea, particularly from overseas, making returns almost cost prohibitive?

sure, if there is a slot machine in front of me, i will be tempted to put in a dollar just for kicks, but with what some have done with ebay, i guess that is how we learn one way or another about something we can finally believe in ,,,

unless we pay for it, we don't learn from it. why is that?

October 13, 2008 at 02:39 AM · "Over the course of the past 50 years..."

It can be shown that the past doesn't predict the future (the way it's used there).

"Even during recessions and depressions, their prices have remained steady..."

Those with the millions to spend on those things make money during those times, not lose it :)

October 13, 2008 at 02:32 AM · About violins as an investment vehicle...I would much rather have my money invested in prime farmland in the midwest, then in a violin.

A) high yielding acreage always has a buyer waiting; expensive violin can take years to sell at your asking price.

B)farm land is a stable investment. It can't be left in a taxi or destroyed by fire or flood.

C) you can insure an expensive violin but what happens when your insurance company goes under and your violin is stolen the next day?

Bottom line, investing in violin futures is pretty risky business. You would be smarter to take your money, buy gold bricks, and bury them in the backyard.

October 13, 2008 at 03:04 AM · What???

Can't be destroyed by flood or fire? That must be some magic farmland.

Yeah, secondary succession (biology, not economics) would take place after disaster with farmland but...

October 13, 2008 at 03:08 AM · For clarification Paul...farm land...not crops. Crops can be destroyed but not the land itself.

October 13, 2008 at 03:25 AM · Thought you guys might enjoy reading the whole article from Money Magazine.


October 13, 2008 at 04:12 AM · Jim, your gold bars are currently worth $346,456 apiece. And where exactly did you say they were buried? You can email me privately. I won't tell anyone.

October 13, 2008 at 04:17 AM · You can have them. I don't care about anything but motorcycles anymore. So cool a feeling, like riding an arrow :) Car. Meh.

October 13, 2008 at 05:01 AM · One word on investments: I would like a way to spend my money on a sunset; a nice, flaming orange one, with violet and a few clouds highlighting the horizon.

Since I do not think that is possible, I instead use things I value as a measure, rather than the cost. I spend considerably on my pets, with no return on investment (having two active dogs with health challenges does cost a bit), however I do not miss the money; I would miss the pet, or miss the joy of watching them play like puppies in the river even though both are older.

Instead of focusing on the cost of the instrument, how does it sound? How does it play? If you are thinking of it as an investment, then you are distancing your soul from the soul of the instrument; you can only recover the cost when you sell it. If you want the instrument because it lets you express yourself in a way no other instrument can, then it is worth it, no matter what the cost.

October 13, 2008 at 11:52 AM · sure, there are different types of investments, namely, financial, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, etc, or walking into home depot to buy a tool. to each his own.

October 13, 2008 at 10:39 PM · In response to Mr. Archer:

Mr. Gammuto is very open and blunt in his assesment of the Chinese Violins on e-bay. And he is right. You get what you pay for if you KNOW what you are paying for. Your comments about wealthy and sucessful people not being able to afford a nine buck violin sort of tells me you don't know a whole lot about financial markets, and I bet you are not weathly. So I think I would listen a little closer to Gammuto.

October 14, 2008 at 06:22 AM · Mr. Fillerup,

I would not take such a liberty to presume certain aspects of my financial status or my intellect. You cannot possibly know anything about me, or who I may really be, which makes that comment rude and I take great offense to rudeness these days. I am simply stating my experiences as I have lived them. And given every opportunity, I always defend that which I know is right. This includes my personal views and opinions. One can agree or disagree on any points that I may make. This is what makes any particular forum interesting. When one makes an offensive or, and also in this case, a presumptive comment, without knowing the facts of the case, then an error is produced. One can take of leave any of the opinions on any given forum. Hopefully one learns by the comments made, and it is all done in respect to others. Oftentimes I read many posts that mean well, presented in a humorous style of writing, and it ends up offending someone. Common courtesy dictates that the offending person clarify, without fail, the offending remark and let the other know they were not directing it towards them, personally. I've learned one should try to be aware of what and how they may express (or write) comments, and I hope that I may extend the lesson to you, with all due respect. As humans, we can sometimes say, or in this case, write certain sentences and phrases that could offend others. If this happens, and we are both aware and courteous to others feelings, than an apology, given in earnest, will suffice. With that in mind,I am sure you understand what I am saying. I find it often an irritation that people presume things they have no idea about, and if you cannot see the real facts in front of you, given the evidence, I am sorry. My comment about wealthy people could also be applied to lower income persons as well, but now that you point it out, I see that it was not in good taste in respects to the wealthy. I apologize to any one else I may have offended with the statement. And so rests my defense.

Jerald Franklin Archer

October 15, 2008 at 01:57 AM · Resonse to: Jerald Archer,

Jerald, you have assumed a lot relative to my previous comments. The first thing that grabbed my attention was that you "assumed" I was comparing my instruments to Chinese factory offerings, not true. I never once made reference to my work. To do so would add nothing to the dialong. Unless you have two instruments sitting in front of you, there is nothing to compare, or even draw attention to. The key to making a violin "sing," as it should, is in tonewood selection, and attention to detail. Chinese factory (production line) instruments exhibit neither of these two elements. The wood is substandard, and the details are overlooked. If Paul is happy with his purchase, so be it. I think it is interesting that he "considered" buying a 12K instrument on a payment plan though. I'll bet dollars to donuts, that if any noted contemporary American maker offered to "give" him a violin, he would never touch that cigar box with a fancy neck again. Free is even a better deal than $60, right? Italian Americans ahave an expression that applies here..."Sausage his own." (sausage is pronounced "sauce each"). The inference is "To each his own." ;-) That is all I have to say on this subject. Let's move on to something that matters.

October 15, 2008 at 02:27 AM · Who said that this maker was American...

And I dont get what you mean by why they would have a monthly payment plan. Don't you think you would attract less customers if you asked for a huge price up front?

When I do get the new violin in the spring, I'll do a comparison of the $3,000 instrument, and the $15,000 instrument.

I'll give my own opinion, record the same piece using each instrument, and let you guys hear the sound for your selves...

October 15, 2008 at 04:01 AM · I agree, Mr. Gammuto. Nobody has ever won in any opinioniated arguments yet. I have had a very educational time with it, I must say, and you did well in your defense. This has been one of the more interesting discussion topics I have seen posted here for a while. These elements are all very useful for my research.

October 15, 2008 at 03:36 AM · IME, it is inaccurate and unfair to characterize all Chinese production instruments as "junk". Certainly there is plenty of junk available, but quality and value are also available in abundance, especially at entry and "student" price levels. The situation seems very much comparable to Germany in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

For example: Our company makes professional violins, violas, cellos, and basses, as well as advanced student instruments, here in the US. The professional instruments made by our master luthier are played in major orchestras and by soloists all over the US and Europe. We also sell and rent a lot of entry level instruments that are made for us in China, as well as some European instruments.

I've personally handled a few thousand of the Chinese instruments that we set up and sell to schools all over the country, and the value and quality are quite good, and not just in relation to price. We are seldom the low bidder, unless we are the only bidder. We have many hundreds out on rental, too, and hardly ever have to do any maintenance other than maintaining strings, bridges, and pegs. We happily take them back in trade when it's time to upgrade, because they are still great for rental and to sell at prices discounted from new.

If all Chinese production instruments are "junk", how does one explain the extraordinary growth and success of Eastman Strings, including very favorable reviews in Strings Magazine? What about the offerings from Shar, and Southwest Strings?

I didn't get to the Shanghai music expo this month, but one of the company principals was there, and reports that the quality and selection continue to improve.

As for tonewood, that also is a matter of where and how you buy. We've used European woods for years, but we've got a line of Made in USA instruments in the works (my pet project), and the prototypes are made with all American woods. We have also experimented with tonewoods from northern China and Siberia, and find them pretty interesting. A lot has to do with how the wood is selected and processed, and by whom. We're extremely picky about the woods used in our top lines, but you can make a pretty decent instrument indeed with wood from a wide variety of sources.

BTW, I spent a lot of years in manufacturing and retail, and the practice of a loss leader, or a "football" is common and widespread. For example, grocery stores generally lose money selling soda for for $4.95 a case, or chicken for $1.99 per pound, but they figure they make out well on the other purchases made by the people that the promotion pulls in. Same thing with furniture stores and factories. They all offer product where they lose money, in hopes that customers attracted by the value of the promotional items will step up to something better once they hit the store.

I can't comment on the quality of Yitamusic's offerings, never having seen them, but I can attest that there are some pretty good values indeed coming out of China, quite comparable to many of the instruments coming out of Eastern Europe. Lots of junk, too, if you're not careful.

October 15, 2008 at 12:55 PM · that is a fairly sensible post. since the subject is on china,,,it reminds me of a chinese saying, that we are the frog in the bottom of a well looking up and take what we see as the sky.

October 15, 2008 at 05:59 PM · Michael wrote: "The professional instruments made by our master luthier..."

Hi Michael;

I'm not trying to be a wise-ass, but I wonder what organization offered the title of "Master" to your head luthier. I found no indication on your company website.

This question has nothing to do with how talented or skilled he, or any other luthier, is... but the title traditionally has some "teeth", as one who gains it continues education after attending school. In Germany, it's about 5 years worth, additionally... then the candidate takes a rather significant test to qualify. Italy and France also have systems. The closest thing we have to a guild here is the states is the AFVBM.

In other words, it's traditionally a guild title, not a self bestowed one.... One can be a master of ones craft, but that does not necessarily qualify one as a "Master Luthier" or "Master Violin Maker".

As far as the rest of this all goes... I will respectfully stay away from the debate.

October 15, 2008 at 05:18 PM · Bravo, there are several other titles, or descriptors being used loosly today, in addition to Master. Maestro, Prodigy, and several others that escape me at the moment. Oh, "Italian Violin" is another that comes to mind. Many of these "Italian Violins" being sold at auction are made elsewhere. I don't think that a violin in the cargo hold of a jumbo jet, passing over Italy, on it's way to America, qualifies as such. The stringed instrument business has been plagued by bandits for many, many years. Falsifying labels, attributing the work of unknown makers to makers of rare distinction. In years past, some of the very best known shops have been found guilty of this in courtrooms around the world. Believe me, when a maker sees someone trying to sell an instrument falsly attributed to him, it makes their blood boil. If this were to happen to me, my reaction could not be measured in volts, megatons would be more appropriate. Additionally, people that buy violins, on the internet, with Stradivari 17** labels in them deserve what they get for being stupid. When the seller says "he knows nothing about violins, blah, blah, blah.... you are in for a rude awakening.

October 15, 2008 at 06:43 PM · jeffrey asked, "but I wonder what organization offered the title of "Master" to your head luthier."

since there is no mandate how that description is used in the USA, why should any organization get involved? jeffrey, i know you are a gentleman and i am not looking to argue with you or get you involved with online time wasters, but i feel anyone can call themselves a master this or that,,,IF THEY FEEL LIKE IT.

i will give you another one, lets say a luthier tells people that he has 30 years of experiences. well, obviously that is given to the public as a positive advertisement of one's skills.

so, is 30 years of experiences necessarily a testiment of one's GOOD skills?

and we can go on and on with silly stuff like this.

i say, if people put flower and lace around their necks and they don't blush,,,great! :)

October 15, 2008 at 11:15 PM · Al wrote: "since there is no mandate how that description is used in the USA, why should any organization get involved? jeffrey, i know you are a gentleman and i am not looking to argue with you or get you involved with online time wasters, but i feel anyone can call themselves a master this or that,,,IF THEY FEEL LIKE IT."

My experience of you on the board is that you're a gentleman too, Al.

As far as I know, you are correct concerning any legal restrictions, or mandates, in the US (let's not even go down the ethics road, however)... but I do have a couple points to make.

1) Traditionally, in this industry, there is a definition of "Master"... being a title that is earned by specific criteria.

2) I personally feel those who simply choose to call themselves "Master" without earning the title, are slighting the accomplishments of those that have worked hard to earn the title. There aren't all that many who have gone through the program working here in the US... and I believe I know most of them.

There are certainly guild-like systems, requirements, and titles, in other professions (master plumber, master mechanic). I'm not sure what the legal ramifications might be for "adopting" the title without qualification. Does anyone happen to know? I'm sure there must be a penalty for claiming one is licensed when it isn't true, but I wonder if a claim of "master" is left to the guild to sort out.

Again, as I mentioned in my first post, I am not suggesting that there is a direct correlation between the title and the skill or talent of a luthier... but for me, the title (properly applied) indicates a specific level of training.

October 15, 2008 at 07:30 PM · "...you're a gentleman too, Al." disappointed.

anyway, from where you stand i can imagine you have more dog and pony show tales to share than you care for, but i think this "master" thingy, like the earlier mentioned "prodigy", "genius", etc fall into a grey pool of be all you can be:)

just shake your head and back to work, jeffrey! :)

October 15, 2008 at 07:36 PM · Al wrote: "just shake your head and back to work, jeffrey! :)"

Good advice, Al. :-) Think I will.

October 15, 2008 at 08:18 PM · Al wrote: is 30 years of experiences necessarily a testiment of one's GOOD skills?

As I often say about clinicians - is it 30 years, Or is it 1 year of experience, 30 times over?

October 16, 2008 at 04:07 AM · I don't want to belabor the point further, but when you are in the presence of a "Master" anything, you know it. In this situation it is wise to do more listening than talking. There is usually something to be gleaned from every "on topic" utterance.

October 16, 2008 at 05:37 AM · "Believe me, when a maker sees someone trying to sell an instrument falsly attributed to him, it makes their blood boil. If this were to happen to me, my reaction could not be measured in volts, megatons would be more appropriate."

It was happen with my name this year. Anybody put my name in a chinese Cello. But my Blood was going to cool down after I start to laughing for myself. The maker who called me was very kind and removed the label.

October 16, 2008 at 06:47 AM · Responding to the question of classification of Master in other guild-based systems such as mechanic or plumber.

Most trades have specific criteria for apprentice, journeyman, and master. There is not only a skill component, but an educational component, as well as hours spent on the job.

When you think of it, the medical profession is based on similar levels of process; although the MD may be considered a high professional by some, when you look at the training process, it is more like a trade than a profession.

That is not to take away from what the MD has achieved, but to identify that this process can be very effective.

October 16, 2008 at 12:06 PM · Wow guys... I think it's safe to say you've killed the subject. This is now the stupidest arguement on violinist.com

October 16, 2008 at 12:35 PM · Good morning to you too, Paul.

October 16, 2008 at 01:18 PM · Ha. Oh yes... But seriously it's a stupid arguement now.

October 16, 2008 at 01:24 PM · I disagree that it is a dumb point to make. Doctor's, nurses, luthier's...they are vocational trades. Every profession has it's incompetents and slackers. I can travel to Mexico and get cheap medical care from some guy who was probably an accountant last year. Or, I can pay a trained professional in the US to do the operation and have a much better chance of surviving it.

Violins or gallbladders. It is intelligent allocation of your money to do business with a highly trained and skilled professional.

October 16, 2008 at 05:57 PM · paul, you just bring out the best in people.

October 16, 2008 at 06:56 PM · About 3 years ago I bought a Chinese Ebay violin for $200. The strings were terrible, the nut too low and the bridge not great. I took it to a luthier and he was surprised at the sound for the money. It took another $200 - new nut, strings, bridge, and a fingerboard dressing to get it in shape. As an adult beginner it has been OK. Sound is good in the lower registers but it runs out of steam as you go up the fingerboard. Some day when my playing deserves a better instrument I will move uprange. That hasn't happened yet.

October 16, 2008 at 07:33 PM · I think you have to assess whether someone has a Master's Degree in High School Shop, or whether someone is a master luthier, who has studied lutherie at a violin-making school, apprenticed with an experienced and respected luthier, etc.

Truly fine instruments are a far cry from $200 E-bay instruments. It's like comparing an iPhone to a rotary-dial plug-in from 1960. Yes, you can make calls with both. But there are entire worlds untapped with the rotary-dial plug-in, and if you've never used an iPhone you wouldn't know anything about that and perhaps never care. Maybe you just want to make calls and spend $9.99 instead of $250.

There are certainly standards in this industry; I'd be curious about what a professional's definition of a "master luthier" is. Yes, anyone can call themselves anything, but it doesn't mean much!

October 16, 2008 at 09:53 PM · Laurie Niles wrote:

"I'd be curious about what a professional's definition of a "master luthier" is. Yes, anyone can call themselves anything, but it doesn't mean much!"


Laurie, that term has been so bent, spindled, folded and mutilated in the US that a lot of well-trained professionals don't want anything to do with it.

Off the top of my head, there are two legitimate sources of "master" accreditation. One is the grad program at the State Violin Making School in Mittenwald, and the other is the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. If a "master" isn't accredited by one of those two organizations, they probably just "self-bestowed" the the title, thinking it sounded cool, and would be a good way to pick up women. ;)

The term seems to be used a lot in lieu of proper training.

October 16, 2008 at 09:44 PM · Yup. What David said...

..and what I said that started this whole mess earlier in this thread:

"... but the title traditionally has some "teeth", as one who gains it continues education after attending school. In Germany, it's about 5 years worth, additionally... then the candidate takes a rather significant test to qualify. Italy and France also have systems. The closest thing we have to a guild here is the states is the AFVBM.

In other words, it's traditionally a guild title, not a self bestowed one.... One can be a master of ones craft, but that does not necessarily qualify one as a "Master Luthier" or "Master Violin Maker"."

Now... I know Paul thinks this is a dumb discussion... and maybe I'm a bit too close to it all, but I had the good fortune to have a German Master instruct me in school, worked for an American Master, had another German Master on staff at the old company and know most of the others here in the states who were legitimately qualified to use the title... and a fair number of those overseas that have earned it. I am of the opinion that those who use, but haven't earned, the title should consider changing their last names to "Bates".

J. S. Holmes Fine Violins, LLC

October 16, 2008 at 09:32 PM · Stupid Argument? Now this is stupid; From now on I would like to be refered to as Giovanni Gammuto, Master of the Universe, Master Keeper of the Unknown Tone, and Maker of the Best Cheese Steak in Philadelphia. I bought these titles online, and also purchased a star and named it after myself. I got them all for $60, delivered. Deal, or no deal? ;-) I also bought this smiley face.... so, I don't want to see David using it any more! It's mine... all mine.

October 16, 2008 at 09:56 PM · :-(

October 16, 2008 at 09:40 PM · I'm going way back in posts but...

I don't think people get the point of why I bought the violin. I'm not like a poor kid who needed a violin and this is all I could afford, I bought it as an experiment, and got lucky.

I wouldn't reccomend these for someone looking for one as a primary instrument. They in general do have many problems such as the pegs; but like I said, I got lucky, and this one has none.

When upgrading from a student instrument (yamaha or something), I only played about 3 or 4 violins. The least expensive violin was about $2,000; the most expensive about $3,200. The strings specialist arranged them in random order and had me pick out the one that sounded best etc.. Obviously, I ended up with the most expensive one: My beautiful Kirshnek that suits me very well.

When I upgrade again, one violin is being sent to me from out of the country, and I'll try out violins in the same price range, here for sound comparison and other reasons..

October 16, 2008 at 10:58 PM · Greetings,

>Wow guys... I think it's safe to say you've killed the subject. This is now the stupidest arguement on violinist.com

Paul, I think what you have failed to grasp is that many of us on this site are Masterdebaters. Until you have studied sufficiently (or drunk enough) you will be unable to follow the intricacies of what is being masterdebated.



October 16, 2008 at 11:48 PM · Paul better not be drinking, as he is but a teen.

October 17, 2008 at 12:51 AM · No worries there... I will never drink an ounce of alcohol in my life. I don't like what it does to people.

I won't give in to peer pressure either. As I'm sure all of you now know, I'm very stubburn.

October 17, 2008 at 12:59 AM · nothing wrong with prune juice.

October 17, 2008 at 02:58 AM · If only people were more appreciative of the profound significance of terms like "self-bestowed", "Master Bates", and "master-debater, there might be less need for prunes.

In the meantime, prunes might ease the transition.

Any associations of the above terms with sexual anomolalies are preemptively denied.

October 17, 2008 at 03:54 AM · what has `transition` got to do with sex?



October 17, 2008 at 04:43 AM · Are tou guys refering to a guy that puts earthworms on hooks? If you are, I think the proper spelling is as follows... Master Baiter. Sorry, I had no idea Paul was a yute (I would have gone easier on him). His last post clarified his positon on this matter, and he should be rewarded for his perseverence... Dave, give him a hood violin.


October 17, 2008 at 10:42 PM · By "master luthier" or whatever most makers and players think of someone who can produce a perfectly ececuted piece of craftmanship- not someone who can build a musical instrument.

October 19, 2008 at 05:27 AM · I don't agree with Don, or Martin's one line clarifications on the subject of craft titles. Here is a brief, and oversimplified outline of the differences between a Craftsman, an Artisan, and a Master Luthier.

A craftsman is someone who can take on a challenging project in their garage, or basement workshop, work from a set of plans, and see it to a positive conclusion.

An artisan is someone who can develop a project from the design phase to it's intended result. His own artistic flair and unique approach are evident in his work. He knows about strength of materials and limitations, and makes adjustments along the way to achieve his objective. A fine furniture designer / maker would be a good example of a highly skilled artisan.

A Master Luthier is all of the above, and more. He must know how to gently vlend the elements of art and science to achieve a verifiable result. There is so much more to know and master in stringed instrument construction. Your effort, and attention to detail becomes the soul of the instrument A furniture maker could design and build the most elegent chair imaginable... there are many to be seen in the world's finest museums. As pretty as it might be, it doesn't have the potential to sooth the savage beast within us, glorify our achievements, or note our shortcomings, or reward its maker with a song when it is completed.

October 19, 2008 at 05:17 AM · I would concur in principle with Giovanni's description. I would also like to add a bit.

I consider myself a craftsman in wood, although I have not really worked on violins so I cannot consider myself adept at that specialty. I have, however spent over two decades crafting furniture and other wood items. I do not have the scope of artistry that Giovanni mentioned; I could recreate almost anything, from a spiral staircase to an ornate desk, however I could not make that mental shift required of an artist; creation. I would never consider myself an artist. I do not think a craftsman is less than an artist, just different.

I have also seen some beautiful artistry that lacks craftsmanship; I can think of one example in particular, where a certain wine bar has a motif of sculpted vines throughout, and the shape and symmetry is beautiful. If you look in the detail of how the various components are put together, however, there are significant flaws. Although the carving and the design are excellent, the craftsmanship is poor.

The luthier takes both skills, and adds more. The craftsman may know what woods can be stressed to what level, and how to combine different materials for stability (bonding a dense hardwood to a flexible soft wood is not a trivial thing to keep stable through the possible temperature/humidity situations it may be exposed to).

The artist may know what proportion to shape something for the best effect. The luthier knows the components of sound that are affected by all the components, including wood thickness at certain points, tension that will be created when the components are combined, etc. that neither a craftsman nor an artist can fully appreciate. This takes skill, knowledge, and ability.

I suspect many of those calling themselves luthier are actually craftsmen (craftsperson?), and although they can generate a good product, it will not reach the level of art.

October 19, 2008 at 10:42 AM · why bother making the distinctions then?

so that the public is better educated?

that the more experienced luthiers are more recognized (and the less experienced ones are put to their places)?

that the ethical ones are commended and those busy with the tradition of putting in fake labels along with other monkey biz are exposed?

are we talking about some sort of ranking then?

magazines rank hospitals, colleges and golf teaching pros (where one guy near the top of the list charges $10,000, um, per day).

we send out surveys to some 100-200 luthiers (which 200 you ask) and just one question:

if your own damaged prized violin needs a second opinion, assuming your own is already the most informed, cough, whose expertise would you seek out?

published in the annual strad issue, no more bickering, we've got proof! :)

ps..if i were a luthier and do not make to the top 10 even though i am top (or bottom) 3000 material, i will be very, very mad! i will maintain that you cannot rank art, certainly not a master luthier like me!

pss: while we are at it, may i also suggest we rank players? dead or alive, we grill them all.

October 19, 2008 at 04:03 PM · Bravo Roland. I like your style. Your answers add clarity to the discusion. Philosophical BS contributes nothing. Pseudo intellectuals, that have no point of reference, or experience detract from the subject, and add nothing to the discussion.

October 19, 2008 at 04:20 PM · Art is certainly subjective. The value of the art is rarely determined by the artist... they usually die pennyless. Supply and demand has a lot yo do with pricing and value of art objects. When a recognized artist can produce no more, that is when prices surge. Generally, artists are very poor salesmen, and are not good at the art of self promotion. Others bestow rank, and assign titles. That is the way it has been, and the way it will remain. Granted, there are artists that are great at the art of self promotion. Salvatore Dali was a Master. Amen.

October 19, 2008 at 06:49 PM · In response to Al, one of the differences it makes is similar to the difference in tuning a race car to perfection, or cutting a precious stone for the best cut for that gem.

In wood, although you may have the exact formula for how a wood should behave, there is always a subjective quality; how a certain piece may resonate, or how the grain may affect how it carries the sound is not something that will be exactly the same from one piece of wood to another, no matter how closely you try and match.So, the craftsman may shape it to a measured thicknes,, with a certain taper to certain points, and the artist may make adjustments based on the flow of the grain or other characteristics, the luthier knows how this wood will likely respond to the sounds, and within the limits of shaping this piece can be brought to exhibit certain characteristics. Balancing that with the other pieces it is joined with, some will mellow the sound, some will project, and the overall piece will be a symphony of characteristics; timber, tone, projection, etc. that neither the craftsman nor the artist can fully bring out. That is why one violin may be worth $300 and another $3,000, or $30,000.

This is not saying craftsmanship is not of value, but that it cannot take the pieces of wood to the same place a good luthier can. I am still at the point that craftsmanship is enough for my instrument. I hope to get to the point where I can outplay my instrument, and will need to step up and take out a mortgate on my cat or one of the dogs.

October 19, 2008 at 10:45 PM · Greetings,

I have been reluctant to jump in here since it is not my filed but I am incline to agree that titles and their use/abuse can be important. In my file dof eductaion the various degrees have considerbale significance in terms of acess to jobs. However, I do not belive this is the main issue which is rather more subtle. There will always be great craftswomen who learn simply from desire and talent and shine above all others. However, for the merely talented it is impotant to have access to a relativelyy established (but always growing) body of informtaion and training in order to develop ones skills to the maximum. Inevitably this academic aspect requires some kind of testing and the testing itself can be a very postive thing in showing us where we are weak and how to grow most effectively. That is, if the testing is constructive and intelligent. The gaining of a credential provides a point of pride that inspires one to work harder and better too in my opinion. Conversely the claim that one has such and such a degree of title when one doesn`t contains an element of `dishonesty` which will permeate the work and attitude of thoseusing it.

From my own perspective I took MAs at a time when original research and hundred sof hours of reading and major essay writing was obligatory, not to mention countles shours spent with peers wrestling with highly complex issues and then presenting on them to be ripped apart again and again. Nowadys, the work loa dis one third, the reading is coffee table and the essays pitiful. No original research is required. As a result, my world is full of MA and PHds whose knowledge of teqaching is pathetic. There is a great loss of pride and respect across the field.



October 19, 2008 at 11:40 PM · Just wanted to add one more message so we can get to 100 and have this archived already!

October 20, 2008 at 01:12 AM · roland, thanks for the info on tech details of luthiery. good to know but perhaps we were discussing different things...

a well respected luthier has earned his reputation through years of hard and smart work, with well respected players as clients. the most powerful means of endorsement is still word of mouth.

internet is both a blessing and a curse. people can access respected luthiers with more convenience but at the same time, it also exposes people to decorated mold and rot.

October 20, 2008 at 03:02 AM · Al,


Don't take my description as complete; I am not a luthier.

I do know enough about woodworking to know the variability of wood, and the things I still need to learn. I have made some things that could be consided complex, and with that, I recognize some but not necessarily all of the difficulties I would encounter if I did take up the career.

October 21, 2008 at 03:36 AM · It would be impossible for someone that has not been exposed to the details of the work to build a wonderful sounding instrument on their own. I can't think of a single instance where this has happened. The task is just too complex. When trying to copy an instrument; what you see, is not always what you are looking at. Similarly, there is only so much a school can teach you, the rest must be obtained by way of experimentation, untiring devotion to the craft, and years of experience. I compare it to medical doctors that work extremely hard to get a license "to practise" medicine. I think the very best way to learn the craft is to work under the direct supervision of a true "Master", in a formal apprenticeship agreement. If you do not have what it takes, you will get discouraged and quit long before he has "that" discussion with you. That is why the craft has traditionally been a "family business." Children learn from their fathers and grandfathers.... they invest in the education of their children....they can't throw them out of the family... Mama wouldn't have it! Sweeping the shop out at age 5 is a great way to begin "observing."

December 18, 2008 at 12:39 PM ·

 well, i've found a sound sort of hard to hear but it is a sound sample, from a young fiddler who said in the comments it was bought from yita music a few years before on ebay.


December 27, 2008 at 09:33 AM ·

Mr. Giovanni Gammuto,

   Funny. It seems like the only place I've ever seen your violins... is.........Ebay?   Right next to Stradivari1719.

December 27, 2008 at 04:55 PM ·


Gammuto is gone, and his I believe his profile has been deleted. You're lucky there are only 2 more comments allowed or this could blow up into something big like the last discussion about his isntruments.

December 30, 2008 at 12:02 AM ·


Who woulda thought!?

I suspected that your original post would open the proverbial can of worms, and it most certainly did. Don't feel uneasy, as nobody would have imagined the outcome of such an innocent comment, but something tells me that it may have bought out something else, possibly very important, in the process that it took on. One has but to read the entire thread line and might come to various conclusions of their own, but only Mr. Gammuto knows the truth. He is not required to defend himself and I am certain that his work will do that for him. It is universal truth, however, that  observations of how individuals conduct themselves, in any medium or situation, can make a difference in a great many things we would never consider otherwise.

Jerald Franklin Archer

December 30, 2008 at 12:44 AM ·

Mr Archer! It's been a while since you posted anything. I was beginning to wonder if something happpened. Glad to see you're still around here :)

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