Novice considering obtaining a higher priced violin ($10,000 to $15,000)

October 30, 2008 at 10:23 PM · I am fairly new to playing the violin (about one year) and am considering purchasing or having made a violin in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. What are your thoughts on paying for this level of violin when I am but a novice? My wife thinks I should play with what I have for awhile and then move up to this higher level when I have learned to play better.

Replies (55)

October 30, 2008 at 10:45 PM · Greetings,

seems like a lot to me. I had a one year student who bought an exclelent fiddle for 4000. Absolutely super and will last a long time. If you did that then you could buy a really good bow which is extremely important. And a Musafia case of course.

Cheers,

Buri

October 30, 2008 at 11:10 PM · 10-15K after one year of lessons? Listen to your wife. Out of curiosity, how many years where you engaged to this woman before you popped the question? More than a year? Additionally, I know some fine teachers that didn't spend that much for their instruments.

October 30, 2008 at 11:18 PM · Additionally, Buri's comments about purchasing a better bow is right on the money!!!!!!!!

October 30, 2008 at 11:33 PM · Listen to your wife, women are always right aren't they?

But that's an outrageous step to take and it would be very stupid. What if you don't like playing in a year or two? The violin will never match the price you bought it at unless it's one of a very few and the maker has died.

After one year of playing I went from a student instrument to an "advanced" for $3,000. The violin is very good for it's price and fits my playing extremely well. I have played a violin for $7,000 and one for $10,000 and honestly like mine better; and the string specialist agreed.

Instead of buying a new instrument now, I am going to buy an expensive bow and I am waiting a year or two and will buy a violin for around $15,000. There are people in my orchestra who have been playing for 5 years and are still on student instruments. So unless your a very advanced player, there should be no reason for you to need a violin more than $2,500-4,000.

It's something you should really consider before acting.

And an expensive violin isn't going to make your playing better. So you should get more advanced like your wife said.

October 30, 2008 at 11:29 PM · I will start my 50th year playing in January, and that would be more than my small collection. Unless you are independently wealthy or your wife is the Queen of Sheba or some such, several thousand should be plenty of violin. Spending a $1000 or $1500 on a nice bow to go with what you already have sounds like a plan. Sue

October 30, 2008 at 11:29 PM · I absolutly agree with everything said so far. I too am a short time violinist (approaching two years) however I've played guitar, trombone, and piano since childhood. I had similar questions when I first started but now I'm glad I waited. Your playing and ear will dictate what you need, when you need it. It's posible that your tastes could change by the time you become accomplished enough to appreciate a fine instrument. Wait!

October 30, 2008 at 11:37 PM · Let's be practical here. If you made six figures you wouldn't be asking the question, you'd just buy it. You don't have that kind of cash just lying around do you? You're planning to toss this purchase on a credit card aren't you? That's a stupid idea.

You don't need a 10K violin. You need a violin that sounds nice. You can find that for much, much less.

What you need to do is begin the exciting hunt for the perfect violin. Go to different violin shops, play their instruments and keep a notebook. Don't worry about buying today, just keep hunting until you find the right one. Find the violin that's right for you in a price that you can actually afford and that won't piss off the other half of your household.

October 31, 2008 at 12:00 AM · Alright, I'll go against everyone here. I know plenty of people who have spent that kind of money for instruments they don't have the ability to play very well. Call it stupid, but it was what they wanted, and it made them happy. You don't have to be a virtuoso to enjoy owning a fine violin. If you have the money, and your wife isn't going to divorce you, I say do it. Go with what you really want, not just what you need. It makes life a lot less boring. :)

October 31, 2008 at 12:21 AM · For violins, once you get above $2000, price does not correlate with quality of sound, or playability. I bought an instrument earlier this year. I tried about 100 fiddles priced from $1000 to over $50,000, and ended up buying a $2700 fiddle that sounds and plays better than all the others I tried. Of course, this is very subjective. What feels and sounds nice to you may not appeal to someone else. My advice would be to try a variety of instruments in a wide price range. You may find that the fiddle you like best is not the most expensive.

October 31, 2008 at 12:42 AM · I agree with Joe. Even if you dont need it doesn't mean it is not cool to play on a pro instrument. I am not a race pilot but I would like to experience with a Ferrari if I had money. If you have $$ and can afford it, why not? At this price, it should take some value and you could sell it back to a higher price that when you have bought it. Ask to be sure. Just be careful to not get fool. There are many violins at 7000 8000 that can play as well as 15 000. Have a professionnal with you so that he or she could test and try the instrument because as a beginner, you can not really see little problems with an instrument and even Strad can have little problems... And get agreat bow to go with it. If you can afford to own a Ferrari of a violin for pleasure, why not?

Anne-Marie

October 31, 2008 at 01:02 AM · It depends on your financial status, I'm sure everyone who drives a Ferrari isn't a professional race car driver.

If you can afford it with knowing you completely don't need it at all then go for it.

October 31, 2008 at 01:03 AM · If you can afford it, buy it. Get your teacher to help you. Put aside a portion of your budget (1/3, give or take) for a couple of nice bows that work well with the violin you pick out. Deal with established shops that have a fair trade-in policy. And have fun!

Someone has to stimulate the economy...

October 31, 2008 at 02:19 AM · I've always recommended buying a better instrument than you need; gives you something to grow into, and also a fine instrument can teach you more than a poor one, as your skills develop.

That said, the other side of the coin is, given your lack of experience, how can you fairly judge which instrument to get? Your playing will be changing considerably over the next few years, and your tastes and abilities as well.

I agree that a really fine-sounding violin can be had in the 2-5000 range. You might consider going for something on that level, along with a fine bow, and saving the balance of your violin fund for the day when you will better be able to appreciate the differences between what you have, what you want, and what you can do. If you choose well, you should be in a position to recoup a goodly amount of the money you spent to upgrade at that time. (You should consider carefully the dealer from whom you buy that 2-5000 violin; they should be in a position to provide you with a quality violin in the 15K range, and be willing to accept the previous one in trade).

October 31, 2008 at 02:34 AM · I am in no position to tell you how to spend your money, but this seems excessive; I have been playing for 14 years and mine cost less than half as much (yet, it consistently outperformed ones in that range!).

October 31, 2008 at 02:41 AM · Even if you can afford a violin in the $15,000 or higher price range, you probably won't be able to do justice to it after just a year of playing--to take advantage of its unique qualities--and you won't be able to tell a really good violin in that price range from a merely adequate one. Later on, if you continue with the instrument and can afford it, I'm sure you'll enjoy owning and playing a more expensive instrument, but I would suggest waiting a few years before making the leap.

In the meantime, there's no reason you can't visit a violin dealer and try more expensive instruments from time to time. This will prepare you for buying the big-ticket item when you're ready.

Spending some cash on a better bow--when you're ready--also makes sense.

October 31, 2008 at 04:47 AM · I am also a novice, and I may end up with a really nice violin someday. I am interested in getting a better one thatn I have, based primarily on playing on one I borrow sometimes for practice.

When I do get a really spectacular violin, I want to know exactly what I am looking for.

I will not simply throw away $10,000. Any violin I purchase now has a good likelihood of not being the perfect violin for the player I hope to be. I would prefer to let that player decide what is most important in a violin after he has developed specific preferences and capabilities.

How would it feel for a professional artist to purchase the primary tools of his craft when he was still a novice, before he has developed his area of mastery?

I think that it is much wiser to get one you know you will replace, and decide at what point in your development you will be ready to trade up again. In fact, if you do it right, you may reach that decision more than once!

October 31, 2008 at 05:12 AM · Please do not consider Joe Knudsen's advice about proceeding if it will make you happy. A loving relationship with your wife, children, and eventually grand kids will do more to get to that end. Ubless you are a professional musician capable of getting the most out of such an instrument, think the whole proposition over very varefully. Sorry Joe, it is this kind of thinking that has gotten us into the trouble we are in with respect to the state of the economy. Put a few bucks away every payday, and look for a nice sounding instrument that will satisfy your craving.

October 31, 2008 at 06:52 AM · I believe in the ten dollar rule, which has served me well so far in life. For every ten dollars that something cost, you have to use it once. So if you can see yourself tooling around on your fiddle every day for 5 years (which by the way if you stick with it is an entirely reasonable expectation), it would be well worth it to do so on a fiddle that you were happy to handle and work with.

October 31, 2008 at 11:30 AM · The real key here is what you have now. If your teacher finds that it is adequate for your needs now and isn't giving you bad habits, then OK. You might find that a kick-butt bow will help your technique more in the long run, and make what you have sound better.

Ask your teacher.

October 31, 2008 at 11:50 AM · what mark has been told here had previously been suggested by his wife, more or less:)

i would like to know some addn info, such as if he is playing something already at 9k, or his exact intention of going for 10-15k? why not 5k, why not 20k? for playing or for so called investment? is he the steady/conservative or the speculative/adventurous type?

i think this site's expertise is not telling someone we barely know how to spend money, but on what perhaps...

with 10-15k, what can mark get so that his wife one day may say, mark, you did good!

ps. on a second thought, mark should consider doing the right thing by spreading the wealth around among v.comers:)

October 31, 2008 at 12:32 PM · Well, it's the perennial 'haben oder sein' problem isn't it? I have a persistent devil telling me to buy a more expensive (and hopefully better?) violin, and a wife telling me not to be so stoopid. She has promised me £30K - but on condition I win half a million on the lottery and give her the rest. Meanwhile, I still have a long way to go to reach the limits of my perfectly good 1920's 'Petit Fils de Geronimo Grandini' JTL fiddle.. I did spend what seemed a lot of money on a bow this year and can really feel the difference there.

October 31, 2008 at 01:18 PM · Without knowing the value of your current violin, it is difficult to answer your question. However, I agree to some extent with much of what has been said. I think an important point is one once made to me by a professional violinist that, good as she is, a Strad would be wasted on her. If you have the money, want to spend it on an expensive violin, there is no reason why you should not stimulate the economy, which G-d knows, needs it. But, the question you should be asking yourself is why you want a violin that expensive (plus the extra expense of getting a great bow to exploit the violin's possibilities). The price range you are talking about is, as I understand these things, one for serious musicians who are fairly advanced and for whom the quality of the violin really makes a significant difference. For someone at your level, you can get a good violin that will make you happy for years at a fraction of the price range you indicate.

Another issue you should think about is how you are going to go about this so that you get value for your money. You need to have a strategy to avoid being victimized by shady dealers who will see the word "sucker" written on your forehead when they hear your price range and hear you play. Think carefully about that. You do not want to spend $10K - $15K and end up with a $2K violin that has a fancy label.

Good luck making your decision.

October 31, 2008 at 01:25 PM · Take into account also a $15,000 violin has a lot better chance of retaining its value and perhaps increasing in value over time than does say a high end $4,000 violin like a Sofia or some other advanced instrument from Shar.

October 31, 2008 at 01:43 PM · assuming the 15 is well spent, though,,,among many many other factors i would add. in the name of investment does not necessarily mean it is a good investment. that is why i think some experts should weigh in...

from my own experience with violins and beyond, good finds are always based on solid principles, but not necessarily through conventional means.

October 31, 2008 at 02:12 PM · What you want in a violin now might not be what you want later on. I have now been playing the violin for 3 years and have had 5 violins so far plus one electric violin, because as you advance you realize that you either need an upgrade because the violin you play is not good enough or you want another sound or you need a different model (the reason i'm on my fifth is because number 4 was too big for me)

so there are many reasons for upgrading. what if you play that expensive violin for a year and then one day realize that it is not the violin for you?

just a thought. I know of a Violinist that owns a stradivari but chooses to play on a new violin made just a few years ago because it's not about owning the most expensive violin, it's about owning the violin that will give YOU what YOU want. Good luck to you in whatever you choose to do!

October 31, 2008 at 02:54 PM · Thanks so much for helping out with this 'hair brain' idea. I currently play on an beginner/intermediate violin (cost around $2,500) that was made locally. Also have a Leon Pique bow I use and seems well balanced and works for me. Sounds like it would take years for me (if ever) to really extract what a $10,000+ violin could do for my playing at my current level. I know price doesn't always equate to quality, but a $5,000 to $7,000 violin in a few years would likely be more than enough for me. One more thought, is purchasing a $10,000+ violin more difficult to sale in 10+ years compared to a less expensive violin????

October 31, 2008 at 03:17 PM · Some amateurs who are pretty horrible players own some gawdawful expensive violins, and seem to get a lot of joy out of it. I guess it's not unlike owning anything else that's better than what you actually need. Wouldn't almost everything we own fit that description?

This isn't to say that I recommend it. With only a year of experience, your biggest challenge will be identifying good value .

Try buying your wife a new dining room set (which you also don't REALLY need...two saw-horses and an old door will work just fine), and then see if she's more receptive. ;-)

October 31, 2008 at 03:07 PM · Or a new Prada bag.

October 31, 2008 at 03:43 PM · I will let the luthiers respond to your last question about saleability. Given your current violin/bow combo, maybe in 2-4 years, if you are still as gung ho as you are now, you should check out some better bows and maybe violins going for about twice what yours cost and see what you think. In the meantime, enjoy!

October 31, 2008 at 04:07 PM · I like Mr. Burgess' advice. :-)

October 31, 2008 at 04:15 PM · "Sounds like it would take years for me (if ever) to really extract what a $10,000+ violin could do for my playing at my current level. I know price doesn't always equate to quality, but a $5,000 to $7,000 violin in a few years would likely be more than enough for me. One more thought, is purchasing a $10,000+ violin more difficult to sale in 10+ years compared to a less expensive violin????"

I think the better contemporary violins currently start a little higher than $10,000--more likely around $15,000. It will probably be a long time before you're able to sell a contemporary violin for what you paid for it. And older violins in that price category are probably in the same boat--typically they're nothing special, at least in terms of the way the market sees them. If you buy from a dealer (and dealerless sales carry their own risks), you will pay a mark-up, which is the dealer's profit, and based on past performance it will be a good while before a violin in that category appreciates up to or beyond what you paid. Significant rapid appreciation doesn't seem to start until you go at least to the $30,000 or higher level, and you can't count on it even at that level. Also, selling a violin isn't like selling a used car, with a standardized blue-book price. It's a very individualized process: a buyer has to be found who wants that particular violin. Another reason to defer the purchase of a pricier instrument: until you have more experience and can appreciate the qualities of a really good violin, you may well find yourself with a fiddle that you can't sell at any price.

Whatever you do, don't think of buying a violin as an investment unless you're prepared to shell out $100,000+ and really know what you're doing--think of it as something that will give you endless pleasure and enhance your life.

October 31, 2008 at 05:35 PM · "Please do not consider Joe Knudsen's advice about proceeding if it will make you happy. A loving relationship with your wife, children, and eventually grand kids will do more to get to that end. Ubless you are a professional musician capable of getting the most out of such an instrument, think the whole proposition over very varefully. Sorry Joe, it is this kind of thinking that has gotten us into the trouble we are in with respect to the state of the economy. Put a few bucks away every payday, and look for a nice sounding instrument that will satisfy your craving."

Sorry, I'll think more "varefully" before I post next time. :)

October 31, 2008 at 05:43 PM · It's a good idea to keep in mind that the true cost of most objects, violins included, is their original purchase price minus resale value (and eventual interest paid).

It's entirely possible to lose more money on the purchase of a $5,000 violin then on one paid $10,000; it all depends on the intrinsec value (in the absolute sense) of the instrument.

That means that the instrument must be purchased with the it's future sale in mind (unless you can afford not to worry about such trivialities...) and that entails a number of considerations that many on this board will be happy to give advice about, I'm sure.

October 31, 2008 at 05:51 PM · With all do respect to the people who know violins, I'm surprised I'm the only one who asked the question - can you afford it really? You don't actually have to tell me your finances, but I think it's something you should seriously consider.

I'm not dirt poor, but with the mortgage, the family, the retirement fund, the student loan, etc, I do not have 10K to be tossing down on anything. Sure, I could toss 10K onto a credit card, but with payments of $200 a month it will take 5yrs to pay off and come out to significantly more.

Hey, if you can afford it - you can afford it! But about 80% of Americans couldn't, so I have to ask.

October 31, 2008 at 06:14 PM · Not foolproof, but as a general rule, more expensive violins are harder to sell if you want to sell outright. Takes a while and effort to find a buyer, and if you consign, there's a fee. If you want to swap in to upgrade, you can plan on getting your money back. but IF other kinds of investments have gone up, you would want to show some gain, too. Sue

October 31, 2008 at 06:41 PM · If you appreciate the violin and can afford it go for it. Personally I think that people should give as much money as possible to luthiers. I might be biased though, being a luthier.....

October 31, 2008 at 08:11 PM · One thing these posts make clear is that the investment aspect of buying a violin is quite tricky, especially for a non-expert. I think it is unlikely that most of us would be able to break even. A dealer will not pay you for it the amount which it is worth for insurance purposes or for which he could sell it. So, if I were contemplating buying a new violin, I would base the decision on the assumption that I would be keeping it forever or giving it to one of my kids would forget about the investment aspect.

October 31, 2008 at 08:04 PM · IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, why not? Sorry for all those who said that it is impossible to play well ennough for a beginner to fully appreciate a more expensive instrument. Of course, you can not play the technical things that a professionnal could do but it will help you to progress faster and you will feel the difference in elementary things such as it will be less forcing to produce a sound. If you play any note in high position, it will be easier to have a clear sound. Your sound will sound less of a trumpet that if you have a cheaper one. It's true that you might want to change one day for another one at the same price because you will want another sound but who cares if you can sell your old one and have the same ammount or + for it. With this money (the one you will have from selling your first 10 000 15 000 instrument) will be ennough to buy another one in the same price range (some fiddles are much better than others in the same price range by the way). Just try cheaper ones just in case but why not if you have ennough $$.

Maybe I will look stupid but after one year of lessons I had a incredible feeling for telling if a fiddle was better than other and I bought one at a price that many would call me crazy although it is a little less that what you mention. The feeling for the instrument have nothing to do with talent but with what you hear in your head and what you feel in your hands! Of course, it was NOT easy to pay for it but it was the best thing that couldn't have happended to me for progressing.(I didn't play that well but I could easily bring a recording to my violin maker with a sound of a violin that I liked and try instruments until I find one that have this sound or see if it was less forcing to play, if it responds faster (just do a coulpe fast bows and you can see it). The same thing with the bow. I took the lightest ones in my hands and said to the maker that I wanted this one before having trying it. I tried it and it was unfourtunately the most expensive one but I liked it and my teacher said that it was really a good choice. Now after a few years, I changed for a violin exactly the same price but which I find could worth more... because of exceptionnal sound and projection qualities. The only fees I had to pay were to do the exchange but my violin hadn't loss any value.

Of course, if it doesn't make a fight in your family, go ahead, it is like a collection piece and be sure it keeps or gain some value for if you want to sell it back one day.

Good luck and tell us news,

Anne-Marie

November 1, 2008 at 02:25 AM · Seven years ago I paid $10000 for a violin for my daughter who was 13 at the time. It was a French violin built in 1890. I paid what was considered an average retail price at the time for that maker. After four years of use we decided to upgrade to a violin made by a contemporary maker. We consigned the old violin to two dealers and after about a year and a half we ended up clearing $9500. The way I look at it is that we had use of a fine old violin for about $100 per year. I think if a violin is purchased from a maker of repute you probably won't get hurt if you keep it for at least 5 to 10 years.

November 1, 2008 at 02:28 AM · So if you really want to spend that much on a violin and can afford to do it -- go for it. The violin makers out there can use the support :-).

The downside of doing this when you're only one year into playing is that if you get better, your tastes in what you want you want your violin to sound like may change.

Violins also have different playing characteristics in addition different sonic characteristics. Five years from now, you may find that you're happier with a violin that plays differently from the one you picked.

Or you may wind up being happy with that violin for the rest of your life -- at that price, it should be lots better than any violin you could find in the $3500 and under price range.

So if you're willing to take that risk and feel like support the violin making community, go ahead.

Just to remember to save a bit of money so you can support the bow-making and case-making communities, too :-).

Seriously, you'll want a nice bow and you'll *definitely* want a good case to protect them. When you're looking at ~$15K or more for violin or bow, the issue of whether a Musafia is "worth it" becomes an utter non-issue.

- Ray

November 1, 2008 at 02:44 AM · There is a DOWNSIDE to owning an expensive instrument -- the fact that is expensive. If you ever put it in the car, or take it on a plane, or find yourself caught in a snow storm, it's a pretty big investment to have to worry about.

November 1, 2008 at 03:01 AM · I certainly don't think that there is any reason why someone who can spare the money should not "invest" it in a violin... However, I would agree with those who say that a year after playing is too soon to upgrade to that level of instrument.

I know that I would not have appreciated Johannes the Violin, had I bought him one year into my studies - maybe after 6 or 7 years, yes - now certainly, because I've had years of hearing lots of different violins played by lots of different violinists and I knew what kind of sound I wanted from a violin and was lucky enough to find it in Johannes.

There's no harm in trying every violin you can and gradually developing your ear for their idiosyncracies as your own technique and ability improves - but from my own experience - as far as your development goes as a violinist - a decent, carefully sought out bow will probably help you further along the road at this point.

However, one final suggestion: You might consider buying that expensive violin and with the help of your teacher/local music educational institution, seek out a very talented youngster who would find its loan for a few years a huge help in pursuing their talent. I can imagine that kind of support must feel incredibly rewarding to any donor.

November 1, 2008 at 04:20 AM · I've been thinking about an upgrade (currently playing a $500 gliga) to a l'ancienne ($2400), I've been playing for about a year, is that reasonable or should I wait till I have 18 months under my belt? (I can afford it).

November 1, 2008 at 05:53 AM · I think the jump from 500 to 2400 is very reasonable. Your moving from a beginner instrument to intermediate, a very good thing to do to help your progression with the instrument.

November 1, 2008 at 12:01 PM · pm, my bias is that you should get a very good violin (regardless of price) because you are so dedicated as evidenced by your progress.

later--or, sooner--when your fingers climb up the fingerboards, esp on g string and e string, the violin makes a difference. with more double stops and chords to come, a better violin will be so much more enjoyable.

November 1, 2008 at 12:01 PM · pm, my bias is that you should get a very good violin (regardless of price) because you are so dedicated as evidenced by your progress.

later--or, sooner--when your fingers climb up the fingerboards, esp on g string and e string, the violin makes a difference. with more double stops and chords to come, a better violin will be so much more enjoyable.

November 1, 2008 at 05:25 PM · I found this great article in my own reading and thought it was worth passing on since it's on this topic:

http://www.giannaviolins.com/Information/HowFind.html

November 1, 2008 at 07:57 PM · In testament to David Burgess' comment:

"two saw-horses and an old door will work just fine"

I have now updated my profile image.

I am of the go for it -carefully- school. Don't be screwed by unscrupulous sellers, and take someone with you who can really play, and whose opinion and tastes you can trust.

November 2, 2008 at 01:09 AM · Al- thank you so much for your encouragement!! I have to say, 6 months ago, I couldn't tell the difference between violins, but now when I tested the L'ancienne at Ifshin and was utterly impressed! I'll spend a few months testing them out!!

November 4, 2008 at 06:53 PM ·

It is not whether a violin costs $1,000, $10,000, $100,000, or $1,000,000 - it is whether it suits the way you play, what you play, and with whom you play.

Searching for a new violin can be a lot of fun and a very educational experience. I'd say - engage in the search - but try violins at as high a price as the dealers will let you handle. Once you have an idea of what you can do with a really fine violin, then you are in a better position to see what you can live with.

The last time I did a violin search for a friend, I tried 33 violins, found 3 that were marginally acceptable, and bought one.   But this was at the price of about $1,600.

The last time I tried a Strad (yeah a real one, that later sold for $2M) I went home with my own, old 1951 Strad copy (my Baltimore's Carl Holtzapfel originally bought for $350) without jealosy.  I did recoginze that this violin of mine definitely had Strad qualities in 1963, after I played an ex-Ole Bull Strad - and based on that comparison, my fiddle is no Strad - but it does pretty well for me.

My experience in playing older violins in the under $30,000 category has not been particularly enjoyable - however, new "master-made" violins above $10,000 can be very good.

A serious question is how much experience does one need to make an intelligent choice of instrument. I'd estimate that unless one is quite remarkable, it probably takes 10 years to learn enough to assess the virtues of one instrument over another for one's personal use. If you select an instrument before that, it pays to take along more experienced players - and listeners. Over half a dozen or us gathered in the audition room at Ifshin violins 8 years ago to help one of our number select a new violin for purchase.  It was a lot of fun.  It took several hours, punctuated by lunch, to finally select one to take home for a week-long trial. After some negotiation that instrument was purchased for $32,000.

Whatever you pay at retail for an instrument, there needs be a considerable period for appreciation to overcome the loss you will suffer on resale after paying consignment costs - or worse selling it directly to a dealer.

 

Andy

November 4, 2008 at 07:43 PM ·

I'd suggest that it's going to be very difficult, at your current level, to select a fine instrument, because you can't come even close to pushing an instrument's limits. It's like driving a racecar, but only driving in first gear. It'll still feel pretty cool, but you can't extract everything out of it. So, you may have a hard time getting one that you'll like when your playing matures and you develop your own style. You can have other people play it, but you'll never know what it sounds like until you can push it.

Of course, it would be lovely to get a very nice instrument. But, consider what qualities you really need/want in an instrument, and what's really wrong (anything?) with the one you currently own. If you can't answer these questions very specifically, waiting may be the better option.

 

November 5, 2008 at 03:20 PM ·

I was in a similar position to you 2 or 3 years ago, but the discussion with my wife and musical friends was whether I should continue with a violin which I bought for £200, or whether I should spend about £1,000.

Taking the car analogy, I argued (and still believe) that if you can afford to and want to learn to drive in a Porsche rather than a Ford, there is no reason why you shouldn't do so.

And I agree that trying different violins is a good learning experience - before you do play a good number, you don't really understand how different they can sound, even when played by a beginner.

You might seriously want to consider upgrading your bow before or at the same time as the violin. A good bow makes life so much easier!

November 5, 2008 at 10:14 PM ·

Personally, I'm stunned at the quality of instruments that can be purchased in the $2,500-6,000 price range around the Washington, DC area.  These instruments are a mix of better-made Chinese instruments and "rehabbed" turn of the century German trade fiddles (i.e., new bass bars and perhaps some re-graduation to thin the top).  I periodically go play violins at the local music shoppe (not even a violin shop) to see what students are getting these days and I'm amazed.  I would have been happy to play some of these $4,000 violins in high school competions and for my college auditions.

I'd agree with others to upgrade your bow before upgrading your violin.  A good bow makes an enormous difference once you get past legato bow strokes.

November 6, 2008 at 01:56 AM ·

Nice violins are very enjoyable to play. If you can afford one and this is what you really want, then you should go ahead and find one you love. Try as many as you can to get a good idea of what it is you are looking for and also consider getting a nice bow to complement it. I am like you in that I am not looking to make a career out of music (I have other academic interests), but it is something I really enjoy. About two years ago, my grandparents got me a wonderful contemporary violin. Of course, it's not necessary to have such a fine violin, but I really enjoy playing my violin, even though I do not want to go into music. I am also very interested in the art and history of violin making, so having this violin and discovering new things about it has been a great experience.

November 7, 2008 at 03:50 AM ·

The most significant and probably most important aspect of a fine violin for a "novice" (or relative novice) is that a fine violin feels much easier to play when compared to an instrument of the kind most people buy as their first instrument. 

However, you have to have a certain amount of skill and experience in order to recognise this difference. If you are a total newbie (which I recognise you are not) then you are most likely unable to tell this difference because the act of playing the violin (or more precisely the act of trying to) is still so foreign that all instruments will feel equally *difficult* to "play".

I would thus offer the following litmus test for you to determine whether or not it makes sense to consider an upgrade to a (significantly) better instrument: Visit as many shops and/or trade shows as possible and play as many fine instruments in different price ranges as possible. If it feels like you have just added one or two years of experience to your play, if you can sense that practising on such an instrument would really make a difference to your further advancement, then, if you can afford it, you probably should consider an upgrade. In this case you will also want to discuss this with your teacher.

On the other hand, if you do not get that sense, if you have to struggle just as much on the fine violins as you do on your current instrument, then you probably want to wait and try again later.

Keep in mind though that the price tag will not automatically make an instrument suitable. If you do decide to upgrade don't get fixated on a specific price range like 10-15K, you might miss out on a very nice instrument in a lower price range that might have been just right for you.

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