Finding a first, and last, violin.

December 8, 2008 at 12:39 AM ·

In my searching online for violins (since I currently don't play, but want to), I've found a number of shops that have websites that I can view general things such as price and such.  Given I'm 32 and not be going into it for a career or anything, I still want something that's decent (like say if a violin could be rated as 0=junk, 10=best, one that'd be like a 5 or so).  Oh, and the biggest catch -- I'm not the one buying it, family will be (as a present).

But I have a slight dilemma, only a few of the shops in Illinois even have reviews here.  The one place I was looking at doesn't have a review, but they're listed here (they're close to, but not in, Chicago, but no actual store - you get it in the mail, but can return it in 2 weeks I think if it's not satisfactory).  I did a lot of looking online and found… well found enough information that'd probably scare people if they knew what was available for free; however, I couldn't find any place in the world (that's online and indexed by search engines apparently) that sells any of their violins.

I looked up different model names online, and nothing - other than links to their own site.  I know, why bother right?  Apparently they sell their instruments to shops all over -- and that the prices through them direct are almost 50% less than the retail price.  Since I can't find them though, I can't check, nor even find reviews for them which is what I wanted.  Even though more expensive doesn't mean better always -- a decent instrument that's just sold cheaper direct than at a store wouldn't be bad in itself, unless they distribute the good ones and keep "bad-by-comparison" ones.

Anyone have any ideas that might suit my needs?  Any input is appreciated!

 

Replies (24)

December 8, 2008 at 01:23 AM ·

  •  the maximum price you are willing to spend is your starting point
  • a shiny "new" instrument at a retail shop will never increase in value. Actually the opposite will occur. The next guy will opt for a shiny new one before considering yours if you choose at some point to sell it

  • Do not buy ANYTHING from China. Green wood, poor quality ebony...just stay away. Some of the "better" Chinese bows are ok in their price point, but again it is a risky situation.

  • This may sound odd, but ebay has some gems. Ask for a few days trial prior to bidding. If the seller says no...just move on.The more you try, the better you will get at deciding what you like. It may well be worth the $$$ for return shipping if you choose against it; and even if a few bucks might be necessary to re-string it or rehair a bow, you may indeed find that you have done quite well for yourself.

  • if you wish, you can email me...I love the quest..."so many decent fiddles; so little time"

 

December 8, 2008 at 05:05 AM ·

I'd say, even for a well-trained violinist, there'll never be a "last violin", let alone a 5/10 violin you want (however, not sure if you're refering 10/10 to strads and del gesus).

You'd want a decent student intrument to start with, best not to spend more than US$1000. The reason behind is that you might not know how to take care the instrument. Violins are very fragile, and delicate. If you mess with any of the components on the violin you might end up disasters, either by purpose or by accidents.

Then, you might want to spend something like $5000 which will provide you more than enough quality to enjoy. But again, price point is only a rough estimation. Shopping for violin is tricky, you might end up buying a $8k violin which satisfy you, but one day you might find out you can get a better one for a mere $5000. Anyway that's gonna be a long way to go.

Regarding the ebay shopping, I won't recommend it much. Chances that you might end up with a really poor condition violin even if it's selling for $1. You might end up spending up to $500 or even $1000 for fix them to become playable. Not to say there aren't any gems, but the chances are not as high as expected, unless you have a well trained eyes and experiences on violins.

At the mean time, shop for a decent $1000 violin. If you can, bring your teacher along to shop with you. If you still want to stick to online shopping, there might be other better opinions from other members. However as far as i can see, StringWorks looks good.

December 8, 2008 at 09:22 AM ·

"Do not buy anything from China."

That's quite an inaccurate blanket statement, if I ever saw one. Globalization of luthier skills has made it so that the top quality makers, regardless of nationality, are all excellent. The quality of students instruments made in workshops has also risen substantially since two decades ago, and many young and promising makers come out of those workshops (starting off as the most meager of apprentices).

All of the local shops in my area carry instruments made for them through workshops in mainland China. At one shop that helps out my students frequently, their head luthier travels there several times a year to train the makers and also provide feedback on the output quality.  The result has been superb instruments in the sub-$1000 range that are entirely handmade, with great attention given to the details of the setup. Their current $500-$600 instruments blow away my 20th century German violin that was my constant companion through high school and college auditions (which also cost three times as much!). I wish violins of this quality and price were available when I was starting out...

Leave no stone unturned in your quest for an instrument!

December 8, 2008 at 03:57 PM ·

Hi

I started as an adult myself, and like yourself I have no professional ambitions, I am just playing for my enjoyment. Unlike you, I did not think my first violin would also be my last, however, I thought the violin I got would suit me fine for many many years. Well, I was wrong.

I would go as far as to say this: the only way your first violin will also be your last would be for you to give up before you need to upgrade. In fact, outgrowing a violin is part of the experience. It is not possible for a beginner to know what kind of instrument will be suitable further down the road. So even if you overspend on your first instrument you are still likely to be shopping for another one at some point in the future.

I would therefore recommend that you get yourself an instrument suitable for a beginner, perhaps with the view that it should last you for about 1-3 years, depending on how fast you progress which in turn depends on how much time you can set aside for practise.

You may want to check out Gliga USA (www.violinslover.com). Over the last decade or so, Gliga have gained a reputation for good value for money instruments suitable for learners. You would want to take a look at the Gama models (ca 700 USD) and up to the Maestro models (ca. 1500 USD if you ignore the ones with fancy carvings which is probably not what you want/need). The instruments are all made in Romania butt he mailorder store is in L.A.

Another company which makes instruments of comparable quality and value is Strunal in the Czech Republic (www.strunal.cz). Their instruments reach from about 250 USD to 1900 USD. They don't have a mailorder store but their website lists at least one distributor in the US.

I have played both a Gliga Maestro and a top of the line Strunal. I can recommend both as instruments to start to learn on. There are other reputable sources for suitable instruments in roughly the same price range, for example Shar (www.sharviolins.com).

Whatever your first violin will be, assuming you will be on a budget, you will eventually outgrow it. When this happens you will realise it yourself when you try other, better instruments and you feel that they are much easier to play, it will feel like you just added a year or two of skill to your play. That's when you know, you want to upgrade. At that point an upgrade will help you progress faster/better.

The good thing about outgrowing a violin is that when you reach that point you will have learned so much that you have a much better idea what it is you should or want to buy next.

good luck.

December 8, 2008 at 04:42 PM ·

Have you already started violin?  If not, you really lack a sound basis for determining which ones you try are 5/10 as opposed to 2/10 or 3/10 or 7/10.  If you have a teacher, s/he or some other professional should have a large role in helping you choose the violin.   Until you have some significant experience on the violin, choosing your first or next one is very difficult without lots of help.

December 8, 2008 at 04:58 PM ·

I consider myself a 'returning' adult player.  I learned the basics as a child, but took up the instrument - and lessons - as an adult.  I've had the opportunity to play around (for fun) on several violins now - ranging up into the $15,000s.  I also play in a community orchestra for fun.

I'd strongly suggest you try as many violins, regardless of price, as you can get your hands on.  That will help you develop a feel for what you want and/or need.   Then I'd suggest you purchase an 'advanced student' instrument that has been set up properly (that's crucial!  Do not purchase anything that hasn't been set up correctly).  These run around $1000-$1500.  Odds are that this instrument will do indefinately - unless your playing really takes off - but should that happen, you'll know what's up and will be able to upgrade more easily.

I have a Samuel Shen viola in that price range that I'm very pleased with (J. Martin, Canton, Ohio - great shopping experience).  Shen violins are also supposed to be good.  Eastman is another reputable company.  Chinese-made violins in this price range are often great value!  Watch out for Gliga - their violins seem to be hit/miss - and many are not set-up!

Also try out a number of bows.  The more expensive bows tend be better - but not always (as I've just discovered).  Look in the $300 range for starting out with.  But since each bow is individual, you might find that one bow - even of the same line - just is better balanced for your needs.

At that price, your violin should come with a decent set of strings.  Again, don't cheap out on strings - you won't need the most expensive ones - especially to start with - but the very cheapest can hold you back.  I've had great luck with the Thomastik Melange combo. on my violins.

And enjoy!  Should you happen to fall in love with a violin that is more than what you need, but you can still afford to buy it - do so.  If you have an appreciation of the instrument - for it's own sake - that gives you added pleasure, take advantage of it.  It's always better to have the room to grow into an instrument, than to settle for a poor one that may hold you back (been there - done that).

It can take time.  There are many variables in putting together a package that's just right for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 8, 2008 at 05:31 PM ·

Looking for a "last" violin as someone who doesn't play the violin isn't a dilemma. It just doesn't make any sense at all. It's like someone who's never driven a car trying to figure out what the best car for the rest of their life is.  Even among professionals, there's a honeymoon with a newly-acquired instrument, and then reality sets in: a tiny wolf in the wrong place. A D-string that doesn't sound as good as it did in the shop. An E-string that sounded bright in the beginning now grating on the ear. You should A. start playing for a few years and B. find a knowledgeable teacher who can advise you. Otherwise you will be eaten for lunch by some dealer or other who will take advantage of your inexperience. 

December 8, 2008 at 07:29 PM ·

I, too, think that if you'll get into violin seriously then the first one just can't be your last one. I mean, you may literally be playing violin for your whole life. So I don't think it's worth it to shell out a ton of money on your very first fiddle. After playing violin for 10 years I just got my first cello, a used one for 400 dollars in a local music shop - and I am happy with it! It's not a Strad but hey, it's set up decently, not broken, it plays, it tunes, doesn't rattle. Made in Korea. Whatever!

With violins, it may take 1-2 years to start making an OK tone, and that's just the start. Then you will be working on more precise intonation and on nuancing your tone (among a million other things). That's when you for the first time will be testing the capacities of your violin, and that's when you will know more about what you want in an instrument. It may sound bright or dark, sweet or kind of edgy to you. It'll have character, and you'll have to live with that character!

A lot will depend on what kind of music you will want to play, too. And after a few more years your tastes might change again. My husband got a better violin after he had been playing for 5 years, and now, 10 years later, he thinks this fiddle is not quite his "type". It's a beautiful German instrument made in late 19th century, but it's a 1500-2000 dollar instrument, which in violin world is no big deal, and probably at some point we'll work out how to upgrade, but this violin we'll probably keep.

So, I would say a simple well set-up 300-500 dollar fiddle is absolutely fine to start with: it won't be a piece of junk, it just won't have quite the sophistication that a more advanced player needs, but it will be a good instrument to explore and you'll be able to play it for quite a while. If you feel like you could go for a more expensive instrument you'd better make sure that either you can trade it back to the same shop on decent terms after a few years or that it's an investment-worthy instrument that you could sell later.

December 8, 2008 at 10:29 PM ·

Since you don't currently play and you didn't state a price point you were looking at why won't you try some violins ranging from 600 to 3000. It's kinda hard to predict if the instrument you would buy now you would like say 2 years from now.

I now play on a Jay Haide 2006 but my previous violin was a Heinrich Gill No.64. I think it's a wiser choice to pay for an instrument from a store where you can trade back for an upgrade.

Sam your statement about chinese violin I found not useful. Maybe you play on chinese VSA but some of us played on real violins.

December 9, 2008 at 12:06 AM ·

Joshua:

I started as an adult also, and would like to share some considerations with you.

If you have never played, you will not be able to audition or test instruments, as it is most difficult if not impossible to make a sonorous sound on the violin at the beginning. It would be very difficult to judge what you like, want, or will need at the beginning. 

You really could use someone to help you near your home.  You didn't mention where you lived (Illinois?), but there must be some violin stores within travelling range you can visit. You have to look as many instruments as possible to be able to judge. Buying blind from the Internet can be very dangerous, or costly. You have to handle violins and play them as many as you can to tell, and feel the differences. I don't know how you can do this if you don't play at all?

Which brings me to the next point-- how about consulting with a teacher close by?  They will act in your behalf to help you make a choice, or even advise you to rent for a while.

When I started, I rented for several months, and took lessons from a great teacher, before buying my first violin ( a Sofia, from Bulgaria). At least I was able to play scales, and open strings,  to test the strength and sound quality of violins at that point. But after six months I didn't play well enough to be able to judge the playability or action of an instrument, to be able to pick a final violin. And bow choice can be critical also, and greatly affect a violin's sound, and playability.

I think as we develop as players, our preferences in instruments change as our personal styles change, and are instrument choices will evolve also.

Hope this helps, but my advice again is to find someone local who can help you if possible.

Joseph

 

 

 

 

December 9, 2008 at 12:43 AM ·

I also feel the need to politely respond to Sam's comment about Chinese violins.  It is absolutely NOT true that they are all bad.  NOT true.  That is a sweeping comment, and broad generalizations often lead to trouble.  There are many nicely made, good sounding Chinese violins from makers like Eastman Strings and West Coast Strings that are good values.

I agree that if you can enlist the help of a professioal to assist you, you will be much better off.  

And, enjoy!  Violin progress is made in baby steps, so be patient with yourself and try to enjoy the process instead of the goal.

December 9, 2008 at 01:34 AM ·

Joshua,

When I began playing viola in the late '70's, I started on a school instrument for the first year until my parents saw a talent and my own interest. They bought me a student viola (E.Martin), that at the time cost them around $500.  That same instrument would be in the $1,000 - $2,000 range today (ish).  That instrument served me well for nearly 20 years as an amature.  Jumping from a good student instrument to an intermediate one would put you in the $4-8K range (give or take). 

If you are interested in starting violin, and prefer to purchase vs. rent, find a teacher that you will be studying under, get a rental for at least a few months, begin lessons, then go shopping with your teacher.  I suggest renting at first so that you can at least try out different sizes for more than a single week (which is a typical try-out period). 

Don't blow off Chinese made instruments just due to the country of origin.  You may well find a good quality Chinese intrument that will serve you well for many years.  A teacher can help enormously in this process.

December 9, 2008 at 01:43 AM ·

Yes, I'm in Illinois -- in the middle of nowhere Illinois.  Basically, Chicago is 5 hours away. St. Louis 2--3 hours away, same for Indianapolis and Evansville.  Champaign (where there are people here are listed as being from), is about 2.5 hours away as well.


Otherwise I'd jump at the chance to have a violin instructor (or someone who knows what they're doing) to help, but the distance thing all-but eliminates that.  Plus having it ending up being a "gift" from relatives, and relatives having this idea that the gift receiver can't be there when it's bought.  But I just now got a reply from an instructor, so I asked her if she could provide any help given it's what she does.  Won't help for classes, as apparently she's booked until summer - but most likely late 2009-2010.

But all your input is greatly appreciated!  
 


Oh and just to clarify, when I say "first and last", I realize I'd probably get 1-5 more later on (most likely 1-2 more as a definite), but I'm the type of person who never gets rid of things that are "mine" unless they're completely useless -- so I'd be keeping every single violin, no cost recouping.  So my goal is to minimize the number I get by getting a better one than I need.
 

December 9, 2008 at 05:18 AM ·

Joshua,

 

The best way to select a violin is to get a teacher and have the teacher go with you to select the violin - even (and better yet) a rental. I do this for my students. In fact the only ones who have started up with decent instruments in hand, got them from Ifshin violins (the home of the Jay-Haide brand), which is where I would take them to make the selection.

 

There are just too many ways for a violin to be inadequate.

 

The scale for instrument evaluation (in my opinion) is not a linear scale of 0 - 10, but a logarithmic scale of  about 1 - 7.  So a $1000 violin (log = 3) has about half the capabiity (in measurable terms) of a million dollar one (log = 6).  Very small differences in medasuredable things can be tremendous differences to the perception of the player.  With very few exceptions, the player will do what it takes to make the log=3 fiddle sound like a log=6 one, but it sometimes takes an awful lot of work.  Listeners can often perceive differences between the instruments in only rare instances.

 

The purchaser's goal is often to find a $1,000 - $10,000 instrument that will behave for them like one that is worth 100 times more.  It does happen and gives us all hope. Some of the modern violins make the grade. But a new player might not be able to tell for some years. But a poor instrument is sure to be a frustration at every level of playing - even day one.

 

Andy

December 9, 2008 at 02:12 PM ·

"... having it ending up being a "gift" from relatives, and relatives having this idea that the gift receiver can't be there when it's bought."

That need not be a problem. All you have to do is get your relatives to buy the violin from a place with a suitable return policy. This is in fact rather common in the violin market. At least it is common enough that many people recommend never to buy an instrument at whatever level without a return-for-refund or return-for-exchange/trade-up policy in place.

As long as your relatives will follow that rule, you should be ok. Worst case scenario is that you bring the violin to your future teacher for inspection and he or she says "no way!", so you return it and get a refund, or return it for a more suitable instrument with the help of said teacher, or whoever else you can recruit to help you shopping.

The aforementioned Ifshin and Shar stores have such a return policy in place, so does Gliga USA. Many others do, too. Tell your relatives to ask for that before they buy.

Alternatively, they might be willing to settle for some kind of gift certificate. I am sure most violin shops will be happy to issue one even if it's not their routine and they have to make up one on the spot for lack of a template.

December 9, 2008 at 07:01 PM ·

 

Hey Josh,
I have to agree with Mendy, do not blow off the origin of where the violin came from. I understand that you are in the middle of no where, but there many places that will work with you on buying a violin. Both my instruments are made by Chinese people, but the quality of the wood is higher than that of those instruments made in Germany, Italy, or United States…etc. I just bought a viola that was 1200 dollars built this year, considered young, but it has a great sound. I did try different instruments however. If you can get a chance to go somewhere try the instruments within a comfortable price range. I’m sure you can work something out between Sharmusic.com or WWBW.com that you could rent higher priced end instruments or something of that effect, if you don’t mind paying for shipping back and forth.  I know that being an intermediate player, or just a beginner that wants their own first violin, be careful. You could find a bad one, or find a needle in a hay stack violin. I came from a small town too, but my parents did take me out of the way one day out of school to drive 3 hours to a violin shop and I tried many violins, until I got the best sounding one, I believe. So making an investment as such is like buying insurance. Take your time and look, don’t settle for something that has a poor sound, but cost 1000.

December 9, 2008 at 10:17 PM ·

You are about three hours away from Bearden Violin Shop in St. Louis.  I grew up in Glen Carbon and Gene got me started.  His son now does most of the work now.  They are the best shop any where around the bi-state area and they are open on Saturdays.  I would call explain your situation and and drive in on a weekend.  I am now in Columbia, MO and still drive the 2 hours to have them do work for me.  800-443-2342

December 18, 2008 at 03:06 PM ·

Hello Josh,

I have been playing violin for about 35 years and have purchased more violins than I can remember (but that could be my memory going.).  I am writing this from an army camp in Afghanistan where I play and teach a few soldiers (violin and piano) who are at the beginner level.  I had my violin student purchase an instrument (by mail) from Shar music.  For $140 the kit included a case and bow.  The setup was excellent and the service and return policy are excellent.  I also purchased two for myself (one of them an advanced instrument).  While both of the beginning level fiddles are excellent instruments, bang for buck-wise, you should be aware that if you get an instrument through a web-site or mail order of any kind, the setup may be excellent, even perfect, when it leaves the shop, but will not be that way for long.  Shipping will most likely cause the bridge to go out of adjustment, and even buying from a local source (music store) will not save the strings from stretching initially and going out of tune.  The pegs will probably slip initially (or eventually with temperature and humidity fluctuation)  and will need to be "doped".  

What I am saying is that when all these things happened to the three violins that I ordered and had shipped over here, I was able to re-adjust everything and re-tune everything as these occurances are to be expected, (even with a $15,000 instrument).  So are you prepared to deal with the re-tuning, re-adjusting and other tasks as your instrument settles in?  How will you know about applying the rosin, tightening the bow, etc.? Be aware that you are not buying a guitar, trumpet or electric piano.  You will need a teacher, if only to keep your instrument in playing condition and show you how to hold the bow and the fiddle.  Find one!  I have been to central Illinois and there has to be someone who can give you some guidance at the beginning.  And that someone can help you with the purchase as well.  IU at Champaign has an excellent music department and you could find an advanced student there to give you a lesson every 2 - 4 weeks.

As far as your family "surprising" you, imagine the surprise of getting an instrument that you can't tune, where the bridge is not set at the correct angle and a bow that is difficult to draw evenly across the strings. Your family should consider giving you more than the "intention" of a violin.  Their kind thoughts in wanting to you to have a violin should be coupled with expert guidance.  They will be glad a year from now when you are still playing a violin that wasn't a complete surprise as opposed to the possibility of a wonderful surprise that is languishing in a closet a year from now.

I have taught many students throughout the years.  My first instrument was good enough to play but nothing more than a first instrument.  This made me want to get better so that I could get a better instrument.  I have had many students who felt that they should have a great instrument to start so that they would not have to buy another instument once they got better.  All of them quit when they learned that a "great" instrument wouldn't play itself.

Finally, regarding Chinese instruments, this judgement should be put off for now.  I have two Chinese made instruments, both copies of del Gesu instruments, both of exceptional quality and value.  You would do well to concentrate more on finding someone who can help you (and your family) purchase and learn to play the violin than finding the violin itself.  For the record, I started to play violin at age 24.  It is now one of the true joys of my life.  At the beginning, I had the rare good sense to have a friend show me the basic mechanics of playing (good sense was not my forte at the time.) (Many thanks to Jim Queen, wherever you are.)

But that's just my opinion...I could be wrong. :-)

Ed Ebel, FOB Ghazni, Afghanistan

December 19, 2008 at 03:45 AM ·

There is no "last violin"... our taste changes... even in relation to food... I cook, and as I got older (I'm 45 now) I've started liking the kind of food my father and grandfather liked..... I started making "fichi sciropatti", "agnello al forno",  "risotto di carcioffi", I disliked this dishes when i was 20 years old, but Iove it now.... I disliked Shostakovich and sashimi when I was 20 years old and I love both now.

If you are a begginer, most probably you are interested  how the E string  sounds,  but when you start playing virutoso repertoire you will be interested how your violin sounds on the 7th position on the G string and how wide is its dynamic range, and  if the "sound paste" is good too.

www.manfio.com

 

December 20, 2008 at 03:55 PM ·

You've gotten some great comments here (although I would echo the others who've disagreed with the "never buy anything from China" line). I think you've probably caught on now that shopping in person is much more important than doing it online. And that your first violin shouldn't be thought of as your last. But I understand what you're saying, and why it's not your plan to rent first, shop around for six months and then buy. A gift from relatives isn't going to wait through that process. I am an advanced beginner and am very pleased with my Enesco Antiqued ("Euro Workshop Series") violin, mass produced from Reghin, Romania. It was instantly accessible/playable to me, it produces a sweet tone and is pleasing to the eye, and at $850 it's a fabulous deal (I blind-tested it with my teacher, who afterwards was floored to hear it was $1200 less than the other two contenders.) The music store clerk who sold it to me was the one who recommended I try it; he said they were hugely popular and consistently good. I should mention that this is a music store that sells predominantly guitars (although it is one of the best stores on the West Coast - try googling them - Gryphon Music - they might have the Enesco Antiqued available online, and I feel confident recommending something like that), so it's not a place that would likely appeal to a serious upscale violin purchaser. But that's what I liked about it, and this violin, in a way. It's a perfect fit for an advanced beginner who wants a violin that will play well for a long time. I won't say this is my "last" violin, but it certainly will be my baby for at least ten years, if not more.

Another online option I'd give a nod of approval to would be Ifshin Music (not sure if that's the exact name) in Berkeley. I've been in there to test their violins and they have a good variety of mass-produced Jay Haide instruments, and they are in the business to move inventory (I mean this in a good way and not bad). I imagine they'd be a pretty good shop to work with via mail, and you can ask detailed questions to staff over the phone once you're testing the instrument at home. But do try and test instruments instead of just buying blindly. Nothing to stop you from getting 5 or more instruments via postal service to test at home (but please do try and seek out someone who knows the violin or has a good music ear, because as a not-yet-a-beginner, you just won't know what to listen for).

Good luck, and hope this all turns out to be a lot of fun for you!

December 20, 2008 at 10:50 PM ·

As a beginner myself (under 2 years), I found my instructor's help invaluable. She connected me with a store in Rochester, NY, then helped me play several she thought appropriate for me. We narrowed it down together, then she went and played every violin in the style I'd chosen and brought the best for me to play for a few weeks. She did the same for my choice of a bow.

I did not try to puchase a once-for-all violin as I didn't feel I was ready (experienced enough) to make the choice of "the" violin I would play for the rest of my life. My store, however, offers 100% trade-in value when I coose to purchase something more expensive.

If I were you, I would talk with a teacher and get connected with a good music store. I know The String House, in Rochester, NY will ship, let you try out the instrument and work with you. And I would encourage you to reconsider purchasing your final violin as you start.

December 20, 2008 at 11:01 PM ·

If it is possible for you to make a trip to either St. Louis or Indianpolis, I would reccomend that you visit either: Indianapolis violins http://www.indyviolins.com/HOME.html(they do have reviews/info on this site and I personally highly reccomend them (I have a viola made by Ted Skreko))  or if you prefer to travel to St. Louis I reccomend First String Violin shop http://firststringviolinshop.com/ (I've had  intermediate/advanced student level violas from them and one of my students has a really nice 1/2 size violin). For either of these shops (and there are others too, these are just my personal favorite places to go) you would get a well set-up instrument and a trade-in policy that would allow you to upgrade without loosing what you put into the initial instrument should you desire something better in the future, up to a nice professional level benchmade violin.

December 21, 2008 at 09:57 PM ·

perhaps a Roth violin.  They are nice, solid German instruments.   They range from like 600us-3500us (this is just what I've seen in personal experience)  the cheaper ones are usually "studio" of Roth vs. made by him.  It is nice to have a starting point as a maker, but what you should really do is set a price range to begin and look for these qualities both in an instrument and in yourself,

1. what's your connection to the instrument, does it have any personal calling for you?  eg, my czech friend says he will only play czech instruments from a point of kinship with his country.  Also, wood and the connection that you feel to the wood is expressive.  Like if I let my teacher play my violin for a week, it plays differently; like a different feel.  wood is so responsive, you might feel a grooved in feel to the wood if you pick an instrument, eh you never know.

2. how playable is it?  this is really important.  too heavy for you neck? too broad of shoulders for shifting etc.  thickness of the neck etc

3. do you love the instrument? and can you grow into it

just try lots of things in your price range.  when you find some that you like, 1 or 2, take them home and try them for a week or two and just see which one you like to play

December 22, 2008 at 03:53 AM ·

People, People ... You are not reading what Joshua wrote. He cannot try out any instruments prior to the purchase because his family wants to buy the instrument as a "surprise" present, in their minds a present should not be seen by the presentee beforehand.

There are only two ways that will both satisfy this constraint and allow him to pick an instrument himself:

1) a gift certificate purchased from a violin shop with a good selection

2) any violin or violin shaped object purchased from a shop with a good selection and a return and/or trade-in guarantee

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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