Student violins vs. professional

April 17, 2010 at 05:59 AM ·

So I've been learning to play the violin for a few months now and in my quest to know everything there is to know about violins I'm curious as to what exactly makes a student violin and what doesn't. Is it somehow easier to learn on one? Is it just poorer quality? Is there even a standard definition of what makes a student violin?

Replies (57)

April 17, 2010 at 06:13 AM ·

Cynical view - a STUDENT violin is the one you own and a PROFESSIONAL one is the more expensive one the dealer shows you that sounds worse.

Seriously, the line of demarcation isn't clear and the subject of much argument. A dealer here sold a violin to a "progressing" student with the approval of his teacher. The NEXT teacher, however, expressed outrage that the dealer had sold the pupil this instrument and made a big issue about it - not quite reaching litigation. And someone at undergrad level is STILL a student, and would hope to have a better violin than an absolute beginner.

I suppose you should consult not only your own teacher but someone else as well. 

April 17, 2010 at 06:27 AM ·

Well, it depends on who is applying the label 'student' and 'professional'. If it is a dealer, the cost is the only dependable difference.

That said, I would classify the instruments I have as 'student'. I have one that makes a lovely sound, and I have been told it could be better with a good setup; that will come shortly. I have two others that are still being developed, one that I think can sound as good, the other is still a good violin.

I have heard them in the same room as a violin I would consider professional. When it was played, the room got bigger. Same notes, some differences in the timber, but the quality of the sound was more impressive.

If you are shopping on line, and see someone advertising 'teacher approved' violins, they are probably 'entry level', and will not suffice once you hear them next to a better violin. An Advancing violin will probably sound better, but the category is as wide as the great plains; some dealers have an 'advanced' violin that is a minor step above student, some have ones that will carry you for years.

So, go with the sound it makes. If you can differentiate the sound difference between violin A and violin B, then you need whichever sounds best. If you can't tell, then it doesn't matter. Ignore the label, go for the sound.

April 17, 2010 at 06:44 AM ·

 Beware of "entry level" violins so bad that they are really "exit level".

April 17, 2010 at 09:13 AM ·

I think as long as the tone is open and pleasing to the ear the main difference probably comes down to clarity.  Sometimes really clear instruments can seem harder to play because they project every detail, good and bad.  It's like playing Mozart and everything is exposed.  This can be frustrating for the uninitiated but if you're used to it and you've practiced well, a clear violin will be able to project every note you play so that all the effort you put into mastering intricate passage-work isn't going to waste.  Then when you've become used to the clarity you'll pick up the student violin and try to play Tchaikovsky on it and it'll feel "muddy".

Or there's my professor's definition: a professional violin is what you take to a professional audition and have a chance to win on.

April 17, 2010 at 12:53 PM ·

There are many factors that affect the sound and playing characteristics of a violin.  Like the type of wood that was used to make it, the fittings, the bridge, sound post, and most importantly, the workmanship.  That's not to say that all professional violins sound and play better than student violins, but in general, if you use better material and better workmanship, you will end up with a better end product. 

A beginner can be perfectly happy playing on a so called student instrument because they do not yet have the skills to discern the difference between that and a so called professional instrument.  As long as the instrument is reasonably made, it will do everything that a professional instrument will do for the advancing student.  As you become a more advanced player, you will be able to appreciate the subtle differences that a better fiddle will provide.

The thing to avoid is the lowest tier of violins, so called VSO's (violin shaped objects).  There are instruments that are so poorly made that they are literally unplayable.  These instruments have plastic pegs, and fingerboards made out of cheap wood, painted black to look like ebony.  The fingerboards are improperly shaped, or the bridge is not properly fitted so some notes are literally impossible to play (e.g., you put your finger dead on C#, and out comes D natural).



April 17, 2010 at 01:43 PM ·

Hi. The basics in answer to your question have now been pretty well covered. To answer another aspect, you say that you want to learn everything there is to know about the violin. That's wonderful! So do I - and I've been at it for several decades. It's the work - and pleasure - of a lifetime. And nobody knows all there is to know about the violin. Several decades, dozens of book acquistions, endless talks with makers and other knowledgeable people, subscriptions to various trade publications later, I still know only a thimble full of what there is to know. It's endless - and it's endlessly fascinating. I'm still trying to learn how to play the violin, for that matter.

Where to start? Right here on, as you know, there's a category about the instrument itself. Then I'd also advise you to to read Strings magazine, and eventually,  The Strad . If you get really serious, there's, the Violin Society of America, which publishes an excellent journal once or twice a year. The book I'd recommend to start with is The Glory of the Violin by Joseph Wechsberg. Enjoy!

April 17, 2010 at 07:05 PM ·

I think one of the best things to do if you can, is not just read about violins but go and play violins.  See if violin shops/dealers will let you try violins. Listen to the dealer/your teacher play and play them yourself. Something to keep in mind that can make or break a violins potentials;

a) Strings

b) Bows

c) Rosin (so I have been told).

April 17, 2010 at 07:38 PM ·

Hi, I can just tell that if ever a student can afford a "professionnal" violin (approved as a "professionnal" violin by his teacher and maker as well...) Then, go for it since it's such a learning opportunity to work with a good violin for a student. It opens the door on an incredible "sound experience" and sound "world". 

 I hope players won't always think in terms of "categories" of instruments but simply get the best they can afford for themselves!    (but it's just my opinion)    But what exactly makes a "cheaper" or "better" instrument is surely many things! 


April 17, 2010 at 08:59 PM ·

Royce is right. I forgot to mention that I've also seen and tried innumerable violins, including some Strads. Amatis, del Gesus, etc. There's nothing like hands-on and ears-on experience.

Also the violin is only half of the story. The bow is the other half.

April 17, 2010 at 11:20 PM ·

See Smiley Hsu's thread of him in search of a bow in the archives.

April 18, 2010 at 04:43 AM ·

They're just labels. The instruments speak for themself.

April 20, 2010 at 06:02 PM ·

Thanks for the input. I currently play on a Yamaha V-5 which my teacher has said actually sounds better than his instrument. I found this curious since I am aware I play on an entry-level instrument.

Also thank you for the tips on where to find more info. I recently purchased The Art of Violin Making by Chris Johnson which has provided valuable insight on the violin's inner workings.

April 20, 2010 at 10:55 PM ·


In a rare moment of time, I thought I would interject my thoughts.  There is only good and bad sounding violins.  I've played a lot of crappy instruments in the 35,000 to 100,000 dollar range, so it's relative.  Even in the highest range possible, things vary.  Great instruments will not tolerate bad playing and can make you improve by highlighting which aspects of your playing need improvement.

Yes, the bow is important and is part of the equation.  The setup of the instrument also, in terms of strings, soundpost adjustment, and especially an adjustment suited to the instrument, not your playing.

Lastly and very important, how you play, and knowing how an instrument needs to be played factors in the equation.  You don't play a Strad like you do a Del Gésu.  Both are great, both need a different playing.  Now, you might feel more comfortable playing on one or the other, but that is a different story.

My own two cents having tried so many instruments of varying quality.

Best and Cheers!



April 21, 2010 at 12:58 AM ·

I really like David Beck's sense of humor... "the student is the one you own and the professional is the moe expensive one the dealer shows you but sounds worse". What a gem that is.

In my case, after starting out, it took a few years for my ears to know the difference. Early on I more or less stumbled upon a good German and another one made in Chicago, but I was just to STUPID to know what I had and ended up trading them. If I knew then what I know now....

But I believe that it's possible to find a pretty dog gone good fiddle without selling the farm, with a bit of a combination of luck and knowledge. I beleive I may have recently had that experience.

April 21, 2010 at 09:49 AM ·


But I believe that it's possible to find a pretty dog gone good fiddle without selling the farm, 

Smiley Hsu had a brilliant thread about a search for a violin. The one he bought was not the most expensive, and I don't think he had any regrets.

April 21, 2010 at 12:29 PM ·

Yes, I recently acquired The Art of Violin Making by Chris Johnson, myself, and it's excellent. It was recommended to me by a very fine violin maker - Ed Maday. But do also check out The Glory of the Violin by Joseph Wechsler as a basic overlall survey, which also deals with violin playing.

Re what a dealer sells you, I'm also reminded of this one: Joseph and George Panormo were English-born makers, sons of Italian-born, Vincenzo Panormo. So the saying goes among dealers "when I buy a Joseph Panormo I call it English (to try to get it at a better price); when I sell it, I call it Italian!

April 21, 2010 at 01:48 PM ·

 "No, I didn't SELL it to you - you BOUGHT it" is the dealer's defense if you go back and complain !

Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

As with bankers, dealers aren't all bad. But their activities are baffling to the uninitiated. A "better" instrument often sounds weird after the one you have been used to playing., but that doesn't mean just because a fiddle sounds weird you should buy it. Never be rushed into a decision !

April 21, 2010 at 01:58 PM ·

Much like bicycles, it's the person using it that makes it.  Lance Armstrong could still kick your butt on a 40lb Wal-Mart Huffy.  it's not the bike, it's the person.

 I recently talked to my favorite violinist Paul Dateh and he uses an RV5 by David Gage and a Coda Joule.  Not exactly a $20K violin and $10K bow, but plays AMAZINGLY and the overtones and overall sound is just amazing.  And that's on a recording, I can't imagine in person.

  So I think it's all down to the person.  My teacher played the same note as I did on my violin and it sounded amazing compared to mine.  Sometimes all it takes is an amazing player to play your fiddle for you to realize how good your instrument really is and an upgrade on ANYTHING isn't even close to being the best option.  Or not even that, something as simple as a role model of yours saying he plays professionally on a $1500 violin, really puts things into perspective.

April 21, 2010 at 10:06 PM ·

Good point. No violin plays itself. But obviously, no violinists plays w.o. an instrument. And some are more suitable than others. It's a symbiosis.

The late dealer, Jacques Francais, told a story of how one day, Perlman and Zuckerman came into his shop to try some fiddles. (Oh to have been a fly on that wall!) Each instrument that one liked, the other didn't. And clearly, each of these virtuosos was right for himself.

April 23, 2010 at 02:48 AM ·

 I think too many noobies and even experienced people get so carried away on the equipment when the equipment isn't even really an issue.

  I used to see it EVERY DAY working in a bike shop.  You have a guy who walks in and needs the latest and greatest.  Willing to spend literally $10K on a new bike when the one he has is no less capable.  And spending that $10K didn't make him any faster, or any better of a rider.  If he would just ride his bike, he would realize how great of a bike it is, and it's not what's holding him back and the new one isn't making him any faster or better.

  There definitely is a balance of skill and equipment where you can grow into your instrument, and by all means "lance armstrong can do better on better equipment", but in most cases, he can get by just as well on lower ended stuff, and save some dough while at it!

April 23, 2010 at 03:03 AM ·

This reminds me of a quote by legendary pianist Sviatoslav Richter on the documentary "The Enigma," which was filmed close to the end of his life.

At some point someone is showing him around this huge room full of grand pianos, apparently he was to choose one. The guide asked him "What do you require in a piano?" He seemed to chuckle and his answer was something like "I require a lot more from myself! But the necessary things, the piannissimo and the fortissimo, the Yamaha's have those." (I'm paraphrasing)

Of course, pianos are a whole different ballgame than fiddles.

April 23, 2010 at 03:12 AM ·

Again, it's both. Heifetz was once complimented on the sound of his violin after a concert. He put the case to his hear and said "I hear nothing". Yet he and every other violinist great, and not so great, have tried to procure the very best violin for themselves that they could - and rightly so.

The better you are, the more you can make the most out of the potentialities of a really fine violin and bow. And the better you are, the more it matters, and the more the right instrument can help you be all you can be. Highly-skilled pros know what they're doing, and can hear and feel a difference in sound and response. I heard Aaron Rosand demonstrate repeatedly in master classes, alternating on a  Poggi and on a del Gesu. There were specific and consistant differences in the resultant sounds filling the air. Hilary Hahn has a top notch Vuiliaume and still apparrently feels no need for a Strad or del Gesu. But I heard that in recording sessions (she obviously can't do this in live concert) she has sometimes used one bow for one phrase - or even part of a phrase - and another bow for another. These are subtle but palpable things that an artist will sense, that others might not.

This is not to say that the junkiest instrument is more than good enough for a beginner. Not so! But there should be a reasonable proportion.

April 23, 2010 at 04:23 AM ·

If you want to know the potential of your violin have your teacher play it!

April 23, 2010 at 05:45 AM ·

Yes, a poor workman will blame his tools. It's an infuriating but necessary experience when a superior player picks up your fiddle and makes it sound megabucks more expensive !

Avoid the "designer handbag" syndrome and concentrate on utility value and you save cash. Yet it can give a cosy sense of security if your violin cost a lot, is of a make endorsed by celebrities, and has a prestigious certificate of authenticity !

Only if your student violin is of the dreadful "exit" level described by Smiley is an upgrade a matter of urgency. More important is to persevere with your first instrument for long enough for your taste to develop - then make a change. Having a "go" on other folks' fiddles will not be particularly enlightening at first.

April 23, 2010 at 09:26 PM ·

Interesting analogy by Nate regarding the bikes.  I agree, there is no way I could beat Lance Armstrong in a race, no matter what bikes we use.  Actually, come to think of it, I could beat him if he had a Huffy and I had a Harley. :-)

In general I agree with the statement that it is not the violin but the violinist.  A top notch violinist can make just about any fiddle sound great.  And you could give an amateur any Strad or Del Gesu and they will still sound like an amateur.  It won't improve their intonation, that's for sure.  Itzhak Perlman switched from a Del Gesu to a Strad and frankly, he still sounds like Itzhak Perlman -- pretty darn nice either way.

That said however, I believe the violin can make a huge difference to the person playing it.  Whether you are a pro or an amateur, the right fiddle can make it much more enjoyable for you.  One could argue that a better fiddle can make you a better violinist if it motivates you to play more.  I know that after I upgraded my fiddle, I get more enjoyment out of practicing, therefore, I practice more, and (theoretically) I am a better violinist as a result.

April 23, 2010 at 10:48 PM ·

I agree with Smiley. If you like your fiddle, all is right with the world and you will practice more and be happy about it. If you know that you are playing at a skill level beyond what your instrument can provide, well, there's the rub.

I was out doing some busking a couple of months ago with my barcus berry acoustic/electric, met a fiddler better than me, she let me play hers, she looked at me point blank and said "that barcus berry does not do you justice man".  Well... I knew that, but her saying it was the breaking point for me. I knew then and there I had to get something better to play on...and I did.

April 24, 2010 at 12:43 PM ·

Just a small point of interest: for some rime Perlman has alternated between a del Gesu and a Strad. The point is still well-taken though.

April 24, 2010 at 01:07 PM ·

The Wednesday before last my teacher and I exchanged violins. I spent 45 minuets playing a Mantegazza  anno 1786, made in the demographics and period of the great violins. Yes there is a noticeable difference s one expects a fine Italian violin!  My teacher played my violin and I was quite impressed at just how well my personal violin sounded under his hands!  Mine is a Samuel Eastman that a Luthier reworked and renovated for his son before he sold it too me! My teachers personal violin that he usually uses (the 1786 Mantegazza is on loan to him from a patron & friend) and my violin are pretty much on par with sound, response, and playability and his is much more expensive than mine! He told me that to try to find a violin that would be better than the Eastman, I would be hard pressed! Trade it or sell it unless you want to buy a violin that is more of an investment to sell later for a profit yes!  Why pay several thousand dollars for something that will sound and play like what I already have?

When considering buying a violin, let the ears and the fingers tell you what to buy!

April 24, 2010 at 02:01 PM ·

Royce; I found your post very interesting because... after I got my Czech re-worked and sounding/playing pretty good, I ran into a Samuel Eastman at a different violin shop. I had not heard of an Eastman before but I suspected it was a "name" fiddle because the dealer said "here, try this Eastman" This particular Eastman was tagged at $2500.00. It sounded good, I was tempted. But I wouldn't say the sound was significantly better, just different. Pro's & Cons between the two. And I thought the playability on the Czech might be a tad easier so I didn't go for it. Of course I would have taken a hit on the trade.

I totally agree with your statement "let your ears and fingers govern your buying decisions" But for those of us who don't have a name fiddle the temptation can be very strong.

I may have to take a closer look at this Eastman... or not....

April 24, 2010 at 02:10 PM ·

     Hi Dave- Dr. Fadial made the comment too me, that he has heard several Eastman's and that they did not come close to the one that I have. 1) These better factory handmade are rather hit and miss. 2) As I said, a Luthier really put some work into it for his son which still intrigues me? He reworked the thickness of both upper and lower halves, bass bar, finish, etc. Set it up! And as I said, my teacher and both agree that it plays and sounds very, very close to par with his! Mom paid $1,025 for mine, but that is with case and shoulder rest also.

     Also, my former teacher, Dr. Pinel (our v.commie Anne Horvath went to school with he and his wife Naomi) made the comment, "that is realy a nice violin. It plays and sounds very well", several times.

April 24, 2010 at 05:07 PM ·

Thanks for the further input Royce, makes me feel a bit better. But wow, that was a lot of work on your Eastman, both halves...bass bar... sounds like you got one heck of a deal at $ 1025.00!

Just for fun I'm gonna run down there now, confirm the price tag was $2500.00 (cuz I'm not sure about that) and have another quick run on it. Back in about 45 min.

April 24, 2010 at 06:12 PM ·

I'm back. I gave the dealer my Czech and  a 1000 bucks & brought the Eastman home. ...just kidding, thankfully I didn't have to. The Eastman was tagged at 2150 not 2500. Although it was pretty decent and had more volume, I thought my Czech was sweeter and played easier.

So I had to sit down and have a litle talk with her (my fiddle that is) told her I was sorry for doubting her and that I would try and be more faithful in the future. I think we're ok now.

April 24, 2010 at 06:17 PM ·

I saw a Czech violin on eBay, near the price Mom payed for the Eastman, a copy of an Amati! Looked good! Would have loved to have played it.

Anyway, it just goes to show the value of playing the instrument before committing to a purchase! Sounds like you got a winner! May she give you much pleasurable playing moments!

April 25, 2010 at 01:53 AM ·

 Yeah, looking back, my message it looks as if I gave the impression that the instrument doesn't amtter at all, and the player could siffice.  Which is mainly what I meant, but not wholly.  I wholly agree that an experienced fiddle player will definitely be able to appreciate the minor differences as well as further excel.


  It's brought back to cycling again.  Sure the pro will definitely see the advantages of the better bike, as well as be able to take advantage of those minor differences, but the top spec isn't necessarily necessary.  He could very well exceed on the lower end, and like stated above, it's an infuriating experience to see somebody show you up on your own equipment, but is definitely a "necessary evil" to be experienced.  Which leads me to this video which many of you have probably already seen):

  I'm 10000000% positive he could do that on ANY bicycle (much like I can do many of the things in that video on any bike, but it's MUCH easier on a bike designed for that type of riding), but he can do it on the bike he has better, if not easier.  Which is much like instrument playing is.  Learning a skill, and getting to a point where an upgrade is feasible, but necessary isn't always the case.  It's realizing when that point is TRULY necessary, and not just a desire for something new.

April 25, 2010 at 11:54 AM ·

It's realizing when that point is TRULY necessary, and not just a desire for something new.

Good point!!!!!!

April 25, 2010 at 01:28 PM ·

I think there is an industry standard with three divisions:  student, "step-up" and professional which is based on price.  Like any product, the more you pay the better quality materials and workmanship.  So there is an intermediate level, the step-up instrument.  I inquired about this before and found no professional standards regarding the costs of instruments in the categories.  It's pretty much a factor of the seller, if I understand correctly.  While there are general trends, it's pretty subjective. 

So what we came up with is the following, but this is just within the context of the instruments we sell, and does not include contemporary or antique instruments of high value. :

The notion of "professional" instruments is subject to wide interpretation.  Professionals who teach and are good freelancers can be content with an instrument in the 2-5K range.  Players who have well-paying orchestra jobs can use that level of instrument but would probably go higher.  And of course players who have international recording careers and solo contracts will want something in the 20K level and much above that. 

In other words, it really is very subjective, with many instances of players who have instruments which are not what one would expect and do not fit into the categories at all.  But in general, I think the least costly instrument a student can start on, which has any trade-in value and is playable, has to be around $180, and the professional instruments probably start at 1.2K, at minimum and go up substantially from there.  The "step-up" is somewhere in between those two categories.

Interesting question.

Postscript:  Regarding bows, a very fine violin teacher told me a number of years ago that professional bows start at $1,000.  While there are a lot of decent bows less costly than that (particularly the Dörfler, which is my favorite), that 1K range to start is pretty accurate, I believe.

April 25, 2010 at 06:47 PM ·

A 845$ violin for a pro???   I have honnestly never seen an instrument suited for a professionnal at this price... (but one learns things everyday! Did you ever see a pro violin at this price?) 


April 25, 2010 at 06:51 PM ·

Anne-Marie, please see paragraph:

The notion of "professional" instruments is subject to wide interpretation.  Professionals who teach and are good freelancers can be content with an instrument in the 2-5K range.  Players who have well-paying orchestra jobs can use that level of instrument but would probably go higher.  And of course players who have international recording careers and solo contracts will want something in the 20K level and much above that.

The $845 "Master Level" is, as I indicate, categorized within the context of what we sell. I never indicated that the price point was appropriate for a high level professional person -- quite the contrary.    All of this is in my writing if you look at it.


April 25, 2010 at 07:42 PM ·

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

...but that doesn't seem to be true for violins, I suppose.

But how should a dealer advertise a 180$ VSO?

"Made of quick-dried soft wood, thick and shiny varnish, fingerboard and pegs are dyed black. Outfitted with steel wires in four different gauges. Thinny sound, comes with a matching bow and plastic case. Perfect for students."

No, no, no. It's always better to express things in a nice way, even if it's not exactly what comes to mind...

April 25, 2010 at 07:49 PM ·

I agree with you (re:  VSO), but there is an element of social snobbery here:  only those students who can afford a $500 violin (say) may be allowed to start their study of the instrument?  In that case, many of my students, whose grandparents are migrant farm workers, would never have been able to start their study of the instrument.  Some are in university now, and would not have gotten in without this affordable beginning. Even $180 is for some of these families a huge sacrifice, not to mention private lessons and books.

If a family can afford a good instrument I am happy for them, but if they can't, I don't think the child should be prevented from studying.  You also should have had the opportunity to examine the $180 instrument before you judge.  Because of economic conditions in China, these are pretty high quality instruments for the price, the bow is decent and the case is also pretty nice.  Not as good as something higher priced, but not junk, either.

Further, both locally and online, we offer a trade-in policy which allows the student to upgrade in either size or quality, with, locally, 100% credit toward the new instrument.  That doesn't result in a lot of financial gain on our end, but it does result in a lot of happy children and proud parents, and that makes it more than worthwhile to me. There is a market for these types of instruments, and a purpose and place for them in the scheme of things. My recommendation is not to be so judgmental until you know the whole story.

April 25, 2010 at 08:38 PM ·

Connie I didn't say you told this be sure! I just questionned myself about if really a 850$ violin can be called professionnal. Of course I had read the rest of the post.  I was asking a real curiosity question about this category. Not telling that you have told this. I know this is surely some price ranges you found somewhere and has nothing to do with what you think or not. 

Perhaps these who did these categories had a really broad definition of "professional instrument" I agree!


This is like the debate "when is someone a  violin teacher"  Some will say that someone who has studied violin for 5 years is ok while others will tell they would never give their kids to someone that hasn't musical university training and music experience. 

Tobias how true!!!

April 25, 2010 at 09:12 PM ·

Hi Connie,

I can agree to most of what you wrote. But there is a limit, where a cheap fiddle only leads to disappointment and it would be better not to waste the money at all. BTW, I don't judge, I just have my experience. I'm a professional teacher since many years and know instruments and dealers of many kinds.

I have nothing against a fine chinese 180$ Violin, if its ok. I just don't like the categories in the market. Cheap fiddles are not perfect for students, they are a compromise. And a 1k (and even 5k) fiddle is no professional or master level instrument. Yes, you can make money even with a VSO, but the whole thing is simply misleading. Here in Germany you don't need to even think of bringing a 5k fiddle when you begin your studies at the academy of music. This would be considered a beginners instrument. Yes, this may look snobby, but this is where the pros learn their profession.

As a teacher I have to explain the differences between VSOs and Violins above 10k, so the student and the parents now what they can expect on the long run. Those dealer descriptions make it sometimes hard to explain.

Don't take me wrong - most of my students have fiddles worth between 500 and 1k. But they know the difference.

April 25, 2010 at 09:41 PM ·

I just wish there was more support of sincere students whose parents are of modest and fixed incomes to get decent instruments that they can own! KVOD FM radio station in Colorado has mentioned taking donations of instruments for students in the past and I applaud them!

April 25, 2010 at 10:14 PM ·

Another issue is, is it really appropriate to start a four-year-old out with a $500 instrument?  I really don't think so.  I think the $180.00 1/16, 1/8, 1/10 and 1/4th is fine, if it sounds decent and has trade-in value.  Even if dad can afford a $500 instrument, i don't think it's appropriate. 

April 25, 2010 at 11:47 PM ·

Wow, you take a break for 24 hrs. and look what happens! As previously mentioned on this site, I seem to have been stuck in the $1200.00 to $1500.00 range all my life. And also as previously mentioned, I'm quite happy with my current fiddle, but still...there seems to be some things that I ask it to do which it has difficulty complying with.

One has to be wary of using that as a cop-out as per Nate's posts (the poor workman blames his tools) but still I yearn for a violin that could take everything I can dish out and more.

Fortunately, I have not yet sold my soul to the devil for a really good fiddle, although I think he's made the proposition a few times. Of course I could blow my life savings, but that would only get me something around 8k....been semi-seriously thinking about that lately.

Just wondering if there's anybody else out there in my violin price category who feels the same way about these magical, mystical instruments?

April 26, 2010 at 01:26 AM ·

Hi, it's me again. Just got back from an hour practice...had to appologize to my violin...yet again. Some of those problems I was talking about.....just realized  HAD MY BOW WOUND A LITTLE TOO TIGHT the past few days.

I'm such a whiner (should be slapped) any takers?

April 27, 2010 at 05:36 AM ·

On this topic all I have to say is I played a hundred year old violin of a man retired from a lifetime of playing in orchestras had - and compared to my $1000.00 price tag rental - it was night and day.. BUT get this... a friend gives me a 30 year old LARK ( junk china thing right? ) which needed a repair and I had it fixed.

It feels and plays like that 100 year old Awesome violin Old Uncle Henry played (his had ivory in the pegs anyways.. my fretboard IS painted black... and you know what ?? I can play the heck out of that thing and it looks nice, sounds warm, and feels like butter in my hands... that $1000 rental I feel was junk and my cheap imported violin... is a master piece!

(Something tells me though a LARK bought new today wouldn't be the same by a long I feel very very lucky).

April 28, 2010 at 01:38 AM ·

 I still don't buy into a "professional needs a $5k+ instrument, minimum".  I feel like I'm promoting this guy but seriously, Paul Dateh plays AMAZINGLY on a $1500 Gauge 5-string and a Joule bow, as well as some other violins of comparable price.  Are you telling me that his violin is holding him back????  I think not.  


  I agree that at some point, your violin may in fact hold you back (who would play on a VSO at a pro level?), but I think that severely tapers as you get over the $1K mark as evidenced by him.  I think the allure of having an instrument that costs more than most peoples cars is the more attractive part and lets you wholly and completely lay your mind to rest and be at ease in knowing you have a mature, aged, well known luthier made violin. And like much of the rest of the audio world, it seems price has a HUGE impact on it's performance...whether it be real or not, many people will believe it to be.

April 28, 2010 at 04:51 AM ·

 Lolz! I'm a fan of Paul Dateh on Youtube. 


At a certain point, the prices become completely arbitrary, but even within each price bracket of <$1000, <$5000, $10000+ the instruments are priced seemingly randomly. Students violins usually sound "tinny", but at least they sound the same kind of tinny. Professional violins have different colors and textures to the sound, and at some point you stop trading up and start trading sideways, which sucks because you have to wonder what you're actually paying for, which I often wonder if luthier can explain when it gets to that. 


(At least violins bows aren't so aloof and secretive when in comes to their value). =/



April 28, 2010 at 12:14 PM ·

>>   I still don't buy into a "professional needs a $5k+ instrument, minimum".

I agree;  certainly there are plenty of exceptions to this general rule.  That's why I added:

In other words, it really is very subjective, with many instances of players who have instruments which are not what one would expect and do not fit into the categories at all. 

I played a turn-of-the-century (circa 1890) German bench made violin, for years, an Ergot Thoma valued at, at best, around $1,200.  I think in the film "Art of the Violin" it was mentioned that a very eminent violinist played a not-so-expensive violin;  was it Francescatti?


April 28, 2010 at 07:15 PM ·

Well, this topic has certainly helped with my violin neurosis. I'm feeling much better now.

April 29, 2010 at 04:13 AM ·

I love my cheap Scotti but if I made more money I would buy an Italian high end. I feel sorry for them because it is hard to compete with the chinese prices. 60 cents per hour is good pay in china but not in USA, Italy....

April 29, 2010 at 04:24 AM ·

I thought I was feeling better until Andrew only had to mention "Italian high end". Looks like the neurosis is back.

August 12, 2010 at 07:57 AM ·

 A professional violin is tax-deductable.

August 12, 2010 at 08:13 AM ·

Student violin is for beginers, which is a must because is it hard to hear. When someone can best play the student violin, he must be good at a professional one, too~~

Student violin is machine vanished~ or even worse some fingerboard are not abony~Sure there is big gap of the material between a student violin and professional one. The price range is also beyond imagination~~

August 12, 2010 at 09:26 AM ·

 Aria your use of the English language is so cute, please post some more.

August 13, 2010 at 09:40 AM ·

Hi Jason

I too, have a LARK violin, which I found in my grandfather's storeroom. It was played by my uncle when he was a boy more than 40 years ago (he is in his mid fifties now). He probably received it as a hand-me-down gift from the violin teacher in church. It was probably made-in-China in the 1940s or 1950s before the communists took over.

How do I know that? Well, it's because the serial number inside the LARK is No. 005, and the Chinese words were printed in Traditional Chinese script. Nowadays, mainland China only uses Simplified Chinese script.

So, the violin itself may even be about 60 years old.

Anyway, I agree with you that the old LARK amazingly sounds better. After I brought it to a luthier for a proper set-up, put on some new Vision strings, and a newly shaved bridge, its sound has so much character that it is passable as a so-called "professional grade" violin.

Good to know that someone in the world also has an old LARK that sounds great! haha

Happy fiddling!


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