How are David Burgess instruments?

April 26, 2010 at 11:00 PM ·

I'm in search for a new violin.


How are David Burgess instrument? 

anybody have his instrument? 


if comparing,

Joseph Curtin, Greg Alf, and David Burgess, who has the best violin making reputation?

Replies (30)

April 26, 2010 at 11:26 PM ·



My Burgess fiddle has been a source of joy every day since I purchased it in 1988.

(And dealing with David is a pleasure...)

All the best,


April 27, 2010 at 01:26 AM ·

I've never played on, but I know he's an excellent maker by reputation. I had a friend who played one of his instruments and was very pleased with it.

April 27, 2010 at 01:34 AM ·

After playing so many moderns in the last four years, I can tell you that David Burgess is in a small and very elite group of makers. He makes a fiddle that can easily be used in recitals and in solo situations. His fiddle is easy to play, and he is a very consitent maker.  And a heck of a great guy!


As for reputation: when I have done recording work in London I have found that he is one of the most well known and most respected makers that we have in the U.S. The same has been true when I have talked to other players here about fiddles, that is, everyone thinks really highly of David Burgess. In my mind, when it is all said and done, he will go down as one of the great makers of our time.


As for Curtin: I think everything I just said applies to Joseph Curtin as well. 

April 27, 2010 at 03:05 AM ·

I have played instruments by both makers and preferred Burgess's.  It had a lot of edge and apparent carrying power.   I wound up buying an instrument by a younger maker whose violin had a very similar quality of tone.  The two Alfs I have tried have been less to my taste.  I emphasize "taste."  Yours may differ.  : - )

April 27, 2010 at 12:45 PM ·

The only one I've gotten acquainted with was great. His reputation is well earned, IMHO.

But is that the question you want to be asking?  I'd be asking, "Is this the instrument for me?  Does it draw me out, and pull me toward being a better player.  Can I make it sound like I want it to; does it have the range and coloration and response I want?"  

Every violin and player is different.  I'd think you'd want an instrument that, first and foremost, fits you.

April 27, 2010 at 12:52 PM ·

 Haven't owned nor even heard a violin by David Burgess. But if his fiddles are half as good as he is as a person, they worth the money.

April 27, 2010 at 03:23 PM ·

I have never played on a Burgess instrument I have a lovely Newton that I'm quite pleased with at present.  If I were to consider another viola, however, this would be the only place I would go.  Why?  1) David's reputation as a quality luthier is well known, 2) He's not that far from me and I think you really need to build a relationship with your luthier so do you really want to have them on the other side of the planet? 3) Ethics is VERY important to me and from what I know of him, if he makes an instrument for you,....YOU alone will be the recipient of the instrument, 4) He is kind enough to answer all my stupid questions despite the fact that I am simply a student and not a professional musician, 5) His instruments, although quite a committed investment, are not obscenely priced and quite within the reach of most dedicated musicians, 6) He has humility.

My 2 cents


April 27, 2010 at 03:32 PM ·

"6) He has humility."

WHAT??? :)

the guy won violin making competition medals again and again until they kicked him out of the competition to make a judge.  what a show-off! :)

6)  He has humor.   i think david is really quite funny, and one has to be pretty smart to be funny like that.   i appreciate successful people who at the same time can see lighter side of things.


April 27, 2010 at 03:36 PM ·


Well just because you win competitions doesn't mean you don't have humility.  It's not your fault if your product is so good!  I don't know him well enough to have experienced his sense of humour so I'll take your word for it.  I do agree, however, a sense of humour is a wonderful thing to have.

April 27, 2010 at 03:43 PM ·

to play around with humility, humidity comes to mind.

david's understanding about humidity (see his website) probably has saved quite a few violins from developing cracks due to dry weather.

April 27, 2010 at 05:06 PM ·

I always enjoy his posts here! And as Al said David has won many, many, awards plus the satisfied customers for a very good reason! I have yet to hear or read anywhere on the net negative regarding his instruments!  and if you want a bow that complaments, I have heard many mention Josh Henry who posts here also! Josh is a great guy also and from what i have read and heard is top notch as a bow maker!!!!!

April 27, 2010 at 07:32 PM ·

I tried and played one of his viola 2 years ago when I was in MA,( Johnson string)  just utterly beautiful! I wish I have the money though.

April 30, 2010 at 02:03 AM ·

May 1, 2010 at 12:21 AM ·

Gosh guys, I got caught up in some other stuff for a few days, and missed the melee. LOL

Thanks for the compliments.  If I pray enough, stuff seems to fall together, for reasons I don't exactly understand. But if something works, I'll try to keep doing it, and analyze it later. ;-)

I really appreciate the support though. One of the benefits of what I do is that I've gotten to meet some really neat people, including here on the forum. My best to all of you.

May 24, 2010 at 12:26 PM ·

The three makers you mentioned are at the top of their profession, both in terms of the playing qualities of their instruments and the esteem in which they are held.  You can't make a horse race out of a question like this so I think it's misguided to expect a comparative ranking of the three.  Because of their reputations these maker's instruments sell at premium prices.  Many other contemporary American makers are producing very fine instruments, some of which may be available for a fraction of the cost.  In the end, if you are looking for an instrument to play, you need to assess each particular instrument on it's own merits.  Good luck.


May 25, 2010 at 08:42 PM ·

Dear Raphael,

my Burgess violin is from 2007. As I lived in Montreal about 25 years ago, I had great interest in violin makers' work, of course old masters. As I realised chances to possess one day a violin from an old great master were very thin  I turned to modern makers. At that time I was about 15 years old and  David Burgess was running an add in The Strad magazine. I called him up and he sent me a violin to try at home for a week. I was very impressed at his work, craftmanship and sound. I didn't have the money to buy this violin but I took a few fotos from it and thought if I ever needed a violin from a modern maker David could be the one I would call.

From there I came to Europe where I had the privilege to play on great instruments from old masters for a few years. 5 years ago I decided to shop for a new instruments. While Burgess was the first name on my list I took the time to visit a few other  makers of good reputation.

In 2005  David had shown me 4 of his violins and I decided to take one over with me. I knew that the instrument was great but I also knew that he could make something  closer to my needs. After making 4 more violins he contacted me and I flew over to try them. One of them got my attention and we went to compare both of them in a hall. I had a recorder with me and got the whole session on digital recorder.  At one point I could produce a sound with the newest instrument which really captivated my ear. Both instruments were very good, they had different qualities but when I listen today at the recording, both violins are very, very good.

I had the chance to play a lot of concerts with it, Orchestra, chamber music. I have colleagues playing beautiful instruments and at no time has my Burgess violin shown less sound quality or lack of power in comparison with the other instruments: I can just make music in the best conditions possible.

The quality of David's work proves itself each day to be of the best quality possible and after playing alot of concerts with it (about 250), it still looks new (with a few scratches that is).

Another thing is that David is truly a great person. He is simply very competent at what he does. The way I get along with a violin maker is as important as the quality of his work.

So the only thing left for me to say is that you should go and meet him at his workshop and see for yourself,

I hope this was useful and hi David and Mike!

June 16, 2010 at 11:01 AM ·

Wow, maybe I should have a customer appreciation sale!

How about this? Half off on rosin. (Oh that's right, I don't sell rosin.)

At the very least, I should apologize for all the terrible things I've said about all of you. LOL

Seriously, thanks folks. What's evident here is that I have some wonderful friends and customers.

And hi, Francis. Sorry for not catching your post a couple of weeks ago... didn't mean to ignore you.

July 3, 2010 at 12:44 AM ·

That's a nice looking photo--reminds me of the Messiah Strad.

July 8, 2010 at 02:35 AM ·

I've owned three Burgess instruments: two violins and one viola. They are truly great instruments with a very unique voice - brilliant, deep, complex, and with a pleasant "edge," sort of like young cabernet sauvignon that will no doubt get even better with age. All of the personal audio and video clips I uploaded to this website (and YouTube) were done on a Burgess violin. Another advantage of owning a Burgess instrument: say you're teaching a student who hasn't practiced or playing with people who don't know their parts, you can always ignore them and admire the super fine craftsmanship of the instrument instead. His instruments are art objects.

June 27, 2013 at 04:10 PM · What is the price of David Burgess violins?

June 27, 2013 at 06:32 PM · Email him and ask! As you can see, he's a pretty down to earth, accessible guy, not to mention a great violin maker

June 27, 2013 at 10:34 PM · I thought he made his violins using handymans power tools?

Straight face.

June 28, 2013 at 08:26 AM · No Sharelle, that's how he demonstrates their fine sound!

June 29, 2013 at 12:38 AM · Sharelle and Millie, I'm close to coming out with my next "Torturing A Violin With A Sawzall" (reciprocating saw) video, but in the meantime, if you haven't already seen the "Carving a violin with a chainsaw" video from my friend and colleague, Peter Goodfellow, it's well worth taking a few minutes to watch.

Video address:

You might get a kick out of reading the comments posted beneath the video too. :-)

June 29, 2013 at 09:55 AM · Do you know Jordi Sawzall? Maybe you could work together with him!

June 30, 2013 at 01:15 AM · Jedi Sawzall?

July 1, 2013 at 07:13 PM · I played 2 Burgess' in my search for an instrument, and they were among the most remarkable contemporaries I have tried. Brilliant, rich, even, and powerful. Also extremely beautiful wood, varnish, and craftsmanship!

For pricing and info, David is easy to contact...

August 6, 2013 at 02:11 PM · I often tell people at VSA meetings to go to the Contemporary Makers exhibit and examine the Burgess violin or viola. There, you will see what craftsmanship really is.

Mike Molnar

August 7, 2013 at 03:05 AM · Wow, that YouTube video was kind of funny until he pulled out the axe at the end, and held up the 'finished plate'. Then I just burst out laughing.

August 7, 2013 at 03:10 AM · I have a David Burgess viola on trial. I preferred it in many ways to a Vuillaume I also was trying.

Very well built, nice gold ornamentation a on the pegs, and in general very nice sounding!

David will undoubtedly turn up here, he ses to lurk around this forum.

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