Looking for a modern violin...

January 25, 2011 at 07:51 PM ·

I am looking to buy a violin. I have tried about 20 instruments in the past year and a half, and I have liked all of them, but not enough. Before I make a choice, I do want to look at modern violins, so I started searching.

During a viola sectional rehearsal, I came to like the sectional leader's viola. In fact, I thought it was the best viola I had heard in person. I found out it was made by Anton Krutz, out of Kansas City. I did some research, and I found out he was one of the best makers in the country, and that his instruments are liked by most.

I told my violin teachers about this guy, and they were both worried. They told me that modern instruments were choices that one must be careful of. They said that some modern makers like to cheat, and make the wood very thin to start out with, and that 10 to 20 years down the line, the violin could loose its good sound, and therefore its value. They said that a good instrument should gain its good sound over time, and if you get an older violin, the value won't decrease. I do trust my teachers, because they are both more than qualified, but I still want to look at modern violins, especially Anton Krutz violins.


 

What do you guys think?

 

Replies (39)

January 25, 2011 at 08:09 PM ·

If it sounds and plays good, buy it.  If thin tops are such a problem, then just get a luthier to look at it, and if the top is too thin, give it a pass.

January 25, 2011 at 08:21 PM ·

Any older  instrument may have been thru repairs or modifications, which could have included someone thining out the front and/or back. So same "issue" can apply. I think best advice would be to try many violins, decide which you like based on sound/price.  If at all possible identify an impartial 3rd party luthier/expert to assess your choice. Pay the person some reasonable amount for their time to further ensure some impartiality and thoroughness. Teachers and other trainied and experienced in music performance, etc,  are wonderful people, provide solid contributions to society, and are good at finding sonic characteristics of an instrument, but usually don't understand the physics and construction of the violin. That isn't what they studied at music school, and isn't what they do every day.

January 25, 2011 at 08:30 PM ·

Here are some other opinions to weigh along with those of your teachers:

In a 1991 New York Times article, Jaime Laredo says,  "I've been shocked when students have asked my opinion of old Italian or French fiddles that cost $50,000 to $60,000. Often, they're just pieces of junk." Isaac Stern, in the same article states, "If musicians can't spend at least $250,000 on a stringed instrument, they'd do better with a fine new one, provided they take the time to test it under battle conditions in a good concert hall."

In an interview published in the FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE on 1/30/87, Henryk Szeryng says:
"What are the problems concerning antique violins? I have talked at length with experts. The result is extremely simple. The material seasons and ages. With time the wood becomes more venerable... but ultimately ... too old. It does not exactly decay, but certainly does not improve, and loses elasticity. I mostly play one of my two modern violins. With all due respect, we must not forget that the finest classical violins are at least 250 years old. I am an incurable optimist, but I'm convinced that the Stradivaris, the Guarneris, the Amatis, the Grancinos, the Ruggeris, the Gaglianos and the Stainers will not be "playable" much longer unless they are completely restored. This then gives rise to the problem of whether such an instrument can still be considered antique and original or whether instead it is the restorer who has bestowed upon that violin its balanced timbre and sonorousness, rather than the violinmaker who made it. Consequently, the question arises of whether it is not more practical to resort from the beginning to a new instrument."

January 25, 2011 at 08:40 PM ·

 > the violin could loose its good sound, and therefore its value. 

Well, there's your warning flag right there. They might be misinformed...a violin's sound does not have anything to do with it's value! On the market dominated by dealers, an instrument's value is determined by its condition and provenance.

Obviously, this leads to issues in establishing pricing when one group of people (players) desire an instrument because of it's functionality (sound), and another (investors) desire an instrument because of it's antique significance (investment value over time).

Find a modern instrument that sounds good, plays well, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Let your ears and fingers (and your colleagues) be the guide, and do not be swayed by a name, age, or appearances. Make as many comparisons as you are able, and get a good idea of what is out there.

January 25, 2011 at 09:20 PM ·

I agree with above input.  Keep in mind, too, that the way you play on an instrument is going to seep into the wood over time.  One of Laurie's blogs quoted a Russian-born violinist -- I forget his name and the blog date -- as saying that a lot of Strads don't sound good.

I play on three European-made instruments, built between 1869 and 1921.  Even though each one had, at first, a more closed-up, nasal sound than I would have liked, I could hear the potential right away.  As I expected, they opened up soon enough -- not overnight -- and surpassed my expectations.

Definitely do some in-home tryouts and take plenty of time to compare.  Try out the fiddles in the rooms and recital halls where you normally practice and play.  Compare acoustics.  Try different string combinations and different instrument/bow combinations.

Continuing from Gene's point: Play on these fiddles for several different experienced players -- across the room.  Have them play on them, too, while you listen.  I know -- all this takes time.  But it's more than worth the time.

I have to plead ignorance on the subject of Anton Krutz.  Still, what you said about your viola section leader's instrument strikes a chord with me.  I had a similar feeling about my first teacher's instrument.  But the teacher herself had a lot to do with the end result.

The same is undoubtedly true of your section leader.  As I'm sure you've heard, the same instrument will have a different value in different hands.  As former CSO co-concertmaster Sam Magad said of the Strad, "I've never known one to play itself."

January 25, 2011 at 09:51 PM ·

The music world is full of profesional musicians -  and soloists-  playing in great orchestras with modern instruments, you just have to choose  the maker well; Your teachers should have shared that with you as well...

January 25, 2011 at 09:55 PM ·

Regarding the plate thicknesses, they can easily be checked with one of these.  Any decent luthier will have one and will be able to tell within 1-2 minutes whether the instrument is "healthy."  I tried Krutz when I was searching for a fiddle last year, and he does some nice work.  But, if I recall, his bench instruments are $10K and up.  If you are looking in that price range, there are many other makers you should consider as well.

January 25, 2011 at 10:59 PM ·

We always hear these stories about overthinned instruments that sound good in the beggining and then "die" in some years... 

Well, as a maker and player I can say that you can spot overthinned instruments from the very beggining by playing fff near the bridge (the instrument will choke), playing in high positions on the G string (7th position), you will have a bad sound in this area if the plates are overthinned. These problems will show up when the instrument is brand new, you don't need to wait years to discover that.

www.manfio.com

January 25, 2011 at 11:54 PM ·

I do appreciate the input from everyone. 

@ Gene: While there may be many misinformed teachers, I highly doubt my teacher is one of them. He is an old Hungarian violinist, and has played on probably hundreds of instruments. He himself has a Guarnerius. I trust him in the realm of teaching, and the realm of buying. If a normal violin looses its sound, it looses its value.

@Luis: Wow, thanks for the tip. When I visit Anton Krutz' shop, I will be sure to try those tests. Do overthinned instruments have a general value range? Rather, do violins 20K and up generally tend to not be overthinned?

January 26, 2011 at 12:27 AM ·

Thomas, the idea of what is an "overthinned" instrument may be highly controversial.  Many Stradivari tops are on the thin side (sometimes 1.8 mm thick in the table, as mentioned in Sacconi's "I Segreti di Stradivari") but the instrument is sounding good because sound is linked also to other aspects such as archings, model, neck angle, string choice, set up, etc.

What I was pointing out is that when you have a violin with overthinned plates you will notice that when the instrument is brand new,  the problem will not appear years ahead.

There is no difference in price for overthinned instruments, as far as I know, mainly because sound is considered "subjective" by the market.

Sometimes the problem behind a "dead" instrument is in the set up, it just needs a new post or a new bridge, or even just new strings...  I am surprised how many pro players can bear playing with old strings. 

It may be also that the player's idea about what good sound is has changed and now he considers his instrument "bad and dead", but its problems were there from the very beggining and were not spoted by the player in that time.

In many cases a student will discover that his violin is not sounding good in the 7th position of the G string when he starts studying virtuose pieces and then he will say "this instrument was good when I got it but now it is sounding bad"; but the truth is that  instrument is the same, just his needs and tastes have changed. 

www.manfio.com 

January 26, 2011 at 06:43 AM ·

There are a lot of  older threads here on violinist.com about  old  versus new violins that you may want to read.

When it comes to buying older violins there are a lot of pitfalls and I'm sure there are a number of readers on this site who ended up with "Italian " violins that turned out to be German workshop instruments with a false label ( I owned one of those once) . 

Or a violinist I know spent his savings on an Italian violin his teacher sold him which turned out to be a composite violin (the top was not original). This was in the early seventies and he could easily have bought a JB Vuilleaume for that amount then  but he ended up with  a  violin that is worth very little.

I bought a French workshop cello from around 1900 for my daughter at the advice of her teacher which had an excellent tone and huge sound. It was owned by a known viola teacher. The instrument was pricey but not too expensive as it had had a double soundpost crack in the top that was repaired.  Nevertheless it  opened up at the seams and the site of the crack so a bigger patch was put in .The seams kept opening up and eventually the instrument was pronounced unrepairable as the only option left was too expensive to consider ( reworking the whole top). I don't think either my daughter's teacher or the seller knew that this would happen.

Many people have been very happy with instruments they bought from their teachers or at their teachers' advice I' m sure but older violins are a very tricky business and it requires a great deal of expertise. When you buy check with a good dealer. 

A good older instrument will likely appreciate over time but I'm  not holding my breath. The same was always said about antiques but suddenly the antique market took a huge hit in the 80s and so far it has never recovered. The best antique pieces are still very expensive and likely the top violins  will continue to appreciate.

 

 

 

January 26, 2011 at 01:08 PM ·

Yes, the "horror" stories with old instruments are many, mainly when envolving sales envolving other musicians.  The market is very dynamic, a certificate that wall "hot"  30 years ago may have no value in today's market, for instance.

So, if you are buying  an expensive instrument, I think that a reputable dealer is the best thing to look for. You can ask for a "condition report" and everything about the instrument will be informed to you.

Dealers can also be a good place to see contemporary instruments too.

As far as appreciation is concerned, what is the current value of computers, cars, eletronics, cameras etc. we have got in the last 20 years? Near zero...

www.manfio.com

January 26, 2011 at 03:16 PM ·

Thomas,

I have an AK Viola. Here's the most recent video I've recorded with it, it's an audition for a festival orchestra:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7muuzrn0I_A

I'm sending you this link because the video is "unlisted" which means you can't find it by searching. However, if you go to my youtube channel: www.youtube.com/manutabora, you will see some other videos I've made with that viola.

Since I've had that viola, I must say I have not heard any other viola that I thought was objectively better than mine. I've heard instruments that sound different, but I've never thought "I wish my viola sounded like that." I really like this instrument and I feel fortunate to have found it.

I also used to have a violin made by Anton and it was also outstanding. Recently I've come in contact with more and more violinists who use his instruments. My teacher here at the university also plays on one of his violins. She is a seasoned player who has concertized and taught extensively throughout Europe and now is making her career in America, so I think she knows a thing or two about chosing an instrument.

I would say it would be definitely worth it for you to visit the shop. It is a pretty large shop and they always have quite a selection of instruments, and there will usually be at least 4 of Anton's violins that you can try. The staff of the shop is very helpful and they will let you try anything they have if you ask.

In short, I highly recommend KC Strings, Anton Krutz and his instruments.

January 26, 2011 at 03:23 PM ·

Also, I realize that the videos won't really tell you much about the sound that my viola produces live (how big the sound really is, etc.) But at least you might get an idea of the tone and it's character, clarity, response, etc.

And also, forgive the ineptitude of the operator... This video is meant for you to evaluate the equipment...

January 26, 2011 at 07:00 PM ·

Luis wrote:  "As far as appreciation is concerned, what is the current value of computers, cars, eletronics, cameras etc. we have got in the last 20 years? Near zero..."

Which sort of puts violins into two classes: ones that are 'consumables' they serve their function and then they wear out; and others that are 'investments'; they are bought at a price and then steadily increase in value (up to a point, we hear).  The trick of course, is to buy one at the former prices but have it join the latter class :)

Secretly we all hope and wish that we own an 'investment' so that we can either sell it a a handsome profit when we ourselves wear out (or our heirs can) or sell it to move up to a finer instrument.  For the sake of it, (and obviously this is very, very fuzzy but still an interesting academic exercise and maybe a ball park guide for the shopper), what is the price (or range) below which most violins are consumables and above which most are investments?

 

 

January 26, 2011 at 08:05 PM ·

I think you can see instruments in 3 classes:

1 - AS A TOOL. You need an instrument to make an audition, to play in an orchestra or chamber group; as a taxi driver needs a car you need a violin. In this case sound and playability are your main concerns, you are not interested about making  schools, origin, who made the instrument,  appreciation, etc. In this case, if you are a good musician with trained ears you will be able to find a good instrument/tool  that will not cost you a lot. I know many soloists who got instruments as tools of their trade and are concertizing with 15K dollars violins, and they produce a huge and beautifull tone on them. I see the instruments I make as tools.

2 - AS AN ART OBJECT. In this case you will want to know who made the instrument, how good is the model,  the varnish, if the instrument has a personality in its own, etc. In this case sound and playability will not be a concern, mainly for collectors. I've heard in Cremona many times "make a beautifull instrument, if it sounds good, it will be a bonus to the player"... ... These instruments may appreciate depending on how much you have paid for it. If you get a violin from a good dealer for 100K don't expect to sell it in the next year for this same price to another dealer...

3 - AS BOTH: TOOL AND ART OBJECT: Here we have the great instruments, old and contemporary.  They are outstanting in sound, playability and look, and you will have to have deep pockets to get one of them. Here we have Amatis, Del Gesùs, Stradivaris, etc. Again, they may appreciate in your hands depending on how much you have paid for them and how the market is in the moment of the sale. Selling an instrument (even an Strad) is not an easy thing, that's why we have violin dealers. 

Investing in violins is like investing in the art market. Van Gogh sold just one of his oils during his whole life...   His brother Theo tried in vain to sell Vincent's oils...   Back in the 80's we could get a Poggi violin for the price of the air ticket Sao Paulo/Roma...  ... we considered it very expensive...   Well, now this air ticket costs 1K and a Poggi violin 100K...  Poggi was a fantastic maker and almost everyone in the market knew his violins would skyrocket in prices. 

You asked "what is the price (or range) below which most violins are consumables and above which most are investments?"  Well, that's difficult to answer, think about Van Gogh's sole sale in his whole life. 

www.manfio.com

January 27, 2011 at 01:43 AM ·

I talked to my teacher again about it, and he said to make sure and take it to a dealer. He is not against contemporary makers (he has a modern American violin in addition to his primary instrument), he just thinks that sometimes, you have to tread carefully. He bought his violin in the early 50's, so he says it was a different market back then.

January 27, 2011 at 02:01 AM ·

Thomas, my teacher (from Europe but made career in the Montreal symphony and have played a full range of violins from students and collegues) though like your teachers.  That old was better...

until I bought my violin (made in Montreal in 2007) and she ran to get herself one identical to mine that she now uses all the time.  She use it as her main instrument and has left her old English violin behind (from the 1700's) even if that old english violin is way more expensive.  She tells that her new 2008 violin plays better than some ultra expensive violins of collegues she tried.  She loves it.  

I think young people can show nice things th their teachers too ; )  Perhaps you will surprise your teacher with an extraordinairy modern instrument.  (of course by a good maker that isn't a fool and is reknowned to do good long lasting instruments...)

Good luck!!!  Shoping violins is always exciting...

January 27, 2011 at 03:08 AM ·

^Thank you!

I am sure he will appreciate Anton Krutz' instrument if all of the good things I hear about him are true; it may  be hard to top my teacher's Guarnerius though.

January 28, 2011 at 03:29 AM ·

 Gene wrote:

Well, there's your warning flag right there. They might be misinformed...a violin's sound does not have anything to do with it's value! On the market dominated by dealers, an instrument's value is determined by its condition and provenance.

Well...  As an appraiser & dealer, I'm having a bit of trouble with a couple things about the statement above.

First: There may sometimes (I'd even consider often) be a disconnect in terms of value and sound of a specific instrument or group of instruments, but that doesn't mean there is always a disconnect...  or that sound "doesn't have anything to do with value". Certain maker's instruments gain popularity based on their potential for sound (famous, or not so famous, players who used instruments by a specific maker, many players agreeing that the character of sound a specific type of instrument offers is what they want, etc.) as well as other factors (beauty/example, origin, workmanship, specific provenance, condition)...  I agree that it's the combination of the market factors that propels the prices of some of the great old instruments.

In truth, the reputation of a contemporary maker's work is built/maintained in a similar manner. They just lack centuries long history, and of course, death (they just keep makin' more of those darn things).  

Appraisal is a look at the present and the past...  a true appraisal is not a look to the future... That's speculation.

Second: I'm not so sure about the ultimate dominance of the market pricing by dealers.  In truth, many dealers attempt to control (dampen) rapid rises in value as often as they promote them. I'm not sure how effective, long term, either effort really is. In the market, the demand of the customers (players, collectors, etc.) has the strongest, long lasting impact on value.  If you doubt me, check the record setting auction sales of a number of notable instruments and bows: The recent Strad sale at Tarisio, the Montagnana at Bonhams last year, recent auction sales of Vuillaume instruments, Sartory bows, etc.  These records there are not being set by dealers, but by players (For example; a well known player bought the Strad and another the Montagnana.  One of these musician/buyers is quoted speaking to new/old instruments earlier in this thread).

Concerning new instruments vs older ones by "dead guys".  I don't think there's much of an argument that there are many fine contemporary instruments that can hold their own in performance.  Some do so by competing well (very far) above their price range...  so if a player has 30 to 40K or so to spend, and doesn't consider contemporary violins... I think they are missing out on some very viable, probably wise, choices.  That's not to say that there aren't some nice older instruments available in that range as well... especially if one is not set on the maker's name ending in a vowel.

Musicians are well divided on the new vs. old thing, I think. Again, I bet it depends a good deal on which old instrument we're talking about... and which player.  Some players much prefer older instruments.  Some do very well with contemporary ones... and prefer them. Probably good to pay attention to both points of view.

Also, I think it's important to note that, for those who have their heart set on owning a great old instrument, the motivations are very different from those who don't have their heart set on one.

That's it for me.

Cheers!

Jeffrey

 

 

January 28, 2011 at 11:16 AM ·

I looked for 2.5 years for a violin. I wanted an old Mirecourt. I was willing to pay a certain price. But, I played scads of them before it hit me. I don't like Mirecourts. They are overpriced. You are not just paying for the name and sound, but mostly for the fact that it's an antique, that's its "old". So, I started checking out old Italian violins. Same situationn but even more expensive. Then, one day it hit me. Why not try "modern" violins? Oddly enough, I liked them all! So, I went from not buying a violin because I couldn't find one I liked, to not being able to buy a violin because I like them all! I finally settled on my baby: a 1949 Max & Roger Millant. I never thought I'd have a modern violin but I'm a true believer today. I'm this violins 2nd owner. I'm making a "Life Story" for this violin. It will follow this violin through it's existance. In 200 years they will know where it's been and who did what with it. I wish I could be around to see it!

January 28, 2011 at 12:10 PM ·

You may know that Millan wrote a book about violin making, I have it, in French. A quite good maker.

www.manfio.com

January 28, 2011 at 01:39 PM ·

If a maker doesn't rush a new violin out the door, there may be no need for a new soundpost for many years. Most of the dimensional changes requiring a new soundpost can be made to take place within the first month, by fitting a succession of longer posts. It's more work, and payment is delayed, but my view is that it's something a client shouldn't need to deal with. This will also result in an instrument with a more stable sound. Big changes in sound are another thing that I don't think a client should need to deal with.

I also don't think that deposits are something that need to be avoided, as long as the maker has a policy of refunding them for almost any reason at any time. If someone is willing to send a deposit, that can help makers differentiate between those who are serious, and those who aren't, and help in making decisions about what to work on next. Where caution is advised, I think, is with makers who keep the deposit if you decide not to purchase the instrument, or who will only refund the deposit when the instrument that you decide not to purchase is finally purchased by someone else.

If one isn't willing to put up some token "earnest money", the fact is that one will automatically be crossing many of the better makers off the list of candidates. There's some competition for these instruments, so if a maker has a deposit from some people and not from others, guess what's likely to be a priority? 

Maybe that sounds horrible, but let's look at it from a musician's perspective: Let's say you are offered two equally paying wedding gigs on the same day, and one is willing to put up a deposit, and the other isn't. Which gig seems to make more sense?

January 28, 2011 at 02:22 PM ·

 wow, i did not know some makers will start working on a commission project with no money down from the client.  that is incredible.  that is good will mountain but not necessarily common sense let alone good business practice:)

imagine a maker spending his resources to get 5 projects like that going and for some reason all 5 clients later back out,,,sure he still has the 5 violins but cash flow will be affected.

what if a client puts down a deposit in good faith and then the violin turns out to have a sound quality that the client just cannot happily accept.  how to work out something like that?

 

January 28, 2011 at 02:33 PM ·

I can't speak for other makers, but I'll normally have a refund check in their mailbox within a week of the instrument being returned. Same thing if they just change their mind, and ask for a refund before the instrument is completed, or even started.

Beyond that, there's a "soft" representation that I'll buy an instrument back after much longer periods, if it hasn't been damaged. The reason that I call it "soft" is that it's not contractual, and depends on my having the money available. For instance, I couldn't do it if several people came at me at the same time (which hasn't happened yet). There was one guy a number of years ago who decided he wanted to return a violin about 6 months or a year after purchase. No problem. And I bought one of my instruments from a Detroit Symphony musician who had been using it for several years, for the initial purchase price. I can't remember the situation exactly, it involved some kind of financial mess, like a divorce.

January 28, 2011 at 02:37 PM ·

If a maker doesn't rush a new violin out the door, there may be no need for a new soundpost for many years. Most of the dimensional changes requiring a new soundpost can be made to take place within the first month, by fitting a succession of longer posts. It's more work, and payment is delayed, but my view is that it's something a client shouldn't need to deal with. This will also result in an instrument with a more stable sound. Big changes in sound are another thing that I don't think a client should need to deal with.

I agree with David, and most makers I work with have the similar views.

I think it should be noted that ANY instrument has the potential to go out of adjustment or suffer some change when moved to a new environment...  not just new ones.  Older instruments, newly repaired or recently set up can suffer from the same thing... It's a minor problem, really, as long as the instrument is well made and (in the case of older ones) properly repaired and not rushed out the shop door.  Even less of a problem if the player is careful to control the environment in which the instrument is kept.

 

January 28, 2011 at 02:46 PM ·

Luis, no I didn't know that. I hope you can read in French! I will have to look that up. Thanks!

January 28, 2011 at 03:05 PM ·

Yes, I can read in French, the book is this one:

Manuel pratique de lutherie
par Roger et Max Millant. Fabrication des cordes harmoniques / par Charles Maillot.

January 28, 2011 at 10:59 PM ·

 > Well...  As an appraiser & dealer, I'm having a bit of trouble with
> a couple things about the statement above.

In the shops I have dealt with in the USA (California, Illinois, and New York) and France (Paris), the primary valuation of any instrument has always been its condition and provenance, despite the fact that as a player the sound is a really important factor to me.

Perhaps you can enlighten us: as an appraiser and dealer then, by what objective standards do you measure the components of the sound that individual violins produce that factor into the valuation of an instrument?

Maybe it's just some confusion in how we deal with the terminology...a certain group of instruments by a maker or shop that has a long established *reputation* for producing violins with good sound is really not an attribute we identify with the sound it produces, but rather with the provenance (documented origin and history) of the instrument that establishes its identity with its high-quality peers that also have a reputation of excellent sound.

January 29, 2011 at 01:23 AM ·

Jeffrey wrote:
"I agree with David, and most makers I work with have the similar views."

Jeffrey has some really good stuff from top makers in from time to time. I don't exactly understand how he pulls it off, but I'll guess that it's "personal relationship" based. Haven't caught him going for money over quality yet. Some makers will offer huge margins to dealers to sell their products, and others don't need to, but a few wind up with selected dealers anyway.

Another person who does this is Ralph Rabin in Wisconsin.

January 29, 2011 at 08:10 AM ·

 In the shops I have dealt with in the USA (California, Illinois, and New York) and France (Paris), the primary valuation of any instrument has always been its condition and provenance, despite the fact that as a player the sound is a really important factor to me.

Perhaps you can enlighten us: as an appraiser and dealer then, by what objective standards do you measure the components of the sound that individual violins produce that factor into the valuation of an instrument?

Maybe it's just some confusion in how we deal with the terminology...a certain group of instruments by a maker or shop that has a long established *reputation* for producing violins with good sound is really not an attribute we identify with the sound it produces, but rather with the provenance (documented origin and history) of the instrument that establishes its identity with its high-quality peers that also have a reputation of excellent sound.

Hi Gene;

I believe I did a sufficient job pointing out the problems I was having with this portion of your initial statement. You wrote that "a violin's sound does not have anything to do with it's value" and I mentioned that although there certainly can be a disconnect, that I didn't agree and included my reasoning.  

Maybe there is a problem in semantics, but in an effort to prevent us from getting further lost in them, let me explain that the word "anything" was a significant cause for my reaction. If you wish to consider the attributes of an instrument within the category of provenance, that's fine... but discography and performance is included in that category for many important instruments... so I don't think this supports your initial statement. 

Reputation is a factor that can be applied to any instrument, instrument maker, or group of instruments of any age, and is a driving factor of demand, so I suppose one could consider it a "historical" factor.  I tend to think of it as a separate consideration/category, however.

That covers appraisal, I think.  

Personally, as a dealer, I try and purchase or choose to represent instruments or bow I like in terms of workmanship as well as sound while making sense within the system of valuation.  Of course, if I were selecting an instrument for myself, my taste might not be yours, but I think it's probable that I like the sound of a wider variety of instruments than most single players... in great part because I've developed a sense of which client, group of clients, or type of player may enjoy the sound of an instrument I'm considering.

Cheers!

Jeffrey

 

 

 

January 29, 2011 at 08:24 AM ·

Jeffrey, it's actually great to know that there are appraisers and dealers who do take sound into account as all the ones I've bought/sold from pretty much didn't want to talk about it when considering the cost of an instrument. Part of the reason that I encourage my students to find contemporary instruments rather than older ones is to avoid the issues that arise because of antique value, and focus solely on the quality of construction, playability and sound (the "tool" aspect of the violin).

However, since we'd all agree that there is a wide range of tonal properties that would be considered desirable by an equally wide range of clientele, the question I still have (and hope others can answer as well) is: if sound is a factor in the cost of a violin, by what objective standards does a dealer/appraiser measure the components of the sound that individual violins produce that factor into the valuation of an instrument?

It's probably different for every person, no?

January 29, 2011 at 09:07 AM ·

 if sound is a factor in the cost of a violin, by what objective standards does a dealer/appraiser measure the components of the sound that individual violins produce that factor into the valuation of an instrument?

 

It's probably different for every person, no?

Ahhh...  Here we go.  I think I may understand the semantic problem.

Although many dealers are, or must act as, appraisers, correctly approached, "dealing" and "appraising" are definitely different functions, have different rules, and therefore a dealer who is appraising must wear a different "hat".

An "appraisal" requires knowledge of the item being appraised, consideration of relative "quality", consideration of provenance, determination of condition, the use of market data and objectivity or the disclosure of any conflicts to that objectivity.  The connection with sound is mostly within the provenance, and in some cases consideration may be included for current sonic reputation.... though that really falls back to provenance anyway (ie: The Soil sounds wonderful, most will agree it does, the way Perlman handles it and it's exposure through his ownership has something to do with the first two statements.. and most know it sounded wonderful when Menuhin owned it as well).

As a dealer, appeal of the piece (in terms of how it sounds, or it's potential for sound) is an important factor when considering the acquisition or acceptance to represent the piece... and ultimately may factor into the pricing of it. How much the appeal (in terms of sound or performance quality) enters into the decision to take on the piece varies greatly (judgement, taste, shop size-larger shops need many instruments-, etc).  The pricing of the instrument should be supportable by appraisal (though sometimes I think things get pushed about a bit), and speaking for myself, to take the instrument on, I have to feel the potential of the sound makes sense within the price range. I don't think I'm alone in this, but I don't think all dealerships weigh appeal in the same way.

Antique value: Yes.  Certainly a factor that effects valuation for many older instruments...  though some it seems to have significantly less of an effect and condition can be a major leveling issue. I think it's important to note that, as I mentioned earlier, contemporary instruments are "valued" in much the same way as older instruments. There can be similar disconnects with these as well.

Make sense?

Jeffrey

 

 

January 29, 2011 at 09:39 AM ·

I will just comment that I've seen dealers look briefly over an old instrument (say 200 years +) and appear to not want to even hear it, and then say that they are not interested in buying it. No sums were even mentioned.

Seems strange that?

January 29, 2011 at 09:44 AM ·

Peter, that doesn't sound strange at all. I saw that quite often during my 2.5 year search for a violin. I spent a lot of time on Rue de Rome in Paris. Dealers would come in with sacks of old violins. Some of them looked very nice, but didn't even get more than a glance and certainly were not played. Not one was played in fact, ever. The ones that were kept were kept for reasons that apparently had nothing to do with how they sounded. The ones that were kept were kept for what I must assume are their lineage and then after, their general condition.

January 29, 2011 at 02:16 PM ·

 When I was at Bein and Fushi, several time I commented to Bob Bein on what a dog some violin appeared to be, and he would make comments like "that one won't last a week before it's sold," and turn out to be right. He was often right on about the tonal characteristics they'd have, too. I asked him what he was doing, and he said that arching and a few other things were huge clues to if a violin would work, and though he couldn't predict who would like which violin, he could predict which ones no one would probably ever like. 

When I went to my first auction, quite a bit later, I immediately understood. I passed by 80% of the violins right away, without even picking them up to look at them. His advice on that was one of the things that contributed to me wanting to learing everything I could about arching when I started making violins.

Bearing in mind that auctions are often dealers' dumping grounds for things they can't sell, as can be the kinds of wholesale transactions Lisa witnessed, the percentage of obvious duds can be very high at such events, and experienced dealers will recognize them right away, just as they can violins with no inherent value--the stuff in the cheap junk category. Violins which are good quality instruments, with good tonal potential, stand out in such a situation, if one knows what one is looking for.

And to be fair, dealers can be wrong, in both directions. I have seen a few violins that constantly make a circle around directly among dealers because everyone recognizes that they should work great. . . . but they don't. Everyone makes his attempt at bringing something out, then easily passes the trash to the next dealer to try, because these violins really do look like they're going to be good ones.

A dealer's job, though, is to play the percentages, not to be right every single time. No one can afford to be constantly wrong, so they learn what will work and what won't, in general. The problem is very different from being a player trying to pick one violin, once. Fortuantely, every violinist doesn't want the same violin, even though in general they like the same things, so there's quite a wide range of violins that will find happy homes, once the right person comes along, one who's personal playing style and taste fits that particular violin. That's why you can't price by tone: every person is different as is every violin, and what matters is how they fit together. Pricing by tone would be like pricing keys by how pretty they are: when you go to the locksmith, you need one that fits your lock, not the one the locksmith himself decides he likes the best.

In pricing, from the dealer's AND buyer's standpoint, makers who consistently make better violins are more valuable makers because they're reliable. Don't think of this as just a manipulative dealer thing, either: how many time do you see players on THIS board asking for opinions about specific makers' instruments, or recommendations of makers to buy from. This is because players recognize this concept of value as well. That's the concept of pricing that Jeffrey was talking about: when every player in the world dreams about owning a Strad and a Tourte, Strads and Tourtes, even the ones that are less desirable as player's tools, become very expensive because of the status they represent to players and audiences. But this is a direct result of the quality of those tools ON AVERAGE, not from some imaginary quality they hold.

January 29, 2011 at 02:31 PM ·

In a way, playing the violin is like public speaking.

A person’s voice should support what they are trying to say.

Public speakers have the advantage of not having to ask, “Will my voice go up in value?”

In fact, they do not choose their natural voice at all.

But some people are very effective with a voice that is rather unusual.

Find your voice, and then obtain a violin that participates in what you want to express with it.

 


January 30, 2011 at 06:21 AM ·

 > I have to feel the potential of the sound makes sense
> within the price range.

I'm going to have every single one of them come here and read these exact words you have written. :)

January 30, 2011 at 02:35 PM ·

@Michael Darnton  "makers who consistently make better violins are more valuable makers because they're reliable"

That's an important point – consistency. I know of a fairly prolific violin maker who is self-taught. He mentions this on his website. Some of his output is reasonable, but not, I would say outstanding and unlikely to be attractive to a professional or good amateur as a main instrument; others that I've heard, including one I tried out of curiosity, sadly, are dogs. His output is therefore inconsistent and I would suspect this arises from the fact that he is self-taught and hasn't had the benefit of rigorous training at college.

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