Please help me finding a new violin!!!

February 7, 2011 at 03:41 PM ·

 Hello everyone,

I'm looking for a new violin and I have a budget at around $80,000.

I'm thinking of buying some modern italian. What would you suggest?

Or should I find another contemporary violin and then a good bow?

Do you guys think that  sound of modern violin like Cappicioni or a bit older like Bisiach are better than makers' nowadays? or it's just the market that kick the price?


Replies (25)

February 7, 2011 at 08:51 PM ·

You can find some very decent modern Italians at that price. Cappichioni might be pushing it, but Bisiach's (depending on the example) I think are certainly in that price range. Also, Pistucchi, maybe Postiglione, and maybe some Antoniazzi's. They tend to be decent investments as well. For much less than 80,000, you could get a great contemporary instrument from Greg Alf, Joseph Curtin or Terry Borman that probably outplays most modern Italians.

I would recommend splitting some of that money up to buy a great bow as well. It will make all the difference when you combine a great bow with a great fiddle.

February 8, 2011 at 01:17 AM ·

Sorry that you've gone almost a day without more responses. Perhaps it's that there has been a lot of recent activity on the topic, and people are just getting burned out on responding. At one time, your question would have generated a rabid thread.

There is a group of violinists who have done the most exhaustive search of violins I've ever heard of, and there were a number of threads about this. The one below doesn't go into as much detail as some of the others I remember, and they eventually tried many more instruments (including everything they were hoping to try, I believe), and eventually involved more musicians, but this thread is all I could come up with right now.

February 8, 2011 at 02:14 AM ·

Be aware that some successful makers don't need to sell through dealers, so one may not find many of them there. If a maker already has plenty of business, what is to be gained from turning it into a 15 year waiting list by selling through every dealer who is interested, other than an ego trip for the maker?

At the same time, there are great makers who haven't wound up in ideal marketing positions, and it's not from lack of making skill or talent. On the one extreme, our business has people who are pretty aggressive about marketing, like trying to set up appointments with every soloist who comes to town, or who are what we jokingly call "stage door" makers. At the other extreme, we have  people who just want to focus on their craft, and about the least appealing thing they can think of is working on their web site, or hustling players. Some people just want to go into their shop every day and make great violins.

February 8, 2011 at 03:03 AM ·

"An important question in order to give good advice would be whether or not you want to make an investment as well as find a great instrument or just find a great sounding instrument. "

While 80K is certainly not chump change, I don't know that it is enough to get an investment grade instrument.  If I were buying as an investment, I would spend upwards of $150 K.  Then you can consider makers like Vuillaume, Gagliano, Scarampella, etc.  But then, that is a pretty expensive item to carry around to chamber rehearsals, orthestra, recitals, etc.  I personally would not want the responsibility of caring for such a valuable instrument.

There are great contemporary makers in the $10-40K price range, but above $40K is kind of a no mans land (with the exception of Zyg which runs about $50K).  In the $40-80K price range, there are older Italian fiddles, but they won't be able to compete with the contemporary makers in sound or playability. 


February 8, 2011 at 04:23 AM ·

here, here, David Burgass. it is difficult to stay on top of the marketing aspect when we are craftsmen not sales men. but in this world (as well as Strad's world) we end up being forced into being the sales man (or women) as well.

February 9, 2011 at 04:11 AM ·

So , if we consider sound and playability, new violin nowadays are superior out of the shop compare to the a hundred years old violin?

I forgot to mention that now I'm using a considerably top contemporary violin price around $25,000 and would like to upgrade for a better instrument.

Then I have no need to upgrade if I have only that budget as I won't find something that is much better?

February 9, 2011 at 05:00 AM ·

I don't know how anybody can know anything about this without putting in the time and trying stuff out as well as researching. I mean, really. You don't have the time to figure out how to spend $80,000 wisely?!!!!


Fools are easily parted with their money, I fear...

February 9, 2011 at 02:24 PM ·

"Then I have no need to upgrade if I have only that budget as I won't find something that is much better?"

Yup.  Now you're getting the idea.  There is little correlation between sound and price.  Just because a violin is 80K isn't going to make it sound or play any better than your current 25K violin.  In fact, I will go out on a limb and make a bold claim here.  I think you can get a better violin for LESS than 25K.  It's just a matter of shopping around.  Once you get above 10K, you are looking at professional grade instruments, and then it all comes down to personal preference.

Final point.  I recently tried an older Italian fiddle, priced at $200K; I won't mention the maker.  The sound was nothing compared to my contemporary Italian (made in 2002), and priced under $15K.  Of course, my fiddle was hand picked after trying over 100 instruments.  The point is, price is irrelevant.  You just have to shop around.


February 9, 2011 at 02:31 PM ·

although having a good violin is important it only helps a small %age to the sound you make compared with what the violinist can do with her/his technique and style of playing.

I have a £200 or $300 violin but the sound it makes when played by my teachers is amazing. I also in my modest way can play fairly well. If you are very rich then do get a more expensive violin but don't go spending 1000s as it will not make much difference to most ears!!!!!!

February 9, 2011 at 03:34 PM ·

Jamshid makes a good point which I partially agree with.  But there is at least one pair of ears that will notice a BIG difference when changing violins -- your own.  Having a great fiddle makes playing a lot more enjoyable, even if the audience cannot hear a big difference, you will.

February 9, 2011 at 04:07 PM ·

 Thank you for your comments,

I didn't have much chance to play modern instruments much. But I have play a very good Sannino, Fagnola, Vuilluame, and the better one like a Guadagnini and Strads, and all of them blow my fiddle away to somewhere. Not just the volume but varieties of tone and the timber of sound. So I expect the modern violins to share the same characteristics. If someone have the updated pricelist of makers, new or old, please post it here or PM me. I would be very grateful.

To Bill Platt,

I don't know what you want from posting that. I do research and I am researching. Starting this thread to get members' thoughts and idea. Most of you have more experience and more chance to try the good instruments than me who have to fly half of the world to buy a violin. The violin by each maker price is related directly to how the player feel about the violin and I'm finding for the one that will work , not only sound but the value in the future. If asking question like this sound silly then ....

by the way, do you think your comment gives any helps to me and others who may looking for the more creative answer?

February 9, 2011 at 05:27 PM ·

"I forgot to mention that now I'm using a considerably top contemporary violin price around $25,000 and would like to upgrade for a better instrument.  Then I have no need to upgrade if I have only that budget as I won't find something that is much better?"

Nobody can answer that without hearing or playing your current violin. Have you played other violins up to $80,000 which you like considerably better than yours? If not, might as well save your money.

New violins in the $25,000 range are all over the map, both in sound and workmanship. I've heard them lined up on a stage over and over, and probably played hundreds myself. It's possible that you will find a different 25K fiddle which blows your 25K fiddle away.

Take a Violin Society of America instrument making competition, for example. There may be 250  violins from individual makers, but only a handful of them will win major awards for tone. The same kind of thing happens at the other major competitions.

It's a mistake to stereotype the sound of either new or old instruments, except that in general, it's probably true to say that one will need to spend a lot more money to get equivalent sound in an old instrument, if one shops around sufficiently amongst the new.

You seem to be struggling for more specific input, so here's a list of Violin Society of America Competition past winners. Sorry, it only goes up through 2004, and it also doesn't list the makers who won what is called "a certificate of merit" for tone. These can be very good sounding instruments too.

February 9, 2011 at 11:16 PM ·

Hello, Thaneadpol:

Judging from your name, i assumed you are Thai, a suspicion confirmed when i clicked on your profile and observed that your teacher is Ajarn Sittichai. Have you asked him for assistance with this matter? You could do worse, of course, than to merely clone his violin. Heheh...

Seriously, though, 80000 dollars is a lot of money, especially here in Thailand, and as some of the other respondents have tried to point out, there's no guarantee an 80000 dollar fiddle will outperform your current one. I understand that you are bewildered by the vast variety of options available, and there are so many possible opinions on the subject. From my perspective, though, and from the research i've done lately (admittedly, without the option of actually being able to try out the instruments first-hand) you'd be better off hedging your bets by getting a Howard Needham, a David Burgess [who despite his helpful posts is too consumate a professional to plug his own products forcefully enough], a Martin Swan as a good inexpensive back-up, a fine bow, and STILL then have money left over from your 80000 bucks. Well, that's my own c. 0.6 baht (2 cents) of advice. Feel free to accept it or ignore it as you wish. Also feel free to e-mail me or telephone [080-308-8197] if you wish to discuss things further.

Sincere regards, Colin R. Wrubleski

[principal viola, Thailand Phil]    



February 9, 2011 at 11:42 PM ·

 I've played $500 violins that outplay $20,000 violins. Price means little in terms of tone.

Ignore the price tags. Play everything. It helps if you can have several to try in your own home (with the same strings, etc.) to make a rigourous tonal comparison.

February 10, 2011 at 01:14 AM ·

I don't really think that a "rigorous tonal comparison" is useful for someone with a budget to pretty much buy anything. I'd say to try violins out until you get what you want, be it $80 or the $80K. So what if it's actually the strings? If he wanted to guard against this possibility then after finding the violin he could, as a sanity check, put the same brand of strings on his violin and try it out before buying, but I'd guess any violinist that has played for a while is already playing with a set-up on his violin which makes the most out of it.

Edit: Have you tried different bows with your current violin? They can make a world of difference. They are also much cheaper than a new violin, and if what you don't like about your current violin is actually due to the bow, it is unlikely that other violins, cheap or expensive, are going to change it by much.

February 10, 2011 at 01:22 AM ·

Hi Thaneadpol,

Sorry if I came across so snarky. It seemed such a preposterous question, "no time to try them all--got $80, what do I buy--help!"

Ok Ok so you are doing the research (and I mean other than reading a bunch of weirdo internet people).

Basically there are as many ways to get ripped off in this business as there are violins in the firmament. As the price goes up, so too does the rip-off quotient.

February 10, 2011 at 01:46 AM ·

Ah, you're in Thailand. There's a rumor in our business that a lot of mediocre and sub-par stuff gets dumped in Asian and "emerging market" countries. From my experiences on a recent trip to China, I think this may be true.

If I were in your shoes, I'd spend $3000 to travel around central Europe or the US, try many violins in this highly competitive market, and probably come out ahead, compared to what you can do locally.

I'm using some American dialect in my posts, so if clarification is needed, please let me know.

February 10, 2011 at 03:17 AM ·

 David, what I'm saying here is: There are violins at very high prices that have a tone worth only a small fraction of that price.

You need to have the violins in a familiar environment (like your home) and account for differences that may be due to other factors (e.g. strings (say Pirazzi vs Dominant)).

February 10, 2011 at 03:53 AM ·

"David, what I'm saying here is: There are violins at very high prices that have a tone worth only a small fraction of that price."

Agreed, Jennifer.

For 1000 bucks, you might get a really great quartet to play at your wedding, or you might get a nightmare. Buyer beware, and do your homework.

I chose a high trumpet player for mine, recommended by musicians I trusted. Still, l needed to hear him first. That part turned out great. The organist didn't turn out to be up to the same level (auditioned as well), but hey, I tried. Performance anxiety maybe, or perhaps it's because he wasn't playing on his own instrument (he owned a pipe organ, with his house built around it, including a tower for the biggie pipes). Or maybe I got sucked in a little by the "personal pipe organ" thing, kind of like what may happen in a fancy violin showroom. LOL

February 10, 2011 at 05:27 AM ·

Congratulations , David B. on your wedding! Perhaps if you had had the wedding at the organist's house...??

And to my mind, there are not many things more fun to do than to go out with 80K to pick a violin.

February 10, 2011 at 05:36 AM ·


Point taken.  I have some money on the sidelines and considered investing in a fine instrument, but decided that there are other investments that are less risky, and more liquid.  For violins $100K and up, I would expect it could take a couple of years to sell it.  On top of that, there are all kinds of other worries such as insurance, damage to the instrument, if it develops a crack, or if it is a fake.  Unless you really know what you are doing, I think fine instruments are risky as investments.  If you are a violinist, and just want a great instrument, it doesn't make a lot of sense to spend more than $40K.  I am no expert, but my understanding is that violins above $100K might appreciate enough to make them worthwhile investments, but below that, it is a crap shoot; especially for anyone that is not in the business.

At any rate, I'm not disagreeing with you.  There are some terrific instruments in the $50-$80K price range, but IMO you don't need to spend that much if you are primarily interested in sound and playability. 

February 10, 2011 at 06:11 AM ·

Smiley, I understand your point as I believed that too in the past , but now, I'm not quite sure. I want to know whether the good selected 80k is worthy to be an investment ,or not.

David, your rumour is right, I don't ever think of buying the violin in Thailand. Here, Pedrazzini can go as high as 120k and the sartory can go as far as 40k. So, buying here in Thailand is somewhat silly.

I bought my current violin from Beares a few years ago. Sadly, the relatively soft varnish on the violin is not suit the very hot climate and show a lot of crackle and so some more problems that decrease the playability and sound quality .I think of going back to have it restore with Peter but I just don't have that much time to stay in London as I have work to do , and having the violin restore by someone else than the living maker is somehow not a good idea.  So, the another route is trade-in for the more suitable violin, and I found that older violin tolerates climate changes more than the newer ones (?).  I'm going to London this May for nearly a week to try as much as I can.  As I don't have much time, I need to cut off the choice. Trying a hundred violins in a few day is terrible as I don't have enough time for each of them to even warm up.

February 10, 2011 at 09:22 AM ·

Personal pipe organ.  Let's stop and think a moment about the potential of this situation...

I can see how you could be persueded by the mere fact that one owns one's own pipe organ.

February 10, 2011 at 02:55 PM ·

Oh, the things I regret writing the next day!

Actually, I only wrote the first sentence of that post, and that's really all I wanted to say. My computer has the advanced "auto-complete" feature, and it wrote the rest by itself.....

Emily, you bad girl!

February 10, 2011 at 05:11 PM ·

I would definetively not buy and old instrument if what you are looking for is just  the best sounding violin. I´ve tried in the last years many old - and not so old - italians like Capriccioni , Bisiach, Degani, Pollastri, Gada, Scarampella, Garimberti,...and most of the times the sound doesn´t match the price. In my opinion a good modern violin by a reputated maker would be a better choice just from the player´s point of view. And with 85k you could even buy two of them !, besides a great bow...


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