New violin (projects very well) vs. Older violin (mellower)

June 20, 2011 at 07:58 PM ·


I'm searching for a violin for my daughter (advancing student) as she is ready move to full size.  After trying everything under 10K at a local luthier (must have tried 40+ violins) and trying 3 violins for home trials, we are tryingto decide between two violins.

Violin #1 is a new (never played) violin made in 2010 by Wei Yang (2006 VSA mentionee for merit for tone for his VIOLA).   This violin has great projection and teacher agrees it's a good violin, but she says that it will work great for pieces like Pagannini Concerto which my daughter is working on now, but will be less suitable for a piece like Sebelius which will require a sweeter sound.   I wonder if this new violin will become mellower over time?  Will different strings like Obligatos help?  It currently has Dominants A, D, G and Gold lable E.  FYI, the price tag is 6K.

Violin #2 is a 1927(?) Henrich Roth (German workshop violin).  It sounds definitely mellower and my daughter was immediately drawn to it because it sounded so different than others.  It definitely does not project as well.  Also, we now both think, it's not just mellow, but maybe a little dull.  Teacher has not heard this violin yet.  price tag is 7.5K which I understand may be on the higher side for a Roth.

We will get teacher's opinion in a couple of days, but I wanted the violinist community's opinion.

I think there was a question in there somewhere...

Thanks in advance.

Replies (24)

June 20, 2011 at 10:10 PM ·

I don't think it is an old vs new problem, more a problem that mellower instruments generally do not project as well as brighter ones.  A brighter instrument generates more high frequencies, and those high frequencies tend to project.  Every fiddle is unique.  You can spend months (years?) searching for the best compromise between sound, playability, appearance, price, projection, etc.  In the end, it comes down to personal preference. 

When searching for a fiddle, it helps to prioritize what is important to you.  If you plan to solo with orchestras, then you might choose a brighter instrument that projects, over one that is mellower and more pleasant under ear.  On the other hand, if you are playing for personal pleasure, and mostly play in small chamber groups, you might be willing to sacrifice a little projection for a more pleasing tone. I have tried many instruments, some that were hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I have yet to play the "perfect" instrument.

Bottom line, you have to set your priorities, and recognize that no matter what you buy, it is a compromise.

June 20, 2011 at 11:07 PM ·

Smiley puts it very well - I just want to add that its crucial that your daugher loves the sound .  Nothing will provide a stronger incentive for her to play than the sheer thrill of hearing a sound that she adores.

June 20, 2011 at 11:37 PM ·

"I wonder if this new violin will become mellower over time?  Will different strings like Obligatos help?  It currently has Dominants A, D, G and Gold lable E. "

Yes and yes, probably.

June 21, 2011 at 02:27 AM ·

 I wouldn't be surprised if every violin search in the history of the planet has come down to the bright violin which projects and which the teacher likes, or the mellow one that the player likes.

First, if you think the Roth may be missing some kind of brilliance and is "dull," then I'd just reject it and keep looking. Second, there's no way to predict which way the modern violin will go. I've played French instruments--big-name ones--that obviously never warmed up even after 150 years.

There's only two ways to know which way the modern instrument will go: wait 20 years, or judge other instruments by this maker that have aged. Otherwise you're guessing. Violins are like wines: a Nouveau Beaujolais is ready today and will only get worse. A great Cabernet will not be ready for 10 years, but will eventually be great. Which one do you have? It's hard to say. I've recently acquired a modern fiddle and will have to play it and wait and see. But one thing was certain for me to have made the decision: the violin already had a certain set of overtones to begin with.

June 21, 2011 at 02:55 AM ·


Have you tried to let your daughter play with the piano accompaniment? You'll be surprised that initial impression of the sound projection can be totally different when played with a piano.

When a violin truely projects, you'll also hear the sound in full body, not just the high frequencies. Also when a violin seems to sound loud at a distance, can easily be drowned by merely just a regular 6' grand piano with lid fully closed.

Try to also get the teacher involved in the simple test - ask the teacher to play together with the piano, and let your daughter listen as an audience. The sound under the ear may or may not be representing the sound being heard at a distance.

In the end, as how Smiley put it, it's what your daughter's aftering. Even if a violin projects like a beam of laser, but very thin and sharp under the ear, and is a beast to control, I don't think much people will be delighted, maybe except those who really don't mind the sound under ear, but just want to be heard over a big orchestra.

June 21, 2011 at 04:21 AM ·

June 21, 2011 at 05:13 AM ·

Thank you Smiley, Elise, David (I wish I could afford one of your instruments), Scott for your comments.  I will post again once I hear what the teacher has to say, I'm also going to ask the dealer if they are willing to put on Obligato strings on the 'new' violin and see if that warms up the sound a bit. 

@Bill:  Sorry, I made a typo.  I meant 'she IS  ready to move on to a full size violin.'  (I've corrected the original post)  She has been on a 3/4 Jay Haide l'Ancienne model for a couple of years now.

June 21, 2011 at 05:55 AM ·


All great points. I hate to sound like a broken record, because I've said this before. From a purely resale standpoint, the Roth is a better bet. Should you decide to unload it, the Wei Yang will, relatively, take much longer to sell - not because it is a bad violin - and you may not get your money back. For $7.5k, see what you could have purchased at auction, Again, there is no guarantee that any violin at that price will sound better or worse than the Roth or Wei Yang you're considering purchasing. Also, as mentioned by others on this board, you need to know what you're doing when purchasing at an auction.

[Edit follows] Just saw your comment. Yes, if I could afford it, I would purchase a DavidB/Curtin/Alf/SamZ violin. Unfortunately, having spent quite a bit on violins and bows, I can't afford to buy any violin or bow for now.

June 21, 2011 at 03:58 PM ·

in my opinion, the present likes of the student (i'm one, an adult student) are not the best yardstick to measure on. and i dont necessarily think that it should only be about which projects more or less (is she performing solo or not) but there are things that you/she can do with a more responsive and vibrant instrument that that will firstly inculcate more precision and efficiency in her playing and secondly will allow her taste to develop in the direction of this playing and this sort of instrument.

i think this also goes equally for the bow (i will digress slightly, but i hope the general concept of the topic is adhered to) ...i had to choose between two bows recently, one was sweeter with lesser bright frequencies and the other was brighter and slightly more abrasive with more energy. if it were solely a matter of what sounds more comfortable to the ear, i would have chosen the sweeter one which i liked better at first...but, after much playing, i noticed that the 'sweetness' also came with a more muddying effect that rendered my vibrato and my trills less emphatic and accentuated...the legato was nice, the weight was nicely distributed. on the other brighter energetic  bow, i noticed that there was more clarity and the sound was grander and the bow, with a lower balance point, gave me something more to work with and against (in a constructive manner i mean by against). so i chose that latter one over the sweeter sounding bow because it will help me improve my playiing not because it sounds nicer to my left ear. furthermore, my teacher's opinion means a lot to me..simply, she knows more than i do. luckily, we arrived at the same conclusion (after a week of playing both bows)

there is a reason the teacher is there and you have trusted her/him with the education of your daughter. i think you should also take her/his opinion as being more informed, in the long run. your daughter's taste in violins will probably change anyway, so better preempt the better playr that she will become and preemptively provide her with a voilin that will lead her to such better playing.ask teacher...maybe also hire a third expert opinion if you like to audition different  instruments (or the two you have) ..maybe you will pay a lesson's (or two) worth of money to ascertain the better quality violin. best of luck

June 21, 2011 at 04:16 PM ·



How old is your daughter? Sounds like, as VJ says, at this point you probably should be thinking about resale or trade in a few years. At this point I wouldn't give to much thought to how well the violin can project over an orchestra with a big concerto, unless she really will be doing that. Everyone likes to use this criterion, even when it doesn't apply.


June 21, 2011 at 07:01 PM ·

 @Scott:  She is twelve.  The dealer/luthier I go to has a trade up policy so it gives me a bit of assurance that I'll have some options (at least to go back to them) if my daughter needs to upgrade.  I decided to go for best sound possible for the $$ instead of what I may be able to recoup if I need to sell/upgrade.

To all, I just noticed something, on the new violin which I said had better projection but 'less mellow' sound, i realized that it does not have Dominant strings like the Roth, it appears to have Evah Pirazzi  (light green with black sprials for A/D/G and light Green for E which matches the description on the pirastro website).  I suppose that adds to the edge that my daughter and I hear.  I am now really curious if Obligatos will mellow out the sound.

Thanks everyone for the comments so far.


June 21, 2011 at 08:55 PM ·

Obligatos are on the other extreme from Evah.  You might want to throw on a set of Dominants to see how they sound.  They should be a bit warmer than the Evahs and a lot easier on the fingertips.

June 24, 2011 at 01:37 AM ·

 Update:  After consulting with the teacher and further listening to various people playing two instruments, we've decided on the Roth.  While it's not project as well, as the teacher said, "loudness is not everything....."  among other things, she said, "this one sounds more pleasant under the ear also and it will be more pleasant to play and practice with."

I also considered the resale value if and when my daughter needs/wants to upgrade.

Now, I have a new question.  What should be a fair price?  A couple of things about this instrument.

It's in good/great condition.   It's 1927 Henrich Roth labled copy of 1718 Strad.  Doing some research, I found that 1920's Roth's are sought after, BUT the model (based on the 1718 strad copy designation) is IV-R which is lower middle (or upper low end model).   Is $7500 a fair price?

Also, the instrument is on consignment (e.g. dealer doesn't own it).  Does that make it less likely that I could negotiate a price?

Thanks again and I look for even more help!


June 24, 2011 at 02:12 AM ·

The price seems a bit high for an old German fiddle.  For just a bit more, you can start looking at some really nice contemporary fiddles.  Sorry, I don't mean to confuse the issue, but that's what I would do.

June 24, 2011 at 02:31 AM ·

I agree with Smiley - for that much money why not look around at another dealer or two at least - and maybe visit a local luthier?  it would be a great experience for your daughter too... 

Remember, if its on consignment the dealer will probably NOT give you 100% trade in (if any).  thus, if you over pay on the Roth you may loose money.  You could even post the region here and maybe someone knows of an alternative dealer or luthier...

June 24, 2011 at 02:44 AM ·

 I live in Boston area and the dealer / luthier is a reputable on in Newton, MA which is often mentioned here in the forum.  (initials JS).

Because the Roth is on consignment, I would not get any trade-in for the Jay Haide (3/4) my daughter currently has, but would get full trade in for the Roth if I upgrade again.

I don't know how easy / hard it would be to unload the 3/4 Jay Haide l'Ancienne...


June 24, 2011 at 05:38 AM ·

 E.H.Roth violins from the 1920 - 1930's have gone up in price. 

Here a similar violin from Ottawa.

I played on it earlier this month and thought it was a very nice instrument. Beautiful wood, nice warm sound, lots of colours. The label also had Strad in it and i know the year was before 1720, but don't remember exactly what year .  I find the prices at the Soundpost very reasonable. They have Scandroglios for C$12,000.00  (Add 5% tax to all Canadian listed prices, although as an American you might be able to get it back; ask for a form you can take to customs before you leave; I hope that still works)



June 24, 2011 at 12:24 PM ·

Hi. I've already read a lot of good points, but not every word. I'd say don't be in too much of a hurry. If your daughter and teacher like the Roth right now, OK. Any chance you could borrow or rent it for some months? I could get you a very good price on a violin that you could custom-order from from one of Italy's best contemporary makers - Vittorio Villa of Cremona. He's currently planning his 3rd violin for me which he will exhibit in the Mondo Musica exhibtion in the fall.

Besides looking beautiful, his violins tend to have fine quality, warmth, sweetness - and projection. My current favorite by Vittorio has compared very well with good, authentic examples of violins by Guadagnini and Gagliano.

June 24, 2011 at 09:46 PM ·

Raphael - if I was looking for a violin right now I would certainly very seriously consider that offer.... very kind...

June 24, 2011 at 10:42 PM ·

Great! Keep it in mind for the future. Vittorio's violins are being played in the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Shanghai Quartet among others.

June 28, 2011 at 12:58 PM ·

 Just to close out the thread.  I'd like to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments and advise.  We ended up going with the Roth.  Also picked up a Arcos Brasil Special Edition Silver bow stamped "C. Chagas" for ~$1300.

Dealer was willing to work with me and we ended up contacting the owner (it was a consigned instrument) for a modest discount.  Also, with the purchase of the bow and a BAM case, the dealer gave full trade in for 3/4 Jay Haide l'Ancienne that we had bought from.

Overall, we are happy with the decision.  It was fun.  (not the paying part).   I guess it will be a few years before I have to do this again either to upgrade my older daughter's or when my younger daughter has to move up to full size.

Thanks again,

June 28, 2011 at 05:34 PM ·

Glad it worked out well - good luck to your daughter (and to you saving for the next one :) ).  And thanks for letting us participate...

June 29, 2011 at 03:57 AM ·


To echo EliseS' comment and to add...I'm glad you went with the Roth.

(Comment edited - came across as vain)


Anyway, all the best with your new acquisition.

June 29, 2011 at 10:57 AM ·

As long as you are happy with your decision, then it is the right one.  Congrats!

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