Modern violin makers (10-20k)

July 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM · I am a violin student in Australia after a handmade violin with warmth and a rich tone. Tone is my number one priority. My current price range is $12000-$20000, an would like to know of any contemporary makers who make nice violins within this price range, or a little higher. I have looked into curtain and alf, above my price range, Howard Needham (also 25000+) and kelvin Scott. I'd appreciate details of any other makers, or information/opinions on any of these makers including those which I've mentioned. I'm seriously considering Howard needham. I can travel to purchase - that is little concern.

Thank you !

Replies (65)

July 16, 2012 at 12:19 PM · About 3 years ago, I was looking in the same price range. I started a thread that might have some useful feedback for you.

Advice needed for buying a professional grade instrument

July 16, 2012 at 12:35 PM · There is good news and bad news for you. And it's the same news: You live in a golden age of violin making. There are so many great makers in your price range that one hardly knows where to begin. I recently bought a violin made by Polish violin-maker Wojciech Topa and I love it. But your tastes will be quite individual. My suggestion is be prepared to travel to see some violins, and don't immediately dismiss instruments made in China or eastern Europe. If you can wait until one of the larger violin-makers conventions, those can be a very good opportunity to see and try a great many fine violins, and you will find plenty in your price range. Also just because your price range is what you said, try a few that are a little outside your range -- you never know when you might find a $8000 violin that you just adore. Finally -- remember that the bow is important too and will generally cost about 1/3 what your violin cost, as a very rough rule of thumb. But don't buy them together. Get the violin first, adapt to its hidden qualities, and then search for a bow to match it. That's the advice I was given a while back and so far it has served me well.

July 16, 2012 at 01:50 PM · I am in your price range, but I make just violas!!!

July 16, 2012 at 02:04 PM · Wise man, that Manfio ;^)

July 16, 2012 at 03:57 PM · I highly recommend you Howard Needham´s violin, although of course there are other great makers, but I think a bit more expensive. I´ve played on one of his instruments for two years now, and sounding great from the first day, it became more mature, clear, rich and with very good projection (also very easy to play). You definetively wouldn´t go wrong with this choice...


July 16, 2012 at 05:13 PM · My favorite makers around this price range are Nathaniel Rowan (I don't remember if his price is $16,000 or $18,000), Jason Viseltear ($18,000), Lukas Wronski ($18,000 or $20,000, I don't remember), and Stefan Bauni ($20,000 to $22,000, depending on level of antiquing). They are all located in New York City, except Nathaniel, who is located near Albany. I've tried multiple instruments by each of these makers and can testify to them being of highest quality both in terms of workmanship and in terms of sound.

I've also tried one violin by Laura Vigato that was quite nice. From what I hear, Ithzak Perlman uses a Vigato as his teaching violin, during private lessons.

Lukas also deals in violins in both lower and higher price ranges; two of my friends from my conservatory just purchased violas from him that were both under $10,000, but they are extremely happy with them; one of them had been trying instruments in the $20,000 to $40,000 price range, but at the end of his search, honestly came out preferring this cheaper viola, even over a couple violas by Greiner (which I personally preferred over almost anything else we tried). He showed the instrument both to his primary teacher and to the principal violist of the Cleveland Orchestra, both of whom were very impressed by the quality of workmanship and sound that he was able to find in a less expensive instrument.

I've tried out many of these lower priced violins, as well, and I can attest to their consistency of quality - one time I tested six of these lower priced instruments alongside a Landolfi and a violin by one of Europe's most celebrated contemporary makers, and my favorite was easily one of the cheaper instruments (which was around $5,000). I feel that well-made instruments by anonymous makers like this, which of course can never replace instruments by the great masters (living or dead), are more than suitable enough for many purposes.

July 16, 2012 at 05:23 PM · My daughter just acquired a Kelvin Scott violin that she absolutely loves. He's great to work with and a gifted maker. The instrument is really special -- a dream to play.

July 16, 2012 at 05:40 PM · The best german new violins I tried were from the maker Joachim Schade. He is the father of Jens Peter Schade who helds now the Schade Violin Shop. Joachim Schade retired and works now only in his private workplace and builds new violins, no restaurations and dealing as far as I know. He is very old and his instruments are around 15000 Euros. They have a constant very high quality and fine craftmanship and very different and strong character depending on the model. If I would have the money, I would go there! Maybe you have to wait some months until he can present you enough instruments to chose from.

Generally I would suggest you to go to an meeting of contemporary violin makers to have all the possibilities in one place. The worst thing about finding an instrument is the travelling. Especially when it turns out, that it wasn't worth the effort. Good luck! And don't forget, that in that price range you don't have to make ANY compromise. You can get a very good new instrument if you stay patient!

July 16, 2012 at 05:42 PM · Hi,

I play a sensationally wonderful violin in this price range by Canadian maker Guy Harrison in Ottawa for the last two years now! I would highly recommend him!!! That said, every instrument that I have tried from him in the last few years ranks just as high although different. Hendrik Hak who posts on this site also plays one of his violins (a different model from mine) and it is a spectacular instrument as well. He deserves certainly great recognition for the work he is doing. He is an awesome person as well, which is always a good thing.

That said, we are very lucky at the present time and I agree that there are a host of fantastic makers around these days and many people will write with well-deserved recommendation I am sure, many of which write on this site (Mr. Manfio, David Burgess, Michael Darnton), although I don't know their prices.

Good luck finding your instrument and cheers!

July 16, 2012 at 06:46 PM · You might want to drop in on the VSA convention where you can check out a couple hundred instruments, including mine.

I make violins, but not in your listed price range... I'd be happy to raise my prices to get in your $10k - $20k range.

July 16, 2012 at 06:51 PM · @Don, your post made my day, thanks! :D

July 16, 2012 at 07:11 PM · Without "un-recommending" anybody in the slightest, I have 3 violins custom-made for me by Ed Maday of Long Island, New York, and 3 violins custom-made for me by Vittorio Villa of Cremona Italy - and highly recommend them both, and both are in your price range. I could also help you on the queue with both.

July 16, 2012 at 09:19 PM · Don wrote:

"I make violins, but not in your listed price range... I'd be happy to raise my prices to get in your $10k - $20k range."

I also make violins, but outside the other end of your listed price range. No adjustment on price offered.

However, I might be willing to throw in a cheap toaster, or an equally cheap alarm clock which plays "You Are My Sunshine" to sweeten the deal. :-)

July 16, 2012 at 09:35 PM · How much does the toaster cost on its own?

EDIT: I second Raphael's recommendation of Vittorio Villa. I have not tried any of Ed Maday's violins, but one time I played for a month on a violin on loan to me that was set up and restored by him, which was a capital instrument.

July 16, 2012 at 10:19 PM ·

You may consider visiting Canada as well as the United States if travel is not an issue. Award winning top Canadian luthiers in general do not ask the same prices as top American makers.

My violin is a Lord Wilton DG model made by Guy Harrison in Ottawa. He also made Christian Vachon's Strad model and it blew me away when I first had a chance to play it. These violins have only improved over the last years.

July 16, 2012 at 11:33 PM · "How much does the toaster cost on its own?"

Hard to say. I got some as wedding gifts, and others free for opening bank accounts.

The wedding gifts probably cost the most, after the divorces. Get one of those, and maybe you'd be getting a twenty thousand dollar toaster? LOL

July 17, 2012 at 12:13 AM · Lyndon...How is work proceeding on your first violin?

July 17, 2012 at 12:50 AM · Hi Ashkan:

On Google, I have found an association of Australian violin makers that may or may not be in your price range, some of whom you might visit. But for you they are close to home and you could form a long term friendship. (Well at least closer than New York City !)

Significant research on violin acoustics has been done at the University of New South Wales which I'm sure will have influenced a few of the six makers that are listed.

A maker that I suggest, in your price category, in New York State USA is Bob Spear, of Singing Woods Violins. Visit his website, you will find it interesting.


July 17, 2012 at 12:23 PM · Thank you everyone! You've been most helpful. At this stage I'm taking a closer look at Kelvin Scott, whose instruments I like the sound of (and the reviews have been great too). I'll also look into Laura Vigato and Vittorio Villa. Thanks again :)

July 17, 2012 at 02:34 PM · Toward the top+ end of your range, check out

Michael Darnton.

July 18, 2012 at 08:49 AM · "one of the greatest violin makers is getting some pretty bad reviews lately, but he still makes a good product, his name is antonio stradivari!!"

could you please name his price range? I am interested!

July 18, 2012 at 09:13 AM · Stradivari? I think he moved from Italy to germany, germany to hungary, hungary to rumania and I believe he lives in China now...

July 18, 2012 at 09:28 AM · To Lyndon Taylor,

To justify:

I'm looking to commission an instrument, and so I cannot try it until its made. In this instance reviews are helpful, as they indicate comsistency, which I cannot otherwise base on trying a couple of instruments for tone.

July 18, 2012 at 12:30 PM · Lyndon: Is there a Guarneri Model from this Stradivari Antonio? Where can I find him?

July 18, 2012 at 01:45 PM · "simon if you have to ask the price, you cant afford it, suffice it to say its slightly more than a david burgess will be worth in 300yrs!!"

Perhaps, but how often does a Strad include a free toaster? LOL

July 18, 2012 at 02:25 PM · and who knows how much the toaster is worth in 300 years!?

July 18, 2012 at 02:33 PM · I think what we're all really waiting for is a toaster that comes with a free Stradivari...

July 18, 2012 at 03:08 PM · Lyndon makes a good point: try out some great old violins like Strads if you have a chance - or even some great fiddles from any era - to give you an idea what good violins sound and play like.

July 19, 2012 at 01:08 AM · @ Hendrik, "to give you an idea what good violins sound and play like." I'm not sure I'd put it QUITE that way! implies modern instruments aren't 'good.' BUT playing old ones also shows the range of possibilities, and that's always wise to become acquainted with.

Besides, some old instruments (esp. those without much provenance) sound fantastic--and often quite different--for the same price as a commissioned new one.

It's largelyl a question of the sound you want to have under ear and in the room for the next X years. Important to try as many as you can get your fingers around.

July 19, 2012 at 03:57 AM · Hi Marjory,

I agree with you, that's why I said ANY era: including the very present era.

July 19, 2012 at 04:14 AM · I should also try toaster from every era :p

July 19, 2012 at 04:23 AM · If we're talking toasters, are we talking fresh work, antiquing, real or facsimile labels? ;-D

July 19, 2012 at 04:55 AM · I specifically want Italian toasters! Anything else will most probably kill the deal. ;-)

Back to topic, I don't have anything to contribute though except what I can share about my violin. It took me a couple of years to know my violin, and into my 6th year of owning my violin, I still discover something new about its behaviour and what it want for setup. So to stir the pot, a violin that seemingly inferior at first might turn out to be something good or even exceptional.

July 19, 2012 at 12:39 PM · Jan Spidlen

I don't see why you're only looking for modern violins though? :S

July 20, 2012 at 01:21 PM ·

After playing a violin made by Frederik Bethke of Minneapolis, MN, I was very impressed with the remarkable sound and playing quality of this particular instrument.

July 20, 2012 at 11:45 PM · Hi Ashkan,

As Allan Lewis has indicated, there are plenty of violin makers working closer to home. In addition to the AVMA website, a fantastic resource for information on Australian violin makers is Alan Coggins' book 'Violin and Bow Makers of Australia.' The book can be purchased here

July 21, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Hi Ashkan , I think you will be able to find a new violin in Australia that will meet your needs . I will have a Guarneri inspired violin ready in a couple of months , I am a relative unknown maker , but after 17 years of experimenting I am now putting my instruments out into the professional market . If you are after a well established maker maybe John Simmers would be worth contacting , I played his violin at the last Australian violin makers conference and I must say I was very inpressed , I don't know John personally but I do like his violins .

Hope this helps

cheers Adam

July 21, 2012 at 12:38 PM · I love Mr. Burgess' comments. He's as funny as another midwestern violin maker who lives up the street from me.

By the way... how much for just the toaster! (There I go, asking for something I probably can't afford.)

July 21, 2012 at 12:51 PM · Mark: I looked on his web site and the small print says that its actually a TSO.

The good news is that no bread will be hurt by this device....

July 21, 2012 at 03:05 PM · Elise, stop disparaging my toasters! ;-)

Mark did you want the cordless toaster? That comes in a set with a cordless frying pan, so you can prepare and eat breakfast while driving to work.

A nice option is the syrup, butter, jelly and Cheerios multi-dispenser which sticks to your windshield with suction cups.

July 21, 2012 at 10:56 PM ·

July 22, 2012 at 03:02 AM · For some reason, all I can think of now is "Toaster Purfling".

And now I'm wondering if I may have put those two words together for the first time in the history of the internet.

July 22, 2012 at 05:44 AM · cordless Toaster! Sounds great! Are there stringless viola around? :p

July 22, 2012 at 12:28 PM · A few, but the the greatest strides are being made by a secret society which sneaks around removing rosin from violist's bows, and replacing it with soap.

July 23, 2012 at 12:15 AM · "i think its equally foolish to ignore antiques in your price range as it would be to ignore moderns and only consider antiques."


July 23, 2012 at 12:59 AM · Ashkan, have you considered Australian-made violins, or are you determined to go off-shore?

David, you've got a syrup, butter, jelly and Cheerios multi-dispenser which sticks to your windshield with suction cups? Man, you Yanks have all the best gadgets! I can see why no-one wants to buy Australian. All we've got is a 6-stubby beer holder that can be tied to the gear stick with fencing wire.

July 23, 2012 at 03:35 AM · David....can't drive and make/eat toast in Fairview Park, OH. There's an ordinance against it. Hey, is it true that Cheerios, in the right amount, make good rosin?

July 23, 2012 at 11:10 AM · "All we've got is a 6-stubby beer holder that can be tied to the gear stick with fencing wire."

That's all anyone really needs, right? Americans have just gotten caught up in wretched excess. ;-)

Ashkan, contact Coggins if you want to know more about Australian makers. He literally "wrote the book" on the subject.

July 23, 2012 at 08:13 PM ·

Oh, Burgess ... finally I found this page! I reply to your "curious and very personal questions." Naaay, I'm still a woman ... and I'm still beauty!

As many hot mediterranean men says ...

By the way, let's talk about serious things, as this

discussion goes so far.

What about E. Blot, What you suggest, David? You are so

wellkowed and rewarded, pretty close to the most important

maker in the world, but E.Blot more than you, or not?

What your impressions about him?

He's not Cremonese! Ethier not Italian!

July 23, 2012 at 08:21 PM · Here's also Lindon! I have this urgent message to send.

"Bissolotti is here, in fromt of the PC, he say...I can work for a quarter, less than Lyndon..."

July 23, 2012 at 11:14 PM · "Naaay, I'm still a woman ... and I'm still beauty!

As many hot mediterranean men says ..."

Antonia, thank you for your personal ad, and the flattering words. Unfortunately, I think you're a bit of a nut-case, so the Mediterranean men can keep you. ;-)

What's my impression of E. Blot? I think he's a nice guy, but I probably won't be dating him either.

July 24, 2012 at 04:21 AM · But no, dear Burgess, are you that the other page (you already forgotten?) Asked me if I was a woman! Do not you recognize the names famminili by men? Mah ... So tell me Blot is a good guy (?) .... So you are convinced that you are the supermen of violin-making world! Well ... let's say you're a little 'GASSED.

July 24, 2012 at 04:27 AM · But no, dear Burgess, are you that the other page (you already forgotten?) Asked me if I was a woman! Do not you recognize the names famminili by men? Mah ... So tell me Blot is a good guy (?) .... So you are convinced that you are the supermen of violin-making world! Well ... let's say you're a little 'GASSED.

July 24, 2012 at 04:28 AM · To you, Lyndon, I asked to talk about women .... (I know you like them) but I repeat my question for you:

Bissolotti is here in fromt of the PC, he can say ... I work for a quarter, less than Lyndon ... (do not expect is old and it is so much ...)

July 24, 2012 at 10:40 AM · I think we're being stalked!

Dear Ms. Mazzocchi;

I did not ask if you are a man or a woman, nor am I interested in finding out. I already had plenty of "find out" propositions like that from the "girls" with deep voices on Hollywood Boulevard, when I lived in that area. LOL

If it is a date with Superman you are seeking, you would do better by looking in the city of Metropolis, or checking inside phone booths.

I'm relieved that you recall I was gassed on our first and only date. Since you are already aware of the issue, I will suggest taking care of your flatulence problem before attempting to occupy a phone booth with Superman. ;-)

July 24, 2012 at 10:56 AM · For those of you who are "less aware," take a look at the following.

VSA past winners.

Mr. Burgess is banned from the VSA competition because he has won so many times. If he says something about violins or makers, I think it is safe to say, the information is from a reliable source. His toasters on the other hand, are less reputable.

July 24, 2012 at 11:22 AM · "So you are convinced that you are the supermen of violin-making world! "

As nobody else can fit bridges like him. Try out Antonia!

David how about a toaster video?

July 24, 2012 at 12:19 PM · Raphael is here in front of his PC. He will gladly work for a quarter less than Perlman! He is currently accepting solo engagements for the coming season, and will throw in a free toster to each concert presenter. (Sorry, but my toasters are factory refurbished!)

July 24, 2012 at 01:45 PM · BECK is here but wouldn't touch a PC with a barge-pole. It's Apple/Mac for him, folks, and he don't work no more. Too old.

He willl go back to warming up his Tonarelli violin now. Batteries not included, no mains adapter either. Ate his last toast 2 hours ago.

July 24, 2012 at 08:09 PM · too cocky ... burgess... what 'is not good!

July 24, 2012 at 08:36 PM · What is not good is this:

I’m still not convinced that you truly love me. I’ve seen it before… people confusing love, with the feelings they get from using my "boudoir" product line of Sawzall (reciprocating saw) attachments, so I need to be very cautious with regular purchasers.

How can I be sure?

July 24, 2012 at 09:13 PM · I think that if Antonia will buy a toaster from you, you can rest assured that this is the real deal!


July 24, 2012 at 11:04 PM · hahaha the bridge fitting! how can you do that with a stradivari! haha!

edit: more bridge fitting! I don't say that often but I lol

July 25, 2012 at 09:53 AM · Ciao Antonia!

David Burges is a regular contributor here and gives helpfull advice to players and makers.

I hope you will contribute to raise the level of our discussions here with your expertise as a player or maker, or both.

Grazie tante!

July 25, 2012 at 11:36 AM · Hi Simon;

I thought the second bridge-fitting video was funnier too.

Direct Link To The Second Video in case anybody's curious, and doesn't understand what all the Sawzall jokes are all about.

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