For some background info:
I would classify myself as an advanced amateur, non-music-major college student who plans on playing seriously for the foreseeable future.
I've been playing for 8 years, the past 6 years on a Chinese workshop violin ~$1600, which I've outgrown a while ago and have had to "fight" my violin to get a good tone and response ever since. Money has been an issue, but I can scrape together enough to get a violin of up to $5000 after this summer. Repertoire I've studied are Bruch, Saint Saens, and Mendelssohn concertos, solo Bach, Beethoven Spring Sonata, Intro and Rondo Capriccioso, and most recently the Tchaikovsky concerto. My violin could get through most of the former, but after starting the Tchaik, I've found passages that my violin absolutely cannot handle no matter what. So that's why I need a new one.
After trying out some violins and doing a bit of research, I came up with a list in order of importance of what I'm looking for in a violin:
1. Response-The next violin should be able to handle anything I throw at it: fast string-crossing double stops in Tchaikovsky, before E; passages on the high D and G-7th position and up; and full and open-sounding chords which can help bring out the themes in Bach. I'm looking for an open sound where I don't have to work to pull every note and is clear during fast sautille/spiccato notes.
2. Clarity-this goes in hand with response. The violin has to be free from nasality and any sort of covered tone, especially in higher positions. My current violin has a muddy sound in higher positions on the G, D, and A, which makes intonation frustrating to pinpoint. An unforgiving violin in terms of intonation will work wonders for technique.
3. Quality of sound-The sound should have a nice round tone with a good core to the sound. I don't care as much about a "dark" or "bright" tone, just something that will play what I need it to play.
After trying out over 80 instruments within the $3-5k range, I've been disappointed with the results. I've visited numerous well-known places in the Los Angeles and Berkeley area, and there were a total of two violins that I'd consider buying, and one of them was slightly above my budget. Despite what I've read on this site, I've found it very difficult to find a suitable violin for under $5000--by suitable I meant the sound is clear and the violin can handle most of the difficult passages in the Tchaikovsky concerto with a good tone. I've heard good things about the Jay Haides but after trying over 10 of their special european wood models, I've found them all lacking in clear high notes on the G string and good response to fast double stops.
Which brings up the question: What should I expect in this price range and am I asking for too much? I know what I'm looking for is basically a professional instrument, and professional grade starts at a couple thousand dollars higher, but I can't swing it with a college student budget. I've pretty much given up hope of finding a "good" violin for under $5000. Should I just bite the bullet and get something that is playable but I'm not in love with?
(On a related note, it appalls me the prices some of these shops are charging for crappy old Germans and even mediocre workshop violins. I understand overhead, but a shop I'll leave unnamed offered an obviously factory made unlabeled chinese violin for ~$3500, although it had a huge, concert level sound. Would not trust that violin to last more than two years.)
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