What are your favorite violin shops?

June 15, 2013 at 08:22 PM · Anywhere in the world, which are the ones you most highly recommend for bow-rehairs, repairs and buying violins.

Replies (46)

June 15, 2013 at 09:47 PM · Thomas Uphoff in Heidelberg. I bought my good bow from him last year. He was so nice and let me take my time!

Other than that...we don't really have a local violin shop around here...not in the 'regular' sense...

June 16, 2013 at 12:13 AM · This is a great question, but also a difficult one. I think it is important to build a relationship with a dealer and/or a repair person you trust. Part of this trust is to expect your person to tell you not only how they can help you, but also be aware of what their limitations are. It should be expected of a repair person that any repair they make is reversible. It should be expected that a dealer will be willing to give you back what you spent on an instrument if you wish to upgrade through them. It should be expected that a dealer will abide by professional ethics such as not giving commissions to teachers recommending an instrument to a student, unless the student knows about it. There are a lot of other issues which I have not mentioned and others may wish to point out. I think the Violin Society of America may have some code of ethics.

June 16, 2013 at 12:46 AM · Kapeller's in Richmond VA is a good shop. I had the top of a violin regraded there, but it was a lousy violin so the level of risk was fairly low. The instrument was not significantly improved, but again, the violin was a tank to being with.

Daniel Foster's shop in Blacksburg VA is only a couple of miles from home and he has done some smaller-scale work for me including the installation of gear pegs on a violin, all of which was done well. Dan makes violins, I have played one and it had a very singing treble voice. His violas and cellos are mostly what he's known for, they're great.

Fortunately so far I have never needed serious work on my best violin. "Knock on wood." (oof!)

June 16, 2013 at 01:57 AM · When I was looking to buy a violin the shops I liked were Gailes Violin Shop in Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC because they were very friendly and helpful and Elderly Instruments in Lansing MI. Elderly doesn't carry the sort of stuff that professional violinists would want, but if you want a fiddle made in 1928 in Kalamazoo, they might have it. Plus its in an old schoolhouse. Its just sort of fun to visit.

June 16, 2013 at 04:01 AM · I will be going to Shanghai in October. Does anybody know of any good violin shops in Shanghai ? I could only find a couple of very small shops when I was in Beijing last year. I was surprised ; I expected a lot more.

June 16, 2013 at 04:18 AM · The closest shops to me are in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, an hour either way. Having lived in Cleveland, I frequent the shops there most. For rehairs, I go to award winning bow maker Rodney Mohr. For repairs, I like Reese Williams on the west side of the city. He does really great work at an excellent price.

June 16, 2013 at 06:08 AM · Peter Horn in Cleveland = my favorite almost anywhere.

June 16, 2013 at 07:23 AM · Bruce Berg posted :- "I think it is important to build a relationship with a dealer and/or a repair person you trust. "

My own friendly neighbourhood dealership is the David Vernon shop, Manchester UK. (http://www.vernon-violins.co.uk/). As well as going to them for repairs & rehairs I've bought from them and they in turn have sold items on commission for me. But one is aware that there are other dealerships, some so exalted that "angels fear to tread"!!

For buying instruments and bows, I have fared well going directly to makers. I was largely lucky in hitting on good ones - I've been less dependant on dealerships in making my choices than a good many players need to be.

The great thing for an enthusiast such as me is the rise of the website. This "broadens the mind" by enabling not only browsing of auction-sites and the stock of fiddle-shops from all over the world but also accessing and comparing the opinions of players & "experts". My local dealer isn't any more the "fount of all knowledge".

However, a great deal of internet information has to be taken with as much a pinch of salt as does the sales-patter of those powerful and influential dealers !

June 16, 2013 at 01:41 PM · Bernard Sabatier, 45 rue de Rome, Paris, France.

When I arrived in 1976, he was the only one prepared to repair my viola d'amore; I also learned some very ripe French as he tried to push the already curly sympathetic strings down inside the hollow neck!

The other 20-odd luthiers in this street had "too much work with professional instruments"...

Bernard also had a sign saying one could bring one's own lunch into the shop: a good idea as he was often behind schedule! He now has a whole worshop full of assistants, so the sign has gone..

He has designed two new outlines for the viola: one lopsided shape, easier for small hands, and a good, warm tone even in the very small sizes: and a superb-toned two-cornered model inspired by a rare Gasparo "lyra-viola". Both sell like hot cakes.

He is also active in promoting instrumental music in schools, a notion which is sorely lacking in France.

June 16, 2013 at 03:01 PM · Mr. Sabatier sounds like an unusual and interesting person. Always much more fun to work with someone like that.

June 16, 2013 at 03:03 PM · Serge Stam in Utrecht the Netherlands has helped me a great deal.

Any shop that has great fiddles and allows you to try them out.

June 16, 2013 at 03:13 PM · My "friendly local fiddle shop" produced a violin without telling me what it was. Phew - I correctly identified it as an early Guarneri del Gesù. Alas, I didn't have the bottle to ask to try it. A missed opportunity? Maybe they would have refused me had I asked.

June 16, 2013 at 04:16 PM · David, I have generally found that violin shops are happy to let you try their best fiddles once they get to know you a bit and know that you can play.

More than once I get the comment that they are happy the violins get a good work-out.

And frequently the owner is happy to hear a certain fiddle played for a bit longer so they know what it sounds like. A lot of violinists pick a violin for a trial at home after putting a bow to it for only a minute or 2 in the shop.

Luthiers are particularly happy to let you play their instruments and love to have you try one model against another passage for passage.

June 16, 2013 at 05:34 PM · Cardiff Violins, for sure! In Wales in the UK. Lovely friendly atmosphere and so many violins/violas/cellos/cases/bows/strings etc. that you're spoiled for choice... and most importantly the staff are very honest and trustworthy. They're so passionate about stringed instruments and making sure everyone has the 'equipment' they need and are happy with it all, that they will try everything to help you find an instrument you're happy with and make whatever adjustments and suggestions are necessary, and they won't be happy till you are :)

...I sound like some kind of sponsor. I am not ;)

June 16, 2013 at 07:29 PM · Something to consider about "good atmosphere":

Some of the best people I know are regularly confronted with way more business than they could ever hope to deal with, and can get a bit surly at times.

If they politely responded to every phone call and email, there would be no time left to work.

I don't mean for this to be an excuse for the people who don't know much, and just like to be jerks.

June 16, 2013 at 08:20 PM · My favorite is The Violin Shop in Nashville,Tn. owned and operated by the great Fred Carpenter. He sells, repairs, does rehairs and is straight-up honest. I can't say enough good about him and his crew.

June 16, 2013 at 08:31 PM · - Serge Stam in Utrecht, the Netherlands for violins and violas. And he's the one to estimate the value of my violin (had to do this for the insurance).

- Badiarov violins in The Hague.

- Henk te Hietbrink in Arnhem, the Netherlands for custom made bows.

Online shops:

- Otherwise for accessories I recommend Arc-Verona and Thomann. Arc-Verona has a quick delivery. However, Arc-Verona is in Germany, but it has another filial in Goor, Netherlands.

- Corilon violins. However this is the neatest violin online shops I've ever found that provides sound samples. I know that you better go to luthier and try out violins, but if there's no luthier in your area....the violins delivered by Corilon are carefully, safely packed. (I have no comment about buying from Corilon if you're living outside of the EU, since I live in netherlands and Germany isn't far from here.)

June 17, 2013 at 02:08 AM · I love that this is turning out to be such an international list!

June 17, 2013 at 11:42 AM · Toronto Canada: The Sound Post. One of the ones with a 100% trade in policy that every violin shop should have. They never mind me dropping in and playing violins for hours (I know I might fall in love with that 1700s number ;) ) and most important, never make me feel insignificant relative to the career musicians that frequent the place.

June 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Ditto for the Ottawa Sound Post. Luthier David Doyle - a fine violinist himself -- and his staff are always welcoming, helpful, and generous with their time, to violinists of every level. It's the "go-to" place for string players in Ottawa.

June 17, 2013 at 03:04 PM · My favorite online violin store is quinnviolins.com. They are trustworthy and have great prices. I go to this site to by my accessories; I have yet to try an instrument of theirs. They are reliable and trustworthy. I sent them an email about a case that I just ordered asked about how I would ask for the color I wanted; They replied in less than 30 minutes with an answer.

As for violin shop, I go to Seman Violins in Skokie Illinois. I have been renting a violin and viola from them for about two or three years now. They are nice and generous people. They make instruments as well as repair and sell/rent them. If you want a case they will gladly order it for you if they do not have it in supply. As decoration, they also have some oddly built violins. It's very interesting to see how creative people get with making violins. They recently upgraded to a bigger shop and they have a good selection of cellos violas and violins. I have yet to buy an instrument, but Semans would be my choice.

P.S. if ever in Chicago and look for a place to buy music, go to performers music! It's a great place with a lot of music and hilarious people.

June 17, 2013 at 03:04 PM ·

June 17, 2013 at 03:23 PM · Laurie Niles: as you posted "anywhere in the world", then it means anywhere. in. the. world, right? ;)

June 18, 2013 at 10:19 PM · I can only speak for Southern California, and there are several highly qualified big name shops to choose for including the famous Hans Weishaars.

My favorite personalities, extremely qualified, and just the nicest guys are Thomas Metzler in Glendale, and Michael Fischer in Silverlake, both originally worked for Weishaars before setting up their own shops.

Tom Metzler has the bigger selection of student instruments, they both have the high end instruments, and Michael is also a world recognized top maker with several of his "fun" copies(I think he calls them) available to try.

I highly recommend visiting both shops.

June 19, 2013 at 12:05 AM · It's always a treat to wander around the Ile de Cite and wind up behind Notre Dame. Take the bridge to the Left Bank, and right there is Jean Pavie, Lutherie.

He's had some good-looking pieces in his window. I've never had a chance to go in and look, though.

I seem to recall that years ago, he had a cello stand that was the reverse shape to the cello -- and probably made of the same wood. Even had purfling.

June 19, 2013 at 03:10 AM · I'd love to see that stand!

June 19, 2013 at 03:56 AM · Alas, it was not in the window the last time I was there. I suspect it was part of the instrument sale.

June 19, 2013 at 08:14 AM · Fiddlesticks, Lyndon beat me to it, but LA, has 5 of the *best* violin stores...And that's not including "The OC," nor Redlands...;-)

Lyndon already mentioned Hans Weisshaar; Georg Ettinger now runs that shop. He is extremely helpful; they have so many bows to try, I get tired, in a good way, just thinking about it. They also have more Musafia cases in stock than any other store on the left coast.

Two dealers whom I shall single out, spent hours and hours with me, not even about a sale - yet - on multiple visits. Robert Cauer Violins is a stone's throw from the Hollywood Bowl, so parking can be fun if you overflow from their lot. It's a converted house, with a huge well equipped and busy workshop in back. While I was talking with Robert, he casually placed a fiddle on the desk, and when I asked what it was, told me and let me play it - a Guaneri! The staff is extremely friendly, and they have multiple rooms and tons o' stringed instruments. They have the best humdification system I have seen (partly hidden).

The other dealer, Angeles violins, is through a small, non-descript, unlabelled door in a mini-mall on the west side. Just like the song refrain by Felix Figueroa and his Orchestra, Angeles Violins is actually near "Pico and Sepulveda." But Jeff Muller is an incredible fount of knowledge, and although he was busy with pressing repairs and other customers, happily spent hours and hours talking about other violin makers, pedigrees, and general violin construction. He did a rehair that knocked my socks off. At no charge he touched up a bow, gave me some playing tips, and I could go on...Heck, for a friend of his, he even guided him through making his first violin, which turned out to be ...amazing. (Though it does help that this friend is one of the best violinists in LA, lulz.) On another visit, I saw a UCLA MD also finishing off a top plate, so there's lots of construction, repairs, and advice going on...

To avoid a too long post, Lyndon mentioned Metzler, home of amazing seminars and workshops, and the last but not least of my top 5 is Benning Violins, run by Eric Benning, who can trace back to Becker. His violins sound amazing, fully the equal of Fischer, imho.

LA has problems, "fo' sure," but with lots of great violin shops, and many more individual luthiers I haven't mentioned, my only problem is not enough cash money. SoCal, socool.

June 19, 2013 at 09:38 AM · Well if I can toot my own horn, I run the best violin shop in Redlands, because basically I'm the only violin shop in Redlands, but for a few chinese fiddles at a couple music stores, Im also usually considerably cheaper than all the shops you mention, but unfortuantely I am the smallest violin shop, with the least inventory and I don't do bows. so there!!

June 19, 2013 at 10:06 AM · Jeff Muller is out on his own now?

He was in the Weisshaar shop for many years.

June 19, 2013 at 04:57 PM · David

Jeff son of Albert? Didn't he have a shop in Newport, Oregon back in the Eigthies.

June 20, 2013 at 04:50 AM · Jeff is indeed on his own, for a quite a few years. His dad also used to make and sell violins, but I don't remember where. I will ask next time I see him.

June 20, 2013 at 02:16 PM · Hi,

Parker, don't forget Guy Harrison in Ottawa. He is an incredible maker and restorer. Certainly a go to place in Canada for the highest level of craftsmanship!


June 21, 2013 at 01:56 AM · Christian I second that.

June 21, 2013 at 08:44 AM · I like Robertson and Son's in Albuquerque, NM.

June 22, 2013 at 07:14 PM · Michael,

I too like Robertson's. Good people.

June 22, 2013 at 07:14 PM · Hi Christian, Hendrik --

You are right, of course, Guy Harrison in Ottawa shouldn't be omitted -- he's certainly one of the finest luthiers and restorers anywhere. I'm proud to be playing one of his instruments, a Lord Wilton Del Gesu model. His workshop is a delight to visit.

For this thread I was thinking, however, about an all-round violin emporium with lots of accessories, stands, cases, fiddly little items, and supplies, as well as instruments to try out, where you can drop in almost any time to browse and (not?) bother the owner/shopkeeper. Guy understandably left The Sound Post a few years ago so he could get on with his primary work as a luthier, and you now need an appointment to see him, which is quite appropriate for his work. It must be quite hard to run one of these shops without much assistance and find enough time to do your own work making and restoring instruments. I imagine many luthiers who have to manage a small-scale store-front operation must find the situation both a challenge and a dilemma.

June 22, 2013 at 07:28 PM · My favorite violin shops are Antonio Strad in San Antonio Texas and Melhart Music Center.

However, my favorite online store is Johnson Strings. The prices are great and they sell great gift items too! That's the place where I buy most of my scale books.

June 23, 2013 at 03:34 AM · David, a luthier that has so much business that they can't answer the phone or respond to emails needs an administrative assistant, no?

June 23, 2013 at 08:29 AM · jamie marie lazzara - firenze. not that i could afford one of her fiddles but her shop is an aladdin-ette's cave of wonders:


June 23, 2013 at 10:11 AM · In Sydney, I enjoy getting to Gabor Balogh

He's expensive, but he is up front about it. the little workshop is really clean, he is always very welcoming (by appointment only), but if i ask him if he can have some bows / chinr rests / etc available as well as whatever else it is I'm going there for, he will have them. He does good quality work, he's just a nice bloke.

the other three stores specialising in stringed instruments that I've been to in Sydney area have been good too, I just haven't needed to have work done there or purchased instruments better through them.

June 23, 2013 at 10:28 AM · "David, a luthier that has so much business that they can't answer the phone or respond to emails needs an administrative assistant, no?"

It's questionable whether the extra paperwork, red tape and legal compliance burden makes it worth it. These days, one probably needs a human resources department to make sure that everything to do with having an employee or employees is done properly, and in full compliance with the law.

It's easy to slip into a situation where one ends up being a business administrator, with little time left for lutherie. Most of us went into the trade because we wanted to be craftspeople, not business administrators. The trend today seems to be downsizing, rather than trying to grow. "Quality of life" issues.

A few colleagues and I have the collective background and experience to put together the next "supershop", and it's been discussed on and off over the years, but the conclusion has always been about the same: We're not that interested.

Everyone probably knows by now that both Charles and Peter Beare have left the major London shop which bears their family name, to operate on a much smaller and simpler scale. Quality of life.

June 24, 2013 at 04:40 AM ·

June 24, 2013 at 05:27 AM · My favourite violin shop is Animato Strings in Brisbane Australia. They have a comprehensive range of violins, violas, cellos and basses as well as Electic violins and all accessories. They repair on site as well. I have just bought a purple violin from them and am looking at a silent violin so I can practice quietly at home and not disturb anyone. This is a link to their site.

They also have the Animato International Violin Competition in November this year. Here is a link to their youtube video about the competition.

June 24, 2013 at 03:36 PM · David, yes, HR regulations can be punishing to the small businessman. These days you can hardly hire a neighborhood kid to shovel your sidewalk.

June 24, 2013 at 07:26 PM · I too second David's opinion. I have both a staff in the office and a staff in the atelier, yet I am lucky if I can be at my workbench for a weekly average of 2 hours daily.

There is simply too much red tape, regulations, government obligations, and general idiocy to go around... that stifles all creativity and productivity for the purpose of what?

Smaller is definitely better, if you're not Google or Samsung. And it wasn't always that way.

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