Feeling pressurized into buying

December 14, 2013 at 07:25 AM · Hi everyone, I am new here. Presently, I am in a situation that gives me much discomfort. I would like to seek the advice of the teachers and fellow parents here. It is long, so please bear with me.

My daughter has been learning the violin since she is 4, and has been advancing quite well.

We recently moved to a new city, and found a new violin teacher. Let's call him Mr A.

Mr A, on seeing my child, immediately said the she needs a full size violin. She has been playing on a 3/4. He took my child's 3/4 violin (incidentally, is from a pretty well known maker), and said that it is a China violin, it is no good. He proceeded to say that he has a few violins of various prices for us to choose from. Then he took out a violin, and asked us to take it home.

Over the course of 2 months, we were asked to bring home a few more violins, some more expensive, some less. The violins look old, and a few had labels that say 1924, 1936, etc, with oldish sounding names. I took one of them to my neighborhood luthier and he said (tactfully) to ignore the labels.

OK, back to the violins. They seemed to be old violins (though probably not as old as the labels imply), and restored in a rough manner. One of them has a few long cracks, and glued back and roughly "lacquered". One has such thick and uneven varnish (shellac?) that my younger child said it looked like maple syrup, and proceeded to pretend that he is spreading syrup on pancake. One of the violins has a bad peg that could not go all the way in. I think the hole was not done properly. Sound wise, they are reasonable, though weak on the G strings, especially on high positions.

I think Mr A buys old violins and refurbishes them himself. His work as a luthier, is very rough.

So one day my daughter had enough of the peg slipping and told me that she will not play on that violin anymore. With trepidation, on the next lesson, I returned the violin to Mr A and told him that with apologies, we are not buying the violin. We still have a trade in credit with the 3/4 violin, and we will travel back there to get a full size. Mr A was not happy. He told me that my daughter needs a good violin, that violin shops will charge a high price, that China violins are not good, etc... We do have a spare full size violin that belongs to my family, that my daughter could practice on in the meantime. Mr A asked me to bring it to the lesson so that he could take a look at it. I do not look forward to what he would say about that violin.

Over the weekend, he called me on my cell and asked me about the violin again, does my child like the violin, etc. I almost felt that I was being harassed.

That is the long and short of my story.

So what do you think? Do you think it is ethical for a teacher to push his own violins, even to the extent of badmouthing other makers? Is it right to pressurize parents to buy the teacher's violins? Am I justified to feel harassed?

On the other hand, I reflected that perhaps I had led Mr A on that I will buy his violins, that I took too long to tell him no. What could I do to placate him? Pay him a rental equivalent for the 2 month period?

I am looking at changing a new teacher. The last thing I want is for my child to dread going to lessons for fear of what he teacher would remark about the violin he is using.

Thank you all for your patience. Thanks to forum admin for publishing this. It is a long post.

Replies (50)

December 14, 2013 at 07:51 AM · Wow. Normally you hear about the practice of shops paying kickbacks to teachers who send their students over for new purchases. This guy is just cutting out the middleman.

If you have any alternative to staying with him, you'd need a good reason not to jump all over it.

December 14, 2013 at 07:54 AM · You have indeed reason to feel harassed. This teacher's behavior sounds unprofessional.

You do not owe him anything. It is a bad idea in my opinion to reward pushy behavior.

The person who should feel guilty here is your teacher, not you. Playing his violins for a few months is only good for the instruments, and after all it was his idea for you to take them home.

December 14, 2013 at 09:13 AM · Greetings,

and after you find a new teacher let us know who he is....

Be interesting to see if he has any comments to make in this forum.



December 14, 2013 at 12:40 PM · If it sounds like a creep and acts like a creep ...

You don't owe him anything on the violins - you didn't ask him to trial you his instruments. Get your 3/4 violin back. And hightail it.

December 14, 2013 at 01:10 PM · Forgive me if i cannot express concepts with precision. English is not my native language.

I have seen and heard similar stories as a "normal mechanism" here where i live (Italy). Sadly, i add .....

It's common here that a formal conservatory teacher forces a student, preferable in the final study years, to buy some "old" violin, or in anycase a violin from some local luthier he is somewhat related to.

Often, the result is not satisfactory .. if not BAD. I have seen a last-year student "forced" to buy and use an old violin, which played the 50% of his usual violin (made by my luthier, who is out of all this sort of "market"). And he HAD to do it, or the graduation would be compromised ........

Many many stories, like these. And my luthier hates this behaviour, and usually curses in direction of these teachers.... :D

My opinion is that forcing students to use and buy lesser quality (and sound) instruments is a signal that this particular teacher is a person to avoid.

I don't care for the age of an instrument or (somewhat) for its appearance: i care for the sound i hear myself under my ear, and for the sound it spreads to the listeners.

If a teacher forces someone to use a lesser quality instrument, it seems quite obvious that he's driven by a logic of "profit". I can't believe that really Mr. A is sincere ....... :)

And IMHO it's much better for you and your daughter to forget him/her and look out for a better person, who by chance will surely be a better violin teacher. ;)

And, if it were me, i wouldn't give mr A a cent, for the failed purchasing of that violin ... hoping it could be a little more piece of "lesson" to him .... ;)

(Marco Brancalion, Italy)

December 14, 2013 at 01:50 PM · I agree with everyone: find a new teacher!

December 14, 2013 at 01:57 PM · ...or if his ability to teach is actually okay...just put your foot down about the violin.

"Thank you for all your help! We really appreciate it, but we have decided to go to our previous store to upgrade our child's instrument."

That's it...you don't need to discuss the matter further.

December 14, 2013 at 02:25 PM · Run far. Run fast. This is unethical.

I would never sell a student a violin. It's a clear conflict of interest- much less sell a bad instrument. Even if you do put your foot down and say my daughter found a violin at another shop and she fell in love with it, this teacher is always going to be a little angry with you. Don't put your daughter in that position.

December 14, 2013 at 03:10 PM · Totally unethical. Fire the teacher.

December 14, 2013 at 03:21 PM · This is a text book example of conflict of interest. Unethical. Find a new teacher.

December 14, 2013 at 04:40 PM · N.A.Mohr: "That's it...you don't need to discuss the matter further."

Yes, pushy and manipulative people often have an endless number of answers up their sleeves and play on your sense of decency. Make you feel you have to defend or explain yourself and use that to try and get their way.

The "broken record" method works well to get such people off your back. Personally I prefer telling them how their behavior affects me but maybe you don't want to go there.

December 14, 2013 at 04:58 PM · Thank you so much for all your feedback. At least I know I am "normal" for feeling the way I felt.

After my first post was sent in, we did go for another lesson. What happened during my daughter's lesson is unbelievable. You will feel indignant if I described to you what he made my child go through!

I know what I need to do now. But as the story is still unfolding I feel that I cannot say too much.

December 14, 2013 at 05:32 PM · Don't let such a person anywhere nearby your child.

December 14, 2013 at 06:32 PM · Well to state that all violins from country X are bad is rather misleading. There are good and bad violins made in Italy, France, and China. In addition to playing on his Guarnerius, Elmar Oliveira the renowned violinist, in fact, performs regularly on a $2,500 Chinese violin, and uses Jay Haide instruments (also made in China). He played the Beethoven Concerto with one of these Chinese violins and I was in the orchestra. I remember reading the review of the concert the day afterwards, and the critic in the local paper said something like, 'his Guarnerius projected to the last row of the auditorium with great clarity…'

If the pegs and other parts of your daughter's instrument aren't working, I would not go through with the deal. Definitely get a second opinion from a respected luthier or teacher in your area.

December 14, 2013 at 07:32 PM · Who knows what kind of shady stuff this person is involved with - Since the teacher serves as a mentor to the student, you don't want to deal with the fallout of the student being crushed when they realize who they were looking up to.

I'm not trying to upbraid you as a parent, but you can't blind yourself to red flags like this. And I'm normally one to say "live and let live", but maybe this guy should be called out by name. It's peoples' silence that allows parasites to keep going.

December 14, 2013 at 10:21 PM · It sounds as though you are going to part ways with the teacher, which I would agree is the right thing to do. While the general consensus is that he behaved completely unprofessionally, perhaps it would be a good idea to make the break as innocuous as possible. If your daughter is going to continue lessons, there's a chance you'll still be traveling in the same circles and you don't know what kind of influence & connections he has.

December 14, 2013 at 11:33 PM · It doesn't sound like an isolated incident and this fellow already must have a reputation in those circles. I don't think you have anything to worry about if you split.

December 15, 2013 at 12:56 AM · Yup, get your 3/4 violin back and find another teacher. But just to put another perspective on this, I'm wondering if you have been clear and firm in your dealings with Mr A. Even you asked the question yourself.

If in fact you gave him the impression that you would buy his violin, then I can understand his disappointment. It doesn't excuse his behavior and he certainly has no right to harass you about it, but when taking the violin on trial, it should have been clearly understood by both parties that there is no obligation to buy. If you did not clearly express that, then I would submit that you share some of the blame.

That said, it is an awkward situation and sometimes hard to think one step ahead. In business, it pays to be completely honest -- even blunt. e.g., "OK Mr A, thank you for suggesting that we try your violin. But if we take it on trial, I cannot promise we will buy it. It is a pretty big investment and we want to be 100% sure my daughter loves the instrument."

... as opposed to ...

"Thank you so much Mr A. This is a beautiful violin and we are so glad you are offering to sell it to us."

December 15, 2013 at 01:28 AM · Sorry Smiley but I can't follow what you are saying.

This teacher states that the student needs a full size violin and offers one of his fiddles for her to take home on trial. Maryanne didn't ask for this, and even if she had how can there possibly be an obligation to buy? Even if she had said "thank you so much for offering this beautiful violin for sale"?

The feeling of obligation may stem from having had the violin on trial for 2 months. So what? The teacher should be happy someone plays the instrument. No one else was lining up to buy the violin and if so he could simply have

asked her to leave it with him again.

From a legal point of view this is even more of a joke. There was no contract, no verbal agreement. There is a good likelihood from the description of the violins that they may be badly fixed up German trade violins from the last 100 years or so, the kind that E-bay is loaded with and that get sold as "antique", "Italian" etc with big useless pictures of the false labels.

The last thing Maryanna needs to hear is that she did something wrong or could be partially to blame for this. I cannot see how.

December 15, 2013 at 05:09 AM · It should also be noted that she didn't trial *one* violin for 2 months. A variety of instruments were tried over 2 months. Quite a different situation -- at no point in time in a short trial of an instrument is the likelihood of a purchase implied.

December 15, 2013 at 06:44 PM · I second what Nate says about Chinese violins. There are many excellent student-grade and better instruments from China. We own a couple of Chinese-made (early 2002s) violas that sound remarkably good, especially for the price we paid. What your teacher says is just not correct.

December 15, 2013 at 06:51 PM · Fair points. I'm not necessarily putting blame on the OP -- just pointing out that business is business. In my experience, it helps to have things spelled out. It is precisely because there is no contract that it is not 100% clear the intent of the buyer. I certainly do not think OP did anything wrong, but I can't help but wonder if the teacher might have a different attitude if OP was very firm with him in the first place that they were taking the instruments on trial with no commitment to purchase.

Since none of us were in the room, we cannot speak for the verbal commitments made (or implied). Even the OP is wondering in her original post if perhaps she mislead the teacher into thinking they would buy. So in no way is OP committed, but I am just pointing out that depending on the conversations, it is understandable that the teacher might be disappointed if they do NOT buy. Here is a quote from the original post.

"On the other hand, I reflected that perhaps I had led Mr A on that I will buy his violins, that I took too long to tell him no. What could I do to placate him? Pay him a rental equivalent for the 2 month period? "

That said, it is pretty standard practice that taking an instrument on trial involves no obligation on the part of the buyer. That is the industry norm. I should know; I took dozens of instruments on trial before I purchased my current instrument. But in some cases, I had to sign an agreement that spelled out the terms of the trial. And for some of the violins, I was responsible for shipping costs to return the instruments.

Bottom line, we have only heard one side of the story, but assuming there are no major facts missing, I go back to my original recommendation. Get your 3/4 violin back and find another teacher. This one seems a little too focused on money. And if your child fears going to lessons, then it is not a good fit.

December 15, 2013 at 07:54 PM · Smiley, read between the lines. OP seems to have a moral barometer and is trying to understand a situation based on ethic. It's a dead parrot.

December 15, 2013 at 09:32 PM · Imagine that you were in the position of the teacher, acting as he did. It's totally unthinkable.

This story is quite incredible. I agree with the suggestion to run far and fast, and don't allow him to be anywhere near your daughter.

I would be interested to hear what happened in her last (and hopefully final) lesson.

December 16, 2013 at 04:13 PM · I would also like to know what happened in the final lesson. It should be no problem for you to tell the story if you keep his name as Mr. A, especially since you've already given such a detailed opening post.

December 16, 2013 at 06:31 PM · (popcorn) ...

December 16, 2013 at 06:59 PM · I'm having some various sentiments here. If the teacher's position is ethical and right, why wouldn't it be equally ethical for a violin dealer to push taking lessons at their shop? Either one looks pretty sketchy, to me.

December 17, 2013 at 04:54 AM · OP says she's Italian... I heard there's a place around there where they make violins ... Cremona or some such ...

December 17, 2013 at 07:48 AM · What's worse, being pressured to buy early 1900s German production violins with labels(most of these labels are real, unlike many other types of labels) or being pressured by online "authorities" to buy cheap brand new Chinese violins, of questionable provenance or set up. At least you can take the early 1900s German violin and get it fixed up properly and you do have something of value, The modern Chinese violin starts devalueing the minute it is shipped to you!!

In both cases someone else wants to make your decision for you, when that's exactly the kind of decision you should be making yourself OP.

December 17, 2013 at 11:51 AM · Noone wants to loose their money Lyndon, but when you are buing a cheap (not VSO) violin the priority is not investment value but playability. You may not realize it but many of these Chinese violins are EMINENTLY playable and as such excellent 'value' (read serve-the-purpose) for a starting violinist.

I did not read through all the posts above but I had exactly the same experience where a teacher started to criticize my (quite nice) old and named German bow. He then started to produce bows of 'better quality' for me to trade to 'improve my playing'. After the fourth try - which by this stage was getting comical in a sick way, I dumped his bows and him.

Get rid of this teacher ASAP. The most important quality of a teacher that I know of is that they have the students best interests at heart. This one obviously does not. RUN don't walk. There must be better where you live.

December 17, 2013 at 03:00 PM · In all fairness Lyndon who knows what those violins look like. The description from the OP doesn't sound very promising: visible cracks, thick gooey varnish, peg not fitting in the bushing. You know that the cost of proper repairs on many of the German trade fiddles can easily exceed the value of the instrument. Anyway it doesn't change the situation which is that a teacher badmouths a students violin, other dealers and pushes his own stuff. And apparently was very rude to a student.

December 17, 2013 at 03:02 PM · There is absolutely nothing wrong with a Chinese violin if it is well made and sounds good. So you spend $2500 on a violin and sell it again in five years for $2000. It's still cheaper than renting. People do the same thing with paintings. They think too much about how much the painting is going to be worth in 50 years instead of how much they'll enjoy looking at it. Does the child enjoy playing the instrument? the instrument help the child develop technically and musically? These are the factors that determine overall value, obviously along with the price.

December 17, 2013 at 03:05 PM · And by the way, is every violin made in Germany in the 1890s necessarily a "trade" or "workshop" violin? Were there no individual makers in Germany at this time? I have such a violin, and it says "Hermann Jaas 1893" inside, and I like it very much. I've only been able to find one other violin on the market by this maker. I told someone I paid $3500 and they told me I'd been ripped off because "German workshop violins" are never worth that much apparently. Can such a sweeping generalization be true?

December 17, 2013 at 06:01 PM · Paul I don't think ANY sweeping generalizations are ever true. (This includes Lyndon's sweeping generalization that all Chinese violins are junk and not worth buying). Maybe someone on Maestronet would be able to answer your specific maker question.

My answer to Lyndon's question is ANYTIME you feel pressured to buy something it's bad. The item being pushed doesn't make it any better/worse.

I also agree with Elise; I personally find the most value in an instrument I enjoy playing and I certainly have that with my modern Chinese violin. (Snow PV900)

If I ever decide to part with it and take a monetary loss, I'll also be sure to factor in the time and energy I spent with the instrument and see how I feel then. I say if because the only instrument I would replace it with is a benchmade one. If that day comes I can honestly say I won't care if the hands that made my instrument were Italian, American, Chinese, you name it. All I will care about is the sound, look and feel of the instrument itself.

Back on topic I would love to hear when there are further developments to the OP's story and if they want to share it, what happened in that final lesson.

December 18, 2013 at 07:41 AM · Some of you reading challenged might need to go back and read my comments, I was refereing to cheap Chinese violins, the stuff for 300$ and there around, even at $1000 I can almost always find a better sounding German antique for the same of less money. If all of you are happy with your cheap Chinese violins, or even really cheap German violins, I have one thing to say, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT A GOOD VIOLIN SOUNDS LIKE, why not save up your money and buy a good violin, rather than go on and on about how good your junker is.

The sweeping generalization in the OPs post was her luthier saying that early 1900s labels on German violins are all crap, not so, most cheap German violins had fake or model Strad, Guarneri, Stainer etc labels, if they actually had a makers label they are more often than not genuine(although it would usually refer to a dealer, store or factory, not the actual maker) then the quality CAN be quite a bit better, of course the shoddy repair work doesn't help anything, but as I said most of the CHEAP Chinese violins have shoddy set up work and need sometimes hundreds of dollars set up to make them in top playing condition.

December 18, 2013 at 08:27 AM · Well, to nitpick you on this one Lyndon, the OP said nothing at all about German violins, or crap:

<<"The violins look old, and a few had labels that say 1924, 1936, etc, with oldish sounding names. I took one of them to my neighborhood luthier and he said (tactfully) to ignore the labels. OK, back to the violins. They seemed to be old violins (though probably not as old as the labels imply), and restored in a rough manner." >>

I think what the OP has reported the luthier as saying, sounds entirely appropriate for the amount of info provided here. They may have been French, German, English, Italian or Nigerian labels for all we know. and nothing implies that the insturments themsleves were considered crap by the luthier, that is what we are deducing by the detail of the finish, pegs, etc. Surely what you would be saying if she was referring to those aspects in a violin and finishing up by saying 'oh, by the way, I bought it on ebay from a Chinese factory'.

December 18, 2013 at 11:18 AM · Well in the early 1900s, something like 90% of all violins were made in Germany or on the border in Bohemia, the point is if they're german most labels from that time are real(except on ebay!), or at least original to manufacture, its the Italian ones (and sometimes french) that are usually fake. Don't go by labels doesn't mean the label isn't real, it means examine the violin and the label and make sure it is authentic, perhaps the guy at the violin store knows something we don't know, but the advice to ignore labels, should be modified to ignore fake labels, not genuine labels, which can actually add to the desirability and value of a violin.

December 22, 2013 at 05:01 PM · Hope you were able to resolve this problem, Maryanna. Such can be quite difficult...

RE: the final comments about trade/workshop violins from the early 1900's, I suspect that luthier is essentially saying don't worry about the label (as you're not paying for a collector's item in that case), but just be concerned about actual quality instead. There can be some good ones to had at a good value as long as you're not all caught up in labels (and resale value).

That's more or less how I approached it in my purchases of several such instruments usually labeled John Juzek from the 1st half of the 20th century -- the fact that there seems to be Juzek knockoffs cropping up probably says something good about the "real" ones, if John Juzek ever actually made any himself. His were mostly attributed to Czech origin prior to the 50's -- and then German (of lesser quality) for a couple decades when the NYC DOE apparently bought truckloads of them for the school system here.

My kids' violin teacher (and a few others in their Suzuki program) like these Juzeks quite well and think I got great bargains on them. Some shops do seem to sell them as quality step-ups between $3-8K (and possibly more in some cases) depending on actual quality. But yeah, no doubt many "Juzeks" that show up, especially on eBay, are either junky or faked or both...

Just don't get too hung up on their resale/trade-in value and don't overpay either. If the quality's there, you shouldn't lose much, if anything, in resale/trade-in value. Treat it as an investment in your child's (or your own) growth, not your future retirement nest egg...



December 22, 2013 at 06:40 PM · Juzek is a trade name for instruments commissioned for Metropolitan Music in the USA, I think, they come in all ranges, from fairly decent to really cheap, I wouldn't assume they were frauds as opposed to just really cheap models, and yes the quality deteriorated over time, I think they are still being made today but now in China.

December 22, 2013 at 07:52 PM · Yes, Juzeks are still being made today -- and sold mainly by the Metropolitan Music company. I actually do also have a pretty good 90's Juzek viola bought used.

The real truth of the early Juzeks remain clouded though, but as I mentioned, probably doesn't matter much as long as you don't value them as collector's items (whether based on label or not), but on actual quality of each individual instrument.

I do think there are knockoffs though mainly because there are some (on eBay anyway) that clearly do not look likely to be real, eg. certain age claims given their shape and labeling, certain (missing) characteristics for claims of being their Master Art models from certain periods, occasional cases actually being sold as copies of Juzek (vs simply being Juzeks), etc. Either way, as long as one is buying primarily based on actual quality, it won't matter much...



January 6, 2014 at 04:48 PM · Happy New Year!

I think to thank all those who have been giving me support and advice, I should continue the story. What happened in that last lesson? Yes, it was the last lesson. I have terminated lessons. For good.

We brought along the spare violin for the lesson. During the lesson, Mr A kept asking my child to play on his violin (the one he is trying to sell). when my child said she prefers her own, he forcefully took the violin from her.

Mr A inspected the violin, and even took measurements of it. He said the violin is not a "bad" violin, but an "awful" violin, and the bow is a bad bow and has no sound.

According to my child, Mr A did not teach for the entire lesson, he became a violin peddler.

My children have concurrent lessons. The arrangement is that I sit in my younger child's lesson in the adjacent room. Mr A interrupted the lesson, and told me what he thinks of the "awful" violin. He said my child is a good violinist and that he would lose interest if he played on that violin.

Upon reaching home, I felt very indignant. A grown man could intimidate me, but should never do that to a child. I wrote to the school to terminate lessons.

So now we are still looking for a new teacher. I am looking at the music faculty of the local university. But I think since school just started, it would be quite hard.

January 6, 2014 at 05:29 PM · I hope you also included the reason WHY you terminated lessons with that instructor!

January 6, 2014 at 11:29 PM · > even at $1000 I can almost always find a

> better sounding German antique for the

> same of less money

I'd agree that it's certainly possible to find German workshop instruments from the early 1900's that play very well given a good setup and proper maintenance.

The issue that my students run into is the same that this parent is facing...without enough information to evaluate the provenance and condition of an older instrument, they are completely at the mercy of frequently unscrupulous behavior by teachers and shops that try to foist their unwanted junk on them.

Workshops like Scott Cao and Ming Jiang Zhu are now making instruments in the $1000-$2500 range that are exceptional values, with workmanship and response equal to instruments that cost two and three times as much just ten years earlier. The advantage of buying new, having a warranty through an established luthier, and being a recognized name with a common base value across the market makes it easier for parents. As a teacher, it's easier for me to make specific recommendations in this bottom price range because they models tend to be fairly consistent.

January 7, 2014 at 01:20 AM · dream on, the new violin sellers are just as guilty of pushing junk, these violins are not universally appreciated by everyone, and the customer should be given choices, leaving antiques out of the mix of instruments to try is a big mistake IMO.

January 7, 2014 at 02:06 AM · I send my students to Jonathan and David Morey, Michael and Rena (and Dan) Weisshaar, Roger Foster, Thomas Metzler, Bob Cauer, etc. and have NEVER had a major sound or playability issue with newer instruments, even the ones from China and Eastern Europe.

But then again, I guess you know more than these guys...*cough*

January 7, 2014 at 02:30 AM · Buy a Chinese workshop violin with confidence!

In the early 1900's they were pumping out crummy workshop violins by the barrel full in Germany. A hundred years later these are now collectors items worth $1000 and more!

Now we have a new country (China) pumping out new workshop vioins. Why wait a hundred years for them to be discovered to be true gems? Go out and buy!

January 7, 2014 at 04:40 AM · Actually not a lot has changed those crummy 100 year old violins still exist and people pay a few hundred for them on ebay, but theyre still not worth it, certainly not $1000; 95% of workshop violins, be they one hundred years old or brand new are junk!!! But even old junk tends to sound slightly better than new junk.

January 7, 2014 at 04:45 AM · Gene, these guys all sell chinese junk because at their labour rates they can't afford to rebuild and resell antiques at affordable prices(in the student range) Actually you will see they also sell 100 year old workshop violins, just at $5000, not $1000. My labour rate being less than 1/4 theirs, I can afford to sell quality (not cheap workshop)100 year old antiques for $500-2000, at these prices its hard to find a new Chinese violin to compete sound wise, perhaps some people prefer the look of new Chinese instruments but that's definetly an aquired taste

but honestly the $500 violins are not the best grade. but still compete against new $500 violins

January 7, 2014 at 08:07 AM · No, they don't.

Roger Foster works by himself in a little workshop in Orange, CA. Besides repair and restoration, he also makes his own instruments. While he no longer runs a full-time establishment (and is available by appointment only), for quite a number of years his affordable instruments came from workshops in Poland, and he and his assistant did impeccable setups as well as stellar bow rehairs.

Shiquan Zhao and Gerrit Maurer have done amazing things with Chinese workshop instruments at the Morey's shop, and for well over a decade their best selling model cost only $500 and outplayed most of the beat up junk being peddled on the market at two and three times the price. One of my students who didn't have the financial resources to afford an expensive instrument finished her undergraduate years at UCLA playing in the symphony on one of these instruments. Many of her fellow students where always very surprised to find out that the excellent instrument she played cost so little.

I'm skeptical, because I regularly see students coming into orchestra and private lessons with "bargain antiques" at the thousand dollar range with cracks, poorly done or disguised repairs, poorly-matched new varnish, ill-fitting pegs, neck projections that defy playability, bridges that don't fit, etc. From time to time, someone comes in with something really workable (two of my students have restored German fiddles from Neuner & Hornsteiner that were bargains because they had so much work done on them), but unfortunately I've seen far too many others that fall in the other category to get excited about them.

Now, I do have to acknowledge that most of my students don't stay on instruments in this price range for that long, and one has a much larger pool of instruments to choose from beyond the thousand dollar mark. Until they went up in price this past decade or two, the violins from the Ernst Heinrich Roth workshop represented some of the best "bang for the buck" one could get for a German fiddle from the early 1900's. They're a little pricey now. :(

January 7, 2014 at 08:35 AM · The top shop I know in Los Angeles, Michael Fischer, doesn't sell Chinese violins, but I agree LA shop prices can be very high, obviously you haven't bothered to visit my shop, I'm only 60 miles from LA, and I sell instruments at what would be wholesale prices to these bigger shops, my prices are consistently lower than similar instruments are selling for on ebay, for instance.

Part of the struggle is finding suitable instruments, I reject far more fiddles than I consider buying, its not just about selling any old antique and charging top dollar, I know all about junkers and what they look like and sound like and avoid them like the plague, right now I have two high quality neck grafted hand made antiques, not production models for $1500ea, a 180 year old trade instrument, German, listed on ebay and at my store for 1500. I don't sell strad label violins, guarneri label violins, I do have a couple of Schweitzer label(fake) violins for $700.

before you jump to conclusions about overpriced antiques, bring your best $700-1500 chinese violin to my store and compare. I'm not making this up.

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