Help an old fellow purchase a decent violin.

March 24, 2014 at 08:06 PM · Advice needed for old retired fellow who wants to purchase a good violin for enjoyment in senior years.

I'm an old retired accountant who took lessons as a child and progressed far enough to play in a high school orchestra. Sadly I was not smart enough to keep playing it. I have an old Czech violin. I am unsure if it is a good violin or not. Sometimes it seems to sound very sweet to me, and other times it seems raspy, especially on the d and g strings. I have about $3,000 to spend. Should I buy one of the new Chinese violins, or should I look for a used one? I am going to have a lot of time on my hands. I will be happy if I know that the violin is one that does sound good if an old geezer has the ability to make it sound good. I will of course play more and keep playing if in fact my violin can actually sound good if I practice. Please weigh in. This is my retirement present to myself to keep me mentally fit in my aging years. Bless anyone who chimes in.

Replies (21)

March 24, 2014 at 08:37 PM · I'm an old retired starting-up-again player too. I have an old german violin from childhood days but bought a Samuel Shen Chinese violin out of curiosity. The Shen sounds much better than my old one and cost under $2,000. Be sure to try before buying, and good luck.

ken barry

March 24, 2014 at 10:25 PM · In that price range, a new Chinese instrument is your best bet. Try as many as you can before you buy.

March 24, 2014 at 10:27 PM · One other thought, try out a Hiroshi Kono if you can get your hands on one -- another excellent choice for an instrument under $3000.

March 25, 2014 at 01:05 AM · Before you go out and buy, it might be worth having your Czech friend looked over by a good luthier; if it only needs setup and tweaking, you could spend your money on a bow, or something else. (you could also try out other violins and see what your ear likes).

It's not a question of Chinese or other so much as what you will enjoy playing. If you aren't looking for a 'name' instrument, most luthiers will have things to try within your range, violins that could surprise you.

Besides, as I'm sure you know, getting a new acquaintance with expertise can make the whole enterprise more interesting.

March 25, 2014 at 01:10 AM · I love my Jay Haide which I purchased for $2400. It's picky with strings- I use a combination of Olive, Pirazzi, Tzigane and Goldbrokat E

March 25, 2014 at 02:02 AM · Robert: I'm about 10 years younger than you or so. I have a 1930s French shop violin (L Mougenot-Gand) that I like, but there are lots of options. I bought a mid priced Coda Bow for right at 400.00. I play dominant strings with a gold label e string.

I found that taking lessons on a regular basis from a good teacher changed the sound I got out of my violin more than I had expected. It's been a little over a year and I found that I now can get a much better tone out of my violin with less effort. If you do not have a teacher right now, I would encourage you to pick one up before you change violins.

March 25, 2014 at 04:16 AM · I am 83 years old and had played extensively from the age of seven till about 45. I played both violin and viola. I began playing again about ten years ago on my old violin I got in about 1940. it was very old then and had been extensively repaired. When I started to play it again I bought a set of inexpensive strings at a local store and a $50 bow on EBay. It sounded pretty bad. I soon got a set of Dominant strings and improved the tone tremendously. later I experimented with other strings and had a luthier adjust the sound post and fit a new bridge. I also bought a fairly good pernumbuco bow-and started to take lessons. I now use enfold reds on the D and G. enfold Blue A and a Dom E. All these have combined to produce a pretty decent sounding instrument. I never considered buying a different one.

I also started to play in chamber groups again an about five years ago and also bought a viola. I have experimented with strings on it and have tried several combinations. I now am using Vision Solos on the viola and am liking them so far. I acquired a very good old viola bow as a gift and it changed my viola's tone for the better.

So- try different strings; get the best bow you can afford and have it haired by the best luthier you can find; take lessons if possible and play with others. buying another violin should be a last resort. Good luck on your journey.

March 25, 2014 at 07:02 AM · You can buy a Chinese violin off of e-bay, but you don't get to try it before. This is the cheapest solution. You will have to set it up again though with a luthier and this is going to cost.

I've seen some respectably sounding Chinese violins in the hands of students but after a proper set up.

March 25, 2014 at 09:29 AM · I don't recommend buying from eBay. With a $3000 budget, it can get you a very good and decent violin from a luthier. You should go to a violin seller, and they will let you try out their violins.

March 25, 2014 at 09:32 AM · agree

March 25, 2014 at 07:56 PM · Robert,

The upper end Eastman instruments are exceptional. I wouldn't spend more than you need, perhaps put some of the extra money in a nice bow and set up.

March 26, 2014 at 04:20 PM · I would think good course of action would be to take your violin to a luthier and have them look it over. possibly a new soundpost or placement, new strings, and give her a good look over for possible damage. If theres nothing wrong and new strings make her sound good again then I'd say hold off on a new violin for the time being. Take some time to get reacquainted so when your ready for a new instrument you have a better idea of knowing what you are looking for.

with a budget of 3,000 you have some good options. You can go either or, a new modern or one that has some years on it. A new violin will take some time to settle in and the sound will change a bit, whereas a old will generally be the sound you hear is the sound you get. Also try to find a seller that will give you 100% trade-in value just in case you might want to trade it in for something else.

March 26, 2014 at 05:07 PM · Charles Henry: You are my new hero! :D

March 28, 2014 at 12:56 AM · I just have to wonder about these string-combiners. How much does one have to spend on strings before zeroing in on the particular combination of one Olive, one Pirazzi, one Larsen Tzigane and a Goldbrokat E, and all of that for a violin that costs $2400?

March 28, 2014 at 01:10 AM · I assume that you have a lot of time being retired... so do not rush!

Try as many violins as you can... check out online personal sales... go to a music store. Bring a friend to play for you. Listen.

Do not go for a particular brand, make or country of origin, just follow your guts.

Go for a comfort. It many sound silly, but last thing you want to start with at that age is a violin not properly setup and customized to suit your individual needs.

I second the advice to invest in a good bow.... the return in sound quality per your $ is amazingly higher with a good stick within that price range.

p.s. your photo is upside-down

March 28, 2014 at 02:02 AM · Greetings,

I agree Paul. Just get it set up well and stick a set of dominants on. Probably with a dirt cheap goldbrokat e. Practice basic tone production exericses so that you are really getting the best out of the instrument. Maybe treat your self to an experimental string for Christmas.



March 30, 2014 at 03:38 PM · Hi Robert,

2 years ago I was in a similar situation as yourself. I had played for a couple years as a child but dropped it when I was 15 years old. I still had my old full size student violin which was a German made Strad model. It had a very harsh and unpleasant tone that I suspect was part of the reason I never progressed very far as a youth. I spent a few hundred dollars on this instrument to no avail. After a new soundpost, bridge, tailpiece, several different string combination, it still sounded harsh so I gave up and started looking around. I played many different violins, Mostly new Chinese violins but some old instruments as well. I almost bought a Jay Haide but then found an old American made fiddle circa 1890’s that I fell in love with. I bought it from a local guy who buys and sells used violins and advertises in the local newspaper online. I paid $ 700 for the violin and another $ 400 or so for peg bushings, a bridge, planning the fingerboard. I’ve been playing this violin for 2 years now and absolutely love it. So my advice is to keep looking and you will know when you find the violin that you connect with.

April 1, 2014 at 12:02 PM · Thanks for the help with the violin multi-tuner app! Here is the name of the luthier in Great Barrington I mentioned to you: Francis Morris, Great Barrington, MA.

April 1, 2014 at 01:38 PM · It's impossible to know without seeing your current instrument, but...

Don't spend your last dollar on a violin before you know what you're buying. So, do the adjustments (and string changes, etc.), assuming your current violin is at least competent. Then take lessons.

If all of that goes well, your best investment may well be a fine bow. In that price range, there may be a modern maker on his/her way up. Also, there are some older German sticks that don't get priced like French ones, to your potential benefit. But try lots of things, and know what the best can do.

April 1, 2014 at 05:42 PM · Hi Robert, buy form anywhere BUT eBay, you need to buy from someone who has a good reputation and who offers good value for money.

This site is well worth a look their prices are good and they have masses of excellent feedback going back many years:

West Country Violins


April 1, 2014 at 10:26 PM · And its also your personal business, who would have guessed from you recommendation???

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine