Ming Jiang Zhu Violin

August 22, 2014 at 12:46 AM · Are the Ming Jinag Zhu violin's a good deal? If you've tried one what did you like or dislike? I've heard of these violins in good ways and not so good ways.

Replies (101)

August 22, 2014 at 01:13 AM · no and no, what China has succeeded in replicating(except for the extreme top end) is early 20th century German factory violins with fake Stradivari labels. Perhaps because that's what so easily available for them to copy.

August 22, 2014 at 02:13 AM · I'm sure those VSA awards were just flukes.

http://www.zhuviolin.com/ENjianli.htm

August 22, 2014 at 03:34 AM · It would appear from your link that some of his violins are at the extreme top end (as I posted above) of Chinese violin production, both in quality and price I would assume, that still doesn't mean they either look just like real Strads or sound like them, remember one of the judges we know, David Burgess, has said particularly negative things about the sound of Stradivaris, so if an instrument actually sounded like a Stradivari at the VSA, it would probably lose, as real Strads consistently do in their rigged double blind tests.

August 22, 2014 at 03:38 AM · How does one rig a double blind test?

August 22, 2014 at 05:22 AM · Picking poorly preserved or not optimally set up instruments to enter the competition is just one way. Using heavily revarnished examples of Strads etc

most Strads and del Gesus are in fairly poor condition as to suffering multiple major repairs and having lost most of their varnish and in many cases covered with thick layers of French Polish or shellac.

The interesting thing is even the modern makers who are being claimed to be better than Stradivari etc are all copying, you guessed it, Stradivari or del Gesu. go figure....

August 22, 2014 at 06:42 AM · A student of mine bought a Ming Jiang Zhu violin last year... it was a good workshop violin and at the price (circa $3,500) I think it was an excellent deal. Still, Stradivari has nothing to worry about.

August 22, 2014 at 05:31 PM · >> Picking poorly preserved or not optimally set up instruments...

I've read blogs by multiple people who were participants (rather than organizers) of both the Indianapolis and Paris double blind tests.

The consensus seems to be that all of the violins were world class solo instruments, regardless of age, visual condition or state of varnish.

Do you have information to the contrary?

>> The interesting thing is even the modern makers who are being claimed to be better than Stradivari etc are all copying, you guessed it, Stradivari or del Gesu. go figure....

This is a bit of a red herring. One could just as well use the names Amati or Stainer or anyone else who made violins along "classic" lines pre-Strad or del Gesu.

Just about everyone copies the DIMENSIONS of the classic, old violins because

1) they look fantastic fresh out of the shop of a master luthier and varnisher, and

2) the proportions are ideal for an adult human to play it and use the hundreds of years of technique amassed for those dimensions.

The "competitions" (they were actually tests of some widely held beliefs) centered on sound. And what is done today to get a sound varies a bit from how Antonio did it 300+ years ago.

August 22, 2014 at 05:59 PM · Some members are simply sinophobic.

August 22, 2014 at 07:03 PM · I have to say that I thought the sound in the first video (Fiddlershop) was excellent, and I have not heard a Chinese fiddle sound so good before.

Maybe this is the start of something very good. I try to keep an open mind about these things. The test I would be interested in though would be to find out if the sound carried well.

August 22, 2014 at 08:28 PM · I have several students playing on Zhu's workshop models in the $2000-$3000 range, and they are an excellent value for their cost. It's great for the students and their families to be able to obtain new instruments that sound and look good, have decent warranties, no questionable repair histories, easily established identities, and consistent valuations across the board...it's like being able to recognize a Scott Cao product no matter where you are on the planet. I was introduced to them at the shop of Jonathan and David Morey (and family!) out in Lakewood, and they definitely exceeded my expectations. Prior, I had been hunting down 1930's made EH Roth (Markneukirchen) instruments for my students but those are getting quite scarce and pricey these days.

My wife and I also own one of their violas in the same price range, it's pretty much the best bang for the buck that we've found. I did try a Wojciech Topa (Poland) recently that was just thrilling to play, that's another maker (and workshop) to check out too!

For clarification: while I am mentioning Scott Cao and Wojciech Topa as well, I am speaking directly about my experience with violins and violas from the workshop of Ming Jiang Zhu.

August 22, 2014 at 09:25 PM · Gene, are you refering to having a Cao viola, or a Ming Jiang Zhu?

August 22, 2014 at 09:32 PM · I personally think it's the player who plays the violin. A fantastic player can make it sound like a $100,000 vs a poor player who makes it sound like its original value or below.

August 22, 2014 at 09:34 PM · Here's Fiddlerman on a $99 violin.

August 22, 2014 at 11:45 PM · I have a Ming Jiang Zhu Violin and Viola. Both are the AAA model (909). The viola is amazing! It is Strad shaped and worth much more than it costs. It's fun watching people react after playing it.

The violin is a Guarneri and not bad at all. If you see one in a shop try to talk down the price. Most likely there is a good amount that it can move. I've had both instruments for a few years now and am 100% happy with my purchase. I get to try many instruments since I teach and work out of a violin shop and I like the MJZ better than any of the European ones in the same price range.

Fun fact: It's also the violin I use in every Violin String Review demo.

August 23, 2014 at 11:00 AM · "I personally think it's the player who plays the violin. A fantastic player can make it sound like a $100,000..."

A fine player will make you listen to the playing more than to the violin: its tone will still be what it is. Sorry.

August 23, 2014 at 11:54 AM · Lyndon wrote:

"remember one of the judges we know, David Burgess, has said particularly negative things about the sound of Stradivaris.."

__________________________

Not really. Some are excellent sounding instruments. Some aren't.

Are there some problems with them living up to the legends of vast superiority? Sure.

Can soloist-quality players reliably distinguish them from select, high-quality contemporary violins? It's not looking that way right now.

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"...so if an instrument actually sounded like a Stradivari at the VSA, it would probably lose..."

________________________________

I'm not involved in the "tone judging" at Violin Society of America competitions. Professional players handle that part.

August 23, 2014 at 02:52 PM · Lyndon's losing it faster than my brain cells are dying ... (Not that I had many in the first place ...)

August 23, 2014 at 04:42 PM · "A fine player will make you listen to the playing more than to the violin: its tone will still be what it is. Sorry."

Not so sure about that. A top player can't make a dreadful school violin only fit for firewood sound great, even if the playing has something special. But I would agree that the player is more imortant than the violin, as long as the fiddle is reasonably decent and well set up. It does not have to be a $6 million Strad.

August 24, 2014 at 04:51 AM · That 99$ fiddle sounds absolutely horrible on my stereo, is that Seraphim's idea of a good sound, if so it would explain a lot!!

August 24, 2014 at 12:42 PM · Someone had said a good player can make a bad instrument sound good. So I posted a video of the same player using a $99 violin for the sake of comparrison to the MJZ violin.

August 24, 2014 at 10:21 PM ·

August 25, 2014 at 04:18 AM · I have heard these Zhu violins are good. I have a Topa, I really like it. A friend of mine played a Topa viola for me and it was incredible. I would consider a Zhu viola too, if I were in the market for one.

August 25, 2014 at 08:38 AM · Maybe John, people could mistakenly even think you are daft, because I've no idea where you are coming from, and I'm sure others are equally bewildered.

Plain English please - or at worst Plain Welsh, French, German or whatever ...

Could it even be that you and Lyndon are barking up the same OLD tree? Old = great. New = Bad????

EDIT

In any case you are mis-quoting me and others on this thread, because we have never said that Chinese fiddles are better than Strads etc. We may have inferred that some modern fiddles by excellent makers may be as good as a Strad, or del whatsit.

It is possible you have as I've said above, caught the bug off Lyndon.

OR is your post meant to be pure irony, in which case I am probably missing the point. Or maybe you are having a dig at L?

Please answer soon otherwise I will have to go to church and pray for you! (wink) (And that would not be good for either of us ...)

August 25, 2014 at 09:24 PM · But after 400 years of violins, what else would we have to talk about?

August 26, 2014 at 03:01 AM · SP | But after 400 years of violins, what else would we have to talk about?

Only the dwindling pool of old violins. Apparently nothing else exists (o-O).

August 26, 2014 at 03:59 PM · There was a famous (infamous) violin maker of the 1800s by the name of George Gemunder. He found such a prejudice against violins that looked new, that he started to antique his violins to make them look like old Italian masterpieces.

He won international competitions with them and they were hailed at exhibitions as genuine old master violins. Some of the notable names he "fooled" with his violins were Wieniawski, Ole Bull and Vieuxtemps.

You can still find copies of his "Progress in Violin Making" from the late 1800s. More of a rant against the sad state of prejudice against new violins, odd wood treatments, bad restoration and preservation practices than anything else. Many parts of it read like it was lifted right out of the frequently charged Maestronet forums.

Apparently many soloists and dealers of 150 years ago also confused the "old" look of a violin with its sound.

August 26, 2014 at 06:10 PM · I heard that Wieniawski, Ole Bull and Vieuxtemps were fooled because the test was "rigged"...

August 26, 2014 at 06:30 PM · Lyndon must have been a witness ...

August 27, 2014 at 12:59 PM · Hi John

Depends on who the fantasy is by ...

The one for violin and piano by Schoenberg is pretty wonderful!

August 27, 2014 at 02:13 PM · “China can now lay claim to producing a contemporary equivalent to the famed Stradivarius.” - Time Magazine.

I couldn't find a link to the 1997 Time article. I got the above quote here:

http://www.stradviolin.com/spotlight-events/ming-jiang-zhu-luthier.html

August 27, 2014 at 04:54 PM · John, if you want some further fantasy coupled with a bit of ear-bending try Haba's Quarter-Tone Fantasy Op 9a for solo violin*. Actually, "ear-bending" is a misnomer - one's ears soon get accustomed to the quarter-tone idiom and it becomes perfectly natural in context. Just don't try it in your next Mozart sonata :-)

*There is a rare performance of it by Antonin Novak on Supraphon SU 3335-2 131.

August 27, 2014 at 11:53 PM · Fair question, and without answer. Or rather, it depends on who you ask. It is definitely *not* physically impossible, and I believe it's not even unlikely, given the centuries of accumulated expertise in luthierie and research in acoustics of different materials.

Now, I can't see why it would bother people that such a violin would come from China (or any other specific place, for that matter), except perhaps that "comparable" violins began selling for $1,000 when they paid 5- and 6-figure prices for their own relics.

October 2, 2014 at 10:37 AM · I'm a professional violinist in Chicago and I just purchased two Ming Jiang Zhu violins. I just came off an exhaustive two month search to find a great violin for about $10k, and I visited just about every local shop. When I tried a new G909 I was stunned by how great the tone and projection were. I was even more stunned when I heard the price, as the violin sounded superior to many $9k and $10k violins I tried. I bought it after playing it for a few hours, and in the months since my purchase, it has opened up amazingly well. I ran across and S909, and again, I could not believe the sound of this copy. It was brighter and a bit louder the the Guarneri copy, very distinct. I had to have this one, as well. I've had this one for about two months, and it is also opening up like I cannot believe. I purchased two very fine instruments for less than I was looking to spend on one, and I could not be happier. Everyone who plays my MJZ violins has the same stunned look on their face. These top level instruments are each made by only one of Zhu's senior luthiers: he guides them through the entire process, and the instrument must meet Zhu's stringent approval before he puts his label in it. They each come with a Certificate of Authenticity with the violin's serial number on it (which matches the label's serial number) to make sure it is authentic as there are fakes being sold after all of Zhu's success. The label also names the luthier. Maybe I got lucky and received extraordinary works from the shop, but I don't think so. The man has TWO gold medals for violin and a silver for viola from VSA, not to mention many other other awards. AFAIK, Zhu is currently the maker with the most awards. He is a genius. The 909s may not be as good as most Strads, but I can assure you that those two violins he made that won VSA gold medals are...

October 2, 2014 at 11:42 AM · Very interesting comments, thanks. Maybe I should consider one.

October 3, 2014 at 05:00 AM · Is it just me or does Adrian's post sound suspiciously like ad copy???

Actually the factory production violins you purchased are not the hand made violins by this maker that won the awards, I think the hand made models sell for $15000 or more. He's really just putting his name on the cheaper models.

October 3, 2014 at 05:27 AM · Hi Lyndon. While my post is enthusiastic, it is not ad copy. I have no affiliation with Noble Heart Violins, or Ming Jiang Zhu. As stated in my post, each of these models I purchased are made entirely by hand by one of Zhu's senior luthiers while Zhu himself supervises the process. Zhu then thoroughly test plays each violin before putting in his label. I've spoken to Tommy (the public liaison at Zhu's workshop)about their method, and the sites that sell his workshop's instruments, not to mention credible music magazines, verify that they are handmade instruments in the manner I described. In a video by Seraphim above, a shop owner tells of an incident where he slipped one of these Zhu workshop instruments into a test where an advanced violinist was evaluating expensive old Cremonese instruments. The player rated the Zhu instrument as the second best :)

By the by, what is your experience with Zhu's workshop instruments?

October 3, 2014 at 08:37 AM · Here is another example of an S909A Zhu workshop violin, though it is new and not yet played in -

October 3, 2014 at 11:04 AM · I'm not familiar with Zhu's instruments specifically, but in general all high end Chinese violins seem to be made by so and so master violin maker, and it turns out the master is producing 1000 violins a year or something like that which of course is not humanly possible. In other words my advice would be to take any ad copy from these violin producers with the proverbial grain of salt. I hope for your sake that Mr Zhu is somehow an exception to this deception but I tend to doubt it, a top violin maker can only really make 10, 20 tops violins a year, if Mr Zhu's less expensive violins are really made by his senior assistants, well then lets just say he has a lot of senior assistants, much more likely he has a few senior assistants overseeing a quite large factory labour force.

October 3, 2014 at 01:37 PM · Once again, we have someone WHO ACTUALLY USED AND NOW OWNS a MJZ violin (two actually), and tells us how great it sounds, and Lyndon comes in to argue about this or that?

Let's say a violin wasn't made by MJZ himself. Let's say I made it--Mr. Nobody. If that violin miraculously happened to turn out to sound fantastic, and was priced reasonably, who cares who made it? It is a fantastic sounding violin!

Isn't that what we are looking for?

Maybe some are more interested in the label or the price tag. But I wouldn't call those people musicians.

I own two violins made in the workshop of Yang Wei (2006 VSA award for tone, viola). They are not made by YW himself, but under his supervision. Result? They sound very good-- fantastic for the price. I don't care if my violins were made by Mao Zedong, I care that they sound good for the money I spent.

Why would YW (or MJZ) put his signature on a violin he thought would tarnish his VSA reputation?

I am a beginner, so take my opinion for what it's worth. I prefer to spend my money on lessons than on multi-thousand dollar instruments. My violins were vetted by my teacher who is a professional and rated them rather highly.

Adrian is a professional, and he had given his opinion on the qualities of the MJZ violins. Isn't that valid?

October 3, 2014 at 02:17 PM · Adrian Morris wrote:

"AFAIK, Zhu is currently the maker with the most awards."

Major awards? Far from it. I know him a little bit and he's a nice guy though, with an impressive competition record nonetheless. We were both judges at the first China Instrument Making Competition (although this photo was taken in Prague).

I'm the somewhat more Caucasian-looking guy in the photo, wearing the stupid tie. LOL

October 3, 2014 at 07:36 PM · Wow, I didn't expect such resistance to my praise of Noble Heart Violins (MJZ's workshop), much less to Zhu himself. It almost seems like some folks have their own agenda to downplay their success. From MJZ's own site from his biography page - http://www.zhuviolin.com/ENjianli.htm

In 1986, he attended the Violin Society of America (VSA) international competition for the first time and his violin won a Certificate of Merit for Workmanship. Up to 2010, he has won nineteen awards from that prestigious competition, including two gold medals and two silver medals. His students also have presented strong performances in international competitions: Tan Qiaoming has won a VSA Certificate of Merit for Workmanship, Chen Shao has won a VSA Silver Medal for Workmanship and a Certificate of Merit for Tone, and Zhu Weixian has won a VSA Certificate of Merit for Tone.

It is especially noteworthy that it is uneasy for a violinmaker to win an award in a prestigious international competition, much less over ten awards. Particularly, violin gold medals have not been awarded in six out of the fourteen competitions since the VSA competition changed its rule in 1984. This fact shows how hard it is to win a gold medal. Zhu Ming-Jiang has twice won gold medal of violin, which is called 'the jewel on the crown of violin making' by the professional violinmakers. This is China's pride. He has brought distinction to his motherland. Up to date, Zhu Ming-Jiang is the Chinese who has won the greatest number and highest level of awards in that highly prestigious international competition. He has become one of the most frequently awarded excellent violinmakers in the world. He also has had interviews with media such as Time (USA), The Strad (British), Reuters (British), World Weekly (USA), Sing Tao Weekly (Hong Kong), Musical Instruments (China), Chinese Musical Instruments (China), Guangdong World of Musical Instruments (China), People¡¯s Daily (China), China Daily (China), Guangzhou Daily (China), and Yangcheng Evening News (China). He is considered 'within the top 5% of violinmakers in the world today.'

For his numerous awards from the international competitions as well as his outstanding contributions to China's industry of music instruments, Zhu Ming-Jiang was designated 'Excellent Personnel in the Musical Instrument Industry of China' in 2006, 'Model Worker of Guangdong Province' in 2009, and 'National Model Worker' in 2010. In 2008 he was accepted as a member of Entente Internationale des Maîtres-luthiers et Archetiers d'art (International Society of Violin and Bow Makers), an organization of master violin and bow makers around the world. He is the third Chinese citizen to become a member of the association. In 2010, Zhu Ming-Jiang served as the only Chinese judge for workmanship in the first China International Violin Making Competition, embodying his level of skills and status in the violinmaking profession in China.

October 3, 2014 at 08:47 PM · Adrian Morris wrote:

"Wow, I didn't expect such resistance to my praise of Noble Heart Violins (MJZ's workshop, much less to Zhu himself. "

____________________

No resistance, just an attempt at correcting some of your incorrect alleged "facts". Any motives beyond that can be attributed to your imagination.

Here's an incomplete list of people who have won a minimum of three gold medals at Violin Society of America competitions.

http://www.burgessviolins.com/HorsConcours.pdf>

October 3, 2014 at 11:16 PM · I wonder if I can claim Rodney as a relative? Family discount and all that?

October 4, 2014 at 01:51 AM · Worth a try. Rodney has a really good sense of humor.

(Rodney Mohr is one of the people (a bowmaker) who has won at least three gold medals at VSA competitions).

October 4, 2014 at 03:59 AM · David Burgess wrote -

No resistance, just an attempt at correcting some of your incorrect alleged "facts". Any motives beyond that can be attributed to your imagination.

Here's an incomplete list of people who have won a minimum of three gold medals at Violin Society of America competitions.

http://www.burgessviolin.com/HorsConcours.pdf>

__________________________________________________

Which facts that I've stated are incorrect? That to my knowledge, Zhu has won the most awards? Looking at your credentials, you obviously know what you are talking about. Very impressive! The seeming agenda I was referring to was Lyndon Taylor's. I'd love to be able to play your instruments, but I know that they are WAY out of my price range. Which famous violinists are playing your creations?

October 4, 2014 at 04:15 AM · You misquoted the wrong member, Adrian.

David was simply pointing out facts; that there are others that have won multiple VSA awards.

You are also lumping that together with what Lyndon had previously said. It seems you are a new member here (according to your profile join date). If you search most any thread in regards to Chinese made violins you will find Lyndon carrying a placard proclaiming that The End is near, or some such.

You can read his manifesto here:(it's actually rather funny, I enjoyed reading it)

http://trickleupeconomictheory.blogspot.com/2010/10/trickle-up-economic-theory-and.html?m=1

October 4, 2014 at 06:09 AM · Thank you, Seraphim, for pointing that out for me. I've edited my response accordingly. I still don't know which facts I stated were erroneous, and again, I stated that to my knowledge Zhu had won the most awards overall, not the most gold medals. I will read your link soon, thanks again :)

October 4, 2014 at 08:23 AM · Fact is Adrian, if you can't afford one of David's award winning violins which actually are priced quite reasonably considering his reputation, you can't afford one of Zhus award winning violins either, in fact you don't own models that have won any awards at the VSA, who cares how many awards Zhu for his hand made violins, you purchased a presumably factory produced violin that is Zhu in name only, he probably never even touched it, better to save up your money and buy a Burgess and quit whining about how great your factory production violin is.....

October 4, 2014 at 12:31 PM · The source of your error is right in the bio you pasted; if I'm reading correctly, it says essentially that of the Chinese makers who have won VSA awards, MJZ has won the most. It does not make any claims about having won the most VSA awards of all participants. We know that would be incorrect.Whether any Chinese maker has won more awards than he has, I have no idea, although that's certainly verifiable if the info matters to you.

October 4, 2014 at 12:31 PM ·

October 5, 2014 at 03:58 AM · Oh, Lyndon. You are a delightful troll, this forum is lucky to have you. I read through your blog, hilarious! Keep giving us a hard time, you are great comic relief ;)

October 5, 2014 at 04:17 AM · Sean, you are exactly right. Thank for pointing out what I clearly missed. I am careful not to state something as fact unless I have a high degree of certainty, that's why I used the AFAIK (as far as I know) qualifier in front of that statement. Mr. Burgess set me straight, I learned a LOT just from reading his web page last night. Quite a bad ass...

October 5, 2014 at 05:55 AM · I am an instrument maker, have worked repairing violins for almost 20 years, have my own small violin shop selling mostly antiques, and because I don't care much for Chinese violins or new violins in general that makes me a troll???? and you not, Adrian???

October 5, 2014 at 08:02 AM · More levity from Lyndon. You know why you are a troll, but I'll bite as it's too late to practice and there's currently nothing good on tv: You have an irrational bias against new and/or Chinese instruments, so you come into threads that feature these things in order to spread your hate, even when you admittedly have absolutely no knowledge of what is being discussed (i.e. Zhu's workshop's instruments and practices). You simply speculate and presume in order to create a red herring to argue against, since one cannot argue effectively against something with which one is unfamiliar. That is the definition of trolling. I, on the other hand, make my first posts on this forum in a thread that could not be more relevant, in hopes of enhancing it with my direct experience of its topic. See the difference? I'll bet you do. If I were trolling, I may state something like, 'Lyndon, the reason you hate new and/or Chinese violins is because your inadequately restored violins probably sound far inferior to them, and this fact is hurting your business and your ego'. If I did this I would be remarking on things with which I have no experience with, or knowledge of, simply to illicit an emotional response, probably because it would serve some personal agenda. If I did this, I would be trolling. Just as you do...

October 5, 2014 at 12:34 PM · Just briefly, I have a very rational aversion to slave labour and the abuse of workers. You are the troll here, just plugging your own stupid violin because its the one you in all you're superiority chose, and you think your decision is better than everyone else's that did't buy from the same Chinese factory. I on the other hand sell a wide variety of violins, am very aware that every player has somewhat different preferences in tone and playability, and that no one violin model could possibly be right for everyone.

I'm also aware for every player that's prejudiced towards Chinese and modern violins, there is a roughly equal number that would prefer an antique to a new violin. That is who I cater to, almost all my competitors are selling only Chinese or Roumanian violins in the price range I specialize, I guarantee you if you were to put your new Chinese violin up against multiple antiques I have at a similar price, at least half the players would prefer one of mine, so your violin is just not that great, its just you think it is.

Some people prefer antique furniture others modern, right now the bargains are in antiques, as the modern violins are getting more and more expensive and the quality isn't keeping up with the price increases, in 20 years the Chinese yuan will be so much stronger they are probably going to price themselves out of the market, right now they seem cheap, but when you consider how little time and actual craftsmanship went into them, and how much they are marked up by distributors, you start to get the idea these violins are selling purely because the shops can mark them up, do less maintenance, and make more profit than they can on a similar priced and sounding antique, except at my store where my low mark up and lower labour rates makes selling quality antiques possible.

October 5, 2014 at 01:51 PM · I've been a victim of slave labour having worked in some orchestras ...

I think whilst you may have a valid point Lyndon, a lot of players, myself included, have no prejudice against antique instruments, or brand new ones. If an antique violin has a great sound then I want it providing it is affordable. Great sounding modern fiddles are more likely to be affordable, so that's why we buy them. The equivilent old instrument in good condition with great sound might well be 2, 3 or 4 times the price. In the case of old masters, twenty to fifty times the price! No modern soloist can afford a Strad or G del J anymore, and it's only the collectors, who have pushed prices way up, that can afford them, whether this be an institution or a wealthy individual.

The prices are ridiculous and the sound may be in many cases no better than a modern equivilent.

If Chinese violins are improving in both workmanship and sound at affordable prices then I think that may be a good thing. It's about time Strads and del G's crashed in price to align them with great modern and contemporary instruments. If the wealthy take a big hit then so be it, and I will be cheering for one.

Another thing occurs to me. Please correct me if i'm wrong, but I understood that many of the Cremona luthiers of 16th, 17th and 18C had factory workshops where many people slaved away. If this is so then you can't be sure that a Strad instrument was in fact made by him, or made by Carlo Bergonzi , or any Tom Dick or Harry from up the road?

I would think that most luthiers in Europe and the US work on their own, so modern instruments will be 100% by that maker.

October 5, 2014 at 02:19 PM · Regarding factory working conditions and pay in China:

These may not look great from our perspective, but a job like that can look like a godsend to someone from a small and poor village in China. Often, they come to the big city from far away, work in a factory for ten years or so, live very frugally, and manage to go back to their hometown with enough money saved to buy a house or start a business. If they operated under our working conditions and at our pay scale, the price of the products would rise enough that sales volume would go way down, and the jobs wouldn't be there in the first place. So I don't know if things are all that bad from the worker's perspective. Sure, if they worked in a US factory, and then went back to working in a Chinese factory, they might feel very differently.

Yes, the standard of living (and expectations) continue to rise in China, so they may eventually price themselves out of the low-end market, and need to come up with a different strategy, like Japan did. (Remember when Japan had a reputation for exporting mostly cheap junk?)

(Background: I asked a ton of questions when I was in China a few years ago (maybe too many, because I believe I came under government scrutiny), visited a violin factory, and my wife is employed by the American division of a huge Chinese industrial manufacturing company)

October 5, 2014 at 05:51 PM · Lyndon:

"....at my store where my low mark up and lower labour rates makes selling quality antiques possible."

Low mark up and low labor rates. Just like how the direct from China violin market operates.

I think you may be taking advantage if your labor force, Lyndon. Why do you pay them so little? Isn't that the road to "slave labor"?

And if you are your own labor, you are thereby both the exploiter and the exploited. No wonder why you are so embittered!

October 5, 2014 at 11:23 PM · "Just briefly, I have a very rational aversion to slave labour and the abuse of workers."

This is your subjective opinion, not objective reality. When we take into account Mr. Burgess' real life experience and expertise, he shows us that the Chinese worker himself often has the opposite perspective of your own. Who's opinion should we more strongly consider, yours or the people actually living the situation?

"You are the troll here, just plugging your own stupid violin because its the one you in all you're superiority chose, and you think your decision is better than everyone else's that did't buy from the same Chinese factory."

I've never stated that anything about me or my decisions is superior, this only exists in your imagination.

Let us look at the definition of a troll -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

In Internet slang, a troll (/'tro?l/, /'tr?l/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people,[1] by posting inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[4]

I have shown specific examples of you doing this (this thread is peppered with examples of your trolling), please show us an example where I have done this...

"I on the other hand sell a wide variety of violins, am very aware that every player has somewhat different preferences in tone and playability, and that no one violin model could possibly be right for everyone."

Agreed, no one here has stated otherwise...

"I'm also aware for every player that's prejudiced towards Chinese and modern violins, there is a roughly equal number that would prefer an antique to a new violin. That is who I cater to, almost all my competitors are selling only Chinese or Roumanian violins in the price range I specialize, I guarantee you if you were to put your new Chinese violin up against multiple antiques I have at a similar price, at least half the players would prefer one of mine"

Your guarantee means nothing to me. This is your subjective opinion. If you would like to support it with links to credible, objective data, I'd be happy to take a look...

"so your violin is just not that great, its just you think it is."

It is not only what I think, but many other professional violinist colleagues, as well. But you couldn't know, since you have no experience or knowledge of it's quality. Remarking on things you couldn't know is a silly waste of time at best, and dishonest at worst...

"Some people prefer antique furniture others modern, right now the bargains are in antiques, as the modern violins are getting more and more expensive and the quality isn't keeping up with the price increases"

An interesting statement regarding the quality of modern instruments being outpaced by their increase in price. Not sure if it is accurate, care to support it with links to credible sources?

"in 20 years the Chinese yuan will be so much stronger they are probably going to price themselves out of the market"

Neet-o speculation. Do you have an economics degree or any such credentials?

"right now they seem cheap, but when you consider how little time and actual craftsmanship went into them, and how much they are marked up by distributors, you start to get the idea these violins are selling purely because the shops can mark them up, do less maintenance, and make more profit than they can on a similar priced and sounding antique"

You start to get this idea, I do not. Let me point out another logical fallacy you tend to employ, the Hasty Generalization: you are lumping all Chinese workshop instruments into the same category, the workshops with which you are familiar with the ones you are not...

"except at my store where my low mark up and lower labour rates makes selling quality antiques possible."

As Seraphim cleverly points out above, its interesting that you use the same logic both for and against your own points. I'd imagine that must be very confusing.

You demonstrate a lack of training in critical thinking via your use of various logical fallacies (specifically Red Herrings and Hasty Generalizations). If you are not doing this intentionally (which I find hard to believe), you yourself are unaware of this. I would suggest you become familiar with at least the informal logical fallacies in order to improve your critical thinking skills, epistemology, and communications with others...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

October 5, 2014 at 11:47 PM · Great post, Adrain. Alas, I have this sinking feeling it will go completely amiss.

October 6, 2014 at 12:34 AM · In fairness to Lyndon, there can be some pretty spectacular retail markups on Chinese factory instruments. Sometimes these markups are justified by the amount of work that needs to go into the instrument to make it work at a decent level. And sometimes, sellers just turn them around with minimal or no work.

So a "Whizbang Happy-Lucky 1000" factory instrument from one dealer can be quite different than the same-named instrument from another.

October 6, 2014 at 03:08 AM · From Aaron Wildman

"Great post, Adrain. Alas, I have this sinking feeling it will go completely amiss."

Hi Aaron. I half expect a 'TL;DR' response, but sometimes people have to have their patterns laid out in front of them before they are able to understand. People were kind enough to do this for me, and I finally got it :)

October 6, 2014 at 03:21 AM · From David Burgess

"In fairness to Lyndon, there can be some pretty spectacular retail markups on Chinese factory instruments. Sometimes these markups are justified by the amount of work that needs to go into the instrument to make it work at a decent level. And sometimes, sellers just turn them around with minimal or no work.

So a "Whizbang Happy-Lucky 1000" factory instrument from one dealer can be quite different than the same-named instrument from another."

"Whizbang Happy-Lucky 1000", hilarious :) I recently witnessed just such an instance on my recent quest for a new instrument. Looking through a recent Shar catalog, I noticed they were selling two MJZ violins that they stated were exclusive to them; The Conservatory and The Artist models. When I spoke to Noble Heart Violins LTD., I inquired about these models. Their reply was that they have never made models exclusively for Shar, and that The Conservatory and Artist models were simply Zhu's 907 & 909 models, respectively. Shar's markup is listed over $1000 more than I've seen at other online shops, not to mention the local shop from where I purchased my instruments...

October 6, 2014 at 04:55 AM · Adrian, typical troll behaviour is long posts where the troll responds to every section of the comments of the person they're stalking, I see it all the time on multiple forums, frankly you sound a bit delusional, you have no idea what kind of antiques I buy and sell, I work for myself for $20-40/hr hardly anyones "slave", its the equivalent of a Chinese factory worker making $3-6/hr which happens only in your crazy dreams. And if a violin is worth more than its cost and the labour and parts that went into it, I price them 25%-50% below full retail and often have a profit above my decent hourly wage.

But seriously my prices are so low, and my selection processes so careful to weed out sonic duds, that similarly priced Chinese violins can only compete on glossy artificial worn varnish and lack of age (or maturity) If you're judging my antiques by experiences you've had at big shops, I can understand your scepticism, but sorry I'm not a troll, just an honest to goodness old style fiddle dealer.

October 6, 2014 at 05:55 AM · Trolls are defined as people who respond logically and thoughtfully to points presented? Okay........

October 6, 2014 at 02:59 PM · Let's recap this thread to get back on track.

The OP wanted opinions on MJZ violins

Adrian tried a MJZ violin and bought one.

He tried another MJZ violin and bought that one as well.

David Burgess has photo evidence that he has met MJZ in person and enjoys wearing fun ties at what otherwise might be a stuffy violin symposium.

Lyndon doesn't like any Chinese violins, even without hearing them for himself, he just knows they're bad. It would seem that in his opinion the violins made by underpaid and overworked craftsmen from Europe 100 years ago are preferable to those made by modern workers in similar circumstances today.

Anybody else try a MJZ?

October 6, 2014 at 03:08 PM · I would love to but can't track one down to try. I might even buy if it was extremely good.

October 6, 2014 at 07:38 PM · Hi Peter. If there are no shops local to you in which you can try one, Here is an online shop that offers in home trails of MJZ violins -

http://www.fiddleheads.ca/shop/zhu/workshop.htm

There are also dozens of detailed testimonials of MJZ instrument purchasers to peruse at this site...

October 6, 2014 at 07:50 PM · You can buy a violin made by Mr Zhu himself.

Apparently that will set you back $35-45k...

http://www.fiddleheads.ca/shop/violins-for-sale.htm#zhu

October 6, 2014 at 08:12 PM · I'm afraid I'm in London UK - and I would only consider an instrument that I can go and see and try (and have a trial of at least a week at home). I'm not buying one off the peg I'm afraid, as I can try great violins from sources here if I need to with a free trial. Canada is far too far away!

And 35-45 thousand USD equates to £25,000 approximately and I could get fantastic non Chinese violins for less than that. I was under the false impression that his hand made fiddles were in the £2-3K range, which would be my top price for a Chinese instrument I'm afraid. I have a very, very good Cremonese instrument worth about £11-12K and would only want a Chinese fiddle if it were cheap and very good.

Sorry, I must have mis-understood the situation.

October 6, 2014 at 09:38 PM · "Let's recap this thread to get back on track.

The OP wanted opinions on MJZ violins

Adrian tried a MJZ violin and bought one.

He tried another MJZ violin and bought that one as well.

David Burgess has photo evidence that he has met MJZ in person and enjoys wearing fun ties at what otherwise might be a stuffy violin symposium."

________________

I'd sell that tie for the best bid over $200 (proceeds would be donated to the Violin Society of America scholarship fund).

This isn't just any old violin tie. It has been worn at many hoity-toity violin events, and was originally a gift from one of my daughters. I wouldn't dream of giving it up lightly!

October 6, 2014 at 09:59 PM · I've heard that tie was made in a Chinese sweatshop. Or was it hand painted by a master himself?

October 6, 2014 at 10:32 PM · I meant to be the first to comment on the tie... I had the exact same one. I can't remember who made those, because I also had a keyboard one and a billiard ball one!

October 6, 2014 at 10:35 PM · Hah, you made me look.

The label says "Original Ralph Marlin, Made in USA".

But any of us involved with fiddles know how dangerous it is to trust labels. ;-)

From a quick search, it looks like this violin tie is no longer in production. But you can still get a Ralph Marlin trombone tie. :-)

October 6, 2014 at 11:23 PM · From David Burgess -

"I'd sell that tie for the best bid over $200 (proceeds would be donated to the Violin Society of America scholarship fund).

This isn't just any old violin tie. It has been worn at many hoity-toity violin events, and was originally a gift from one of my daughters. I wouldn't dream of giving it up lightly!"

____________________________________

Great history and a great cause. Let me start the bidding at $201. I WANT THAT TIE!!!

October 6, 2014 at 11:33 PM · Will the tie be autographed ?

How old is the tie?

If you were to conduct a survey, 50% of violinists prefer the way an old tie hangs, while the other 50% likes the crisp feel of a new tie.

October 7, 2014 at 12:44 PM · The tie that binds!!

October 11, 2014 at 11:27 PM · Aha! I found the tie picture! From 2000 at Curtis. I had real style back then.

grancinos in the bok room 4

October 12, 2014 at 02:11 AM · I'm currently the highest bidder for that Burgess tie. Let me know, David :)

October 20, 2014 at 12:33 AM · Well, here's a clip of Ming Jiang Zhu G909A:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BJvw0JztFY

And here's a clip of the S909A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHbX-3_2kOE

I feel that the Strad copy gives more a bite, which I like..but then the mellowness of the Gua. sound nice too.. I couldn't find any on the Scott Cao st1500 so that's a harsh dilemma.

October 21, 2014 at 11:54 PM · Hey Skylar! I found a YT video that lists this instrument as a Scott Cao 1500 -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT4nhvJcUuE

He plays excerpts of a few famous pieces, and the violin sounds good, especially with the reverb in that hall. This instrument sounds a lot like my MJZ G909a. I tried a few Scott Caos on my recent search, but none sounded as good as the one on this video. Of course, they weren't played in, either...

October 22, 2014 at 05:04 AM · > I was under the false impression that his

> hand made fiddles were in the £2-3K range,

On what planet does a maker that has earned that many prizes in major competitions (including gold and silver at the VSA) only charge that much for an individually hand-made violin?

It doesn't matter what his ethnicity is, or what ANY current maker's ethnicity is. If they produce quality individual instruments and are recognized by their *peers* for it at an international level, you can't expect them to only charge workshop-level prices for their individual hand-made instruments.

October 22, 2014 at 01:11 PM · MJZ violin hand made by himself are around $16k and up. This $2-3k are made by his worker, supervised by MJZ. The STV-1500 are completely handmade in America. From start to finish.

October 22, 2014 at 06:35 PM · Handmade by Mr Cao himself?

It appears the STV1500 is made in the Cambell CA workshop by his helpers, not Mt Cao himself.

http://www.scottcaoviolins.com/campbellworkshop.html

If having it hand made in a US workshop vs a Chinese workshop is important to you, then that is something to consider.

October 22, 2014 at 08:51 PM · There's a lot of junk going on in our business implying that certain violins are handmade, or handmade by one person, when the reality can be quite different. It even happens with some "high-end" contemporary violins.

A while back, a Chinese guy visited my workshop. We talked about various things for a while, and then he said that I was stupid for making my own violins, when I could have them made for me in China. That didn't sound attractive to me, but it may to some "makers".

October 22, 2014 at 09:17 PM · I didn't at all said the STV-1500 were made by Mr.Cao himself, but by his worker. Perhaps I didn't phrases it clearly enough :P

October 22, 2014 at 11:16 PM · OK, thanks for clarifying

November 12, 2014 at 09:48 AM · I found this interesting; two days ago the only ebay seller of Ming Jiang Zhu instruments was forced to stop selling them because he was undercutting the prices of US dealers, almost by half. Several US sellers got wind of this and were understandably angry, and pressured Ebay to stop this practice. A colleague of mine decided to purchase a G909a (909a is the top workshop model) from this seller after playing mine, and if it wasn't genuine or she didn't like it, she could return it within 14 days (the return shipping being the only loss.) After it arrived, she spent the next day playing it and absolutely loved it! It sounds very similar to my own, although mine is much more broken in as I've had it a few months and have been playing the hell out of it. We contacted Zhu's workshop to verify that the instrument and its accompanying certificate was genuine, and after answering several of their questions and pictures were emailed to them, they did just that. It turns out that this seller drives 3 hours to Zhu's workshop to pick these up personally. I've since bought several sets of strings from this seller, and bought one of the last Zhu violas he was selling through Ebay. He will still sell Zhu instruments to those who want them, but it will have to be a direct invoice transaction outside of Ebay. He is charging $2K for the same model that I paid almost $4000 for at a local shop. Although I wish I could go back in time to take advantage of this, I do not regret buying my Zhu instruments, they are worth much more to me than the money I spent on them. If you would like this seller's contact info, simply PM me...

November 12, 2014 at 11:33 AM · It'd be nice if shops simply lowered their prices instead of squeezing out the competition.

Let the customer decide.

November 12, 2014 at 08:00 PM · Yes, Seraphim. It would be refreshing to witness some true laissez faire capitalism for a change...

November 12, 2014 at 08:23 PM · Indeed, China has replicated Stradivari. You can visit him in Shanghai. Counterfeiting is something they do REALLY well over there. First Apple Store, now Cremonese violin shop complete with balding Italian luthier.

November 15, 2014 at 08:19 PM · Interesting discussion if somewhat bombastic. I think both sides have a point. It's common knowledge that vintage or antique instruments take on a sound character which is largely unobtainable by any means other than aging. Therefor, Lyndon has a point, as well as a prejudice, to which he is entitled. If he prefers to exclusively deal in the realm of expensive rarified antique instruments and feels that they are the indisputably the best, he's certainly not alone in his opinion. However, if all violinists had taken that point of view throughout history, we wouldn't have very many violins around now, would we?

Today's hand made high quality workshop (not factory) violins will be tomorrows rarified antiques. It doesn't matter if they come from China, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania or wherever. A good instrument is a good instrument.

I don't really understand this dismissive prejudice against Chinese instruments. The Chinese have historically been considered to be some of the finest craftsmen in the world. Just because they came comparatively late to the game of violin making, doesn't mean they have not applied their monumental skills, unwavering discipline, and millenniums of innate cultural craftsmanship to the job at hand. To dismiss top quality Chinese violins as factory garbage made by unskilled slave labor is folly indeed. My daughter has a Ming Jiang Zhu violin, and when I can afford it, I'll by her another. It is a beautiful instrument, including it's tone, craftsmanship and playability. These instruments and those of various other Chinese Luthiers may be viewed very differently when seen through the lens of history.

June 18, 2015 at 10:23 AM · These are great instruments for the price i happen to be in position of a few I'm looking to get rid of if anyone is interested feel free to contact me adictsm@hotmail.com or text me (210)781-5788

June 18, 2015 at 01:06 PM · I'll give you £5 for one if its free shipping.

November 4, 2015 at 06:54 PM · Ever played one? Probably your prejudice is so strong that you would dismiss it out of hand no matter how good it sounds and plays, like a child deciding he hates broccoli before tasting it.

November 4, 2015 at 08:18 PM · Since Ming Jiang Zhu is now deceased, and the name was also used on "production" or "shop" or "factory" violins, new questions may arise about which instruments on the current and future market are truly his own work.

November 5, 2015 at 12:43 PM · Oh dear, I see Mr Scripps is taking me seriously! Always a msiake!

I suppose i should have put a (wink) after my post just to make sure no one would get raised blood pressure.

I have actually played a few Chinese fiddles, not sure what they were now. Seemed quite good sound wise, although I found the ones I tried did not project so well.

I will up my offer to £10 (wink) (wink) (wink) ...

November 5, 2015 at 11:18 PM · The instruments from the MJZ workshop are excellent; lots of my students have them. Especially around the 2k mark, for a number of years they beat everything else available in the price range. One of my seniors here has just the most amazing smaller viola, 15.5". I'm so thrilled she has such a powerful and rich sounding instrument at the price and size, it's perfect for the 5'1" musician that she is!

Because of the very high quality of making, sometimes even the supposedly lower-end lineups are the equal of their 909 series. If I have an issue with them, it would be that some of them have a pretty obvious limit to how much they can "take" when trying to draw out a huge sound.

Yes, it's a shame the MJZ has passed on. :( I hope that his workshop and the excellent makers that collaborated with him continue on!

Just a warning though, there's lots of guys out there trying to peddle so-called "antiques" in the same price range, most of which is poorly-maintained or poorly-repaired junk.

November 6, 2015 at 09:38 AM · I find some better Chinese instruments to be quite decent, especially when compared to overpriced antiques, but when you price antiques at about 1/2 of what they sell for at major stores, like I do, the Chinese instruments tend to be outplayed by more affordable quality antiques, not just any antiques mind you, some expensive shops are selling Stradivari made in Germany antiques for several thousand dollars, when you charge that much, the Chinese imports are bound to do well, however when you sell a similar quality antique for $1000, its hard to find a better deal in a $1000 Chinese

November 6, 2015 at 03:15 PM · To answer your original question: Yes! :)

EDIT, Jan 08, 2016. I purchased a 2015 MJZ viola in December 2015. Of course MJZ himself died a year before, in late 2014. The viola is clearly marked inside as a workshop instrument. It's a "AA" model and I like it very much. I think I got a fantastic value; I paid $3200. However the sound is not as good as the sound of the Topa viola that I played at my friend's house. I own a Topa violin, so I dreamed of having a Topa viola too, but it's beyond my budget at this point. The Topa would probably go for cost five to seven times as much, it's an absolutely beautiful viola.

January 8, 2016 at 05:42 AM · Sorry Peter, thought you were serious...

The position on Ming Jiang Zhu and other Chinese instruments seems to have softened a bit here. Yes, Ming Jiang Zhu has died. There seem to be some unscrupulous internet dealers who would prefer not to share that inconvenient bit of information. There is even one who never bothered to remove information on having an instrument custom built by Mr. Zhu, himself. My instruments, or rather my daughters', a 909 and a 903, were both made before his passing. Who can ever really know how much involvement he had in the day to day operations at his workshop. His shop falls under a larger collective, Noble Heart Violins, which includes several master builders, of which, I believe he was the most highly acclaimed. Since it is a workshop and there are other qualified luthiers running the shop, I'm sure they will continue undaunted, making the violins he envisioned. Are these workshop instruments the equivalent of a Strad as the title of the thread suggests? Of course not! Are there contemporary luthiers, such as Greg Alf or Samuel Zygmuntowicz building better instruments. Yes. Do these things kick just about every other violin's ass in the $2500-3000 price range? You bet!

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