Sub $3,000 violin impossible?

March 18, 2015 at 06:50 PM · Inflation of violins must be crazy. The first time I studied violin, $500 would get you a lovely-sounding instrument. Now that I've restarted (and also started my daughter with lessons) I couldn't find anything comparable. The local music shop (which is primarily a band store supporting the public school music program) carries only Eastman student models for renters to "trade up" to when they are ready to buy.

I tried driving two and a half hours to the Chicago suburbs, and when I said my budget was $2,000 to $2,500, I was shown some old repaired Mirecourt instruments. Even with the cracks, they looked nice, but the sound wasn't very good. Finally, after I emphasized that I was more interested in sound than something that was pretty or vintage / antique, I got to try a couple Hiroshima Kono instruments that sounded much better. The catch was that they were at least $3,000, which seems to me to be rather expensive for a student instrument without case or bow.

Should I just give up for now? I just can't stretch my budget any further. Or does anyone have suggestions where I could shop or alternatives that are more affordable than the Kono instruments?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

(P.S. We do have a violin teacher, but the teacher got her violin when she was in Arizona, and I'm hoping to find a luthier / dealer in Illinois that isn't too far away.)

Replies

March 18, 2015 at 05:49 PM · I should add that I've been visiting violinist.com for about a year before this post and have been impressed with how helpful the group here has been. Thanks for that. I've picked up a lot of helpful information from reading the discussions. I did search the site for information on where to buy a violin, but didn't succeed in finding anything in recent years, so I apologize in advance if someone did in fact already post a similar discussion.

March 18, 2015 at 07:08 PM · How good is good enough for you for $3000? There are lots of student instruments under $3000 that are considered pretty good: Jay Haide, Scott Cao, Ming Jiang Zhu.

And if you don't mind carbon fibre violins, check out the Mezzo-forte. Given the low Euro, you can get it for well under $3000 USD.

March 18, 2015 at 07:19 PM · I've had students find some pretty nice student violins under $3000. Maybe you need to call around to some shops first? Jay Haide instruments are pretty good.

If you really can't find anything acceptable locally, it's worth seeing if Robertson Violins can help you.

March 18, 2015 at 07:25 PM · You are welcome to come to Indianapolis and try the violins at my husband's shop, Indianapolis Violins.

March 18, 2015 at 08:03 PM · And if you could get to New York, I have a friend with a couple of real bargains. Lon g story why...

March 18, 2015 at 08:15 PM · Thanks for the suggestion of the store in Indy. Indianapolis is not much longer a drive than Chicago. Also thanks for names of makers. At least I can ask about something specific when I make calls.

I don't think I'm looking for something too fancy. But I guess I had some sticker shock when I started looking, and the offerings weren't much of a step up from the Yamaha V5 I bought used last year.

It made me wonder if I should give up for the time being or if I should cast a wider net. But I wasn't sure where to cast that figurative net, eg. what makers to ask about when I call places ( and looking outside of my area, I didn't know who a good reputation).

I did inquire by phone at a second place in the Chicago suburbs, and they haven't seemed to find anything in my price range - haven't heard back from them. I didn't know if my request was even reasonable.

My plan B was Craigslist, which I've been checking a couple times a week for the past year, but there isn't much in my market, unless I want something like a Palatino, which I've seen on Amazon. One time on Craigslist a lister said the violin was like new and made in Romania, so I got a little hopeful. But it had a crack running off the f hole by the e string, and another crack in the peg box from the a string peg. The seller said all I had to do was glue it, but I'm not comfortable trying to repair any instruments, so I figured from then on, I'd stick to reputable shops.

I also look from time to time on Goodwill's auction site but have been nervous to buy something without trying it.

Anyway, thanks for the responses. I wasn't sure if I was being too cheap or just don't know where to shop.

If anyone has specific luthiers / shops that they like, any recommendations are always appreciated.

March 18, 2015 at 08:27 PM · Raphael, I wish I still lived in the NY area. There's a chance my family will visit relatives in northern New Jersey in the summer, but that's not certain yet.

March 18, 2015 at 10:05 PM · There is a Jay Haide violin listed on eBay:

Jay Haide on eBay

Starting bid is $1500 and it comes with a new Pedi case.

It doesn't appear that the seller is offering a return policy though. There is definitely some risk buying online, sight unseen. I have no association with this listing, but I am a fan of Jay Haide violins (I own two of them).

March 18, 2015 at 10:26 PM · What is wrong with Eastman?

March 18, 2015 at 11:17 PM · You can try a Jay Haide via Johnson Strings or a Ming Jiang Zhu via Shar -- they both have trials and will ship multiple instruments. Heck, why not have them both ship you instruments and have a shootout.

Good luck and happy hunting!

March 18, 2015 at 11:27 PM · I don't necessarily have a problem with Eastman, but at the local guitar store you tell them what model you want, they give you one and that's it. I'd like to try at least a couple before I buy, even if they are both the same brand and model. I'm not entirely comfortable buying a violin without being able to do a tryout.

Also, eventually, I will probably want to trade up when I can afford something better (I'm thinking pretty long term) or when my daughter needs a full size (they refused to sell me a fractional size, but I can rent at $30 a month for her for the next 8 years if I want). The problem with that is that the local store doesn't offer anything but the few Eastmans, so there wouldn't be any options for trading up.

I've read that some places that specialize in violins will actually let students / players trade up when students progress and can afford more, but I figured that usually applies if you originally bought the first instrument at that store.

Since a few people have mentioned Jay Haide, I'll ask about those next time I call places near Chicago (and now maybe Indy). But if anyone has experience with Eastman, I might give those a look, especially if anyone has ever had luck getting a violin shop to offer even partial trade-in value for one.

By the way, I really appreciate all the input from everyone. It's hard for me to make such a luxury purchase that is just for me at this point. I don't want to be too cheap (I do believe in paying a fair price for good quality), so if everyone were to tell me that $3,000 is the going rate for a very good student instrument, then I'd just wait till finances are in a better situation. But it does sound like there are options, so I'll be trying to find and try the names that have been suggested.

March 18, 2015 at 11:31 PM · Gene, thanks for letting me know you have two Jay Haides that you like. I'll be definitely looking up Jay Haides. I'm a little leery of ebay, so for this type of purchase, I'll prolly stick with a place that has a return policy, but I appreciate the link.

March 18, 2015 at 11:48 PM · Douglas, thanks for mentioning Shar. I forgot about them. I had a very good experience with them fixing a book order last year that they made a mistake on, so if they say I can try and return an instrument if I don't like it during a tryout, I'm inclined to believe it. I'll call about the Ming Jiang Zhu. Maybe they'd be willing to get someone to play a bit for me before sending it for a trial. Doesn't hurt to ask.

March 18, 2015 at 11:54 PM · I also agree with the above advice of trying out Jay Haide, Scott Cao and Ming Jiang Zhu instruments. My first step-up instrument was a Ming Jiang Zhu 905 and it was a serviceable student instrument, at least until more advanced repertoire.

Having tried many violins below 5k, I would say that 2k will get you a serviceable instrument, but not one that I would consider to be a "very good" student instrument. But Chinese workshop violins are definitely the way to go. There's a noticeable gap once you get above 3k+ and try the more advanced models. Because of the variability even within the same workshop models, it' important to try a wide range of violins if you're looking at modern Chinese workshop violins; I've tried some 2k violins that sounded as good as most of the 3k ones, and 3k ones that were comparable to most violins under 5k. Trade in policy is a must at this price range.

One thing to look out for in Jay Haide violins is the playability on the upper G string; pretty much every one I've tried had trouble in this region, and I've tried a lot of them. They are very consistent in build and tone, however. The Scott Cao and Ming Jiang Zhu ones have more variability, but if you can find a good one, it can definitely be a bargain if you're looking for sound and playability.

March 19, 2015 at 12:45 AM · MJZs are great value instruments. I've had good dealings with these guys, who also have a money back guarantee;

http://fiddlershop.com/violin-886012577/ming-jiang-zhu-a-violin.html

March 19, 2015 at 12:52 AM · If you put place yourself in the frame of "student" violin and put a price tag on your target instrument, you will most likely end-up owning one.

On the other hand, if you re-frame your quest for a violin as an exciting journey, you may get surprised in many ways and find your dream violin.

Yes, I know that it is easier to have some sort of reference point; it provides a (false) sense of security and orientation.... but buying a violin is not like buying a cell phone or digital camera.

It is a very personal experience. Sometimes violin finds you, sometimes you find the violin.

March 19, 2015 at 01:17 AM · You can always look on craigslist, find an old violin that needs little to no repair/adjustment for under $500 that sound much more expensive; shop around! Buy one for cheap, sell it if you don't like it... I have a cello I got for $100 dollars; all it took to get into playing condition was a trip to a luthier and $300 bucks; he was pissed, too, though it was crap; once it was fixed and adjusted, tho; he changed his mind.

And I've gotten a $600 dollar cello on craigslist; it was later estimated to be worth around $6000 when new, and $2500 now.

The cello I play on now is a 200+ year old no label updated baroque, and I got it for $100 bucks. I played for my teacher when I got it, and she was convinced I was just renting a $25,000 cello. And I could find many deals like that. Just shop around. A lot of people are just selling "grandpa's old fiddle," or some clutter in their attic or garage, without realizing what a gem they have come across. Don't be afraid to buy on craigslist for cheap; it can be a great, small risk investment.

March 19, 2015 at 02:22 AM · Holy cow, you all are great! I thought I'd take a last look before going to sleep and there's more help. I really appreciate the advice.

Austin, thanks for reinforcing the recommendations re the brands and also confirming my feeling that I need to try before I buy and also look for a trade-in policy. Your post also helps me calibrate my expectations with what I can spend at this point. As for playability on upper G, thanks for the heads up - I'll make sure to get someone to help me evaluate any potential purchase. I can't bring a teacher to a store, but I could bring a violin to a lesson.

Seraphim, thanks for your comment on MJZs and the link. I think I now have some good leads thanks to everyone here.

Rocky, I get what you're saying. The places I called asked about my budget, so I felt like I had to set an upper limit (and I actually do). But I'll try to keep in mind the journey aspect. I do intend to take my time because, as you pointed out, it IS very personal.

Mark, I did get lucky on Craigslist once in finding a clarinet for my son, but in this local Craigslist market I don't see people selling many violins. But I will keep checking. I've also checked the local Goodwill store, pawn shop and hospital thrift shop with no luck. If I did find a diamond in the rough, I'd still need to find a luthier. But then I'd have you all to ask for a recommendation, so I won't worry about that at this point.

March 19, 2015 at 10:41 AM · My #2 violin, a 2002 Jay Haide student model (£900 then), has next to no issues with performance high on the G, no wolfing in particular. The reason could be that it is low-tension strung with the top 3 strings plain gut, and a copper-wound gut G. A while ago I took a successful very similar decision with my 18th C #1 violin, which had always been prone to wolfing on the G, because a sufficient amount of my orchestral playing involves high positions on that string. I don't feel at all inclined to return to synthetics.

March 19, 2015 at 04:45 PM · Hi Cynthia,

Glad to hear you're coming back to the violin. Trust me, there is PLENTY out there for around $3000 and under. I would be happy to send you a couple of instruments to try out including Hiroshi Kono if you are interested. I will send you my contact info or you can also reach me through my site www.iustrings.com

All best,

Emmanuel Borowsky

March 19, 2015 at 08:12 PM · The Jay Haide instruments which are Chinese but finished in the US can be quite good and inexpensive. Also, the Eastman instruments which are far less can be very good. The key is to go to a good dealer who knows something about sound and has a relatively large stock to choose from, not your local music store. A few years back, our music ed string director, Michael Alexander, bought a bunch of violins from Lisle Violins in Houston for around $500 each, and some sound really good, and more important, are set up correctly.

March 19, 2015 at 08:41 PM ·

March 19, 2015 at 09:00 PM · As a few have already mentioned, some of the Jay Haide instrument go for less than $3,000. I remember when Elmar Oliveira played with one of the orchestras I played in, he used a Jay Haide (which I recall cost $2500) instead of his Guarnerius. I remember reading the review in the paper a couple days later after the performance. The critic commented on how wonderful his Guarnerius sounded. Apprently he could not tell the difference. :)

March 19, 2015 at 09:05 PM · What better recommendation does such an affordable violin need!

March 19, 2015 at 09:07 PM · When a master plays a $2000 violin, it sounds like a $2 million violin. When a student plays a $2 million violin, it sounds like a $200 violin. LOL.

March 20, 2015 at 12:10 PM · The other half of the Master's "secret" is of course the bow - but that never gets mentioned.

March 20, 2015 at 01:45 PM · I feel the biggest thing with an instrument like this isn't whether it's capable of a good sound given a talented soloist, but whether it can actually get a student to that level. I've learned so many nuances and details through playing my new instrument that I'm confident I can get a great sound out of my student violin now, but these techniques would have never been apparent had I stuck with the old violin, even with a good teacher. People often talk about these soloists getting incredible sounds out of mediocre instruments, but I often wonder how much of it is because of their exposure to great violins versus innate intuition.

March 20, 2015 at 03:11 PM · There are lots of excellent sounding old German workshop or factory instruments out there, which are well within your price range. I have one which always impresses professional musicians by the power and richness of its sound. It outclasses any of the Jay Haide or other Chinese workshop instruments I have played. The luthiers who have tried it all agree. It has no label, but dates from about 1880 or 1890. Being what it is, and being in good condition, it would probably fetch between $2000-3000 on the current market. Or so I am told. I know several musicians who play regularly on such violins, or who use them as a backup or "outdoor" instrument for their more valuable violins.

Lyndon Taylor should be in on this discussion!

March 20, 2015 at 03:30 PM · One can sometimes pick up a gem for dirt cheap price at estate sales.

March 21, 2015 at 01:01 AM · Thanks again, everyone, for the great suggestions. I feel excited and plan to be on the hunt again. It seems I just wasn't looking enough, but now I'll take my time and be persistent.

Definitely going to go to more places and try out some more violins now that I have a better idea of what to try.

As for some people being able to make a $2,000 instrument sound like $2 million, I had that type of experience years ago the first time I was taking lessons. My teacher for some reason took my violin and bow instead of her own to demonstrate a few bars, and the change in sound was like the fairy godmother turning Cinderella's rags into a beautiful dress.

March 21, 2015 at 11:16 AM · I picked up a lot of 8 European violins in the white. The arching isn't fabulous on any, a couple seem to be Gliga shop, but is better than most of the Chinese work. I will distinguish MJZ. There's clearly enough wood to some nice graduation work and then put in a reasonable bar. Looking at the cost and the work to put in, this type of thing should still go at or under $2000 and provide a nice range of dynamics and tone color. If a random lot of decent trade instruments shows this potential, then certainly there are shops providing properly graduated instruments of nice European wood with reasonable arching, with a real ground, real varnish, and good setup. That's some time, but there's enough cushion in $2K to $3K to put some time in, especially for a relatively quick worker.

Along that line, the Jurgen Klier and Hiroshi Kono models from Weaver do well, although I get them unset, or at least put in a nice hand-split and reduced post, etc.

Might poke around and see which good shops have "regrad" models that are affordable. KC Strings has one, the Weaver instruments are another. I'll probably get a standard line going again, and if a couple of folks puttering around in the middle of nowhere can do this I'm sure a goodly number of good shops are doing it, too.

Good luck!

March 21, 2015 at 03:09 PM · Stephen, where do you source these violins in the white?

March 22, 2015 at 02:04 AM · We live in a fantastic age where good student violins are not difficult to find anymore. :)

I recently tried two Snow violins in the $2000+ range that were excellent values for their price.

I've been a big fan of Ming Jiang Zhu's workshop output, it's a shame he passed away last year and who knows what direction his workshop is going to be taking under new management.

A colleague had a student obtain a Scott Cao 750 recently that was really a good deal too, you get a lot of violin for the cost!

March 22, 2015 at 09:35 AM · Hi Cynthia, I am a bit confused about what you are looking for. A violin like one that used to cost $500, but not a Mirecourt, something nice sounding (how nice?), Hiroshima Kono is too expensive for a student violin, but something in the 2 to $3,000 range.

I restarted playing the violin last fall after quite a hiatus. I am slightly obsessive, so I bought 4 of tem! I am very pleased with the Chinese violins I bought. I am slightly obsessive, so I bought 4 of them!

Most of the violins in your price range that you will see in US shops are from China.

I bought them from 2 different shops (factory representatives).

The better shop is Yitamusic. Their violins are cheaply priced and reasonably good. Are you sticking your neck out buying a violin directly mailed from China? Of course, but this is not a fly by night outfit and if you hate it you will only be out return postage.

Of the 4 violins I bought, only one had a problem with setup. (not from yita) I brought it to a very good luthier to be fixed up. (I was embarrassed to bring it to such an outstanding luthier but his jaw dropped when he saw these violins and at these prices) The others needed small adjustments to the soundpost.

I would recommend these instruments. They are made from outstanding wood. You can see in the pictures that the top has tight straight grain and the backs are reasonable flamed on most models. They show you the exact instrument you are buying.

Yita sells on ebay, so you have a money back guaranty from paypal as well.

Here is link to one of their most expensive instruments for $759:

It looks like my links do not work. Type 141569679475 into ebay.com

On all of these violins I would recommend upgrading the bridge to the Aubert model for $30. At least if you bring it to be adjusted, the luthier will have something better to work with. (Sometimes the Aubert bridge is included already.)

I bought one of the Hellier models. It is quite gaudy but decent sounding (new sounding but good with better strings).

Type 201244585552 at ebay.com

I got it at auction at a lower price.

I also got a birds eye maple violin. This is my favorite sounding violin.

311321572444 at ebay.com

These instruments come with a case and bow. The bow is another matter.

If you do this, I would recommend bringing it to a luthier to have it checked out since at the very least the soundpost will need an adjustment. And, the strings that they put on are miserable, so put on better strings.

I am sure purists are appalled and they should be. But, this is how it is now. You could get an eastern European violin but you will pay much more.

March 22, 2015 at 09:56 AM · The other message was so long. I thought I would write another about finding a bow. The chinese bows can be ok but buying such a personal item long distance can be trickier than buying the violin.

Since I had not played in many years I was embarrassed to go to a violin shop to try out bows, so, I bought it online.

You could have an in home try out like what they have at Shar.

google "shar violin bow in home"

I did the same thing but with amazon.com.

I have amazon prime, so, I ordered 4 violin bows of several models and returned the ones I did not like. Some were appalling. Warped, out of balance, etc.

Some were decent. I found that I liked this carbon bow the best.

type B005A0OO16 into amazon.com

I hope this was not too much information or out of line for what you want.

March 22, 2015 at 01:46 PM · I know very good violinists who have found some Jay-Haide a l'ancienne violins a very good choice for themselves. I think these sell for about $2,500. These are made in China for Ifshin Violins in El Cerrito, CA (just north of Berkeley), but now are also sold by a number of other violin shops.

I was involved in rentals of Jay-Haide violins for a number of my students and found very nice instruments for them all. These were all less expensive than the a l'ancienne brand. I was especially impressed by the sound quality from some of the instruments in the 1/2 and 3/4 size, perhaps because there was only one price in those sizes, so even the best products might be had for the common price. I always tried to go to the dealer to help each student's family select the specific instrument - even for rentals (I did not charge for my time).

I own a Jay-Heide a l'ancienne cello (just under $5,000), and find it the equal (or superior) of modern Cremona cellos I have played in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. I have also played a Jay-Haide cello made with European woods that was better than mine (that was after I had bought mine) and that sold for 50% more than mine.

But you can't go by brand name alone, each instrument is different and has to be judged on its individual characteristics and how they match the player's hearing and musical needs and desires. Actually it is always best if you can bring along the student's teacher or a knowledgeable player to help choose the particular instrument.

Another possible choice, if you are in the Baltimore/Washington area might be a Carl Holzapfel violin. Many of these go at auction for less than $1,000 (in my opinion some of them should sell for a lot more). I got one (a golden-era Strad copy) new in 1952 and still own it (Jay Ifshin said it is my best violin and "just wait another 100 years"). After having it adjusted I played it in the same session that I played a 1698 Strad and an Andrea Guarneri - and I went home without significant jealosy. When new this was one of those "$500 violins."

Andy

March 23, 2015 at 02:49 PM · Gene, thanks for the addition of your experiences. I recently saw a Scott Cao on Goodwill's auction site. In hindsight, I wonder if I should have taken a gamble and bid. Oh well, now I still have the thrill of the hunt ahead of me.

Dennis, even I am not sure what I'm looking for. The $500 referred to the cost of a violin I had years ago that sounded great, and I could swear that it made learning and playing easier. That instrument is my baseline, but since I haven't had it for more than three decades, my memory of it is likely a flawed point of reference.

I don't think I have a preference for whether an instrument is old or new, French, German or Chinese. I just hoped to find something that sounds better than what I already had considering that I'd be spending four to five times what my starter violin (or perhaps I should say re-starter violin) cost about a year ago.

I don't necessarily think Hiroshi Kono is too expensive for a student, just that it seems to cost a little more than I can spend right now. (With three children plus myself studying an instrument, and one getting braces this year, I have to make choices, just like everyone else I assume.)

By the way, I appreciate all your detail, definitely the right amount of information. If other violin students come across this discussion, I assume that they also prefer more info about other players' experiences rather than less.

Andrew, thanks for your experiences with the Jay Haide instruments, especially with the fractionals. I'll definitely have to give some of those a try based on the feedback you and so many other posters have given regarding those instruments. Right now my daughter is borrowing a violin from her teacher, but she'll need a half size probably within a year, and I plan to start shopping for it now.

March 23, 2015 at 02:51 PM · Oops, I meant Hiroshi Kono, not what the automatic spelling correction inserted.

March 23, 2015 at 02:52 PM · I have played almost all the violins that are listed above, and have been in the business of finding the best violins in this price range for years. I worked as an instrument rep for Guarneri House Grand Rapids for 3 years in the mid 2000's, and then for Nashville Violins in the late 2000's.

The biggest thing with this price range ($2,000-$3,000) is that you have to understand you shouldn't be looking European. I get many calls from people that are interested in a violin in this price range and the first thing they ask me is "is the violin made in China."

If you are looking for a violin $5,000+, I would recommend a European instrument every time. The reality though is that in this price range, you are going to find the best violins made in China. You can let that turn you off (some will stop reading here), or you can read further.

Most all the violins you are hearing about above are made in China, and that should be of no surprise (certainly not promoted that way). I have played hundreds of consignment instruments over the years including many German copies etc. that are never going to sound better than a nicely crafted Chinese instrument in this price range. The second you say something other than Chinese and you have good craftsmanship, the price automatically goes up. Here is what you have to understand about the pricing of an instrument.

When a shop prices an instrument, they are doing so not by the sound. They are doing so based on the country of origin, wood quality (hand crafted vs. manufactured), and the condition. So when a violin shop sees that a violin is German with a label, they auto default to a higher price just based on the country of origin. Every shop I have worked at, the appraiser (shop owner) never actually plays the violin to see what it sounds like before putting it up for sale. This concept proves that violin sound is indirectly related to sound quality. I have done a lot of videos on this concept and my entire Chapter 2 in my book covers this concept.

If you didn't follow me there, what I'm trying to say is that if the goal is to find a great sounding violin (I'm assuming you aren't looking for an antique for your wall), you need to make sure it is Chinese. I have done hundreds of tests over the years and played on every single one of the instruments above (I have seen them all as at one point I had 80 students privately), and everyone that sounded good in this price range was Chinese (the bad ones were German). Being that I am now a dealer, I understand the game and am telling you that many brand names are made to disguise that fact. I hope nobody gets upset with me there, but it is true.

So why do Chinese violins get such a bad reputation? It is not because of the lack of potential, but actually more the consistency. I was told that a large instrument manufacturer (I won't mention names) actually returns 30% of their violins back to China from there original shipment they receive directly from China. That means that 70% of those violins had some sort of defect (cosmetic, bad fingerboards, etc). This makes total sense with me as I have purchased about 10 shipments of violins from China (dealt with problems every time). So what is the key then for you guys to get the 30% that I'm talking about?

When I first started promoting violins, I had two middle-men that I would work with (I won't mention names). I relyed on them to ship out the Chinese instruments that I loved (they showed me the 30% only). Over time, I started to notice customer complaints out of some of the violins they would drop-ship, and it seemed almost like a crap shoot (some customers were thrilled about the quality of each violin while others were angry). Finally I came up with a solution to this that I'll share with you. It involves obsoleting drop-shipping and quality control.

I recently found a Chinese guy that plays in a professional orchestra that is obsessed with the sound of each violin he sells to me wholesale. He was actually the first one to explain to me that the distance between the bridge to the start of the tail piece should be 5.5 cm on a violin. I was skeptical but after he adjusted a violin for me, I was shocked at the difference (projection increased x2). He is that kind of guy, and he was very real with me about the process in China.

What he does, is he gets the structure of each violin created in the base shop, and then pays workers 8 times more at another shop to do the detailed work (fingerboard setup etc). This raises the consistency to about 85%, and he goes to China 4 times a year and picks only the best ones out of the bunch. We played all these violins at the NAAM show, and were blown away by the sound quality. We then were impressed that over time, he has shipped us nothing but consistent instruments, and because he is working with China, the production cost is very low.

I'm now working with three lines of violins that go through this process. The results speak for themselves. So far every student that has tried out these violins has bought one, and each time they went through the process of the student bringing them to many different sources to play the violins and test them. I personally bought one that I find plays like it should be in the $8,000-$10,000 range, but it is only $2,500 retail.

Here is the scoop. I don't want you to think I'm trying to sell you on these violins. Honestly they are great, but I know other shops have already figured this process out and are doing the same thing. I actually know which shops they are, but I don't know if it would be good to mention them. The ones I don't mention might not be happy with me.

So in conclusion, be open to trying out violins in this price range and keep in mind the ones that sounds the best are going to be Chinese 99% of the time. Keep in mind the consistency though, and if you get something that doesn't seem good, send it back. If you find a shop that has already done quality control for you though, that is when you are going to be thrilled with your purchase the first time.

If you have any questions, feel free to visit my Violin Tutor Pro website. Sorry for making this so long!

March 23, 2015 at 02:53 PM · So, you do not currently own any violin, is that correct?

March 23, 2015 at 03:03 PM · Michael, thanks for making it long. For me it's interesting to understand better how the business works, because that provides information that helps me and other students on a budget to make choices. Of course, if I win a lottery grand prize, I'd probably commission a violin, but I'm more likely to get hit by lightning and I realize that I can be perfectly happy with an inexpensive modern instrument. I'll just have to get out there and put a bit more effort into finding it.

March 23, 2015 at 03:21 PM · Seraphim, I do Have violins to play. I have a full size Yamaha V5 that actually isn't bad, just a bit dull and muted to my ears. It's too large for me, is rather heavy, and the neck is pretty thick. I also now get to use a full size Clement & Weise that my teacher used to use as a backup violin. He let me have it recently after I had a hard time finding an alternative to the Yamaha. It is easier to play (narrower neck/fingerboard), plus I can hear better whether I'm playing in tune, and it sounds nice. But it's still difficult to stretch my fingers, so I decided not to stop looking. (My daughter's teacher has a full size on which I can hit notes with my fourth finger without having to move my hand, so I figure a good fit with good sound is out there if I'm not picky about age or country of origin.)

I do have something to play on, which is why I'm not desperate to buy just anything I come across. I'm also not a gambler, so am very unlikely to acquire an instrument through auction sites. But I do feel very encouraged to go ahead with my search, even if it takes a bit of time, thanks to you and all the other thoughtful violinist.com members. I'm so glad I finally posted on this site after having lurked for so long.

March 25, 2015 at 07:04 PM · It may be a bit far out from you, but many of my students have gotten write nice instruments from Cassandra Strings in Algonquin IL. I don't know exact prices, but I'd say we've played nice ones anywhere from $1100 up. Most of them are working on 6 or 7 years of rental credit budget so whatever 12 months x 6 yrs x something like $25/mo., I think they've been able to stay pretty close to that. Mix of violin ethnicities :)

March 25, 2015 at 08:49 PM · $2500 is more than enough for a very good student violin. You should be able to find a gorgeous Scott Cao STV-750 for around $1200 and an STV-950 for around $2700. You should be able to get something appreciably nicer, both in terms of sound and appearance, than the Yamaha for less than $1000. A Hiroshi Kono should be around $2000 - $2500.

My advice is to go outside of high end shops in major metropolitan areas. Often the prices at such shops have more to do with their cost of rent/labor/reputation than with the actual quality of the instruments they sell. Also, remember that it takes a little while for instruments that haven't been played for awhile to "open up".

March 25, 2015 at 09:43 PM · When I took my grandson to buy his full sized violin, he had been using my rebuilt $100 eBay special (about $500 in it) for a couple of weeks. He tried a couple of $1,500 violins, then some $4,000 and even an $18,000 that was in the room. The $1,500 sounded like mine while the $4,000 sounded like the $18,000 instruments. The quality difference REALLY jumped up. We aren't rich but I don't think I would spend $2,000 to "settle." What you want to do, though, if you want to trade up, is maybe rent for now, then apply that to a purchase later BUT rent from a REAL violin shop, not a school band supply. They will have a good inventory.

March 26, 2015 at 02:13 AM · I have bought and sold the OVH master/Dan sun and Yita T/M20s. I am looking to step up and beyond them with the same price / tone ratio - performance for the buck at the $700-1100 level. Any sources out there?

March 26, 2015 at 04:47 AM · My only comment on buying and selling violins on the lower end of the market is that it behooves one to try many instruments.

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

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

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

Virtual Sejong Music Competition
Virtual Sejong Music Competition

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe