yet another violist wanna-be looking for a reasonably priced viola

April 4, 2015 at 07:53 PM · I am studying violin and would like to start studying viola. I have tried a few violas in the $1K to $2K range: an old German, an Eastman 315, and another unknown. Of them, I like the Eastman the best but I'd still be embarassed to use it for ensemble play even at my rather low skill level. I may attempt to find a Century Strings C.L. Wynn v520 to compare. Yita Music's top level violin is only $1100, though, less expensive than both of these. I'd rather not buy an instrument without trying it, but others have been very happy with Yita Music. Has anyone had experience with at least two of these three? Any other suggestions? Thanks very much.

Replies (22)

April 4, 2015 at 08:05 PM · Take a look at Jay Haide violas.

April 4, 2015 at 08:09 PM · Francesca, I share the same experience; do not want to spend a fortune on my secondary instrument, but there seem to be no good instruments within that price range. By good, I mean a viola with viola sound, not just a longer fingerboard to stretch your fingers on!

After some people on this site wrote with enthusiasm about Jay Haide violas, I tried a few of then - all, no matter of price had a weak D string with sound completely different than the rest 3 strings. It is a wait game until an old and under-priced instrument appears.

April 4, 2015 at 08:10 PM · I second the Jay Haide rec. Not too expensive, but its one of the best values for the price range, and its fairly consistent in terms of quality (more so than the other Chinese-workshop made ones, anyway). You do gotta shop around and try different instruments though: the Haide violin I've owned for a few years doesn't have any problems on the D string, but I was presented with about six of them at their store in Berkeley and tested them with a critical ear and an experienced teacher.

April 4, 2015 at 08:14 PM · Suebin: you owned their viola or violin?

April 4, 2015 at 08:30 PM · Why would you be embarrassed to use an Eastman 315?

If you tried it and you like it - buy it and use it.

In your situation I'd rather opt for an instrument that I know I like than order another for no particular reason.

I have a Yita viola. It's nice for the price. But I certainly wouldn't buy an unknown Yita over a known Eastman at the same price point.

April 4, 2015 at 08:31 PM · I live near Ifshins and can check them out. Which models are each of you referring to? I know that the l'Ancienne's have quite a following but they're over $3000. Thanks, Fran.

April 4, 2015 at 09:20 PM · I tried ones for 1k (base model)and 2k and also those claimed to be Ancient (not European wood) at the local store.... they were consistent in issues with D string. On the record, all other strings sound quite good for that price range.

April 4, 2015 at 09:22 PM · To N.A. Mohr, Sorry, for some reason I didn't see your response. What I don't like about the Eastman is how it sounds "echo-y". But I wonder if that's just how it sounds under my ear, not to the listener. I'm going to check that out.

I totally agree with your comment about going with a known entity. If my above test results to my satisfaction and I don't get any compelling leads soon, I'll buy the Eastman. Thanks.

April 4, 2015 at 09:33 PM · What size can you play?

April 4, 2015 at 09:47 PM · 15.5". I am renting one just under 16" and it's too large (or maybe it's the style--I'll have to figure that out).

April 4, 2015 at 09:50 PM · Rocky: probably isn't so relevant, but the violin. I've had violist friends who were satisfied with their Haide, but I believe they did use the L'Ancienne model.

April 5, 2015 at 05:02 AM · Thanks, Darren. I did look at Shar's website. I had heard of the Tertis design before and it seemed promising but an article of reviews of $2000 violas said that both reviewers found that particular Shar model "tiring to play". Too bad Shar doesn't have a regular Lamberti viola. I hear that the violins are well liked.

April 5, 2015 at 02:13 PM · I think it's a very good idea to have someone else play the viola for you, so you can get a good feel of what it sounds like to others.

Do let us know what you decide! I am always interested in the selection process!

April 5, 2015 at 03:29 PM · Thanks, N.A. Mohr. I certainly will post something when the process is over. Everyone's input has been very helpful to the process and I appreciate it.

I'm going to see another viola tomorrow that the person who sold me my violin is selling. I'll bring the Eastman and have him listen to me playing both. Not that I'll expect an unbiased opinion, of course, but I'm sure he'll have things for me to think about.

April 7, 2015 at 05:17 AM · Well, now I'm leaning towards a 15". I'm trying one out whose volume isn't much less than the 15.5" Eastman. Any comments on the yitamusic "master piece"? The price isn't much different from the Eastman 305. Or even the T20? For $400 it sounds like I couldn't go wrong. NA Mohr, Seraphim? Comments? Thanks.

April 7, 2015 at 11:03 AM · I have had four violas from Yita. One of them I sold to my teacher, a professional musician, who was quite complimentary on the instrument's tone. That was a 15.75" T20.

I had a Magannini model for a while as well, a 16.25" M20, again a very nice sounding instrument. I sold that because I then purchased a nice, juicy 17" T19+. The sound from the 17" is fabulous, but not everyone can manage a big instrument like that.

I am awaiting delivery of Viola #4, a different model 16.25". I'm hoping to see if I can get a similar tone to my 17", but in a more manage size. That's always the struggle with a Viola. I'm sure a 15" FEELS the best for you, as there isnt much of a change in dimensions from your violin. My first Viola was a used 15.5" Eastman VA100, it felt quite comfortable to play. But it got knocked out of rotation as soon as the first 16.25" came along!

One of the things I like about Yita is that they lost an array of each viola's measurements. One of the key dimensions for playing comfort is vibrating string length. Obviously shorter requires less of a stretch than longer. There is no standardized size for a Viola, you can have a wide body with a short string length to try and get a bigger sound with easier playability. Yita sells all sorts of models. You have to keep your eyes open and look at these details to see what may appeal to you.

I say try and go for the 15.5" if you can. You play a Viola for a Viola sound, not just a big violin sound.

I don't know if the Yita "Master" is worth it.

$460 delivered is the most I've spent on any of my violas from them. They all have been surprisingly nice.

April 7, 2015 at 06:01 PM · Thanks for your feedback, Seraphim. I started with a 16" but got tennis elbow from it. I'd like 15.5" but will have to see how it goes, having put aside the 16" for a few days. It was my luthier who said 15" was the largest I should use. Maybe my age is showing--I don't want to overstress my body. This is probably the most important thing I'll be evaluating the rest of this week. And thanks very much for the feedback on the yitamusic violas. --Fran

April 8, 2015 at 01:21 AM · My education continues. I had to return my Jay Haide 16" model 101 rental to Ifshin's today and decided to try their 15". They had the 101 and 104 in 15.25". The 104 was very nice. It did have a sort of muted A string but the A's tone perked up after a bit of playing. The D string was just fine. The volume was surprisingly good and the sound was pretty dark. Maybe my next move is to take it home to try out next to the other two that are in the running.

April 24, 2015 at 09:43 PM · Final: I found that the Jay Haide 15.25" gave me tendonitis. I was going to have a 15" set up to try but before the violin shop could do that, the luthier who I have bought two violins from made me a deal on a 15" Kremona V1 and a very nice case that I couldn't pass up. Embarassingly, the viola is better than my violin (a situation I was trying to avoid), but that's how it is sometimes. I did stay within my budget, with the help of the 100% trade-in on my first violin. My luthier had just that one viola and no viola bows, so I think he wanted out of the viola selling business. The bow will have to wait. Meanwhile, my violin bow works for solo practice. Thanks, everyone, for your helpful input.

April 24, 2015 at 09:48 PM · Congratulations! The difference between a violin bow and viola bow could be quite small if one plays a smallish viola.

April 25, 2015 at 02:06 PM · Congats! Thanks for letting us know!

I love hearing how the search ends!

April 26, 2015 at 04:25 PM · N.A. Mohr, I also love reading people's journeys to buying a new instrument. It doesn't happen very often in a person's life.

Kevin, Then I'm happy to know that I'm not losing too much by using my violin bow. But a bow specifically chosen for the instrument will add a lot, based on my own experience.

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

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

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

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

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

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