Buying an expensive instrument

December 27, 2015 at 08:58 PM · Hi All,

I currently own a ~$8,000 violin, but I'm thinking about looking into getting a more professional violin (in the $15,000-$20,000 range) before auditioning for grad schools (I'm a violin performance major). This is what my professors and peers seem to agree is a good range, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on it. Is this too much to spend on an instrument at my level? Also, if it's not too much to ask, how do other students find the funds to purchase such expensive instruments? I've tried to do my own research regarding financing, but I can't come up with any actual helpful information. I would really appreciate any and all opinions on this topic!

Replies (60)

December 27, 2015 at 09:31 PM · What are you playing for auditions?

Unless it is something that requires rather fast doublestops/is unviolinistic (think Tchaikovsky or Brahms Concerto), or you have significant weak registers higher up on the D/G string, which is needed for tchaik and such, I don't see a problem with your current one as of yet. :)

PS: Or, if the violin lacks projection/bite/etc...:

December 27, 2015 at 10:18 PM · $8000 is quite a bit of money. If you're concerned finnacially you could try looking for a nicer sounding violin that's at least $5000 or so, as more expensive doesn't always mean better. If you think your current instrument is good enough, just keep it.

December 27, 2015 at 11:42 PM · I think ultimately what really matters is what you're looking for in the instrument. Is your current one lacking in any noticeable way? $8000 is already pretty high up there to be lacking. Maybe you should go to some shops and try out some in the $10000 range and see if you find one that is actually better than yours. But like Ella said try some $5000 ones too. Violin prices are crazy and not always an indication that something is 'better' than another. And while you're trying them out don't pay any attention to maker names or age of the instrument, what really matters is the sound and the feel of it.

As for how to afford it, there are some ways and with exception of "saving up for it", they all involve getting in debt. I think some stores offer in-house financing, but you might be able to get a personal loan from your bank (usually the better option). And some have pretty high limit credit cards they put stuff like this on but I'm a strong opposer of using credit cards so I don't recommend it.

December 28, 2015 at 01:25 AM · Thanks for all of the responses!

I guess to be a little more specific, my current violin sounds really good for it's price, but I've been told that I should find something with a more professional sound if I plan on continuing on to grad school. It's not that my violin is lacking anything in particular- I just want something that sounds better overall. Something that will enhance my playing rather than restrict it, if that makes sense.

I'm not exactly sure what I'll be playing for my auditions, but I'm thinking of Bach's chaconne, either the Brahms or Sibelius concerto, and a Paganini caprice. I'm also probably going to prepare either a Brahms or Shostakovich sonata, depending on which schools I decide to audition for and what their specific requirements are.

December 28, 2015 at 01:47 AM · As others already stated, there is no positive correlation between violin's sound and market price. I would say that this rule applies to most violins up to very high level, which is beyond your reach right now. In this particular case, the sound of a 15k violin may not be 87.5% better than you current instrument's. It may be 5-10% better. It may be worse. In fact, you may find a great instrument very close to your violin's price range or even cheaper. What we pay is, the country of origin, maker, age, condition... lineage.

For example:

Let's assume that your instrument is an average fiddle with no lineage or distinct visual characteristics to provide a good appraisal. Let's also assume that a 15k instrument does have label and is made in Italy by a known maker, say 10 years ago. It has a decent sound, is in a good condition, but strings are not even; D is weak, G does not have the depth and is not juicy. E is somewhat better than on your violin, but does not ring and has no brilliance. There is also a wolf sound on C#. It will still have a price tag of 15k. Would you spend your money on it?

What about your bow? An investment of 5-7k in a stick may have the biggest return in sound quality.

December 28, 2015 at 02:03 AM · The price range you're looking at is not unreasonable; I'd say it's probably on the lower end of what most students at the most competitive schools are playing. Your best bet is probably to visit several big shops, play as many instruments as you can find, and run them by your teacher. Many people, when upgrading, make the mistake of getting something that sounds or feels exactly what they're used to, just louder.

Regarding funds, there's not really any easy answer. Look for scholarships or scholarship competitions that you could use. Some people take out bank loans (with their parents' help) or look for foundations that can loan them an instrument. I've seen a lot of gofundmes and indiegogos, but I don't know how successful those are.

December 28, 2015 at 02:47 AM · Have you been shown what a 'professional level' sound is like so you have a basis for comparison? Have you been lent a 'professional level' sounding violin and can /you/ play it and make it sound 'professional'?

That's a very important factor: Make sure the issue is indeed the instrument, not the player.

And the suggestion of investing on a bow is excellent to look into as well; the bow is so often neglected. People only think about the violin and forget the bow. ;)

Before you go spending big bucks on new equipment, make sure you have a clear idea of what it is that you're looking for.

December 28, 2015 at 03:23 AM · I bought a $5,000 bow last year, and it definitely did help my sound!

I did just end a trial of an $18,000 Italian violin made in 2002. I practiced only on that violin for two weeks just so that I would really be able to see the contrast when I switched back to my violin the other day, and the difference was very noticeable. It was from a shop in Minneapolis, where I did test out others in that same range with my violin professor. We also did test out a ~$35,000 violin just to compare. Obviously, the 35k was superior, but I'm not ready for something in that price range.

I'm at my parents house for the holidays, which is relatively close to Chicago, so I'll probably take a trip there sometime soon. I also go to school close to Minneapolis and St. Paul- I'll definitely keep looking at other instruments!

Thanks again for all of your input!

December 28, 2015 at 06:27 PM · Definitely keep looking! If you get lucky, I believe you can find an instrument in your price range, which is equal to the 35k you played.

As far as I rate your situation I would say you should look for very good playability. If an instrument is good to handle and that equally over all strings, it will be a good tool and improve your playing in the sense, that you can forget some of the fights one can have with an instrument. Do you play a modern bow? I just lately have been shown some nice bows from a friend of mine and one was definitely superior to mine, it improved my sound by a really good amount. The same sensation, I had, when I bought my Thomas Gerbeth bow some years ago. So my conclusion is, that a very very good bow, that fits your playing combined with an violin, that has no major flaws and solid handling, is a good budget way to achieve quality sound and ease of playing.

Good luck, that you find something.

December 28, 2015 at 06:46 PM · Erin,

I forgot to mention that Canadian $ is at its lowest point in many years and still falling. For US buyers this may be a golden opportunity to get a great instrument at a very affordable price.

While some dealers adjust (gauge) their price toward US$, most makers are slow to compensate.

Not sure about the customs duties or tax (we do not pay duty but do pay HST if we import from the States), but it may be worth travelling to Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal.

R

December 28, 2015 at 07:18 PM · I think a better view might be to set a goal of finding a great instrument that suits you, and then setting a limit on what you're going to spend.

If you do it the other way around, it's easy to assume that a 20k violin is better than a 15k violin, and that isn't always so!

Finding your target -- a great violin that enables you to be expressive and grow as a musician -- can absolutely be thrilling on a daily basis. I would suggest you play lots of violins in all price ranges -- anything you can get your hands on. Also once you find a violin that you like, testing in a hall with some colleagues with great ears and some runner-up violins is always reassuring.

Good luck and keep us posted as to what you end up with!

December 29, 2015 at 02:23 AM · Just out of curiosity, when is the last time your own instrument went into an experienced luthier for a thorough inspection, cleaning, and setup adjustment?

December 29, 2015 at 02:23 AM · [removed, double post]

December 29, 2015 at 03:08 AM · My impression is that quality is, very roughly, and with a great deal of variance, a logarithmic function of price.

Worse than the risk you face buying a new (to you) instrument is the risk of selling one you know to be a good violin for what you paid. Keep it for teaching, etc., if you can.

The secret to stress free violin shopping is to be filthy rich. For the rest of us there will always be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

December 29, 2015 at 04:01 AM · I am selling a violin in your price range; it is currently with a luthier in Indianapolis. If you (or anyone else) is interested in more details, please message me.

December 29, 2015 at 09:52 PM · I'm interested in knowing what about your good-for-$8K violin lacks that makes it sound less "professional". Between a great-for-its-price violin at $8K, and an average-for-its-price $15-20K, there might not be a lot of difference, which means you'll have to be quite picky in your search (which means casting a wider net and likely a longer search).

Ideally, if you're buying in that $15K+ range, you'd be buying not just for grad school but for some number of years of your career, too -- an instrument good enough to see you through orchestra auditions or whatever it is that you're going to do next.

If you're going to play the violin for a living, it makes sense to buy the best tools you can afford. They'll give you an edge in your development, as well as hopefully a sonic edge when you audition and perform in the future. You can grow into an instrument, but honestly, at the level you're at, you probably won't need to -- you can probably benefit from the very best instrument you can get your hands on.

Play not just things that are slightly above your price range, but try to get your hands on an instrument considered to be outstanding, which might be anything from an exceptional modern to a player's Strad. It'll show you what you can really do as well as what you might want out of a violin.

Sellers or shops may be willing to agree to some form of financing, outside of a traditional loan. At the moment, I'm paying off my violin in installments over the course of a year.

January 1, 2016 at 10:01 AM · A good test of a violin is playing a duo or ensemble piece with other good quality instruments rather than just trying solo.

Good Issac Stern quote trying out a violin in London " Don't want the fiddle but I'll buy the room"

January 1, 2016 at 11:58 AM · I began my professional career on a NEW violin.The maker allowed me to pay by instalments. As a student I had the use of a loaned Alfred Vincent fiddle. Then followed many years of dodgy advice and lousy purchases before eventually trading up to a Vuillaume. Whatever you get out on approval, someone will always rubbish it.

Developing your own taste is VERY difficult.

So I don't envy your situation.

I'd imagine that finding someone willing to LEND you a good instrument at least for a while would help formulate your ideas as to what you might eventually like. Look around for a long, long time. Don't ever be rushed by smooth-talking sales-persons. And remember that Isaac Stern comment - for a violin can sound OK in the shop but disappointing in real-life.

Personally I've gotten good value from new(ish) Italian fiddles - if bought directly from a maker these need not be ruinously expensive. There are quite a few violinist.commies who have gone down that route.

January 1, 2016 at 02:02 PM · I was in a similar situation several years ago. I wrote a blog if interested.

http://www.violinist.com/blog/smileyh1/20095/

I ended up with a contemporary Italian Fiddle in the 15k price range which I am very happy with. My son plays on a Hiroshi Kono which is less than 3K. I must say, his Kono sounds pretty darn nice and is really easy to play. My point is, as others have pointed out, price does not correlate with sound and playability.

January 1, 2016 at 02:36 PM · I have to say that I think price DOES correspond with sound and playability, but just not to the extent that we would prefer. It's the kind of noisy, jagged irregular relationship that makes the layperson scratch his head and say, "huh?" while the physicist looks at the same data and sees the Higgs Boson.

Well maybe not that bad. For example, I bet Smiley is not keen to exchange his $15k violin, with which he is "very happy" with his son's $3k violin, which he says sounds "pretty darn nice," a phrase in which I detect ever-so-slight reservations. The price difference is a factor of five. I have the same kind of feeling about my violin and my daughter's violin -- the approximate ratio of values there is also about five. She's got a good violin, but to my ear there it is not as well balanced as my violin and lacks some of the tonal complexity. But when testing violins before purchase, there were a couple of people that ranked hers above mine. And I know why: it's got a really bright, projecting treble voice on the E string. Thus, a factor of five is probably just barely above the noise level. The idea that a $10000 violin will invariably sound better than an $8000 violin is completely absurd. Thus, a factor of 1.25 is below the noise level.

So, what is the "signal to noise" ratio in violin pricing? My guess is that it's around 3. (I do realize that I'm abusing the S/N concept rather badly here.)

January 1, 2016 at 03:30 PM · Yes Paul, that was a gross abuse of the term signal to noise ratio. But because it's a new year, you are forgiven :-)

I would say that my son's Kono is easier to play and also projects better than my violin which is 5x the price. I still wouldn't trade because I love my violin for its tonal characteristics.

Another case in point. During my violin search, I tried a number of instruments that were over 100k. One of them sounded like a tin can. It was a quite well known old Italian fiddle.

January 1, 2016 at 05:27 PM · Thanks for all of your help!

I think I'm going to take some time over the course of this next year to keep trying out instruments. I've already run into a few persuasive sales people, but I want to take more time, because I do want to make this a good investment. There are a couple more promising shops and luthiers in my area that I want to visit and see what they have to offer, including one in Chicago that I think does offer extremely high priced instruments.

January 2, 2016 at 02:48 AM ·

January 2, 2016 at 03:26 AM · Erin,

If you are buying a violin as investment, you can disregard my previous comments.

You will need different type of advice in that area.

R

January 2, 2016 at 04:09 AM · If you are going to Chicago, there are a lot of dealers there, as well as makers. Check out Michael Darnton, Carl Becker and Son, etc. for contemporary instruments.

January 2, 2016 at 04:52 AM · Hi. I'm in the Jersey Shore area and get in to New York City. I'm selling a violin by Ed Maday for $14K. I used it to record my 2nd CD, "Chaconne D'Amour". You can see a description of it on my website. Go to http://rkviolin.com Go to "Other activities" and scroll down. The other 2 violins described there have been sold. You can hear it on excerpts of my CD in the same website in the - not surprisingly - CD section.

January 3, 2016 at 12:12 AM · "I practiced only on that violin for two weeks just so that I would really be able to see the contrast when I switched back to my violin the other day, and the difference was very noticeable."

There is a danger here in that the ear/brain gets tuned into the sound of whatever you're playing, and then switching to something else is a bit of a shock, in the negative sense. Did the $18k violin sound better when you switched TO it initially? I think a better objective test would be to play both instruments equally, switching back and forth often, under many different conditions.

If you can wait until November, and if you can get to Cleveland, you could try out several hundred instruments from some of the best modern makers all in one place at the VSA making competition.

If price is correlated to sound/playability, I will have to raise my prices. ;-)

But, for now, I could make you a violin well under your budget, guaranteed to be fabulous (or your money back).

January 3, 2016 at 03:25 AM · If there were NO correlation between price and quality, then nobody would ever spend more than $500 on a violin except as an investment. So I will reiterate my assertion that there is a correlation, but its a crappy one.

Don's offer sounds pretty good!

January 3, 2016 at 03:57 AM · Oh if I had any money now I would pounce on that offer by Don! I always wanted a custom made violin! :)

...and if he's guaranteeing you'll love it or your money back, what's there to lose? :D

January 3, 2016 at 04:16 AM · Most reputable makers will offer a trial period, and if you don't like it, you don't have to buy it. However, if you order a purple metalflake finish and a fish-shaped body, I doubt the offer would hold.

January 3, 2016 at 10:09 AM · "I did just end a trial of an $18,000 Italian violin made in 2002."

Marcello Villa ??

January 3, 2016 at 11:17 PM · Yes, David- the violin I just tried was indeed a Marcello Villa.

Don- I have a good bit of time before I want to switch instruments. I don't know if I'll be able to make it to Cleveland, but I'll definitely look into it! I've also been doing my research on commissioning instruments, but I haven't decided whether to do that or buy something that's been played on for a few years.

January 4, 2016 at 03:56 PM · "..the violin I just tried was indeed a Marcello Villa."

My question wasn't just a silly one - the thought going through my mind was that I own a 2003 Daniele Tonarelli fiddle. Similar background, both I think pupils of Giorgio Scolari.

It's really beginning to perform in a most impressive way now and there's still room for it to continue to open out.

At this age the price of such a fiddle hasn't yet hit the roof and there's promise of thrills in store.

IMHO - shoot me down if you want to !

BTW the one Marcello Villa I tried was new & very nice but the dealer liked it more than I did, and I'm sure the UK price then was more than $18k.

I think Raphael Klayman has at least one Villa violin, by Marcello's brother Vittorio.

January 5, 2016 at 12:06 AM · Thanks for the information, David! It's really helpful. I enjoyed playing on the Villa a lot, and I figured it's young age was a good sign, as well as the good things I'd heard about the maker. I'm currently in contact with the shop I found it to see how much I could get for my current instrument if I do decide to buy it. Like I said in my previous comments, I'm hoping to make a trip down to Chicago in the next few weeks (Darnton and Becker will be my first stops) to see how the Villa compares to what I can find down there.

January 5, 2016 at 02:10 AM · I've heard mixed opinions on whether the price of the instrument matters. My former teacher had this testimony on a contemporary maker's website saying that he prefers the violin the guy made for him over his antique Italian violin(but maybe they had some kind of a deal in place). I recently visited a shop to get my soundpost readjusted, and the shop owner told me that a Stradavarius that he sold years ago makes his own instrument($75,000) sound like a cardboard box. I guess everyone's suggestions here are good haha. Probably just go try like a thousand instruments.

January 5, 2016 at 02:20 AM · The memorable anecdotes are always the counterexamples. But day by day hundreds or thousands of instruments change hands in unremarkable and uncelebrated transactions, and usually the $10000 ones are better than the $1000 ones.

January 5, 2016 at 06:08 AM · Think of sound vs. price being a scatter-plot distribution. The lower the price point, the more the scatter of dots is concentrated farther down on the sound-quality axis.

The more you pay, the greater the probability of finding something you like in a reasonable amount of time and effort. If you're willing to comb the world looking for instruments, you are more likely to luck into an instrument that's amazing for its price point.

Instruments sitting unloved in shops for years and years (i.e., in a dealer's inventory) are much more likely to have poor sound-quality to price ratios, because the better-sounding instruments in a reasonable price range will get snapped up by players relatively quickly.

Also, you have to remember that a lot of contemporary makers are putting out awesome instruments. They basically charge what the market will bear (which is effectively how many instruments they can make a year, modulo time to market and sell those instruments, modified by their hoped-for income and commission backlog). You could very well buy a contemporary commission that outplays plenty of older instruments above its price point.

January 5, 2016 at 06:29 PM · I'm only playing a $4,000 instrument but I would definitely recommend having someone else play the violins for you while you listen without looking. I ended up liking the violin I thought I didn't like, when I heard it from a few feet away rather than playing it. Also, I got my violin from Carriage House Violins and it was much better quality than others I tried in the same price range so I would recommend checking them out.

January 9, 2016 at 10:19 PM · Does price correlate with sound and playability? Not necessarily, but normally or mostly. I make this comment based on my experience of trying hundreds of violins since about 4 years ago when I started looking for a cello for my daughter and a violin for myself. It is not completely impossible to get a professional grade violin under 10K, but the chance is slim. For those who were following my thread (http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?id=22454), I went to Brescia in August 2012, stayed there for 2 hours, and bought a violin from Laura Vigato; I then went to Cremona the same day, stayed for 2 hours, and bought a violin from Marcello Villa. I still love both of them especially the Villa. After we were back from Europe, we received the cello we commissioned Christopher Dungey to make and my daughter has been very happy with it. Are there any violins in the market that are overpriced? Absolutely, especially those old Italian violins though they can be very good. But for violins made by contemporary makers, I’d say most of them if not all are fairly priced. What led me to commission a cello from Christopher Dungey was a piece of news that Lynn Harrell bought a cello from Dungey and he was very happy with it. Lynn Harrell sold his Stradivarius and Montagnana cellos after he bought the Dungey. He also mentioned that his Dungey was better than all the Vuillaume cellos that he had ever tried. The two links below have a video and an audio with my 2012 Marcello Villa and my daughter’s 2012 Christopher Dungey. The first violinist (Fumika) was playing on the Villa that I loaned to her, and my daughter was playing the Dungey. The video was captured using a home camcorder with poor quality sound, but the audio is much better. For the audio link, click on the icon on the lower right corner. My daughter’s performance starts at 57:11 and Fumika’s at 102:21. They are all middle and high school kids.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p22avYcIe8Y

http://player.allclassical.org/archives/

Two months ago, I went visit Cremona again after 3 years. This time for 3 full days I basically did nothing but visited 17 master violin makers, out of which 7 have won no less than a silver or gold medal from the International Triennal violin making competition in Cremona (arguably the most prestigious violin making competitions in the world which takes place every 3 years). It was such a joy to play violins made by these master makers! I not only enjoyed the beautiful sound but also the beautiful craftsmanship. What a piece of art! I’m always sorry when someone says a violin is just a tool. I ended up buying 2 violins from Marcello Villa and some more from other makers such as Daniele Scolari, Riccardo Bergonzi, Daniele Tonarelli, Fabrizio Portanti and Pablo Farias. You are welcome to try them when you visit the Greater Portland area when they are still available:-)

Erin, searching for a professional grade violin can be exhausting experience, but it is indeed lots of fun. You don’t want to rush, but you also don’t want to let a good opportunity (good quality and reasonable price) pass either.

Don Noon, I’m very interested in trying out your violins. If your violins have good sound and playability quality and good consistency, you will be able to charge for higher price so your price will correlate with sound and playability:-) It just takes time to be recognized.

January 9, 2016 at 10:57 PM · I think violin prices have something to do with quality, but not always. I could name several situations where violin prices were way off the charts for what they were worth. The conclusion is that violin prices are crazy and don't always determine a violin's quality.

Good luck,

Ella

January 15, 2016 at 03:10 PM · Dear Erin,

Would you consider getting a violin at auction? If so, for 15K to 20K you might be able to get a violin to your liking at Tarisio? If you are close to one of the two coasts you could travel to NYC or SF and play the violins to see.

We purchased a violin for our daughter last year and instrument is gorgeous sounding.

January 15, 2016 at 05:15 PM · "Would you consider getting a violin at auction?".

There's very limited trial-time available at auctions. It's often possible to arrange a private appointment for this but what you get is measured in minutes, not, as at a dealership, weeks.

You can get a fiddle on trial from a dealer played for you by someone else, maybe in a concert hall, to find out if it "comes across".

At a public auction viewing it's possible to try an instrument or bow or two, but very briefly, and with other folk adding to a noisy background.

Those auctions function mainly as a clearing-houses for dealers, who go along and pretty much gamble on any outcome. They know that whatever the fiddle or bow, someone somewhere bought it once before - resale is largely a matter of time. Also, they have vast experience of the market.

It's probably better to haunt dealerships in your search because though the prices are substantially marked up in comparison with the auction ones these operators earn their profit by facilitating trial periods and by offering assistance by not only offering advice but by being able to readjust the set-up of any instrument to suit your requirements. Also, some will take back instruments "in trade" if and when you need to upgrade.

I traded in 3 violins one by one with the same dealer before eventually buying the J.B.Vuillaume I used professionally for nearly 20 years.

January 15, 2016 at 05:26 PM · That's true David. Tarisio gave us unlimited time to play the instruments we selected to play against the violin we wanted to bid for. It's not like the olden days when many dealers will let you take an instrument home to play .

But if Erin goes to a dealer, she is paying for the dealers markup in addition to the auction premium. The violin we purchased was looked at by two other dealers and each said they'd list it for 30-40 percent higher than our bid price plus 18 percent premium.

We purchased a 1762 Italian violin for 2/3 of what we would have to pay at a dealer. And like you said the dealers often don't even show up to play, they are just grabbing names to hang in their collection.

If Erin could make time to visit the auctions, I think there are two fine instrument auctions a year. The people at Tarisio are very gracious with letting you play the instruments. Perhaps it was because the friend who went to select it for us with us purchased other instruments in the six digit ranges, but they were friendly and kind to us before they knew we were going to play them with him.

January 15, 2016 at 05:50 PM · Well, unless one is experienced in violin selection, has a solid internal concept of sound and has tried hundreds of instruments before, buying an instrument without a 7 days trial is a gamble.

It is like proposing to someone after a one night stand - may be a love of a lifetime or end up in court or worse.

The reason violin sound does not correlate with market value (the stress in on "market") is in fact that there are many intervening variables, such as dealers commission .

[For example, Canadian $ is still falling compared to US $ - how will that reflect on violin prices? The price will go up and stay there even when our $ hopefully gains value again. So, all violins may be overpriced at least temporarily and some even 100% or more. ]

There are no standards, no code of conduct, and every sale is unique and based on perceived offer and demand (the stress is on "perceived").

This is not to say that an honest and hardworking dealer should not be awarded for their service and expertise. Yet, I have seen many, many cases when violins up to 30k $ CAD have been grossly overpriced. When say overpriced, not regarding the country of origin, maker, age.... but sound quality - lack of power, uneven strings, weak G, wolf tones, no responsiveness, no resonance, wooly sound... you name it. Price tag? 20k! Then you pick up a Jay Heide violin, or an anonymous one - nothing special indeed, but at least the basics are there and for way less money.

It may be that over hundreds of thousands of $ the correlation is stronger and more reliable - there are fewer instruments in that range and here we are talking about the market with more lineage and more often proven authentication and ownership record. There is also way more at stake - dealer's reputation, more money involved, etc. However, this is not relevant to OP question - out of reach.

January 16, 2016 at 06:27 AM · That's true. When we buy online we have to gamble and cross our fingers that the instrument is good.

January 16, 2016 at 04:02 PM · "I think a good violin maker that spends days or even weeks of work making a great violin can sell it for a bunch of thousand dollars, and it's justified."

Days?? For some of us, it's months.

January 16, 2016 at 04:27 PM · I've done a lot of research regarding the price/quality correlation on violins, so I promise, I am not just looking at the price tag. I just listed the $15-$20k range as what seems to be typical and what might be realistic for me as an undergrad student financing my own education and instruments. When I test violins, I play them all, pick the one that sounds best, and then inquire about the price.

Since I am relatively new to trying instruments and I'm just beginning my search, I definitely would not feel comfortable going to an auction.

Anyways, as of right now I'm just going to continue saving my money and seeing what I like before committing to anything.

January 16, 2016 at 05:08 PM · "Anyways, as of right now I'm just going to continue saving my money and seeing what I like before committing to anything."

Wisest thing I've read all day !!!!!

January 16, 2016 at 05:12 PM · I do something similar. I look at the price tags to stay reasonable finnancially (assuming I'm on a budget) but otherwise it's not that important.

January 17, 2016 at 04:26 AM · "Wisest thing I've read all day !!!!!"

David, that's a good one! It took me a couple of minutes to get it! Now you know how low my IQ is :-)

Of the 5 new makers that I met and bought violins from in Cremona a couple of months ago, one very famous and respected maker told me it took him 50 days to complete that violin. I was about to make a counter-offer, but after he said that, I just couldn't bear to negotiate at all, so I just accepted his offer.

January 17, 2016 at 01:17 PM · I don't want to generalize, but I have not met any violin makers that drive Lamborghinis. That's not to say they do not exist, I just haven't met any.

January 17, 2016 at 05:40 PM · Interesting. 50 days times 8 hours equals 400 hours.

Multiply that with musician's (or your own) hourly rate in your local currency and compare the results with instrument's price!

January 18, 2016 at 03:04 AM · Actually, charging what you're worth is never abusive. It narrows the people who can afford it, sure. There are going to be less expensive teachers, down to the college students just starting to teach for the first time who might charge $15/hour, say -- but you're going to get what you pay for. Maybe you luck into a college kid who's a fledgling brilliant teacher and you're lucky enough to extract a ton of value out of that $15, but that teacher who is more expensive is able to charge more money because indeed, there are people who feel they're worth it.

January 18, 2016 at 06:11 AM · "It's just making the whole violin world a place only for rich people."

...isn't it, though?

A 'good violin' that people won't dismiss as an underling 'student instrument' while turning their noses up at it starts around $5000. A good bow starts around $1000. Good cases are in the $300 and up. Strings can cost $100+ per set and you might need several of those a year. Regular adjustments and re-hairing can cost a few hundreds a year if you have no major problems.

Don't get me wrong, I don't condone any of that. I wish excellent quality musical instruments were more accessible! But ultimately, playing is an art, and art is something that can get quite expensive, specially when there's a market for it!

"Now, an engineer, for example, or a physics college teacher, earn per hour way, way less money than $50-60. And their work is way more difficult and exigent than a music teacher's."

I beg your pardon, but you know not what you say! Have you ever taught a class? 'Difficulty' is a very subjective matter there!

"An artisan can't put prices based on the hours spent on that piece of art"

As an art teacher, something I've often said is that when dealing with art, people can ask whatever the heck they want for it for whatever reason they see fit. If someone is willing to pay for it, that's another story, but you can not tell an artist what they can and what they can not charge for their art.

January 18, 2016 at 01:22 PM · I have no problem with luthiers making a decent living. They have put a lot of time in their craft and there is a great deal of expertise in what they do. The difficulty comes in how we define a "decent living." For some, it might mean earning $50,000 per year. For others, $500,000 per year might feel like living in poverty. It boils down to supply and demand. If I were a violin maker, I would charge what the market would bear. And I don't blame the violin makers of today doing the same. I agree also that the $15-20K price tag on contemporary violins (what the market will bear) might be out of reach for some.

January 18, 2016 at 09:17 PM · In my 40+ years in the fiddle business, playing thousands of instruments, I've only run across three cheapish instruments which sounded really good, in the context of what a fine-playing major orchestra player, or better, might be happy with.

January 18, 2016 at 09:20 PM ·

January 18, 2016 at 09:57 PM · David, I hear you.... and must agree.

It is the other side which worries me - overpriced, but mediocre sounding ones.

January 18, 2016 at 10:09 PM · An instrument is also an investment. Not in a way, that you can sell it sometimes for more, but for you as a player. If a player doesn't try to get the best instrument possible affordable for him, he must have super powers on the instrument to win competitions auditions etc. Good instruments and bows can bring you to another level in your career. Of course that is unfair to some degree, but its very natural. Violins are very complicated instruments and pieces of art. The work with wood can't be done monotonous, you must go with the material. Every instrument is unique and if the maker is/was good, they can make you a living, if you know how to play it. It can open you opportunities.

Look at it that way: you can make a credit for a fine violin, wich will help you get a job in an good orchestra. Later you buy a house from the money you made with the help of the instrument.

Its very important to think and tune your instrument to the max. There are sadly many good musicians who struggle with instruments in bad condition, they learn to cope with them, but they should be spending more time fixing the instrument instead of fighting it.

To the off topic: Prices are made by supply and demand, I bet you know that already. If a product is highly overpriced, like some pop music autotune artists, it's usually the money which went into advertising, that you have to pay back. If you want to be able to raise your prices, advertisement is a way to go. But the clients will change then and the quality of your product has to be high. Violinmakers who charge up to 20k dollars are reasonable if the instruments are good. You pay for the service as well. If you find something worth the money, you will know immediately. If you consider buying it although it is an expensive investment, the price was reasonable. The only not reasonable prices for violins are made by none musicians or dealers, who are more about names and brands than about quality

January 18, 2016 at 11:15 PM · I hear you, and agree with you too, Rocky.

I think that one also needs to consider that some people purchase instruments largely as investments. In the case of a highly skilled pro player, the instrument might also need to sound and work pretty well.

I've had one situation where someone's parents purchased one of my instruments when the player was a teenager. I was only slightly older. This instrument sufficed through Juilliard, and through orchestra auditions to get her into one of the really major symphony orchestras, and maybe ten years beyond.

She ended up marrying someone else in the same orchestra, and together, they make really good money. Maybe even wealthy, from my perspective from what I make as an instrument maker.

Since they choose not to live extravagantly, what to do with the money? What made sense to them, and something they could relate to, was investing in a really expensive old antique instrument.

I could feel snubbed by that if I wanted to, but have enough experience to realize that this is one of the ways the instrument market works.

I don't know which instrument she plays on the most, and haven't asked, because there isn't a great deal to learn from that. Some people sock their investment instruments away, to protect them from wear and damage, and others use them at every opportunity.

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