Why NOT to buy Chinese violins

September 23, 2016 at 08:18 PM · Why are there so many posts comparing one cheap Chinese brand against another? As a rule, loud, brash, and soulless, with the occasional exception. Are posters not at all concerned about supporting another country's economy, rather than their own? Are they giving a nod to slave wages and 3rd world working conditions, by ignoring realities? Are they happy buying these instruments with the 1000% mark-up that dealers put on them? Or do they ignore all this, and just buy a cheap violin without any twinge of conscience?

Replies (107)

September 23, 2016 at 09:19 PM · Support local economy?

My nearest local economy is my own. If I can buy a reasonable quality Chinese instrument in the hundreds of dollars versus a violin with some sort of "pedigree" for thousands of dollars , the choice for me is simple.

September 23, 2016 at 09:19 PM · Frankly, if we were to dwell in the issues you presented, I believe the answers lie in very complex socioeconomic issues we face. But at its simplest, the answer is: People want a good deal!

September 23, 2016 at 09:25 PM · "Why are there so many posts comparing one cheap Chinese brand against another?"

Probably because the posts about Chinese instruments tend to have specific information, personal anecdotes about the brands in questions, and thoughtful, measured responses. The anti-Chinese instrument posts, on the other hand, tend to deal more in overbroad generalizations, hyperbolic vitriol, and lack any specific information beyond "antiques," which in general isn't helpful to someone not already familiar with the violin world.

September 23, 2016 at 09:32 PM · Well, you have total freedom to buy items from wherever you want. They probably buy chinese violins because they are a lot cheaper. I'm sure if they were rich they would buy in their own country in an expensive violin shop, or directly from a luthier.

I am not rich at all, but nonetheless I've never wanted to buy a violin online. In my opinion, violins are so personal that I can't buy one without testing it for a week or so. I know you can do that online, they can "undo" all the buying process and return you the money, but it is way more tedious. Also, I have now a few violin dealers that are friend of mine, and I like that. The only things I've bought online are strings, rosin and once I bought a bow.

September 23, 2016 at 09:36 PM · "Are posters not at all concerned about supporting another country's economy, rather than their own?"

This doesn't support economic reality. At low price points, no makers, at least locally, will spend the time to make a violin for this little. It's a losing battle for them; a race to the bottom. Most makers in my area start at about $4000. For anything below that, they import (or import and finish) either Chinese or European instruments. Yes, they may be "loud, brash, and soulless," but for beginners that's ok. The percent of markup is kind of irrelevant, as long as the situation overall is competitive. If a maker imports an instrument in the white, it takes considerable labor to finish the instrument.

So if you buy through a local shop, you are adding to the local economy. If you buy direct from China, then naturally you aren't. I wonder how many people reading this buy their strings locally?

Carlos, it seem you are in New Zealand. I doubt there are any toasters, car tires, or watches made there. But you can still help your local economy by buying locally. Many people who decry the death of local merchants are buying everything on Amazon.

The working conditions in other countries is a different discussion. It is unlikely that refusing to buy from them will improve those conditions--this is something that will happen as a middle-class with political power grows, as is happening in China today. China's problem these days is the high growth in wages, a phenomenon that is actually starting to make China less competitive.

In spite of what our aspiring politicians say, preventing any jobs from going to Mexico would probably leave Mexicans poorer and more willing to cross the border to work here. You can't have it both ways. A more developed China, and a more developed Mexico will be beneficial for the US.

September 23, 2016 at 09:38 PM · The demise of Italian violins in the 19th c was due in no small part to the Industrial Revolution and cheap German and French violins being imported into Italy, much like the Chinese instruments being exported to the world now.

Both good and bad violins are being made in China. As a tool for learning, be it playing or learning to set-up violins, they have value.

September 23, 2016 at 09:38 PM · Yes, we know that there are situations where a vested interest is displayed and personal bias is used. This is not in the interests of people who want genuine information about the best value instruments at a certain price level.

The word "antique" is often used as a cover for something valueless, or maybe it can be used as a form of snobbery.

A lot of valuable information is given out on this forum without bias, and with no axe to grind. Unfortunately though, this is not always the case.

I was myself probably slightly biassed against Chinese instruments until I tried some, and heard professional colleagues playing on them.

September 23, 2016 at 09:43 PM · "A lot of valuable information is given out on this forum without bias, and with no axe to grind."

I'm sure my axes far outnumber my valuable info.

September 23, 2016 at 09:43 PM · Ah, Carlo... finally a voice shouting in the wilderness!

September 23, 2016 at 10:00 PM · So, to sum up all the replies:


September 23, 2016 at 10:02 PM · I have to assume a free market is a selfish one for both buyers and sellers. It takes deep pockets to make the sacrifice you ask to soothe the socio-economic conscience, Carlo.

September 23, 2016 at 10:17 PM · You also have to consider the quality of the instruments that are not at the bottom of the barrel, but in the $500-$1500 range. Compared to thirty/forty years ago, the quality of student violins, especially the smallest fractional-sized ones, is far superior now. Back when I started playing, the half size violin choices were pretty abysmal, and now our little students benefit from having fairly well-made, functional, instruments in sizes they can play, and prices that don't present a massive barrier to entry.

September 23, 2016 at 10:18 PM · The problem is in perception that (some) violins made in China are cheap or good value for your money. They are in fact so ridiculously cheap in China that one of my friends had to check 3 times with her translator in order to believe. In other words, the problem is in the middle-man and profits they make on the back of cheap and exploited labor abroad and naive and often uneducated/inexperienced local consumer.

Many people here ask question about particular brand vs. another (which is the product of NA seller's marketing), starting from the assumption that buying a violin is like buying an iPod or digital camera. If one approaches violin as a digital camera, the violin in question will not be able to produce a decent sound.

In other words, Irene, there is no anti-Chinese sentiment, but angst against blind consumerism applied to violin.

I have tried:

1. JH violin with solid and positive 1st impression

2. 3-8 JH violas ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 CAD with exactly the same problem - uneven strings and weak D string

3. A few "Snow","JH" and other Chinese violins from my friend; nice, but way overpriced for their variable quality

Recently, one of our own has had a terrible experience with Yitamusic viola.

So, how many examples one needs in order to stop giving the benefits of the doubt and start making generalizations?

September 23, 2016 at 10:39 PM · If I may ask, what are you comparing those examples to, Rocky? What do you normally play on?

September 23, 2016 at 10:59 PM · I compare those examples to my internal concept of violin sound.

Not apples against oranges, for sure.

September 23, 2016 at 11:42 PM · Carlo, regarding your notion about "slave labor":

Violin factory workers are like many other factory workers in China. Many of them come from villages in the middle of nowhere, where there is little opportunity. By putting in 10 years or so in one of the factory centers, they may be able to return to their home village with enough money to buy a house, or start a small business of some sort. From their perspective, it looks like opportunity. Would you like to deny them that, based upon your privileged Western views of what a work situation should look like?

Whatever my own sense of nationalism, what I've found upon visiting places like China and Russia, is that people are people, not all that different from you and I.

From more of a self-interest standpoint, sure, Chinese instruments have hurt violin making in the United States and Europe. Especially makers who are trying to get their start, and find themselves directly competing with a flood of upper-level factory Chinese violins, offered at prices which would not allow an American maker to make a living. Do I feel for these American makers? Heck yeah! But it's nothing new. Before the Chinese flood, it was Japanese instruments. And before that, it was German "commercial" instruments. American makers don't have enough money or lobbying power to do anything about it on the legal front (such as using "anti-dumping" laws which some industries use to protect their markets), so we deal with it. I realize that the reality today is that I'm competing in a global market, so I may just need to try a little harder and live a little cheaper, which so far, seems to have been more productive than complaining.

One of the ironies is that out of my need to live a little cheaper, I end up buying some cheap Chinese home goods myself.

Granted, some of the lower-end Chinese violins can be pretty awful.

September 24, 2016 at 01:40 AM · Doesn't Lyndon usually chime in about Chinese violins?

This thread is prime picking!

September 24, 2016 at 01:48 AM · Most posters looking at Chinese factory or workshop violins are on a very limited budget. Their rational choice is to get the best violin they can for the money they have to spend. It's essentially the same reason people shop at Wal-Mart.

Now, what I don't understand is the posters who buy multiple cheap, unsatisfying instruments, rather than taking that budget and buying one decent instrument.

September 24, 2016 at 02:07 AM · For what it's worth, I have a quite nice Chinese student violin in the ~$1500 price range which I use for outdoor weddings. And my son has a very nice Jay Haide double bass. They aren't all harsh or shrill.

September 24, 2016 at 02:20 AM · Inexpensive/cheap violins give people, especially children, the opportunity to learn the instrument, which will help the local music community (including teachers, orchestras, higher-end music shops and instruments, etc.) in the long run.

September 24, 2016 at 03:28 AM · Well that post put a cat among the pigeons. There has been so many responses in so little time, that I don't know where to start to respond...

My own position, which has taken me a while to arrive at, is that I won't buy ANYTHING Chinese made, if there is an alternative. In order I buy; local, European, then other western countries. When the balance of financial and world power tips from the West to the East it will be too late to wring one's hands. That is what I believe will happen if we think of the short term and choose cheap Eastern goods, putting short term "bargains" over the long view of the kind of world we want to live in. You can shape the future by choosing how you spend your money.

Back to violins. I encourage my students to buy older European made instruments that have been restored locally, thereby supporting the NZ economy, and not shifting money (and therefore power) to China. They don't cost more, and usually sound better.

Cheers Carlo

September 24, 2016 at 03:33 AM · I am one of the adult beginners. When I decided to take up the violin again I considered a Chinese violin. I lucked onto a German factory violin on ebay. I supported my local business owners by having it workrd upon locally. A month ago, I was considering getting a Chinese violin again. I felt the violin was not giving what I wanted. When I was buying a bow the shop owner played it so I could listen and judge a couple of bows. It was then I realized it will be yeàrs before I will need to up grade. What i'm getting at is how many people need a better violin vs how many people just want a new violin. This may be off topic but it seems beginners might be better off saving longer and buying from a shop where they can try them out. By then they will likely be able to judge the quality of the violin better. As for the advanced player, that could be another story.

September 24, 2016 at 07:24 AM · I started out with two different Chinese violins because they were affordable for a kid starting out in junior high orchestra who wasn't sure if she was going to keep with it or not. I upgraded my freshman year of high school, when I became a more serious player.

I have been happy with all three of my violins. My upgrade is obviously the best of the bunch, but they've all been great, especially to learn on.

September 24, 2016 at 07:26 AM · "Doesn't Lyndon usually chime in about Chinese violins?"

He received a rather plain spoken and crystal clear response to a post he made earlier today. I suspect he is meditating on that

The problem with Lyndon is that he never gets his brain into gear before he attacks people often quite hysterically. He may also be lying low as I flagged his post, as it was an unprovoked attack against me, for just giving my honest opinion about violins.

No one is saying Chinese violins are the best thing since sliced bread, but they do often stand up reasonably at certain price levels against other instruments from Europe and US as well as the ROW.

I myself have an old German factory fiddle of about 1848 and it's OK but not brilliant. A similarly priced Chinese violin might well be better.

For the record my main violin is modern Italian. If i was buying another violin I would not look at the so called "antique" violins but rather a European or US made modern instrument.

David Burgess's post was spot on and no one could have put it better, in my opinion. Nice to hear from a great modern American violin maker and benefit from his expertise and experience. Also first hand experience of violin making in China.

By the way Carlo, and this is tongue in cheek, I understand you play on an old Italian violin (Amati) and not a New Zealand violin? This is hardly supporting the local economy! (I have friends who play or have played on Amati's. Of the three, one I like, and two not so much, but of course the player makes a huge effect on the sound).

September 24, 2016 at 08:16 AM · @Peter. Following my rules I can play an Italian fiddle as I have Italian passport, lived, studied and worked there for a number of years. I also have two NZ made violins in my collection. So no tongues please :-) I like modern Italians too. I have a Cappichioni that was my main instrument for years, but is having a sabbatical at the moment.

@Scott. My toaster is English, my tires, Italian, my watches, Swiss, my wife however, is a beautiful Kiwi girl.

@David. Maybe I am wrong to describe the Chinese workshops pay as slave wages, but the workers cannot be earning very much as the instruments are being sold so cheaply. However, my real issue is should we supporting China's economy at all? When China's GDP is higher than the US, their army twice the size, and they own most of America's and the West's businesses, and the best real-estate, will we be happy that we helped create the new world order by buying cheap Chinese made instruments, clothes, and appliances?

Cheers Carlo

September 24, 2016 at 09:24 AM · Some of us either buy cheap new clothes, or mend the old ones ourselves (like my mummy did). I learned a lot making the old Lark violins useable.

Wages? Converting yuans into dollars is misleading: we have to know how many hours of work are needed for adequate food, housing, and health care..

Many of my students have well set-up Chinese instruments. Some are harsh, some more muffled, all are a bit "honky" when pushed. But I sees red when folks suggest that a poor instrument is "good enough for a beginner". They need an instrument that will sound pleasant straight away, but which won't prevent progress.

September 24, 2016 at 09:49 AM · Carlo - yes I too have a beautiful Kiwi girl ... we've been together for 31 years!

And I'm pleased you have a Kiwi fiddle. I love all fiddles, even the bad ones! (NOT referring to Kiwi fiddles I hasten to add!)

Adrian - yes and no! Wages - very good point.

But even a del Jesu/Strad can sound harsh, muffled, and honky, played by a beginner or a student. Sometimes I can get that sound too ...

September 24, 2016 at 10:02 AM · So can I Peter, but by choice..

September 24, 2016 at 10:25 AM · Carlo, I suspect that some Chinese violins are sold below the cost of making them. That would technically make them subject to the "anti-dumping" laws I mentioned earlier, but enforcing this (when it comes to violins), doesn't seem to be high on the US government's agenda. ;-)

On the other hand, the Chinese DO have a government supported agenda and plan to dominate the musical instrument market. It's part of their overall strategy to improve employment rates, and it looks like its been pretty successful, from their perspective. I won't even try to tell consumers in the rest of the world how they should respond, because I don't know myself.

One thing I know is that it's impossible to buy a car with 100% US-made content. Even the "American Icon", Harley Davidson, uses many Chinese parts, perhaps because they'd be even more hideously expensive if they didn't, and might not survive. So some of it is about survival in the competitive business and manufacturing world, and the balancing act it takes to do so. A few years back, we came close to having our major US auto manufacturers disappear, along with most of the related jobs.

Now, Ford is moving all its US small car production to Mexico. What to do?

September 24, 2016 at 11:25 AM · I recommend buying essential items, like toilet paper, from China, and leave the musical instrument market to professionals. China makes great toilet paper, although some people complain about using Chinese wood products on their bum. Surprisingly they don't have the same aversion to using Chinese wood products on their violins.

September 24, 2016 at 11:41 AM · Why not use American-grown corn cobs, like the pioneers did? :-)

September 24, 2016 at 11:46 AM · Loud, brash and soul-less? I did pretty well with this Chinese violin for some time - a fine copy of the "Hellier" Strad:


I since sold it to a more distinguished player than I am, who has played on high-end 18th cent. Italian violins but was glad to add this one to his collection.

I still have the bow that I used on that YouTube performance. It is a good Eastman gold/ebony and I'd part with it if anybody is interested. I understand that Eastman has both Chinese and Eastern European makers working for them - so if anyone would consider purchasing it who has a major Chinese prejudice, I guess they'd be taking a 'huge' risk! o/ (punctuation bow!)

September 24, 2016 at 11:52 AM · If you don't want to support the Chinese economy, don't buy anything containing an electronic circuit or anything made of plastic or ...

September 24, 2016 at 12:00 PM · Sound, good quality, and playability is what matters. For what it's worth, some people wouldn't touch French violins either, but I doubt that has anything to do with political considerations. I am personally tired of these issues-there are fair to good violins at most price ranges from anywhere, as long as they are well-made (of course, the jewels are usually harder to find at the more affordable ranges, but "good provenance" can quickly kill someone's budget.)

Additionally, while many of you are lucky enough (or "worked hard") so you have 4-10 expensive violins with different playing qualities and of usually great pedigree, there are a great many number of players that barely have one. This is not wrong, of course, if you can afford them, but it's easier to adopt these anti-chinese goods stances from a position of relative affluence.

On a budget, I would not only look at a Chinese violin. There may be other good values out there. But if there's a Chinese instrument that is in all respects better than another non-Chinese, but costs less, who are we to fault the player or parents of lesser means?

That said, looking them as electronic goods/clothing brands/watches is a losing proposition. The Snow/Jay Haide/etc. won't necessarily be good because they are affordable, or because you know players with instruments of fair quality of the same brand. This is supposedly obvious, but I am inclined to believe many people would buy something that is supposed to be a good value, rather than it actually being one.

That being said, I mean no disrespect to anyone in this board: amateur, professional, maker, or parent-it has never been a joy of mine to argue for its own sake, much less online bickering. I have never been rich myself, and know good violinists that have been more or less forced to play on good but affordable instruments. Just feel that budget IS a strong consideration, even for those whose highest priority is their beloved instrument-would loathe to belittle them for "transgressions" against world economy issues they have little control of.

September 24, 2016 at 12:01 PM · What Paul said, and I also agree with Adalberto.

Several of my best students are Chinese or Chinese-American-- I don't inquire as to their citizenship status but their parents were clearly not raised here. I'm very glad they don't object to supporting my local economy. I've helped some of them buy violins, too. One plays on a high-end Central European model, a few others on high-end Chinese models. They all sound great.

I would never advise anyone to buy an instrument online based on make--go to a shop and try them out. And actually I do not order my strings online either even though they might be cheaper that way. I buy them from my local brick and mortar shop of choice for several reasons, not least of which is making sure that shop is around when I will inevitably need strings in an emergency.

September 24, 2016 at 12:20 PM · I certainly agree with Mary Ellen and several others on this topic.

But you can be sure that there will always be someone who lowers the tone of the conversation and brings the argument down to basic crudities, bias and generally meaningless comments. And yes, I do mean you, Lyndon.

September 24, 2016 at 12:34 PM · Peter, things were a lot nicer around here when you weren't posting, I suggest you take another vacation, last thing we need around here is more trolls.

September 24, 2016 at 01:57 PM · Lyndon, i rather think it's the other way around, you need to take a long vacation and also take some anti-troll therapy!

September 24, 2016 at 02:07 PM · Well given that the topic is why NOT to buy Chinese violins, it would definitely seem you are off topic!!

I'm actually giving professional advice on a whole range of topics, not the least of which being how to make an informed choice in buying a violin, your whole contribution seems to be focusing on encouraging people to buy cheap modern factory made violins, with little to no appreciation of violin makers of the past, how is that not trolling.

September 24, 2016 at 02:24 PM · duane lasley wrote;

September 23, 2016 at 09:38 PM · The demise of Italian violins in the 19th c was due in no small part to the Industrial Revolution and cheap German and French violins being imported into Italy, much like the Chinese instruments being exported to the world now.

Both good and bad violins are being made in China. As a tool for learning, be it playing or learning to set-up violins, they have value. [Flag?]

So these now antique French and German production violins where good enough to knock the sales out of the Quality Italian violin market, but now those same violins aren't good enough to be considered alongside Chinese factory violins heavily marked up by Western dealers, doesn't make a lot of sense. (unless you buy into the idea that violins just keep getting better and better)

As I've said many times before the viability of antique production violins has a lot to do with how reasonably they are priced and especially how professionally they are set up and maintained. Some high priced shops overcharge for their antiques so that their modern factory violins sound good for the money(in comparison), and guess what, the dealer might actually be making more profit on the new Chinese violin than the antique, something to think about.

September 24, 2016 at 03:14 PM · Stuart - I hang out with my dog as well, and she can bite, but it's nothing like as bad as the bite you can get from Lyndon! My dog always warns me first, but Lyndon just attacks out of the blue! But they are both loveable ...

September 24, 2016 at 03:30 PM · Dudes, take it to a room. :-)

September 24, 2016 at 04:36 PM · Actually my dog, or should I say bitch, is a sweetie and never bites, even in play, where she might nibble. Being a Lurcher she is a terror with squirrels and rabbits though. I've trained her to respect cats, so that's OK.

With humans it's much harder, and I've no answer. The world seems to be getting more aggressive even in civilised countries like the US and the UK. But I make up for it with music and dogs. I'm even thinking of getting a second dog.

September 24, 2016 at 05:09 PM · As if you've never imported or ordered online before, Carlo.

Also how will there be any 'antique' student violins in the future if we stop making them now...

September 24, 2016 at 05:21 PM · There are only so many old restored German/European violins to go around : if we all insisted on buying one of those then the price would go through the roof and few of us could afford the cost. We buy Chinese violins because they are good value for money and there are plenty enough for all.

September 24, 2016 at 06:13 PM · A video of an instrument making factory in China:


September 24, 2016 at 07:07 PM · I wonder if the new lower end Chinese violins will hold up after years of playing, sitting under beds,in storage, and hanging on walls. How will the wood mature? In 50 years will they be agreeable to the next generation by then?

September 24, 2016 at 07:17 PM · @Bailey. I have have imported and ordered online. Most recently I had a bespoke case made for me in England by T A Timms. As I stated where possible; local, European, then from Western Countries.

I did about eight years ago, buy violins from Yita music for my students. I have had time to reflect, and will never again. I was seduced by the cheap price and did not think of the world I want to leave to my children. It is easy to say, "this problem is too big", and "what difference can I make?" Little steps...

This is not in my opinion, a discussion on the merits of the Chinese instruments themselves, but on the ethics of shifting money and power from the West to the East.

The "I want it now, and I want it cheap", attitude of many today regardless of politics, jobs, or the environment, will in my opinion, make the world a worse and more selfish place.

Ten years ago I bought a spade to do work in the garden in Tuscany. I went to the local forge in Bagni di Lucca run by the same family for five generations, with its water wheel powered hammers, chose the head and handle I wanted, and came home with a hand crafted spade for about €40. Five years later, I wanted another garden tool, so I went back. Closed. The local hardware store was selling Chinese spades for €10 ea. That is when the realities of my actions sunk in.

BTW. I have a NZ breed of dog. Google "New Zealand Heading Dog", if you want to see the breed. They are eye dogs, and can stare down sheep. Jack is black and white in colour, and is pure muscle and brains. Unlike his owner...

Cheers Carlo

September 24, 2016 at 07:29 PM · Wow.

September 24, 2016 at 07:34 PM · Oh, we're talking about dogs. I like dogs, but my mother doesn't want me to have one because she says at the end she will be the one who has to walk it and stuff. I hate my mom. But I love dogs.

September 24, 2016 at 07:48 PM · Brian, I was once naive enough to believe in "natural" laws of offer and demand. I have nothing against market regulating itself as long as there is a fair game, but there rarely is.

You see, flooding the market with inexpensive imported goods of questionable quality has temporary and long-term consequences.

Sure, it is great if every child can play violin. Only few of privileged ones studied on high-quality fractional violins. (I studied on violins made in Czechoslovakia, which were of equal or poorer quality that Chinese. )

So, in a short term, it appears that everyone wins: parents, kids, teachers, dealers and producers.

However, once a dealer starts charging thousands of dollars for a piece of wood resembling a violin, the problem becomes huge.

In the long term this may have a big impact on local violin making business. Unless one is a professional and/or very demanding when it comes to violin sound, there seems to be no reason to commission a violin if one can get a quite nice JH, which is also beautiful looking and "well priced". Not to mention a real danger of becoming a solely service-oriented country, with no real manufacturing left within borders.

It is worth noting that some of recent winners at the VSA competition were Chinese masters and that there is no lack of talent, dedication, skills and workmanship in that nation.

There is still hope for this world as long as there are more violins than guns, but the real question is about violin quality and the lack of ethics and regulation in violin selling business.

September 24, 2016 at 09:09 PM · But what if the dog was born in China? Uh? What would we do then?

Wait, got it, I'll have a dog, but it must be one that was born in the United States of America. Hell, I will request a genealogy tree to the animal shop dependent, so I can check if the dog has an american father and mother.

Oh, no, a second, here we go again. I'm positive that shop buys many, many items from China. I mean, they buy from a local dealer, but that dealer now, hell yeah, that dealer for sure buys everything online, from China, directly. So if you follow the line, buying an american dog is actually sending all our dollars to China. Seems we're all connected after all... stupid shipping companies... I reckon they are the real danger here.

I'm in trouble again, damn. What now, Stuart?

Should we go against shipping companies?

September 24, 2016 at 10:30 PM · @ Rocky - Not being a "cheapo China fanboy" myself at all, but how should "talent, dedication, skills and workmanship" as well as winning one of the most prestigeous violin making competitions be worth nothing?! And we're not talking sweatshops anymore in this segment...

I did get your angst about China taking over to rule the world and I can live with it, but now you made me feel confused...

September 24, 2016 at 10:34 PM · ... uuhm... more violins than guns... you're sure?!

September 24, 2016 at 10:50 PM · "There's a sucker born every minute" Quote Chinese violin factory maker.

"The workday never ends" Quote Chinese violin factory worker

"Everyone deserves a violin, no matter how bad it sounds" Quote American violin dealer

" I don't even like the way it sounds, but my mother makes me play it" Quote American violin student

"A renaissance in the manufacture of cheap VSO's" Quote "David Burgess"

"I'm an expert on violins, and Chinese violins are better than good" Quote "Peter Charles"

September 24, 2016 at 11:01 PM · I'm a cat person myself. ;)

September 24, 2016 at 11:07 PM · If the dog was born China, it would be eaten, and the fur used to decorate the collars of jackets destined for the west.

"In 2014, 10,000 dogs were killed for the Yulin dog eating festival." Wiki

Cheers Carlo

September 24, 2016 at 11:16 PM · Yeah, dog food does have a quite different meaning in parts of China.

September 24, 2016 at 11:19 PM · A cat person! Now that's a real problem right now, hahaha. Get him!

Oh, by the way, all those people against chinese violins.

Guess where all those violins go when they need an adjustment, string replacement, rosin...?

Yeah, local stores/dealers. Local luthiers, to be precise. So, everyone wins. There's no beginner who would spend those $3000-5000 in that "local and patriotic supporter" violin of yours. Nevertheless, they can buy a chinese violin, and you would end up adjusting it, selling rosing or rehairing a bow. Easy as pie.

September 24, 2016 at 11:28 PM · Hahaha, how to turn a violin topic into an animal's right one. Nice :)

September 24, 2016 at 11:59 PM · Does this trip the dirty word filter

September 25, 2016 at 12:20 AM · Harald,

My point was that there is a huge difference between a high quality hand made master violin and workshop violins sold under pretense.

As for "angst about China taking over to rule the world "; you got it wrong - that is the last thing I am worried about.


September 25, 2016 at 01:21 AM · Carlo look at the mess you've made with this thread. Pick it up or you're grounded.

September 25, 2016 at 01:45 AM · Hahahaha, yeah, what a mess! It was obvious since the first message that rage and puns would fly all over this thread.

But hey, I was discussing about dogs and cats. Ain't that cute?

September 25, 2016 at 02:11 AM · What amazes me is the high percent of violinist.com posters who are playing and recommending really cheap violins, essentially VSO's. I thought as a player progressed they would, if able, gravitate to more expressive, expensive violins, much as it has been for centuries, but so many of our posters seem stuck in the gutter, so to speak, of cheap violins, are they really on such a budget that they can't afford better violins, I mean their Iphone costs more than their violin, what gives.

September 25, 2016 at 02:12 AM · Leaving the animals out for now and back to ethics...

I guess it comes down to whether you judge a violin, or anything else you buy, based solely on the seemingly cheap price today and what you see in front of you; or whether you take into account the circumstances behind its making and the long term effects it may have on the way we live.

I am not prejudiced against the Chinese people, or their instruments. What I am not happy about is the huge geo-political change that we are blundering into blindly because we all want things now, we want them cheaply, and we don't seem to care about the consequences.

@Lyndon. I have seen professionals playing firewood but driving expensive cars. That I really don't understand.

Cheers Carlo

September 25, 2016 at 02:13 AM · Since we are talking about dogs in a violin thread, I thought it would be appropriate to ask if anyone has a good recipe for spinach dip?

September 25, 2016 at 02:43 AM · Lyndon, your spurious "David Burgess quote", about 16 posts back, will need to be removed.

September 25, 2016 at 03:20 AM · What's the matter, David, can't take a joke, funny you're quite the jokester when someone else is the victim, you're name is in quotation marks anyway so I'm sure no one will take it seriously. like you seem to have.

September 25, 2016 at 03:26 AM · At my school orchestra there's a bassist who's instruments "purfling" (aka cheap acrylic black paint) has noticeable squiggles in it at a few spots. Now that is the definition of just pitiful craftsmanship.

September 25, 2016 at 03:41 AM · A lot of fine English and German instruments didn't originally have purfling, usually they managed to paint or score the purfling without squiggles though.

September 25, 2016 at 03:47 AM · Well. This one is more of the plywood contemporary variety...

September 25, 2016 at 05:01 AM · Oh my - now we're mired in dogs and politics! So for now I'll just say this: "I'm not a crook. 'Checkers' is a crook!" 'RN', noted amateur pianist.

September 25, 2016 at 05:29 AM · @ Rocky - Oh, sorry. The angst was Carlo's. Guess that's part of may confusion about this thread... Peace!

@ Carlo - Yes, globalisation also bringt problems, not only chances. No need to argue about that...


@Erin - Almost half of my family suffers from a cat's hair allergy, which converted me from being a cat person to spinach dip person, too. So I admit my absolute cluelessness on the topics discussed around here and leave it to the experts at this point... But be sure I'll hang in again any time there's a switch to culinary arts!

September 25, 2016 at 05:44 AM · When you compare the cost of an instrument to a smartphone or a car, you miss something vital -- the financing model. In general, you can get a smartphone for free or near-free with the commitment to a contract. And you can finance a car at very modest interest rates, often with no money down. By contrast, you're pretty much stuck with putting cash down, paying in full, for any instrument that you buy.

September 25, 2016 at 05:53 AM · But if of goot quality and chosen wisely, the instrument rather keeps it's value. A car is almost worthless after maybe ten years, and the smartphone...

September 25, 2016 at 08:49 AM · I better fire my instructor, she is Ukrainian. I will tell her that I'm sorry, but I have to support local musicians instead of spreading my money around to a bunch of foreigners.

Does this thread also imply that I should vote for Trump? Will his Wall also keep out Chinese violins?

September 25, 2016 at 09:04 AM · No, please don't vote for Trump. Do you want that megalomaniac with his finger on the nuclear button...

You mistake my stance as racist and anti-foreigner, which it is not. What I am against is the greed for cheap products by those in West transferring money, and therefore power, to China, and in doing so destroying our way of life and jobs.

Cheers Carlo

September 25, 2016 at 09:11 AM · The best reason to not buy Chinese violins is because they are not very good, they seem to be trying to copy factory produced German violins of the 50s and 60s and later, which was sort of the low point for German violin production, even the "esteemed Jay Haide" physically looks like a crappy over priced 60s German factory violin, even if they do sound slightly better than said German violins. As far as having proper corner blocks and liners etc, Chinese violins, like German production of the 60s, appear to be well made, however when it comes to sound, often cruder looking 1900 Markneukirchen violins with no corner blocks CAN sound better.

Why can't Chinese violins look like good copies of old Italian masterpieces, because they are not copies of old Italian masterpieces, most Chinese makers have never seen an old Italian masterpiece, but they have seen a few German mass produced violins and so that's what they copy. They utilize the same mass production, assembly line techniques as German factories of the 50s and 60s, and not the hand made, one at a time production of the Italian masters, or even the village based group hand making traditions of circa 1900 Markneukirchen antiques.

September 25, 2016 at 09:26 AM · Trump has similar concerns about trade imbalance with China. He talks about it all the time. How is that policy different than what you seem to be implying in this thread?

I'm being obviously inflammatory here, my apologies for that. But I feel the argument made against buying Chinese violins simply because they are Chinese doesn't quite pass the sniff test.

If ethics are what is the driving factor here. Should you not also rail against the violin dealers in the West that commonly charge tens of thousands of dollars for a violin? Isn't that also clearly unethical? Aspiring music majors are thereby forced into debt to purchase locally grown, free range, organic violins. The likelihood of them subsequently landing a well paying job in the local symphony orchestra are very slim. So, these dealers of fine, expensive violins are culpable of selling young musicians into debt and fiscal slavery to pay for it.

Personally, I own a Chinese Viola and a couple Chinese violins. I'm quite happy with them. Buy paying only ~$500 for the Viola instead of ~$2000 allowed me to spend the $1500 price differential on lessons (with previously mentioned "foreigner Ukrainian" instructor--she's awesome, by the way ;^). ).. So, in my mind, purchasing the inexpensive Chinese instrument allowed me to have more funds available to stimulate my local economy via lesson fees. I don't always, but most of the time, I purchase strings locally, as I work about 10 minutes from Johnson Strings.

September 25, 2016 at 09:42 AM · I agree the reason not to buy Chinese violins should not be because you are racist against Chinese, or Chinese products or the effect of China on the economy.

The Chinese are the victims here as well, That Chinese Viola you bought for $500 probably cost $100 or slightly more to your dealer, who obviously had to tweak it a bit as the vast majority of Chinese violins come essentially unusable from the factory, properly fit the bridge, new strings, tweak the pegs so they actually work, and Voila, the viola is now $500US

The poor Chinese workers who made the damn thing probably clear $30 in combined wages for this one viola, so once again you're not really helping poor Chinese workers, you're helping factory owners, wholesalers and of course that "greedy" dealer who you bought your viola from. Honestly the dealer mark up on new Chinese violins in today's market is often higher than the markup on these "overpriced" antiques you are talking about.

September 25, 2016 at 09:43 AM · Twenty years ago when I went into a store to buy something, a lot was locally made, and if not could have come from anywhere in the globe. Go into a home-store, an appliance-store, or a clothes-store, or shoe-shop now. You will be hard pressed to find products not made in China. That is not racist, just a statement of fact.

Cheers Carlo

September 25, 2016 at 09:45 AM · I *gasp* purchased them direct from China. No middleman dealer markup. The pegs all work just fine. I hit them up with some Hills compound and they turn and hold just as they should.

Carlo, I truly do hear what you are saying. And I can appreciate it. That's "Globalization" for you. I'm not sure that there is much of anything we can do to affect change in that regard as the Big Wigs in governments seem to have it in for that sort of thing.

September 25, 2016 at 09:51 AM · Wrong again, you did not buy directly from the actual supplier/factory I presume, you bought form a middleman who speaks English and presumably marks them up considerably so they compete (on ebay I presume??) with the high markups when wholesaled in America, buying in bulk from the actual factory is MUCH cheaper than buying from a Chinese middleman/dealer online.

September 25, 2016 at 09:53 AM · 10 years ago if you bought a pallet load of cheap Chinese violins, with a bow and a case, the price was $20-$30 US Admittedly we're talking like a Lark "quality" violin.

September 25, 2016 at 09:53 AM ·

September 25, 2016 at 10:03 AM · Lyndon, it is surprising how you "know" the facts behind not only the quality of every Chinese made violin, but also the details of whom was involved in my EBay transaction. Fascinating, and a remarkable talent on your part.

Perhaps the person I purchased them from was an English speaking middleman, who craftily sent me correspondence in broken English to make me think that I was actually dealing with someone from China. Is that what happened?

In the end I don't care. I have a $500 Viola that I'm pleased to play. If paid 4-5x that much for an "approved province" instrument of similar quality I would feel taken advantage of.

Can the proponents of this concept provide a list of countries from which we can purchase "guilt free"?

Are inexpensive Romanian instruments OK, since they are European, not Chinese? Even though the price point and likely working conditions, factory line production techniques are likely very similar?

September 25, 2016 at 10:08 AM ·

September 25, 2016 at 10:08 AM · Well I can't speak for every Chinese violin dealer on ebay, but generally you're not buying straight from the "maker" ie factory, you're buying from a Chinese wholesaler that buys in bulk from the factory at very low prices and then marks them up significantly for the ebay market, and yes this invariably entails having enough working knowledge of the English language to advertise and correspond with customers in English through ebay

September 25, 2016 at 10:10 AM · Thanks for a lively thread, Carlo!

September 25, 2016 at 10:18 AM · I should point out that IMHO without cheap Chinese and other country goods in an economy like America's, the middle and lower classes would be bankrupt, a 4 pack of American toilet paper would cost $10, and no one would be able to afford anything but the barest necessities unless they were wealthy. Trumps idea of imposing huge Tariffs on Mexican and Chinese products would cause runaway inflation to where half the things not presently made in America end up costing twice as much, the price of cars and Iphones would skyrocket, and this my friend is what will make America "great" again!!

September 25, 2016 at 10:31 AM · In other words IMHO cheap foreign imports are the backbone of the Western economies, without them, their economies collapse. It's a you scratch my back I scratch yours relation with the world, the only way a Western country could exist without cheap imports is to go back to the technology of the 50s and produce it all in their own countries, the man hours that go into designing and building an Iphone and a state of the art computer might buy you a cheap car with similar investment of man hours in the 50s. You can't turn back the clock, this is the modern world, but there's no reason you have to buy a Chinese violin, any more than there's no reason you have to buy an antique, choices are one of the luxuries of the modern world.

September 25, 2016 at 11:17 AM · 103 replys to my post in 15 hours. Some were even on topic. We learnt a lot about people's pet dogs, and had a lively debate.

I disagree that cheap foreign imports are the only way a Western country can exist. That cheap toaster, t shirt, or violin have a hidden cost in the long term. Job losses, and the eventual changing of global politics may be the end result. Britain was the world power in the 19th Century, America in the 20th, will it now be China in the 21st? Are we accelerating the change by our insatiable desire for, and increasing dependence on, cheap Chinese goods?

September 25, 2016 at 11:31 AM · Lyndon, where did you get the idea that very much of our toilet paper comes from China?

September 25, 2016 at 11:33 AM · I looked closely at the patterns and realized they were actually Chinese letters LOL. actually I would imagine probably Mexico, because the lower shipping costs would make the Mexican product cheaper.

Here's your source for Chinese toilet paper though, as little as 5c a roll;


A google search for toilet paper made in USA turned up very little but expensive recycled TP

September 25, 2016 at 11:41 AM · I have made the choice to buy locally when I can, then European, then from the West. I don't know if my small stance will make any difference. People can and will do whatever they please, but more awareness when shopping would make a difference if we all did it.

Cheers Carlo

September 25, 2016 at 11:46 AM · Is everyone aware that buying antiques is a form of recycling???

September 25, 2016 at 11:51 AM · I'm not sure what this thread has been about, but it seems to be more about globalization and virtual-slave labor than violins. Two of the nicest violins I've ever played were mad by Chinese, one hand made by Scott Cao, and one bought from the maker in China for $1,500 US, perhaps 20 years ago. The others were by Antonio Stradivari, Andrea Guarneri, and Riccardo Bergonzi (the only one of the modern Cremona makers whose instruments I've played that might approach that standard, in my opinion) and a few modern American makers (whose names I think I have chosen to forget to save some money for my older age - or my kids).

But regarding the other aspect of the thread, all of recorded history has been about economies based on slave labor (slave - in one way or another). Looking back on the 80+ years I have lived I started in an America where predominantly the men earned a living and the women tended the home and family. A reasonable life was possible for many one-income families. After WW-II, when many women worked outside the home, it first became possible to raise the standard of acquisition (i.e., "standard of living") by having two- or multiple-earner families. It did not take long for this to become essential for many families (eventually by stagnating wages). An important part of this change was the availability of much less expensive labor in other countries. As this economic trend has lead to higher costs in those countries, the era appears to be ending. The implications of this trend seem fairly clear to me, and eliminating international trade agreements will not help.

As far as damning the 100% markup on retail goods - doesn't everyone try to do that? How else do we get "half-price" strings on line and regular 40% to 60% off sales at Kohls?

One of my cellos, a Jay-Haide, is China-made. It is probably a better cello than either my 1877 or 1960 Mittenwald - and they are not bad (I think) - that was my vote (12 years ago) for good quality at a good price (it was judged by one professional cellist coach, who didn't know what it was at the time" to be a ~$20,000 French cello).

September 25, 2016 at 12:18 PM · Lyndon wrote:

Here's your source for Chinese toilet paper though, as little as 5c a roll;"


How much of this do you see on our store shelves?

One reason so much of our toilet paper is produced domestically, is the high cost of shipping, on a bulk-versus-value basis. There's not much money to be made (maybe even a net loss) by filling a shipping container with toilet paper, and bringing it from China, versus filling it with more valuable goods.

The packaging on my ultra-cheap toilet paper says it's made in the USA.

January 26, 2017 at 09:39 PM · I'm literally a Johnnie-come-lately to this conversation, but I thought I'd add my two cents regarding a few things:

1. I do not care to ever perform on an electric instrument, and if given a choice, would never practice on one. However, like many musicians, I'll get that earworm working into my brain at 2am and would like to get up and play, but fear I will wake my family up.

It's no Yamaha, but I picked up an inexpensive Chinese electric violin. It has a line in, line out and headphones, so I can play along with YouTube or recordings on my phone (with the Amazing Slow Downer app)and be almost silent about it. Being an electric, the overall tone of the instrument is less problematic than with the typical acoustic model.

First thing off, I replaced the strings as they were incredibly cheap and tarnished. The chin rest and shoulder pad are remarkably good; the bridge, tailpiece and neck passable. The tailgut continues to stretch after 4 months (I expect a facial laceration at any time), and the nut is made of a softwood, so the A and E strings are gradually cutting through. Both of these things are easy enough to remedy though for someone with minimal repair skills such as myself.

2. Spending money on instruments for some people is impossible or an extreme hardship. For others it is often a question of priorities. My young adult son's friends often remark how he must be rich to have such an expensive instrument. He points out that he has an old car, a cheap phone, doesn't go clubbing often or have season's tickets to any professional sports teams, thus he has some money available for instruments, music, CDs and lessons. And playing music has the rewards of interesting friends and a rich multi-generational social life.

3. You know you are truly a professional musician if the instruments in the back seat of your car are worth several times more than the vehicle you are driving!

4. It doesn't work for beginners, but nice instruments can also be inherited. My two main teachers/mentors who I became close with through the years left me nice violins worth more than I could have ever afforded on my own. They appreciated the commitment and friendship of a young student, and knew that I coveted these instruments. Though both eventually became too frail to play, I would go over to their houses or the nursing home and play for them. Though it was never as much fun as actually playing with them, through their positive criticisms I became a much better listener and player. I was both surprised and grateful when I was asked if I would like to have these instruments, and while playing them I am constantly reminded of their generosity of spirit while teaching me through the years.

January 27, 2017 at 02:21 AM · This thread has reopened. Bring it on!

January 27, 2017 at 04:52 AM · NooOoOooOoooo!

January 27, 2017 at 06:08 AM · I had nothing to do with it!!

January 27, 2017 at 06:32 AM · Hmmm... I fail to follow the OP's argument... quote:"Are posters not at all concerned about supporting another country's economy, rather than their own? ...Are they happy buying these instruments with the 1000% mark-up that dealers put on them?..."

And whose economy benefiting the most? Certainly not China's at 1000:1 mark up in favour of the dealers!

January 27, 2017 at 10:34 PM · Can we start a part 5 of this thread so this interesting discussion can continue on into infinity. Hello Peter Charles, we need you back.

January 31, 2017 at 02:41 PM · Oh, a new car: you must be rich!

Not any more!

February 1, 2017 at 05:10 PM · 1000% is a 10:1 markup not 1000:1.

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