Finding awesome-sounding modern violins

November 17, 2016 at 03:24 AM · Hello everybody, it's me again, and I am still on a search for a lifelong partner (a violin. Person-wise I would like to keep to myself). I have a friend who has a fine modern italian violin, which I was really interested in, given it's near-mint condition and it's degree of maturity. Are there any good makers that can produce awesome sounding violins?

My price range is around $11k-26k (£10k-25k), although my optimal price range is under $20k.


November 17, 2016 at 11:07 AM · "I have a friend who has a fine modern italian violin, which I was really interested in.."

I am one of a number of violinist.commies who have bought new(ish) Italian violins which have become "keepers". I expect one or two of these players might join the thread.

Kevin Zhang is one of these. He has become so engrossed in the subject that he has imported many new violins from Italian makers. I think he's in Oregon. But the USA is blessed with a great many makers of high renown.

It's impossible to guarantee a satisfactory result simply by the maker's name. No two fiddles seem to be exactly the same. I tried only 3 Stradivaris, and they differed enormously. And there are different ways in which a violin sound can appeal; dark, sweet, brilliant etc.etc. All depends on "taste".

Best of luck.

November 17, 2016 at 11:40 AM · In your price range (that is the sweet spot IMO), there are many, many good choices. Try as many as you can get your hands on. Be patient and you will find the perfect match.

November 17, 2016 at 03:59 PM ·

November 17, 2016 at 04:12 PM · I recently saw and heard a Philip Ihle that I was quite impressed with.

November 17, 2016 at 04:17 PM · I'll join the conversation to suggest you try everything within your price range and under, unless you've made a personal decision to support contemporary work. 19th century antiques and 20th century workshop European and personal American instruments can be had for under 20k. It has been mentioned in past threads that visiting shops and booking a ticket can be more economical than shipping. The San Francisco Bay Area has a lot of shops to choose from, including that I certainly can help in your search. I currently have contemporary makers Frank Ravatin,Laura Vigato, Leroy Douglas, Christiano Ferrazzi, Peter Croll, and Dario Verné in my inventory,as well as great antiques. Happy to help, you can pm me for info!

November 17, 2016 at 05:36 PM · For convenience I'll paste what I said in an earlier thread:

I'm going to highly recommend once again, Vittorio Villa, of Cremona, Italy. I'm not going to say that he's the best. There IS no best. As already mentioned, no two violins of the same maker will be identical. And every player has a different taste and playing style. But Vittorio has been very consistent in turning out violins of very high quality in terms of tonal and visual beauty and very sound construction.

Violins of his are to be found in the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Shang Hai Quartet - and in the collection of "yours, truly". For my own experiences of Vittorio and his violins, go to my website, go to my "Blog" section and read the 2 blogs (plus, of course, anything else you want to read or listen to), "My Pilgrimage to Cremona" and "A Tale of Two Fiddles".

You can see his site and contact him here:

Mention my name. I'm not his representative but over time I have become his friend. It's always better not to have to make a 'cold call'. He's also known for his relatively low prices and his fairly fast delivery time, considering how busy he is.

November 18, 2016 at 03:27 AM · I wonder if Ihle was the author of the $65,000 Florian Leonhard bench copies.

November 18, 2016 at 03:31 AM · By all means, try as many as you can. Depending on what city you are in or near, you can often experience a lot of ,akers' work in a day or two. Also look for shows-- VSA's post-competition exhibitions, Reed-Yeboah's annual in NYC, etc.

Ignoring the more sensible advice in par. 1, you might also remember that the weakness of the Canadian dollar has softened prices north of the border, and there are a good handful of successful makers there.

November 18, 2016 at 03:59 AM · I've been trying to get names out to people, here are some articles that I hope will help (they link to the luthiers' websites when possible):

A List of Established Modern Violin and Bow Makers from the VSA's New Instrument Exhibit

Top Modern Violin Makers Honored in the 2014 Violin Society of America Competition

Another list will come out at the end of this week, the winners of the 2016 VSA Violin and Bow Making Competition, look for that in the blogs.

November 18, 2016 at 09:50 AM · More "names out to people" ?

You might like to look at the website of the Cremona "Consorzio" bearing in mind that many top Italian makers are not members.

Then there's the British Violin Makers Association (easily traced by google). The longer the list of possibles, the harder it is to make a choice.

Any maker who has survived for more than a few years can boast of selling to at least one"qualified" player or pedagogue. There are many such these days - every city seems to boast half a dozen.

Going to exhibitions is often confusing too. However one Italian maker I met that way has produced good results for me - Guido Trotta. Discussions before construction can ensure that player and maker are on the same wavelength.

November 18, 2016 at 12:07 PM · Quoted from the Violin Society of America web site:

"Hors Concours Winners

The Violin Society of America is proud to shine light on the significant body of work created by these wonderful craftspeople with the exhibit and panel discussions that have occurred this week. The past competitors listed below are those who have won no less than one Gold Medal in each of three separate competitions. This success has granted them the honorary designation, Hors’ Concours:

Gregg Alf

Morgan Andersen

David Burgess

Edward Campbell

Thomas Croen

Jose Dacunha

David Folland

Pierre-Yves Fuchs

Joseph Grubaugh

David Gusset Amos Hargrave

Chang Heyern Jin

Reid Kowallis

Joseph Kun

Francis Kuttner

Yannic LeCanu

Rodney Mohr

Robert Morrow

Roy Quade

Frank Ravatin

Ben Ruth

David Samuels

Kelvin Scott

William Scott

Sigrun Seifert

Paul Siefried

Randy Steenburgen

Gregor Walbrot

Matthew Wehling

Paul Wiessmeyer"

November 18, 2016 at 02:52 PM · Google, he say :- "Canada, the second largest country in the world, is rivaled in Europe only by Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom for a greater number of violin makers."

Raymond Schryer for one has produced top-class work.

In France, there are fine makers around Montpelier, I understand.

The possibilities are ENDLESS !!

November 18, 2016 at 03:15 PM · The fact is that we are in a "golden age" of violin making. If I had $1 million to spend on violins I would not buy an Italian antique. I would commission violins from top living makers, and I think I could come away with at least two dozen truly gorgeous, well-made, and beautiful sounding violins.

November 18, 2016 at 04:41 PM · I agree with Paul. But if I had a couple of hundred million, I'd also include some carefully chosen classics as well as a few superb 19th century and early moderns in the Klayman collection. Same with bows.

And I expect to win the mega lottery any day now, any day, any day...

November 18, 2016 at 05:10 PM · I agree with Paul as well. In addition to what the cons they listed, in this "golden age", as a violinist, it's a fantastic feeling you can have, knowing that, by buying a good modern violinist, you are showing concrete support to a modern maker.

November 18, 2016 at 09:23 PM · Since we are talking about modern makers, anyone knows the winner for this year's VSA competition? It should have been announced already.

November 18, 2016 at 11:38 PM · I am just returning from VSA convention. There was more very nicely made and great sounding instruments. I think it is worth to come and have a look.

November 20, 2016 at 03:27 AM · A friend of mine acquired a Jeff Phillips, before he rewarded with all the gold medals, fantastic looking and sounding instrument at great price (back then). To me the medals can always assure certain building quality, also secure the resale value.

November 20, 2016 at 02:56 PM · Another plug for Canada.. the bowmaker Emmanual Bégin who has been mentioned on this site a few times won a gold medal at the 2016 VSA for each of his bows -- violin, viola, cello, bass. That's some accomplishment, to the point where I'm wondering what his secret is. Maybe in part it's his wife, who plays and helps him with feedback? Science? No, that's crazy..

But while we may not be able to afford one or many violins from acclaimed makers, we could more easily afford such bows, and they should make the violin sound better.

November 21, 2016 at 07:06 PM · Bégin's bows -- I've tried four and commissioned one -- are based his own model and have been consistently fantastic and well worth the accolades.

November 21, 2016 at 07:55 PM · Really, there are tons of violinmakers who have won one or another sort of award, and depending on the award, it could mean something, or nothing. I've never purchased a contemporary violin or bow without doing a lot more homework.

November 21, 2016 at 11:04 PM · One more thumbs up for Emmanual Bégin. I purchased one of his bows late in 2015, prior to the VSA and absolutely love it. Very articulate and responsive.

November 22, 2016 at 12:47 AM · Maestro David: I just noticed this year VSA they don't have (violin) silver medal for tone, nor certificate of merit of tone, only workmanship ( and gold medal ), any insight on that? Does that mean all anticipated instruments don't reach the standard of tone judges?

Also, what's your take on the consistency of tone judges from year to year? I have owned and tested a number VSA winners instrument ( in fact, a great number by Chinese American luthiers ), and found one year's gold medalist, may or may not sound better than another year's silver medalist. I understand it could be just that specific instrument i tried, though I was always told ( by the maker ) that they work in exact same way for their competition, as their "everyday" instrument.

Thanks in advance!

November 22, 2016 at 02:33 AM · As far as tone goes, a silver medal for tone may have been rated more highly than a gold medal, as the gold could be won by attaining the highest level of workmanship, but only the certificate level for tone.

My personal conjecture about the odd tone result this year is that it might be due to having two quartet-oriented violinists and one ultra high-powered soloist making up the 3 judges, and very few instruments would be satisfactory for both quartet and solo.

November 22, 2016 at 10:02 AM · Xing Sun, I didn't play any of the instruments this year, and didn't speak with any of the tone judges (about the judging), so I can't shed any light on the results from those perspectives. As Don mentioned though, a gold medal is a composite award involving both tone and workmanship, so an instrument which receives this hasn't necessarily been ranked at the top in tone. It's possible for an instrument with a lesser award to have scored better in tone, but not have had sufficient affirmation from the the other set of judges (workmanship and style) for a gold medal. At least that's the way it worked in past, when I've been involved in the judging.

November 22, 2016 at 04:58 PM · Does that mean the absolute highest prize, is the double gold medal for tone and workmanship, rather than the gold medal?

I just found it is a little bit odd that no anticipants, including a couple past silver tone winners, can meet the qualification of tone judge this year. The diversity between soloist and chamber musician shouldn't be much a factor, since they must wear both hats during their career path.

November 22, 2016 at 06:56 PM · The highest prize? Depends on how you look at it. A double gold would be the highest possible prize for a single instrument, but there is no rule against multiple instruments in a competition being selected for double-gold.

Arguably, a higher prize would be "Hors Concours" status, which is conferred when one has won at least three gold medals in three separate VSA Competitions (usually involving three different sets of judges), whereupon the maker is kicked out of the competition and no longer allowed to enter.

Past winners not winning this year? Things like that can happen, and have happened before. Maybe a makers instrument wasn't quite up to their last effort (each instrument can turn out a little different, even when a maker tries to make them the same), or the judges tastes were a little different from those of past judges, or the judges happened to be more picky. There is no requirement that any medals at all be given.

Just speculating, I didn't have any involvement in any "behind the scenes" activity this year.

November 22, 2016 at 07:53 PM · Thanks David!

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

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

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

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