purchasing a violin for my kids

December 30, 2016 at 03:25 PM · Hi, everyone,

This is my first post.

My daughter is 10 and at RCM 8 level. The teacher said she needs a full size one soon and asked us to buy beyond student grade, and consider a hand made instrument for her.

After browsing many websites, I am still confused. What level of a violin does she need?

We hope to buy something that can last long in case she wants to play in the university. Do we need to buy the professional level for her?

I asked a few luthiers and they charged 10K-20K CAD.

Not sure if it's necessary to buy such an expensive instrument.

Any input or recommendation is highly appreciated.

Thanks

Replies (42)

December 30, 2016 at 03:51 PM · If your daughter is playing at that level, and intends to continue to play, I agree that she needs a violin that will meet the needs of an advanced player.

I suggest you look around for 'local' luthiers. You should be able to get an instrument for 10K, or maybe even a little less, that will meet the bill. Great, newly made, instruments are often available for a reasonable amount of money if you take the time to look for them.

Make sure your daughter, and her teacher, try out the violin fully though, before you commit. It has to be able to perform - or meet the technical challenges - required of it, by your daughter, to a satisfactory level.

You might also need to upgrade her bow.

December 30, 2016 at 05:51 PM · Hi Katherine, where in Canada are you located?

December 30, 2016 at 06:22 PM · Although I am not from Canada, I've purchased strings and accessories from a shop named "The Sound Post". I really love their service and the price is very competitive. They have a large collection of violins, and as far as I know, they have a good reputation. You could take your daughter there so that she could probably try and choose the one she likes most.

This is their online violin catalogue

https://www.thesoundpost.com/en/store/instruments/violins

When it comes to the price, I think you will have to decide since you will be paying for it. For now, you could consider a violin for $2000-3000 and the $10000 ones when she will attend university

Please get her a nice expensive bow, ideally made of Pernambuco

December 30, 2016 at 06:26 PM · What is your location?

If in Ontario, or close to Toronto, I would be glad to help you.

General guidance, independent of location:

Unless your daughter has already decided that music is her calling, a step-up instrument would be a smart decision.

What I mean by that is, an instrument good enough to inspire your daughter to keep practicing, but not too expensive and with positive outlook for re-sale (zero appreciation / depreciation over a few next years).

In other words, purchasing a hand-made master level instrument made in Canada (or elsewhere) can wait until one is sure that music is either a life-time passion or (and) one's profession.

December 30, 2016 at 06:48 PM · Hi,

Sorry I forgot to indicate we are in Vancouver, BC.

I contacted a few luthier on the East Coast, but unfortunately they don't ship the instruments outside their locations for us to try before making the decision.

I guess other that she has to like the violin, we also hope to find something that will hold the value in case when she needs to upgrade, we don't need to break the bank again , or if she doesn't, we can either resell or pass it to her siblings to play.

I am not sure if I should go to the big chain music stores again as I didn't really see anything that we liked and also worried about overpaying.

Thanks again for everyone's input.

December 30, 2016 at 07:07 PM · Katherine,

Here are violins listed on Kijiji, in BC, between $500 and $3000 CAD

http://www.kijiji.ca/b-string-instrument/british-columbia/violin/k0c616l9007?sort=priceAsc&price=500__3000

Unfortunately, way less options than here in Ontario, but at least something to start with.

Personally, I prefer personal sales over dealerships. Do not buy online!

Violin is not to be purchased in haste and one needs 7 days trial to make a sound choice. If the seller (person or a shop) does not allow for trial, move on.

Shops normally ask for your name and address and some also for your credit card number, as a precautionary measure. You sign the papers and your daughter can spend some time playing the instrument at home and in front of the teacher.

In case of personal sale, use "Personal property rental agreement" online form from Law Depot Canada. It is customary to leave 10-25% cash deposit for rental period and most sellers will be happy to oblige.

In any case, it would be very beneficial if you had an expert (your daughter's teacher) helping you choose. It is very important that, whoever is helping you, does not have a conflict of interest . Do not buy a violin from the teacher, teacher's friend, etc. Since we all are enslaved by beauty, a blind test (when someone plays 3 potential violins for your daughter while she is not looking) is a very good method to focus on sound only.

If you exhaust your options in B.C., and decide to pursue a master-level instrument, consider the following luthiers

in Toronto, ON:

John Newton: http://www.johnnewtonviolins.com/

Itzel Avila: http://www.itzelavila.com/

Quentin Playfair (no web site)

In Montreal, QC:

Isabelle Wilbaux: http://wilbaux.com/

[I am reluctant to state this, but if supply is really that bad in B.C. you may consider a Jay Haide violin, assuming that it has passed a good test by an experienced player. ]

December 30, 2016 at 07:17 PM · If you don't mind a ferry ride, there's a recommended luthier in Victoria named Kim Tipper. He handles violins $10k and up. By appointment only.

http://www.tipper-violins.com

Then any violins under $10k I would recommend Larsen Music in Victoria.I bought my new German Klaus Heffler orchestra violin from Larsen Music. It's Heffler Instruments lowest level intermediate violin for $2500 (Cdn). They jump up to about $7k from there.

Heffler Musical Instruments (Germany)

http://www.streichinstrumente-heffler.de/eng/violins.html

There's also a Gliga shop in Vancouver. A friend bought their daughter's step up violin there.

December 30, 2016 at 07:43 PM · I would advise that you not spend more than $3k US. If you do this, then buy from an establishment that allows you to trade in for a better instrument at a later date. A US company that does this is Robertson & Son in Albuquerque NM. http://www.robertsonviolins.com/index.php?page=violin-inventory They will also ship several instruments to try out. I don't know if they send instruments to Canada. The problem with buying from an individual maker is that most of them will not accept an instrument back, so you are faced with selling it yourself if you decide to trade up. I find their prices to be reasonable and fair.

By the way, has the teacher given you any suggestions about where to look?

December 30, 2016 at 08:21 PM · I have previously been in contact with Kim Tipper, at

http://www.tipper-violins.com/site/shop/contact.htm

They are in based in Victoria BC I believe. He was helping me identify the origin of my violin(made by Sig Hoibakke, in Victoria BC ).

If you are ever in Ottawa, or wish to contact local luthiers around here, my violin's "doctor" is Olivia Pelling, she has some nice instruments, There is Guy Harrison who is one of the award winning luthiers, and there are few local stores here also.

Olivia, I know she has let me take some violins out for trial or even just for fun, but I'm not sure what she thinks about trial for such a long distance.

December 30, 2016 at 10:01 PM · Go see Kim Tipper. He should be able to steer you in the right direction!

December 31, 2016 at 12:52 AM · Thanks all for your kind inputs and suggestions.

We are open to all the possibilities. I will contact the online stores listed above to see if it's possible for an in-home trial first and also plan a trip to Victoria with my daughter to visit Kim Tipper.

There is a luthier in BC, and his name is Hermann Janzen. Anyone ever tried his violins?

December 31, 2016 at 02:45 AM · Maybe take her to a local shop and try out some violins. She can pick something she likes and take it to the teacher. I have also tried buying by contacting violin owners selling their instruments via Craigslist and trying them out at their homes. Not the best option as you may not be able to take the violin to the teacher, though you could if you asked the seller. I have tried with some success. You could also try taking a look at Doyen Shop. There's plenty of good stuff, and you're likely to find something worth trying. Quite honestly, if I were to go looking for a full-size for someone like her, I'd pick something I liked the sound of very much and try not to spend more than $5000. Price is not an exact quality indicator.

December 31, 2016 at 03:21 AM · You really need to involve her teacher in this selection process. I agree with Bruce that it should not be necessary to spend more than a few thousand US. Plenty of good sounding Chinese instruments and older European workshop made violins in that range. Ones first full size violin is always a bit of an experiment. You dont want to make a big investment now. Lots of the bigger vendors ship trial instruments AND have trade up policies. Look at Potter, Shar, and Johnson String. Make a few phone calls and just see whats possible.

December 31, 2016 at 05:09 AM · Hermann Janzen's best violins are really super. He comes from some of the same training as Howard Needham, whose reputation is quite searchable on this board.

If your daughter has small hands, ask to see his quilted-back Guarneri model!

December 31, 2016 at 05:49 PM · Your primary question is whether this is a "forever" violin, or just a full-size in a better-than-student-grade quality, with a future upgrade if she wants to advance more (for instance, if she intends to get a Performer's ARCT).

I think it's fine to buy with the expectation that she might need a later upgrade. You should be able to find something in the $5-10k range that will do well enough for now. Don't expect that it can be traded in for a future upgrade, though (chances are that you won't buy from the same shop), but you can probably offload it for a reasonable percentage of the price paid.

December 31, 2016 at 09:58 PM · As Steven said, if you are ever in Ottawa you should definitely come to Guy Harrison. (I don't have any experience with Olivia) Guy Harrison sells professional instruments 1.5k and up as well as makes them but for a much heftier price. I personally bought my very nice violin from Guy Harrison and am very happy with it. He also lets you borrow the instruments for 2 weeks and you may extend the time if you'd like. With Guy you can also get custom bridges, tailpieces etc... if you're not happy with a specific thing on the instrument.

In Ottawa there is also the Sound Post however they sell more student quality instruments. They also lend out instruments for 2 weeks.

December 31, 2016 at 11:08 PM · Oh, and as said above, don't short-change the bow. Depending on her situation, that might be even more important. If there's a fixed budget, don't rule out finding a good Jay Haide, or similar, with a very decent bow if she doesn't already have one.

December 31, 2016 at 11:34 PM · going off topic a little bit, I'm a bit curious, how does one buy/sell professional grade instruments personally, and know that it's a decent/good deal?

Given that it has been appraised, but by a store/luthier who is no longer in business/deceased?

I mean, in local ads online where I live, I see some ads from people who insist that they are selling priceless strad or Guarnieri for $400, $800 and etc. I would know better, but if someone lets me play an instrument that is a little bit better than mine, and tell me it's worth $10,000 and he's selling it for $5,000. I'm not sure how to even tell if the guy is trying to rip me off, or being sincere.

Also, while shopping around for violin and bow locally(I was actually more of trying to convince myself that the violin i was going to get was not worth it by trying to find a better sounding instrument at similar or below its price range, after 2 months of trying to convince myself otherwise, I failed and bought that violin). I've noticed that I find that the prices of instruments are somewhat standard and competitive in between workshops and stores, but extremely ambiguous in personal ads.

January 1, 2017 at 12:06 AM · Steven,

once you start swimming in these waters, get ready to encounter sharks. Market value of a violin in most cases has nothing to do with its sound. It depends on many factors, such as country of origin, maker, age, condition, but also on offer and demand, just like any other valuables. Violin selling business is not regulated, so it is always "buyers beware".

As per instruments made in Canada, their price mostly depends on the cost of local labor, as well as the reputation of a particular maker. It remains to be seen if market value of instruments produced today in North America will appreciate at all.

Violins are at the same time pieces of art and tools of the trade. What may be important for a violin player is often not important for violin dealer or investor.

Market value assessment is typically done by getting at least verbal appraisal from 2 independent experts. Appraisals from dealer (seller) are worthless, because of their conflict of interest. At the end of the day, violin is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay at particular point in time and place.

This is the reason I prefer to buy from another musician or from a person who inherited an instrument. No middle man, no shady deals.

January 1, 2017 at 01:15 AM · It's natural to get hung up on instrument prices when there are no other numerical measures available for you to use and you don't have enough knowledge and experience to judge instrument quality for yourself. Locally made instruments are expensive simply because it takes skill and time to make them and the makers are highly limited in the number of instruments they can produce and need to live off the earnings. This means that a good locally made instrument will have a certain minimum cost, but it doesn't mean that its relative value compared to what may be available in older or foreign-made instruments is proportional.

You have to consider how much risk you're willing to bear -- the risk of an expensive instrument not working out for the long run as you're not able to judge adequately at present and your child not only doesn't have the experience, but is still growing and probably too small to be able to feel and play a full-sized instrument at this time. There's also the natural risk of an expensive and fragile item in a child's care, which increases rather than decreases as the child gets older and has greater independence and need to take the instrument around.

I also agree with the idea of looking for an instrument around $5000 - and my son happened to prefer one at around that price over another one made by a local luthier at around twice that price (which happens to be mine, but what does the kid know anyways?)

January 1, 2017 at 02:33 AM · "...if someone lets me play an instrument that is a little bit better than mine, and tell me it's worth $10,000 and he's selling it for $5,000. I'm not sure how to even tell if the guy is trying to rip me off, or being sincere."

If you like the violin and would buy it, ask them if the value is their opinion or if they have a recent valuation. If they haven't had it appraised, suggest they get an appraisal and get an agreement to pay the actual value of the violin up to their $5000 asking price (even if the value is $10k).

January 1, 2017 at 05:19 AM · I am so thankful for all the replies that I got from you all, and thanks Steven for asking that question which I have been curious about, too.

Now I have a better idea of what direction we should search after the New Year holidays.

I will update once we get the violin.

Happy New Year to all.

January 1, 2017 at 04:41 PM · If your daughter is serious, that means she has a teacher. It is the TEACHER who should be helping you through this process.

January 1, 2017 at 05:01 PM · Scott, what if the teacher is pushing toward a $20,000 instrument for a 10 year old??? I'm really hoping this is a misunderstanding on the parent's part.

However, it's irritating when students show up for their lessons with a brand new violin I've never seen.

January 1, 2017 at 05:08 PM · I agree that if the student finds a violin they like, he/she should bring it to the teacher and show him/her and ask for his/her's opinion on whether or not this is a good fit. Then, the decision to keep or not can be made afterwords. I don't see the point of spending more than $5000 when college is still years away.

January 1, 2017 at 05:27 PM · I will ask the teacher when we have found some violins that my daughter likes.

We have been lucky to have teachers who don't want to direct us to any sales, and with all the student grade violins, we did bring to the teachers to see if they were ok.

When you talk about a 5K violin, I assume the bow is an extra cost?

Thanks in advance.

January 1, 2017 at 05:35 PM · My teacher pushed my parents to buy me a much more expensive first full-size violin than my parents actually acquired for me, without ever explaining WHY they felt that the better instrument was important. If they'd actually explained properly, my parents would have spent the money (and I probably wouldn't have needed to upgrade twice as an adult).

The OP needs to have a discussion with the teacher regarding why the teacher feels the investment is necessary -- and what the trade-offs are if they choose not to do so now.

January 1, 2017 at 05:37 PM · Yes, the violin and bow are separate costs. Buy the violin first, and choose the bow to match. Expect to spend at least $1k on the bow. If you have $20k to spend, putting up to $6k of it towards the bow will probably give you the most bang for the buck in terms of violin + bow -- in the $3k-6k range are many fine bows that will last for a lifetime of playing and appreciate well over time.

January 1, 2017 at 06:24 PM · "Scott, what if the teacher is pushing toward a $20,000 instrument for a 10 year old??? I'm really hoping this is a misunderstanding on the parent's part."

There is no mention by the OP that the teacher said $20,000. That was the upper figure she got by calling makers herself. I agree with Bruce--$3000 max for a ten-year-old, with bow at $600-1000. Just remember:children are very skilled at breaking bows. Most of my students are constantly dropping them. It's why experienced teachers have a rug or carpet.

January 1, 2017 at 09:35 PM · Hi, Lydia

Yes, I also put the upgrades into consideration. We parents are probably the ones who will foot the bill again. We are not familiar with the violin resale market, but when we needed to upgrade my son's upright piano to a 30K grand piano within 4 years, we lost 5K on trading in the piano with another shop. (We didn't find anything within the budget we liked in the shop that we purchased his first piano.) We were very surprised that a reputable piano depreciated so fast, be it a brand new upright.

I do worry about we encounter the same situation with the violin.

Hence the dilemma we feel.

Hi, Scott

Yes, I agree that kids drop stuff, and with her bringing the violin in and out the house and orchestra, the risk increases.

I so appreciate everyone's input on helping us. Thank you.

January 1, 2017 at 09:56 PM · Katherine,

the piano and violin markets differ slightly. Pianos always deteriorate with time and need servicing, and piano dealers move very few of them. I doubt many dealers will give you the full price at trade in. But you can't complain about losing something by trading a piano to another shop. Violins don't deteriorate the way that pianos reliably do, and Violin dealer often do give full trade value, but like the piano you can't just take it to another shop and expect all your money back. This is not really a "decline in value" but more simply a transaction cost.

Violins and pianos should be considered like horses, yachts, or planes: very easy to buy but practically impossible to sell privately if at all. frankly, I'm surprised you felt you "had" to buy a 4th year piano student a $30,000 grand.

January 1, 2017 at 10:09 PM · Hi, Scott

Thanks for pointing out something I didn't see. We should look at it as the transaction cost, but a pricey one. With the shop that we purchased the piano, they have a 100% trade in policy within 5 years if the next piano is doubled price and that's why we set the 30K budget. Considering My son and daughter are playing at RCM 8 level, go to competitions and my son wants to focus on piano learning, a potential career path hence the upgrade. I hope we don't need to upgrade his piano again....

January 2, 2017 at 01:23 AM ·

January 2, 2017 at 10:14 PM · Hi,Stephen

We are going to see Mr. Janzen soon and I think he also mentioned the same instrument you said.

I will for sure ask my daughter's current teacher's opinion. My daughter, being 10, has bigger hands than her previous teacher, so I am not sure if that size would work for her.

Hi, Scott,

We have a Kawai GX3.

January 3, 2017 at 05:13 PM · Katherine, if you go to Victoria, you ought to check with both Kim Tipper, who tend to deal in the $6-50K range, and Julian Vitek who deal mostly in the lower range $1-12K, up to $20K. Both will provide professionally setup instruments, which is important and are very qualified luthiers. FiddleHead.ca, up in Kamloop will ship for trials anywhere, but you'll most likely have to consult a professional Luthier for proper setup fine tuning after purchase. If it were me, I think for a talented 10yr old, I would not go much higher than $6K and spend around $1500 on a good bow until she decides that she wants to pursue a career as a professional player and enters University.

January 3, 2017 at 05:16 PM · Can't resist to re-iterate that, once one starts looking for an x-dollar violin, financial loss is unavoidable. You may develop an illusion of a good deal, but sooner or later you will find out how much the violin is actually worth.

Never shop by your budget disclosed to a seller. Sure, define your budget, allocate your funds for violin and bow, but buy for what violin will be used.

After basic requirements (good condition, proper setup) are satisfied, sound, sound and sound is all what really matters!

January 3, 2017 at 05:40 PM · Rocky, what if the violins are already tagged with prices?

January 3, 2017 at 08:19 PM · At 10 years old, are you sure she's ready for a full size? I would double check that. If so, you can get a really nice, well set up violin way under 5K easily. A 10 year old does not need a $10K instrument. I'd avoid stores that sell multiple types of instruments like Guitar Center and such because they probably won't have a salesperson who really honestly truly knows violins and they'd be more interested unmaking the sale. NEVER buy a violin blind online that you can't put your hands on and try out before buying. As simply built as a violin may seem to be, there are so many unseen things that could be wrong with a used instrument. Beware, be careful and good luck!

January 3, 2017 at 09:46 PM · Might be worth taking a trip down to Seattle, and making the rounds of all the dealers and makers in that area.

Can't quite agree with Rocky about financial loss being unavoidable. I've purchased a number of the violins I've made from their owners, at a higher price than they paid, and have also purchased a few violins (and bows) from other contemporaay makers, which I resold for more than I paid. Not that I purchased these instruments with the sole idea of making a profit. I'm also a minor collector of instruments I admire, and enjoy having them around.

About a year ago, I put up a couple of "looking to buy" threads on a couple of mainstream fiddle forums. Still looking to buy violins I've made.

January 4, 2017 at 02:00 AM · "You really need to involve her teacher in this selection process"

Paul and Scott are correct that involving the teacher is a good thing generally, but in this case I suspect most teachers who know local sources will tell you the same thing... "Go see Kim Tipper".

Also, Larsen Music in Victoria has a nice selection and their resident luthier was trained by Kim Tipper apparently. So I'd see them for violins under 10k. That's where I bought mine. Their violins are all pre-labelled with price, so there's no funny business (price switching) going on after you discuss your budget, and you can usually take instruments out on trial.

In fact I'd tell anyone on the island to definately deal with them... support your local luthiers.

January 4, 2017 at 05:03 PM · In Victoria, Larsen Music actually carry some of Tipper's violins in consignment. I also think that Vitek Violins has in general a nicer selection of advanced student grade instruments and better setup instruments than Larsen, so you should really consider all 3 if you are considering the trip over. Its interesting that Vancouver seems so limited in violin vendors. Seattle is also certainly a possibility, but adds 30% to the cost with the exchange rate.

January 7, 2017 at 07:58 AM · Im not a professional. Currently 18, been learning for 5 years, at ABRSM Grade 8, going for a diploma.

My violin is a Walter Mahr violin from germany, and it cost me about 4.8k. My parents had a price range of 4k to 6k so what we did when we went to the luthier was we told them our price range and they would give us several violins to test out. I'm a big fan of loud and "magestic" (idk how to say this in english but in chinese theres a word for it) violins so i chose the loudest violin (without losing on sound quality like scratchiness).

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