Professional violins

April 3, 2017 at 07:18 PM · So I'm realizing later on, I'll probably need to upgrade to about a $10k-$20k maybe more, violin if I hope to be a professional player. My main concern is not so much what to look for, as I have that mostly down, but how on God's green earth am I supposed to afford that? How did any of you make that kind of purchase, not to mention paying a few thousand for a bow, how does anyone possibly have that much money? Or are there other ways to pay for it?

Replies

April 3, 2017 at 08:34 PM · I suspect that the reality is that many of the people who choose to go into violin as a profession have relatively well-off parents who can fund this kind of purchase. Most kids who learn violin to a high level have years of expensive violin lessons (it's rare lucky ones who get a discount or otherwise get help to make lessons affordable), which is then followed by an often-expensive conservatory experience (save for the ones lucky enough to get scholarships) -- all in order to go into a profession that in most cases doesn't pay very much. That tends to be more of an upper-middle-class kind of choice.

Other than that, the answer is basically, "Work. Save money." Some teachers may temporarily loan better-quality instruments to their students, and some students may luck into a teacher willing to give them an excellent deal on an instrument they're selling.

Your parents are more likely to have assets that they can borrow against in order to fund this kind of purchase, also. This is certainly a discussion that you should have with them. If they've saved up a college fund, you might consider putting a portion of that aside for this future need.

April 3, 2017 at 08:38 PM · Oy. Who would have thought music could be so expensive?

April 3, 2017 at 09:41 PM · Well, a new car can easily run 15k-25k or more, depending on your tastes. If you haven't saved up to buy outright, you'd probably purchase an instrument the same way, with a loan.

However, as much as folks want to push the insane idea that professional players have to spend "x amount of dollars" to actually work, I know a couple full-time orchestra musicians who do most of their daily playing on a 10k-15k modern fiddle. There are lots of young makers out there who have yet to establish themselves but have excellent training and make wonderful instruments!

April 3, 2017 at 09:49 PM · Maybe you should find something that's tonally more pleasing than your current violin when looking for a new one. I don't think it necessarily has to be a 10k+ instrument, though this may be your only choice. Hopefully your current violin will serve you well for a while.

April 3, 2017 at 09:56 PM · Some shops let you trade back violins at full or near full value. I don't know how common it is, but perhaps you buy something part-way there, and then buy the real deal later?

April 3, 2017 at 10:01 PM · Music is not that expensive. But if you see it as a profession, then every profession has some corresponding costs. If you throw 10k + for an instrument, it's an investment, it's a working tool (as far as you are not a collector). So you throw them in, and you expect that you will earn money by using that very thing, its somehow reasonable. And it's not that much money, if you think of it that way. For example, think of how much shop owners pay for their rent, or purchase of the property. Or how much a taxi driver spends on getting a "working tool" in this case a car, and the service of it.

However, and let's be honest, you can play music with instruments costing way way less. You can even be a professional and use an instrument that cost less than 10k. You can find instruments of lesser or unknown makers of the last centuries that fit in this price range, and be "acceptable" for professional orchestra playing. It would be of course rare, and you would might have a handicap when you think that other colleagues would have instruments costing 10 times more. It's unfortunate but in auditions for a place in an orchestra it's not just about the violinist. And in these are unfair situation, when we talk about buying power and not talent or skills. However a great violinist should make an awful instrument sound good or acceptable.

Personally I would buy a house or a safer car before throwing 100k on an instrument or a bow which can snap anytime. Yes I know, there is insurance, but it starts to get in a way of thinking far different than mine :P You CAN play with a cheaper instrument. The problem is that you would have to work your sound much harder that others with more expensive instruments, and here is where the world goes crazy.

I went in all years of my violin studies for my violin degree (all but the last two or three) with a cheap factory violin, and the worst strings you could imagine. It seemed as if it worked. I had no other choice, could not afford an expensive instrument etc. Then, for the last years I upgraded. Twice. (many would argue that this is not right -it isn't- but some weird things happened which are off topic). Not only my progress "skyrocketed" and many things were simpler but my whole approach changed. The "bad" thing is that I was not happy with my older violins anymore. So it could work for some time, but you have to think that getting the best instrument you can afford is a really good idea. But once you upgrade...you don't go back because you realize all the obstacle you had.

It's nothing more than that in my opinion. Violin prices have gone ridiculous. For a european luthier to ask something around 10 and 20k, it seems alright to me. Above that...it starts to get strange. You see, a fashion is out there and violins are treated like paintings. They get their price from factors like who made them, is he/she alive, when, overall condition and history, previous owners, and after all these stuff that affect the price the most (and some of them have nothing to do with playablility), we come down to how actually the violin plays and sounds.

We can approach music as a passion, a hobby, a way to make our lives better. Almost any-not-that-junk violin could do this trick. If we approach it as a profession, it has some costs. As you realized when you chose your current instrument, more expensive doesn't necessarily mean better. And it is you defining better, you have the final say. It's your violin.

I am inclined to unleash great rage about some aspects of the violin trade. In a documentary about antique violins of great masters, it was characterized (with a sense of humor) as a shark tank. Thankfully there are still many exceptional and devoted luthiers and dealers and teachers, and many of them understand situations where a kid for example has to upgrade, and help...

P.S. You may be lucky and find an upgrade to your current instrument (when you decide to do so) in the form of a european violin (German, Czech/Bohemian) of the 19th century of a lesser or unknown maker. If you care only about the sound, that might be a good deal, since these instruments are sometimes cheaper than others with same tonal and sound characteristics in my experience. Plus I have noticed a hype of instruments crafted in small workshops in China, and setup later by local luthiers. Some of them are really nice before jumping in the 10-20k range I guess...

April 3, 2017 at 10:12 PM · Yes, right? Classism is not ideal, even if it happens, and that beyond just the violin world. But I strongly disagree you HAVE to be well-off to play at a great or "pro" level-just that it's harder to access the "artist teachers" when poor and "unconnected", much less the so-called "master instruments". Too much elitism going on, and very little done to combat it or to give alternatives to serious players who are hampered by modest means.

Frankly, you can play at a higher level on something that has a good, "professional" tone that is a no name instrument. This means that you'll have to have a likely harder time finding a good sounding violin, as the more affordable ones GENERALLY don't sound "good." But there are many hidden gems out there that may surprise you, and people who keep selling their own good "no name" violins when they step up to their "pro instruments."

In short, a violin that sounds and plays good is as much regardless who made it. No need to sell your soul in order to have a "true violin." Just don't go famous makers, unless you can afford them, of course. Modern no-names and older lesser names to workshop instruments may have a powerful and good tone, so it's worth the long quest for those in a budget.

I know many will disagree with me, and that's OK. You really have to realize, though, that there are poor string players out there, and they also deserve to not only exist, but also thrive in some way. Blaming poverty on the poor is an easy excuse. Instruments and training are expensive, period.

April 3, 2017 at 10:23 PM · Agree with much of what Mr. Papakonstantinou stated above. If you want to play, just play the best violin you can find at your budget. You will sound good if you play good, and a few of the "cheapos" can be amazing.

Emulating what every rich, young kid does is nonsense, because not everyone is a rich, young kid, or have parents with seemingly endless means.

Had to mention though-very happy/proud with/of those parents that do make incredible sacrifices to find their kids a good violin. Hopefully dealers don't rip them off in their sincere efforts.

April 3, 2017 at 10:25 PM · I know a woman who managed to go all the way through to her PHD on a 1920's Roth. I also know another excellent player who now holds down a concert master chair with a $5000 fiddle and a bow that cost less than that. Just about every player in the violins has a "better" (more expensive...) violin.

Another friend won an audition to a major US Orchestra on a viola that cost about 3K.

With the correct training and right skills, it can be done on what ever decent instrument you have.

I do see good players blaming their not winning auditions or getting jobs on having an instrument that is "inferior", in their opinion.

Bottom line: Get the best thing that you can afford, buy for sound and condition, not name and investment, and learn your way around it.

April 3, 2017 at 10:45 PM · Does your teacher say you definitely need an upgrade? Otherwise do your best to hone your violin skills. You could get by with a less expensive instrument if you choose carefully.

There is no guarantee that a $20K violin is better than a $2K one, although the odds are against the latter. The following is just an anecdote, so take it with a grain of salt. The other day my daughter's violin teacher asked her to come in and play two violins, say A and B. My daughter almost immediately picked violin A as significantly better one, to which her teacher agreed. It turned out violin A was worth $2K and violin B was 10 times more expensive. A was another student's current violin and B was what the student was considering to purchase.

Also I second duane's post. Good luck with your violin journey.

April 3, 2017 at 10:59 PM · If you have parents that support your musical pursuits, they will help you to save up if you ask them. Get the best violin you can possibly afford (not that the best will necessarily be the most expensive) and although you can sound good on a student violin, better instruments have more capability for musicality and expression so keep in mind that you will probably be musically stunted by a not-so-great instrument. I am looking for a new violin right now, and believe me it's hard to find the right one, but fun to try so many great instruments... Good luck!

April 3, 2017 at 11:54 PM · I agree with everyone who says that you'll sound good with what you can afford. Unless you (or your teacher) hates your violin, don't bother upgrading. If you sound good, I don't think anyone would look down upon you for playing on a less than 10k instrument. Plus, who can tell?

April 3, 2017 at 11:54 PM · I fully agree that you don't have to be well-off to play well, but it's certainly an advantage. Students who aren't at least middle-class usually need to be fortunate enough to have exceptional help along the way -- teachers who offer them discounted lessons, kindly folks who help them procure instruments at a lower cost than they would otherwise encounter, competitions and scholarships that help cover some of their training costs, and so forth. Unfortunately this still means that the exceptionally talented and hard-working less-well-off kids get help, but the less stellar ones end up disadvantaged relative to their better-off peers.

It's also certainly true that there can be professional-sounding instruments in the sub-$5k price range. It's just that you have to be really, really lucky to find them.

The OP did ask how anyone gets this kind of money, which leads me to guess that where he lives, there aren't a lot of upper-middle-class-and-better-off families.

April 4, 2017 at 12:51 AM · I have to say that in my opinion mr Adalberto Valle-Rivera has put things in a great and sincere way. To me, there are certain facts about the violin universe that continue to hide under an omerta, and I frankly do not see such things happen between musicians that play other instruments in such an apparently profane way. I am truly not addressing anybody in particular, I am just referring to my general impression of the whole situation. And please, feel free to say I am paranoid, but I usually feel that there is too much competition and a lot of show-off. Alright there will always be people willing to collaborate, people willing to help (forums like this is a proof), but their footprint is constantly being shadowed by negative behaviors in the real world.

And a great part of it may stem from the fact that some violins are not just violins anymore. They are not an item of joy, they are something to "fight for, in an auction". Forgive me for going slightly off topic, but I understand the passion of collectors, but some of their practices have lead some marvelous instruments being locked in behind the glass. They should be played, and not just be given (which is fortunate but not ideal) to star-violinists on life-long loans in a form of charity. It is just very far from the purpose of their creation. Really far from happiness and creativity.

Another fact could be that its such a popular instrument, and there are so many violinists out there, contrary to other string players for example. When I was a kid, I did not pick up the violin to be thrown in a pit of cannibalistic monsters.

Add the class and money thing to all these...something is really really wrong...right?

Returning to the violins again, and leaving us violinists behind, I only need to mention something my last teacher told me. Years ago my then primary instrument slipped from hand, fell on the floor and got a huge crack, and I was devastated, till we got things sorted out. The first thing he told me was : "Let every violin you'll ever own, break. It's your hand that you should worry about" It's really easy to miss the very essence. Plus, I will never forget his whole attitude about upgrading. He would never ask it, we would find a solution with whatever we had at our disposal. And unfortunately this behavior is not taken for granted.

What I am thinking, may sound naive, but the violin world is our world, we are part of it. And I really believe that all this injustice has to stop. It won't stop by itself, like violin prices did not reach outer space by themselves.

Darian, I need to come to the fact that overall,it's you the one that should be happy with your instrument...If I remember correct, Paganini lost his violin due to gambling. He ended up with a Guarneri which at the time was not regarded as the best option...I guess it worked though.

April 4, 2017 at 01:11 AM · All this has been quite helpful. And whoever said they were assuming I live in a less rich area, you're right, I live in North Idaho, very rural, very conservative. (It seems the more liberal states are the ones to carry the really expensive instruments, the more conservative don't feel the need to carry more than an $8000 instrument, it seems). Our neighboring state, Washington, however is a more liberal state, and even then, the shop in Spokane, the most expensive one I can remember was $6500.

April 4, 2017 at 01:25 AM · If you look in Seattle, you'll find more expensive instruments. But the big shops that really carry high-end stuff will primarily be in the biggest cities -- LA, NYC, Chicago, Boston, etc. Not so much liberal/conservative as urban/rural -- the bigger the urban center, especially if anchored by a world-class symphony, the more likely there is to be at least one high-end shop.

Many collectors loan out their instruments. But it's worth noting that one of the things that collectors do is to preserve instruments for future generations -- for instance, as models for future luthiers. Touring soloists, in particular, subject their instruments to a great deal of stress. There's something to be said for some violins to be gently vaulted away, and only occasionally played.

Fundamentally, the process to get a job as a professional performing violinist is competitive, and there's an entire competitive training funnel that is effectively designed to weed out those who aren't good enough. I don't think it's realistic to expect otherwise. There aren't a lot of jobs and there are an awful lot of people who want those jobs, and competitive selection is effectively the only reasonable way to deal with that. People who want to play for the love of it can do so -- they're just going to be amateurs (or they'll enter a non-competitive portion of the profession).

April 4, 2017 at 01:30 AM · Also, I can't imagine a way to sell an instrument that's more fair than an auction. It's a bidding process where anyone can participate, and these days, in online venues, anyone anywhere in the world can participate. It's effectively the opposite of secret backroom dealing, and it allows anyone with the means a fair shot at acquiring the instrument that they want at a wholesale market price set precisely to what people are willing to pay.

Yes, some instruments will be coveted, and people will bid against each other, but still, that's very fair.

April 4, 2017 at 01:36 AM · Sooooooo.........basically my hopes of playing professionally are low?

April 4, 2017 at 02:28 AM · Lydia you've got a point about the collectors preserving the instruments, but this only happens because others don't do it. It's up to luthiers, museums and the whole violin community to preserve this knowledge, which should be public, not for just the elite or whoever the collectors fancy showing their belongings. The latter is a real danger, if we rely on collectors for this important job.

I'm skipping the part of the less jobs than humans wanting them, since I cannot follow any thought of just dealing with the situation and not the problem behind it. The unfortunate thing is that this "weeding out" (which sounds strange in my opinion) in 2017 does not occur only by the means of a healthy competition (if it can truly exist). It's not a healthy competition when it is a competition among people with different opportunities, and my whole chain of thought is arround this. And I am not talking about talent, skill, or professionalism.

Regarding the auctions, I think that my point was not clear. Of course it's better than the backroom situation but they indeed contribute to the skyrocketing of the prices. Technically anyone can participate, but again we are talking about different opportunities and chances. Anyway, my point was that a violin should be played, it was created to be played. It was not created for the few billionaires of this world to gamble on it. (Not all auctions end up in this pattern, but I think you get what I am trying to say here.)

Darian...would you mind explain us how you reached to this conclusion? This escalated quickly I dare say....

April 4, 2017 at 03:46 AM · "It seems the more liberal states are the ones to carry the really expensive instruments, the more conservative don't feel the need to carry more than an $8000 instrument..."

Interesting comments--dividing states into "liberal" and "conservative." Rather a strange mentality.

April 4, 2017 at 03:49 AM · And by the way, people aspiring to a profession have all sorts of costs, with many being MUCH more than $10-20,000. It's still cheaper than law or medical school, and probably cheaper than a set of tools and vehicle a plumber or carpenter would have to acquire.

April 4, 2017 at 11:07 AM · Darian, your hopes of playing professionally have very little to do with the instrument in your hands, but everything to do with the quality of your training and the effectiveness/amount of your practicing, combined with your natural ability, none of which I am qualified to comment on based on the information in this thread.

I have heard some fabulous-sounding instruments from the Fevre workshop, right around $5K. And I know someone who recently soloed with us on a $15K violin from a living Polish maker based in Chicago (wish I could remember the name). If I had $15K burning a hole in my pocket, I'd be the owner of another one of those violins by tomorrow morning. (I don't and I won't be.)

I didn't own a professional quality violin (which I bought with the money saved from working two jobs one summer, total 65 hours a week) until halfway through my senior year at Oberlin. Before that, I played on an Oberlin school instrument. I played my entrance audition on a Roth.

April 4, 2017 at 11:19 AM · When I said my hopes are low, I meant that I am not very competitive. But everything is a competition now, and it gets annoying. But it is good to know I don't have to spend several thousand to pursue my musical career. Also my hopes are low because I can in no way afford to attend a conservatory.

April 4, 2017 at 12:06 PM · Regarding the point Hermes makes about equality of opportunity, I would love to hear a solution to that. Everyone in classical music is aware of the problem. That's why some orchestras (Los Angeles) are trying programs based on El Sistema and other orchestras (my own among them) send musicians into low-income schools to work with students, that's why many of us teach low-income students for a very reduced fee. But the fact is that it isn't possible to teach everyone for nothing; we have bills to pay too. And many of the highest-level teachers are connected either with a professional orchestra or a conservatory, both of which are located in cities. There are a few very good teachers who end up in rural areas because of a spouse's career but most students living in remote parts of the country do not have access to the sort of training that would prepare them for conservatory admission.

Edited to add: Exactly how would one award the few available openings in professional orchestras without a competition? Orchestras want the best players in order to maintain the highest artistic quality. And yes, there are many more orchestral aspirants than there are jobs.

April 4, 2017 at 01:07 PM · As far as the price of professional quality instruments you will find in an orchestra, violins are in the middle or low end of the range (unless you play a museum worthy instrument). Violins are relatively inexpensive compared to the others.

April 4, 2017 at 01:22 PM · "how does anyone possibly have that much money? " ... there's an old proven method... get a job and save! As a student, 40 years ago, I managed to save around $5000 a year by working summers and taking part time jobs, and that was when minimum salary was less than $5 an hour! If you are motivated, try it.

April 4, 2017 at 01:35 PM · The violin is really the least of the OP's problems. His statement, "I can in no way afford to attend a conservatory" is killer. It's virtually impossible to make a career in classical music without a college-level education. There are plenty of state schools that have an embedded conservatory, and the OP should do everything possible to win a scholarship. Loans are a different matter, but if we're talking about an in-state university's tuition, these will hopefully not equate to crushing debt.

The OP mentioned in a separate thread that he's 17. I assume that means that he's a junior. He also mentions that he doesn't currently have a teacher. I would suggest that he remedy that immediately, since he needs to prep for auditions in just a few months. If he doesn't have the cash, he should be offering to work odd jobs for his teacher or otherwise make some kind of arrangement that allows him to have lessons.

April 4, 2017 at 01:44 PM · Hermes, what do you fancy that collectors typically do with the instruments in their collections? As far as I know, very few of the still-playable ones (not every antique is really still in playing condition) sit entirely untouched in private vaults. Organizations like the Stradivari Society loan them to players, as do various governments, foundations, and corporations that own instruments. A lot go out on private individual loans to players. Some collectors are amateur players who use the instrument themselves.

The museums that own collections do make those instruments available under safe circumstances -- for instance, if you're a luthier, you can normally inspect a collection under supervision. There are other opportunities to inspect and try great instruments, as well.

There's no grand conspiracy to keep great instruments out of the hands of players. Indeed, the thing that keeps such instruments out of circulation the most is putting them in the hands of players, who are understandably reluctant to contribute them towards some broader knowledge of lutherie.

No one is born with the same opportunities. Who your parents are (and what they value, including their educational and other child-rearing priorities) and where you live is going to determine some significant percentage of your possible destinies. It's not just about money, certainly. If you live in a rural area, as Mary Ellen noted, the same training opportunities won't really be available to you. If your parents don't have a lot of time to spend with you, you probably won't get started playing the violin early via a time-intensive method like Suzuki. If your parents don't expose you to classical music, you're unlikely to pursue it on your own. And so on.

And if your parents don't prioritize sending you to college or formal post-secondary career training, and you don't find a way to go yourself, you're really badly disadvantaged for making a decent living.

April 4, 2017 at 02:21 PM · Lydia, I am actually a senior in high school. I turn 18 next month. Anyway, see my current situation is that I live quite a ways from town where I would have any job opportunities, and violin studios are a bit of a trek. As soon as I graduate, though, I am getting the hell out of the middle of nowhere where getting anywhere I need to go is a nightmare. So come summer, I will start working (I work seasonally at a theme park) but for the school year, I will apply for other places too. And that's when I will finally take lessons again, when it doesn't take me 40 minutes on the highway to get there.

Also, I thought conservatories were separate things from college music programs. I am going to college for music.

Now my old violin teacher was at youth orchestra rehearsal last night, and I asked him about violins, if I might need to upgrade. He said this: If I'm to join a lesser-class symphony, like the Coeur d'alene Symphony, I can get by with my current instrument (of course he said he'll stop in sometime and try it out for himself) but if I were to try out for the Spokane symphony, I'd need a $10k+ instrument. But he did say I should spend more than my $300 bow. And he is a violist in the Coeur d'alene Symphony. So he said probably $2500 and up would suit that particular ensemble. He also teaches violin and viola. So he seems to know what he's talking about.

April 4, 2017 at 03:46 PM · Hopefully you are going to a four-year college where you're pursuing a B.M. (or B.M.E.) degree -- not just a school that grants a BA with a music major.

It looks like your Coeur d'alene Symphony is an unpaid community orchestra. You would not need a professional-grade instrument for it or other similar orchestras.

You don't need to spend a fortune to upgrade your bow. You can buy a perfectly serviceable orchestra bow for under $1,000. (You will hear lots of love for the JonPaul Avanti, at around $750, here, but there are plenty of other carbon-fiber choices in that price range, as well as some good wood bows.)

April 4, 2017 at 03:49 PM · "He said this: If I'm to join a lesser-class symphony, like the Coeur d'alene Symphony, I can get by with my current instrument (of course he said he'll stop in sometime and try it out for himself) but if I were to try out for the Spokane symphony, I'd need a $10k+ instrument. But he did say I should spend more than my $300 bow. And he is a violist in the Coeur d'alene Symphony. So he said probably $2500 and up would suit that particular ensemble. He also teaches violin and viola. So he seems to know what he's talking about"

With all due respect, I disagree with this to a point. You can't set a price point on an instrument to a job. Either the instrument is good enough, or it is not. I have played on the occasional workshop violin (see my mention of Fevre above) that I think could win an audition in the hands of the right player. I have tried out $20K instruments that were garbage. There is a general relationship between price of an instrument and its quality, but it is tenuous and not at all linear. How you play your instrument matters much, much, much more than what you own. You will get invited (or not) to auditions based on your resume, not your equipment.

My current instrument is, on paper, worth less than $10K, while my job is much higher level than Spokane.

I do agree that a $300 bow is very unlikely to be good enough. However if your budget is limited, you can get a nice CF bow for around $800 that would get you through any auditions you're likely to have in the near future.

A conservatory is a specialized music college offering bachelor's and usually graduate degrees in performance and other fields such as music theory, music history or musicology, and so on. Juilliard also has dance and theater departments.

There is a difference between a BM (bachelor of music) in performance and a BA (bachelor of arts)in music. The former is pre-professional; the latter is a liberal arts degree much like a BA in philosophy, art history, or English. But both are four-year degrees.

Where will you be going to school next year?

April 4, 2017 at 05:07 PM · I kind of feel bad now as I was one of the people writing in your string thread which lead to this discussion. By no means I wanted to demotivate you in any way!

I totally agree on the point the last few comments made: Education is a must have! This is what gets you there, your skill and not your instrument. At your age a teacher is an absolutly must have. 40 mins dont sound to much for me, I travel longer each week to get to all the places where I play (I am not a professional as I dropped out after 1.5Years at University when my son was born. I decided to go for a more secure subject in terms of income.).

I really hope you find a way to get to a place to get a decend degree!

I also agree that a 300$ bow is unlikly to be good enough. A bad bow can make technics impossible to learn, in a way it is more important than a good violin.

Of course there are instruments that are not worth 10k$+ and still do an awesome job. Roth did get mentioned twice here. I remember playing a violin from him that was a really good instrument (he was actually a good luthier but did not only seel his master pieces and his son also is not as good as he was). I also remember Roth violins in factory quality.

Especially from privat sells you can always get great instruments for low money if you are lucky, but you need to try a huge amount of instruments and still need to be lucky. Thats how I got mine (indirectly).

When I was about 12 years old my violin teacher suggested to get a better instrument. My family started looking for one. My grandfather purchased a violin from a very old lady (her father played it as a professional but died in WorldWar2). He payed something like 400$.

He than gave the instrument to me (after having it at a luthier) but it was pretty much dead. No sound, only with a lot of pressure it became loud. But when it was loud, halleluja. So I put the violin in its case and didnt touch it a couple of years. When I knew I wanted to study the violin the instrument came back to topic. It was an quite old instrument (1778). I went to a luthier specialised to that era of makers to sell it in order to use that money in addition to what I saved. He looked at the violin and said to me, that it was a completly missunderstood instrument. He changed the complete setup (incl soundpost), changed also something at the neck and it suddenly became a very good instrument.

I never came to really like it tough, it was just not the right one. But I managed to sell it for 25 000€ to a proffessional who really liked it. From that money I bought another instrument and a bow. Sadly that instrument was completly destroyed during a car accident. I was lucky to have an insurance. So two years ago, after 3 years of search I found my current violin. I payed something in the 20k$ but it is a solists instrument (not that I honestly need it, but it is fun und sometimes I play violin concertos with the local youth orchestra). At the current time there are a lot of really good violin makers that sell violins that are good enough for the best players in the world but are not as expensive as the old ones. It is a great era to buy new instruments!

I also got a lot of money saved as a student by playing at weddings, phd graduations and stuff like that.

Dont give up!

April 4, 2017 at 05:48 PM · Mary Ellen, I am going to START at a two year college, NIC (North Idaho college), then probably transfer to University of Idaho to complete my training.

Marc Marshall, I didn't intend to give up, just realizing that it's less likely than I anticipated. How exactly did you get yourself known so you'd be hired to play at weddings? I have played at one wedding because someone heard me playing at church and loved my playing, but I was really only hired because they knew our church's pianist, and she was hired, then me, and a cellist. I wouldn't mind playing a few more. I got $100 for that gig, and a $25 Amazon gift card.

April 4, 2017 at 06:42 PM · I put up a note at the townhall and I knew the priest and asked him to tell people. Than it just went for itself after a while. PHD was usually with my string quartett. We were all playing in the same orchestra which was close to the university what got us the gigs.

We also did concerts to become better known and asked the university and the town to put it into their scedule.

I think there is also a online market. Put it into craigslist or sth (cant tell you what is the common platform in the us).

If you did a few gigs ppl will start to know.

April 4, 2017 at 06:51 PM · Marc, so post an ad at the church saying I will do weddings?

April 4, 2017 at 06:52 PM · Yep, pretty much (if it is allowed, dont want to encourage you to become the "violin luther")

April 4, 2017 at 07:14 PM · A community college is really unlikely to give you the intensive foundation that you need to catch up with where you need to be if you hope to play professionally. If your intent is to pursue a BME degree (so you can teach music in a public school) rather than a performance degree, that would be a different matter, although you'll still have to carefully plan your coursework in the first two years in order to be able to complete a bachelor's on time.

What were you studying with your teacher before you stopped taking lessons? What are you working on now?

You should get to know the other musicians in your town that perform weddings. Your church's pianist is a perfect example -- let them know you want to do more weddings and any other opportunities they might have for gigs. It helps to have a quartet, too -- get some responsible friends together. Learn some pop and show tunes, not just classical.

April 4, 2017 at 08:12 PM · Okay. And I know, I am starting at the community college, but then transferring to a university. When I had a teacher, I wasn't even a year in to playing, so the last thing he was (trying to) teach me was to have better bow control. I learned the majority of keeping the bow straight on my own after a couple more years. Not to say it's perfect, it's not. And I will let her know I want to do more gigs, maybe more than just weddings even. Other church events for a pay. I think I can even be payed for playing with the choir every Sunday. I just have to ask the priest.

April 4, 2017 at 11:27 PM · Lydia, you did not get my point I am afraid. I just pointed out the possible dangers of violins ending up in private collectors, and stay behind glass. These dangers exist, but they do not dictate reality of course. Moreover, when it comes to opportunities or overcoming difficulties in most cases it's indeed -and unfortunately- about money. Many of your comments relate to the shaping of a youth's personality, but some of them still come down to whether the parents have the money or not. Scholarships may be a solution, but they don't solve the problem for every people, and do not exist in every country.

Mary Ellen, I don't think we can move our magic wands of course. But what makes me think that things can change is the very existence of programs like the El Sistema you mentioned (which I am familiar with), and teachers like you, that care about such problems. But we just need to do more I guess, and try to get more people involved because one cannot do miracles. Of course I am not saying that one shouldn't get an income to make a living...

"Exactly how would one award the few available openings in professional orchestras without a competition? Orchestras want the best players in order to maintain the highest artistic quality. And yes, there are many more orchestral aspirants than there are jobs."

I frankly do not recall saying that orchestras should get new members without auditions. I refer to certain aspects of this kind of competition.

April 4, 2017 at 11:31 PM · Sorry, my remarks at the end about competition were intended more as a response to the OP, who seems to regret the competitive nature of professional music. Apologies for the misunderstanding.

April 5, 2017 at 12:32 AM · Darian, what solo repertoire have you studied? What did you use for your auditions?

April 5, 2017 at 02:47 AM · Darian, back to the question of how to afford a decent violin. Basically, you need to forgo things in other areas of your life and re-allocate your resources.

I normally change my car when it reaches 50k miles. I am going to drive the car I have now to at least 100k miles. That frees up about $30k for a violin.

April 5, 2017 at 03:13 AM · David, with all due respect, I think you live in a different world from the OP, and a different world from me for that matter. The OP can't free up money he doesn't have by foregoing luxuries that he already can't afford. The OP's question, how does one afford an expensive instrument, reflects a tight budget based on a modest income.

I'm pretty sure that at this stage of my life I have considerably deeper pockets than does the OP, but still I've never spent $30K on a car in my life nor have I ever replaced a car any sooner than around 160K miles. That is just not part of my world.

And frankly, Lydia is right. Acquiring an instrument is the least of the OP's concerns if he has ambitions to play professionally. I'm far more concerned about his lack of training.

April 5, 2017 at 11:43 AM · I am of course going to get the necessary training before I even think about auditioning.

Solo repertoire.......with the youth orchestra, I won a solo competition playing Czardas, if that counts. When I auditioned for the youth orchestra, I played Thaïs: Méditation. My solo work, not very great. That's why I need the training, I'm not exactly sure about the ins and outs of certain composers. I am a lot better at ensemble playing.

April 5, 2017 at 12:06 PM · Darian, exactly what are your aspirations? If you plan to get a music education degree and teach school orchestra while also playing in a community or semi-professional orchestra on the side, then given the right teachers/professors and a lot of hard work, I think that's in your grasp.

If you hope to make performance your full-time career, then you must know that you are very far behind. A full-time orchestra job is extremely unlikely to be in your future. You could conceivably, with a lot of hard work, an effective college teacher, a judicious choice of where to live, and the right sort of engaging, pro-active personality, find a place for yourself teaching private lessons and playing for weddings. I know people who would never win a symphony job who are earning a living doing just that. In my opinion, such a life is more attractive at 25 than at 45, unless you are happily married to someone with a stable income and benefits.

Is it fair that your future is not the same as the future of someone who is perhaps equally talented and enthusiastic, but who was fortunate enough to be born to well-off urban parents (and by urban, I don't mean Boise)? No, it isn't fair. And perhaps you can gain the skills necessary to give the boost to the next generation that I'm guessing you never had.

April 5, 2017 at 12:35 PM · Darian, there a lot of things you can do probably within a 100 miles of where you live, from music teacher, to church music director, to performing for weddings, funerals and the like to playing as an avocation or part-time gig. "Performer" probably means different things to different people. A number of people on this forum are high-level performers (from musical families, studied since childhood, currently working in orchestras, teaching, etc.) so they have a sense of the hierarchy of musical vocations. Who are some of your music role models in your community?

It sounds like if you do community college you'd have two years to work on your performance skills. One goal might be to find the best teacher you can in the region. If you're interested in teaching, now could be a good time to start working on composing, learning some piano, etc.

People here may also be able to recommend other programs in Idaho with good music degrees (either education focused or performance). Sometimes colleges will offer scholarships that make them as competitive as state schools or larger programs. I don't know the schools in Idaho, but it may well be that there are strong state programs or liberal arts schools that would help you improve.

Don't get bogged down on the instrument. People here often say it's good to play as many violins as you can to get a sense for how they're different, better, worse. If you get a chance to go to a violin shop and try instruments, go for it.

Good luck with everything!

April 5, 2017 at 12:47 PM · Mary Ellen, your point was well made. I went to public schools all the way until my doctoral granting institution and I received subsidized lessons during my pre college years. So, my world was not that different than that of the OP, although our challenges may be different. In any event, the idea of reallocating resources to achieve one' objective should apply.

BTW, if one lives as I do in the upper Midwest where there is snow on the ground six months out of a year, a AWD car along the line of a Toyota Highlander is a necessity not a luxury.

April 5, 2017 at 12:54 PM · Darian,

Consider also doing something else you love which is proven to be more stable and lucrative (medical doctor, computer programmer, accountant). Then, use all your newfound cash to buy great instruments, take lessons from the best violinists in the world, etc.

I think Mary Ellen has stated in the past the she has multiple degrees, in case violin hadn't worked out. Is that right Mary Ellen?

You can still gig on the side, play chamber music, perhaps play in some freeway philharmonics (if you build up the chops).

Good luck!

April 5, 2017 at 01:10 PM · I have a BA in math, which I completed partly as a back-up and partly because I knew it made my father happy (though not as happy as a physics degree would have). The only thing I ever used it for was a graduate assistantship in math at Indiana while I studied violin. Well, and during my orchestra's bankruptcy year in 2003-2004 I went back to school to get certified to teach high school math in case my job never came back. The job did come back and I never bothered to do the student teaching. The benefit to my degree at that time was mostly psychological during a very difficult year of uncertainty. But although I started out behind my Oberlin peers as a college freshman (being a marginal admission at the time), I was not nearly as behind as the OP is.

David, it is possible to buy a used AWD car for well under $30K. Actually one can find driveable used AWD cars for under $10K. I certainly agree with the necessity of allocating resources, but I'm reminded of a story I recently read about a financial planner who was confident he could help a low-income woman solve her budget problems only to discover that in fact she was already cutting every corner possible and despite his and her best efforts, had only a $50 margin in her monthly budget. I'm going to trust that the OP is already making every possible wise use of his financial resources.

April 5, 2017 at 01:47 PM · Darian, on the question of how to get local gigs for private events like weddings or parties, you might try creating a website. I prefer wix over godaddy and there are no doubt many other providers where for $100 or less you can get your own url and use their online tool to easily make your own custom website from a variety of templates. Be sure to use key words that google and other search engines will pick up, including especially listing all the local towns or geographic names where you're willing to play. Also put yourself on google places so when the map appears almost at the top of the first page of search results, you are there, with a link to your website.

April 5, 2017 at 02:40 PM · Why is no one realizing I have twice said I am not just doing community college? I will transfer to University of Idaho after two years of community college. I have also more than once said that I never expected to make a stable living by just performing. I plan to teach music, preferably teaching middle/high school orchestra, maybe private lessons, or both if I can. Then perform on the side. Getting another degree, I'm not really good at anything else. Medical school is too expensive, and I hardly understand anything to do with medicine, or physics, I'm terrible at math, law school is definitely out, so I'm trying to go into a field of study that I can understand.

I have other ways to have stable income as well. For example, if I get married to someone who plans to go into a high paying field, or not, just have two income earners. The other thing that I plan on that would really keep costs of living down is to not have children. Also I'm pretty frugal. You could even say I'm cheap.

Start reading what I wrote and you'll realize that I know that I can't just get by with two years of community college, and that performance will not make a stable living.

April 5, 2017 at 03:47 PM · Nobody has assumed you were planning on community college only. The concern is that even a four-year degree from an undistinguished music department will not get you very far in performance. Music education is a different matter; apologies if I missed that in one of your previous posts.

Getting married to a high earner is nice but is not a career plan.

There are a lot of careers in fields that people haven't necessarily heard of, even in college. You may find, through your college coursework, through a summer job, through friends and professors you meet, that there is a currently unknown field out there for which you are well suited. Not being talented in a few other fields that you named does not imply that music is the only option left to you.

April 5, 2017 at 05:03 PM · I wouldn't spend $20k on bragging rights either.

April 5, 2017 at 05:07 PM · Just so you know:

$20,000 will NOT buy you bragging rights these days. It would have perhaps 20 years ago. I'd consider $20k a fairly low rung.

"The recipe has been around for a long time and has been copied by countless luthiers and engineers."

Yes, but that doesn't mean you just follow the recipe and get a good-sounding violin. It is still exceedingly difficult to produce a good instrument.

April 5, 2017 at 05:16 PM · You need good ingredients too!

April 5, 2017 at 05:50 PM · Okay then. I'll see if indeed I will have to upgrade again.

April 5, 2017 at 06:19 PM · Is your current violin holding you back? Is music your only choice of profession? What about trades?

April 5, 2017 at 06:42 PM · My earlier comment about the BME (the degree you would get in order to be able to teach music in the public schools) holds -- you want to make sure your community college gives you excellent planning advice so that you can ensure that you transfer the maximum number of credits into your BME program and can hopefully graduate on time (rather than needing to put in the time and expense of an extra year).

Public-school music teaching is just as badly paid and disrespected as any other form of public-school teaching in the US, sadly -- but it's a good steady job for a musician, and it's probably still a viable path for you given your level of playing.

There's a significant chance that you'll change your mind about children some time down the road (or you'll marry someone who eventually changes their mind about having children). And what seems like livable frugality in your teens or even your twenties will start looking less and less attractive as you age. The main problem with the freeway philharmonic and teaching lifestyle is that you work a lot of hours for an unstable income, and that gets wearisome after a while. That's why school-teaching jobs look pretty good to many musicians.

Many community orchestras are full of music educators playing for fun. That's a likely viable path for you if you want to perform in the future but don't end up with the chops to get paid for it.

The instrument is really the least of your problems. My guess is that your previous student instrument wouldn't have been holding you back at your current level of playing, and if your current instrument is at least average for its price range, you probably won't have any problems completing college with it, and it'll be good enough for community orchestra playing.

April 5, 2017 at 06:46 PM · Timothy,

I think student instruments have gotten hugely better in the last couple of decades. The Chinese workshop products are really pretty impressive at this point. But that certainly doesn't mean that the art of violin-making has really been mastered. Eve the best luthiers -- living or dead -- have significant variance in quality in their output. Scientific knowledge is being applied to make better instruments in general, but there is still an awful lot of artistry and craftsmanship involved, and the results vary a lot.

There's a lot of variance in how violins play (and how well bows play, for that matter). Not every player is sensitive to, or cares about, those nuances, but they are not fictional.

April 5, 2017 at 07:04 PM · Good to know. My original plan (back when I was just starting when I was 12) was to make a living just playing in an orchestra. As I matured, I realized that's highly unlikely to happen, so I had to figure something else out. So I figured why not reach what I have learned to the next generation? And perform on the side if I can? That's now my career path. And I realize that teachers, even music teachers don't get paid a lot, but I'm more looking to live comfortably, not necessarily luxuriously. And if I decidelater on I want to have kids (I probably won't, because I'm not the fatherly type. I can deal with kids if I'm teaching them something I'm passionate about, but if I had to raise any, that's when I would just hate children), I would wait until I am finanfinancially stable enough to raise them. Otherwise, it will just be constant anxiety trying to raise them. Not sure why I got off on this tangent, but I will get off it now. I figured that my preferred career path was realistic and achievable, especially since (around here) there is a shortage of music teachers, or just specialized teachers.

April 5, 2017 at 07:55 PM · Mine is made by Vlado Tilev, cost $4500.

April 5, 2017 at 07:58 PM · Darian, et al.,

Reading through the thread, I've noticed that it has changed from the cost of "Professional Violins" to having a career in music.

There is an unasked question that I will ask: How are your overall academic grades in High School?

Becoming a music teacher is a potential career but, at present, arts and music budgets are being cut in most public schools and the 45th Administration is launching a frontal-assault on any federal funding of the arts. Having a dual major like science/technology/engineering/math and music will make you a lot more desirable to a school district.

As a person who is over 70 I can tell you that luck is a big factor in overall success in life. Part of that luck is making good choices when they present themselves. I've noted a lot of frustration in your posts and I fully understand that frustration - all of us have had our share of frustration. I can also tell you that my career plan when I was a senior in HS (becoming a professional chef) is vastly different from where my career ended (working in Bell-Laboratories on logistics and operations management). Many things happened that I never dreamed of, one of them being able to play, and now teach beginners how to play the violin as my retirement passion.

As to your initial question: a lot of professional musicians (some of them personal friends) don't "own" all the instruments they play. The absolute top soloists generally have great instruments on loan from private or museum collections. The rest of us have the best instruments that we can afford and depend on our skills to make them sing.

April 5, 2017 at 08:04 PM · I know. I was behind trump until I heard he wants to slash arts funding. Now he's making me mad. However, my hope is that there are enough barriers like Congress and people in the arts that won't let that happen. My grades, A's and B's

April 5, 2017 at 08:15 PM · Well, a $4500 violin is way more expensive the my first full-size violin (which is one of only two I ever own). My mother spent a $1000 on it in the 1980's and even with inflation it is way lower than $4500 in today's dollar.

As mentioned by others, your violin is not your problem.

April 5, 2017 at 08:17 PM · It's not just arts funding in general -- arts in the public schools are being hard-hit in many districts. Cuts mean fewer music-teaching positions in those schools, and the US public school system may be significantly devastated before you complete your training, period.

The BME is already a pretty overstuffed program, and adding a second major to it might add a year of education, which the OP might or might not be able to afford. Certainly worth qualifying to teach a STEM subject would be a good backup plan, though -- as far as I know, that doesn't require a double degree.

April 5, 2017 at 08:24 PM · No, if I'm not teaching music, then I'm not up for dealing with a bunch of damn kids. So I'd have to find another field of work. Maybe even composing, or even music sales. Doesn't sound near as fulfilling, though.

April 5, 2017 at 08:40 PM · Composing generally isn't a full-time living. Most composers have a day job, unless they're lucky to be at the very top of the profession working in LA or the like. (I also envision a life of torment but financial stability for the poor schlubs who end up writing jingles for children's toy companies like VTech.)

Music sales -- assuming you mean working at a general music store -- is an unskilled retail job. Doesn't really pay a living wage in most cases, though it's not unusual for freelance musicians to take a job at such a store to help make ends meet. Those who work at dedicated violin shops, especially those that sell high-end instruments and pay commissions to the sales staff, can do pretty well, though, I believe. From what I've seen, a lot of those salespeople tend to be highly-trained players. (Heck, Carriage House in Boston now has its own in-house quartet of salespeople, I believe.)

By the way, if you work with middle school or high schoolers as, say, a school orchestra conductor, you'll still have to deal a lot with non-musical issues. Even private teachers sometimes end up having to deal with the messiness of kids' lives.

April 5, 2017 at 09:44 PM · I know, but if the subject is music, I can deal with side issues.

April 6, 2017 at 02:02 AM · "I don't believe the difference is night and day."

Then you haven't played enough violins yet.

April 6, 2017 at 02:02 AM · Sorry but you're dead wrong, Making a violin is an extremely difficult process to get the best tone and playability, there are no shortcuts, 90%+ of luthiers attempts at making violins are abject failures, not any better than cheap production violins, only the most skilled makers excel at their craft, and that's why with modern makers these top builders command $20,000 and more for their work, if they weren't significantly better than $5,000 factory Chinese work, no one would buy them.

April 6, 2017 at 02:21 AM · Timothy, you're an adult beginner who's been playing about a year, right? Not only haven't you played enough violins yet, but you almost certainly aren't at the point where you can discern what distinguishes a great instrument.

And Lyndon is right. It is seriously nontrivial to make a decent, much less good, violin.

April 6, 2017 at 02:21 AM · ..........Let's get back on track, shall we?

April 6, 2017 at 03:30 AM · We're more or less on topic. Timothy was questioning the notion of some violins being noticeably better than others, essentially.

April 6, 2017 at 11:30 AM · With the topic being a "professional instrument" and how to afford one at the $10k - $20k (presumed) level, my take is that an instrument with professionally acceptable tone and playing qualities can be had for less... the only question is status among other professionals when forced to admit what you're playing.

At the risk of being self-promotional, I know of one violin that apparently performs professionally at well under $10K: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyA1i-x3Dvc

... and perhaps there are others, out there, too.

Just a slight tangent, in response to Timothy Smith: the idea that engineering and science can understand and reproduce great instruments is optimistic at best. I say this as an engineer for 30 years, and violinmaker for 10. The best results come from makers who know what works, not from engineers who try to figure out how things work. Trial and error is often underrated.

April 6, 2017 at 11:40 AM · Indeed, that's how Stradivari did it. He was always trying new methods.

April 6, 2017 at 12:17 PM · A friend of mine chose for her hopefully successful professional violist career a Topa. When she bought it it was a bit less than 10K €.

April 6, 2017 at 01:02 PM · "the only question is status among other professionals when forced to admit what you're playing"

We care about how it sounds. If I try out my colleague's fabulous violin and then my colleague tells me that they paid just $8000 for it, that colleague *gains* status in my eyes for being both smart and lucky.

Also, I agree with Scott, Lyndon, and Lydia about the nontrivial differences among violins and the difficulty in making a good one.

April 6, 2017 at 01:13 PM · Mary Ellen's assertion applies at all levels. We all admire the player who bought a fabulous instrument at a low cost. :-)

April 6, 2017 at 01:44 PM · Actually, while violinist.com carries ads by various commercial sponsors (many of whom do sell instruments and accessories), the site is run by a player/teacher (Laurie Niles), and there's really no emphasis here on acquiring anything. The makers, dealers, and accessory vendors who post generally do so in a pretty circumspect way so as to not self-promote.

You were correct when I said that the OP doesn't need an upgrade. I'm not even sure he needed to upgrade from his previous ~$2k-ish violin; if it was a decent specimen, it would have been perfectly fine for his intermediate level of playing. His current instrument, if decent for its price range, will almost certainly be adequate throughout his training and likely will be fine for his expected professional use as well (a music educator that plays in a community orchestra doesn't really need anything better).

It's worth noting that the blind listening tests were old vs. new instruments, NOT expensive vs. inexpensive instruments. The new instruments that were in those shootouts generally came from the very best living makers -- whose violins are often in the $50k+ range. Award-winning living makers routinely charge $25k+ for a commission, and can have multi-year waiting lists. It's not easy to get your hands on a great contemporary instrument.

There are living makers who have executed remarkable bench copies. Bench copies (made with the original "on the bench" for reference) are very rare. They may be visually very close to the original, but they won't sound or play the same -- there are certain similarities but they are very distinct... lookalikes, but not twins, so to speak. (It's a fascinating experience to play an original and a good bench copy side by side, though!) But the degree to which the copies are distinct, even when meticulously executed by a true master luthier, makes it clear how many variables are involved in the end product.

Also, today's makers have much lower output than their historical counterparts, despite having the assistance of better tools. Contemporary makers typically make a handful of instruments each year. Thus each one is much more an individual act of craftsmanship. I don't know how many modern makers ever get to the point of having "made a few dozen", as you put it, Timothy.

April 6, 2017 at 02:00 PM · Players acquiring a fine instrument go to dealers because it's typically the least risky way to acquire an instrument. Trusted high-quality dealers can validate the authenticity and provenance of the instrument (most will be bolstered with a certificate, and a good dealer can tell you whether or not a particular certificate is from a respected expert), provide a report on the condition of the item, and correctly price an item.

Players sometimes buy directly from auctions these days, but items sold at auction may need some restoration work, which a player may not be qualified to judge the cost and riskiness of. More limited information about condition may be available, as well. And such instruments are not necessarily properly set up, requiring guesswork about what it will sound like if properly set up. Instruments at auction are typically at wholesale prices, which are about half retail -- so they can be great bargains, but if you have to be willing to take the risk.

Violins vary widely in their playing qualities. Even a great maker's instruments are not all great. As far as I know, some makers are more consistent than other makers, but their output still varies. So yes. If you have the opportunity to play a lot of violins, you will discover that there are plenty of expensive instruments that are duds. But there are also fabulous instruments that will knock your socks off.

Unfortunately, Timothy, you're only theorizing. The delta in playing qualities can be huge, and there's some degree of player preference in tone production technique that plays into this as well -- for instance, players who like to dig in, versus players who prefer to use more bow to get more sound. It's not just about pure tonal quality -- there's an element of this, but it's really about being able to draw more nuance from the violin. Think about a box of paints that has 4 shades of blue, versus one that has 64 shades of blue (and 64 shades of every other color!). The ability to effortlessly sculpt the sound and get instant responsiveness is really important to advanced players.

April 6, 2017 at 02:04 PM · This is true. I admire individuality in an instrument, even within the same model from the same maker.

Also, the only reason I upgraded from my $2200 violin was that (probably for structural reasons) I was constantly fighting it for more sound, but I wouldn't get much. I tried higher tension strings, but it would choke with anything tighter than, say, pirastro Synoxa. So the Spokane luthier told me that the thickness of the plates was a bit strange, and if it choked with Pirazzi strings, the top must not have been responding correctly. So it was because I always had to fight for sound, and I wouldn't get much. It was also very muted and dark sounding. Nothing wrong with dark, but I prefer bright. So, if I was still able to get sound out of it, I'd still have it, but I grew out of it after two years of owning it (bought it my fourth year into playing). And I knew it must have been no good when I didn't like the sound with EITHER dominant strings OR Tonicas. Btw, I now have Tonicas on my current violin, and I am pleased with the sound. Anyway, basically, I only upgraded because I needed more sound than what the master art violin was giving me (it was a Musaica imports master art violin).

April 6, 2017 at 03:26 PM · Although yes, clicking on ads supports the site, I have never seen any bias here towards the sponsors, either good or bad. The posters here are mostly players / teachers, and the experienced folks have pretty significant experience with instruments. (The teachers, especially, have seen a lot of student-class instruments and generally have a decent idea of what the deltas are in the price classes and when it's necessary for a student to upgrade.)

You cannot judge a violin solely from its tonal characteristics to the listener. They're important (especially if you're a performer) but most of the nuances are to be found in the way they respond to being played, and to tell the differences there, you have to be an accomplished enough player to be able to properly test the violin.

There's not really "markup" on non-trade violins. Factory/workshop instruments have a huge mark-up, in theory, although when you start considering what a shop has to do in order to make a Chinese factory fiddle playable, that starts to not look like that much of a mark-up.

Philadelphia has one great shop -- Fred Oster's -- but sadly there aren't other big shops there (Moennig's, the other significant one, closed some years ago). Oster's has more inventory than the DC/Baltimore shops, though. I did some pretty serious bow shopping there last year. Their prices seemed very fair and comparable to other shops of that caliber.

As a beginner, you are probably years away from needing an upgrade, assuming that you didn't start with a VSO, and you may never need anything better than a student-grade instrument.

Beginners do best on forgiving instruments that help facilitate making a nice sound, and that are properly set up so they aren't having to overcome issues like the string height being incorrect. Intermediate students do fine on instruments that are responsive enough to help them develop proper sound production. Advanced students need responsive, sensitive, nuanced instruments that will let them really express themselves artistically -- and aid the player by making it easier to play fast passages with articulate clarity, sound clearly and easily at the top of the fingerboard, produce clean artificial harmonics, sound good at any sounding point between bridge and fingerboard, can produce a broad dynamic range, and the like. Basically, the more advanced you become, the more you demand from your violin.

College-level means different things in different schools. The OP in this thread, for instance, is about to go to college but is an intermediate-level player. His needs are very different from the top conservatory student who is studying, say, the Brahms concerto (or who is going to perform the Brahms with orchestra).

Also, the more you're in competitive situations, the more the little edge that a good instrument can give you is a nice-to-have.

April 6, 2017 at 03:30 PM · If you compare a fair and decent $1,500 Markneukirchen violin which is 120 years old, to a new violin by a reputable maker costing $60,000, does the latter sound 40 times better? Probably not so much. Tim makes a good point. As Lydia wisely pointed out in another thread, violins are not priced based on tone but based on who made them.

By the way, I've only been playing for theee years. I have had the opportunity to play on very expensive modern violins (over $50k), and my teacher's M. Goffriller. So please take my words with a grain of salt.

April 6, 2017 at 03:44 PM · I am a physisist working in computational science. I spent many many hours of time to examine violins both experimental and in numerical approaches. I can tell you the following:

Best waht science can do atm is predicting a sound of a violin played at a specific frequency after some fft analysis from knocking it.

Thats about all we accomblished, by far nothing on the horizon that will change that.

The best luthiers our days, and we kind of live in a new golden era imo, are still craftmen, not scientists. Some start measuring resonances during building but improving it is still on the feeling side.

As I staded before, building and optimizing a high quality violin takes 300 hours of work.

They are expensive vecause they take time to build, there a close to no rich luthiers.

I myself own a 20kish violin and owned others before. I did a lot of blind testing and can tell you, the difference is dramatic! No breakfast but a big hall filled with beautifull sound out of a tine wooden artefact, a single one (neglecting the bow). A lot of master violins, crafted in good optical quality, no, most of them, never reach the needed perfection to get that sound, altough build with knowledge and care.

Its not all about the names. I nearly bought an excellent instrument of unknown maker, looking like made a bit in a hurry with a repaired sound post crack at the bottom. But it was a very good instrument worth the 18k the seller wanted. That certanly is no violin having any psychological bonus.

The websites linked are onlineshops that would benefit more from your buying approach than from ppl looking for the very upper violin range, btw.

Edit: Imo you have to also differentiate between solistic instruments which not just need to sound good but also need to be very powerful and those instruments for good orchestras that need good playability and all the different colours but no punchig through power.

April 6, 2017 at 05:29 PM · The problem with the whole "is it 40x better" question is that we're not scoring violins on a 100-point scale. There's not really a linear correlation between price and quality for most items. Is the $10 screwdriver five times better than the $2 screwdriver? Is the $8/pound organic chicken four times better than the $2/pound weekly special?

And then you get into items of art/leisure/pleasure. Is a $5,000 painting a thousand times better than a $5 poster? Is the $2,000 tourist-trip twice as good as the $1,000 tour? It's just not a very meaningful way to talk about things.

You have to balance utility and desire with what you can afford. As a broad general rule, there's a certain minimum spend to get a certain level of utility (putting aside the legendary exceptions that few people manage to luck into). You basically have a choice to spend that much to get adequate utility, or not. A good violinist can work with what he's got if he has to, but you'll learn more easily on something that gives you good feedback, and work less hard to sound good on an instrument that properly supports you.

April 6, 2017 at 06:23 PM · The topic has slightly changed, so sorry that I'm sharing some thoughts that relate to some previous comments.

Darian, you cannot predict what happens. You simply don't know. Nobody does. It's great to have a plan, it's greater to have a plan B as well. I wanted to be a musician since the age of six. Decided to mess up with architecture later, to have a back up. Now I've got a diploma in architectural engineering, and a violin degree (here in Greece it's simultaneously a teaching licence for the firs 8-9 grades of the overall 11-12, inferior only to a diploma, just to give you an idea). While I was finishing my architecture studies, I decided to get a diploma in violin, after a 5 year absence from serious lessons. It took longer than I aspired so settled for a degree, since at that time I was accepted in a Master course in Urban and Regional planning I had applied for, and it felt more secure to me that at least I would have some "papers" in case something went wrong and could not focus on both - and of course I couldn't)

Right now with the economic crisis in Europe, I can sincerely say that I don't know which is the back up, architecture or music. I've worked in both fields (and in others), and simply we don't know what will happen next morning.

Do whatever it takes to fulfill your dreams. As many people said, you are relatively behind compared to folks that have been in great conservatories for decades. But follow your aspirations, work hard, and wish you'd be lucky to make the best decisions possible when you get the chance.

Be honest with yourself, and don't get discouraged. There are no norms in most questions that you ask. You get answers by people in the field, with many years of experience, but I am sure since they don't know you, they have never heard you playing, they can only make some proposals of what would seem reasonable to them, according to their experience and the facts that you present

You are in the ride now, and you've got a nice instrument. You don't know when or where the ride ends. But you are in. Enjoy it and do your best :)

April 7, 2017 at 02:10 PM · "I can almost sense a competitive nature even here :))You played a violin that costed 30k? Pffffft. That's nothing, I played a Rolls Royce Violin at 100K:)"

With all due respect, you seem to have completely missed the point of the preceding discussion.

April 7, 2017 at 02:14 PM · I do want to point out that at some point in time, for most players purchasing fine instruments, potential investment factors do play into the decision -- specifically whether or not it's going to hold its value and/or increase in value. This is important because someday you might want a different instrument and thus need to sell it -- or if you do keep it for your lifetime, you might effectively use the instrument as part of your eventual retirement fund.

Not only that, but if an instrument holds its value, or even appreciates over time (violins tend to index against the S&P 500 pretty well), you are effectively getting "free" use of it over time, as long as you can front the capital to buy it. All things considered, someone who has the money, appreciates and uses fine instruments, and can take good care of one, has perfectly good reasons to spend to get something they love -- or in the case of parents buying for their children, a tool that gives their kid an edge.

If you're buying a $20k instrument by a fairly unknown living maker, for instance, your chances of getting good appreciation on it are fairly slim. $20k by a hotshot living award-winning maker has better odds of appreciation. A living maker already in enough demand to be $50k, perhaps even better -- or maybe not, percentage-wise in the near term, since the price is already high. A dead, sought-after maker at $50k, maybe more, maybe less. Condition of older instruments matters. Etc.

My parents decided not to buy me a better instrument as a kid. If they'd bought what my teacher asked them to, that instrument would now be worth many times what they would have paid -- far better than if they'd put that money into stocks, for instance. (Although as an amusing side-note, one of my childhood acquaintances got a very nice violin from their parents as a teen -- but it's appreciated so much in the last few decades, it's now worth more than a half-million dollars and they no longer use it outside the house!)

Note that this doesn't really apply to players buying instruments in the sub-$5k range, where there's not really any appreciation and in fact, other than a possible trade-in, sometimes a loss of value rather than a gain over time.

April 7, 2017 at 03:21 PM · But you need to be aware that selling any instrument can take a long time unless it is one of the big 4 names.

Not a very liquid form of money stocking.

April 7, 2017 at 03:33 PM · Yes, that's very true. It's enormously non-liquid.

(We're running out of space. Continuation of this discussion: LINK.)

April 7, 2017 at 05:09 PM · What Timothy says about the violin prices, should make the violin community think about the whole issue. Actually, violin trade and pricing could be the very darkest corner of the "free market" concept and some of its absurd dimensions. We are in this world, and sometimes we may ignore it. It even seems reasonable to me despite the fact I am the guy complaining about this all the time.

There are various under the carpet discussions in this thread. Safe cars and their cost or when to change them etc. It makes me think it's all a matter of priorities and available means (and opportunities of course)

I've never bought a 30k violin or a 30k car, neither have I tested one of those. Currently the only thing I could sell to match those numbers is my soul, which I am afraid is appreciated much less :P

I completely understand the fascination that comes together with using or owning such expensive commodities. I really do. And I even do when it comes to items costing far more than that. Super car lovers, antique violins enthusiasts (maybe of the well known makers of the past), people who love to live in great homes...Or should we speak about art collectors? I am ok with this when they keep this fascination to themselves and the whole thing does not turn to a show off, or even worse to narrations that go like " you have to try on of those, it's the real thing". This sometimes makes other people run away.

I now expect many folks to cry out that not having tested a 30k instrument is stupid, ignorant or even anti-professional. If such a situation occurs, I need to say in advance that I am happy right now, and by testing such a thing that I cannot afford would turn reality upside down. And, I have not turned my love for the violin into a science of searching how much better instruments there are...(I know the answer in advance however) Plus, imagine that in a parallel reality you are parted from all of your violins. I bet that everybody would be happy if somebody threw them a 100 buck fiddle a few days after. :)

April 7, 2017 at 05:46 PM · Of course you can have fun with a low price fiddle. Nothing to argue there. If I wouldnt have been very lucky I would also not own an instrument in this price range, but I would always miss it if I would loose it.

I also own a 2-3k fiddle I lend to a student and it is also possible to create great music with it, no doubt. It is even projecting quite well, but the pianissimo is quite bad. I just played summer from the seasons a couple of minutes ago and the Slow pianissimo beginning and after the coucou again are so great, I just love to be able to form every colour even in those parts and still have great tone sepparation. I need close to no bow, I can hold a note foreever and it is pp but crystal clear.

Thats what only great instruments can do and in some circumstances as a proffessionall you need this, not just want it.

By no means there is a reason to throw such top violines on every amateur. That is what many miss here. Nobody here said that this is what everybody should get!

Btw, I could never buy such expensive stuff from what i earn, I know how much money this is.

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