Professional violins, part 2

April 7, 2017 at 08:07 PM · This continues a previous discussion: LINK.

Questions on the table include:

Replies (100)

April 7, 2017 at 08:46 PM · Quoting a few previous posters from the original thread, just to give this more context. (I haven't reposted the entirety of their previous comments, just clipped some things that seem more relevant. You can read the full comments in the original thread.)

Timothy Smith:

This is probably the most expensive discussion I've ever been involved in. We started out at 10K and now we're at 50K. I probably should bow out before this goes into the stratosphere :) 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:)

I believe it takes a very astute educated buyer to find the best instrument for the best price. Throwing money at a problem usually never solves it.You need to get more involved in the process.

Money is only what you look at after you have determined your needs.If there's anything ulterior involved, it really shouldn't matter if the ONLY goal is a good instrument that you can play well. I'm not saying you need to bring a wheelbarrow to the bank.From what I've seen it can be done reasonably.

Hermes Papakonstantinou:

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.

Marc Marschall:

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!

April 7, 2017 at 08:59 PM · What does it mean to "show off"? People are enthusiastic about their passions. When an art-lover happily shows you the painting on his wall, when a wine-lover displays (or serves) a wine from his collection that he's excited about, when a car-lover enthuses about the engine upgrade he just got, when a stamp-collector displays a rare specimen -- are they "showing off"? (That word seems to have some negativity attached to it.) Or are they just trying to share their love of it with other people, even when they realize that other people may not have the same enthusiasm or knowledge (or even care at all)?

Does you read their exhortation to try something -- the great bottle of wine, the rare delicacy, the supercharged car, etc. -- which they regard as a peak experience, as something where they're trying to use it to demonstrate that they're superior to you? That seems to me like a pretty awful way to look at other people, really. (Or you know a lot of jerks, I guess.)

I think that every violinist with any interest in instruments would be well-served to try great violins and bows, for instance. I think they are remarkable experiences to be cherished, and they can really shape your notion of what a violin ought to sound like, and how you yourself can (or can't!) play. Some people will walk away with a "meh" feeling, and that's okay -- not every experience impacts everyone in the same way, not even experiences that some people find profound.

I don't believe, however, that anyone should say "X isn't all that great" unless they have actually tried enough X to hold an informed opinion. It's reasonable to say, "I've tried X and I didn't much appreciate it" or "X is not for me." It's quite a different matter to assert, "Anyone who thinks X is great is deluding themselves."

For me, just as I enjoy going to museums and art-galleries to look at art that I can't purchase or don't want to purchase, I love trying out violins and bows, even though I'm not currently actively in the market for anything.

April 7, 2017 at 09:39 PM · This is a funny part #2-gotta admit that the summary list of questions/topics made me laugh.

What constitutes a "professional" violin?

IMHO, a violin that a violinist uses professionally, regardless provenance.

What do you probably have to spend to get a suitable professional-use instrument?

Probably more than 10k, but luck exists, and you need not a big name (or lesser name Italian) to play music "professionally." Some exceptions were already noted in the previous thread. Some old workshop instruments have turned out to be the exception to the rule, for instance. Surely there should be some great sounding and playing modern violins by lesser known makers as well, though most of these are generally more than 10k anyway.

What's satisfactory for non-pros?

IMHO, the artistry level should be-or aspire to be-similar. I don't agree that the amateur doesn't deserve to play on the greatest instrument he can have. Artistry is not the sole domain of the well-off and/or paid professionals. A good instrument is a good instrument, and is also good for amateurs, despite the usual claims to the contrary (though I understand where those opinions come from.)

Do people own expensive things merely to brag about them?

Some-or many-people are arrogant jerks, but that happens at all levels-collecting expensive pianos, art, etc. But just because that silly level of arrogance exists doesn't mean that someone with an expensive instrument is only interested in the prestige involved-he/she may genuinely love what the violin does to help him/her express musical ideas, and it so happens that said violin MAY be a big name, "old Italian", etc. That said, you DON'T need a prestigious instrument to make wonderful music, even if some orchestras and teachers like to push that idea.

Is the world unfair?

YES-and it's the reason I laughed. :) But you can be happy regardless the hand you were dealt. Regarding violin-playing, if you can't afford the "super violins", be happy with the amazing privilege of playing this beautiful instrument on the best sample you can afford, rather than endlessly bemoaning about how you cannot hope to buy a "professional violin"... which is ultimately a social construct, as again, any violin played professionally IS a "professional" violin.

(To be more precise, a professional violin should at least produce a decently diverse, "quality" tone -subjective, of course-that has decent reserves of power, or isn't too muted. It should not get in the way of the music you are performing, but enhance it as much as possible. Still compromises can be made while emphasizing some aspects over others. In the end, I think tone is the most important issue regarding a violin's "professional" status-some expensive instruments can be deemed "professional" only in paper, given their tonal deficiencies. Money doesn't buy tone-it buys expensive violins. Many can be great, others not so much. Look for a good sounding and playing violin-the best you can get under your budget, but don't give up too easily if your $$$ is limited).

April 7, 2017 at 09:51 PM · "What is satisfactory for the non-professional violinist?

Actually that is the easy question: what ever the non-professional is satisfied playing and owning.

The reality is that there are a lot of "good" instruments available in the low to moderate price range. Fine for playing with a community orchestra, in church, and maybe even some special occasion like a wedding.

I have often mentioned my "Mittenwald Strad" that is a mid-to-late 1800's copy of a 17?? Strad. I've put a bit of money into making it playable and it is quite good enough for my needs. Also, I've occasionally asked one of my professional friends to play my instrument and discovered that I'm still not getting all that the instrument is capable of producing.

Some others want more and if they have the cash they can buy them, that is their choice.

For me, I will "need" a better instrument if/when I can play so well that I can only equal what my professional friends can produce with my instrument and my skills can get me a better sound only with a better instrument.

The issue of value is highly subjective and we can be seduced by a good salesman - just ask the NJSO about their "Golden Age Collection" that doesn't produce a sound that is measurably better than the instruments that the musicians own for themselves and used before the NJSO spent millions acquiring the "Golden Age Collection."

April 7, 2017 at 09:52 PM · Lydia

There are some different contexts in which we can approach the issue. As I said, I understand these fascinations. When I wrote that "they should keep them to themselves" maybe it was a little "absolute". What I mean, is that it's ok since it's not a show off. Sharing our passions with friends is not a show off, when they are eager to listen. Since it's not mentioned all the time, in every possible occasion. I am not seeing every expression of these fascinations as a show off of course, nor did I say that everyone that has a love for a unique (and pricey) experience will indeed show off. It just bothers me when it happens. It also has much to do with each person's character. For example an unknown individual may share some experience regarding their expensive stuff. Whether it's a show off or not, time will tell.

Now, I totally agree with what you say about expressing opinions regarding certain experience that we indeed have. The same example could apply to food and eating habits, trying new things etc. In the previous thread I mentioned that I haven't tried a 30k violin. I am not rejecting those instruments of course. And as we all know, a certain price tag of that height does not mean something extremely specific when it comes to musical instruments, yet it generates some expectation. The only reason I haven't is because I consider violins either as working tools or something to have fun with, and both categories according to my personal point of view and overall stance, are far away from those sums of money. This of course does not mean that I would deny trying an instrument of this price and above if a friend, or a luthier asked me to do so. What I would not do, would be walking on purpose in the violin store and ask to try various instruments of a price tag I am not willing to reach. I am not commenting what others would do, and I have neither positive nor negative opinion of it. It's their right, it's their life, their time, their option. I simply stated what I would do, and of course my stance has nothing to do with condemning or approving opposite or similar actions.

Seems as if we share the love for art galleries, and of course I would visit them without even thinking of buying something.

However when it comes to stuff that have a certain use, instruments, vehicles etc, when somebody starts a conversation about their functional traits, and their need to find something in a certain budget that would meet those traits, it would be slightly off topic to share the belief that a 17 century cremonese violin would do better for example. I am just exaggerating this to make my point clear, I'm not saying that somebody in this forum did this, but sometimes we've all seen it happen, that's why I mentioned all these. It would be like sharing a driving experience in a Lamborghini with somebody who is in the market for a safe and not so expensive sedan for their day to day commuting.

P.S. I am tempted to comment a small sentence of yours, sorry if it gets annoying or tiring. You said that "I think they are remarkable experiences to be cherished, and they can really shape your notion of what a violin ought to sound like, and how you yourself can (or can't!) play". I would slightly disagree, with the "ought to sound like" thing, just because in most cases, all of us who don't have a violin of the caliber of a strad or a del gesu, will always find a "better" instrument, so this never ends. I would however urge anybody who owns an inexpensive, not properly set up factory made instrument and are willing to go further on their studies and the whole violin experience to try a descent hand made instrument, which is usually a shocking difference.

April 7, 2017 at 09:57 PM · I would also like to add, that I really like the way Mr Valle-Rivera answered the question of what is a professional violin. I couldn't agree more.

April 7, 2017 at 10:02 PM · Very good to know, several (and I mean SEVERAL) times over, I have heard that expensive does not always mean better, it's the individual violin, at whatever given price, and look for tone, and ease of playing. Look for something affordable, and for what will suit your needs.

April 7, 2017 at 10:41 PM · Darian, just my two sents, since you begun to narrow down the list of what to look on a violin (which is a different topic, but it applies to the "professional violin") I may forget things, and many could disagree with the order, which I am not sure that remains the same in my mind.

At a given budget, price range, I would look for ease of playing (which should be taken for granted if there is a descent setup, plus it would be great to ask the luthier to modify certain things to suit your style and preferences, like the bridge height, soundpost position, afterlength), good response (not just acceptable), an "even" sound across the strings, you know not having one that sounds "dead" or another screaming out far beyond the rest of the three), a good projection (this could be the toughest to find out if it's true, since not only the term good relates to the venue you're going to use the instrument, but loud under the ear doesn't necessarily mean loud a few yards away). I would put the "tone" or the "voice" of the instrument at the bottom of the rest, just to point out that to me they are more important. Put it the other way, One of my violins has a marvelous tone to my taste, which I almost rarely use because for example I can't play with a piano and be heard and I have to use strange string combos to make it sound even. So it would never be acceptable as professional.

April 8, 2017 at 02:18 AM · I don't think I really understood what it was possible to do with a violin until I tried a Strad. I've also had three really remarkable bow try-outs that have shaped my notion of what a bow can be. Knowing what the upper end of the scale is like has been really useful for me when trying to decide what trade-offs I am willing to make with my much more modest budget. Playing a wide range of instruments at a broad range of price points has also helped me understand the possible choices far better. It's something that I really enjoy, probably in a way that's similar to people who like to taste wines.

I more or less agree with Hermes on what to look for in a professional violin, but I think tone is still important -- you want something that's at least reasonably pleasant for you, or you won't want to play the thing. Good response, evenness, and clarity are all vital -- if an instrument doesn't have those in adequate quantities, it should be rejected. Ease of playing is more of a taste thing, though -- some players don't mind having to dig, for instance. So is projection -- we all have varying degrees of need for it, and what is "enough" projection depends on the circumstances in which you play.

As an amateur with a pro-quality violin, I agree with Adalberto that amateurs deserve to have the best instruments they're willing to buy. ;-)

I would say, though, that you really have to go through an awful lot of effort, and have a lot of luck, to buy inexpensive great-sounding instruments. I have tried a fairly large number of violins in price ranges from the student to the stratospheric, and there's really only been a handful where I've thought, "Yeah, I'd love to own that."

April 8, 2017 at 02:52 AM · Lydia, just for the record do you recall which Strad it was? Was it in a store or a friend's?

I wanted to point out that I also think tone is important and vital for the player, since what Lydia says is right. At least it need to be acceptable, and not horrible. After all motivation has a huge impact. I want to explain that I only left tone at the bottom, since a "professional" violin should have the other traits in some extent, whatever the tone preference of the player is. One could argue that a professional could not deliver what they can with an instrument that doesn't have their tone of preference of course, but in the short term and if the options are limited I would personally sacrifice tone. Now if I didn't like the tone at all, that's a different scenario and I have no idea of what I would do.

April 8, 2017 at 02:55 AM ·

The OP asked:

"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?"


You might as well address that question to the 60 million people each year who buy a new car. (Average price in the US, over 30 thousand dollars.)

April 8, 2017 at 03:02 AM · One Strad was a 1698, owned by the concertmaster of a professional symphony, and in a shop for some work. The other was a 1723, owned by an acquaintance (an accomplished amateur).

The difference between a violin and a car is that there is extensive financing infrastructure designed to facilitate the average consumer buying a car with minimal money down and reasonable-interest loans. It's far harder to get a loan to buy a violin.

April 8, 2017 at 03:02 AM · Mr. Burgess, do you offer financing? 0% interest for 6 months? Low monthly payments? Trade-ins of violins only used in churches on Sundays by little old men?

April 8, 2017 at 03:09 AM · Since I think I was the one who first brought up the number of $30k, I would just say that there is nothing to brag about a $ 30k violin; a $30k car even less.

It is fascinating to see how that number got interpreted in so many interesting ways.

April 8, 2017 at 03:28 AM · I hazard to guess that it's mostly amateurs who care whether or not a particular violin is 'professional quality'. The professional recognizes that they're tools, notwithstanding that they're tools you use to make music and a part of your life, and the priorities lie in their use and the application of your skill towards the real end. Mary Ellen's posts in the previous thread conveyed that well, even to the extent of mentioning that her violin costs less than what many amateurs, including the OP apparently have in their minds about the price of 'professional quality' instruments.

In the absence of any useful measurement of quality of violins, there's a tendency to have the one measure you can see, price, take an inflated sense of importance, even when you think you know better. The only way to guard against this mistake is to put them in their proper place as tools for making music, not ends in themselves.

April 8, 2017 at 03:50 AM · I think the OP was basically seeking to understand what type of violin would allow him to win a pro symphony job, and then after some realignment of his career expectations, the general conclusion was that for the type of professional work he was expecting to do (teaching music in a public school), his current student violin would probably be just fine.

Mary Ellen's instrument is pretty interesting, I think, because, IIRC, it was originally purchased and appraised for more -- but now she's discovered that it's not what it was sold to her as, which instantly de-valued it. But it's not a student-priced violin (sub-$5k) even now.

We may have settled on the consensus that student violins are unlikely to be good enough to win a pro symphony job on (or at least that they will disadvantage anyone trying to audition on such an instrument), but you might not have to spend a significantly more beyond the student range to get to good-enough. (Although at that point we're really talking about $6k+ vs. $10k+, which on a scale of violin prices, isn't really that large of a delta.)

April 8, 2017 at 04:57 AM · Well, the OP said he wanted to play professionally but couldn't afford conservatory and isn't competitive and was trying to figure out what buying a "professional" violin would entail. He mentioned interest in local and regional symphonies. I don't knock the the OP at all. He wasn't asking for advice on getting into Julliard and seemed quite interested in teaching.

I do think (trying to put this delicately) that there are people on this board who delight in telling others the world isn't fair. There may also occasionally be some violin humble-bragging (of the 'I couldn't afford the Strad I tried out, but at least I could buy a violin worth the median US salary').

I'm grateful for the international bent of this board and also for the fact that people come here from all different places with all different attachments to violin. It is helpful to get ranges on better violins and to hear people's experiences of buying the instrument they'd been searching for. I wish there was a breakdown of violin sale prices and instrument frequency. What percent of non-professional violinists play on a violin worth more than $2000? What's the distribution of violin values in the local symphony?

April 8, 2017 at 10:16 AM · From time to time I get exceptional violins that are still Markneukirchen productions, so I can not in good conscience sell them for more than say $2000, But I did recently sell one to a professional musician for her primary violin, although she mostly plays viola, she is equally good on violin, she plays in the local regional symphony, so yes you can even get a professional violin for as little as $2000, I also have a Blanchard workshop for $5,000, another IMHO professional violin, I think you might be surprised at how affordable some violins are that are being played professionally in symphony orchestras, a 1920s EH ROth is quite good enough for an orchestra violin IMHO, not good enough for concertmaster, but in the orchestra it should be fine, that can be had for about $7,000.

April 8, 2017 at 12:00 PM · Back in 1998 i was having financial difficulties and started trying much cheaper instruments in case I had to sell my main one.A local dealer let me try a Piergiuseppe Esposte just made in Cremona.It was one of his second tier instruments and cost $6000.00 CDN.I would have been very happy with that instrument professionally speaking.Also ,I tried a very used Ouchard bow for $4000.00 that was a wonderful match for the Esposte.Luckily I pulled through and managed to hang on to my original equipment but it was "touch and go" for a few years.

April 8, 2017 at 12:57 PM · 6000CND in 1998 are easily 10k$ today on the violin market

April 8, 2017 at 01:08 PM · It should be noted that our understanding of the OP has evolved throughout this thread. Originally he'd bought a ~$4,000-ish violin and mentioned his desire to play professionally in an orchestra and teach, and thus everyone made assumptions -- including him, I think, about what that would entail.

Marc's point is worth considering. Many professionals bought their instruments prior to the massive escalation in prices. I saw an interesting video by Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim regarding the Guadagnini that he has on loan -- the amateur player who donated it paid $10k for it (and it's now worth about $1.2 million). Some were lucky to be able to buy instruments at wholesale prices from a previous owner, as well. (There are a couple of posters here who have managed to acquire what would otherwise be extraordinarily expensive instruments through various forms of assistance from former teachers, mentors, etc.)

In my current community orchestra, I don't think there are many players who own instruments worth more than $5k. In my previous community orchestra in Silicon Valley, though, there were plenty of people with $10k+ instruments and some with violins worth hundreds of thousands of dollars -- generally bought for them by a wealthy parent, or bought decades previous.

April 8, 2017 at 01:10 PM · If I was in the same circumstance again I would still find something again in the sub $10000.00 category Marc.You just have to shop carefully.

We have people in the front chairs of our orchestra who play on no name 1920s German instruments and modern American and have,through focused and prolonged tweeking,made them sound excellent.One of them won an audition over me with my fancy Italian violin.Someone with determination and talent is a force to be reckoned with regardless of the price of their instrument.

April 8, 2017 at 02:17 PM · Peter, I agree there are good and cheap instruments. And again, I think there is also a very big difference between a proffessional orchestra player and a solist.

I also think there are a lot of italien instruments that are no worth their value, but thats another story.

Modern makers can build excelent violins (mine is modern too and it was by far the best I testet within my budget over quite some time). But a luthier building a violin with care will most likely not sell it for less tahn 10k if he is living in the us or central europe.

1900s Germans are often undervalued, if you can find the few good ones.

But yeah, I dont think anybody will argue that the musician is the most important part!

That would be the time to write down the famous Heifetz quote, but I think this is most likely already somewhere in this thread.

April 8, 2017 at 03:09 PM · Is the quote the one where he picks up the violin after a student said the violin sounds wonderful, and he says, "funny, I don't hear anything."

April 8, 2017 at 03:46 PM · It's not uncommon for people to borrow an upper-echelon instrument to use for an important audition, so that can sometimes be another option.

April 8, 2017 at 03:46 PM · Yes,of course there is a difference between a soloist and orchestral player Marc.I'm referring back to the OP who has dreams of being in a professional orchestra someday.

When you sit in the first chair,yes,for sure you need an instrument with carrying power.I played last weeks show with the concertmaster who is using a 1735 Sanctus Seraphim violin.It gives my Garimberti a run for its money to say the least but I don't drag her down with a diminutive sound.The power of the Seraphim is fantastic along with its deep rich clarity.

A few weeks ago we were all blown away with Benjamin Beilmann playing the Sibelius on the Englemann Strad with a Tourte bow.He could play on anything though...stupendous player.

April 8, 2017 at 04:17 PM · So, what is it that a "professional instrument" has that non-professional ones lack? Please lets not go back to the debate on whether a $450VSO used for busking is a professional instrument or not. Lets call it a high end instrument instead:

- General tone or color of sound?

- Projection?

- Dynamic range?

- Balance?

- Tonal complexity?

- Openness?

- Resonance?

- Set up?

- Materials, appearance?

- Construction?

- Response?

- Playability?

- Value?

April 8, 2017 at 04:35 PM · @Roger St-Pierre

From my point of view, if we care about the functionality of the high end instrument and regard it as a tool, I think that most of what you have wrote down are important. The General tone is as we have said subjective, and I would have to rule out Appearance and Materials (though materials play a fundamental part in sound some say and appearance could indicate devotion from the maker, but could not mean a thing) Construction, since the few great Germans of the 1900s could come second in terms of construction and materials but could be great soundwise, and value which is a chaos. Set up and playability could be easily brought to whatever the player likes, but I would expect a high end instrument in a decent shop to be playable at least.

But I don't think that the rest of them can change dramatically, more so if the instrument lacks them

April 8, 2017 at 04:37 PM · Of course, I am not a luthier, and one could disagree on the subject of the ability to make vast changes on the sound of an instrument. There comes the financial part and whether it is wise to put money on a certain violin or not.

April 8, 2017 at 04:39 PM · At the risk of being horribly off topic,I thought I could share a anecdote .At the same time as I bought my present violin (1997) I was heavily involved in TaeKwonDo and was still sparring quite a bit.I easily made it through a first elimination round,using a very fast turn side kick.I thought I had this all wrapped up when a younger and much smaller guy met me in round two.I could feel his focus even as we bowed for the start of the match.I tried every trick Icould on him but he dodged them and kept coming at me.He was relentless and determined to win.After being knocked down twice with hard punches I just had nothing left to counter him with.Of course he won and as we shook hands I told him that his determination and skill was inspiring . I will never forget that if you want something that badly you can get it,including auditions Darian.You just have to ask yourself how badly do you want it.

April 8, 2017 at 05:50 PM · Hermes, I wouldn't say that good German violins from the early 1900 come second in construction and materials.

At that time Germany still produced more violins than probably all other countries combined - the main area being Voigtland in Saxony around a place called Markneukirchen ,and just east of it Bohemia which is now in the Czech republic . Most of these are student quality instruments but there are higher quality as well including from the Roth family. Those better ones often have been build with top quality wood. The construction was very solid - sometimes too solid.

Besides those there are a few individual makers from Germany in the early 1900s that made some of the best violins comparable with the great luthiers from Italy or France at that time, eg Michael Dötsch from Berlin.

Some of the best Schönbach/Markneukirchen violins have been sold as Italian and are being played by professionals in orchestras

around the world.

Here a quote from Michael Appleman ( a renowned soloist in France)in a Maestronet thread on German violins:

" Please feel free to take what I write with a mountain of salt, but I do personally know several soloists who either own or have been lent Strads and Del Gesus (and Bergonzis and Guadagninis). Some are absolutely in love with their top class Cremonese violins. Others use them in rotation with other violins, while others find them unusable, but keep the name of the violin in their program bios and use other violins all of the time. Among the non-italian "other" violins, these days I see a lot of contemporary violins, and in second place, French violins: Vuillaumes, then Lupots and Gands. I do not know of anyone knowingly using a German violin at the moment, but there are two supposed Vuillaumes that I (and several respected luthiers I hang out with) suspect are something else. One could well be a Dötsch or other early 20thc. Berlin school and the other looks to me like a particularly fine Vitacek.

If you move down the food chain a bit, to orchestral players and 2nd and 3rd tier "soloists" and chamber musicians, excellent German violins start showing up all over the place, both recognized and "passing" for Italian. You could dismiss the choices of musicians such as these, but if you're not a working professional violinist who relies on what comes out of his fiddle to put bread on the table, you might be coming at this question from a radically different perspective, in which case the original question remains purely hypothetical, doesn't it?"

April 8, 2017 at 07:15 PM · Right! The good ones are comperable cheap. I nearly bought a Dötsch, it was a real great instrument! In the end it was a bit to much pressure under my left ear.

I also know a solist playing a modern Rittwagen telling he plays a guadagnini in his cv. Just what ppl expect..

April 8, 2017 at 07:42 PM · Hendrik

I meant no "offense" to the german violins. Actually in many topics I have strongly talked in favor of them, even of those that are not eye-catching since I am a person primarily interested in sound, and never judge an instruments by its looks or the person who made it.

I am grateful for your input of these certain makers and hopefully I will have some further look into it.

I have noticed a hype, some players, enthusiasts, even luthiers make some comments about certain violins, regarding their visual "artistic" side when paying attention to details I would personally never notice. I did not mean to make a general assumption, and that's why I used the expression "could come second"

Anyway, thank you for your remark, it makes the situation (and what I meant to say) even more clear.

April 8, 2017 at 08:26 PM · Hermes if you are interested in early 20th century violins for their sound you might also want to look at Hungarian and Czech violins from that time. Prague has a great tradition of violin making and yet those violins compared to similar quality italian are much lower in price.

Marc I think I know what you are talking about with " pressure under the left ear". Some of the JB Vuillaumes I tried strung with Evahs can feel like drilling a hole in your head. Very powerful instruments. Some of the modern italians as well.

April 8, 2017 at 08:46 PM · Hendrik I tried an unlabeled Czech (perhaps) of that period two years ago. It was amazing, it belonged to an orchestra member who visited my luthier at the same time as me. I don't recall for how much it was bought, but I am almost sure it was priced under 10k, and it had a surprisingly stable tone and probably enough carrying power (this is just an assumption fo course, since I heard it and played it in my luthiers workshop, but I guess we can sometimes have a small hint). Unfortunately it was not for sale.

For the record, just to add some salt and pepper to the discussion, I always craved a lionhead violin, from that era, with the proper (for me) sound attributes. But I had no luck. Till now, when I find one, I don't have the cash, and when I do, I don't find something...It may never happen. lol

April 8, 2017 at 08:58 PM · "Mary Ellen's instrument is pretty interesting, I think, because, IIRC, it was originally purchased and appraised for more -- but now she's discovered that it's not what it was sold to her as, which instantly de-valued it. But it's not a student-priced violin (sub-$5k) even now."

I need to correct this quickly before dashing off to play an outdoor wedding on a Chinese student-level violin....

Lydia is referring to an instrument that I recently sold, a violin which I bought as an "old Italian" for just over $20K, which was later determined not be Italian at all although the age was correct. The price at which it sold was several thousand less than I had paid, though still well over what we discuss here as the student price range.

The instrument to which I was referring, my current primary instrument, is a violin which came to me through a bequest, bearing the label of an 1830s Italian maker who was so much an amateur that a google search of his name turns up only three references, one of which is me asking on if anyone knew anything about his instruments. While for several reasons I think it is possible that the label is accurate, this maker is so obscure that there isn't an expert in the world who even knows enough about his instruments to be willing to certify mine. I have been in communication with Eric Blot, and in my alternate life where we aren't paying college tuitions, maybe I will take it to Italy someday to see what he says.

Anyway, because my current violin is nameless, I can only get it appraised for its value as an antique, which is about $9K. That's the violin I have been talking about.

My first professional violin was sold to me as a Joseph Klotz. Whether it is actually a Klotz is up in the air. On paper it's worth somewhere between my current primary instrument and the faux Italian one I recently sold. I've never owned a violin worth more than $20K though I do have the use of a Kuttner and really like it.

April 8, 2017 at 09:38 PM · Mary Ellen, you could take some good photographs of the front and get a dendro by Peter Ratcliff in Britain. It may or may not help but doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

April 8, 2017 at 10:18 PM · My professional violin & violas (French handmade worshop insruments) are worth under €5000....

April 9, 2017 at 01:49 AM · $9k is effectively no different than $10k. :-)

I would expect that ideally, an instrument that you're going to win a pro job on is good enough to not disadvantage you in an audition. Better response (and a good bow) makes it easier to play a clean Schumann Scherzo. Effortless power and clarity at the top of the fingerboard makes it easier to sound good in Don Juan. Transparent responsiveness in pianissimo makes it easier to play a beautiful La Mer. Great clarity makes it easier to be articulate in Scheherezade. And so forth. (Substitute similar excerpts for any of those specific examples.)

For actually playing in a pro symphony, from what I've seen, most players favor easy response as a top quality, since it minimizes the amount of physical effort necessary, and therefore increases stamina and decreases wear-and-tear on the body (and reduces injury likelihood). The ability to produce a sound that blends well, and that can easily be played softly, is really important. Principal players also need to be able to summon projection when necessary.

April 9, 2017 at 02:39 AM · Well written Lydia....Exactly why I sold my Cuypers and bought a Garimberti.

April 9, 2017 at 03:14 AM · Very good to know.

April 9, 2017 at 03:44 AM · I take it that your Garimberti is an easier-playing violin, Peter? (One of my teacher's other students plays a Cuypers but I've never tried any. I've never encountered a Garimberti either.)

Darian, you should also keep in mind that the bright-and-loud that you're favoring is generally not what pro orchestra players look for in their own violin tone.

April 9, 2017 at 03:59 AM · Yes Lydia the Garimberti is much easier to pull out an instantaneous rich tone than the Cuypers.I can easily compare the two because I sold it to another member of my orchestra and sit with this person on a very regular basis.The Garimberti just has more "sizzle" to the sound and more layers of depth.Also,I believe that I have saved my back and arms over the twenty years of owning the Garimberti for the reasons you so well listed.Well done.

Also very good advice to Darian.We are not looking for strident sounding playing in our orchestra but someone who fits in with attention to quality of sound.Listen to her Darian!

April 9, 2017 at 04:08 AM · "Mary Ellen, you could take some good photographs of the front and get a dendro by Peter Ratcliff in Britain. It may or may not help but doesn't cost an arm and a leg."

That's a very good suggestion, thanks, I may look into that. I have nothing to lose.

April 9, 2017 at 05:51 AM · So what sound should I look for? I prefer bright, but if that's no good, I'll adjust.

April 9, 2017 at 09:02 AM · The one you feel comfortable with imo.

You will realize during playing if the sound fits the ensemble or not.

April 9, 2017 at 02:20 PM · I think you have to play a lot of violins first, so see what differences they can make and what you prefer.

Then, when you're narrowing it down, you need to trial the instrument / bow in the settings you will use it most.

April 9, 2017 at 03:33 PM · In terms of optimizing your current instrument, I would go for beauty and color over bright and loud.

You should be able to blend your sound with your stand partner's, but still hear the violin under your ear in orchestra.

April 9, 2017 at 03:43 PM · "What do you probably have to spend to get a suitable professional-use instrument?"

How much do you think you have to pay for this violin ?

Sounds quite professional to me:

April 9, 2017 at 04:04 PM · $3000

April 9, 2017 at 05:32 PM · Or less. This is not a very good instrument imho, allthough played very well. It might also be worth 50k, but only if the name is defining the price tag.

I can hear exactly one colour, altough played in different ways. The piano plays a very light piano, damped, the violinist is doing what he can. He is squeezing every decible out of this violin and if you take away that huge vibrato, not much sound is left.

I think the violin forces that way of interpretation, the artist cant decide.

Than again, this is my oppinion based on a youtube video and might be complete bs.

If I am correct, this is a very good example, what you can but also what you cant do with a simple low budget violin.

April 9, 2017 at 06:41 PM · I can't really tell if Oliveira is playing his del Gesu (Stretton) or Strad (Molitor) in this video

April 9, 2017 at 06:41 PM · I think I agree with Marc about the violin in the Youtube video.

A few days ago, I was teaching a lesson using my "picnic violin" (Chinese student model worth about $1500) to make sure it would be playable for an upcoming outdoor wedding. My student, a young high schooler at the De Beriot #9 level, stopped in the middle to ask me if that was a different violin from usual. When I said yes, he said that he thought so--it didn't sound as good.

April 9, 2017 at 06:42 PM · "I can't really tell if Oliveira is playing his del Gesu (Stretton) or Strad (Molitor) in this video"

According to the comments, it was a Jay Haide.

April 9, 2017 at 06:56 PM · The comments are not backed up (promotional?). Oliveira never answered the question about which violin he is playing. He does own a Strad and a Guarneri, don't know if he also has a picnic Jay Haide. Certainly this venue could be worthy of one of his two Italians.

April 9, 2017 at 07:11 PM · After listening to it a second time with my very high quality headphones I still cant decide to like it.

But honestly, maybe it is just the recording. I cannot really imagine why he should use a Jay Haide in this context other than for demonstration reasons.

I also watched a video where he propably plays a del Gesu (just deciding from optics, might also be a copy), this violin has a great response. He mearly touches it with his bow and the sound is comming.

April 9, 2017 at 07:15 PM · I agree with Marc. And it seems like he's really pushing to get sound out of the violin. Listen to the bow changes, where he's fighting to keep the sound from stopping, and the momentary delay in getting the string started again.

From the Ifshin site, it does look like this is indeed Oliveira's Jay Haide l'Ancienne. That's a $2,500 Chinese workshop fiddle, basically. He is Ifshin's "featured artist", so I'm guessing that he was paid to make that video using that violin.

April 9, 2017 at 11:02 PM · Compare to this Elmar Oliviera recording which I believe is his Guarneri:

Elmar Oliviera is (in my opinion) extremely picky about violin performance. He was one of the tone judges at the 2016 VSA competition, where only one out of about 300 violins was judged to be worthy of any recognition at all for tone.

So it wouldn't surprise me if Elmar's Haide violin (which lists for $3400 on the Ifshin site) was hand-picked out of their inventory as the best one. It sounds OK to me, but not easily confused with his Guarneri.

April 9, 2017 at 11:12 PM · Lydia and Don are correct. Ifshin's web site has a link to that same video saying it is one of their Jay Haide premiums. Generally speaking, for $3,400, would you say that one can find better response and tone than this sample? Or is this about right/average in this price range?

April 9, 2017 at 11:49 PM · my first reaction on seeing the video, was "that doesn't sound like a Stradivari".

April 10, 2017 at 01:32 AM · I think it depends what you're looking for. You have to look at the whole range of trade-offs. For instance, that Meditation doesn't give you any idea how good the thing sounds in the upper registers, or near the bridge, or in fast passages demanding clarity, or what it'd be like to try to blend that sound in orchestra.

My guess is that whatever was given to Oliveira is the best they've got in those models. My experience with Jay Haide instruments is that they're perfectly decent for their price point, but you won't mistake them for anything other than student violins.

April 10, 2017 at 01:41 AM · It is hard to comprehend that, despite many discussions so far, some people still use terms "professional violin" and "upgrade to x dollar violin".

The root of this cognitive error lies in a belief that if one uses a violin of a certain category, one will magically jump into "professional circle", become a better violinist and/or start earning money.

It may appear as an anchor in the uncertain and non-regulated field of violin trade, but as such is illusory and useless.

It would be more useful if one would asses one's current instrument as objectively as possible, and identify the attributes one is missing or looking for. This process and this knowledge, not the new instrument itself, will move you one step closer to become a professional / better violinist.

April 10, 2017 at 02:41 AM · I think by this stage on this thread, "professional violin" is intended to be specifically in the context of winning and keeping a pro symphony job. Although not everyone is necessarily staying within that context in this discussion.

Part of the challenge is that someone who hasn't played a lot of instruments isn't necessarily aware of what traits their violin is missing. For that matter, a lot of players aren't necessarily at a technical level to discover what their violin is missing (in which case they don't need an upgrade).

April 10, 2017 at 03:07 AM · I like Jay Haides a l'ancienne except for in my view the overdone antiquing. I owned one for several years. No doubt Don is correct in that the one played by Oliviera was handpicked out of large number of them. The one i picked was quite responsive and easy to play with very decent tone.

Here another performance on a Jay Haide in rather favourable acoustic settings:

the second last entry on that page.

I know from a luthier that a number of professional orchestra members in Ottawa take their Jay Haide rather than their main instrument when on tour outside North America.

Never played a Hiroshi Kono but would imagine they are in the same category. Still own a Romanian violin in that same category of sound and playability across the range. (Recently played a Carlo Lamberti that was not anywhere near that level. )

But the Guy Harrison violin I play is in a different category altogether , quite a remarkable fiddle.

April 10, 2017 at 03:57 AM · I recently tried a Kono -- bright and loud, easy to play (from the perspective of not needing a lot of effort to make it sound), but one-dimensional. I can easily see why a kid would find it an attractive instrument, though, and I'm sure it would make a perfectly serviceable instrument for outdoor weddings, tours, and whatnot.

April 10, 2017 at 04:37 AM · Well I never tried a Kono so don't know personally. Smiley Hsu tried a number of them and likes the one he bought for his son. I believe Laurie has one.

I agree that violins in that category tend to be more one dimensional including to some extent the Jay Haide I used to own. There was a reason I sold it. But then it was quite even,responsive and the sound did not break all the way up the fingerboard. Carried quite well: so a very workable fiddle. I found it did outperform some substantially more expensive violins.

So this brings up the question: what attributes are more important for a professional violinist over other attributes?

To start with an orchestra player - not first desk- I would think that responsiveness, evenness and a decent sound that carries, good all the way up the fingerboard would come before greater variety of colours.

April 10, 2017 at 05:39 AM · A few years back, I tried a violin at MondoMusica that was a consignment from the retired principal 2nd of the Boston Symphony, that I thought was kind of the ideal orchestral violin. Instant, utterly effortless response, clean all the way up the fingerboard. Sweetly beautiful, easily modulated, easy-to-blend sound. Really easy to play softly and evenly. Good dynamic range, good clarity. Enough projection for ordinary solo work, recitals, etc., though you'd have to work a bit at it, and lacking the kind of brilliant power and range of color you want for big concertos with orchestra. Around $45k, if I recall correctly.

I'm blanking on the maker now -- I think it was an early Roger Hargrave, but I'm not certain.

April 10, 2017 at 07:30 AM · Konos are quite good student instruments -- the fractional-size ones are extremely good.

April 10, 2017 at 12:28 PM · One of my students has a Kono; it's quite nice, better than my picnic fiddle. But I would not use it as my primary orchestra violin.

April 10, 2017 at 12:32 PM · Lydia, "For that matter, a lot of players aren't necessarily at a technical level to discover what their violin is missing (in which case they don't need an upgrade)."

Exactly.... but they WANT an upgrade and BELIEVE in the effects of it. This is a perfect storm for dealers or just anyone profiting from the lack of buyer's knowledge. But, then, it is not my money, and I will now sit back, open a bag of popcorn and watch the show unfolding.

April 10, 2017 at 01:02 PM · You have to admit that it can be a joy to play on a better instrument, though -- even an instrument that's beyond your current abilities. Indeed, this may be one of the chief pleasures of moving up to a bigger instrument when you're a kid -- it's almost always an automatic improvement in tone.

There's also something to be said for an instrument that you can grow into, rather than having to explicitly abandon what you have and upgrade. The latter tends to be at the point where your teacher thinks your current violin is untenable -- i.e., after it's already been getting in your way.

There are practical questions, too, like, "If my kid is now ready for a full-size, how long is it going to be before his playing abilities outstrip violins at various price points, and is it better to trade up one instrument at a time, or buy what he'll eventually need now?" For some people, one financial choice will be better than another financial choice.

(Yes, I know that price doesn't equate quality on an absolute basis, but in general, violins within a given price bracket tend to have certain traits, and while you might luck into getting something extraordinarily good in that price bracket, the probability isn't high, so if you're budgeting for a violin that you want now, as opposed to watching and waiting for years to find the right bargain, it makes sense to think in terms of a price bracket.)

April 10, 2017 at 04:08 PM · I wanted to finish reading part 1.

"This is probably the most expensive discussion I've ever been involved in. We started out at 10K and now we're at 50K. I probably should bow out before this goes into the stratosphere :) 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:)"

Some of my statements were intentionally tongue in cheek and they were intended to represent what are probably a minority of players to the extreme. I intended to show some of the less pleasant facets in showing how an outsider might see this subject.

For the record, I wanted to see the discussion get less expensive and I have been wonderfully rewarded with some very good information.I was already convinced it was true that a good instrument could be obtained for a lot less and I didn't think a discussion on how much you could spend was helpful to a 17 year old looking for a violin.

Real homework needs to be done for anyone not experienced. Those starting out are at a real disadvantage. We have "sucker" written all over us. You might be able to get away with it all the way until they hear you play. Like used car salesman, they had you figured 10 miles before you arrived at the door.

It isn't much of a consolation that even experienced players are sometimes sold something other than what they intended to buy.I want to sound professional and I want to play professional eventually, so I want to look at so called "professional" instruments. If I never get that far I can't say it was my instrument.

I keep hearing the theme, " You don't know what you don't know". This is true with any pursuit and this is why we need good solid information from reputable fair unbiased sources.

It's really about the violin. I'm beginning to see that brand names, years and makers are sometimes the only point of reference. This is certainly better than nothing. All makers have duds and sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut.At least it's a basis. In some cases a famous maker is dead and they still use the name. I don't know how many family business you've seen run into the ground, I digress.

There's a glut of used violins on the market in all ranges, not including new violins being made.If you want one, you can get one, and spend whatever you want on it. It isn't really that the sums discussed are extremely large. For me it has more to do with justifying it as a needed expense.

Someone said it takes at least 300 hours to make a decent violin. I fully grok that. From that perspective it should be fairly easy to find a ballpark number for a good violin IF handmade by one luthier is desired. This seems to be the direction pros take.

Some might say it's takes a little longer, some might say it takes a little less. For the sake of the argument let's say it takes 300 hours. The luthier is paying himself and his expenses. Let's start out low and say he pays himself 1000 a week or less. I'm sure some make more and some make less.In some areas you can make it on that. In other areas it's a mere pittance.

He works 40 hours a week. He can complete a violin in around 7-8 weeks.

This is about 8000.00 in labor alone not including the materials,the cost to operate the shop, pay taxes, advertise etc. So I can easily see how a violin can get to be in the 10-12,000 dollar range.

8,000 to 15,000 is probably fair for a violin made by hand.The better more well known luthiers can command more pay and sell more.They can conceivably get 20K plus. If this is justified in the eyes of a buyer.

If he only has one set of jigs he can only make one at a time. He could have multiple jigs and working on multiple violins all at the same time, or at the very least start a few of the easier tasks with multiple violins. Carving and cutting is intensive and requires 100% attention, yet he could do this while glue dries on the others. It's probably more like finishing one and beginning another as opposed to working a bunch at a time.

The less expensive violins are usually that way because the construction techniques use multiple people and might be using several machines to make the process easier and faster. This translates to violins made for less. The distribution is all set up. Make them and ship them out. Sell them online, whatever.

One of the things that I find amusing is all the times I've looked at reviews and a 500.00 fiddle gets all these positive remarks from players who play out often....Yes I know reviews can be made up. I don't think all of them are bad ones though. No, they don't play in the symphony. This would seem to say that other types of music are less demanding on a fiddle.

April 10, 2017 at 05:09 PM · All luthiers that take commissions have to spend time selling and running their business -- meeting with players who are considering a commission, meeting with players throughout the creation process, and much more service when players take delivery of the completed instruments. That all consumes significant time.

All luthiers need to provide service on their instruments -- that's going to be set-up and the like, but sometimes might also involve modifying existing instruments they've made. That will occupy some working hours also.

Most luthiers also do repairs, restoration, and set-up for other people's instruments when they're not building violins, so they do have some source of income other than pure making.

April 10, 2017 at 05:30 PM · Look at the brilliant and long lasting string thread, I wrote sth on how the price is comming together.

Also, yeah, there are a lot of violinists with a lot of gigs and even some concerts (including myself) that dont play at proffessional level.

Also look at the video linked in this thread and the reactions. If you like the violin there, you are perfectly fine.

Btw, whwn I commented about that violin I was thinking it actually is an expensive one, just because of the player. I still realized the "problems" after the first few seconds of the video.

April 10, 2017 at 07:04 PM · I still suggest playing as many violins and bows as you can at every price point and quality level. Work on your technique so that you can play lesser instruments and make them sound good. This will help to appreciate and know when you have a better instrument in your hands.

In the above example: If you are looking for "the best" Jay Haide violin in a group of 50, you need to know which one it is. This can only come with your technique and taste getting better AND having played many instruments.

Also, don't discount the importance of a great bow. The bow is the method by which you drive the violin, and without the nuance and control of the bow you are unable to take full advantage of the instrument you have.

April 10, 2017 at 07:04 PM · double post

April 10, 2017 at 07:14 PM · That could be another thread to this topic..what constitutes a "professional" bow.I totally agree with your last paragraph Douglas.The right bow will save your body from wear and tear over your career.

Thanks for starting this whole thread Lydia!

April 10, 2017 at 07:33 PM · Peter,

I'm afraid a thread like that would open up another can of worms!

I think the answer to what makes a professional violin or a professional bow is: it depends.

Because it is so closely tied to what you are doing, and how you play. The real important thing is to know when you have a great violin or a great bow in your hands!

April 10, 2017 at 07:44 PM · As far as I can tell, if you can play a great instrument and make it sound good, you can pretty much automatically make a lesser instrument sound good. You have a wider range of controls at your disposal, so to speak, and thus a broader range of tricks to use to get the right sound.

The nice things about bows is that carbon-fiber has made "professional"-handling bows available for very reasonable amounts of money, in the sub-$1,000 range. (Sound is another matter, which unfortunately isn't as good with CF as with wood, usually.)

April 10, 2017 at 08:31 PM · I actually find bow shopping more satisfying than violin.In my experience,a bow's qualities are revealed very quickly and they don't change.Either it works for you or it doesn't.The variables are so limited and like dating,first impressions are often correct.

As I wrote last year on another thread,I was trying to move up in levels to Simon,Pajeot and Henry.The first two needed lots of adjusting on my part but the Joseph Henry was electrifying .The sound exploded out of my violin with deep clarity and rich power with perfect balance.That bow would have improved my technique but at $53,000.00USD ($69,000.00 CDN) I just couldn't cough up the denarios.What fun though!! Like Lydia,I recommend trying things out of your price range just to get perspective on what you are looking for. OK no more bow talk...

April 10, 2017 at 09:57 PM · Lydia said :"As far as I can tell, if you can play a great instrument and make it sound good, you can pretty much automatically make a lesser instrument sound good."

That's generally true. Although to judge whether an instrument is good or bad, you need experience playing many violins. Like wine tasting. Otherwise, a great instrument can pass through your hands unnoticed.

Lydia said: "The nice things about bows is that carbon-fiber has made "professional"-handling bows available for very reasonable amounts of money"

I am extremely delighted by some CF bows and the capability they give a new generation of students.

Lydia said: [for CF bows] "Sound is another matter, which unfortunately isn't as good with CF as with wood, usually"

I'd put my Benôit Rolland Spiccato up against just about any bow :). But, it is definitely and outlier, and out of production. I also have some very nice wood bows, contemporary and old masters, and the Rolland continues to surprise me at times.

Peter said "I actually find bow shopping more satisfying than violin."

Bows can certainly have as much nuance as violins, and that make trying them very interesting indeed.

April 11, 2017 at 03:16 PM · Lydia I appreciate the help. With all due respect. I knew luthiers did a lot more.

I think looking at the process helps to see how they arrive at their prices.I'm only looking at it from a general perspective. I will be looking at the subject in more detail.

I can see many potential factors that might skew the numbers drastically, for instance, obtaining partially finished materials for further work. It isn't difficult to get necks and the basic parts to work with pre made . This would take a lot of time off of the production and wouldn't necessarily change the sound, this being dependent on other factors. This might be how some are getting good violins at the 5-6000 range that sound pretty good.

One of my violins was set up in the states, however the violin came from Romania....They throw in these catch words like " Aged Carpathian Spruce". Plays meh. Not terrible.Looks nice unless you know what you're looking at :) A good violinist could probably get some great sounds out of it. I played it a few times in public playing simple material. It's a 1K+ violin. Sorry guys I'm not participating in the Rolls Royce competition. I'm a little like Darian. I don't care for competition in music. It takes the life out of it for me.I placed a high chair in trumpet a long time ago. It was fun playing lead parts. I didn't like the rest though.

April 11, 2017 at 03:59 PM · I would like to know at what point this Rolls Royce competition actually took place. I haven't seen anyone bragging about how much they paid. I've had a satisfying career on a Toyota (sold to me as a Lexis) and a couple of Hyundais.

April 11, 2017 at 04:03 PM · Timothy,

You're confusing a Rolls Royce (fancy) with a Formula One (purposeful tool) car.

Most performing musicians are looking for a purposeful tool to fill their playing needs.

April 11, 2017 at 04:35 PM · That's right, I'm not looking to spend a life fortune just to say how expensive my violin is. If you get to know me, you find out pretty quickly how cheap I am. Maybe not cheap, but frugal at the very least. I never want to spend more money than I have to, I like to spare every expense I can. If I don't have to spend $100,000+ on a violin, then I won't. And as Zukerman says about using old bows, "I don't use old bows, they cost way too much money. If I had fifty thousand pounds, I'd buy a house." Seeming to say you don't need the most expensive things you can find.

April 11, 2017 at 04:57 PM · I read somewhere yehudi menuhin sold his violins to fund his school.

It has been mentioned by others here that the acquisition of a fine violin ($100k +) is an investment that in a few decades could be part of one's legacy. In the meantime, one gets to enjoy a lovely instrument. I don't understand why would anyone begrudge others for doing so.

April 11, 2017 at 07:02 PM · True.

April 11, 2017 at 10:10 PM · Douglas Bevan gets it exactly. I have never encountered a player, whether professional or amateur, who bought an expensive instrument for bragging rights. (I am sure that there are some Russian oligarch collectors who have done so, but you're probably never going to encounter them.) But I've encountered plenty of players who are in love with their Formula One-equivalent violins, that are, so to speak, a pleasure to drive, and a useful tool.

On further thought, I would say that there might be some jostling for "how expensive is your violin" at the middle school or high school level. I remember that to some degree -- it was a status item for some, sort of like whether you had a Swatch or wore Nikes rather than cheap knock-offs. But the kids who were talking about that were ones whose parents were spending $1,000 on a violin instead of $500. Anyone whose parents had actually bought them an expensive violin were mostly pretty quiet about it, or were in a "tool" mode rather than a "look how much money my parents could spend" mode.

You will probably never be asked what instrument you have in an evaluation context (like an audition) unless they think that your violin is inadequate for your playing level, or it really sounds terrific and they're wondering what it is. (And if you can make a student violin sound terrific, more props to you!)

If someone could introduce me to a really awesome $2,000 violin, I'd probably buy it, for situations where I don't want to risk an expensive violin. (For instance, I coach chamber music for middle schoolers, and they are not, shall we say, careful about instruments in their vicinity. I use a carbon-fiber bow in these situations but I don't have a spare inexpensive violin.)

I've spent quite a lot of effort over the years looking for a less-expensive great instrument, and they are really not easy to find. I envy the folks who've managed to spend relatively little money to get a great violin, but for most folks, unless they're getting a personal hand-off from someone else who found a great deal, that's a search that spans years, and a huge amount of effort.

April 11, 2017 at 10:43 PM · Oh boy, I'm in for a rough ride then. Today I got a compliment on my sound from someone from the national guard band who teaches band and more recently orchestra, and he said "that's a great sound you have." Probably doesn't mean much to me considering he's not a professional string player/teacher.

April 12, 2017 at 12:21 PM · " I would like to know at what point this Rolls Royce competition actually took place. I haven't seen anyone bragging about how much they paid. I've had a satisfying career on a Toyota (sold to me as a Lexis) and a couple of Hyundais."

Ha ha, Mary Ellen you have a sense of humor. That was funny. I was trying to get away from that mindset and threw that last statement in there as humor. I need to watch myself online, because there have been too many times when the things I've said were taken differently than intended. IF there is any competition I won't be in it.

Bragging is usually done in selective statements designed to look like casual conversation.Have I ever bragged? Yes I can't deny I've done it.And why should we care? Lots of people go to great lengths to impress people they don't know. Does it get into the subject of violins? I can't see how it wouldn't show up from time to time. I don't think anyone goes around blatantly advertising. A person who thinks they are important for whatever reason will usually let that get out in one way or the other. Material things are superficial to me, things are tools to use. It doesn't really define anyone. Some people glory in knowing that they have something someone else doesn't have and they like to make that known. We can't deny it's a trait of human nature and therefore spreads across all boundaries. As an example- I am invested in lifetime software updates for a software program. The company closed the door on the program and started charging more for that benefit. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say to the poor person who didn't get into the deal," Gee, I don't have that problem, I have free lifetime updates". You going hungry? Sorry about that, I won the lottery.I never need to worry. It's not only cruel, but shows a total lack of empathy.

I suspect that you don't have this in your character. Those who don't have it in them can't understand why someone else would be that way. I wish more people were like you.

Most of the best people I've ever known were some of the most humble.One of my teachers is somewhat of a local legend. He plays at least a half dozen instruments and there isn't one he doesn't excel at.

You won't find a more gentle, kind understanding soul anywhere. I have never heard him brag about anything. He is tuned into other people and you don't get the feeling it's all about him. He has played in numerous symphonies and orchestras as a guest soloist on violin.

This would apply to anyone I have ever held in high esteem and respect. They listen more than they talk.When they do talk what comes out is wise.

April 12, 2017 at 01:03 PM · Actually this is a complete unusual behaviour between musicians as far as I encountered. I know people bragging about competitions they won, but owning a good violin is just to causal to brag about it, I guess.

I heard more people complaining about specific problems on instruments (something like that specific note on that specific string does not sound in line with the others, I hate to have to think of different fingerings all the time) than what is great aboout the instruments.

April 12, 2017 at 03:57 PM · Sounds about right. My last violin, I wasn't going around saying I spent $2200, I was always saying its sound was too dark and unprojecting.

April 12, 2017 at 04:50 PM · Timothy, my point was that your posts come off as a bit scolding to the rest of us in a discussion that has frankly not had any of the "bragging" content to which you continue to allude.

Outside of this discussion, I have also never participated in or even overheard any sort of "bragging" about the cost of an instrument. It is just not done. Factual information is provided when asked for, that's all. Aside from the social maladroitness of holding up excessive cost as deserving of praise, no professional musician in his or her right mind is going to publicize the value of what might indeed be a very expensive instrument, and thus become a target for thieves.

April 12, 2017 at 05:01 PM · And people can sometimes seem a little embarrassed about it, too. Some years ago, my new stand partner in my community orchestra, a guy fresh out of college, had a terrific-sounding instrument. Consumed with curiosity, I asked him what it was. It turned out to be a Guadagnini; he said rather apologetically, "My parents are wealthy and they insisted on giving it to me."

The players most keen to show you an instrument tend to be the ones who've just gotten a commission delivered and are super-excited about it -- understandably so!

April 12, 2017 at 07:53 PM · That makes sense.

April 12, 2017 at 09:33 PM · I have a very nice violin and bow and bragging about it to the world is the last thing I want to do as I do not want the to draw attention to it. If someone asks me what it is I will just say it's a nice German factory instrument as I do not really care what others think.

April 12, 2017 at 09:48 PM · I also don't hear most people discussing instruments much at all.

April 12, 2017 at 11:21 PM · Lydia wrote:

"The players most keen to show you an instrument tend to be the ones who've just gotten a commission delivered and are super-excited about it -- understandably so!"


While I often agree with you, I won't this time. People tend to get pretty excited about the purchase of a Strad too. Really expensive violins tend to be featured in the program notes of major players, whether or not that particular violin was actually used for that particular performance.

A scant few may be willing to publish that "Joe Blow" made their violin, but I'd consider that to be more the exception than the rule.

April 13, 2017 at 12:20 AM · I think there is a difference between what one writes in one's bio for publication, and what one talks about with friends. Lydia is referencing the latter, David Burgess the former.

April 13, 2017 at 01:00 AM · Yes, casually, we rarely discuss instruments. Mostly technique and expression.

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