Recommend Any Violin Shops?

February 7, 2004 at 08:48 AM · I am searching for a violin and was wondering if there are any shops you violinists recommend. I live in Florida and have tried working with the String House in Rochester, and am currently looking at violins from John Montgomery in Raleigh and Reuning and Sons in Boston. I have seen the have visited Gengaki violins and Atlanta String shop in Atlanta and Gainsville violins and Robertson and Sons in Albuquerque, NM with no luck. Any other places to check?

Replies (38)

February 7, 2004 at 02:25 PM · You seem rather picky. Those shops all have violins. You might well take a trip to Chicago and hit all the houses there.

February 7, 2004 at 03:25 PM · Ryan, as Stephen says, all those places have violins. So since you say you've had no luck, let's refine your question a bit.

Are you looking for a violin by a specific maker?

Within what price range are you looking?

If, as you say, you're not a violinist, how are you judging the violins you do see?

What, in general, are you looking for in the violin you intend to buy?

February 7, 2004 at 07:02 PM · Sure, Williams and Gengakki HAS violins, but they're overpriced and of so-so quality.

If you're serious about quality and price, go to Philadelphia or Chicago, especially Chicago. I bought my violin and bow at Carl Becker and Sons there- I couldn't imagine better service, the quality is superb, and the prices are good. Bein and Fushi is great if you are looking in really high price ranges, but not so for lower prices. It really depends on what you're looking for.

February 7, 2004 at 10:24 PM · Earth to people!!! I play violin!! Duh! I'm very picky because I play violin!!

February 7, 2004 at 10:25 PM · Sry! In my posting it sounded like I was looking for my first violin. Actually what i meant to say was I'm searching for an upgrade.

February 7, 2004 at 11:05 PM · Sorry, Ryan, I changed the tag on the thread to reflect that you play the violin. :)

BTW my only experience with Bein and Fushi of Chicago is that of being a student and getting royally ripped off, and all that in a highly stressful environment!

February 7, 2004 at 11:12 PM · Ryan, there are some extremely knowledgeable players and teachers who read this site. If you give them an idea of your price range they may be able to help you. Also preferences regarding size or model, tonal qualities, etc. could help everyone get to the point more quickly. Good luck, I hope you find what you're looking for.

February 8, 2004 at 07:15 PM · Laurie, yeah, I agree about Bein and Fushi. . . they tried to sell me a pretty low quality violin that was out of my stated price range. . . and all the while, there was a Korean woman three rooms away playing Ysaye 6 on a Strad! Not fun.

February 8, 2004 at 08:14 PM · Ken Warren (or Warren & sons?) in Chicago is very reputable and I've found them to be low key and nice. I had some first rate repairs done there and also tried out some fiddles for sale there.

I've also heard negative things about Bein & Fushi.

A few colleagues I know have bought their instruments from the Burlington Violin Shop in Vermont. They spoke highly of the poeple who run it and also of their selection and pricing.

Many people I know have also bought their violins from Moennig in Philly. They seem to do a very big business and I have yet to hear anything negative about them. The little "medallion" on the tail piece is their tradmark. I believe it's on every violin they sell.

February 9, 2004 at 12:12 AM · Greetings,

I recently had a student consider a violin from William`s Gengakki in Yokohama in the 20-30 k range. I actually sort of like the place and their policy of only selling perfect instruments seems interesting, albeit somewhat limited.

On this ocassion the student was told that if she wanted an upgrade in the future then they would pay her pack the full cost of the first insturment as part of the deal.

I expressed some reservations about this based on an experience I had with J and A Beare in London. I bought a top quality Pique from them thirty years ago for a heck of a lot of dosh. Four years later I had to sell it and asked them how much they would give me for it. Without batting an eyelid they wrote me a check substantially higher than what I had originally paid them that refelectd a fair profit for them and a reasonable investment for me.

What do people think about the doubts I expressed in this student`s case?

Cheers,

Buri

February 9, 2004 at 02:43 AM · I am looking in the under $10,000 range. I want a brilliant instrument, but still with a full bodied tone. I had trouble with other brighter sounding instruments because the lower strings were worthless. I need a very even sounding instrument that is extrememly clear and very respsponsive.

February 9, 2004 at 04:46 AM · Under $10k is a tough price range. Many new instruments are more than that. Some substantially so.

Reunings is good in that range. And I think the people there are OK. I like them, anyway. There are a couple of other people in Boston, Andy Weinstein and Paul Wissemeyer. They tend to work more in this range. And I think you can trust them. I've left with a positive impression of Moennigs in Philadelphia. I'm not sure about their selection in this range. I do think they charge a bit more than market. But they are not unreasonable to deal with.

You might try the Brobst violin shop in Washington. They have a large selection more or less in this range. There are a couple of shops in San Francisco that are good (plus, you get to go to SF). Roland Feller is in the city itself and Ifshin's is in Berkeley. I like Ifshin's and their prices are not bad. They would probably have things in your range.

As for Chicago, Bein and Fushi is overpriced and their style is relentless. Buying a used car is a walk in the park compared to dealing with them. As for Kenneth Warren and Sons, someone whom I consider quite knowledgeable told me they have the best bow collection in the country. But the proprieter of that shop has a propensity for rudeness that I couldn't tolerate. I can't even say that about B&F.

One other shop that occurs to me is Claire Givens in Minneapolis. They tend to work in the range you are considering.

February 9, 2004 at 04:41 PM · i would try all the string house instruments, they have some really good deals

February 9, 2004 at 04:52 PM · You could try New Jersey dealer Hans Nebel. He is located in Harrington Park, NJ. We purchased an instrument from him. He has a nice selection in this price range. If you are interested, e-mail me for his number.

February 10, 2004 at 12:12 AM · Greetings,

I just noticed in an old copy of the Strad that Givens has a web site and on one of the pages (I think it is called Backstage) there is advice on choosing an instrument, caring for it and so on. might be of some interest,

Ceers,

Buri

February 11, 2004 at 07:01 PM · I work for William Harris Lee & Co. in Chicago, and it sounds like you are looking for things that we would probably be able to help you with. http://www.whlee.net

February 11, 2004 at 07:54 PM · I am a David Mitchie fan myself - he's in Philadelphia. Paul Stevens, in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, has some nice violins too. David is a great guy and won't rip you off, and he's really invested in trying to help you find what you need.

February 12, 2004 at 06:51 AM · I love Reuning & Sons!! They have a receptionist and are the most polite people I've found. (assuming they have a selection in the range that you need.)

February 16, 2004 at 01:51 PM · Violin experiences:

My string quartet has as its violist an aging fellow of 88 years. He recently went into his closet and showed us about 8 violins he had purchased or acquired during his lifetime. We were astounded as to why a opera house violist would hoard violins. He is reluctant to part with his batch of violins yet he lives in a very modest house and doesn’t own a car. I’ll play on his violins one by one and tell you all how they sound.

February 16, 2004 at 07:37 PM · A friend of mine who's looking for an instrument has been following this thread with interest, and pointed out to me that nobody here has yet recommended any shops in New York. So, since I happen to work for Machold Rare Violins, I thought I might make the official plug. Most of the shops in NYC (particularly ours, I might say) won't treat you with the high-pressure atmosphere that you'll get in Chicago, and the prices can actually be reasonable than Chicago or Boston because the competition between the three main shops (Machold, Morel, and Landon) is fierce, as opposed to the domination of Chicago by B&F and Boston by Chris.

As for Machold, lots of people are under the impression that all we sell are Strads, which of course is not true. You could never keep a shop running only dealing in ultra-high-end instruments. We actually have a good selection of instruments under about $15,000. We get them in trade when someone purchases a higher-end instrument.

Just my 2/100ths of a dollar.

Mike

February 16, 2004 at 08:27 PM · Try www.davidmichieviolins.com

March 5, 2004 at 02:47 PM · ryan, if you're ever in the Chicago area, i'd check out Fritz Reuter & Sons. i haven't been there myself, but i've played one of Guenther Reuter's violins that i thought was full-bodied, clear and brilliant. it was also big with a lot of reserve. he's one of those old school makers, trained in the Mittenwald school and priced within your range. he's won awards from the VSA, so he's been recognized by his peers. i've talked to them and apparently, they don't mail out violins so you'd have to physically go there. but if you're serious about finding THE violin, you'll probably end up looking at shops in the Chicago area anyway. i think it's worth a look.

April 10, 2004 at 12:42 AM · Check it out! www.wamsleyviolins.com

Mr. Wamsley is a former member of the esteemed Moennigs shop in Philadelphia, PA. The web sight speaks for itself. The customer service is wonderful as this shop truly accomodates their customers. Also check out the impressive experience and history this esteemed shop has to offer.

April 10, 2004 at 02:54 AM · I disagree about Wamsley, his instruments are very beautiful, but looks are definitely deceiving. Especially with that price tag!

It's a crime. Sigh. I just checked out Moennig, his stuff is very beautiful but some of the prices are a bit inflated. I actually have one of his violins with me right now, it is a BEAUTIFUL violin, but the sound quality doesn't quite match its outer beauty... David Michie didn't really have much in my price range when I went about a month ago, they were all loned out. (10-15k price range). Good luck!

April 11, 2004 at 12:51 PM · If you live in New York metropolitan area, I would recommend Menzel Violin in Livingston New Jersey. The first time I dropped in that shop, a customer, a graduate student at the Eastman School I happened to meet there told me in my native language that she had been a customer since her childhood and this shop offers the most reasonable price for instruments at all price ranges, from $ 200 up to expensive old Italians. I trusted this young lady's word and tried several violins. I bought an old German made in the late 1700 for $3000. It has a fabulous tone and in good shape. Any other shop may sell it for $5000 or more. Since then, I've frequently visted this shop and found that they do not accept the kickbacks from or give commission to the violin teacher. As a result they keep the price very reasonable. This may anger some teachers. However, if you play and can tell a good violin from a bad one, Menzel is the place to visit.

April 12, 2004 at 04:44 PM · Ryan, you might sneak a peek to Kansas City Strings.(www.kcstrings.com) I got my violin from there and I tell you what, it only gets better. There is a famous cast that has bought from there, including the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. If you are looking at something in the $10,000 range, they have it. Their Strad/Guaneri copies are almost the real thing. A person that bought one was touring in Europe, and in Hamburg, the conductor said, "Your Strad has a BRILLIANT sound!" Too bad it was a real Strad, but you get the picture. Hope that helps.

April 13, 2004 at 04:07 AM · Interesting feedback re: B & F..confirms what I and others had felt about them as well.

April 13, 2004 at 06:18 AM · Daisy - what's the word on B&Fusman? What I've heard betrays a pirhana -style pricing.

April 14, 2004 at 01:30 AM · Ryan,

I think that you will find that any of the big name houses will, of necessity, charge top dollar for their violins. They usually have higher overhead, more advertising, bigger staff and...some have to pay big payoffs to the teachers to "recommend" the violin. This practice is immoral and illegal, but unfortunately common.

If what you're looking for is a good playing violin under $10K, stick to the smaller shops or individual makers. There are folks like Paul Rieman in DeMoines,IA; Jay Rury in Dallas,TX; Jim Reck in Coralville, IA; John Sipe in Charlotte, NC; who are knowledgable, fair and above reproach.

Dan Lawrence

P.S. guess I should suggest my shop in Kansas City, MO

http://www.danlawrenceviolins.com

April 13, 2004 at 10:37 PM · That was pretty slick Dan! lol..

Thomas, I only know about as much as what's been offered in this discussion about B&F, however I'm aware of a family with a fine instrument that were ready to sell it so that it could be played as it was meant to be and they sent it to B&F to be shown. There it sat, who knows how often it was even brought out. It was not a Strad, but a fine, well-maintained instrument played for years professionally. B&F seemed to be optimistic when the instrument first arrived that it would sell. The owner called B&F periodically to ask if there had been any interest, had it been shown, to how many people, etc. They were put off by the administrative person answering the phone or given the same blanket answers such as "It's just not in the price range that is being demanded currently". The owner finally decided it was time to look at other options, so they requested the instrument back. It came back alright..with a B&F bridge! That didn't sit well (Dan, is that typical for a violin house to do when they have an instrument in their inventory that they're showing for someone else?)

Long story short, the family has decided to keep the instrument for the time being, but will probably not look to B&F when the time comes around again. It may have been all standard practice, but there did seem to be an aura of...untrustworthiness? I was just an observer though and couldn't be objective in this case.

April 14, 2004 at 01:32 AM · It's common practice to accomplish whatever repairs or setup is necessary to bring the instrument up to the standards of the shop. Keep in mind that the consignment deal is transparent to the buyer, so the instrument must be sold in top notch condition. This is usually understood up front and I tell my consignment customers that any cost of repairs will be deducted from the sale price or paid in advance. Most people don't realize how long a violin may sit on the shelf before it sells. A quick sale is 6 months and a few years is sometimes the shelf life of a fiddle, especially if it is somewhat unusual. It just takes the right person to come in the shop and want THAT violin.

Regards,

Dan

no gratuitous plugs for the shop this time >;}

April 14, 2004 at 05:09 AM · When I sold my bow in Chicago at a shop just north of Evanston (could this be Becker? It's been quite a while) they gave me a very honest assessment. They said if you want it sold in a couple of months, it will sell for X dollars, if you can wait 6-8 months, you can probably get X dollars. They knew the market VERY WELL. Then they sold it for the amount we agreed on, in very close to the time estimated.

By the way, it was a John Norwood Lee bow, an absolute club, that I got at Bein and Fushi in 1988 or so. When I finally admitted to myself that the pretty thing was way too heavy, I could not sell it outside of Chicago.. No one would even touch it for the bad reputation of those bows. Of course, I'd bought it under the high-pressure, non-helpful, rather pushy, "How about this bow for a thousand more than you mentioned?" Bein and Fushi system.

A little hint for the folks at B and F: those students that come in with just a few thousand to plunk on a bow, they do grow up. They are getting an education in music, and they often go on to have successful music careers. They do sometimes even end up making money. And wanting to purchase better instruments and bows. And they do remember how you treated them.

April 14, 2004 at 10:49 PM · You said it Laurie. Repeat and referral business? Apparently not a priority.

I don't think it was so much the amount of time that it was taking to sell as much as the lack of communication and information that the family was able to obtain about how many times their instrument had been played or shown..just an approximate even. It's a catch 22: if it's not being played, then the sound quality is going to gradually diminish, and if the quality diminishes then prospective buyers are not going to get a true sense of what the instrument is capable of (after X amount of years sitting in inventory without being played that is).

After seeing the B&F bridge when it was returned, I just thought "What the H is THAT??" Felt like they were leaving their "mark" on it somehow..although I do understand why it may have been done (not that it made a difference in the long run) *sigh*

April 16, 2004 at 12:30 AM · Laurie said: "A little hint for the folks at B and F: those students that come in with just a few thousand to plunk on a bow, they do grow up... And they do remember how you treated them."

This is one of the joys of being in the violin business for nearly 30 years. I now have young mothers and fathers bringing in their children and saying "When I was your age my mother brought me to Mr. Lawrence." They kindly don't mention that I had BROWN hair then.

BTW, in my list of small reputable violin shops I left out one of the best: Simon McHugh in Wichita, KS. He's tops in my book!

Dan

April 16, 2004 at 03:36 AM · Trust is really important in your business, Lawrence. You are wise to have cultivated it!

May 15, 2004 at 03:30 AM · Can anyone recommend violin shops in LA? I love my violin, but am always interested in looking ...

May 16, 2004 at 08:07 PM · In LA, Calif.

Robert Cauer Violins

http://www.cauer.com/

(I got my 1939 Contino from there.)

Hans Weisshaar, Inc.

http://www.hweisshaar.com/

May 17, 2004 at 11:00 PM · Go to NYC and visit Rare Violins of New York. They are an excellent shop with many choices to choose from. You can visit their website at www.rvny.com

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