Finding The Right Violin

Edited: April 19, 2018, 10:18 AM · In the beginning I surmised there was a way to determine the quality of a violin at a distance based on getting all of the information I could about it.Looking at the specifications. Raw specifications can be misleading. I don't intend to say they don't help in the right hands.

I decided I'm just not that good yet at determining something of high quality that involves so many variables.I needed hands on testing.

I kept hearing the same lines," A beginner won't notice" or " A beginner can't experience the benefits". I noticed right away.

Prior to visiting a shop I had three violins. Two in the intermediate range and one student version which incidentally sounded better than one of the more expensive ones.All of these violins were holding me back.

All it took was one visit to a local shop to play a few very good violins. The owner was very concerned that he set me up with just the right violin for me.He has been a luthier for a long long time and this boosted my opinions of his suggestions.

One of the ways I could tell immediately-I could play things I struggled with so much easier. It was as if I had become another player. Granted my technique issues were still there but much less so.The other way I could tell- It wasn't nearly as difficult to get sound from the violin and the notes seemed clearer.

The violin I bought is nick named "coffee". The owner told me it was a custom build. I can only infer that some of the internal parts must have been pre fabricated to get the price I was given. He didn't tell me that and he said it took months to build it, so this is only a hunch on my part. I really don't care. It's a great violin. I don't like the upper harsh sound of the German violins. It has beautiful tone on all strings. Just right. I bought a bow he recommended. It isn't pernambuco but it has the nice tone you can't get with anything carbon fiber and it's responsive.

It's been a long journey for me. 4 violins. If I could give one suggestion to those looking for a violin it would be go to a luthier who has a shop and hasn't stopped caring about the customer. Try out a wide selection of violins. Play a year or two first on something passable to get a feel for what you think you want.You won't really know this until you play for awhile.I would say unless you buy high end right away you'll be buying at least two violins through that process. If you buy high end right away you might still make the wrong choice. I played several high end violins that were double the price of mine and I didn't like them.

Replies (7)

April 19, 2018, 10:35 AM · Finding the right violin is a quest. I mostly just try a bunch of affordable violins and pick my favourite one.
Edited: April 19, 2018, 11:33 AM · Personally, I wish there was a greater selection of instruments available on loan or lease, rather than strictly for purchase. If would be nice to trade in or upgrade once in a while without having to make a large upfront capital investment.
April 19, 2018, 2:13 PM · If you're looking to buy an instrument at a certain level (anything above intermediate, really) many shops will loan you the instrument for 2-3 weeks after you make a selection, so that you can get a more in-depth look than the impression you got in the shop. I had my current viola on a three-week loan before I actually bought it.
Edited: April 20, 2018, 6:38 AM · @Ella Yu- I did much the same thing.

I think it's also a good idea to play several of the best violins even if they aren't affordable to get an idea for how they play and sound. I played a few that were well above my pay grade. I'm glad I did, because it helped me to zero in on qualities I liked about the less expensive ones.

@Andrew The shop I used has a trade in policy for equal value. I can't take it back for cash but I could trade it for something else.I received a 10% discount on my first purchase which made me wish I had bought even higher. If I go back in five years I won't get that.

I always feel I'm playing a game in these kinds of situations since there are no price tags on the instruments. The seller could be running the numbers as we go. I tend to be very honest, probably too honest.I haggled a bit and I think that helped.No doubt he built in room to haggle.

Another tactic seems to be playing low to high and then going back to "low" which really isn't low but it's lower than the highest ones :0).

I don't enjoy playing that game. I think I made out ok though. I didn't buy an antique. I bought a well built locally crafted instrument at a decent price. I have no excuse now for my bad playing.

Edited: April 20, 2018, 3:18 PM · I agree with Timothy about trying instruments above and way above your price range. It a way to learn.

In 1951, when my father bought a violin for me that I still love and play, the maker let me play everything in the shop I chose to including the Amati he kept in his safe. I chose a Strad copy (one of 5 identical ones he had finished earlier that year) because I actually preferred its tone to everything else in the shop - including my Dad's Scarampella. Ever since then, when I am going for a new instrument or bow purchase I try everything in the shop they will let me try.

So much of the sound we hear depends on our own hearing curve (audiograph), thus it is very possible to find close comparison of a reasonably priced instrument to a much more expensive one --especially in today's market.

April 20, 2018, 3:08 PM · Andrew wrote:
"I agree with Timothy about trying instruments above and way above your price range. It a way to learn."

I agree too. How else will one learn what the various price ranges have to offer, if one has never even tried them? Rely instead on promotional literature?

April 20, 2018, 7:22 PM · Trying instruments well above your price range can be great. However, some people have issues with greed, so look at your personality and be careful. The last thing you want to do is be greedy. Andrew Hsieh's idea is great.

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