Time to upgrade or too soon.
I am currently playing on a violin made in 2015, most likely a workshop white violin that has been finished by someone. The price was about 2500 USD and while I do like it, the violin is very bright and it noticeably loses volume from 4th position or higher. I have had it looked at by both a luthier and the professor of violin at the conservatory near my town to see if it was an issue with sound post or set up, but they both concluded it was just an inherent limitation of the instrument. I am currently at about level 4 by violinmasterclass.com standards so I didn't know if it was too soon to invest into an upgrade or not. The price range would be up to roughly 7,000 USD. I do feel I know what I want in a violin now, as opposed to when I first started and I had no idea what I was looking for. I just don't know if it is too soon to upgrade at this stage or if there is even a big enough difference between a ~3k violin versus a ~5-7k violin to warrant an investment. The reason I ask is because I have to travel a fair distance to the nearest reputable violin shop and it's not something I want to do if it's not worth it. My first violin was purchased through at-home trials, which is convenient, but 2 or 3 violins isn't enough to try in my opinion.
Price doesn't always equal quality of sound. In your case, you should get a new violin, but you don't have to look for something noticeably more expensive. You can just look at violins priced around the same as your current and see if there's anything better. I don't think you have to spend more than 5k.
I agree with Ella.
I would trade laterally, looking for a violin in roughly the same price range ($2k to $4k) with characteristics that are more pleasing to you. If you use the same shop, you should be able to get full trade-in value.
Well, the problem is that I trialed 2 violins from a shop and this one from an independent luthier recommended by the violin professor. I don't think shops accept trade-ins that didn't originate from the shop unless they are extremely valuable.
You don't have to necessarily trade up to a better instrument before learning to play the one you have. As an ex-professional I bought a £700 violin for a while and it was Ok to get back into playing the violin after only playing viola for some time. It did however have better sound than some of the £2,000 violins I tried.
You don't need to spend any more money at the level you're at, to be honest.
The violinmasterclass.com website includes in its Level 4 syllabus:
A $2,500 violin can be expected to be pretty decent. You have to realize that except for trading up with your original dealer you can probably expect to get no more from any other dealer you trade in your old fiddle to than half of what he expects to sell it for - that's just the business - and I think I have seen even those with the best reputation love to trade a $12,000 fiddle for another $12,000 one and give $6,000 on the trade-in- it's just business.
I would like to add some thoughts which might or might not fit for you: I guess you are playing for fun, this is not work and business we are talking about with optimized cost/benefit ratio. If something is "worth it" then only depends on if it is worth it to you, no need for outside feedback.
I’m a little surprised that a $2500 violin isn’t better. You should have a pretty decent instrument at that price. Have you had your teacher or other professional play your instrument to see where its ceiling is?
It's perfectly fine to upgrade to something really nice at the intermediate level. The problem is the OP's budget. At $7k, he's likely buying an apprentice-made contemporary violin, or instrument from a contemporary luthier that doesn't have much of a reputation for quality, or an older violin of similarly unimpressive provenance.
I, for your information, just share some of my experience.
this sounds like ad copy!!
Get a third opinion, and a fourth. Before you give up on it, find a luthier who is genuinely willing to work on it to tune it up (it's only an hour or two of luthier time), not a luthier who is offering a casual opinion or just wants to sell you a different fiddle.
Hi Lyndon, my apologies for the impression you got, which is not the purpose for my post.
The violin has been adjusted by a luthier already. The projection in the higher register is the limitation of the violin. My teacher has played it juxtaposed to hers and there is a very clear difference. It’s not the strings either, I’ve tried about 8 different sets of strings and the volume issue persists. The top plate of the violin is fairly thick compared to other violins I’ve seen which probably dampens the sound. Maybe I made it sound worse than it actually is in my original post. The biggest issue I have is the brightness of the violin. I dare say it’s a bit nasally sounding. I would much rather have a violin with a darker, fuller, more complex sound (then again, who doesn’t). To give you an idea of the sound: If I play an open G it sounds like a goose honk XD.
Christopher: I think the potential investment is worth to ask for a second opinion from another luthier. The symptoms you describe are pretty much what improves or worsens with setup. I have suffered them (weak E, honky-G, horrible strangled high positions) and they could be fixed by a lot... and I mean a lot of try and errors of setup. Not a 30 minutes messing with the soundpost setter. Lots of soundposts, different bridges, and days of wait and trial to see if it worked or not.
There's also probably the question of who your luthier is. If it's someone who is really good at doing set-ups, it's a different case than someone who doesn't do many set-ups or isn't all that good at it.
I got an old German violin (ca. 1890) for my daughter and I paid around $3500 three years ago. She and I and her teacher are very happy with it. Some have told me I overpaid. I don't care. I almost bought it for myself until a local pro showed me a Topa he was willing to sell to me.
Thomas Boyer said: if the violin sounds good at 1st position it should sound fine at fourth.
I play outdoor weddings on a 1.8K fiddle that sounds pretty good - certainly there is no drop-off between first and fourth positions. A 2.5K fiddle should be usable for an advancing student. I’m not questioning the OP’s assessment of his violin but I do wonder about its choice in the first place. At that price, it shouldn’t be firewood.
Yes-- that's about the price of a Jay Haide instrument. Not all of those are equally fabulous, but if you looked at no other brand you should still be able to find something quite adequate for most needs.
The volume issue doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the brightness since the things I play rarely go above third position so far. I really don’t like how closed and a nasally it sounds. When I first started playing I had no ear for such things so it didn’t bother me.
The tone of every violin sounds different in higher positions than it does in first position. You can learn to brighten the higher-position tone somewhat with your technique.
Jay Haide makes some good violins.
General conclusion: It's not that you needed to have spent more money, but you got a dud of a violin for the price.
If the violin is too bright try a set of mellow-sounding strings as John C suggested. He mentioned Passione, you can go even further with Eudoxa, though they need tuning more often. A set of Passione is not cheap but it may turn out there is nothing wrong with the instrument. Cheap strings tend to be bright on any instrument (leaving aside plain gut strings).
If you can afford it and enjoy playing it then go ahead. A violin that inspires you is a great source of encouragement, this is an investment in itself.
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