Violin Upgrade

August 9, 2018, 10:26 AM · Hello, all. I’ve been playing violin for about two years. I still have my starter, a Cecilio CVN 500. I’ve had to have the bridge lowered, changed to synthetic strings and had the grooves in the nut adjusted to get the strings lowered to be closer to the fingerboard.

If I could do it again I’d have looked for a better quality starter violin but knew next to nothing at the time.

I’m shopping to upgrade now and have read very good reviews on Carlo Lamberti Classic and Master instruments. They’re available from Shar on a trial basis I believe. Would anyone have any thoughts on the upgrade? Any thoughts on what I should consider?

Replies (12)

August 9, 2018, 10:57 AM · If you are in an area that will allow you to do so, I highly recommend going to a music store, string shop, or luthierie, to find your step up instrument. Especially if you go to a place that specializes in strings, they'll likely have something that will be worlds better than your Cecilio instrument (set-up properly, real ebony fingerboard, real purfling, etc.) and you will get to play the instrument first. I highly suggest never buying an instrument that you've not been able to play first.
August 9, 2018, 11:30 AM · If you have a violin shop in town, start there. You'll pay a few hundred bucks more but the service is worth it. Otherwise, maybe consider SHAR, Southwest Strings, Johnson String Instruments and similar. They can mail you violins and you can try before you commit. Shipping is costly but the prices will be lower and will somewhat compensate.

You're a little past beginner so you need to play some violins to see what you're looking for. Compared with your Cecilio, a new fiddle will definitely make some things easier.

You still don't need to spend a lot of money -- maybe $800 is enough for a decent student level fiddle. Do pay for decent composite strings -- Tonicas or something comparable.

Under $2000 your best deals will either be high quality Chinese workshop fiddles, or a 20th century workship fiddle from Europe that someone has restored.

August 9, 2018, 12:26 PM · For under $2000. I'd look at some of the instruments from House of Weaver, I'm pretty sure you can get them from Potters. Instruments like the Beck, Henson, Mastertone, and Kono are really nice sounding for the price. We are talking $1200-$3000 here and Joshua Bell has a Kono. Just give Potter a call, it looks like they don't have everything listed on their website. I've seen many musicians use these in a hall and they just out perform so many instruments. Check with your local shop and ask your teacher for guidance.
August 9, 2018, 1:25 PM · Just another plug for Carlo Lamberti series from Shar. I was able to try mine out when Shar came to my city (then Cambridge MA) and had an exhibition. I blogged about the search and purchase process here:

The Lamberti was an upgrade a couple years after I restarted playing the violin after a long break. It replaced the first full-size violin my parents bought me when I was 12 or 13, that I still had as an adult and had restarted on.

Nine years after I bought it, I'm still happy with it. People who don't know it is a Carlo Lamberti from Shar are surprised to hear that it is; based on its sound they seem to expect a less humble provenance. So I continue to think it was a good deal and a good value. And although I have advanced in skill since then, I still don't feel limited by it.

August 9, 2018, 1:45 PM · I've seen some really shady ebay deals coming from House of Weaver, obviously new Chinese bows being sold as antiques
August 9, 2018, 1:48 PM · Thanks to all for the replies!

Karen, which Lamberti model are you playing?

August 9, 2018, 3:15 PM · Lamberti violins I think are Chinese instruments. The Martin Beck and Mastertone/Jurgen Klier are Romanian and German Instruments. I think Shar carries the Ming Jiang Zhu, those are excellent Chinese instruments, there is even a model with European tone wood.
August 9, 2018, 3:37 PM · Lambertis are indeed Chinese instruments. Are the Romanian and German ones you mentioned higher quality violins?
August 9, 2018, 4:28 PM · I personally think they are higher quality and better sounding. I used to work at a shop and got myself the Romanian instrument. A lot of teachers and professional musicians locally would get them as second instruments to gig outside and teach. I'm located in Michigan so the shop I worked for would get a lot of Shar converts. Potters may be your best bet to find the Beck and Mastertone. Weaver gets these instruments in the white and finishes them here in the USA with final graduations, bass bar, and varnish. He only deals with up to one shop per state, but I think Potters has the online distribution and good customer service. I wish I could still get them for my customers.
August 9, 2018, 6:51 PM · Let me put in another vote for Potter's which has been my luthier for many years and has been very helpful, particularly when I bought my first (and only) viola. I do not have an opinion on particular violins, but I do have a thought or two on process. Make sure you play a good number of violins and do so with the bow you will be using so that you hear what the violin sounds like and feels like with your bow. And, make sure to have someone else play your top picks for you so that you can hear how the violin will sound to others.

The lurking issue, of course, will be your bow. The usual common wisdom is that you get more bang for your buck upgrading your bow rather than your violin. So, you may also want to consider that option -- try a few better bows on your current violin -- unless your violin is really not very good at all so that a better bow is not likely to have the effect on your sound that you seek.

Good luck! Looking for a new instrument is fun.

Edited: August 10, 2018, 9:33 PM · I am currently trying out the Carlo Lamberti Master Series violin from Shar (the one listed at $1,500.). It definitely still needs to warm up. My other violin was a Scott Cao STV017 which sounds quite nice in my opinion for the price.

I have had the instrument for about a week now and I definitely notice a difference. There is more ring in the sound and it feels more responsive, but my teacher and I are still deciding if it’s worth the price for the extra bit of tone and responsiveness it provides. Under my ear my old instrument sounds very clear and familiar, sweet even, whereas this new instrument sounds foggy and unclear, but with the ring and depth in tone.

I must say though, I feel as though my playing has improved in the last week exponentially. I’m more aware of my connection with both instruments as I’m playing and I feel capable of making my old violin do things I’ve never done before. I’ll see how I feel in a week or even a month from now, but wanted to put in my two cents seeing as how I’m currently testing it out.

I have tried Cecilio instruments before. They don’t sound very pleasant to me at all. They serve their function for someone who is merely curious about the instrument, but if you want to get serious, trying out the Carlo Lamberti will definitely be a completely new experience. There are, however, different roads to go down for choosing a step-up instrument, so do your research and check locally, too, before doing a trial.

If you do try Shar, speak with the representatives over there. As I have it understood, you can apply credit racked up with monthly Sharway payments towards half the price of other, more advanced instruments. So even if you’re renting the Master series, you can apply all of your payments to half the price of a more expensive, better quality instrument. Minus consignments. The downside would be, of course, you’re putting all your eggs into one basket.

August 11, 2018, 5:35 AM · I've had great experiences with home trials from (one of the sponsors... see link on each forum page). I'm just a satisfied customer. I don't work for them :)

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