Help me purchase a violin, I keep getting scammed

November 19, 2018, 4:53 AM · I purchased my very first violin from an online store 2 years ago. It costed me $80. Back then, I knew nothing about violins. Seemed decent to me at first until I started to get more advanced. The string clearance is so high that they dont produce good sound even in the fourth position. If I play at 6th position, I wont be able to press it all the way down without breaking the strings) . When played at 4th position and beyond. they sound like I am playing artificial harmonics at the wrong spot. (in other words, they dont 'ring' at all)
I get really discouraged when I attempt to play in higher positions and so I am forced to limit myself to 1st position, which pulls my learning curve down.

In my country, violins are super rare. I've never come across a music store selling violins. So I went to ebay to purchase a second hand violin, with a budget of $300. I did not want a Chinese violin (my first violin was Chinese), and therefore after failing at several bidding processes, I finally won one. A beautiful violin with a lionhead scroll with an antique case. I was well over my budget and I ended up paying $450 for it.
But then when It reached my country, custom clearance charged me with another $180. I had exhausted all my savings. As a student who's mother is a widow, I had very little to start with. But I was really excited to play on it.

The seller had sent it to me without no strings, and no chin rest and so after spending hours, I got everything fixed. Fingers Crossed, I played some scales on it and was disappointed. The bridge was so low (or finger board so high) that when the strings were played, their free oscillation was being obstructed by the finger board and so they were producing a buzzing sound. I also noticed that the finger board was not in the center. It is tilted towards the left and the strings have to be bent at a horizontal angle at the bridge so that they can reach the tail piece (or the tail piece has to be shifted towards the left). And as if that wasn't enough, the sound post is installed at a wrong spot (it is at 3 finger distance from the bridge)

The country in which I live consist of no luthiers. So I could not have gotten it fixed. Installed the strings and chin rest back on my old violin. Been practicing on the old violin ever since.

Ive been trying to sell it on ebay for a loss. There dont seem to be any buyers.
Could anybody either sell their spare to me, or tell me how I can purchase one by means of internet. My budget is $400.
Yes I know its low by your standards, but thats a huge sum in a country in which I live. Given this budget, I dont expect it to sound like Stradivarius, but I'll be satisfied with it if it continues to serve me for atleast next 5 years. It only has to sound decent and not restrict me to 1st position.

YES, I am aware that one should try a violin before purchasing it, but sire! I dont have that luxury owing to where I live. How I wish I had.

Any Suggestions or guide would be much appreciated.
Thank you,

Replies (34)

November 19, 2018, 5:09 AM · What country do you live in?
November 19, 2018, 5:32 AM · Does your capital city have a symphony orchestra?
November 19, 2018, 5:42 AM · No it doesn't have a string quartet, let alone a symphony orchestra. The culture is not conducive to western classical music. The country has its own instruments and its own system of music theory.
November 19, 2018, 6:14 AM · Here's some old wisdom: when you swim against the flow, you have to swim better. If you are doing an activity that it's not mainstream, you need to learn more skills than when you are surrounded by professionals who can assist you.
If you try to learn motorcycling in a country without mechanics, you need to become your own mechanic.
If you buy a better violin, you will still be dragged by the fact that there's nobody around to check it or to repair it. So learn. Both violins are faulty in the bridge. Learn to cut a violin bridge. You can get 100 blanks for little money. Spend 20 blanks in practice, and then do your tryouts to bring as much from your violins. Learn how to cut and set a soundpost.
You have no Luthiers, but if you are from a developing country, that means that there are many who know how to work wood, and how to fix things, at least easy ones. Takes time to find one, and more time to explain what needs to be done (you have to know beforehand) but it can be done. And if there are other stringed musical instruments, it is similar technique regarding wood and glue for repairs.
It is more difficult, but we don't choose violin because it's easy.

November 19, 2018, 6:26 AM · @Carlos I did try to fix the sound post. It fell. Spent quite some while trying to insert it back, but I could not.

I have one bridge that I share between both the violins. It is high on one violin (old violin), while low on the other (the new one).
I tried to raise the bridge on the new violin (one with low string clearance) by inserting carboard underneath it. But it kept falling off due to strings pulling it towards the neck.
Yes, I did consider cutting the bridge, but you see, considering that I have only one bridge, If I do something wrong, I wont be able to revert back the process. Neither will I ever be able to put it on the violin with already low string clearance.

Thank you though, your comment managed to cheer me up. I was feeling very frustrated when I typed my very first comment.

Edited: November 19, 2018, 7:38 AM · The OP asks for a suggestion. I suggest
Otoh, the OP won't say what country they are in, so perhaps it is so politically sensitive that it won't accept imports from America.
Edited: November 19, 2018, 5:57 PM · For the first violin you got what you paid for, the second violin is unfortunately what you can expect from an unknown seller on eBay. You have some serious figuring out to do if you can't sell that second violin, which will be difficult given its lack of a proper setup. It might not be all that bad, but you just can't swap bridges and, oh my gosh, put cardboard under! One option for you it seems is to figure how to set it up yourself if you keep that instrument. Go on YouTube, and watch as many how to setup a bridge, soundpost, tailpiece as you can possibly find to educate yourself about what you are up against, and what it will take to set it up properly. Alternatively, find a luthier to whom you can ship it out to for a proper setup, that might be your best option. You already invested so much, and you may even have a half decent instrument that may just need a proper setup. If you told us what country you live in that would be helpful.

That said, a proper professional setup can easily cost well over $200, and that's not counting shipping costs, so in the end you could end up spending quite a bit of money. Can you post a photo of the instrument? Does it have a label? Can you post the eBay link? Sadly you may have been better off buying a new Chinese instrument from a reputable source (such as fiddlershop) for what you have spent already.

P.s. as suggested, get online some bridge and post blanks shipped to you. Buy an inexpensive post setting tool, get a sharp knife and some sand paper. For maybe $30 you'll have all you need to do a proper setup. You can even make some of the basic tools you need yourself. Spend a lot of time getting smart about what and how to do a proper setup it will be well worth your time.

November 19, 2018, 8:00 PM · Can you send it back to the EBay seller? Isn’t there a clause if you are not satisfied (or get a product that isn’t quite what it was suppose to be?)
November 19, 2018, 9:46 PM · 1. Was the ebay violin you received exactly as described? I mean, did the seller explictly stated that the violin would be sent without chinrest nor strings? Was the violin shown without chinrest and strings in the pictures? If the answer is no, start an ebay dispute if you still can. You should get your money back if the item was not as described.

2. Even cheap instruments should be bought from reputable shops. I recommend Shar, I've had some good experiences with them, and any of these should be within your price range

Edited: November 20, 2018, 3:37 AM · I live in a remote part of India.

@ Marie: I doubt he'll accept it. He had made it clear that he was not going to accept returns. Also, I doubt eBay's clauses will back me up. On ebay, one can pay via Paypal or Credit Card. I did not have a credit card, (When I did manage to get my hands on a credit card, I realized it was restricted to only $400).
So I wire-transferred him the amount. The payment was not done through Ebay.

Also, the seller isn't at fault. I am. I simply didn't realize one could sell an unplayable violin. The seller's French, and I had to resort to Google Translate to communicate with him.

@Demian: No the seller had not stated he was going to ship it without the chinrest and the strings. That wasn't my concern since I had already planned to use my old strings on it.
The only problem is that the 'tilted' fingerboard wasn't all that apparent in the pictures that he had posted. It was only after I got my hands on it did I realize there was something wrong with the fingerboard. I will post the pictures in a few hours (Studying in the library at the moment)

@ Tom, thanks, I did find the site helpful. I'll try to look for a violin on it.

As far as the custom duties are concerned, I could try beseeching the seller to NOT mention the price on it and send it as a 'gift'. I collected the violin from custom department and realized that the import duties were as high as 30% (on the quoted price)

I could've sold the violin for $350. Someone was interested. But when he messaged me with, "Hi, I really want this violin", it melted me, and I told him to not purchase it because it doesn't play well. I could imagine myself in his shoes. I wouldn't have been able to sleep if I had sold it to him. Haha

I'll rather want someone to just click on 'purchase' without messaging me.

November 20, 2018, 4:48 AM · I wonder if you can spare a small part of your budget on a flight ticket. Sometimes the budget airline has promotion. If not, go on a very long bus trip. That will either get you to a big city or the capital, or another country that either has a luthier, or a violin shop.

I think there always a risk of buying things online that you cannot try. There is no guarantee the next violin you pick online, even from a reputable dealer, is 100% fit your requirement. So either you are flexible, or can live with some defects, or the dealer has a good return policy, it is the best to visit a shop.

Also, if you can locate a luthier in another city, you can always email him and ask if you can post the violin to him, he fixes this and that and post it back to you.

Edited: November 20, 2018, 6:16 AM · @Sivrit There are no luthiers in this country. I can assure you that. 99.9% people here have never seen a violin.
My own violin was the first violin I saw and touched and continues to be the only one I have ever seen. And Im 20

Tom's solution seems the best to me. Eventually, I'll have to purchase a new one so that the faulty instruments do not hinder my growth.

November 20, 2018, 6:34 AM · They make violins in India, and Indian classical music uses the violin, maybe not where you are but in India.
November 20, 2018, 8:03 AM ·

"Krishnan’s concern is understandable because the violin is not an Indian instrument. It came to India only in the early 19th Century, and even though it became crucial to Carnatic music, it is manufactured only in north India, in the town of Rampur, near Moradabad. " from

Edited: November 20, 2018, 11:23 AM · Aditya wrote "I told him to not purchase it because it doesn't play well." ...

Nice of you but you actually don't know how good/bad it might be if it were properly set up. Just be clear about what you are selling and what you know about it, be honest and you have no reason to feel guilty. Obviously a violin with cardboard under the bridge's feet is going to sound awful no matter how good the instrument might be.

Note: adding to tammuz comment, violin maker in Rampur India

Surely they can set your instrument up somewhat properly.

November 20, 2018, 12:25 PM · India is a very large subcontinent and for all intents and purposes the OP may as well be in a different country, but I googled and found luthiers and/or violin shops in Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, and Calcutta.
November 20, 2018, 12:54 PM · It is a large country indeed. But the OP stated there were no luthiers in the country...
Of course, I have no idea what sort of quality they offer compared to online vendors but maybe OP could look into that.
November 20, 2018, 1:11 PM · Hi,
I found a link that may be useful...

Also,if you own 2 violins,and youre a bit short of money,perhaps you could consider using the lesser quality violin as part payment for getting the better violin set-up properly?

Good luck..

November 20, 2018, 1:56 PM · Mumbai, aka Bombay, had a western symphony orchestra at one time, founded by Mehli Meta, Zubin' M. father.
Edited: November 20, 2018, 2:42 PM · @Joel : Yes there used to be a symphony orchestra. But it was short lived. It got disbanded.
Zubin Mehta used to make fun of Indian symphony orchestra (which offended a lot of people) because he believed they were incapable of playing western classical music.

The Indian classical music does not involve high positions. When Indians do play music on violins, they hold it in a very different fashion, by sitting crossed legged with scroll of the violin between their toes, facing the earth. Like this:

India’s most renowned violinist, L Subhramanyam too plays exactly in this fashion. (Look him up on YouTube, and I bet you’ll be disappointed by his ‘virtuosity’)
It is very difficult to spot someone who manufactures Violin because people who do, are not well off with no internet access. Finding articles about a couple is easier than actually finding them on ground. (It’s a poor country)

These violins are NOT meant for the higher positions in the first place because Indian classical music involves only scales. The first and second positions serve the purpose. They are made from terrible quality and I could purchase them for $40 (so you can well imagine the quality). Their bodies are not arched and are made from 2 straight planks of wood stuck together.
The violins that are sold here are imported from China. I received mine from there.
When I was looking for a shoulder rest, I ended up visiting atleast 20 different stores. None of them had anythibg related to Violin. And I ended up getting it imported from Amazon.

November 20, 2018, 3:36 PM · Did it disband? I found this:

The next show is 10th Dec Juhu (Mumbai?).

November 20, 2018, 3:43 PM · Using a price sheet from the linked and a rough online conversion, you could get 15 violins with cases, etc., for about $850 US (plus taxes and shipping) which don't look anything like '2 straight planks of wood stuck together'.

Aditya I think you've made a mistake in denigrating local and Chinese instruments. At your price level, you should be looking to buy in the east rather than from the west. People in the west and elsewhere do that too; it's a simple matter of economics - labour costs and currency differentials.

November 20, 2018, 9:44 PM · @Sivrit, it’s a Concerto for ‘tabla’, Haha
Edited: November 21, 2018, 1:08 AM · "@Sivrit, it’s a Concerto for ‘tabla’, Haha "

What ? The Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI):

- next show (10/12) features a violin soloist playing Barber Adagio for strings and Beethoven Romance in F
- February show features yet another violin soloist playing Saint-Saens concerto no.3

Maybe violin is not hugely popular in India, but I don't know why you said stuff like "the Symphony orchestra got disbanded".

A quick search gave me this luthier in Bangalore, India who offers service for customer all across India.

Edited: November 21, 2018, 5:06 AM · @J Ray: "Aditya I think you've made a mistake in denigrating local and Chinese instruments. At your price level, you should be looking to buy in the east rather than from the west."

Quite. Stentor, for example, are made in China. Although I suppose their availability depends on the parent company's marketing policy.

Edited: November 21, 2018, 5:52 PM · A beginner I know bought a Stentor violin from our local luthier-run violin shop in Bristol, England, who had set it up for her (that's a very important point). She asked me to play it so that she could hear its real sound (hopefully!).

I was impressed with its firm tone and response, and its playability well up the fingerboard. I think the strings were Dominants. As one would expect, at the price she paid it wasn't professional violinist quality but it was a value-for-money inexpensive instrument that in my opinion would take her well up the amateur ladder, depending on her teacher of course.

I know of worse violins being played regularly in community orchestras!

December 1, 2018, 12:29 AM · Even though your first violin was crap, they do make very nice student violins in China, the problem probably is that they go to straight to luthiers in different countries.

India is such a huge country, so are you sure there are absolutely no luthiers there? Ive watched Indian traditional musicians play quite the normal violin, so they must have someone to help them there when the violins brakes. After all its the same violin whether you play traditional Indian music or Western classical music

Edited: December 1, 2018, 12:08 PM · I produced a few concerts for Dr. Subramaniam here in the US, and I thought he was a skilled violinist in his tradition, which indeed does involve working up the neck. Your comment that "Indian classical music involves only scales" and your attitudes about music and musicians from your own country strike me as sad and uninformed. Good luck on finding a violin.
Edited: December 2, 2018, 11:58 AM · Re: "India is a very large subcontinent and for all intents and purposes the OP may as well be in a different country"

Just thought interesting to point out that geographically India is actually about 1/2 the size of Canada! With fewer luthiers that I can count on the fingers of one hand in each of Canada's major cities, anyone living outside those metropolis may as well be living in a remote part of India as violin is concerned, so the OP's situation in not all that uncommon.!MTY1MjEyNzE.MTIyMDQxNTI*MTYxNDk1MTI(MzUyMzkzNTY~!CONTIGUOUS_US*MTAwMjQwNzU.MjUwMjM1MTc(MTc1)MA~!IN*NTI2NDA1MQ.Nzg2MzQyMQ)MQ~!CN*OTkyMTY5Nw.NzMxNDcwNQ(MjI1)Mg~!IN*MTA4MjcxODc.MTg5MzIyODA)MA

December 2, 2018, 2:25 PM · Now that the web is here, however, perhaps an exchange of photos or a Skype call to a luthier might clarify some options.
December 3, 2018, 6:49 AM · The violin is an expensive hobby. Trumpet, clarinet, or saxophone are cheaper.
December 5, 2018, 7:24 PM · I LOVE my Gliga violin, made in Romania. Excellent quality for the money.

Use the link below to send them an email asking about shipment to India.

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