I'm looking to upgrade my violin to a midrange one - I'd like to keep it between CDN $3000-3500. Any suggestions? or where I can learn more about violin luthiers?
I came from playing guitar so I know about Gibson, Fender etc.. and what type of guitar is good for what type of music. I'm curious to learn more about violins.
It's difficult to find instruments worth the price in that range, especially if you don't know exactly what you're looking for.
There are plenty of workshops all over the world producing decent instruments. E.g. from german production this would make a Roderich Paesold PA803 plus proper setup by a competent luthier (setup usually makes a huge difference in this price range) and a nice bow, if you're lucky. If you're looking for the most bang for your bucks, some Chinese instruments in that price range might be "better", but eventually harder to resell for a good price. (Disclaimer: I'm not experienced with Asian violins!)
In that price range it's either vintage or factory made instruments, and if made by an individual luthier probably his/her first ever made. There are some decent factory instruments in that price range, but for any given brand, likely to vary considerably in tonal quality even for the same model, hence best to buy from a reputable shop. Vintage instruments depends on many things, but you can find some pretty decent ones also in that price range. You must however be cogniscent of not so obvious issues, such as un-repaired hairline cracks that may require further (and possibly expensive) attention. Where do you live? Outside Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, options can become rather limited.
If you look hard enough, you can get something good between 1000 - 3000 USD. I saw Collin Mezin for around 1500 that was a pretty good. You should be able to get a decent bow for no more than 1000. Try to negotiate.
Nuuska wrote, "As long as you're not performing, this "my instrument is holding me back" topic we amateurs are so hot about is mostly bull***t."
I am very happy with my Fevrot viola.
correction, you can get a fake Collin Mezin for $1500
$3000 buys a pretty decent Chinese violin. My MJZ viola was $3500 and I'm quite happy with it. If I were a serious (e.g., conservatory) student of the viola, I would have to upgrade as the playability would not be enough. But the tone is great.
I'm always a bit mystified as to what exactly it is about a violin that would hold someone back, as long as it's not an unplayable VSO. The bow I can understand - some really cheap bows simply will not do some advanced off-the-string strokes. But the violin? I'm pretty sure a great violinist will sound awesome regardless of the instrument you put in their hands.
I bought my violin and bow last year in Canada with the same budget, so my experience might be useful to you. I'm a returning adult student, currently playing around RCM Level 7-8.
MD - speaking as a former low brass player the variation in playability is much greater on string instruments than on brass instruments.
@Roger St-Pierre - most of what you're describing sounds to me like setup issues rather than qualities inherent to the instrument, no?
Only the first two are necessarily setup issues.
Lydia - this is a difficult topic. Let's say we're not talking about conservatory students and cigar boxes, or instruments with technical problems and weird conceptuation, but amateurs digging into intermediate rep.
Anything less than a Strad would be likely to hold you back, relative to the Strad itself. Of course, the better the tool, the better you learn!
It's a matter of when, really. A $2,000 violin is plenty for most amateurs to use for life. Most will never reach the "Bruch level" that keeps getting mentioned around here as the beginning of advanced study. But if you're one of the small percentage of violinists who develop the technical ability to study Romantic concertos or play 1st violin parts in Romantic symphonies (this is "advanced" level but still nowhere near professional), that violin will hold you back. You can still use that $2,000 violin, but it will be harder to play if you're playing that kind of rep.
So much for free speech, it appears we're not allowed to criticize violinist.com's advertisers, no matter how shady they may be!!
Lyndon, criticism can be levied without obscenities.
Lyndon, I didn't touch your response, but enough people thought it was spam that it was automatically removed.
I think recommendations for fiddlershop are spam!!
Lyndon, have you ever seen a string instrument less than 100 years old that you don't think is terrible?
Andrew, pretty close. I was thinking "cheap" in the $700-ish and under range for an outfit (violin, bow, and case), where you can get a functional instrument whose limitations are likely to frustrate a student by the time they reach late beginner level.
There are quality instruments being made today in China, its just that they tend to be quite a bit more expensive than similar quality antiques, at least at my shop.
If I was a conservatory violin student, I can't see myself playing on anything less than 10K (it can be cheaper or more expensive, but it should sound at least as good as an average, correctly priced, 10K instrument), since it's the one I bring to exams, pivotal conservatory performances, fruitful practice with my teacher during those years, and at least some initial years of my career later on. Even presuming I don't have lots of money as a student. A 10K violin, chosen carefully, won't lose much resale value after all.
I was asking because I got the impression that several people in the conversation were reading "cheap instrument" as something in the $2000-3000 range, the type that will hinder a conservatory student but not most amateurs.
In my rather limited experience, most adult learners set goals to just play pop/country music they like, possibly to family or groups of friends. It's not particularly exciting playing Bruch at someone's birthday party. Some classical repertoire is ok nonetheless, but it's hard to compete with simpler catchy pop songs that your clueless audience knows well, can clap along, and all can enjoy.
So... I didn't start at a young age at all, I started a little before my 17th birthday and didn't take on advanced repertoire until I was in my late 20s. There aren't that many of us serious players who started late, but we exist.
Problem is, if you begin on a cheap instrument you can only theorise that it would have been easier on expensive (wishful thinking, perhaps denial), and if you begin on expensive, you can only theorise that it would have been harder on cheap (cognitive dissonance).
dealers have every bit as much right to comment on this forum as anyone else, when have I been guilty of shameless promotion like so many others do???
you're the one that's trolling the forum, you've been reported
I really don't see Lyndon's posts as self-advertising except perhaps in the most generic way. Perhaps it's because I've been listening to his rants for a very long time, but his pitch is for shops generally that sell antique violins in the lower price ranges. His argument has always been that if you know where to shop, you can find antique violins that are actually cheaper than intermediate-level Chinese violins but sound at least as good. There are lots of shops like that, not just Lyndon's. How many of us would drive to California to buy a $3000 violin? Nobody's going to do that. Nobody calls out David Burgess for commenting that modern bench-made violins are competitive with Strads for sound quality. Nobody calls out Dimitri Musafia for arguing in favor of bespoke plywood-construction violin cases. Maybe y'all could just calm down a little.
Yes, I think if we were to have a battle for self promotion, David Burgess would have me beat, hands down!!
I mean seriously if I was all into self promotion, I would be talking about the violins I have for sale in the OPs price range, and making claims about them etc etc.
I come at all of this from the angle of having spent many years playing a guitar. Well, actually several guitars. If you want to see people spend money on musical instruments, talk with guitar players. The siren call beckoning guitarists to get the next Fender or Martin, or Taylor, or Gibson is intoxicating. Over the years I've had over 30 guitars in search of the perfect sound. I've had top of the line, bottom of the pit, and everything in-between. People buy them like crazy hoping for the magic to bless their fingers. Guitars fly off the shelves and then sit in closets for years. They don't call those stores Guitar Center for nothing. After all, ever heard of a chain of stores in shopping malls called, Violin Center? The biggest problem, of course, is the fact that no matter how good the instrument sounds, it's secondary to the skills of the player. If you can't play that thing, what difference does it make? So when I put down my guitar(s) and moved to the violin, I got a good instrument for $1,500. Ya, I know, "cheap" eh? Well, not in my bank account. Anyway, I thought about an upgrade, and even went to violin shops and tried out more expensive instruments. Then I stopped myself and woke up. I don't need a new violin. The primary upgrade I need to buy are the lessons I'm taking to improve my own skills. at $50 a lesson, I'm spending between $2,000 and $3,000 a year to learn how to play a violin. This is going to take a few years. I don't know about you, but to me, that's a lot of money. To me, that investment in lessons is probably the best application for my money at this time. My teacher agrees. I haven't moved beyond my current instrument in terms of needing something where I can truly express myself. For the foreseeable future, I'm going to focus on my own skills, and when my teacher says I've outgrown my current violin, then I'll consider buying something else. Even then, I'm going to be realistic. Some people here seem to think $3000 to $5,000 is limited. Well, the way I see it is I'll just have to spend more time looking for a good one, because I know I'll find it.
No surprise that I agree with Michael. And he hasn't even mentioned the guitarists who try different strings every week!
I 100% agree with Michael. Playing ability counts for infinitely more than the instrument. Let's be honest. If Hilary Hahn and I swapped violins, which one of us would you pay to hear perform? ;)
I think the real answer here is sometimes in between.You can do a lot with a little.It usually involves a disproportionate amount of effort to do it. I am beginning to suspect the response of my violin on some strings and the way my bow responds isn't all me.Yes, most of it IS me. Not all of it.
I didn't actually say anything about having an "edge," but now that you bring it up, actually playing another instrument at a high level DOES give an "edge" relative to someone coming to violin with no musical background whatsoever. The most important part of playing any instrument is the development of one's ear.
I agree that being a musician in general helps our ear. I tend to write longer posts sometimes, not really directed at you personally so much as directed at the subject.
if you're not looking for an especially loud "soloist" violin, your options within a given price range are considerably wider. I have had many exceptional sounding violins that are not super loud, exceptional sound and super loud are hard to find, at least in this price range. Now loud and obnoxious, that's pretty easy to find, specially among new instruments.
@Timothy - apologies for sounding a bit prickly. :) My comments about condescension on this board were not directed at you - just a general observation.
Players need different things at different stages of their development.
Lyndon could be right or wrong (like everyone else), but he's honest in his opinion I believe.
Actually, Lydia, in my experience, I haven't found that beginners benefit from having forgiving instruments.
We have quite a few violins of different provenances from later 18th to early 21st centuries. You probably could imagine the wide range of value of these instruments. However, one of the two modern Chinese, Snow JHS, at not-so-cheap price (>5K) turns out to be the favorite for my son, who is an amateur, as he, while talented, is not pursuing music for career.
Erik, that's why I think that it's fine for beginners to start with the higher-end workshop violins. Think of it like the difference between driving a junker and driving a new Toyota Camry.
It's all good M.D.:) I wanted to add that probably the closest instrument to play to he violin is the mandolin. Same string tuning, so those fingerings can be carried across. Some might argue it's the viola but that's a whole different tuning and play range.
Depending on what you mean by intermediate, you shouldn't have to pay anywhere near $3,000. Go to a violin shop and try some Chinese fiddles in the $800-$1500 range. Then put on some good quality strings and have a luthier properly adjust the bridge and soundpost. For beginner/intermediate violins, setup and strings make as much difference as the violin itself.
What galls me is when you see people spending $3500 or $4500 on an "artist model" Chinese violin from a maker like Ming-Jiang Zhu or Jay Haide, and when they found out I spent $3500 on my daughter's violin (German, Eduard Reichert ca. 1890 according to Dalton Potter), they all say, "Oh, you overpaid for that" even without hearing the instrument. It's a really nice-sounding violin. Yeah, sure maybe there are Reichert violins on the market for much less, but my daughter's violin sounds just as good or better than their Chinese violin. I would have bought it for myself if I didn't buy the Topa.
Here's something I've always wondered.
"in what price range would the curve be steepest"
its an exponential curve a 2x price increase may be as little as a 25% increase in sound quality. But a basic violin costs about $1000 below that you're getting into VSOs that aren't even pleasant to listen too.
I'd say Lyndon is being a little harsh on student instruments. To me, a VSO is an instrument that is either so unplayable as to hold back a complete beginner, or likely to cost more to make playable than it did to buy.
"its an exponential curve a 2x price increase may be as little as a 25% increase in sound quality."
I would argue that in the $2k - $5k range, you're largely paying for sound and condition, and not anything else. There might be a bit of brand associated -- i.e. the workshops sell wholesale at a certain price, and therefore retail prices for those models will be in a relatively narrow range regardless of what shop you buy from.
More broadly, the curve is a concave function of price, IMO.
what I meant was something like sound quality is on average proportionate to the square root of the price
A difference of 3k between 2-5K is significant and seems a lot of play within a range. I would rather spend 2k instead of 5K in the same category if other violins are similar in quality going for 5K. I would think there should be a smaller range in between.
Parts of this discussion are amusing because violins are not priced by tone.
I think that $2k-5k is really more roughly $2,500 to $4,500. It basically spans the range from Hiroshi Kono to Jay Haide l'Ancienne.
A really good violinist can get a good sound out of almost anything. I don't know if you can tell from the video above, but Fiddlerman is working really hard to pull that sound out of the violin. He's also not playing with any variation in dynamic range or tone color- probably because he knows he can't on that instrument. I don't think he's being very honest about his $109 tests- there is no way *most* players below advanced levels would be able to pull that sound out of that violin.
"Violins are priced according to maker (brand), condition, appearance, age, geographic origin, and provenance. That’s it."
"I disagree with that 100%..."
Asking price and selling price are two different things. A dealer can ask whatever s/he wants; look at the sales prices. If a dealer can price a cruddy violin and afford to wait possibly years for a naive buyer to come along and buy it, then maybe. But that's the exception, not the rule. They've got to pay their bills too.
Julie, I think Fiddlerman was being honest with that 109 violin test. There are tons of other test videos on YouTube for cheap violins. To name a few:
A top Los Angeles dealer I met told me below $5000, instruments are based more on tone than antique value, above $5000 not true.
In my experience with instruments so far:
Ingrid, very well said. It's not a definite answer to the original question, but it describes the market pretty well. I'd just like to add that I think the 5-10k dead zone describes mainly the situation with new / contemporary instruments. But (rather in the 6,5-10k zone, to narrow it down a little) you can find plenty of authentic and really nice old and mid-aged violins from Bohemia, Hungary, or the more obscure makers from Germany and France. Where I live these are quite popular among professionals who use it for teaching or as working horses in orchestra, but do not regularly perform as soloists, except maybe weddings and such. It seems that one of several sweet spots in the market lies there. Many players (especially those who also are a lot into chamber music) do upgrade when they can afford it, but also not a few stick with that type of instrument for a lifetime. Not sure if this correlates with how ambitioned they are...
I personally find it rather irrelevant to talk about "sweet spot" of violin price. Violin is like wine. You always want more provided that you're rich enough. If you can afford, you won't drink and be content with $10 wines because its "marginal return decrease afterwards".
There are some folks who just do not like how heavy most expensive wines are... But in violins you're right, at least until we reach the 20-25k where you can get a custom made instrument by a top contemporary maker. Old violins with italian names are always tempting, but these would rather interest me from a collector's point of view, if I had severe money to burn. IF these really were more desirable than top contemporary instruments (and obviously it's impossible to clarify this for all of us) then I would not be the one to distinguish these last nuances, unfortunately. Finally, I believe that the market for old Italians has overheated long times ago.
Be aware, that while for many $30,000 is "nothing", there are many serious violinists in this world that love their instrument and who likely still have difficulty getting funds that high for violin that may or not be better than what they have (or in the many cases when it *is* better, doesn't make a practical difference at the price, even when it's fair.)
"Finally, I believe that the market for old Italians has overheated long times ago."
Lydia wrote that a violin in the $2k-5k range might be useful for "outdoor weddings." Interesting qualification. :)
A Hiroshi Kono is a workshop violin that comes in a single model, as far as I know, so there should be very little pricing variability. I'm guessing the $5k is someone with an unrealistic consignment price.
Thanks Lydia, I might consider the lower price at some point for the HK. I also thought 5k for that instrument was unreasonable, unless there's 2K of haggle room there. Very doubtful.
Timothy wrote, "A seller who is also a maker or has an attachment wants the best buyer for the nice instruments."