Whats are good student to intermediate violins?

Edited: March 21, 2019, 10:05 AM · About a year ago I thought about getting a new violin from aliexpress in China. People here really poo-pooed that idea. They all said if you don't have a lot of money and want a decent violin get a Gilga. Now I've recently asked about understanding various levels of Gilga's and about half the people poo-pooed Gilgas and said get Scott Caos. It just made me realize I know nothing about violins and am more confused than ever. What are good student to intermediate level violins that are affordable? What about violin styles is there to watch out for, eg Stradivarius vs Maggini? Also is it impossible to get a decent violin from aliexpress? Many have good reviews, though many have mediocre reviews.

Replies (28)

Edited: March 21, 2019, 10:25 AM · Look at Sharmusic. They have a large range of student and intermediate violins in your price range. They are very popular, tried and tested, and every violin there is nicely playable. Their staff also can help you choosing a product if you call. I had the Carlo Lamberti Sonata for $500 and it was fully playable all the way up the fingerboard. Obviously it is a student violin, but it is actually fun and rewarding to play and many people remarked out how beautiful its sound was.They also do rentals and rent-to-own. I know these forums can give you many contradicting opinions, but my advice to you is to stick with something tried and tested when you are in doubt. Best of Luck!
Edited: March 21, 2019, 11:04 AM · Well I live in Israel. It's hard to get to a music store here, and I think many of the brands would be different. There's a large Russian emigre community here, and they seem to love violin, so I'd imagine many dealers are from Russia, with brands according to their tastes. Everything is over priced in Israel which is why I really want to order a violin from aliexpress. Shipping from the USA is crazy. When I priced shipping a banjo Fedex wanted $800 to $1300. In many cases the Chinese will ship for free, certainly under $100. Also I'm not a serious musician. I'm 36 and dabble in guitar and old time banjo. Just looking for something to have fun with that is decent quality and that I can use to show my toddlers the basics, when they are enough to understand instruction as they are turning 3 soon.
Edited: March 21, 2019, 11:40 AM · In that case, Aliexpress possibly could be fine for your needs right now, but I doubt it because it is much less reliable than going to a violin dealer. I started on a cheap violin( or VSO) for $100 from amazon.com and even though the listing said it had an ebony fingerboard, that turned out to be a lie and within two weeks I knew it was unplayable trash from trying to play it, and upgraded to the $500 one from shar. Aliexpress is the same way. Just do your diligence to make sure the fingerboard/fittings are ebony, top is spruce, back and sides are maple, so you know it is not a VSO, and inspect the violin when you receive it to make sure it's all good. You may end up spending a similar amount as at the dealer for an online violin that actually works like it should. I recommend Gliga or a dealer near you if you can.
Edited: March 21, 2019, 3:29 PM · Gliga vs Scott Cao is a matter of taste (when comparing similar price levels). They are both reputable brands. Both are far better than anything you'll get from AliExpress. Maybe there are a few decent violins on AliExpress, but they're floating in a sea of barely functional violin-shaped objects so the likelihood of actually getting the decent ones is almost nil.
March 21, 2019, 11:28 AM · In this forum there is a common habit amongst many people, including myself. No matter which level of violin quality you'll ask us about, we'll certainly tell you the obvious - that for a little more of money you'll get something slightly better. So what...
In your price range (no matter if you're looking somewhere 600-1000 or 1000-2000) you can certainly find enough fairly playable and good sounding violins which can last you a lifetime as long as you're not seriously diving into classic repertoire. Only a few choices could be
- contemporary German / Romanian / Chinese workshop instrument
- 19th/20th century German / Czech / Hungarian instrument, either workshop / factory or obscure maker

I'm living in Europe, so my approach might be a little bit closer and more practical to where you live. Just pm me if you wish, and I'll let you know a few addresses - either if you should someday make a trip to central Europe, or wished to order online.

Edited: March 21, 2019, 11:40 AM · And it definitely isn't only about the quality of the violin - in this range the quality of setup matters as much.
Best would be to buy from a reputable luthier who gets the violins without bridge, tailpiece etc. and does this on his own, or from a good (online) shop which offers the same service by an employed luthier. The 20-30% markup is well worth it. You will have to make these investments anyway for the sake of your mind...
Edited: March 21, 2019, 11:44 AM · Some would say that the answer to your question is, "There aren't any." But of course that's unresponsive and snarky.

They're not Gilga violins, they're Gliga violins. If you buy a Gilga, that's probably a knock-off Gliga. Which you would start to wonder about, since Gliga is already pretty close to the bottom of the pecking order.

March 21, 2019, 5:05 PM · @Paul Deck

Funny. Well what's good then around the $400-600 range? Talk to me man

March 21, 2019, 5:08 PM · @Nuuska M.

What are the good European websites? I've no plans to go Europe as of now, but you never know. It ia a short flight.

Edited: March 21, 2019, 5:11 PM · Gliga is a perfectly fine brand. It's just not a good brand for fiddling, because the tonal qualities run to darker.

Surely there are decent local violin shops in major cities in Israel?

Edited: March 21, 2019, 5:20 PM · If you approach violin buying just like you would buy a mobile phone, you will get exactly what you paid for - a brand.
Instead of focusing on country of origin, brand or shop, get educated about the basic sound properties of a violin. What is called "student-level" (in my opinion a misnomer) is a violin with basic sound properties, sufficient enough for a student to learn, but most likely deprived of advanced level and nuances of a master violin.
Violin ought to be comfortable to play; string clearance, fingerboard shape, neck shape and thickness, easy to tune (more likely fine tuners than pegs), and with standard violin measurements, such as, body stop, neck stop, body size OK.
Sound sound should be loud enough, clear, strings evenly balanced, no weak spots or frequency spikes, relatively responsive, but do not expect many shades and colours, depth or darkness on G, briliance on E, etc. HTH
March 21, 2019, 7:38 PM · Like I said before, Gliga will suit your purpose just fine.
March 21, 2019, 9:03 PM · Gligas are good student violins. I have a Gems 1 antiqued violin with a warm and balanced tone. I've been playing for several years and have not needed to upgrade. I primarily play baroque and Eastern European folk.

I also have a Gliga Gama Viola that is very well made with great tone woods. I don't think you would be disappointed with a Gliga (Gems 1 or higher). You can ask the seller for one with a brighter tone that they recommend.

March 21, 2019, 11:17 PM · I think one reason people got disappointed with Gliga, is that they set their expection too high when buying them. Because they are 'made in Romania'. But 'Romanian' isn't 'Italian' or 'German'; they're not in the same league.

If I buy a student violin, I expect it to sound like a student violin. Gliga has good reputation in the student/intermediate range. They're roughly in the same league as Eastman or Scott Cao, for similar priced models (except that their tone is darker).

March 22, 2019, 6:28 AM · @Lydia Leong there are some music store chains that carry a few brand name violins. I'm sure there are small shops run by Russians expats that have specific focus in violins. I haven't really looked simply because in Israel everything is over priced and selection small. I'd rather just find a reputed brand like Gliga or Cao and order one from abroad.
March 22, 2019, 6:30 AM · @Matt Lawrence

Truthfully in this experiment i found the mid range $950-1500 violins to be the nest sounding.

March 22, 2019, 7:46 AM · There's a lot to be said for buying something you can actually try.

Also, note that local shops have a nontrivial value-add, usually, in the form of a proper setup.

March 22, 2019, 7:51 AM · bryan, just buy one in one of these local shops you mention. for the same price you can get something that will be guaranteed to be decent and set-up decently. that selection is small in these shops need not be a problem, as long as there is something in your price range, which there should. also, ask the shopkeeper (or someone who helps them) to play the violin for you.
Edited: March 22, 2019, 8:28 AM · And you still did not figured that is called Gliga not Gilga :) People I know are happy with them, but I do not have any suggestions about the other brands :/

Czech republic (where I live) is good place to go to shop for violins. It is cheap from Israel to fly here (I used it many times).

There are great instruments around 100 years old, in a price range of 1000 - 2000 ILS

ha I have a friend with Scott Cao violin, I asked him for opinion, I will post it after saturday.

March 22, 2019, 9:10 AM · When you say a Gliga is dark, does this mean muted in some way? My ear is sensitive to bright violins (irritate me), though my hearing is more flexible the older I get and the worse it gets.

I do fiddling, but can't tolerate most Chinese fiddles.

March 22, 2019, 11:01 AM · @Martin Podhola

Gliga. Sorry. I might visit the Czech Republic one of these days. I hear Prague is well worth it, and there's a banjo maker named Prucha I kinda wanted to buy something from.

I've been listening to various banjos online between $500 and $700, and I think I prefer the mellow Gliga tones, over many brighter violins like the Scott Cao or Fiddlerman. It's hard to say of course from computer speakers.

Edited: March 22, 2019, 2:02 PM · Here I found a shop in Israel that carries the Gliga Genova, which I think has nice balance of price and quality. It's almost $1000 here, while on the Gliga USA site, it is around $600. So it's really not worth my while to buy a violin in Israel.


March 22, 2019, 2:07 PM · But the $600 Gliga is going to need $200 of professional set up to make it properly playing, the $1000 offering hopefully already has that.
March 22, 2019, 3:34 PM · @Lyndon Taylor
But the Gliga website says:

Professional Fully Set-Up
Ready To Play
With Certificate of Quality

Edited: March 22, 2019, 4:10 PM · This is that kind of certificate which you can nail on one of your toilet walls...
My luthier sells German workshop violins in the range of €750-900 at the cheapest online shops for €1200-1400. This seems like quite some markup! But comparing the "out of the factory" experience with what he does to them is worth the price, as well for playability as for sound. What he does is...
- select the "better ones" (no idea how he knows...) and taking 0-4 out of ten, sending the rest back (these eventually going to the online shops?)
- set them up completely with soundpost, bridge, finetuner tailpiece, strings and pegs, saying the setup done by the workshop wasn't crap, but almost.
- keep them on stock so that you can permanently choose from at least 10 instruments in this quality and price range.
I'd expect a luthier in Israel to do the same. From online stores you usually do not get that service, and never from chains without any specialisation in violin family instruments.

If you were looking for an okayish new Chinese <1k instrument and insisted on an online purchase, you could try to force your luck with "the violin project" from Germany, Offenbach/Main. (Although the folks I know who are happy with their instruments from there usually chose between 1,2-2k...) Their setup seems to be quite okay, and the quality of the instruments fair. But I'd rather visit Prague. It's such a beautiful city...

Edited: March 22, 2019, 6:14 PM · David wrote, "When you say a Gliga is dark, does this mean muted in some way?"

I think about it this way, but interested to hear other opinions. Play the same note on A string vs E string. Do you notice that the E string gives out a much sharper, thinner, and somewhat louder sound? That's my definition of brighter.

You can repeat the same simple experiment on D vs E and notice a bigger difference.

This applies to Gliga vs Chinese violins, but the difference is not that big.

Edited: March 22, 2019, 5:28 PM · If you're near Jerusalum you might try this shop "Jerusalem Violins" http://lev.zapages.co.il/
Edited: March 23, 2019, 1:57 PM · In Europe it is quite easy to get a good playable violin in the price range of 600-1000. I own one, it was 600 euros, bought from Helsinki, out capital from the best luthier and it is fine. Im quite sure you are looking for a violin like that. It is a chinese model, which the luthier gets shipped from a partner maker in China and they set them up themselves. So as Europe is more or less the same market zone, Im sure there are many and many really good luthiers that sell the similar kind of violins in the price range of 600-1000.

If you are trying to find a good violin in the price range of 100 euros from China by Aliexpress, it just is not possible. The better Chinese makers sell their better violins to the luthiers all around the world, I dont believe that there are any good violins to be had through Aliexpress. Maybe msg Nuuska and ask for help? Israel isnt that far from Europe? If you have gone through the luthiers in your country and havent found anything.

One thing I dont understand is what do you mean that the violins in your country are more ”russian”?

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