Question for Lyndon Taylor - Older violin search

Edited: April 8, 2019, 3:57 AM · Hi Lyndon. I believe this falls into your area of expertise.

I'm in the process of searching for a better instrument in the under $1500 range. So far I've seen a Stainer copy, Maggini copy, Klotz copy and several other German trade violins.

At the moment the choice is down to the Maggini and Klotz copies - all the others had obvious problems; large patched crack down the middle, neck needing to be reset or just sounded similar the inexpensive Chinese one I have.

The Maggini is warm and very even across the strings. The Klotz is very rich sounding.

In your experience is there anything a novice like me needs to be aware of in instruments of this age?

:-) Robert

Replies (14)

Edited: April 8, 2019, 11:38 AM · As I was violin shopping, a veteran pro violinist strongly advised me to pass over anything that sounded warm, rich, and sweet. He said I would be able to get a sweet, warm, and rich tones from a bold-sounding instrument but not the other way around. I recommend you look for something that produces a lot of sound without being harsh or monochromatic. Then you learn to tame it.
April 8, 2019, 10:46 AM · Maggini copies also tend to be very large. Don't forget to factor in ease of play, based on your physicality. And Lyndon might have some violins for sale you would want to consider as well...:)
April 8, 2019, 1:42 PM · Robert, I wonder if your question is a little like a lion and a sheep discussing what they should have for dinner. ;-)
April 8, 2019, 1:45 PM · ^^^^^^ This^^^^^ ....... will you have Red or Brown Sauce with that?
Edited: April 9, 2019, 6:21 AM · @Paul Deck. Did that advice help you find a better beginner instrument? I'm not sure as a 59 year old novice the probability of making a violin sound other than itself is highly likely :-(.

@Peter Moore. The Maggini is not noticeably larger when I play it - mostly apparent when I put it back it its case. I'd happy visit Lyndon's shop but the 15,000km trek is outside the radius of my current search :-).

Taking a day trip to visit a luthier today. Curious to hear a range of violins in and over my current range.

April 8, 2019, 4:33 PM · I don't characterize antique instruments by model, or who they're "copied" from. I would go by each individual instrument, there are good Maginni copies and very bad ones, same for other models, Some brands have a certain level of quality but copy models doesn't say much at all.

If you want a sweet, warm, rich sound buy an instrument that has that, its unlikely you can turn an instrument that doesn't have that into sweet with string choices etc.

April 9, 2019, 2:53 AM · I had hoped there was a sort of checklist for novices of faults that may appear on aged or ageing instruments.

For example: one of the violins I liked the sound of ... and took to my teacher for a second opinion was in need of a neck reset. I did not notice it until it was pointed out.

From the feedback here and information collected from available sources it appears ... the lack of experience with instruments or having access to someone who does makes the whole enterprise unpredictable.

So ..I guess my only guide at this stage is to use my ear and find the qualities I enjoyed from violinists I've heard close up. If the violin later turns out to have faults - they will just have to be repaired at some stage (hopefully minor ones).

Thank you for the feedback everyone. :-)

April 9, 2019, 3:39 AM · Well definitely look for soundpost and bassbar cracks, and poorly repaired cracks, an instrument with well repaired cracks in non critical areas may be cheaper than one with no cracks. As long as you have a luthier to show the instruments to, you should have help, its kind of a minefield if you try to decide on your own.
April 9, 2019, 3:42 AM · It does help if you buy from a respected luthier that has his or her violins all properly set up.
April 9, 2019, 6:03 AM · Apart from a thorough check for cracks I'd look if the peg are in god working order. Some older run-of-the-mill violins have really lousy pegs and tuning is a pain.
April 9, 2019, 6:09 AM · i always replace pegs that don't work properly, that should be what a luthier is for.
Edited: April 9, 2019, 6:15 AM · Thanks for the tips Lyndon.

Unfortunately it appears the minefield may be my destination.

I went to see a very respected luthier in the city this morning and everything he sells under $5000(?) is made in China. The ones in my
~$1500 price range were capable instruments & well setup but while they would facilitate practice they certainly would not inspire it.

BTW Most luthiers here and interstate follow a similar business model.

Having said that one of the local violins I'm considering is from a person who finds violins and has a luthier prepare them for sale. I'll definitely bring my glasses and look for soundpost, bassbar cracks, and poorly repaired cracks.

While I'm not expecting to find my forever violin in this lower end price range - the good news is the more violins played the easier it has become to identify what kind of sound resonates with me. :-)

Consider this thread closed for my part. Time to move on from internet questions & choose from the options available in the real world. 8^)

April 9, 2019, 6:19 AM · good luck, consider paying a good luthier to further set up what you buy maybe if you can budget that.
Edited: April 9, 2019, 7:01 AM · For a long time I have been considering writing a blog post that I will call "The Inferno" in which I describe the various layers of hell that the violinist typically endures making all of the myriad choices -- rosin hell, case hell, shoulder-and-chin-rest hell, string hell, bow hell, teacher hell, scale-book hell, am-I-good-enough-for-conservatoire hell, next-concerto hell, and finally the deepest blackest layer, violin-buying hell.

@Robert, sorry I missed the word "novice" hiding in plain sight at the bottom of your post. I was fixated on your quest for a "better" violin. I also made the assumption that your first objective was rapid improvement. For this you need a violin that is not muffled or stuffed-sounding because you won't be able to hear the resonances as well. You need something with at least some brightness in its tone. But if you are mainly playing for your own enjoyment and satisfied to improve "by osmosis" (which is your choice to make) then you should, of course, get a violin whose sound is pleasing to your ear.

A good rule of thumb is that a violin costs about the same as a car. You can get basic transportation for $1000. Less than that, and you're either riding a bicycle or you're going to be spending some time staring under the hood wondering what the hell is wrong.


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