Where to find the best $7,500 Violin?

May 1, 2019, 3:11 PM · We looked all over london however the violins while nice, were overpriced. Will new york be the same way? Looking for a late 1800-1900 French or German instrument for conservatory

Replies (37)

May 1, 2019, 3:36 PM · if you're trying only the big name shops that might be a problem, I would suggest trying some smaller shops though you run the risk that the set up is not quite as good.
May 1, 2019, 4:05 PM · I would leave yourself open to any type of violin. Resale and appreciation value in that price range is minimal at best, so get a violin that works for its playing qualities and forget provenance and whatnot.

$7500 is an awkward price cap. It's the price range of violins whose maker is unknown (or about whom very little is known), and, in contemporary violins, generally apprentice-made instruments with a handful of Eastern European makers and whatnot (who might or might not have an element of a workshop model to their making). So you need to search as extensively as possible, and hope to get lucky.

Once you get to $10k, you start getting fine contemporary violins made by established makers.

May 1, 2019, 4:16 PM · At a specialist auction, provided you're careful and are looking for an instrument that is good to play rather than a sure investment. I've booked myself several "private" auditions at Brompton's and Ingles & Hayday. The milieu is anything but private and on one occasion I wasn't quite careful enough, but the two violins I've bought play as well as any I've auditioned at London dealers at several times the price. Remedial work and setting up added about 25% to the cost. The downside is their cosmetic state - OK but not exactly "showroom".
May 1, 2019, 4:21 PM · Eastern Europe. For example you could go to Zakopane in southern Poland. There are a number of great luthiers in that area whose violins have not yet reached critical acclaim.
May 1, 2019, 4:39 PM · Look up Fevrot workshop violins. I have a Fevrot workshop viola, which was in the $4000 range, and it is a fabulous sounding instrument.

If you can double your budget, you'll be getting close to the Cison price range. Several of my colleagues are playing on Cison violins and I recently acquired one myself. It's spectacular.

May 1, 2019, 9:08 PM · Mary ellen,
Are Cison instruments some of the workshop instruments coming from William lee Harris in Chicago?
I am going to be traveling up to Chicago in the next year to visit northwestern. If cison still works at William lee Harris I’ll have to give the shop another visit.
May 1, 2019, 9:37 PM · I'm not sure where he's working now except that he is in Chicago; I got mine through a local violin shop in San Antonio (Terra Nova).
May 1, 2019, 10:04 PM · The seller said he was looking for an antique violin, and he's in the UK, something almost all the posters seem to be ignoring!!

A lot of quality antique violins should be in that price range, although if you pay high retail at a high end shop it will be a more limited selection.

May 1, 2019, 11:43 PM · Don't forget about private sellers. Either someone selling after an upgrade, probably even a postgraduate or alumni of your conservatory, or a pro unloading a number of instruments and bows after retirement. Especially with former conservatory / university profs I've been lucky - my violin, although bought through a luthier, was at least 10% below common retail, and recently I purchased a fine bow from a professor emeritus collection which obviously be "the one" for a relevant number of years at least.
May 2, 2019, 12:33 AM · The OP mentioned New York so it seems reasonable to assume a willingness to look in the U.S.
May 2, 2019, 4:48 AM · So far in my experience, the best violins I've found in the $5-$15k range have been Polish made. I started working with JR Music about 5 years ago - and all their violins are excellent. Their owner personally goes to Poland and works with all the best makers. There is some great feedback on the Topa violin here on violinist - just type in "Topa violinist.com" into Google and you should find some good information. I would describe the sound as very colorful, rich, warm, and very responsive. Thick tone and easy to play.

Below $10k, I find that Kowalski makes very good violins. His master level instrument is over $10k, but his workshop violin is just over $5k. I recommend this violin highly to my students as it has a very similar sound to the master Kowalski but at a much less price. Kowalski seems to oversee his luthiers more than usual and both the varnish on his instruments as well as on his workshop violins are top-notch. I believe the varnish work is what gives it such a good sound.

If you are interested in learning more about these violins, feel free to check out my website - you can find a link through my profile.

May 2, 2019, 5:10 AM · plugging businesses you work for is a no no here, also making outrageous statements about how new Polish violins you sell beat all antiques in their price range???
May 2, 2019, 6:37 AM · "$7500 is an awkward price cap."

I think that's a very astute comment. At least that was my experience viola shopping. That's retail though and not auctions and private sales as folks point out.

Edited: May 2, 2019, 9:39 AM · I suppose Michael Sanchez could instead plug Lyndon's shop and explain how his antiques are all better than contemporary instruments?/

At $7,500, makers cannot earn a good living in the Western world. So you either need something made further east, or by someone dead whose market value is fully-depreciated.

No specific ideas, but hope to be lucky. Also, consider the possibility of spending less on the violin but getting a stellar bow. The right Jay Haide with a $6k bow might give good results and be easier to learn on. In addition, a bow of that cost has a chance of retaining its value better than a violin.

May 2, 2019, 7:23 AM · Michael Sanchez, first of all, I see that you have been posting here recently after what seemed to be a rather long gap. If that observation is correct, welcome back!!

I don't work for JR Music. But if you scroll up you will see that I recommended violins from Poland too. I own a Topa violin, and there is a girl in my town, a teenager, who just got one too. I love my violin, and hers is probably even better. Both of them originated in the US through JR Music Supply. They compared very well, in my opinion, to antiques that I had on trial from dealers in the $14000 to $18000 range.

Now, you will not get a Topa for $7500 (mine appraised at $14k), but the strategy of the best Polish makers, once they get name recognition in the US, is to keep making regular fully bench-made violins and sell those for $12000 and up, but also organize a workshop to produce violins in the $5000-7000 range. I have heard that Topa has such a workshop, but I have never seen one of his workshop violins. Of course the best Chinese makers (like MJZ, now deceased) do the same thing, and probably it happens elsewhere too. There's no point doing that in the US because labor costs are too high.

Michael: When I search for JRMusic online, my browser is telling me that jrmusicsupply.com "might be unsafe" for my computer. You should notify your IT person to look into that. Probably some glitch in your HTML or something.

May 2, 2019, 9:01 AM · I trialed many violins (old and new) in the $5k-$12k range (in NYC) and ended up purchasing an instrument from a musician in my preferred price range. The cosmetic state is not ideal, but I got the sound and playability that I wanted.
May 2, 2019, 10:14 AM · Another thumbs-up for contemporary polish, czech and eventually slovakian makers!

Disclaimer: I don't earn any money at all with musical instruments

May 2, 2019, 10:35 AM · If you are not adverse to a new fiddle I actually have one posted for sale for about 7k here:

https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=2858

I can also arrange sound samples and such if you PM me.

Have played it myself, can confirm it's a very nice instrument. :)

Plus, the owner of the shop is an absolute joy. ?

May 2, 2019, 1:03 PM · Alex A (the OP) lives in New York, doesn't he? I remember he was going to NYSSMA. He currently owns a William Wilkanowski -- in the $4k-ish price range? I'm guessing that $7,500 isn't going to represent enough of an upgrade over that.

Alex, given that you live in New York, you should just take a trip to NYC, and visit as many shops as possible, focusing on the ones that serve more of the student end, rather than the high-end shops.

I'd wait and save more money, if I were you. At $10k+, you're in the price range where there are local NYC makers that produce nice work.

May 2, 2019, 1:12 PM · What part of looking for an antique violin do you not understand???
May 2, 2019, 2:22 PM · Anyone looking to maximize a budget of under $10,000 should be looking at every possible violin option--antique, living maker, high-end workshop--everything. There are great-playing violins in this price range but you might have to look at a lot of instruments to find one, and ruling out an entire class of instruments (whether new or old) can reduce your chances of finding that elusive object by a factor of two.
May 2, 2019, 2:30 PM · The notion that players of a certain ability should be looking for a violin (preferably a brand new one) at a particular price point seems to be prevalent in the US but is quite alien in my part of the world. It's tantamount to saying "crap players should be satisfied with crap violins - they won't know the difference".

The more you have to spend, the wider your range of possibilities, but there's absolutely no guarantee that spending $10,000 will guarantee an "upgrade" over a violin costing $4,000. And of course personal taste is a huge confounding factor. I guess somebody must eventually have bought all those violins that I tried and immediately rejected?

Fortunately antique violins simply aren't priced according to their playing qualities. I do agree with Lydia that it's hard to find a really nice violin sold retail for less than 5 figures, but in the auction houses even with a very little knowledge you have the advantage over most dealers in that you, not they, can often find out how the thing actually sounds before bidding.

Edited: May 2, 2019, 2:40 PM · It is possible to find a nice instrument under $10K. It's also possible to find a crap instrument well over $10K. The odds of finding a nice enough instrument go up along with one's budget but it isn't linear.

I don't see the problem with a family or an individual looking at their income, looking at their obligations, and concluding that they can only spend X amount on a violin. Failing to consider the financial realities when instrument shopping (or seeking to buy anything else--a car, a house, a flute for one's daughter) is irresponsible.

May 2, 2019, 2:58 PM · "...plugging businesses you work for is a no no here..."

You're being sarcastic, right? Because Lyndon, you do nothing but promote yourself and your antique violins.

I don't mind if you do it, and the site doesn't seem to. We're all used to it by now. I'm just saying you have no right to tell someone else that it's not appropriate.

May 2, 2019, 3:12 PM · Since London is mentioned, I might guess UK is an option. Personally I am a big fan of Martin Swan Violins (bought there three times so far).
May 2, 2019, 6:13 PM · For what it costs to fly a kid and his parents to London and stay there for a few days violin-hunting, the OP could add significantly to his budget and buy a much nicer violin locally in New York.

I agree with all of Mary Ellen's posts in this thread.

May 2, 2019, 6:48 PM · 7.5k isn't much of an upgrade over 4k. At this point Alex, you might get more return on your investment by acquiring a better bow.
May 2, 2019, 7:02 PM · At the current rate of exchange $7500 = £5775.
May 2, 2019, 7:56 PM · Honestly if you live in NYC you should perhaps head over yo Tarisio. They’re having an auction going and many instruments are predicted to be in your range. Audition is scary it scares me too. But if you can play it and find an instrument that is good now ( don’t base it on the potential you think an instrument May have) you could get a fine fiddle for great value. From looking they have a large selection of antiques (German, English, French) and also a surprisingly large amount of modern Italians. From the albeit few I’ve played the modern Italian makers seem to be producing good things. If possible I think it may be a good choice to at least heard over to play the fiddles you might fall in love and get a fiddle that is made by one person rather than a workshop for less than your budget.
May 2, 2019, 11:30 PM · I think, if I were Alex A's parents, it would be hard to take a risk on an auction, with no certainty about how much work needs to be put into the violin (i.e. $$$) or what its real value might be.

Also, you can't take Tarisio instruments for a trial, right? It's dangerous to buy something without a trial, if you're a player. If you're speculating and can afford to be wrong, that's one thing; if this is the only money you have to buy a critical tool, it's not a good idea.

Edited: May 3, 2019, 3:36 AM · Points I try to keep in mind when buying a violin at auction:

1. No play, no bid
2. No cracks in the back
3. No soundpost crack in the front
4. No splits in the head and neck
5. Ribs all intact and in place
6. Straight neck (I fell down on that one once)
7. Shabby varnish and a few scrapes won't affect the playing but will affect resaleability (and put off the dealers)
8. Believable attribution
9. If it sounds good at audition it should sound better after setup
10. If it sounds bad even the best upsetter won't make it sound good
11. Don't forget the 20% commission plus sales tax
12. Allow a few hundred bucks/quid for strings, setup, minor reglueing etc
13. Check out previous auction prices and current retail prices of similar violins

Anything to add?

Edited: May 6, 2019, 4:13 PM · As someone who's bought at auction (for myself) quite a bit, I can tell you that one downside is that it can be hard to quickly tell whether the instrument is going to feel comfortable for longer periods of time.

This is more an issue with viola and probably cello too, but neck shape and angle, for example, vary widely among violins.

May 6, 2019, 4:47 PM · I agree with Lydia. If I were buying an instrument for my child and had a fairly firm budget of $7500, there is absolutely no way I would risk an auction. I would spend the time necessary to play as many violins in that price range as possible--antique, modern, high-quality workshop, private sale, reputable dealer--and spend the money on the best one I could find that way.
May 6, 2019, 7:45 PM · Also if you do buy from a dealer make sure they have a trade-in policy. I bought my first violin after returning for about what you are spending from a dealer in Toronto. As I improved I out-grew it - and the dealer gave me 100% trade in on a different (more expensive of course) one. Its in their interests as they keep the customer and still get a profit on the new instrument.

As you increase in value the trade in factor diminishes as you are less and less likely to find the right instrument at the same store.

May 6, 2019, 10:55 PM · ... unless you're going for one of the big name stores, where 7,5k may be the "basic level" they've got on stock.
May 7, 2019, 12:18 AM · I heard about an up-and-coming luthier known as Daved Burjez who's gonna pump out a violin in 10 hours. It might be right in your price range.... His name isn't really established yet.
Edited: May 8, 2019, 10:40 AM · Did you try Bridgewood and Neitzert in London?
If so, I'd be interested in what you thought of them.
I assume you tried Guivier and didn't like them?


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