Douglas Cox

September 23, 2019, 5:06 PM · I am doing something some shopping for violas in the 25 k ish range. I’ve found a gorgeous Douglas Cox with an incredible sound and in my price range. Of course this is not paramount but if in the future I wish to upgrade how well respected is his respiration. I know he is reputable and relatively famous but not sure how widely know he is. It’s a generally large viola at about 16 5/8 so I want to know if it will be easy enough to sell in the future.
Thank you for any help

Replies (11)

Edited: September 23, 2019, 5:17 PM · A large viola is never "easy" to sell.
And a large viola with a breathtaking sound isn't a rare thing. If you wand to focus on resale value and how easy it might be to sell again, I'd look for the smallest gorgeous sounding viola you'll ever be able to find.
But in the end, you have to find one that's comfortable enough for you to fall in love with. Don't try to push your limits.
September 23, 2019, 8:00 PM · actually small violas are harder to sell.
September 23, 2019, 10:11 PM · I think perhaps medium-sized violas are the easiest to sell because they're the most popular?
September 24, 2019, 5:48 AM · I didn’t mean for the size to be the focus I wanted to know about Douglas cox reputation as a maker. A 16 5/8 is essentially 16 1/2 so the size issue is not a big deal.
September 24, 2019, 5:48 AM · I didn’t mean for the size to be the focus I wanted to know about Douglas cox reputation as a maker. A 16 5/8 is essentially 16 1/2 so the size issue is not a big deal.
September 24, 2019, 7:26 AM · Size is actually a pretty big deal in terms of future resale, at least in the current market. I have the idea that 16 3/8 is the upper limit of "normal" (my son has a Kiernoziak this size, it is quite large) and that any extra length will affect desirability. 16 - 16 1/4 is what I think of as the sweet spot.

In this price range you can have (almost) anything you want by a modern maker, if not directly from the maker then in the secondary market.

I have seen a lot of Cox's instruments for sale, and have the idea that his output is higher than most makers, and he's been making longer than most. He seems well respected by his peers over at Maestronet.

September 24, 2019, 12:51 PM · Such angst over a quarter of an inch. Violas are not always proportioned exactly the same so they can be made more playable even if the length is 16 5/8". But I do see the point that a lot of people, when they go into a shop, probably ask the owner to bring out four or five violas that are around 16 inches because they heard on that anything larger than 16.5 is unplayable and anything smaller than 15.5 sounds like crap, neither of which is really true.

I remember talking to a very skilled young pro violist about his instrument because I noticed it was smaller than my viola (mine is a 16-inch MJZ). He said, essentially, yes it's a 15 (and everyone asks him about it) but that he was just lucky to find one that sounds really good and it's easy to play. He said it makes a big difference in fatigue levels over long rehearsals. He said he knows some people think he's slumming but he doesn't care.

I know nothing of Doug Cox's instruments, but those are some mighty impressive testimonials on his website.

Edited: September 25, 2019, 11:48 AM · You are looking for a viola for making music, to help you enter a good university and orchestra. So, I think you are looking for a tool for your trade, and not for an investment. What is the resale value of all computer, games, cameras and electronics you have got in the last 10 years? Near zero.

The first guy who got an Andrea Guanreri viola, or a Gasparo, was not thinking about resale price, he was looking for a good musical instrument.

So, I would not focus the search for a viola in the resale price.

Here my two cents about choosing a good viola, as a player.

Avoid monochrome instruments. Look for many colours and contrast, you can have that only when you have a good dynamic range.

With a good viola you can work with the bow to create colours. In most violas you will change your bowing and nothing will happen.

With a good viola when you draw your bow from the fingerboard towards the bridge increasing the weight you will notice a big change in volume and colour of the sound. Just good instruments offer that.
The viola must not choke when you play FFF near the bridge.

Avoid hollow sound, look for a focused sound.

Clarity is important too, when playing quick passages the notes should not mix.

Check the instrument in the upper regions of the C and G strings. You may not be using the 7th positions of the C string now but as you start studying more difficult pieces you will have to do that. Just good violas will sound good in high positions of the C string, in general you will have many wolves and rasped notes there.

Playing confort: not only the size matters here but also string length, upper bouts width, rib height, weight, feeling "under the chin". Try to play in high positions of the C string.

Look for a quick response too.

Edited: September 25, 2019, 12:25 PM · Everything Luis is telling us. (Again.) He knows what he's talking about, and I'm looking forward to trying his instruments in the future.

Lyndon, it depends on what one might regard as a small viola. For me (owning a 42 cm and a 42,6 cm Viola) a 40 cm instrument would be rather small. Large(r) instruments easily produce a large, loud, and clear sound and tend to be almost as responsive as a violin. (This doesn't mean they produce all these colors Luis is referring to.) The smaller the size, the trickier these features. There are tons of crappy instruments <40cm out there, and not so many not so bad ones, which usually are already owned by a fellow musician. That's the reason why most players decide for a middle sized instrument, leaving the smaller ones aside and making the smaller ones seem hard to sell. But be sure that the day you'll have one of these rare small but still amazing instruments in your shop, it will not be sitting there for long. It doesn't have to blow ones mind with power and loudness, this us what the larger sizes are made for. A responsive, warm, vuilish sound in a responsive instrument that's easy to play will be highly appreciated.
I've met such an instrument only twice (one Mittenwald, one Italian) and both were not for sale. The day I'll run into something like this for a reasonable price, I won't hesitate and just take the chance.

September 25, 2019, 12:29 PM · But if Mark is heading for a professional career, I'd support the opinion that he should mostly look for sound and playability (which also means comfort). If he ever wants to play with an orchestra, it shouldn't be too itsy bitsy. A second smaller instrument for endless rehearsals might still be a good investment into his health, if there was money left to be spent.
September 25, 2019, 12:49 PM · Hi Nuuka, I will be in NYC from October 16 to 26 with some violas, come to try them! One is 15.5, and it does not sound small.

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