Need recommendation for Violin in $8K to $12K range
My daughter's past two violin instructors has repeatedly said that her current $2K violin is greatly limiting her ability to produce the sound that she is capable of, and we should be looking into $10K range violin for her skill level.
For the past year, we've visited every violin shops within 2.5 hour driving distance, and tried all ranging $5K to 12K. Every weekend, she would pick three best, and bring back for her instructors to try them. Eventually, we were able to narrow down to one that had the best sound. But my girl hated its reddish french style color. And the instructor also said this $11K violin's sound and quality should be worth around $5K to $6K.
After a year, we're still no where close to finding the violin she needs, and running out of time. We need to find her new violin by end of coming Summer.
Please help. Need recommendation on maker or violin shop that we can look into for a violin $8K to $12K range. For past 15 years, I've put in $100/mo into her education fund, and I can't spend more than $12K max.
Buy two airplane tickets to Detroit (Shar)?
Where do you live this is a pretty common price range for a shop to have many, many, many options. Maybe go to a bigger city center like Chicago or ny or even Atlanta. you could go back to the other shops and look around to try but this seems like a very unlikely turn of events to try all these violins and not like one if I’m honest.
With a new violin in this price range, you'd either have to luck into an exceptional workshop instrument, or you find a promising young maker but this could become difficult.
@Kurt Hutchison; I have been looking at the Shar, Johnsonstrings, etc. online. I can't seem to justify the cost and time to fly/hotel out to each of them, not knowing which makers to look for and which would have the better value. I'm sending them emails to see if they have in-home trials through mail. I noticed that Fiddlershop does.
you don't, i wouldn't buy a instrument without trying first nevermind one cost 10k. what sort of characteristics is your daughter looking for. there is a huge violin exhibition in nyc next weekend so if your tired of waiting maybe splurge on two plane tickets and go check it out.
There seems to be a gap in the $7-12K offerings. Either you get an overpriced antique, or luck out on a talented up and coming but not yet established bench instrument maker. You could settle on top Chinese or Baltic instruments, in the below $7K range and be satisfied for many years to come.
How close are you to Houston and Austin?
The instruments at the Reed Yeboah exhibition are almost exclusively above the OP's price range, if it's similar to the previous such exhibition that I went to.
What you have discovered is that it's not only the violin that's expensive. The shopping experience itself is expensive.
One of my violins is by John Newton, and with right adjustment it plays and sound no less than 20k violins I tried. I think his range is around US$10k that you are looking for.
Song, you shouldn't worry too much about overseas shipping and the risks and costs this might bring. The instrument(s) will be securely packed and well insured. You don't carry any risk. It's basically an ordinary in-home trial of up to 30 days, and the fact that the violin will come to you just opens another option if you couldn't find a suitable instrument nearby but wouldn't want to travel. Which I do understand, since you had to deduct the travel and hotel expenses from your violin budget.
It's hard, even when you have only yourself to please. With three of you apparently involved in the decision it can only get harder. Someone really ought to mention the William Harris Lee workshop in Chicago so it might as well be me. They often get very favourably mentioned in discussion on Maestronet.com and I can support that from my own experience
Not sure if I got everything correctly: How old is your daughter and is the violin intended for conservatoire (admission)?
If you're going to the Detroit/Ann Arbor Area in Michigan, there are several excellent modern makers in that price range as well as a few violin shops that carry a nice selection of instruments. You may want to check out violins by Jonathon Price, they are super affordable for the quality of sound you get. A former concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra plays on one of his instruments.
Actually, I can entirely believe that the OP is having trouble finding a good violin, given the mediocrity and sparsity of most violins in this price range. Possibly part of their problem is that they could actually look in a
A lot of shops will ship to you. When I was a kid, I had 15 violas (not all at once!) shipped to my rural location from all around the country. I ended up purchasing one from NM and sent all the rest back. This is not uncommon and definitely something you should consider.
Yes, many shops will ship. However, what is shipped is, unless you specify an instrument, it's out of your control.
re Scott Cole: looks don't matter
Chicago is a great place to sell a violin and/or bow, as the prices are HIGH. I like Scott Cole's advice...avoid retailers, especially big advertisers. Try to make contacts with individuals selling their instruments: you can do this by inquiring of prominent teachers and luthiers. I got my viola this way. I wish you luck and fortitude; the shopping experience is the best learning experience you can have...
If you haven't already done so, check out Claire Givens Violins in Minneapolis. That is where I found my lovely William Whedbee violin in your given price range.
I disagree with many of Scott Cole's assertions, in his second post back. I'll address just one for now, and maybe take the time to flesh some others out later.
In the chicago area, my favorite shop is Seman Violin in skokie, They have several luthiers on site that sell their violins in the 10 to 12k range. I was at WhLee about 4 years ago, and thought their makers were just ok. Also seman has a 100% trade in policy. The sales support was much better at Seman, as a luthier/fiddler will help you vs someone simply hired to work the front counter
If you're in the DFW area, you might give Jay Rury violins a call to see what they have available.
Isn't Rury going out of business?
There's an overwhelming valuable information here, and I appreciate all of you. It may take some time to do, but we're going to checkout every one of your recommendations. Thank you very much.
One advantage to Johnson Strings (or one of the other bigger shops, I've also heard great things about Roberston and Sons) is that they often offer full-trade in value on an instrument purchased from them. So if your daughter, for example, finds an instrument that she likes okay and her teacher is satisfied with, but isn't absolutely in love with for under $12K now, you could save up for a few more years and get the full price towards an even better instrument while having a pretty good instrument to play on in the meantime. While many shops will offer this, they often don't have much of a selection in the higher price ranges, whereas the big shops will actually have a reasonable selection at any given time. It is almost always hard to sell a violin for what you paid, so a good trade-in policy is a fantastic option.
DB Wrote: "Isn't Rury going out of business?"
Does anyone else find it strange that we keep hearing stories in here of teachers specifying (often highish) price ranges for their student instruments? Sound is only one small component of the price of an instrument, and it is in no way true that a 10k instrument sounds qualitatively better than a 5k which is better than a 2k instrument.
If this teacher were looking for a commission, this affair would have been concluded a long time ago!
Agreed, and I'm not suggesting that the teacher is the problem, just saying I'm not sure specifying instrument mainly by price range is a good idea.
Michael makes excellent points. The "looked at 30, didn't find anything satisfactory" doesn't necessarily indicate a player who doesn't know how to pick a violin, though; it can also indicate unrealistic expectations for the price range. (Or a nebulous definition of "good shop".)
The way I was reading this, the OP doesn't have shops in driving distance with deep inventory and is struggling some with the next step to take, because it's a lot more work and because they won't have the same access to the teacher during the process. For $12k you can find much better than acceptable even if it takes some travel and effort.
I agree that looking for a bargain from a private seller is a good option. It's the option I chose when I was looking to upgrade. Pre-bargain, the instrument had brought the owner through conservatory. My teacher approved of the instrument prior to my purchasing it.
Just a note here that any shop sending violins to try will be sending you things they think you will like and buy. Sending things that won't sell is not worth the expense and risk, and is counterproductive to making a sale. If you want to see those things, come to the shop and you will see everything they have, "good" and "bad", at no cost or risk to them.
Many reasons for "looked at 30". Personally when I spent some serious time looking for an upgrade to my 2K violin about 5 years ago, I was thinking "ok, if I spend 5K I will get something noticeably better". So as I visit shops and tell them this, I am bombarded with a plethora of mostly German made violins from earlier 20th century. I don't think any of those violins sounded better than my current 2K violin. After going thru that exercise, I eventually worked my way up to the 8k/10K to get exposed to violins from a single maker. At that point I was hearing violins that were noticeably better than what I had. I probably played about 6 to 8 violins in that category. None of this had anything to do with current teacher. It was more of an education (and a depressing one at that) for me on what the violin dollar buys you.
I think the "I looked at 30 and couldn't find anything" is a phenomena of both too much choice and the relative outrageous expense of violins in general.
1) Violin makers, shops, and dealers do not price instruments according to tone or sound. Statements to the contrary should be disregarded. This is true in ALL price ranges, including the lower price ranges. Tone is highly subjective and can be modified with a slight movement of the bridge, sound post, or a change of strings.
I remember trying a violin in a shop in Denver that had a repaired belly crack. I was reminded of it when I saw the continental rift at Þingvellir. The young man showing me violins assured me that it was "properly repaired" so I should be ignoring it, etc., but there was no way I was going to be inspired pulling that nag out of my case every day.
To Scott's point, Susan Agrawal's son has an excellent-sounding violin (recently discussed in another thread), which is, as she noted, in this price range. However, the G string, while acceptable, is also notably not as good as the upper register of the instrument. It's those kinds of compromises that a buyer has to make.
George Huhn said:
I guess a blind player would be at an advantage if a violin's appearance were such a strong factor in choice. I have some downright ugly instruments, and some beautiful brand new ones. The worst-looking one has the best sound and the second lowest cost. Well, the lowest cost instrument was free (grandfather's attic). BTW, if you think shopping for a violin is crazy-making, try shopping for glasses...from $57 online to $450 at the corner shop. Today's markets require tireless shopping and more shopping, plus lucky timing (what's in the shop today??). As I said earlier, the education one gets is priceless.
If a kid (or adult) doesn't like the appearance of an otherwise suitable violin, perhaps some decorative stickers would help? ;-)
I would compare buying a violin to a house. You don't get as much for your money as you would like. Thus each option has its strengths and weaknesses. And if you wait, will you lose out?, or do better for your money? To another point, finding a good violin amongst the factory made violins is hard. Everyone talks about it, but in practice it is difficult.
From Christian Lesniak:
To the OP- has she tried any 20k violins at these shops?
With all due respect, I can understand Ben's philosophy coming from the parent of a child on Suzuki book 2. It is likely that her level of playing isn't high enough yet where she has begun to feel that her instrument is keeping her from achieving the things she wants to achieve. However, there definitely is a price point you need to be on to get a concert level violin to play complex pieces. A rendition of the Bruch or Mendelssohn violin concertos will not sound so great on a cheap violin: it will either lack warmth, clarity, projection, subtlety, or any combination of the above. Quite simply, you'll be inspired by recordings of phenomenal musicians playing on world class fiddles and realize there are things they are doing that cannot be achieved on a cheaper instrument. The cheaper the fiddle, the more one is forced to compromise on any of these sonic qualities. We can only hear just how amazing violinists like Anne Akiko Meyers and Hilary Hahn are because they play on such well-made instruments that bring out their intentions and subtlety. The golfing analogy seems to imply that a skilled violinist will sound just as good on a cheap fiddle, and that is definitely not true.
Hi Evan, I don't necessarily equate a cheap violin with a bad setup. You can get cheap violins with good setups, and a more expensive violin with bad setups. So in my opinion, a skilled violinist will still sound good on a cheap violin with a good setup.
Hey Ben, I agree with you about the setup. Price does not always indicate quality, nor am I suggesting that it should be a primary consideration. I guess I'm arguing that attaining an instrument that has a nice balance of warmth, power, projection, and clarity necessitates a certain price range, regardless of the setup. As an aspiring professional, I think my and the OP's definition of "sounds good" is probably a bit more nuanced than what you mean, hence our misunderstanding. I don't mean this to sound arrogant at all - at eight years old, I was not super adept at judging violins, nor was my playing good enough that I could really sense the difference. I'm mostly making the points I am because the OP mentioned looking in the 8-12K range, which tells me that he/she is at a point where they need an instrument that approaches professional quality. At that level, an instrument that merely sounds pleasing (or at the very least, inoffensive) to the ear doesn't cut it, and one can really demand an instrument with the clarity and/or response needed for high level repertoire. Their technique is at a point where the difference in instrument quality become obvious. Regardless, I wish you the best with your daughter and hope she enjoys her studies. Sounds like she has a natural love for the instrument.
I have worked with Johnsonstring.com in the past. They are located in the Boston area. I do not live anywhere near the Boston area, however, I have found them to be a very good company to conduct business with. One of their services offered to potential instrument buyers is a 7 day trial period. There is a shipment charge of $30 for standard shipment which includes prepaid return shipment.
what a bunch of nonsense!! If I remember correctly, Johnson strings has some of the highest prices in the business. A $7000 modern maker violins almost has to start its life in China or Romania.
One way, I suppose, that a big outfit could sell bench-made American violins for $7000 is if they're supplementing payments to younger luthiers with other forms of compensation (that is, shop space, equipment, ready access to the advice of more experienced makers, advertising, etc.). Lyndon -- is that not possible? I just don't know.
Ben wrote, "You can get cheap violins with good setups, and a more expensive violin with bad setups. So in my opinion, a skilled violinist will still sound good on a cheap violin with a good setup."
I agree with Lydia that you're just not likely to find a $5000-10000 violin that makes everyone think you're playing a $25000 violin.
One thing I remember doing was trying out a few fiddles that were above my desired price range. Namely, I was looking in the 10-20K range and tried a 63K fiddle. It wasn't because I would have been willing to buy a fiddle that expensive. Rather, I wanted to hear how the instruments I was trying out compared to a truly expensive instrument. In the end, the violin I chose was the instrument that made me feel like I was getting a lot of value for the money I spent. In other words, there may have been close to a 50K price difference between my chosen fiddle and the ridiculously expensive one, but I didn't get a sense that the sonic differences between them were huge. I left the shop thinking I got a great instrument and saved a lot of money rather than wishing that I had the extra 50K to buy the more expensive instrument. Doing something like this can also provide a good perspective on the qualities of super expensive instruments so that you know what not to compromise on when searching for a somewhat less pricey fiddle that can offer most (if not all) of those qualities. However, if you're a parent, you should only do something like this if the child knows that buying the super expensive instrument is not in the cards. The child should know they are trying it out for perspective and not because you might buy it for them.
I would suggest, when you are at shops, asking to try the best things they can possibly show you, because that effectively shows you what is
Evan you have to be careful with this. Somewhat similar to what Lydia is saying, the really top instruments make an otherwise fine instrument sound like junk. I experienced this personally at Bein&Fushi a few years ago, I got to play their Strad, but even more so the Michele Deconet they let me play on. When I picked up the "lesser" instruments after that they really sounded like junk, although originally when I first picked them up, they were actually really nice.
Jean I would argue that what I described is only a good idea for people looking for a professional quality instrument. If you're restricted to below 8K, you're absolutely right: trying out the most expensive violins is just teasing yourself with something you can never have. However, I think once you get above 10K, you'll start to see instruments that sound almost as good as the very very pricey ones. The differences also become less obvious (i.e. 5K to 15K is a huge jump in quality, but 15K to 30K is much less so. I have a friend whose instrument is worth 30K and I don't find it any better than mine). They may have some minor issues or quirks that a Strad may not, but the buyer won't be forced to make the same type of sonic compromises that they would be at a lower price range. I didn't feel like the 63K instrument I tried made my violin sound like junk - that's why I chose it. For me, it provided important perspective. Otherwise, it's so easy to convince oneself that certain faults (i.e. difficulty of playability, unevenness between strings, clarity, etc) on a particular instrument are to be expected/tolerated. Going between instruments allowed me to discover what instrumental weaknesses I was willing to tolerate/cared less about and which I would not. I agree with you that it is not a strategy for everyone or every situation.
Quality is a logarithmic function of price.
"...a lot of inventory hanging out in shops on consignment is because it just doesn't play well for the money"
Many years ago, when I was still under the tutelage of a violin performance professor/conductor from a local university, he and I went to a local shop to check out a violin that was valued a little over $100K. When I tried the violin, my first impression was, "WOW"! I already had a good violin (bench made violin from a local maker), which my teacher also said was good. But I was so tempted to buy that violin. I just paid off my student loan, and in my mind, I was trying to justify buying it. But alas, I was also getting married soon, so I had to regrettably say, "no thanks" to that wonderful instrument.
I think it's an excellent idea to try instruments well above one's price range. How else will one become educated on what these may, or may not have to offer?
... and while I do believe that quity and price usually go together, at least up to a certain level which may be 25k or 35k, for a high level contemporary instrument, we should not forget how big a bias the knowledge about a super huge price tag has on us. I'm not competent enough as an evaluator of highest end instruments, and one may or may not believe in the numerous blind testing shootouts done between Strads / delGesus and top level moderns. Personally I think that it shows how competitive the modern makers are. but how about all the pros owning an expensive antique violin but rather preferring to use their bench made copy... I know at least one of these privately (not willing to drop the name, so don't try...) and I'm wondering how often we're hearing something different than we're told. Not that I would mind - the artist should pitch the instrument he can collaborate best with.
When violin teachers say something like "think about a $30k+ budget" they are not really thinking about antiques. They are thinking about the contemporary violins from the top living makers.
It would be stupid to ignore antiques at a similar price point!!
"When violin teachers say something like "think about a $30k+ budget" they are not really thinking about antiques. They are thinking about the contemporary violins from the top living makers."
Lyndon, I assume that anyone looking at $30k+ violins is not an idiot. Non-idiots don't need to be told to look at everything in a given price range. But the fact of the matter is that by and large, the output of the top contemporary makers generally outplays most antiques in a similar, sub-$50k-ish price range. Getting your hands on a top maker's work in a timely fashion is another matter entirely, of course.
Lydia Leong wrote: "But the fact of the matter is that by and large, the output of the top contemporary makers generally outplays most antiques in a similar, sub-$50k-ish price range."
A budget of $30,000 will buy you some incredibly good 1700s and 1800s German violins, every bit the equal of today's top makers if not better.
I think everyone here has a point - I really don't understand the dismissiveness. I agree with Lydia in that the trend of modern instruments costing less than antique ones definitely exists. Studies have shown that the listener cannot really distinguish the Strad from the modern violin, yet Strads go for prices that are exponentially higher. This phenomenon is pretty widespread. However, I agree with Lyndon in that this is not a reason to forsake looking at antique instruments in the low 10Ks. My 1880s French violin is in that price range and I have found very little wanting in it. In fact, the only colleague of mine whose instrument has astounded me with superior quality in the last 5 years is one who violin is close to 60K (I'd love to know how he afforded it). The reality is that instruments are not priced by sound but by many other factors. The "antique factor" to which Lydia refers is most certainly a thing, but Lyndon's point about there being many fine antique instruments in a sub-50K price range is also valid.
I have looked at a lot of violins, and I think my opinions echo the dealers and experienced players who have posted here in the past.
Agreed just about everything being said here is individually valid.
It'd be useful if someone like David Burgess, who is knowledgeable about the sorts of "shootouts" that have been done, could weigh in on the violins used for testing. It's my understanding that the methodical comparisons have been done using top-notch, well-set-up contemporary violins -- violins from makers whose work generally sells, AFAIK, in the $25k+ price range, and some of which might sell for close to six figures (like a Zygmuntowicz). And set in opposition to big-name but not necessarily great antiques with somewhat random set-up quality. I'm not disputing that contemporaries can be very competitive, of course. (Indeed, I expect to commission a contemporary myself someday, thus my ongoing interest in exhibitions.)
Francis wrote: "This is critical. Within that band, an instrument that sounds "bad" - whatever that means - will likely sink to the bottom of its price band. But that is all."
One should keep in mind that your existing bow, while useful for comparison, may not be well matched to the instrument. In the higher price range instruments, one should always make a point of testing with a well matched bow. A reputable shop should have a number of bows available for testing, and know which bows are better matched to each instruments. This is the only way to know the true potential of the instruments you are considering. Many time I am sure, otherwise excellent instruments are being past over because they are trialed with the wrong bow.
"A budget of $30,000 will buy you some incredibly good 1700s and 1800s German violins, every bit the equal of today's top makers if not better."
As the owner of an 1887 Collin-Mezin, I have to disagree with your generalizations, Scott. One of my favorite things to play on it is Mozart 5, because it projects with such a happy and outward character to the sound. In the few years I have owned it, quite a few colleagues (and competition judges) have remarked positively about my instrument. That being said, they're not for everyone, and if you really have a thing for dark sounding instruments, you won't generally like French violins. I'm not suggesting that there aren't bland Collin-Mezzins out there (his output quality is known to decline significantly after 1900), or that everyone would like the particular timbre of my instrument. However, you call them "tonally nothing special" and "the pickup trucks of the student violin market," which is not at all my experience. I intend to take professional auditions on my current fiddle and don't feel that it is holding me back from sounding my best.
In the "professional modern" violin price range of $20-$30, what are the modern makers that people have had the most luck with (maybe if we limit it to people with waiting lists that one could actually get on)?
For the OP, it should be sub-$12k.
there are multitudes of good makers, the idea that violin making is getting better is a fallacy hoisted on us by violin makers desperate to sell their often overpriced violins.
I started skimming about halfway through. So I’ll apologize in advance if any of this has already been mentioned.
Lyndon, it is quite apparent that you have never attended any of the major violin making competitions, or exhibits like the Julie Reed one currently taking place in New York.
That was unnecessarily rude, Lyndon. David makes very nice violins. (Yes, I've tried one.) He's not exhibiting at Reed-Yeboah, though. But many fine makers are. Definitely worth checking out. (The VSA contemporary display is also worthwhile if it happens to show up near your hometown.)
Dear Ms. Bahn--
Lyndon, I made no reference to my own violins, and they are not entered in any of the violin making competitions (my involvement is judging these), nor will I have anything at the Reed-Yeboah event.
As a father of 2 kids and knowing how Violin Quality can affect the student’s playing capabilities (I am also a Amateur player) I fully understand the difficulties finding a Violin right for the Kid. It ahould not be too expensive as Kids are Kids. They can easily break or get their violin lost paying less attention. So for safety reason parents tend to buy not too much High priced Violin.
I'd be dubious about the resale value of an amateur maker, regardless of whether or not he's Italian.
Though rare, there are great violins in that price range. I got mine from Warren and Son in Chicago and it outplays many violins worth twice as much. Usually these violins will fall into categories like workshop instruments, violins with no procedence, one-off violins made by lesser makers (such as mine), or damaged but well-restored violins. Advantages of buying from a reputable shop are, as said here, being able to trade-in, but also to have it properly set-up. A good adjustment can be the difference between a violin sounding mediocre and a violin sounding great.
Bruno wrote "
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