Should I try Shar?

October 24, 2019, 1:22 AM · I'm a student of 3 years and I play mostly fiddle. I'm looking to upgrade my instrument to something in the $2000-3000 range. My current one is worth about $1500 but it was bought on-line, sight unseen before I knew better. And while I think it's a decent fiddle and others have said it's a good fiddle, I've never been that happy with it (it's quite loud, bright and somewhat hard to play, but it does produce a fairly rich and resonant tone). I live in Wyoming and if you're not quite sure where that is... you can be pretty certain there's no decent violin shops around here. So my options are:

Take a 6 hour drive (one way) to Denver and spend $300-400 on gas and lodging to go to some decent violin shops and see what they have


Talk to Shar to see what they recommend in my range and then some in-home trials for about $90. Besides the major convenience advantage and lower cost, I would also get to trial these violins for much longer than one day visiting stores.

I'm not really a fan of the Denver thing since I'm not looking at a huge upgrade. Should I even worry about upgrading right now or wait until I can look at something closer to the 5k range? And secondly, is shopping online in this price range wise? I read on here before from a few members that if you're looking for anything over 2k, you can do better than online. But I would think that today's online stores would be competive with conventional stores? I'm almost not sure if those posters were accounting for being able to trial the instruments beforehand. Anyway...any thoughts are appreciated!

Replies (11)

October 24, 2019, 2:20 AM · It is always a risk to deal with a shop via UPS/Fedex, but Shar has pretty good rep here, I think. They might also be a dealer for Jay Haide -- a brand that has a lot of artisanal makers quite worried.
October 24, 2019, 4:33 AM · Another place to check out is They have a good in-home trial program. They have a web-site but they also have very good telephone service, so you can speak with a knowledgeable person and describe what you're looking for compared to what you already have.

You should have your current violin checked out by a luthier to see if the bridge is too high or if the angle of the fingerboard needs to be changed. shows some shops in Casper, Cheyenne, Gillete, Powell. Are any of those closer than Denver?

The danger of the in-home trials is that you don't have a lot of instruments to choose between and you can't do A/B comparisons. If you're thinking of spending $2000 to $3000 for a new instrument you ought to go somewhere that you can try a lot of different instruments. And make sure that once you decide on the one you like best that you can return it for a full refund in a week or so if after that much playing you decide it's really not the best for you.

But you may find that your current instrument is great, just in need of some adjustment to make it easier for you to play.

October 24, 2019, 7:28 AM · shar doesn't have the best price on jay haide, when i was looking johnson strings was able to quote me several hundred $$$ off on the l'acciene models. but to be honest i'm not a big fan of jay haide, i had to try out couple of them before finding one that sounded decent.

also, when did loud and bright became a negative feature for a violin? if its hard to play sounds like you just need some adjustment.

October 24, 2019, 10:19 AM · I agree with the Shar route, although there's something to be said about "buying local." So if you can't find any other reason to visit Denver and make a nice trip out of it, then you're doing mail order.
October 24, 2019, 10:27 AM · You might want to check out ViolinShack. Michael is really great and his stuff is solid. He let me try the Vitale (below your range) and it was lovely. So, you might want to look at the ones he's got. He's got three levels I think, but I forget what the are off the top of my head. Each trial comes as a complete outfit.
Edited: October 24, 2019, 12:38 PM · Robertson's in Albuquerque is an excellent shop with a very large selection in every price range. Finding the right violin isn't easy, but you could get a few shipped to your home for a trial if you don't want to make a long distance trip; if you have several violins on trial at the same time, you can make comparisons and have your teacher try them as well...Best of Luck to you!
October 24, 2019, 5:43 PM · Just because it hasn't been said: Have you tried taking your current violin to a luthier and telling them about your issues? They can help you find a different setup that could completely change your violin.
October 24, 2019, 11:09 PM · Thanks all for your advice!

Kristen and Erin, thank you both. I'll check both of those places.

Julie, I've thought about that but unfortunately it takes me back to my original problem: a lack of qualified violin shops and luthiers in my state. There is probably at least one decent luthier closer than Denver, I just haven't found them via web searches yet.

October 25, 2019, 7:30 AM · Have you tried a different brand of strings?
October 25, 2019, 12:58 PM · Mary, yes. Too many different strings lol. Dominants, Tonicas, Violinos, Visions etc. But in the end, I really need a steel core string for my style. I tried a couple of different steel cores and settled on Helicores like many. Synthetics do help with the brightness and loudness some, but I like the response, feel and clarity of the Helicores even if they are a bit less subtle. I also need their tuning stability for cross-tuning.
October 26, 2019, 5:55 PM · I was also going to mention darker strings, but if you like your helicores (which may react differently on another violin), let me try a different track:

Someone on a thread was asking about a (not-correctly- set- up) gliga being dull. I know a couple of luthiers who use bright strings on gligas to brighten out their mellowness. It seems to me you're looking for a darker, warmer instrument, so it might be worth seeking if a reputable dealer with a good luthier (because you'll need the set- up) sells that brand.

Alternatively, I know quite a few chillies who either play viola or use fiddle tunings on viola, which may be more the sound you're after (you'd wan't to play around to see which string tolerate that best, but the guys I've played with don't seem to have a problem)

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