Instrument trying

December 15, 2019, 11:59 AM · I’m doing some college tours in a few months including New York City and Boston. I have a lot of free time during the days in New York and a totally free day in Boston and I want to see a little sights but I was also hoping to go visit Some shops in the big city’s and maybe try some instruments that are nicer then what is carried down here in Georgia.
So is it ok to ask to play instruments without being in the market or is this rude? And also will shops turn you away?
Thanks
Mark

Replies (10)

December 15, 2019, 12:04 PM · The way you do this is you pretend to be in the market.
Edited: December 15, 2019, 12:58 PM · OK, as someone who has worked in several different shops, I emphatically disagree and I disagree that any person should encourage someone else to lie. Great modeling, guys!

If you say what you are up to and are polite and come at a slow time, any of the shops I have worked at would be happy to trot out a number of different violins of different types and price ranges, and discuss them with you, if there's time and you don't act like a jerk or know-it-all. This can be really helpful if you are trying to learn what you like and want to look for eventually. If you don't ask for it and don't engage in that awful step of looking at labels and asking the price of everything first, you might get to play something really special.

If you come in lying that's a bad first step, AND we can smell it a mile away. As a real customer, you will usually get to see the price range you you asked about and nothing too interesting outside your price range so as to not discourage you, so that's often not the best strategy even if the shop swallows the lie.

Just tell the truth, and make it clear you don't need a lot of attention if people there are rushed. I will put someone alone in a room of violins and bows for 45 minutes once I am sure they won't hurt anything.

I will also mention that a lot of people think they get an advantage by lying. Shops hate that, and it doesn't work, and they will remember you as the liar. So just don't.

Edited: December 15, 2019, 1:51 PM · Michael -- of course, that's all true. But if Mark had any taste for lying or pretending, he wouldn't have posted his question in the first place. My first answer really wasn't intended to be taken seriously. Sometimes I wonder if this whole place is maybe just a little too tightly wound.

I've had the experience of going into shops whilst on business trips and just saying, "I'm keen to try a few violins, I'm not from around here so I'm not really shopping." And mostly the responses have been positive. Sometimes positive with a little sigh. Most shop owners understand they build good will in the violin community by giving some attention to the casual shopper.

I always arrange in advance to be there when I don't think there will be other customers wanting the same attention. That is, I make an appointment, but I make it clear that I won't need a lot of attention. Just a room with a few violins sitting on a table. A lot of smaller shops are not exactly inundated with eager Suzuki moms/dads hoping to carry off a new instrument that same day. I've been in the latter situation too, and that's a stressful day, and you don't want casual shoppers distracting the salesperson with whom you've made an appointment.

December 15, 2019, 5:17 PM · In the Boston area there is Carriage House Violins, which is the pricier arm of Johnson Strings. You can learn more by visiting the web-site. There are several other violin dealers in the Boston area who only deal in very expensive ($10K and up instruments) but from what I understand you need to make appointments to meet with them.
December 15, 2019, 5:55 PM · Appointments are always a good thing. It gives us time to check seams, strings, and state of adjustment on what we intend to show.
December 15, 2019, 10:58 PM · Lying, not lying...
The fact is that it's only to the shop's benefit. All it takes is that one instrument that the player falls in love with. But it's also to the player's benefits even if they aren't planning to buy anything immediately: you have to educate your ear as to what's out there, what it costs, and what you like. This actually helps the shop when you are ready to buy. A customer that knows what he/she wants is more helpful than someone who is just going to play until lightning strikes.
Edited: December 15, 2019, 11:54 PM · I usually make an appointment, since I'd prefer to come in when it's slow and the shop is pretty quiet, and the nicer trial rooms are available, and there aren't a bunch of players in close proximity playing at top volume.

Be honest about your situation. Since you're 15 years old, have a parent talk to the shop and make the appointment. You're a potential future customer, since if you go to conservatory in that city, there's a good chance you'll drop a good chunk of change at that shop for an instrument upgrade in the future.

December 16, 2019, 6:43 AM · Sorry I’m actually about to go on 17 I just didn’t update my bio so I’m perfectly capable of making appointments. As well as my parents while very supportive (they recently bought me a very fine viola) are not knowledgeable in the music world. So should I simply phrase the call as, “ I would like to try some things in a wide range of prices that you believe may be a upgrade in the future”.
Edited: December 16, 2019, 9:48 AM · The shop is going to ask you for a budget. You should give a price range that you think would be realistic for a future upgrade, and be clear that this is not an immediate purchase period for you. Some (most?) shops will also not allow an unattended minor to try instruments on their own.
December 16, 2019, 8:30 AM · Mark there are advantages to having a parent involved. My daughter and I had an appointment at Reuning to hear two modern cellos, but before long out came a couple of 18th century instruments well in the six figures, and the person helping us turned out to be a significant part of the pre-college music scene up there. What a wonderful experience.

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