Violin shop...

Edited: December 16, 2019, 9:21 AM · I'm curious about something. How common is it for a violin store to really carry no specific bow "brands", but work almost exclusively with various workshops? Many (not all) of thier violins are the same and the label only has the name of the store. They do have a large local school instrument rental program which I assume is the main reason for this.

Replies (16)

Edited: December 16, 2019, 9:46 AM · Very common. Most shops will work with a few Brazilian workshops, like the Marco Raposo workshop, for wood bows, and with a handful of CF bow manufacturers. (In reality, AFAIK. most shops are working with distributors and the distributors are working with select workshops and manufacturers).

Big shops will put "house brands" on things. For instance, Shar has relationships with workshops/manufacturers to build things that eventually get a Shar-owned brand on them. This is a time-honored tradition in the violin world. For instance, many famous bow makers worked for the Vuillaume shop during the 19th century and their bows are simply branded "Vuillaume a Paris". Ditto the shop of J&A Beare, the Hill shop, etc.

December 16, 2019, 9:55 AM · Thanks Lydia, I had wondered if that might be the case. It's really the only shop in town of any size. I'm trying to find others in a reasonable road trip just to expose myself to other stores/offerings.
December 16, 2019, 10:24 AM · Check out if there are any luthiers in your area - they may well have access to excellent hand-made bows and are sure to at least suggest where you should look.
Edited: December 16, 2019, 2:30 PM · There aren't many Elise, outside of the store I referred to. I did, however, just stumble across a small local shop and called them. I was clear that I just want, for now, to try out different bows and see how they interact with my violin. I will drop by after Christmas, I certainly don't want to take up any of their time before Christmas given the nature of the season and that I'm not currently ready to pull the trigger. When/if I do purchase an additional bow, I want to be clear why I am for reasons more than "I want another bow" :-)

My usual store DOES allow in-home trials of bows, which is very nice, I won't be leaving them out of the loop either. That WOULD allow my teacher to try it out as well...

Edited: December 16, 2019, 4:16 PM · Absolutely do not buy a bow without an in-home trial of at least a week or two.

I did buy my backup CF bow with no more than a bit of time spent with it in the shop, but it was the clear winner out of the shop's entire carbon-fiber bow inventory and I had no doubt it would be easy to switch to when needed a handful of times a year.

As far as I know, violin shops generally do not have any form of holiday rush. In fact, this is a pretty good time of year to shop. because the busy times are the start of school semesters.

Edited: December 18, 2019, 11:04 AM · Thanks Lydia!

Out of curiosity, is Shar worth the roadtrip to Ann Arbor or is most of thier focus on thier online presence?

Any good suggestions in Chicago or between Indianapolis and Chicago? Basically I'm looking for an excuse to get out of town for a road trip and there are very few violin stores around here. Broaden my horizons :)

December 18, 2019, 1:42 PM · There are tons of great shops in the Chicago area. In the Fine Arts Building downtown you can hit both William Harris Lee and Bein & Fushi (the latter being $$$$) as well as a number of smaller shops like Guadagnini and Becker. We also like Seman Violins in Skokie. The latter is right by the Chicago School of Violin Making so you can sometimes get amazing deals by younger makers there. There are a few other makers scattered through the city, like Bill Whedbee and my neighbor Paul Wargaski.
December 18, 2019, 2:58 PM · I second the recommendation to visit the Fine Arts Building in Chicago; I have been there several times. When you go there, in addition to the shops already named, include a visit to Eric Swanson (string instruments and bows) as well as Performer's Music, my very favorite music store (Lee will order and ship whatever you want, and can help you out if you're not sure.
December 18, 2019, 3:43 PM · Carolyn: I live within a mile as the crow flies from Shar - a wildly delightful benefit of moving to Ann Arbor a few years ago - and have found the shop a delight for trying instruments, bows, and other goodies. The staff are usually UofM grad students - musicians with first hand info. If you let them know you are coming to try violins/bows, they will be prepared to make a line-up for you to try in one of the private rooms. They have specialists that will help you - not just "sales folks." Although, I have recruited the floor sales staff to play a violin for me so I could hear it from a distance. It is a fun place.

I vote YES for a tour. They also support this site and other music oriented activities.

Although most folks know them as a huge online presence, I now know them as the very cool local shop for my strings, shoulder rests, re-hairing, etc. Ann Arbor is also the home to a significant number of amazing luthiers with a wide range of repair/maintenance talents.

December 18, 2019, 9:46 PM · I've found SHAR to be worth the trip. But it's 45 minutes from my parents' house so it's not exactly an onerous drive as long as I'm already there.
Edited: December 19, 2019, 4:16 AM · Neither Ann Arbor nor Chicago are a short drive from me, but I've not had a good road trip for longer than I care to admit. I also found some stores in Bloomington, close to Indianapolis University. The latter can wait as it's only an hour or so away. I will likely start with Shar and plan a longer trip to Chicago.

I COULD make a day trip to Shar if I choose, it's only 4 hours away. Depending on where the stores in Chicago are, Shar is about the same distance but there are multiple stores in Chicago. Thanks for the information everyone!

Edited: December 19, 2019, 2:29 PM · SHAR is an excellent place to start. I have never been there, but they have been very helpful to me over the years in my string, bow and accessory shopping by phone and online. Buying, owning, and learning an instrument is a lifelong education process; be patient--there is SO much to learn-- and have a great trip!
December 19, 2019, 4:24 PM · It's easier to park at SHAR.
December 20, 2019, 6:51 AM · Definitely check out Shar in person.
December 20, 2019, 8:35 AM · Thanks, and I think Shar just has to be first. Unsure when, but I've already talked with them directly. Nice bow trial setup they have, I could try various bows while there, identify the top contenders, and take them home for a trial period- return by mail.
December 20, 2019, 8:35 AM · Thanks, and I think Shar just has to be first. Unsure when, but I've already talked with them directly. Nice bow trial setup they have, I could try various bows while there, identify the top contenders, and take them home for a trial period- return by mail.

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