Looking for an "older" violin
My teacher and I were talking, and while I won't be purchasing anything this year, I am going to be looking for an "older" violin. That means something from the '20s (or mid/early 20th) assuming I can find something that fits my budget (when I have one) and has a better sound than my current workshop violin. I will not purchase via the internet. I don't really care what it looks like, it's all about the sound.
Any suggestions of good shops to visit in the MidWest? I want to develop a list of shops in Indiana and surrounding states that are close enough for me to drive.
Go to Chicago. There are a ton of good shops there. Note that you do not need to look for an "older" violin. If you all you care about are sound (and other playing qualities), you will find those just as readily in a contemporary violin as an older instrument, and you should look at everything in your price range regardless of age.
Why do you want an older violin? Because of the bragging rights of having an older violin? There are just as many crap older violins as there are crap newer violins, and there are just as many great new violins as older violins. In my opinion you should go into the purchase of a different instrument with an open mind.
If you want an older violin, get an older violin! Its your life :) But as said, take your time. I did - my new violin was the third one I tried! Actually, I didn't buy it at first, I then tried dozens more and came back to it.
1920s is not a good time for violin quality, you really need to get back to the early 1800s or before to really get the benefit of an older violin, when instruments were hand made in small workshops
Good advice, and thanks! My teacher is encouraging me to look for an older one. I understand the difference between playing and and providence, I am not a collector. At the end of the day I want the one that has the best sound that I can afford. This will likely be the last violin I will buy so when I start looking I will take my time.
A real old violin can have a richness of sound that's very hard to find in a new violin, new violins seem to do better at being louder and brighter.
Lyndon - that is really what I'm looking for, that richness of sound. He may have suggested the 20's from a budget perspective, that is quite likely. Let the savings begin!
I'll agree with Lyndon, two posts back, in that violins made in the late 1700's though early 1900's tended to be a bit lame, compared to those made in earlier and later time periods. There are some exceptions, of course.
How far you travel for your quest will have a very direct correlation with your budget. I don't know what you currently play on, but basically there are a few different tiers of "old" instruments (in the case you are dead set on getting an antique).
Instead of buying something just because it's old I'd recommend a modern maker for about the same price. I have tried some fantastic moderns that beat old any day.
It may be true that there was a 150-year gap in the making of good violins starting in the late 1700s. I wouldn't know. But the thing about violins is that regardless of price-point, what you like in a violin will differ from what I like. And there are plenty of violins out there and a wide distribution of sounds to be heard, so just enjoy your shopping experience. I paid $3500 for a 1895 German workshop instrument at a shop in Richmond. People laughed at me -- they said I overpaid. But in blind tests against $15-18000 violins that I brought home from a different Richmond shop (with teachers and advanced violin students listening), everyone preferred the old German violin. I was ready to buy it for myself when I found a great deal locally on a 2006 Topa, which really matched what I was looking for. So I bought the Topa for myself and the German violin for my daughter. The German violin was better for my daughter because it has a brilliant, clear voice in the high treble and she needed that to advance her skill as she was starting to work on "real" concertos at the time.
I appreciate the helpful comments from everyone, thank you! Paul, I like your idea of taking someone with me, anything that forces us to articulate our thoughts verbally is a good idea.
I think where you go to maximize the number of instruments available to try will depend in large part on what your budget is. At $5k and below, you want to look at as many workshop violins as possible, regardless of country of origin or age. And don't forget to leave yourself money for a bow.
What I learned is that you don't need to limit yourself to shops that have dozens of violins in your price range because there is no way you can evaluate that many in a day or two. You're going to spend maybe 20 minutes with each violin, playing it, making notes, shifting your shoulder rest to the next one, etc. By the time two hours has expired, you'll have tried 6 violins. You're going to run out of gas pretty soon after that, trust me, unless you've been able to dispense very quickly with some of the violins you've tried. It can be very tiring and more stressful than you expected. If you are able to try 10-12 violins on your outing and bring home the ones you really like (say, the top two or three?), that'll be a fine day's work and sufficient cause to open a nice bottle of wine. When I went to Richmond I spent the morning at Jan Hampton's shop and the afternoon at Kapeller's, with a quick visit to Don Leister. Don is an example of a maker who charges less for his violins than many others. In the end, however, his violin did not compete with the 1895 German one.
I don't think you need to spend 20 minutes with each violin. You'll know within two minutes whether it's at all acceptable. Winnowing the bunch to the ones that are acceptable won't take long. From there, it takes a bit longer to decide which are worth trialing and which aren't.
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.