Cremona instruments?

April 4, 2020, 5:27 PM · So, watching YouTube (instead of practicing) I came to Edgar Russ and “the sound of Cremona” or “the touch of Cremona “. Even my teacher told me for your next violin better go to Cremona.

So, I might not ever go there but I’m curious of your opinion. Edgar seems to be upfront about his lines of instruments. The cheapest is 3k eur and is machine made then finished in his workshop, the next one 8k and done by young luthiers. It also seems they used to be much cheaper a decade ago. You can then trade in them which is a really good option.

Now, I couldn’t find any awards or anything that tells me they are any good aside of the tradition name of made or finished in Cremona.

I do have a cheap violin at the moment (350 usd), made in China with no label and already two teachers and a young aspiring luthier told me it sounds pretty good. Changing the strings made the most difference and also different bows.

It looks to me that the violin world is a bit of snake oil similar to the high end audio scene.

What are your thoughts? Do you think those prices are ok and worth it? Specially if you are not able to test the violin.

Replies (300)

April 4, 2020, 8:39 PM · I would never buy a violin I could not test, have my teacher test, AND have my luthier evaluate.
April 4, 2020, 8:53 PM · Absolutely not. "Made in Cremona" is meaningless, especially when many of the best luthiers currently living don't live in Cremona.
April 4, 2020, 8:55 PM · “Cremona” might not detract from quality, but it might well add to the price. Consider carefully what you look at, and don’t be driven too much by geographic labels.
April 4, 2020, 9:06 PM · The only "Cremona" brand I've heard of is cheap Chinese.
April 4, 2020, 9:42 PM · I don’t think the mid to upper end violin world is that much of a snake pit but there are always some. 3k for a mostly machine made violin seems high; you can get a very good bench made Chinese violin for that, or a good workshop made German violin.

Violins made in Cremona can be excellent, but they’re typically not factory made, they’re made by a single luthier and might start at more like $20,000. I’ve heard a couple of Russ’s factory violins and they’re ok, but I’d say not as good as an upper end Scott Cao or Ming Jiang Zhu or Holstein bench violin, or a German Klaus Heffler workshop violin, all of which are in the same price range or less.

I might also suggest checking Ruth Obermayer in Spain; her violins are about 12-15k and are spectacular.

Last, I personally wouldn’t pay more than 2k for a violin without playing it first or taking it on a trial, or at least buying from a shop with a great reputation and a 100% return guarantee.

April 4, 2020, 10:04 PM · Well I have never played one of his instruments, and instruments are variable enough that AN instrument being good is not a sure sign that every instrument can be good.

That being said, the cheaper ones he sells look to be made in a factory type setting, but then finished in the workshop. Meaning they get the pieces pre-cut and final assembly and varnish (which makes a big difference in sound) is done in his workshop by his staff.

Could they be worth the money? Absolutely. Especially with the improvements in Chinese making, there are many workshops that make decent instruments in the $2000->$3000 range. Richard Jackson mentioned some good names. Jay Haide is another one that makes decent instruments in that range.

At $5000 and above, you are looking at instruments handmade in a factory setting by a single luthier. I own an instrument like this that was purchased from a well-known workshop in the US. Again, I have not played his particular instruments, but $8000 for a single-maker workshop instrument is something that is not unheard of.

Edited: April 4, 2020, 10:54 PM · Cremona is an amazing place for violins, however there are over 150 makers working there, so its important to have done some research on the work of specific makers. Its unfortunate that the Cremona area was one of the epicenters of the pandemic in Italyn my heart goes out to the community their amd the luthiers that work there. I can attest to Russ and his instruments, I have met him and can vouch for the quality output. There are few places there that have various grades of instruments, and the Russ workshop is one of them. Most of the makers there make individually and either deal directly with clients, have agents, or place their instruments in a collective makers association that has retail space and do tours at shops all over the world. There are many talented makers there, as are there throughout the world too. A lot of shops have their own line of instruments (mostly nice Chinese workshop) as well that are of a comparable quality to other instruments in a sub 5k pricepoint.

However, I am in the camp of being able to try the specific example of instrument before buying. If you're in an area that may be difficult to try, you could work with a shop that may ship you instruments for approval trial, or may be able to record demos or assist with finding the right fit. There are plenty of brokers for instruments in various areas, its good to be able to have a place that can allow you to trade up as well. Its also good to know at that sub 5k pricepoint, one is generally looking for a great sounding musical tool over investment. In the higher price ranges, there are certainly superior instruments in materials, workmanship, reputation, sound, projection, greater age, but it is mostly example specific. I don't think its snake oil as long as so.eone goes into it knowing quality and the variables in why one is looking for an instrument at a higher pricepoint. Its good to consult with those with experience in those areas both in dealing or setting up of instruments in those higher price points.

April 5, 2020, 2:19 AM · In almost all these price ranges, one of the best options is an affordably priced antique violin, usually German or French, I have 50 for sale, to bad I'm closed for business right now.
April 5, 2020, 2:55 AM · The myth of Cremona is very durable, like that of the Loch Ness Monster. You might as well believe that a picture painted in Venice will be better because that was the home of Titian and Tintoretto. Ask yourself "why do makers flock there? Is it for the wood, the climate, some special secret revealed only to those who pay local taxes? No, no and no - the makers are there because the name has a mystique and fools will therefore be willing to pay more for the local product. Violin cases are a different matter though (pace Dimitri).
April 5, 2020, 3:06 AM · It’s not really a myth, there are dozens of world class makers in Cremona, and many of their prices are comparable to other world class makers, for example a violin personally made by Scott Cao is about $30,000 US, which is in the same range as many Cremona violins. But in the under 10k range, there are many more options.
April 5, 2020, 3:22 AM · What's completely a myth is that being made in Cremona is in any way better than being made anywhere else, Strads talents did not rub of on a 21st century town, the good makers are all over the world, and Cremona has its share of bad makers, and fraudulent makers who simply import Chinese factory violins and stick their label in it.
April 5, 2020, 4:34 AM · Well said Lyndon, Steve, and Lydia.

There is in fact a lot snake oil just like parts of the audio scene as you say, Damian, as well as some genuine things as well.

April 5, 2020, 4:42 AM · @Richard - I suppose it's arguable that the relatively recent aggregation of violin makers in Cremona, although stimulated by the mystique is itself responsible for a resurgence in the craft and a general improvement in the quality of the product. But I'd be very suspicious of a Cremonese maker who priced his fiddles at less than $10K. What does David Burgess think I wonder?
April 5, 2020, 9:12 AM · Thanks a ton to all of you replying, is nice to get such perspectives.

I’m a beginner and itching to upgrade my violin as it has some problems with the pegs and in the country I live, the luthier I found couldn’t fix it :(.

I was mostly inclined to buy a MJZ 909 online at around 2.5k (I wrote another post about it), I might as well if it is decent till I reach an advanced level. I just don’t like much the lack of flame in the wood (call me superficial).

@Lyndon are the prices you manage in line with Corilon? Tbh I wasn’t impressed till it reached 8k eur :(

April 5, 2020, 9:32 AM · @Damian If you're in Europe, take a look of Geigenbau Leonhardt in Mittenwald
April 5, 2020, 10:55 AM · Damian, my prices are up to half of what Corilon might charge, Corilon is full high retail, not discount shop like me.
Edited: April 5, 2020, 12:06 PM · There is a "Cremona Liuteria" trademark. To quote the "Cremona" Consortium of Violinmakers, in order to safeguard the instrument makers’ work, The Consortium has created, in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and the Craft Associations, the “Cremona Liuteria” trademark.

The “Cremona Liuteria” trademark guarantees that the certified instrument is handmade by a Cremonese professional master instrument maker. The Consortium of Violinmakers maintains a database of the instruments sold with the “Cremona Liuteria” trademark; this permits a constant check on the authenticity of the instruments.

The trademark is a fundamental step for the safeguarding of Cremonese instruments from the danger of forgery; it brings transparency to the market and security for purchasers.

That being said, because a maker isn't part of the consortium does not mean its work isn't good, or vice versa, but it is an added piece of information that is helpful nonetheless. There is no doubt that the Made in Cremona label adds a little something to the price/value of an instrument, agree or not. If anything the close proximity of so many competing makers ought to have some influence on the end product. Let just say that Made in Timbuktu probably does not carry the same cachet.

Edited: April 5, 2020, 12:36 PM · A decade or more ago, in an article in STRAD or STRINGS magazine (I can't really remember which) Jay Ifshin was quoted as contributing that a number of makers in Cremona were importing instruments from China "in the white" and finishing them in their shops, labeling them and selling them. He did not say which Cremona makers were doing this.

On three different occasions I played a number of instruments (violins, violas and cellos) from the "Cremona Consortium" when they were on exhibit and sale at Ifshin Violins. In my opinion, they covered a range of "quality" commensurate with their prices which ranged from about $10,000 to the "20s) (for violins). Only the best were at a level that interested me; the rest were not.

My favorite maker was Riccardo Bergonzi (every time and every genre).

April 5, 2020, 1:26 PM · My instrument is from Cremona of the maker: Matteo Mazzoti. I love the violin and it’s worth a try!
Edited: April 5, 2020, 5:29 PM · "A number of makers in Cremona were importing instruments from China "in the white" and finishing them in their shops" and I would add to that from the Baltics as well. I think many people frown at the idea. I personally see nothing wrong with it as long as the "maker" is honest about it. Providing the quality of the wood is there, and building techniques meet a certain standard,the artisans from either of these regions can be very skilled. Then a skilled and experience luthier can fine tune and set up the instrument to his/her standard, which generally exceed that of 100% factory made instruments, hence leading to a quality/price ratio that couldn't otherwise be achieved. Not every advanced players can afford or justify spending $25K plus on an instrument, and if not keen on buying an antique instrument, the hybrid route can be quite attractive. Fine tuning instruments, including Stradivari and Guarneri goes back centuries, so I don't understand why it has such a negative connotation.
April 5, 2020, 2:14 PM · I totally agree with Steve, I’d be suspicious of any Cremona maker under 10k also. My personal opinion is that in the under 4k price point a good workshop or bench violin like the MJZ909, Holstein, Scott Cao, or similar ones is the best option. Antique violins can be amazing but I wouldn’t want one as my only good violin, too much of a chance of a hidden problem or other issues (seams coming unglued etc). It’s also hard to guess how one will sound over time, for example my mid range Chinese violin sounds far better than my old Mittenwald violin, and almost all old violins in that price point are also factory made, just made 90 or 100 years ago. Last, many modern violins have lifetime warranties ( Holstein and MJZ especially), that’s not something you’ll find with an antique.
April 5, 2020, 2:20 PM · so just because you were stupid and bought a lousy antique violin, you consider yourself qualified to badmouth the whole genre!!
April 5, 2020, 2:43 PM · Lyndon, the violin is actually quite good, not lousy at all, and I had it adjusted by a master luthier. It’s well made, even tone and has good projection. I said it’s not nearly AS good as my Chinese violin and that’s the simple truth. Of all the violins I have, those are the two best, and the ones I play most often. I’m not bad mouthing the genre at all; there are many beautiful antique violins, and Ill always have one or two.
There are also many antique violins that have a lot of hidden problems and need hundreds of dollars of work from a luthier ( mine wasn’t one of those). Because of that, I said I would never depend on one as my ONLY violin.
April 5, 2020, 2:55 PM · My experience with many Chinese violins in the shop is an equal or lesser priced antique sounds better and represents a much more sound investment over time, now at the extreme high pricing of antiques at many high end stores, this is not the case and a Chinese violin will be a better buy, it really depends on what you are selling the antique violin for, for instance I have mint condition 220 year old German violin that sounds incredible for $5,000 this will beat $5,000 new Chinese, but at a high end store the same antique would sell for $10,000 and a cheaper Chinese violin could beat it
April 5, 2020, 2:56 PM · Lyndon,

I think is hard to measure whats good or bad, some people like warmer sounds like me, I cannot stand a sibilant sound. How do you define sounding better? I was today listening to Corilon and some of the less expensive violins sounded good to me, it looked like it was the violinist who was choosing the adequate piece to showcase the violin. In some of them the bowing was not so clear, God knows if they used the same bow all the time and I’m pretty sure not the same person. Their website is quite entertaining.

Do all the violins you get at your shop sound great?

@H Y I’m in Middle East so nothing here worth visiting, will see if I get the chance to go around Europe, thanks for the suggestion.

Edited: April 5, 2020, 3:19 PM · Steve Jones asked:
"What does David Burgess think I wonder?"

There are some good makers in Cremona, as there are in many countries and cities. Having been a judge in many international instrument making competitions, I don't see that the place of residence of a maker matters at all anymore. Most of the better makers today have training and input from all over the world.

April 5, 2020, 3:12 PM · Very well said Lyndon, the price and markup definitely makes a difference in this price range.

Damian, you’re right a lot of the music in online videos is chosen to showcase a specific violin. Some shops use the same piece of music or scales for all violins ( Fiddlershop for example). As for what’s a good violin, some of it is personal like a preference for darker sounding or bright , and some is the quality of construction. Is it well made, easy to play, even tone on all for strings, quick response, good projection, no varnish flaws or bad purfling, etc.

Also a good setup makes a huge difference, having the bridge cut for that particular violin, the soundpost placed properly, pegs fitted well, and strings that enhance the violins natural attributes. A good shop will do all that well, whether it’s a new or antique violin.

Edited: April 5, 2020, 3:31 PM · all my violins sound good for the price, but then you get what you pay for, sound quality goes up with price roughly at my shop, and they're all set up to top professional standards to get the best sound possible out of each violin.
April 5, 2020, 6:02 PM · So how many times in this one thread have you pitched your violins?
And called someone stupid?
An interesting marketing strategy.
Edited: April 5, 2020, 8:17 PM · I think if you go above $20K, there will be quite a few decent choices from the living makers, especially the Americans. I do not have one, but I heard the tones of several played by musical students, very impressive.

If you prefer to take a path of step-wise upgrade, the next reasonable step would be somewhere around $5-$10K, I prefer old instruments, and might suggest a decent 100-yr old workshop instrument, such as a Juzek MA or a Caussin (school), I own both, very capable for advanced students.

Chinese instruments can be quite nice. We have two Snow (JHS model), 10 yrs apart. They are about as high end as one would get for a workshop Chinese (>$5K). As we all know, each violin is different, even of the same brand and grade. Between the two Snow, one is just mediocre, and the other is marvelous. In fact, the better Snow is my son's only favorite, and often raved for its tonal quality after his audition/performance. He doesn't play any other we have, including those being much more valuable. Apparently, the tone and playability are not always correlated with the value of the instruments, and every player has his/her very own preference.

April 5, 2020, 7:37 PM · For your stupid information, Scott, my business is closed until they have a vaccine for this virus, I was simply answering questions asked of me in the thread about my violins.
April 6, 2020, 9:52 AM · Some say the pandemic has brought out both the best and worst of people.

Unfortunately, for Lyndon it has brought out... his normal.

Lyndon, you weren't so much "answering questions asked of me" as doing what you always do:
Hijack threads about new instruments and claim that your old instruments are so much better, and then hurl epithets at people who disagree.

I can't think of a single other poster who so consistently promotes his own shop, and then eventually resorts to name-calling.

Edited: April 6, 2020, 7:11 PM · Nothing has changed here since the pandemic. We have the same group with the same habits. The habits are contagious only if you want to catch them; try not to pick up any bad ones!
April 7, 2020, 4:13 AM · Scott as usual this thread has brought out the stupid in you, what possible reason could be given to not mention antique instruments when considering a new instrument, only the stupid would object to that!!
April 7, 2020, 11:32 AM · @Damien

I would be careful using those recordings to judge the quality of an instrument. Sure most of them will sound pretty good, but it's really hard to judge objectively.

Here's what I mean. First they will get a "ringer" to play the instrument. Typically this is a shop employee with extensive conservatory experience. Then they will make the employee play the violin in their "showroom" full of instruments (check out Brobst videos for an example). This giant wall of vibrating violins will make even cheap violins sound way better than they actually are because the sound is so big. Finally, they get the ringer to play something big and flashy. The goal of all of this is to make a violin sound way more amazing than average Joe can pull out of the instrument. The only way to know for sure is to play for yourself, in multiple different settings.

Oh, and if your pegs are giving you trouble, you can buy a peg compound on the internet that may help them move and stay in place.

April 7, 2020, 12:14 PM · very good points, to which I might add the probably add reverberation and other special effects to make the violin sound better than it actually is.
April 7, 2020, 12:34 PM · Some violin shops maydo post processing, but most don’t add any effects and play the same test scale on each violin, in the same room with the same equipment. Of course they have an experienced player, but the comparison is valid. Fiddlershop is a great example of that, all their newer videos have the same scale on each violin.. then typically a short piece that showcases that violins best features.
April 7, 2020, 1:26 PM · Thank you guys, it looks like the best I can do is to learn to play properly (I’m a beginner after all) and once I get at the decent level, maybe while on holiday abroad I could pass by some shops and try them. After all violins differ a lot from guitars in that sense or other things you can buy online.

It is amazing that in the US you get even in home trials, you guys are lucky!

I cannot blame the violin for my playing ??

April 7, 2020, 1:35 PM · Richard you have no fing idea how many special effects shops like Fiddlershop add to their recordings, stop BSing us, or do you work for Fiddlershop, that's always a possibility when someone is shamelessly plugging a business online.

And by the way I'm not plugging my business, my shop is closed until there is an available vaccine or cure for the virus.

April 7, 2020, 1:49 PM · Lyndon, no I do not work for them and have no association with them at all other then as a customer. However I can say this, they posted a video showing their audio setup process. Also, I did purchase a violin from them and the video of it was extremely accurate in sound quality. I’ve also said good things about Shar and Kennedy in other posts, and I won’t recommend any business or service without solid reasons. Also, my professional background is in engineering and signal processing, so I can usually tell if a recording was heavily edited. Calling BS on someone when you have no idea what you’re talking about is a bad idea. Or do you have an advanced engineering degree and published papers on signal processing too ?
April 7, 2020, 1:59 PM · Not to derail, but some good reading about forum behavior here at

April 7, 2020, 2:01 PM · Fiddlershop sells perfectly decent Chinese workshop instruments, properly set up, at reasonable prices (at least at the lower end of their line; I haven't tried the more expensive ones). AFAIK, they don't make any claim to these violins being anything other than what they are, and of course the quality of individual instruments vary, but if you're going to buy a cheap violin sight unseen, you could do worse. I don't know that they're any better than Shar for online purchases, but they apparently will send videos comparing two violins of the same model so you can pick which one you want, which I believe is unique to their business.
Edited: April 7, 2020, 2:11 PM · Lydia, I totally agree, that’s my experience with them as well. The instrument I bought from them was one of their midrange house branded Chinese violins, and it plays well above its price point, but clearly not in the same range as a MJZ925 or similar. They also sell German and Romanian and Spanish made instruments but I haven’t purchased one from them yet, though I know the Klaus Heffler line is quite good.
April 7, 2020, 2:16 PM · Actually I have extensive training as an audio engineer, and worked for years designing audiophile loudspeakers
April 7, 2020, 2:28 PM · Lyndon, my sincere apologies. You’re clearly also very well qualified to judge if an audio recording was processed or not. I think we both made the mistake of assuming about our respective backgrounds, and I take that as a learning opportunity about not making assumptions.
April 7, 2020, 2:48 PM · I don't have the patience or time to listen to fiddlershop videos, I just know that recordings are a very unreliable way to judge the quality of an instrument, be they new or antique.

I also find it hard to believe that people promoting Chinese instruments or Chinese products are not being labeled as traitors given the current world situation, on top of that production of Chinese violins stopped over two months ago, and are unlikely to resume for some time, as well as the higher tariffs that President tRump has put on almost all Chinese products including violins, you're about to see the prices on your precious Chinese crap go way up, and basically that's what you get for supporting crap products, instead of investing in quality antiques!!

April 7, 2020, 2:58 PM · I didn’t say you you should take the time, just that I apologize for assuming you weren’t qualified to analyze them. I paid a lot of attention to them because I was going to purchase one. Personally I don’t promote Chinese instruments specifically, except that for the low to mid range price point they’re usually best value, if they’re well set up by a good shop or luthier.

If there was a company selling quality US or German instruments for the same price point, I’d be thrilled but it won’t happen because cost of living here and in Germany Is many times what it is in China.

Also, you’re mistaken, Chinese violin production is going strong and they are being shipped.

April 7, 2020, 2:59 PM · I'll refrain from responding to your race-baiting, which I believe Laurie has already objected to in the past in her moderator capacity. In the interest of not derailing this thread:

Buying a new workshop violin, whatever its origin, sight unseen or with a very limited mail-order trial, is an unfortunate necessity for people who do not live near a decent violin shop. With a workshop violin bought from a reputable source, you know you are buying an instrument in an undamaged condition and with a workable setup.

When you buy an older workshop instrument, again regardless of its origin, you often have no real notion of condition -- what cracks, how good the repair was, etc. because even highly experienced violinists typically do not have the luthier experience to be able to judge such things. You can pay for a condition report for valuable antiques, but condition reports are not ordinarily issued on antique workshop violins.

Also, by staying within a maker/brand combo, you have a clear idea of a fairly consistent price between shops. Older workshop instrument pricing is all over the place and often inexplicable to the buyer, making it very hard for them to tell whether or not they are being ripped off.

April 7, 2020, 3:31 PM · Very well said Lydia! The other advantages a good brand and shop combination has is that many offer free warranties against structural defects, and almost all offer free returns within 30 to 60 days. So if a manufacturing defect shows up in a year or two, it’s covered, which is not something you’ll have with an antique. Finally, many shops have trade in value guarantees on new instruments ( usually with conditions of course).
Edited: April 7, 2020, 4:06 PM · Lydia, that's complete garbage, many reputable dealers can supply an antique violin professionally set up better than Fiddlershop, and are completely upfront and honest about condition issues if any, you obviously must have had some bad experiences, but are certainly not qualified to be badmouthing antiques and promoting modern Chinese, when you yourself play an expensive very old antique violin, stick to stuff you're good at and don't be so dismissive of experts violin restorers like myself.
For the umpteenth time there is nothing that you can find in a new Chinese violin that cannot be had in equal or superior quality for a similar price in the antique market, idiots are all recommending supporting corporations like Shar and Fiddlershop, and badmouthing small time single owner operations like myself. It is not appreciated, there are lots of shops all over the country selling affordable antiques, and when you need help, they are there to help you, good luck mailing your violin back to Shar or Fiddlershop for a minor adjustment to your bridge etc etc. I'm sick to death of this condescending attitude we get from armchair "experts" on this forum, end of rant and support your LOCAL violin shops
Edited: April 7, 2020, 4:16 PM · There are some fantastic makers in Cremona, and I saw their work a few years ago when Metzler Violin Shop showcased those makers. Here is the article about it which also has many names, links and video of the violins being played:

You can't make a lot of generalizations about this group, there are so many makers and from many different backgrounds, levels of experience, etc. But it is definitely a town where much violin-making is happening, and certainly I saw high-quality examples of it when I attended that show.

When it comes to Chinese makers, you also can't put them all in one category at all. I can't remember who said it, but "Some of the best and worst violins are made in China," about sums it up. Again, there is a range that goes between high-quality bench made art to extremely low-quality factory output. If you are going for the lowest price possible, don't expect high quality.

Edited: April 7, 2020, 4:18 PM · Local violin shops with good reputations are wonderful, no one said otherwise. But nearly every local violin shop in the country sells Chinese made instruments right alongside their vintage ones. If they didn’t, most couldn’t stay in business. Most couldn’t afford to pay the rent on their building or pay their staff just by selling antique violins.

Also, Shar and Fiddlershop and Kennedy ARE local violin shops that also sell online, all three have well established shops and showrooms. None of them are large corporations at all. And all three of them sell antique violins as well as new ones.
Edited: April 7, 2020, 4:38 PM · I'm almost sure they're registered as corporations, how many employees do you think they have??
April 7, 2020, 4:43 PM · I’d bet none of them have more than 25. And at Fiddlershop at least 5 of the employees are family.
April 7, 2020, 5:00 PM · most big violin shops have about 5 employees so you have to admit 25 is pretty big
April 7, 2020, 5:03 PM · @Lyndon

I know for a fact that Shar will let you mail an instrument back to them. My old instrument is a William Lee workshop violin purchased through Shar. I can also say through personal experience that antiques do come with the unfortunate overhang of condition and repair. Is it a dealbreaker? Not always, but cost of repair can often be a significant percentage of the value of an instrument, which is something that happens less often in new-make workshop instruments.

Very few people here, by the way, have ever claimed to be "experts". Neither are we idiots playing at being experts. But we have bought violins before. Not as dealers but as students, and therefore have experiences to share to other students that you might not have.

Do you not see the irony of bad-mouthing everything made in China in a thread where you claim the city of Cremona does nothing special to an instrument?

Would it be fair also of me to advise "don't get drawn in to the mystique of Mirecourt, France just because Vuillaume set up his workshop there. There are many crappy factory instruments from that area that have value only because of the name of the city."

BTW the price of antiques has also been hollowed out. I daresay to a greater degree than Chinese workshop instruments.

April 7, 2020, 5:17 PM · Shar and Fiddlershop will both let you mail them back and offer free lifetime adjustments. I think Kennedy does as well. For me personally I prefer to do simple things like bridge replacement or sound post adjustment myself unless it’s a valuable violin. For those that don’t feel comfortable doing those things, I’d suggest building a relationship with a good local luthier if there is one nearby. Most will charge very reasonable prices for that kind of work. For those that don’t have any luthiers close, having the mail in option is great. .
April 7, 2020, 5:54 PM · Yeah but Shar and Fiddlershop don't set up violins as well as many good shops all over the country, and you have to wait all that time and pay for shipping both ways, correct me if I'm wrong. A fiddlershop violin set up would not be good enough to sell in my shop, and the shops of many of my colleagues.
April 7, 2020, 6:18 PM · Yes the wait time is the downside but it may be a good option if you live hours away from the nearest luthier. I know in the first 45 days they pay shipping both ways, after that I’m not sure. How do you know a Fiddlershop set up wouldn’t be good enough? Have you played one? Their setup work is excellent and better than at least two other good violin shops I know of.
Edited: April 7, 2020, 6:35 PM · All the violins I have seen from shops like this tend to have the most basic bridge set up with next to no custom carving, Custom work takes time, and time costs money, these companies are used to buying Chinese violins in bulk from China for ridiculously low prices, doing what I would call a basic set up, and selling them at a huge mark up, its no wonder they don't deal in antiques, because they cost more to acquire, and take more expert set up work to be put in top condition. The main reason most stores sell Chinese violins not antiques is because they make more profit on the Chinese violins, pure and simple, its nothing to do with them being superior, they're not.
April 7, 2020, 6:59 PM · Well many shops do a basic setup yes. Fiddlershop in particular does custom cut bridges for all their violins, the one I bought was in the middle of their line and definitely had a custom bridge; the setup was close to perfect in fact. They advertise an average of 3 hours per violin and I’d believe it. And also, they do sell antiques, they always have some on their website, ranging from about $800 up to 30k or so.
April 7, 2020, 8:08 PM · I'm Talking about carving out the kidneys and the arch at the bottom, as well as other little things, any decent shop fits the feet and arches the top to hopefully the right curve, but usually stop there and do not properly thin the bridge
April 7, 2020, 8:49 PM · Yes I was talking about all those as well, well made in all areas, kidneys carved, correct height, correct arch, tinned properly. Most Chinese violins come from the workshop with the bridge too thick and too high, it’s easy to tell the difference when it’s properly made. And I’ve carved bridges myself and had custom made bridges from master luthiers. The bridge on my Fiddlershop was Very close to on par with a master luthier bridge. And that was for a midrange violin.
April 7, 2020, 8:53 PM · can you link to a picture of the bridge, side view??
April 7, 2020, 10:23 PM · Sure if I still have it, I replaced the bridge long ago, through my own fault not the fault of the bridge. That’s why I said it “was very close” not “is very close”. Though I’m ordering one of their upper level violins in a few days and will be happy to post the bridge on that one right out of the box.
April 7, 2020, 11:08 PM · Lyndon, despite your undiplomatic style, I like you anyway. And maybe partly because I share your nationalist instincts about trade. Often this is misunderstood as being xenophobic, but in my view its just being good citizens of whatever county one lives and promoting the industries that bring prosperity to one's own country, where we find our livelihoods and quality of life and the fate of our children. In fact, before I was driven out of business by cheap imports, I had a company called Made In USA Solar that attempted to build solar PV systems of all US-made components.

After all that, in the last 20 months I've bought 2 instruments made in China...both from the Charlie Ogle workshop: a bass viol and a baroque-style violin. I love them both. The viol was $3,000 and the violin $2,500. I already had a Chicago-made 1924 violin that I paid a local luthier $1,000 to fix (10 monthly payments of $100) and I have a Romanian-made Gliga violin that I love --got it used at a guitar store for $250. My luthier said nice things about the Gliga. Anyway, while in his shop he let me try a violin he'd made. It was magically better than anything I've ever tried! He wanted more than $30,000 for it. For the first time in my life, I understood why there are expensive violins that cost 10 (or 30) times as much as the fiddles I buy. If I were rich (or a good violinist trying to be professional), I'd go back to him with $31,000!

But meanwhile, as a working man who loves my country but requires a year of hard payments for a modest instrument, I buy what I think is worth the little money I have. And sometimes that was Chinese, because Charlie Ogle makes fine affordable instruments for entrants into the world of early music. My next acquisitions will be a good viol bow and then a viola d'amore...not to mention a home practice organ for my son studying pipe organ. And then, after all that, I'm gonna drive out to California (or wherever you are), pour us a few shots of bourbon, and ask to try that 220yo German violin you let slip that you have....

April 8, 2020, 12:07 AM · Lyndon, I recognize that you're prone to just shoot your mouth off in an explosive rant whenever the subject of Chinese workshop violins comes up, but note that my post contained the following:

Buying a new workshop violin, whatever its origin, sight unseen or with a very limited mail-order trial, is an unfortunate necessity for people who do not live near a decent violin shop.

I have nothing against antiques, and I also made it clear, I think, if you'd actually bothered to read my post, that I was talking about buying an older violin remotely, rather than in person.

I have consistently advocated for people buying from local violin shops, so that they can try the violins themselves before buying. But that's not a realistic option for everyone, and the OP has made it very clear that buying local isn't an option for him in his country.

Does Shar even sell, online, older violins worth less than $3K? Does Johnson? Other reputable physical shops that also have a physical presence? AFAIK, the answer is "No". Corilon is the only one I can think of off the top of my head. Fiddlershop occasionally has older instruments for sale, but it's not the bread and butter of their online sales.

And no, I would absolutely not advocate that anyone buy from an one-man violin shop online, sight unseen. Not that such shops generally have the resources to sell online effectively anyway.

Edited: April 8, 2020, 1:13 AM · Shar starts about $4000 for their antique violins, but Kennedy usually has a few under $2000, and Fiddlershop has a few as Lydia said. Fiddlershop also includes a 100% 45 day return policy and a 1 year limited warranty on their antique violins which I think is unique in the industry.

I do think going to small local shops is great, but if you’re in the under 3k price point, you’ll almost certainly get a better deal ( better quality for the same price, or the same quality for less money) with a reputable online shop ( which IS also a local shop too, at least local for someone ).

I’d say buying from a one man shop online is extremely high risk; unless I had a personal recommendation of the shop, or the shop had very strong and consistent online reviews. I might consider it for a cheaper violin but I wouldn’t spend more than I could afford to lose if it turned out to be shoddy and misrepresented..

Edited: April 8, 2020, 6:51 AM · so you would rather see support some big online corporation with lots of advertising , than local mom and pop businesses, that attitude is part of what's wrong with America.
Edited: April 8, 2020, 4:30 AM · This thread has its entertainment value, rather useful while under lockdown, when you are tired of Netflix and they've even suspended filming new episodes of Days of our Lives.
April 8, 2020, 6:52 AM · I hope people will not take Lyndon's outbursts as being representative of the fiddle trade. They are not.
April 8, 2020, 12:58 PM · I have this feeling that Lyndon regards any operation bigger than his own as "big online corporation".

We have a couple people here in Chicago that are very good at instrument setup and adjustment, as well as deal in fine instruments all up and down the price book. Don't know if I should mention names for fear of being labeled a corporate shill.

April 8, 2020, 1:06 PM · James I think you’re right, and that means pretty much any violin shop, or at least any one that sells a Chinese violin, which is most of them.
April 8, 2020, 1:16 PM · Shar and Fiddlershop are the Walmart of the violin business.
April 8, 2020, 1:23 PM · Or would be if Walmart had exactly one location and 19 employees (that's "big online corporation" Fiddlershop).
Edited: April 8, 2020, 1:33 PM · And again, the OP does not live in a place with local shops.

If I had played violin when I was a child, the nearest violin shop to me would have been approximately 800 miles away and in a different country, and I probably would not have been able to get there with a US passport. The nearest violin shop accessible with a US passport would have been about 1500 miles away and also an international flight. Even in the US, there are violinists who are more than 200 miles from the nearest shop. You can't support your local businesses if there are no local businesses to support.

Edited: April 8, 2020, 1:47 PM · Goodness, the violin shop I use for strings and ordered one of my violas(online, I know, shoot me) from are about 6 or 7 people big.... But are also one of the biggest suppliers and distributors in the UK, have what they boast as one of the biggest bow selections in Europe.
I still do not recommend online shopping, but this one was on sale. Oh, and it is a Chinese instrument, I really like it!

I think the option Fiddlershop offer with hearing prospective instruments is a great thing for those that simply do not have an option to visit a shop in person.

April 8, 2020, 2:01 PM · I can only laugh at the notion of Shar or Fiddlershop being a "big online corporation". I'd guess that the limited amount of advertising that either does is pretty economical. They can target narrowly in a fairly selective manner. Shar has the benefit of having been in the mail order catalog business for ages and most of the current generation of middle-aged violin teachers remember the Shar catalog fondly from their youth -- i.e. brand recognition. People know the online shops from their string businesses, by and large. Fiddlershop has done a good job of targeted marketing. Both companies have benefited from positive word-of-mouth and organic buzz.

Looking up records, Shar is a pretty small business -- under $25m in revenue, well under 100 employees. Fiddlershop is less clear -- probably a two dozen employees, maybe $2m in revenue. Both have a significant local presence; they are not online only. Of course, they are going to be bigger than sole proprietorships, but they're hardly "big businesses".

April 8, 2020, 2:13 PM · Fiddlershop is 19 employees and 5 of them are family, so it’s really a family owned and operated small business. I don’t know Shar as well as Fiddlershop since I don’t remember their catalog days ( wasn’t playing violin back then ) but I know their reputation is excellent too. Kennedy I think Is very similar to Fiddlershop but I’ve heard their setups aren’t quite as good and they don’t do custom videos also.. Fiddlershop wins on customer service in my opinion.
April 8, 2020, 2:30 PM · 25 million a small business?? who are you kidding??
April 8, 2020, 3:00 PM · In the United States, the Small Business Administration establishes small business size standards on an industry-by-industry basis, but generally specifies a small business as having fewer than 500 employees for manufacturing businesses and less than $7.5 million in annual receipts for most non-manufacturing businesses ...

Small business - Wikipedia

Edited: April 8, 2020, 3:21 PM · @Lyndon

$25 million in sales is probably enough to push Shar out of small business territory, but only "just". And I suspect that most of Shar's employees will be in customer service or fulfillment. It's certainly not large enough to have access to capital markets or institutional investment.

For everyone else, a violin shop, even one with online reach, is going to be a "small business", with the possible exception of the big dealers like B&F, Florian Leonhard, Tarisio, etc... Even Bein and Fushi is like...10 employees. Darnton and Hersh has got to be around the same size (Michael Darnton can probably confirm if he is hanging around).

Let's put it like this, if you have under 40 employees, you are small enough to have exemptions from anti-discrimination laws. If Fiddlershop is doing $2M annual sales (I actually have no idea what their revenues are) with 20 employees, that puts them very squarely in "small business" territory. Given the cost of carry for violin dealers, I would assume that even at high revenues, they are still "small businesses". Even $10M I would not consider large enough for a violin dealer to be pushed anywhere outside of "small business" territory.

Edited: April 8, 2020, 3:36 PM · well I guess I classify as a micro business, support your local micro businesses then!!
April 8, 2020, 3:51 PM · And if going to your closest "local" shop literally requires getting on a plane?
April 8, 2020, 4:02 PM · Then support a reputable online dealer, that ships to your country, and offers excellent support.
Edited: April 8, 2020, 4:09 PM · A classic segmentation:

SOHO (small office / home office): 1-9 employees
Small business: 10-99 employees
Lower midmarket: 100-499 employees
Upper midmarket: 500-999 employees
Enterprise: 1000+ employees

The US Small Business Administration defines a "small business" by an industry-specific rubric. The category "Musical Instrument and Supplies Stores" has a $12 million annual revenue bar.

High-end violin shops may end up having weird-looking revenue numbers because of the possibly sale of single big-ticket items. Sell one Strad, for instance...

April 8, 2020, 4:51 PM · Obviously if you have no local violin options, then online shopping does make sense, however this does not mean that the best option is to buy cheap mass produced factory Chinese violins from aforementioned suppliers, there are tonnes of reputable violin shops that will supply mail order violins on good terms, and they don't have to be modern, Martin Swan and Corilon have good mail order antique business'. I'm sick of the same people recommending buying from the same shops in every thread that comes up, what ever happened to diversity and appreciation of quality over quantity??
April 8, 2020, 5:31 PM · I've heard of Martin but wasn't aware he sold online. Corilon, of course, is online-specialized and has marketed significantly, and they are routinely mentioned to players looking to spend more money and who can only shop online.

But Shar, Johnson, etc. and other well-established online/in-person shop hybrids get mentioned frequently because they have good track records of decent violins, reasonable trial and return policies, and customer service. They are reputable, which is what you want when you are sending potentially thousands of dollars for something sight unseen.

YitaMusic gets mentioned a lot because people willing to take a risk on a vendor have generally seemed pretty happy with what they received in value-for-the-money.

And Fiddlershop has appeared to crack the code on what makes people happier buying a cheap violin online -- recording multiple violins side by side for an individual purchaser's comparison. They seem to have amassed a track record of satisfied customers willing to post their enthusiasm to social media. That requires violins that seem decent for the money, competently set up, and presumably good customer service and order fulfillment.

All of these places, Fiddlershop included, also appear to have good reputations in their capacity as local violin shops.

I don't see anything wrong with recommending shops that generally have satisfied customers. There's nothing wrong with their business practices. (I'd guess that for Shar, rentals might actually account for a higher percent of revenue than sales, anyway.)

April 8, 2020, 5:44 PM · So you're recommending businesses that buy mass produced Chinese violins in bulk for about $200 each spend $200 on set up then sell it for $2000 that's the kind of people you are supporting, meanwhile the smaller dealers that are putting real hours into restoring and marketing quality antiques get bad mouthed by you, I mean seriously it seems like you guys work for these companies or at least get kick backs for recommending their products, its not logical the amount of advertising certain suspect posters on this forum are doing for these big businesses!!
April 8, 2020, 6:02 PM · Got evidence to back up those explosive claims, or is it the usual reflexive denigration of everyone who isn't named Lyndon Taylor?

The satisfied customers include professionals who have purchased violins in the $2000 range for use as outdoor gig instruments.

Edited: April 8, 2020, 6:56 PM · Sorry if I am being too aggressive about making my points, but this is important to me, I'm locked in my house under quarantine, out of work for running a non essential business, and probably for the next year or so, all of my colleagues are out of work too, and I have no idea if these online companies are still in business, although certainly in California they would not be legally operating, I get calls form customers desperate for small jobs and I have to tell them that I can't help them and to the best of my knowledge, all the other violin shops in the area are closed too, it is not pleasant, I love my work, and usually have enough to occupy much of my time, not anymore, so you can understand the stress level for me and perhaps most of you is at a higher level, all the best, stay safe, and stay home. And feel especially fortunate if your instrument is in good working order and you are still able to play.
April 8, 2020, 8:58 PM · Lyndon, if you think Fiddlershop only pays $200 for their top Soloist violin then you really need to take a business class. That violin sells for $1500 with case and bow, and I’m sure their cost for the violin alone is about $600, plus $200 for the case and accessories. So a 100% markup to cover their luthier costs, building, insurance, etc. which is very standard.

I’m sure you do something very similar, buy an old Mirecourt or Mittenwald for say $300, put in a few hours of work and maybe $100 for new strings and fittings, then sell it for $800 or so. That’s normal business.

Fiddlershop and Shar and Kennedy are all operating 100% online, they have closed their showrooms but they can legally sell online all they want to. I know of many other shops doing the same thing, including some here in Southern California. It’s not their fault if you can’t or don’t want to sell online.

April 9, 2020, 1:44 AM · Lyndon is being Lyndon.

I would very much doubt that the Fiddlershop case is worth $200 -- they retail, from a glance at the site, for $220, which to me looks high for an unknown case, when you can get a high-quality Bobelock for $250 (and often less on sale). I'll give Fiddlershop credit for almost exactly duplicating the interior and exterior look of a Musafia Aeternum, together with the instrument slanted offset -- never seen that in a cheap case before. (Indeed, so much so that I think Dmitri could argue for a violation of trade dress.)

So, $220 case, wholesale is half of that, so you're looking at maybe a $100 case. The other bundled accessories probably are a trivial add-on to that (but are a thoughtful touch). I give these folks credit for having thought through their business model and offerings. As with most things, product/service isn't how people really make their decisions.

In other words, no one buys from Fiddlershop because their Chinese imports are necessarily better than anyone else's (or any other violin at that price point, whatever its origin or age). But they've created what looks like a very attractive purchasing experience for the inexperienced parent buying for a kid, or an adult amateur buying for themselves (or possibly even a pro looking for "good enough for the money"). People are buying that experience, and as long as the product seems attractive for the money when they receive it, they'll be satisfied and say nice things.

Fiddlershop, Shar, and other online retailers realize that uneducated buyers like product lines with clear distinctions between the models, and a general idea of what they are buying at each price point. The "well, every violin is different and at any given price point you might get an instrument that sounds much worse than its price class or much better than its price class, and you have to try dozens of instruments to find what's right for you" just isn't an attractive proposition to the average buyer, who is just buying something to get started with or has to get Little Johnny a new violin because he's outgrown the last one and anyway Little Johnny barely practices.

As a side note, I would guess that a nontrivial number of luthiers are still working out of their homes, serving individual clients.

April 9, 2020, 2:33 AM · The bow is actually excellent, I have the same Holstein bow that goes in the soloist kit and it’s easily the second best bow I own ( the best is a top line Jon Paul). So the bow and case and miscellaneous extras maybe 175 their cost. The case in my opinion is better than the Bobelock you mentioned, but only a little, Bobelock makes their cases in the Philippines not China though.

I think overall Fiddlershop is a bit better than Kennedy and Shar, but most of the difference in the under $2000 range is their setup and customer service not the violins. All three are great though.

You’re also right that people in that price point like a kit and name brand and the Fiddlerman line offers that In good quality for the price. The Soloist probably straddles the line at $1500.. and their Holstein line is clearly targeted at very advanced students or semi-pros, ranging from $2000 to $5000, no bow or case. In fact my next violin will almost certainly be a Holstein, after home trialing a couple of them and a Klaus Heffler if I can find one.

April 9, 2020, 3:22 AM · I am very partial to old violins, too, and I don't find Lyndon particularly annoying in this discussion or other ones. I have seen people here and even on Maestronet who are supposed to know better, make absolutely ridiculous claims. These are the people I personally find annoying. I don't see the motives behind Lyndon's comments here that others do.

But I will say regarding Fiddlershop, and the companion site Fiddlerman, I find purchases have clearly a lot more behind them than some people such as Lydia think. Buyers are not making decisions merely from recordings or whether the sent package looks attractive enough. The company actively encourages home trials, has a lot of customers who are satisfied for very specific reasons that they write about and definitely has some level of more sophisticated buyers buying somewhat more expensive violins as well as the masses buying the cheaper ones. I have not bought from them, but I do regularly follow their 2 websites as well as other dealers/shops from around the U.S. and the world.

For me personally living in Europe, I bought 2 instruments in Europe from a maker/dealer I trust, one vey old, one new.

April 9, 2020, 3:37 AM · I would guess sophisticated buyers are a small minority of Fiddlershop's sales. Sophisticated buyers are highly likely to buy in person. But my point is that Fiddlerman apparently runs a good business. They are not winning customers mostly because of the way they source instruments.
April 9, 2020, 6:27 AM · @Lydia, as usual you bring up a lot of well-thought-out concepts. Regarding trade dress, in the past I have successfully sued companies that copied my designs down to the details (trade-dress = intellectual property) but being that my brand is also known for quality and post-sales service, I have to say that Fiddlershop's Musafia copies don't bother me because they can't match all three with their product.

It's interesting to note that Fiddlershop actually wanted to sell Musafia cases, reaching out to us; we asked how they would differentiate the real Musafias from the fake ones, and they couldn't come up with a convincing answer. So we left them with their fakes.

April 9, 2020, 11:11 AM · Richard wrote:
"The case in my opinion is better than the Bobelock you mentioned, but only a little, Bobelock makes their cases in the Philippines not China though."

The differences are much larger than you have implied. The Bobelock family has been making cases for two generations, with the experience in long-term reliability associated with that level of experience. Steve Bobelock has been a hands-on worker and manager going back to the time when he worked for his father. Continuing through the time the company production relocated to the Shar facility, and produced cases under the "American Case Company" label. Continuing to the time when Steve Bobelock left Shar, and set up and personally supervised and participated in production in the Philippines.

Here's a site which gives a tiny bit of that history:

The reason that I am able to offer more, is that I actually spent some time working in the same building with Steve Bobelock.

April 9, 2020, 1:21 PM · David, thanks for the comment, I didn’t mean to denigrate Bobelock, I know they make excellent cases. My comment was that the specific case Lydia mentioned was not quite as good as the top line Fiddlershop case, based on my personal experience. Both are excellent, both are good values.

Which one is more consistent over hundreds of cases I can’t say from personal experience, but I would strongly suspect Bobelock is more consistent based on all the reasons you listed.

I have seen several reviews online that mention quality problems with the lower priced Bobelock cases but I didn’t see that on mine. And that shouldn’t be a negative either; unless you’re buying a premium hand made case, there will always be a small percentage of quality control failures no matter what brand.

April 9, 2020, 2:44 PM · Lyndon,
out of curiosity, what loudspeaker company did you work for?
Edited: April 9, 2020, 3:35 PM · Speakercraft, Inc They ended up not developing the audiophile designs I was working on and got into consumer products, mostly wall and motor home speakers, they also assembled Polk audio products among others.
April 9, 2020, 4:40 PM · What a thread! I must confess that I’m itching a new violin for the quarantine alone and not being able to go out at all except for groceries like once a week. I’m also very curious on how a better violin would impact my very beginner level.
April 9, 2020, 4:59 PM · A question to all... does the wood flame indicate anything? I’ve seen cheap and expensive violins that have a highly flamed/figured wood.

At least the flamed ones are more pleasing to my eye.

Edited: April 9, 2020, 5:40 PM · Richard wrote:
"David, thanks for the comment, I didn’t mean to denigrate Bobelock, I know they make excellent cases. My comment was that the specific case Lydia mentioned was not quite as good as the top line Fiddlershop case, based on my personal experience.

Based on how much personal experience, and what criteria?

A very small number of my clients might consider the best case to be one with the most gummy-bears stuck to the outside. I can try to lead then down a better path, but this is not always successful.

Most of my violin clients show up already owning a Musafia or Bobelock case. Perhaps that's because I don't have much interaction with those who haven't already done some extensive homework?

Edited: April 9, 2020, 8:20 PM · Just pay attention to the quality of the fit of the lid, case latch, and the case-cover zipper of a Fiddlershop case versus a Bobelock and that will tell you everything you need to know about the relative differences in quality. You'll immediately feel the difference when you open and shut the cases.

My Bobelock 1017 (the Hill-style suspension case) took a lot of abuse without really showing any wear over the years.

April 9, 2020, 9:24 PM · I love my Bobelock cases.

Would love to have a Musafia but helping to put three kids through college has pretty much removed that from my bucket list.

April 9, 2020, 11:29 PM · David, I’d say pretty much the same quality criteria that Lydia mentioned, quality of fit, quality of the lid, latches and zipper, plus quality of the interior, is it padded well and correctly, does it properly hold a violin, quality of the bow holders, handle quality. Overall grade of materials used, fit and finish ( are there glue marks, scuffs, manufacturing scratches, etc). Durability over time ( still to be determined in my case).

I’ve had one Fiddlerman case and one Bobelock (1051 I think ). Of the two, the Fiddlerman case was slightly better in fit and finish; the Bobelock had some visible glue marks which is a common comment on their cases.. the material quality seemed about equal. They are similarly priced so roughly equal quality is exactly what you’d expect. If I ordered another of each, it’s very likely I’d say the Bobelock was better.

It’s not my intention to denigrate any maker, just to express my opinions based on my personal experience.

I’d also say that Musafias are the best cases currently being made. I’ve never owned one (yet) but my last teacher had one and it was stunning. My father was a master woodworker and craftsman for over 70 years; he would have totally approved of Dmitri’s cases and that’s the highest praise I can give for any piece of craftsmanship.

April 10, 2020, 3:17 AM · @Richard, thank you indeed for your kind words. I do wish to remind people that my colleagues Maurizio Riboni and Desmond Timms make cases with the same passion that I do - and yet they are different, reflecting our own different personalities.

You can't go wrong when the name of a brand is an actual person. The same also goes for Luis Negri and Steve Bobelock.

April 10, 2020, 8:27 AM · Dimitri, have you improved the hinges on the Hill style cases? I purchased one of your cases through Shars five years ago.I was immediately concerned that the hinges for the inner compartment consisted of two undersized brass hinges held in with tiny screws.Within a month the screws kept popping out of one of the hinges and soon the entire hinge popped off as it remains to this day.I noticed your better cases have a piano hinge for the inner pocket which should be standard on ALL your cases.
Also the inner pocket has a loop of material used to pull it open.It constantly gets caught in the zipper risking breakage.Again your more expensive cases have a metal knob instead of a cloth loop which really should be standard on ALL your cases.
These are small problems that easily could have been avoided with incremental
expenditure and Im disappointed that these details were overlooked.
My old Suspensionair Shar case lasted for 20 years.I have my doubts about that kind of longevity with this Musafia case.
This case is number 15682.
April 10, 2020, 8:53 AM · I'm also curious about Damian's question regarding the correlation between wood flame and tone quality. Can any luthiers shed light on this, and generally how you evaluate wood for its violin making potential?

I realize this is a subject that one devotes a lifetime to, but I'm just wondering what the general list of qualities is that you look for.

Edited: April 10, 2020, 10:08 AM · @Peter, as the case you purchased has a lifetime warranty I am curious as to why, after five years, you haven't contacted our customer service about it.

That said, the hinges do not need upgrading as we have sucessfully used them since 1985 in various case models. We did however have an issue with some screws which were not property threaded by our supplier and would pull out under stress; it is possible that your case is one of those affected. We discovered and resolved that problem in April 2017 (your case is a mid-2015).

The piano-style hinges are no longer used in any Musafia since January 2015 because the company making them went out of business and we were unable to find substitutes anywhere at any price in the size and quality we needed. The change to the smaller hinges is actually more labor intensive in installation (=costly) however it reduces weight as the old one-piece brass hinges were rather heavy.

Lastly, the fabric pull was modified in September 2016 to help prevent what you mention. Again, that said, some people when ordering a custom case expressly ask for the tabs instead of the brass pulls: it is indeed impossible to please everyone, reason for which we offer almost limitless personalization.

Thanks for the feedback!

April 10, 2020, 10:19 AM · You sent me a contact number of someone Dimitri and we exchanged a limited number of emails.He said to send the case back to Cremona but I was in the thick of our season and needed the case.
With our entire season now wiped out I have lots of time on my hands to do my own repairs on the case.Our local hardware shop has piano hinges and I can " cannibalise" my old Shar case for the metal knob.Not a big deal...
The case is extremely strong , light and I love the strong latch.Its visually beautiful with the olive green interior and high quality leather handle.I think once I do the DIY repair it should last me the rest of my career.
Stay well Dimitri.I wish you the best.
April 10, 2020, 10:38 AM · Thanks Peter for your reply! If you need any assistance with the DIY just email us. Keep in mind that clearances may change with different hinges.

As for the concert season... well, I know something about that too because I had hired the Fine Arts Quartet for a benefit concert on May 19 in favor of UNICEF but now I obviously had to cancel, along with the third-party services: concert hall, driver, hotel, restaurant... What a time we live in today. My best wishes to you and your lived ones too.

April 10, 2020, 11:38 AM · I live in LA and send my students to all the shops around here. One of my students, however, wanted to buy his fiddle online, and I recommended Shar. I thought this would be a great way to try their home-trial option and also see the result for myself. The fiddle he bought, (Shar's Karl Schneider, "Premiere") is one of the best-sounding student fiddles that any of my students has bought in recent memory, and after a year, it has only continued to sound better.

I will also mention that Shar supports so many endeavors by the string community, including this website.

Lyndon, your generalizing is getting ridiculous. There are larger shops that do understand how to set up an instrument, there are Chinese violins that sound very good and hold up well, it is possible to buy a violin online and get a good one. You can't throw a blanket over everything and make an assessment that is accurate; there are too many factors. Sure, when buying a violin you have to be careful, get good advice, know what you are doing. But these generalizations are destructive and wrong.

April 10, 2020, 12:12 PM · Since I have time to spare I did the knob " transplant".I pulled out the loop , peeled back the brown cloth and drilled a small hole for the knob screw.After attaching the knob I have reglued the brown cloth and lightly clamped it ( with a small piece of wood to act as a buffer).
Thank you for your offer of guidance with my DIY work Dimitri.Ill be in touch.
My heart breaks for you people in Cremona.I have such wonderful memories of visiting in 2000 .I had a wonderful conversation with Giobatta Morrassi regarding his teacher , Ferdinando Garimberti who made my instrument in 1925.How things have changed...
April 10, 2020, 2:08 PM · Modern-day Cremona is cool, in many ways.

Establishing a Cremonese address has always had its siren song, for those who weren't managing to cut it in their nations of origin.

I'd take a crude guess that more than 50% of the "makers" in Cremona are neither native Cremonese, nor have graduated from the Cremona fiddlemaking school.

Edited: April 11, 2020, 4:23 AM · @Peter, Giobatta Morassi was my teacher at the violin making school. I was probably his least favorite student because I was always asking too many questions, instead of staying quiet and working. In the end I earned his respect with my case making, and since then and until his recent passing he was a dear friend.

@David, I would say that your estimate showcases the situation but the numbers may be a bit off. If by "makers" you mean luthiers with a registered and thus legit business (of which there are about 150) I would say that the vast majority are not cremonese, however most are graduates of the Cremona school. Notable exceptions do exist however, like self-taught Frenchman Loeiz Honoré who won the 1988 "Stradivari Prize" and is specialized in cellos for concert artists including the likes of Rostropovich.

@Xuanyuan, thank you!

Edited: April 11, 2020, 5:14 AM · @Dimitri, why do you think so many graduates of the Cremona school stay in Cremona rather than take their skills where there's less competition? Why do so many makers from around the world gravitate there? Upstart places like Newark don't seem to exert the same attraction. For me the distinction is clear - Cremona has "cachet". From a potential customer's perspective I guess there is the economic argument that whereas cachet tends to push Cremona prices up, competition among all the makers fighting for a piece of the action may bring them down again to a level comparable with other parts of the globe.
Edited: April 11, 2020, 7:19 AM · @Steve, you bring up a lot of interesting points. Cremona has a violin making school which was founded in 1937 and has being a learning place for a lot of top luthiers. In addition, tuition is free, making it a top choice for those who want to try lutherie. However, once you complete the course, you've learned the basics and so you need to apprentice with others before going out on your own. And of course Cremona is teeming with places to apprentice.

Yes, Cremona has cachet, and it's the reason why so many people came from all over the world to this town, including myself. But I think it's more subliminal or even metaphysical: walking the street where Stradivari used to live, going to the same family-owned shop that he went to to purchase resins for varnish (the Farmacia Leggeri)... there's something that touches the soul in a way that is not easy to nail down.

From a strictly commercial standpoint, so many makers crowded into a city of 71,000 creates not only a buyer's market but also a lot of comparison between makers, who often exhibit together. I think that both drives down prices and evens out quality.

When I came to Cremona I could never decide when to leave all my friends here and return to my home country, and then I got married, and well the rest is history. That's why I am still here.

April 11, 2020, 8:45 AM · This is a long topic, but I'm kind of surprised no one has suggested to Damian that going to Cremona to look for a 20K violin is perhaps a bit premature for someone who describes himself as a beginner.
April 11, 2020, 9:12 AM · Au contraire, Herman; the OP insinuated that the Cremona rep is just so much snake oil!
April 11, 2020, 9:43 AM · As far as cases, I’ve had a Bobelock knock-off for the last 13 years and it’s still in pretty good shape (not sure where it was made). I prefer not to have a case that is conspicuous; I don’t want to draw attention to my instrument.

I have played one Chinese made violin (Snow 750 I believe). I think it would work well for a beginner child or adult. Very resonant, which is important for learning intonation. I can’t quite remember my first instrument but I suspect it was made in Japan (looks like Yamaha still makes acoustic violins).

I have one Chinese made bow and it is excellent. I think I knew it was going to be great from the first few detache bow strokes. Of course the bow has to match the violin but even when I switched instruments I didn’t feel I lost anything. I definitely think there are some fine bows being made in China and being sold at competitive prices.

April 11, 2020, 11:11 AM · Damian seems to be thinking $3K-ish, which is definitely a workshop made instrument. I wouldn't expect the workshops in Cremona selling at that price point to be better than any other similarly priced workshop production in the world, just from the standpoint of European cost of living, though perhaps someone with direct knowledge could weight in.
Edited: April 11, 2020, 11:45 AM · @Lydia, I'll ask for David's expertise here, but I assume that 150 hrs of labor is the minimum for a decent violin, workshop or otherwise, varnish and set-up included. The cost of labor in Italy for a specialized employee is about EUR 20 per hour, minimum. This sums to EUR 3,000, or USD 3,300. Add to that: materials, overhead and profit. Any finished Cremona violin under USD 5,000 is fishy in my opinion.
Edited: April 11, 2020, 6:08 PM · Hi all.I'm another David but I express my opinion anyway.
Here in Cremona the situation is very complex, but the issue of prices is often overrated. Many think that the Cremona name causes an unjustified increase in prices, but in reality the opposite is more realistic. In fact, the high number of makers and the competitive situation means that there is a race more to lower prices than to rise them, above all because of many "expert" luthiers who have too low prices (for the supposed high quality level given by experience) forcing young emerging luthiers in a situation of indigence that pushes them to sell off their instruments to be able to earn a living and be known. Obviously there is a minority that follows its own path and has settled on a more appropriate (high)price range and high quality, but in general they are overwhelmed by orders and never have instruments available for sale. So I am convinced that knowing how to choose, you can find excellent quality violins in the low price range (from 4000 to 8000 euros) made entirely by hand and not "workshop" instruments, but looking for little known makers and avoiding the "expert" ones who to have the same low price would exploit young makers or the ones in economic difficulty just to make money.
Many "expert" makers will send their hit men to shoot me down at this point, but we're all in quarantine, so I'm safe for a while.....:-)
April 11, 2020, 6:06 PM · Hi Dimitri, I hope you and your family are well despite the virus, you seem to be in excellent shape
April 11, 2020, 6:24 PM · M. D. wrote : I'm also curious about Damian's question regarding the correlation between wood flame and tone quality. Can any luthiers shed light on this, and generally how you evaluate wood for its violin making potential?

I realize this is a subject that one devotes a lifetime to, but I'm just wondering what the general list of qualities is that you look for.

Hi M. D., the flame of the wood is unrelated to acoustic quality, but selling a violin with plain wood and maybe some knot around would be more difficult. Although many players say that they don't mind anything other than the sonic quality, in the end they always get psychologically influenced by a beautiful back with spectacular flame. But even very bad violins can have aesthetically beautiful wood. Dealing with the criteria for choosing wood would be too technical and complex, moreover in some ways it is a personal choice of the maker.

Edited: April 12, 2020, 1:27 AM · Ciao Davide! Your answers are always a perfect balance between experience and sanity. Don't worry about the hit men, you can borrow my purpose-built armored Mercedes, I'm not using it right now... :-) My best to you and Anna.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 3:15 AM · Abt the desirablity of a beautifully flaming back plate (dodgy ebay sellers call this "Tiger wood) the Cremona-educated maker of my violin does not do flamed backs, because he thinks the spectacularly flamed wood has tonal weaknesses.

I love seeing pictures of beautifully flamed one-piece backs. Manfio comes to mind. The typically mirrored two piece backs are a bit too kitschy for me. But that's just a matter of taste. I have come to love a rather muted look - because that's what I have, obviously.

April 12, 2020, 9:17 AM · I clearly remember the concertmaster of the Hamilton Philharmonic had a Francesco Ruggieri violin that had no discernable woodgrain pattern on the back.It looked like it was just spray painted brown for lack of a better description.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 10:03 AM · @Davide and @Dimitri, first off, I wish both of you and your families well.

I've often read articles about "some" Cremona violin makers acquiring Chinese violins "in the white" and finishing them up in their shop and marketing them as their own make and slap a Cremonese label on them. Is there truth in this? I know there are reports of other makers from other countries doing the same, but I want to know if there is truth in this accusation against some makers in Cremona according to your knowledge?

I've read several articles, even from supposedly knowledgeable violin experts, but I couldn't find an article that would really prove this to me, i.e. a criminal conviction for fraud of a Cremonese maker caught red-handed doing it?

If there are indeed some Cremonese makers doing this fraudulent practice, how then, can you tell which maker to stay away from?

My family and I were thinking of going to Europe this summer, but for obvious reasons, this plan has been scrapped for now. But when we do go, I plan to go to Cremona and get me a violin (if I can afford it), as a souvenir :-).

For the record, I have a Scott Shu-Kun Cao violin (Campbell, CA, USA), a Leandro Bisiach (gifted to me by my parents after graduating from college 25yrs ago), a Jay Haide violin (that I've had since high school that shows Berkeley,CA on the label), and a recently acquired Fiddlerman Soloist violin (a cheap Chinese violin that plays and sounds great in my opinion).

Edited: April 12, 2020, 11:22 AM · "accusation against some makers in Cremona"..."this fraudulent practice"..

Common, as far as I know outsourcing parts isn't a crime. If a violin maker, Cremonese or not, decides to outsource violins in the blank and then fine tune, varnishes and set them up, it isn't a crime. Made in USA cars have parts from all over the world, and the rules are pretty broad when defining what made in means, and each country has it's own definition. The Made in Cremona has its own definition, and unless a maker makes that claim in violation of that definition, no crime is being committed. An honest maker will tell you if an instrument is Bench Made (i.e. carved by the maker) or not, and personally I couldn't care less if a maker uses an instrument in the white made to its own specifications as long as it does not claim otherwise and is priced accordingly. Several makers in Cremona outsource to China and/or the Baltics, and make no claim to the contrary. Some of these instruments are really good for what you pay and offer very good value to the cost conscious buyer, and this does not make the maker a criminal.

"I plan to go to Cremona and get me a violin (if I can afford it), as a souvenir"

Most if not all the best makers will have a several months/years long waiting list, you just can't walk in their shop and walk out with an instrument. Good luck with that.

April 12, 2020, 11:21 AM · It's the disclosure that's important. There's nothing wrong with the practice itself.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 11:39 AM · Roger, I don't think the issue is whether or not it's criminal, but whether or not some people would consider it to be misleading or unethical.
April 12, 2020, 11:42 AM · I second both Lydia and David. You have to know what you're paying for, before you sign the check.
April 12, 2020, 2:13 PM · Thank you, Roger, Lydia, David, and Dimitri for your insights.
April 12, 2020, 2:43 PM · i don't think anyone buying and paying for a Cremona violin would be happy to find out it was mostly made in China!!
April 12, 2020, 3:13 PM · OK, and what would you say if you found out the craftperson who made your cremonese instrument has made fewer than a handful of instrument compared to that of a Chinese master carver who has made several hundreds?

There is an assumption that Cremonese is better than Chinese only because we are comparing a bench made instrument to a factory one. Take a Chinese bench made instrument by one of their master luthiers with the best materials and the craftmanship and quality is likely to be as good as some of the top Cremonese ones as the many prices won by the best of Chinese makers can attest to.

April 12, 2020, 3:15 PM · I totally agree, if it’s disclosed as just finished in Cremona, there’s nothing wrong with the practice at all. If a buyer doesn’t want it, they can buy elsewhere. Lyndon I think we all know your feelings about violins made in China
April 12, 2020, 3:28 PM · And you totally accept fraudulent business practices, says a lot about you guys.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 3:46 PM · The crime of fraud depends on the country's laws. I have read that it is legal in Germany to label a violin as made in Germany if a certain percent of the labor involved is by German workers, even if the parts are all imported from China. I guess each country decides what is legal as far as how to label and sell their fiddles. I think the common practice in Germany IS fraudulent, but I can do nothing other than be informed of the crappy practice. And inform others...I do not have any choice to "accept" the practice or not, do I? China gets the best $ of both deals, their home-made and their exported parts...clever.
April 12, 2020, 3:55 PM · Most countries have the same laws. Switzerland has strict laws for watches to be labeled Swiss Made or Swiss Movement for example and neither mean 100% made in Switzerland. Likewise a Mercedes or BMW made in Germany will have many parts from China and the US and other countries but is still labeled as Made in Germany

That’s part of a global economy and clearly isn’t fraud in any way. Fraud would be claiming 100% Swiss Made or Completely Handmade in Cremona when the product really wasn’t. Violins are no different in that respect than any other product. Honesty from the maker is what matters, and the quality of the instrument.

April 12, 2020, 3:55 PM · Actually the Chinese get the short end of the stick no matter how you do it, they're being paid pennies on the dollar for what these disreputable companies are charging for basically made in China violins, the factory that makes them is lucky to get $100 for a violin that sells for $2000. This is not about helping the Chinese people, it is about perpetuating economic slavery at the benefit of Western capitalist overlords.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 4:11 PM · Lyndon that’s totally false. For a $2000 violin that was sold through a distributor, the maker typically would get $500 to $600, if it was sold direct from the workshop, they would receive more like $1000. Given the cost of living difference between China and the US, that’s perfectly equitable. Also, I’ve actually been to China several times and can tell you that the workers there (at least the ones in major manufacturing cities) are definitely not living in squalor or penniless. It seems your entire argument is based on assumptions and rhetoric without any personal knowledge of the situation.
April 12, 2020, 4:28 PM · You're just so full of it, you have no idea what you're talking about
Edited: April 12, 2020, 4:35 PM · Here's a typical listing for wholesale violins from China, remember this is from the distributor in China, the factory probably gets about half that;

As you can see a violin that sells from the distributor for $200 is actually really high end for China.

April 12, 2020, 4:35 PM · Actually I do, since I’ve personally been to China several times for business, and the last two companies I worked for bought parts from China and other countries, so I understand both the direct and distributor markup very well.
April 12, 2020, 4:44 PM · Lyndon, again that’s simply not true. Here’s another distributor that offers one for $900, this would be one that sells for about $2000 in the US.

April 12, 2020, 4:51 PM · You must think I'm pretty stupid to link to a retail site selling one off violins to the USA, that's not wholesale prices and the violin looks worse than the $40 one I linked to selling wholesale in bulk.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 5:06 PM · Actually, it’s a wholesale site exactly like the one you linked to. Both sites just provide information to connect the buyer with the manufacturer, neither are retail sites. But if you prefer, here’s one from the same site you used for $600.

April 12, 2020, 5:04 PM · The point is when you buy a pallet load of violins like Fiddlershop and Shar must do, and you work directly with the suppliers, not the distributors on the internet, the prices are much lower
April 12, 2020, 5:12 PM · They are not much lower but yes they can be lower. By cutting out the distributor, that saves about 30%. But the maker gets the same or more in a direct sale; the savings is by cutting out the distributors profit margin. That’s why companies like Fiddlershop sell a violin for $1500 that most other companies would sell for $2000.
April 12, 2020, 5:17 PM · Chinese factories pay about $1/hr to make violins, a well made violin takes about 150 hrs to make, so the labour to the workers is about $150, so direct from the factory will be probably less than $300, obviously if you look on the internet for examples without direct connections in China, you're going to see wildly inflated prices like both the links we posted. Anything fiddlerman sells for $1500 you should be able to buy direct from Chinese distributors for $750 but if you think Fiddlerman is paying anything close to $750 for it, you're some kind of idiot.
April 12, 2020, 5:20 PM · if you pay $119 for a violin including case, 2 bows, rosin, extra strings, extra bridge, and tuner,it seems unlikely the people actually doing the work are getting paid fairly and are working in reasonable conditions. Seems like a case of- we rip the last guy off and pass the savings to you type situation.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 5:29 PM · In the case I linked to the violin, bow and case were $40, Chinese violins, with bow and case can be had for as little as $20. But this Chinese slave labour wages are the same situation for Iphones, computers and garments, not to mention N 95 masks and ventilators!!
Edited: April 12, 2020, 5:50 PM · Lyndon again that’s simply not true. The minimum wage for ANY worker in China is about $1.80/hr as of March 2020. Skilled factory workers make double that and more. The factory that assembles iPhones for example, starts at $3.15/hr. Given the cost of living difference, that’s the same purchasing power as about $19/hr in the US.. not exactly slave labor.

Any $40 violin is at least 90% machine made, and not in the same quality as a workshop or factory violin.

Also, the violin maker you linked to sells on eBay as well and they recoup their costs by increasing freight charges on eBay. And they’re very much beginner/ entry level violins at best, maybe one step above a VSO, not in the same class that we’ve been discussing.

You might be able to buy something close to a Fiddlerman soloist for $750 yes, but you’d also have to pay $200 or more for setup , plus shipping. What Fiddlershop pays for them I don’t know but I’d be shocked if it’s under $600.

April 12, 2020, 5:48 PM · I have seen palette loads of products come in from overseas that were absolutely no good whatsoever and the manufacturer would take zero responsibility for the bad product. So you also have to calculate how many unusable violins arrive at the retailer that are a total loss.

It is amazing, everybody wants to get a great deal at Walmart, McDonalds, etc.. but has no guilt when their friends and neighbors can't earn a living providing good honest business and pay all their taxes.

Edited: April 12, 2020, 5:55 PM · Timothy you’re totally right, some bad manufacturers and distributors refuse to take responsibility for quality, that’s why it’s important to have an enforceable quality agreement with them. That’s just as true for US or German or Mexican companies though.
April 12, 2020, 5:55 PM · Yeah well forgive me for standing up for the American worker, people like Richard would rather send our jobs to China, then profit off selling the junk to us, my bad!!
April 12, 2020, 6:06 PM · The reality of a global economy and the death of American manufacturing means that it's difficult for anyone to make competitively priced goods for normal consumer markets without the use of Chinese manufacturing or other low-cost global manufacturing hubs.
April 12, 2020, 6:22 PM · Richard I investigated your BS figures on China wages.Your min wage figures from China are for part time hourly work, the full time monthly min wage is only 100 times that, that means for 50+hrs/week 200+ Hours a month the hourly wage works out at less than half the figures you quoted, around 80c/hr, you seem to be some kind of Chinese propaganda bot.

Lydia, you again assume we're stupid and that we're going through some sort of global violin shortage, where the miraculous assistance of the Chinese sweatshop violin factories has stopped us from running out of violins, nothing could be further from the truth, we have no shortage of violins, what we have is a shortage of people willing to repair and market the glut of quality violins we already have and have had for years.

April 12, 2020, 6:46 PM · Lyndon, my figures are based on actual data from trade and economics among other sources and are accurate and consistent as of March 2020 for full time monthly wages. The minimum wage in some Chinese cities is even higher.

Considering that there’s not a single American factory making affordable violins, there’s not exactly a glut of affordable violins for beginner or intermediate players who don’t want to take the chance on a 100 year old instrument that may have all kinds of hidden problems, even assuming the seller did his best to represent it, which is not always the case. And even an entry level antique violin may be out of the price range of many for a first instrument. If your idea of affordable is $2000 then that’s different.

April 12, 2020, 7:01 PM · Trying to talk logically to you is pointless, the monthly wage in China works out at roughly half the advertised min hourly wage, people working for a monthly wage don't get the hourly wage you quoted, end of story, your figures are not based on reality, much of China is paying substantially below min wage, how else do you think they can sell a violin for $20-40 wholesale.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 7:17 PM · The average monthly min wage for China is about 1600 yuan, that for over 200 hrs work, as most workers work at least 50-60 hrs/week, in US dollars that's about $1.00/hr. look it up, don't try to BS me
April 12, 2020, 7:27 PM · There are some weird numbers at work here for the whole violin industry that just don't make sense and probably point to wasteful purchases. I am guessing that most of the new beginner violins get thrown out when the student doesn't want to play anymore. How many people do you know actually play? How many instruments do they own? compared to what is manufactured each year.

I know several teachers that have more violins given to them then they know what to do with. Most of the ones I have seen are far better then the new beginner ones being sold. Perhaps this is an odd dynamic, but I would be surprised if there aren't more teachers and such sitting on unused violins this is even after they donate them to schools and such.

So my point is that I suspect there are surprisingly high numbers of very nice old unused violins lying around and they could be obtained and made usable for a very reasonable price. And once the student is done with it, pass it on.

April 12, 2020, 7:28 PM · Ok I won’t try to dissuade you with actual facts and sources anymore. The number you’re quoting Is from 2018 by the way.
April 12, 2020, 7:39 PM · no they were from 2020 sources.
April 12, 2020, 8:00 PM · Maybe a 2020 article that used 2018 data.
April 12, 2020, 8:21 PM · you're wrong as usual, according to this article Chinese min monthly wage goes form 1100 yuan to 2500 yuan roughly, I said 1600 average

April 12, 2020, 9:08 PM · Actually the article doesn’t say the average is 1600. It points out that the average in Shanghai is over 9700 yuan per month and that many manufacturing and foreign invested businesses pay far above the legal minimum. It does point out that 3 rural (farming based ) provinces have small regions with lower minimum wages at 1120 yuan. There’s nothing in the article about the average paid wage across China. In other words taking the high and low doesn’t give you a real average because only 3 small areas in 3 provinces have very low minimums, and they are also the least populated.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 9:28 PM · I don't think minimum wage is the right thing to look at. A violin factory has to compete with other factories for skilled labor. The monthly figures in this article seem to US$500-$910.

The lower costs of Chinese violins can't be purely labor cost. There must be some benefit to big production lines and scale.

In New York I can get a burger for $1.99 or $36. Is it worth it? Yes.

April 12, 2020, 9:34 PM · I said the average monthly min wage, not the average wage
April 12, 2020, 9:54 PM · And you were wrong about the average minimum wage too. Jorge is very close to spot on for skilled workers. It’s more like $500 to $1500+ depending on the area and skill.
Edited: April 12, 2020, 10:02 PM · The average min wage per month is 1100-2500 yuan, that's $160-360/month, of course some people are payed higher than the min wage but I've yet to see any evidence presented that violin factory workers are among them.
April 12, 2020, 10:23 PM · 1100 was for rural farm work and only in three small areas. The national average is far higher. For violin makers the average ranges from 5500 yuan per month on the low side to 10,000 a month on the high side. That’s not including the master luthiers.
April 12, 2020, 10:30 PM · so you're making up figures now or do you really work for fiddlershop as I long suspected??
April 12, 2020, 10:38 PM · Actually the data is from; I don’t make up any data. As I said the last time you accused me, I don’t work for Fiddlershop and have absolutely no association with them in any way whatsoever other than as a satisfied customer. I’m not in any way associated with any other violin maker, seller, or importer either.
April 12, 2020, 10:50 PM · I'm sure the high end Chinese violin factories are paying at least some of their workers well above min wage, but when you look at the $40 Chinese violin, they couldn't possibly afford to build a violin for $40 and pay the workers higher than min wage IMHO
April 12, 2020, 10:56 PM · I agree they couldn’t, if they were actually handmade violins. But because those violins are 90% or more machine made, and are either VSOs or at best one step above a VSO, they can churn them out by the hundreds with just a few machine operators. That’s a totally different class of violin than we’ve been discussing.
April 12, 2020, 11:05 PM · From what I've read Chinese don't have the machinery to churn out violins, they're mostly hand made with the help of machines and dirt cheap labour. 100 workers are cheaper than a CNC milling machine, of course in the future the factories will have CNC machines and the quality will go downhill.
April 12, 2020, 11:23 PM · Actually, CNC machines capable of making violins are now under $2000, so very affordable over time even for small Chinese factories. I think that’s why the quality is so bad on the very low end ( under $150 retail ) of the Chinese market.
April 12, 2020, 11:25 PM · There's still a huge amount of hand work finishing that goes with using a CNC machine, they only rough out the plates, the rest has to be done by hand.
April 12, 2020, 11:48 PM · The main thing the Chinese instruments have going for them is they're still made by people, not machines, The Germans pioneered mass producing violins with machines in the 60s and 70s and look how well that turned out for them NOT!!
April 13, 2020, 12:00 AM · You’re totally right about that! Maybe a machine made high end carbon fiber violin can compete but that’s about all. For wood violins, handmade will always win I think.
Edited: April 13, 2020, 12:42 AM · the incredibly intense vibration of power tools can adversely effect the tone IMHO, funny thing is the Chinese are moving towards using more power tools, their use of hand tools was just a cost saving measure, the sound quality of their violins may well go down in the future as they start using more power tools and the price of course will keep going up so eventually people will have no choice but to buy my quality antiques
April 13, 2020, 3:10 AM · "There are some weird numbers at work here for the whole violin industry that just don't make sense and probably point to wasteful purchases. I am guessing that most of the new beginner violins get thrown out when the student doesn't want to play anymore."

Those instruments wind up in the attic or wood shed. And after forty years a descendant finds them and posts a query online asking if he's maybe found his grandma's STradivarius...

Edited: April 13, 2020, 3:27 AM · From my experience in China, where I've gone on numerous business trips since 1992, the low prices of Chinese-made goods is a problem which will go away by itself.

The first time I went to Beijing they didn't even have a freeway between the airport and the capital city. People were living in hutongs (enclosed city blocks with one-room houses and comunal washing areas). There were millions of bicycles and the only cars were Soviet-era Volgas or Chinese-made Shanghais. The average salary of a factory worker in Beijing was $60 per month and they lived, cooked, and bathed within the factory itself.

Go there now, with this image in mind, and you won't believe your eyes. China has at last count over 300 million people who live at our "middle class" standards. People who went to work on bikes in 1992 now have Audis. The hutongs have been torn down and replaced by skyscrapers, while freeways now criss-cross the city. The first time I saw a Rolls Royce Phantom was in Beijing, not L.A.. Labor costs are skyrocketing and China is now outsourcing to Viet Nam to contain costs, because everyone now wants a piece of the pie.

The days of $50 violins will be over very, very soon.

April 13, 2020, 4:36 AM · ”People who went to work on bikes in 1992 now have Audis.“

How depressing that the environmentally destructive, sprawl and congestion inducing alternative to cycling is considered a sign of China’s progress.

April 13, 2020, 4:55 AM · That is true, and in fact it mirrors the American dream of "two cars in every garage", but to a point.

China is also in the forefront of emmission-free electric mobility. Here in Cremona we have Chinese-made fully electric buses for public transportation.

April 13, 2020, 5:29 AM · Lyndon, have you ever been to China? Some others of us have. You might do better by asking some of us who have been there what it is like, than by trying to tell us.
April 13, 2020, 5:32 AM · So here's an expert chimes in, how about telling us what price you were quoted for buying quality Chinese violins in bulk direct from the makers, I'm sure you have a good idea, Please let us know???
April 13, 2020, 6:51 AM · Lyndon, I am not involved in importing Chinese products, nor have I claimed to know what they cost at the source. However, I did tour one of the violin making factories when I was there as a judge for the China international violin making competition.

Moreover, my wife and daughter have both visited Chinese production facilities where some of the automotive, appliance, industrial, and jewelry products their companies sell are sourced, and my wife is employed by the North American business division of a Chinese-owned company. She would know how much their parts cost to produce. I do not. But what I can tell you off the top of my head is that sometimes they can offer lower prices than same-spec parts produced in Germany, the US and Mexico, and sometimes they can not.

So all three of us have some experience with working conditions, living conditions, and wages in the factories and industrial centers. It's strange to see you being so vocal, when you do not.

April 13, 2020, 7:01 AM · and yet as usual, you choose not to share any of this valuable information,
Edited: April 13, 2020, 2:19 PM · Lyndon, I posted a lot of that here when I first returned from that trip. I have things to do, other than holding your hand, and engaging in a never-ending back-and-forth.

Have you considered getting a hobby or a pet, to give you something to do other than being prolifically combative regarding things you know little about? :-)

April 13, 2020, 2:06 PM · I’m sorry that my post went so political. I was and really I’m curious as I’m new to violins, in the guitar world getting an equivalent of a master violin (like PRS private collection, if you look it up you see how premium they are) is about 10k tops. I do understand this is a different instrument but again, I personally think at some point the law of diminishing returns kick in and past the 10k for a violin there might be a lot of subjectivity weighting in so when I see new instruments for 25k of a master I do wonder if it is more of a “I can buy it and I will “ more than the sound it produces.

Again, I’m a beginner and I did notice a big difference between an local brand Chinese instrument (175 usd) and my upgrade (Chinese from maker at 350 usd). The first was most probably sprayed, heavy and didn’t resonate that much and kind of a muted sound ; the latter lighter, what it seems oil varnished and a decent flame and one piece back. It did come with its problems, the pegs don’t turn smoothly so I had to buy a wittner tailpiece and the bridge came with a bit of damage and was a bit high. Aside from that the difference was striking .

When Fiddlerman did the review of the 100 usd Cecilio with metal strings on it and played as comes from the box I can tell the sound is not good but is playable. I think after the passing 1k or 2k mark Chinese violins seems a pretty bang of the buck, specially for me in my mid 30s and just starting out.

When you see young Asians working in Cremona workshops it makes me wonder that it might be due to the language and facilitation to negotiate parts from those countries and honestly my comment about snake oil is because one might get something good without a designation of origin label.

We all work hard for our money so is only logical to understand what are getting. MJZ as a brand seems to be pretty reputable and my conversation with them makes me think (subjectivity) that they are honest and what it seems a decent product.

Edited: April 13, 2020, 2:16 PM · $10k isn't really considered a very expensive violin -- it's approximately the minimum price level for professional violins.

Differences are still quite noticeable up to $30k or beyond, though above $50k historic value certainly seems to be a larger component of the price. (That said, Chinese violins around $2k are sometimes used by pros for outdoor or amplified gigs, where tone quality matters less and the risk of damage is greater.)

April 13, 2020, 2:27 PM · There are young Asians working in Cremona because there are young people of whatever race and nation working everywhere in the world these days. A guy from China who is interested in violin-making may enroll in the violin-making school in Cremona, just like a guy from Europe or a guy from the US.

China does not have a car culture the way that the US has. People might not be riding bicycles as much, but what substitutes now is abundant, extraordinarily modern, mass transit. (There are plenty of cars, too, including luxury cars, but traffic is horrible in cities like Beijing and mass transit is preferable for many travel needs. And man, the trains are awesome.) Americans who don't travel internationally have no notion of how far the US is behind these days.

April 13, 2020, 3:04 PM · @Xuanyuan Liu - spicy thread is one way to put it!

@Damian Martin - I don't think you can go too far wrong with an MJZ instrument, providing it is set up well. So you would not have bridge or peg issues that way. Your price range is ideal for what you are looking for.

April 13, 2020, 4:22 PM · I totally agree about MJZ, they’re excellent for the price, especially the 905 or 909.

I don’t really agree with Andrew’s post that 10k is the start for professional violins though. It may depend on your definition of professional. For someone playing in a world renowned orchestra perhaps that’s true, but I know of many professionals who play using instruments in the 3k to 6k range or even less. And I’m sure you’ll find many professionals using MJZ and similar instruments for outdoor performances also even if they do have another more expensive instrument.

April 13, 2020, 9:25 PM · $10k is the start range of individually-made violins by people who routinely make violins. You can sometimes get individually-made violins under that price range by apprentices, makers who primarily earn a living in some other way (whether a non-luthier profession, or whether running a violin shop and just occasionally making a violin), and makers who are just starting out.

That seems like a reasonable way to divide the "professional" violins from the "student" violins (i.e. workshop-made violins). Sure, professionals can use student/workshop violins, and often do for backup instruments, but a backup violin is explicitly chosen usually to be destructible. And what's used by teaching pros (who may need something abusable) and what's used by performers will be different, too.

Edited: April 13, 2020, 10:54 PM · $10k appears to be a minimum for pros playing in regional orchestras. I play alongside professional and pre-professional string players fairly regularly. $5k to $10k seems to be typical for violin performance majors at the local universities, and I've noticed that they upgrade for professional auditions. This is based on a lot of social media posts where people are looking to sell the instruments they used before. A former (professional) principal 2nd violinist in my current semi-pro orchestra won a seat in an ICSOM orchestra a couple years ago, and I recall he then looked to upgrade from his $10k violin and was shopping in the $30k-50k range.

I noted in my post above that $2k Chinese violins are commonly used for outdoor or amplified gigs.

Edited: April 13, 2020, 11:34 PM · Yes both of those distinctions make sense; defining a professional violin as being made by a single master luthier, though I can think of many master luthiers in the US and other countries who sell their violins for 4 to 10k ( with quality that’s at lesst double theIr asking price).

Professional violinists defined as playing primarily in a regional or national orchestra also makes sense for the 10k point.

Professional defined as someone being paid to play violin would be a very different number though.

April 14, 2020, 2:10 AM · I think there's been a fair amount of analysis in the past that makers in countries with typical Western costs of living, who are routinely selling below that $10k-ish price point, are generally finishing violins in the white, not making from scratch.

There are individual makers selling for less if that's not their primary means of making a living, including the exceptions that I cited above.

Edited: April 14, 2020, 2:17 AM · @Lydia, I second your comment on the mass transit in China. They even have a mag-lev system (the Shanghai Transrapid) which can hit over 400 km/h (250 mph). It's the most sophisticated train in the world, which doesn't even touch the tracks!

I took the bullet train in Japan once, doing the Tokyo-Sendai in 1h 34' and you can literally set your watch by its accuracy. France has the TGV; I was driving one time in the north of France at 100 mph and the TGV which had tracks parallel to the roadway passed me like I was standing still.

In Italy we have the Frecciarossa and Italo. The Italian trains cruise at 300 km/h and have class seating like in airplanes (first, business, etc.). They are especially used on the Milan - Rome run because while a jet will theoretically get you there sooner, you don't have to deal with security, check-in etc and you're dropped off in the center of town instead of out in the sticks where you need a taxi. So in reality it takes half the time.

Off-topic, I know, but just sayin'. :-)

April 14, 2020, 5:06 AM · Richard wrote:
"though I can think of many master luthiers in the US and other countries who sell their violins for 4 to 10k ( with quality that’s at lesst double theIr asking price)."

That will depend upon how you evaluate "quality", and also on what you consider to be a "master luthier".

Sometimes, the term "master" reflects some kind of official educational or exam accomplishment, and other times, it is used very loosely, or even self-bestowed.

Edited: April 14, 2020, 8:05 AM · Also, Richard, I get the impression you're not quite understanding the term "regional orchestra." It's not an especially distinguished orchestra, nowhere near "world-renowned." The term refers to part-time professional orchestras that are typically either located in smaller cities, or secondary orchestras in major cities. The musicians are, of course, excellent, because of the amount of competition for any orchestral job, but they are low on the ladder of orchestral pros.
April 14, 2020, 7:58 AM · I always enjoy the Lyndon Taylor show. Strong health to you Lyndon and keep it coming! I hope one day I can visit your shop and see some of your violins.

The idea that Fiddlershop is selling a deliberate Musafia knockoff is disturbing. I wonder if Dimitri gets emails like, "Oh the name-plate (or some other branding item) fell off my case, can you send me another one?" from people who have bought the fakes. Gives me an idea: I wonder if I can sell the little plastic thing that says "Bobelock" on eBay.

April 14, 2020, 8:27 AM · As a matter of fact, Paul, I do. The most often is warranty issues with the Musilia cases, I wonder why.

BTW, your avatar looks like a stylized version of a stained glass panel by Frank Lloyd Wright, am I far off the mark on that?

April 14, 2020, 9:44 AM · I have 2 Musafia violin cases, 1 Bobelock, and 1 Fiddlershop case. I can tell you from my own experience, that there is NO WAY someone who actually has a genuine Musafia case to mistake a Fiddlershop case (or any other case for that matter) as a Musafia case. The material used and how it is constructed is just different. Having said this though, my Bobelock and Fiddlershop cases does a good job of protecting my violins too. It's just not as luxurious and nice looking as my Musafias.

I liken this to my wife being able to distinguish a "fake" designer handbag from the real deal. But both the fake and genuine designer bags will still function effectively as what all handbags are designed to

April 14, 2020, 11:16 AM · I’d agree with that, it’s impossible to mistake a Fiddlershop case for a Musafia. Dmitri’s quality of craftsmanship is in a class by itself. Fiddlershop cases aren’t branded as Musafia either.

Andrew, you’re right that’s not what I understood by regional orchestra, thanks for the clarification. But I meant that there are also studio and gig musicians and others who are professional violinists, even if they don’t play in any orchestra.

Lydia, I simply can’t agree with your statement that violins under 10k are started in the white and finished in the US. As one small example, Dustin Choi in southern California is a master luthier with over 20 years experience, has his own shop, and his bespoke violins are in the 7k range; he makes each one personally from start to finish. I know him and the quality of his work very well and I’d put his violins against anyone’s under 20k or more. There are many other examples also. If a master luthier in Southern California can sell a top quality made to order violin for 7k then so can anyone else, and many do.

Edited: April 14, 2020, 11:38 AM · Please correct me if I'm wrong, but Dustin Choi does not appear to get the majority of his business from making violins. He would fall into one of the exceptions Lydia mentioned: "makers who primarily earn a living in some other way." His shop's website advertises that all repairs are done by Mr. Choi himself, and it appears he mostly sells and rents out instruments that are not his own.
April 14, 2020, 12:46 PM · That’s not how I took her comment, I assumed she meant people who primarily don’t work as luthiers for their main source of income. If you narrow down the field to only luthiers who do nothing but make bespoke violins and don’t do repair work or anything else, you eliminate the vast majority of violin makers, many of whom are excellent.

Yes Mr. Choi does do repair work, and as far as I know so do most luthiers, even ones who sell in the 30k range; Okkyum Kim, a well regarded award winning (VSA, Cremona, Mexico, etc) luthier in Southern California also takes instruments for repairs for example.

Mr Choi does sell other instruments, but I’d say his shop is set up more for making custom instruments; whether it’s a majority of his business or not I couldn’t say.

Edited: April 14, 2020, 1:02 PM · Richard Jackson wrote :
.....Dustin Choi in southern California is a master luthier with over 20 years experience, has his own shop, and his bespoke violins are in the 7k range; he makes each one personally from start to finish. I know him and the quality of his work very well and I’d put his violins against anyone’s under 20k or more. There are many other examples also. If a master luthier in Southern California can sell a top quality made to order violin for 7k then so can anyone else, and many do.

There is the same "problem" here in Cremona, many price differences that are confusing for buyers who often ask: why does that expert maker sell at that low price and yours has a much higher price? I could explain that there are many possible ethical differences and approaches to work, acoustic subtleties too, and this and this again....but in the end I give up, it doesn't seem right to discredit anyone (it would be inevitable). In the end if one is not able to appreciate the differences or does not want to consider them, I am the first to suggest that he buy the cheapest one that he finds, if for him it is okay it makes no sense to spend more money. Luckily there are customers who appreciate the differences ....

In any case, to those who ask me, I say that for a violin made entirely by hand by a single person and with traditional systems you can not spend less than 12000/15000 Euros, but it is only my very personal opinion.

April 14, 2020, 1:28 PM · Always interesting these violin price discussion on regarding "professional' level instruments and beyond. Always certain violin makers who insist that it must be some certain price: 12000/15000 or sometimes 20000, etc. as well as a few players.

I live in Europe but am from the U.S. Like Mr. Jackson I can say categorically that there are violin makers who make an instrument by themselves from start to finish to arrive at a professional quality instrument for under 10000 dollars or euros on both continents. These are not started in the white or anything else, and use traditional methods. And, yes, Mr. Sora, I can tell the difference in quality between different instruments.
And as well, Mr. Burgess, ones whom I know are indeed master luthiers who have learned at major international violin making centers, only do violins for a living (This usually also involves being a dealer, a repair person, and selling other things like tone wood, and have won international awards.
Not everything bears the overprices of Cremona, for example. They own their shops and make instruments that are "workshop" in the sense of multiple hands (Even Stradivari did some of that.), but those hands are professionals, not apprentices in their shop and number well under 5. They also make instruments still in this price range under the magic 10000 mark all by themselves as well as some over this mark.

April 14, 2020, 1:31 PM · I meant people whose primary business is something that takes up most of their work hours -- for instance, someone who just makes an instrument or three a year, versus someone who is a full-time maker (most full-time makers also do some repairs or adjustments, of course).

I should have set a lower bar than $10k; $7k is probably the minimum bar, though, as it's a common price point for apprentice-made work. There's not a giant difference between $7k and $10k, in my mind, in terms of most people's budgets, and the $5k-10k range has frequently been noted as a tough place to search.

I agree that no one could possibly mistake a Fiddlershop case for a Musafia on close look, but it's very clear that they very deliberately imitated the look of the Aeternum's interior. And the exterior has the same distinctive look of the Musafia's two-color trim of the outer cover. There's a shiny gold-ish look rather than the duller (less attention-getting) brass-ish look of the Musafia's external metal. For those of us who own Musafias and would like the case exteriors to not be particularly notable as "steal this expensive case", having cheap cases out in the world that look like them from the outside is not a bad thing.

Edited: April 14, 2020, 2:10 PM · I will second what Davide last said.

Mr. Jackson, Dustin Choi's website suggests that most of his activity is from selling inexpensive instruments which he did not make, along with repairs. I don't recall having ever seen or played one of his personally-made instruments, so I better stop there.

As I mentioned earlier, there are SOME really good makers in Cremona, as well as in many other cities throughout the world.

Focusing back on Cremona: If you are unable to differentiate Davide Sora's work from much of what else is going on in Cremona, I can only feel sorry for you, and suggest that you try to do a better job of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. But if the finer points don't matter to you, or are beyond your comprehension, that's OK too. Do whatever works for you.

Mr. Browder, thanks so much for sharing your opinions, but Davide Sora, Dimitri Musafia, and I are likely much better positioned to know what's going on in the fiddlemaking world than you are.

April 14, 2020, 1:49 PM · Davide, you’re welcome to your opinion, but the facts seem to contradict it. Many luthiers do sell traditionally made, hand-made-by-a-single-person violins for substantially less than 12k Euros. Perhaps not in Cremona, but certainly in the US and other countries.

In most cases, the higher the price the better the quality yes, because the luthier is more experienced, or takes more time in craftsmanship, or has developed his or her own approach that has an advantage in some area; I agree with you totally about that. But it’s not an absolute.

The main point is that price should not be the ONLY criteria for choosing a high quality violin or for choosing a luthier. There are violins for under 10k that would outshine many violins at double the price, though they clearly wouldn’t be the equal of a 40-50k+ master crafted world class instrument in every detail of workmanship, subtleties of tone, etc.

April 14, 2020, 2:14 PM · I don't think anyone has ever claimed that price should be the only criterion in choosing either a violin or a luthier.
April 14, 2020, 2:20 PM · I would suggest that no one has seen if these $7000 violins are actually made by hand, and have no f'ing idea whether or not they started as imported violins in the white, and are just going off the makers claims, which are not always reliable. IMHO
April 14, 2020, 2:24 PM · Richard, I will agree that price should not be the ONLY criterion. The vast majority of people who approach me have already done a bunch of homework. I'd expect that to be similar for Davide Sora and Dimitri Musafia.

If a potential client has not already done a bunch of homework, I will suggest that they go back and do more. My instruments are rather pricey, and the last thing I would want anyone to do is make an uninformed decision.

April 14, 2020, 2:30 PM · Lydia I can definitely say that Mr Choi makes more than 2 or 3 instruments a year. More like 10 to 12 with a waiting list. Personally from my conversations with him I think he offers the rental and sales more as a courtesy and service to the community since there are only 3 violin shops in Orange County, his being one of them. (I don’t count music stores and places like guitar center as a “violin shop”).
April 14, 2020, 2:34 PM · you can't hand make 10 or 12 violins a year and run a violin repair and rental shop, not possible. not enough time in the year.
Edited: April 14, 2020, 2:43 PM · David, absolutely, your instruments are clearly in a different class than most of what we’re discussing, we are really more talking about the entry level point for professional quality.

Lyndon, I’m saying that in the case of Mr Choi at least, I can personally confirm that his custom made violins are made by his hand only from start to finish, and that they are in the 7 to 8k range. That’s based on me having physically toured his workshop, and on my in person discussions with him.

I personally think his rental business is a small part of his time since I’ve never seen a rental customer in his shop. Also, a quality violin is about 200 hours ( average only) to make, so it’s very possible to make 10 per year and do part time sales and repair.

For other makers I can’t personally make the same claim. But if a maker can do that in Southern California then other makers can do the same anywhere else.

Edited: April 14, 2020, 2:49 PM · I will agree with Lyndon, this time.

Richard, sometimes a highly-experienced professional violin maker can go into a shop, and have a different impression from that of the amateur observer.

April 14, 2020, 3:05 PM · David, I agree that an experienced maker can have a very different impression.
But seeing violins in various stages from blank wood, to in the mold, to drying after varnish etc. does strongly suggest that they aren’t just being finished from ones in the white, nor do I think Mr Choi would be dishonest about that, or anything else for that matter.

Also I’ve been around woodworking most of my life since my father was a master woodworker for 70 years; I can tell when tools are being used and treated with respect, and when they’re just for show, and can generally tell quality wood also ( though not at all to the level of a trained luthier clearly).

As for the quality of his finished work, everyone would have to judge for themselves.

April 14, 2020, 3:16 PM · There goes that "master" thing again. I asked before, but never got a reply. How was the "master" title bestowed? Was it bestowed by the plumbers union, the Mittenwald Violin Making School graduate program, or what?
Edited: April 14, 2020, 4:14 PM · Dimitri, it's been so long since I uploaded my avatar that I had to think about it! But it's Mondrian (a portion of Tableau No. 2). I do love FLW stained-glass. Curiously one of my ancestors was a noted stained-glass craftsman.

There's a lot that goes into the price of a violin. Lydia makes a good comment. Sometimes there are luthiers who don't need the income. They make violins (possibly even on a full time basis if they inherited well or spent the first ten years of their professional career on Wall Street, etc.), and they want to sell them easily, so they undercut the competition who are making violins as a matter of vocation. I also am surprised that someone can make 10-12 violins a year whilst also doing repair work and running a shop. Maybe the tour you got didn't include the basement full of CNC equipment. I'll bet a CNC mill can cut purfling grooves and scrolls in nothing flat.

April 14, 2020, 3:23 PM · Making 10 violins per year, I figure Mr. Choi would have about 3 hours per day left for his store's repair, rental and sales business. The price of $7-8K is quite low for a luthier residing in southern California, where rents are getting higher and higher. A new inexpensive luthier crafted violin in Madison WI is $8.5K. I buy local.
April 14, 2020, 3:39 PM · The maker who lives nearest me is Patrick Toole in Roanoke VA (Toole Studios on Facebook). He sells his instruments through Davidson Violins near Charlotte NC. I see that Davidson has one of his 2015 instruments going for $9000. I have played one of Patrick's violins and one of his violas that were made much more recently. They were good-sounding instruments, balanced and responsive. I'd say they compared well to my Topa. I could see spending $10-12k on one of his instruments; that would be a good value.
April 14, 2020, 3:42 PM · There are about 2,000 work hours in a year, assuming that you're going to take a few holidays / sick days (Christmas off, etc.), and you're working an 8-hour day with zero breaks.

If a violin takes 200 hours to make, making 10 of them a year eats that 2,000 hours right there. And that's before you spend any time selling, marketing, doing set-up, communicating with your customers, and doing your accounts. And before doing any tasks for running your shop, doing repair work, etc. It's possible, but it suggests that he probably works 60+ hours a week.

April 14, 2020, 3:42 PM · one of the features of the fraudulent shops, is they always have at least one hand made violin being made to show people, while the mass produced violins they're finishing aren't showcased.
April 14, 2020, 4:07 PM · David - my fathers master title was bestowed by completing journeyman level in all areas recognized by the UBC, and all master classes for the CCWA, in other words it was earned not given.

Lydia, yes I agree Mr Choi probably does work 50 to 60 hours most weeks.

April 14, 2020, 4:11 PM · Well, I don't know any salaried professionals who work much less these days -- those who have kept their jobs, that is. On that front I certainly have nothing to complain about.
April 14, 2020, 4:19 PM · Lyndon, when I say I toured his workshop I meant it. No CNC machines, no hidden violins in the white. Maybe some sleazy shops do what you suggest but not his. He’s very upfront about the violins he sells that aren’t his own.
April 14, 2020, 4:42 PM · Then maybe he sells his violins for $7000 because no one is willing to pay $10-15,000 for them???
April 14, 2020, 4:54 PM · Richard, what is the UBC? And what is the CCWA? Is that the Clayton County Water Authority, or the Cleveland Council of World Affairs?
April 14, 2020, 5:34 PM · UBC - united brotherHood of carpenters, the official carpenters union.. CCWA - certified custom woodworkers association, an associate organization of the UBC.
April 14, 2020, 6:33 PM · Just to get out of this long digression for a bit: my observation on price ranges was to address the OP raising the question of whether prices over $10k are essentially status symbols and/or snake oil. The answer to that question is no. Wherever you draw the line for professional violins, a $10k violin is not a high-end violin at all, but still a basic workhorse instrument by professional standards. The kind of extreme diminishing returns the OP is describing do apply at some point, of course, but that price level is much higher, perhaps above $50k.
April 14, 2020, 6:51 PM · Andrew - very well said, wherever the point of extreme diminishing returns is, it’s well above 10k, though I personally doubt it’s over 50k ( I can’t say from experience since the most expensive violin I’ve ever played was in the 30k range), By professional standards, it seems from the discussion that 7 to 15k is an entry level professional instrument and most anything below that would be considered an advanced student violin or a backup violin by a professional.
Edited: April 14, 2020, 8:05 PM · new violins selling in the $7-12,000 range are generally of similar quality to antiques I sell in the $3-5,000 range, if even that. A 50 year old hand made $7,000 violin just sold at my store for $1200
April 14, 2020, 9:02 PM · 7K to 15K is only an entry-level professional instrument if the professional has been very, very lucky in finding one of the rare violins in that price range that are extremely good but underpriced either due to unprovable provenance or to an extensive history of repairs. I have owned two such violins in my life so I know they exist. But the vast majority of professionals in my experience are playing on instruments in the 20K - 100K range. 7K - 15K is more typical for a conservatory student, or the fortunate non-professional-track child of wealthy parents.

A luthier is not a carpenter.

April 14, 2020, 10:38 PM · Anyone that works with wood is a carpenter
April 14, 2020, 11:42 PM · Mary Ellen I never claimed that my father was a luthier. I said master woodworker which he was. Many of the tools used are the same but clearly many are specific to violins only. My point was that because of my father, I can absolutely tell a real craftsman’s workshop from a fake for display only, and would consider myself a decent judge of quality wood. Ultimately, a luthier is a very highly specialized and trained woodworker after all.

I still personally think there are a great many new violins in the 7 to 15k range that many starting professionals would be very happy with, and more being crafted every day. As for antique violins I’d agree totally that it’s harder to find quality professional grade instruments in that price range.

April 14, 2020, 11:55 PM · you're so f'ing ignorant about the antique market, stick to what you know; cheap crappy mas produced Chinese violins
April 15, 2020, 12:57 AM · Actually I don’t know anything about cheap crappy mass produced Chinese violins, except there are too many of them on eBay and Amazon and too many people get taken by thinking they’re real violins. And too many people use those as examples to say all Chinese violins are bad too.

I Do know a fair amount about midrange, very playable, very good sounding Chinese violins since I have two, and some about antique Mittenwald German violins since I own one, and some about quality Romanian violins since I also own one.

I’m not trying to denigrate the antique market, but a professional will typically be very exacting in what they want, and many antiques in that range wouldn’t meet their criteria. That doesn’t mean they’re bad at all.

Edited: April 15, 2020, 12:59 AM · Most professionals play on antiques, for your information!!
April 15, 2020, 1:18 AM · Yes they certainly do. You are 100% correct Lyndon. But as Mary Ellen pointed out, very few play on antiques in the 7 to 15k range, which was the subject of my post.
Edited: April 15, 2020, 1:40 AM · Just as an example, many professional violinists, not soloists will be playing on a Ernst Heinrich Roth from the 20s or 30s, full retail $7-12,000, you'd be surprised at how many professional violinist aren't even well off enough to afford a vintage Roth. I have a semi professional friend that play is our local symphony that is playing a violin I sold her for $1500, she's tried instruments I have for up to $5000 and still prefers hers. not all musicians are filthy rich, in fact very few are.
April 15, 2020, 2:02 AM · Im totally certain you can find a professional quality violin for 7 to 12k, I’ve played a couple of them. And there are definitely antiques in that range that professionals use, in fact Lindsey Stirling uses a Roth as her primary studio violin, probably also about 10k; she doesn’t play in an orchestra but she’s certainly a classically trained professional.

But many antiques have hidden problems such as a bad repair covered in varnish or even a crack that was varnished over, sometimes intentionally. Most sellers will definitely do their best to represent an instrument accurately but less skilled ones may miss something. And a lot of antique violins just are not that good to begin with too.

April 15, 2020, 2:36 AM · you have no idea about cracks at all, a properly fixed crack is 95% as good as no crack at all, if its not well repaired then that's another story, but there's no reason not to consider violins with professionally repaired cracks in non serious places, on top of that there's no shortage of 100 year old violins with no cracks, that are considerably more stable and less likely to need repairs than brand new instruments, which are likely to go through much more issues because the wood is not completely dried out.
April 15, 2020, 9:46 AM · Lyndon that’s exactly what I said. I said many have a bad repair or an unrepsired crack that someone hid with varnish. I totally agree a well repaired crack is not a deal breaker for a violin at all. I also agree there’s no shortage of 100 year old violins either but a lot of them are mass produced student level instruments, I don’t think you’d find many professionals playing a JTL medio-fino for example. .
April 15, 2020, 12:58 PM · I have to admit I've checked this thread daily for the pyrotechnics. There are interesting things being brought up on all sides.

That being said, Lyndon I don't know you, or your situation, but your vitriol is unwarranted. You have called people stupid, their ideas stupid, etc. You have a vested business interest in the antique market so denigrating others for their views smacks of conflict of interest.

April 15, 2020, 1:24 PM · I'm actually not so sure it's accurate to say "most" professionals play on antiques. Many do, for sure. But--for example--I think all or nearly all of the members of my orchestra's cello section are playing on modern instruments. I am playing on a Cison (living maker) as are at least half a dozen of my colleagues. And quite a few violists in various orchestras have one of the oddly shaped modern violas.

Please don't use Lindsey Stirling as an example of a professional violinist. She is a professional entertainer, and she is a marketing genius. But as a player, she is nowhere near even the freeway philharmonic league. And for what she does, the quality of the instrument is irrelevant. It all gets fixed up in post-production anyway.

April 15, 2020, 2:18 PM · Good feedback Mary Ellen, thank you.

As for Lindsey Stirling, she is a professional violinist in that it’s her primary source of income. Her music is much simpler than most currently performed classical pieces yes, and she’s clearly a performer and marketing talent also.

But not all professional violinists play in an orchestra, limiting your definition to orchestra players only does a disservice to many talented violinists, such as those playing in Irish groups or country or jazz. A lot of that music is also simpler than classical ( though not all ), but the players are absolutely professional violinists.

Edited: April 15, 2020, 2:53 PM · Here's my story about Chinese instruments vs. antiques. I needed a new violin so I brought a few antiques home from shops in Richmond, ranging in price from $3500 to $18000. On the home front, a local pro had a Topa that he offered me at $8500 and a French antique violin that he was offering at $15000. And I had a new Daniel Foster violin, for which he was asking $18000 (Dan died maybe 5 years ago). In all there were six violins. I played all these violins for my teacher, for other violinists that I know in town -- people with good ears. All except myself and my teacher preferred the $3500 violin, which was made by Eduard Reichert in the 1890s. My teacher and I preferred the Topa. The Foster violin was a very strong contender but I also couldn't see spending another $10000 for it. So I bought the Topa for myself and the Reichert for my daughter, who was just needing her first full-sized violin (she loves it). My niece, meanwhile was playing on a good Jay Haide violin, and there was nothing wrong with that violin, it had a great sound (she is in music college now and has upgraded).

Later I showed my Topa violin to a pro violinist who teaches and plays in the local fee-for-service outfits. He played for a few minutes on it, handed it back to me, and he said, "Paul, that's a wonderful violin. I don't have a violin like that."

Then I needed a viola, so a great local pro who also teaches in our area offered to pick me up a few Chinese violas (all MJZs) to try from a tradesman in the midwest that he was visiting. Realizing that I knew nothing about violas, and not wanting to drive the rejects back, I just asked him to bring home the one he liked best. Thus I bought an MJZ "AA" viola for $3500, sight-unseen. It has a huge, rich sound, but it's not especially responsive. This same pro heard me playing and warming up on my viola one day, and he told me that some months ago he played a couple of recitals with two freeway-phil type pro violists in the DC area, and he said my viola sounds better than either of theirs.

Edited: April 15, 2020, 2:51 PM · When people talk about "carpentry" the mostly mean the kind of carpentry that is used in home-building and home renovation. Putting up walls, pitching roofs and stairs, installing decks, garages, etc., and of course finish carpentry which includes windows, moldings, doors, cabinet installation and such. Often even the rough-carpentry and the finish-carpentry are done by different crews -- such is the level of specialization in labor.

Someone who makes cabinets and fine furniture is not usually called a carpenter. Usually they are called cabinet-makers. Cabinet making is considered a more refined skill from what I know. (Certainly, it's more expensive to hire.)

The luthier is neither of these. I would not hire someone like David Burgess to help me build a deck in my backyard. Now he's a clever guy and he's going to figure it out fast enough. And for all I know he might have already built one for himself. But otherwise, he might not even have the tools. What's a violin-maker doing with a framing nailer? How often has he needed to drive Tapcon screws whilst fixing a cello? Also a lot of the skill of the framing carpenter is knowing how to work within building codes, which includes local code. (How many luthiers in Blacksburg know that a deck in our town needs to rest on 18-inch concrete piers?)

Edited: April 15, 2020, 3:38 PM · Paul I agree with you 100% on that.

My comments were that my father was a master woodworker, yes he started as a carpenter (many decades ago) but moved into custom woodworking, carving, design, etc. after that. Someone asked what made him a master and I answered; in the US the union for woodworkers and carpenters is the same but woodworkers have their own association within that union.

And woodworking is much closer to lutherie than a framing carpenter for example. Are they identical? Certainly not! But many tools and techniques for shaping wood are very similar.

Even a master woodworker wouldn't have the knowledge to make a violin sound amazing, though a talented one could definitely make A violin fairly easily. The result would probably look beautiful but sound and play no better than a decent beginning student instrument at best.

April 15, 2020, 3:38 PM · If the discussion is about what sorts of violins qualify as professional instruments, then it is absolutely necessary to separate out orchestra musicians from Irish fiddlers or from Lindsey Stirling. The latter does not need an instrument of the caliber that an orchestra player does. Auto-tune and other post-production tricks are going to make her sound better anyway. Orchestra players don’t have that luxury; we have to sound good in the moment.

Lumping anyone who has ever earned a dollar for playing the violin into a set of “professional violinists” is like lumping anyone who has ever ridden a bicycle into a set of “cyclists” and then arguing that a mass-manufactured bicycle from the local big box store is of professional caliber because you yourself have gone for a ride on one.

Edited: April 15, 2020, 3:41 PM · Richard, the reason I think it's fair to use orchestral violinists as the standard is that tone quality is not as crucial in folk or popular genres where the violin is typically amplified, played outdoors, and/or played over crowd noise. Some highly successful fiddlers use $500 student violins. The people may be professional violinists, but if you use that standard then anything that isn't a VSO is a professional violin.

Also note that many orchestral pros play in those styles as well (I've seen several Sacramento Philharmonic violinists playing jazz or bluegrass or rock gigs), and they tend to use backup/"gig" violins for the purpose if they have one.

April 15, 2020, 3:50 PM · Mary Ellen, that's not what I said.. I said someone who makes their living playing violin is a professional violinist.

Also, most country and jazz players perform live far more than they work in studio, so the sound quality definitely does matter. To Andrews point, yes it most certainly doesn't matter as MUCH as in a classical setting, so for instrument quality I do agree with you.

My objection is to the arbitrary classification that one must play classical music in an orchestra to be a considered a professional.

April 15, 2020, 4:16 PM · Richard, while many country and jazz players perform "live", it is seldom without being mic'd, and being run through some sort of signal processing or distortion. Each step in the chain, from the microphone to the speaker, tends to in some way modify the natural sound of a violin.

If you don't notice such things, "don't worry, be happy". :-)

April 15, 2020, 4:18 PM · Jeewon,

I have said that I've never played any violin that cost more than 30k, and that only once. I also agreed with Andrew that sound quality matters much more in a classical setting; country is typically amplified and jazz may or may not be depending on the venue. So I was actually agreeing with those comments.

I do absolutely maintain that anyone who plays the violin for a living is a professional violinist though.

For example, to say that someone who has played country music on the violin for major artists, with advanced degrees in violin performance, is not a professional, is utterly absurd.

April 15, 2020, 4:31 PM · Clearly, those who make a living playing the violin can be called a professional, but one should not confuse the musical genres and instruments suitable for them. It would be like comparing an electric guitarist with a classic one, or an electric guitar with a classical guitar to take the two extremes. Any luthier who knows his craft knows well that a violin for classical musicians is much more demanding in terms of tone and response because classical musicians are the most demanding for reasons related to the music they have to play. They cannot all be treated equally, distinctions must be made.
April 15, 2020, 4:42 PM · David,
I've done a bit of live recording and post processing since I've written and recorded several songs (piano /keyboard not violin), so I understand the effects that microphones (type, number, placement, etc.) and amplification and mixing have on instrument sound. (Note: I don't claim to be a professional pianist though I have many years of classical training, and don't claim to be an expert audio engineer either, just an enthusiastic and fairly knowledgeable amateur).

I would just add that not all jazz is mic'd though, especially in small venues.

And I did agree, twice now, that natural instrument sound quality is FAR more important in a classical setting; Andrew's post was spot on in that regard. :)

April 15, 2020, 4:46 PM · Davide, with respect to instrument quality I absolutely agree with you (and Andrew and David also). Even the best microphones and amplification systems will lose some of the tonal subtleties of a great violin, and those very qualities are some of what is most prized in instruments used for classical performances.

My sole objection was to the post that strongly implied that a violinist wasn't a professional unless they played classical music in an orchestra.

April 15, 2020, 5:17 PM · Richard, I am with you for this, my respect for anyone who can make a living playing the violin or being a musician in general and in any genre (well, for some commercial genres I bring less respect, but anyway....)
April 15, 2020, 5:45 PM · Thank you Davide, that's exactly how I feel; I have enormous respect for anyone who can do that professionally (also agreeing that some commercial packaged genres are not exactly the same :) )

Jeewon, very well said, and perhaps I took the initial comment too seriously. I do agree with you and also know some fiddle players etc. who prefer those labels too.

Though many of them ARE classically trained and have advanced degrees in violin performance; they're just doing what they love. I think most everyone can understand and appreciate that.

April 15, 2020, 6:02 PM · Yes, you're correct, she wasn't the best choice, I actually thought she was classically trained but should have fact checked that before my post, my apologies. Mainly I mentioned her because I know she plays a Roth for her acoustic work, and an antique Roth in good condition is usually a very good violin :)

I definitely agreed that classical musicians overall care more about tone quality, though some of the country and jazz violinists who ARE classically trained probably care far more than others.

By the way I use the term classically trained to mean "attended a conservatory or majored in performance at a university", which I think is the common meaning.

Edited: April 15, 2020, 6:06 PM · Xuanyuan Liu, agreed. Lyndsey Sterling does not fit my definition of a player who demands much from an instrument.
April 15, 2020, 7:07 PM · That was part of the discussion yes, where is the boundary; some Roths might be right on the edge of OK for a beginning professional for example. We also covered Chinese violins quite extensively and vocally (for some at least). That all came out of the OP originally asking is there a point of diminishing returns for violin price and where it might be, especially for Cremonese instruments.
Edited: April 15, 2020, 8:14 PM · Since I *have* performed live as a jazz violinist on approximately 20 occasions (always earning at least the AFM minimum except in the case of two charity benefits), I can safely say that 95+% of all gigs require electrification (I use a Fishman pickup). Just the sound level of conversation in a typical venue will totally cover an unamplified violin. It would only work in the posh restaurants that have small seating areas and genteel clientele (and they do not hire live music). One time I played for a gallery show with a guitarist and a percussionist and after the first half hour when the place filled up, it was obvious I had to plug in. The guitarist plugged in too. (The "gallery" is not a huge place -- it doubles as a law office.)
April 15, 2020, 8:46 PM · Thanks for the professional background Paul.

I’ve sat in on just 3 events as a keyboardist, 2 were exactly the venues you described, smaller restaurants, but they were closed for private events. We didn’t use amplification for the other instruments, and I had my keyboard amp turned down more than usual to not overpower them. Having the perspective of a professional really helps.

How do you like the Fishman pickup versus a Barcus Berry if you don’t mind me asking? I’ve been considering a pickup for one of my violins since I really don’t like my electric at all.

April 15, 2020, 8:55 PM · Again, at least some of the time the classical orchestral violinists and the fiddlers or jazz violinists are the same people -- and they almost always use a backup violin for their non-classical gigs if they have one.
Edited: April 15, 2020, 9:57 PM · Richard, first of all I'm not a professional. I'm an amateur who has enough skill in the jazz genre to play gigs with local pros. I've played maybe 20 gigs on violin -- probably 200 on piano. I turn away as many gigs as I accept on piano -- I have a pretty solid reputation locally as a jazz pianist.

I use the Fishman V-200. What I like is that it comes on and off very easily. Just a chin-rest tool and that's it, which is good because I'm using it with my best violin. I use a custom pre-amp made by my brother, who is an electrical engineer and has marketed a bass pre-amp called the HPF-PRE. The pre-amp is really just for signal gain. From there into a 10-band equalizer (MXR) and into a Fender Passport (a small PA). For effects (which I have not explored too deeply) I have a Boss ME-80 multi-effects device, which (I'm told) has been recommended by Christian Howes. My own feeling is that the flaws of just about any pickup can be rectified with a 10-band EQ, and no pickup will sound good without at least some equalization, so you might as well get at least a 6-band -- they are pretty cheap in stomp-box form. For me, modifying the violin such as recarving the bridge to take the pickup is a deal-breaking negative because I am using the same violin for classical. If you want to know the sound that I would really love to have, listen to Jerry Goodman's work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. His tone and his vibrato are just incredible. You don't get that with gear, unfortunately for me.

My keyboard is a Yamaha P-155 stage piano, which I've had for 10 years. It's a real workhorse. Recently I acquired a Yamaha MX-49 synthesizer but I haven't done as much with that as I envisioned. You can either spend your time figuring out how to use all kind of gear, or you can spend your time getting better at playing your instrument. I think the latter is my preferred trajectory.

April 15, 2020, 10:17 PM · Nice setup, I use a very old Roland A90EX that’s built like a tank for anything outside, usually with a Vox VX50 amp ( I love Vox amps!)
For violin I’ve tried EQ with my AMPLIFi guitar amp and it helps a lot but my electric is just not very playable to begin with ( a very cheap one). I also have a BOSS pedal and a stomp EQ ( I’ve been playing guitar a lot longer than violin) so I’ll try those too when I get a pickup thanks! And I totally agree ease of removing the pickup would be important for me too since I won’t use it much, probably mostly for recording with my home setup.
I listened to a bit of Jerry Goodman and you’re right, awesome!
April 15, 2020, 10:52 PM · no, I'm not related to Lyndon Taylor in the LA Philharmonic, but I do know him and sold him a cheaper antique back up violin, not sure if it was for him or a student, His sister plays a violin from me as well.
April 16, 2020, 12:11 AM · I think that was a big focus of the discussion, where exactly is the entry point for a professional violin, and opinions ranged all over from potentially 7k for a custom hand made violin to others saying 12k euros was the absolute minimum, to discussions about upper range MJZ violins. I know I was very surprised the first time I played a higher level quality instrument.
Edited: April 16, 2020, 3:32 AM · @Paul. Thanks for your reply about the stained glass, very interesting. I held a lecture in January on SoCal Mid-Century Modern architecture and FLW was the elephant in the room although he actually did very little in that area.

His students at Taliesin West did however, and researching that was when I came up with the window nearly identical to your avatar (although, of course, all straight lines and 90° angles). Sadly, Taliesin West is closing this year, after 88 years.

Edited: April 16, 2020, 4:18 AM · To the point of what is a "professional" violin I would like to remember the late violinist Israel Baker.

For those who don't know Iz was a star in the Hollywood studios during their heyday: you can hear him in the infamous shower scene of Bernard Hermann's soundtrack of Hitchcock's "Psycho". For his studio work he used a Gand & Bernardel (which you might still be able to find around $10-15K); but he was also a concert violinist, playing with my pianist dad as well, and in those cases he used the 1731 "Jules Garcin" Stradivari (which at one time had been owned by Gand & Bernardel - go figure).

Edited: April 16, 2020, 6:18 AM · Mondriaan is interesting. There is a direct line from his earliest tree paintings to the abstraction/op art of Broadway Boogie-Woogie. I don't think Paul's avatar is stained glass, you may have got your wires crossed there. You can see in it that it is partway between tree (the black content is branches) and abstraction.
April 16, 2020, 6:21 AM · Abstraction is everything, Gordon.
Edited: April 16, 2020, 7:24 AM · I didn't know that about Mondrian's artistic evolution -- very cool. It makes the *early* stuff more interesting.
Edited: April 16, 2020, 7:14 PM · Arguing over the semantic definition of "professional" violinist is kind of wasted effort here, and some people seem to be deliberately trying to muddy the waters.

It should be obvious when people are talking about professional violinists, they aren't talking about people who make money on the side on weddings, or even people who might teach a few students a week as a side gig.

What is up for debate as far as quality of tone goes is what the cutoff is for a classically trained violinist who relies in some part on the quality of their instrument for a living. Anything less is just a distraction from true conversation that has value. Lindsey Stirling does not particularly demand great tone from an instrument (and by not particularly I probably mean not at all). Most fiddlers and bluegrass musicians don't either; they are playing with pickups and amps, maybe outdoors in open venues etc... This should be obvious to anyone who attends classical music concerts, and even the lucky few on this board who PLAY classical music concerts.

I've made money playing church services and weddings on a $5000 American workshop violin. I am by no means a "professional" violinist. I know people who are professional violinists who have played weddings. The instruments they bring to weddings are generally not professional caliber instruments. And why would they need to be?

To summarize. If your definition of "make money paying violin" is as far as it goes, a $3000 Jay Haide or Ming Jiang Zhu will be just fine. Or just buy a $1500 electric you can plug directly into an amp. Shoot, I made money during high school tutoring elementary school students in violin at $15/hour and I had an even cheaper instrument that was just fine.

Personally, I have found that the line kind of starts at $20k for a true professional grade instrument. This means you would be comfortable auditioning with it for a full time orchestra or elite conservatory, or playing competition. I think before that, the cost of search (i.e. taking time to go play, evaluate instruments, etc...) is kind of a losing proposition. The marginal time spent searching for a $10k instrument that hits like a winner will probably be higher than just paying the extra $10k to open up a whole new price bracket. And that's $20k for great modern instruments (for example, I've probably tried like 20 Hill and Nick Vuillaumes in that price range that I would not consider to be professional instruments). When it comes to antiques, the price floor is likely to be even higher.

Of course, I am not an elite conservatory player, neither as touring violinist. I'm just an amateur with more money than talent. But I have played moderns and antiques all up and down the price range, in multiple different settings. When looking for the trust fund toy I own now, I probably tried 100 violins, not including French workshop antiques. There are a lot of violins in the $5k->$15k range, antiques included, Chinese made and American finished included, single-maker luthiers included, that are "good enough" for 95-99% of applications. When I think "professional" violins, I think about something that goes beyond "good enough" to something on the level of "actively elevates the music".

April 16, 2020, 9:23 PM · James I think that was very well said. I especially like your point that it may not even be cost effective to look for a professional orchestral quality violin under some threshold, the exact price is probably somewhat location dependent.

The only exception might be if the buyer has a personal recommendation for a luthier that sells under that price. I also really like your definition of a professional violin as one that actively elevates the music; that’s the best definition I’ve ever read.

I do apologize if I muddied the waters, I definitely didn’t mean to include part time performers in my definition, I thought I was clear that I meant only people who play violin as their primary source of income.

April 17, 2020, 4:52 AM · Is profesional level defined by the sound? Will they feel the same as a “good” 3k violin?
April 17, 2020, 9:08 AM · They will feel quite different. Sound quality is very important, yes, but really great violins will have a much easier time projecting, and perhaps more importantly they will have a lot of versatility and a crazy amount of sensitivity to your right hand technique.

When I got my new instrument, I had to start re-working double stop technique because the "trigger" on the violin is more sensitive than it was before. On my previous instrument, it wasn't altogether difficult to play piano passages, now I find myself varying contact point a lot more to achieve the same thing.

These are just a couple examples but none of this is really required in a "wedding gig" instrument. People at weddings are talking, they're moving around, so sound quality and tone depth isn't the most important. You aren't (generally) playing music that requires a lot of high position work, so a strident (or muted) E string is not likely to be a problem. You're playing with 3 other people, so being able to project is actually not desirable.

April 17, 2020, 11:49 AM · For a wedding gig, you are also frequently playing outside so destructibility or at least a relatively low valued instrument is desirable.
April 17, 2020, 12:32 PM · Low value, so definitely under $20k. :) More like CF violin.
April 17, 2020, 12:48 PM · My picnic violin is worth about $1500.
April 17, 2020, 1:16 PM · Some of the CF violins are acceptable for those kind of outdoor performances I think. I know a lot of fiddle players use them for outside gigs. The mezzo forte design line is about $2200; the evo is $1300 but to me it sounds too thin and shrill, and is made very differently from the design line.

But $2200 for a violin that has at least decent tone and good projection, and is essentially indestructible may be a good trade off for some, the trade off is losing much of the tonal complexity that a similar priced wood violin would have of course.

Edited: April 18, 2020, 1:28 AM · I think that a "professional level" anything means that it offers more nuance, complexity, flexibility, and overall qualitative result than a beginner or non-professional would know what to do with.

This lesson came to me when a friend of mine, an aerospace engineer, let me drive his race-prepared Porsche. I consider myself a competent driver and had a good time. But when my friend got back behind the wheel and took the car through its paces, while I was holding on for dear life I realized that I was lacking the skill to make that "professional quality" machine perform anywhere near its capability.

Probably the same will apply to high-end digital cameras, microphones, mountain bikes, drones, etc. etc. and of course violins.

April 18, 2020, 7:24 AM · Dimitri my friend took me for a hell-ride in his car too but it wasn't a Porsche. It was a 1964 Dodge Dart (the famous Chrysler Slant-6 engine) that he has modified extensively for racing. I thought we were going to do a ski jump at the end of the New River bridge at Eggleston Springs. At the end of the ride, after regaining my wits, we played a nice restaurant gig together with a couple of other guys.
Edited: April 18, 2020, 8:12 AM · Paul that's funny. This car was a '90s Porsche 944 S2 Turbo. My friend took a circular off-ramp from the 605 freeway that had a speed limit of 40 mph - at 110. The lateral force loosened a couple of my fillings as I contemplated the laws of physics, and marveling at how well the folks at Zuffenhausen screwed the door handle that I was hanging on to to the inside panel.

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