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.
I would never buy a violin I could not test, have my teacher test, AND have my luthier evaluate.
Absolutely not. "Made in Cremona" is meaningless, especially when many of the best luthiers currently living don't live in Cremona.
“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.
The only "Cremona" brand I've heard of is cheap Chinese.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Well said Lyndon, Steve, and Lydia.
@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?
Thanks a ton to all of you replying, is nice to get such perspectives.
@Damian If you're in Europe, take a look of Geigenbau Leonhardt in Mittenwald
Damian, my prices are up to half of what Corilon might charge, Corilon is full high retail, not discount shop like me.
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.
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.
My instrument is from Cremona of the maker: Matteo Mazzoti. I love the violin and it’s worth a try!
"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.
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.
so just because you were stupid and bought a lousy antique violin, you consider yourself qualified to badmouth the whole genre!!
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.
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
Steve Jones asked:
Very well said Lyndon, the price and markup definitely makes a difference in this price range.
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.
So how many times in this one thread have you pitched your violins?
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.
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.
Some say the pandemic has brought out both the best and worst of people.
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!
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ?
Not to derail, but some good reading about forum behavior here at v.com
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 et.al. 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.
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.
Actually I have extensive training as an audio engineer, and worked for years designing audiophile loudspeakers
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.
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 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.
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:
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).
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.
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:
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.
I'm almost sure they're registered as corporations, how many employees do you think they have??
I’d bet none of them have more than 25. And at Fiddlershop at least 5 of the employees are family.
most big violin shops have about 5 employees so you have to admit 25 is pretty big
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. .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
can you link to a picture of the bridge, side view??
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
I hope people will not take Lyndon's outbursts as being representative of the fiddle trade. They are not.
I have this feeling that Lyndon regards any operation bigger than his own as "big online corporation".
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.
Shar and Fiddlershop are the Walmart of the violin business.
Or would be if Walmart had exactly one location and 19 employees (that's "big online corporation" Fiddlershop).
And again, the OP does not live in a place with local shops.
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 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.
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.
25 million a small business?? who are you kidding??
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 ...
well I guess I classify as a micro business, support your local micro businesses then!!
And if going to your closest "local" shop literally requires getting on a plane?
Then support a reputable online dealer, that ships to your country, and offers excellent support.
A classic segmentation:
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??
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.
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!!
Got evidence to back up those explosive claims, or is it the usual reflexive denigration of everyone who isn't named Lyndon Taylor?
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.
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.
Lyndon is being Lyndon.
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 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.
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
@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.
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.
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.
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.
A question to all... does the wood flame indicate anything? I’ve seen cheap and expensive violins that have a highly flamed/figured wood.
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.
I love my Bobelock cases.
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).
@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.
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.
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?
@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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Modern-day Cremona is cool, in many ways.
@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.
@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.
@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.
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.
Au contraire, Herman; the OP insinuated that the Cremona rep is just so much snake oil!
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.
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.
@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.
Hi all.I'm another David but I express my opinion anyway.
Hi Dimitri, I hope you and your family are well despite the virus, you seem to be in excellent shape
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?
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.
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 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.
@Davide and @Dimitri, first off, I wish both of you and your families well.
"accusation against some makers in Cremona"..."this fraudulent practice"..
It's the disclosure that's important. There's nothing wrong with the practice itself.
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.
I second both Lydia and David. You have to know what you're paying for, before you sign the check.
Thank you, Roger, Lydia, David, and Dimitri for your insights.
i don't think anyone buying and paying for a Cremona violin would be happy to find out it was mostly made in China!!
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?
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
And you totally accept fraudulent business practices, says a lot about you guys.
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.
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
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.
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.
You're just so full of it, you have no idea what you're talking about
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
no they were from 2020 sources.
Maybe a 2020 article that used 2018 data.
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
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.
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.
I said the average monthly min wage, not the average wage
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.
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.
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.
so you're making up figures now or do you really work for fiddlershop as I long suspected??
Actually the data is from salaryexpert.com; 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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
"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."
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.
”People who went to work on bikes in 1992 now have Audis.“
That is true, and in fact it mirrors the American dream of "two cars in every garage", but to a point.
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.
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???
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.
and yet as usual, you choose not to share any of this valuable information,
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.
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.
$10k isn't really considered a very expensive violin -- it's approximately the minimum price level for professional violins.
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.
@Xuanyuan Liu - spicy thread is one way to put it!
I totally agree about MJZ, they’re excellent for the price, especially the 905 or 909.
$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.
$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.
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).
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.
@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!
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.
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.
As a matter of fact, Paul, I do. The most often is warranty issues with the Musilia cases, I wonder why.
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’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.
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.
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.
Richard Jackson wrote :
Always interesting these violin price discussion on Violinist.com 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 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 will second what Davide last said.
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.
I don't think anyone has ever claimed that price should be the only criterion in choosing either a violin or a luthier.
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
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.
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”).
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.
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.
I will agree with Lyndon, this time.
David, I agree that an experienced maker can have a very different impression.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then maybe he sells his violins for $7000 because no one is willing to pay $10-15,000 for them???
Richard, what is the UBC? And what is the CCWA? Is that the Clayton County Water Authority, or the Cleveland Council of World Affairs?
UBC - united brotherHood of carpenters, the official carpenters union.. CCWA - certified custom woodworkers association, an associate organization of the UBC.
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.
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.
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
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.
Anyone that works with wood is a carpenter
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.
you're so f'ing ignorant about the antique market, stick to what you know; cheap crappy mas produced Chinese violins
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.
Most professionals play on antiques, for your information!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. .
I have to admit I've checked this thread daily for the pyrotechnics. There are interesting things being brought up on all sides.
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.
Good feedback Mary Ellen, thank you.
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).
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
Paul I agree with you 100% on that.
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.
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.
Mary Ellen, that's not what I said.. I said someone who makes their living playing violin is a professional violinist.
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.
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.
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.
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....)
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 :) )
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 :)
Xuanyuan Liu, agreed. Lyndsey Sterling does not fit my definition of a player who demands much from an instrument.
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.
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.)
Thanks for the professional background Paul.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
@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.
To the point of what is a "professional" violin I would like to remember the late violinist Israel Baker.
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.
Abstraction is everything, Gordon.
I didn't know that about Mondrian's artistic evolution -- very cool. It makes the *early* stuff more interesting.
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.
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.
Is profesional level defined by the sound? Will they feel the same as a “good” 3k violin?
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.
For a wedding gig, you are also frequently playing outside so destructibility or at least a relatively low valued instrument is desirable.
Low value, so definitely under $20k. :) More like CF violin.
My picnic violin is worth about $1500.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.