What percentage of violinists are beginners, intermediate, etc...

June 11, 2020, 5:44 PM · Ok, I'll admit, this is sort of loosely related to my day job, but is there a rule of thumb estimation for those of you who are teachers/dealers/involved in the local communities for what percentage of violinists (or classical musicians) fit into different skill bands (maybe leave piano out of this?)?

The analyst in me thinks it may be pretty safe to just assume a simple 80/20 split like:

80% of violin players are beginners,
16% (80% of the remaining 20%) are intermediate
3% (75% of the remaining 4%) are advanced
1% (what's left) are music professionals, for some definition of the word "professional".

Replies (52)

June 11, 2020, 6:45 PM · Can you define your skill bands a bit more precisely?
Edited: June 11, 2020, 7:14 PM · I'd estimate the percentage of beginners is much higher, more like 90-95 percent, may even above that. Most of the teachers I know do not teach above lower intermediate level at all. From what I've heard from people who teach in school strings programs, in a typical medium-sized public high school (outside of the most affluent areas) the best violinist in the school orchestra is around Suzuki Book 5 level.

It's important to note that professionals and serious amateurs are likely to be overrepresented among the customer base for luthiers, dealers, and teachers. They need new strings and bow rehairs more frequently, and are more conscientious about bringing their instruments in for routine maintenance. Also, many beginning violinists are self-taught; very few at intermediate or higher levels are.

June 11, 2020, 7:06 PM · Actually, another question: how are we defining "violinist"? How often does one need to play to be considered a violinist? Does it include everyone who has ever learned to play? Does it include someone who played as a child but now only pulls out the violin once every few months? Or is it just people who are currently playing on a regular basis?
June 11, 2020, 7:11 PM · Hmm, Susan, I guess I never really thought of lines of demarcation. My primary interest in this outside of personal curiosity is in market size.

Let's say like:

Beginner: Early suzuki or solos for young violinists. Very limited left hand and right hand technique (might only know a few bow strokes and positions). Probably playing on whatever rental was cheapest and/or because their parents made them.

Intermediate: Later suzuki or student violin concerto repertoire. Can shift to multiple positions, right hand knows multiple bow strokes, and is beginning to sight read. Playing on a more advanced rental instrument, or may own an instrument in the $500 -> $2000 range (or they're a doctor who is terrible and owns an antique. I actually know one). Starting to touch traditional repertoire.

Advanced: Playing traditional repertoire like Bruch, Mendelssohn, Lalo. Strong grasp of scales and etudes. Can do most of the non-exotic right and left hand techniques but probably lacks refinement. A high school student on a conservatory track would be here. Owns a lower conservatory class instrument, decent sight reader.

Conservatory/Pro: Playing the professional concert repertoire (blah blah blah Mendelssohn, right). Could teach most of the left and right hand techniques and has a strong knowledge of both. Probably owns something in the $10k and above range, either a lower end antique or a modern violin.

June 11, 2020, 7:22 PM · My tiering would be:
Beginner - Suzuki book 4 level (Seitz/Rieding/etc.) and below (cannot yet play fluently in third position, cannot spiccato)
Intermediate - Suzuki book 5 level (Vivaldi G minor) through pre-Bruch concerto
Advanced - Bruch concerto and above

Beginner can probably be split into:
Total noob - Suzuki book 1 level and earlier
Basics learned - Book 2 through book 4

Intermediate can probably be split into:
Early intermediate - Suzuki book 5 level to approx book 7 (Bach A minor)
Late intermediate - Repertoire beyond Bach A minor level (concertos by DeBeriot, Viotti, etc.)

The vast majority of students don't get to the point where the basics are properly learned. Even the ones who get private lessons will often not get past the book 4 level, and a much smaller number will reach the point where they can play, say, Accolay. Only a tiny number will reach the Bruch level.

When you look at the ranks of adult amateurs, though, there's going to be a high percentage at the later intermediate and advanced levels, because that's where you really have musical opportunities and are more likely to be still playing.

June 11, 2020, 8:17 PM · Ok, for the sake of making a guess, I'm going to say that a "violinist" is anyone that has played longer than 1 month, and has tried at least 1 private lesson. I am not considering how many hours are practiced within that month.

I would guess that at least 95% of people meeting that criteria are beginners (not yet playing at a Suzuki book 4 level). Of the remaining 5%, something like 80% are intermediate, 19% are advanced, and 1% are at a professional level (but not necessarily making a living performing music).

So, the spread would be 95%, 4%, 0.95%, and .05%.


This is a completely arbitrary guess.

Edited: June 11, 2020, 8:23 PM · Oh,I'd guess there are a lot of semi-competent players who have learned solely in school. My community orchestra is full of people who have never had a private lesson, but were at least somewhat competently taught in public school, and can probably manage the notes of the Bach A minor even if they wouldn't want to perform it.
Edited: June 12, 2020, 7:35 AM · I'm thinking Bruch level is 1%.

Edit to say "less than 1%". I tried to edit yesterday but my internet went down just at that moment.

June 11, 2020, 8:31 PM · I wonder if the location could change the numbers as well. Some places do not have the resources for advanced violinists, so 100 % of those students would be beginner or intermediate.
June 11, 2020, 8:59 PM · Rebecca: Definitely.

The whole reason I started late is that I grew up in one of those places -- Dubai did not have any string teachers at all until the mid-1990s, got its first community orchestra in 2002, and has never had a professional orchestra.

Today, through the internet, I've encountered an upper intermediate level adult learner who travels to his lessons once a month and has to either fly or take a 7-hour train ride, because he's already surpassed every teacher closer than that. I've also encountered an amateur violist who literally owns the only viola in his country.

June 11, 2020, 9:21 PM · Approximately one percent of players are in the top 1%.
June 11, 2020, 10:19 PM · @Christian
That's the most factual and accurate description I have ever seen on this forum! :D
June 11, 2020, 10:27 PM · Catherine, my fingers are allergic to fake news! Everything I type turns to gold!
June 11, 2020, 10:56 PM · Christian - Right. And 1/2 the drivers on the road are worse than average.
From my personal 10-levels technical grades, that I use at the college:
90% don't make it past an intermediate level, <6,
10% will be skilled amateurs/semi-pro. grades 7-8
1% will become good enough to become real pros. grades 9-10
Edited: June 12, 2020, 1:13 AM · Based on what I remember, the breakdown for high school seniors (17-year-olds) in the area around me who had ever studied the violin was:

90% beginners, including students who never took private lessons but took a strings class at school. I'm definitely undercounting the beginners here.
6% intermediate (Suzuki Book 5 to pre-Bruch)
4% advanced (Bruch level or above)

Of those high school seniors (beginner, intermediate, advanced):
1% became pros (defined in its broadest sense) after finishing their higher education, including freelancing and teaching, and including non-classical genres.
<0.4% won a full-time salaried position in an orchestra, and that was for an unusually strong cohort of violinists. In other years, the rate was much lower.

Edited: June 12, 2020, 8:50 AM · I don't really understand the point of the original question, but I mainly take issue with including the quality of a player's instrument in an assessment of their skill level, i.e., "playing on whatever rental was cheapest" or "Playing on a more advanced rental instrument, or may own an instrument in the $500 -> $2000 range."

Can we please stop with this? It's just plain snobbery, or at least it comes across that way.

Except for professionals, who may get loans and tax relief for their instruments, the cost of the instrument one plays is mostly a factor of disposable income. I play on ~$1,000 instrument. That was a stretch for my budget. I could have saved up for longer, but I decided that my limited resources would be better spent on lessons than a fancy instrument. My teacher has suggested that I work on Vieuxtemps 4 or 5 next. But I don't own a "lower conservatory class instrument," and possibly never will.

Edited: June 12, 2020, 8:54 AM · Subjectivity is one of the biggest problems with this forum.

"mastery" (as in "my 10-year-old has mastered Bruch") what is that? Is it Perlman's level of mastery? Or does it mean getting from beginning to end of a piece without pausing too often?

"performance level" does that mean to a Carnegie Hall audience? Performing to your grandparents? performing to local churchgoers in the afternoon who expect free tea and cookies to be included in their $5 ticket?

"the Bruch level" does that mean being able to attempt it for the first time? Being able to perform it in one of the above scenarios?

And do you play notes or music, those of you who have "mastered" something?

Edited: June 12, 2020, 9:05 AM · I totally agree, Gordon, which is why I am confused about what the OP is trying to ascertain from this post.

And joining your peeve with mine, you'll see things on this forum such as "to play at the Bruch level, one must have a violin worth at least $5000," accompanied by no useful explanation of such pronouncements.

Edited: June 12, 2020, 9:21 AM · I was actually more curious about the definitions (also very subjective!) since I've had to fill out 2 forms in the past month that had Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced as the choices. I would say my daughter (10yo, currently playing Mozart 3 with an out-of-tune cadenza) falls into Intermediate, but she was considered advanced by the British exam system. Intermediate is a highly variable wasteland.

I would also point out that based on some of your definitions of Advanced, probably half the "professionals" out there fall into advanced and not pro. There are a heck of a lot of teachers, freelancers, and giggers who never got past the Mendelssohn/Lalo level.

June 12, 2020, 12:16 PM · I am a bit surprised at the beginner percentages that everybody is estimating. Many people are violinists for some time, then abandon the instrument. The vast majority of them never take it up again. It seems fair to include only people as "violinists" who regularly spend time with the instrument, no matter how little time it is.

It stands to reason that people who did not advance far are much more likely to abandon the hobby than those who have achieved some success. So among currently active violinists I doubt we have a very large number of beginners.

June 12, 2020, 4:55 PM · I like Leopold Auer's grading system. The story is that when asked by one of his lesser students, "How am I doing", Auer's answer was "There are three kinds of violinists, those that can play, those that play badly, and those that can't play at all. You have advanced to the second stage." There is a wide range of definitions for professional. If you make more than $600/year (?) the IRS calls you a professional and you declare it on form C. A full professional, to my mind, is someone who actually wins a competitive audition at an orchestra with a full schedule. A lot of us, including myself, are semi-pro, needing to supplement their playing income with teaching or a non-music day job.
Edited: June 12, 2020, 5:20 PM · In response to Albrecht: Even though it's true that people who didn't advance far are more likely to abandon the hobby, there are always more coming in. Even among adults, as far as I've seen, a clear majority of those actively playing are beginners. And the number of children easily swamps the number of adults playing, so I think my earlier 90-95% estimate may be low.

My impression is that the hardest level to sustain interest is at intermediate level. That's where a lot of people hit a long plateau, the solo pieces start to take a lot longer to learn, and most of the community orchestras are either frustratingly low-level or frustratingly difficult.

June 12, 2020, 8:35 PM · For every adult in a community orchestra, there are probably at least 10 adults who have bought a cheap violin off Amazon (or eBay) and are scraping along at the beginner level, self-teaching from YouTube videos, and who have taken out the violin at least once in the last month.

I was about to say that I think of a pro as anyone who makes their primary living from the violin (whether performing or teaching), but I realize that's overly narrow, since there are people out there who have a well-paid day job even if they consider themselves primarily a violinist. Pros are pretty much self-defined, in that context. Because it's a matter of identity more so than anything else, there are plenty of pros who make a full-time living from private teaching, say, who play only at an intermediate level.

Indeed, I have been startled by the number of people who hold a master's degree (even an MM performance and not an MM education) who play only at the intermediate level. You can find master's recitals on YouTube which are comprised only of intermediate-level repertoire.

I sort of wish that the Suzuki teacher directory showed the highest level of audition that the teacher has passed (the basic book 4 audition, the intermediate book 7 audition, or the comprehensive book 9/10 audition), which might therefore give some indicator as to playing level.

Edited: June 13, 2020, 6:04 AM · @Lydia: "Indeed, I have been startled by the number of people who hold a master's degree (even an MM performance and not an MM education) who play only at the intermediate level. You can find master's recitals on YouTube which are comprised only of intermediate-level repertoire."

I'm glad you said this, although there's still a big difference between playing intermediate repertoire expertly and playing it intermediately.

@Joel: Auer..."There are three kinds of violinists, those that can play, those that play badly, and those that can't play at all. You have advanced to the second stage."

All I can add is my own semi-serious classification for language-learners - you are intermediate if you spend most of your time asking what an author is saying, and you are advanced if you spend most of your time asking why they are saying it.

June 13, 2020, 5:47 PM · Reading this thread with interest, I recalled that in the exam the Associated Board responsible for the most commonly used instrumental exams in the UK used to publish annual statistics. Googling though, the only ones I could find were about 10 years old, which someone had replicated on their own website https://se22pianoschool.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/abrsm-exam-facts-and-figures/ (I think the data covers all instruments, so dominated by pianists).

Using Lydia's definitions, grade 5 violin is something a student would typically tackle around the end of Suzuki Book 4, so the top of beginner range. Almost 90% of those taking these UK exams were at that level. Grades 5-8 typically take students to repertoire like Bach A minor and Haydn G major so early intermediate on Lydia's scale.

There isn't data above that. Aspiring professionals will be working towards advanced level for conservatoire auditions, or the usually slightly easier requirements for entry to university programmes. Those pursuing other subjects but maintaining high amateur levels of music playing might take the higher AB exams (Diploma, Licentiate) but most likely won't; if they continue formal lessons that will probably take them to the major concertos but they may well be happy to be challenged by the repertoire of a high level amateur orchestra or chamber group.

So say about 88% beginner, 10% early intermediate, 2% late intermediate and above.

Edited: June 13, 2020, 7:26 PM · The only thing about the ABRSM statistics, though: even within the geographic areas where ABRSM exams are prevalent, they exclude the people who never take exams, which includes the majority of the adult starters. 99% of the non-exam-taking violinists will never get beyond beginner level because they lack quality instruction; many are self-teaching with YouTube videos. (Which is not to say that they can't advance beyond that level, but it is certainly much less likely.)
June 13, 2020, 10:26 PM · What's the point of this question? Is it to make ourselves feel better for being more advanced somehow than most / the masses / etc.?

As Gordon wrote, there's much more to playing achievement than the "difficulty level" of the repertoire, whatever that might be, and in the end it generally doesn't really matter what "level" the piece is - what matters is if your listener enjoys listening to it, which is often a challenge for violin playing, because "level" as such is no guarantee of intonation, for example, and as evidenced by several historic professional recordings not meeting current expectations.

The following thread has a video of Hadelich playing Humouresque, which is in Suzuki Book 3 (albeit a somewhat simplified version, but that's not critically important to the point), which serves as an illustration of the distance that performance level can be from nominal repertoire level, though in the opposite direction from typical amateur performance.

https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=4286

June 13, 2020, 10:36 PM · Well, at the very least, this is an interesting market segmentation, if you're a vendor in the music business.
June 13, 2020, 10:45 PM · In fact, the OP said in his second post that he was interested in understanding "market size."
Edited: June 14, 2020, 6:15 AM · Point of information - the ABRSM's online syllabuses tend to equate grade 5 with the end of Suzuki 3, grade 6 with the end of Suzuki 4 (e.g. BWV1043, V2) and grade 7 with the end of Suzuki 5 (e.g. BWV1043, V1). I can't remember if they describe 7-8 as Advanced or 6-8.

Marketing was the point of my language-learning cynicism - offer classes in French and 100 people apply, requiring 5 classes, and they arbitrarily divide them up into 5 difficulty levels, in order to take the money from all 100 people.

Something like that - last time I discussed it with someone was 20 years ago (when I was doing my Classics degree and people wanted to do beginners, intermediate or advanced Greek and Latin summer schools), so I may have forgotten some of the rationale.

June 14, 2020, 8:18 AM · James,

You never indicated what your "Day Job" is. You make a tangential reference to Pareto (80/20 rule).

The basic problem with the question is that music is subjective, not objective. Considering the global reach of Suzuki and the belief that it makes children better - there are a lot of violinists on the planet.

What percentage of the total population are professional, advanced, amateur, et cetera all depends on the denominator of the calculation and we do not have either a clear denominator or numerator to do the calculation. What is left is speculation and while entertaining it really doesn't tell us anything.

June 14, 2020, 10:18 AM · " Is it to make ourselves feel better for being more advanced somehow than most / the masses / etc.?"

Well if it is, go ahead and feel good about yourself. The vast majority of people haven't even tried and have no idea of how difficult it is to play well.

June 14, 2020, 3:44 PM · The number of beginners is huge. My local shop (which is quite a big operation) supplies 10,000+ stringed instruments to the local school district every season.
Edited: June 15, 2020, 3:09 AM · https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLcA2PXs09k

I'm not sure why Beethoven's Spring is in the dip section - it's grade 8 some years.

Edited: June 16, 2020, 2:38 PM · If I remember correctly from taking the Grade 8 and Diploma exams for piano performance, the Grade 8 and Diploma repertoire usually overlap somewhat. My understanding is that, because the Diploma gives you a lot more freedom to select your program than do Grades 1-8, selecting a balanced program that shows a variety of styles and range of technical and musical skills is part of what you are being evaluated on. People aren't going to get away with selecting only Grade 8 pieces.
June 16, 2020, 2:07 PM · I like the violinmasterclass Website’s grading system.
June 16, 2020, 2:14 PM · Considering that ABRSM puts intermediate pieces on the higher numbered levels Like 8, they probably expect more beginners and intermediates or else it would look like violinmasterclass’ system. I’d be willing to bet there are more beginners and intermediates since ABRSM is a mainstream grading system for the masses.
June 18, 2020, 11:50 AM · Wow thanks for the responses, I've missed quite some replies.

I don't want to reveal too much about myself, but my interest in this question is purely from a market segmentation side.

I'm in no way implying that you need an antique to make Tchaikovsky or Mendelssohn or whichever sound good, or that repertoire A is intermediate and you can't call yourself advanced until you can play it perfectly, or you can't call yourself a pro if you can't play Sibelius.

But it's a pretty safe assumption that professional and conservatory musicians, whether self-identifying or decreed as such by some mysterious arbiter, have very different shopping needs than someone in the middle school string orchestra. It seems from the comments here that my initial estimate may be underestimating the number of beginners and intermediates, for some definition of those words.

Maybe it would be more helpful to think about definitions not in terms of repertoire, but in how seriously they take the hobby. Beginners generally don't take it very seriously, and those that do will quickly find themselves in the intermediate side (and likewise, their time and money investment in the instrument will increase).

Edited: June 19, 2020, 9:39 AM · Xuanyuan Liu's language illustrates the ongoing problem with subjectivity and cross-purposes here.

The Royal Schools of Music were originally the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, perhaps the Guildhall School of Music and perhaps others, and they got together to plan a way for people to enter their schools. The board they formed was called the Associated Board of the RSM, etc. **They set what amounts to entrance exams.** So yes, a grading system, but always consciously so.

The academic route to university was similar: -
Aged 16 you did O-levels, aged 18 A-levels, and the bodies that set those exams (the entry requirements for academic universities) were examining boards such as the University of London or the Associated Examining Board or others.

Whereas Suzuki, for example, is a life philosophy (as far as I understand it). And Sassmannshaus is unrelated to any of this. If you are a private individual, then you can, if you wish, use ABRSM until you get to grade 8, then you can look for something harder. Sassmannshaus may provide this, or music college may be your way forward.

The big distinction, unspoken on this forum, therefore a sticking point, is the "marking criteria" of the various grading systems - I've just been mentioning to my teacher that there are some grade 7 pieces (e.g. an adagio from a Bach sonata) that seem easier than some grade 6 pieces (e.g. Corelli ornamented by Geminiani), and her reply was "that's because greater musical interpretation is required". Result: - Intermediate pieces, if you like, but perhaps required to be played more musically than by other systems or methods.

The Royal Schools traditionally had a basic entry requirement of their grade 8 and an audition (pace AndrewH on the subject of supply and demand and devaluation). Grade 8, they dictate, demands musical interpretation. Yes, perhaps if it demanded technique only, then the auditions could look for the musicality and the end-result would be the same. Or perhaps interpretative exams are a quicker way to filter out those who won't be suited to higher education in music? For whatever reason, the Royal Schools chose what they wanted examination candidates to be capable of.

So whether you think grade 8 is beginners or intermediate or advanced, what it really is is the nominal entry requirement for the music schools, and that's all it was ever intended to be.

That's the British/English system. The American system may be the same or different.

The Vivaldi allegro in Suzuki 4 is ABRSM grade 7, but are the musical requirements the same or different? I don't have a problem with brute technique - the violin demands a lot of it, and without it it is very difficult to express yourself musically.

P.S. As for Beethoven's Spring, my point was rather, the lowest it has been set is grade 8, so I'd have expected twoset to put it there. There are plenty of things that can be set at both grade 8 and much higher levels, with different marking criteria for each (quite apart from the musicality: - e.g. hesitations are permitted at a lower level but not at a higher level)

Edited: June 19, 2020, 9:47 AM · If the OP is in a country like the US, I understand why he'd be curious about the topic, as many others in the US probably are, too.

> That's the British/English system. The American system may be the same or different.

There is no American system. Learning the violin is completely decentralized at the private teacher level, though some places have community schools. That's why there is confusion about how to define things, even roughly.

There are pros and cons to not having a standardized grading system (which perhaps merits its own discussion thread). Many children in the US study with Suzuki teachers, but Suzuki is a philosophy and not tailored to adult learners, and the Suzuki books end with Mozart 4.

June 19, 2020, 1:16 PM · > Result: - Intermediate pieces, if you like, but perhaps required to be played more musically than by other systems or methods.

I don't think your teacher is talking about marking criteria. I think what your teacher is really getting at is that some pieces need more attention to musical interpretation in order to sound convincing. This is why so many professional musicians consider Mozart to be the most difficult composer to play. I used to play in a casual community orchestra whose conductor adamantly refused to ever program Mozart, even though he regularly programmed pieces where it was much harder to play the notes, because the orchestra was not capable of making Mozart sound good.

Edited: June 19, 2020, 7:30 PM · "Beginner: Probably playing on whatever rental was cheapest and/or because their parents made them.

Intermediate: Playing on a more advanced rental instrument, or may own an instrument in the $500 -> $2000 range.

Advanced: Owns a lower conservatory class instrument.

Conservatory/Pro: Probably owns something in the $10k and above range, either a lower end antique or a modern violin."

I think, as another said in this thread, that you are conflating two fairly independent factors - level of playing and expenditure on an instrument.

The latter has mostly to do with funds available and interest in the instrument; the former is largely independent, as your own doctor example illustrates. This point would be debated by some citing need for this and that in more advanced playing justifying the expenditure, which is true to some extent, but I would argue that advanced players can play just fine on lesser instruments, and are also better able to find relatively inexpensive instruments that meet the needs than one who looks at the price tag first in order to estimate the potential quality and longevity.

Beginners - not in the general sense but the violinistic sense of players not yet at the intermediate level - doctors, lawyers, executives, etc., playing expensive instruments? It's probably fairly common.

How many people are there that can afford to and wish to spend significant amounts on an instrument? Take the number of well-heeled people, proportion it to the fraction of people interested in playing violin, add the number of performer hopefuls who scrape the funds due to perceived or actual need. Factor for geography and regional economics.

Factors will change for "intermediate" levels of funds, but economic distribution will, IMO, be a larger factor than playing ability.

June 19, 2020, 9:17 PM · James's division of levels as defined by instrument types makes sense if you consider the context of a market segmentation. In that context, I think he underestimates how long most players stick with student workshop violins. Many advanced players in middle school or high school will be playing the upper end of workshop violins (roughly the $2k-$4.5k range). For that matter, many conservatory students may not yet have acquired the funds for a professional violin, and will still be on a nice workshop violin. BME students may never upgrade from their workshop violin; if you're teaching kids all day you might not actually want your primary instrument to be any more expensive than that.

I would bet that the majority of the market for $10k+ violins is serious students in upper-middle-class families, and enthusiastic amateurs. I suspect that many contemporary makers are sustained more by the adult amateurs than the pros.

On the other hand, the market for strings, even high-end strings, is almost certain to be dominated by student purchases. Tons of students who won't shell out for a decent bow will somehow persuade their parents to pay $120 for a set of Evah Pirazzis. If you look around a community orchestra, you'll see plenty of the neon green and oranges of EPs and EPGs on what are workshop instruments, old and new, worth in the $1k-4k range.

Once you get into other accessories there's a lot of variability. Shoulder-rests? Mass-purchased for rentals and schools, and individuals will probably just buy one. Wire stands? Kids. Decent Manhassets? Pros and adult amateurs. Tuners? Kids and adult beginners. Rosin? Everyone, but it's a very occasional purchase unless you can innovate enough to get curiosity buys.

June 20, 2020, 2:47 AM · I tend to think of upper-end workshop instruments as "workhorse" instruments for amateur musicians, rather than "advanced student" as they are sometimes marketed.

The string market is weird. I've noticed a lot of adult beginners seem to like to try out a whole bunch of different (and often expensive) strings even as they say they can't afford to upgrade their instrument or bow. In an extreme case, in a beginner-to-intermediate community orchestra I played in until not very long ago, I literally saw Evah Pirazzi strings on a Stentor Student II. In any case, I don't think of the string market as being very segmented, except that kids in school string programs may use a lot of Red Label and similar brands.

That said: while the string brands being used are likely the same, I suspect that advanced players buy a higher percentage of the strings than their numbers would indicate. It's rather common for beginner and intermediate violinists to use their strings until the moment they break, long after a pro or high-level amateur would consider the string to be dead.

I think the market for violin maintenance is likely to skew toward more serious players. Apart from initial setup of student instruments, most work is likely to be either routine (such as bow rehairing) or occurring when the player notices something is off about the instrument.

June 20, 2020, 10:45 AM · I would agree that a lot of players stick with their less expensive instruments too long. I certainly did. It was always a mystery to me how some players could acquire expensive instruments. You don't get that kind of money from doing music jobs. Much later, after I started teaching, I discovered that; the parents buy them.
Edited: June 20, 2020, 5:11 PM · Should we even try to classify the musicians that have no interest in classical works but are learning and advancing in their genre if interest (jazz, country, fiddling, etc.)?
Edited: June 20, 2020, 9:29 PM · I don't know enough about non-classical genres to be really familiar with the amateur scene, but I think it's highly likely that the distribution is similar with the vast majority being beginners and few being pros. The violin is simply a difficult instrument to learn, regardless of genre.

The market for instruments, accessories, and luthier services probably isn't all that different either; the best jazz violinists and fiddlers tend to play excellent instruments, and the (relatively few) experienced amateur fiddlers I know seem to mostly play higher-end workshop instruments just like the community orchestra musicians.

Edited: June 21, 2020, 5:23 AM · @AndrewH: "I don't think your teacher is talking about marking criteria. I think what your teacher is really getting at is that some pieces need more attention to musical interpretation in order to sound convincing. This is why so many professional musicians consider Mozart to be the most difficult composer to play."

I don't disagree with any of this, unless it's to suggest that perhaps it's a bit of both, since you are being marked on how convincing you sound.

Although I never had any difficulty with Mozart on oboe or piano, the few things I have looked at on the violin do seem to have an intangibility (is that the word?) which makes me wary of attempting them. There's a sublimity in the phrasing that makes too many demands on me as a violinist.
However, I don't think I touched Mozart on the oboe before grade 8, so if I don't touch him on violin before grade 8, then I won't be surprised.

I'm not sure how much this constitutes thread drift in a thread which turns out to be about marketing. If the OP had thought about the Chinese violin industry, then maybe his question would have been answered?

June 21, 2020, 11:48 AM · I agree with Andrew, though I think it depends on the desired sound of the fiddle style, and where they play. People doing a lot of outdoor or bar/club stuff are likely to have a primary performing fiddle that's a good workshop violin. They are also likely to pick something that sounds good with a pickup attached for amplification.
June 21, 2020, 3:14 PM · As far as markets are concerned, I think there is somehow a real missed market in being able to convince players to upgrade their bows. As a teacher, I’ve seen many decent workshop rental instruments in the $1,000-3,000 range paired with cheap bows that make it impossible to learn spiccato for instance. I have no doubt that I would have figured out spiccato at least a year or two earlier if I hadn’t been stuck with a cheap brazilwood bow paired with an otherwise decent workshop viola.
Edited: June 21, 2020, 3:47 PM · I'm still using a cheap student bow on a decent workshop violin, though this is more because I switched almost completely to viola when I was still at late beginner to early intermediate level. I only recently started considering buying a new violin bow, because I simply hadn't been playing violin more than occasionally until the ongoing pandemic. I didn't know how different bows could be until I'd been playing string instruments for six or seven years, because until then I had no experience with a decent bow.

(The mismatch was originally because the violin was my late great-uncle's, and came without a usable bow because the bow had been kept under tension for more than 20 years after his death by a family member who didn't know better.)

June 21, 2020, 4:57 PM · I'm also getting the impression that fiddlers' string choices don't diverge from classical violinists nearly as much as they used to. I used to hear that fiddlers almost always used steel strings; I understand that they still do in some fiddle styles, but in recent years I've seen a lot of fiddlers using Evah Pirazzi and Vision strings.


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