Purchasing a violin after 20 year break, in Australia

Edited: August 27, 2020, 5:20 PM · Hi,

I played violin for about 3 or so years (was playing grade 3-4 pieces but would have been far off exam standard) about twenty years ago and haven't played since. I'm looking to get back into it with lessons and potentially doing AMEB exams eventually, and am on the search for a new violin purchase here in Australia that will last me a few years. I can't go into stores at the moment due to lock down, so am doing a lot of online research at the moment.

My budget will be a maximum of $1,500 with all setup costs. From online videos I think I'm liking the sound of the Gliga 1 violin and was just wondering on peoples thoughts, if there are any other better options available here in Australia. I know it also has a lot to do with the setup, so I'd be happy to buy the basic package and then take it to a luthier to enhance it.

Another one which has also stood out to me in my price range is the Otto Jos Klier series on violins.com.au, but there seems to be a lot of those so not sure what the differences of them all are. I am in Melbourne and that store is in Sydney so that could be another little hurdle.

If anyone had any thoughts I'd be most grateful. Also, when we are out of lockdown, do you recommend any music stores / luthiers in particular in Melbourne. I don't mind paying a bit extra to get the best setup of whichever instrument I buy.

Many thanks in advance and I really look forward to getting back into the violin. I have also started piano, but I just can't go past the sound of a beautifully played violin which is my all time favourite so plan to pursue both now.

Replies (9)

Edited: August 27, 2020, 5:24 PM · "I know it also has a lot to do with the setup, so I'd be happy to buy the basic package and then take it to a luthier to enhance it."

I'd tend to regard it the other way. The luthier will usually buy for a cheaper price from the workshop, while you'll pay full retail. Furthermore, (if he's
a good one,) he'll not just order a bunch of violins, but make his choice and pick the better specimen. Since he already earns from the resale, setup work will be thrown in for a lesser upgrade in price as he will charge you for working over a random third party purchase. In sum, he'll be able to offer you a better instrument for a better price. Plus, your local shop will offer a trade in policy for future upgrades to come. Plus, there hopefully will be a wider selection. Than just certain modern European "brands", especially nicer old trade fiddles, or better Chinese factory / workshop instruments. (Most cheaper European brands are made in China anyway...)

There's no reason not to buy locally, to everyone's advantage.

Edited: August 27, 2020, 5:56 PM · Indeed, it's probably reasonable to believe that the fiddles that DIDN'T pass a luthier/shop's quality-control check are the ones that are being sold directly by the workshop online.
August 27, 2020, 6:01 PM · Thank you for your responses. I certainly have no intention of buying anything online, I'm just doing research at this stage and plan to visit local stores (when I know who are the reputable ones locally to me) when I'm allowed to to listen to the instruments in person. At the moment I can't go anywhere as we're in lock down. :(
August 27, 2020, 7:48 PM · In Melbourne, and suburbs, try Whitehorse Music, and the best value might be their "Struna" range (own brand of Chinese imported instruments). They have their own luthier. Worth a shot, anyway.
August 28, 2020, 7:16 AM · Which side of melbourne are you on?
There was a list of 12 trusted violin shops in melbourne that I found interesting, but now when you click on that it takes you to a commercial website.
I’ve had very minor repairs done by Alex Grant in Collingwood, and felt well looked after , though that’s not buying a violin. I bought my electric violin from Ozwinds in Coburg, and their price was lower than eBay. Their main violin base is Ozstrings in Moorabbin.
I’m in the west, and when I decided to restart , had forgotten more than I knew . In hindsight, if you follow this forum, I did everything wrong( although I did read a lot of reviews) - made an appointment with a teacher who also sells and repairs violins, gave him an idea of my budget , and on the spot, bought the one he had ready for me. ( it was love at first sight, and I felt immediately comfortable with my decision)
He then asked me if I’d found a teacher, and I said I hoped he would teach me. He did hesitate for a minute , then agreed .
I’ve been learning from him for 2 1/2 years now, although I’ve not had lessons for most of this year due to both work and COVID issues but hope to resume soon.
I’m still very happy with my violin, it’s a 100 yo French workshop Manby , and as he promised, it compared favourably in price with any I’ve seen available.
When you get your violin, look up Squawkestra. Its lots of fun, and very non-judgemental.
August 28, 2020, 11:38 AM · Melbourne is on 4th stage lockdown FYI.
August 28, 2020, 4:23 PM · Thanks Rosemary, I’m in Port Melbourne so both of those places are accessible to me. I know Moorabbin well and have been looking at OzWinds as I was initially looking at a silent violin to get back into it as I live in an apartment. I’ve decided to do it properly now with lessons so want an acoustic. If noise becomes problematic I’ll look down the track at silent, but hopefully a mute when necessary will be enough. Prices vary quite a bit and some stores claim a good setup which I’m happy for if I know it truly is. Or, buy the basic setup and pay a luthier such as that one you mentioned which I’ve heard of to set up nicely. I need lock down to end so I can go and hear a number of violins in person. I doubt If even remember a scale after all this time. :(
August 29, 2020, 11:19 AM · Just a word of encouragement...I too played as a child and then re-dedicated to the viola after a three decade break. I hope you love it as much as I do! Learning as an adult has be a rich experience.


Edited: August 31, 2020, 7:25 AM · Whitehorse music are fabulous and also one of the only stores in australia who are happy to ship out instruments or bows on approval.

If you give them a call he'll talk through the differences between the instruments as well as how he sets them up and which strings might help you. Strings are nice but fairly bright compared to gliga, but that might suit you.

I have a gliga 1 viola that I bought from him and it's lovely - nothing like the old one a teacher was selling for 8K at national folk festival last year, but nevertheless beautiful and dark and rich. I've played a few different gliga violins and the one that came from Whitehorse seemed to be way better, which I put down to his set up, thus the recommendation.

It might also be useful to find out what the violierei and alex grant have in the easy of second hand instruments (If there something nice just out of price range it might be worth saving) if they're anywhere near you 5km limit for travel. Not sure if Whitehorse have used instruments but worth asking.

A good instrument will make you want to practice so really think about the kind of time you like - Whitehorse have some comparison videos online, as does Sydney string centre, so they may be good reference points if your visit has to be over the phone.

One last point - if you're thinking a about exams as motivation for progress, look into trinity. I find they work better for adult students as they leave room to focus on pieces for fun alongside the exam content.

Also, if Melbourne ever gets out of the current lockdown, look into Melbourne Scottish Fiddlers. You'll be up to 'joining in' standard (at least playing first beats of bars if it's really fast) within a few months, but playing alongside some incredibly good musicians. They're pretty welcoming and it's a great place for learning ensemble skills even if it's not your cup of tea, style-wise.

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