In A Dilemma . . .

January 27, 2021, 2:18 PM · So trying to keep this short I have an older instrument that I love but just couldn't keep up with some repertoire as the response and projection were not the best. So I found Infinite Strings where I reached out to lance. He reccomeded a master build for 1,650 which he promised great projection and response. I bought it but it was a little edgy. I emailed lance and he assured me that in time the violin would settle. Short story the violin has everything described and it is very quality however I honestly just don't like it. I've tried for a year to like it. What would you recommend I can not afford a new violin right now. Should i just eat the losses and is even worth trying to sell.

Replies (48)

January 27, 2021, 2:45 PM · Um.
*You* are the paying customer. Why would you settle for anything less than satisfactory, especially if it's such a significant investment? Whoever Lance is, his job is to sell violins---not help you find your dream instrument. Trust your gut.

Ask for a return, and go to a shop

January 27, 2021, 2:53 PM · Yes, I have reached out. The trial period is 2 weeks and reached out a couple of months after. All that was offered was a soundpost adjustment that would be cheaper at my luthier (I've had multiple already)
January 27, 2021, 3:11 PM · We aren't lending libraries. If you have purchased something and kept it for a year and still don't like it, I would offer to take it back in trade, less any repairs needed to put it back on the market.

Cotton, buy a car, a pair of shoes, a household appliance, and contact the seller months, or perhaps as the OP intimates, a year after purchase and ask to return the item. Yes, we, as violin makers and sellers, want you to be happy and enjoy your instrument, but there are limitations.

Buying online is difficult. Better to establish a relationship with a shop or luthier who can help figure out what you want and need and try and help you find that.

January 27, 2021, 3:23 PM · If you don't like the sound because it's too edgy, just change strings, simple.
January 27, 2021, 3:24 PM · Yes, I agree Duane I would not feel comfortable asking for a return a year later. I never planned on buying online however when I finally had enough saved up my local violin shop was only doing instrument dropoffs so I figured it was better to try to get a good deal online as in-store trials were not an option.
January 27, 2021, 3:25 PM · Have you tried Obligato?
January 27, 2021, 3:25 PM · David, I have changed the strings and have had multiple soundpost adjustments. It's just the instrument's character and overall playability.
January 27, 2021, 3:42 PM · This is why we don't recommend buying instruments sight unseen. Granted you did have a two-week return period, and if you didn't like it then, you should have returned it at that point. I think it's always a gamble to hope that a violin you don't like turns into one that you do.

Your best bet is to try to get a trade-in, or sell it on consignment (you'd need to be able to get something else to play on while waiting for it to sell, though).

January 27, 2021, 4:13 PM · I'm sorry to hear about your violin.

I agree with Duane, there are limitations a vendor can do after a given period of time.

My suggestion short of selling your violin, or the other things that have already been mentioned:

- try changing the bridge, or
- try a different bow or put less rosin on the bow?

I don't know how many bows you have, but the bow can also make a difference on the violin's sound. Also, the type of rosin and the amount of rosin you put can also make a difference. Maybe putting less rosin might help a little? I'm just guessing without actually hearing or playing your violin.

Edited: January 27, 2021, 4:19 PM · Sorry if it is a dumb question - have you tried other bows? My Nr.1 violin is edgy and even shrill with most CF bows and brittle with one certain rather stiff pernambuco bow I happen to own, but she purrs like a kitten and sings like a blackbird if exposed to most of my better wooden bows. (Actually she seems to prefer German bows with some French genetics...)
You may not be able to afford another violin right now, but bow shopping can be far cheaper, especially if you're focusing on repaired antiques.

Chances are that this really is the violin you need and like, if you haven't tried the bow game yet. A bow can severely interfere with the character of an instrument, far more than any set of strings could. And, in contrast to strings, you don't have to buy a bow to test it.

January 27, 2021, 4:42 PM · Sometimes you just have to accept the loss.

When I first started violin as a 49 year old (1996), I joined many forums and on Maestronet found a nearby "luthier" that seemed to be getting some good reviews on that forum. I jumped at the chance to get a new violin commissioned. I paid $1000 for the violin that was completed several months later. Being new to any violin, it was not obvious to me that the instrument I received sounded like a hollow cigar box.

Once I learned how to pull a decent tone out of most instruments I decided to take this instrument to Jay Rury in Dallas to see what could be done to control its howling. Jay broke it to me gently, the instrument graduation was so haphazard that no thinning of plates was possible and nothing else he could think of would improve it :(

Since then I've purchased several shop violins (one A.Schroetter, and one marked U.S. Navy that Jay could do something with). They were useable for taking lessons, but still didn't "feel" right to my ear. Eventually I spent a bit more and got a very decent violin previously played by a professional violinist that I really like playing. Of course it took me 20 years to learn to recognize a violin that suited me.

Sorry for your bad experiences.

January 27, 2021, 6:25 PM · One can only do so much to change/improve the sound of an instrument. Unfortunately, $1650 does not go very far in the realm of quality violins. I imagine most of us have made some regrettable instrument acquisitions. Problem is they're not easy to off-load. Most shops won't take them in trade unless you purchased it from them. Private sales are tough because most buyers will opt to buy from a dealer that has selection and a return/trade policy. Consignment sale could take forever and most dealers want to charge upfront for a new set-up. Perhaps the best option may be to trade it back to Infinite Strings for a better violin (Special Edition)?
January 27, 2021, 7:14 PM · I think the hardest thing to realize sometimes is what instrument costs actually entail. I routinely have parents encounter major sticker shock when their frame of reference for what a violin or bow might actually cost is shattered by the reality of visiting a major shop. $1650 in the violin world will get a decent workshop instrument, that should serve the average player that is not intending to pursue music in a professional setting. Many shops will include a reasonable sub-$100 bow and a serviceable case along with that purchase.
Edited: January 27, 2021, 7:29 PM · Ben,

I certainy didn't mean to be critical of you and am sorry if you felt that way.

If the fiddle is correctly set-up, then changing strings and adjustments will only go so far. A bright instrument can be warmed up, but it will never be dark.

I usually tell customers that they have to play enough instruments to see what is possible and figure out what they want. Then, they have to play enough more instruments to feel confident that the perfect instrument won't be showing up the week after you purchase a new instrument.
Sometimes, what the customer hears in their head and what their budget is are found to be in conflict, and that can be a problem not because of the money gap, but because of the potential desperation buying that goes on, hoping for the great instrument for a song, the fiddle that everyone else failed to recognize for what it "is".

When things get better, after we have been vaccinated, or now if you have the confidence and a good shop to visit, make an appointment, play instruments in person. Ask for adjustments of them in real time, hear what can be done. You'll find what you need, but it might not be what you want.

January 28, 2021, 1:15 AM · No, I didn't take it as being critical at all Duane haha. I agree with you about not asking for a return after so long that was never my intent. And you make a good point about the budget conflict. I have the skill for a higher level violin but the price of a nice student violin. That was one of the reasons I tried shopping outside of a store as I felt I could get more bang for my buck.
January 28, 2021, 2:20 AM · Any professional seller will know how he can prize an instrument. It's okay, they all have to eat, and have their overheads.
If you want more bang for your bug, *and if you're capable of judging an instrument*, it's private sales to go.
Edited: January 28, 2021, 8:07 AM · Changing the strings means nothing if you don't know which strings to try. If you already tried Obligato with the Obligato Rosin, then experimented with different E-string tensions, then you could try moving the bridge 1mm or 2mm closer to the fingerboard, string length of 125/127mm, that results in a softer/warmer tone.
Get a thick wooden shoulder rest that really "hugs" the violin and makes it sound darker/warmer, like the Kun Bravo. Use a cloth under your chin. Combine rosins. There's so much you can do to reduce the edginess of a violin and many people do it without knowing.
Edited: January 28, 2021, 8:54 AM · If you try to sell your violin outright, whether as a consignment or FSBO, then the very best you can expect for a trade violin is sixty cents on the dollar, and to get that could take years.

Statement: "I emailed Lance and he assured me that in time the violin would settle."

Translation: Lance ate your lunch.

What we have here is the classic "champagne tastes on a beer budget" problem. Your choices are:

(1) Trade in your violin, possibly supplemented by whatever you've got in your piggy bank so you can trade up, this time being more cautious in your selection process and much more circumspect about the contractual limitations of your transaction;

(2) Continue to learn and improve on your current instrument and either accept its flaws or try to accommodate them by blowing your upgrade savings on shoulder rests and rosins;

(3) Find a more affordable hobby. $1650 will buy you one hell of a camera.

January 28, 2021, 9:01 AM ·
Could it be that your high frequency hearing is a bit too acute. Has anyone else heard your violin and also felt it is too shrill?

Don't make a mistake you might regret. I inherited a violin with a good name (Stephano Scarampella) in 1954. I did not like its tone. The open E string felt like an ice pick penetrating my ear and brain. I finally sold it to a dealer in 1959 (for only $325) a move I still regret every day - but it did provide enough cash to pay off the hospital bill for the birth of our first child. With all the more modern improvements in string technology that violin could be tamed. There were years since then when one of my friends was a violin maker who could have regraduated the violin for a few hundred dollars (as he did for another violin that I thought was getting too shrill - at least the cellist in my string quartet did). Today the retail price of a good Scarampella could pay for a top of the line Tesla automobile.

David has some good ideas. Moving the soundpost a bit further "south" of the bridge will dull the tone a bit. A slightly heavier (i.e., thicker) bridge will reduce overtones (were talking changes in less than 0.1 gram increments). I have tried all the other suggestions above and they have all made changes. For me finding the right strings has been paramount, but the best rosin also makes a difference and having a good match of bow to instrument has also helped achieve the goal. It has actually been a 50 year search to finally have all 4 of my violins sounding to me the ways I want.

If you have a smart phone try installing one of the spectrum analyzer apps and see if you are getting strong overtones above 4 or 5 KHz. If not then your violin should be basically OK. It is possible you are just used to playing a violin without the potential you actually sought.

Try minor damping by placing a simple ear plug first in your left ear and later one in each ears. The wax ear plugs sold in drug stores can do the job and can be inserted to different depths to vary the sound damping and even the frequencies depressed. Having a lot of overtones at the right frequencies and having the vibrato technique to take advantage of them is one of the secrets of amazing tone and great projection.

Try playing the violin in cello position to see if you still hear the characteristics you don't like.

Try recording it from a distance. Have someone else judge the sound when you play --- and when they play.

January 28, 2021, 11:41 AM · Paul,

I have a friend who does violin photography, outdoor stuff as a "hobby",and he just spent more than the $1650 on a single lens. I won't relate the cost of the new Cannon body...Heck, $1650 won't get you a hand made bow in today's market.

Edited: January 28, 2021, 12:01 PM · On a related note. I have a chinese violin with really good overtones and projection, while not that loud under the ear, but, a little bit "metallic". It has one of those composite Wittner tailpieces which I suspect could be the source of the metallic sound. Would having my luthier swap that for a good wooden tailpiece have an impact on the sound quality? Just asking, sorry for surfing the thread. And I know I can and will ask my luthier, but I also like other people's opinion or experiences.
Edited: January 28, 2021, 1:23 PM · Andrew, I didn't say anything about moving the soundpost, his lutheir did that already. I said the bridge. Moving the bridge closer to the fingerboard, makes the sound softer/warmer.
But that would be a last resource, I'm sure he didn't try Obligato with Pirastro Obligato rosin, it makes wonders for tone and playability.
January 28, 2021, 1:21 PM · If the shop has a trade in policy (many offer 100% of the price paid, in some cases minus a few that covers a new setup and strings), you aren’t stuck. You can try something else at a similar price without losing money. Depending on the variety of their inventory, you might be able to find something you enjoy more. This is your best option without spending anything.

If you can’t trade it in, you can try consigning at a shop or reselling, but you’ll be selling at a loss, especially if it’s a new instrument that can easily be replaced. Sales take time though, and you can’t be sure if it will sell or how long before that happens.

It’s possible that the violin could be improved through setup or perhaps revoicing, but that will require a bit of investment without raising the value. This could be a good option, however, if you’d rather keep the violin and aren’t planning to upgrade in the near future.

Edited: January 28, 2021, 3:05 PM · David, Moving the bridge closer to the fingerboard is pretty much the acoustic equivalent of moving the soundpost further from the bridge. Also, moving the soundpost toward the centerline a mm or so will usually emphasize the lower tones and reduce the higher. The latter change will more likely require a re-cut, longer soundpost.
Edited: January 28, 2021, 3:38 PM · Yeah but what makes all the difference is that he can move the bridge, while for the soundpost he needs a luthier, I don't know if he lives near by. And probably he should have both, the luthier probably already moved his soundpost further from the bridge.
Edited: January 28, 2021, 3:28 PM · And we fit the bridge to a specific place on the top of the instrument and moving the bridge fore or aft may damage the top or varnish.
Please don't move your bridges like this. That is not how they work. On the upside, during a pandemic, all luthiers could use more work...so strike that suggestion!

Basic point is that on a new instrument the varnish is often not completely dry. When you move the bridge, you may pull varnish up that is stuck to the bottom of the bridge. That stuff on the bottom of the bridge foot will then damage the adjacent area where you have moved the bridge to, further compounding the damage and repair that will need to be done when you want to part with the instrument.

Edited: January 28, 2021, 6:42 PM · @Jean, before going through the hassle of changing your tailpiece, you might try wrapping a bit of fabric or plastic around and secure that with a couple of grocery-store twist-ties just to see if you notice a big difference in your tone. If so, then by all means enter the rabbit hole of violin tail pieces. It's the one between the rabbit hole for strings and the rabbit hole for shoulder rests. I don't think, however that your "metallic" tone is necessarily coming from the part of your violin that's made of metal (if your tail piece even is). If that were true then you'd surely switch to gut strings.
January 28, 2021, 8:36 PM · David, I have switched to Obligatos from PIs. I like the lower tension and the warmth of sound. I didn't realize the Obligato rosin made a big difference. I should try that. Do you have to clean your bow hair with denatured alcohol when changing rosin?
Duane, would it be a fair assumption that an instrument in that price range has spirit varnish rather than oil? If so, wouldn't it be fully cured and hardened after more than a year?
Edited: January 29, 2021, 4:58 AM · A complete shot in the dark here, but does it sound better to you if you put some cotton in your left ear? Could take some of the edge out of the sound for you.
January 29, 2021, 6:34 AM · thanks for the suggestion Paul. those Wittner tailpieces are in a composite material. indeed my luthier (he sold me this violin, he works together with a chinese workshop, receives the violins without strings or anything, and does the set-up himself) claims this composite material is light and actually really good for the sound, he actually resists a bit my request to put a wooden one, because he thinks it is futile.
January 29, 2021, 7:53 AM · Jean, I changed out a metal tailpiece on one of my old German violins a few years ago and there was a marked improvement in sound. Hard to say what the difference might be for a composite tailpiece, but if it were my instrument, I'd go for wood.
Edited: January 29, 2021, 1:32 PM · Hi. Off the topic a bit Ben. Could you give me some advice for my teenage daughter who plays suzuki level 5 and needs to upgrade to a full size one. I am down to two options. MJZ903 or Infinite Strings’s master build series for my budget limit. What shall I go for? It sounds like you don’t really like Ifstrings violin. Thanks for your help.
January 29, 2021, 1:56 PM · Hi Amy,
I can't speak for the MJZ903 as I have had no experience with the brand or fiddle shop which I have only ever bought a shoulder rest from. As for IF strings I actually am impressed with their violins. When I received mine I got it checked out and there were no structural problems which can be a common issue for online distributors (assuming you would get the 903 from Fidlershop that shouldn't be an issue either).
Based on the descriptions of each assuming their honest the IF MB seems a bit more quality of materials but the craftsmanship is arguably more important which can not be determined online. If shopping in person is not an option (which I understand there are many reasons why its not the best)
I can only recommend maybe emailing both IF strings and Fidderlshop about the instruments and see which one you feel better about. (Also important if you decide IF strings, request an offer through email) I got mine for only 1,250 from 1,650 ;)
Overall personally I wouldn't say my experience with IF strigs was bad it's just sound is a subjective thing. The overall playability and response are great, just not my favorite tone color. I have considered trying to trade mine in for another IF MB, however, decided to go in-store next violin I get. If your daughter has a teacher it may be a good idea to get his/her opinion but ultimately the decision is yours. Good Luck! ( oh and also if you don't like the violin don't feel bad, return it before its too late that's the mistake I made )
January 29, 2021, 1:56 PM · John,

They spray oil varnish in China with excellent results, but the point is that the bridge was placed when the instrument was much newer and it is likely that the bridge imprinted then, sticking to the instrument.

Edited: January 29, 2021, 2:19 PM · I do understand that it's easy to feel like you made the wrong purchase but the truth is that at the end of the day, $1650 will only get you a very basic violin.
I don't mean to be dismissive of everyone's suggestions but instead of investing in different strings or anything else, I would practice or spend my money on lessons. That will make the violin sound better than any string set or tailpiece you can buy
January 29, 2021, 2:28 PM · @Amy I have an MJZ 907 viola (about twice your price) and I like it. It's got a huge, beautiful sound but it's not super responsive. But I am really not a violist so it could be the responsiveness is normal for viola.
January 29, 2021, 4:01 PM · Thanks everyone. I decided to just go with MJZ 903. Hope I made a good choice.
January 29, 2021, 9:18 PM ·

The 905 sounds better to me.

January 29, 2021, 9:58 PM · When you go from 903 to 905 to 907 you also pay more.
January 30, 2021, 12:05 AM · The MJZ 903 is a great choice in its price range; I’d say it’s a big step up from any of the IF strings models so you should hear and feel a difference right away. Good luck !
January 30, 2021, 12:05 AM · The MJZ 903 is a great choice in its price range; I’d say it’s a big step up from any of the IF strings models so you should hear and feel a difference right away. Good luck !
Edited: January 30, 2021, 3:50 AM · I'm no expert on Violin Shaped Objects so I couldn't help you, but I can say for that price at my store you could get a good mid level German cottage industry 100+ yr old antique that should sound better and be set up much better.
Edited: January 30, 2021, 9:01 AM · Paul, Obviously, but the price difference is 289$. The 903 is 1589$, the 905 is 1875$. You can keep a violin for your lifetime, saving these amounts when buying a violin, when you can notice a sound difference even on a video, makes totally no sense to me. If it's a budget problem, maybe wait a few days?
Edited: January 30, 2021, 1:27 PM · I must agree with Lyndon. While not from his shop, I found a late 1800's Strad copy that I will never outgrow. It has a beautiful sound and only cost $1,900 (before trading in my student violin from another shop) from a well established local luthier. It's not quite professional level but fits my needs well. It's worth saving a bit and looking around if possible.
Edited: January 30, 2021, 1:40 PM · Buying Chinese violins in 2021 and supporting their economy is kinda like buying German violins in 1939 and supporting their economy, do you really want to support governments that are treating their people like this??
January 30, 2021, 2:32 PM · I bought a Chinese MJZ 925 workshop violin online from a big retailer. It was a nice looking fiddle for the money. But it was very much a factory violin with a brash, obnoxious character. Not sure if it was the set-up or the instrument itself. But after 3 months I gave up on it. I now have a trusted local luthier and will only buy from him. He gives honest advice based on 40 years of experience. I ended up spending more than I had originally planned for a bench-made. But at the end of the day I feel it was money well spent and a solid investment. For me, having access to an excellent local luthier has been priceless. In fact, he just adjusted my soundpost today (no charge). Of course if one does not have access geographically or financially to someone like this then online can be viable solution.
Edited: January 31, 2021, 11:30 AM · David, I know it seems like people should always be able to afford a little more. But what one doesn't know is whether the lower price point is already stretching their budget. That $289 would buy an entry-level CF bow, or a decent case case plus a shoulder rest, rosin, and a few Suzuki books.

I agree that you're likely to get a better value in Lyndon's shop. And yes, without supporting a government that has enslaved a large portion of its population. However, it depends where you live. As far as I know, Lyndon does not ship violins for trial.

February 2, 2021, 9:39 AM · I would second the suggestion with the cotton in the ear to see if it takes the shrill out for the player.

I did some testing between my Stentor Conservatoire and a violin over twice its price. I changed strings between Sandner, D'Addario Preludes, Ascentes, and Thomastik Dominants between the two violins and played with super cheap fibreglass bows to entry level carbon fibres...and my wife, regardless of where she was in the house and where I played, simply couldn't tell the difference between the strings and bows and violins with and without a shoulder rest and an assortment of rosins (Pirastro's, Thomastik, Stentor) - test was "single blinded."

As for my assessment, every E string was shrill to my ears, violin responded better without a shoulder rest but I simply can't play that way, I could have sworn Evah Olive rosin brought out the base while Goldflex worked better the treble. The Ascente D string I didn't like as it was thinner than the adjacent strings and affected my bowing as the bridge slot was cut for a thicker string. The Thomastiks and Preludes both sounded good. The pricier violin resonated better, and you could hear overtones better, but I don't think my audience picked up on that. To my ears double stops sounded better, or at least were easier to play.

I'm starting to think that this is going the way of pixel-peepers in photography. I know my D90 is technically 'worse' than my D610, which is 'worse' than the D4x...but the majority of clients/viewers simply can't tell the difference. But hobbies are like that and that's part fo the fun I guess.

Ultimately, I'd suggest to have someone listen to you playing a few different violins.

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