Intermediate viola purchase advice
My daughter is going into high school next year and has played viola for about 3 years now. She’s enjoying it and wants to keep pursuing it, maybe on into college. She plays a student rental right now and I’m considering a purchase of a nicer intermediate instrument for her.
The recommendation at the local shop was a viola that runs about $3k. It’s a beautiful instrument and sounds great, but I just don’t know if that’s too much for a 13 year old. I keep thinking surely there are more reasonably priced decent violas for about half that. Her teacher, and of course the shop, are pushing this instrument hard. Does a high school student really need a $3,000 viola to continue advancing and meeting her potential? If she sticks with it and wants to keep studying in college, I’m on board with getting something nicer but I’m having a hard time with this decision now.
$2500-3000 is about starting price what a good viola for a fairly serious high school kid is going to run for high quality Chinese workshop instruments like Jay Haide. I remember a nice step up in sound quality at around $5000. Good, reasonably priced violas seemed more difficult to come by than good, reasonably priced violins.
I was also 13 when my parents bought me my first 'nice' violin, also for around $3000. I already had a pretty good idea that I wanted to become a musician though, so my parents were convinced enough to buy it for me. I played the same instrument for the next 6 years including my first year at college, so it was more than good enough for me as a 13 year old. I think $3000 is the absolute maximum you should spend if she is still in the deciding phase. 2k will probably do to be honest...
As always, there is an imperfect r-squared between price and quality. It is generally true that options increase with retail price, and that $2-3k is the entry point for halfway decent professional/student instruments. Jay Haide is something of an unofficial benchmark there. Even with that maker, though, some are a lot better than others. And there is always the prospect of getting lucky with a private sale of something else for $1,500.
When I was 10 my father gave me the violin he had used as a teenager and up until he was earning his own living during the Great Depression and bought a fine Italian violin and 2 great bows for himself. The violin I was given at 10 (I was told) was an ancient Tyrolean instrument that I played on until my 18th birthday (in college) when I was gifted one of the violins I still own. I played that ancient instrument through high school, through Mozart concertos 3 & 5, The Mendelssohn and The Beethoven.
A very good starting point for a nice instrument for the stage your daughter is at.
Yes. $3000 is a reasonable price at that stage. That's not chump change, but one way to look at it is to convert it to weeks of lessons.
When you get her a nice viola, she will need a nice bow too. A decent silver Brazilian pernambuco bow from one of the good workshops like Arcos Brasil, Marco Raposo, or l'Archet Brasil will run something like $800-1200.
At this point in her life, a good bow may go further to help out. Certainly, better return on investment. Whether that means staying closer to $2k for the instrument and getting the best possible stick with the balance may depend on what is in the shop at the time.
At a budget shop like mine I have cheaper options, my best right now is an EH Roth post war for $2000, that should be better than the Jay Haide at $3500 etc. and as good as the brand new EH Roth that sell for about $5000. Not trying to advertise just giving you an idea of what some smaller shops might offer.
Correction, its a Joseph Bitterer, Mittenwald, I sold the EH Roth already, but they are of similar quality, build and tone.
Consider the Scott Cao instruments. He has them in the OP's price range.
For a long term investment, even at only 13 y.o., do not get a Viola that is smaller than 15 1/2 inch body length.
Lyndon, I agree, if there are nice sounding old German or French violas to be had, that would be great. Couldn't find anything like that when I was looking though, good inexpensive violas seemed few and far between.
I have good cheap violas under $2000, but they're almost all smaller models, 15 1/2 etc, my Bitterer is 16" though
Thanks to everyone for your advice. I sincerely appreciate you all giving me the benefit of your wisdom — I am utterly ignorant on the subject.
And review the bow while you're at it. Even a bow of comparable value of what you have now could be better with that instrument. And if improvements cost more, it may be worth discovering how much better you can do in any case.
@Lyndon, my teacher has a 15" John Betts, c.1780. If you have one of those for under $2000, I'll buy it.
I haggled a bit last year when I bought my new viola, bow and case.
KB - Negotiating price is part of the game.