Choosing a Student Violin

June 1, 2021, 8:17 AM · All of you were so helpful the last time I posted, I'm back with yet another question.

My eleven year old is apparently in need of an upgrade from her 3/4 to a full violin. We have a very basic full at home, but she says that she finds it heavy and more difficult to play, whereas when she played her instructor's (much more expensive) instrument, it 'felt weird', but not difficult.

So, does she just get started on what we have? If not, what do we look for when buying a violin, beyond comfort? Is there typically a progression in terms of what kids play as they get older? I'm thinking that I'd rather just buy a good violin that will last a few years, than keep changing them out (what do you do with the old violins, anyway?). I would obviously not want to hand a million dollar violin to a kid, but is there some sort of baseline price-wise where the 'good' violins start?

Replies (83)

June 1, 2021, 9:56 AM · If you can find a shop with a "rent to try and buy" policy you daughter might be able to sample a few violins on the rental policy and eventually find a violin adequate to hre long-term needs (depending on how far she gets in her violin skills).
June 1, 2021, 10:03 AM · The couple of violin shops nearby basically give you fairly low grade violins to try; the bulk of their clientele are kids that play in school orchestras, but don't play year round. They would be similar to the one we already have. I think it was when she had a half that we tried what was according to them, a high quality violin, and she absolutely hated it. Near as I could tell, there wasn't a 'play a bunch of these and find what works for you' option before renting.
June 1, 2021, 10:23 AM · When my students are ready for their first full size violins, I usually recommend looking in the $1,500-3,000 range depending on their goals and their parents’ finances.
Based on your previous post, it sounds like your daughter is a fairly serious violin student, so you probably would want to look more at the higher end of that range.
If you think she might eventually have music major/professional aspirations, you might consider buying her first full size from a bigger shop -Carriage House/Johnson Strings in Boston and/or Robertson’s etc...(most will ship violins on trial), so that you have trade-in options up to professional level instruments. If finances aren’t an issue you don’t have to worry about this. However, I am guessing that most people don’t have $15,000-25,000 laying around to spend on a pro-level violin (especially when college/conservatory costs are also looming).
Edited: June 1, 2021, 11:47 AM · Price is not a huge issue, but it would be wasteful to spend that kind of money on a violin for a kid that may or may not play, longer term. OTOH, it might make better sense to splurge on something that will retain value, longer term. My problem would be that I have absolutely no idea what to look for, and I don't trust an eleven year old's judgment on what makes for a good violin.

Potter Violins is relatively local, and I've heard good things.

https://potterviolins.com/

June 1, 2021, 12:03 PM · Very rough geographic location?
As stated, it seems like a mix of the playing level and your child's ambitions (at this moment).
My daughter played some 20K violins when she was 11 and we were looking for her first full size.
No way we would have spent that, but it gave her an idea of what was possible and possibly helped her when were looking. Buying at a large shop that gives full trade in is some insurance. The risk is in the future your daughter wants a violin at a different shop.....(hence a large one, a few of which are listed above.) Most shops do full trade in, so once past the fractionals, that's what you do with old violins.
If a kid clearly sees some future, from pursuing a performance degree, to playing in a non-major orchestra, this might make you comfortable spending more. If a kid stops playing you can expect the violin to be worth less than half selling it yourself.
We have acted on the idea that having a good to great sounding and responsive violin creates a better feedback loop learning wise. And is more encouraging. And creates more opportunities. All of which has turned out to be true for us, I think.
We tried many violins at a couple shops, brought 6 home, then blind tested them with her teachers. It was important to me that listeners not know the age, maker, cost of the various choices.
Your teacher should be fully involved. And then the bow the same way.....
As stated above 15-20k is bottom end of contemporary made and antique professional violins.
All that said it does come down to family income, values and priorities.
June 1, 2021, 12:04 PM · Potter's has an excellent reputation. Teacher should be helping.
Edited: June 1, 2021, 12:18 PM · I played a $1200 (cad) European factory violin for a long time before my teacher urged us to look for something more advanced. The sound was mediocre but plenty adequate for an advancing intermediate like I was. I think that violin served me for 2 or 3 years. Mind you, my progress was very rapid during that time, because I practised absolute loads in high school.

I still use that violin as a spare for playing outside or recording a violin "section". That said, the best thing about instruments in that price range is that there's always a buyer for them; they're not too expensive, but they're not junk either.

Anyways, there are plenty of instruments like that in the shops. There are also some antiques in that range which can be great, but you need to check the condition carefully.

Edited: June 1, 2021, 1:15 PM · Potter has a good reputation - as long as you are in the D.C. area there are other "violin shops" worth looking at including Weaver in Bethesda and Brobst across the river (and maybe some downtown - I haven't been in DC since 1989) - but a quick on-line search should give you some names to present here and that will surely get you some more recommendations.
Edited: June 1, 2021, 3:39 PM · Hiroshi Kono at $2800 is what I've seen others recommend at Potters. Brobst is another good shop up there, lots of older workshop instruments in a similar range, although my stereotype is that prices for those tend towards full retail, although I've seen attractive pricing there on some $10-15K modern instruments.

Edit: Andy we were posting at the same time. I had the idea that for student instruments Weaver is a supplier to Potters and for in-house sales focus on more expensive things. (We bought my son's viola at Weaver.)

June 1, 2021, 1:36 PM · A friend who used to play the cello recommended Brobst. Their online reviews don't inspire much confidence, though. We have mostly dealt with Foxes Music: https://www.foxesmusic.com/ and Day Violins: https://dayviolins.com/
June 1, 2021, 1:41 PM · I rented my student violin from a shop that gave me the full cost back when I upgraded to my current instrument. I was told if my new instrument was in excellent condition if I traded up again I would receive full credit for it. I don't know if this is common or not. For a serious young student I think $1500 would buy a good instrument that would last at least through high school. My student outfit was $900 including bow and case. The violin itself was $600.
June 1, 2021, 2:18 PM · At the low end, Brobst is selling likely Chinese factory violins at 695..
Nothing wrong with that, but buying any violin past the first fractionals online seems like a bad idea. Hence online reviews. I don’t think it relates to walking in the door, and trying out what they have to offer in the range you are willing to spend.
If the kid is intermediate to advanced they should have the kind of teacher who would want to advise you, be involved in this decision.
I have heard Konos can be good but you would want to play as many as possible because even if the same model they are not going to be equal.
We would like to try Potter’s someday and will do so next time we go to DC.
June 1, 2021, 3:31 PM · Last year we purchased a 3/4 violin for my younger kid, who is only semi-motivated but a good player (she's also 11 but tiny...she may not ever make it to full size). The first thing I would recommend is making sure you are working with someone at the shop who is knowledgable, fair, and helpful. There are some shops that will try to up-sell you out of your range and need. And other shops that are just overpriced. I don't know the shops in your area, so I can't recommend anything.

Next, definitely work with a shop with a full trade-in policy. We were kind of in a similar situation with bows when my older kid was 12. We ended up getting an OK but not great bow that he then traded in when he was 15 for a professional one. Of course, this means you need to use a shop with a wide enough inventory to accommodate both your current and future needs.

Having said all of that, I have never played or seen a 3/4 or 4/4 violin for under $2000 that would be sufficient for a motivated, good young player. (I am sure there are exceptions, but this is generally true.) I would expect to pay at least that at minimum. The $2000-$10,000 range is a very mixed bag. You will have terrible violins with good pedigrees in this category and amazing contemporary instruments with little pedigree. Definitely play your top few choices for a lot of people, including, of course, your teacher.

June 1, 2021, 3:58 PM · Moving from 3/4 to 4/4 Violin;
It is better to use a violin that is too small than too big.
Check the angle at the elbow,- no more than 90 o square.
The span of the hand 1-4 fingers playing the octave or the perfect fourth or the whole step should be comfortable.
Some players of small stature will eventually move to the less common 7/8 size after trying the 4/4
There are some less significant differences in size; The long Strad model has a body length of 14 1/4 inch while the Guarnerius model is 13 3/4. The string length is the same.
Bow length is also important. It is OK to use the 3/4 bow on a 4/4 violin. A too short bow runs off the end at the tip. A too long bow is more dangerous, because we are tempted to use the tip when the arm is fully extended.
June 1, 2021, 5:44 PM · I had good experiences buying my kids' violins from Potters. The middle one ended up trading in the last one we had when she purchased her "hopefully forever" violin and bow as an adult. In the early days, when money was tight, they were really nice about finding used violins that I could purchase for less money than the violins on their website.
June 1, 2021, 10:28 PM · Potter's is a great shop and they have a trade-up policy. I have purchased an instrument there for my daughter. But after you've had the violin for some months, I recommend seeking out another luthier to give it a tune-up, check the sound post, the nut, the fingerboard, the bridge, etc.
June 1, 2021, 11:09 PM · Please, please, involve your child’s teacher in this purchase.
Edited: June 2, 2021, 7:08 AM · I think I said three times now and Mary Ellen just said it again....
Having gone back and found your other thread, it sounds like your daughter has a new teacher. Showing up with a new violin without their advice is not a great way to start that relationship. Seems like Lydia was helpful in finding a teacher, both good resources with local knowledge.
June 2, 2021, 7:57 AM · Haven't started with the new teacher yet; those plans are still in the works. He's the one who suggested a new violin, and I will certainly involve him in the decision. I just need to have an idea of how to go about it.
June 2, 2021, 11:31 AM · That’s great. As a parent, I would not trust my judgement alone.
Or my kids’. Having players, teachers listen is invaluable.
Also there are violins that sound lovely under the ear of the player, but disappear in a hall. So playing in some different spaces is useful.
Good luck, I have found it fun violin shopping, but possibly I am odd.:)
June 7, 2021, 12:34 PM · Just wanted to give a quick update, that we have two violins (and three bows) at home for a two week trial. Besides price point, they have nothing in common. One is a Hiroshi Kono - very bright, projects well, to my ear, is lacking in depth???, is the one my daughter prefers. The other is an older German instrument (labeled Oskar Hermann Seidel,1887), that has a lot of bass, it feels like. This is the one both my husband and I like better, but it doesn't project as well, and the notes don't sound as well articulated. I did a test of sorts, having her play both instruments with each bow and recording it, and it was nearly unanimous by people that listened (including more musically inclined friends), that they preferred the Kono.

At this price point, it likely doesn't make a whole lot of difference besides a personal preference, and if her teacher agrees, we'll just go with whichever one our daughter likes better.

June 7, 2021, 12:53 PM · The violin -- and bow! -- makes a BIG difference, especially for a child advancing into more complex repertoire, or who intends to play in competitions.

In general, the range of $2,000 - $4,000, plus $1,000 for a bow, is a good budget to start with. That's the range of typical workshop instruments, whether new Chinese or older European workshop violins. You can get something decently playable in that range.

In this area, for instruments of that caliber, I would look at the following shops, in the order listed, top to bottom:
1. Potters (Takoma Park)
2. Gailes (College Park)
3. Brobst (Alexandria)

I would actually visit all three shops, and try as much of the appropriate inventory as possible. You want to look at as many violins as possible, as they aren't, by any means, interchangeable, even at this price point. You can, and should, look at many dozens of violins and bows.

Settle on the violin first. Then go shopping for a bow, because every violin/bow combination is tonally somewhat different.

If you can, shop with the teacher at least once to learn what to look for. That's a better option than just bringing trial options to the teacher because a good picker of instruments may select something your child rejected. You want an instrument that a child's level of playing will grow into, which is not necessarily what they think they want right now.

Workshop instruments generally have a decent trade-in value, but if you can afford to do so, I'd consider going straight to a higher-quality full-size, aiming for a violin in the $10k - $25k range, and a bow in the $4k-6k range. That will get you a contemporary violin or bow made by an excellent living maker, and in this area, that's what you will find in the children who are playing seriously. For such instruments, I would do a broader search, not just in DC/Baltimore, but also in Philadelphia and New York City.

(I'll email you separately with more that I don't necessarily want to put here.)

June 7, 2021, 3:26 PM · sounds really high for a 11 year old child. I don't know how eastern coast kids are but my daughter is not that careful to take the responsability of such a combo of say 20k dollars..
Edited: June 7, 2021, 3:38 PM · Julien, my daughter is REALLY careful with things she treasures, and her violin certainly falls into that category. She's a bit much sometimes, and won't even let me touch her prized possessions, because I'm too rough, in her opinion. Having said that, she's too young for something that pricey, IMO. She'll be too paranoid to even play it, in all likelihood.
June 7, 2021, 5:12 PM · Hey Sue, I feel like the most pertinent question is: how advanced of a player is your daughter? I can't find the other thread you had mentioned, and I don't see any references to her advancement in this thread.

I think it's probably worth asking how advanced her teacher is, as well. It's a great general rule to use one's own teacher to help them search for a new violin, but if you're talking about spending significant amounts of money, then you need to know that the teacher in question really knows what they're doing.

Edited: June 7, 2021, 6:26 PM · Erik, my daughter categorizes herself as advanced beginner, maybe early intermediate. Her (new) instructor agrees (others have put her solidly as an intermediate, but I think it's a function of them having a lot of young students, and not a lot of older ones). Her teacher is quite well regarded, and apparently quite knowledgeable about violins; I would trust his guidance, 100%.

I don't mind investing in a violin for her, so long as she has the interest and ability to maximize the potential offered by her instrument. And it makes logical sense to invest in something good rather than mediocre; the good one will at least not depreciate in value over time, whether she plays it or not. Since we don't know what we're doing, it also makes sense to wait a year or so at least, to see where she is headed, and to see if it makes sense to make that investment.

Edited: June 7, 2021, 7:22 PM · Ok, good info here. Based on all the factors provided (including the fact that money doesn't seem to be an issue), I would personally recommend looking for something in the 5k-10k range. You should be able to get a really nice old german workshop instrument for that. Or something similar.

You could also probably get plenty of use out of a good 2500 dollar instrument, but I wouldn't look much in the range below that, unless you just happen to find a "Steal" (some of my own students have done this, but they were willing to constantly be on the lookout on places like craigslist and facebook classifieds).

On the other hand, going above 10k will likely yield a better selection of quality violins, but there's some serious risk involved with that. I had dropped two violas by the time I reached age 15 (due to the shoulder rest slipping), and although I was lucky that neither of them took permanent damage, it would have been an even more traumatizing experience if they had been very valuable instruments.


Anyways, last thing I wanted to mention: don't assume that buying a more expensive instrument will save you money if you have to sell it later. Percentage-wise, that may be the case, but think of it this way:

1) Buy 2500 violin, and sell it on consignment for 1500, plus 20% fee paid to shop. You lose 1300 dollars.

2) Buy 25000 violin, and sell it on consignment for 25000 plus 20% fee paid to shop. You lose 5000 dollars! Not to mention sales tax loss of another ~10%, so more like 7500 dollars loss.

I know those are two extreme examples, but I guess my point is that violins are expensive to sell. Any potential appreciation gain over time (which isn't a guarantee with violins under, say, 20k), will easily be negated once you consider all of the fees associated with selling on consignment, plus considerable sales tax (and the income tax you already had to pay just to buy the instrument).


Trade-ins would negate this somewhat, but

1) It's likely that an expensive violin is there on consignment, therefore the shop cannot offer trade in on it.

2) Even if they could off trade-in, you'd have to then spend even MORE for the next violin for it to be worth it. So if you're starting expensive, it only goes up from there.


Long story short, I recommend buying a violin with the assumption that it's going to be difficult to sell. And if I was an early intermediate player, I'd rather have a difficult-to-sell 2500 dollar violin than a difficult-to-sell 25000 dollar violin.


Edited: June 7, 2021, 8:43 PM · I think the $5k-10k range is very much a crapshoot. That's the range of apprentice-made stuff and instruments that might play okay but are by anonymous or unimportant makers. Resale value for those violins is somewhat dubious because there's not enough volume to establish a solid market price. You don't want to rule out trying them if you have a larger budget, but your odds of finding something good aren't fantastic. Anyone looking in that price range should be looking at a very large amount of inventory.

A workshop violin by an established existing workshop -- a Jay Haide, Kono, MJZ, Cao, etc. -- will have a decent established market price. There's no reason that a $2,500 violin will go for $1,500 minus a 20% consignment fee. A shop will prefer to take that in trade-in, but they'll probably do a straight-up $2,500 consignment on which you'll pay a 20% fee. Trade-backs or even sell-backs on a violin like that are no big deal because the inventory moves constantly -- that's the commodity workshop violin range.

The $25,000 violin is a whole lot harder to move.

I am incredibly clumsy person but I have never, ever dropped a violin. Accidents do happen, but that's why you buy specialized music instrument insurance rather than crossing your fingers on your homeowner's policy.

Edited: June 8, 2021, 12:32 AM · This is a forum syndrome, isn't it.

Yet another 11-year-old "advanced beginner"/"intermediate", with an expanding repertoire. 100% trustworthy instructor who has given zero advice.

"$10k - $25k range, and a bow in the $4k-6k range."

Lol!

An 11-year-old intermediate doesn't need balanced bow and fiddle combination, she needs to practise.
Leave the balanced bow and fiddle until she's 18 and accepted by a conservatory.
Until then the absolute max doesn't need to be more than 3000USD on the right antique, plus a Coda GX.
She's not a year away from playing Pag 1.
What you get now has physically to survive junior high.
(insurers are frightened of bows, but my luthier half jokes that Codas are indestructible)

June 8, 2021, 12:13 AM · Gordon, exactly two people have suggested going over $10k, and both of them were assuming an 11-year-old upper intermediate to advanced student before a description was given. The average recommendation on this thread has been in the $2500 range.
Edited: June 8, 2021, 12:29 AM · Wait until I've finished editing: it's not until then that I'll know what I wanted to say, lol!

It may only be two people on this thread, but think about every other similar thread and combine them. That's why I used the word syndrome (which I assume means a collection of symptoms)

Edited: June 8, 2021, 4:40 AM · "the absolute max doesn't need to be more than 3000USD on the right antique"

American status symbol prices seem to me to be be hiked. What costs 3000USD in Europe may well cost far more than that in the USA. But maybe it's all about what kind of outlet you buy from.

Luthiers might buy knackered fiddles cheaply at auction then restore them and charge costs plus labour, so the end result varies hugely in cost and quality and luthier misguessing at what they are getting at auction. Mine is honest - if he overpaid and put in a huge amount of work trying to polish a turd, he admits his mistake. That's why you have to go and play them and make sure you don't buy a turd.

=====================================================

Something else with a thread like this one - it makes a big difference whether the 11-year-old has been playing for 6 years or 6 months.

June 8, 2021, 7:58 AM · Gordon, the instructor HAS given advice. Which is to rent an instrument until she develops an ear for what a long term instrument should be, and search seriously for a length of time before committing. For reasons too boring to go into, it makes fiscal sense for us to buy an interim instrument now, instead of renting. Not getting a new instrument won't work, as she has physically outgrown her 3/4.

"Something else with a thread like this one - it makes a big difference whether the 11-year-old has been playing for 6 years or 6 months."

4 years. IF she had made this much progress after playing for just 6 months, I would 100% commit to getting her an actual good violin pronto!

Edited: June 8, 2021, 8:53 AM · $2,000-$4,000 is a reasonable price point at that age and level. If you decide to upgrade later, it might make sense to keep the interim instrument for taking to school or playing outdoors. Your daughter may be careful, but other students might not be. Kids are often pranking each other and are ignorant about the value of instruments.

If your daughter is still growing and is an advanced beginner, it doesn’t always make sense to look for a very expensive violin yet. Full-size violins vary in dimensions that affect playability (like with hand size). It’s not obvious until one is working on advanced repertoire. The differences may seem marginal, but they can affect progress at the advanced level and injury-free playing. Some pre-professional students are told by their teachers to look for a different violin if their instrument isn’t the optimal size for them.

June 8, 2021, 6:15 PM · The dark sounding Old German violin can be attractive under the ear, but projection is harder to come by.
Also, Luthier can tweak the soundpost or you can try other strings to balance sound.
I mentioned 20k earlier, my daughter played some but we spent a fraction of that on a 1900’s French factory fiddle. I think playing some clearly good violins can just give you an education on what’s possible.
Edited: June 8, 2021, 6:23 PM · Erik, it's a long, boring, story. But, the really short version of it is that we have a bunch of credit at a local music store (they don't exclusively deal in violins, but have a good selection, and decent staff), that we can use to get an upgraded violin. That would end up being cheaper than renting. Therefore, it makes financial sense to trade up and buy one, instead of getting stuck with the 3/4 and pay more to rent. I hope that makes sense. Additionally, when I looked at renting, the specific place that we were pointed to, does not rent their better quality full size violins. Which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole exercise, doesn't it? I do want to clarify that we aren't talking about a serious investment violin, just something that's a step up from her fairly basic 3/4.

I must admit that I got a kick out of thinking about impressing parents/gaining status among peers. For one thing, only one family we know, has kids that are relatively serious about violin (one is my friend's daughter, the other is her cousin, who is much older, currently considering whether it is possible to be pre-med and major in violin performance). Those people are my friends; violin does not appear in the top 100 things we even talk about. They are fairly competition circuit oriented, we're not. My daughter is anti-competitions; she very specifically went with an instructor that does not have a competition focus. She just wants to get good enough to play {insert whatever TwoSet says is the really hard stuff}, well. And continue to enjoy playing into adulthood.

June 8, 2021, 6:45 PM · Let's not pick fights, friends. Or try to sell your own violins by demeaning other violins.
June 8, 2021, 7:11 PM · Ahhh Sue, that makes a lot of sense and it was one of my many potential theories on why you might be stuck on the idea of buying. I think I sort of assumed that *wasn't* the case because you had brought up Potter Violins, which is well known for having very fine (and subsequently expensive) violins. But maybe you were bringing them up regarding renting and not purchasing.

Regardless of all other points, I have to agree with the other posters that involving the teacher is the best idea. Just be honest with him and say that you feel buying a violin is the best choice. Then offer to pay him to help you pick out the best violin at the store, within your budget. If he knows his stuff, then he should also know the appropriate price ranges to be looking into.


Side note: it seems my previous post was deleted? It appears Lyndon's posts are gone as well. Was my post deleted because I mentioned Lyndon's store? I certainly have no affiliation or loyalty with him, and was merely mentioning that I believed he probably had lower prices than a typical shop. Was the post too volatile in nature? I didn't feel that it was overtly rude, and I had given disclaimers about the parts that I felt might be construed as too forward.

June 8, 2021, 7:22 PM · And I never said anything disparaging about modern violins, just mentioned that antiques are also a good option and deserve consideration. The difference between moderns and antiques is that almost every store sells the modern brands for pretty much the same price, not so for antiques, high priced stores on average sell the same or similar antique for twice as much as some smaller shops. At full price, antiques may not be as competitive, but priced at half as much they become quite an attractive option, often beating out similar priced moderns.
June 8, 2021, 8:21 PM · Erik, I was kind of laughing about the whole thing, because this is an extremely wealthy region of the country, and showing off a kid violin would involve more money than most people make in a year (or several). Lydia was telling me today about a five year old that started off with a 300K instrument. It's a completely different mindset, not so much having to do with showing off, but more along the lines of providing only the best for their kids. Even if I could afford to do it, I'm not in the camp that believes that one must sink their retirement savings into a musical instrument.
Edited: June 8, 2021, 8:53 PM · Not a problem if someone's kid plays clarinet is it :-), where $4-6K pretty much gets you what orchestra pros play. I was over here thinking about how much I've spent on baseball and taekwondo gear and uniforms over several years, and it makes the cost of a good student violin seem like not too much.

Edit: p.s. I agree with Frieda's suggestion that having a backup instrument is a good thing for kids who end up being serious and play a lot. My daughter actually has three, including a disposable 7/8 for outdoor gigs in the rain that can be sent in the cargo hold of a bus to Disney World. And like many have said, get a decent bow with the decent student instrument, which costs more than it seems like it should when you're new at this.

Edited: June 8, 2021, 8:52 PM · Sue: Yeah, that's a whole different world of wealth. I guess when everyone else around is also rich, it makes it tough to effectively impress anyone. We're always bound by our peers, it seems. I have to admit that coming across excessive money in the past has kind of ruined my sense of accomplishment in anything. Beyond a certain point, the thought of being able to buy anything you want just becomes more saddening than exciting. And this is also a reason for getting a (relatively) less expensive violin early on: it leaves room for excitement down the road when you've improved enough to justify something better. I know some others here will argue than the real reward is your own musicality improving and thus we should get the best possible instrument immediately, but equipment upgrades have kept me motivated in the past, and I'm not sure I would have felt the same way if I'd started with a Guadagnini or a Postaccini. With that said, you do want something that doesn't significantly limit the player for quite some time, and I'd say the retail starting price point for that would be $2500 if the player is early intermediate. Usually, when I play violins above that price, I can call them "Decent." And honestly, if we lived in a fantasy world, that's the minimum price point I would have had all of my students start with. The setup is good, the response is even enough, they play fine into the 5th, maybe 7th positions. To me, 2500 price point gets you the "Honda Civic" range of violins. You know it'll be safe and get you where you're going, and probably reliably do that until you're ready for something better.
Edited: June 9, 2021, 2:48 AM · For all the difference you'd notice in their playing or "musicality", you might as well start a kid with a Skylark. The greater the investment, the more pressure on the parent and the kid to carrying on flogging when the horse is dead, or discovered to be irredeemably unmusical.
Edited: June 9, 2021, 6:36 AM · "Darkness", "projection". Again, context, please. 11-year-old intermediates don't need to fill the Carnegie hall, they need, apart from playability, a nice sound that encourages their efforts.

Stan - the way I decided how much to spend on a fiddle was to look at what I'd spend if I were still an amateur oboist - cheapest pro model - Rigoutat, 6000USD, therefore total spend on violin and bow <=6,000USD. (I spent less because I was offered something nice). Mind, a cor anglais too would muddy the picture.

June 9, 2021, 6:16 AM · The OP mentioned two violins they were down to an old dark German one or a newish Kono (likely cheaper inferring from the post).
I was pointing out that some violins can sound nice under your ear but disappear in a recital space. If the kid is going to be playing recitals projection matters.
The other point being, since OP might not know, that the sound quality of each violin can be tweaked through luthier adjustments or choice of strings.
June 9, 2021, 6:43 AM · OK, sorry, Matthew. I missed bits of the thread (and other bits got deleted last night).

The question of whether a kid should begin on cheap or expensive will run and run.

Jokingly I'd say if it's a guitar, start them on cheap. It took me a while to learn not to keep smashing the thing into the furniture by accident!

June 9, 2021, 7:47 AM · I realize that there is no right answer to this, but as a general parenting philosophy, I think it makes sense that a child earn their better quality instrument. A 3K instrument (or so) will do for now, and she can use it for orchestra, or taking it to school and on trips without anyone having heart attacks. The next step up will be a really big one from the sounds of it, and I would hope that she would have to demonstrate some sort of need.
June 9, 2021, 12:01 PM · “Not a problem if someone's kid plays clarinet is it :-), where $4-6K pretty much gets you what orchestra pros play.”

It’s true that clarinets are relatively budget friendly as far as pro instruments go but I think a professional quality instrument is still more like $10,000 and up.

A student flutist whom I know extremely well got into the Jacobs School on a $6500 flute that her parents had just stretched to buy, and was informed by her professor at the audition that she needed a better instrument. “Better” in this context is probably in the $15-$20,000 range.

Many instruments which are described in their sales copy as “professional” would not in fact be considered adequate except perhaps at the very lowest rungs of the professional ladder.

June 9, 2021, 12:18 PM · A lot of clarinetists play Buffet R13s!
June 9, 2021, 2:54 PM · I had a friend who was an oboe FRCM. He had graduated in 1975 on a basic Lorée.
June 9, 2021, 6:21 PM · Lydia, I'm re-writing my response to your because it was included in a larger post that got deleted (I still have no idea why it got deleted, and would appreciate an explanation).

You had said: "I am incredibly clumsy person but I have never, ever dropped a violin. Accidents do happen, but that's why you buy specialized music instrument insurance rather than crossing your fingers on your homeowner's policy"


I am not a clumsy person, but as a very petite teenage boy (95 lbs at age 15), I had basically non-existent shoulders. On top of that, I played the viola. These two factors led me to placing my SR closer to my collarbone so that it would be *on* on my shoulder. However, this is inherently an insecure position, and it led to two different instances of me dropping my viola.

The first time was when I was in a lesson and the teacher had me take my left thumb off of the instrument to show me a more relaxed arm vibrato. This technique actually worked really well, but while my thumb was off, the SR slipped off and since there was nothing under the viola, it dropped on the floor (in retrospect, she should have had her hand on the scroll while this was happening).

The 2nd time was a couple of years later. I was at home practicing a passage on the viola that required me to shift to the point where my left thumb was on the side of the fingerboard (proper procedure as opposed to placing the thumb on the bout). Once again, my SR slipped off, and since there was nothing under to catch it, it dropped on the floor.

After that, I started placing my SR in the most secure position possible, with a high amount of tension pulling between the feet. As a result of that, it didn't fall off, but I was chronically uncomfortable and my viola drooped more. The moral of the story: when you buy an instrument, know that there's a possibility it will drop, even if you do everything right.

I believe even Mark O'Connor dropped his primary violin at some point.

Edited: June 9, 2021, 10:45 PM · The most popular professional clarinet, the Buffet R-13, which most people play, is around $3500. You need two of them, one in Bb, and one in A, so $7500 as the A costs a bit more. Then, both horns probably need a full professional setups since they have so many issues coming off the production line, and that can be $500-$1000 per instrument, so $8500 now at least. Then, you have a good mouthpiece or two, from $100-$800 depending on what you like, a decent case to haul them around ($400), a nice ligature to hold the reed on ($20-$300, depending on how crazy you want to go), and the reeds themselves, either cane or synthetic. A $10,000 budget is more than sufficient for any professional clarinetist to outfit themselves with the two clarinets they need to play in band and orchestra, ignoring the auxiliaries (Eb sopranino and Bb Bass) for the moment. Comparatively speaking, clarinets are cheap, which is why we are such gearheads. :)

My first clarinet teacher played her original set of these instruments in her orchestral career for over forty years before finally replacing them due to wear and tear that could not be corrected. Of course, she bought them back in the 70's for about $1000, which based on a popular inflation calculator, is equivalent to about $6,884.82 today.

It's not lost on me that one of the violin bows I play on costs more than ALL of my clarinets and their gear.

June 9, 2021, 8:00 PM · I'm somewhat at a loss to remember what I wrote earlier in the thread that got deleted, and I'm also not sure why. (I did ask Lyndon about possibly undervaluing his labor, as one of the primary costs involved in an antique violin is the luthier's time spent in restoration work. I have no idea if he ever replied.) I'm guessing that Gordon's commentary on projection also belongs to a deleted set of comments.

In any event, Erik, I've had shoulder-rest slip mishaps, but none of them ever resulted in losing the instrument off my shoulder. (Mark O'Connor's primary instrument was, for a long time, a JB Vuillaume. I would hope that he never dropped that.) I suppose I should count myself fortunate. I have dropped valuable bows, unfortunately.

Depending on where one lives, competitions can take place in large halls. That doesn't seem to be the case here in the DC area, which is largely an artifact of relatively small venues, but when I was growing up in the Chicago area, a lot of competitions were done in pretty big spaces. (Heck, even my Suzuki program did concerts in a 2,000-seat hall.)

Edited: June 10, 2021, 7:40 PM · I would worry less about filling a large hall and focus instead on having a violin that actually gives you more when you step on the gas. So many people have instruments that have no strength, with the result that they adapt their playing to savor the sweetness and never learn how to speak out. Not a great thing for a student who wants to get better.
June 9, 2021, 11:31 PM · Stephen is very right here. I spent my teen years on a (decent-quality non-workshop contemporary) violin that was singingly sweet but resisted punch (and loathed playing close to the bridge). More than one teacher told me I was in desperate need of an upgrade.

And then in adulthood I bought an actually very nice violin that spoke quickly and was responsive but again didn't really allow you to put weight into it. (That said, I loved a Strad that responded almost purely to bow speed and really didn't like weight. That thing could give you whatever power and massive dynamic contrast you wanted, nevertheless.)

I do think that the instrument shows the players the possibilities, and even beginners deserve something that you don't have to force to get a decent tone out of.

Strings do make a difference, but not necessarily a good one. I was recently convinced to put Alphayues on my son's fractional rather than Dominants (big price difference, and the shop claimed little tonal difference). Big mistake. The difference in sound quality has been meaningful and the thing annoys me every time I hear it.

June 10, 2021, 12:55 AM · Alphayues are pretty hit-and-miss in my experience. I like Tonicas more when it comes to a somewhat less expensive string that works pretty well on practically everything. And I think their tone lasts longer than alphayues as well.
June 10, 2021, 2:38 AM · And I didn't realize one of your posts got deleted too, Lydia. I think maybe anything with the word "Lyndon" in it got deleted, lol.

As for Ol' Marky, I believe it was his Cooper that got dropped. He then used his "backup instrument" for a while which happened to be his Vuillaume.

Edited: June 10, 2021, 4:02 AM · your post got deleted for negative things you said about me, Erik, and about the OP's intentions, don't try to weasel out of it.

My post got deleted because they were considered advertising, even though that was not my intention, I live no where near the OP, and don't do online sales, and was just mentioning examples of what is available at a cheaper violin shop like my own.

June 10, 2021, 4:05 AM · Lyndon is a good reality check, in my opinion, and censorship of what he says worries me, even if he lacks self-moderation. Yes, I am aware that I lack self-moderation.
June 10, 2021, 10:24 AM · FWIW, I had nothing to do with any of the posts getting deleted. I have spent enough time on Teh Interwebs to not be bothered by whatever someone I don't even know says on it.

Short of actual harmful behavior, I don't believe in censorship.

June 10, 2021, 3:39 PM · To be honest, one of my favorite things about this particular forum is I always felt like it was completely censor-free (which is rare for forums). Problems have tended to solve themselves here plenty of times in the past, without need for moderation.

And Lyndon, I really wasn't trying to say negative things about you, and if I did I certainly wouldn't try to weasel out of it. As you may recall, I said that I genuinely believed your prices were probably lower than a typical violin shop, but then added a quip about the tradeoff being that you might call them an idiot. This was a reference to the fact that you had called someone an idiot very recently, possibly in this same thread (you might have called a vague group idiots, rather than a particular person, but the point remains). So the joke was that your prices are lower, but the tradeoff is you might someone an idiot. Maybe sarcasm doesn't translate well over text.

June 10, 2021, 3:50 PM · i am not amused, I have never called a customer an idiot, internet trolls, yes, but they aren't my customers.
June 10, 2021, 4:05 PM · And hopefully, when taken in context, someone could easily see that is the case, especially when the smiley face on the end of the sentence was taken into consideration. Of course, now there's not a smiley face, because the entire post was deleted.
Edited: June 10, 2021, 4:13 PM · Your original post was much more slanderous than you are now claiming, it deserved to be deleted.

You were also accusing the OP of wanting to impress her friends with how much she payed for a violin. Very outrageous and completely unwarranted comments.

June 10, 2021, 4:30 PM · It's truly unfortunate that it's not around for us to say, Lyndon. Now I think I know who reported it... This is the real problem with complete censorship: now you can say that I said something I didn't, and I have no evidence to defend myself.

Would you mind telling me the part that you found slanderous? I don't recall saying more than one sentence about you.

And yes, I was suggesting that the OP might be trying to impress her friends, among many other potential options. This is a very real phenomenon that happens, and I wasn't stating it was the only possibility. I was merely playing the Devil's advocate and asking her to identify what her real motives were. I had found a series of contradictory factors up to that point, and it seemed like maybe she had already made up her mind about what she wanted, and wasn't *really* looking for advice, as much as she was looking for people to validate her spending more on a violin. However, she quickly and easily refuted that it was a matter of impressing anyone, and explained herself very well. In doing so, it also helped to clarify what her needs were in a violin. Was I rude about my approach? Absolutely. Was it rude enough to warrant deletion? I don't think so. If I was a jerk online, there should be a permanent record of me being that way.

June 10, 2021, 4:40 PM · you said I call all my customers idiots, and yes I reported it as any reasonable person would.
June 10, 2021, 5:47 PM · Well that's just a straight-up lie, as I definitely never said "Lyndon calls all his customers idiots."

Now that I've had the pleasure of this interaction with you and found you to be either delusional or an outright liar, I can genuinely say that I would never, ever recommend anyone go to your shop. If the way you interact on the internet is in any way representative of your real-life conduct, then that's a real shame.

June 10, 2021, 5:54 PM · Sorry I don't remember the exact words but the gist of what you said is that Lyndon sell violins cheaper but he calls all his customers idiots, so you're the liar this time.You my friend are an internet troll that is just spreading garbage about multiple people, you even admit to the terrible things you said about the OP
June 10, 2021, 6:03 PM · *sigh* whatever you say, Lyndon. I guess your tantrum got you what you wanted, so congrats. I'm officially done wasting my time talking to a completely irrational person.
Edited: June 10, 2021, 7:18 PM · Lydia in answer to your question about my pricing, I work for $50/hr instead of $150/hr like higher end and somewhat more experienced luthiers (that probably have more formal training), and I have little if any overhead as I work out of my house
June 11, 2021, 4:31 PM · Lyndon, I imagine that you if you believe that the end results are comparable, you could price your labor higher. (Buyers won't care about the training of a luthier as long as the repairs are well-accomplished, especially not in these kinds of student-instrument ranges.) Of course, lower prices can also result in inventory moving more quickly.
June 12, 2021, 5:22 AM · Lydia, while I am well qualified to work on the student and intermediate instruments that the high end shops tend to be less interested in. I'm very good at crack repair and setup, bridge, soundpost, fingerboard, pegs etc, but I'm not so good at higher end repairs like soundpost patches, peghole bushing and varnish touch up. Real experts can make repaired cracks practically invisible, but I've never been able to pull that off, the strength of my cracks repairs is just as good, I once had a top expert accuse me of super gluing cracks on a repair because he was having so much trouble getting them apart to clean them and make them disappear, of course I had just used high strength hide glue.

SO I limit myself to working on instruments under $10,000 value, and work with a top high end shop that I refer things I am not willing or able to work on.

one of my strengths has been admitting my limitations, and not taking on jobs I am not qualified to do. While top shops may have the equivalent of a Doctor's degree in lutherie, mine is more like a Masters degree, I am not a hack, I don't damage the violins I work on and make them less valuable.

Recently a customer brought in a Vuillaume labeled violin, with a separated neck and ribs loose at the top block, It was better than any Vuillaume copy I had seen, and although I still consider it unlikely I couldn't rule out that it might be a genuine Vuillaume, so instead of offering to repair the neck, I told the customer to take it to my top expert friend and make sure it wasn't genuine before I would consider working on it, I also told him what it might be worth if it were genuine.

Working with a top expert that I can have complete trust in has been critical to the success of my business, we have an understanding that any high end violins I get I will sell to him at a wholesale price rather than try to repair myself

June 12, 2021, 6:26 PM · Though even if you work with cheap violins -- or you sell inexpensive workshop violins -- there's probably no compelling reason, other than faster inventory turns, to restore something bought at auction (or the like) for $1k and sell it for $2k when you could get $3k for it simply by figuring in a higher value for your labor.
June 12, 2021, 6:53 PM · it doesn't work that way, you would just end up losing sales and selling next to nothing
June 12, 2021, 7:30 PM · I'm a discount violin shop, take away the discount and I'm just another high priced violin shop with no reason to buy from me vs someone else, I'm quite happy providing my customers with lower prices, last thing I would want to do is change that.
Edited: June 12, 2021, 8:42 PM · Gordon, I'm pretty much a nobody but I just had a bow trial and chose a Codabow GX as the best of the four that I took home for 2 weeks. I also chose a pretty beat up Pfretzschner which played almost as well for me but it was my only opportunity to have an antique by a recognized maker so I bought it. I am now trying 4 viola bows and once again the Codabow GX seems like it will be the choice. I didn't want to try even more because of my skill level, the GX already improves my playing enormously. Happy student, happy teacher!

Lyndon, That's a fine business model. I believe my local shop charges much less for labor too but the work is top notch.

Edited: June 12, 2021, 9:11 PM · Most Pretzschners are not antiques, they're vintage from like the 60s, they can be picked up for about $250 on ebay but they would still need some set up, hope you're not paying much. They were German factory violins marketed by Scherl and Roth. Some are better than others but the bad ones are barely worth $250
June 12, 2021, 10:13 PM · This is a pre-1901 Pfretzschner BOW.
June 12, 2021, 10:17 PM · Sorry Pretzscner bows are the real Pretzschner family, the violins were later cheap factory units, my mistake. The Pretzchner bow will sound better than the carbon fibre, Carbon fibres forte is their playability, not their tone.
June 12, 2021, 10:22 PM · It's an HR Pfretzschner (with an F and an S). It actually doesn't sound better than the Codabow, somewhat less. The Codabow GX sounds and plays better than any wooden bow I've ever tried. It plays well above its price point.
June 12, 2021, 10:25 PM · I can't stand the sound of codabows the midrange sounds like plastic and they're way too bright
June 12, 2021, 11:36 PM · Genuine Pfreztschner bows are very good but there are a lot of fakes, the factory violins use the name but they are not the same company and are generally crap.
June 13, 2021, 4:03 AM · Ann, Lyndon is right about more Pfretzschner fakes being around than authentic. Especially on Ebuy and the like I would be cautious. But since you're buying from a reputable shop and you're talking about a "pre-1901" model it sounds as if someone had done his homework.


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