Thoughts? Keep violin or buy different one

August 28, 2021, 5:32 PM · Hello, violinist community!

I am looking for your advice and experience.

5 years ago as a younger adult I decided to finally properly learn to play violin.
I bought a violin from a local music store. I bought from them and trusted them because they were local and the only music store around within a two hour drive.

5 years and two kids later, I now have the time to properly learn.
The violin that I bought was an Eastman Giuseppe Galiano student violin outfit series 2. I paid $1800 for it. It was sold to me as a student step up model that should suit me for years, possibly forever.

I became suspect when I had the same or better sound and definitely a better feel from a $220 Franz Hoffman Prelude violin setup. I looked up my violin and couldn’t find anything online so I called Eastman Strings. They wouldn’t give me a price but told me they quit making my violin “a long time ago” and it was replaced by a series 1. I found that series 1 outfit online for between $500-$800.
I’m concerned that this violin isn’t set up properly and isn’t worth any more money put into it besides what I’ve already done (new $100+ strings, new bridge). I seem to have an easier time making correct tones on the Franz Hoffman violin than on my own - I have to press down much harder on mine and it makes my hand very tense.

I stumbled on a used violin made by Peter Paul Prier and sons. They’re asking $600 for it used. It could be evaluated by the luthier of my choice before I bought it, with needed repairs driving the price down.
It’s a “C” model from 2003 and Prier Violins told me it would have sold for between $900-1500 new.

What is your advice? Should I stick with the violin I have now, or look into this one that I stumbled across? I can’t seem to get it out of my head but I can’t find any sound clips online. Have any of you ever played one of these violins?

I appreciate your time.
I’m definitely a beginner. I have a violin teacher but have only had two lessons and they’re thirty minutes each - not a whole lot of time to go into this in any detail.

Thanks!

Replies (38)

August 28, 2021, 6:06 PM · I wouldn't necessarily assume that your existing violin isn't worth the money. The fact that you're getting a better sound from something that's barely a VSO suggests that your technique is such that a super-forgiving beginner instrument is making you sound less bad given that you have no idea how to play.

Have your teacher look at the violin and offer an opinion. A proper set-up isn't really all that big a deal, compared to buying something totally new, when you've already spent almost $2k.

Edited: August 28, 2021, 7:33 PM · I'm with Lydia, at the very beginning the instrument doesn't matter as much as the player. Wait until your teacher says, "This instrument can't do what you want it to," and then start thinking about changing. A luthier could probably help with comfort areas such as string height, etc.

Also, you might ask for an hour lesson at least once in a while, especially in the beginning when there are tons of questions. My first teacher that I had recently only offered half hour lessons because she mainly taught children. Adults tend to have lots of questions.

August 28, 2021, 8:05 PM · Thank you, Lydia and Ann! I appreciate your insight and I am definitely going to ask about an hour long lesson.
It’s encouraging to hear that I can make this work with what I have.
August 28, 2021, 8:48 PM · If you have to press down harder on the strings of your current violin it might just mean that the bridge is too high or you're using strings with very high tension. Your teacher or luthier should be able to advise you and make recomendations. Having a luthier adjust the setup and/or putting on softer strings is not a big deal.

Tonica, Warchal Karneol and John Pearse Artiste are all low-to-medium tension strings that are not too expensive. Might be worth a try if your teacher agrees.

August 28, 2021, 11:52 PM · I agree with Lydia and Ann. The violin won't matter that much until you reach a higher level to where you start to be able to make your own opinions about what you like and don't like which won't be until later when you're ear starts to develop. As long as the violin is playable you'll be fine until like Ann said, your teacher says your violin is holding you back.

About you having to press down harder, Amrita is right. The action on your violin might be too high so perhaps taking your violin to the luthier to have the bridge lowered might help. I say might because the other point Amrita said is that you might be playing strings with a higher tension. If we knew what strings are on the violin right now we'd know whether what's on there is a high or low tension string. If the strings are of high tension then indeed I would try and lower tension string. If that didn't work then the next step would be to have the action lower. There is a sort of universal string height for violin when the bridge is cut, but plenty of people go above or below that string height based on preference. Some people like a higher action while some like it lower.

August 28, 2021, 11:53 PM · good points
August 29, 2021, 5:31 AM · I would suggest to have different people, your teacher, a luthier etc. play your violin and one you find better. Listen to the sound and also ask them their opinion.
That said, preferences may be highly individually! I am in the process of buying a violin and took two home. I picked them out of about 10 instruments and the luthier said, some of those I rejected were "much more expensive" than the ones I chose. Now I don't know what that means, I had set my limit at 2300 € and the ones I chose were 1500 €. But still, to ME, the ones I rejected were much too loud and had very unpleasant E- and D-strings, at least to my ear.

So, maybe your violin IS worth $1800, but just you personally do not like this kind of sound.

August 29, 2021, 5:51 AM · I agree with the others that at this point it's more about your technique than the instrument, it takes time. If there IS a problem with the setup then it may actually be capable of a much better sound than you can tell at this time. At the end it's up to you, but since you've spent so much already, talk with your teacher and a luthier from some other place than where you bought it before you make a decision.

Edited: August 29, 2021, 6:47 AM · Regardless of whether you're a beginner or advanced player, action that is too high can injure your left hand and make good intonation difficult. The distance of each individual string to the surface of the neck is not simply a function of the height of the bridge. The neck angle, nut height, and fingerboard scoop and shape are also all critically important. Most music teachers are not capable of evaluating this. Please take your violin to an experienced luthier for evaluation. As Lydia said, "proper set-up isn't really all that big a deal," but it needs to be done by somebody qualified to do it.
August 29, 2021, 7:08 AM · Another issue may be your bow. The common wisdom is that you get more bang for your buck by upgrading your bow rather than your instrument. So, you might want to at least try out a few bows and see what sort of difference that makes.
August 29, 2021, 7:49 AM · There must be a whole lot of professional players injuring their left hand, because professionals often prefer a considerably higher action.
August 29, 2021, 8:27 AM · I wonder why pros often prefer a considerably higher action? Any clues?
August 29, 2021, 8:33 AM · I'm not a player so I'm not sure, I just know a lot of them ask for higher action, so I tend to set strings higher and then lower them at the request of the customer, because you can't raise strings without replacing the whole bridge.
August 29, 2021, 8:47 AM · If I were to guess I would think it makes the notes sound more clearly by pushing down more????
Edited: August 29, 2021, 8:50 AM · There is "action that is high" and there is "action that is *too* high." An experienced and well-trained luthier knows the difference. An experienced and well-trained player will feel and hear the difference.

A beginner or even intermediate player may not know enough to recognize action that is too high.

Action that is *too* high can cause left hand injury, particularly fourth-finger repetitive strain-type injuries.

August 29, 2021, 9:05 AM · i usually aim for 4mm e clearance and 6mm G string clearance but it often ends up lower, like 3.5 e and 5.5 G

Would you consider that high or too high??

August 29, 2021, 12:36 PM · 4 and 6 mm respectively is rather high for almost all players. 3.5 and 5.5 are fairly standard. However, opinion among professional players is divided. I have a number of professional customers who prefer heights more like 2.5 and 4. I have found that preference for string height sometimes corresponds to age—older players may prefer a lower setup that they find more comfortable. Younger players may seek the feel of a bit of resistance under the finger tips.

To the OP’s question, if the instrument is set up well, it’s not necessarily a bad purchase. Instruments of this kind are not investments—they have little to no trade-in because new models or equivalents are readily available and the cost for a shop to buy a new one is often much lower than what you would want to get back for it. I would recommend making sure that the setup has been done by the shop and isn’t just a factory one (the materials and workmanship are generally very poor) and that the shop has a skilled luthier. A lot of rental shops just hire high school or college students to do rough setups because demand is too high and the cost is too much for skilled labor.

It’s hard to know what’s really good when you’re beginning and aren’t familiar with the instrument or its world yet. Having someone you can trust is critical. If you have a teacher, ask for some advice. If you find a good luthier, you can get useful advice there.

August 29, 2021, 1:36 PM · Well I checked with a respected top expert who actually works on real Stradivaris sometimes. He said he was setting them 3.75mm for the e string and 5.75mm for the G string but that lately he had been setting them a bit lower, but he still gets some people that want them even higher, and then of course he has to fit a new higher bridge.
August 29, 2021, 1:44 PM · Mine is at E 3mm and G 5mm measured at the top of the string. With Dominant strings it is easier for me to play in the upper positions with my previously injured hand.
August 29, 2021, 1:46 PM · I try my best to never go lower than that, but you can go slightly lower without buzzing sometimes. But you always measure at the bottom of the string, not the top, so that is really on the low side
August 29, 2021, 2:06 PM · I think all the comments above are excelllent advice, I would say though, that before you start spending vast amounts of money check out fiddlermans instruments, even his cheap ones are great value for money, and I think they let you try them out first.
August 29, 2021, 2:30 PM · So a strong vote for cheap Chinese junk, wonderful
Edited: August 29, 2021, 3:42 PM · Not everyone has twenty grand to spend on a violin, especially when they are learning as the op says.

Personally I think people like Scott cao make good instruments though everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course.

August 29, 2021, 3:59 PM · At my shop 100+ year old antique violins with a bow and case start at $500, not $20,000, all this Chinese crap I have compared to is overpriced by comparison and makes a huge profit for the dealer as they are buying them from China for next to nothing.
August 29, 2021, 4:06 PM · I can get a 100 year old antique german violin for 100 quid of gum tree. Like I said everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
August 29, 2021, 4:19 PM · Yeah but they take several hundred to set up properly, almost always need new strings, bridge, soundpost, leveling fingerboard, new pegs and any crack repairs needed, and 90% of them aren't good enough to bother trying to fix up, and you cant get them for 100 if theyre any good
Edited: August 29, 2021, 4:31 PM · its ok you dont need to defend your profit to me, I am not ar..d how much you make.

like I said your entitled to your own opinion.

August 29, 2021, 4:50 PM · Its not an opinion, its my job!!
August 29, 2021, 5:03 PM · Not really interested what your job is to be honest, like I keep saying you are entitled to your opinion, which is all it is to me.
August 29, 2021, 5:11 PM · Restoring antique violins is not an opinion, it is an art, people like you prefer cheap factory made junk from China, that is an opinion.
August 29, 2021, 5:18 PM · I have not the remotest interest in what your job is sorry about that, by the way you have no idea what I prefer. Thats my opinion lol
August 29, 2021, 6:56 PM · This is where the fun begins.
August 29, 2021, 8:06 PM · Here we go.....
August 29, 2021, 9:07 PM · Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by and gave me your insight. I appreciate it!

I’ll be taking the violin to a luthier to have it checked out. I also did upgrade my bow already, did try that first! I meant to put that in my original post. I bought a JonPaul carbon fiber bow and tried several strings before putting Pirastro Oliv strings on it for the sound, which to me sound better than anything else I’ve tried on it.

I am a definite beginner and appreciate the insight on violin action. I want to play for a pain free future so I’ll definitely be getting this checked out.

Thanks again, everyone!

August 29, 2021, 11:57 PM · haters gonna hate.
August 30, 2021, 12:42 AM · I'm just gonna shake shake sha...

Disclaimer: I don't know where this is from because I am a purebred musician.

August 30, 2021, 1:06 AM · Don't worry Mike, no one here is going to judge you for shaking it like a salt shaker.
August 30, 2021, 1:07 AM · Salt shakers are a quick way to ruin a nice meal at Denny's.


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