Budgets for buying a violin?
Hi, So I have been renting a violin for the past 6 years and as I enter my third year of high school, my teacher thinks it's a good idea to purchase a violin instead of renting. My parents can afford to as well for me. I was just wondering, what price range/budget should I start at? My goal is to hopefully study at a conservatory/university level post-High School, and my playing skill is currently around the Praeludium and Allegro / Kabalevsky Concerto level.
I'd say a maximum of $10,000. A lot of stuents upgrade during college as needs change.
I'd warn against spending $10,000+ for a violin because you want to go to a conservatory (Although you never said that you wanted to spend that much. I am just bouncing ideas off Ella's suggestion.). This might sound harsh, but playing Kabalevsky Concerto and Kreisler P&A after Pugnani at the time of starting your third year of high school is very behind other pre-conservatory violinists. So therefore, I think you should play violin just for the enjoyment, and for that, a below $6000 instrument is fine. Also, not all conservatory students are rocking extremely expensive violins either.
Per my daughter’s teacher, 10K is about the point where your instrument won’t be an impediment to your playing well enough to get into a music school. You will likely have to upgrade once in.
(This is replying to Mike btw :-) ) Oh- no it's fine! I really enjoy playing and that's just a goal for me. But if I do manage to make it then that's also great, of course I'm not planning to aim for a high tier school but I think I'll figure things out hopefully later this year.
If you hopefully get accepted into a music conservatory, generally, I agree with Ella and Sue.
If your parents are loaded and offering to spring for a new violin, then aim high! But just remember you also need a bow, a case, and insurance. Bow is probably closer to 1/3 than 1/10 of the cost of the violin but these "rules of thumb" are very rough guides at best. A rosin cake is about 1/1000 of the violin.
To be very honest, I could never understand making a correlation between price and quality of a violin. At least 10k as not to impede; at least 50k to get a good playing upper G? and any contrary to this are exceptions? Understand that it takes effort (and hence pricing) to make a good violin, but having a price range vs (sometime very specific) quality is something always baffled me.
I believe she wants me to get a higher quality violin as my "skill level" is higher than the violin I'm using right now. I looked up the model and the rental I am playing on is about 400$ and from other websites I've heard the rental violin I'm playing on doesn't have the best reviews. I personally don't like the sound of my rental and I've tried to change the strings on my violin and they aren't helping either.
FWIW, one of my friends got into music school playing Kabalevsky, granted it was for a music education degree. But I don't see why a very well played Kabalevsky couldn't get you into a performance degree. Of course, it depends on the school though. But you have plenty of time to learn a new concerto for auditions that will be more convincing. It would depend on your teacher, but you could probably get to Bruch or Conus by the time you would need to audition. Depending on the school a Mozart concerto could work too but it would probably have to be either 4 or 5.
2 years for a motivated student is a decent amount of time to get up to speed, so it's not totally unreasonable.
@Christian Harvey- Thanks for all the support and encouragement!
Even if you do not pursue a degree, the $400 rental violin is not worth practicing on at this moment. It is not about money-there are also not so good instruments in the thousands as well, and one is able to find bargains. But this relatively low end rental violin is limiting your musical advancement. Having a decent violin will be a wonderful "for life" acquisition-the better you can get would be the best situation.
Ben, there are probably more knowledgeable people here than I am. It might be possible that you could find a good deal at 3K if you really shop around, but from the limited amount of violins I looked at 7 or so years ago, I wasn't liking anything until I was around 5K.
1/3 on a wood bow; 1/4 on a carbon bow, was the rule of thumb I was told.
If you go violin and bow shopping to a good fiddle shop they will need to understand your budget. You can get a nice fiddle for $3-5,000. Probably Eastern European or Brazil made. Plan to spend 1/2 that on a decent bow. That would be the minimum I’d expect. If you jump into the $10-15,000 range the quality goes way up and opens some nicer possibilities.
My problem with shopping for $10K instruments is that for that much money I want it to sound like a $20K instrument :-), and so once again your selection is fairly limited. But it is quite doable with diligence and patience and help from your teacher and possibly their colleagues.
I've got a local luthier if I want anything. His overheads are much lower than a shop's. If you have a good teacher, they will know a good luthier.
Sure, all these dollar-amounts have large error bars. But if you want your shopping experience to be bearable, don't ask the dealer to show you violins at $3000. If you tell the dealer you're looking for a conservatoire-level instrument, they're going to have in mind something between $10k and $25k, and if you ask them to show you instruments that are just as good as their $10k instruments but only costing $3k, they're going to smile politely, head for the nearest broom closet, and laugh until they cry. And if your plan is to shop at small dealers and luthiers whose inventories are around 10 instruments each, then you better have a LOT of time for travel.
The price and quality of a violin as a musical instrument are not related. Violins are priced based on the following objective criteria:
George raises a good point, but the other side of that coin is that makers who have developed reputations for their instruments for the quality of workmanship, playability, and tone are more likely to have raised their prices. Consider David Burgess as just one example -- he's won so many awards for his instruments that they won't even let him compete any more, and he's able to charge around four times for his violins what luthiers with no reputation are able to charge, and the fact that he has a waiting list for his commissions means that he's almost foolish not to raise his price further. So to say that price and quality -- including playability and tone -- are not related is a bit of a stretch in my view.
Paul, you may consider it "a bit of a stretch," but it isn't.
>>If you go violin and bow shopping to a good fiddle shop they will need to understand your budget. You can get a nice fiddle for $3-5,000. Probably Eastern European or Brazil made. Plan to spend 1/2 that on a decent bow. That would be the minimum I’d expect.<<
Frederica makes the good point that dealer trade-ups only go in one direction. Just remember that if you get into the dealer trade-up cycle, you're locked in to one dealer for your future purchases.
Things to consider:
If you're looking for a violin in the $3,000 range, then I'd recommend(From my personal experience)
Not that they are infallible, but Jay Haide instruments are a useful benchmark of what is possible at that price level. Some contemporary makers own one just to remind themselves of what they need to beat if they're going to earn a living wage from their own efforts.
hi Ben, if you can play P&A, Kabalevsky, in tempo, in tune, and with good tone, you're a good violinist. that there are a lot of "good violinists" of your age or younger out there, doesn't change that. all the best with it!
I know someone who got up through their college auditions with a Jay Haide instrument. I played that violin and I was impressed with it for what they paid.
Are there any musicians here who happen to teach in or attend a European college or conservatory? Based on my own observations I'd say the average student in these schools is playing on something costing around 5k, and plenty are playing on something costing less. Even at a professional level Europe is a very different market for instruments. There seem to be a lot more makers, and hence more competition...a very healthy environment for raising standards while paradoxically lowering prices. Perhaps someone is better placed to comment?
Yes, Martin, the cultural difference is something I find hard to come to terms with on this forum. Other aspects of American economics make me unwilling to be sympathetic, but violin culture may be a problem sui generis.
Agree with Jean. We are so used to P & A being badly played by students but if you can perform that piece to high standards, that's an accomplishment.
One strategy is to buy a decent instrument in the 3,500 to 6,000 range AND plan to pay a luthier to do a good setup. A proper setup goes a long way in making an instrument sound and handle best, and I'm not talking about putting a new $60 bridge on and call it done. A good setup, fine tuning high quality bridge and post, selecting most suitable quality fittings, adjusting tail etc. can easily add several hundred dollars to the cost off an instrument. I think one of the reasons old master instruments sound so great is superior setup and centuries of fine tuning by the best luthiers in the world. I wouldn't be surprised if the setup of a strad goes into the thousands of dollars.
I think a reasonable price range to look at is $2,000 to $4,500, plus set aside up to $2,000 for a bow (with the assumption that in price range you're probably buying high-quality carbon-fiber).
These days there is hardly any point buying a wooden bow below about $2000. All those bows will be inferior to the best carbon fiber bows.
that's just ridiculous!!
In my experience, you can find a nice Bausch or other wooden bow at 1K, and carbon fiber bows just sound like trash, and feel totally bizarre. Apparently people like 'em somehow...
You can use them for outdoor performances, and when combined with a backup violin, carbon fiber bows make you relax more.
Some CF or composite bows sound halfway decent. A few more than that handle exceptionally well. If you're looking for a Voirin, Simon, or Henry, you won't find one in that drawer. But they do have their place.
But they never sound as good as Pernambuco
If Pernambuco guaranteed adequate performance in a bow, there would be more genius makers.
Nothing wrong with good CF bows. They can have excellent playing characteristics, and sound great with a well-matched violin.
if you like a harsh high end!!
I think there may be great value in Brazil-made pernambuco bows, so one does not always need to spend a fortune or *must get* a carbon fiber bow for good tone within a lower budget. It is theoretically easier to find a better handling carbon fiber bow at the same price point, but the sound is indeed different, if not objectively worse.
The harsh high end of CF isn't a given, though it does tend to emphasize the higher frequency. You can avoid the harshness by choosing carefully for tonal match.
Ten years ago a good friend who is an excellent pro violinist (who himself owns several very fine bows) told me that I'd have to spend $2000 on a wood bow to beat a mid-range CF. This is a guy who tests entire batches of CF bows, buys the top 5-10% as they feel and sound in his hands with a good violin, and sells them to his students for what he paid, so that they'll have good bows to use! My guess it that $2000 figure is probably $2500-3000 now. All this stuff about "harsh high ends" and so on are just generalizations based on crude innuendo.
The question I would ask is does the instrument/bow do the job? If it does, stick with it; if not, consider upgrading. Price is indicative of provenance but not necessarily sound (or comfort). Plenty of workshop made violins will do the job. There are a lot of good bows for around/under 2K - from China, Brazil, England, Germany, etc.
The last time I went bow shopping (in 2010), I was skeptical about CF bows, but after trying a whole bunch of bows at two shops on a $2,000 budget (I tried out bows listed up to $2,500) my favorite ended up being a $520 hybrid bow. The only wood bow I tried that was even competitive with it was listed at $2,500. So I'm with Paul on this. If I were to try to upgrade, I'd probably expect to pay at least $3,000 to get an appreciable improvement on what I have.
"I would be shocked if the setup of a Strad goes into the thousands of dollars"
I refuse to spend more than £1,000 on a bow, wood or carbon. End of message.
I think the first thing the OP’s family should do is to take a little time to decide what kind of money they are comfortable with spending for an instrument and bow. This may seem backwards at first glance, but it can really help to put things in perspective as they take the deep dive into the complexities of the violin market.
I agree with Rich. What you "need" from an instrument can increase indefinitely. What your family can afford is the important thing. If they've got $10,000 then spend $10,000. If $3,000 is a stretch, then see what you can get for $3,000. If you tell dealers your budget then they will only show you instruments up to your price tag - at least, they should!
"There are even some professionals who buy $10,000+ of violins."
Carbon fiber bows have improved so much - they are a wonderful way to get more "bang" for your buck, frankly. A maker like Coda can really control the balance and weight on a consistent basis, so you can know what you are getting and do quite well for less than half the price of a wooden bow. And there is no endangered-species wood involved.
I got interested in non-wood bows 25 years ago when the first issue of my subscription to STRINGS magazine contained an article on such implements that focused on the new Coda, Berg and Rolland STACCATO bows. This led me into an extensive and expensive hobby. Before I was through I had acquired a number of CF and other "composite" bows for violin, viola and cello.
Ask your teacher exactly what qualities they think are missing from your current instrument. (Probably many, if it is like most things around that price I've played). Look for those qualities in what you try out.
I have spent my entire life using student grade equipment. While playing as a low-paid pro. in Los Angeles I was puzzled that so many of my peers and colleagues had superior instruments. One had a Gagliano. Another had a Sanctus Seraphim. The only thing I was sure about was that you can't raise that kind of money from doing music jobs. Much later, about 10 years ago, after receiving a modest inheritance, I bought a 1920's Roth that needed repair. Bottom line, the obvious lesson is that the parents set the budget and the student, with help from the teacher, finds something within that budget.
All useful points!
About $5000 for the violin and $2000 for the bow.