Budgets for buying a violin?

Edited: September 29, 2021, 10:57 PM · 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.

Replies (58)

September 29, 2021, 5:47 PM · I'd say a maximum of $10,000. A lot of stuents upgrade during college as needs change.
Edited: September 29, 2021, 7:43 PM · 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.

However, just remember that anything can happen. If you truly are determined to go to a conservatory, don't give up! You can do it with enough hard work.

I just don't want you to spend loads of Benjamin Franklins on a violin, only to not use it as much as you thought you were going to when you purchased it.

September 29, 2021, 7:49 PM · 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.
Edited: September 29, 2021, 7:52 PM · (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.

Also on top of that- how much should I spend on a bow? I heard somewhere that the bow is 10% the cost of the violin usually but I'm not sure.

Edited: September 30, 2021, 1:36 AM · If you hopefully get accepted into a music conservatory, generally, I agree with Ella and Sue.

For the bow, personally, I spent 1/3 of the violin.

Whatever happens, always nurse your love for music!

Best wishes,

September 29, 2021, 9:03 PM · 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.
September 29, 2021, 10:27 PM · 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.

@Ben, did your teacher say why to get your own violin? Commercial reasons in the long run? Lacking in sound quality or playability? Try as many as you can, and the price of the one that addresses yours (or your teacher's) concerns, will be your budget.

Edited: September 29, 2021, 10:33 PM · 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.
September 29, 2021, 11:33 PM · 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.
September 30, 2021, 12:27 AM · 2 years for a motivated student is a decent amount of time to get up to speed, so it's not totally unreasonable.

I spent about 7K on my violin, and about 8K on my bow (cuz that's how I roll), but depending on your budget, you should be able to get a decent kit for much less, and you'll generally not need to exceed 2K for a bow that can meet all your needs.

Is your teacher good? Does your teacher regularly send kids to conservatory? If so, then stick with this teacher, and run your possible choices by your teacher, or have your teacher go with you to check out violins and bows (Some teachers can be unscrupulous in taking commissions, but that's not something I have any expertise on). Good luck!

Edited: September 30, 2021, 12:36 AM · @Christian Harvey- Thanks for all the support and encouragement!

@Christian Lesniak- My teacher graduated from Peabody a few years ago and I don't know much about her students, but one of them in a recital ran by my teacher was playing Bruch and looked around my age as well. My parents have a very wide and comfortable budget. Is something around 3K-ish ok or is that a bit low?

September 30, 2021, 1:13 AM · 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.

If the budget is limited, look into the higher quality tier of workshop french or german violins, as you could by chance find great value there. Or good violins by lesser known makers. If you can afford it, then go as high as you can, but always remember that some violins are more expensive due to provenance alone, regardless their tonal quality (so something really expensive must not always sound the best or be the ideal instrument for your needs.)

September 30, 2021, 1:43 AM · 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.

Of course, with Covid, you may be able to get a steal if that's making it difficult for people to sell now - I'm not quite sure how the violin market has been impacted.

A good thing to do would be to go to as many shops as possible, ask to try as many fiddles out as you can, and by doing so, get a sense of what you like. You can ask them to set out a few fiddles in a price range but not tell you the prices, so you aren't swayed by thinking more expensive is better. Try them out, remember what you liked. If there is another shop, go there and do the same thing. When you've run through that, you can narrow down and include your teacher in the whole thing. If someone at the shop pressures you or makes you feel uncomfortable, don't stick around.

Edited: September 30, 2021, 6:16 AM · 1/3 on a wood bow; 1/4 on a carbon bow, was the rule of thumb I was told.
A Jon Paul Carrera and the right 5k restored European fiddle should see you through conservatory. Snobs will tell you otherwise.
The violin will have to survive highschool before you get to conservatory. Don't let anyone swordfight with your bows.
September 30, 2021, 5:25 AM · 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.
Edited: September 30, 2021, 6:57 AM · 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.

My own opinion is that there are enough good violins in the market (as opposed to violas and cellos) that at where you are now I'd be looking for something more transitional - older restored French or German trade instrument, older (or newer) German bow...a few thousand dollars for each. My daughter's quartet violinists in high school do quite well with older French and German violins...wouldn't take them through conservatory but good enough for the next few years.

And cheaper than playing piano :-).

Edited: September 30, 2021, 7:36 AM · 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.
Edited: September 30, 2021, 7:53 AM · 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.

Regarding conservatoire, my suggestion is to prepare like you're going to succeed. If you don't gain admission, you'll at least have become the best violinist you can, which I didn't do at your age, and I have long regretted it. The violin is a wonderful hobby, and the better you can play, the more fun you will have. The only caveat is that you cannot allow your academics to suffer because the odds are that you will need those.

Edited: September 30, 2021, 8:18 AM · The price and quality of a violin as a musical instrument are not related. Violins are priced based on the following objective criteria:

- Maker or workshop
- Condition
- Appearance
- Model
- Size and specifications
- Geographic origin
- Age
- Provenance

That's it.

Note that tone and playability are not part of these criteria at all. Tone is both subjective and malleable. It can be changed drastically by simple actions like changing strings or moving the bridge, sound post, and/or tailpiece.

Assuming the proper setup and adjustments, there are many violins priced in high 6 figures that sound awful, and many violins priced in low 3 figures that sound and play wonderfully.

Psychology being what it is, people naturally think that the more you pay, the better the instrument. That is a fallacy. Don't be mislead by it.

Set your budget, and then try many different instrument within that price range, including ones well below your maximum price. You may be well surprised at the affordablity of some great players.

Edited: September 30, 2021, 8:27 AM · 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.

That said, there really is a tremendous amount of voodoo and baloney in the marketing of violins and bows -- not to mention rosin.

Edited: September 30, 2021, 9:11 AM · Paul, you may consider it "a bit of a stretch," but it isn't.

Dealers buy and trade violins all the time that are not set-up or playable because they know tone and playability are subjective and malleable and are not relevant to the price.

A David Burgess violin is priced based on all the criteria I listed, like all other violins. Yes, he built his reputation based on the quality of his instruments (including tone), but even though every violin he made is going to have a different or slightly different tone quality (as do all great makers), they are all going to sell for about the same price based on the criteria I listed. In fact, people commission violins from him for an agreed upon price before it is even made, so obviously how that particular instrument ultimately sounds is not part of the price consideration. One assumes it is going to sound "good," but "good" is completely subjective and malleable.

My point to Ben is not to be fooled by the fallacy that higher-price means a better musical instrument, and to understand how violins are actually priced.

September 30, 2021, 9:09 AM · >>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.<<

I'd go for this.

Remember - you can always aim for a higher price.
But I would ask the violin maker first for violins in the $3000 range and then maybe in the $5000 range.

You might find you current dream violin in that range.

Then go for a bow as good as possible.

You could later trade in that violin.

But if your fist violin is already $10,000 then every upgrade will have to be more expensive.

I would listen to the differences in the instrument of one price range and first go for a violin whose sound you like and that is easy to play. I'd say even a $2000 violin will be a notable upgrade from you current rental violin and maybe you will be exceedingly happy with such an instrument for some time.

If you got a $2000 violin and a $2000 bow, you could probably keep the bow and only upgrade the violin later. I would advise to keep your rental bow until you got to know your new violin before shopping for a bowl.

Edited: September 30, 2021, 10:00 AM · 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.

George, my point about David is that his violins, even those he hasn't made yet, are likely to sound and play better *on average* than those made by someone who has not built the same reputation. My claim is supported by the fact that his reputation was not built on thin air -- it was built on winning some of the top violin-making competitions multiple times. There is always the chance that a the maker, particularly if (s)he is young, simply hasn't developed the same reputation *yet*. But statistically the odds of that happening are very small.

You're right that dealers do not play violins and analyze their tone and playability before they are priced. If they do, it's only to ensure that the violin is not some kind of dire lemon. They may feel that violins made by so-and-so in the 1880s are generally thought to be very good-sounding and playable violins, and therefore they may correlate provenance/age with playing qualities (and also price). I do agree that these correlations are anything but secure.

So the emperor is wearing *some* clothes, George. Socks maybe.

Edited: October 16, 2021, 4:44 AM · Things to consider:

If you do continue playing seriously, eventually you will want to trade. Part of the question is whether you want to trade sooner or later. A $3k instrument may be just fine, but might leave you a bit short on potential. On the other hand, buying a $12k instrument may still not be what you need, and the penalty for trading in will be even larger...

Consider the bow in addition to the violin. Your best use of $10k might be $5k each for violin and bow. Not that there aren't good bows for less, but excellent new makers and somewhat recognizable antiques start at the higher level. Those can be a huge benefit for your own technique and sound. Anyway, think of this as a package, with the thought that you might hold onto the bow as a second if you get even more serious down the line.

September 30, 2021, 10:55 AM · If you're looking for a violin in the $3,000 range, then I'd recommend(From my personal experience)
https://www.violins.com/p-552-lc-panette-copy-violin.aspx (The other two are higher quality, although they are cheaper, but this one is really nice too)
or this one

I don't own any of these violins personally, but some of my very close friends and ensemble members do, and I've tested them before, so I highly recommend them. If you are worried about ordering a violin online, I would be too, but these violins mostly come with an At home trial and return policy that are quite helpful.

Let me know if any of these violins catch your eye :)

September 30, 2021, 11:29 AM · 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.

If you know a dealer with good selection of those (and I suppose Ifshin would be a logical place to start), it will define the target a bit more precisely.

If you get lucky on that, you may find that putting more in the bow than in the violin will give excellent results.

Edited: September 30, 2021, 12:14 PM · 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!
September 30, 2021, 12:16 PM · 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.
September 30, 2021, 6:17 PM · 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?
Edited: October 1, 2021, 1:38 AM · 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.
Edited: October 1, 2021, 3:43 AM · 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.

I also agree with Adalberto way up in the thread. You are overdue for an upgrade.

We recently went through the process of finding a full-size violin. It was hard. Our budget was flexible but less was better than more. It took months but we finally found an older German violin that sounded much better than violins two to three times its price.

You will know it when you find the right violin.

Edited: October 1, 2021, 12:16 PM · 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.
October 1, 2021, 12:25 PM · 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).

I would be shocked if the setup of a Strad goes into the thousands of dollars, though certainly owners are likely to have a setup repeated more frequently, to adjust the post with changes in weather, especially.

October 1, 2021, 12:53 PM · 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.
October 1, 2021, 1:56 PM · that's just ridiculous!!
October 1, 2021, 2:11 PM · 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...
October 1, 2021, 2:21 PM · You can use them for outdoor performances, and when combined with a backup violin, carbon fiber bows make you relax more.
October 1, 2021, 2:51 PM · 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.
October 1, 2021, 2:57 PM · But they never sound as good as Pernambuco
October 1, 2021, 3:21 PM · If Pernambuco guaranteed adequate performance in a bow, there would be more genius makers.
October 1, 2021, 7:50 PM · Nothing wrong with good CF bows. They can have excellent playing characteristics, and sound great with a well-matched violin.
October 1, 2021, 8:33 PM · if you like a harsh high end!!
October 1, 2021, 9:02 PM · 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.

I rarely use my carbon fiber bow, though am glad to have it in case of an emergency. It is $695 currently, but back then on sale and with a special coupon I spent less than $500 on it. I do not dislike its tone, and the handling is not bad, but my pernambuco bow is so much better in terms of quality of sound and "power", that I am not using it much.

(I haven't tested $2000+ carbon fiber bows as of late, to be fair.)

October 2, 2021, 1:03 PM · 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.

Good CF bows handle better than typical wood bows of the same price range. There are exceptions, but the CF bows are more consistent, in my experience.

October 2, 2021, 6:43 PM · 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.

It's just my hands/technique and my ears and my violin, but I tried my CF bow against my friend's bows (including priceless Kittel and Peccatte bows) and I could feel a little difference in how they played, mostly with the Peccatte, but I could not hear ANY difference in how they sounded. None at all.

Edited: October 2, 2021, 10:48 PM · 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.
Edited: October 3, 2021, 1:23 AM · 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.
Edited: October 4, 2021, 5:43 AM · "I would be shocked if the setup of a Strad goes into the thousands of dollars"

Hello Lydia, it might depend on the potential the strad has for improvement in tone, projection etc. There are any number of factors that may have a significant effect...length/weight of tailpiece, chin rest material and fittings,tailgut length effecting the 'after-length'. Bridges for a 4/4 violin generally range from 39mm wide to 42.5mm...some violins don't mind, but the difference can be profound in others. If an ideal width is established there's still time to consider the model...or more specifically the height of the heart, 'kidneys' etc. And that's before fitting a few of one or each to see what works best. It's obviously worth trying different strings, and soundposts, and perhaps changing a fingerboard
In my experience there's little point in assessing an adjustment immediately after that adjustment has been made. Strings and tailguts obviously take a day or two, but an instrument that hasn't recently been strung will flex and shift for at least few days...a perfectly snug, positioned and functional post will now be a little loose, and if you want to maintain that position then a longer post will be required. And I forgot to mention pegs and saddle heights.
There's no exact science for any of this; time, experimentation, instinct etc all play a part...intuition guided by experience, as Geary Baese might say.
It really depends on the violin, the shape it's in and what the player might expect. A temperamental violin costing hundreds of thousands may be transformed into something close to perfection, and arguably worth a lot more than the cost of the few weeks it spent with the luthier.
And then again, our strad might just need a tweak of a post!

Edited: October 3, 2021, 6:11 AM · I refuse to spend more than £1,000 on a bow, wood or carbon. End of message.

The idea of spending more on a bow than others spend on an instrument is bizarre and a little obscene.

October 3, 2021, 12:39 PM · 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.

After coming up with a rough budget, talk to the teacher, or, if possible, someone who teaches at a music school and knows the ins and outs of the program. If you don’t have access to either, try speaking to a reputable shop for advice. Once you have that information, compare to the original budget. If the latter is lower, you might want to look into programs that will loan good instruments—more and more of them are popping up as prices continue to rise.

You can always find better instruments as you increase your budget, but it’s generally better not to put yourself into financial difficulty or create resentment toward the instrument because of the cost. Fine instruments and bows by makers with an established reputation can be a great investment, both in terms of functionality and financial benefit, but the violin market is not a completely liquid one. A good violin will at least hold value and will most likely appreciate, but you have to wait for it to sell unless you have a buyer lined up when you’re ready. Otherwise, you have to sell at wholesale price to make a quick sale, which will be significantly lower than what you paid unless you wait a fairly long time (think 20+ years). This is another reason to be sure you’re comfortable with the purchase and not stretching yourself thin.

I don’t really like to use a percentage of the value of the violin to determine the price of the bow, as that doesn’t always work very well. Again, I’d keep the original budget in mind and see what’s within that vs. what the teacher or shop recommend. Also, sometimes you can get a great deal on a bow that has had repairs (a customer recently bought a cello bow for 1/5 of what it would’ve cost had it not had some major repairs and a replica frog).

October 3, 2021, 4:25 PM · 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!

Putting time and effort into choosing the right instrument (and bow) for you gets you more value than increasing your budget.

And - more noticeable around the $10k mark than the $3k mark - but often new instruments are better value than antiques.

October 4, 2021, 10:52 AM · "There are even some professionals who buy $10,000+ of violins."

You can put three more zeroes behind that.

October 4, 2021, 11:13 AM · 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.
October 4, 2021, 12:04 PM · 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.

This included "triple sets" of Coda "Classic," ARCUS and CF DURRO bows as well as Paris-made Rolland STACCATO, Berg Deluxe and Finkel-Jumeau hybrid violin bows. A number of lower-class composite bows also passed through my hands during those years including a number from the GLASSER company composite bows (including one Fiberglass) - all of which were given or sold to students.

My piano-trio violin partner for 20 years had a Coda Classic and a Rolland-STACCATO as well as an antique Lamy pernambuco. He preferred the two composite bows on his Enrico Rocca violin all the years we played together - and the STACCATO ended up as his favorite for at least the last 10 years.

To my tastes the CF DURRO bows I had bought were the biggest surprise. I think it cost me about $900 all together for the three of them and to my ears and hands they were better than the Coda Classics and on some of my instruments they were better than anything else I have.

The best of all my bows for handling is the Berg Deluxe violin bow, better than my antique Voirin, R. Weichold, or Paul Martin Siefried. But then again, even with a substantial discount that bow cost as much as the Siefried. My best violin bow for sound power is the Siefried with my Voirin a close second.

Edited: October 14, 2021, 8:10 AM · 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.

Price bands go by broad categories (maker country of origin, century), quality only affects price within a band, and only to some degree are overall higher-priced bands better to play than lower-priced bands. So don't (ever) expect a comparison by price of instruments in different groupings (e.g. modern Chinese vs 19th-century German vs modern American vs 18th-cent Italian) to relate to tone. There are good and bad instruments (along many orthogonal dimensions) in almost every price class, even at the same price point.

So it's not really a matter of "you need a $X,000 fiddle" but "you need a fiddle with X,Y,Z qualities, which, in the price band of [whichever], typically costs >= X amount, and which are unikely to occur at all in [Z category of instrument]" (though I have some doubt about the last statement ever really being valid - there are superb instruments in almost all categories, just in some cases they are unusual).

Qualities you might consider: evenness of tone across strings, quality of high position response, projection in a hall/through an orchestra (has something to do with harmonic balance but can't be judged by yourself while playing), sensitivity to dynamic range, ease of hearing intonation differences, does the sound fit your artistic image of your playing, physical comfort and balance to play, speed of response, sense of gradual bloom of sound under your bow. Also, tonal match with your preferred bow (or more realistically, buy both at once if you can). And whatever your teacher thinks is missing from your current setup.

A few tips: try to play things above your price range (psychologically it may be best if they are far out of your range, so you dont' think "if only I stretched a bit..."), or the best things in any class you have access to try. Then try things in any bands whose prices overlap the amount of money you have, and look for the best-playing instrument (which may not be in the highest-average-price band, but may be, or may be the most expensive thing in a lower band).

October 15, 2021, 9:30 PM · 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.
You can get into a second-tier conservatory or college music department with those pieces and lesser grade equipment. But please be aware that there are other sub-specialties within the music BA besides performance.
Bows are strange. The hair and the rosin do the work and stay the same. One of my better wood bows cost me $50. The Jon Paul line of synthetic bows is good. I own three, and the best of the lot was the cheapest. --weird.
October 16, 2021, 4:48 AM · All useful points!
October 17, 2021, 12:50 PM · About $5000 for the violin and $2000 for the bow.

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