no yes there is such a thing as a bench copy when the maker had the original in his possession, but those aren't the ones marketing "bench copies" online etc
A bench copy is a violin made with the original at the maker’s bench for reference. Having the violin one wishes to copy in one’s hands theoretically affords the opportunity to make a more faithful copy, as many aspects of a violin’s form and character can’t come across in pictures or on a poster.
The term bench made is meant to imply a violin is made by a maker, not machined out and assembled by a team of factory workers. I see this term used a lot by factories to market their higher-end models and to differentiate them from the cheap models they sell.
Both terms are used a lot in marketing, but so is the word “copy.” I would recommend that the OP focus more on the maker than on the model.
To the OP’s question: a master maker’s violins are more expensive than those made by his apprentices because the master maker has both the higher reputation and the years of experience that the apprentice has not yet accumulated.
Actual copyists are another thing again - rare because accurate copying entails extra work. Those violins marketed by a certain (and highly reputable) Chinese ebay seller that profess to be copies of particular violins are to be taken with a heap of salt, as are the old Mirecourt violins that always look the same no matter what their label says.
I'm sure someone can find that one in one hundred workshop violin that sounds perfect, but it's looking like I need to extend my budget and search for violins made by individual makers.
As Mark said in the first post, the most important thing is to do an at home trial of any violins under consideration. Maybe I can find that diamond in the rough.
I also felt like I was getting taken advantage of, like going to a used car lot or something. There are really good dealers and makers, and there are not so many good ones. I played lots of violins.
I finally had a friend that knew the business a lot better than me and help me find a decent german workshop violin under 5k that plays very nice for it's purposes.
If you can have someone help you, reach out to them If not, good luck!
If you’re buying from a shop in Cremona, for example, a violin by the maker who owns the shop will cost about twice as much as a violin made by one of his apprentices.
I agree that the terminology isn’t necessarily the determining factor for purchasing, although it isn’t meaningless. Unfortunately a lot of terms are used by those with a flexible sense of morality to entice potential buyers.
Yes, when you learn more about the history of great makers, you find that many of them were producing violins with the help of other makers under their tutelage. That being said, a violin that shows the clear hand of the maker is always more valuable than one that is recognizable as the work of someone under his direction. Vuillaume was, in addition to a successful dealer and maker of violins, a very shrewd businessman who was not above a bit of subterfuge.
The idea of a violin made at a “bench” is really more about the workman than the furniture in the shop. The implication is that a “bench made” instrument is made by one or more makers who have the skill and experience to be able to make a complete violin alone. A “factory” violin is one made in a more industrial setting where more machinery may be used to produce parts or one made by a number of workmen who are only able to do work on one portion of the instrument (e.g. someone who only cuts f-holes or purfling channels but can’t do any other part of the process).
I often hear complaints that the violin market is not determined by sound. To me, this is actually a boon to the player, as one can find an inexpensive violin that sounds quite good. Most cheap violins aren’t stellar performance instruments, but you don’t have to raise the price all that much to find an instrument that can do everything you need functionally. The other side of the coin is that these instruments aren’t investment instruments. Expensive violins have a value that is determined by a number of factors like place of origin, association with a maker or school, age, use by professionals, etc. I disagree that sound has no place in the equation, because players who look in the high end have an expectation that an expensive violin will sound good enough for its price. This is why so much is spent to maintain or improve fine old violins. If you’re looking for a violin under $1 million, you’re likely going to compare it to just about everything else you can find that’s comparable in every shop you can find that has them throughout the world. As you compare them, the worst-sounding ones will be eliminated. You can’t discount condition and provenance, because those things will become liabilities eventually if you take on too much risk. Over the $1 million mark, you start to get into the violins that are so much rarer that many collectors are willing to buy them regardless of sound because of authenticity.
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