Another post about violin purchase

January 2, 2023, 2:44 PM · I’ve been reading through all discussions, and I value all of your input. My daughter (13 y/o) has been playing violin for over 6 years. She is decent, I think ( made it to all state orchestra and has been the concert master of her middle school). She plays currently on a German violin (her current teacher said it’s factory made). When we bought it -a year ago- we were told it is a great violin, it does sound great, but now, that she advanced a lot , the violin doesn’t sound that great in higher positions. She is very competitive in general. She wants to win one of the protege competition, some local ( atlanta/GA) concerto competitions and her biggest dream is NYO. Her teacher said she needs a better violin. I would like to spend less than 15K (her current violin was almost 4K). She tried 2 French violins (her current teacher had them though a connection)- she liked one- but was the second in line and didn’t get it, and the second one was still ok, but not as good as the first. She tried a Cox violin at a local shop- but the price of 22k is out of the budge. She also liked. Hungarian one - hollo bence- which she liked- but it was 25K. She likes “loud “ violins, that project well, balanced tone. Where else should I look? Any particular models? We can travel a bit to go and try some, but I don’t know where. She doesn’t care about model or provenience- she is only interested in the sound quality. Thank you all in advance!!

Replies (71)

January 2, 2023, 2:47 PM · I love my Cison. I think they’re about $18,000 now.
January 2, 2023, 2:58 PM · Martin Swan, is very reputable and sometimes has a few violins for less than 20,000.
January 2, 2023, 3:31 PM · I wouldn't recommend mail order, you really need to try multiple violins in your price range in person
January 2, 2023, 4:27 PM · I agree sound doesn’t always correlate with price. I will try the local shops- her current teacher said most of their violins are overpriced. I can also travel to TN, Fl, SC, NC. Basically anywhere within a decent driving distance from Atlanta.
The budget is up to 15k.
If anyone has any recs for shops we should visit I would really appreciate the recs.
Thank you!!
Edited: January 2, 2023, 4:29 PM · William Harris Lee In Chicago has makers like Cison. But like Lyndon said you have to play a lot of violins, not go by price or label.
Where did you buy the 4k violin? Most shops will give full trade in of violins sold by them.
Carriage House in Boston, Potter Violin in DC, Reed Yeboah in NY which also has a contemporary violin fair each Fall. Just some larger shops I can think of.
You could also look at string brand changes, soundpost adjustment, other set up to improve the what she has.
Very generally, and I am just another parent, not a teacher or player, but if she is thinking of going to a top conservatory (and winning competitions), then her time might better spent on rep and maybe chamber than orchestra..
And lastly, while I am sure her teacher is a good person, it has been discussed on here that some shops give kickbacks to teachers and some teachers take them.
January 2, 2023, 5:07 PM · Some shops will ship you instruments -- it may be worthwhile if local Atlanta shops are not sufficient. Otherwise you will probably need to go to a more major city to have a lot of options. But sometimes cities are overpriced as well. I would keep looking in your area and take your time. With both my kids, we spent several months looking before finally settling on instruments.

There is a maker near Asheville NC who I think makes instruments in the range you are looking for. It's been awhile since I've played one though, so I am not sure how they are. But may be worth a visit.

January 2, 2023, 5:17 PM · I don’t know about models, but one maker that comes to mind is Wojciech Topa. His violins to my knowledge run under 15k and they’re quite good instruments for the money. There was a violinist who won the Sphinx Competition on a topa by the name of Samuel Vargas. You can look him up on YouTube by searching Samuel Vargas violin or on his instagram “Samuelvargasviolinist.”

Another maker is Dereck Coons but he recently won a certificate of tone at the VSA competition so I would try his stuff soon before his prices go up. As of right now I think his instruments run for about 10k.

Finally you could also try and find a local violin maker and see if your daughter likes any of their instruments. Or if she likes certain qualities from a handful of them you could see about having that maker build your daughter a violin based on what she likes. I found my new violin from a local maker when I was returning a trial violin and he had just finished it. He doesn’t rely on his violins to earn a living so he sells them for a really good price. For a violin under 10k I like it quite a lot. Although since it’s a new violin it behaves like one so the sound changes every once in a while as it opens up but I’m excited to see how the sound develops over time.

January 2, 2023, 5:21 PM · @Ralu - I understand your daughter's concern, and you have received some very good advice about possible shops/violins. However, I think she/you may be getting a bit ahead of yourselves. I have two questions. First, have you asked her luthier to try some setup adjustments, e.g., the soundpost, to see if that helps at all? Second, have you considered upgrading her bow? You can get a lot more bang for your buck upgrading the bow than upgrading the violin. Since you have not stated in your post that you have considered/tried these possible options, you may want to do so before investing in a more expensive violin. Good luck!
January 2, 2023, 6:26 PM · Kurt Widenhouse is in NC, but don't know where his prices are since Ray Chen and TwoSet.
January 2, 2023, 7:03 PM · Kurt Widenhouse is way out of the OP’s price range. Last I asked Kurt a couple years ago his violins were 30k.
January 2, 2023, 10:44 PM · That reminds me. Have you thought about seeing who made that French violin your daughter liked through a connection your teacher and seeing if they or you could manage to get some other violins like it? If the connection is a maker then it sounds like your daughter found a sound that she likes and it could be worth pursuing a violin from that maker so long as they’re still living and it’s not a violin from a shop your daughter’s teacher has a connection to. Even if that’s the case you could also contact that shop.

Also, do look into trying to improve the violin with a luthier like Tom said as well as looking into a better bow. I know it might sound weird spending this kind of money on a stick, but there are some really nice bows in the 3k-6k price range and can really take your daughter’s playing to the next level.

January 2, 2023, 10:55 PM · If you're in Southern California I have a 1820 French in that price range. I love it but I'm looking for something more warm as my ears age
January 2, 2023, 11:39 PM · @tom Holzman
I didn’t look into making modifications to the current violin because I don’t know any good luthiers around. I’m sure there are, but how do you know one is good? We bought the violin through a local shop who has a luthier ( it’s a family business). I remember when I bought the violin they told me they try different set ups and different strings to make the violin the best it can be. So taking it there for an adjustment, I’m not sure how much better they can make it. My daughter states the violin “cracks” sometimes, and the higher positions sound is not good. As for the strings- we are using the dominant strings. Her teacher said she has the worst sounding violin from all his students (her previous teacher loved the violin, and she told us it will serve her well till college).
The 2 French violins she tried and liked were Colin mezin son (her fav out of those 2), and Mougenot Gauche- both of those priced at 12k. She liked the Mezin one, but the teacher had it for a different student who ended up buying it. The second one, it was powerful, but I didn’t like the sound as much. She tried several in one other store here and she liked the Cox (storioni model) and a Hungarian one, both were over the budget 22k and 25k.
Edited: January 3, 2023, 2:37 AM ·
Somehow, the logic above seems a bit skewed. One should think of a good violin as an extension of one's own musical expression that can provide years of musical pleasure and achievement. The way it's described, a violin is a commodity that will help your daughter win competitions.

Were it me, I'd be looking at this as a long term project and seeking out good, reputable luthiers who sell instruments on commission. I would much prefer purchasing a violin from an expert who can bring the best out of a violin, versus a salesperson.

And who knows, you might find a bargain. Violins sold on commission can take time to sell. After a period of time, owners may become pliable. If you find one you like that's a bit over-budget, make an offer. And the more quality violins one looks at and plays, the better idea they have of what they really want and need. It's an education process. It's really helpful to try out violins that are both above and below the budget.

I have a violin that I thoroughly enjoy playing, and I payed less than 60 cents on the dollar, compared to it's appraised value. I purchased it in an August, and earlier that year, the owner told my luthier to substantially drop the price. Then, I came along.

For myself, there's no way that I would want to purchase a new violin. The thought just does not appeal to me. So in dealing with older violins, a good luthier can back up the purchase with a warranty. If something happens, they're available and have the knowledge and skills to make it right.

And, the next violin might not be the last violin. As someone pointed out, reputable luthiers will accept trades they sold at the original, full purchase price.

Don't forget about the bow. This or that bow can make a huge difference in the voice of a violin.

January 3, 2023, 12:34 PM · @Neil
How do I find reputable luthiers? Or someone who has my daughter’s best interest at heart and not a sales pitch?
Thank you!!
January 3, 2023, 1:06 PM · Ralu, ask around to fine musicians in your city. Who serves the players in the Atlanta Symphony or their youth programs? I don't know the answer (maybe someone here does!) but I guarantee you talking to a few players and teachers will quickly get you a list of who is and who is not trustworthy. Every city has shops that are somewhat predatory...the shops that charge double because of their "name" or the shops that pay teachers to send their students. Avoid those for the most part, and asking around will likely reveal who they are.
January 3, 2023, 1:09 PM · Does her teacher have a luthier she could recommend? It seems like if your daughter is playing on the "worst sounding violin" in the studio, and has connections for the two french violins she is trying to sell, she should know of luthiers she would be willing to deal with. I don't know, maybe I misunderstood something.
January 3, 2023, 1:46 PM · I strongly suggest you get in touch with John Montgomery in Raleigh NC. He is absolutely honest, does not sell anything that is not in great condition, is the restoration expert for the Smithsonian institute, and does great repair work. I purchased through him my Amati and Giofreddo Cappa violins as well as a Simon bow. He does not overcharge. He is not your regular sort of violin dealer, but will work with you to find exactly what you want, at your price range. He does not take commissions from teachers.
January 3, 2023, 3:35 PM · Does Montgomery do cellos and cello bows, too?
Edited: January 3, 2023, 8:06 PM · +1 for going farther afield (agree John Montgomery is honest and worth consulting, although I don't know how many instruments he typically has on hand compared to some of the bigger shops like Carriage House) and budgeting for a decent bow, as well as the recommendation for trying out some Topas. Also mentioned frequently in the vicinity of this price range are Kelvin Scott and Laura Vigato. I've recently seen John Harrison and Michael Darnton instruments listed for under $20K and those have been highly recommended in the past.

That said...what's your daughter working on these days? Are you generally happy w/ her teacher? Do her goals seem realistic? Is she going to summer festivals? Playing in master classes? These are important things to calibrate. Honestly, seems odd to need a new violin again so soon after buying the current instrument. Many intermediate and early advanced students do just fine learning on $4K instruments with decent CF bows. Being concertmaster of a middle school orchestra (speaking from personal experience) doesn't necessarily translate to being competitive in the pre-conservatory circuits. (not all $4K violins are created equal, as others have pointed out, and maybe you got a clunker.)

Edited: January 3, 2023, 5:55 PM · We're in Raleigh. John Montgomery is a really good maker and runs a really good shop. While you're here, also talk with Jerry Pasewicz (Triangle Strings). Both guys are nationally known and highly regarded in the trade. Who you buy from partly depends on what they have at the time.

I also can't say enough nice things about Kelvin Scott in Knoxville TN. We bought my daughter's cello from him. Every time I see or hear it I wonder how the heck did we end up with such a great cello. Violins run more than your target price, but last time I asked, not enough to eliminate from consideration, and are a bargain given what some similarly well known makers charge these days.

Edited: January 3, 2023, 7:19 PM · Kelvin Scott makes terrific violins but he's out of your price range. I'd certainly check what he's got available, though, and whether there might be a need to move some inventory more quickly (and thus cash in hand is better than waiting for a higher price). That'll apply to other modern makers as well.

Atlanta has decent local shops. If you travel anywhere, I'd aim for Chicago. I agree with the recommendations to try a Topa (or several). Laura Vigato makes nice violins (under $10k last I saw), also. However, in the $10k-15k range, there will be a lot of young, promising makers. I've liked Giancarlo Arcieri's instruments in that price range. If you could push to $20k, you'd have a much broader selection of fine, well-established makers.

However, I'm alarmed by the fact that you only bought a year ago and already the violin is considered inadequate. Why was the instrument not tested for its ability to sound decent in the upper positions? That's such a BASIC quality of a decent violin -- certainly these days anything in the $1,500+ range should sound good in all positions (and plenty of Chinese workshop fiddles in the sub-$1k range will manage that) -- that something must have gone seriously wrong in the purchase process. I'd identify what that was and ensure that it won't happen again before you possibly toss away another $15k.

I think you need advice on what constitutes a good violin. Superficially loud, bright violins are misleading, even if kids tend to be instinctively attracted to them.

A $4k instrument ought to be plenty adequate to serve a kid who presumably is intermediate level at best. (Otherwise the issues in high positions would have been discovered immediately, not a year down the line). Many students go to conservatory with instruments in that kind of price range. That's probably not an instrument that a student might want to use to play the Tchaikovsky at a major concerto competition, but your kid is probably a long way from worrying about something like that -- which would give you more time to save.

January 3, 2023, 7:32 PM · Ralu Cozmuta · 01/03/23, 12:34 PM
"@Neil How do I find reputable luthiers? Or someone who has my daughter’s best interest at heart and not a sales pitch?
Thank you!!"
You are very welcome! You're getting a lot of good suggestions on finding a luthier. I have been SO LUCKY with my luthier, who really does have my interest at heart. He is a good salesman; and, he's an honest salesman. He's terrific! I have gained so much by being associated with him.
January 3, 2023, 9:12 PM · Ralu, My daughter's is Colin-Mezin. I wouldn't go by brand but if you are looking at them the better ones in your price range are pre 1910 or so workshop/factory, the fathers violins from the end of the late 1800s are much more $.
And think others thoughts about trying bows is right and breaking down your budget to make bow 25% or so is a percentage that gets tossed about...
January 3, 2023, 11:26 PM · Thank you all for your great responses! To reply to some of the questions you asked.
She is currently playing Mendelssohn- almost done with it. And she wants to try one of the protege competition.
Down the road she wants to try out to other local concerto competitions. Atlanta youth symphony orchestra. And eventually NYO.
I want to mention that at this point she does NOT want to get into a conservatory, or major in music. She wants to go to Med school (but who knows), but she would love to continue to play in an orchestra (and maybe have a minor in music). Hence my reluctance to invest too much.
We just changed to this new teacher. The current violin received the “blessing” of her older teacher. I just asked the current teacher where the atlanta symphony orchestra get their violins and he said from out of state (mostly NYC).
I will look into Raleigh recommendation-
January 3, 2023, 11:33 PM · @Mathew
One of the 2 French violins she tried was Colin Mezin (the son). Her teacher had it (brought it through his contact for another student). The price was 12K. She also tried a workshop one that she didn’t like (at all).
January 3, 2023, 11:33 PM · @Mathew
One of the 2 French violins she tried was Colin Mezin (the son). Her teacher had it (brought it through his contact for another student). The price was 12K. She also tried a workshop one that she didn’t like (at all).
Edited: January 4, 2023, 12:41 AM · American Protege and similar competitions are basically pay-to-play. If you can pay the competition fees, you can "win" a prize. You can then pay for the privilege of playing in Weill Hall (the little recital hall within the Carnegie Hall building), and thereby tell the gullible that you've "performed in Carnegie Hall". And honestly, I figure it's a pretty cool photo op. So for someone who can afford to do it for grins, why not?

But she definitely doesn't need a better violin in order to enter that competition.

A $4k violin and decent bow should be perfectly adequate for a lifetime of amateur playing, and it's certainly adequate to win a youth symphony audition and compete locally against other kids who aren't on a pre-conservatory path. (Now, whether you bought a $4k violin that isn't trash is a different problem, but if you bought from a shop you may want to see if you can arrange a lateral trade to get something else at roughly the same price, even if you sustain a small financial loss in doing so.)

Now, if you're decently well-off and it's no big deal to drop $15k (or $20k) for the heck of it -- I'm guessing this is your situation -- your kid will probably enjoy having a better violin, and amongst a certain tier of upper-middle-class parents, it's probably almost an expectation that you'd invest in your child's hobby at that kind of financial level even if they're not serious about music.

But if $15k isn't a pretty casual expense for you, I'd think more than twice. You won't necessarily be able to resell the violin for what you paid for it, so think of that as $15k sunk and gone, not a $15k investment. Is your kid $15k serious about the violin? Is that $15k better spent on something else?

January 4, 2023, 6:57 AM · Ralu, all the C-M son's are "factory" or "workshop" violins, depending on your definition. Mirecourt shop. We paid notably less than what you mentioned, but it has some minor repairs. Has a beautiful sound though.
Several good places in DC, worth the drive to find something she loves if your spending that kind of money. Best to borrow a number and try them in a hall, because you can't judge Hall projection in a violin shop. If that's her priority.
Lydia spot on about Protege.
January 4, 2023, 8:31 AM · Amen to what Lydia said! Your daughter does not need a really expensive violin to enjoy the kind of musical future she seeks. Another thing to remember is that spending on a better bow can sometimes make a lot more difference than spending really serious money on a new instrument.

Finally, when she tries out instruments, make sure someone like her teacher plays the instrument (and the old one for comparison) for her so she can hear what she will sound like to others. She may like the way an instrument sounds under her ear only to find out that it does not sound so good to people listening to her. Good Luck!

January 4, 2023, 9:10 AM · @ Paul Deck,
John Montgomery repairs and sells cellos.
January 4, 2023, 9:36 AM · Thank you all for the valuable responses! I read that about the protege competition . I am so new to all these: music, high school, college that I’m not even sure what to do. Can I afford the 15k. Probably (I’ve never spent this much on anything , other than the house and the car). Can I spend those $$ on something better- for sure! But at the same time, I don’t want to put a break on her passion. Her teacher told us that the atlanta youth symphony orchestra kids have violins that are way better and way more expensive than hers (he gave me few examples : first chair violin was 75k, then the next one is 45k, and few others in that price range). He said she won’t make it with this violin. And for sure she won’t make it to national youth orchestra. My daughter also thinks that wining these competitions and being part of these orchestras will help her getting in a good college and get some scholarships. We are originally from Europe, and I have zero experience with US school system/ college applications etc. she has a classmate who owns a Philip Ihle violin, and she feels she has to be better than him. She wants a violin at least as good as his, wants to win and just be ahead of him (he is more advanced than her,they have the same teacher). She is practicing 2h per day, at least, over the break she did even 4h. In a way, I don’t want to cut her wings.
When we bought her current violin she was playing Vivaldi and all state excerpts. We then switched teachers and she learned Bruch, sarasate - tarantella and now Mendelssohn. And now she noticed her violin cracks and it doesn’t creat the big sound her teacher wants. I do think that music is a good investment. I wish there was a way to record her playing on the current violin ( to me her violin doesn’t sound bad, but her teacher said that too many times that is now in her head and will think all of her “failures” will be because of the instrument. I’m taking the violin back to the shop we bought it from ( they do have luthiers there) and see if they can do some adjustments (when I mentioned that to her teacher he was skeptical the violin sound will be better). And she will try few others there.
We went to another shop and she tried several violins there and she liked a Cox violin and a Hungarian -hollo bence, both were over 20k.
January 4, 2023, 10:00 AM · Have you considered approaching charitable organizations to see if they will supply her with an instrument?

Music can be a brutal business. By trying to obtain such a loan of an instrument, it is at least a sign that she is accepted and has a shot.

January 4, 2023, 10:54 AM · Your daughter might be aware that many liberal arts universities can award substantial music scholarship. Baylor university where I taught for 25 years, for instance now gives up to full tuition (and in some cases) room and board and even award these to music minors. Other higher tier schools such as Oberlin, Rice, Cleveland, etc. probably have similar programs.
January 4, 2023, 11:46 AM · @Mark, no I have not! And I know nothing about this! Where do I even start? I noticed some artists (young or even more established) play on loan instruments, but where do I even start?

@Bruce- I had no idea about this. I was hoping there will be a school to offer her a scholarship. She is a straight A student- so far (granted she is only in 8th grade, and the hard part just starts now). And medical school can be very costly.

Edited: January 5, 2023, 5:59 AM · Last July I purchased a newly-made viola from the hand of Noah Saunders Scott at Seman Violins. I cannot believe the maturity, evenness, projection, and response for an instrument this early in its life.

I believe his violins are in the $10,000 range (at least they were) and, as you might suspect, they do not last long on the market. Two of them, made and sold last year, are pictured on their website. One is a Baroque violin, the other a copy of a 1788 Lorenzo Storioni.

BTW, I get no compensation for referrals.

Edited: January 4, 2023, 2:04 PM · None of the kids we know here who have been to NYO had expensive instruments. Auditions are by recording I think, if you make a good recording and your instrument sounds decent, it's good enough. I encourage you to separately read the topics here about NYO. (We did not apply because I think there are some better options for kids heading to conservatory who already have good orchestra experience, but I expect it looks great on a general college application.)

Philip Ihle was $25K several years ago when I was viola shopping, I wonder if quite a bit more now. Doesn't Susan's son play a Noah Scott Saunders violin? It will likely be good enough to get him into one of the best conservatories in the country.

Paul, Montgomery makes a really nice Goffriller model we played. Too big for my 5'2" daughter, but super nice sound. And he has a small but nice selection of good modern maker bows.

January 4, 2023, 2:41 PM · Ralu Cozmuta wrote:
"Her teacher told us that the atlanta youth symphony orchestra kids have violins that are way better and way more expensive than hers (he gave me few examples : first chair violin was 75k, then the next one is 45k, and few others in that price range). He said she won’t make it with this violin."

Ouch, and double ouch! To me, that sounds very much like a teacher who is hustling the sales commissions offered to teachers by some dealers and makers.

January 4, 2023, 3:55 PM · Yeah, this is setting off all kinds of alarm bells for me too. The violin I played for most of my life was probably a $4K instrument and (in what was admittedly a less competitive time/environment) it carried me through Brevard; successful youth, all-state, university, and community orchestra auditions; years of chamber music. It wasn't a soloist instrument and I'm sure I would have needed an upgrade had I pursued music more seriously in college, but I don't think the instrument ever held me back and none of my teachers ever commented on it or urged me to get a better one.

Things in this account that seem a little odd: the teacher knowing the value of violins of other students, the rapid progression from Vivaldi to Mendelssohn under a new teacher, the fact that the old teacher thought this instrument was fine and you like hearing it, the sense of competition (better violin than x, etc.) underlying all of this.

I know that a lot of kids are motivated by competition and by prizes (I was one of them)'s not the 100-meter dash. There's not a finish line. Violin is the journey of a lifetime; one is never "done" with Mendelssohn; there's not a simple metric by which to judge oneself better or worse than someone else (not repertoire, not violin value, not even orchestra seating position).

I'm curious: why did you decide to change teachers? And are you otherwise satisfied with this one? Also wondering if your daughter has played any chamber music – this is the thing that has kept me hooked on music and it's better (I think) for things like ear training, musical development, etc.

January 4, 2023, 4:00 PM · PS: another data point: my nephew in NC is currently working on early advanced repertoire with a highly regarded and very exacting pedagogue. His new full-sized instrument (purchased with his teacher's approval) wasn't more than $5K.
January 4, 2023, 4:28 PM · I was going to write what David Burgess wrote, but was struggling finding the right tone. Sounds like a pushy teacher after some commission!
Edited: January 4, 2023, 7:25 PM · It's entirely possible that a conservatory-bound kid sitting concertmaster in the ASYO is playing a $75k instrument -- especially if it's a loaner or their parents are wealthy. Same thing for the kid seated second chair. That doesn't seem like a fib -- and a teacher who is keeping track of who locally is winning competitions, winning loans from foundations, etc. could very well be aware of who's playing what.

For serious young players with upper-middle-class parents in big cities, contemporary violins in the $15k to $30k range are pretty normal. An Ihle falls squarely into that range (or did in the past, anyway). But your daughter might be falsely attributing her peer's superiority to their violin, rather than to the peer's meaningfully better technique.

You should keep in mind that a great violin requires a player who is adept enough to handle it. A great violin can nudge a player to be better, because it offers more precise feedback, but any imprecision or poor technique on the player's part can be magnified by the instrument's responsiveness.

It's possible that your teacher is right and this violin simply won't cut it for even youth symphony auditions, because it's a bad instrument for its price and it would take a herculean effort to overcome its problems. But if they're claiming that a decent-for-its-price-point $4k violin won't cut it (i.e. that it would be inadequate to trade laterally in the same price range), they are lying to you, and I would be exceedingly hesitant to take any advice they give you regarding the instrument selection process. (As David Burgess says, it suggests kickbacks -- and the willingness to take advantage of a well-off but violin-ignorant parent.)

I think you have to ask yourself if you're willing to spend $15k to have your daughter keep up with the Joneses. If you want something in the Ihle class, and you want it now, you're going to need to up your budget, because you need to find a great contemporary maker who has inventory available -- not a three-year waiting list. I'd put aside $25k.

Once you get above the top tier of workshop instruments (~$4k-ish), spending more money results in relatively small incremental improvements in playing qualities. All violins have trade-offs, and you're gambling to some extent on finding something in your budget that's really good for its price. The more you spend the better your odds of finding something in a reasonable amount of time. But if your daughter can't sound good enough on a $4k violin, she won't sound good enough on a $15k violin -- or even a $40k or $400k violin, either.

But if it were my kid, I'd be having a serious conversation about money, priorities, and not deciding you have to have X just because your friend has X. And I'd forbid the teacher from talking to your kid about a different violin without your being present.

I also want to say a word about treating the violin like a rat race. I think it can be motivating to a kid to climb whatever ladder they see. (I was, bluntly, one of those kids.) But it does a disservice to music to treat it like a constant competition. And it does a disservice to the musician, because classical music is, for adults (and any kids with a pre-professional mindset) fundamentally a collaborative activity. "I have to be better than X peer" is a ruinous attitude, and I practically see it glowing from your posts when you describe your child's desires.

January 4, 2023, 7:48 PM · To OP, just curious where you got the year old violin? I read but I don't think I saw it? It does sound like the new teacher has a connection to people selling violins. Are the two violins the new teacher mentioned from her students or from colleagues or from a shop?
January 4, 2023, 7:56 PM · Stan, you have a great memory! Both my kids have Noah Saunders Scott violins. They are amazing for the price point, and Lewis is right, you have to basically determine exactly when he is finishing a violin or viola if you want it, because they sell instantly. My son has a 2016 and my daughter a 2021. It's not entirely meeting my son's needs at this point (mostly because he can't project over an orchestra with it), which is why he has a loaner, but it would probably meet the needs of almost any pre-college and most conservatory students.
January 4, 2023, 8:01 PM · Some students I knew at a University used to joke about a particular teacher (I have changed all the names):
"Mr. Sweeney wants me to buy a new violin from Boogle and Sheister. I guess Mrs. Sweeney needs a new fur coat." LOL
January 4, 2023, 8:32 PM · Noah Scott makes a nice violin and is quite easy to deal with. The shop he works in, Seman Violins, is a great place to look for a violin. I bought a relatively inexpensive 1900'ish german trade bow from Noah a few years ago and could not have had a better experience. I asked about replacing my 1920's L. Mougenot shop violin and he told me that it would be very difficult to get a better violin than what I had. There are reputable guys out there.
January 4, 2023, 8:40 PM · Violins in the $3k-5k range are common in top-tier community orchestras and in good university orchestras, being played by people who are capable of playing a good Bruch or Mendelssohn. For that price I think one should expect something good enough for that kind of repertoire.

From all the context, I honestly suspect that both the old teacher and the new teacher are getting commissions from dealers.

January 5, 2023, 12:46 AM · New topic thought: someone should crowdsource a guide for non-musician parents of musically ambitious kids. I guess in a way this website does that – but I feel like there would be great value in consolidating tips about how to choose teachers, how to calibrate which path your kid is on, instrument acquisition and maintenance, relative value of various camps and festivals and competitions, etc. What are the red flags and red herrings (what matters, what doesn't)? How to measure progress when you don't know what to listen for? Why shouldn't my kid be playing Tchaikovsky already?
Edited: January 5, 2023, 2:16 AM · "I think you have to ask yourself if you're willing to spend $15k to have your daughter keep up with the Joneses". I couldn't help noticing Lydia's post that seemed to invite a response from me. My £13,000 violin doesn't see much action these days. I prefer an old one I recently bought for £200, stripped and revarnished (distant cries of NO, NO, NO...). A moral lesson for us all?
January 5, 2023, 3:36 AM · Wow, this thread went off the deep end with the teacher us getting kicj backs. Could be so.The teacher may also not be justified in making thr recommendation. However, maybe the student ID talented and the teacher sees that they couod benefit.

In terms of foundations to loan instruments, I am not familiar with the details. The RBP foundation does. There are many others. Google it, network through them, ask her teacher.

An important part of getting such a loan is the social acceptance that you are worthy of such an instrument. Not just that a teacher says so, or that the parents think so.

January 5, 2023, 8:57 AM · Ralu,
Just more thoughts, but having a trial lesson or workshop or camp where another teacher can give you input about her playing and the violin might help clarify things. The teacher saying your kid needs a 15k and up violin for orchestra seems off, but ideally wanting that for a young soloist wanting to do competitions not as strange. Getting her to summer camps where she can see other players her age and have fresh eyes from teachers might be more valuable use of money.
There are a couple people here you could trust to look at a video and do a quick evaluation. This site does have invaluable info if you start searching topics.
January 5, 2023, 9:17 AM · Unless you fall into an unusual category (very low income, refugee, or otherwise underprivileged), the likelihood of getting a loaner for a middle-schooler who is not winning top competitions is pretty much zero in the US. It's been hard to even get one for my son, who was playing in international competitions, and his is only for a year. After that, who knows?

I like Matthew's idea of getting some outside opinions. I'd be happy to give you an informal one offline, though I'm not an expert.

January 5, 2023, 9:55 AM · I’m another parent who has been through the violin purchase experience, and agree with those who point out that price tag and “brand” are not the way to choose a better violin. It will take a long time evaluating a lot of possible replacements.

So it makes sense first to ensure the current violin is optimally set up for your daughter’s current ability – some of her frustration may be resolved by an expert adjusting the sound post (etc), or by finding another type of string that creates new tonal possibilities. And then look at upgrading the bow, your daughter’s stage (Mendelssohn) is exactly where the limitations of a bow are going to become apparent, and a significantly better bow may make a bigger difference than a better violin.

How good a violin is for the player correlates poorly with its price. There are good violins in almost every price range, but you can expect to find them more often at higher prices (but might still find ones that are unsatisfactory). With my daughter we set a budget of (in US terms) about $3000, and we evaluated around 40 or more violins before finding the one that in her hands had qualities far above the others. And then some years later got a lot of benefit from a significantly higher quality bow once her playing capabilities needed that. It is clear from what you write that your daughter is well able to identify what she wants from her violin, she will know if she still needs something better than she gets from a new set-up and better bow, and then the strategy should be to test-drive as many violins in your price range as possible.

Ralu, it sounds as if your daughter is something like mine; she was one of the best violinists around when at school but has now gone on to study medicine. She really appreciates her music now (she is in the University orchestra and a serious string quartet), partly because it is a way of switching off from her studies, partly because she is good enough for her to get some self-confidence when studies might be proving hard, and also of course because it is just such fun and she goes home afterwards with a positive buzz!

Edited: January 5, 2023, 1:37 PM · The student may indeed benefit from, or need a better violin. But the way the teacher presented it does sound a bit sketchy, similar enough to "students who have sex with their teachers have better professional success rates" (which could be true), but I am not at all comfortable with stuff like that.
January 5, 2023, 4:37 PM · Ralu,
I think it’s amazing that your daughter went from Vivaldi to Mendelssohn in such a short period of time. Sounds like she had made a tremendous leapt in her growth on the violin. My daughter is 12 and working on early advanced repertoire and auditioning for competitions and summer camps. We went through violin shopping a year ago and it was very clear to her that lower end violins (<5k) just did not have the playability and projection that she needed. Of note, she’s at a conservatory pre-college program. It’s not unusual to have violins >10k for middle schoolers. Our budget was 15k to 40k and we tried probably 20 or so (we live in a major west coast city). It turned out that the one she and her teacher liked the best was the cheapest In that range (15k - French 1900), so it’s also not necessarily that more expensive is better. We were deciding between the 15k and another one that cost 35k. She played the more expensive one at a recital in a concert hall and the sound did not project at all. That helped us make the decision. My advise is that she narrows it down to 2-4 to take home for trial and play them in a large hall on stage to really test their projection. Lastly, as everyone said, the bow is super important. My daughter tried a variety of bows, and as soon as she picked up her chosen one, she knew it was right for her. Kind of like the wand in Harry Potter. As long as you can afford it, there is no shame in investing in something that will inspire your daughter to be better.
January 5, 2023, 6:39 PM · I'm genuinely surprised that the quality of instrument would have anything to do with a child's eligibility to join an orchestra. It should come down to talent and dedication, nothing else. Any adjudicator unable to recognise and wish to nurture such talent, regardless of an instrument's price tag, should be kept well away from youth orchestras. Perhaps they should just dispense with auditions and simply examine the parent's bank balance?
January 5, 2023, 9:40 PM · Martin, I live in suburban DC, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, surrounded by similarly wealthy counties. Kids here tend to have expensive toys, be it a luxury SUV, or an expensive instrument. As a practical matter, if you have two similarly skilled kids, one playing a basic violin and the other playing a higher quality one that allows them to display their skills better, the jury is going to pick the latter.
January 6, 2023, 2:26 AM · Sue is correct, especially in circumstances where youth symphony auditions are done blind, similar to the way that a professional audition is conducted. In those circumstances, the adjudicators can only hear the results, not see that Kid A looks to physically be doing everything perfectly but the violin just isn't giving them the results they should be getting, and Kid B isn't quite as good but their equipment is helping them along.

Compare race car drivers. Yes, the driver has to be good, but the faster and more controllable car will give its driver the edge.

Edited: January 6, 2023, 2:35 AM · "If you have two similarly skilled kids, one playing a basic violin and the other playing a higher quality one that allows them to display their skills better, the jury is going to pick the latter". Sue, do you have that on authority or is it just the way the cookie crumbles in a plutocracy? I should have thought a wise jury would take the contrary stance and when asked to choose between two players of similar achievement the one with less social advantage would be the one they'd pick.
January 6, 2023, 8:27 AM · @Sue/Steve - I question the concept of "similarly skilled" in this context. I don't think kid violinists are ever really "similarly skilled." Therefore, IMHO, I suspect that the different violins being used by kids are very marginally relevant to how they sound, if at all, unless one is playing a junker and the other a Strad.
Edited: January 6, 2023, 8:45 AM · Yep, Tom. Having been an advanced oboist with a plastic oboe, all I can do is keep the popcorn handy.

January 6, 2023, 11:06 AM · Thank you all for all these amazing advices.
You all asked some very good questions and I will try to answer them all.
We bought the violin from Huthmaker violins (atlanta, Ga). We are going to them tomorrow to see if they can do minor adjustments and rehair the current bow, look at other bows and violins. The old teacher didn’t take any commissions from them. We went initially to Beau Vinci violins, where we had over $1000 credit from renting, where she picked a violin that was $5500 ( I was not comfortable with that price), and one other teacher from the music place she was going said it’s not worth more than 3k (he was the owner of the music studio and was considering starting a instrument business along the lessons he was offering. We went to 3 more shops and my daughter didn’t like any (in comparison to the $5500 one, and in the price range I had). At Huthmaker she tried a lot, and picked 2, and with her teachers help decided to get this. It’s a newc German violin (I was told by the new teacher it’s a factory violin- don’t know for sure).
I never played any instrument, and I’m learning with her. I want to know a lot before making a big purchase, hence I found this forum and decided to post here. I don’t know who to trust they will give me the best advice.
My daughter has a lot more to learn (in terms of technique), and I don’t think she outgrew the current violin, but that’s my own opinion. And when a teacher tells a student you have the worst sounding violin from all my students, when you know your classmate plays on an Ihle violin, you think the violin is the only thing that stops her from being the next Hillary Hahn- joking to some degree- but I’m sure that goes on in her mind. No matter how many times I tell her she has to practice and improve and this violin is just fine for now, I’m just her mom and I nag her about everything. She started making rapid progress since she joined the middle school orchestra, and the competition to be concertmaster and get into all state transformed her.
The new teacher has “connections”- and gets some violins (not too often) to help his students. The 2 my daughter tried were the Colin Mezin Son , and Mougenot Gauche- both of them he was selling them for 12k.
I am willing to get a new violin, my limit is 15K. Can I spend 20 or 25k- yes, but as many of you pointed out, I’m not sure it’s necessary. I would love to buy a new violin that is only 5k, or less than 10k, or maybe a free one as a gift (why not), as long as it is the right instrument for her, and nobody else will tell her that she has a bad violin. As a kid it is hard to rationalize things, and to her, a more expensive violin equals a better violin. She did pick the most expensive ones in shops (without knowing their price before hand), but I suspect that is also a selling tactic.
My daughter is driven by competition. We live in a very affluent area, with a very large Asian population ( and these kids are just more focused, they are more determined etc- that’s a whole new topic in itself). I don’t even know how to support her- I’m competitive myself, but sometimes I feel her main goal is to get first place in this competition bc her classmate got first place.etc. Being decent at violin helped her social skills , and I truly thinks she loves playing the instrument and wants to get better.

I think I said this in an earlier post- we went to Beau Vinci last week to try some violins and the first 3 that were brought to her were a Vennasso (16k), Patrick Toole (15k) and a Cox (22k). She didn’t know the prices when she tried them- and she picked the Cox (storioni model). I told the store owner my price range was 10-15k before we went there, but she never really cares about that and sneaks in more expensive instruments. She also tried a 1926 Heberline, a Iannini (1950), and a Hungarian one - Hollo Bence- which was 25k. She only liked the Cox and the Hungarian one.
I’m learning as much as I can about violins, but I’m not a good judge when it comes to price- it the violin is worth that much or I can find a similar one (sound wise and playability) for less.

January 6, 2023, 11:51 AM · Ralu Cozmuta, very astute post you made just above. Violin-playing teachers MAY be very qualified to assess performance characteristics of violins, but rarely market values.

Keep learning.. I think you're doing a great job.

January 6, 2023, 1:40 PM · Ideally, shop owners will include instruments above and below your price range. Indeed, instruments that are a LOT outside your price range and that the shop considers to be excellent (and not just expensive) are very helpful in building a player's sense of what is possible -- or recognizing that they cannot currently actually recognize a great instrument when it's in their hands.

(Now, an instrument can be excellent but not right for a particular player's physical approach or desired sound, but it's generally useful to recognize the specific qualities of what you're trying out, i.e. to say "I really like to dig in but this instrument's sound cracks quickly under pressure" and recognize that to get the best sound of it requires approaching it differently, so either you adapt to the violin or you decide it's not for you.)

January 6, 2023, 5:17 PM · Steve, I wasn’t thinking terms of circumstances where resumes are available for comparisons, but more along the lines of blind auditions. Which is all I have seen in youth orchestras and district/regional/state orchestras.

Tom, there are kids playing violins worth 6 figures in some of our local youth orchestras (as far as I know, not the one my daughter plays in). This kind of gamesmanship is one of the reasons why she does not audition for them.

Since there does not appear to be anything like consensus on whether there is much to be gained by upgrading to a better instrument, I will ask this question. Is the likelihood of an applicant to Curtis or Juilliard (or similar) getting through, in any way related to the quality of their instruments? For example, will there be no difference to the outcome if a highly skilled young person plays a $5,000 instrument instead of a $250,000 instrument (assuming in this case that the price is correlated to quality of sound and playability)?

January 6, 2023, 5:22 PM · You can easily find an exceptional tone antique violin for $5000, the problem is it will probably not be soloist volume level or projection, but certainly good enough for an orchestra, I'm not sure the judging panel will be able to notice how loud the violin is from just a solo audition unless playing with other instruments,
January 6, 2023, 7:28 PM · Sue, to answer your question, yes, a good violin (and a professional recording of it) can help get you past a prescreen or an in-person audition at those top schools. However, most of the faculty is pretty astute, and if you are amazingly talented you will get through even if you are playing a $5000 violin. But a lot of the kids are more like my son, very good but not drop-dead amazing, and a better violin will give them an edge. At that level of playing, everybody is amazing and the differences between players are often pretty minute.

There are two main reasons the better violin helps. The first is that really good violins are often easier to play. They are more responsive and you don't have to fight them to get them to do what you want them to do. That in and of itself can make a good player sound like a great player. The second is that a good violin will often make you be a better player because you can find more nuance in the colors of the sound.

January 6, 2023, 8:39 PM · A better violin (and bow) also teaches better technique -- and an inadequate one can spoil it. I, for instance, have a bad habit of avoiding playing close to the bridge, because the contemporary violin I used during my formative teen years did not produce a good sound at sounding points closer to the bridge.

To take another example, I think a lot of (non-pro) players have a tendency to over-control their spiccato because their bow doesn't bounce predictably when the player uses the correct technique (largely letting the bow do its own thing with a minimum of motion on the player's part).

A great player who already knows the appropriate way to get the sound they want can generally figure out how to adapt for the quirks of a particular violin, even a bad violin. But a player who is still learning -- like your typical kid -- doesn't easily learn that control when the response of the instrument is unpredictable (or bad).

So I'm a believer that kids should get the best instrument that their parents can comfortably afford. That's smoothing the path. As a parent, you can also choose to make your kids to work harder to succeed.

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