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Buyer's guide for mid-range violins?


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22 replies to this topic

#1 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 18 2003 - 03:17 PM

I'm thinking of getting another string instrument. I played 'cello back when I was in college but never got that good at it, in part because of a broken ring finger on my left hand that set a bit crooked, in part because I have very small hands. And of course in part due to laziness.....

But I miss the feeling of pulling tone out of a string. I'm thinking of getting a violin, as that instrument is probably a better fit for my hands.

Does anyone have a book or website reference that they believe gives good advice on selecting a middling-price (about $1,000) quality student instrument? I'm lucky in that Scott Cao's main workshop is only about 3 miles from my home, and I have read that he makes one of the better middling-price violin (see www.scottcaoviolins.com ).
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#2 of 23 OFFLINE   Zen Butler

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Posted September 19 2003 - 10:38 AM

Stringworks

If it makes you feel better, Cao's violins are very available here in California as well.

Certain Suzuki models are a good "entry level" violins also.

A gentleman that we hired for a track used a Stringworks and some weird electric Fender violin, sounded beautiful.

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#3 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 19 2003 - 11:01 AM

But Zen I'd like an independent set of reviews. Obviously the stores will tell you they sell the best stuff! :P)
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#4 of 23 OFFLINE   Zen Butler

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Posted September 19 2003 - 11:36 AM

Yes, I'm aware of that. This was I all could offer here at work. I will sure ask our buddy what he thinks of his Stringworks and his opinion on Cao. Don't count out the Suzuki(Nagoya). It has nothing to do with who I work for either. Posted Image

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#5 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 19 2003 - 11:51 AM

I was going to ask if you could get them for an employee's discount....Posted Image

Posted Image

It looks like www.fqms.com/violins.htm has the Cao line as cheap as anyplace.
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#6 of 23 OFFLINE   Zen Butler

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Posted September 19 2003 - 12:06 PM

Posted Image

Next week: Helmholtz's theory applied to intake manifolds. Oh Boy!!

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#7 of 23 OFFLINE   Josh Simpson

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Posted September 20 2003 - 07:44 AM

I find Knilling to have good student instruments, usually from the $500-$1100 range. They will definately get you by unless you wanted to do a lot of professional gigs.

#8 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 20 2003 - 02:08 PM

So far what looks to be a good deal is the Stringworks "Virtuoso" violin with pernambuco bow and case for $855 www.stringworks.com/mall/violinvirtuoso.asp . This is pretty cheap for a fiddle. Cao won't quote direct prices and sends you off to various local shops.

Posted Image
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#9 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 20 2003 - 03:39 PM

Here's a matrix but no comments:

http://www.stringsma....olinchart.html
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#10 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 21 2003 - 03:12 PM

Zen,

Here's a couple I'm looking at on ebay.

http://cgi.ebay.com/....ory=38108&rd=1

This is a good deal on a Scott Cao model 750 outfit.

http://cgi.ebay.com/....ory=38108&rd=1

Here's a no-reserve Stringworks "Artist" set for a cheap price.

Any comments?
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#11 of 23 OFFLINE   Zen Butler

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Posted September 22 2003 - 02:46 AM

Well Dennis, so much for talking with Benny. His Stringworks is a custom $3500 Bartok model. Which of course he praised. He said he knows of a few that play the Cao and like it. He said they are a bit thin? Blah, blah, blah...like anyone is going to say "I own a brand X and it really sucks." I tried man. Good luck.

That SW for $390 does seem like a deal from the "tendonitus guy."

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#12 of 23 OFFLINE   Greg*go

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Posted September 22 2003 - 04:24 AM

Can anyone tell me how much an old violin that is damaged can cost? I went to one music shop around my home and they didn't have anyone that was into violins at all so couldn't give me a price.

When I was cleaning out the 3rd floor of my home a few years ago, I found a violin in a crawl space that was made in 1812 in Germany. It's in pretty bad shape, but I remember the label on the inside said it was made by someone famous. I'm not home at the moment, so I can't go into details. I always just guessed it was a replica and never gave it much thought.
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#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 22 2003 - 04:48 AM

Zen,

Thanks for asking anyway. Most musicians cough up the money for better instruments as soon as possible so I'm not surprized your friend bought a Bartok.

Greg,

Labels don't mean much on violins. Almost every cheap violin coming out of Europe in the last 200 years has had a "Stradavarius" label stuck in it. As Antonio Stradavari maybe lived long enough to build about 1,000 violins, more than 99% are fakes. How exactly do you know it was made in Germany in 1812?

Nowadays the better luthiers are proud of their work. The Scott Cao copy of the "Lord Wilton" Guarnari de Gesu linked above will have a Cao label in it.

What exactly do you mean by "in pretty bad shape"? Discolored varnish, cracks in the wood, or something else?
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#14 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 22 2003 - 05:18 AM

As for me, I want to learn to play to enhance my sex appeal:

Posted Image
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#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Greg*go

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Posted September 22 2003 - 06:00 AM

It does have an Antonio Stradavarius label on it. And it says Anno Facebat 1812 on the label as well. So highschool latin came in handy for once. The weird part was the entire label is in Latin, except the last line that says "Made in Germany." That odd line alone discredits it's actual worth in my mind. Why would Germans write something in English in 1812 when everything else is in Latin?

I really don't know anything about instruments at all, but as far as condition, I don't remember any cracks, but it just looked the way a 190 yr old violin would if it wasn't maintained properly... the wood looks worn away. And the bow's chord is all stretched out as well. I believe it also had "conservatory" or something like that carved into it on the back top part where you tune the strings. My house is about 125 yrs old, so who knows when it was put there. My guess was the last owners did it as a joke to mess with my mind and make me think I found something valuable.

I don't expect it to be worth anything, otherwise I would've gone to a PBS antique road show. Posted Image I just saw this violin thread and it reminded me of this thing I found. I really have nothing to suggest in the way of mid-priced violins, sorry for the hi-jacking.
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#16 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 22 2003 - 07:34 AM

Quote:
It does have an Antonio Stradavarius label on it. And it says Anno Facebat 1812 on the label as well. So highschool latin came in handy for once. The weird part was the entire label is in Latin, except the last line that says "Made in Germany." That odd line alone discredits it's actual worth in my mind. Why would Germans write something in English in 1812 when everything else is in Latin?


This label has so many problems...let me try to parse them. Antonio Stadivari died in 1737 so he wasn't making violins in 1812. And he lived in Italy not Germany. And there was no country named "Germany" until Bismark unified the many small German states into a nation after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. The "made in Germany" part was only put on once there was a market in the US (the UK made their own violins). So I would guess this was a factory-built violin dating from 1945 through about 1955 when, due to the cold war, they started writing "made in western Germany" on many export items. This dating is just speculation on my part.
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#17 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 23 2003 - 11:16 AM

Greg,

Here's an example of a really really fake Strad being foisted off as something valuable. Notice the seller has made the auction "private" - the single bid is probably his own as a shill.

http://cgi.ebay.com/....category=38108

This thing is crudely made and I think the purfling is painted on. This isn't worth $50 much less $3000. Posted Image

I'm amazed this thread hasn't gotten anymore traffic - I would have thought there were dozens of fiddlers here at HTF.
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#18 of 23 OFFLINE   Stacie

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Posted September 24 2003 - 06:03 AM

Dennis,

I'm not a string player (I'm a clarinetist), but my husband's a bass player, and he just bought a new bass this summer. He bought a Chinese-made instrument made by Samuel Shen. I don't know anything about their violins, but their basses are pretty well-regarded. My husband plays at a semipro level (good amateur groups and some gigs), and he's thrilled with his instrument (as is everyone else who's heard it). It cost a pretty penny, but relative to what good string instruments can cost, it was a steal. We were amazed to get something so nice for less than five figures.

As I said, I have nothing to go on for violins, but I have heard that some of the Chinese-made string instruments have improved by leaps and bounds, and some (like the Shen basses) have become competitive with instruments from American and European makers. It would be worth checking into, at least.

Also, my mother-in-law is a Suzuki violin teacher. I'll ask her what she knows.

Good luck!

#19 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted September 26 2003 - 04:03 PM

Aha, I've found what I was looking for:

http://www.stringsma....overstory.html

There's also a useful forum at their site.
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#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Mary M S

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Posted September 27 2003 - 06:53 AM

Greg*go: I don’t know much on this subject but here’s a head’s up.

Don’t throw it out yet, your violin is from the 1900’s when copies were made around the world of the ‘greats’ ie: strads etc. Not intended as a ‘fake’ it was common practice if you consider the reverence the great Cremona instruments (Stradivari, Gesù etc) were given, manufactories emulated these masters by cranking out lesser and greater quality reproductions. From Division of Cultural History in cooperation with the Public Inquiry Mail Service, Smithsonian Institution

“….. The usual label, whether genuine or false, uses the Latin inscription Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno [date]. This inscription indicates the maker (Antonio Stradivari), the town (Cremona), and "made in the year," followed by a date that is either printed or handwritten. Copies made after 1891 may also have a country of origin printed in English at the bottom of the label, such as "Made in Czechoslovakia," or simply "Germany." Such identification was required after 1891 by United States regulations on imported goods.

Thousands upon thousands of violins were made in the 19th century as inexpensive copies of the products of great Italian masters of the 17th and 18th centuries. Affixing a label with the master’s name was not intended to deceive the purchaser but rather to indicate the model around which an instrument was designed. At that time, the purchaser knew he was buying an inexpensive violin and accepted the label as a reference to its derivation. As people rediscover these instruments today, the knowledge of where they came from is lost, and the labels can be misleading.”

The best copies of this time usually arise out of France or Brussels (I believe) with exceptions. Your violin could easily be worth $0. Beyond repair, - due to condition of wood, storage damage, structural stability, glue, or…. up to:

"#2826 Labeled Stradivarius
This is a German Strad copy from around 1920. Two piece highly flamed maple back. Two piece spruce top. Golden orange varnish on a yellow ground. $1,500 "
http://www.stamellst..._inventory.html

…for a very nice one in excellent condition.
Many copies were produced by the Czech and in Germany. Some of these are firewood, some very nice the degrees of quality of these copies cover the full range. If you know a competent player, (local school orchestra leader etc) and the violin is in fair condition, - set up to play, have them give it a spin and get their opinion of its sound, barring that, find 2 reputable restorers, to evaluate its condition, cost of a refurb, compared to current lower end modern purchases, if someone needs a violin in your family you could come out ahead depending on its condition now.

There are many-esteemed artists, who feel the benefits of ‘aged’ wood, depending on care during the lifetime of the instrument outweigh certain other factors. Even if your instrument is not very valuable, it could play very properly if not deteriorated.

To estimate the date yours was manufactured check the neck for a new piece of wood joined at the pegbox, this ‘neck graft’ indicates and older and better than factory-assembly-line construction.


I don’t know much about this subject (isn’t’ the web wonderful) but thought I’d mention you could have something worth (800) if condition is good and need a starter violin for someone.

I go to see Joshua Bell at the Meyerson, tomorrow, in hand his 290 yr. old Strad the “Gibson ex Huberman” (the highlight for me,,, amongst the other selections) to hear him preform Corigliano’s “The Red Violin”.

…can’t wait to hear that violin , really it and not memorex!!

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