hungrycanine

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  1. It sounds as if buying a Chinese instrument from a shop that primarily exists to offer lessons DOES offer some advantage then. Most of the helpful cautions here -- about gambles, % of defective goods in a large purchase, cherry-picking, etc, and one darn good deal at $450 vs one untraceable tissue box -- would disappear (or at least recede....) if the buyer was able to play the individual instrument for sale. The possibility of the neck breaking, the top splitting, the pegs needing to be refitted, or the fingerboard disintegrating in the first 12 months could be far less for a Chinese factory instrument if purchased through a teaching shop/music academy sort of place than if purchased on-line or at a big box music store. As Violadamore says, there's nothing wrong with Chinese instruments per se anymore, but purchasing a new or used Chinese factory instrument through a business that mainly provides lessons and offers its students some reliable student instruments might be a good way to economize without getting burned by the imploding tissue box! Thanks for the thoughts. Yes, I expected the opinions to be opinionated....
  2. Thanks for the responses, but I'm not sure I understand things any better. Keep trying -- I'm slow, but usually get it sooner or later. So if a shop that exists largely by providing lessons but also rents/sales instruments on which to learn has already DONE all that ground work connecting with a Chinese supplier (whether s/he is a middleman or a producer), and wants to provide students with limited but playable instruments, wouldn't spending, say, $1500 on a cello or double bass at THAT shop be better than spending the same $1500 on an instrument that comes from a source that wants to sell you an instrument and never see you again? And if the shop has some used rental instruments they want to sell, wouldn't it be reasonable to think your dollar would go farther there? For one thing, that might be a way an individual buyer could get some of the benefit of the shop having already bought at larger-volume prices. I've just read so much (often on this site) about complete rubbish on EBay or on-line that cracks or splits or comes unglued or fingerboards wear away in front of your eyes that I'm extremely wary of "Chinese" factory instruments. Nevertheless, a lot of people seem to be content with SOME of them for initial learning.
  3. I'd appreciate some informed opinion here. I've been looking about at cellos and double basses, and have small experience with violins. I know there are some unbelievably good "deals" for new Chinese-made stringed instruments on the internet, and I have no desire to go there. I'm afraid of the "ebonized" or black fingerboard that wears away in no time or the "solid top" that splits and caves in while the "new" VSO is still shiny as can be. But there are also lots of inexpensive Chinese-made student instruments that are rented out by music shops that provide lessons and -- presumably -- truly wish to introduce the uninitiated to the delights of playing a stringed instrument. (I'm not talking Big Box music stores here whose main objective is profit margin). I've come across some instruments that are unlabelled and made in a Chinese factory and sold to individual music schools/shops in North America to be rented to students who take instruction from the shop. Here's my thinking, and I'd love to be corrected if necessary: Those student-level instruments must be reasonably sturdy and of competent workmanship, given their ultimate market, but they suffer from limited tonal range and the engineering that would ultimately enable virtuoso playing. How could a shop stay in business if it sold the VSO (or cello or bass equivalents) we know can be had "for a song" on-line? No matter what the instrument, a proper set-up is required and I would think these rental instruments must be decently enough made to enable a reasonable set-up, though obviously not one that might suit a professional's needs. No doubt, these entry-level instruments wouldn't have much resale value and would not be worth putting additional money into repairs, but shouldn't they be thought of differently than those frightening VSOs that pop up on your computer once you Google "violin"? Does a beginner really HAVE to start with a $2000-2500 double bass or cello if Chinese factory instruments are available for much less from reputable music schools/shops?
  4. Thanks for all these helpful replies. The original ad that VDA ferreted out is from a local site in Victoria, BC, where folks hope to sell unwanted dog kennels, out-grown hockey skates, and occasional musical instruments to local buyers. It is not at all an EBay sort of place, where sellers are expecting or willing to prepare items for shipping. The seller seems to be a very straightforward and honest fellow, and a pretty good fiddler, but not much interested in the pedigrees of instruments. The price seems very good for a decently built fiddle that, as John_London says, is setup and ready to go -- in fact, the seller says he's been playing it for 20 years and someone gave it to him when it first came into his possession. I guess what I need to decide is whether I need yet ANOTHER trade fiddle! It doesn't seem likely though, from the discussion here, that the instrument pre-dates 1931, but it does seem likely that it has been around for a while and has been well cared for. Thanks again for the help.
  5. Yes, that's the violin in question. I've already asked the seller is he knew anything about the Kessler label that was relevant to determining the violin's age, but he did not. Nor did he have any other thoughts about its age. It does look quite decent for the asking price, doesn't it, in comparison to many "new" instruments available online. My post was really only seeking any further understanding of what a Paul Kessler label might necessarily mean -- "a real maker or a workshop?" -- so that I might be able to determine something about the violin's age, not to somehow be "sneaky." If anyone knows anything definite about a Paul Kessler label, I'd love to hear it.
  6. A local violin shows a label reading "Paul Kessler, Markneukirchen, Copy of Amati, made in Germany." Kessler died in 1931 but the violin doesn't immediately appear to be 80+ years old. Aside from the ever-present question of the label's legitimacy, I'm wondering if a "company" continued using Kessler's name on instruments long after his death? Does anyone know about this? If so, your knowledge would be appreciated. Thank you.
  7. Thanks to all for sharing your expertise. Much appreciated. Generalizations can be (and often are) dangerous, but I think it is important at least to try to understand upon what details the generalizations are based. You've helped a lot.
  8. I've heard enough unpleasant remarks on this forum about Schönbach/Markneukirchen trade violins that I get the point. But as far as generalizations go, is a Mittenwald or Bavarian violin from around 1875 just as likely to be a mediocre or factory violin as is the oft-defamed Schönbach/Markneukirchen trade fiddle? Or does it stand a significant chance of being a better instrument?
  9. "I would like to know what rib heights are on this fiddle. Measured at the end pin, corners and at either side of the neck." I'm afraid I can't provide those measurements. Why would they matter? I think I'm content with Brad Dorsey's assessment, as I was only worried that putting viola strings on a violin might have been a foolish thing to do (I've done my share of "foolish things".....)
  10. yes, that makes sense, given the age of the instrument. Like most things, answers are more difficult than questioners usually assume! But at least it doesn't seem that the violin having been strung as a viola for the most recent 1/10th of its life (!!!) NECESSARILY changed anything since the time it was last assessed/appraised/evaluated by a luthier. I'm considering purchasing the instrument in question (a local private sale) and need to rely a great deal on the previous professional assessment (documented) and my own very limited understanding of stringed instruments. I appreciate whatever assistance the forum can provide.
  11. Thanks for the responses thus far. Perhaps I need to clarify: I'm not considering using the instrument as a viola; I would return it to its original purpose as a violin, albeit a somewhat larger-than-normal violin. My concern and question is this: Would the fact that the instrument has been strung as a viola for the past 10 or 15 years likely have had an unhealthy effect (in terms of stress, etc) on an instrument that was originally designed to accommodate violin strings? I really have no way of knowing what sort/tension of viola strings were used, but only know that the instrument had a recent past strung as a viola. Thanks again.
  12. I'm looking at a large violin (14.5 inch length) that has been strung as a viola for quite a number of years, while being used by a young learner. A luthier examined the instrument a few decades ago and determined it was likely made in Bavaria between 1860 and 1880. But the "conversion" to being strung and played as a viola happened after that professional assessment. Are there any issues about different tensions and stresses of which I should be aware? I'm guessing that violin strings put higher tension on an instrument than do viola strings, but that is ONLY a guess. Are there other issues I should consider, given the unusual history of the instrument's use? Thanks.
  13. Thanks Martin, No, it is certainly not playable, but since the price is next-to-giveaway, I wondered if it wouldn't be worth spending $100 or $200 getting it fixed up. I've heard some terrible-sounding student violins for which people pay far more money (although they are usually more shiny!). I might try to figure out a bit of the elementary work myself just to learn, but bridges, tailpieces, fine-tuners, strings and the like DO cost money. The cost of the violin itself might well be the smallest cost! By the way, as you've likely figured out, I meant "first quarter of the 20th Century," not 19th. I'm still working on getting used to this 21st Century stuff...
  14. I'm looking at an old pawnshop violin labelled "H. Clotelle" that is in terrible condition. From my limited understanding, it is likely French and from the first quarter of the 19th Century. Is it safe to assume that it is most likely a factory fiddle not worth spending money on repair (it needs a bridge and tailpiece, and the belly and back surfaces are seriously marred, pegs might well need attention), or am I wrong about violins so labelled? It is cheap, cheap, cheap, but I've no way of knowing what it sounds like until some basic work is done. Does the label "H. Clotelle" tell me all I need to know to run quickly in the opposite direction? I'm not looking for concert-hall quality, but I don't want a VSO either. Thanks for any advice.