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Are there too many violin makers?


Yair Hod
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If there were too many makers, it would only benefit the players, assuming they choose their maker wisely. Eventually, the good ones would stay working, and the bad ones would have to find some other work.

So now I ask you, do you think there's an excess of violin players? There's no way to get rid of the bad ones, though, is there? Notes don't pile up in their houses the way unsold violins can. :-)

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I don't think there's ever too many players. They fuel the business. The problem is that violins (can) last a lonnnng time. There's so many violins in the world - especially from the 1900-1930 factory explosion times. And violins made in the 1600's, 1700's, 1800's, and 1900's are still around.

Candy gets eaten. Cigarettes get smoked. Cars rust and fade away. But violins just pile up. Just take a look at ebay - only one easy marketplace to see that violins have, in some ways, become clutter.

Ah, but good ones ?

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quote:

Originally posted by Michael Darnton:

If there were too many makers, it would only benefit the players, assuming they choose their maker wisely. Eventually, the good ones would stay working, and the bad ones would have to find some other work.

So now I ask you, do you think there's an excess of violin players? There's no way to get rid of the bad ones, though, is there? Notes don't pile up in their houses the way unsold violins can. :-)

Candy and Cigarettes accept being eaten and smoked are also bought by ALL people. It is needless to say that the population that consumes hand made violins 5000$+ is quite small, You are right to say that the strong will survive! But what I meant in my question is that in proportion to the number of violin players today do you think there are more violin makers (and violin maker wana bee's) then before? Also a violin maker is not only a person that makes violins but repairs them and gives other services, usually he doesn't MAKE at all!

Is this a saturated business?

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I actually don't think so--violin playing has had quite a resurgence, and new markets in the Far East have opened up on a regular basis lately. About 15 years ago a dealer I know was collecting "attic" violins and sending them in crates of 50 to dealers in Japan, where there are neither attics, nor the violins that come from them.

Korea is another recent opening, and many people in the business think that China will be the next huge opportunity--the violin and its music are relatively new and growing attractions there, and the number of potential players is gigantic.

Of course all these locations have their own makers, but as more of the older and better instruments are drawn off towards them that leaves an opportunity for better makers back where those violins came from.

What might happen is a shakeup in the lower ranges, where there are many more violins, much more competition on a very large scale, and a real many more old bad violins to be forced back into attics.

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A related but different question would be:

Is the number of active violinists (or violists, etc) in the world increasing or declining, and is this rate of growth (or decline) larger or smaller than the rate of increase in the number of makers? I think we would probably all agree that the number of makers has, if anything, grown over the past few decades.

There seems to be considerable disagreement on whether classical music is growing in popularity, or dying. Given the rise in classical music in Asia, one would think it had to be growing worldwide.

But baroque violinist Monica Huggett thought otherwise in a Mar/Apr Strings Magazine interview. Regarding the future of classical music, she said "Audiences for classical music are shrinking all over the world, and so are arts budgets. It seems to me that unless an effort is made to encourage people to learn instruments, through the subsidy of musical education, the classical music tradition will become a museum piece, simply a collection of old recordings. Consider that in the 19th century, almost anybody who was middle class was also an amateur musician-when they heard professionals they could admire their skills and appreciate the subtleties of the music. Similarly, today in Europe, most men play soccer, and can appreciate its subtleties and the virtuosity of the players. People are no longer studyin music, and the results are becoming apparent: audiences of informed music lovers are in decline. ....... Music...needs an educated audience. We have to think about how to keep that from disappearing."

Certainly, the future of violin making is directly linked to the number of players in need of instruments. One scenario would be that the number of professional orchestras will decline (at least in the US), leaving just the few really big name ones.

Classical music is not the only genre that creates a demand for the instruments, but undoubtedly the largest market. But given the plethora of diversions/hobbies available today, one has to wonder whether large numbers of people in the future will find the time to learn to play a stringed instrument well, which is certainly one of the most time consuming and demanding things one could possibly attempt.

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There was a hysterical "report" on the state of classical music in the Chicago Tribune a month or so ago in which it was noted that the audience for classical music appears to be mainly grey-haired old folks, and stressing that they would eventually pass on.

One respondent noted that this situation is virtually unchanged from the makeup of audiences decades ago, yet there seems to be no lack of supply of elderly music fans. In fact, I think population statistics indicate this group is growing rather than shrinking.

Another letter to the editor was from the head of an American orchestra association who was quoted in the article. He said he had been mis-quoted and that the situation is not in distress.

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The main reason that I started this entire subject is because of a vary special encounter I had with THE main figure in Israeli Violin BUISSNES, I wont mention names but I’ll just say that he is THE establishment in Israel...

Every third sentence this man has ever said to me is "Don’t do it! there are to many violin makers today". A while ago I meet with him by accident in some concert and told him of my plans to go to the school in Mirecourt and that I am working on my second violin, He told me to come over to his shop some time. Joyfully I thought that he was impressed and was interested in helping me. How wrong was I! For 1 hour he just talked about how the violin business is over crowded and there is no demand for any more makers, He talked about the Chines flood of mediocre professionally made violins into the international market, and how no one can compete with them in price verses quality.

He even said that in Germany violin makers are already bringing you home strings! And this is from the most respected violin maker in Israel!

Israel is a very small country and with the immigration of many Russian Jews in the past 10 years came a lot of violin makers. I can understand his fear for more competition but is it all that? or is he right in some aspect?

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I have read a couple of comments over the last couple of years that I think are relevant to the supply and demand side of this discussion. The first was in a discussion on the Beginning Adult Violin Studies mailing list. You don't have to be a beginning adult very long to realize that you are considered a little bit strange, and from all appearances, a relatively recent phenomenon. Sure, there have always been adults who took up a new hobby, but not in the numbers that there appear to be today.

The conclusion seemed to be that the baby boom and subsequent generations hold different attitudes about personal fulfillment and the consequences of getting older. So, we are more likely to do something like this in our 40's than our parents' generation was.

The other comment was from Christopher Reuning (I think). It was several years ago and in a discussion about the better Chinese made student violins around. The comment was that adult beginners were changing the market for student violins, because they were willing to spend money on themselves and were more willing to spend money on a quality instrument for a child who was playing.

Also, on BAVS (beginning adult violin studies) I regularly read posts from people having trouble finding a teacher. In many cases everyone they can find in their area is full.

From where I sit I would say that the future of violin playing is quite promising even if it isn't what it was 50 years ago.

Elaine

Norman, OK

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There certainly are more violin hobbyists around, helped by the information explosion and the general prosperity. Those who make violins for a living have rarely gotten rich from it, though. I don't think there'll be a rush to snap up profits. As with other artistic endeavors, the product will stick around, but the cream will rise to the top.

Some of the work of less merit will attract interest. Think of the rustic 19th century genre paintings, mostly of village life, only moderately well executed. This stuff now commands a price by virtue of age and nostalgia. Great art? History will decide as it always has.

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My 2 cents is that it appears to me that violin making as a profession is part art/part craft. ( I do not mean to minimilize any aspect of the art part or the craft part and I don't know which part is predominant ) I am a chef by profession and there are a gazillion of us out there but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. My profession is part art/part craft and what the world doesn't need is one more chef smile.gif But I couldn't imagine doing anything else except perhaps making violins.

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Hi Hod Yair,

You make the same mistake what I did 12 years ago to ask some of the most popular "names" about the future in Violin making in my town.The answer was the same.

But my advantage was that I was already graduated the instrument making school,and I had the strong feeling about my desire to be a violin maker and repairer.There was no way

some person or circumstances what could stop me.

So keep you faith ,be strong and follow your dreams!Make it real !

Stepan Demirdjian

P.S. see you soon online in ICQ space smile.gif

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I haven't started selling my violins yet. Whether or not I can make a living at it won't stop me from making them. I enjoy it too much. Will I be contributing to the pot boiler market? Hopefully not. I've gotten favorable reviews from the professional players who are willing to try my 'fiddles'. I will say that the local makers/repair people are NOT willing to talk to me. I take it as a good sign if they see me as competition.

-Pete

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This thread brings to mind a quote I read some time ago. It sure straightened out my thinking and approach (I'm not a violin maker, btw):

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

Harold Whitman

I hope that helps.

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I wonder if there is some way to find out the increase in the # of violinmakers in the last 20 years.I'm quite sure that in my metropolitan area the # has tripled at least,

though this is probably more than most areas.I think it is undeniable that there are substantially more makers around than in the past,and I would be surprised if many of them weren't finding it a bit of a struggle.

As long as you go into it without the expectation of fame and fortune,you may find it a satisfying career choice. Andrew

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In the sixties people were worried in Italy about the possibility of the extinction of violin making... Prices were very low, even for top makers of the past. And what we see now...

Competition is taught today, in every field.

Life is strugle for those who work. Even Stradivari, in the end of his career, suffered from the competition that was made by cheaper Milan makers.

The number of music students today is increasing, mainly due to oriental countries, as Michael pointed. From this mass of students some good players will arise, and they will need good instruments, as ever.

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Thank you all very much for your replies! I was a bit recovering from a minor gum surgery. Because of all the anti biotics and pain killers I was unable to add to the discussion...

In my oppinion the bottom line here is that in our new age there is just an explosion in every field. the level is very high professionally and the numbers needed are large too, that's the reason for the schools. As Michael implied the good ones will continue and the bad ones (Hopefully) will have to find an other job!

Right now I think I'll start searching for my niche in this business because I am quite sure I want to be a part of it. Starting obviously from Violin maker and If I think I am not achieving MY standards ( which are very high...) I'll go on to check other prospects such as... restoring, repair, Connoisseur, I am actually also very interested in Chembalos!

Mony is not my goal in life but one should not plan how to be poor....

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Interesting, we're in the Post-modern era of violin making, haha. Also, about the popularity of classical music, there are other types of music involving violins. Here in Sweden everybody I know plays a dam fiddle and in the workshop we can't keep them in. The Swedes also make their "violin/viola" it doesn't really have a name, it has drone strings underneith, they sell like hotcakes. It's a viola with a violin neck, a viola with an E string and a violin with a C string, all put together in one, maybe a de gamba? So folk or classical, each has it's own merit, each will evolve into something or other, or cease to exist altogether, it's evolution baby!!!!

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