Jump to content

Why Maker Is So Important?


Recommended Posts

Hi all,

I feel very silly to ask that question. Unless a maker is very very famous, otherwise

just another maker. My friend's violin priced $300k, I do not even remember the maker's

name after he said it so many time. Who care? It was a nice violin. Another friend who has an Italian

violin that he is so proud to own and costed him a fortune, I wish the name is little easy to remember. I only remember a little of its sound. The sound was nice too, but no surprise.

Why people is so concerned with the maker? If the violin is good, it speaks (presents) for itself.

PS. Most often asked question in any violin forum is : " Do you know this maker XXX ?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Yuen,

I'm sorry to hear your post. I detect much bitterness and jealousy, (i dare say even a hint of envy...).

You should be happy for your fortunate friend who obviously loves his/her violin. From personal experience, very rarely you will find in the antique violin market instruments that sound even close to the higher priced ones. There is a very good reason why some makers are valued higher than others. Whatever you want to believe in the end, eg. dealers inflating prices etc.. there may be some truth in it but in the end the consumer (the players) decide whether an instrument is worth playing/paying for and this has been true throughout history.

If you cannot hear the difference between a tononi and a violin by john smith then perhaps your playing is not up to the level required to apprieciate the beauty of these violins.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very true, I have thought about that for a while. I realize one very important element that

my ears may not be that good to distinguish very fine sound to, just ordinary good sound.

I lump them together. If this were my violin, I remember every nix mark on the top.

It is similar to a situation that when my child is crying just a few second, I can hear fifty feet away, other

people child is crying , I cannot hear if only 10 feet away. It is a human nature thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Originally posted by: Beephormer

....but in the end the consumer (the players) decide whether an instrument is worth playing/paying for and this has been true throughout history.

If you cannot hear the difference between a tononi and a violin by john smith then perhaps your playing is not up to the level required to apprieciate the beauty of these violins.


Conversely, isn't it possible that many players are obsessed with "upgrading" their instruments as they search for a magic solution to their weaknesses in technique ? ....or possibly to enhance the overall mystique of their combined persona/instrument ?

"persona [New Latin, from Latin] : an individual's social facade or front that especially in the analytic psychology of C. G. Jung reflects the role in life the individual is playing -"

In one of my books, I remember a well known British violin dealer stating that most customers visiting his shop initially state that they are primarilly interested in "tone". However, the customers priority of "tone" is gradually replaced by country of origin, maker, and appearance as the testing and discussion progresses.

yuen brings up a excellent point that certainly warrants a bit of soul searching and discussion.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Jimbow,

yes, both you and yuen both state some truths about consumers purchasing habits.

Your quote about the British dealer and the customers looking primarily for "tone" then becoming more interested in provenance, name etc.....there is no choice though is there? when presented with any number of instruments as musicians we must fulfil 3 criteria in order to protect our financial investment, which in most cases is their life savings. 1, Sound (this IS most important whether you believe it or not) 2/3, PRICE: this is where name of maker is important, and thirdly condition.

If the player is not happy with criteria "1", criteria '2" does not come into play. The instrument will remain unsold unless some elitist collector buys it without care for sound. Unsurprisingly, the greatest instruments fulfil both criteria. Quality sound = High price. Unfortunately, many 'great' names should not be given the status they have, which brings about discussions such as this. Dealers 'foulplay' includes boosting the fame and celebrity of many makers who may only be interesting for being "italian" or "up and coming turinese...etc..)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well stated, Beephormer. You make some very good points.

I was playing a bit of the Devils Advocate as the subject of buyer motivation is very interesting . That is what makes the commercial world go around whether it be violins, autos, homes, womens shoes, boats, art, or whatever.

Of course on the subject of instruments, some exceptional performing talents, exquisite craftsmanship, and rarity enter into the equation which add even further interest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I want to reply to this thread, but have been trouble getting

paragraph breaks to show up in my replies... can anyone tell me how

to insert code for a paragraph break?  Okay, on to


Wow, Beephormer is so right.

So I've started what I expect to be a VERY long search for a new

violin... and I won't leap at just anything, because my current

instrument has some nice features.  It's just VERY quiet and

has a kind of thin-sounding lower range.

I went to my local shop, and said I didn't care who made my perfect

violin, or where it was made -- only what it sounded like and what

condition it was in.  The dealer congratulated me on my focus

;-) and explained somewhat sadly that in his experience, many

people SAY they're looking for tone, but pretty soon, are pelting

him with questions about who made a violin, and how he can be SURE

that was the actual maker, and so on.  The implication was

very strongly that (other!) buyers are kind of shallow and don't

know what they want.

Over several weeks, I played probably 20 violins... from a "sound

quality" standpoint, one really stood out to me.  I was told

its price was $70K.  I've discussed this violin here on other

threads.  It was described to me as having been made by a

modern Italian maker as an art copy of a violin by a very famous

older Italian maker. But another dealer to whom I

casually posed the question insisted that Maker A was not known to

have made copies of violins by Maker B. The dealer

selling the violin dismissed these concerns by saying that the

violin had been certified by Dario D'attili to be as represented.

 But it turned out that the certificate was created by

Mr. D'attili in 1995 -- about a decade after his certificates are

widely perceived to have lost weight.

So -- there I was, loving the sound of this violin -- which is all

I'd said I'd cared about in the beginning -- and now I'm pestering

the dealer, other dealers, and experts on this forum for

information that might allow me to determine whether this violin

really WAS made by such-and-such a person in such-and-such a place.

 Why?  Did I become a shallow buyer like all those other

buyers the dealer had described to me so sadly?  Was I lying

or mistaken when I said all I cared about what tone?

No.  I'd simply learned what every potential buyer figures out

sooner or later: maker and place of origin have a HUGE impact on

the price of an instrument.  If I paid $70K for a

violin represented to be made by Person A in Place X, but it was

later determined by experts to have been made by Person B in Place

Y, then the value of the violin would plummet, and I'd never be

able to recoup what I'd paid if I had to sell it.  I

would have vastly, vastly overpaid for something that was "worth"

far less.

Thanks to folks on this forum, I learned about buyer's agents, and

will ultimately contract for the services of such anexpert  to

help me find the right violin, or at the very least, to

evaluate and negotiate the purchase of one.  But in the

meantime, I've had to put that wonderful violin out of my mind,

despite the fact that I love its sound.  There are too many

red flags relating to its "authenticity" -- not of the details that

really ARE all I care about, but of the ones that dictate its


I assume this is why many violinists "care" so much about maker...

Link to comment
Share on other sites


for me as a player.. I'm going for the sound.

It doesnt matter if it is a nameless German or have extensive repairs like a jigsaw puzzle.

As long as it sounds good and easy to play on, that is more than enough.

One thing I can draw comparisons with the maker's name is

the buying of those dogs of rare breeds

they are beautiful, are they much superior or more loyal then a nameless mixed local dogs?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

oh what have I done to made you mad?

Rocca was a bidding joke about 2 Japanese fighting for a bad sounding rocca over the phone at auction house few years ago.

and my future instructor next semester is playing on a Rocca

tolerance and patience make better music, other people on this net has tolerated me for 5 years


Originally posted by:

I am getting tired of reading your posts T_Rocca.....I am sure many here would also agree....

If name does not mean anything to you, why then do you call yourself T_"Rocca"???


70k for a JTL is too far for its range. and yes I can see you point now, I always talk pretty sarcatsicly

Jacob: I got your point now, I've tried a very nice sounding violin for 13k and its better than the Amati II which is just next to it.. but its never the price of the Amati

Link to comment
Share on other sites

exactly, you'd never pay 100k for a violin by Heberlein or Roth, even if it had the sound of your dreams.

Several years ago, I was looking for a bow in the 5k range. I found one that I really liked, nice sound, easy for different bowstrokes, nice balance, and so on. It was by a German maker who's name I forget and the price was $4k. I showed it to some other dealers and makers because I knew nothing at the time, and they all told me it was unusually nice for that maker but that maker's bows only sell for about $1500. They said he can't charge more for this one just because it plays better (I didn't tell any of them who it was). I actually wanted it pretty badly but knew it was wrong to buy it so I took it back to Carnegie to the dealer selling it (who's initials happened to be MH). I told him that I found out bows by that maker only go for for $1500 and he retorted that this bow was a particularly fine example. I gently told him I liked it but was afraid of resale if I wanted to get another bow in the future. He said to me, "why get married if you're planning on getting divorced?" Nice.

I suppose depending on how rich one is, it may be ok to overpay by a bit if you really like something. But not by 133%.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

well I assume that even if a Roth has the sound of my dreams will not reach the price of 100k since it is a Roth , it cannot exeed its top market value too much off.

Then it must have a lower price tag, then I would have get it over the strad which have a tag over the 100k bench and forget about persuing other famous makers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why do we pay a premium for anything? Either because it is, simply put, better made. Or because, for whatever reason, when we go to sell it, it will retain resale value. Perhaps even increase in value.

All things being equal -- soundwise -- I would buy the bigger name, if the price were in my range and within the current market range for that name, because there's a pretty good change that a few years from now the bigger name will have held (and increased) its value while the noname has not.

In addition to this simple market fact regarding known names, there is also, in many cases involving older violins, the quality of "antique." There is always a premium, not simply due to name but due to rarity and clarity of provenance and the intangibles that adhere to antiques.

You may say these things have nothing to to with the violin as violin. And at some purely physical and acoustic level you might be right. However, that's not all this object is. It is also a market item that has value beyond my opinion of its sound. To deny both the market force and the intangibles of rarity or provenance in determining value -- well it seems to me to be pure obdurance and not based on the world as it is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Charles Read said that "tone is heard with the eye". I think a good maker will try to make a beautifull violin that sounds beautifull too.

By the way, I love this part of HILL`S book on Stradivari:

"If players would be content with instruments treated with colourless varnish, the difficulty of producing fine tone would be very greatly dimisnished, as the addition of many and various injurious colouring substances, or the artificial staining of the wood (at sometimes accoplished by the use of acids) in order to please the eye, in the one case mars what would be a varnish favourable for tone, and in the other adversely affects the material from which the instrume is made. In fact, tone is, and has been, though often unintentionally, sacrified by many through seeking to gratify the taste for mere outward appearence. The great influenbce of timne is not suffiently taken in account when the ordinary observer compares the newly varnished work with the old. As well try to change quickly new wine into old as try to obtain in a short time the richly matured and soft-toned appearence wich age alone can impart to perfectly varnished violins.

Could we have seen the most brilliant works of Italian violin-makers fresh form their hands, we should have been not a little surprised by their bright and unsubdued aspect; nay, in many instances, notably with regard to some of the violins of Joseph Guarnerius, we would have been struck by their positively crude appearance. The conditions for ultimately ensureing a fine appearance were certainly there; but to the wonder-working effects of time and use, and to these alone, we unhesitatingly attibute all that charms us now. That the more ambitious of modern makers should have sought to rival the productions of the old masters in external appearance is readily conceivable - however injudicious at times their procedure - when we bear in mind the popular demand for athing of beauty. An ugly or even plain instrument, though excellent in tone, is again and again rejected. Many may view this statement with incredulity; it is nevertheless strictly true, and the statement is the outcome of innumerable experiences." (see the chapter on varnish).

It was true one hundred years ago. It's true today.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Originally posted by:


for me as a player.. I'm going for the sound.

It doesnt matter if it is a nameless German or have extensive repairs like a jigsaw puzzle.

As long as it sounds good and easy to play on, that is more than enough.

One thing I can draw comparisons with the maker's name is

the buying of those dogs of rare breeds

they are beautiful, are they much superior or more loyal then a nameless mixed local dogs?

Now hold on there... I've seen what you have, what your interested in, and what you buy, remember? :-)

My judgement:

I think if you were to be honest with yourself, you're just as name concious as anyone else... within your budget. If your budget was larger, and the performance qualities equal, you'd most likely dismiss an over-restored fiddle, a repaired bow, or bow with replaced parts, for one in good condition with a desirable pedigree... in a heartbeat.

If you think I'm being unfair, I humbly appologise... but I don't think I'm being unfair... and I don't disagree with your buying habits. They just make sense. If you can't afford not to compromise, you compromise. We all do it... and in the end, we all compromise in one way or another or for some thing or another... It's just that one person might have more "0s" to work with than another.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i treat a violin more as a tool,an instrument than as a

piece of art even though it is very much a piece of art, especially

to the makers i can imagine. i have played many very

good instruments but never owned one more than 20k because one, i

am not a prof so i do not think i deserve/need  it and second,

i do not see investing in violin as a safe way for capital

appreciation for myself.  

i guess i like the saying that don't judge the book by its cover,

so i judge a violin by the sound.  if all the luthiers pay

more attention on the body of the violin and less on the scroll,

that will make my day.

i think there are more great sounding violins that look bad than

high priced violins that sound so so.    if only

 the great looking and expensive ones sound good,  life

will be boring.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe if you track the "investment return" on Italian Violins versus the stock market, say from 1940 to present day, you will find that violins have outperformed the S&P by a signficant margin. I once read the actual numbers, but I've misplaced that bit of information (knocked out of my head, I'm sure, by my own daydreaming about finding a strad in a basement).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

fal, i know someone will bring that up and i am glad it is you,,,i

trust what you have said.

but the problem for me (may not be for you or some of you here) is

that i really have to be in the game to stay alive and come out

ahead.  because of the depth of knowledge required, the lack

of transparency of the industry (not necessarily in a negative

sense), the lack of liquidity without potential significant

slippage,  the geographical barriers, etc,  it takes

guts, brains and major dumb luck to hit gold in violin.  i

have one of the three once in a while and definitely are missing

the other two. 

on the other hand, for other dumb luck seekers, there were always

another dell computer, another microsoft, another ebay, another

google...or another high growth mutual fund,,,

i do need another microsoft.  in the early 90s, my wife made

me buy a decent chunk of microsoft upon suggestion of a fund

manager patient of hers.  got 100% return in short order and i

laughed all the way to the bank.  turns out that was before it

did one trillion splits. before bill gates grew his

first pubic hair.

some people are just meant to stay on their day job.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey, I'm not at all saying it's easy to hit gold collecting (or selecting) a violin. But then neither is hitting a Microsoft at the right time (or keeping it long enough...)

You're absolutely correct that it takes guts, brains and luck. But I think that's true of most venues to "investment return." Even if you buy the brains and guts in the form of hiring someone else to do the investing...

I just wanted to point out that if you give credence to "free market capitalism" (which I think is a concept worthy of some debate), then it's somewhat disingenuous to suggest that of all the things collected and traded over the last century, high name violins are the ONE commodity that has been singularly corrupted by false evaluations and unethical dealers and shady and unprovable certificates and empty promises. The market does assign a value. To virtually everything accessible to a market.

And if we accept that as a valid means of assigning value to pork bellies and Picasso, I don't see why we shouldn't, in essence, accept it in the violin trade.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

very astute observations, concur totally.

another way to put it is that the price is always right, if you

take everything into consideration; that the market even for violin

is efficient on the long run, in the big picture. if

there is a void, the market force will quickly fills it.  if

you do not want to bring pahdah's violin to the market price,

someone else will.  

unfortunately,  buying violins without decent amt of knowledge

and the other goodies is like going onto the trading floor of wall

street and start chasing whatever is hot.

no dumb luck without due diligence.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's what determines a violin's worth!

" ....playing this violin was immediately like, "Oh my God! This is amazing." It felt really like we matched.'

Janine Jansen plays the 1727 'Barrere' Stradivari violin, on permanent loan from a Dutch foundation."

I don't care what causes this reaction .... if you experience it you will know. I believe they call it a "Pearl of Great Value".

From a new magazine called Sfz, that the people who publish The Strad are offering for free at this site:


Teachers can get 5 copies for their students.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...