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Help with purchase of an "intermediate" violin


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With my slow dial up connection I've invested an hour of my life

downloading the necessary Java applications in the quest to write

this post...I hope someone will reward me with some words.

I currently have a Stringworks Artist violin...and I've found it to

be a remarkable instrument for the price...but I'm looking to


I play primarily Scottish fiddle as a serious and loved hobby.

 I'm not looking to buy a "fine" instrument...just a really

good one.  Most guides out there to help in an instrument

purchase are geared towards people who wouldn't touch a violin less

than $10,000.  I'm not that guy.

My budget can stretch at the most to $2000, not including bow,

since I upgraded that a little while ago.  My options are as


Purchase through Stringworks again.  Namely, the Soloist

model.  I can't justify more than that for an online purchase,

honestly.  And the Soloist may meet all my needs, and all of

my interactions with Stringworks have been extraordinarily

positive, and my Artist violin has been terrific. I have no qualms

about purchasing through them again with confidence...but my locale

presents me with another option.

The other option is:  Purchase at Peter Prier's.  I live

near Salt Lake City, and I purchased my bow there.  What an

amazing shop, and an amazing guy!  He took the time to

personally help me select a new bow, and give an impromptu "lesson"

on an error in my technique...all while a guy in the other room was

waiting to buy a $30,000 Cello.

Prier's is a unique and special place to me, as the first violin

making school in this country.  I feel I may be at a once in a

lifetime opportunity to purchase a fiddle there.  (I'm an Air

Force pilot, and moving this spring...I don't know when or even IF

I'll ever be back here.)

In my price range...is there a possibility of getting something

"special" at Prier's, or am I still shopping in the range where

fiddles are still "all the same", just better.

I'm not factoring Stringworks trade in policy in this

equation...since I know someone who is willing to buy my Artist at

full price, should I decide to part with it.

Thank you in advance for your opinions.

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There should be something at Peter Prier's. If you don't have a strong preference for new or aren't concerned with country of origin then some interesting violins should be available. Being guided by someone known for his expertise is hard to beat for getting you a violin within your budget that will suit your needs for a long time.

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If you're familiar with String Works and willing to pay up to $2k,

why don't you look at the "http://www.stringworks.com/mall/bartokviolin.asp" target="_blank"

title="">Kallo Bartok?

At $2k you might find some very nice older violins of different

origin, but a new one might be a better deal IMO... Shop at the

shop near you first, then only buy from SW again if you can't find

anyone you satisfied...

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I would consider trying a Scott Cao violin. I recently bought one

from Southwest Strings in Tucson, AZ after playing about 25 violins

over a 2 day period. The violins I played side by side ranged from

$1300 to $5000 and the Scott Cao was by far the best sounding (to

me) and for only $1300.

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Thanks for the words so far.  I don't want to spring for a

Kallo Bartok, and maybe it's silly, but again, once I begin to

crest into that $2,000 region (I know "crest" isn't the word that

some would use) I just can't see internet purchasing anymore.

 To me that says "very special purchase."

My Artist plays above its pricetag...rather much so, actually.

 I'm assuming a Soloist would too.  Maybe a Kallo Bartok

would as well, but the numbers are getting to me a bit.

I'm just trying to figure out if $2,000 at Prier's will outperform

$1,200 at Stringworks.  I'm going to assume right off that it

will...but by how much?

Choices, choices.  

I'm thinking though, in spite of my good feelings towards

Stringworks (I'd still recommend them to anyone) that I'll be

taking advantage of Mr. Peter Prier's expertise.  (I'm sure

the folks at Stringworks may be wondering; "what in the hell do we

have to do to get this guy back again?  For the love!!!")

If anyone has further comment to add though, I'm very eager to read

and think about them.

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my impression is that Stringworks has a good trial program? if you

are interested in the comparison, what about getting one from

Stringworks and one from theshop, and playing them both for a week

side-by-side to see which you like best?

good luck!


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Hi Banzai,

I'm a fiddler too! Individual violins vary but sometimes I find that the good chinese violins are a bit too 'fine' for my style of playing. This could really have to do with set-up more than any intrinsic design - I like low action on the fingerboard and a flatter bridge. If you are similar, you might be better off buying from a local store where they would be willing to set the violin up to your tastes. Many older anonymous violins sound great with traditional music.

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do you know about giannaviolins? they cater somewhat to fiddlers

(they will set up an instrument for classical, folk, or fiddle,

changing the action and the fingerboard planing), have a good

selection of instruments, and seem to have a good trial policy...i

have never used them, but they seem to have a good


banzai, this might be worth looking into for you, too, if you

change your mind about buying off the net...


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Hi Cassie,

Yes, I've seen their website and it really has tons of great informational links. I'm not really in the market for a new violin .. and I live in Norway.. but I check out their site from time to time.

Some fiddlers prefer a standard set-up. I have small hands (and arms) and like a 'softer' set up.


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Earlier this year I bought a fiddle outfit from Gianna Violins.

Handmade in Bulgaria, set up at Gianna, case, fiddle, and bow all

for about $2K.  As Cassi says, they will set up as you


For a "$2K" fiddle, I highly recommend a Gianna.  Mine has a

big, round, projecting sound that in my experience compares

favorably with anything I've heard for under $3-$4K.  It's

also very stable, holds its tune at different temps. and humidities

(Wachal Karneol strings), and is well made of beautiful


Have had good experience dealing with Gianna.  I recommend


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You might consider Shar if you are internet

shopping.  There trade in policy is great, %100 purchase price

on their fine instruments, and they have quite a few fiddles listed

both new and old.  I bring them up mainly because they ship to

Military APO and FPOs so if you get sent overseas, you can still

upgrade with them.  (Stringwroks may ship to APOs too, I have

no idea.) We have spent over half our military career

oveseas so I'm always partial to companies that will take the time

to do the extra paper and leg work to ship to APOs.  Just

another option for you.  Here is a link to their fiddles.



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Banzai, I highly recommend the Eastman 605. I bought one recently, and they are very nice for the price. They can be had for approx. $1500 with case and throwaway bow. I have a Scott Cao STV-900 also, which is also in your range if you can find one. They are the bottom of the California made workshop violins. The Cao is louder, more brilliant, very easy mechanically to play, but must be handled carefully or it can get a little harsh. Played well, it is great. You just have to pay attention, if you know what I mean. The Eastman is fuller, rounder, more lush, just lovely sounding, and I can relax my technique with it and it still sounds great. Still plenty loud, just not as loud as the Cao. I like them both! As a fiddle, I would go with the Eastman.

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These are all really helpful suggestions, and I thank everyone for

their input.  However...

At the root of my question, I'm trying to figure out if in my price

range (approx $2000) I can get something "special" at Prier's, or

if I'm essentially getting a "dressed up"

Stringworks/Eastman/Cao/etc.  I have little doubt that at

least a small portion of the price is due to the name...Prier is

HIGHLY regarded.

If, even at Prier's, a $2000 violin is no different from anywhere

else, I may just go with the Soloist.  

Why the Soloist?  I like the way it looks and is described on

the website, for starters.  I also can't bring myself to pay

more than that online.  To pay more I'd want to go to an

actual shop and participate in the almost organic violin choosing


I like Peter Prier, from all of our interactions, (mainly bow

shopping, and some idle conversation as well) and I have a lot of

respect for him.  I can't ask him; "come on now...is this

REALLY better than this $1200 Stringworks violin?"  I wouldn't

be able to look him in the eye if I asked a question like that.

For all my agonizing over "what I get for my dollar", I bet in the

end I'm going to end up at Prier's anyway.  Maybe I'm being

drawn in by the mystique...maybe it's just because I like him so

much...maybe it's the fun buying and choosing experience.  I

don't know now, honestly.

I know to many that $2000 is "chump change" for a violin.  Not

to me.  I don't have a gigantic budget.  I love playing

this instrument, I really do, and it's one of the most rewarding

hobbies that I've ever embarked on.  But, in the end, that's

what it is...a hobby.  So, I agonize over the $2000.

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Spending $2000 on a TV is a waste of money because 10 years from now, when your done with it, it isn't worth much. Spending $2000 on a decent violin is not a waste of money, because when you are done with it, it could still be worth $2000, or depending on what you purchase, even more. So in some ways, putting money into a good violin is like keeping it in the bank or the stock market. The dividend you earn is the enjoyment of using it, while the value is largely retained.

If ten years ago, you bought a good 1920s Roth for $3000, it could be worth near double that much today. If you had spent $3000 on a great Squier or Bryant, they could be worth three times what you paid. A violin is an investment that, in our lifetimes, has always appreciated. Even if you bought a cheap German factory violin from Sears in 1926, it is now worth 100 times its cost.

Even if you choose a new violin, which might initially depreciate a bit, over time it will retain the bulk of its value.


PS Chinese violins will be much more expensive in 5 years than they are now.

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I went to Peter's school, and apprenticed with the Scoggins, just down the street(you should check out their shop, too!).

What you will get from Prier's, or any good shop, for that matter, is attention to detail of set-up. The bridge, post, ect from StringWorks is sub-par, as are most of the set-ups that I see from SHAR, and other mail-order sources.

I can get a box of 12 violins from Eastman, Century Strings, Ji, ect, and of those 12, most will be just fine. One or two have projection issues-high or low-or a crooked neck, but one or two from every box sound much better than the rest. These are the one's that you are looking for.

I buy Chinese violins that cost, wholesale, 125-165, put a good set of strings on them (Tonica/Dominant/Vision), cut a nice bridge, at least a Aubert #7 blank, but mostly Stamm lower or medium grade, since the wood is better-for now. I plane the board, and toss the crappy metal tailpiece and put a Wittner-Ultra on them. God help us if the Chinese ever figure out how to make the fingerboards right!

A good shop/luthier can take a StringWorks/SHAR/SWStrings mail-order violin of the lower grades, and do a bang-up set-up and make them sound and play better.

That is what you are paying Peter for.

I don't think that you can expect Chinese violins to hold their value or appreciate significantly. They have gotten much better in the past decade, and a 10 year old Chinese violin of the level that we are discussing, doesn't really stand up to what is being made now. I would rather have a new Chinese instrument than a 1960's/70's German trade violin. The raw materials seem to be more appropriate. How many old German violins have I taken the top off of, only to find that after graduation-I hesitate to call it "re-graduation", since they really didn't do it the first time-that, without the bar, it wieghs 80-90gms, without the bar. What do you do with that?!?

Chinese violins will be more expensive, and WHEN the Yuan is revalued, we'll all be in for a shock!

Bottom line, Banzai: Go to every shop in SLC, play ALL of the violins in your price range, take notes, decide upon your favorites, and order a StringWorks or whatever, online, and take a violin or two home from Peter's, Scoggins, Wei Liu's, ect, and play.

You'll find a gem somewhere there, but you won't get a "special" violin-i.e. a sleeper-from Peter.

You'd probably be better off looking for a American instrument that has been refinished, or a European violin that has been stripped, has a non-orig. scroll, or-my personal favorite-a post-crack in the back! Well repaired or well done, all of the "problems" significantly devalue a violin, but don't do as much damage to the sound as you might believe.

I have a friend who bought a Strad for 800K. When I heard the price, I promptly turned the violin over to look at the back! She said, "Yea, it's there, but you can's see it.........." Sounds great, to me.........

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If you find your current violin is not working the way you like then you consider

upgrading it. You need to know what you want first. Sometime a small adjustment will

do wonder. Sometime it is better off buy a different violin (old or new)

Violin shop people do know violins. What they told me long time ago, all have values even

they were salesmen talks. There is an old saying

" If you don't trust me (violin people), whom are you going to trust?"

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Wow...thanks for the extensive reply duane88.  I was going to

check out Scoggins as well...I've just been incredibly impressed

with Mr. Prier so far.  Perhaps, since you went to his school,

some of the "mystique" wore off.

I do appreciate the contrasting you did.  It helps put things

in perspective.

What I'm going to be looking for is a new instrument (I don't

really care about "old", and shaping its voice for a couple of

years will be fun)...just something with a clear and projecting

sound in all positions, with quick strings. Sometimes some of the

less expensive fiddles can have a bit of a hard edge to the sound

as well...which is alright, since I primarily play Scottish


I think I'm going to make an appointment at Prier's in a couple of

weeks and start shopping.  I do appreciate the words.

You went to Prier's school by the way...where do you work out of

now duane?

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A good old violin is better than a good new violin (in my opinion).

The problem is that very few good old violins are at reasonable prices. (try to visit a violin shop)

So, we turn to new good violins. However, No one I know intentionally turns to buy new violins

by choices. Don't we? ( I am a bit confused here)

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I suppose, fundamentally, (and I apologize for continuously bumping

my own thread) the question here is almost philosophical.

In essence; what is the monetary line where buying on line is no

longer such a great idea?

I.e. at what point do the instruments become "fine" or "unique"

enough that you really should prefer to go to a good and reputable

shop and physically select one.

There's certainly nothing wrong with buying online (unless you're

being duped into garbage) but at some point in the quality spectrum

I would think that an online purchase is no longer doing you

justice.  I guess that despite my very specific query, this is

almost a question that encompasses the gestalt of such a purchase.

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I think duane88's advice is very good. May I add that the price alone is not a good guide

of quality (of sound) of a violin you want. You need to try it yourself before commiting

your purchase. Honestly speaking, it a saleman asks me "What do you want for your

violin?" My answer probably would be" I don't know yet, but let me try to see what you have here

to offer within my budget", if I am in his shop.

For $1000-$2000, I think an old German violin is worth to consider. (Perhaps a second violin

of an advanced player, close to concert hall

quality). Just my thought.

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Banzai, no matter how little you have to spend, it's always beneficial to get to a good shop and try a number of instruments, if at all possible. Even individual inexpensive student instruments of the same make and model can differ considerably in tone and responsiveness, due both to inherent differences and to setup. Quality of setup, and availability of adjustments after the sale, also argue in favor of buying from a shop (provided it's a good shop of course). That's not to say that buying online is unreasonable, especially for modest instruments; just that I don't think it's ever the optimal way to go, rather it's making a virtue of necessity if you really don't have access to a decent shop.

If you do consider buying online make sure there is a generous trial and return policy.

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I think that the best reason to buy online is that you have no clue as to what you like and can't play well enough to be able to tell a strad from a lark. In that case you get a "commodity" violin that will probably be pretty decent and inoffensive. Once you can tell the difference it is better to go to a shop and find something that you like. Buying a violin online is like buying shoes online. The most important thing is the fit - whether you like them - and not how they fit somebody else. Unless you try a bunch you can't really be sure that you like one particular one. The xception would be if you live somewhere with no access to a decent shop or (or shoe store). In tah case you have to go through the hassle of ordering a half a dozen and then picking one and sending the rest back.

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