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upgrading instruments


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Hello all,

I'm an amateur viola player and currently thinking about upgrading the instrument. I know I should directly ask the shops, but I'd like to post my questions here first to get the idea about what my experience will be like.

What is the common procedure for this upgrading process? Should I sell mine to someone else (either directly or through a shop) first before buying one? Or would the shops usually do the "trade-in"? Should I get the appraisal from different places and compare? If I do the trade-in, would they take some amount of money from the true appraisal price? What should I know beforehand?

I don't have a teacher now and also new to the area where I live. So I'm all alone. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Also, if anyone could recommend me reputable and trustworthy shops in San Francisco bay area, that'd be awesome.


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I always get a little concerned when I see someone more concerned about getting the best monetary deal instead of the best auditory deal. Violin shops are a for-profit business and MUST make a profit on transactions. The value of doing business with a shop is that you can try many different instruments and choose the one that not only fits your budget but sounds and plays the way you like. The price will almost always be higher that a mail order purchase or gambling on an ebay purchase. Neither of these options allow you to compare and contrast multiple instruments--and chose the best. A return policy from a mail order or ebay dealer still does not let you compare and contrast multiple instruments.

As to a trade in, some shops will give a full value trade in to a customer if that instrument was bought from them. Otherwise you should expect to receive between 25 and 60 percent of its value (their appraisal, not yours or another shop's) in trade. Some shops will not take certain grades of instruments at all. If the instrument needs strings or a bridge, or the fingerboard planed, there will be a reduction in the trade-in value.

Comparing and contrasting the deals that stores offer you will be tricky. Some stores are higher priced and allow more in trade, but their prices were higher to begin with. Again, in the end you are buying something to play for several years--spend several hours each day with. Don't sweat the monerary--but do sweat the auditory.

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Reputable shops in the bay area include Roland Feller in downtown San Francisco, Kamamoto Strings and Stevens Violin Shop in San Jose, Ifshin Violins in Emoryville (formerly in Berkeley), Loveland in Santa Rosa. You do not say what level of instrument you are seeking to purchase. Ifshin has a very good line in its Jay-Haide instruments, which are made in China for the shop and the specifications of its own trained/experienced luthier staff. It is always a good idea to call whatever shop you plan to visit and set an appointment.

There are other smaller shops, or individual makers who may deal in an occasional instrument sale made by someone else. Check the phone books for the separate areas between San Jose and Santa Rosa - there are some unusual (but very good) makers in the Petaluma area (for example Anthony Lane, and Grubaugh and Seifert).

I would suggest that you separate the new purchase and the sale of your own instrument. If you can afford to purchase the new instrument without selling the old, you might have the same dealer try to sell it on consignment (this will cost you between 20% and 30% of the sale price). If you can sell it directly to the dealer, chances are you will get 50% or less of its value - and the same for a trade-in.


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yes but i think 4 g's would get one a half carved neck block from tom.....

my friend has a croen, she paid bout' 10 g's for it 15 years ago....i think he's up to 25 large now....

and worth every penny....

tom's fiddles have excellent tone, but well above that he has a knack for "feel"

his weight, neck shape/feel, action and other "playability" aspects are amazing

they practically play themselves

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