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Thoughts about buying violin for personal use off ebay?


yulaberry
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Hi maestronet!  I'm a super newbie when it comes to ebay auctions, and I've been researching obsessively about how to best buy a violin for personal use on a student budget.  Many of my searches led me to various threads in this forum, so after a lot of eye-opening reading, I'm hoping that you guys would help me answer a few questions.  

 

So, I first went on ebay a few days ago, hoping to find a nicely preserved vintage violin with a nice, loud non-scratchy tone. After a bit of research, I've gathered that 1) it's a crapshoot to find a violin for actual playing on ebay while 2) Chinese violins have gotten much cheaper compared to similar quality shop violins, on the low-medium end.

 

Based on that, I'm no longer looking for a 'vintage' violin, but something that is "safe" but a better deal than can be found at local violin shops.  I already have two violins:  One is a $500 Glaesel factory strad copy bought in a local music shop for retail price in 2001 (when I first started learning violin and didn't know any better)-- it takes a lot of effort to make that violin sound tolerable, but it is very consistent and has incredible projection.  My second one was bought in 2002 in a shop in Wuhan, China, with a paper "Bronson" label (I can't find anything at all about this label at all), and it is so so so temperamental, but with easy playability.  There are days when it sounds so good I can't put it down, and other days where it sounds painfully coarse and maladjusted.  I've tried various bridge heights / positions / strings on both of the violins, and now I just want a halfway decent instrument that falls somewhere in between the two extremes that I currently have, preferably <$300 for now.

 

1) Do you think it's likely to find such a violin on ebay?  And how would you go about searching for it?

 

2) Do you hold any stock in the auctions that post sound samples of their violins over the ones that don't?  (I am very curious about chinese made violins but none of them post audio)

 

3) This violin is way above my budget unless I go a few months without heat or electricity, but I'm so obsessed with it based on the sound sample that it's almost tempting.  Can anyone point out why it's not worth going ga-ga over?  If only to save me from getting frozen to death next month from lack of funds after impulse splurging on this violin?  http://www.ebay.com/itm/Master-Build-Italian-Strad-082-Antonio-Stradivarius-1716-ex-Messiah-Violin-/281266345458

 

Thank you for your time!

 

 

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1)  I'm not particularly experienced buying violins from theBay, BUT from postings here it seems pretty hit or miss and it doesn't seem like you have a lot of wiggle room for disappointment.  Have you considered off-loading one or both of your instruments to increase your budget?  The other problem would seem to be the violin set-up when it arrives.  It could be an improvement over your current situation or it could be dismaying requiring further investment. 

 

2)  It would seem preferable to have a video clip.  I didn't check any of that Seller's other item's for sale or previously sold items, but it could be disappointing to see that he/she has been using the same clip for different violins. 

 

.02

 

I'm editing/ adding here as I only have one more post allowed for the day.  In response to the video vs. audio clip comment below: it is to see that the violin being played is the same one as the seller is listing in the auction.  The Del Gesu "Leduc" clip by the same seller sounds tonally very similar and is several hundred dollars cheaper, you may want to look at that one as well.

 

I didn't look at the Seller's feedback, but if everything there looks copasetic, they seem to have a reasonable return policy.  You could even buy the Del Gesu, if not satisfied you can return it and upgrade to the ex-Messiah they have listed.

 

.04 total

 

:)

Edited by MatthewThomas
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In this particular case you have chosen a violin being sold by a dealer who is using eBay to market their inventory, which is a slightly different situation that individual eBay sellers selling individual violins, and there is a 14-day return policy, so you have some protection, I guess.  You mention being interested in Chinese-made violins ("but none of them post audio") and so I'm not sure you realize that the link you gave is to a Chinese-made violin.  In any case, hopefully someone with experience with these particular violins or this seller will comment.  I found myself wondering whether going to dealers with a $1700 budget wouldn't find you other interesting Chinese violins that you could try on the spot, and perhaps have several to compare.  I think it is completely unrealistic to try to buy a decent violin for less than $300.     

 

On another point, having recorded violins for decades, I wouldn't put too much stock in any recorded example I had from an eBay listing, played through my computer speakers.  There are too many ways sound can be altered, and honestly you have no proof that the recording is of that violin.  Good luck. 

 

Paul

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My advice.

 

Be patient and don't buy anything that you haven't held in your hand first, and tried out.

 

I spent the bones of a year trying out various instruments in shops around the Country. 

 

I could have, and was willing to spend €1000 +. 

 

In the end I wasn't happy with anything until I happened upon a lovely bland looking American Factory fiddle from the 1940's. It probably wasn't everyones cup of tea, but it was perfect for me, and cost me under €400. No cracks/damage etc, and nicely set up. I just got lucky one day that I walked into  a little boutique shop in Dublin.

 

So I repeat - be patient - don't buy something you are unsure you like, and certainly don't buy anything you haven't tried. Just keep looking and when you play something that you know you like then worry about the price.

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@palousian -- thank you for your advice!  I wasn't sure if ifstrings was a dealer or a maker, and it ships from california.  I guess I meant that the chinese violins within my price range (which some say are a great deal compared to others in the same price range) don't ever seem to post sound clips.  A lot of them look decent enough to my inexperienced eye, and I'm not too picky anyhow because I feel that just about anything playable would be better than the two I already have, so they still seem like a really tempting gamble.  Also, in my bf's vigilant attempts to save me from total bankruptcy, he suggested that maybe this ifstrings person just imports chinese-made violins and works on them a bit to optimize sound, then rolls out a professional sounding recording to make an instant (and enormous) profit.  I guess it helped to divert my attention to something more attainable!

 

@Mikiemax - Thank you!  The instant gratification of buying online from a huge stock of options is so tempting.  I don't know if I have the self control to take your advice, haha.

 

@Rue - Ironically enough, I have a really decent bow (at least for me, it is super).  A violinist friend of my cousin picked it out (again from China), 13 years ago when the yuan-USD conversion was a lot steeper (and handmade things cheaper!), and mailed it to me.  I should've just let him pick out the violin back then, too, because I don't think I would ever grow out of this bow, skill-wise.  Eh, retrospect!

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- Find seller that have easy return policy.

- Video clip do not matter... At most, you can compare only the other violin the seller is selling, assuming the same recording device.

- No private listing bid

- beware of import tax

- ask seller question.

 

If you can find someone positive in all requirement, their violin price can go as high as in the shop sometime.  Yet, it is lower sometime.

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1)  I'm not particularly experienced buying violins from theBay, BUT from postings here it seems pretty hit or miss and it doesn't seem like you have a lot of wiggle room for disappointment.  Have you considered off-loading one or both of your instruments to increase your budget?  The other problem would seem to be the violin set-up when it arrives.  It could be an improvement over your current situation or it could be dismaying requiring further investment. 

 

2)  It would seem preferable to have a video clip.  I didn't check any of that Seller's other item's for sale or previously sold items, but it could be disappointing to see that he/she has been using the same clip for different violins. 

 

.02

 

I'm editing/ adding here as I only have one more post allowed for the day.  In response to the video vs. audio clip comment below: it is to see that the violin being played is the same one as the seller is listing in the auction.  The Del Gesu "Leduc" clip by the same seller sounds tonally very similar and is several hundred dollars cheaper, you may want to look at that one as well.

 

I didn't look at the Seller's feedback, but if everything there looks copasetic, they seem to have a reasonable return policy.  You could even buy the Del Gesu, if not satisfied you can return it and upgrade to the ex-Messiah they have listed.

 

.04 total

 

:)

 

Thanks for responding MatthewThomas!  I didn't see your post earlier, probably because of the mod approval requirement (It's happening to my posts too. Is the 5 post a day limit for everyone, or just for new members?)

 

I have thought about offloading the Glaesel one, but I do feel bad about doing it, because it's such a non-beginner-friendly violin for a beginner violin.  Every so often I'll fudge around with its set up a bit to try and make it a bit easier to play, so when I find a good combo for it, I'll probably try to sell it off with a lot less guilt.  And I'm in a quartet/quintet strings group right now so I have to hold onto something to play/perform with, so the better one also has to stay :/

 

I did kind of blind-buy this violin off ebay a few days ago http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ma-Zhibin-Workshop-Violin-2008-/281262653543?_trksid=p2047675.l2557&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEWNX%3AIT&nma=true&si=ylmZaESejSAppExrEcD%252BnuPLIbs%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc but it hasn't arrived yet so I don't know the condition that it's in, or what it sounds like.  Maybe it'll turn out to be the instrument of my dreams and all this other research will be moot!

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Sometimes the urge to 'get something' right away is stronger than the urge to save up for 'something better'...I am guilty of caving to that same urge!  Hence I am amassing a collection of 'cheap' violins(...and bows).

 

However...I also have my 'good' violin (along with my 'good' bow) which is my main instrument.  The others I do pull out and play with(I like listening for the differences in tone, etc., I think it's good for my ear)...but I really should decide which one to keep as a backup and sell the rest.

 

Let us know what you think of this one when it arrives.  I'm interested in your opinion.

 

Congrats!

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eBay is the happy guy here :)

 

I think you may be right.  It seems like every day, there's a new wave of tempting instruments to buy...  I think I'm a little desensitized to seeing pretty violins already.  (But I'm still looking!)

 

 

Rue, it sounds like you've had some experience buying lower end violins?  If you have any insights or tips, do share!  I can definitely post about the violin once it gets here.  Fingers crossed that it'll come in one piece!

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Sadly, I have no real insights.  You do need an instrument that is 'good enough' to not hold you back in your playing, and that can be hard to find in the lower price-range - but not enitrely impossible.  However you have to be willing/able to test instruments out in order to determine how playable they are.  That sometimes takes time.  And you can't always test-drive an instrument for the length of time it takes to determine suitability...which is why I'd suggest to a person to save up and buy a 'better' violin than they think they are going to need.

 

I'm very happy with my main instrument (and glad I made the committment to save up for it)...I should never outgrow it...

 

The others that I've amassed are just to play around with at this point...I think it's fun to listen for tonal differences, etc.

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Look at this one.  Jeeze Louise! :lol:

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Powerful-18th-Century-Violin-Grafted-Attributed-to-David-Hopf-Watch-Clip/201040358324?_trksid=p2047675.c100013.m1986&_trkparms=aid%3D555012%26algo%3DPW.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20131223091518%26meid%3D4996181390536901408%26pid%3D100013%26prg%3D20131223091518%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D30%26sd%3D281262653543

 

The Ma Zhibin you got looks like a bargain to me.  Please let us know how well you like it :)

 

I am quite satisfied with the personal instruments and bows which i have gotten from eBay.  That said, (those who have read my previous rants on the subject know where this is headed), one notes that my current 4 violins (plus a viola and a cello) and 3 bows (plus 1 viola and 1 cello bow) were cherry picked from a much larger selection purchased over a period of several years and have all gotten a great deal of TLC, having mostly arrived here as basket cases.  I am in the process of becoming a fairly competent shade-tree luthier specializing in the sort of provenance-challenged antiques avoided generally by those more successful members of the trade, as one cannot make a major killing from working on them.  One can, however, by diligent practice of the craft, take some of these bargain priced "frogs" or "rubbish", and create very acceptably playing instruments for oneself, particularly using bench mades from less favored makers.  What one doesn't keep for oneself can be sold after restoration and proper setup to "make war pay for war".  From all my violin fun, I have shown a modest profit so far :)

 

On the other hand, if one lacks the skills to do as I do, and has no intention of cultivating them, in the interests of avoiding being skinned alive by the more savvy and less principled, I advise you to avoid the violin family and buy a good keyboard instrument. [Leaves more rubbish for those of us who can use it] :lol: ,

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MatthewT:  I'm not!  I didn't have the balls.  And as I write this, I'm listening to the recording again, feeling heartbroken.  Thanks a lot >:(

 

Violadamore: That violin sounds really fun for fiddling!  From the hiccups in his playing though (and the way the violin responded) it seems like the instrument doesn't play that easily and it might be tough to play pianissimo.  Also having that one buyer set up an auto bid for >$450 when the bidding was still at $50 is awfully suspicious, I think >.>

 

Rue:  I think you're right, though there's also something to be said for us non-savers, because if we go through enough rubbish, we will definitely learn to pick out the good ones when we have the money for it!  One more violin in your hands is definitely one more source of experience, right? (especially if, like viola, you can fidget with it and make it better!)

 

So the Ma Zhibin violin arrived yesterday, but I haven't had much of a chance to play it yet.  My first impression was that it's really really small (I thought it was a 3/4 size at first, until I matched it lengthwise to my other violin).  The (tiny!) pegs are similar to the Glaesel one-- turns smoothly, but all of them slip and can't seem to hold tune.  My no-name (Bronson) chinese violin, in contrast, produces tiny 'clicks' as I tune and stays in tune forever-- but I do remember that it took a lot of finagling to get those pegs the way they are now.  I messaged the Ma Zhibin seller and asked him for advice on how to handle those pegs, before I start fidgeting with it myself.

 

The Ma Zhibin came with what appears to be a (coarse/lopsided) home-made bridge with uneven feet that's too tall for the instrument.  It also looks as though the bridge had been placed too close to the finger board, and now there are heavy scrapes on the varnish to show it for the rest of the violin's life.  Aiya.

 

The strings that came on the instrument are interesting.  They look fairly new/unused and feels like perlon.  Plays a little too mellow (unfocused tonally) for my taste, so I put on some prestretched pro-arte strings to see if it'll sing more-- and it does now, but there's a new overtone that makes the strings sound like they can't decide between singing and grunting!  Agh, finding the right strings for this might also get expensive.

 

Overall, I don't think it was a terrible buy (if the pegs can be persuaded to behave).  It has a lot of sweet spots in first position (and maybe higher once it's fitted with a lower bridge) and really great resonance.  Finish/varnish/antiquing looks a little gimmicky and goopy and gross, but it plays well so I don't mind at all.

 

Those pegs though... -__-  Every turn I make I have to force it a little deeper into the pegbox so that there could be some hope of a grip, and every tiny touch seem to equate to an enormous jump in pitch.  I don't know.

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No idea.  I'll ask the seller!  He responded to my earlier questions, but doesn't seem to remember much about the set up.  Are there any distinguishing features between them?  I can take some pictures and record a few notes when I get home, although I think a stronger/heavier bow than mine will work better with the violin, tonally.

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The Ma Zhibin isn't a sandbag!  I hope.  I just needs a little bit of TLC, that's all.  The bf seems to like the sound of it better than my others, except I wonder if it's because the violin is just quieter and doesn't annoy him as much...

 

I somewhat misused sandbagging.  I meant it as a failure to divulge a detail, not in the sense you and Rue took it.  If I was to be insulting the instrument I would have dug deeper as in "violin-shaped pieces of wood."   I have several glued together violin-shaped pieces of wood myself. 

 

BF is trying to nip it in the bud.  "How much was this one???  Yes, yes...very kind on the ears."

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That made me burst out laughing! I think you might be onto someyhing there...

So day two, pro arte strings are settled in and I retract everything bad i said about the new violin because it seems that i dont have a clue. Original bridge positioning actually seems to give the violin more projection and clearer sound! And the pegs are holding up much better now. Even the varnish is growing on me :)). It is, however, a very different sounding violin than my bronson one and im having trouble manipulating the tone to play more smoothly (bronson was pretty straight forward here). I'm thinking that a lot of my troubles are from my own shortcomings and not really a problem with the violin after all...

Rue, seller says that its a M20!

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Cool!  I think you will find you get reasonably good bang for your buck then!  While not their top model...it's the 2nd runner up.  And yes...there appears to be some varnish (and other issues)...but it should sound fine!  Let us know how you like it as you play it more.  It may take a little while to settle in to your environment too...

 

MatthewThomas:  I think I quite like the word 'sandbag'.  It's a nice change from doorknob and fencepost... ^_^

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That made me burst out laughing! I think you might be onto someyhing there...

So day two, pro arte strings are settled in and I retract everything bad i said about the new violin because it seems that i dont have a clue. Original bridge positioning actually seems to give the violin more projection and clearer sound! And the pegs are holding up much better now. Even the varnish is growing on me :)). It is, however, a very different sounding violin than my bronson one and im having trouble manipulating the tone to play more smoothly (bronson was pretty straight forward here). I'm thinking that a lot of my troubles are from my own shortcomings and not really a problem with the violin after all...

Rue, seller says that its a M20!

It maybe caused by the different slope of the strings...  You probably can get used to it in a week.

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