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Ed Jones

Dealer Tricks of the Trade

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It has occurred to me in the past that a shop needs a "straw man" to sell good sounding violins, simply because people's ears are so relative and everyone makes judgments by comparison.

I once bought a mint C20 Genoese violin by a maker with a great reputation. It had no strings but the price was keen - eyes too big for my head! I set it up, only to discover it was a complete lemon, with a tonal character only mildly less annoying than the sound of nails on a blackboard.

So I put it into a major and very successful auction house who were delighted to have it. I went to the preview, and to my surprise discovered that in the price category (20-30k) it easily outplayed the other 10 or so instruments and sounded really well. It sold for a good price ...

Context is everything.

So on one level you might say that a dealer should show the best possible instruments - on another level, they should offer a buyer the means to make an informed decision.

In the OP's case, I only object to the difference in price range, since offering a crap sounding violin for 3 times the client's budget is disingenuous and manipulative. Sounds like something out of Bob Bein's secret book!

 

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I'm familiar enough with the price-has-nothing-to-do-with-sound dogma to not need it reiterated, and was 30+ years ago. Still, I was shocked by attending a recital a girl in the orchestra gave. She was a Curtis product who Moenig must have seen coming. It was a Montagnana (they said), in nearly unplayed condition, with no voice at all. Weak, unfocused . . . a parody of what a violin should be.

She won a Baltimore audition with it. (Knowing Baltimore, where everybody in the violin section was trying to hide behind everybody else, maybe that shouldn't have been surprising. She was certainly in no danger of sticking out with it).

I hope she got out in time -- or that her pension doesn't disappear with the orchestra.

 

 

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I understood the OP to be saying that he thought the shop had set up the Fagnola deliberately so that it would sound bad and make ‘lesser’ instruments appear bargains in comparison. 

Andrew

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

I only object to the difference in price range, since offering a crap sounding violin for 3 times the client's budget is disingenuous and manipulative. 

 

I agree.  Offering a noticeably inferior sounding instrument at three times the price is unethical.  This seems different than Phillip’s point, which I also agree with. Showing the differences to make a client feel comfortable about a $4k purchase by comparing to a $12k should also express AT LEAST a subtle excitement for saving for the $12k, otherwise it seems unethical. A client happily settling for the lower priced instrument while dreaming bigger is sort of the goal, I think. Everyone wins. 

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Good to see all comments, but as I was the originator of the post I did believe that the shop had a crap Fagnola (which could have been easily altered to sound like a drain) to encourage those trying violins in the £20/30 K range into thinking they had a bargain.

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On 9/15/2019 at 1:57 AM, Andreas Preuss said:

If you are talking about the Fagnola copies someone makes here in Japan, they are at least damm good. Don't think the old Chaki-San males instruments.

Would that be Louis Caporale?

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On ‎9‎/‎15‎/‎2019 at 12:00 PM, GeorgeH said:

Tone is subjective.

Just like our moods. If something sound amazing, how much of that is our emotional response?

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52 minutes ago, sospiri said:

Just like our moods. If something sound amazing, how much of that is our emotional response?

I have thought a lot about how much of our reaction to a sound is determined by our mood at the time. The meaningful reactions are the lasting ones. Some instruments have to earn our love over time,  and others, reaction is immediate. When I first played my cello, I got an impression of something deep and meaningful, but I was not thunderstruck. Over time it grew on me, but if I had had a chance to play it for only 10 minutes at the shop I don’t think I would have been overly impressed. My bow, on the other hand, I held it in my hand and I was thunderstruck, I love playing with that bow and always will.

the point is that the feeling at the moment is less important than the feeling over time.

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Hmm.  I don't know.  Sometimes it's your first impression that just sticks and won't go away.  Other times a good first impression sours with on-going exposure or from negative feedback from the 'in crowd'.

There's a series of novels that I love, and have reread countless times over the years.  They are engaging, well-written...etc.  I was 'shocked' to find out that they were considered 'trashy' by the establishment.:huh:

I was mature enough at that point not to let it bother me.  I continue to enjoy the novels, but, I must say, I'm shallow enough that it did spread a little cloud of negativity over them...

There's also 'reverse prejudice' in play.  If everyone agrees and says something is great, you could feel obligated to disagree, even if said item actually is great.

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I don't really know about the ethics of setting up an expensive instrument to sound bad and sell less expensive instruments but have been told by dealers that people often come in to their shops looking at a particular price range and not found something they liked only to fall in love with something less expensive. As we all know prices are primarily set by rarity and association with the best instruments of a makers output. There are many high priced instruments that don't sound particularly good and even more whose condition makes them unreliable for professional, traveling artists

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20 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

I have thought a lot about how much of our reaction to a sound is determined by our mood at the time. The meaningful reactions are the lasting ones. Some instruments have to earn our love over time,  and others, reaction is immediate. When I first played my cello, I got an impression of something deep and meaningful, but I was not thunderstruck. Over time it grew on me, but if I had had a chance to play it for only 10 minutes at the shop I don’t think I would have been overly impressed. My bow, on the other hand, I held it in my hand and I was thunderstruck, I love playing with that bow and always will.

the point is that the feeling at the moment is less important than the feeling over time.

Yes, all of that and more. Our moods change. Some days I'm bored with the sound I make and that makes me play worse and/or less. The emotions and techniques involved are so complex. What we are actually doing when we get the best tone we can is controlling hundreds of node points on the strings and the instrument to make a voice we like the sound of. Sometimes it's very exciting to be in control of those things, and other times we struggle to connect in a way that gives us enjoyment.

 

 

 

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