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Garth E.

A violin/guitar perspective

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I've had a few of my German violins dismissed out of hand as hardly worthy of discussion. Factory made, fake labels, poor quality and bad tone. I'm actually a guitar player and have been since I was 9. I'm now 68. I've had many guitars that have all been factory made. Amazing how people drool over an old Strat or Les Paul. Decent guitars....all factory made. Many were even partially assembled in different countries. Any way the point is. I can pick out flaws on any guitar but in the hands of a decent player a crappy factory made guitar can sound like a million bucks. Is it possible that a well set up factory made German violin , dismissed as junk, could sound really decent in the hands of a good player? Would the violin still be considered worthless?

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LOL :)

That does sum it up!

But again...there are 3 categories an instrument falls under:

1. Instruments with collectors' value. Ex. A Strad, Stainer, Amati, etc...or the violin from the Titanic...

2. Instruments with players' value. Ex. My good violin! :wub:

3. Instruments with sentimental value. Ex. The VSO my mother bought me when I was 12...

And...any instrument can fit in any combination of the three values...so, if I inherited the family Del Gesu, it would be an example that fits under all three.

 

 

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I guess with any instrument that yes & yes will always hold true. I kinda figured that, It's just with guitars, the same standard isn't relevant when it comes to factory made.

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Guitars are the same as the violin, but they're not the same as the violin.

1. Acoustic guitars seem to have a shorter shelf life. They don't seem to have been as highly valued to begin with, and were not as well preserved. Why? Too plebian maybe? Or...

2. They are easier to make and less expensive to make - therefore valued less...

3. They are more forgiving of the player.

4. Classical guitars have a smaller niche than violins. How many people play CG and draw huge audiences? Why? Is the music less versatile?

5. Electric guitars are, by default (more or less) all factory made, so the whole branding/collecting/value has a different take on it. Since the invention of the electric guitar and the rise of  pop music - it's become the peoples' instrument. If I wanted the exact same Fender Telecaster guitar owned and played by Keith Richards...I could just go and buy one.

 

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All good points. I just needed some perspective from a player. True, violins are far more complex than a electric guitar. When I walked into the world of violins 40 years ago, I knew I was probably out of my depth right from the beginning. I'm still there.

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^_^

I'm currently still wading into the world of guitars...my original goal was to chord well enough to provide basic accompaniment for adult beginners on the violin (largely a fiddle crowd). I can now do that, provide I don't have to bar anything outside the F! :)

Since that started (a few years ago) - I've amassed 6 guitars, including a bass. :ph34r:

They are all so very different too...I couldn't explore what I wanted to explore, without having the different kinds to explore on (classical, steel string acoustic,  electric...).

...I am also playing mostly classical music on the bass...go figure...Handel anyone? But I think I will be needing an official lesson or two regarding technique...slap is not coming naturally. Not that I'll ever need it...just want to be able to execute it properly...

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One thing to remember: the history of the modern guitar is much shorter than that of the violin. 100 years for a guitar is really old and really predates the modern guitar. 100 years for a violin is contemporary. The modern guitar really evolved in the 1920s and '30s and the electric guitar in the 1950s. Even the classical guitar in its current form only dates to the late 19th century, and it has progressed considerably since then. At one time the thinking in the guitar world was that guitars were life limited and that old guitars had little value. That began to change in perhaps the 1960s. There is a lot more to it than that, but that's a starting point. Guitars and violins work differently, are built differently, and valued differently. But remember, Stradivari built guitars.

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22 hours ago, Garth E. said:

Is it possible that a well set up factory made German violin , dismissed as junk, could sound really decent in the hands of a good player? Would the violin still be considered worthless?

Worthless is a relative thing here.  Why apply the standards of someone who plays or deals solely with $20,000-and-up collectible Italians to your own shopping?

As far as market value goes, new factory-made student violins can run up to several thousand dollars for some brands.  They aren't all $100-$200 violin outfits any more, and even fiddles that were in that class to start with (Scherl & Roths come to mind) can appreciate to around $1000 or so as cheaper Chinese fiddles take their original place in the barrel.  Likewise, while a knackered antique German trade fiddle may be lucky to pull in $50 as-is, that same violin repaired and set up can easily go to $1500 retail (or well beyond in recent offerings) if it has an attractive sound and appearance. 

As regards its value as a playing tool, IMHO, no violin that you can please an audience with is worthless.  Most of what's available can be made to behave by a good enough player, even a raddled dog of a worn-out composite Stradivarius.  So, if you have a modestly-priced violin that you enjoy playing, and which pleases others as well, it's not worthless at all.  :lol::)

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You have totally the wrong idea about what you are calling "factory" violins. These are really better called  cottage industry, where only parts were made in the cottages. The parts (of varying quality) were assembled by the thousands, in mass production shops. This is nothing at all like factory guitar production. These violins retailed for $5-10, after being imported from Germany. Low price was the driving force, and the quality of some show it.

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On 6/30/2020 at 8:55 PM, Garth E. said:

I've had a few of my German violins dismissed out of hand as hardly worthy of discussion. Factory made, fake labels, poor quality and bad tone. I'm actually a guitar player and have been since I was 9. I'm now 68. I've had many guitars that have all been factory made. Amazing how people drool over an old Strat or Les Paul. Decent guitars....all factory made. Many were even partially assembled in different countries. Any way the point is. I can pick out flaws on any guitar but in the hands of a decent player a crappy factory made guitar can sound like a million bucks. Is it possible that a well set up factory made German violin , dismissed as junk, could sound really decent in the hands of a good player? Would the violin still be considered worthless?

I'll take this a step further. It's not just that guitars are generally mass produced/factory made. But there is not even any real demand for anything else. Sure some high end, hand crafted instrument makers exist. But yet professional musicians often pass them over for a regular old $800 strat or $1500 les paul. Clearly a large reason for this is because of all of the signal processing that goes into guitar music, the tone of the pure instrument is less important...it doesn't have to hold it's own in a concert hall all by itself. 

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Thanks Doug, all good points. My frustration lies in not being knowledgeable enough to know the difference between a real old violin (18thc) and a late 19thc. I'm getting better, but I still buy too high. One factory made I did purchase is German I'm just not sure if it's Mittenwald or Markneukirchen. Again, factory made, but decent....I think.

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"it doesn't have to hold it's own in a concert hall all by itself"

Totally agree Alex. Although many guitarists have been trying to play scales like the violinists.  

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On 7/1/2020 at 12:55 AM, Garth E. said:

I've had a few...

you're misunderstanding a bit.  being factory made doesn't make it crappy; rather it's crappy because it's factory made  :) when people talk about quality they're talking about price (99% of the time).  for violins, factory-made translates to very common, so not pricey

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On 6/30/2020 at 5:55 PM, Garth E. said:

I've had a few of my German violins dismissed out of hand as hardly worthy of discussion. Factory made, fake labels, poor quality and bad tone. I'm actually a guitar player and have been since I was 9. I'm now 68. I've had many guitars that have all been factory made. Amazing how people drool over an old Strat or Les Paul. Decent guitars....all factory made. Many were even partially assembled in different countries. Any way the point is. I can pick out flaws on any guitar but in the hands of a decent player a crappy factory made guitar can sound like a million bucks. Is it possible that a well set up factory made German violin , dismissed as junk, could sound really decent in the hands of a good player? Would the violin still be considered worthless?

value has nothing to do with tone in violin land, think of violin land as a specific antique market where primarily Italian instruments from particular makers from particular time periods are what violin land is primarily about as far as "value" ie. things worth lots of money....once something is Italian and from certain people and certain time periods, then you can start talking about tone in that context....tone outside of value has intrinsic value as far as a workers tool is concerned.Many pros have made their bread and butter with a 2k  German instrument because they work and sound good.

actually does have some to do with value,but mostly more in the working class instruments 

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9 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

one thing you can't do is just plop your money down and figure you have a winner

At least not on E-Bay. Although I have been lucky a few times on hunch alone. 

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Apparently I like making analogies...:ph34r:

Think of flatware.  There are all kinds of flatware.

There's the stuff you buy that's cheap and bends. You're sorry you bought it and it gets tossed, or relegated to the back of the cutlery drawer, just in case you have a fork emergency and there's nothing better on hand.

There's the stuff you buy that's still relatively inexpensive, but well made and sturdy.  Lasts forever.

There's the branded cutlery - but the low end is still cheap and bendy, but maybe not as bad as the no-name, but not as good as the well made no-name stuff..

There's the quality branded cutlery. Last forever, looks great, can pass it down to the kids (who may actually want it)

There's the luxury cutlery.  Probably not needed, unless you have money to burn and want to impress the neighbours.

Then there's 'collector' cutlery.  If you have proof that Paganini or Elton John ate with a particular fork, at a particular event, etc., the skies the limit as to what it's worth!

And...cheap or expensive...all cutlery has the same function.  You use it to get food from your plate to your mouth.

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I regard the instruments in which I deal as "student violins". But that covers a lot of territory, depending on the level of the student. It includes things occasionally up to about $10,000. In this rather broad range, the primary consideration is structure and function. Will it stay together and stable and work like a violin. Once you get into historic or collectable violins, it's a whole different world. Yes, there is some overlap in these two worlds, but the divide is real. Rue's cutlery analogy is quite valid. There are historically important or collectable violins that are, let's say, a little shaky. And there are no name instruments that work nearly as well as anything out there. And everything in between.

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

Apparently I like making analogies...:ph34r:

Think of flatware.  There are all kinds of flatware.

There's the stuff you buy that's cheap and bends. You're sorry you bought it and it gets tossed, or relegated to the back of the cutlery drawer, just in case you have a fork emergency and there's nothing better on hand.

Sounds like both of us have had at least one forking emergency. ;)

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There are lots of really good sounding violins that the violin trade will not touch. Often times good ones will get passed around among musicians. Sometimes players will pay $1000-1500 for something a violin dealer wouldnt pay anything. But thats probably about the upper limit.

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4 hours ago, Rue said:

Apparently I like making analogies...:ph34r:

Think of flatware.  There are all kinds of flatware.

There's the stuff you buy that's cheap and bends. You're sorry you bought it and it gets tossed, or relegated to the back of the cutlery drawer, just in case you have a fork emergency and there's nothing better on hand.

There's the stuff you buy that's still relatively inexpensive, but well made and sturdy.  Lasts forever.

There's the branded cutlery - but the low end is still cheap and bendy, but maybe not as bad as the no-name, but not as good as the well made no-name stuff..

There's the quality branded cutlery. Last forever, looks great, can pass it down to the kids (who may actually want it)

There's the luxury cutlery.  Probably not needed, unless you have money to burn and want to impress the neighbours.

Then there's 'collector' cutlery.  If you have proof that Paganini or Elton John ate with a particular fork, at a particular event, etc., the skies the limit as to what it's worth!

And...cheap or expensive...all cutlery has the same function.  You use it to get food from your plate to your mouth.

I have some of my parents cutlery that I used as a child. And big spoons that I helped my mum make cakes with when I helped her clean  around the cake bowl.

They are a bit bent and only nickel silver.

The bone on the butter knives is battered and worn (I have learnt not to put them in the  dishwasher)

I use them every day and they are priceless. :)

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17 minutes ago, Delabo said:

I have some of my parents cutlery that I used as a child. And big spoons that I helped my mum make cakes with when I helped her clean  around the cake bowl.

They are a bit bent and only nickel silver.

The bone on the butter knives is battered and worn (I have learnt not to put them in the  dishwasher)

I use them every day and they are priceless. :)

:wub:

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