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Hello! Father of a teenage violinist; extremely amateurish guitarist; music lover; admirer of serious artisans/craftspersons; and generally too-curious-for-my-own-good individual making my first posting on Maestronet here. I have been reading Pegbox threads for a couple of weeks now hoping to glean information going into the process of acquiring a full-size violin and bow for my thirteen-year-old daughter. Really impressed by and appreciative of the knowledge shared here, despite not feeling like I am absorbing much of it!

I’ve got an “I don’t think it’s what it says it is but also have no idea what it might really be” instrument situation. Being in the market for a full-size violin, I have been trying to pick up some identification tips from previous Pegbox threads, but I’m just getting my feet wet here and can’t make sense of this violin:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/fine-old-violin-C-Bisiach-1928-violon-italian-viola-alte-geige-4-4/124541535772

I’m going to go ahead and write out what I have been thinking that leads me to doubt that this is a C. Bisiach violin but is not making my any the wiser as to what I am looking at. Quite likely all wrong but that’s why I’m askin’! The thing that seems most incongruous to me is the scroll; head is almost comically tiny compared to scrolls I’ve looked up by this maker, throat is super short, and the tail turns too far back in the direction of the button. Close second in raising suspicions is the color and “darkening” along the C-bouts of the varnish which again just doesn’t fit with the range of finishes I’ve seen on C. Bisiach violins on auction house and reputable seller sites. F holes are rather squat in overall proportions with anemic lower eyes? Shoulders too wide and rounded all the way to the button? Please add to / correct any of that and help me see what about this violin should be telling where it comes from and maybe when! Markneukirchen? Mirecourt? China? 1920? Yesterday?

Thanks!

Ben

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Welcome aboard! :)

...but I gotta ask...if you've been reading on MN, you know we will advise you to avoid eBay at all costs. ^_^

So....my question is: is there a specific reason you are asking about an eBay violin that would be best left alone?

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If you've been reading the Pegbox for a few weeks, then you probably can predict the response of the experts (that is, not me) to your scheme to buy a violin on eBay.  If you don't, then you haven't been reading enough.  A professional would advise you to go to a violin shop and let your daughter try a bunch of violins and bows, and trying to get a good deal on a violin on eBay when even you can tell the seller is lying is a recipe for disaster.  Are you not anywhere near a violin shop?

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The biggest turn off to me is the fact that the listing calls it a violoncello and viola. The shipping is astronomical too.

Consider what your daughter is playing right now; if it was a $99 outfit from china, this would be a huge step in any direction. However if she is serious enough, I would take her to a few luthier shops to play nice violins without the worry of authenticity. She will love sampling all the violins, and learn a lot about them too. Have a price range in mind, but let her play higher end ones too. Once she finds a sound she likes, if it is not in your price range, you two can find a similar sounding/feeling one at a lower cost no doubt. Avoid eBay for now. 

 

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I was hoping that my attempt to articulate some observations about the instrument would be enough to lay to rest the idea that I was inquiring as a preliminary to buying the thing, but I can understand the skepticism. Hard as it is to believe, I am genuinely interested in understanding what is being fobbed off ostensibly as a C. Bisiach violin. Not a question worth the attention; sorry to get off on the wrong foot here. I'll go back to revising cornerblockology and stick to more worthwhile sources for violins to analyze.

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6 minutes ago, gottawonder said:

I was hoping that my attempt to articulate some observations about the instrument would be enough to lay to rest the idea that I was inquiring as a preliminary to buying the thing, but I can understand the skepticism. Hard as it is to believe, I am genuinely interested in understanding what is being fobbed off ostensibly as a C. Bisiach violin. Not a question worth the attention; sorry to get off on the wrong foot here. I'll go back to revising cornerblockology and stick to more worthwhile sources for violins to analyze.

oops. yep it's hard to do theoretical things like that on here lol. so this is merely a cadaver not a patient:lol:

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3 hours ago, gottawonder said:

Hello! Father of a teenage violinist..............

Thanks!

Ben

Welcome to MN!!  As your first lesson in online violin evaluation, go to the Brompton's website, https://www.bromptons.co/, and register (it is free).  Once you are registered, go to the maker's database, and look up the auction results for Carlo Bisiach.  Note the roughly $50,000.00 difference between what they go for at prestigious violin auctions, and what it's going for ($160.00) after 37 bids on eBay.  That is all that you really need to know about this violin.  :rolleyes:

I understand your attraction to the pretty violin with the low bids, but reading the ad copy, along with examining the photos, tells me several additional worrisome things instantly.

The seller's location and advertising format is familiar, and as we say on The Auction Scroll, "known to us".

The title line is packed with irrelevant metadata to cast a wide net in diverting searches to it.  This isn't a good sign.

The description is carefully written to fall just inside the limits of "caveat emptor" at eBay, while giving the impression that the violin is much better than it is.

By the photos, IMHO, the violin is both deceptively designed (to suggest Italian associations that it actually doesn't have), as well as sufficiently homogenized in its characteristics that it could have possibly been made anywhere on four continents over five decades.

The claims about the setup could well be exaggerated.  Counterfeit parts (like bridges and strings) are everywhere, and the tailpiece looks more like plastic than ebony to me.

I hope that, without getting too deeply into the technicalities (which you can find elsewhere), I have given you an idea of why people recoiled from this offering rather quickly.  :lol:

How long has your daughter been playing, and what is her skill level?  What does she play now? It is possible, if she isn't too far along, that some of us here could direct you to either an online supplier of student violins, or a shop in your area, which could serve your needs. :)

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I do not know where you are, but I can echo what the other folks have said. I can also add some mindless blather of my own, to whit:

Play everything you can play. Go into every violin shop in your town and say, “let my daughter play the best violin you have in the shop, and the next 10 in line.“ And really let your daughter play the best they have. Then go to the next job and repeat until you run out of shops. This will give you and your daughter an idea of what you’re looking for in terms of sound, playability, comfort, and what those characteristics are going to cost.

Then, and only then, and maybe not even then, you can collaborate with her teacher and visit some auction, or even talk to some people here about violins they may have in their shop. No they will not be “deals,” but they will hold their value and they will be made by experts who are well respected in the field. You go somewhere and say,” My daughter has a-for instance- David Burgess, Don Noon, Nathan Slobodkin,”... or many another whom I am probably insulting by inadvertently omitting their name, and the moderator will be impressed.

Jakob is in Austria, and I asked him recently what he would offer to a gentleman and his daughter who walked into his shop looking for their first good violin, and he said that he would offer them a nice Dutzenarbeit. One of my students has such a cello. I personally think it is beautiful and she adores it.

And then you need a bow.

And that’s a whole ‘nother set of scribbles on the checkbook.

But you’re in the right place.

Ask before you buy and then ask again.

Edited by PhilipKT
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6 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

Welcome to MN!!  As your first lesson in online violin evaluation, go to the Brompton's website, https://www.bromptons.co/, and register (it is free).  Once you are registered, go to the maker's database, and look up the auction results for Carlo Bisiach.  Note the roughly $50,000.00 difference between what they go for at prestigious violin auctions, and what it's going for ($160.00) after 37 bids on eBay.  That is all that you really need to know about this violin.  :rolleyes:

I understand your attraction to the pretty violin with the low bids, but reading the ad copy, along with examining the photos, tells me several additional worrisome things instantly.

The seller's location and advertising format is familiar, and as we say on The Auction Scroll, "known to us".

The title line is packed with irrelevant metadata to cast a wide net in diverting searches to it.  This isn't a good sign.

The description is carefully written to fall just inside the limits of "caveat emptor" at eBay, while giving the impression that the violin is much better than it is.

By the photos, IMHO, the violin is both deceptively designed (to suggest Italian associations that it actually doesn't have), as well as sufficiently homogenized in its characteristics that it could have possibly been made anywhere on four continents over five decades.

The claims about the setup could well be exaggerated.  Counterfeit parts (like bridges and strings) are everywhere, and the tailpiece looks more like plastic than ebony to me.

I hope that, without getting too deeply into the technicalities (which you can find elsewhere), I have given you an idea of why people recoiled from this offering rather quickly.  :)

In short, run, don't walk, to a less hazardous offering.

Thanks for the info about Brompton's. I had just assumed memberships on the auction house sites would require something more than curiosity. How many times have I been stopped by the sign in window on Tarisio?

I did put together images of tops, backs, and scrolls of a dozen or so C. Bisiach violins that I could get without a membership from auction house and violin shop sites. The sketchiness of the listing is enough to assume the violin is not what it is advertised to be, but I took this as an opportunity to compare this eBay lemon to the actual apples. I can't exactly get out to see several of the genuine article, especially in the current public health situation. Anyway, I picked the wrong example to inquire about.

Thanks again.

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PhilipKT (& others who offered buying process advice!) -

Thanks, that's a great model for shopping when we do get around to it. For the moment, we are in a holding pattern based on pandemic restrictions. Neither my daughter nor her teacher are ready to trial instruments right now. I'm just enamored of the instruments as both aesthetic objects in themselves and as sound generating devices so allowing myself to get caught up in learning about violins in the meantime.

I would be surprised if we don't end up with as nice sounding example of Dutzenarbeit as I can pay for when it's all said and done. I would just like to be able to actually identify it as Dutzenarbeit (to recognize its Dutzenarbeitness?) as opposed to whatever the term for contemporary Chinese shop work would be.

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2 hours ago, Flattmountain said:

I would take her to a few luthier shops to play nice violins without the worry of authenticity. She will love sampling all the violins, and learn a lot about them too. Have a price range in mind, but let her play higher end ones too. Once she finds a sound she likes, if it is not in your price range, you two can find a similar sounding/feeling one at a lower cost no doubt. Avoid eBay for now. 

 

All of this ^^^ 

Buying online anywhere, real Bisiach, or not, it is difficult because there's zero way of telling if the instrument fits her.  You need to have her try violins in person, at a good shop who will measure her and find the ones that are the right size for her and comfortable to play.  The fiddle needs to fit her properly.  If you get something online without trying first it's liable to not be a good fit and would only frustrate a young musician.  People and auction houses selling fiddles on any online platform are generally not luthiers and don't measure instruments correctly, so there's no telling what you're going to get until you get it and then you're stuck with it. Playing something that does not fit you will limit your ability to progress and enjoy playing.  

I suggest going to a shop and trying out some instruments, if even to get an idea of what you should be looking for.  Don't feel bad to just go and try, most shops are happy to help and don't mind giving good advice, even if you walk out the door with a 'thank you'.  If you buy from shops it will be more expensive, yes... but what you're paying for is a violin that the shop guarantees, with proper fit, a good set-up, and a luthier happy to do any future adjustments to it whenever you need.  Also, most shops will let you take fiddles... not just one but a few... out to test for a couple weeks, to see which one she likes best. And if you buy from them, when she is ready to advance to a professional instrument they will take the one you bought back and give you credit for it against your new purchase. 

 

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Violadamore -

My daughter has been playing since she was five and made progress that impresses me (low bar) though she's not yet really fallen in love with the playing. She likes having friends in orchestra more than the music per se!

She is working with a teacher who is a professional player and expects my daughter to practice. Well. Right now she is working through Sevcik's Opus 3 exercises and learning Fantasia 1 (Telemann) & Spring (Vivaldi of course). Her last pieces were Meditation from Thais (Massenet) & the Allegro from the violin sonata in... some key I've forgotten (Handel but not).

She's been playing a 3/4 size Frank Denti violin for a couple of years. We got it from the luthier not quite literally around the corner, which is where I would tend to start trying full size violins. We are in Boston, so probably spoiled for choice, though not able to actually consider too many of the choices if you get my drift.

Happy for any suggestions!

Thanks.

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1 hour ago, gottawonder said:

I was hoping that my attempt to articulate some observations about the instrument would be enough to lay to rest the idea that I was inquiring as a preliminary to buying the thing, but I can understand the skepticism. Hard as it is to believe, I am genuinely interested in understanding what is being fobbed off ostensibly as a C. Bisiach violin. Not a question worth the attention; sorry to get off on the wrong foot here. I'll go back to revising cornerblockology and stick to more worthwhile sources for violins to analyze.

No worries, I've been learning for 18 years and I am very much still learning.  It takes time and holding many many violins of every quality in your hands, and most importantly, a VERY patient teacher, to even begin to know what you're looking at.  People here willing to help, we look at a lot of eBay, etc. listings posted in this forum all the time.  If you want to learn to identify good violins, I suggest making friends with the luthier at the shop you buy your daughter's fiddle from :) 

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4 hours ago, gottawonder said:

hoping to glean information going into the process of acquiring a full-size violin and bow for my thirteen-year-old daughter.

Official violin shops are known to have salesmen too...    I'd suggest renting with an option to buy, since it'll likely bypass them trying to snag the uninformed with junk.  Or just follow her teacher's advice.

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11 hours ago, gottawonder said:

Thanks for the info about Brompton's. I had just assumed memberships on the auction house sites would require something more than curiosity. How many times have I been stopped by the sign in window on Tarisio?

I did put together images of tops, backs, and scrolls of a dozen or so C. Bisiach violins that I could get without a membership from auction house and violin shop sites. The sketchiness of the listing is enough to assume the violin is not what it is advertised to be, but I took this as an opportunity to compare this eBay lemon to the actual apples. I can't exactly get out to see several of the genuine article, especially in the current public health situation. Anyway, I picked the wrong example to inquire about.

Thanks again.

Believe it or not, most auction houses will actually let the unwashed masses like myself walk right in off the street during the viewings to try out the violins, even the expensive ones. They don't even give you funny looks. It helps if you remember to bring your bow. 

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11 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

Official violin shops are known to have salesmen too...    I'd suggest renting with an option to buy, since it'll likely bypass them trying to snag the uninformed with junk.  Or just follow her teacher's advice.

I knew one local violin shop guy who would not let you walk out of the store until you bought something. Pushy salesmen are common. The trick is to be as educated as possible So that when you demonstrate some knowledge he will back off a bit.

My wife and I just started watching a Korean drama called “30 but 17” about this violinist who goes into a coma for 13 years and when she wakes up she’s mentally still 17. She takes her violin into a shop and the shop owner spouts a bunch of malarkey about the damage that has happened while the violin has been sitting untouched for 13 years. “The neck is bent, the chin rest is broken, and there is a crack in the fingerboard.”

And then he quotes her a ridiculous price for repair and tells her that this kind of damage is very common when a violin is left untouched. Now, that was just done for the sake of the TV show, but that is the kind of thing that an educated buyer would see right through.

Plus, you have all of the unbiased people here at Maestronet to help you avoid catastrophes such as the potential one about which you originally posted.

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58 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

She takes her violin into a shop and the shop owner spouts a bunch of malarkey about the damage that has happened while the violin has been sitting untouched for 13 years. “The neck is bent, the chin rest is broken, and there is a crack in the fingerboard.”

What did the owner say about the bow?

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3 hours ago, Rue said:

It was worth that much?

Exactly. To me that valuation puts a violin in a middle zone well above VSO and well below fine instrument. Big zone, but to my mind still implies objects that could be worthwhile to put under your chin. True of the thing in that auction?

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On 2/1/2021 at 8:40 PM, Bill Merkel said:

Or just follow her teacher's advice.

This is good advice.    When you are ready to shop, you can either bring a selection of trial violins to your daughter's  teacher during one of her lessons, or pay the teacher to accompany you to the shop to select some violins for trial.    Either way, you should be paying the teacher for her time, either through the lesson or the shop visit.

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