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Long story

 

I played first chair Violin from 94-96 in middle school, demoted to fifth chair for not practicing, still had first chair skill, got mad, and quit. Now 25 years later I want to play again, but my nice Violin is in my sisters closet in a different state. I have a $20 Jackson Guldan garage sell violin. I bring it to the local rural shop for strings and a bridge. They make a crued bridge and fit Dominants on it. 5 days later I'm at my first private lesson and my flat A string breaks from a fine tuner adjustment. Teacher looks at my strings and says there is no way they are less than a week old. So shop sold me junk strings. I realize after 25 years that all though my playing ability is gone, my ear is still there. I order a cheap $100 "The Guldan" off eBay to tide me over until I pick a nicer Violin, and I know its cheap but I love American History. Bring to to the "best" shop 3 towns over and tell them it sounds bright can they restring it and mellow it out. Pick the Violin up ($110) Obligato's later and come home, it will not stay in tune for more than 5 seconds. I find that the pegs have been swapped around, holes in wrong location, tons of brown wax/grease, and they cracked the peg box near the hole on the E string. I say screw it and go to order the fiddler man Concert Delux, out of stock. This brings me to the problem. 

 

I can't trust any of the shops to look out for my best interest and not try to rip me off. What I really want to do is get a nice $500-800 instrument, play it hard for 6-12 months and then upgrade to a nicely restored American classic in the 5k range. I like fiddlerman because the Violin will come ready to play, meaning I can stay away from the "expert" shops in my area. My choices are the Symphony 1200, Ming Jiang Zhu 903, or Ming Jiang Zhu 905. I can afford it, just didn't want to spend that much on a Chinese Violin aka the classic American upgrade next year. My second option is to buy from Yitamusic on eBay and hope it doesnt need a setup. Third option is to find a reasonable setup guy near Houston TX. 

I know I could get a nice Violin from a local shop but their $1k Violins are what fiddlerman sells for $500, so the value is off. What I would prefer to do is get a well set up Yitamusic T20 or master and go for an expensive classic next year. At this point Im really frustrated and angry. Does anybody have any recommendations?

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Hello,

Newly installed synthetic strings like Obligatos will generally not stay in-tune for more than a few minutes. Tune them carefully up to pitch (not sharp), and they will start to stay in tune longer than a few minutes after 24 hours or so. If you tune them sharp to stretch them, they will not last as long.

Jackson Guldan violins are universally awful. I have no idea what your pegbox situation was before you took it to a dealer, but my guess is that it was likely awful to start with. Do you have pictures or anyway of determining if that crack in the PB was already there? 

IMHO, you'd be best off shopping at a reputable local strings dealer not a music store), buying a well-setup inexpensive violin that you like (around $1,000). They usually will offer a trade-up policy, so you can recover the cost if you decide to buy a better violin there.

Finally, there are many first-class violins made by excellent American maker available at the $5,000 price point.

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Perhaps if you tell us your location we can suggest a dealer somewhere in your area. You want to deal with specifically a violin shop, not a general line music store. And yes, there are some very good American makers (and some really bad ones, like anywhere).

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1 hour ago, cargroves said:

I know I could get a nice Violin from a local shop but their $1k Violins are what fiddlerman sells for $500, so the value is off. What I would prefer to do is get a well set up Yitamusic T20 or master and go for an expensive classic next year. At this point Im really frustrated and angry. Does anybody have any recommendations?

 

I don't think it's a reasonable comparison to make between a bricks and mortar shop on a main street, and an online retailer.

The overheads for one, will be much higher for a violin shop, and hopefully would offer more options (both antique and new), along with a reasonable, or good level of customer service.
Trade in policy, approval scheme, buy back guarantee, free adjustments, the list goes on.

If all you want is the cheapest thing, and don't really mind how well it plays, online is the way to go.

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How 'nice' is your 'nice violin'?  Can your sister ship it to you?  

If you want a serviceable 'spare' to use at the moment, there is nothing wrong with Fiddlershop violins.  Nothing wrong with Yita either (I have a violin and viola that I'm absolute fine with) but they may require tweaking.  The Fiddlershop violins shouldn't.

You can think it all to death.  Either get hold of your nice violin or get a spare from Fiddlershop.  Both are viable options if the local shops aren't panning out.

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I think this is more about price range than country of origin, no?  There have been wonderful fiddles and crap made across the globe for a good long while.

For example: I don't think a nice Carl Becker violin would qualify as "garbage", and I can think of a number of pretty decent makers from a few generations back who worked in Boston, NY, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc that sell for pretty reasonable prices.

It seems that "serviceable" is all one can really expect a 1K or below in todays money... and if it's new, labor cost where it was made is a rather important factor.

 

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The quality of both brick-and-mortar and online violin dealers varies quite a bit.  Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs, but sooner or later you'll find one to stick with.  :)

I'm not making any recommendations, because my need for raw material as well as parts differs considerably from your need for something playable to start with. 

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And!  I'd like the 'mark site read' button back - on the phone version.  At the moment I have to 'read' each single post to have it not show up.

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3 hours ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

I

 think this is more about price range than country of origin, no?  There have been wonderful fiddles and crap made across the globe for a good long while.

For example: I don't think a nice Carl Becker violin would qualify as "garbage", and I can think of a number of pretty decent makers from a few generations back who worked in Boston, NY, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc that sell for pretty reasonable prices.

It seems that "serviceable" is all one can really expect a 1K or below in todays money... and if it's new, labor cost where it was made is a rather important factor.

I wasn't referring to high end American violins by top makers but then neither was the OP, he was talking $5,000 range, commonly at a high priced violin shop, $5,000 for an American violin gets you a Markneukirchen box that some wannabee American "Maker" has tinkered with, if you have $5,000 to spend I think you would be better to look to Europe than America.

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If I may throw in my own oar, I think quite a lot of handmade American instruments can be had at quite reasonable prices. Most people have the perception that they are junk, and a lot of them are, but a lot of them are worth much less than the quality of their sound warrants. The trick is to find A reasonable Chinese instrument. Finding one that is a considerable upgrade from your current instrument should be quite easy.

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Lots of good American violins available in that price range, living and dead. A good Markneukirchen fiddle goes for more than that, excellent Mirecourt examples to be found.

As Jeffrey said, good and bad instruments have been made just about everywhere. Look for a violin, not a country. At the 5k price point, it is a tool of your trade, not an investment.

That said, American violins sometimes represent a tremendous deal just because they are American, as evidenced by some of the comments posted in this thread.

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14 hours ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

I wasn't referring to high end American violins by top makers but then neither was the OP, he was talking $5,000 range, commonly at a high priced violin shop, $5,000 for an American violin gets you a Markneukirchen box that some wannabee American "Maker" has tinkered with, if you have $5,000 to spend I think you would be better to look to Europe than America.

 

12 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

If I may throw in my own oar, I think quite a lot of handmade American instruments can be had at quite reasonable prices. Most people have the perception that they are junk, and a lot of them are, but a lot of them are worth much less than the quality of their sound warrants.

Though it may take some time to weed through, there are plenty of hand made antique violins, by obscure makers which can sound surprisingly good for a rather modest sum. I think this applies in most countries, but especially so in countries where you had the "gentleman hobby maker".
Britain seems to have a lot of these type of instruments, which still sell for only hundreds of euros.

On the other hand, American instruments of a similar type are a bit harder to weed through. There are more which seem to have been made in rural areas, with nothing more than a sharpened teaspoon while very drunk. It should also be considered that the intention for these was not to be played at Carnegie Hall, rather to have a good time and a dance.
Those operating in cities, stood a better chance of making a proper violin, but as we have seen time and again here, lots are fabricated from bought in parts. This doesn't make them a bad buy per se, they might be better than something some had made entirely themselves, if they did not have much knowledge.

In the end, none of this matters. Having read the OP post, and it's violin store hatred, it seems they were looking for validation from us that Fiddlerman is the best choice, and I expect it was already ordered some days ago.
 

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There are also very nice American violins made by well-trained young contemporary violin makers in the $2,500 - $5,000 range. As @Wood Butcher said, they need some searching out, but there are actually quite a few available if you look around. 

In regards to:

3 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

There are more which seem to have been made in rural areas, with nothing more than a sharpened teaspoon while very drunk.

These days, one won't find these carried by dealers except as "folk fiddles" and priced accordingly.

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21 hours ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

I wasn't referring to high end American violins by top makers but then neither was the OP, he was talking $5,000 range, commonly at a high priced violin shop, $5,000 for an American violin gets you a Markneukirchen box that some wannabee American "Maker" has tinkered with, if you have $5,000 to spend I think you would be better to look to Europe than America.

I have played on many American made, not refinished, violins in the $5k to $10k range, with a majority being in the lower price range, and can say that none of them were garbage.  I am looking for an American made violin for my son in the same price range.  Not really sure about this, but making that kind of generalization and negative comment about American luthiers and instruments seems a little risky considering there may be quite a few American luthiers here.  Just saying.

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9 minutes ago, violinnewb said:

 negative comment about American luthiers and instruments seems a little risky considering there may be quite a few American luthiers here.  Just saying.

Or appropriate, depending on your viewpoint:)

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4 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

Or appropriate, depending on your viewpoint:)

The US is rather large. A violin made in 1880s Kentucky or South Carolina is probably an example of what Mr Butcher was describing, although there were fine furniture makers out there so a good one is not out of the question. However, a violin from New England is much more likely to be a good one. Certainly the White Brothers are fine makers and way underpriced, for example. Depends on where one looks.

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Posted (edited)

I ordered a Ming Jiang Zhu 905 Violin and a Fiddlershop brand Symphony, as well as several different bows this morning. Im going to use their trial period to have my instructor look them over and help me pick the one that best fits me. And to reply to Wood Butcher, I just ordered this morning, the Fiddlershop is a brick and mortar shop in Florida, I am no shill for them, I just like the generous descriptions, YouTube videos, return policy, and price. For an amateur like me this makes picking a Violin easier. Theres no reason to suspect my intentions, nothing I said was outside of the norm. I wanted to start with a solid $500 Violin, not get ripped by the local shops, and looking for a quality American Violin at the end of the year. Thanks for everyones help, I'll let you guys know how it turns out.

 

Oh and the hate towards American made violins is nuts. Id love for someone to start a thread about who these makers are and prices etc. It would be very interesting.

Edited by cargroves
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52 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

The US is rather large.

You are the master of understatement.

Just your own  little state of Texas is 2.8 bigger than the whole of the UK !

I am always amazed how Americans talk about different states as if they were neighbors just next door. Each state is bigger than a lot of countries.

 

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