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Reasonable amount to spend on a child's first violin


nene_bird
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My daughter is 11 years old and has been taking lessons since she was 3. She isn't exactly ready to solo with an orchestra or compete in major international competitions but she is a capable, advancing young violinist who is learning pieces by Saint-Saens, Sarasate, etc. 

We have a wonderful teacher who is willing to help but he wants my daughter to take the lead and seek his approval towards the end of the process. Well, if I don't give her a budget, she'll go out there and fall in love with a $20,000 violin and a $5,000 bow. So, I'd like to give her a reasonable upper limit. If we base it on what we can afford, well, we can afford something nice so that's not really a limiting factor but she's 11 and I don't think insurance covers gross negligence. In my shoes, what do you think her shopping budget should be? 

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I'd say that $10000 is her upper limit and that's still pushing it by quite a bit. Unless she's a super talented kid winning international competitions, you are bound to find a decent violin for under $10000 that'll serve her well. If you're really conservative, you might set $5-6000 as your limit. Do expect to spend a fair amount but more expensive (within a range) doesn't automatically mean better and if you're lucky, you may get a really sweet bargain on a violin she loves.

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You can get an excellent Mirecourt fractional violin for 2 to 4K. If you are lucky under $2K. Anything else would be a waste but it is your money... There are also nice new violins from Yamaha and the Howard Core Catalog in the same price range

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Saint-Saens and Sarasate at 11 is fairly advanced kid (if played well), certainly on track to be competitive for auditions for college if she chooses to pursue a  performance degree later.  So how the kid talks about her future would be part of the decision making. 

Buying from a large shop that gives 100% trade in covers you if she needs something better in the future.

But note "large" shop as you will have to find the next violin there, or possibly lose at least half the original violin's value. 

My daughter is a similar age- I do think having a great sounding fiddle creates a positive feedback loop-where they and others can here the improvement. If they are going to compete at some point, projection matters, try the violins in public space, auditorium. First rule of violin is you need to be heard.

Have her select by playing in shop and bring 4-6 home from a couple shops each (variety of prices) and have the teacher and others listen blind with no info about prices or makes or age. I would agree with Monian above, 6-10k If the kid is serious.  

But just another parent, not a luthier or a player.

 

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I assume that you’re buying from a local shop. One thing that you might want to find out is if the teacher gets a kick back from the shop. It’s something that is apparently somewhat common, that I find troubling.

I think that 5K ought to be OK through high school,

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You should be able to get something nice for 5K... and only give up 2.5K if you trade it up for a 20K violin later.  

At age 11 there are a lot of distractions yet to be discovered (young girls entering junior high is every parent's tribulation - voice of experience speaking).  I wouldn't spend more than 5K just yet.

 

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Goals should be discussed and set, the higher the goals and expectations the more you may want to invest, that being said, there is lots of hooey related to value in the 5 to 10k range, whereas if you are going to be looking at spending that kind of money I would highly suggest going on "marathon shopping days" where you are trying as many as possible becasue I feel you could find one that has just as much appeal at 5 as one that cost 10, there is a certain "designer jeans" element to all this and I would take that into account if there is intent on resale down the road in order to upgrade.

And well frankly "reasonable" is purely based on ones financial condition so get what you feel is right, but imo a 2-3k is a big enough responsibility for an 11 year old and I would exercise caution spending much more than that and would think the upgrade from that should happen in junior year in high school with the assumption that career based goals and further higher education are going to be pursued at a major music school. 

There is "loud" there is "tone" but the most important factor should be "playability" it should be an instrument, when compared to others she feels is "easy" to play

At this age that will be the most important factor in improving, again all of this should be taken with measure dependent on her drive....big things happen between 7th grade and senior in high school, music and the violin generally will become more or less important to her during these critical years of development, so if the money is there along with the passion to play, upgrade as needed.

 

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I'm a cello teacher, my parnter is a violin teacher, so I have a somewhat different perspective and hands on experience with the kind of student you talk about. There are very well playing violins to be had for around 3000 $ that will not be detrimental to the development of your daughters technique. Key is that you really need to look for a good instrument, and try out many. When our students get to the point of buying a 4/4, for the better students, it is not unusual for them to buy the 10th instrument they are trying out at home (ofcourse, they also tried out many more in shops before). The instrument should have an impeccable setup, and it should be tried out by experienced professionals as well. If your daughter at a later age would decide to go pro, it will not be hard to sell a well sounding instrument in that price range (although it may be handy to keep it as a good spare in case of emergencies), so it is unlikely that you will lose a lot of money.

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If a kid is on a track to going to college for a performance degree, then the 3K difference we are talking about compared with the other costs- lessons, summer camps, pre-college program  etc.. is negligible.  It's probably true that 3-4k would buy you a violin "that would not be detrimental to the development of your daughter's technique". And if you made it your second job for a number of months, you might find the super cheap needle in the haystack at even less. 

I have been told by multiple current conservatory students that I should not let my daughter waste too much time doing orchestra and even chamber. Essentially, that the skill, playing level needed to get into and succeed in better programs now can only be developed if solo skills are the focus through High School.   So essentially, being on solo track until college, regardless of what you see yourself doing professionally. She just got home from an amazing couple weeks at chamber camp, so we are not taking this as an absolute, but it goes to the level of play out there. 

Being heard gets you opportunities. Not more important than tone, but if you sound great but no one can here you..... When we were shopping last there were lots of esp. older German violins piled up in shops sounded ok to the player, but disappeared in a hall.

Pretty standard for an 11-12 year old to be moving to full size.

Again, the aspirations of the kid seem central- If she is already practicing and playing 3 hours a day, and dreaming of Juilliard a couple thousand either way to get a violin whose sound she loves does not seem like much. 

 

 

 

 

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13 minutes ago, Potter said:

 

Pretty standard for an 11-12 year old to be moving to full size.

 

11 year olds, come in various sizes. That it were standard to move an 11 year old to a full size violin would contradict my experience, although I realise there could be exceptions

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"If a kid is on a track to going to college for a performance degree, then the 3K difference we are talking about compared with the other costs- lessons, summer camps, pre-college program  etc.. is negligible."

I would contend that no 11 year old is on track for anything! A lot can happen in the 7 years between 11, and when they graduate from high school at about 18. She might decide that she wants to become a doctor, dentist, plumber or electrician, or any other career where she can make more money than a musician!

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Ideally, you get her what she wants right?

Reading through these threads, lots of us answer questions like this without certain parameters. 

Price:

You mention $20,000 for a violin as if its a little high.  I would tend to agree.

Not knowing what your child's aspirations are this question is difficult.... and at 11 what child really knows?

My suggestion, as a person who had aspirations of becoming a musician around age 14, and then decided academia was the better decision, and as a teacher is to look at violins in the $5k to $8k range leaving $1k to $2k for a good bow.

I have been in many community orchestras, and subbed for a couple of professional orchestras in my youth.  My experience is that many, many violinists have very decent violins that they purchased in their teens or early college.  These instruments seem to generally be in the $8k to $15k range.  Seems that the notion that orchestral players all have $20k violins, or much higher, is often times a fallacy.

Why do I mention this?  Buying a good instrument that your daughter can grow into but won't break the bank leaves you cushioning to upgrade again and without much risk that she may just play as a hobby.  You buy her a $8k violin, it should undoubtedly get her into college.  She decides to major in music, you trade it in or sell for about $3k and upgrade her to a $12k violin.  

On a very personal note, I always keep the option of a good quality Chinese fiddle open for my students.  I think that they are pretty good transition instruments.

Playability:

In my humble opinion, at your daughter's age, and assuming she is playing Saint Saens violin concerto and not the Swan, she will need an instrument that is very playable.  Particularly, if she plays the Saint Saens Vln Cto, she is in a lot of upper registers on the e and g strings.  In my teens, I chose sound over playability to the objections of my teachers.  I sounded loud and great when I played in tune, but the violin was not responsive for a lot of showier pieces that I played.  this affects skill level.  She is not likely to be soloing with an 80 pieces symphony orchestra and although tone and projection are high on my personal list, for her, playability might be better.

There is a Youtube of Nathan Cole (assistant concertmaster of LA Phil) playing about 6 or 7 strads, amati, guarneri, etc.  he mentions that some violins play easier than others.  Now imagine moving down from the million dollar range to the $10k range...some instruments just take alot of effort.  I would avoid these instruments.

Investment:

Too many students of mine thought they would be the next Anne Sophie Mutter or Perlman...they purchased expensive violins.  They went into academia.  At least they have some value in the instrument in case of emergency?  

Having said that, a good quality Chinese fiddle might not hold the same value later on in this scenario.

 

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11 minutes ago, FiddleDoug said:

I would contend that no 11 year old is on track for anything! A lot can happen in the 7 years between 11, and when they graduate from high school at about 18. She might decide that she wants to become a doctor, dentist, plumber or electrician, or any other career where she can make more money than a musician!

Exactly!

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There are a great many variables.

The violin/bow have to be "good enough" to facilitate progress. Price of equipment is NOT an absolute indicator of quality or playability.

Don't overspend.

Don't obscess about finding a bargain. 

Don't get caught up in name brands or what violin the Joneses just bought for their kid. Or worse, trying to upstage the Joneses.

Look for a tool.

Does it matter if the child gives up music for medical school? No. If they love their instrument, and continue to play for personal enjoyment, it's still money well spent.

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I can only hope that the parents really understand that the development of the whole child (heart included) is paramount. What good is a concert violinist who is not basically happy and well-adjusted?

Hillary Hahn, I think, is that exceptional person. 

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

There are a great many variables.

The violin/bow have to be "good enough" to facilitate progress. Price of equipment is NOT an absolute indicator of quality or playability.

Don't overspend.

Don't obscess about finding a bargain. 

Don't get caught up in name brands or what violin the Joneses just bought for their kid. Or worse, trying to upstage the Joneses.

Look for a tool.

Does it matter if the child gives up music for medical school? No. If they love their instrument, and continue to play for personal enjoyment, it's still money well spent.

"Look for a tool." This is very good advice Rue, however I think it's a little early for advice about men :lol:

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2 hours ago, FiddleDoug said:

"If a kid is on a track to going to college for a performance degree, then the 3K difference we are talking about compared with the other costs- lessons, summer camps, pre-college program  etc.. is negligible."

I would contend that no 11 year old is on track for anything! A lot can happen in the 7 years between 11, and when they graduate from high school at about 18. She might decide that she wants to become a doctor, dentist, plumber or electrician, or any other career where she can make more money than a musician!

Well if your kid aspires (themselves) to be a professional violinist, whether solo or orchestra, there is very much a track to a Juilliard or NEC or other better programs. With rare exceptions, your kid needs to have started at 5, 7 at the latest and be well along by 11-12. People make fun of "Bruch level" but they need to be there (roughly) around this age. And we'll into solo Bach. They need by the end of high school have played (well) most if not all of the Paganini Caprices. Summer camps, theory, pre-college Saturdays... Deciding at 14 after finishing Book 10 Suzuki to apply to these schools- no matter how hard you work, very much a long shot, likely impossible.

l'd be fine if my daughter changes her focus to something else, certainly something more financially secure.

But this is what she wants.

And this is coming from a very moderate income, rural parent. My kid is pretty good, we go to camps, meet families (mostly wealthy, mostly urban), there is very much a path.

Likely the OP is talking about the IRC by Saint-Saens. 

 

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