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Reasonable amount to spend on a child's first violin


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3 hours ago, violinnewb said:

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.

Many of the famous Cremonese instruments are notoriously difficult to play.  People like them because it's possible to get an extremely good sound out of them, but not because it's easy to do so.  

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Thank you for your replies. Much appreciated. Sorry for the confusion. I forgot to put "full-size" between first and violin. Is she serious? Hmm. I'd say she is serious about becoming a violinist but not so serious when it comes to putting in the work necessary to make that happen. 

My daughter has known since age 2 that she's a violinist. I have long given up on understanding how that happened. She is determined to major in violin performance but she's 11 and has many years to change her mind. I am not sure if we want to pay 4 years of college tuition for her to play violin so we'll see. Yes, parenting a middle schooler is impossible. I have a very stressful job but it's nothing compared to getting her ready for school every morning. If we had pushed her towards practicing a lot, I think she would be further along but she's not the type of kids who does what other people tell her to do.  

There are a couple of specialized string instrument shops here but I don't think it's going to work out with either of them. We have a local violin maker who also makes (from white, I assume) student instruments but we have yet to visit him. Her first full-size can be her future spare so being able to trade-in isn't a big issue. On the other hand, we'd like to be able to trade-in her 3/4 violin and bow (retail value $3000) but that's another problem we have to solve. 

It seems like $5,000 is the group consensus here. She has a few more months of growing to do before the 3/4 becomes too small so we have some time but this isn't going to be an easy search. 

 

 

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22 minutes ago, chiaroscuro_violins said:

Many of the famous Cremonese instruments are notoriously difficult to play.  People like them because it's possible to get an extremely good sound out of them, but not because it's easy to do so.  

By "people," you mean established and professional violinists correct?  

The example and advice was for the purposes of the OP to think about the playability of a violin for his 11 year old daughter.  I do not want my children, or students, to be learning fundamental skills while working hard to play an otherwise great sounding violin.  I would rather they learn their skills on a very playable violin even at the expense of great sound.  Once the violinist has the fundamental skills and repertoire, then they can decide to play a better sounding violin.  Why make things difficult for a student?

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2 hours ago, jezzupe said:

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

The always entertaining, unintended, double entendre...:P

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29 minutes ago, violinnewb said:

By "people," you mean established and professional violinists correct?  

The example and advice was for the purposes of the OP to think about the playability of a violin for his 11 year old daughter.  I do not want my children, or students, to be learning fundamental skills while working hard to play an otherwise great sounding violin.  I would rather they learn their skills on a very playable violin even at the expense of great sound.  Once the violinist has the fundamental skills and repertoire, then they can decide to play a better sounding violin.  Why make things difficult for a student?

I've been misconstrued!  In your previous comment, you implied that playability is proportional to price.  With the exception of violins on the cheap end of the scale, I have never seen any evidence to support that.  Of course a student shouldn't have to play a difficult instrument.  

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Don't buy the child the instrument she wants, buy the instrument she needs.

An eleven year old child is very unlikely to have developed the musical taste she will develop later and the instrument that she prefers now may not be the best instrument for her as an adult. The most important factors now are that the instrument have normal measurements and be set up to strict standards. Otherwise she may develop habits which limit her instrument choices later. Obviously the instrument must be capable of achieving an acceptable tone and volume using her current skills but hopefully will have even more to offer as her skills improve.

A child and also the child's parents are seldom able to judge condition, origin or future suitability of a violin and trying every violin one can find will often result in passing up some nice instruments until they become so tired of the process that  they buy the next instrument they see. Knowledgeable and honest dealers ( yes, I know.....) and a teacher who is working as a  buyers' consultant rather than as a sales person for the dealer can be very helpful in presenting a manageable number of suitable instruments creating a situation where there are really no bad choices.

The issue of under the table kickbacks from dealers to teachers is very common and very bad for the students. I have advocated for years to try and shift the paradigm from one where the teacher pretends to be working for the student out of love to one where the buyer hires the teacher as a consultant leaving the teacher free to do their best to help the student with no conflicts of interest and being paid a fair wage commensurate with their expertise. That leaves the dealer to charge a fair and competitive price which hopefully will hold up should the instrument need to be sold or traded later.

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I have to wonder what the fuss is all about.  I grew up in NYC, and my teachers were always able to secure quality loaners.  Not once while growing up did I hear any stories (with peers that are well off too) about teachers urging pupils to buy instruments or otherwise engaged in underhanded dealing.

There is literally a surfeit of violins.  The best way to ignore the shopkeepers' bellyaching about teacher kickbacks is to get a loaner.  If a child was in a pre-college performance program that's demonstrated seriousness right there.

I fully realize NYC may not exactly be representative of the rest of US, but it shouldn't be that difficult to find a patron unless you live in the boonies.  You might have to pay the insurance premiums, responsible for damage, etc., but that's the extent of it.

The teachers already separated the wheat from chaff on loaners.

Once a student is about to graduate with a performance degree, then the student should get serious about buying a good instrument.  By that time the student, having played on several instruments, should be more informed what differentiates a good instrument from a poor one. 

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As you can see, many differing opinions. I very much like Nathan Slobodkins post, some very good advise there. Also the advise to not save expenses on the bow is very good!

 

A bad bow can make a stradivarius unplayable. For the bow, I would reserve at least 1,500$ if not more. If it seems excessive compared to a 3000$ (ofcourse if you want to shorten your search or get a higher quality or older instrument, or if you live in an expensive corner of the world, more can be spent. 3000 is just a minimum) violin, I can understand that, but you really need a good bow with good balance, good string response and both good stability for cantabile playing and  "bouncing" qualities for virtuoso playing; a bow that does everything it needs to do, because a bow that doesn't will not only slow down, but likely also harm the development of your childs playing considerably. But first pick a violin, and then find a bow to go with the violin, as bows will work with one violin, but not with another.

 

It is still many years away, but just a thought: if you find studieing music in the US too expensive, consider Europe. For instance, here in Germany the first 14 Semesters are almost tuition free (500 $ for 6 months) You probably save so much in terms of tuition that flying over for visiting is going to be no problem at all.

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9 hours ago, Hempel said:

I have to wonder what the fuss is all about.  I grew up in NYC, and my teachers were always able to secure quality loaners.  Not once while growing up did I hear any stories (with peers that are well off too) about teachers urging pupils to buy instruments or otherwise engaged in underhanded dealing.

There is literally a surfeit of violins.  The best way to ignore the shopkeepers' bellyaching about teacher kickbacks is to get a loaner.  If a child was in a pre-college performance program that's demonstrated seriousness right there.

I fully realize NYC may not exactly be representative of the rest of US, but it shouldn't be that difficult to find a patron unless you live in the boonies.  You might have to pay the insurance premiums, responsible for damage, etc., but that's the extent of it.

The teachers already separated the wheat from chaff on loaners.

Once a student is about to graduate with a performance degree, then the student should get serious about buying a good instrument.  By that time the student, having played on several instruments, should be more informed what differentiates a good instrument from a poor one. 

As you noted, NYC has little to do with the lives of kids here in flyover country. 

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How about going in price groups?

Ask for violins up to $ 3000  first, then for violins up to $5000 and maybe just so that she was able to try one, too, for violins up to $10,000.

Also explain the prices to your daughter before at home: What could you buy for $3000, $5000, $10,000? That's how much these violins would be worth.

It might also be that she plays 10 violins in the $3000 range and finds her (current) dream instrument.

If you then take the violins she wants to test to her teacher who plays them and hears her play them, I would guess you'd have a very good idea about the most suitable instrument for her. And, of course, SHE will have a very good idea about which instrument she wants.

(And then, when she is used to that instrument, I would go looking for a bow to go with it.)

 

If possible, the instrument should be tested at home and during the lesson and if she plays chamber music or in an orchestra, the instrument should be tested there, too.

Especially I would not give my daughter the idea that the higher the price, the better the violin, so that in the end she believes "oh, it's only a $3000 violin, it cannot be that good!"

Ask her about the differences of the violins the tests: How do they feel, are they easy to play, too loud, too quiet, how does every string sound, how do high and low positions sound, are they easy to play or not etc.? Take notes, than later she can compare more easily.

If you get permission from the violin maker (not sure if they are okay with that), take short video of every violin she plays, so that later she can better compare/ remember, "ah, that was the violin with the mellow e-string, that was the violin that was a little heavy" etc.

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Across most of the country, there are no string programs, marginal art programs of any kind.

Violin really is, for the most part, an upper class and urban pursuit. Of course, rectifying violin issues is not important concerning the general third rate education kids are getting in most of America outside wealthy suburbs and large cities. And not so much for some folks in parts of large cities, depending on the color and economics of your neighborhood.

There is one music teacher here for all of elementary and High School. Strings, you gotta be kidding.

And I live in the one of the bluest of blue states. Imagine Alabama. (there's a bumper sticker)

37 minutes ago, Hempel said:

This might be a piece of why my immediate rural neighbors vote in such crazy ways right now.

Our family works hard, sacrifices much to let the daughter have some chance of doing what she wants. Our choice, rather than owning many things others feel necessary. 

I am not really arguing the OP spend more money, just that it is not absurd if the kid is highly motivated.

And if future purchases are likely, the trade in and market value of this first full size can enter into that decision.

Yes, we could drive an Hour and a half to rent a likely mediocre violin.

Jacob, I am not the OP, my daughter already has her full size. She is in camps and online with other fairly advanced kids and it seems pretty standard for most of them of normal size, for that age, to be on full size. 

 

 

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47 minutes ago, Potter said:

Across most of the country, there are no string programs, marginal art programs of any kind.

Violin really is, for the most part, an upper class and urban pursuit. Of course, rectifying violin issues is not important concerning the general third rate education kids are getting in most of America outside wealthy suburbs and large cities. And not so much for some folks in parts of large cities, depending on the color and economics of your neighborhood.

There is one music teacher here for all of elementary and High School. Strings, you gotta be kidding.

And I live in the one of the bluest of blue states. Imagine Alabama. (there's a bumper sticker)

This might be a piece of why my immediate rural neighbors vote in such crazy ways right now.

Our family works hard, sacrifices much to let the daughter have some chance of doing what she wants. Our choice, rather than owning many things others feel necessary. 

I am not really arguing the OP spend more money, just that it is not absurd if the kid is highly motivated.

And if future purchases are likely, the trade in and market value of this first full size can enter into that decision.

Yes, we could drive an Hour and a half to rent a likely mediocre violin.

Jacob, I am not the OP, my daughter already has her full size. She is in camps and online with other fairly advanced kids and it seems pretty standard for most of them of normal size, for that age, to be on full size. 

 

 

An 11-year old kid playing Saint-Saens IRC or Cto. #3 or Sarasate is not living in "flyover country" with no available violin instructors.  That kid didn't get to that level on his or her own without instruction.

And I wasn't referring to shop rentals, even though Jacobs School referred their loaner instruments as "rentals."  No fees are charged for their use by their matriculated students. By any measure Jacobs School loaner policy is even more generous than my peers and I experienced in NYC.

I'm merely pointing out there are resources available.  If the OP wants to buy their kid an instrument I'm not stopping them.

 

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1 hour ago, Hempel said:

An 11-year old kid playing Saint-Saens IRC or Cto. #3 or Sarasate is not living in "flyover country" with no available violin instructors.  That kid didn't get to that level on his or her own without instruction.

And I wasn't referring to shop rentals, even though Jacobs School referred their loaner instruments as "rentals."  No fees are charged for their use by their matriculated students. By any measure Jacobs School loaner policy is even more generous than my peers and I experienced in NYC.

I'm merely pointing out there are resources available.  If the OP wants to buy their kid an instrument I'm not stopping them.

 

 My child is playing at a similar level. Yes, we are lucky at this point to have a good teacher an hour away.

I am just pointing out that your suggestion was a relatively rare option. It would certainly be nice to live driving distance from an IU Jacobs, on many levels. There are no such options near us, but the OP would be wise to check it out. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I suppose you could buy an 11 year old size 43 shoes, they will grow into them, won't they

I started, in a group setting, at 10-years of age, on  a  4/4. So did the others. Don't recall anyone having a problem.

I didn't even know fractionals existed until years later.

Not saying that proper sizing/fit isn't important, just that it wasn't even "a thing" at that time. Some 30 years later - none of my three kids would have needed anything smaller at age 10 either - so unless a child is very small at that age, or very slow growing, it may not be of concern.

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43 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

I wear 43s. What is 26, inches?

A few years ago I watched a documentary about the US clothing supply chain.  The interviewer asked a sweatshop worker (in Central America, iirc) what she thought of North Americans.

She basically replied that they must be giants and she couldn't wrap her mind around why they were making such large clothes.  I may be mis-remembering, but the term "circus tent" was used. 

EU Size 43 shoes correspond to US Men's size 9.5.  That would almost be considered dainty here in US.  Plenty of shoe stores here don't stock men's shoes smaller than size 8 (EU 40.5-41).

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SOme replies above have mentioned that attention should be paid to the bow as well as the violin.  There is an entire reperoire of bow strokes, especially as the pieces reach high skill level.  Unfortunately many "student" bows simply can't do the strokes required. $5000 is a typical price for a professional level bow.  To complicate things bow and violin have to fit with each other.  People buying professional level violins often find they have to get a new bow at the same time.  Before I bought a violin by a highly respected luthier I played a Mirecourt (French workshop) violin.  Before I spent $20,000 a friend suggested I get a better bow and I found that a better bow made a big improvement in what I could do with my Mirecourt violin.  Then when I finally bought my bench made instrument I used the good bow to help decide on the instrument.

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