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A players guide to instrument price evaluation, article by Philip Kass


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6 minutes ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

Because your comment inspired my response. For example: Performance qualities (what you like) are subjective for the most part, and price range buys you choice.

Oh.  I thought I was in trouble.  LOL

And yes.  I agree with your assessment.  All too often many of us forget which hat to put on before responding to these posts.  I wear the hat of a novice performing hobbyist.  I guess the equivalent to the propeller cap or dunce cap. :P

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7 hours ago, violinnewb said:

The only thing that I personally thought was missing from this article is playability.

I find myself choosing/favoring a violin that plays well over the one that sounds good if all other factors are close enough in parameters.  However, I don't think that I would personally choose a great sounding violin over one that sounds solid but plays well even if the sound, price, and authenticity gaps were somewhat wide.  

Lastly, since I am not a professional musician nor a merchant in the industry, I am not looking for an investment or tool.  I am looking for an instrument that will do what I need it to, and when I need it to, and that does not displace my ability to serve my roles as parent, legal professional, spouse, congregation member, etc.  In short, music is a hobby for me and delving into the analytical framework of provenance, finances, and resale realms of a violin is not really required.

John Housman’s last movie was for some reason not listed in his discography, but he plays the role of a choir director in an inner city church that decides to put on a performance of the Messiah. In one scene, a retired opera singer has auditioned for the soprano lead and Hausman chooses someone else as having a more appropriate voice. She gets appropriately angry and sneers, “amateurs” as she stomps out of the church, never to return.

Hausman gives a little speech to the choir about how the word “Amateur” Comes from the Latin word for love, And reminds the choir that they are doing this for love. It’s a beautiful scene.

Thomas Beecham once said That he hated talking to professional musicians, because “they are only interested in jobs and money.” He much preferred, he said, chatting with amateurs, because those are the ones who truly love music. I think he was right,too, though I am a happy exception. 

My point for you is that you should have a violin that you love, that you love looking at, that you love playing, and that you love collaborating with. Power and volume mean nothing, because as part of that ghastly “worship team” you’re using up a pick up anyway, so play what you love and love what you play. You have the most free choice of anybody, and that is a great blessing.

Edited by PhilipKT
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On 10/25/2021 at 10:12 AM, Rue said:

You really do need to see many violins in person.

Pictures/photos are great...but only after having seen enough violins to fully understand what it is you are looking for/seeing in the photos.

I am always surprised at the confidence many "photo experience" only individuals exhibit. 

yeah, sounds like a really expensive way to learn :o

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46 minutes ago, LouisXVI said:

yeah, sounds like a really expensive way to learn :o

Certainly  - if you are buying all the violins yourself! :D

But most people work/apprentice for others (shops/dealers/auction houses) - hopefully with pay!

Still...it takes years.

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1 hour ago, LouisXVI said:

yeah, sounds like a really expensive way to learn :o

The title of this post is "A players guide to instrument price evaluation."

Playing as many instruments as possible is a suggestion for a player to learn and understand what instrument that his/her money will get them and what qualities in each instrument will play a factor in buying the instrument...for the player.  

I do not believe that it costs money to see and play as many instruments as possible for the purpose of purchasing one to play.  I don't quite understand how this is a "really expensive way to learn."  Its free.

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On 10/23/2021 at 7:14 PM, LouisXVI said:

Hi guys, watching all this discussion a questions crosses my mind: how could a new entusiast come to learn how to do a price evaluation of an instrument? There are books, courses or university degrees that educate you in that aspect? Or it is something merely empirical that you learn through years of continuous exposure? 

Thanks in advance.

I find these to be honest and reasonable questions that have a certain relativity to the subject at hand.

Several informative answers have come forth from others, as to the certainty that one needs to handle and see as many  diverse and authentic instruments as is possible.

Since said instruments are scattered across the globe, in shops and institutions and within private ownership,,,

How can it possibly be free?

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15 minutes ago, Evan Smith said:

I find these to be honest and reasonable questions that have a certain relativity to the subject at hand.

Several informative answers have come forth from others, as to the certainty that one needs to handle and see as many  diverse and authentic instruments as is possible.

Since said instruments are scattered across the globe, in shops and institutions and within private ownership,,,

How can it possibly be free?

Yes, I feel as if I have spent a lot of money just looking at instruments. Gas, parking, public transportation etc. Not to mention the time. 

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16 minutes ago, Evan Smith said:

I find these to be honest and reasonable questions that have a certain relativity to the subject at hand.

Several informative answers have come forth from others, as to the certainty that one needs to handle and see as many  diverse and authentic instruments as is possible.

Since said instruments are scattered across the globe, in shops and institutions and within private ownership,,,

How can it possibly be free?

The OP article targets "players."  If by "players," we are also grouping in "enthusiasts" with regards to collecting, buying, and/or selling, then yes, reasonable questions and assertions.  

But for the player, why would it be necessary to travel the globe unless said player was a world-class top performer looking for there forever instrument? Even if you don't have many shops around, many, many shops offer in-home trials via shipping.

Are we talking about the same thing here or are we doing what we normally do here on Maestronet, hi-jacking a post to talk about something different.  :D That was a joke.

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Either way, it's not an easy, straightforward, undertaking.

If it was something I wanted to do...I would have to move, or spend a fortune travelling.

There just aren't enough violins, and enough diversity of violins, in the area for me to have a chance at getting to know what's what.

And I do play anything I can get my hands on! Regardless, it's been a very small sample...and consisting primarily of the cheaper Markies.

Although I have played a Strad, and a couple of other high end instruments.:wub:

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Sorry. I don’t believe that's always/entirely  true.

People want to be entertained. That's what they are paying for.

So they want to see both a great violinist performing on a famous violin...

...or at least what they think is a famous violin. ^_^

 

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19 minutes ago, Rue said:

Sorry. I don’t believe that's always/entirely  true.

People want to be entertained. That's what they are paying for.

So they want to see both a great violinist performing on a famous violin...

...or at least what they think is a famous violin. ^_^

 

I think that this is the first time I am disagreeing with you Rue! Oh my!

Ok, some of what you say has merit, but I have to ask when the last time someone asked what fiddle Perlman was playing prior to buying tickets to hear him play.  

I personally do not go out of my way to look up whether a violinists' instrument was made by a famous maker.  I know certain performers play on a Strad or what not because the program notes say so.

Having said that, I am guilty of being preemptively turned off if I see a black carbon fiber violin come out on stage....however, after having recently played on one, I am somewhat open to them now.

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1 hour ago, violinnewb said:

The OP article targets "players."  If by "players," we are also grouping in "enthusiasts" with regards to collecting, buying, and/or selling, then yes, reasonable questions and assertions.  

But for the player, why would it be necessary to travel the globe unless said player was a world-class top performer looking for there forever instrument? Even if you don't have many shops around, many, many shops offer in-home trials via shipping.

Are we talking about the same thing here or are we doing what we normally do here on Maestronet, hi-jacking a post to talk about something different.  :D That was a joke.

Players come in several flavors (so to speak). Many players ARE enthusiasts. I think you may be interpreting the word "player" as it relates to your own viewpoint.  That's OK.  You fall into one of the flavors and I wouldn't expect you to relate to the others, necessarily.

As far as Philip's advice concerning investment; That statement is almost universal isn't it? The other side of the coin might be, things often work out well if you invest in something you know about... though I doubt I'd personally mortgage my life away to do so. I invest what I have, not what I can borrow.

 

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Goldmund Quartet Stradivarius "Paganini Quartet"
 Florian Schötz (1st vn)   1727 Violin "Paganini"
 Pinchas Adt(2nd vn)  1680 Violin "Paganini"
 Christoph Vandory(va)  1731 Viola "Paganini"
 Raphael Paratore(vc)  1736 Cello "Paganini"
Veronika Eberle 1700 Violin "Dragonetti"
Suyoen Kim 1702 Violin "Lord Newlands"
Benjamin Beilman 1709 Violin "Engleman"
Svetlin Roussev 1710 Violin "Camposelice"
Arabella Miho Steinbacher  1716 Violin "Booth"
Ji Young Lim 1717 Violin "Sasserno"
Ray Chen 1735 Violin "Samazeuilh"
Yuki Manuela Janke 1736 Violin "Muntz"
Pablo Ferrandez 1696 Cello "Lord Aylesford"

Stradivari2020-thumb-autox708-1157.jpg

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Can a U.S. performer still depreciate 1/3 the price of their equipment {violin} yearly as per IRS guidelines?

So if I spend fourteen million on a violin, spend three years depreciating at tax time 1/3 value per year, at the end of three years sell the violin for whichever amount I can get and still stay out of tax trouble is another way of me asking the same question.

 

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12 minutes ago, uncle duke said:

Can a U.S. performer still depreciate 1/3 the price of their equipment {violin} yearly as per IRS guidelines?

So if I spend fourteen million on a violin, spend three years depreciating at tax time 1/3 value per year, at the end of three years sell the violin for whichever amount I can get and still stay out of tax trouble is another way of me asking the same question.

 

I'm no CPA, but I believe the new US tax laws still allow depreciation for business equipment. How quickly it can be depreciated may have something to do with what is is.

Of course, as in the past, I would expect that when selling the item capital gains would apply based on the sale price vs. depreciated value.

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42 minutes ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

.......things often work out well if you invest in something you know about... .................

Something that, IMHO, more people need to meditate on, before pouring serious money into a "forever" violin.  It's not going to kill or bankrupt any of us "enthusiast" types to gain experience with a good, reasonably priced student violin, to start with.  Gaining skills, and figuring the business out, to a point where you can make informed decisions, takes years

A lot of the posts I read on MN often seem to radiate an aura of "impulse buying".  :)

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18 minutes ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

I would expect that when selling the item capital gains would apply based on the sale price vs. depreciated value.

It might also fall under the category of "collectable" which would be even more cap gains (28 vs 20% I think). But maybe not if you established it as "equipment".

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1 hour ago, Violadamore said:

Something that, IMHO, more people need to meditate on, before pouring serious money into a "forever" violin.  It's not going to kill or bankrupt any of us "enthusiast" types to gain experience with a good, reasonably priced student violin, to start with.  Gaining skills, and figuring the business out, to a point where you can make informed decisions, takes years

A lot of the posts I read on MN often seem to radiate an aura of "impulse buying".  :)

This is great advice. Opportunity buys are there if one is constantly looking. Trying not get sucked in can be difficult. A truly great purchase should not be missed, but a second opinion or spousal consultation should be considered.

Developing skills and knowledge takes time. A true "Opportunity," like the favorite bow of a late instructor or a deal offered up by a closing of a school or shop may come around only once in a decade. It is better to save money for that more important, significant purchase. 

There are those who like to hop from one deal to the next like stepping on stones across a small stream or brook, but it is likely to get soaked at some point. I have worked for those with liquid capital so getting to play and observe instruments was more frequent than most, and feel lucky for those opportunities.

There is no such thing as a "forever" instrument for players that develop. It is that situational oxymoron where one out grows the other. Happens in real life. But sometimes there are financial limits that requires us to love and learn an instrument for longer. I have had several professors that the value of their instruments eventually made it impossible for one to upgrade from a ( x ) million to another ( x +1 ) million instrument. Those lucky bastards... well sort of. There are expenses related to fine instruments and bows...

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A big part of the problem is still "branding"!

There is no shortage of new, very good student violins - which are also available at different price levels.

So, you have a student happily progressing on a wholely adequate instrument and...

...then...at some point someone will say,

"Oh! You are playing a Made in China??? OMG! That's holding you back! You have to upgrade ASAP to an Old German or a new Luthier of the Moment!!! Otherwise you'll never get into Snooty Orchestra! You'll be an *gasp* outcast!"

All of the sudden,  doubt sets in, the student is no longer happy or progressing...and then the shopping for an (unnecessary) upgrade treadmill begins...

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