Quality, Origin, and Price - The Big Questions on Finding the Best Violin for My Money
First of all, congratulations on choosing violin — stringed instruments are not inexpensive, but they are worth it! This article aims to educate you on the most important aspects of the construction of a violin (and other violin-family instruments), so you are well-informed and make the right decisions.
Because violins come in all price ranges — from $100 to several millions of dollars for the great Italian collectible master instruments — it is important to remember that you want to buy a quality instrument. No violin worth performing on - and actively practicing with - is truly 'cheap', so if you plan to invest in this great musical instrument, insist on quality, and spend as much as you can in doing so.
REMEMBER ONE IMPORTANT POINT — this is NOT a depreciating asset! Most think you are 'spending' $500-$5000 on a violin — money you will never see again — but that's not true. It's important to remember that a good violin is an INVESTMENT. While it may not fund your retirement after a few decades, a quality instrument will hold its value — and, in the case of many StringWorks instruments in the higher end (Soloist and higher), will appreciate in value, so when you go to sell it, you can often get back your original purchase price, or even more! For this reason, don't shy away from INVESTING in a quality violin, as it will pay you back in music and in holding its value!
Wood and workmanship are the primary components in the 'cost' of a violin. The age and quality of the wood (straighter, even grain on spruce, well-flamed on maple) determine its cost in raw materials. A truly fine set of tonewood for violin is over $400, just for the wood!
Origin — Where Are the Best Violins Being Made?
These days, nearly every violin under $1,500 is made in China, because they have the skilled labor and access to raw materials other countries cannot match. It's NOT a bad thing to be made in China — quite the contrary, as many Chinese makers have won Gold Medals in various Violin Society of America (VSA) competitions, and continue to do so. The market was originally flooded with very low-quality Chinese instruments around the years 1995-2005, and that earned a bad reputation for the entire country's production.
However, nearly all the greatest and most trusted shops in the world, like StringWorks, have been working closely with workshops in China, and now they are producing some of the greatest instruments the world has ever seen in the 'affordable' price ranges most aim for. Ever since post-War Germany, no other country has produced as consistent quality as China has in stringed instruments, and all reliable and trustworthy violin shops keep a close eye on every instrument that comes in and goes out of their shop. All of the best violin brands include offerings from China, as likely 80% of the instruments in the market made in the last decade are all from there.
If we could produce such great instruments in the United States at anywhere near the same price, believe me, we would!
Price — How Much Does a Good Violin Cost?
In order to find out how much you should be spending on a violin, you need to determine what your current level is, your budget and your anticipated performance level. The average cost of a violin is primarily determined by experience level. There are certain types of violins based on a player's level of experience with the instrument, including beginner, intermediate and professional. How much is a good violin? The price can vary greatly, but a good violin can range from around $500 to thousands of dollars, depending on the level.
When first starting out, it makes sense to rent your violin rather than purchase it in some instances. This is a great economical option to decide whether you're invested in playing the instrument. Once you reach a certain level to where you're fully invested in learning your instrument, it makes sense for a player to buy a violin. A well-crafted beginner violin ranges between about $500 to $1,000 in price and is made by a larger number of workshop workers.
Moving up to the next level of expertise are the intermediate violins, which stand between the student and professional levels. Intermediate violins are meant for students who are advancing in their skills and need an instrument that's better than a beginner violin but isn't as expensive as professional violins. These violins are crafted with better materials over longer periods of time to accommodate a higher level of complexity and resonance than beginner violins. Intermediate violins can range between $900 to $2,000. If you're an intermediate player but plan to buy 'the one' instrument that will last you many years, spend ahead of your budget — get the one instrument you'll grow into.
The most expensive violins coincide with the highest level of expertise — and they're professional violins. Professional violins are crafted with the best quality materials and artistry by a master luthier or smaller workshop of more experienced craftsmen who spend hours perfecting them, ensuring they provide limitless potential and dynamic range. These violins are crafted entirely by hand, from start to finish, including the varnish and label. These violins are an investment and are designed for a violinist to reach their highest potential musically. The more you spend on a violin, the greater complexity in the tone you will achieve. Professional violins can range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.
Buying a violin is not like buying an expensive piece of electronics — it's a manifestation, an extension of you, musically. It's an emotional purchase, worth a good amount of money and one you should take seriously. Do your research, and whatever you don't know, don't be afraid to ask! We're happy to answer ANY questions along the way for you, even if you choose to purchase your instrument elsewhere! Simply call us or email us and we'll be happy to chat about your violin search.
Todd French, Founder/President