Questioning Violin Value

So, everybody wants a Strad, or a Guarnieri.

Problem. A Strad costs a LOT of money! Wouldn’t it be great if that old violin you received as a gift, was a Strad? What a great violin value.

Yeah, right. We’ve heard the story many times. You got that old violin that your uncle left you. And he used to keep it in his basement. In turn he had received it from his mother in law, as a gift for his 50th birthday. And she owned it because it was given to her by her grandfather who used to be a violinist in India.

Now, the violin is very old. and well conserved. It looks beautiful. And it has that nice label, looking through the f-hole, that reads “Stradivarius”. You google Stradivarius, and look at some of those Google images, and you find that your violin really looks the same as the great, 100 Million worth Stradivarius from the photos.

Bingo! Do you really own a true 18th century authentic Stradivarius?

Easy. Probably not. Even though it looks a lot like it. Maybe you got a great violin, mind you. But the chances of it being a true Strad are slim to none.

A few facts

Stradivarius violins are the most copied art items on the planet. There’s a gazillion copies of Stradivarius violins around. Some are good. Some are decent. Some are just plainly bad.

2nd fact. About all existing Stardivarius violins have been identified, cataloged, and are well known. The number of Stradivarius violins that are still not found, on the planet, is close to zero.

So, you see how it’s very very difficult that your uncle’s violin is a true Stradivarius. However it may very well be a good violin, worth something.

How to determine the value of your violin?

Well. First thing, look at the label through the f-hole. Now, take note that it’s very easy to fake, or to replace a label in a violin. So, don’t give to much importance to what’s written on the label.

However. Old 18th century labels were hand written. So, if you find that you have a machine-written label, your violin is not an 18th century one.

In more recent times, there’s been the advent of mass produced violins that are factory made. Especially in the 20th century, after 1920 or so, it was mandatory to add on the label the “made in” copy, that specifies the country where the violin was made.

So, if you find a Made in Italy, or Made in Japan label, it probably means that it was made in that country and chances are that it was factory made.

A factory made violin is usually much less valuable than a hand made one. Mind you, it may make a lot of sense to buy a factory made violin to use when you’re starting up with the instrument, or to use as a study violin. There are several violins, that are factory made, and that sound OK. It’s just that they’re less valuable, and they don’t sound as good as the finely handcrafted ones.

Anyhow, if you’re serious about determining the value of your violin, there’s only one sure way. Have it appraised by a professional. The best thing to do is to find a luthier, who works with violins, and ask him to appraise the violin.

Don’t go to the local shop that sells violins. Especially if they tell you that they want to buy your violin. They may be able to determine that your violin is of value, and make you an offer that’s way lower than what your violin is worth.

Anything else?

So, you determined that your violin is worth something, and you want to keep it. How do you conserve it? Well, not in a closet, not in your garage. The best way to conserve it is some place where there’s some air circulation, and not much humidity.

Oh, and don’t disregard your bow. Some old wooden bows can be valuable, up to about $5000. Even if your old violin is not worth a lot, your bow might be worth something, so, have that appraised too.

And what about that old case? Maybe your uncle violin came in some old case, that looks cool, and you’re thinking that it might have some value. Well, old violin cases bear no value. They’re just old cases. So there’s no point in having them appraised.

Actually, if you think your violin could be valuable, it may be worth to spend a bit of money to get a decent new case, so as to better conserve your uncle’s violin.

On older violins

Violins are peculiar instruments. They usually get more valuable, the older they are. 18th century violins are considered to be the most valuable ones. More modern violins can be great, but all other things remaining equal, an older violin is usually more valuable.

Oh, and violins like to be played. A violin that remains in a case all the time without being played, becomes “sad”, and gets less bright. While if it gets played regularly, it shines, and will perform at its best.

So, if you got a Strad (and even if you don’t)…go play right now!

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The Yamaha Violin

There are many violin brands, and when you’re starting starting out it’s often hard to pick. The Yamaha violin is one of the most famous.

It’s true that the best violins are usually finely handcrafted. Often by a lone luthier who is an artisan. They may end up costing quite some. And they are not really abound. brand. They are more just about being good, and that’s it.

But when you are starting out, it’s also true that you are probably not looking for “the best of the best” sounding violin. Often a super quality sounding violin is even harder to play, and to have it sound as it is supposed to sound.

So, what you are looking for is a violin that is sturdy, well made, that’s reliable, and that plays sufficiently well. It also shouldn’t bee too expensive.

That’s when brand comes in. A Yamaha violin is exactly that, at least with the entry level models.

Yamaha is a Japanese manufacturer of musical instruments. Yamaha pianos are particularly well known.

Yamaha also produces an entire line of violins.

Yamaha Violins are spread across four lines, depending on the level of the player.

Yamaha Standard Violins

The first level is the “Standard” line. These are violins that are perfect for the student who is starting up.

They are sturdy and well made, with OK sound. They are easy to adjust, have good consistency and playability, and they are easy to tune.
Their necks, tops and backs are hand carved from seasoned maple.

The basic “Standard” Yamaha violin model is the AV5, that comes in sizes from 1/16 all the way up to 4/4.

It comes with entire outfit, and two different sets of equipment.

The basic AV5-SC version comes with Wittner tailpiece and fine tuners. The model numbers for the different sizes are:

  • AV5-44SC
  • AV5-34SC (3/4)
  • AV5-12SC (1/2)
  • AV5-14SC (1/4)
  • AV5-18SC (1/8)
  • AV5-110SC (1/10)
  • AV5-116SC (1/16)

The AV5-SG version is a bit more refined as it comes with a rosewood tailpiece, 4 fine tuners and a fiberglass bow, with horse hair, and ABS case. The model numbers for the AV5-SG are:

  • AV5-44SKU (full size)
  • AV5-34SKU (3/4)
  • AV5-12SKU (1/2)

Yamaha Step Up Violins

The second level of Yamaha violins are the Step Up. These are handcrafted violins that are suitable for those students who’ve been playing for some time, a couple of years or so, and need a better violin, that produces richer sound, and gives them more interesting and satisfying results.

The first level of Step Up Yamaha violin is the AV7-SG. This violin has a very nicely shaded hand varnishing, comes with ebony pegs and chin rest, and a Wittner tailpiece. It also comes outfitted with a quality case and a wooden bow.

The top level of step up violins is the AV10-G Yamaha violin. The AV10-G has a hand carved top, select spruce, a full ebony trim, and in general it is quite of a high end violin, that can produce a very satisfying and rich sound.

It comes both with a high quality outfit, and also as “violin only”, in which case it’s model number is AV10-G.

Higher level Yamaha violins

The two higher levels of Yamaha Violin are the “Advanced” and the “Professional” lines.

Advanced Yamaha violins are geared at the solo community. Those for who sound is the most important feature. They’re made with exceptional craftsmanship, and quality varnish. Made by trained violin makers.

Professional Yamaha violins are the most demanding ones. They are for those players who rely on their instrument for income. They use the best materials, the finest woods, and best varnish.

One of the interesting elements of Yamaha Violins is that they are inspired by the famous handcrafted violins from the great luthiers of the past, such as Guarnieri, Amati, and Stradivarius.

This is particularly evident in the higher end lines of Yamaha Violins: Like the 100S, 200S, 500S (Stradivarius), and 100G, 200G, 500G (Guarnieri).

Want to play a Stradivarius? Easy enough. Just grab a Yamaha YVN500S, and you’ll get a violin that’s as close to a Stradivarius as a modern violin can get.

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What’s a fair violin price?

Violin price range is a bit crazy. You can buy a violin for as low as $50. And you can buy…I mean the highest price for a violin is probably the sky. Stradivarius and similar violins are so valuable that’s difficult to give a hard price.

It’s not uncommon to find quotes for a Stradivarius that are above $10Millions.

Think about it. It’s the same kind of object. It’s wood. It’s got strings. And it plays sound. But if you take two of those and put them close to another they’re more or less look about the same.
However one is worth $50 and th other is worth $1Mil. Yay!

Violin Shaped Objects

Now…let’s say you want to buy a violin for starting up. That’s the most common case. Where should you shoot?

There’s a common saying, that states that those super low cost violins are not really violins. They’re the so called VSO: Violin Shaped Objects. Not violins, but generic objects that look like violins.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a violin player, you should avoid Violin Shaped Objects.

Consider that playing the violin can be a totally engaging experience…assuming you can produce at least some sound.
But it can also be totally frustrating. When all you get is buzzes, and screeches, and when you fail to be able to pick a single string with your bow and you end up touching a second one most of the time. That gets depressing real fast. So, if you ì’re starting out, and pick a VSO, you just run the risk of ending up totally frustrated, and abandon the thing altogether.

The different ranges of violin price

It’s not easy to give a hard to rule. But let’s say that “real” violins that are not VSOs start at about $200. That’s right. If you are starting out with violin and care just a tiny bit about not getting totally frustrated you should invest at least $200.

Your $200 violin will take you through the first 1 or 2 years of your study. After that, you’ll get better. and you’ll probably want to invest in a so called “step up” violin. This is a violin that is higher quality, and makes a richer and all encompassing sound, that will give you much greater satisfaction.
Such kind of violin starts at about $600. But if you really want something good you should plan on spending something in the range of $1000 to $2000.

Of course, when you get to an even higher level, you enter into the “sky is the roof” realm. That’s when you start to look at the specific violins. Each one with its unique attributes and characteristics. Where each violin purchase is a story in itself.

Many times, especially when looking for a higher quality violin, you’ll want to look for a used violin, instead of a brand new one. Quality luthier violins are those that are considered often considered of highest quality. Stradivarius fall in this category too, after all.

When you buy a used violin, you should make sure it’s in good quality, of course. No cracks. No damage.

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On Violin Sizes

Violin come in different sizes.

Usually adult violinists use a so called “full size”, also referred to as “4/4″. That’s the standard violin.

The fact is that when you start playing the violin you’re usually a kid. So you need a smaller violin. So smaller violins are very common, because it’s very common to be a kid when you start playing.

Normally kids who are younger than 12 years old use a violin that is smaller than 4/4.

There are many smaller sizes, such as 3/4, 1/2, 1/8, and 1/16.

Usually 1/16 violins work for kids who are 3-4 years old. Sometimes 5. Then a kid switches to a 1/8 violin. Later on, when they grow they move again to the 1/4, then at some point to the 1/2, then to the 3/4, and finally to the full size 4/4.

Mind you there are even smaller sizes: 1/32 and even 1/64. They are very rare, as usually 1/16 is small enough for even smaller kids. But nonetheless, for very small kids, it may be needed to use an even smaller size than 1/16.

How do you find out which size is for you, or for your kid?

First thing, you just stand with your violin in position, on your shoulder, and straighten your left arm beyond the scroll. If you can wrap the violin scroll with the palm of your hand, then, great, the violin is good enough, size-wise. If you cannot reach wrapping the scroll, then the violin is too big.

Also, try playing the violin with your bow, all the way down to the bow tip. If you need your right arm fully extended, when playing with the bow tip, then it means the violin is too big. If the arm is slightly bent, at bow tip, then it means the violin is not too big, and it’s good to go.

There you go. That’ s how to pick up a violin size.

Small violins and fine craft

Small violins are supposed to be sturdy, and to be used for starting up. So, it’s extremely uncommon to find violins that are finely made, in sizes below 1/2. Even 1/2 and 3/4 finely made violins are a bit rare. There is no market for them, as almost nobody will want to spend serious money on a finely made violin for a kid who is starting up. It’s just not needed.

That said, it’s a good idea to try and get a decent quality violin, even though it’s small. Low quality small violins often have a hard time maintaining their tuning, and they sometimes make it difficult to play a single string, without picking other strings with the bow. So, you want to make sure the quality of the violin is good enough, otherwise your kid will get frustrated, and will want to quit.

Suzuki makes a great small size violins, like the Suzuki Nagoya 220 model 220 – 1/4. Great quality, and an affordable price.

It’s also available on Amazon. Click here to buy one.

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Violin Reviews – Strings, oh strings

An important element when doing violin reviews is the violin strings. Strings: they are so beautiful, and important.

In the end, strings are what can make a real difference in a violin sound. Think of it, what produces sound is not the violin itself. It is the strings.

Cause the string, is the thing that vibrates, and really generates the sound. The violin is the thing around the strings that takes that vibration and turns it into a real nice and pleasant musical sound..

So, the strings must be important after all, right?

What kind of strings are there?

There are several kinds.

Gut Strings

Historically, the older kind of strings, have been the so called Gut Stings. Their internal core is made of sheep gut. Even though there’s the saying that in the past they were make of cat gut.

Meow!

Now,  strings are not made of pure sheep gut. At least not anymore. That would be creepy. They have an inner core that is made of gut, and then a wrapping layer, that is made of silver.

Now. Gut strings are the ones with a fuller sound and richer in overtones. They sound wide and nice. So, they provide the best quality. However, gut strings also have a harder time in maintaining their tuning. They are susceptible to temperature and humidity. And they break more easily. They even last much less than other kinds of strings.

So, gut strings require care, and maintenance. But they provide the best sound.

Metal Strings

A second type of strings are metal ones. These are the panzer of violin strings. They last a very long time. They maintain the tuning. And they are much harder to break. However the sound is often a bit pitchy, and metallic. It’s less full. And so it’s not as nice as the one from gut strings.

Many people use metallic strings for studying, or when starting out. And then, for real performance, and when they reach a certain level in their playing technique they switch to gut string.

Nylon Strings

The last kind of strings is a bit of a middle ground. They are the nylon strings. Nylon strings were introduced first in the 1970s. With nylon strings you get a richer sound than metallic strings. They do get close to what gut strings produce. But they don’t have the drawbacks of gut strings. Namely they keep the tuning. They last longer than gut strings. And they are harder to break.

So, nylon strings can be a good choice, especially for studying.

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Violin Reviews – What’s important in a violin?

Why a site about Violin Reviews?

I love violins. They are so cool. A violin is really something that brings together the magic of the ancients and the beauty of the modern.

Become a piece of art

When playing a violin you produce this angelic music, that is a lot like singing. In a way the violin is the instrument that is closest to the human voice. It becomes an extension of your body, and when you play a violin, you become blessed and piece of art yourself.

A violin is a piece of art. And when you play a violin, you are actually interacting with the piece of art, in order to produce music. You are not just watching, like when you watch a painting in a museum. Here you get to touch the art masterpiece. You get to interact with it.

Not only that. You get to merge your body with it. Because it’s only when your body becomes one with the violin that you really begin to feel that you are actually playing it. A violin must feel like a natural extension of your body. That is how it works.

And that’s why it’s important to really feel good with your violin, and to be comfortable with it.

The choice of a violin, is very much an intimate one. Many say that choosing a violin is a lot like choosing a partner. From deep within, you need to passionately feel that you and that violin are truly made for each other. That violin, and no others, is The One with whom you want to spend the rest of your life with.

It’s such an intense relationship.

There are many types of violins

There are antique violins, and modern violins. There are factory made violins and hand made violins, which are usually much more valuable.

There’s recently been an invasion of Chinese made violins, that are extremely cheap. Not all Chinese violins are bad, mind you. And in fact, if you are just starting out, getting a Chinese violin might be a very good bet. However, make sure that you don’t go for the super cheap options that are available today as they are really bad. And you will get frustrated.

Important brands for violins, that also make violins that are good as study violins are Suzuki, and Yamaha. There are Japanese versions of these, and some are Chinese (at least the Suzuki ones). The older Suzuki violins were made in Japan, while new ones are made in China. And they are quite fine! So a Suzuki Chinese violin is a very good option, as a starter study violin.

So, what’s important in a violin?

The brightness of sound. How crisp is the sound when you play it? How intense?

This depends a lot on the wood and on the varnish of the violin.

A violin quality and sound improve with age. Because as the wood and the varnish get older, the sound usually gets better and fuller. This is why old violins from the 18th and 19th century are extremely valuable and have those amazing sounds.

So, old violins are good.

But even pro violinists often don’t just shoot for one of these top violins. They also want to have a study violin, to use every day.

Cool To Read

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