Violin/choosing a violin



   I've never asked a question before on any such online sevice, plus I'm new at computers; please have patience if I commit some really horrible faux pas. This is a kind of pre-question really - and my circumstances are too complicated to completely express BUT I'm looking for a very cheap violin and am a beginner player. Would it be possible for you to comment on the sound of a particular violin to me if I give you the Ebay item number where there is a sound sample to listen to. Now I'm guessing what you're thinking but I live in a very small town very remotely situated -- there is no violin anywhere near me and trying one can't be done.  I really appreciate what you do here: I think it's amazing.

ANSWER: hi Karen
It is impossible to evaluate a violin's sound based on a computer file sound clip. I understand your problem, but violin's need to be tried in person to hear what they sound like and also just because one of that model sounds good does not mean that. the next one will sound good.
I don't know what you mean by cheap, but if you are talking about any of the thousands of Ebay violins under $200, they are all junk and you would be better off renting a violin instead of purchasing to begin with. If there is no place around to do that then you should purhase one from a violin store that also sells on line like Shar music.

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 Me again. It's an old violin, my guess 1920-40. It has a tea plate size strongly red stain -- maybe cranberry juice (under? the varnish), on the back. It's NOT finely made. It's UGLY. I've watched this seller for six months. The bidding is at $300. at the moment.
 I know Shar -- I've bought hide glue from them and strings. I don't like their cheap violins.
 I have rented an Ars Musica. It had steel strings. Never again. Is ther such a thing as "rent by mail"?
 Alternatively, could you have a go at this one --

 I am trying to repair/ set up  a violin at the moment. Is the some string type(not steel) that endures repeated detensioning better than others? The Obligatos take three four days to recover each time. This might seem silly but how would pure gut do (pirastro)  -- I've read that they can be very hardy. Or some other synthetic? In regard to Hellicore, I've always wondered if they need the lower bridge height from being braided metal? Hence it might not help when experimenting with bridge changes -- though I do have a string lifter. But I'm also doing sound post and fingerboard adjustment. It's hard to pre-cover all bases with a question. Life (and violins) are quite complicated.  Thank you.

Sorry for the delay, I answered from my Kindle but obviously something went wrong.

New or old, the problem with sound files on the computer are the same. There are just too many problems with the different qualities of equipment used for recording and playback. When a proper recording is made, it takes equipment valued in the $10K plus range, playing even that back on $50 computer speakers (which are good ones) just cannot possibly recreate the actual true sound.

As far as strings go, gut strings are the Most problematic with stability and change if loosened, with steel being the best. Synthetics are in the middle and ones like the Infeld line I feel are about the most stable. But you should go with what makes your instrument sound best not the string stability. I have never seen what I think you are talking about with Obligato strings and I have used hundreds if not thousands of sets of them. My guess is that the problem is more with the instrument than with the strings.

Helicore are between Synthetic and steel and so the string height could be as well.

Shar does do rentals by mail as well as some other places. I also do not care for any of their instruments in the very low price ranges like under around $350.

Hope this helps



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David Lashof


I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)


I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

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