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Violin/Beijing Wang Zhiguo's shop


QUESTION: Hi Mr. Lashof. I am thinking of buying a viola from Beijing Wang Zhiguo's workshop. Do you know anything about that workshop?

Thank you Mr. Lashof.

ANSWER: Hi Ridwan

I have seen two instruments out of the workshop, both fairly low level student instruments in the $300-450 range. Both were acceptable beginner instruments as long as they have good setups (properly fitted bridges and good strings), one of the ones I saw was not properly setup and needed the above as well as some peg adjustments. The more expensive one I didn't like the varnish, it was trying to look imitation old, but it was poorly done looking too streaky.  They are certainly better built than some of the low level instruments that you see on Ebay and Amazon. I regret that I have not seen any of the higher model instruments, so I can't comment on those. I am sure that the lower level instruments are assembly line instruments and probably have had no attention from the master. The lowest level one that I saw, was similar but not as good as an Eastman 100 model violin, who's instruments are certainly better known and the company has a very good reputation for consistency.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the reply Mr. Lashof.

I am currently looking at a $600, 16" viola sold by Master Wang Zhiguo's workshop. The seller, Lu, tells me it's handmade by Master Wang. Lu also tells me it's worth more than $1000. But I requested that he picks a viola that I can buy for between $500 and $600 so he sent me pictures of that particular viola. If it is handmade by the master, would you think it's worth a buy?

I bought a $350 Guarneri del Gesu violin model from Master Wang's workshop. I sounds well. My teacher played it and said it has good response, easy to play and sounds warm. However, while playing, the vibrations hurt my head a little bit. Do you think it is badly set up? Is that why it hurts my head?

Also, I'm also looking for alternative $400 to $600 violas. Do you know of other shops or companies I ought to consider? Could you perhaps suggest a viola for me to look at also?

I apologize; these are a lot of questions. Please take your time if you want to answer all of these. And thank you for your time.

I seriously doubt that a hand made instrument from the master's own hands could sell for as little as $1000, even in China, but I could be wrong. Other master Chinese makers are getting $3000-7500 for ones made in China exclusively by the master. Otherwise, I am sure that it is still a workshop instrument but the higher it goes, the more the chance that the master will look in on the product before putting his seal of approval on it.  If you can forward me the photos, that would be a start, you can send them to me directly at since AE only allows two. However, this will tell me nothing about the sound quality and as no two instruments of the same model/brand will sound the same, knowing the model is kind of useless. Viola's should always be picked in person.

I have no idea why the sound of the violin "hurts your head", without playing the instrument to access it's sound, that is really impossible.

Some other instrument brands to consider are:
Eastman - 80 or 100
Gliga - Genial 1 or Gems 2
Cao - 017
Century Strings - Angel Taylor 110
Dunov - Prelude

But as I said above, there is no brand that I can specifically recommend since the instruments all vary.  As a shop owner, I would only accept about 40% of the instruments that I looked at, as others were just not up to the same quality. I would set them up, try them out and pick those that I wanted to keep. Sometimes I would reject them before setting them up because of workmanship or materials but more often for sound after the set up.  At this price level, instruments are made in an assembly line format and once assembled and varnished very little can be done about the sound. The instruments are not properly "tuned" as they are made since they are relatively low grade and since one maker will not make the entire instrument, the parts don't stay together as a single unit.  I could show you pictures, within the same model, of the piles of tops, piles of back...etc. They are then just assembled in whatever order they are picked up in.

In viola dollars (usually 15% higher than their violin counterparts), $400-600 is still beginner level and as such will be in the same basic quality range as your $350 violin. A $600 one will probably have slightly better wood and varnish but is still basically the same quality of instrument.  Often times the instruments will be made and then graded. So the ones with the better wood will get a better varnish and as such will end up being a higher grade and thus costing more.  They will often never be set up and played until they get to the violin shop.


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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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