All Strung Out

A young violinist stopped by a high- end instrument store to compare his brand new $62.00 model violin to those made in the 1700s’ and worth well over $150,000.


I suggest watch him play the cheap one again after you’ve posted a comment and try to remember why those more expensive older violins sounded better (if you thought they did). 

35 Comments on All Strung Out

  1. I would have to agree with one of the youtube comments. It is impossible to judge the difference because of the distortions in the recording and playback. That, and my tinnitus.

    There are some very good violins being made today. I have always had the impression that the perception that the older violins are better, just because, is more an affectation. A point can be made about the availability of quality wood, but it can still be found in limited quantities.

    The Priers make some good violins, and their school has produced some fine luthiers (and probably a fair number of mediocre ones).

  2. From my experience, cheap instruments are much harder to keep in tune (cheap saxophones are notoriously bad) and more likely to break. Sometimes, especially when new, they sound very close to more expensive versions. But pricing on vintage violins is crazy. Other instruments, you can typically get a “pro” version for about $2,000 to $10,000.

  3. AC⚡DC Thunderstruck

    You can be a sexless hipster playing it on a scratchy $100,000 violin, or trade it in and blare it out of one of those Lamborghinis with hot women chasing you down the street throwing their panties at you.

    The choice is yours beta-male.

  4. On Thunderstruck, I could hear no significant differences between any of them. On Hallelujah, only the cheap one stood out; it sounds flat as in the wood produces no harmonics. I clicked back and forth to confirm. Then I had my wife click back and forth to trick me.

  5. Sorry, my husband and I are both violinists. The video is bogus. If you order a $62 violin, the bridge and pegs won’t be fitted and the sound post won’t be adjusted. I.e. It will not stay in tune and the sound will warble. You must take it to a violin shop and spend a few hundred to do that. There is no way that he opened the box and had a violin with those things adjusted.
    Slower songs with a lot of vibrato can be pulled off on a cheap instrument (outdoor wedding), but higher and faster notes cannot. (This guy can’t seem to move his bow and fingers at the same time so he does none of them justice )

    Strings alone are at least $45 in order to get that type of non steel sound.

    Btw, no comparison in sound between them. The Testore was the best one.

  6. @rickeyg – you should be able to get an orchestral job on a $20,000 instrument. $50-60,000 for principal positions. $80,000+ for a solo career.
    You are right about tuning. Tuning the violin involves balance and friction. It is wood, so when the stage lights come on or the weather changes, part of what you pay for is the ability for it to stay tuned. You can’t have an instrument that only stays in tune between 65-70 degrees at 60 % humidity.

  7. If you’re a reasonably accomplished musician and as long as the instrument you are playing is set up right and functioning correctly, you can make it sound good.
    I don’t own any violins but I do own quite a few fiddles. The difference? You can spill beer on a fiddle.

  8. Bluegrass – i agree. Our outdoor violins are less than $1000 and half of that is the bow. Classical music has to have a balanced bow.

  9. It’s my expert opinion that 5 minutes of listening to a violin is about 4 minutes too long. I’m not too big on opera or ballet either. I guess I’m not too cultured.

  10. Art… Bows are a completely different subject and the dynamics of each one are very different to say the least.. I have a J.Dodd bow that is for indoors only along with the Treffle Gervais violin that I bought.. believe it or not… on eBay for $80 a few years ago.
    I take the Glasser or the Bausch bows to bluegrass festivals.

  11. Joe6Pack… On the Uneasy Rider album, C.D. played every instrument I believe. Absolutely a very talented and Gifted artist… as is Ian Anderson.

  12. So back in the 60’s my mother wanted me to play the violin. I tried to explain to her
    that’s a girls instrument. She was a concert violinist.
    But to no avail.
    So I can play the violin
    But very few people know this.
    So keep it under your hat.

  13. I know “Art of the Zeal” personally. In fact, she is my sister. And She has been teaching violin, piano, and viola for many years. She is a graduate at Peabody. She is an accomplished violist. Her husband teaches music in the DC area. So just put up or shut up.

  14. I’ve often wondered if 200 year old violins sound great simply because they are 200 years old. The wood dries out, losing tone-robbing moisture in the process. Many master grade violins are made with tone woods that have been air dried for up to 20 years before becoming an instrument. Cheaper instruments are sometimes made with wood that has been kiln dried to speed up the process.

    I’d love to know if an standard quality violin made today will sound like today’s Stradivarius 200 years from now.


  16. TN-
    I agree with Ed, it’s mostly the quality of the wood. Some of the things that cause variety within the same type of trees are rainfall amounts (density) and region(climate). Thus, some places and years are better than others.
    Some strads etc are good and some aren’t as nice. The years and owners were not kind to them all. An instrument less than 20 years will never sound like a Strad but it can still be a good instrument. $50,000 range. One of the advantages of getting a newer instrument is that it should improve with age.
    With violin, the bow is equal to sound quality, personality, richness, response as the violin. You would be shocked how a bow can make one violin sound like heaven and another sound like someone pulling a cat’s tail. A lot of care is taken when matching the two.
    Hope that helps answer your question.

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