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I was an original Chinese violin junkie back when ownership was almost treason.
I was buying EBAy and my top investment was about $100 for a cello. The score was:
Chinese cello ........ amazing sound except the loop on the tailpiece broke sending all kinds of shrapnel into orbit. Repaired and working for my daughter. Some warping in fingerboard. Grreat sound.
15" Viola ....... Horrible racket but looks pretty. Very shrill. Will play OK with mute but not much use. ( Not same dealer as cello. )
16" Viola ....... Great appearance and sound but not much projection. Probably nicest sound of anything I own ( 5 stringed instruments ).
I think the 15" viola was the cheapest of all at around $70.
I changed strings on all.
How does this compare to say, some of the cheaper models in a band store? The colored violins online are super cute, but they seem to be only $50 - $100 cheaper than some of the low-end "traditional" beginner violins. The shop people tell me that there is a huge difference in quality, and that the colored violins end up being frustrating toys for people starting out on the violin, so to invest a little more in a cheap violin from one of the violin catalogs.
:/ I don't know enough about violins to know if they're being truthful, or if they just want to make a sale.
@Pikachu I own 3 Ebay cheapo instruments. I think that when you go below $100 on a violin you definitely increase the chances of getting burned but it is all sort of a crap game in the first place. However, IF you can establish a dependable importer your odds improve greatly. I had a friend who bought a $49 violin but he was strangely quiet about it later ; )
I forgot to mention painted violins. Why would a violin maker do that ? Maybe to hide his materials used for the violin. Like, for instance, plywood. Yeah, that is being used in some cheap violins. I have read reports that the plywood violins do not sound any worse than other cheap violins from solid wood plates, etc.
Hmmm...Very interesting! Sign me up for a chance to win. I don't do Facebook, but will be watching here and the Fiddlerman blog :-)
Mary in Lebanon, Oregon http://www.thefiddleandbanjoproject.wordpress.com
Unable to afford even a cheap violin but wanting to take up the fiddle once again after giving it up in high school I posted my 'wish' for a violin on facebook and an old friend pulled a student violin out of her attic and passed it on to me. It's nothing special, a Chinese Skylark, but it means the world to me. Would love to 'step up' to the $99 version. In the meantime I play a couple hours a day split into several sessions and am happy to be playing the violin again. Though this time I'm playing 'old-time' and smiling all day long instead of school band music I imagine I'll be including some of the 'classics' eventually. Much enjoying your site Fiddlerman and happy to see the internet is doing it's best to fill in for all those school music programs which have been cut. It certainly made a difference to me as I wrote my first music with my violin teacher at 8 years old and have gone on to write many a musical and club show. Thank you for the opportunity Fiddlerman!
For taobao (taobao.com), you must use an agent (Taobaonow.com is a great agent) or have a Chinese bank/credit card account. For an agent, basically, you pay them for the items you want, they order and have the item shipped to them in China. They also check the item and negotiate any problems/questions that might arise, then ship the items to you. Downside is that shipping is on the expensive side, even with taobaonow's shipping discount.
The rating system for the shops are also pretty simple.
hearts < diamonds < crowns
Diamond and crown rated shops are usually trustworthy. I would trust a crown shop over the things I see on ebay (IMHO).
You can also use tmall, which is like an online mall, as opposed to regular taobao, which is more like the sellers on Amazon.
I use Google translate, or the Chrome browser translate feature to find things that I don't know the characters for, and to read descriptions. The translations aren't perfect, but you can get the general idea. I've had to re-translate certain things, since 'ebony' tends to translate to black wood.
I have a suspicion that the violins on the diamond and crown shops are the same as the ones imported and sold to local band shops.
Your 99 dollar violin test was awesome and much appreciated. I have been trying to find a place that sells or leases violins in Hawaii. When I searched the web (back in February) for a violin to purchase, I saw the site where you ordered the violin for your demo. I was not sure I wanted to spend 99 dollars on something that potentially could be junk, so I did not order one. I went back to that website again today and was pleased that your video test was there. Thank You for posting that for us rookies.
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