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What kind of violin can 99 dollars buy you?
I was curious when I saw an ad from one of my own sponsors for a 99 dollar violin. From time to time I get emails from Fiddlerman.com visitors who want to learn to play the violin but do not know where to find one or how much to spend on a violin. Not only did the violin cost $99 but the package includes everything you need in order to play. I decided to order one and test it for my visitors.
First surprise came when I ordered the fiddle. The shipping was free :-) Next surprise was how quickly I received the violin. I ordered the violin on Monday and it arrived at my door Thursday evening. So far so good. I wanted to video the whole experience so that everyone interested could see exactly what I was seeing for the first time. The case is very attractive and has a built-in music pouch on the outside. Upon opening the violin I was pleasantly surprised to see TWO bows instead of one, although if I had read the ad properly I would have known what was to be included in the package. Also found a small box within the box with a free tuner and metronome that seems to work extremely well so far. The bows did not look like real wood at first but after more careful examination proved to be brazilwood after all. Not great bows but they work fine for a beginner and didn't create any problems for me in any way whatsoever. The bows are not pre-rosined so I had to work for a good 10 to 15 minutes to get that brand new shiny clear rosin to rub off enough on the bow hair to start making sound.
The violin has a unique kind of metallic black spray paint that still has a slight smell to it. Not bad enough to be bothersome in any way in my opinion and I am fairly certain that the smell will disappear after some airing out. Both the chin-rest and the shoulder-rest are very much usable and of much better quality than I ever imagined.
The violin is slightly heavier and thicker than a fine violin but supposedly made of real maple and spruce just as any other fine violin though most probably not of equal quality.
I had to back off the fine adjusting tuner screws right away to allow some play for raising the pitch since the strings appear to be steel core and therefor need fine tuners. Also I had to move the bridge back about a quarter inch to get it in the right position.
I proceeded to play the strings one by one and was pleasantly surprised that they are remarkably even between themselves. The volume of this violin is quite a bit lower than my own violin but there are very few instruments that can match my violins sound. Also, a new Jan Larsson, Sweden would cost you around $20.000 as apposed to $99. I didn't test the violin with any of my good bows since the complete beginner will most likely be using the bow that is included with the violin though I am sure that I would have had much more control with one of my other bows. Non-the-less, I am able to play just about any type of bow stroke with plenty of control with the included bow that costs a very small fraction of what my bows cost.
All in all, I can honestly recommend this outfit for a person who wants to learn to play violin and does not know where to begin. I even recommend these fiddles for folk and country musicians and professionals looking for a cheap practice or outdoor violin. I am certain that if I spent money at the Luthiers to make some adjustments with the post and bridge, I would get this violin to sound even better. The $10 strings that are included on the violin might not be the absolute best choice for optimal sound.
I will be raffling off this violin in the beginning of June to one of Fiddlermans visitors. For your chance to win this fiddle simply visit this link to like Fiddlermans "Learn to play Violin" facebook page.
To double your chances, register, login and make at least one comment on Fiddlermans "Fiddle Talk" forum. Any of the topics will qualify you and it does not have to be on the "99 dollar violin test" topic as most seem to be doing.
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.
Er – I can't help you win but your chances are as great as anyone else who followed the instructions. You will be entered twice. I'll air the process and drawing live on FiddlermanTV later. The exact date has not been decided but will probably be the first week in June
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.
The truth is Pikachu, I don't know. I didn't know what kind of violin you could get for 99 dollars either until I tried this one. I've mostly played on fine instruments including many of my colleagues violins. I can only say that this particular instrument was WELL worth the money. I can't even see how it is possible. I think that you are right about them just wanting to make a sale. I doubt that they are that much better. I would personally vote for buying a cheap instrument until you learn enough to make an educated guess or to be able to test it yourself. Try to test as many friends violins, or anyone you know that will allow you to test their instruments. Most violin shops will allow you to try them out.
@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
You got it Mary!!!
What I will do is make a printout of all FIddlerman registered members who have made posts. One is all it takes, and put them all in a jar. Secondly, those who have liked the "Learn to play Violin" facebook page will be put in as well thus doubling the chances of all who have done both. I'll pick a day in June and make an event out of it on Fiddlerman TV.
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!
Thanks for the info on taobao. I didn't know anything about it. Maybe we could figure out a way to get the exact same violin over here for half the price :-)
Truth is that I feel like it is a steel anyway but everyone needs to save money right?
Is there anyway to get that site in English? My Chinese is a little rusty ;-)
I LOVE to see people pick up the violin after not having played for a long time and discover a new love for the instrument. Thanks for sharing how much you enjoy the site. Good luck with the drawing. I will pick a day in the beginning of June and schedule a live drawing.
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.
He is referring to my 99 dollar violin test and this site:
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