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Thinking about picking up a new Violin
Trying to decide between a few instruments to try
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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nathan86
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January 30, 2019 - 8:16 am
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I've been playing violin for about 25 years off and on.  I started at the age of 7 and was pretty decent back when I was in high school but didn't really pursue music past high school.  I started playing with the praise band at church probably 6-7 years ago and have been playing quite a bit since.  My current violin is an old Japanese violin I would say from around the 1940's.  It's one of those "Made in Japan" labeled violins with no obvious maker noted on it.  I have been playing on this violin since I was probably 12 or 13.  I spoke with a luthier in Louisville Kentucky who said he's seen quite a few of them and they are decent violins but he said I could probably spend $1000-$1500 and get something better.  I am at the point where I feel like it's holding me back in terms of sound and I keep thinking about upgrading.

That being said I have been thinking about several of the Ming Jiang Zhu violins.  I have been really debating between the 905,907,and 909 just trying to come up with where I should set my budget.  I obviously like the price of the 905 but if it's really worth it I wouldn't be opposed to spending the money on the 909.  I've also heard good things about the Scott Cao STV-1500's. 

I guess I am looking for recommendations.  I'm not really playing professionally but I play at church and I have been seriously thinking about joining a local community orchestra and just feel like it is time to upgrade.

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cid
January 30, 2019 - 1:42 pm
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I cannot stress enough, if you can, and many people do not have the ability, do violin taste testing at violin shop(s). This way you can actually hear what they sound like. You can feel how they bow. You can feel how they are in your hands and shoulders. 

Also, get any tradein options or return options in writing. At my violin shop I can get up to 100% of the cost of my instrument (that I bought at that store) towards the price of equal or greater priced violin. I did get 100% towards my trade up. Now my experience and why a student should get what (s)he can afford and NOT settle on less quality.

I went violin tasting in Sept 2018. Before I went, I checked their online website and Googled the violins in my price point. I bought a decent violin. It was a Revelle 500QZ or something like that. I tried the one that I thought I wanted but actually found it hard to bow. I do not know why. There were a couple that I found hard to bow.

I liked the Revelle 500QZ, but it was not exactly what I wanted in sound. All these violins had the same strings and I used the same bow for each. They all had the same chinrest and I used the same shoulder rest. I liked the sound of one that was a little more expensive, but I did want to go that high. I could have, but really did not want to.

Why did I not want to go higher? I felt I was just learning. I didn’t even have an instructor yet, but I had learned a lot from videos and two books from two different lesson series of books. I also have a little cello knowledge. Different beasts, for the greater part, but enough similarities that it helped. I did not think I would benefit from a better violin and/or one closer to the sound I wanted (warm and mellow as opposed to bright). I figured I did not know enough, so it would not matter. 

After 2 weeks, we went back to the violin shop. That bright sound was holding me back. I could feel it. I did not like what I was hearing, even with well tuned open strings.

We went back and I did more violin tasting. I tried a number of violins. I found the same thing. I went in thinking a Cao (?). I had issues with playing a few of the violins. I also had issues with the sounds. I found one I absolutely love. It happened to be the one that was about $300 more than what I wanted to spend, but I did set my budget about $400 lower than what I wanted to spend. Before we went in, I made an appointment to trade in my Revelle at the violin shop and told them the price limit. I knew there would be one a little over, but with my lower price point, I am covered.

Okay, I did the tasting. Guess what, the Cao, that I was sure I wanted based on reviews and actually contacting them, gave me issues playing and I did not like the sound. I did not like it when the violin shop’s violinist assistant played it for me, either. I ended out with a Rudoulf Doetsch violin. I love it. 

If I had not dropped the idea that a beginner does not need, or should not have, a violin they love, within their price range, I would be struggling. I love playing it, it is easy for me to play, and I love the sound. If this was not the case, I would not be playing it as much.

So, my suggestion? Spend what you can on the instrument you want. It is well worth it. If You can gonviolin tasting, make an appointment. Bring music in you can play. Take as long as you need. Do not ask prices of each or models. Do blind tasting. Also, have their violinist play them so you can hear the sound. Stand on the other side of the room, or part way, delending in the size. You need to hear what it sounds like when not directly under your ears.

I hope this is helpful.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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nathan86
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January 30, 2019 - 2:51 pm
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Yea unfortunately there aren't a ton of violin shops around although there are a couple within an hour or two from here.  None of the places I have talked to carry any MJZ which I am very much interested in.  I've thought about doing some in home trial stuff from fiddlershop and getting a couple to try.  I know the luthier in Louisville that I have dealt with a few times seems to carry a lot of GCV stuff with his own label in them.

I definitely don't plan to commit to anything without trying it first but I feel like my first thing I need to do is determine what my price range is.  I was thinking $1500 as a min but at $1500 I'm afraid I won't really be improving on what I already have and I really don't think I want to spend over $4000 at the top end so maybe shoot for $2000-$4000?

I know everyone says don't look at the prices but I don't want to go in and fall in love with a $10,000 violin that I will want but really be way over what I want to spend.

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Bob
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January 30, 2019 - 4:43 pm
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@nathan86 I recently got a home trial of three bows from FiddlerMan and ended up buying a nice one. The home trial is really simple and they give a full 2 weeks. Postage to and from is paid and you use the supplied shipping materials. 

For violins there are numerous review/demonstrations on YouTube for all the MJZ along with most of the other violins that FM carries. 

I highly recommend it.

Good luck on your search, and welcome to a great forum. Most of us here don't have the background in violin as you do, so your inputs will really be welcome.

Bob in Lone Oak, Texas

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cid
January 30, 2019 - 5:45 pm
Member Since: December 26, 2018
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@nathan86 Yep, the closest violin shop I could find is a little over an hour away. Fiddlershop was going to be my go to if I hadn’t found the shop a little over an hour. I think Fiddlershop has a home trial system for violins, too. I have contacted them with questions about many products before and always get steered in the right direction. Personally, I would not be hesitant to get one through Fiddlershop. I am not trying to drum up sales. I am just very impressed with customer service with Fiddlershop. Doing anything online, as far as I am concerned, requires excellent customer service.

I am sure Fiddlerman can help you find exactly what you want.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Pete_Violin
Utah
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January 31, 2019 - 1:14 am
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I am actually in the early stages of violin shopping as well.  And I am in a very similar price scenario as you.  

Also, you have a great advantage, that is, all your years of experience.  I’ve been playing now for a year and have not had near the experience you have had.  I do not intend to buy a violin for a while, and I will explain the technical reasons why here soon.  

My violin is a beautiful Burré Cathèdral and was made in Japan like yours.  She is so wonderful, I don’t even want to part with her.  I learn more and more about her and her capabilities and characteristics all the time. 

I paid $1500 for my violin and it was worth every penny.  But there are some things I have come to know about my beautiful violin...and it is something you need to look for as you are trying violins.  My wonderful violin has limitations with how some of the high position notes are not as clear and solid as higher quality violins are in the same positions and notes.   When you play a violin, play up in high 3rd and 4th position.  Play long bow strokes and remember what notes you played exactly.  Then play the same notes and durations on another violin.  Listen for any hissing, screeches, loss of tone anywhere along the bow as you pull the bow.  And I am talking about high notes in 4th and up in 5th positions on the A and E strings.  Not all the notes will do this but you may find a point where they begin to lose some clarity.

This is one way to distinguish the quality of one violin from another.  And it does not mean your violin is poor quality or anything is wrong with it.   It just means it was not built to play in that quality.  

Also you may be surprised that one violin may not be quite as clean or clear on those notes, and another, maybe less in price (+/- $1000) may be absolutely clean and clear.  It depends on how it was made and the quality and age of the wood at the time the violin was made.  

So in that range, $1000 to $2000 difference in price, the sound produced can vary, especially when you are playing violins in the $2000 to $4000 price range.  (Obviously a $10,000 violin is entirely different).  

This is what I have found and what my luthier demonstrated to me.  It really opened my eyes (and ears) to the differences in violins.  

Consequently, because I am not at the playing level yet which warrents a violin beyond what I have now, and because I love my violin so much, I probably will not need to upgrade for 2 to 3 more years.  And that is a comforting feeling to me.  

The learning process and hearing my violin played in that way was well worth my time and I am so glad I did that and that my luthier took the time to show me and demonstrate to me what those subtle differences are.  They can make a huge difference though when you are comparing violins that are so close in quality.  

I love EVERYTHING about violins.  All the nuances, learning more about them, playing them, working with them, getting better and better at playing.  Every aspect of this beautiful instrument intreagues me and is such a fulfilling experience!

Have fun shopping and learning about violins!  They are remarkable!!!

- Pete -

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nathan86
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January 31, 2019 - 10:44 am
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Yea I can definitely hear the hissing on the E string in high positions on my violin.  It's one of the main reasons I have been thinking about upgrading.  It is a good sounding violin but there are things about the sound I don't love.  One thing that helped it some is I moved from using mainly dominant E strings to Pirastro Gold Label E strings.  They seem to definitely have a less harsh sound to them but still not quite what I am looking for.  

My other thing is my daughter has started playing violin (she's 6) and I picked her up a fiddlerman 1/4 size apprentice violin for now but when she starts to get bigger and better at playing she will need something to play on and I have been thinking she can either start playing my current violin or if I get something nice that I really liked and she is getting to the point where she needs a really good violin I could even let her have whatever I end up with and get myself an even better one 😉 (although I'm sure she'll end up wanting the new one at that point).

I keep thinking to myself maybe a MJZ 905 would be a good enough violin for what I do with it but then I think to myself maybe I should be looking into that $4000 range and get myself something that I know will be as much violin as I will ever need.  It's not like I'm planning on becoming a professional violinist at this point in my life (not that I'm even close to being good enough anyway).

Has anyone found any good contenders to look at other than the MJZ909 or the Scott Cao STV-1500 in that price range?  From the video's I have watched I really like the MJZ909s a lot and have had trouble finding anything I really like more.

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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January 31, 2019 - 6:39 pm
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Jay Haide instruments are also excellent value in that price range.

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nathan86
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February 1, 2019 - 9:51 am
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AndrewH said
Jay Haide instruments are also excellent value in that price range.  

Yea there is a dealer somewhat near here that sells them.  It might be worth a trip up to Indianapolis to check one out.  

I also saw these were on sale at fiddlershop.  Don't know much about them but the few video's I have listened to sound nice:

https://fiddlershop.com/collec.....ian-violin

They are really at the top of what I wanted to spend but not bad if they are decent violins.  I'd love to hear a comparison of one vs a mjz909

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bocaholly
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February 1, 2019 - 11:28 am
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Have a Sima Traian from Fiddlershop myself. They are way more than "decent violins."

Since I live near Fiddlershop, I was able to try a couple of Simas and a dozen or so others, mostly Scott Cao and the different MJZ models you are looking at. At that point in time, my repertory consisted of Mary Had a Little Lamb so it may have been luck that I squeezed in a few decent bow strokes when the Sima happened to be in my hand, LOL. 

9 Months down the pike and I am still more than pleased with my choice. Besides being gorgeous and beautifully made, the sound has lots of color (which I guess translates to overtones/harmonics.) I've had Evah Pirazzi greens, Obligatos and Warchal Timbres on it in the past 9 months. It "gets along" with all of them (slightly clearer and sweeter/brighter with the EPs, more color with the Timbres.)

As for the sound higher up the fingerboard, so far I can vouch for excellent sound across the 4 strings in 3rd position and for the A & E strings in 5th. My teacher hates listening to everyone's position exercises in Whistler's book, thinks my intonation is meh, and yet said that I was her only student who can make those exercises sound good. Rest assured, it's not my awesome skill, it's the fact that most students starting positions don't yet have such a well made violin! cool

Felix, Fiddlershop's master luthier and fabulous violinist himself, has played my Sima briefly a few times since I bought it, most recently a month ago. He was clearly delighted with the sound quality too.

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nathan86
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February 1, 2019 - 3:07 pm
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bocaholly said
Have a Sima Traian from Fiddlershop myself. They are way more than "decent violins."

Since I live near Fiddlershop, I was able to try a couple of Simas and a dozen or so others, mostly Scott Cao and the different MJZ models you are looking at. At that point in time, my repertory consisted of Mary Had a Little Lamb so it may have been luck that I squeezed in a few decent bow strokes when the Sima happened to be in my hand, LOL. 

9 Months down the pike and I am still more than pleased with my choice. Besides being gorgeous and beautifully made, the sound has lots of color (which I guess translates to overtones/harmonics.) I've had Evah Pirazzi greens, Obligatos and Warchal Timbres on it in the past 9 months. It "gets along" with all of them (slightly clearer and sweeter/brighter with the EPs, more color with the Timbres.)

As for the sound higher up the fingerboard, so far I can vouch for excellent sound across the 4 strings in 3rd position and for the A & E strings in 5th. My teacher hates listening to everyone's position exercises in Whistler's book, thinks my intonation is meh, and yet said that I was her only student who can make those exercises sound good. Rest assured, it's not my awesome skill, it's the fact that most students starting positions don't yet have such a well made violin! cool

Felix, Fiddlershop's master luthier and fabulous violinist himself, has played my Sima briefly a few times since I bought it, most recently a month ago. He was clearly delighted with the sound quality too.  

I'm glad you posted this I had talked to one of the girls over at Fiddlershop and she didn't really love the Sima Traian's nearly as much as the MJZ's.  I might end up having them do a comparison video of a MJZ 909, Sima Traian, and maybe a Scott Cao and decide between the three which one might be worth doing an in-home trial of.

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NellieGirl
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I bought the MJZ 905 in 3/4 size from Fiddlershop and I've been extremely pleased. The sound is full and resonant, balanced and smooth. My good friend bought the MJZ 909 and it is outstanding, noticeably better than my smaller 905. If I could play a full-sized instrument, I would definitely get a 909 and never look back. Fiddlerman's comparison videos and approval process make it easy to buy online.

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BobbyFlay
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You could also check out a Carlo Lamberti Master. It’s $1500 and I think is similar or basically the same as then Ming Jiang Zhus but don’t quote me on that. I just hear they are very good for the price.

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Fiddlerman
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February 4, 2019 - 9:53 am
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I try to stay out of these conversations because I am probably biased. 🙂
No matter what, no one ever gets stuck with an instrument that they don't want to keep when purchasing from Fiddlershop. Our goal is to satisfy every customer when possible.
First of all we have a 45 day satisfaction guarantee.
Then there is the in-home trial process for those who want to make sure before purchasing:
https://fiddlershop.com/pages/.....ome-trials

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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