The Myths and Mysteries of Violin Pricing
Part One of Seven
by James W Robinson
Many people, whether they are looking for their first violin purchase or are upgrading their instrument for another, better one, find the issues surrounding violin pricing confusing. After all, newer(older) is better, right? So, why are ‘second hand’ or old violins often more expensive? The purpose of the violin is to sound beautiful, isn’t it? So, the more expensive violin should sound more beautiful than the cheaper one, correct?
The purpose of this article is to examine the above questions and to separate myth from reality. Hopefully, this will help some readers to gain a clearer understanding of the main principles in how violins are priced. It should be understood, however, that the pricing of violins is not always straightforward.
It is important for players to understand, that violin family instrument prices are based primarily upon who made the instrument, its condition, and where and when it was made, not on how it sounds as that is a personal opinion. How an instrument sounds are not only related to its inherent acoustical qualities but are also determined by who is playing it, what strings are used, and how well it is set up. To complicate matters, even more, this is not to say that the sound of an instrument will never have any bearing on its price; it does to a degree only. For example, it should be noted that even the finest instrument will not sound very good in the hands of an inexperienced or unskilled player. It is also noteworthy that even a low-quality factory-made instrument could sound pretty good especially to an untrained ear when played by a highly skilled and experienced player. This is why many music shops have salespeople who are skilled musicians. Also, unlike fretted instruments, a violin family instrument’s sound can be altered in many more ways because it is made to be taken apart. Almost anything that is done to an instrument will have an acoustical effect. So, issues surrounding how an instrument sounds are complex. As yet, there are no truly objective means, beyond personal opinion, to compare the sound of one instrument against another on a sliding scale of very good to very bad. Some say this is like finding the 'Holy Grail' of musical instruments.
(copyright James W Robinson)