Friday, November 21, 2014

How The Customer Should Purchase A String Instrument, Part 1

This next section covers the five categories that are important for the buyer of an instrument. The first is:

Price

As a buyer you will need to set a reasonable price limit when you buy a violin, understanding that they range in price and quality from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars.
Before you select a range, it's a good idea to go a play some examples in the various ranges, so that you can get a feel for the differences. When you call to make an appointment (often a good idea instead of just showing up) to see instruments at your local shop ask that they reserve a 1/2 hour. Make sure to set enough time so they can explain how they price their instruments and selection process. When you are on the phone have them give you a price range, that way your shop can get several in that range ready for you to consider. If you don't want to spend more than a certain amount make sure they understand and respect that request. To either educate your ear or satisfy your curiosity, you may want to hear instruments in the next range up or down. Not every violin in one price range is made equally. Likewise, not every violin at one quality is priced equally. Determine what your purpose is in ownership. You should consider whether you want to make an investment in a more expensive violin that will last a lifetime, or whether you simply want to buy a cheaper model to get you through a few lessons. Your plans for an instrument will dictate what price range you should be investigating. When visiting the shop make sure to bring your bow, a shoulder rest for violins and violas and a few measures of music to play. You want to make sure that you play the same thing on each instrument and having your own bow takes out a foreign element in the right hand leaving only the left to worry about.

The following is a general guideline for the basic price groups. Add 10% to 20% more for violas and 50% more for cellos:


$200.00-$450.00- Usually beginner instruments. Lower -end factory or trade name instruments from China, Czech, Romania, and Bulgaria.

$500.00-$1800.00-Entry level step-ups. Better made factory from China, Romania, Bulgaria and Germany.

$1900.00-$5000.00- Includes above but with better wood and craftsmanship. Usually better attention to detail and sound.

$5000.00-$10,000.00- Handmade violins. Contemporary American makers and European makers.

$25,000.00-$50,000.00- Prize winning contemporary makers; well known 20th century English and French makers.

Approval:
Any instrument that you are seriously considering should be able to be taken out on approval. This allows you to play the instrument in various settings, and receive critical feedback from friends, teachers and colleagues. Does your shop have a "trial policy"? Whatever factors are important to your decision making make sure it will fit into the trial period. For example: Will your teacher be in town to give you feedback? can you get into a hall if projection of sound is important?
Financing:
Does your shop have any financing, or can they refer you to a bank that understands violin purchases? By the time you have made your decision, you need to be ready to tell the shop how you wish to pay for the instrument. If you wait until you fall in love with the instrument you may be left trying to beg, borrow or steal to make the purchase price, and considerable heartache will surely ensue if your plans do not materialize.
Trade-in Policy:
Does your shop have a trade-in policy? If in the future you or your child needs a better quality instrument or a larger size, what value will your present purchase carry forward? Also what is the selection your shop has in the next available range or size that might be the next step-up, if trade-in is important to you?

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