There was a time when the art of violin making was a carefully guarded secret, strictly passed down from master to apprentice.  This special knowledge was sought after by kings and royals, nobles and courtiers, whose influence was renowned and their wealth immense.  Composers and violinists were like rock stars of their day, requesting the finest of instruments for their performances.  There was no internet, no television, no radio, no automobiles, no airplanes, no video games, or just about any other popular modern form of distraction or entertainment.  But this period in history was filled to abundance with live music, theater, and art.  And if you happened to be fortunate enough to be a maker of violins at this time, your craft was in high demand and so were those willing to pay a pretty penny for one.

Fast forward a few hundred years, obviously many things have changed.  But there are still remnants of these bygone days that have clung to and followed the violin into these modern times - some of them deservingly so, but others seem to have fallen into an irrational resistance to change.  While its beauty, prestige, and versatility have lived on through the ages, making or playing the violin is no longer an art form restricted to the upper classes of society.  But many folks still believe they have to pay a kingly price for a good one, as if they were only available to the social elite.

If I asked you to name any 5 television shows, or 5 makers of automobiles, or 5 pop singers, could you do it?  I would undoubtedly think the answer would be yes.  Now, what if I asked you to give me the names of 5 luthiers born within the last 100 years?  Not as easy, is it?  In fact, I would guess that over 90% of people reading this wouldn't be able to do it.  But when out shopping for violins, what's the first thing we do?  Look at the name on the label inside the violin.  Like we even know who it is most of the time!  Don't worry though, I'm guilty of it too.  And I'd say any honest person would tell you the same.  But why do we do it?  The answer is simple and it's the reason you could readily supply the names of TV shows, cars, or pop singers - it's because we have been trained to!

Today's marketing and media industry is centered around brand recognition and we have been so programmed to believe that if we do not recognize the brand, then it must not be any good.  We do this so often when shopping at the grocery or department stores that we don't even realize we are doing it any more.  And unfortunately, this same pattern of thought carries over into shopping for a violin as well.  Many folks seeking a violin will make their decision solely based on looking for a name they recognize, which is more than likely very few.  This will greatly limit your choices, possibly passing over some wonderfully crafted instruments that may be perfect for you!

So here is a quick test: if you had to choose between a $600 violin made in China and sold online, and a $6000 violin made in Italy and sold at your local high-end violin shop, which do you think would be the better instrument?  If you just cringed after even reading the question, you have been programmed.  You probably just focused on the key buzzwords in the question to immediately formulate your decision.  But the truth of the matter is, the above description is not nearly suitable enough for choosing a violin.  In these modern times, finding a fine quality violin is no longer tied to a certain place where it was made, the method through which you purchased it, whose name is on the label, or even the price!

You may not be aware of this, but a vast majority of new violins you will find for sale are coming out of China - and I'm talking about the really good ones being offered in most shops!  Need proof?  Check out the names of some recent winners from the Violin Society of America's 20th International Competition!  The simple truth is that the paradigm of what you might think about violin making has changed, and if you are stuck in the past then you'll be missing out on a lot of exceptional buying opportunities.  We are in a new Age of Information, and so it's time to leave behind the opulent airs of the Renaissance and break free of the chains of the controlling mass media.  Knowledge is the new reigning monarch when it comes to buying a violin, and it will be your most useful ally.

That is really the sole purpose of this blog - to empower you with the knowledge of violins so that you can shake off long past traditions and pierce through modern influences in order to find an instrument you love.  If you only have a small amount to spend on an instrument, or live in a remote place where there are no violin shops, or don't know the name of single violin maker, you should feel assured that there ARE "good" violins out there for you!  All you need to know is how to find and identify them.  And when you do find a violin you love to play, you should never feel ashamed when comparing it to someone else's.  If you found yours through the careful comparison and selection process using the information provided in these posts and the person next to you spouts off a fancy name and high price for their violin but otherwise can't tell you a thing about it, who do you think will be more confident with their purchase and appreciative of their instrument?

It's this subject that will be the topic of the next post and probably the one you've been looking for since the beginning - money!  How much should you pay for a violin?  Well, put your wallets and pocketbooks away because the answer may surprise you!

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