VolumeCrescendo (cresc):  Gradually increase the volume

Decrescendo (decresc.):  Gradually softer

Diminuendo (dim.):  Gradually softer

Forte (f):  Strong or loud

Fortepiano (fp):  Loud then immediately soft

Fortissimo (ff):  Very strong or loud

Mezzo:  medium or moderately (as in mezzo piano or mezzo soprano)

Morendo:  Die away

Pianissimo:   very soft

Piano:  Soft

Sforzando (sfz):  Loud sudden attack 


Grave:  Very very slow and solemn  (30-50)

Largo:  Broad and slow  (40 – 50)

Lento:  Slow & calm  (but not as slow as Largo)  (50)

Adagio:  Slowly, leisurely  (60 – 80)

Andante:  In a walking tempo, moderately slow  (80 – 96)

Maestoso:  Majestically (80 -104)

Allegretto:   Tempo between Allegro and Andante  (96-116)

Moderato:  In a moderate tempo     (112-130)

Allegro:  Quick and lively  (120-160)

Vivace:  Very Fast  (140 – 180)

Presto:  Very fast (160-200)

Prestissimo: As fast as possible (180 + )


Accelerando (Accel.):   Gradually increase the tempo

Alla Breve:  (Same as cut time) – Two beats per measure & half note get the beat

Allargando:  Gradually slower and broader

A tempo:  In the original speed

Grand Pause (G.P.):   A long pause in the music

L’istesso tempo:   In the same beat speed

Meno Mosso:  less motion, a little slower

Piu mosso:  more motion;  a little faster

Rallentendo:  Gradually slower

Ritardando:  Gradually slower

Rubato:  Not in a strict tempo

Stringendo:  Press the tempo;  gradually faster

Tenuto:  Hold full value or stretch the notes


Attacca:  Attached

Cadenza:  extended section for soloist alone

Coda:  A finishing section (tail)

Da Capo (D.C.) :  From the beginning

Dal Segno (D.S.):  From the sign

Fine:  The end


Ad Libertum (ad. lib.):    At the performer’s discretion, improvisation

Divisi (div.):  Divide the between players

Ossia:  an alternate part

Soli:  Like instruments playing same part

Solo:  one player

Tacet:  Silent

Tutti:   Everyone

Unison:  All play same part


Animato:  In an animated style

Brio, con:  With brilliance, with spirit,

Cantabile:  In a singing style

Dolce:  Sweetly

Espressivo:   With Expression

Fuoco, con:  With fire

Grazioso:  gracefully

Legato:  Smooth and connected

Maestoso:  Majestically

Marcato:  Marked with distinctness, every note accented

Pesante:  Heavily, emphatic

Semplice:  simple

Sostenuto:  Sustained

Staccato:   Separated

Secco:   dryly,  extremely separated

Sordino:  Mute (con sordino: with mute;  senza sordino: without mute)


Assia:  very    (Allegro assia -very fast)

Con:  with  (con fuoco – with fire)

Molto:   Much  (molto crescendo – increase volume significantly)

Non troppo:  Not too much   (Allegro non troppo – not too fast)

Poco a poco:   Little by little  (diminuendo poco a  poco – softer little by little)

Subito:   Immediately, suddenly  (subito piano – suddenly soft)

Senza:   Without  (senza sordino – without mute)

Sempre:  Always   (sempre staccato – always separated)

Simile:  Continue in a like manner  (usually used for articulation)

Orchestras in Sydney You Can Join as a Violin Player

You should join an Community Orchestra. It is an experience you owe yourself after all of that bedroom practice. But where is the nearest orchestra to where you live? And how strict is the audition? Are you good enough? In Sydney there are many different Orchestras of varying standard and location. There should be one that is just right for you, so have a look at the list below and check out their webpage for more details.

[Pedro Sánchez – Own work: Philharmonic Orchestra of Jalisco (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico) CC BY 2.5 view terms; File:Orquesta Filarmonica de Jalisco.jpg; Created: 24 February 2006]




Varnish damage next to the Fingerboard

Have you ever wondered why there is a groove in the varnish on the right of the violin fingerboard? I have and it has been a mystery to me for years! Until now! I have finally worked it out with the help of

Some of the contributors on this forum put forward the following suggestions:

“I have a violin that has a line worn in the varnish next to the fingerboard on the treble side. I always thought it was odd. I had seen this type of wear on other violins, and wondered how it happened. Then I saw somebody holding their violin with the same wear line tucked under their right arm and their hand under the top treble bout with their thumb right on that line.”

Here is what it would look like:

Wear-Thumb rest hold

Someone else said: “I’m with the pizz thumb nail theory on this. Just look around your orchestra and you will see varied and sometimes sloppy technique anchoring the thumb on the side of the board.”

That makes sense too! Here is a photo of how it could wear the varnish:

Wear-Thumb Pizzicato

Here is another comprehensive answer:

“Perhaps others have experience, but I have observed that it is often from fingernails.  Not only of the left hand, when the player’s finger slips off the FB accidentally.  Sometimes I’ve seen how the fingers of the right hand can dig in when the violin is held in a rest position and the player is gently plucking out his part with the thumb.   I warn our orchestra players (students) of this danger, as I’ve seen the damage numerous times.  Other sources are possible, I’d be very interested, because this damage is quite frequently observed on instruments that enter my shop, and sometimes even copied in antiquing.”

Here is the wear from the first finger as you pluck with the Thumb in rest position:

Wear-1st finger as thumb plucks

And finally, here is the wear you get from left hand pizzicato which Paganini was famous for: Firstly with the 3rd Finger on the fingerboard and the second photo with the 3rd Finger on the varnish:

Wear-Finger Pizzicato on

And then the 3rd Finger plucks and comes off:

Wear-Finger Pizzicato off

So what do you think? Which is your favorite way of damaging your varnish? If interested leave a comment below.



How to Improve the Sound of Your Violin

Improve your Violin Sound by Adjusting the Bridge!

You can do much more than finding the best strings for your violin. Most violinists should learn to ADJUST the POSITION of the BRIDGE to find the best sound.

There are three things you can do to the bridge to improve your violin’s sound!

I. ROCK the TILTING BRIDGE back to make the FEET FLAT on the belly;



Here are some pictures of where the soundpost and bass bar are inside the violin:

Soundpost position-vertical behind bridge

Soundpost cross-section

Please follow the instructions below on an inexpensive $50 violin!

WARNING: DO NOT do the following with an EXPENSIVE VIOLIN!

Take expensive violins to a specialist at the violin repair section of a well know music store please.

I. TILT THE BRIDGE BACK TOWARDS YOU SO THAT THE FEET ARE FLAT ON THE BELLY (the front of the violin). This is by far the most common cause of a deteriorating sound from your violin. It is caused from the turning of the tuning pegs which pull the strings and the top of the bridge forward. As a result the bridge will tilt on its feet. The vibrations of the strings will not transfer fully to the violin. The remedy is very easy to execute and should be done at least once a month:

  1. Put the violin in your lap with the scroll facing away from you;
  2. Place your thumbs at the feet of the bridge and your middle fingers on the other side of the feet. You place your index fingers above the bridge: your left index finger on the bridge between the G and D string and your right index finger on the bridge between the A and E string.
  3. Now GENTLY ROCK THE BRIDGE BACK TOWARDS YOU as you press the bottom of the violin against you. The feet of the bridge will want to come back from a tilted position. When the feet are seated flat then they will not want to move any further back. Note that you will need to move against the pressure of the strings pressing on the bridge. However, to correct a tilted bridge does not need you to loosen the strings.


  1. Before you do anything, I recommend that you put a small strip of paper tape at the current position of the bridge so you can return it to its original position, if you want to.
  2. Look through the f-hole which is on the right side (E-string side) of the bridge and as you look behind the right foot of the bridge you will see a post which connects the front of the violin to the back of the violin. This is called the Sound-post.
  3. Check that the edge of the Sound-post is 2mm to 4mm behind the right foot of the bridge. The focus and volume of the sound varies according to this distance. A lot of Sound-posts are installed too far away from the bridge. As you cannot easily change the position of the Sound-post, I recommend that you change the position of the bridge.
  4. To change the position of the bridge, you must first loosen the strings slightly just enough to allow you to move the bridge. Do not loosen the strings too much as many soundposts are not fitted tightly inside the violin and may fall over. Only move the bridge 1mm closer to the soundpost and then retune the strings. As you try the violin you will notice that it is now more focused, louder and brighter. With trial and error you can find the perfect position of the bridge. You will know if you have moved the bridge too close to the soundpost when the sound starts to lose some of its resonance or ringing quality.
  5. If you don’t like the new sound, you can always move the bridge back to its original position to obtain your original sound.

III. MOVE THE BRIDGE to the left so it is CLOSER TO THE BASS BAR: This can improve the tone and balance of the strings.

Firstly, the TONE can be made warmer by moving the left foot of the bridge over the bass bar because the lower frequencies of each string are amplified by the bass bar. This is a very useful way to fix a violin which is too bright or shrill on the E and A strings.

Secondly, you can make each string’s volume the same by moving the bridge to the left or right to give what is called a BALANCED tone or sound.

  1. Before you do anything, I recommend that you put a small strip of paper tape at the current position of the bridge so you can return it to its original position.
  2. Look through the f-hole which is on the left side (G-string side) of the bridge and you will see the Bass-bar running to the right of the f-hole. The Bass-bar is a 277mm bar of wood attached under the front of the violin belly.
  3. The goal is to have some of the left foot of the bridge on top of the Bass-bar.
  4. Loosen the strings slightly just enough to allow you to move the bridge to the left. Only move the bridge 1mm closer to the Bass-bar and then retune the strings. As you try the violin you will notice that it is now more focused, louder and fuller on the G string and the D string in particular. With trial and error you can find the perfect position of the bridge.
  5. You will know if you have moved the bridge too far when the E string and the A string start to lose their volume and tone. A compromise is needed so that you can find what we called a “balanced” sound across all the strings. What this means is that all the strings are of equal volume, tone and quality.
  6. Re-position the strings on the bridge: if the bridge has moved only 1mm then you do not need to re-position the strings. However, be aware that the E string may now be too low and lose some of its ringing quality. A bridge protector can be placed over its groove to raise the E string height or you can place the string on the right of its groove to raise the E string. If necessary, you can do the same with the other strings. You may not need to put in new grooves as the strings themselves will do this over time as you constantly retune the strings. Just for your information, the distance between each string on the bridge should be 11.5mm.
  7. If you don’t like the new sound, you can always move the bridge back to its original position to obtain your original sound.
  8. ENJOY your better sounding violin!
  9. Advanced warning! This can be highly addictive, so do practice all of this on several cheap violins. Try to resist the temptation to constantly adjust the bridge unless it is a cheap violin.

Small Fingers and stretching the 4th Finger

I have several students who have difficulty stretching the 4th Finger due to their small fingers. I have a few suggestions that can work:

1. Play on a 3/4 size violin as the right one can sound as good as a full-sized 4/4 violin.

2. Get “Flesch” Chin rest or a “Wittner Chine rest, which are both centred over the tailpiece. This will make it easier for your fingers to reach the G string as your arm can be centred on the right side of the violin. Here is the “Flesch” Chin Rest below:










Here is the “Wittner over the tailpiece” Chin rest:

Wittner Chin rest



3. Tilt the angle of your violin to give it more of a slope. I have noticed Itzhak Perlman has started to tilt his violin much more as he ages. It definitely makes it easier to reach the lower strings.

Itzhak Perlman tilting2

4. Use a Kreddle Chin rest which tilts side to side. If you tilt the violin like Itzhak Perlman does in the photo above, you will find that your chin does not fit securely on the normal chin rest. An adjustable chin rest such as the Kreddle, allow for your angle of the chin rest itself to be adjusted to give you the right fit for your chin so the violin won’t feel like it will slide out from under your chin. There are some difficulties, however, as the height is probably too high for some and the shape of the chin rest may be too flat for others.

Chin rest kreddle

5. Have your knuckles parallel with the strings so that your 4th finger will have greater reach.

LH-straight knuckles

This will happen when your forearm has the elbow vertically under your hand.

LH-vertical arm
















6. Have your wrist straight on the side of the 4th finger. This will enable your 4th finger to be above the string to extend its reach. See the photo above.

7. Have the left hand thumb placed opposite your 2nd finger rather than opposite your 1st finger. This is more natural for those with small fingers. However, you will need to reach back more with your 1st finger.

LH-Thumb opposite F2

8. Finally, you will need to make sure you have turned your arm/hand to have your fingers lined up near the same string. Many students have difficulty doing this because they have not allowed their THUMB TO TURN !!! Yes the thumb is part of the hand and it must turn as well so that the side of the thumb will be touching the neck. For a small hand, your thumb may even need to come under the neck so you can stretch your 4th finger.

LH-turned thumb & hand

9. One last finally! You must RELAX while you do your stretch which does sound like an oxymoron. Some parts of the hand need to remain flexible while other parts do the stretching work. Your thumb must be very relaxed. Other fingers which remain on the string need to be flexible enough to curve more to allow the 4th finger to stretch more. The wrist also needs to bend forward slightly as the 4th finger stretches.

All hands are unique! Some have short 4th fingers, so following the rules that work for most people will not always work for everyone. Be adventurous and take charge of your own playing to make it work for you – go ahead and break a rule or two. And try to enjoy your playing, this is the main thing 🙂



Below are some very useful links that I use all the time or can recommend to save money. I will add to this list from time to time. Enjoy!

Metronome screen

1. copy the Youtube link of the Youtube video,

for e.g.

2. paste your youtube link into the box underneath where it says: “Video URL to Download”

3. click the “Start” button then wait

4. click the “Download” button and a pop-up of your folders will appear

5. select the folder you want to save the file to and then press the “Save” button.

6. Now it is saved and you can click on the file to open it in any video playing program of your choice. I use VLC media play as it can slow down the recording.

  • SLOWING DOWN MUSIC: For slowing down MP4 or MP3 or any video or audio file: get VLC MEDIA PLAYER:


1. Go to a virus free download site at 1. ;

2. select either Windows Mac iOS or Android;

3. in search at the top right type in VLC media player free download;

4. click on the VLC media player that is right for your computer whether it is 32 bit or 64 bit then save and open as you would any installed software.

Map of the Violin-Making Centres in Europe

Here it is: a map of the historic violin-making centres in Europe. For a long time I have wanted to have a map of all the famous places that violins were made. I could not find such a map anywhere on the internet, so I have made one myself and named the violin-making towns and cities in BLUE! Enjoy:

Europe Violin making-blue names

In future posts, I will add more information about the significance of these violin-making centres. Here is a summary organised by country and famous violinmakers who are also called luthiers: 1. Italy; 2. France; 3. Germany; 4. Bohemia-Czech Republic; 5. Tyrol-Austria.

1. FIRST OF ALL, in ITALY violin making began. It is also the country where many famous violin makers originated. Here is a list of some of the famous Italian violin makers: Gasparo Da Salo, Maggini, Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri, Bergonzi, Gagliano, Guadagnini,  Ruggeri, Testore, and numerous others.

Below is a map of the violin centres in Italy:

Venice and Northern Italy 1600–1800 smaller

The violin originated in Brescia where from 1530 onwards, the word violin appeared. Brescian master makers of string instruments dominated the violin market until the 1630’s, when a plague resulted in the death of Brescian masters. Cremonese makers gained influence after 1630. In BRESCIA, GASPARO DA SALO (1542-1609) was an important early luthier of the violin family. Da Salo apprenticed: his son Francesco, a helper named Battista, Alexander of Marsiglia, Giacomo Lafranchini and GIOVANNI PAOLO MAGGINI (1580-1630) who inherited da Salò’s business in Brescia. In 1620 Maggini moved to Florence.

In CREMONA, foremost is Andrea AMATI (1505-1577) in the mid 16th century. Some credit Amati with the violin’s “invention.” His legacy is the greatest due to the longevity of the influence of his descendants in Cremona till the 18th century: Andrea Amati: his son Antonio Amati (1540–1607), and his other son Girolamo Amati or Hieronymus (1561-1630). His grandson Nicolò Amati (1596–1684), apprenticed Antonio STRADIVARI (probably) (1644-1737), Andrea GUARNERI (1626–1698), Bartolomeo CRISTOFORI (1655–1731), Jacob RAILICH, Giovanni Battista ROGERI (1642–1710), Matthias Klotz and possibly Jacob Stainer. Carlo BERGONZI (1683-1747) was Stradivari’s greatest pupil and also worked for Amati and Guarneri. The Bergonzi family of luthiers continued till 1796. After the middle of the 18th century, only the Cerutis remained in Cremona.

In MILAN, in the mid 17th century was Giovanni GRANCINO (1637–1709), Carlo Giuseppe TESTORE (1665–1716), and his sons Carlo and Paolo. In Milan, in the early 18th century was Carlo Ferdinando LANDOLFI (1714–1787). Leandro BISIACH (1864-1945) in Milan, was as influential in the 1900’s as Vuillaume was in the 1800’s. The following instrument makers worked in Bisiach’s laboratory: Riccardo and Romeo ANTONIAZZI, Gaetano SGARABOTTO, Giuseppe ORNATI, Ferdinando GARIMBERTI, Igino SDERCI, Rocchi SESTO, Cipriano BRIANI, Camillo MANDELLI, Ferriccio VARAGNOLO, Camillo COLOMBO, Vincenzo CAVANI, Pietro PARAVICINI, Albert MOGLIE, Andrea BISIACH, Carlo BISIACH, Pietro BORGHI, Mirco TARASCONI, Leandro Jr. & Giacomo BISIACH, Iginio SIEGA and Carlo FERRARIO.

In VENICE in the mid 17th century were Matteo GOFFRILLER (1659–1742), Domenico MONTAGNANA (1686–1750), Sanctus SERAPHIN (1699–1776) and Carlo Annibale TONONI (1675–1730) who began in Bologna.

In ROME was David Tecchler (1666–1748) who was Austrian born.

In NAPLES, in the early 18th century, Alessandro GAGLIANO (1700-1735) worked in the shops of Amati and Stradivari. After returning to Naples from Cremona, he became the founder of the Neapolitan school which continued through his son Nicolo and then his grandson Ferdinando.

In the early 18th century was Giovanni Battista GUADAGNINI (1711–1786) who roamed throughout Italy during his lifetime.

2. SECONDLY FRANCE, in Paris and Mirecourt. In PARIS in 1815, Nicolas LUPOT  (1758–1824) was appointed violin maker to the king. Also in Paris was François CHANOT , who in 1818 employed Jean-Baptiste VUILLAUME (1798–1875). Vuillaume came to be widely regarded as the pre-eminent luthier of his day. Most 19th-century Parisian violin makers worked in his workshop, including Hippolyte Silvestre, Jean-Joseph Honoré Derazey, Charles Buthod, Charles-Adolphe Maucotel, Telesphore Barbe and Paul Bailly. MIRECOURT, is 100 miles from Paris and the centre of commercial violin manufacturing. Violin makers of Mirecourt in the early 19th century, were the famous Vuillaume family (Jean-Baptiste was born in Mirecourt and went to Paris at age 19). Also, in Mirecourt in the 19th Century were Charles Jean Baptiste Collin-Mezin, Charles Collin-Mezin Jr, and the Jérôme-Thibouville-Lamy (J.T.L) firm which moved to Mirecourt around 1760 and started making violins, guitars and mandolins.

3. THIRDLY GERMANY, in the area called “Vogtland,” which includes Bavaria, Saxony, Thuringia and into the Czech Republic in north-western Bohemia. The famous centres were Klingenthal and Markneukirchen in Saxony near the Czech border and Mittenwald in Bavaria near the Austrian border. In KLINGENTHAL in 1669, a Violin making guild was established with the Hopf family among others (Hobe was their family name). The Hopf family were religious exiles from Graslitz which was in Bohemia that is the Czech Republic. In Klingenthal, some famous makers were Dörffel, Glass, and Meisel. Around 1850 Klingenthal violin making suffered due to the American civil war, when North America stopped importing their violins. In the 1670’s, a Guild was established in MARKNEUKIRCHEN also. About seven million violin family instruments and basses, and far more bows, were shipped from Markneukirchen between 1880 and 1914.  Famous violin makers in Markneukirchen include Ernst Heinrich Roth, H. R. Pfretzschner, Albert Nürnberger-bowmaker, Heinrich Th. Heberlein Jr, the Knopf family, Arnold Voigt, and the Framus brand. MITTENWALD, near the Austrian border, was famous for violin making because of the Klotz family who have been making violins from the mid 1700’s till the present. Matthias KLOTZ (1653–1743) studied with Railich in Padua, Italy in the 1670’s and later with Stainer and Nicolo Amati.

4. FOURTHLY BOHEMIA, which is today called the CZECH Republic. Bohemia had famous centres called SCHONBACH (LUBY) which is 7 kilometres from the German town of Markneukirchen and GRASLITZ (KRASLICE) which is 5 km from the German town of Klingenthal. Please see the map below:


(From,12.3438899,11z)                               In the second half of the 1600’s Bohemian Protestant exiles moved to Klingenthal and Markneukirchen, Germany. In the 1700’s, there was much border crossing for the sale of Bohemian violins in southern Germany which was economically thriving. SCHONBACH (LUBY), Bohemia was one of the centres of the mass produced Bohemian/German violins of the late 1800’s which were exported all over the world. Many 19th and early 20th century instruments shipped from Saxony were in fact made in Bohemia, where the cost of living was less. Famous violin-makers in SCHONBACH (LUBY) were the PLACHTA family, SANDER, HOYER, and SCHUSTER families and John JUZEK.

Germany and Czech Republic (Bohemia) in the 19th and 20th centuries were responsible for numerous TRADE VIOLINS. They were called “Trade Violins” because they were made cheaply by semi-skilled workers, not by certified luthiers. In Germany and the Czech Republic these trade violins were made by farmers in their homes during winter when they had no other work. France was another country producing trade violins in Mirecourt where they used workers in assembly lines in violin factories such as those of J.T.L. The Tyrol which is now called Austria, also produced trade violins. Italy, however, never manufactured trade violins in factories as the Italians continued to have small workshops run by a master luthier and his apprentices.

5. FIFTHLY AUSTRIA, which was previously called TYROL, where Jacob STAINER (1617-1683) established his workshop in ABSAM/INNSBRUCK. His instruments were the most sought-after throughout Europe until the late 18th century, when orchestral music replaced chamber music as the dominant form. Stainer violins have a pronounced higher arching of the belly than the back; a broad lower back; some scrolls carved as heads of lions, angels, or women.

These are just some of the famous violin makers which I will no doubt add to in days to come.


Music Reading and the Suzuki Method

Young children cannot read words on a page, however, they can talk very well.

They did not need to read words so that they could learn to speak.

Why should violinists need to read music before they can learn to play music!

Children learn speech by imitating and repeating their parents.

Let me summarize:

1. Children can speak before they can read words


2. Children learn to speak through imitation and repetition of sound


This is the basis of the Suzuki “mother tongue method” of violin teaching.


Most children can learn to read music as soon as they learn to read words. This is the way that I teach the Suzuki method and it seems that I am not alone in this. Please read:

“. . .. Suzuki continued the analogy of language/reading acquisition right through. He observed that children learned to speak first, years before they started to read or write Japanese characters. So he allowed these early starters to progress quite a long way on their instruments before he introduced music note reading. For a child starting at age 2½ or 3 years, they might even have reached book 4 before he introduced written notation. This was most appropriate for children starting so young. But, as soon as these children had grasped their Japanese characters and were starting to read fluently– that is they had developed an understanding of the connection between symbols on a page having another meaning, he would introduce music reading.”
(From an article called “To Read Or Not To Read” from “succeed with music”)

Bowing Strokes – Sautille

Sautille sounds like the bow is bouncing on the string but it does not leave the string. It is played at the balance point of the bow with the use of the wrist and fingers and a very small shoulder joint movement.

Where is the balance point? Just find the place on your bow where it will balance on your finger. It can be found approximately one third of the length of the bow from the frog. Because the bow is balanced it is very easy to move at the balance point and will have a natural springiness.


 = 144

detache musicSautillé Instructions

  1. Repeat each note 8 times
  2. Find the “sweet spot” where the bow bounces by itself.
  3. this bow stroke sounds off but is really on the string. The stick bounces but the hair never leaves the string.
  4. If it is not working try these four ways to fix it.
    1. Hold the bow with the index and ring finger (and the thumb) and throw the bow.
    2. Lower your shoulder and raise the elbow slightly, 3-4 inches.
    3. make sure your motion is up and down and not sideways.
    4. you may be in the wrong spot for the speed you are attempting. Try changing the speed or the spot of the bow.

Important Tips:

  • Start on the string at the balance point which is one third of the length of the bow away from the frog.
  • Keep bow hair flat.
  • Find the “sweet spot” by moving the bow up or down by 1/2 inch segments.
  • Work on getting a consistent sound.

China made violins selling under non-Chinese labels

Violin students are often surprised that well-known labels can actually be selling violins which are China-made. This comes as no surprise to those who are in the violin trade, as it is a trade secret that other countries can no longer compete with China on price and value for money. This is simply because violin making is labour intensive.

According to an article at there are well known violin labels which specify that some of their models are made in China:  Stentor Music Co. Ltd. Conservatoire; Saga Musical Instruments Cremona SV-220; Horn & Son Theo Kreutz; Angel CA01AT; Casa Del Sol (Johnson String Instruments) Albert Lee, 2000; Eastman Strings Andreas Eastman VL305ST; Potter’s Violin Caprice; Mark Edwards Violins HC602; Scott Cao Violins STV-850

Unfortunately, not all violin labels are so forthcoming regarding where the violins were made. It is a common practice to import the violins “in the white” from China (i.e. without varnish) and then apply varnish and label for sale as European etc.

Below is a very interesting excerpt from a Forum Topic called “Chinese violins with Cremona labels?” The discussion is from a well known website for violin makers and enthusiasts called

(I have removed the names of those who commented on the forum, however, the full article can be found at:

FORUM COMMENTS: “I spoke with a respected violin appraiser today who indicated that some “violin makers” in Cremona are importing good Chinese instruments, then putting labels indicating a Cremona origin into them. Has anyone heard of or seen examples of this practice? Makes me suspicious of some of the violins I’ve seen on the web, on EBAY auctions, and so on.”

“I have seen a few instruments labeled Cremona in which I felt the “white” work originated in China…. I have also seen the same with some instruments bearing US labels (as mentioned in the post below).”

“Not a new idea…. In the 19th and 20th centuries, some Italian makers imported ‘white’ fiddles from France and Germany which were then finished and labeled as from their hands. In many cases this was a bit ‘closer to home,’ so to speak. For example, a French maker was trained in the shop of a (famous) Italian violin making family and later produced work from his homeland for the same makers.”

“Not just cremona violin maker but elsewhere too like US for example. I strongly suspect that any dealer handling such mislabeled instruments could be successfully prosecuted under the UCC. It’s a shame. Some of the top Chinese instruments are perfectly capable of standing on their own! If only they would get pretty labels and sign their work. This leaves the question of how to validate modern production-level ‘Italian’ instruments. I suppose that the appearance is a strong clue!”

“This practice is highly common and has been going on between different countries probably for centuries now. My father while he was at violinmaking school in Mittenwald, Germany used to pack and ship white violins made by his instructor, Carl Sandner, to a now famous Italian maker, who shall remain nameless. The work by the trained eye is obviously German but to the untrained it looks like a nice Italian violin, (Too nice is the giveaway). Also the Chinese maker Sheng Xhong Xiu whom we know personally has been selling his violins in the white to the Italians for over 14 years. We just now convinced him to put his own label in his instruments and varnish them himself. He was scared of selling them under his own name for fear of stereotypes. Justifiably so. There is an excellent book by Carla Shapiro called “Violin Fraud” which chronicles hundreds of cases of this and other dishonest practices along with current laws concerning the buying and selling of instruments. A must read for any buyer for sure. News of the authenticity of the “Messiah” Strad is just about to come out which should send the violin world on it’s ear. Can’t tell you just yet though. Needless to say it’s a good day for those of you who have purchased your violin either from the maker himself or from a very reputable person. Always get as much documentation as possible. Sorry to get off the original point. Some of the easier ways of telling a Chinese violin is the use of Mongolian or Chinese wood which on the maple at least looks very different from European and much different than American maple. Mongolian maple has small black “streaks”, for lack of a better word, in the maple itself. It is usually very deeply flamed as well. This gets difficult in that most people who are getting these white violins from cheap labor are simply sending them their own wood. Workmanship and style are the main giveaways in spotting most knock-offs. The book ‘Violin Fraud’ mentions some, not all, of the people who were very well known for this type of action.”

“I’ll drop by and check out a couple of nice Chinese ones tomorrow. One of my friends has at least one high-end Chinese violin. As I recall, the maple was rather convoluted in pattern and rather pretty. A rather wide flame. I’ll look for streaks. As I recall, the workmanship is excellent. Only German and French violins for comparison at this point.”

“I live in Asia and at one time worked in a violin shop where I came in early for work one morning finding a pile of paper scraps and several ashtrays full of cigarette butts. Someone had worked late into the night transforming Chinese instruments into Italians. There was no need to change labels (which can be easily done) as there were none in the first place. Many people order these instruments and put there own commercial type of label in them. For example one could import such instruments and put in a label like: Smith violins anno 1998. I guess this is not deceiving as there is no place of origin and in many cases they are finished, varnished and set up in a second country (much like most cars today). Anyway this shop I don’t work in anymore seemed to be doing a pretty good business at this and furthermore the boss had at his disposal several highly trained makers taking trips to China to do quality control.  He also supplied the Chinese with European wood. It seems from my information that there are many violin makers in China who received their training in Italy so in some cases it is very difficult to tell the difference. They are constantly getting requests to change this and that and always improving the quality. It is quite difficult to tell just by looking at the wood as in fact most of the wood does not have black streaks in it (at least not the few hundred that have passed through my hands). One way of telling is that the maple is often highly flamed.but this is not a sure indication. Another possible way is that often the craftsmanship is meticulously perfect and consistent however the pegs fingerboard and general setup are not all that good compared with the rest of the craftsmanship. The varnish often tends to be a bland sort of orange color as well. There is nothing definite to judge by and to make it more difficult there are many factories with many different workers -possibly 5 people doing nothing but scrolls. There are many excellent makers in China and for the better student quality instruments, they are probably some of the best in the world today if sold at an honest price. One note on tone: compared with the craftsmanship again, one would expect a lot better tone than is often the case as they do tend to be a little harsh and metallic sounding (however they are quite good at an honest price). In my opinion this is due to the plates being left thick for the dealers who order them unfinished so that they can do the final graduation themselves as well as varnishing. Even a lot of the scrolls are left a bit full. Unless one has seen several hundred of these violins I think it is very difficult to know it was made in China. Your best bet is to always go to a respectable dealer who would not risk his reputation to get involved in such a business of deceiving people. Yes, this has been going on for centuries and is going on all over the world. The Chinese just make the instruments and it’s up to the buyers to decide whether they are going to put a makers name with a country that is not true, or just a commercial brand name. I guess it’s often hard to tell what one is in fact getting unless he or she goes to a reputable dealer. For example: where I live there is a certain famous maker from a certain country whose violins are much sought after. I have seen so many of his violins in so many shops and am always told that he only makes 10 or so a year! Well it seems about 30 of those 10 made each year end up here! I really doubt at his age, if he is even still making and that he could produce that many, however he does have a lot of apprentices!”



The violins, violas, cellos, and double basses can be found in shops from Berkeley, California, to Des Moines, Iowa, from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina. They’re sold under such names as Andreas Eastman, Johannes Köhr, Andrew Schroetter, and countless others. But no matter how European-sounding their names, many of these shiny new stringed instruments on display in stores throughout the United States share a common origin: China.

What’s In a Name?

“It’s laughable how much rebranding and mismatching and criss-crossing is going on,” adds Jason Torreano, product manager for the string brand of the Music Group (formerly Boosey & Hawkes Musical Instruments), which sells its Chinese instruments under the Andrew Schroetter brand. “I wouldn’t be surprised if [a single] instrument workshop in China was producing instruments that in the U.S. are being sold under ten or 20 names.”

In fact, the import and sale of Chinese stringed instruments has become so widespread that there’s literally no way to tell all the names under which they’re being sold here. Many of the instruments come to the United States unlabeled, and wholesalers and individual shops attach labels to them that give no suggestion of their provenance. “They’ll take an Italian-sounding last name and stick a first name on it, like Medici Alfredo,” Zeller observes.

“Different shops do varying levels of additions,” Torreano elaborates. “Some will buy instruments in the white and then do varnish and setups. Others will regraduate tops, put in the bass bar. Others are buying them completely made and just putting in a label and adding strings. Once they put their own shop label on it, you won’t be able to track a lot of Chinese instruments, because at a certain point they lose their original identity.”

To complicate the question of instrument origin further, violin makers in other countries also are importing Chinese-made instrument bodies in the white and finishing them in their shops. This practice allows luthiers in Germany, for example, to claim that the instruments are German-made, since 40 percent of the work (the legal minimum) is performed there.

For consumers and dealers intent on identifying the origin of their instrument, the profusion—and confusion—of names and labels for Chinese-made instruments poses a dilemma. Fortunately, by all accounts the quality of many of these instruments is good, especially by the standards of the beginner level at which they’re having the greatest impact.

“Generally, they’re pretty good,” Zeller says of the Chinese-made stringed instruments he’s seen since the political reforms took effect. “I’ve got to say I’m impressed with the quality of the instrument you can get at a low price. 

Finely Crafted

Zeller also admires the overall workmanship of the Chinese instruments he sells, particularly the graduation on the tops and backs and the Strad-model f-hole placement. Although varnishes on instruments below the $600 range tend towards what he calls “shiny lacquer stuff,” past that point instruments typically come with a good-quality spirit varnish. And because China is home to some of the planet’s last great stands of old-growth forests, the tonewoods used in the instruments also get good reviews both for durability—Zeller admires the tight grain of the spruce tops, the flame of the maple backs, and the warp-free necks on the instruments he’s seen and for sound. 

“Tonally, the Chinese woods are usually regarded as providing a warmer, less penetrating sound,” says Joel Becktell, vice president of Eastman Strings, whose Samuel Eastman, Andreas Eastman, and Mark Moreland instrument lines all are handmade in China by expert craftsmen. “The European tonewoods have a reputation of being more brilliantly focused in their sound.”

Thanks to this improved workmanship and the availability of high-quality hardwoods, there is an abundance of excellent Chinese violins, violas, cellos, and double basses available in the United States.

Many Chinese-made student-level violins offer exceptional value at relatively inexpensive prices, which generally range from about $400 to $800 at the retail level (although they can go much higher and lower). As a result, they’ve quickly taken over a commanding share of the market for new string-music students. By some estimates, Chinese instruments now hold between 50 and 80 percent of the market for novice violinists.

China vs. Europe

That change has come largely at the expense of European violin manufacturers, whose labor costs prevent them from competing with Chinese instruments on price and whose reliance on machine manufacturing now sometimes leaves them behind in quality as well. Michael Becker, co-owner of Becker Fine Stringed Instruments in Des Moines (which sells Eastman Strings violins), recalls that for years the standby instruments for beginners came from such manufacturers as Glaesel, Knilling, and Scherl & Roth. “Those were the names that you ran into constantly for entry-level students, and I think the Chinese instruments have given those instruments competition.

For the most part, though, acceptance of Chinese-made instruments has been growing steadily, a trend that not only is affecting violin manufacturing and sales, but also is having beneficial effects on an entire generation of aspiring string musicians. There’s little doubt that over the long run the increasing accessibility and affordability of higher-quality Chinese instruments will benefit buyers and sellers alike.

“Because there are so many inexpensive instruments out there,” Jason Torreano says, “the number of kids who are starting on stringed instruments is multiplying.”