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Cheap Ebay Violins, Sadly, an Easy Sell for Some

The Deal that is "Too Good to Be True" certainly is Just That

by Rhiannon Nachbaur of Award-Winning Fiddleheads Violin Studio

 

 

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I reveived an "interesting" email today which shook me up. The writer said, "you really need to look into some cheaper violins for the people who can't spend a whole lot. I'm going to ebay they are waaaay cheaper!"

Gulp. Pardon?

Wow, this was certainly a first for me. I receive daily emails from players who thoroughly enjoy my site and thank me for not selling cheap, junky violins. I was shocked by what I took to be a sharp accusation and even more surprised this person took the time to share it with me.

Sadly, I have seen for myself these $20 Ebay deals and have had students skunked by these violins. Usually the shipping (and ensuing duty into Canada) is killer. Worse yet, by the time they replace bad parts and get luthier work done they would have been better off with investing that money in a higher quality violin.

Yet it's hard to share that with a player who sees more importance on "cheap" than on quality, and especially considering they will think I'm just biased. Hence I wrote the following reply with hopes to explain why I don't sell cheap violins while also letting this person know he or she is most welcome to shop elsewhere:

"Thank you for your feedback.

"I provide the service of providing high quality instruments which meet my high standards as a player. I have made a very conscious effort not to sell lower quality, thus also lower priced, instruments since they can be found easily in so many other places. My business, being more a specialty boutique, also offers award-winning service and support and has many pleased customers who find great value in the service they receive.

"I understand your request but I will not be carrying cheaper violins as I cannot, as a professional teacher, recommend them as suitable or qualified instruments to new players who trust my opinion.

"However, individuals who wish to spend less on a lower priced instrument are most welcome to shop elsewhere as there are many options online. I hope you do locate something to suit your budget and wish you all the best in your music."

Now I reflect on how many other players, teachers and luthiers have experienced the cheap violins as seen on Ebay, the "bullseye" store and the big "W" shop, which sells violin outfits (including extra bridge since the first one is warped) for $89 or so.

Have other teachers or shop owners had a difficult time explaining to students or other players why a good violin costs more and why a deal that is "too good to be true" most certainly is?

I know there are many players, like myself in my youth, who cannot afford a violin at all and are left using junk. This is why I take payments and deposits, much like rent-to-own, from such players so they can get their hands on a decent instrument rather than settling for garbage. It was also the motivation behind me starting up a non-profit society which provided instruments and scholarships to students in financial need. So there are other options to the Ebay dilemma.

Finally, I ask myself, should I have just ignored the email? I felt pressured to write something defending my decision not to sell cheap violins, but maybe it's just that I am 8 months pregnant and feeling particularly vulnerable to criticism...

Yours in wonderland, Rhiannon

 

Comments for "Cheap Ebay Violins, Sadly, an Easy Sell for Some"

The amount of time it takes to make a quality violin dictates that it has to sell for much more than $30.00. If you sell cheap garbage that's what your shop will be known for. I can't blame a dealer or shop owner for not selling cheap garbage and going with higher end or quality.

If someone can't afford an expensive violin they can always rent and have their rental fee go towards the purchase of a quality instrument.

- Michael D.

I've had exactly the same experience and exactly the same reaction you have. It's not because you're in your eighth month. I've also had similar experiences with people who say, "I bought a great violin really inexpensive on the Internet. I did a lot of research before buying it, so I know it's good." I've also heard "This is not one of those cheap violins made in China."

I used to say, "I'm sorry you bought that before talking to me," but that only makes them defend their choice more strongly. If they've already bought the violin, I tell them "After a few months, when you learn how to get the best sound out of this violin, you'll probably want to upgrade..."

It's been said that the most important violin you'll ever own is the first one. If it produces a bad sound, you'll be discouraged from playing it. Worse still, you'll think it's your fault and decide you can't play well.

The incident that upset me the most involved a kid who had been playing for three years, had talent and motivation, and was playing some pretty hard stuff. His father absolutely would not consider buying from any place but ebay, and he wouldn't even do that unless I could guarantee him that a $75 violin from ebay would sound better than a $50 violin from ebay.

I'll miss you when you go on maternity leave. Be sure to send us photos of your baby. I look forward to hearing from you again as a mother, wondering how you'll find the time to practice every day.

- Pauline

For people who are interested in learning violin, I think there are probably standard types of reservations for people. On one hand, in many cases they are not really sure if they will like the instrument well enough to weather the storm of learning to play. Because of this uncerrtainty, they don't want to make any significant individual investment.

On the other hand, because they don't make the investment in a good beginning instrument, they consequently purchase one that is simply terrible in quality and tone. Very discouraging indeed. The best alternative for these individuals, if possible, would be to rent an instrument from a music store.

Along with those who decide to purchase a "cheap" violin, equally disturbing are those who purchase a good quality instrument and never play it. It is very disheartening to think of the number of good quality instruments that are unplayed, sitting in attics and closets. Voices waiting to speak and sing, but silenced through uncaring and neglect. How terribly sad.

- Bob

I recently purchased a 1/4 Scott Cao '99 for my daughter to use on Book #1 Suzuki. It looks like a violin dealer was using one of those store-front eBay sellers to dump a lot of sub-par merchandise without having his/her name attached. The eBay seller neglected to mention a visible crack in the varnish, the warped bridge, or the numerous dings all over it. It looks like its been rented heavily since '99 by six year olds who dropped it all the time.

Unfortunately the seller was unrepentant about not mentioning the instrument's defects, using the justification that I should be happy because it was so cheap. The good news is a luthier looked it over and found no structural problems, and even after paying for the luthier inspection and a new bridge I've still only got $180 in it including shipping.

The key thing is, I was prepared to risk the money on an instrument for the potential reward of getting a decent factory-made instrument for less than new. It could have been a total bust.

- Michael C.

My public school kids have the cheap violins, so I have to tune them every week. They are indeed awful, and I think the kids are less likely to take to violin playing because of them.

Not sure how to solve that problem for my program, as we have 16 decent school violins and always about 60 kids sign up for the class. Most of them can't afford to rent or buy a nice violin. What to do?

- Laurie

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