Gustave Bernardel Viola, Paris 1894
Claude-Augustin Miremont Viola, Paris 1870
Mario Gadda Violin, Mantua 1979
Victor Fétique Cello Bow, Paris circa 1925
Louis Bazin Violin Bow, Mirecourt circa 1930
Charles Bazin Violin Bow, Mirecourt circa 1950
Gotthard Schuster Violin Bow, Bubenreuth circa 1960
Richard Grünke Violin Bow, Bubenreuth circa 1965
Gotthard Schuster Violin Bow, Bubenreuth circa 1970
Charles JB Collin-Mézin Violin, Paris 1896
Giuseppe Cavaleri Violin, Genoa circa 1750
František Karel Križ Viola, Prague 1924
Georges Cunault Violin, Paris 1912
Alfred Acoulon Violin, Mirecourt circa 1910
6 June 2017
Nils Nillson Violin, Malmö 1924
Pierre Silvestre Violin, Lyon 1852
Alberto Blanchi Violin, Nice 1904
Paul Blanchard Violin, Lyon 1894
Joseph Hel Violin, Lille 1889
Antonio Pedrinelli Violin, Crespano 1853
John Wilkinson Viola, London circa 1930
Albert Caressa Viola, Paris 1922
Joseph Couturieux Viola, Paris circa 1850
WE Hill & Son Violin Bow, London circa 1935
James Tubbs Violin Bow, London circa 1885
Jean-Jacques Millant Violin Bow, Paris circa 1970
Carl Heinrich Knopf Violin Bow, Berlin circa 1870
WE Hill & Son Viola Bow, London circa 1950
22 May 2017
We have 50 free viola case stickers to give away – first come, first served. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your postal address and I will send one out to you (we work worldwide, so it doesn’t matter where you live).
I’ll also subscribe you to our viola email newsletter – you should get your first newsletter in a few week’s time. If you like it, you can stay subscribed and if not, it’s easy to opt out.
4 May 2017
Eugène Sartory Cello Bow, Paris circa 1900
Jean Dominique Adam Cello Bow, Mirecourt circa 1830
Alfred Joseph Lamy Cello Bow, Paris circa 1890
Victor Fétique Cello Bow, Paris circa 1930
Laberte Workshop Cello Bow, Mirecourt circa 1920
FN Voirin Violin Bow, Paris circa 1860 (mounts not original)
Giuseppe Tarasconi Violin, Milan 1892
2 April 2017
Victor Fétique Violin Bow, Paris circa 1920
Claude Thomassin Violin Bow, Paris circa 1910
Louis Morizot Violin Bow, Mirecourt circa 1935
Eugène Sartory Violin Bow, Paris circa 1930
I have had my violin for nearly 5 years now. It has helped me through all my exams, concerts and auditions with its resonant tone. I feel it is on a par with more expensive instruments that I have heard – I really love the sound it makes. I am now looking forward to making more music with my violin and I am very excited to be on a path to a career as a performing musician. Thank you!
Laura Macleod, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
1 April 2017
An April Fool intertwined with historical fact
For decades, if not for centuries, countless thousands of violin-makers and scientific researchers have been trying to unlock the secret of the Cremonese sound, as epitomized by the violins of Stradivari and del Gesu. The extraordinary sonic quality of these violins is undisputed, and top soloists from Paganini and Sarasate onwards have consistently chosen them in preference to all others. Their unsurpassed qualities as musical tools is reflected in the staggering prices they command. Yet no-one has been able to replicate these qualities. More details
10 Jan 2017
We have some mouse mats to give away. Priority to UK customers because of postage costs – but if you are beyond the reach of the UK postal service it’s worth remembering that flattery can work wonders!
…and very best wishes for 2017…
MSV 132 Guadagnini Simpson 1777 Cello
I wanted the best cello I could get for my limited budget. I had been looking for about a year with no success & travelled many miles to try cellos that weren’t good enough. The “good enough” ones were too expensive though. Martin sent one of his new MSV cellos down to me on trial without me having to go up to Scotland to try different instruments. It has a really big sound and I’m playing more confidently as I was always scared of breaking my ancient cracked cello, as it broke in 2014 from over-work! My quartet colleagues keep commenting on “my stronger bottom” i.e. more resonant C string which really makes a difference in the quartet.
Helen Mason, UK
11 Nov 2016
It’s lovely to get hear from customers who have bought instruments from us in the past. If you bought a violin from us some time ago do let us know how you are getting on with it. We just got this facebook post from Zia Roberts, whose musical life has clearly been flourishing since she was given a violin as a birthday present three years ago.
I love the violin! your description was very accurate, especially about its volume! the conductor of my orchestra told me to play quieter because he could hear me above the entire orchestra! The tone is amazing, I can’t pick up either of our other two rental violins in the house now without being disgusted. I simply love to practice with it, as it is so great to play! Thank you for all your free advice about buying a violin online and your great professionalism, you will definitely be on the list of places for me to look for an upgrade violin!
The Abbotsford Youth Orchestra is based in Vancouver, Canada, and the conductor is Calvin Dyck
28 Sept 2016
We dropped of some off our violins with a customer who was staying at the Savoy Hotel in London last week. It looks like they made themselves comfortable! The violins were all put through their paces in a private concert and the Joseph Calot was the clear winner. It’s now sold (though, contrary to rumour, not to George Clooney, who had already ‘left the building’).
I bought a Tarasconi violin from you earlier this year and absolutely love it. It has inspired me to venture into the world of chamber music – a cellist friend of mine and I performed a series of concerts during June and July and will do another series with a different programme in January. A lot of my professional friends are very complimentary. Buying the violin was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
I’d like to thank you for coming to visit me at such short notice and for making the whole process of choosing a violin so easy and enjoyable.
Jane Sinclair BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Hi there, just a note to say how much am enjoying playing the violin. Am still opening up new things, strangely enough, and learning how to adapt and make great sounds out of it. Been one hell of a journey!
I’m beginning to focus on the classical field, as it was always one of the ambitions here to be able to lead a quartet. It took some time for me to get the strength and balance in both arms/hands to make it respond in trad music, but blimey, it really really does respond now, and that is amazing. Loving it.
Thanks again for sourcing me such a wonderful instrument. It has brought a huge amount of joy and forced me to change my playing technique so much for the better.
Violin Auctions: A Beginner’s Guide
If you are thinking about buying an instrument by going to violin auctions it’s probably because you hope to pay less than if you went to a violin shop or an online violin dealer. Auction estimates are much lower than shop prices for the same maker and the auction houses suggest that there are bargains to be had. Whether you are a professional player or a student, and whatever your budget, if you are thinking of buying a violin at auction and want to avoid expensive mistakes this guide is for you.
I have purchased two great playing violin bows from Martin. Not only were they as good as they were described, they surpassed my expectations. It is reassuring to find a Violin Dealer who has the knowledge, integrity and most of all a personal touch, and great customer service!
A German Violin, 19th Century
I have had my violin from Martin Swan for about a year now and it has really enriched my playing and allowed me to grow as a fiddle player. It has a gorgeous rich tone especially on the lower strings and offers more dynamic and tonal range than my previous fiddle provided. I am currently in my final year of the BMus Folk and Traditional music course at Newcastle University and I am working towards my final recital at The Sage Gateshead. I am so happy to have this fiddle to play as I complete my degree and will take it forward with me in my future career.
12 May 2016
Martin is working in Malmo from the 20th to the 22nd of May. If you would like to find out more about the value and origins of your violin, viola or bow contact him to arrange a meeting. Even if you’d just like to find out more about us and the instruments we stock, he’d be happy to relax with a beer inbetween recording sessions.
31 Jan 2016
We try to keep a good range of instruments and bows to suit different customers, but increasingly we find ourselves specialising in French and Italian violins, French violin bows and Tubbs violin bows. If you click on the Violin and Violin Bow tabs at the left of the page you’ll find that we’ve added these categories. We’ve had this facility for small violas for some time and customers have told us they found it useful. So now if you are specifically looking for a French violin or a Tubbs bow, you can look at a list of what we have in stock without viewing everything else as well.
We’ve made a few other design changes recently on the website – let us know if you like what you see!
18 Jan 2016
Scenes from our occasional London violin shop in St James’s Place … many thanks to Patrick for the use of his beautiful room. If you would like to try out any of our instruments we can meet you here by appointment.
What can I say – it’s a fantastic violin. I spent a long time playing scales in 4ths, 3rds, 8ves etc to get my ears and fingers attuned to the violin, a long time just settling it down – this violin requires perfect intonation. Then, just work, stuff I’ve got coming up that needs learning and trying to contain my excitement basically. It responds so quickly, it’s so articulate I can hear everything, it’s tonal variety is just great – it feels like a two way conversation. With no musical demands its voice is captivating but it can do all the colours…. clearly I’m smitten. I love the violin, will be buying it and will be forever indebted to you for finding it. It would be great to know more about it’s personal history if you know anything.
If you feel inspired to review Martin Swan Violins you can either write us whole letter about how wonderful your instrument is and exactly how we helped you choose it, or just say a quick thanks or tell us about an exam or concert.
You are welcome to email us, but alternatively, you could use our new review submission form.
We can also put up a photo of you and links to videos of you playing and to social media pages if you would like.
I finally plucked up the courage to phone Martin after looking at his website over a month or so. I was feeling a bit of a fraud as I had only been playing the Violin for a couple of months when I decided I would like to learn on an instrument that I could make friends with and that I could grow into. I had already tried out a couple of violins that I had ordered over the internet but they were not very inspiring. I explained to Martin what I was looking for and that I wanted something ‘interesting’ that would certainly hold its value and maybe even be a bit of an investment. I was instantly reassured by Martin’s tone, he was friendly and very approachable and clearly knew A LOT about violins, he patiently answered all my questions in a very honest and straightforward way, openly sharing his fascination and experience. More details
Thankyou for all your help and patience in finding me my new fiddle. I just wanted to let you know how much i love it. I absolutely love the tone of it and i find myself practising lots more as it makes me sound loads better than i really am!!!!. I have to say i looked at your website a number of times and wasn’t entirely sure i would be able to explain to you exactly what i was looking for, but somehow you got it just right. I had been looking for a violin for a couple of years and just didn’t really fall in love with any others i had tried. Totally in love with my Pruller though.
” Just to let you know that I will most definitely not be bringing the fiddle back for a 14 day refund. After playing my entire life with a converted right handed fiddle, to finally not have to play against the grain is astounding.
I was trying to describe it to a friend today and wrote: It’s been a strange journey. Playing a converted right hand fiddle has been akin to playing all my life with gloves on. I didn’t realise it at the time and just put it down to not being as good as others. Suddenly everything seems possible and I can achieve subtlety – which was before unachievable. More details
“You really surprised us, with these two violins. The violin from Mittenwald is just great. It has such a powerful, singing and sweet A and E, while D and G gives deep, mellow strong tone with big resonance. It just a joy to play it. I have received excellent feedback from people who have heard it, especially my teacher Ilya Gringolts. He currently switched from Strad to Guarneri, but still asked me who sold it to me :) ? More details
I felt I should email you again to say how delighted we are with your very generous gift. I look after all our instruments and must say that we are short of good full size violins and had been thinking that we would have to buy some. The fact that you contacted us at just the right moment is an added bonus for us all at Sistema Scotland.The four violins are an amazing addition to our stock and it will be a huge pleasure for some of our senior children to use these.
6 Feb 2015
Free offer for all our customers – if you’ve bought a violin or bow from us in the past we’d be happy to send you one of our violin blankets – just email email@example.com. We even have small blankets for part-size violins. If you’re not a customer and would like to buy a blanket they cost £10 – contact us to arrange payment.
If you’d also like to be in our ‘hall of fame’ include a photo or video of yourself with your instrument, and a few words about your experience of choosing a violin/viola/cello/bow from us.
6 Feb 2015
Just picked up a batch of violin blankets – these new ones have our Swan logo on them and we’re really pleased with the results. If you’re a past customer and feel that your violin deserves a blanket, get in touch with us!
4 Feb 2014
It’s great to be able to support Scotland’s Big Noise – the children’s orchestra project inspired by El Sistema in Venezuela. We just gave them four of our new handmade violins for use by some of the senior students, and hope to be able to donate more violins to Sistema Scotland in the future.
A sticker for your violin case (or any other creative use). Free to customers and anyone else who feels like persuading us that they deserve one!
If you’d like a sticker, just send us send your name and address – we’ll put one in the post to you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
“My other fiddle’s a del Gesu”
From the very first moment I contacted Martin as I was interested in the small violas I saw on his website to replace mine, I could see his high involvement, knowledge and professionalism. Every conversation with him about their instruments, identifying some of mine, description of sound, its facilities and commitment to its advice has led to an atmosphere of mutual trust and a source of knowledge for me. Now I enjoy my small Janos Spiegel viola, comfortable and with a great sound. I agree with some other customers here the best of Martin Swans Violins is Martin himself and you could find your dream instrument there too!
At 1:41 in this video you can see me playing my viola at a weekend in Burgos, Spain.
Luis Martinez Espinosa, Spain
14 Dec 2014
Violin bows are fragile objects, and the area of short grain where the head is at its narrowest is the most vulnerable point …
First of all, try not to drop your violin bow!
We all have a few good luck stories – I once dropped a violin bow down an entire flight of stairs in a Croatian winehouse and a friend who used to work in a leading London violin shop once dropped a famous customer’s Tourte in full view of the customer. There’s also a YouTube video of Nicola Bennedetti losing control of her bow in spectacular fashion when in rehearsal with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Fortunately these stories all have happy endings, but a month or so ago I had a classic “butterfingers” moment and let go of my bow. It landed on the floor and the head broke clean off. Since it was a favourite of mine (a Charles Nicholas Bazin stamped Blanchard), I was determined to get it repaired. More details
29 Oct 2014
There is a new searchable map of violin museums around the world.
For anyone interested in looking at famous violins close up this list of violin museums is a godsend. If you are travelling you can check to see if there is a museum nearby which has a collection of violins. There are links to the museums’ own sites so you can see, for instance, that the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, displays several violins by Andrea Amati as well as the famous Stradivarius ‘Messiah’ violin. I knew about the Museo del Violino in Cremona, but not about the Museum of Musical Instruments in Poznań, Poland, which includes violins by Italian masters such as Amati, Testore, Guadagnini and Maggini.
The museum list is being put together by Stephen.Churchill@gmail.com and he welcomes new entries – so if you think he’s missed something, or even if you find a single important antique violin in a regional museum let him know so he can add it to the list.
Elementary, my dear Watson, I googled Martin Swan Violins
…I’ve just upgraded with Martin Swan Violins
1 Apr 2014
We are very excited to present this historic shoe violin, almost certainly the instrument presented to Paganini by his friend the Chevalier de Baride. Not only does it come with illustrious provenance from one of the greatest violinists of all time, it also serves as a fine reference example for the little known Veneto-Dutch school. It has long been known that the early Venetian violin tradition evolved from the Guild of Cobblers, but the active trade exchanges between the great seafaring empires of Venice and Holland have still to be researched. More details
20 Nov 2013
Still on the hunt for violins … this was a more salubrious meeting-place, and a very nice antique violin. In the Hotel Nemzeti coffee shop with Sosa Kodaj.
19 Nov 2013
A few hours wandering about Budapest with a camera on a trip to look for antique violins.
18 Nov 2013
The new violins which we have made to our design and specifications are made in Romania then varnished and set up in Budapest, Hungary. Martin was in Budapest this week checking on the violins and setting up some bridges.
19 Oct 2013
We all know that people lose their heads over violins – the prices paid at auction for Stradivaris and del Gesus are now eight figures and rising. More details
20 April 2013
In most aspects of running a business together, Martin and I agree, or at least manage to converge to a common position. The only thing I really hold against him is that a couple of years ago he had a fit of irrational tidiness and sold our collection of violin mutes… He’s promised never to let one go again and I am slowing re-building the collection.
14 April 2013
I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.—Shin’ichi Suzuki
4 April 2013
When we dispatch a violin, viola or cello we pack it carefully, either using an old case and a double-walled cardboard box or else a 2-box plywood-reinforced system. We also apply our years of experience and a good deal of bubblewrap. Not like this.
1 April 2013
Sadly, this iPhone app for instantly discovering the age of a violin by visual analysis of the wood was an April Fool, but the principle of Dendrochronology is sound. More details
27 March 2013
It seemed like the perfect solution for luthiers and bow-makers who wanted to use ivory without being implicated in the slaughter of elephants – mammoth ivory! More details
20 Dec 2912: Photos from a recent stringed instrument auction.
You might also like to read our FAQ about how to buy a violin at auction.
So many violins, so little time…
20 Nov 2012: The Ashmolean is famous for the Stradivari Messiah, but it also has several wonderfully austere Amati violins and this fabulous decorated Stradivari. We went to visit the museum last week.
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19 Nov 2012: Violins for beginners: the naming of parts. From a display in the Ashmolean Museum.
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19 Oct 2012: Violins for beginners: this display in the Ashmolean Museum is a useful starting point for understanding violin construction.
Click on these images to enlarge, then use to expand further
16 Oct 2012: I recently took part – as a listener – in a trial of violins being played as soloist instruments with an orchestra in a concert hall in Paris. More details
18 June 2012: The Fritz/Curtin ‘double blind’ experiment attempted to find out how easily players could distinguish new violins from old Italians such as Stradivaris. The same researchers are now interested in finding out how closely a player’s estimation of an instrument’s projection corresponds with that of a listener; how much a listener’s opinion depends on where they sit in the hall; and whether instruments that are quiet under the ear can indeed project well. Take a look at this on-line discussion of the issues on Maestronet. The experiment is still being designed – there’s already a lot of debate about its objectives, and about how it might achieve them. And of course there’s no agreed definition of “projection”, or any agreement about how (or why) a contemporary violin-maker might pursue this particular quality. It’s all shaping up to be at least as controversial as the “old vs. new” experiment.
Mutes : do they all sound the same? We would be happy to lend our collection of violin mutes for the purposes of acoustical research.
11 June 2012: We are starting to think about producing a violin and a cello on a baroque pattern, and we’d welcome your input. More details
17 March 2012: Since publishing her research on player preferences among new and old violins Claudia Fritz has had to cope with a media storm – More details
There’s been a media flurry over the publication of research showing that experienced violinists couldn’t tell from sound alone whether the instrument they were playing was old or new – More details
Spent the day slaving over the computer producing new ‘landing pages’ to keep Google adwords happy.
Here they are: