News

Anna Ashmole writes about understanding violin customers around the world

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Click here to read the article in the Guardian Weekly.


Recent acquisitions: C A Maucotel violin, B Ouchard violin bow, two lovely small violas, plus more…

11 Nov 2016

Charles Adolphe Maucotel Violin, Paris circa 1850 Price band: £££

Bernard Ouchard Violin Bow, Geneva circa 1960 Price band: £££

HR Pfretzschner Violin Bow, Markneukirchen circa 1920 Price band: •££

Mirecourt Violin, Charles Brugère Workshop, 1907 Price band: •££

Bohemian Small Viola, circa 1900 Price band: •££

Mittenwald Small Viola, circa 1850 Price band: •££

Emile Auguste Ouchard Viola Bow, New York circa 1950 Price band: £££

Charles Adolphe Maucotel Violin, Paris circa 1850


Facebook feedback about a violin given as a birthday present

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.

facebook feedback


Can you give us some feedback on our service?

29 Oct 2016

If you’ve ever bought a violin, viola, cello or bow from us we’d love to hear from you! This survey has only five questions – so it needn’t take long. And if you’d like a free violin blanket as a thankyou for your feedback just let us know at the end.

Click here to go to the survey.


Recent acquisitions: four violins of mixed heritage

8 Oct 2016

Violins made by an Italian working in Scotland, a Scotsman and a Hungarian living in London and the founder of a Portuguese dynasty of violin makers working in the Italian style.

Andrea Pontedoro Violin, Edinburgh 2007 Price band: •££

Alexander Hume, London 1925 Price band: •££

Bela Szepessy Violin, London 1914 Price band: •££

Domingos F Capela Violin, Espinho (Portugal) 1967 Price band: •££

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Recent acquisitions – two Hill violin bows

6 Oct 2016

WE Hill & Sons Violin Bow, London circa 1970 Price band: £££

WE Hill & Sons Violin Bow, London circa 1950 Price band: •££


Our violins visiting the Savoy Hotel, London

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’).

Martin Swan Violins at the Savoy Hotel, London


Should I Consider Buying a Violin at Auction?

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.
More details


Jeff Terflinger, USA

image link Penzel Violin Bow, Erlbach circa 1970 and image link Carlesso Violin Bow

I found a violin dealer with integrity...May 2016
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!
Jeff Terflinger


Rosie Munro, UK

A German Violin, 19th Century

BMus Folk and Traditional music
courseMay 2016
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.
Rosie Munro


Free Violin Valuations in Malmo, Sweden, 20/21/22 May

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.


Looking specifically for a French or Italian violin?

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!

Looking for a French violin


Notable sale: A violin by Giuseppe Tarasconi, Milan, circa 1900

21 Jan 2016
A violin by Giuseppe Tarasconi, Milan, circa 1900


Our pop-up London violin shop

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.

Classical violas by Banks and Powell - not big to start with but feeling slightly dwarfed by the couch

Classical violas by Banks and Powell – not big to start with but feeling slightly dwarfed by the couch

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Notable sale: François Louis Pique violin, Paris 1804

6 Jan 2016
imagedd


Merry Christmas to all our customers!

Merry Christmas


Wendy Staal, UK

image link Dezsö Bárány Violin, Budapest 1936

Oct 2015
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.
Wendy Staal


Happy Halloween!

http://nezartdesign.tumblr.com/post/20116744045


Would you like to review Martin Swan Violins?

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.


Wendy Richardson, Scotland

image link A Violin, Circle of Richard Duke London circa 1760

Oct 2015
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


Marie Clarke, Scotland

image link Johann Prüller Violin, Vienna 1907

Sept 2015
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.
Marie Clarke


John Grant, Scotland

image linkMSV89 Left Handed Violin

Playing fiddle left handed on a custom-made instrumentApril 2015
” 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


Arnolds Kupcs, Latvia

image link Mittenwald Violin, mid 18th Century

March 2015
“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


Notable sale: Cornelis Kleynman Violin, Amsterdam circa 1660

Feb 2015
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A violin blanket to keep your instrument snug!

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 anna.ashmole@gmail.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.
Violin Blanket
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.


New-look violin blankets

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!
Violin blankets being embroidered


We just donated four of our new ‘MSV’ violins to Sistema Scotland

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.
Sistema Scotland


Violin case sticker: “My other fiddle’s a del Gesù”

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!
My other fiddle's a del Gesu
If you’d like a sticker, just send us send your name and address – we’ll put one in the post to you. Email anna.ashmole@gmail.com

“My other fiddle’s a del Gesu”


Review for a small viola by Janos Spiegel which we sent to a customer in Spain

28 Dec 2014
Luis Martinez Espinosa

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


Violin bow head repairs – what to do if you break a valuable violin bow

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


Looking to visit a violin museum?

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.

Martin Swan and Maggie Ashmole at the Ashmolean museum
At the Ashmolean museum: Martin Swan with step-daughter Maggie Ashmole (a descendant of the museum’s founder, Elias Ashmole)


Dashed fine fiddle, Holmes… how d’you track it down?

Elementary, my dear Watson, I googled Martin Swan Violins
Dashed fine fiddle, Holmes, how the devil d'you track it down?


Oh Christophe, you’re a swell guy but…

…I’ve just upgraded with Martin Swan Violins
Oh Christophe, you're a swell guy but...


Ex-Paganini Shoe Violin, circa 1800

1 Apr 2014
Ex-Paganini Shoe Violin, circa 1800 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


Looking for a good antique violin

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.
Looking for a good violin
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Looking for genuine antique violins

20 Nov 2013
In Budapest – on the hunt for genuine antique violins which also sound good. Needles in a haystack – but this one passed the test. Apparently the lunch was also good!
Trying out a violin

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Time off from looking for violins in Budapest

19 Nov 2013
A few hours wandering about Budapest with a camera on a trip to look for antique violins.

Looking for antique violins in Budapest

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Martin in Budapest checking on the production of our new handmade 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.

Setting up a new handmade violin
More details


What is the Titanic violin and how much is it really worth?

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


Notable sale: a violin after Guadagnini, c1870

May 2013
A violin after Guadagnini, c1870


A lost collection of violin mutes

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.

Violin mutes


The Suzuki Method – only practice on the days you eat!

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

More details


Sending a violin by post or international courier

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.
violin squashed in a box

Sculpture by Philippe Guillerm


How old is your violin? Date it by analysing the growth rings in the wood.

1 April 2013

Tarisio iDendro

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


Ethical mammoth ivory for violins and violin bows

27 March 2013Mammoth ivory frog for violin bow
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


Paganini’s Shoe Violin

26 March 2013:

From: Watson’s Art Journal 3 Aug 1867 More details


A day at the auction – so many violins, so little time

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
So many violins, so little time…
More details


1683 Antonio Stradivari violin in the Ashmolean Museum

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.

Click on these images to enlarge, then use Highslide iconto expand further

Martin Swan and Maggie Ashmole at the Ashmolean Museum violin collectionAntonio Stradivari Violin, 1683

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The parts of a violin

19 Nov 2012: Violins for beginners: the naming of parts. From a display in the Ashmolean Museum.

Click on these images to enlarge, then use Highslide iconto expand further

Names of parts of a violinNames of parts of a violin
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Stages in the making of a violin

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 Highslide iconto expand further

How to make a violin - the mouldMaking a violin - the ribs
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Blind listening tests – old & new violins

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


The phenomenon of violin projection

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.

Photo of violin mutes

Interested in baroque instruments?

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


The Fritz/Curtin Experiment continued …

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


New research into player preferences causes a media storm. The Fritz/Curtin 2011 Publication

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


Martin Swan Violins on facebook

You can now get all our news through facebook. More details


New review site for our instruments

The excellent online violin community Violinist.com now has a section for Martin Swan Violins. More details


Landing pages

Spent the day slaving over the computer producing new ‘landing pages’ to keep Google adwords happy.
Here they are:
http://www.martinswanviolins.com/sales/violin-dealer/
http://www.martinswanviolins.com/sales/best-violin/
http://www.martinswanviolins.com/sales/violin-shop/
http://www.martinswanviolins.com/sales/fine-violins/
http://www.martinswanviolins.com/sales/violins-for-sale/
http://www.martinswanviolins.com/sales/antique-violins/


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