Reviews from Violinists

These are reviews from customers who have bought violins or violin bows. You might like to also look at reviews from viola players and reviews for our new MSV instruments.

How to to contribute a review.

Nathan O’Reilly, Abbotsford Youth Orchestra

image link Carl Gottlob Schuster Violin

buying a violin onlineNov 2016
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!
Nathan O’Reilly
The Abbotsford Youth Orchestra is based in Vancouver, Canada, and the conductor is Calvin Dyck

Jane Sinclair, BBC National Orchestra of Wales

image link Tarasconi Violin

Tarasconi violin for Jane Sinclair of the BBC National Orchestra of WalesSept 2016
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

Lewis Murray, UK

image link A Bohemian Violin

Violin playing techniqueAugust 2016
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.
Lewis Murray

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, Newcastle University

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

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

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

Jean Hudson, UK

Laberte Montagnana 7/8 violin and Charles Nicholas Bazin bow

August 2015
“Thanks for all your help with this. Who needs violin shops (we have one in the town) when an expert like yourself can communicate successfully with like-minded customers who know what they want. Long live the internet.

PS. I’m keeping an eye on a viola bow you have on the site at present – I may well be back, once I’ve taught a few more people how to play the right notes and built up the savings again……”

Jean Hudson

John Grant, Borland Ceilidh Band

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

Big Noise: Sistema Scotland

image link Donation of four MSV violins

Sistema Scotland: Big NoiseFeb 2015
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.

Anne Moynihan, Sistema Scotland
image link

Hilde Schroeven-Deceuninck, UK

image link MSV 73 Stradivarius Molitor Violin

Every string vibrates through the violin into my body...May 2014
“First of all thank you for organizing such a swift delivery: it arrived just after lunch time today. Which of course kept my nerves going, so my husband has sent me immediately pictures.

Waw! 3-fold waw! It looks stunning with all the rosewood fittings on, absolutely what I had hoped for. I do enjoy very much that there is no artificial effort in making it look “old”; it is not, so why fake it? More details

Jonathan Polson, UK

image link MSV 109 Stradivarius Pattern Violin

Sept 2014
“Firstly can I extend my utmost sincere gratitude … for providing an instrument of such utter beauty. I have had chance to play the violin in various settings, from large concert hall to small chamber ensemble and always, without fail people comment as to the sound that this wonderful instrument makes. I cannot understand how an instrument that was made so recently can possess such a mature and complex tone, especially in the high registers. It simply soars and sings with such ease and such purity, it can almost be overwhelming at times. More details

Yue May Ada Lam, China

image link Frantisek Karel Kriz Violin, Prague, 1924

June 2014
“I would like to thank you again for recommending this violin (Kriz) to us. It was so nice of you to pick out a few violins according to our preferences and budget, explained in details, and recorded the sound of each violin as we could not try them out ourselves. Even though they all sounded great, we had our preference over one particular – Kriz, and that really helped us making the decision. More details

Cathy R, Scotland

image link A Northern Italian Violin, late 19th Century

Learning about how violins are valuedOct 2014
“Many thanks, Martin, for helping us get a violin that’s just right for my daughter Isla. First of all, your explanations by email about how violins are valued helped us to work out that we were looking for a violin whose value is entirely in its sound, rather than in its antique collectability. More details

Stuart Alderton

image link Carlesso Violin Bow

“Just wanted to to tell you how delighted I am with the bow. Your description on the website I couldn’t agree more with. I’ve had other bows where they have either been bouncy or produced a lovely full tone, but the only one that ever did both was the violin bow I had on loan for three years some time ago… until now. I’m really quite staggered that this man is turning out bows of this standard for pennies (as you say). The other bow I was using was a Gerhard Penzel “Exquisite” which was more than double the cost of the Carlesso bow … even though its good, it just isn’t in the same league. The Carlesso is so easy to control and the workmanship so precise. I think that these Brazilian bow makers are really lucky Martin because they must have access to the best sources of wood that perhaps European makers don’t.”
Stuart Alderton

Jeanne Leech, USA

image link Carlesso Violin Bow

“Hi Martin, Just a quick note to let you know the Carlesso bow arrived safely, in perfect condition, and in record time…thanks! I can also tell you that I won’t need 14 days to decide whether or not to keep it, it took me all of 30 seconds to ascertain that I would not be sending it back to you! Your description of it was extremely accurate, spot on, and it is exactly what I was looking and hoping for. I was a little worried about buying a bow sight unseen and without trying it out in person beforehand, but you have gained my trust and I will definitely be a repeat customer! Thank you!”
Jeanne Leech

Brian R Hill, UK

image link Carlesso Violin Bow

Feedback on a new violin bow from Brian Mills2013
“Dear Martin, A quick note, just to say that the Alessandro Carlesso violin bow has lived up to all your superlatives and beyond. It is an absolute delight to use.”
Brian R Hill

Jennifer Williams, Scotland

image link MSV 03 Stradivarius Pattern Violin

My violin instructor enjoyed the new violin2013
“I could not be more proud of this instrument – those close to me will testify that I am eager to extol its virtues to any and all who will listen! I even asked my violin instructor to play it so I could gain a greater understanding of its range and potential in more experienced hands than my own. (So beautifully crisp and clear!) I am pleased to say that my initial admiration of my violin has only deepened with knowing it better. It is a pleasure to play, inspires and challenges me, and I’m eager to grow with it and into it as I progress. My confidence has improved already. :) It’s a dynamic instrument that is not only absolutely beautiful to look at but possesses great presence and personality. More details

John Parkin

image link Mittenwald 1850 Violin and image link VJ Ferelli Bow

John Parkin's shortlist of violin dealersFeb 2013
“Knowing that I would soon need a better violin for my young daughter, I had put Martin Swan on my shortlist of violin dealers because the ethos conveyed by his web site is so refreshingly unstuffy and straightforward. He tells you his credentials; he’s willing to publish his prices; and he’ll stick his neck out and say how he thinks each instrument plays. To my surprise, I don’t think I came across another dealer that did all three of these things upfront.

I had a specific requirement for an unusually small full-sized violin, so I was delighted when Martin listed one at a price which didn’t make the instrument too scary to place in the hands of a primary school child! He said in an email to me, ‘I’m always keen to help parents’ and, although this was only quite a modest purchase, he clearly meant it. More details

Brian Mills, UK

image link A Mirecourt Violin, 1850

Aug 2013
“I am delighted with my recent purchase. I looked at several sites and chose yours because you gave a concise appraisal of the instruments playing characteristics which in my case were spot on, as an amateur buying without hearing or playing gave me a good idea of what I was getting within my budget. All I have to do now is practise to do the violin justice.”
Brian Mills

Zia Roberts, Scotland

image link William Robinson 1941 Violin and image link Alecio Reis Bow

Thank you for letting me take so long to choose my violinNov 2013
“Thank you so much for letting me take so long to choose my violin and for all your patience and advice along the way Martin. We are now home and I’ve been able to relax and play with the violin and bow and I love it”

View Zia’s facebook update three years later.
Zia Roberts

Stephen Davison, UK

image link JTL Violin, Buthod, Mirecourt circa 1900

Dec 2013
“Just thought I’d send a quick email to let you know Molly’s getting on fine with her new fiddle, and we’ll definitely be keeping it. Thanks for your help in choosing it, I think it’ll do Molly for at least the next few years. If she does ever think she’d like to upgrade we’ll definitely come back to you. I have to compliment you on the standard of your website, it’s excellent, very professional, but with an obvious personal touch in your accurate descriptions of the fiddles.”
Stephen Davison

Deborah Harris, UK

image link French violin by Georges Coné, Lyon circa 1945

April 2013
“I just thought you might like to know that I have had many compliments about the tone of the Cone violin from musicians, non-musicians, students and parents alike when playing the violin in a variety of settings. I am still extremely happy with it and grateful to you for suggesting it for me and the trouble you took over making it exactly right.”
Deborah Harris

Andrew Linden, UK

A Fine Italian Violin by Giuseppe Baldantoni, Ancona circa 1940

Dec 2013
Thank you for all your guidance and encouragement in helping me to acquire the Giuseppe Baldantoni.

I started my search for a violin at Mondomusica in Cremona this September, looking for an instrument to enjoy playing in my retirement which would also be an excellent “alternative” investment.

Whilst there seem to be several dealers in the market selling top end instruments with great tone and playing qualities, I soon realised how difficult it was to match the player’s perspective with good investment potential for the long term benefit of my family. As a lawyer I am inherently cautious, but I quickly came to appreciate that a buyer of a fine Italian violin needs to be very cautious.

Our first meeting in your fascinating “`Violin Lodge” in Peebles was very enlightening. You advised me to restrict my search to Italian instruments in excellent condition and with reliable certificates, since these were always in demand and commanded the best prices. More details

Karen Harper, Scotland

image link MSV 12 Stradivarius Pattern Violin, Artist Model

Karen Harper, violinist2012
Karen Harper

Julian Olver, UK

image link Rushworth & Dreaper ‘Apollo’, Mirecourt c1900

Aug 2012

“Rosie, Vicky her violin teacher, Hayley and I reached a unanimous decision, and it’s in favour of the Apollo. Your selection has ticked all the boxes. Rosie loves the sound she’s making and so do we. It was her teacher’s first choice. When she listened to, and played the violins, she actually described the decision as a “no brainer” and it is ideally suited to Rosie and her progression over the next few years. So thank you very much, you’ve made everyone here very happy!”
Julian Olver

Daniel, USA

image link A Fine Violin by Emile Boulangeot, Lyon 1926

Aug 2012
“I got some time today to get a second opinion from my orchestra friend, who put the Boulangeot through the paces of a lot of violin repertoire… We both agreed it was a very dark, complex, interesting sound, and he thought it felt very even across the strings. He was playing Sibelius, there were some notes on the lower G string which were absolutely awesome – just went straight to your heart and gave you shivers. More details

Jani Lang, Scotland

MSV 10 Guarnerius Pattern Violin

A new violin that sounds and plays like a top violin2011
“Martin came to my rescue when I needed a new violin. He wasn’t just very helpful but gave me an unbelievable price on an amazing Hungarian violin. Being a Hungarian, it was a very funny coincidence and I have no doubt that without Martin’s help I would have never been able to own such an outstanding instrument. I can’t explain how much difference it makes to play on a violin that sounds and plays like any old Italian/French etc. top violin. Not to mention all the compliments that I receive from my audience and fellow musicians on my violin. Now I own an instrument that will stay with me for all my life …”
Jani Lang
Band Website

Tony Harrison, Norway

image link A Violin by Hermann Trapp, Neukirchen 1889

Tony Harrison on a violin's sound2011
“Thank you Martin for providing such a wonderful instrument, I really love it with a passion. It is everything and more than I could have expected. I was looking for something that had qualities that were in reality far outside my price range but somehow you managed to find an instrument that far exceeded anything I had any right to expect. This instrument and I will go on a long journey together of that I am sure. Your descriptions were spot on, as impressive as the service you gave, at all times. More details

Benedict Morris, Scotland

image link Violin with ‘Riccardo Ganolli’ label

Benedict Morris with his violin at the Benedetti sessions

Benedict Morris with Nicola Benedetti

“I came to Martin looking for a violin that would be best for me as a classical & traditional violinist at the stage I was at. Knowing this information already, Martin laid out six or seven violins which he thought might suit me best, and sure enough. I worked my way through and found a violin with a beautiful and special tone to it. After only a few seconds playing it I knew it was the one for me. I wouldn’t go anywhere else for a violin. But the best part about Martin Swan Violins is Martin himself.”
Benedict Morris, Scotland

Deirdre Morrison, Scotland

image link MSV 16 Guarnerius Pattern Violin

A violin which shines in performance and recording situations2010
“I couldn’t be happier with this beautiful instrument – exceptionally resonant and responsive with depth and clarity on all strings. Intonation is very true. Shines in both performance and recording situations.”
Deirdre Morrison
image link

Allan Green, UK

image link MSV 27 Guarnerius Pattern Violin

The best sounding instrument I have played2010
“My violin arrived safely no problems or damage.

I’m afraid I don’t agree with your assessment of its tonal qualities. When you said, “I can’t pretend that these are the best-sounding instruments we’ve made,” I think what you actually meant was this is the best sounding instrument we have ever made…!

It is certainly the best sounding one I have played. Although I am certainly no expert I was on a £4,500 Nicolo Croce and a More details

The Tseng family, USA

image link A Markneukirchen Violin by Ernst Heinrich Roth 1935

The Teseng family on finding a violin and bow2010
“I was halfway around the world from home when my family asked me about finding a violin for my sister – having less than two weeks left in Europe, I scoured the countryside for violinmakers and instrumental workshops to no avail. I almost at the point of giving up after having to deal with people who were hesitant to do business with an international student, or shops that did not have a wide variety of selection of violins for our asking price. More details

Diana Mitchell, Scotland


“…I bought my violin from you. It is still wonderful, far far better than I will ever be, everytime my violin tutor touches it her face lights up and says that’s a lovely instrument. If any one out there wants to buy a violin this is your man.”
Diana Mitchell

Rona Wilkie, Scotland

image link MSV 01 Stradivarius Pattern Violin

2012 BBC Young Traditional Musician2009
In 2012 Oban fiddler Rona Wilkie won BBC Young Traditional Musician playing on the first ‘MSV’ violin we made. Having grown up in a musical family, Rona was introduced to traditional music as a baby, and grew up being simultaneously trained in both Highland fiddle style and classical music. She became interested in singing when she attended Gaelic Medium Primary School. Rona led fiddle group Gizzen Briggs for several years performing at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in front of the Queen and First Minister in 2004. More details

How to Contribute a Review

Scotland, London and Online

Tonal specialist • Worldwide service • Trial periods