Reviews from Violinists
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.
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.
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.
Laberte Montagnana 7/8 violin and Charles Nicholas Bazin bow
“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……”
” 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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
“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!”
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
A Fine Italian Violin by Giuseppe Baldantoni, Ancona circa 1940
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
“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!”
“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
MSV 10 Guarnerius Pattern Violin
“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 …”
“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 very descriptions were spot on, as impressive as the service you gave, at all times. More details
“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
“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.”
“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
“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
“…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.”
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