Make sure you have a period of grace to try out the instrument, at least 7 days, and that you will be refunded promptly if you send the item back.

Buy from a player, who can answer detailed questions about the sound of the violin. Since this is the one thing you can’t really assess at a distance, you need informed guidance. Some dealers will refuse to engage with issues of tone, but they shouldn’t be selling online! You need a good dialogue with someone who can tune into your likes and dislikes, and understand the sort of repertoire you play …

I assess violins by playing them – not scales and arpeggios, but real music. My own test of a good violin is whether it inspires me to move forward in my playing, and whether it gives back slightly more than I thought I was putting into it. I play traditional and classical repertoire, so I can gauge an instrument’s potential in different genres. I do use certain criteria which I regard as reasonably objective – relative volume, sustain, evenness across the strings – but I think it’s more useful to try to communicate an idea of an instrument’s character or personality. It helps me greatly if I can speak with the player – if you’re seriously thinking of buying a violin from me, give me a call.

Think of me as a kind of matchmaker …

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