22 Feb 2020
The last shot of the day, taken in a virtually pitch black room, with a 15 second exposure!
21 Feb 2020
We’ve been working towards a new look for our website for some time now. We’re still not sure when we’ll be able to launch it, but were very excited yesterday to be doing a photoshoot with local photographer Neil White. One of the unexpected benefits of living in Somerset is the number of highly talented professionals like Neil who have moved out from London in recent years.
Here’s a phone snap of Neil setting up a shot of Martin by the window in the main customer room. Neil loved our windows! We’ve only seen screen versions of the photos as yet, but love his ‘low-key’ style.
8 Feb 2020
Amazing what you find when you tidy your office…. Martin played in some youth orchestra at Snape Maltings in 1972, conducted by Steuart Bedford. The leader was Peter Tanfield. Anyone remember what we were doing?
4 Feb 2020
A walking cello came to visit us!
Some lovely young people came by today. I’ve been setting up security cameras inside and outside of our house and enjoyed this screenshot which caught a cellist leaving and Martin returning a viola to the storeroom. More details
19 Jan 2020
Contemporary barn conversion, traditional wooden house, small barn and 6,276m2 of land, Protulipa, Karlovac County, Croatia
2 Jan 2020
Long-term customer Sarah Hudson just sent us this review – a great start to the new year!
20 Dec 2019
Feel free to contact us over the festive period. We are taking some time off, but will still be checking emails and messages. By the way, this is the view from our roof-top – in this direction we see St Cuthbert’s church, in the other direction it is Wells Cathedral.
28 Oct 2019
We do love our Voirins, Peccattes and Henrys, but we also try to offer more affordable bows. New to the website: two Hill violin bows, a Pfretzschner and a Prell, a Stéphane Muller viola bow and a gold-mounted Joseph Alfred Lamy violin bow – a complete bargain just because it has a pinned head. (see the new arrivals page)
JA Lamy Violin Bow, Paris circa 1900
14 Oct 2019
We have some exceptional bows in on consignment at the moment, including these:
Jean Joseph Martin Violin Bow for JB Vuillaume, Paris circa 1870
FN Voirin Violin Bow, Paris circa 1885
Francois Peccatte Violin Bow, Paris circa 1845
Joseph Henry Violin Bow, Paris circa 1850
Eugène Sartory Violin Bow, Paris circa 1915
Eugène Sartory Cello Bow, Paris circa 1910
Dominique Peccatte Violin Bow, Paris circa 1845
15 August 2019
If you are a regular visitor to our website you may have noticed that we are focusing more and more on fine bows for professional players. In fact we now have one of the best collections in the UK …
We thought you might like to see a few of the highlights! And if you’d like to check out all the other great bows we have on offer, just get in touch and arrange a visit.
Click to view our latest newsletter
(If you’d like to subscribe to future newsletters, click the ‘mailing list’ tab in the right hand menu)
13 Aug 2019
Laurence and Elliott Kempton visiting us in Wells, Somerset, to road test a Michael Albani – played by Laurence on the left.
Warning, Pachelbel’s Canon is a total earworm …
12 Aug 2019
We fitted out a cabinet for the bows some time ago, and made a home for the violas, but it’s taken a while since we moved house to set up a proper storage system for the violins. Inevitably, it’s already not large enough, so the some of the student violins are still in the cupboard…
29th July 2019
We’re adding a collection of new stock to the website this week – here’s a link to our ‘New Arrivals‘ page.
8 July 2019
Our wonderful neighbour Chris Lee, looks out on our house from his kitchen window. He travels all over Europe drawing buildings but, like the cobbler with no shoes, had never drawn Avenue House – until now! We’re not sure what the tune is, but he’s even caught the music drifting over the courtyard!
Look at his website for a wealth of fabulous architectural drawings.
24 June 2019
Martin has started a project to write articles about his favourite luthiers and bowmakers. This first one is on James Tubbs.
We’ve simplified the tabs on the right hand side of the webpage, and you’ll now find a tab there for ‘Articles’, where this and future articles will be stored.
11 June 2019
I just came across a screenshot of our 2008 website. Seems like eons ago. Time moves faster online, so it’s bit like looking at photos of fashion in the 1970s…
29th May 2019
After an exciting period of doing photos and descriptions of some top level violins and bows we are a bit more down to earth this week – take a look at our new arrivals.
23 May 2019
In case you are not on the mailing list, here is a link to our most recent newsletter.
To sign up for future newsletters, click here.
15 March 2019
We’ve recently been sent a couple of enthusiastic reviews from customers who came to visit us in our new place to upgrade instruments they bought from us in Scotland several years ago. Look here to read the reviews from Tam Mott and from Zia Roberts (pictured).
We will be taking some time off over the Christmas period, but we are still contactable by email or phone.
5 August 2018
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that, but we’d rather not have people pretending to be us on facebook… A fraudster is using our logo and copying our photos, then sending facebook messages to try and ‘sell’ violins and bows. If you get a message from someone who claims to be ‘Martin Swan’ but who can’t write basic English don’t trust it. Please also let us know by email. We are trying to get facebook to block the account. Here is a copy of the fraudster’s latest, for your amusement:
Thankfully, the person who was being approached wasn’t taken in by it:
27 July 2018
Sarah Hudson found buying a violin from us an ‘enriching, informative and friendly experience’. Read her review here.
7 July 2018
We are now permanently installed in Wells, Somerset.
Wells is a great place to visit, with an incredible 12th century cathedral …
11 May 2018
The short version is: if you sign up to our email list, we will send you occasional email newsletters, but we won’t do anything else with that information. You can unsubscribe at any time. If you contact us directly we will keep a record of information you send us, so that we can handle your enquiry effectively. But if you ask us to delete your data, we will. We do not hold or process any sensitive personal data about our customers. Our website uses a few cookies, but you can disable cookies on your browser if you wish.
We’ve also reviewed how we keep data secure, and have tightened up a few things. It’s been tedious, but ultimately a useful process.
23 April 2018
Martin Swan Violins, of course…
Charlie Stewart spent many months searching for a violin when he was still a teenager. When he came to us we paired him up with what we call a ‘campfire strad’. We don’t get a lot of them, and tend to keep them back for talented youngsters who can’t afford a big name violin. Charlie’s violin is a Salzkammergut from the early 19th century.
We’re delighted he won the Young Traditional Musician of the year award on our fiddle!
If you want to hear more of Charlie’s music, look at the website for his band, Snuffbox.
31 March 2018
We’re not going to give you a live link to what Martin Swan is up to, but instead you can watch the swans nesting on the Bishop’s Palace Moat in Wells, Somerset.
We’re in the process of moving to Wells, so the Swan population of the area is due to increase by means of both hatching and migration.
Click to view the web-cam livestream
(Also useful for checking whether the sun in shining in Wells today…)
29 March 2018
Peccatte, Persoit, Sartory, Tubbs – a great selection of fine violin bows for professional players
Click here to read our latest newsletter which showcases a clutch of superb violin bows.
And click here to sign up for future newsletters!
13 March 2018
We’ve been putting a lot of bows up on he website in the past couple of days – take a look at the new arrivals page.
27 Feb 2018
We have ongoing relationships with musicians all around the world. Read this review from a loyal customer in Lebanon.
21 Jan 2018
It’s always a joy to get positive feedback from customers. We just posted reviews from Tuck Loke and from Tom McNeill.
29 Nov 2017
John Coultard searched for a long time to find a violin which suited him and finally bought a MSV violin: “I wish I’d had an instrument of this quality from about age 14/15, however it’s better late than never!”.
John later came back to us to buy a small violin for his daughter, Skye: “It’s a really good violin. I enjoy playing. It makes an amazing sound. It’s the best violin ever (but I don’t think people will believe me)!”
14 Nov 2017
“Martin’s mixture of a transparent web page (former sales, visible prices, etc.), having violins sent home for trials and examination, and yet the possibility of meeting the seller in person. Since he is not standing in a shop all day long, he has the possibility to hunt for best-in-class violins at good prices and build effective dealer networks (so he is taking this work away from me). This approach combined with a decent turnover of violins yields very reasonable and hard to beat prices for his customers in turn. So for me, this is the best possible compromise of all other buying options.”
“Of course, you need a person to bring the business to life, and as it is also reflected by the other reviews, Martin is this person. Open, honest, patient, customer oriented, trustworthy, giving very detailed and complete answers to all questions, just to name a few of his excellent characteristics. The fact that he is a true player helps a lot in the pre-selection of violins. If you test through his stock, you will definitely notice this compared to other selections.”
Read the full review from Dr Michael Krauß here
2 Nov 2017
Albert Nürnberger Violin Bow
Martin was very helpful, friendly and his knowledge of his bows helped me choose the perfect bow that suited my playing style and my violin.
Gheorghe Dorin Tuca
The Endymion String Quartet
9 Oct 2017
Our website has a new feature – a powerful search button!
We’d be really interested to get feedback on how this works for you.
31 Aug 2017
That’s a great opening line to a customer email!
Read the full review from Shelagh Winship here.
23 Aug 2017
We just got sent some violin fan art!
“Surpassing Expectations” – we love it – thank you Tim C for making this wonderful collage for us.
22 May 2017
We have 50 free viola case stickers to give away – first come, first served. Email email@example.com 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.
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…
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.
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’).
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.
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.
Unlike most violin dealers, our first priority is what a violin sounds like
All the violins on our website have detailed tonal descriptions and high-resolution photos:
Violin shop with secure worldwide delivery
How to explore our violin shop:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com
“My other fiddle’s a del Gesu”
Ideal to brighten up your mantlepiece or for sending a snail-mail message to a friend. Just email your address to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put some of our violin postcards in the mail to you. No matter where you live we can send them – just like our violins!
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
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
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.
Click on these images to enlarge, then use to expand further
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 to expand further
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
Review in Rock’n’Reel by Dave Haslam for the album Z kao Zajkopops / Z is for Zykopops
Review in fRoots by Andrew Cronshaw for the album Z kao Zajkopops / Z is for Zykopops