News

We are moving…

7 May 2018

Martin Swan Violins, Avenue House, Wells, BA5 2AJ

We are moving to the cathedral city of Wells, in Somerset. It’s still a bit chaotic (the builders haven’t quite finished), but our business is now running from here and the household move is happening at the end of the month. We were previously based in Scotland, in a cottage by a stream surrounded by trees and sheep. Fifteen minutes drive from the nearest town. Beautiful, but somewhat isolated.

We are looking forward to musical events, the market, better weather, and most importantly to welcoming customers to try out instruments in our new home.


Where did the winner of “BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician 2017” find his violin?

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.


Swan-Cam, Wells, Somerset

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.

The Swans of Wells, Somerset
Click to view the web-cam livestream
(Also useful for checking whether the sun in shining in Wells today…)


Read our latest newsletter

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!


We’re working to keep up with stock coming in to us…

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.


Our customers hail from all over the world – this review is from Lebanon

27 Feb 2018

We have ongoing relationships with musicians all around the world. Read this review from a loyal customer in Lebanon.
Michel El Murr pleased to find a knowledgeable violin dealer


Two new reviews for our service to customers

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.

Tuck Loke with his new violin


Reviews for father-and-daughter MSV violins

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)!”

You can read the full reviews here.


Customer review about buying from an online violin shop

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


My violin bow: Gheorghe Dorin Tuca

2 Nov 2017

Gheorghe Dorin Tucaimage link 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
image link


Website search button

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.


I am delighted and entranced with my violin…

31 Aug 2017

That’s a great opening line to a customer email!

Read the full review from Shelagh Winship here.


Martin Swan Violins fan art!

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.

Martin Swan Violins fan art!


Viola Players Duet Better – claim your free viola case sticker!

22 May 2017
We have 50 free viola case stickers to give away – first come, first served. Email anna@martinswanviolins.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.
Viola Players Duet Better


The Secret of Stradivari Finally Revealed!

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


UK customers – would you like a free Martin Swan Violins mouse mat?

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!

Email anna@martinswanviolins.com

Martin Swan Violins mouse mat


Merry Christmas to all our customers!

…and very best wishes for 2017…

Merry Christmas from Martin Swan Violins


Anna Ashmole writes about understanding violin customers around the world

anna-profile3-sm

Click here to read the article in the Guardian Weekly.


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


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


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

More details


Notable sale: François Louis Pique violin, Paris 1804

6 Jan 2016
imagedd


Merry Christmas to all our customers!

Merry Christmas


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.


Notable sale: Cornelis Kleynman Violin, Amsterdam circa 1660

Feb 2015
imagebb


Violin dealer and specialist in assessing violin tone

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:
More details


Welcome to the UK’s leading online violin shop

Violin shop with secure worldwide delivery

How to explore our violin shop:
More details


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”


Martin Swan Violins postcards

Oh, Larry, you're a swell guy but...Ideal to brighten up your mantlepiece or for sending a snail-mail message to a friend. Just email your address to anna.ashmole@gmail.com 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!

Sherlock's violinViolin postcard


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...


Historic violin graffiti

22 Apr 2014
Locked up for kissing, and missing his violin – graffiti by a luckless soul in Lancaster Castle prison in the 18th century. The inscription reads:
Iohn Bailey Commited Aprill: ye 15the 1741 by Brindle rs for Kissing
Historic violin graffiti

More info about this historic violin graffiti here.


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


Optical-laser-electronic violin bow gizmo

5 Dec 2014
Optical laser violin bow

Not sure about this one…  It seems to be a way of producing a digitized signal which sounds, well, maybe a bit like a violin.  You use the ‘O-bow’ by moving it across a metal sensor to capture the effect of bowing, meanwhile using a keyboard to determine the pitch.  Apparently it is easier to play than a real violin because you don’t have to moderate the pressure of the bow and because you can create a vibrato effect simply by rotating the bow slightly. Is that a good thing? 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
More details


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

More details


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

More details


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


Surrealist violin by Jacques Grandchamp

18 Sept 2013

We’ve just been sent a link to this incredible object d’art by Jacques Grandchamp of Toulouse:

maxi12135

“As the classical violin it is made of maple and spruce.
The hollow body, opened with one sound-hole, is shaped like a lady foot
provided with a pump. Relief and painting in imitation of crocodile.
The fingerboard terminated with a scroll of violin type.”


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

More details


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
More details


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
More details


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


Rock’n’Reel Review

Review in Rock’n’Reel by Dave Haslam for the album Z kao Zajkopops / Z is for Zykopops
More details


Froots Review

Review in fRoots by Andrew Cronshaw for the album Z kao Zajkopops / Z is for Zykopops
More details


Scotland, London and Online

Tonal specialist • Worldwide service • Trial periods