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Ebay as Source of Introductory Level Fiddles

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Sep 13, 2018 - 9:29:21 AM

RichJ

USA

233 posts since 8/6/2013

I’ve been teaching novice fiddle classes for several years now which are sponsored by a local fiddle club. The lessons are free with a couple of requirements: students must be 16 or older, they also must have their own fiddle. As you might expect many folks attending these classes have never played a fiddle previously and are looking for the least expensive way of getting started.

I've considered telling students about the “Ebay Option”, but have been hesitant up to now based on the variable quality of fiddles from this source. On the other hand, I have seen a few Ebay fiddles in the $100 range which look like a decent bargain for students taking these classes.

Has anyone on this forum had experience with Ebay violin dealers who can be relied on to provide a decent introductory level fiddle in the $100 price range?

Edited by - RichJ on 09/13/2018 09:30:23

Sep 13, 2018 - 10:39:37 AM

3537 posts since 6/24/2007

Setup and pieces quality. No setup plus cheese grater strings makes for no playing.

Sep 13, 2018 - 1:18:23 PM
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157 posts since 6/21/2007

I would suggest they look at music stores that have violin rentals for school orchestras, usually about $20 a month. They should be able to get the same deal.

Sep 13, 2018 - 3:51:26 PM

2317 posts since 10/6/2008

This thread might be of interest: fiddlehangout.com/archive/33461

Sep 13, 2018 - 4:53:38 PM

1965 posts since 10/1/2008

Well …. it is just too easy to purchase a fiddle shaped object. And even a good instrument with a poor setup and poor strings will not help the aspiring student. If you want to score with Ebay 100.00$ fiddles you will need a luthier compatriot to render an inexpensive assist when needed. R/

Sep 14, 2018 - 3:19:40 AM

RichJ

USA

233 posts since 8/6/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Cyndy

This thread might be of interest: fiddlehangout.com/archive/33461


Cyndy - Thanks, I  think I saw this when it was first posted. 

I know lots of folks are categorically down on any Chinese fiddles purchased on Ebay. Sure don't have a dog in the race, but do think, in some cases, these can provide an inexpensive opportunity to dip a toe into the world of fiddling. The fiddle in Cyndy's post sounded pretty decent, but cost considerably more than the $100 in my initial post.

The music store rental is certainly another option. Sadly there are none in the area we live.

Sep 14, 2018 - 7:52:30 AM
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fidlpat

USA

433 posts since 5/11/2009

Some of the big internet outlets,,,good ones, like SWStrings, Quinn, Fisher, Shar, Gianna and KC Fiddles, both represented here on the forum,,,and more shops, too,,,,,these rent fiddles. you have the assurance of good craftmanship in setup. Often there is rental money applied to other good things, such as purchase of the instrument, easier upgrade, etc. etc. It builds a good rapport with these ppl, and you are assured also of the best that can be done with an inexpensive instrument.

To me, ebay is just not worth the risk you take.

Sep 14, 2018 - 8:57:59 AM

119 posts since 1/27/2018

If the desire to play is there then someone should be able to get going on complete junk. You could hand someone a priceless violin and if the drive isn’t there they are just wasting time. When I wanted to play I barely had a sack of dirt to buy a fiddle but I went to a pawn shop in the big city and bought two worthless pieces of junk for $30. One was an old Sears fiddle covered in creosote and the other was a german student fiddle coming apart at the seams. I played that Sears fiddle for probably 4 or 5 years and had to strap the peg box together with shoe lace because it was split. The other I fixed up and still use for practice. My “good” fiddle I paid $25 dollars for. My point is if someone wants to play bad enough they will find a way. It really annoys me when these folks that couldn’t fiddle to save their life have all this equipment worth more than everything I own. Sign of the times I guess.

Sep 14, 2018 - 9:03:30 AM

DougD

USA

8744 posts since 12/2/2007
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I think some other members here have had good experiences with Chinese vendors on ebay. Maybe they'll chime in.

Sep 14, 2018 - 11:34:05 AM

RichJ

USA

233 posts since 8/6/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Johnny Rosin

If the desire to play is there then someone should be able to get going on complete junk. You could hand someone a priceless violin and if the drive isn’t there they are just wasting time. When I wanted to play I barely had a sack of dirt to buy a fiddle but I went to a pawn shop in the big city and bought two worthless pieces of junk for $30. One was an old Sears fiddle covered in creosote and the other was a german student fiddle coming apart at the seams. I played that Sears fiddle for probably 4 or 5 years and had to strap the peg box together with shoe lace because it was split. The other I fixed up and still use for practice. My “good” fiddle I paid $25 dollars for. My point is if someone wants to play bad enough they will find a way. It really annoys me when these folks that couldn’t fiddle to save their life have all this equipment worth more than everything I own. Sign of the times I guess.


Hey Johnny, I'm in total agreement. Most of my fiddles were purchased at a huge local flea market for $100 or less,and this includes my current best player. That fiddle required a fair bit of fix up work to put back in shape. I was able to do myself, however not every fiddler, including those with the "desire to play" can do this.

It's for people like that I'm wondering about the Chinese option.

Sep 14, 2018 - 6:07:08 PM

99 posts since 11/26/2009

You dont have to have the best to learn on. I am sure not every young student can afford a high priced fiddle to take there first few lessons on. Nothing wrong with ebay fiddles try em out.

Sep 14, 2018 - 6:12:43 PM

255 posts since 11/12/2016

I may get blasted by the purists for my opinion, but here goes.

If the students (and parents) are looking for a cheap instrument to try, suggest they get something like the Cecilio CVN-200. For about $110 they get a VSO, case, rosin, 2 bows, and maybe an extra set of strings. I bought one of those kits a handful of years ago and when I started taking lessons my instructor adjusted the bridge, tuned it, and off we went. With all due respect to luthiers like Steve, I don't think the setup at that point is really too important; I could hear the tune of Mary Had A Little Lamb and it was my tail that was wagging.

Six months down the road, I knew I was going to keep playing so got a better fiddle, had it professionally set up and of course it sounds much better, but the Cecilio got me going. If I had decided to not pursue it any further than a few lessons, losing the $110 wouldn't have been too painful. Maybe your students will feel the same way and, if they want to stay with it, can get a better one some months down the road.

Between then and now, I've replaced the tailpiece and put on better strings, but I still play it; it's my fiddle to use working on crosstuning. My teacher was actually having fun wailing away on it this past Wed. I wouldn't buy another one of those (although I do want another fiddle and one that's properly set up), but I do not regret getting that first one.

Sep 14, 2018 - 8:22:40 PM
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187 posts since 8/10/2017
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My first fiddle was a Cremona fiddle, made in China, and cost $100 in 1995. It came with a case, rosin and a shoulder rest. All the black parts of the fiddle were plastic. The bridge always looked a little bit like it was being crushed by the strings. The color was way too orange. But I played the fiddle for many years. I had to replace the tail piece twice because plastic tail pieces break pretty easily apparently. I replaced the chin rest because the one that came with it bothered me. I never liked the sound, but I figured I was a beginner so if someday I could make it sound half-way decent, then maybe I could buy a better one. I had other people play it so I knew it could sound like a real fiddle if I ever learned. I ended up selling it to someone through craigslist for $50. Hopefully she will end up using it to learn like I did.

I don't know if the fiddles on ebay are the same as this one, but I don't think it's horrible to start out with a crappy fiddle.

Sep 14, 2018 - 8:51:52 PM
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2170 posts since 12/23/2007

Ebay is not a source. It is a medium. You cannot paint all of ebay with the same broad brush. There are millions of 'sources' who use ebay.

IMO, ebay doesn't have such great deals anymore. Their fees are high, and many people just dont use it anymore. People that do list items there often charge more just because of the fees.

Sep 14, 2018 - 9:45:24 PM
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3537 posts since 6/24/2007

Survivor's bias - only those who didn't give up still play.

Better equipment = easier results, on average, in everything.

Sep 15, 2018 - 5:59 AM

RichJ

USA

233 posts since 8/6/2013

Thanks to all who chimed in. Many responses seem to be leading into another interesting topic. Something like: Do you need a perfectly set up fiddle in a certain price range to start fiddling?

Guess Ebay fiddles are still a crap shoot, perhaps not the best place for a beginner to pick up a starter instrument though I'm still not sure there are many alternatives. This is especially true for folks who live hours away from major cities where there are music stores providing rentals.

Sep 15, 2018 - 9:37:42 AM

187 posts since 8/10/2017
Online Now

Coming from the mandolin world, a poorly set up mandolin is horrible to play and can really make a huge difference. My cheap Chinese fiddle was not poorly set up, so it wasn't impossible to play. But the difference in how it sounded was significant when compared to a nicer fiddle.

In fact, a friend of mine restores old fiddles for fun and he brought one to the jam once. I tried it out and said, hey, this reminds me of my old fiddle. I looked inside and sure enough, the label inside was the same and the orange color and everything else was the same. It was no easier or harder to play than my old fiddle, but it was just as disappointing.

I don't know if way back then when I originally bought it if I would have bought it at all had it cost more than $100. I didn't feel committed enough to spend more.

Sep 15, 2018 - 10:46:24 AM

echord

USA

745 posts since 4/5/2009

quote:
Originally posted by RichJ

Has anyone on this forum had experience with Ebay violin dealers who can be relied on to provide a decent introductory level fiddle in the $100 price range?


I think most would agree that the best way to begin fiddle lessons is to rent an instrument from a music store, especially for young folks. In case no music store is available for rental, I'd say advertising in Craig's List or a local paper for used fiddles might be another option. At least you would be able to see what you are getting, even if you didn't know much of what to look for. But if you can find a fiddler who has a spare instrument to part with, that would be very advantageous and the best possible solution. Most violin teachers can probably give a beginner good advice and many will be able to help set it up if all that is needed is positioning the bridge and changing strings.

However, if none of these options are available, there are a number of good stores on Ebay that sell decent, cheap fiddles with fair set-ups, including some mentioned by other posters here, but one should keep in mind that buying sight unseen on the Internet is risky at best.

Decent cheap brands are (among others) VIF, Cecilio and Mendini model student instrument kits -- I have personally purchased two of the VIF models that were quite good for around $100  (including shipping), but I'm not so stupid as to recommend any particular Ebay seller lest I lead you astray wink. Reading the reviews and seller rating are essential -- My preference would be to purchase an instrument directly from the maker (usually Chinese) such as Song Violin Co and Yitamusic, though these brands no longer have many models in the $100 range. Also, shipping from China is around 60 bucks, so these companies my not appeal to beginners.

Set-up is a real problem for beginners, so a cheap fiddle from Ebay might actually cost about as much after set-up and new strings as going to a music store and spending the money for a decent student instrument to begin with. Nowadays you are likely to be able to resell it on Craig's List if you lose interest. 

Sep 15, 2018 - 4:58:32 PM

2170 posts since 12/23/2007

Ebay is not a source, it is a medium. I think we need to dispense with the notion that ebay is a single entity that sells things - it absolutely is not.

The source is the seller. Find a good seller and the medium becomes mostly irrelevant.

Sep 15, 2018 - 5:08:05 PM
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2170 posts since 12/23/2007

The days of extreme good deals with Yita and such are gone. They are still good deals, but cost of living and such keeps rising in China.

IMO, a store-branded fiddle imported from overseas is a good option. A reputable shop will handle all the import and QC issues. You end up with a fiddle, a warranty, and a local support team......


I know it is out-of-style, but saving up money for such a purchase is still a viable option. And people who are patient and plan for such things just might be more inclined to keep playing the thing over time.

Realistically, the bar for a serviceable new fiddle outfit is generally around $250. Telling people that a $100 fiddle will do the job would be a bit misleading.

Edited by - amwildman on 09/15/2018 17:08:31

Sep 16, 2018 - 1:43:36 PM
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403 posts since 6/26/2007

I send nearly every new student to eBay for a cheap carbon-fiber bow, but if one is looking for a first fiddle, that's the last place to look-- especially if you are looking for the lowest price.

Your typical $100 mail-order VSO looks to a novice like a perfectly nice violin, but is actually a DIY project without instructions. Making it playable is going to cost more than the price of the outfit-- IF you can find someone who will stoop to applying his/her luthiery skills to such junk. Unless you can do the setup yourself, better to buy something used.

Luckily for my students, I'm not a luthier, but am a tinkerer who rather likes the challenge of wringing music out of a despicable clunker.

Sep 22, 2018 - 9:09:28 PM
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2317 posts since 10/6/2008

RichJ - Is there anyone in the fiddle club who might be willing to keep an eye out for decent budget-priced fiddles, tweak them a bit, and sell them to the new students at cost? If so, shopgoodwill.com might be a place to look, especially if you know of anyone who lives close enough to one of the sellers to pick things up in person as a way of saving shipping. I've found a number of useable instruments that way for a petting zoo that I oversee once a year.

Dan Gellert - I'm looking to acquire just such a bow in a fractional size to use at the petting zoo this year. If there's a particular eBay vendor you'd recommend, please PM me. Thanks!

Sep 23, 2018 - 2:07:18 PM
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RichJ

USA

233 posts since 8/6/2013

Hi Cindy,

Thanks for the shopgoodwill.com ref., have never seen this before. Wonder why folks post there instead of Ebay or Craig's list?

I'm always looking for "beater" fixer-uppers and have been using a lot of these for my own players. I can do a fair bit of work on these to make them playable and certainly willing to re-sell to students at cost. In most instance this would sill winds up in the $100 ball park.

Since posting the OP I have located a music store 35 miles away which rents fiddles at the cost of $20 for 4 months. This certainly is a rock bottom price for someone wanting to give fiddling a try.

Sep 23, 2018 - 3:29:35 PM

DougD

USA

8744 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

Rich, I believe shopgoodwill offers items that have been donated to Goodwill. Its not a public forum like ebay or Craigslist. There are some real bargains at Goodwill, but I've never seen any good instruments.

Sep 25, 2018 - 12:29:04 PM

6531 posts since 3/19/2009

I've told this story before... Once, about 8 years ago I saw that Ebay had a 4/4 fiddle case and bow for $27.... Now, I didn't need a fiddle, case and bow, but just for fun I ordered one just to see what piece of crap I'd get....with shipping and required insurance my final bill was $35. The violin came in the mail in about a week.. I anxiously opened the shipping box and examined the instrument... Hmmm.. Nice purfling, wooden back, spruce top (not laminated), nice two piece back, ebony fingerboard and pegs..beautiful top, extra strings...crappy bow, and cheap case.. I DID find One tiny flaw in the finish on the neck....Other than that it was a beautiful, well make beginners instrument.. I let an eighth grade student use it and eventually sold it to her parents for $100.. She is now in college and Still plays that fiddle...When I mentioned this fiddle to my local luthier, his comment, was "Well, the Chinese are really turning out some good instruments cheaply." Yep...Since then, I've ordered other inexpensive fiddles to use when traveling abroad and don't want to have to worry about an expensive instrument, and although I've never found one as good as that $35 fiddle, I've also always been surprised just how functional some of those Ebay instruments are...
NOW I want to buy one of those Fiberboard, pressed, painted purple, painted on purfling, crooked endpin and fingerboard fiddles.. You know, just for the fun of it..

And, Yes, I've bought some NICE carbon fibre bows online and never regretted it.

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 09/25/2018 12:31:23

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