The sound of the violin is truly unique and can't be replicated by any other musical instrument. But why are violins so expensive? It may seem like a simple question, but the answer can be quite complex.
There are many factors that determine the value of a violin, including the maker, condition and rarity of the instrument. It's not uncommon for a high-quality violin to sell for tens of thousands of pounds, and even cheap student violins can be relatively expensive!
The finest violins are crafted by a luthier who has an intimate knowledge of every detail. They use only carefully selected woods and varnish in order to produce a sound that will enchant any audience with its beauty, mystery and power.
Factory-made violins can be a great option for beginners who want to get started quickly and cheaply, but they should not expect the sound quality of more expensive models.
Handcrafted violins are made from woods that have been aged for the best sound. Luthiers shape them and then coat it all with varnish which affects its tone in various ways, but most importantly helps protect your violin's delicate surface while also adding colour!
The demand for instruments of a particular maker will play a big role in its price. For instance, Stradivari is one of the most well-known violin makers of all time. His violins are some of the most expensive instruments on the market at around $10 million dollars!
The same holds true for contemporary makers. Luthiers who are sought-after by players and only produce a few instruments a year, usually command higher prices.
The quality of the materials used in a violin also has a big impact on its price.
Violins are traditionally made from three types of wood- spruce, maple and ebony. Spruce is used for the top or soundboard because it's strong yet light and resonant. Maple is often used for the back and sides because it's a hardwood that produces a clear, bright tone. Ebony is used for the fingerboard, tailpiece and chinrest because it's strong and doesn't wear down easily.
As we mentioned before, the varnish plays an important role in the sound of a violin. Different types of varnish can affect a violin's sound in varying ways, and it can be alcohol or oil-based. These types of varnish have been used for centuries because they enhance the natural beauty of the wood and impart their own unique aesthetic.
Pedro Silva is a cellist and one of the co-founders of Myluthier.co. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2018 with a Master of Arts in cello performance, studying with Guy Johnston. He enjoys an varied freelance career as an orchestral, chamber musician and frequently collaborates with Early Music ensembles and West End productions.