Match-Making: My Experience as the Violin Cupid

Rhiannon assisting a teenaged girl playing a violin

I have assisted countless violinists and violists of all skill levels trying out my instruments since the early 2000s. I estimate in all my years of playing cupid, matching people to their "loves," 90% of the trials are successful, resulting in elated customers who now have the right instrument for their budget and needs.

"As for the other 10% when the trial ended with an instrument coming back to me, there's a consistent factor: the budget was too low for their needs, or their needs were too high for the budget.

"Raising the budget during the second round of trials has almost always resulted in an awesome email along the lines of, "I LOVE this violin! I'm keeping it!" Understand, I'm not saying everyone needs to spend a fortune to have a violin that makes them happy."

I have also helped countless customers who compared two violins from my shop to opt to buy the cheaper one in the end. Awesome! If you can be happy with the violin and spend less money, go for it!

This doesn't mean the cheaper violin is actually better, since some features of better quality violins that require a certain finesse aren't brought out by less skilled players (akin to a new driver testing out a sports car). Other times the price really is the overpowering subconscious factor in the decision.

But when a customer ends a trial disappointed and packing it all back up to send to me, it's always a matter of their wallet not aligning with their expectations.

We all know you simply cannot buy a Ferrari with a Chevy budget, or expect them to perform in remotely the same way. Yet I have seen occasional customers who stubbornly expect cheap violins will to sound or play like expensive violins.

Sure, there are some icky shops that take cheap violins and charge so much for them that the customers assume they must be better. (Not cool at all!) And maybe you've heard the circulating story of how someone bought a violin at a yard sale for $100 that was later discovered to be a priceless Stradivarius. Though I can't sell you a real strad for a hundred bucks, I can assure you I will never price my violins beyond what I know them to be worth.

People sometimes ask me what's the difference between my violins. Well, I price my violins based on three factors: sound, craftmanship and materials. A better violin sounds better because they were expertly made and setup using the best possible materials for the price. Even the best makers can't make a violin out of cheap materials that will sound good. 

My student workshop violins are quite good, for the price, but they cannot possibly be compared with my master bench violins. Apples and oranges, but still each serves a purpose for which it was built. And that is why I have personally selected and planned the various tiers of violins at Fiddleheads:

  • Each level offers great value for the price and is in a realistic range for that level of player
  • Each level appropriately aligns price and quality
  • Each level is something I am proud to provide to my customers

My job, as I see it, is to help you see that price and quality or budget and needs work for you. I will never push you to spend more than you are comfortable spending. I won't even mention the violin I know would be just right for you if it costs more than the clearly firm but unrealistically-low budget you may have set for the purchase. Not surprisingly, it's usually on such trials with "champagne taste on a beer budget" that I see the violins coming back and a player who is still frustrated to not have found "the one."

It's a tricky dance sometimes, knowing what the player needs but not wanting to push the budget. Still I respect the budget and take special care to not abuse my well-earned position as solid expert and trusted guide for my customers. I'm asked by people all the time how I can possibly match a violin to a player from so far away, and the answer is simple: As a teacher and player, I know violinists. As a shop owner, I know my violins. Aligning them is just something I do really well, especially when I have earned your trust.


At the end of the day, what I would like my customers considering a trial or purchase from my shop to gain from our relationship is a sense of trust. I can only share my knowledge on this site and in emails, and you can read the things my customers have said about me and my products here and in reviews and comments elsewhere. We may even talk on the phone or have the special opportunity to meet in person if you're in the area.

From those interactions and legwork a trust needs to develop to the point where you can feel comfortable to give me permission to tell you what I think you need, judging by what you have told me about your playing and the sound you seek. If I recommend something that is well beyond your means, let me know, and we can discuss ways to make it work financially or we can tone in down and look at more affordable options.

Just remember if you have a dream tone in mind, it may cost more than you think and you may need to rethink your budget if you are to attain it. If you can't buy it straight away, you can try to get as close to that sound as possible and I can help you do that. Start a "fiddle jar"! Stick a crisp rolled $20 bill in it every Friday after work, or skip a coffee or frivolous impulse buy and instead enjoy the happy clinking of change in the glass that indicates you're getting that much closer to your dream!

If playing cupid for hundreds of successful trials has taught me anything, it's that we need to trust that the right violin is out there; we just need to be open to receiving it.


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