It turns out that in the first half of the 15th century, it took about 3,000 francs to make a new violin. Today, we’re used to thinking of violin sales as a multi-billion-dollar industry — but that statistic is misleading. Today, more of us are purchasing instruments of much lesser quality, even though they’re made by the same people. To understand how this happened, it helps to understand why violin owners spend so much money.
First, here’s an analysis of why people buy instruments. To start, the violin is a highly prized object. It has always been so. It’s a piece of musical history, and a symbol of high ideals. People value them because they allow themselves to enjoy the musicality. This value, it turns out, tends to hold true even among violinists.
The average violin buyer is a highly educated man. He enjoys art and architecture. He’s an expert on all things classical and musical. He believes that one is better than the other — which is fine and true in terms of his own taste. But it doesn’t explain everything. Most violinists do not have the patience for hours on end. They make their living off of fast movements in the air. They work on a schedule. While they are at it, they work out. This type of practice has been called “speed playing,” which can actually be detrimental to violinists. Their lack of patience puts them at greater risk of injury, for example.
Another way to understand this is that musicians generally value experience and training. They have spent a lot of time toiling in the practice room or on the stage before they finally start playing, and they want their instruments to be the best they can ever be. That is why you will find most violinists who have never even made a major recording are considered first rate musicians, and some who have played at concerts. It also explains why most professional violinists spend all their money on instrument purchases.
A quick survey of violin players from around the world and from the New York Times will reveal that the vast majority will not travel far to spend the vast sums needed to buy a violin. The world’s finest players (most of them amateur at best) buy from private collections. They may pay $10,000 or more, depending on the size of the violin and the quality of wood and materials. While you will find some excellent violinists who will spend less money (they are professionals, after all) at the same time
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