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The differences in price are due to a variety of factors, including quality of materials,maker experience,and tonal characteristics.

Wood Selection And Treatment

Spruce and maple are the primary tone woods used for making violins and the other bowed stringed instruments. Both woods are strong, yet flexible and are chosen for their superior tonal properties.

The quality and treatment of the wood directly influences pricing. Wood that is considered ideal for instrument making comes from healthy old growth forests.Wood for fine instruments is chosen with great care to provide the best physical and tonal properties. Wood with tight grain as well and beautiful flaming is typically chosen for more expensive instruments. Wood for inexpensive instruments will be selected with less care.

The wood is air dried for as many as ten years or more in climate controlled conditions to season the wood. This process increases the stability of the wood and enhances its tonal properties. All fine instruments are made from wood that has been air-dried and therefore, have a superior tone. Makers may also use wood from old structures. The aging process is an important step for all instruments regardless of price. An instrument that has not properly been seasoned is considered "green" wood and may split, distort, and will be tonally undesirable. Yitamusic works diligently to ensure that all our instruments have been aged properly.

Instrument Patterns

Most instruments are based on patterns developed by historic and prominent makers. The roots of the modern violin can be traced back to the sixteenth century with historic makers Gasparo da Salo, Giovanni Paola Maggini, and Andrea Amati. Their work developed the proportions and design that most closely resembles the modern violin. Notable proteges include makers from the Guarneri family and, of course, Antonio Stradivari. Their creations further refined the modern violin and established Cremona as the center of violin making.

Authentic instruments made by Stradivari will always be more expensive as it is his work that established the design. In addition, Stradivari chose fine examples of spruce and maple and is known for his great attention to detail when crafting an instrument. The historic importance and fine craftsmanship of the great makers from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries make their instruments some of the most highly valued and sought after instruments in the world. For most people, these instruments are not in an affordable price range. Fortunately, there are many affordable copies available of excellent quality. Check out our instruments based on those famous patterns.

Maker Experience

In general, instruments with the greatest amount of craftsmanship and attention to detail will be more expensive. In addition, where the instrument is made, how, and by who will also influence the price. There are a variety of approaches for instrument making:

Factory Produced - These instruments are the least expensive and some components may be formed by machine. There is not as much attention to craftsmanship and overall sound quality may be the least desirable, but will perform well for the needs of a beginner.

Workshop Instruments - Workshop instruments are a great choice for those who want a handmade instrument at a reasonable price. With a workshop instrument, more than one person may make an instrument. Each individual may be responsible for only one part of the finished product. For example, one craftsman would carve the scroll and another would make the top, etc. This is an example of a modern workshop. Historically, workshop instruments were the work of a single person working with lesser quality materials and less experience under the guidance of a master maker. Many individual makers start out and gain experience in workshops. These instruments are available in many different price ranges and even include fine examples of superior quality.

Individual Maker - An instrument that is handmade by one person with the utmost attention to detail in craftsmanship is the most desired, but also the most expensive. A highly skilled maker has the ability to select the best woods based on visual and tonal properties and give great attention to detail in making the instrument. Many special qualities exist in handmade instruments. A maker's experience, workmanship, and successful execution will dictate the price.

Varnish Types

The body and scroll of all bowed stringed instruments will be varnished in a substance that protects the wood, provides aesthetic beauty and influences tonal characteristics.

There are three basic varnish types:

Polyurethane - Many inexpensive instruments are finished with polyurethane. This finish is very hard and is used because of its durability. However, it can dampen the sound and obscure much of the physical beauty of the wood.

More expensive instruments are varnished. Two types are typically used, spirit and oil varnish.

Spirit Varnish - Spirit varnish is made from various resins and pigments dissolved in alcohol. It is applied in many thin coats and is generally easy to work with because it dries quickly.

Oil Varnish - Oil varnish is made from resins and pigments dissolved in turpentine. It is thicker and longer drying, but is more elastic and rich in color. Oil varnish is generally preferred for fine instruments. Spirit and oil varnish can be applied in a manner that enhances the natural beauty of the wood. They also allow the wood to vibrate more freely than polyurethane and therefore are preferred tonally.

Setup and Fittings

The quality of the fittings and setup will result in the best possible sound and ease of playability. An instrument with a poor setup will be difficult to play and not sound to its fullest potential. Fittings include the chinrest, tailpiece, endbutton, and pegs.

A variety of woods are available for the fittings, but ebony, rosewood, and boxwood are the most common. Each of these woods is available in different qualities. The best quality will be the most expensive, but will be aesthetically pleasing and wear better through the stresses of playing. Expensive instruments typically are fitted with the finest materials available.

The setup includes installation of the fittings, soundpost, bridge, and planing of the fingerboard. Attention to the setup varies, but usually follows along with the quality of the instrument. Due to the responsive nature of finer instruments, they will be influenced more by subtle changes in the setup and therefore need greater care. Even the finest instrument will not sound to its fullest potential with a poor setup. Likewise, an inexpensive student instrument cannot be made to sound like an original Stradivarius with even the best fittings and setup.

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