Who would have predicted what we are going through now? Hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, social distancing–words and phrases that appeared infrequently, if at all, in our daily vocabulary only a few months ago. Daily life for just about everyone screeched to a halt in early March. Businesses, factories, public schools, colleges, and medical offices were all in the same rapidly sinking boat. Needless to say, Hosmer Violins came along for the ride. With the exception of changing the occasional broken string in the parking lot and tuning numerous instruments, not much actual business transpired here.
Now that everyone is allowed to be “open,” except for certain bars and restaurants, we are back to regular hours. Actually, I was here every day of the “lockdown” working on instruments; I just wasn’t supposed to have anyone else inside. It was nice to have the time to do some sophisticated repair work that I have been procrastinating about for a while. Michael is back on his regular semi-week schedule rehairing and restoring bows. All I ask is that, for the time being, please call for an appointment. With social distancing still in effect there can’t be very many humans in here at any one time. And masks are required. You may not care about getting this disease, but sure do since I am almost 72 and immunocompromised.
Not a lot new, except I just scored 8 very nice cellos from one of my suppliers which will sell for $1000 to $1500. I still have a couple of dozen entry level violins for $400, and a few dozen more in the $600 to $1000 range. There are lots of violas from $600, with the “wide bodies” starting at $800 and up.
I don’t know what’s in store for school music this coming season; hopefully all of you string teachers and orchestra directors will figure it out. Hosmer Violins will be here to help you whatever the future holds.
FROM DECEMBER 2019
Well, here we are. It’s that time of the year again. Black Friday has come and, mercifully, gone. I closed up and went to visit my daughters and grandchildren in North Carolina where instead of endless TV commercials for the usual Christmas swag, I sat through “Monster’s Inc., “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Frozen,” and a lot of other stuff aimed at 3-year-olds. But every once in a while my daughter told Alexa to turn it off, and we got out our instruments and played music. What’s the point here? Folks who are interested in playing music have the ability to entertain themselves, and the sooner kids are exposed to this the more likely they will find interests other than watching TV or playing video games. Music is a lifetime gift. Most people don’t play football into adulthood, or many of the other sports played in school, but those who studied a musical instrument often pursue that endeavor into old age. Today there is an organization called the Salt City New Horizons Orchestra that invites older people who once played an instrument, but for one reason or another stopped playing when they were young, to dust off those brain cells that were once dedicated to the violin, viola, cello, or bass, and start playing again. They are also encouraging beginners, and the results have been phenomenal.
This is why I’m here. Brain cells, whether new or old, need to connect to the tools of music making. Whether it’s to revitalize an old, tired violin, or provide a new one, this is why I’m here.
Since I bought so much stuff in the last year, the descriptions below from September are still mostly valid. As far as new stuff, I have a Calin Wultur violin, made in Romania ($1500), a couple of Ivan Dunov’s ($1200), and 3 more Callegari’s ($2000). Eastman has a new electronic pickup that is mounted inside the violin in the bassbar, and I got one of the first instruments with it installed. It’s a Jean Pierre Lupot violin, and I’m selling it for the regular Jean Pierre Lupot price of $1500. There are a few cellos available that aren’t mentioned below. Probably the most interesting instruments for the Christmas and Hanukkah season are violins in the $600 to $1000 range. There are many Paolo Lorenzo’s ($1000), Novizio’s ($600 to $800), Jian Ming Li ($600), Deng Yan Shan ($500 to $700), Century Strings ($550 to $850), all set up by me to my strictest standards for sound and playability. I also have violins starting at $350 for those who are buying for complete beginners, or just wish to keep the price reasonable. If you scroll down a few pages, there are photos of some of these instruments.
Have a Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, and let’s not forget Festivus (the holiday for the rest of us).
FROM SEPTEMBER 2019
Looking toward the future, I just bought a new (to me, anyway) snowblower. Judging from the amount of “last minute” repair work that has been dropped on me in the last few weeks, few music students were “looking toward the future” when school let out and their instruments were in need of repair THEN! Also, “looking toward the future” I bought over 100 violins, violas, cellos, and bows in the last year with an eye toward meeting the requirements of all levels of students from the beginner to someone who is off to college to major in teaching or performance, and, of course, to beat whatever tariffs that get dropped on us by the economic genius in Washington.
Since December to add some variety to the entry level I have begun selling the lowest priced violin from Cedar Music (mod. E), priced at $400. It’s plain looking, but with incredible sound and a very nice neck. Their other violins are priced from $600 to $2000. Amber Strings finally got the varnish perfected on the Novizio violins, so there are a load of them priced at $600 and $800. West Coast Strings is well represented with a number of Paolo Lorenzo ($1000), Peter Kauffman ($1200) and Sandro Luciano ($1600) violins. Eastman Strings came forth with their Jean Pierre Lupot ($1500) and Pietro Lombardi ($2000) violins, along with some other surprises which may be gone by the time your read this. Arcos Brasil distributes the Cellegari instruments, priced from $2000 to $3800, and we have the Camillo’s for $2000 and the Salvatore (all Euro wood) for $3000. There are lots of others too numerous to mention.
I finally found a place to hang the wide body violas from West Coast Strings They are the Rosalia ($800), Paolo Lorenzo ($1200), Peter Kauffman ($1500), and the Sandro Luciano ($2000) models. I have 15 of these in various sizes and grades. Speaking of wide body violas, Eastman Strings had a surplus of them, and their surplus is my bargain. There are 15″ and 16″ instruments for $800. Other makers are represented as well, priced from $600 to $2500.
Cellos battle for the limited space in the showroom, starting with Jian Ming Li ($1500), Samuel Shen ($1500), Hua Chan Jun ($2000), Deng Yan Shan ($2000), Zhong Long Sheng ($2500), Albert Nebel ($3500), Peter Kauffman and Rudoulph Doetsch ($4000).
Did I forget bows? We have the “Velocity” carbon fiber selection, priced from $125 to $200. These bows feature metal tips, which is a great idea for inexpensive carbon bows, since replacing a broken or missing plastic tip is not cost effective. The bow making shops from Brazil are very well represented by Arcos Brasil, Horst John, and Sousa Bows. Bows from these shops are priced from $350 to $900. There are a few less expensive wood bows made from different species of wood, commonly lumped together with the term “Brazilwood,” but the days of cheap wood bows is coming to an end with the introduction and perfection of inexpensive carbon fiber bows. There are also bows made from a composite of carbon and fiberglass. We have them starting at $50
I don’t have to stress enough that all instruments sold by Hosmer Violins are personally set up by me. Why is that important? I’m sure you’ve seen some of the junk that students buy online. Some of these instruments are not that bad, but they are totally crippled by inferior setup, and kids are apt to be crippled by trying to play them. What I do to the average violin and viola I sell amounts to $150 to $250 worth of labor. Double that for cellos. The reason musicians come here to buy instruments is that they function properly. Also, it’s because I am very picky about what I sell. I will not sell an instrument that sounds bad relative to its price. There is also a 3 year warranty on any defect not caused by abuse, neglect, or accident. I am entering my 49th year in business, the last 40 years dedicated solely to violin family instruments and bows. I hope to see you soon.
I’ve left the copy from the last 2 years below (with some revisions, like stuff we don’t have any more), so you can see some of the special purchases I made that allow you to obtain first class instruments and bows for a little less than normal. The special prices from June are still in effect, and every outfit includes a FOM shoulder rest at no extra charge.
Recently I was able to obtain some excellent violins from Krutz Instruments. They are not the usual Krutz product, but they were made in the same factory in Beijing for another wholesaler. The original customer backed out of the deal and the Krutz representative was there at the right time to snag around 400 violins of varying grades. I bought 10 of the highest grade, featuring marvelous flamed maple and fine workmanship throughout. The price is $599. Sound is outstanding. Photo to come as soon as I find the time.
My supplier of the Zhong Long Sheng instruments has a less expensive line with the trade name “Novizio.” Where that name came from I don’t know—she must have been buying a TV or something and only would settle for a Sony. Anyway, after a couple of years searching out the right makers the results are terrific. I bought the lowest grade, and they sell for $600; they go up to $800 for now, and I know they are making more advanced violins, as well as violas and cellos. Unbelievable sound and appearance for the money.
The carbon bow competition has a new contender. The most nagging problem with less expensive carbon bows, or inexpensive bows in general, is the failure of the original installation of the hair at the frog. Beneath the long piece of mother pearl (which slides out), a properly made frog has a mortise (a rectangular hole) with one end beveled downward making it longer at the bottom than at the top. The hair, properly tied at the end with a long not, is secured with a wood plug that is the same shape as the mortise, albeit shorter. The bevel locks the hair in place. No glue is used in this process. Many lesser quality bows feature frogs with a simple round or oval shaped hole with no bevel, an ill fitting plug, badly tied hair, and a load of white glue to make up for the various discrepancies. Guess what? Lots of them fail, and I have had to raise the price of many of these bows to include the first rehairing of the bow as part of the price of the bow (within one year of purchase). This policy does not instill confidence in the seller.
Now Echo Bridge Instruments has found a maker who swears that his bows are haired the right way. With the first shipment I received I tore apart one of the frogs and found it to be properly haired. These are the Velocity bows, and we have the first 2 grades, the Journey priced at $125.00 and the Voyager priced at $175.00. These bows, and the Glasser X- Series bow at $95.00 (never a hair problem with those) are the 3 carbon bows we offer below $200.00.
Described on the “Intermediate and Advanced” page (and below) is the Cedar Music violin. This month we are offering the violin for $549.00! Also included at no charge is a FOM shoulder rest (a clone of a popular $35 collapsible rest), a $15 value. Remember, that Bobelock cases are discounted by $15 or more when you purchase them with an instrument. Glasser bows are included at $40, and the new Velocity Journey bow can also be had at a reduced price that I can’t advertise online.
I just obtained a number of Century Strings violins at a special price which I am passing on to you. The reason for this price is that the Century Strings workshop has slightly changed the instruments, and a few hundred of the older models have had their prices reduced. The following models are available: 220 (normally $600) $549.00; 320 (normally $800) $699.00, 420 (normally $1000) $899.00. Remember–these are all set up by me–no “factory” setups leave this shop.
I still have lots of the Eastman mod. 120 violins, described below, priced mostly in the $500 to $800 range.
There are many Bobelock mod. 1047 (normally $195) half moon cases priced at $175.00; mod. 4002 rectangular cases (normally $225) priced at $190; and remember that that price is reduced when you buy a violin outfit.
If you click on these images they get REALLY BIG.
This is our newest entry level violin. It’s a simple instrument with the top and back entirely arched and graduated by a computer controlled milling machine. This technique produces great consistency of sound and playability, and, of course, it receives professional setup and adjustment at Hosmer Violins. The violin alone is $400. Cases start at $65, and bows at $40.
Rosalia wide body violas. 15, 15 1/2, 16, and 16 1/2 sizes. These instruments just have simpler and less flamed wood than the higher grade Paolo Lorenzo instruments that sell for $1200, otherwise they are the same body shape. We have found these violas to be the best sounding instruments for the price anywhere, and this is the first time they have produced them in the wide body style. You can find them for less on the internet (with the less-than-stellar factory setup), but they are not adjusted to the level that you will find here with a custom fitted bridge of the proper width and Dominant strings. Price is $800.
The owner of Eastman Strings was able to buy about 300 violins from a friend of his who was closing his shop. They all went through the Eastman workshop for fingerboard dressing and quality ebony pegs, and I was able to snare 25 of them. They are in a few different grades, all designated “Eastman mod. 120, priced from $400 to $800, and they all have properly sized necks.
The owner’s daughter showed up in her big white truck, and I picked out some Pietro Lombardi violins, priced at $2000 and Pierre Lupot’s at $1500. Also arriving and sold immediately was an Albert Nebel cello, made with all European wood, selling at $4000.
The Camillo Callegari violins from Guang Hong are very popular, so I grabbed a bunch of them. I was very lucky that a fine violinist was in my shop at the time, and she auditioned the instruments for me, rather than the salesman* having to listen to me screech. A number of Guarneri models were chosen along with a Guadagnini that was especially nice, all priced at $2000 to $2200. Also available are the Heritage instruments, which are simply plain wood versions of the heavily flamed and antiqued Callegari’s. They come in at $1200 to $1500. I get these instruments from Arcos Brasil, the premier supplier of bows from Brazil. (*sans white truck)
Below $1000 there are many choices, starting at $400 with the new offering from Century Strings. These violins are made in their own workshop in Beijing, and the tops and backs are mostly arched and graduated by CNC machines, thus keeping the price down while producing a great sounding violin for the money.
My latest score are the violins from Cedar Strings, the workshop of Zhenjie Zhao. Mr. Zhao and his wife and daughter (the only English speaker) showed up here about a month ago with a car load of instruments. I was very impressed with his $800 to $2000 range violins, and a bought a number of them. Then Huijuan, the daughter, asked if I wanted to see any “rental” grade instruments. I reluctantly said yes, and am I glad I did. She pulled out a beautiful violin that was anything but “rental” grade. Turns out that these instruments were made 5 years ago and varnished with a shaded orange finish that they no longer use. Otherwise, they are roughly the same caliber of instrument as their current antiqued violin selling for $800. I bought 6, and later that day I set one up. Then I called her and asked “how many more of these do you have?” Of the 40 remaining, I split the number with a shop in Maryland, and now I have 23 left (3 were sold). It’s simply the best $600 violin I have ever had.
Violas have been very popular lately, so I was very happy when the West Coast Strings white truck rolled in. A number of Paolo Lorenzo wide body violas now line the walls, in sizes from 15″ to 16 1/2″. These instruments are available in a number of different grades, priced up to $3000, but I have found that the Paolo Lorenzo is the best combination of price vs. sound at a mere $1200. Hopefully I will also be able to get a number of Xuechang Sun violas in all sizes. Mr Sun had to move his factory because of some government hijinks, so he’s a little behind in production.
Let’s not forget about cellos! Gang Shen from Tanglewood Strings pulled in with his white truck, and I bought some more cellos from the workshop of Hua Chang Jun. They have been a $2000 staple for the last 5 or 6 years, and they keep getting better. Jian Ming Li, the supplier of one of my $600 violins, is getting into the cello business, and I obtained two examples, priced at $1500 and $2800. I bought 4 of my regular $1200 Xuechang Sun cellos a few weeks ago, but they are mostly gone. More are arriving next week, along with 4 cellos from Deng Yan Shan (I haven’t priced these yet because I may have to install pegs–I don’t know if they have them fitted). Also coming is a cello from C.L. Wynn, a higher grade instrument priced at $3000. For some unknown reason, cellos have been flying out the door recently.
The bows from Brazil are still well represented with examples from Arcos Brasil, Horst John, and Buzzato Bows, priced from $350 to $800. Carbon bows from Glasser and China range from $100 to $450, and there are a number of vintage bows from $500.
I don’t have to remind you that all of the instruments I sell, no matter how inexpensive, are set up by me. In fact, it seems the cheaper the instrument, the more I have to do to it to make it fit to be sold here. You won’t get instruments set up like this from the internet or from dealers who sell orchestral instruments only as a sideline. Please impart this to your students and to their parents. Buying a violin is not like buying an IPad. The internet is not your friend, and it certainly isn’t mine. When you shop for an item like a violin, where functionality is chief among many other important factors, there is only one logical choice–BUY LOCAL, and buy from a specialist.
OLDER SELF PROMOTION
Of course, you can buy entry level outfits for a couple of hundred dollars online or from music stores, but they are not the quality that you deserve, and certainly not the quality that I expect. (My opinion: European entry instruments, although well made, are unacceptable because they are too heavy and do not sound well.) Have you already bought a bargain online? If it meets certain parameters of quality, it makes sense for you to have it professionally set up. I’ll be happy to give you an estimate.
All the instruments I sell are set up by me to my exacting standards. You will only find quality Pirastro, Thomastik, or D’Addario strings, the necks are smooth, the playing action is easy, the pegs work well, and I will not sell instruments that don’t sound the very best for their price points. Entry level instruments receive the same care as the $2000 ones. If you have a problem with any instrument I have sold it’s unlikely that you will have to pay to have it fixed for the first three years of ownership (basic maintenance and accidental damage excluded). Reliability is probably the most important factor in choosing an instrument at the dealer level, and my 48 years of experience allows me to choose only the best instruments and bows for my clientele–ones that I can stand behind (and cases that I can stand on).
Look here for a list of the latest new instruments: