Dr Mike Sutton’s Exclusive Student Violin Collection. Please visit my website Disology.com for further details of some of these violins that are now for sale in Nottingham

April 12, 2021

This site provides a catalogue of Dr Mike Sutton’s collection of traditionally repaired, refurbished and optimised student violins.

Anyone wishing to know more about any of the violins on this site can email Dr Mike Sutton at drmikesutton@hotmail.com Sales website Disology.com

Ursula Donnelley

All the violins on this site are completely independently assessed by the professional violinist and excellent violin teacher Ursula Donnelly.

Ursula teaches her students in a music room at Sherwood Methodist Church Sherwood, Nottingham. She teaches Dr Sutton’s teenage daughter and he can vouch for what an excellent teacher she is, as will any of her students, both adult and children.

Ursula can be contacted via email at: theviolincoach@gmail.com or at violinlessonsnottingham@gmail.com More details, including Ursula’s ‘The Violin Coach’ business phone number HERE on her Facebook page.

Introduction to Super Sustainable Student Violins

Repairing a cracked antique violin using traditional conservative techniques, and correct materials, takes many days of thoughtful, expert work. The good news is that a properly repaired, restored and set-up violin often sounds significantly better than it ever sounded before. This is because many violins are sold, even when they were brand new, with imperfectly fitted bridges and sound posts, often latterly with poor quality budget steel strings. All the violins in my collection are correctly set up for optimal tonality and playability. And all are fitted with good quality synthetic core strings, matched to the violin.

Most of the the restored instruments in this collection have been fitted with new sound posts of high quality aged spruce. Several sound posts are usually cut in order to ensure the one to remain in the violin is an optimal fit in the correct location.

To avoid “buzzing”, strings must be clear of the fingerboard when in tune, which often means it is necessary to correctly refurbish or replace the nut of the violin. The fingerboard, if it has become grooved or otherwise worn through years, of use must also be refurbished.

Most of the violins in this collection have been fitted with a new high quality, aged maple, bridge. Making and fitting a bridge correctly takes an entire day. The feet of the bridge must be expertly cut to precisely fit the face of the violin in the correct place and the bridge must then be cut to the required height for the strings to the fingerboard. The bridge is then thinned, whilst keeping the integrity of its arch. The bridge is then tuned to the violin by playing the instrument and then knowing where to remove very, very small quantities of wood from particular key areas of the bridge until the optimal sound for the instrument is achieved across all strings.

Being student instruments, many of the vintage and antique violins in my collection have often seen many years of hard use in the hands of keen children and so have picked up many characterful dings and scratches along the way, which I personally love to see on an old student instrument, because they reveal circumstantial evidence of the violin’s worth as an instrument that young people will definitely play. Conservative touching up of the spirit varnish on the instruments in this collection was done with a spirit varnish of the correct colour, personally imported from Germany.

To demonstrate their playability and tonality, the violins in my collection are assessed and demonstrated by a professional violin teacher and performance violinist

Details regarding strengths, exceptionality, student suitability, and any limitations of the instruments are provided.

In some cases, where possible, playability and volume issues raised by the expert violin teacher are addressed with modifications made to the bridge, and/or slightly altering the sound-post position.

Good quality at a fair and reasonable price

When it comes to affordable (sub £2000 violins) many violin teachers will tell you that 19th Century Saxony/Bohemia and some French student violins represent the very best value for money instruments, because, in their expert opinion, they are of a significantly superior strength, finish, playability and tonal quality than modern standard student violin imports from China, such as Stentor and similar others branded under different names.

A few, but by absolutely no means all, Czecho-Slovakia student violins (1918-1945) and Romanian Violins of the latter half of the 20th century can be a wise choice for the careful buyer looking for superior quality student violins at a fair price.

Buyer beware

When buying a student violin, there are many things to consider. However, I have four “golden rules”, which are arguably the most important of all:

  1. Condition. Unless you are buying an instrument as a repair project, only ever buy a violin that has been set up correctly, has a good bridge, properly cut and set sound post, is optimised and is ready to play, with good quality strings. Most importantly, the instrument should have no unrepaired serious damage such as cracks, because that can sometimes very seriously affect the sound. Note: not all cracks are actively spreading and may be classed as “stable”. While some experts would prefer to leave “stable” cracks alone, my philosophy, when it comes to student violins, is to always to repair them using traditional conservative methods. Note: not all cracks are easily spotted. They frequently occur, hidden under the fingerboard or tailpiece. Open seams (where the spruce face or maple bottom of the violin is glued to the maple sides), are often not at all visible but can also seriously affect the sound of a violin. These are quite easily repaired with traditional hot hide glue and luthier clamps. Damage that affects sound is, in many cases, quite likely to get worse to the point where costly repair is essential for the instrument to be played at all well. When buying from classified advertisments or eBay this advice is most pertinent. The violin repair notes on each instrument in my private collection can be studied to learn the type of things that commonly need repairing for an antique violin to be ready to give centuries of further use. Bass bars on antique Saxony and Bohemia violins are often (but not always) an integral part of the face of the violin, having simply been carved out of it. Other violins have their bass bars made separately and then glued into place. As a rule of thumb only, the latter are found on better quality violins and it is important to ensure they are firmly in place. Many wonderfully sounding Saxony and Bohemia student violins have carved-in bass bars, which of course cannot ever become loose.
  2. Price. Many violin dealers, with lovely shops, charge several times the fair price value of an antique or vintage student violin. By way of example, many of the student violins in my collection, worth a fair “good deal” price of£125-£475, would be sold in such shops for £600 to £1,875 and even higher. I know this, because I’ve seen them at such prices many times. Do not be hoodwinked by such dealers telling you any violin they are selling is an investment. Never buy a violin as an investment item. There are far better things than violins to invest your money in for a reasonable chance of making a profit, rather than a loss.
  3. Sound and playability. If you are not playing the violin yourself, then have it demonstrated by someone who can. And, most importantly, have others in the same price range played for you too, so that you can try to distinguish one from the other and then reject them all, or make your purchase choice accordingly.
  4. Beware of violin teachers on sales commissions. If your own, or your child’s, violin teacher is taking you to a dealer to buy a violin, do not be afraid, or think it impolite, to ask them if they will be paid a commission from the dealer should you choose to make a purchase. If the honest answer is “yes”, then for what I hope are obvious reasons, I suggest you be very cautious regarding the teacher’s advice. I know of more than one example of a student who has been seriously ripped-off by dealers and teachers working in consort. A teacher of high integrity should not, in my opinion, put themselves in a position where money they can make from a sale may influence them to recommend you buy from a particular third party. A good teacher will take the time to help a student choose the violin that is right for them, at the right price for them, and will make no monetary profit from that professional, ethical, responsibility.

Dr Mike Sutton (amateur violin repairer, restorer and small-time patron of the arts).


Le Parisien (JTL) Full Size French Mirecourt Violin

November 27, 2022

This fully restored antique French violin is among the pride of my collection.

The violin has been extensively repaired, but very solidly. It plays beautifully.

You can see it on my violins in Nottingham website Disology.com. Here.

Here is a picture of the professional sound post crack repair that was done inside the violin some time ago. I took the picture through the tailpiece “button hole”.

French Medio Fino C20th Violin (FULL SIZE)

March 17, 2022

Code 250

Professional violinist and violin teacher Ursula Donnelley plays and reviews a full size (4/4) French Medio Fino violin 1940-1970s violin.

Ursula Donnelly playing a 20th century French Medio Fino full size violin

My first impressions of this violin were very good. I felt like it has the propensity to be a great instrument for an advanced student and would be suitable for Grade 8. 

The overall tone is smooth, clean and well balanced from the low to high end, with a middling tone that is neither overly bright or overly muted. 

The violin is easy to play in the higher positions which makes it well suited to playing more advanced pieces of classical music. There were no extra noises (squeaks, buzzes) which supports this.

When I first looked at it I did wonder if the D and A strings were a little farther apart than the other strings but I didn’t notice that when I was playing it.

This is certainly more of a classical instrument than a folk instrument. If you’re looking for an affordable instrument that will take you to Grade 8 level, this is a safe bet. 

This violin is for sale. Visit Disology.com to learn more: Here

Dr Mike Sutton’s repair and restoration notes

When this French violin entered my little repair shop a look thorough the f-hole revealed it has an old browned paper label reading “Medio Fino” Made in France. Typical of some medio fino French violins it has a plain maple back with no flaming and the same for the ribs and scroll. There was a crack in the peg box so I first very securly glued this and then fitted the violin with a set of Wittner composite fine tune pegs that remain fixed in place because a small gear inside the peg turns to tighten the string. Unlike traditional tapered wood pegs these pegs put no strain on the pegbox and no fine tuners are required on the tailpiece, not even on the e-string. They are excellent and so easy to use.

The violin came to me because in the past it has had a “sound post crack” and it suffered some damage on its left shoulder. I took the top (table/face) off the violin and found the sound post crack had long ago been securely glued and was holding up perfectly. Nevertheless, I added two “old school” hot hide glued parchment cleats to the underside of crack just to make it extra secure. The damaged shoulder was hot hide glued and clamped. Another hot hide glued parchment cleat was added under the damaged shoulder.

After the face was glued (with traditional hot hide glue) securely back onto the violin the damaged shoulder was further repaired by adding and hot hide gluing into place slithers of violin table grade European spruce wood. The repair was then finished with a seal of shellac sealer and varnished with several coats of the correct shade of spirit varnish (imported especially form Germany).

The fingerboard of this violin had seen some good use and so was re-dressed with the correct luthier tool to ensure the strings all depressed perfectly as on the day it was made.

I fitted the violin with a high grade sound post and high grade maple Korolia bridge, perfectly fitted and then tuned to the violin. It is strung (as are many of my violins) with high quality Pirastro Tonica synthetic core strings.

These plain looking understated violins have a reputation for being excellent student models well suited to take a student to pass their Grade 8 ABRSM exam. This budget sustainable rescued violin is now perfectly set up for easy and trouble free playing. It is waiting for a new caring owner and is ready to be enjoyed as it helps them secure their Grade 8, which, by the way is considered by universities to be equal to an A-level!

Full Size Czechoslovakian 1940-60s Violin

March 17, 2022

Code 115

Professional violinist and violin teacher Ursula Donnelley plays and reviews a full size (4/4) Czechoslovakian violin.

I borrowed this violin last week whilst Dr Sutton was repairing my violin. At first he asked me to try it to see if I felt it was too bright. I much prefer a bright sounding instrument (on the loud side) to a muted instrument, as I am a soloist and have played violin in loud rock bands, so like an instrument that can be heard from miles away. I told him that I would be happy to play it for a few days.

I love the bold sound, especially on the lower end, and think this would suit someone who wanted to play folk music, particularly the Klezmer/Gypsy style I was performing when I made the video. If you’re in a loud band with a set of drums and want a violin that can stand out in this scenario, this one would be very good.

At the same time, the instrument would suit a confident intermediate classical student. You need to be confident as it is so bright – it is certainly not an instrument that blends in – but I would have liked this when I was a student as I always wanted to be louder than everyone else.

One of the downsides of brightness of tone in a violin is that it can be a lot harder to mask any mistakes or squeaks that come from catching strings, however if played well it is an excellent instrument for a player that wants to stand out from the rest.

This violin labelled as “The Performer” is available to buy. Details HERE

Restoration notes by Dr Mike Sutton

This violin had no damage when I bought it. It has been knocked about a bit in the hands of players down the years and picked up a few scuffs to the varnish. In most case I would cover up such scratches and scruffs and blend them in carefully. In the case of this violin I opted merely to give then a very light covering in varnish and then smooth that off with my special formula of polishing compound. The violin looks quite nice in this state of patina preservation. I fitted it with a set of Pirastro Tonica syntehtic core strings, a nice alloy lightweight tailpiece with integral fine tuners, a new bridge fitted and tuned to the violin and a new high quality sound post.

This student violin has an original 20th century brown paper label inside that reads “Antonius Stradivarius Ceremonious Faciebat Anno 1721” Of course, that simply means only that it is just a tribute/copy of the Strad model.

This violin is rather loud and bright. In fact surprisingly so. As Ursula Donnelley writes above (and she should know because she has played violin in a band) this violin would suit a band violin player, a busker or travelling player. Not being in pristine condition the owner should not worry too much about it picking up additional knocks, scruffs and scratches. Alternatively, it’s a great budget-buy yet very capable violin for a student who wants to be heard.

Superb sounding 3/4 JTL Mirecourt French Violin

March 17, 2022

NOW SOLD (But I currently do have a number of superb 4/4 full size genuine JTL // French Mirecourt Medio Fino violins for sale that was made around 1890 to 1916. For contact details please visit Disology.com. HERE

Code 290

Professional violinist and violin teacher Ursula Donnelley plays and reviews a lovely rescued and significantly repaired and restored antique C19th Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy (JTL) French Mirecourt made 3/4 sized Medio Fino violin. This beautifully rich sounding student violin is looking to be re-homed with a gifted child (typically aged 8-12) or a small adult who genuinely loves to play the violin and wishes to have a lovely French violin at a very affordable price.

I loved this violin the moment I started playing it. I lie. I loved this violin from the moment I tuned it. The tone is gorgeous and it was very easy to play. In fact I didn’t want to stop playing it.

As it is a 3/4 size violin it would be suited to a child of approx age 8-12, and therefore not suitable to an adult player. If you have a particularly gifted child who is looking for a 3/4 size instrument that they could perform more advanced music on, this is perfect.

It’s a real shame it’s not a full size instrument as the owner may only be able to use it during this transitory time of their lives. Please do not pass over this instrument if you are looking for a great 3/4 size.

As an added bonus, Dr Sutton has fitted it with geared tuning pegs which makes it very easy to tune. I chose geared tuning pegs for my own instrument as I found that during the short intervals between songs at the performances I do at weddings, I can retune the instrument quickly and subtlety

Repair and restoration notes by Dr Mike Sutton

This violin came into my workshop in the most dreadful state. The pegbox had been cracked in two and was held together by an old iron screw. The nut (at the top of the fingerboard) looked like it had been furnished by Shrek on a very bad day. Someone had also rammed a far too long sound post into it, warping the top and cracking it rather severely around the f-hole region.

I undertook repairing the patient as conservatively as possible. I opted to glue rather than add cheek patches to the peg box. But that choice meant the best thing to do, in my opinion, was to fit the instrument with Wittener composite geared pegs. These pegs do not work in the traditional manner that involves a tapered ebony wood peg being forced into the maple wood peg box to hold the peg in place whilst tuning. Instead they are fixed in static place. When turned the entire peg itself does not move as is the case with traditional pegs. What moves is a small geared sub-section of the peg. This means the pegs put zero strain on the peg box. These pegs are brilliant because no fine tuners are required (not even on the e-string), they act as the fine tuners and tune ever so finely and easily. I believe that if this technology existed back in the C17th century then they would be traditional and the first choice of all musicians and makers.

The table (face/top) of the violin was removed in the repair process. The cracks were all traditionally hot hide glued and then reinforced ultra-conservatively with the “old-school” method of using hot hide glued genuine parchment cleats to serve as sutures. Elsewhere, it was necessary to re-build some serious cosmetic damage by carefully adding some violin quality European spruce slithers to re-build the damage by using violin-grade European spruce wood. The repaired area was then sealed with traditional shellac sealer and then covered with several coats of matching German spirit varnish (specially imported). The repairs were then hand finished using my own formula.

The violin has been fitted with a new high quality bridge and sound post both perfectly fitted and tuned to the instrument.

The repair of what was otherwise a totally wrecked violin has not made this instrument’s scars completely disappear. However, in my opinion they add great character to the instrument as a living testimony to its value as a violin that has been through the wars and remained worth repairing. When I play this instrument it conjures up images of rich Christmas puddings in my mind. Most fittingly, I think the correct term for such a violin sound is “sumptuous”.

This 3/4 size medio fino is truly is a lovable little gem deserving a good home after the abuse it has received in the hands of what appears to have been a horde of unappreciative “barbarians” – untill now of course.

This JTL violin sounds great now but will get even better with regular playing. It’s all set to go for the next 300 years or more.

Maidstone Full Size Violin (4/4)

March 17, 2022

Code 190

Ursula Donnelley plays and reviews another Maidstone full size 4/4 antique violin.

This violin has a bright, gritty sound and characteristic of most of the Maidstone violins I have reviewed so far, which make excellent folk instruments. If you are looking for an instrument that is well suited to folk music, of an affordable instrument that would take you to an intermediate to advanced level, this instrument will do you justice.

I found the instrument to be quite easy to play although my bow bounced a little on the strings at first. However this is not uncommon when you play an instrument that is new to you for the first time. Having listened back to the recording I made, I didn’t notice it as much and the sound was better than it seemed when I was playing it.

The chin rest is quite unusual in that is is very small but also very comfortable. A lot of violins come with huge chin rests that cause the player to get jaw pain, but this one is designed to be as unobstructive as possible.

Overall I found the tone to be pleasant across the entire range of the instrument. Although it doesn’t have the cleanest sound in the world, I do think it is very well suited to folk music and would make a folk musician very happy. It is also perfectly adequate for an intermediate level student looking for a step up from a factory made violin.

This violin is for sale along with several other full size and 3/4 Maidstone violins. Visit Disology.com to find out more HERE

Repair and refurbishment notes by Mike Sutton

This is a typical sounding early C20th Maidstone violin. The violin is in very nice condition for an antique student violin. When it came into my workshop there was no structural damage but it had not been played for several decades. After a thorough gentle cleaning with my special formula, I gave it a new modern wider diameter top quality sound post, gave it a set of excellent sounding Pirastro Tonica synthetic core strings and a Wittner lightweight composite tailpiece with integral fine tuners, fitted an antique chinrest. I made a new bridge from top quality aged maple, thinned it to the correct gradients, fitted it and then tuned it to the violin.

Meet my “bad bridge” sustainability co-ordinator

March 17, 2022

Nacho, who is our resident chinchilla, helps out by recycling terrible violin bridges. He absolutely loves a bad bridge. Oh well “vive la difference”. I replace them with excellent ones and he is very happy about that because it keeps his teeth in great shape. Violin, viola and cello bridges are always made of maple wood, which is a very hard wood.

Meet Nacho. He is one of our sustainability facilitation officers.

Mystery Modern Antiqued Violin (full size)

March 15, 2022

Professional violinist and music teacher Ursula Donnelley plays and reviews an unlabeled full size modern violin that was originally created with an antique finish.

Ref 150

Full size antiqued modern (1980s) probably Chinese violin

This violin has a pleasant, sweet, clear but muted tone. It appears to be an antique instrument but is actually made c 1989s/90s, and although it’s maker is unknown the restorer has narrowed it down to being of Chinese origin.

Dr Sutton has fitted this violin with a comfortable chin rest, a solid tailpiece and a decent set of strings. The bridge is set at a height which makes the strings easy to press down, making it easier to play in the higher positions. Therefore, a student would find this instrument very easy to play as it is comfortable to play, easy to tune and optimised to produce the best sound possible.

Perhaps a pseudo vintage violin that may originate from China doesn’t sound like the most appealing instrument to purchase, however I would be happy to recommend this instrument to an intermediate level student who wants something pleasant sounding, looks good and is easy to play.

Repair and restoration (notes by Mike Sutton)

This violin came into my possession because it had a slightly open lower seam on the violin table (face/top) under the tailpiece. The open seam was repaired by removing the top of the violin and using traditional hide glue and luthier clamps to return it to its orignal state.

Once put back together, a new light alloy tailpiece with integral fine tuners was fitted. A new bridge was cut and fitted. A new sound-post was made and fitted and the instrument was given a new set of high quality synthetic core Alphayue Violin Strings.

This is a very robust violin that has a uniquely solid and balanced snug feel, which have never quite encountered before. Ursula Donnelly is certainly right that it is easy to play. I would recommend it to anyone who thinks the instrument might possibly be unfortunately subject to unwarranted rough treatment for whatever reason. Of course, all violins are delicate instruments and should never be treated roughly, but I suspect this one will prove to be tougher than most.

Very Nice 19th century skilfully faked 18th century Amati violin (full size, 4/4), one piece maple back.

October 16, 2021

Ref: 326

Professional violinist and music teacher Ursula Donnelley plays and reviews a violin supposedly made and then faked by famed luthier Richard Tobin in the early 19th century. But was it? I think the truth is that we shall never really know one way or the other.

Playability and sound review by Ursula Donelley

“This violin has a bit of an interesting history. Dr Sutton’s research shows it to be a 19th Century fake Amati violin (with a fake 18th Century Cremona label) and has been artificially aged to appear older than it actually is (despite now being quite old regardless). It was made by an Irish luthier called Tobin who was tragically destitute at the time of his death.

At first I found the tone a little on the cool side but began to warm up to it when I was playing the E string where I began to feel very connected to the instrument due to its ability to “cry” (around 1m 30s in the video). Perhaps it has something to do with Tobin’s own tragic demise, but the soul of this violin is screaming out in sweet pain, which is a very good thing in my opinion as a violin should be able to do that.

Despite its criminal history, this violin would be a great choice for a student to study up to Grade 8. Tobin may have been a forger but he certainly could make decent sounding violins. Some of the most cutting edge technology now comes out of China, which has no intellectual property laws. Whilst I’m not here to make an argument for forgery, I would be very happy with this instrument if I were an intermediate to advanced level student.”

This violin is for sale. Visit Disology.com to see more. HERE

History, repair and restoration notes by Dr Mike Sutton

Experts (here) have attributed another violin, almost identical in faking details and appearance to this one to most likely have been the work of 19th century luthier craftsman Richard Tobin, who faked violins such as this to resemble well worn valuable 17th and 18th century Italian masterpieces. He did so because those older instruments were more valuable and because he was frequently impecunious, because so many British violin makers were finding it hard to sell their violins due to the number of cheap imports arriving from Germany and France at the time. Sadly, Tobin died in the workhouse. But there is no hard proof of this violin being his work.

Other very similar violins to this one have been attributed (again by professional expert guess work) to high-end master craftsmen luthier studios in Germany in the 19th century. For example, a fake Amati (also – very much like this one – also with very similar fake cracks and a faked neck graft etc), was owned and a favourite instrument of the celebrated South African violinist, Annake de Villiers (1975 – 2012), which she is said to have used for the major part of her career (here).

This particular violin played by Ursula Donnelley and depicted here was once owned by the doom rock music producer of the Band Electric Wizard. Rolf Startin introduced violins on some of their tracks on the Let Us Prey album here).

Startin, who was more lately of the folk band Thirsty Man engraved his name on the back of his violin. This is something I have, on thoughtful advice from hard rock fans and musician friends, left there for the historic record. I blended Rolf’s name in with a little varnish of the original shade so that it is only really plainly visible now if you look for it and turn the violin into the right angle of light. The first picture below is of the back of the violin before this was done. The final picture is of the violin after Rolf’s name was blended in

Ursula Donnelly is right, this violin does have a soul. But whose soul? Or does it contain multiple souls?

This interesting violin deserves to go to someone who will really love to own and play it and appreciate its interesting personal history and lovely appearance as well as its sound and easy playability. Perhaps they too will be a known musician, will love this instrument, and add their name below Rolf Startin’s?

When I bought this violin it had suffered three minor genuine cracks to compliment the many other faked cracks and fake worm holes in its fake distressed table, back, ribs and faked neck graft. The sound post was an extremely badly fitted disaster area, as was the bridge and tailpiece. On written advice of expert local luthiers I repaired the crack with traditional hide glue and with parchment (rather than pine) cleats.

The violin is fully lined and is fully blocked in the lower bouts, The upper bouts are unblocked. It has a separate bass bar firmly glued in place. It has an illegible faked Italian label inside.

I cut and tuned the bridge for this violin from a very high quality seasoned maple blank. To correctly follow the fingerboard and attain the correct height for al the strings, the bridge may appear a little low on the G-string side, but it is exactly as it should be for this particular violin. Being an Amati replica it has a very high arch on the table. To get the best sound I had to tune the bridge with a matching high arch. I have carefully fitted a new sound post for optimal sound. I also fitted this violin with Witner geared tuning pegs. These are brilliant and dispense with the need for any fine tuners on the tailpiece. I finally gave the violin a new set of medium tension Dominant (synthetic core) strings.

Something more about superstition and Amati Violins . From “Why the Devil Plays the Violin” by Addison Nugent” :

“Before the rubab and rabec (two of the violin’s earliest relatives) were imported from Arabia in the 15th century, bowed instruments did not exist in Europe. (The violin as we know it today was not developed until the mid-1500s, when Italian craftsmen like Amati from Cremona and Gasparo da Salò from Salon created the first ones.) And it was precisely because the violin had Eastern origins that it also carried an association with evil. There existed, as far back as the Middle Ages, a perception of the East as sensual and uninhibited — a perception that would grow into a cultural obsession with the eroticized Orientalism of the 19th century.”

Back of violin after refurbishment.

Maidstone Violin, Full Size, Oval Label

October 16, 2021

Professional violinist and teacher, Ursula Donnelley of Mapperley Park Nottingham plays this full size Maidstone violin

Ref 250

Written playability and sound – professional review by Ursula Donnelley

“This violin has a full bodied sound on the lower end and a sweeter sound on the top end, with an overall bold but cool tone. I didn’t immediately warm to it as I prefer a smooth, warmer sound but I realised its potential once I started to play fast semiquavers.

It was actually fantastic fun to play semiquavers on as the action is slightly higher and it can handle faster pieces of music. The semiquavers jump out of the violin with energy and vibrance that some instruments simply can’t handle. It would be a great instrument for someone who enjoys playing fast Baroque music and certainly suitable for Grade 8!

The only drawback was that the fingerboard was not as easy to traverse as the other Maidstone I reviewed today. However, I think it makes up for it by being such an energetic instrument. If you wanted to play the Four Seasons solo parts on this instrument it would be a GREAT option.

If you are looking for an instrument to complete your advanced violin studies on, this would be a great choice. It is much nicer to play than many of the new branded instruments available on the market.”


If you wish to own this violin please visit Disology.com Here, where you can see further details about this and other violins.

Notes by Dr Mike Sutton

This violin was set up by a professional Luthier. It has a lovely high quality Despiau bridge fitted and tuned to the instrument. It has a Witner fine tuner tailpiece and I have fitted it with a new set of Thomastic, Infeld, Vienna Alphayou synthetic core strings. The previous owner attained Grade 8 on it and played it as lead violin in a youth orchestra. This nice instrument had not been played for over 30 years before coming into my possession as a birthday present.

Maidstone full size (4/4) [NOW SOLD]

October 15, 2021

Ref 100 / 350

Please NOTEThis violin has now been re-homed.

Assessment of the violin’s playability by Ursula Donnelley (professional violin teacher and performer) of Nottingham.

Ursula Donnelly writes:

“This violin is very easy to play and has a rich, warm tone that I liked immediately. This is one of those violins that has a distinctive character that would certainly do justice to a soloist. I really enjoyed playing this violin.

Dr Sutton’s violins are always well set up and this one is no an exception. The general playability was very good. The fingerboard is very smooth and easy to change position on. I found it very easy to control the sound and produce clear, warm tones without squeaks and scratches.

This violin would suit an intermediate to advanced level student. It would be a suitable violin for a student to complete their Grade 8 on as it can handle the more technically difficult music and sounds great. If you or your child is committed to learning the violin and you are looking for a budget friendly option to see them through to their Grade 8, then this is the violin for you. Additionally, Maidstone violins in general make excellent folk violins. 

Usually at this point I would list the drawbacks of the instrument, but I haven’t found any. It’s really a great all rounder and a solid investment for anyone who is taking violin seriously.”

Repair and Observation Notes by Dr Mike Sutton

On this blog site you will see several Maidstone (Murdoch) violins that I have repaired and restored. They are all good.

In my opinion this is the best sounding Maidstone violin I have played to date.

I must stress, that all Maidstone violins are certainly not the same. I learned from one very experienced violin luthier that the square label Maidstone violins are generally the best. I do know they are the oldest.

The above violin is immediately very pleasingly responsive on every string and is very easy to play. It has a very nice sweet and open sound, both under the ear of the player and to an audience. It is also not muted, in my opinion, like many 19th century German student violins can sound.

Most Maidstone violins have an oval label depicting two girls dancing. Murdoch, who imported most of his Maidstone violins from the Saxony area of Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, later involved his son in the company. Hence the later models were labelled “Murdoch and Murdoch and Co. There are typical oval labels bearing the simple name Murdoch and Co and later ones as “Murdoch and Murdoch and Co. As far as I know, all the square ones simply say Murdoch and Co just like the violin above does.

As said, some experts claim the square labeled violins are best. Rumours exist that some Maidstone violins were made in what was then named Czecho-Slovakia (Bohemia) and even France. Moreover, that not all Murdoch violins were Maidstone’s.

I own another square labelled Maidstone violin, which I am currently repairing. That violin will be featured on this site in the future.

I must say the above violin beats into the ground all my oval labelled Maidstone’s – using exactly the same type of strings (Thomas Infeld Vienna, Alphayou – synthetic core strings).

The violin also has a new high quality Korolia bridge that I carved from a blank, then tuned to the violin, and a sound post newly made of high quality spruce that I very carefully fitted, using a new-design non-sound-post-damaging tool, for optimal sound. Some minor German spirit varnishing has been blended into the instrument using my own formula to keep the lovely original golden varnish wear-patina whilst ensuring there is no bare wood. The neck was re-set and the fingerboard carefully refurbished. The end block inside the violin was also repaired. A brand new light alloy integral fine tuner tailpiece is fitted, of a type I have always experienced surprisingly good set-up results with in the past.

The violin has historical expertly bushed peg-holes, which lets us know that the violin has been very extensively played for many many years and expensively repaired in the past. This is just one physical clue of it having being considered by a past owner to be a high-quality sounding and once-loved violin. This instrument is quite clearly a cut-above most Maidstone violins. It sounds surprisingly good (even for a Maidstone, which already have a great reputation among those in the know) now, but it will certainly improve even further with post-repair playing, because it has not been played regularly for many years. Why? Because people have been saying it for years, but playing a violin extensively and regularly is now known to improve its sound for sure. Playing a violin, incredible though it sounds, changes the molecular structure of the wood for the better (here). Good job it does not change it for the worse, then.

I am looking forward to seeing how my newly acquired second square labelled Maidstone compares with this one. Once it too has been repaired and restored to beautiful playability in the same way.

On the advice of local luthier experts, I have used traditional genuine parchment sutures to reinforce the spruce-wood repair of some damage that had been done historically to both f-holes. These are extremely tough, acoustic and flexible, whilst being least likely (in my opinion) to interfere adversely with the sound of the instrument.

As with every full size Maidstone I own, the violin has a carved-in bass bar, is fully lined but is not blocked in any of the corners.

More on Maidstone Violins

Unevidenced claims some were made in Czechoslovakia (here).

Dealers will sell a standard quality Maidstone Full-size violin for between £500 and £600. (e.g. here)

I have been advised that a full size Maidstone violin of the sound quality of the one played in this post by Ursula Donnelley would most likely sell in a violin shop for between £800 and £1,000.

Front and back of the restored violin