Maidstone full size (4/4)

October 15, 2021

.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 type of violin is 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

Czecho-Slovakia Violin c 1918-1930

June 23, 2021

The overall tone and playability of this violin is very good. The high end is particularly sweet to listen to, and not sharp sounding like many violins. This means that a student will enjoy learning on it as they will enjoy the sound of it. A sharp high end can put students off playing high notes, but in this case the high notes are very pleasant to listen to. The lower end is not quite as clear as the top, but has warmth and sweetness to it, making it utterly pleasant to play. 

This violin isn’t the loudest violin in the world, so would suit an intermediate – advanced student who is gaining their confidence. This instrument would be able to handle Grades 5-8 so would be a great first full size violin for a teenager who has earned their stripes. A quiet violin can be a great thing for a student as often students are put off practising out of fear of disturbing their neighbours.

The action is set at a very agreeable height, meaning that the strings are not too high and therefore it is easy to play in the higher positions. At first I struggled a little not to catch the other strings, which I think is due to them being slightly closer together than on my own violin. This means that the violin would suit someone with smaller hands and nimble fingers.

This violin would suit someone who prefers playing more melodic, romantic music more than someone who wants to play super fast semiquavers all day.

Ursula Donnelly Violin Teacher and Professional Violinist: Bollywood Violin School Nottingham

Repair Notes

This violin needed a small crack repair to the face under the tailpiece, and the end block inside the violin required a crack repair using a pine cleat-suture hide glued into place. The crack was hide-glued and repaired using two very traditional small parchment patches. It had clearly been played a great deal and was so scuffed up I gave it a very thin coat of matching red German spirit varnish which was then burnished back carefully so that the scratches are covered but the original red varnish shines through beautifully. It is now a very solid instrument.

The Violin is a Maggini copy and so has double purfling. In the video as you can see it was set up Hills-style tuner on the E-string. I decided to change this to make the violin more suitable for a student by instead adding a new German Wittner tailpiece with integral fine tuners on all the strings.

These are quite rare violins today and sought after by those in the know looking for a solid bargain.

All purfling is added to violins, in part, to add minute bounce flexibility to the top when being played. The double purfling makes the top a little more, in theory but if anything in reality it will be at the microscopic level, bouncy than a normal violin, which is the exact effect Maggini was looking for and which makes these violins so sweetly characterful.

A bridge was especially made for this violin. And a new sound-post was made and fitted in the optimal position.

It is a very responsive violin across all strings and very easy and pleasing to play. I think this is a great antique/vintage violin for a collector, someone returning to the violin after some time or for the student progressing to their next violin after starting out on a standard Chinese student violin, such as a Stentor.

The violin is fitted with a new set of Thomastic Infeld Vienna Alphayou synthetic core strings and a German Witner composite tailpiece with integral fine tuners. In the video it was played with only one fine tuner on the e-string. However, as it is a student violin I felt it best to put on the Witner tailpiece for easier and faster tuning of all four strings.

A Fine Antique German Student Violin: Surprisingly High Quality Student Instrument

May 6, 2021

A full Size German Violin. Played by Ursula Donnelley

Review by Music teacher Ursula Donnelley of Nottingham

This violin has a bright, warm sound. The top end is slightly brighter without being overly harsh, and the lower end is warmer. I really liked the feel of it. The fingerboard is quite wide, meaning there is plenty of space. It was very easy to play in the higher positions and the sound quality remained clear, even on the lower strings.

Overall the sound is very balanced. I like a violin with a really resonant top end and a warm lower end and that is exactly what you get with this violin. You can play both expressive, melodic music and mechanical baroque music on it (like the piece I play in the video).

With that in mind, it would make an excellent violin for a student of classical music who wants an instrument that can handle the advanced grades. I played a Grade 7/8 piece of music (Vivaldi’s Winter, Mvt. III) which shows you that it can indeed handle more advanced pieces.

I really liked the sound and playability. I think it strikes a great balance across the board and would recommend this violin to anyone wanting a high quality violin on a budget. 

If you have larger hands, this would also be a great violin for you as the strings aren’t as close together as they are on some, making it easier to play without catching the other strings.

A Modern 3/4 Size Stentor II Violin Fitted With Piastro Tonica Strings

May 6, 2021
Stentor II 3/4 Size With Pirastro Tonica Strings. Played by Ursula Donnelley of Mapperley Park Nottingham.

This violin provides teachers, students and parents with a good baseline against which to compare more expensive antique and vintage student violins.

Nottingham based professional violin teacher Ursula Donnelley, who reviewed this set up of a standard 3/4 sized Stentor writes:

‘Stentor is about as standard of a new starter violin that you can get. They usually come with some equally standard violin strings. Dr Sutton has replaced these strings with Pirastros, which are very nice strings. I was intrigued to hear what the result would be as I don’t think I have ever heard this combination.

When I played this first, I felt it had a thin but consistent sound. However, listening back to the recording, the sound is much better from the listener’s perspective. Usually Stentors do have a thin sound, so I believe the difference is down to the better quality strings.

I used a full size bow which bounced a little bit particularly in the higher positions. However, if you were to use a 3/4 size violin bow, which is lighter, this would most likely remedy the situation.

I found the fine tuners rather stiff, but I was able to tune the instrument from the main tuning pegs. This could be fixed very easily I believe so perhaps this is something Mike will be able to adjust.

Overall, for a new starter age 9-12, (due to the 3/4 size), this violin would be a great choice for those looking for quality on a budget.

Although Stentor are standard, they are also perfectly adequate new starter violins. With the added benefit of decent strings, this makes the violin sound just that bit nicer which will keep the student more interested in playing.’

Dr Sutton’s Notes On This Setup for Teachers, Students and Parents

Interesting to see how the Stentor II performed in Ursula Donnelly’s review with the better strings. I think this setup provides a good and honest point of comparison for parents on a budget. I reckon all violin shops should always lay one out set up like this next to the violin they want the parents to pay more for. Ursula’s excellent video provides a virtual version of such an exercise and the written review she proves above will help with such comparisons. In effect, a second hand 3/4 Stentor can be purchased on eBay around £35 plus a set of Tonica strings can be bought from Amazon around £25-£30) = a £60 violin that sounds better than a new Stentor.

In fact, following consultation with Ursula, I would actually recommend a Stentor be fitted with Thomastic Infeld Vienna Alphayue strings. These are warmer and cheaper, and I think longer lasting, than Pirastro Tonica strings. Again, I recommend Amazon as the place to buy them at a good price if you are able to fit them yourself.

At some point soon I’ll re-string the Stentor II in the collection with those and provide a further useful comparison.

Manby Full Size Early 20th Century Made in France, imported By Manby and Co of Paris and London.

May 6, 2021

Manby Video Number 1

Ursula Donnelly Reviews an Antique Manby Violin 4/4

Manby Video Number 2.

Review by Ursula Donnelley

This violin sounds absolutely lovely. It has a very unique sound which is deeply resonant and full. It is perfect for a more expressive player who wants a unique sound to play beautiful luscious, lyrical melodies on. It has a rich oaky feel to it a little bit like the violin version of enjoying a single malt whiskey. It has a great feel, a great sound and a great smell.

This violin has a slightly shorter neck than most, making it somewhere between 3/4 and a full size violin. This is perfect for an adult with smaller hands or shorter arms. It comes with a slightly larger body, making it literally ‘full-bodied’ in sound. However, if your arms are normal size it should still be absolutely fine. I didn’t struggle and my arms are quite long.

There are some beautiful resonant tones on this violin, particularly on the middle strings (D & A). I found the lower end to be a bit fuzzier and the high end not quite as resonant, but the sound quality is very high nonetheless.

What makes this violin an absolute pleasure to play is the slightly wider fingerboard which makes it super easy to play.  My fingers had plenty of space and the fingerboard feels amazing.

I’ve given you two sound samples – one being a folky Scottish tune and the other a piece of romantic classical music which you’ll no doubt recognise. I loved playing the folk music in particular as this style of playing really does justice due to the instrument’s expressive sound.

This instrument is perfectly good for the advanced classical grades. However, if you are an advanced folk player looking for something a bit special to blast out some big melodies on, I highly recommend this model.


Repair, Refurbishment and unique varnishing notes by Dr Mike Sutton

Although described in the video above by Nottingham violin teacher Ursula Donnelley – and indeed many violin experts elsewhere – as “English” violins these early 20th century Manby instruments were made in France and imported into England.

Manby wrote that he could not get German instruments after the 1st World War and so imported from France. He later moved to Sydney Australia where he continued to label his imported French made violins. These facts and more on Manby violins can be found here. He was quite an interesting person.

When this violin came into my little workshop it had an open back seam, something I have seen in 3 other Manby violins. So I am deducing it may be a characteristic problem that led many to be thrown away down the decades. Fixing a back-seam is relatively easy and was done without needing to remove the top of the violin. I glued it back together with traditional hide glue and then clamped it. I 100% guarantee all my violin repairs for my lifetime. And I’m in pretty good shape. Unlike the varnish on back of this violin, at the time of the repair, which needed re-varnishing as it had been badly marked up.

In vivid shocking contrast to the conservative face, the back of this instrument now has very broad, later-added by me, tiger stipes. My youngest daughter asked me to ‘punk it up’ “with some attitude” to create this contrast as I was re-varnishing it, and so I did. The intended point being it won’t be to everyone’s taste. The natural selection philosophy behind the glossy tiger striping on the violin is the same as on a Tiger. Namely, “impress your friends and confuse your enemies”.

The instrument is fitted with Pirastro Tonica synthetic core strings, a good quality aged maple Teller Bridge with ebony insert on the E-string, tuned to the violin. A Wittner composite tailpiece with integral fine tuners and a very comfy Witner anti-allergenic composite chinrest (designed to prevent the dreaded “fiddlers neck” that can occur due to bacterial build up on other chinrests if you don’t clean them regularly). New ebony pegs and matching endpin compliment the contrasting look.

Perhaps, if you want to walk into a gig and make an impression, just flash the back of the violin at the audience. Or stride in with it on your shoulder. They may not ever forget it. Others may be left wondering whether perhaps they imagined what they saw, as they watch and listen to you play this now relatively rare fine antique violin, with a twist.

The original label inside the violin lets us know it is an early Manby, because the later ones included his new residence in “Sydney. It reads, rather intriguingly, as follows:

“The London Manby Violin Co. Ltd. London Paris and New York. Patented in the United Kingdom and Principal Countries. Make exact copy of Old Master, Adjust bridge from nut 13 inches. Registered H.S number 1L/2. 4/4.”

Added Tiger Striping with High Gloss Imported German Spirit Varnish, Hand Rubbed, Finish
“The London Manby Violin Co. Ltd. London Paris and New York. Patented in the United Kingdom and Principal Countries. Make exact copy of Old Master, Adjust bridge from nut 13 inches. Registered H.S number 1L/2. 4/4.”

From a novice student perspective here is what it sounds like in the hands of my youngest daughter a week after she passed her Grade 2 ABRSM violin exam, In the video’s below the Manby is played with a higher action bridge and Ascenti strings. NOTE: Ursula Donnelley plays it (above) as it is currently set up with a slightly lower action bridge and Pirastro Tonica synthetic core strings.

Donated Violins

April 28, 2021

As a collector and hobbyist restorer of antique and vintage violins, I sometimes acquire modern student violins in need of restoration or repair. Unless they are rare, or otherwise unusual “freaks” of unexpected exceptional sound for a modern student violin, I give these violins away to less well off parents and to professional music teachers to do the same with them, as they see fit.

The violins sometimes required me to undertake a major repair. Otherwise they simply required a properly fitted bridge, sound post, tailpiece, strings etc. I set them all up to maximise their sound and playability as a student violin.

I insert an additional label of my own devising into each of these violins. With the year added to the label e.g 2021.

Blank Sartorial labels

This page of Super Student violins contains a record of all such donated violins.

The Sartorial Violin No 1.

This violin was donated (29 April 2021) to a Nottingham Music teacher, to give away, to a student as she sees fit.

The Sartorial violin. No 1

The above violin was given a major (had to be glued and cleated) repair to a crack on the table – close to the bass bar. New sound post, vintage bridge fitted, vintage tailpiece and fine tuners and vintage chinrest. This is now a fully repaired and restored, upscaled with vintage parts, Gear 4 Music 3/4 size violin all ready to be loved and played by a novice student.

Music Teacher Ursula Donnelly kindly offers these donated violins to potential students – for free!

The Sartorial Violin No. 2.

Donated (29 April 2021) to a professional music teacher to give to a student

The Sartorial No. 2

The above violin sounds nice for a budget violin. It has rather high arching under the bridge. Fitted out with antique tailpiece and vintage fine tuners. New sound post and original bridge adjusted and tuned to the violin. All ready for a new owner to appreciate it as their first violin.

The Sartorial Violin No. 3

This violin was donated to the parents of a six year old on 28 April 2021.

The Sartorial Violin No 3

The above violin was given away on 28th April 2021 to a Hungarian family I know who have made Nottingham in the UK their home. Their son is continually expressing a keen interest in becoming a violinist – he is currently at the age of 6.

I gave them this 1/2 size Romanian violin today, after I fitted it with a recycled tailpiece with re-cycled fine tuners, a new sound post, new A-string fitted and a recycled chinrest.

The violin was made in Romania in Reghin (Viora). It is a 1/2 size. Stamped on the inside label 1993. Serial no: C.1. 741 6. with the description “STANDARD 1/2”. The violin has a medium grain spruce top with maple back and maple ribs. The purfling is either printed on or is a transfer under the sprayed on varnish. The varnish is very tough. No matter what I tried with the bridge tuning to make the violin more mellow, and sound post positioning, and swapping in and out changes in sound post thickness, little did all that do to significantly tone down the harshness of the A-Sting, when played as an open string. The open A-string being incredibly loud under the player’s ear and harsh/shrill. The best result was obtained by way of compromise that required inserting a narrower sound post and moving the bridge forward from the classical position some 2.5 to 3mm.

I marked on the table of the violin, indicators for where the usual position should be, in case someone in the future might want to set it up with good quality synthetic core strings that will most likely solve the open A-string issue. However, were they to do so, the cost of a buying a set of student synthetic core strings (some £23-£35) would be equal or even more than the current re-sale value of this budget violin. Crazy, isn’t it!

A 1/2 Size 1985 Suzuki Violin. Anno Model. No 220.

April 16, 2021

Ursula Donnelley Plays the Suzuki 1/2 size Anno model violin No. 220

This violin has been approved by the Suzuki school of violin in Japan. Suzuki is one of the most respected violin methods in the world, making this a great choice, for a student’s first ever violin, or as they step up in quality, the next violin for a student of classical music. I teach the Suzuki method and learned this way myself.

This violin is 1/2 size, which suits children of around age 7-9 depending on the length of your child’s arms. You can measure this by Googling “violin sizing chart”.

From the moment I picked this violin up I just wanted to play Baroque music on it, due to its sensitivity and ease of playing. I much preferred the lower strings to the E string but for a new starter violin, the tonal quality is phenomenal. Suzuki are all about developing a great tone from the beginning so I can see how this violin has been approved by them.

It was easy to play, which isn’t a surprise given it’s origins either. However, what makes this violin stand out from the rest is that the set up is particularly good, as are the strings. The violin has been set up by Dr Mike Sutton, who is passionate about refurbishing old instruments with new strings and optimising the set up.

If you bought a 2nd hand violin on ebay ordinarily, the chances are it is not set up correctly. Over time, violins need adjusting by someone who knows what they are doing to optimise the sound and playability. This one has already been set up meaning that you will not have to pay someone else to do this for you.

This would be an absolute no brainer first violin owned for a talented student. It would be a shame for this to sit in a cupboard so unless you have a musical child who is desperate to learn the violin, leave this well alone.

Ursula Donnelley (Professional Violin Teacher and Performance Violinist)

History, repair and refurbishment notes

Surprisingly, these violins are relatively rare in the UK.

This was the first violin my youngest daughter played – other than the dreadfully set-up Stentor her school provided us with as a rental instrument. When I bought this violin on eBay the bridge was the wrong size, being a far too big full sized bridge, and the stings were a poor quality all steel variety. I paid a visit to a very respected violin dealer in Nottingham whose Luthier carefully fitted it with a refurbished far better quality vintage bridge. I was surprised to hear that he had never worked on a Suzuki violin of any kind before and knew nothing about them.

I later fitted a new light alloy tailpiece with integral fine tuners. Next, I improved the set up by cutting and then fitting a new sound post in the optimal position and giving the violin a set of Alphayue good quality synthetic core strings.

This very robust little violin is in very good condition of its age.

My youngest daughter first learnt to play on this instrument with the above set-up and loved it until she outgrew it and then adopted a nice 3/4 size German antique violin from my collection. This violin gave her a love for playing the violin that is now seeing her progress with dedication through her ABRSM grades.

Dr Mike Sutton (Violin collector, restorer, repairer and patron of the arts)

A very good 3/4 size Maidstone violin Ref: 🎼

April 16, 2021

Video 1

Video 2

This violin has a beautiful, rich, full tone. This means that the player can get some serious volume from the instrument. It’s quality is such that it would be suitable for an intermediate player who wants to be able to tackle more challenging pieces (Grade 4-6). As they improve and progress to buy better quality instruments accordingly, It would make a great second or third purchased violin for a child of age 9-12.

It could really do justice to folk music, as it has a gritty, resonant, bright tone. Alternatively, due to it’s slightly higher action, it is good for more rhythmic music. 

The action (string height) is a little high for me. Also, due to its smaller (3/4) size,the strings are closer together than on a full size. Resultantly, I struggled not to catch the other strings with my fingers more than I have done on other 3/4 size violins. However, this violin is designed for a child to play so naturally, a child will not have this problem.

Where a high action can be useful is when playing very fast, rhythmic pieces. Therefore I have made two sound samples – one of some melodic folk music, and the other of something more rhythmic. If someone wanted to play very fast, furious baroque semi-quavers all day, the action would probably help them. I play a lot of melodic music when I perform and so I intrinsically prefer a low action, but if you are into faster pieces of music, this could be the violin for you!

Ursula Donnelley: Professional Violin Teacher and Performance Violinist

History, repair and refurbishment notes

This violin came into my workshop with a historically repaired crack on its face. The location of the crack suggests it was most likely caused by a student shutting the violin case hard when the bow was laying across the violin, rather than stored correctly. A careful check revealed the historic repair is very sound and strong. The violin was then very carefully cleaned and finally gently polished with Hindersine violin polish. A quality Baush bridge was fitted. The instrument was then fitted with a new sound post, carefully set in the optimal position.

This violin comes with it original tail piece, fitted with Witner fine tuners and its original Bakerlite chinrest. The violin is fitted with good quality Ascenti synthetic core stings.

As with most fractional size Maidstone student violins, this antique instrument has its share of characterful dings and scratches (although no where near as many as some in my collection), which I have endeavoured to conservatively blend hem in to the original varnish finish with high quality German spirit varnish.

The violin has a lovely dark brown (rather like a shiny conker) varnish.

This nice little instrument is ready to play.

Dr Mike Sutton (Violin collector, repairer, restorer and patron of the arts)

A lively, red, 3/4 size Maidstone violin. Ref ♯

April 16, 2021

Ursula Donnelley Plays a red Maidstone 3/4 Size Student Violin

This violin is a real singer and packs a punch as well.  At first I tried to play some baroque music on it but something called me to play something more mellow and it just hit the spot. It’s got volume and sweetness, which is a nice all rounder combination. If I was going to play on this, I’d reserve it for melodic pieces with a lot of heart. 

It’s quality and 3/4 size means it’s about right for a violin student roughly age 9-13 who wants a decent instrument to learn the intermediate grades on (3-6). It has a nice sound and is set up well, so very playable. As you will most likely not want to invest too much for a 3/4 size, as it won’t last forever, this instrument is a great compromise insofar as it shouldn’t cost the earth but will do justice to the intermediate to advanced grades.

Although I did find it buzzed a little at first, the more I played it, the more the buzz settled down. I imagine this could be easily fixed though as this is usually due to something being loose on the instrument. 

It was quite playable although the tone was sweeter on the lower end and the upper end a little on the harsh side. Despite this, I could get a really nice tone from it and really enjoyed playing it.

Ursula Donnelley (Professional Violin Teacher)

History, repair and refurbishment notes

Bearing the Maidstone Schools Orchestra Association Label, this violin is one of the last of the series of Maidstone violins made for the Murdoch violin company. Made sometime between the first and second world wars it has a bright red original varnish which is an untypical colour compared to the vast of the majority of Maidstone violins, which tend to be either very light or else very dark brown. Due to its later date, and colour of the varnish, I suspect this violin might just possibly have been made in Bohemia for the Murdoch company, rather than Saxony (Germany), where most were made. But it’s impossible to know.

The instrument has a relatively flat table (top/face) in the Stradivarius style, which will account for some of its lively sound. Many 3/4 size Maidstone’s have a higher arched table, some significantly higher than others. Clearly, Maidstone violins are far form being all the same.

The violin has suffered no cracks in it’s time, but like most fractional sized Maidstone student violins it has many knocks, dings and scratches on its wood and varnish. I have endeavoured to re-touch many of these with very high quality spirit varnish, specially imported form Germany, of the correct shade.

I refurbished this violin with Dominant, synthetic core strings, a Zest bridge, fitted and then tuned to the instrument, and a new sound post, correctly fitted and optimally positioned. It comes with it’s original ebony tailpiece, fitted with high quality German Witner fine tuners. The instrument retains its original Bakerlite chinrest.

NOTE: In my opinion, the buzz identified by Ursula Connelly was most likely caused by two lose fine tuners (Annoyingly, I never tightened them properly when I fitted them). The violin will be re assessed now the culprit of the buzz may have been detected and may have been cured. This is why I feel it is important to have student violins properly assessed by being played and thoroughly studied by an expert third party .

Dr Mike Sutton (Violin collector, repairer, restorer and patron of the arts)

A Very Nice 3/4 Maidstone student violin: Ref: ♪

April 16, 2021
Ursula Donnelly professionally assesses this Maidstone 3/4 size violin

I thoroughly enjoyed playing this violin. The tone calls out to me. It’s got a mystical sort of feel to it, lying somewhere between serene and gritty – a very expressive instrument for an expressive player.

Due to being a 3/4 size, it would best suit a child of about age 8-12, at the intermediate level of learning. It’s a great 2nd or 3rd instrument for a young person who is advancing into grades 4-6 range. It would do justice to more advanced pieces whilst being small enough to suit a child of the age suggested.

The violin is set up well which means that it is very easy to play. I did not struggle to get a clear sound out of it, and it was very easy to gauge the correct angle for the string and not to catch other strings. This is a rarity on eBay as the majority of sellers do not have expertise in this area and so you would need to get it set up by a professional anyway.

I love the low/mid range although the high end is also pleasant to the ear. There is something magical about the tone of the lowest G string when playing ‘double stopped’ chords. It sort of rumbles and brings to mind folk music of the British Isles. In fact, it would make a fantastic folk instrument. However, it can also do justice to a classical student.
It is not the cleanest sounding instrument in the world, but it has heart! For the price, it is an absolute steal and very pleasant to play. The tone is phenomenal for the price, the set up optimal and Dr Sutton has included some pretty decent sounding synthetic core strings. What’s not to love?

Ursula Donnelly, Professional Violin Teacher, Nottingham, England

This violin is available to buy. Details on my website HERE

History, repair and refurbishment notes

As you will read on this site many times ‘not all Maidstone (Murdoch) violins are the same’. This particular Maidstone violin is, in my opinion, one of the really good little ones, which give these violins such a solid name amongst violin teachers in the know.

Made in Saxony (Germany) at the end of the 19th century, or beginning of the 20th, this instrument has all the signs of having been played extensively through several generations of keen young musicians over the past 100 years. The vanish and wood carry many scars from knocks, dings and scratches. I have endeavored to sympathetically touch these in with specially imported high quality violin spirit varnish from Germany, of the correct shade. The result is that this lovely conker brown instrument demonstrates it’s playability qualities with the proof of the extent it has been played and enjoyed by students down the years. In my opinion, it simply oozes depth of character in playability, sound and antique looks.

When it came into my small workshop the violin had a minor crack opening up close to its tailpiece and a couple of further minor cracks on its face at the saddle end of the instrument. Another small crack was found close to the fingerboard All the evidence suggests it had been dropped onto a hard floor. The violin was carefully opened and these cracks were traditionally hide glued and then finally fixed with spruce cleats (studs/sutures), hide glued into place, which were then thinned to provide the correct degree of repair strength and flexibility of the violin table. A new sound post was cut and fitted into the optimal position along with a new Zest bridge that was carefully fitted and then tuned to the violin. A modern light alloy tailpiece, with integral fine tuners, was fitted.

This traditionally repaired and refurbished antique student violin is set up with good quality Ascente synthetic core strings. The chin rest is the original Bakerlite model fitted to these violins. I expect this violin now sounds better than at any other time in its life.

I love the sound of this 3/4 size violin. It is just waiting for a keen student.

Being 3/4 size, the instrument is likely to be best suited to a child aged 9-12. However, 3/4 size violins also suit smaller than average teenagers, or small adults.

This violin is ready to be played and enjoyed once again.

Dr Mike Sutton, violin collector, repairer, restorer and patron of the arts.