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Julie Reed Yeboah — What to Look for When Buying a New String Instrument?

In preparation for this year’s Contemporary Violin and Bow Makers Exhibition, we sat down with Julie Reed Yeboah to get her essential advice


The Violin Channel recently caught up with respected New York-based luthier Julie Reed Yeboah, owner of Reed Yeboah Fine Violins in New York.

Taking place at New York's Kosciuszko Foundation, the Contemporary Violin and Bow Makers Exhibition is being presented by Reed Yeboah Fine Violins and Yi-Ping Yang.


“When buying a string instrument, Julie, what do you need to look for? What are the ‘dos and don’ts’ so you make the best investment?”


Things you need to look for:

1. Sound

-While it can be slightly modified, you have to feel like the sound is something you can work with

-It should resonate and speak even when playing pianissimo passages

2. Craftmanship

-Don’t only look at antiques or instruments that are made to look old

-Look for a visible “flow,” meaning the instruments’ lines look like they’re “in movement” and the scrolls look like they’re “unwinding”

-While a bit indescribable, the instrument should look like “it’s alive”

-Make sure it was varnished and finished carefully

-Remember when makers are trying to copy older instruments, they often try to replicate its rough or quirky qualities

3. Power

-Especially for soloists, remember that it will need to project over an orchestra

-The instrument needs to have the ability to be played in a bigger space

-You want the overtones to be able to carry out through the audience

4. Comfortable Setup

-To avoid injury, one needs to feel an ease of playing

-While a maker can reshape a neck or alter a bridge, if the instrument feels weak, it would be best to try something else.

5. Ability to make the player better

-The instrument should push the player past their comfort zone and overcome any problem they had with the previous instrument

6. That "love at first sight" feeling

-Ask yourself “Does the instrument speak to me? Is this my voice?”

-Watch out for that “OH MY GOSH” feeling, since often times, it’s a matter of trusting your gut




Other important things to remember when buying:

1. Don’t discount the younger makers, modern instruments can increase in value over time

2. Instruments will improve with time, they open up a lot the more they’re played

-Modern instruments will grow with you

-They usually improve in a matter of weeks

3. Try to find a maker, dealer, or shop you trust

4. There is no set timeline on how long it should take to buy an instrument. Take your time and be patient. If taking longer, make sure to take notes so that you remember certain aspects of different instruments

5. Finding an instrument is like trying to find a mate, if it checks every single box, you’re lucky

6. Exhibitions are a great place to develop your taste, gain exposure to different makers, and see what’s out there

7. Do your research and look up the biographies of different makers.


New York's Contemporary Violin and Bow Makers Exhibition Co-Founders, Julie Reed of Reed Yeboah Fine Violins and Yi-Ping Yang



2021 celebrated the 10th anniversary of New York's Contemporary Violin and Bow Makers Exhibition — hosted annually by Julie Reed Yeboah of Reed Yeboah Fine Violins and Yi-Ping Yang



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