Courtyard of our shop. Photographer: David Taylor

Welcome to the Workshop of Eric Swanson

Located on the fourth floor of the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, the workshop has served as a resource for professional musicians, students and families for over a decade. At the core of our business is an expertise in bow-making, bow repair & restoration and high quality same-day rehairs.

We have a meticulously collected inventory of hand selected bows which were chosen for their incredible playing characteristics and which I have personally rehaired and set-up. We believe our assemblage of bows, while small and exclusive, represents the most carefully vetted selection available. Every bow has been checked by me for technical issues such as weight, balance, camber, and condition. My wife, a fine professional musician working as a substitute in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 15 years, has tested playability issues such as spiccato and the draw of the bow.

Though there is much to be said about properly developed bowing technique, when we are testing bows to be added to our inventory, they MUST pass muster with the Mendelssohn or Schumann Scherzo, Beethoven's Eroica, or Prokofiev's Classical Symphony. Our bows all have passed that test. In addition, we ask: do they pass the strength test of Don Juan or Der Rosenkavalier or Ein Heldenleben? Do the bows hold steady in the intro of Mozart's Concerto No. 5? In testing, most bows do not pass our tests. Bows, in their failings, can be weak, without bounce, or lack more complex tone. Many customers come in struggling with themselves, only to find that a profoundly functional bow can eliminate difficult technical issues.

Function, Condition, and Attribution are our priorities in the bows we carry, in that order. We choose items that function beautifully as music making tools, are in top condition, have accurate provenance and are priced fairly.

The same priorities apply to our fine selection of antique violins, violas and cellos. We have a remarkable collection of vintage fractional violins, intermediate student instruments and professional grade examples. Our most reasonably priced violins are all antique instruments from pre-WW II Germany, France, and former Czechoslovakia. These fine handmade violins are referred to as “trade” instruments because they were built in a cooperative setting, where a single finished instrument was the result of the efforts of a group of craftsmen rather than a single maker. Built in historical instrument making towns such as Markneukirchen, Schonbach, Mirecourt, Klingenthal and Mittenwald, these instruments come in many grades and were built by famous firms such as Jerome Thibouville Lamy (JTL), Heberlein, Ernst Heinrich Roth, E. Reinhold Schmidt, and Jan Basta, to name a few. We prefer to sell these historic pieces rather than factory made modern violins from overseas. With an older, more pedigre ed violin, it has already gone through its growing pains. The wood is now mature and has settled decades ago. The age speaks also to the sweetness and maturity of the tone. Though it is not always the case, vintage instruments have a better chance of complexity of tone and colors and nuance. Ultimately, it is these finer and subtler points that evoke emotion and expression, which is the whole point of playing a string instrument in the first place.

We have a selection of classic instruments suitable for professional quartet and symphony players as well as advanced students and audition takers. Many people believe that price is synonymous with value. While it is certainly true that there is nothing like a fine Cremonese violin from centuries past, there is an entire universe of violins with playing and tonal characteristics that can satisfy the most demanding musician and not break the bank. There are shops where one can go to buy a Stradivari or a Guarneri, but few can afford these instruments this day in age. We seek reasonably priced instruments which will be easy to play and make speak, will blend or project as the case demands, and have a rich, complex tonal palette.

If you believe in function and tone, we think you’ll be gratified by our collection.

Website designed by Tim Hoorelbek | timhoorelbek@gmail.com