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Don Tatem

Although Don Tatem is by far the most prolific violin maker we have come across, he remains very discreet and modest, despite the fact that he also happens to be our very best seller amongst all our new violin makers. He started making instruments around 1970, turned professional in 1973 and made over 600 instruments, mostly violins and violas, but also cellos, pellegrinas, quintolas, octolas, a crwth and about 80 classical guitars! He retired in 2008.  Don’s instruments are particularly loved for their strength of sound, their clarity and warmth. They have many times sold in front of much more expensive instruments. We strongly recommend you try them!

Jonathan Hill bought a Don Tatem violin a few years ago and has since played it in thousands of concerts. He is pictured here playing a Don Tatem “Pellegrina” viola, that has the sound of a viola but the string length of a violin. The perfect viola for a violinist! The Pellegrina viola was originally designed by American violin maker David Rivinus ( Don’s viola is based on the same model as David’s one, although not an exact copy.

Passion mp3 supplied by Jonathan Hill

We hold a large stock of Don’s violins and violas, as well as his last 2 cellos available, as well as more novel instruments of Don's like octolas! Enthusiastic players ranging from intermediate students to professional players play Don’s instruments, and we get calls from all over the country and abroad from people specifically wanting a Don Tatem instrument.

Please call us on 029 20 22 77 61 to book an appointment and come and try Don’s excellent instruments!


"We would like to let you know how delighted we are with our violas by Don Tatem. Wendy bought her instrument form Cardiff Violins in June 2004. It bears the name "ANNOWRE", No 291 and is dated 1990 and has a full, rounded, smooth tone. The back-length is 15.5 inches.

When I needed to change my own viola a few months ago, I tried out a number of instruments from Cardiff Violins at home, and settled on another instrument by Don Tatem which I purchased in September 2011. This viola is No 427 dated 1998 and the label bears the name "JOANNA" The back-length is 15.75 inches. Since I acquired my viola we have played about six concerts, amd innumerable rehearsals, with two busy local orchestras. I am equally delighted with the sound produced with my own instrument, having been Wendy's desk-partner, and admired her powerful smooth tone for years.

We would not hesitate to recommend Don's instruments to anyone. Try one and see. We cannot praise the beautiful sound and appearance of Don Tatem's instruments highly enough, and on our recommendation, an orchestral friend has recently bought a Tatem violin, with which she is very happy. Our thanks and best wishes are due to all at Cardiff Violins who have been so considerate and obliging when we have wished to try out instruments."

Alan & Wendy Betts

"As a violinist and violist, I have been playing on a friend's Don Tatem viola for the past 3 years  in a variety of settings. I find it a very easy instrument to switch to from the violin and really like the strong, even tone across its range. I came to Cardiff Violins specifically to buy a Don Tatem for myself and found a similar instrument in size to the one I was playing that I really like and am looking forward to playing. I have tried quite a few instruments much higher in value yet none have seemed quite as nice as Don's! Thanks to Cardiff Violins for helping me."

Adam Robinson

"My Tatem fiddle is an absolute joy to play. It has a beautiful sweet tone, a deep mellow bass and a lovely bright treble register. The balance is perfect for my style of playing, whether it be projecting a slow Welsh air, a mesmeric, "dark" reel from West Clare or a no-holds-barred polka, hanging on to the coat-tails of the musicians of County Kerry… I first acquired my fiddle in the early 1980s, soon after setting out on the fiddling path, and it hasn't left my side since. I would never sell it, despite numerous offers, for it is irreplaceable. I would unreservedly recommend a Tatem instrument to anyone who asked my preference."

Mike Lease

Mike's Youtube Channel

"My Don Tatem viola is a charming and gifted musical personality. Even with possible lingering "jet-lag", Syrena produced a delicious, even, and full sound, with a nuanced timbre that bodes well for future development. I have no doubt that her voice  - like that of the best contraltos - has the capacity to easily fill a room full of people, but still send a personal message to each individual listener. She doesn't demand attention, but will get it anyway - one won't be able to resist her! " 

Lorilea Jaderborg, Denmark

"… Shortly after my purchase I played for a local youth orchestra in which our concert concludewith Mahler’s 4th Symphony. I played the solo on Don Tatems' Mischa and received many comments about the depth, tone and quality of such an instrument! Even the Mayor congratulated me on the elegance of my playing due to the sound I could produce of such a high quality lovely instrument and that it had a distinguished sound that had not resembled his expectations of a viola in the past. Now, where ever I go I am known as “that violist with a loud sound"… definitely a good thing!"

Harriet Piesely, Rainham, Kent
Dolce String Quartet, Viola

"Now as the proud owner of a beautiful Don Tatem viola, I couldn`t be happier.  However, Chris, I do have one problem with it : at a recent rehersal, I still could hear wrong notes!  Any suggestions !!?"

Bill Robinson
City of Rochester Symphony Orchestra
and ‘Caliband’

"I would highly recommend Don Tatem's instruments to any professional musician. I've
played on a Tatem viola since 1990 and I absolutely love it. So much so that I've recently bought another Tatem, also a great instrument. I think Don's craftmanship is second to none, his violas have a powerful, beautiful round tone, and they look stunning. Thank you Don for providing me with these two wonderful instruments."

Ben Pollani, Viola, London Philharmonic Orchestra

For audio and video recordings using Don's instruments please click here.

Click thumbnails below to enlarge for examples of Don's instruments: