On Buying a Student Violin

(This page is a work in progress).

This page is on buying a violin and other related topics.

I created this page so my students will be more educated about buying an instrument.

Over the years, many students have come in for lessons with genuinely bad instruments. Every student, even a beginner, needs a proper set of tools with decent workmanship and a fundamentally acceptable level of playability. Often after a purchase has been made, students and parents are reluctant to return the bad instrument for a better one. I am writing this to hopefully prevent students from buying bad instruments in the first place.

Buy an instrument from a violin shop or a violin maker, not from a general music store or form amazon.com. The set up of the instrument is very important to the playability and quality of sound (adjustments to the bridge, sound post, fingerboard, nut, pegs, and tailpiece). The same factory instrument will sound wildly different if it’s set up well, or if it’s simply strung up and sold.

On Beginners

A good violin will sound better and be easier to play, saving all parties involved a lot of time and frustration. With beginner instruments, please consult with me (or your own teacher) before buying so you don’t something bad that makes playing more difficult than it already is.

Also, regarding fit: sometimes parents are eager to buy instruments a size up. Maybe they feel the child will grow into it, like clothes? I strongly advise not to buy a violin that is too large, because it hinders the establishment of foundational technique. In my experience this slows the students progress.

On Budget

A tricky subject. It would probably be best to talk about this in person, but here is the gist of it: spending too little will generally hinder progress and frustrate the student and teacher. I think that most students/parents don’t realize the work involved in a good quality violin. From my research, it takes 100-200 hours to produce a violin.

I suggest getting the best violin you can afford, but find a comfortable range that is suited to you.

Buying a bow

The rule of thumb is to spend one third the instrument cost on the bow. A good bow makes a big difference to the sound. Bad bows tend to warp very easily because they are made from low quality material. In a few cases, students have to buy a new bow because their poor quality had warped (and you can’t bow straight with a warped bow). Then the parent goes and buys another low quality bow and the cycle continues.

Buy Good Strings

Violin strings have a huge impact on the quality of sound and playability. They sound good and have a comfortable amount of flexibility under the finger. I suggest buying quality strings of the following brands. Replace at a minimum every 4-6 months.

Beginner/Intermediate: Pirastro Tonica or Thomastik dominant

Intermediate/Advanced: Pirastro evah pirazzi, Pirastro Obligato

E strings: Lenzer Goldbrokat e string (inexpensive and good, but please replace more frequently)

Violin Cases

Many student violins have extensive damage because of mishandling of the case, and also because the case is too tight or too loose. Strangely, violin shops will sell violins to students and sometimes provide an ill fitting case where the violin is clunking around on the inside.

A suspension style case is the best where the back of the instrument is elevated above the bottom of the case.

That’s all for now!