Choosing a New Violin
WHERE & HOW MUCH
- Be prepared to buy the best quality instrument that fits your budget. An instrument that sounds bad or is difficult / painful to play will severely discourage your child and sometimes leads to a desire to quit playing. Imagine trying the very best you can and still not being able to make good sound!
- Beginners should expect to pay at least $400 for a fair quality instrument. The higher-end student violins can cost as much as $2,000. The price lowers as the violins get smaller in size. I don’t require my students to pay a certain amount for their instrument – I understand difficult financial situations. Just remember, when it comes to price, you get what you pay for!
- Make sure the instrument comes with a case, bow, and rosin. You will need to purchase a shoulder rest, and have a rosin cloth available at home.
- Go to a violin shop! The sound is most important, and you can’t hear it first if you buy it from a website. I’m not convinced local music stores know everything they need to know about violin sales, and often have a small selection of overpriced, low-quality violins. I recommend the following violin shops:
- Adam Day Violins
4914 S State
Murray, UT 84107
- Charles Liu Fine Violins
7450 S State.
Midvale, UT 84047
- Peter Paul Prier, Inc.
308 East 200 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
- Be very wary of what I call “attic violins.” These are instruments that an old relative played many years ago and have been sitting in the attic for the past 50 years. Even if it’s a good quality instrument (which I’ve found to be a rare case), and happens to be the correct size for your child, you can expect to pay $100 or more to replace the bow hair, rosin, strings, and possibly bridge.
- Violins come in different sizes: full, ¾, ½, 1/8, 1/10, 1/16/ 1/32, and even 1/64. I will measure your child and help get an idea of the correct size, but the best way to fit a violin is to try the actual instrument and see how it looks/feels. If you go to a good violin shop, they will do this for you.
- You want the child to be able to reach around the scroll and have their middle finger knuckle point downward. When the arm is back in playing position, you want the elbow to be a 90 degree angle or slightly smaller.
- Just as a child’s voice sounds smaller and doesn’t resonate as much, you can expect a smaller violin to sound different from a full-size. They tend to be quieter with less resonance, and the lower quality ones have a “tin-can” sound.
- If a child is on the borderline between two different sizes, some parents want to push for the larger size because it sounds better. However, if a violin is even slightly too large, it can be difficult for the student to reach to the neck, separate his/her fingers enough to play, and too heavy to hold comfortably. Always go with the smaller size.
- Rule out immediately any violins that feel too heavy or too wide.
Violin Size Chart
- Once you’ve determined the correct size, the most important quality to look for is the violin’s sound. You need to hear a violin before buying it. The best way to shop is to play several violins using all the strings and see which one makes the nicest tone
- Try to use the same bow with a good amount of rosin for each violin you try.
- Avoid violins that are a bright yellow/orange color, because they tend to have a piercing quality. Other than that, try to ignore the color, looks, or brand of a violin. The “prettiest” ones are rarely the ones that actually sound the best.