October 19, 2015
Violin Buying Guide
While most often thought of as a delicate and beautiful orchestral instrument, the violin is actually quite versatile- it’s not uncommon for a violin to be featured in bluegrass or rock music. Ranging in price from $100 to $10,000, the vast differences in price can make shopping for a new violin difficult. As a parent shopping for a violin, you’re sure to have many questions: what size is best for my child? Should I rent or buy? Is one brand better than the other? Below you’ll find answers to those questions, and more, that will better help you make an educated decision.
In most cases, violins are available in three different categories: student, intermediate, and professional. A student violin is ideal for beginners, as they’re built with enough strength to withstand the rigors a beginner violinist is sure to put the instrument through. Intermediate violins are typically manufactured from better quality wood (or by hand), which improves the sound and increases the price. Finally, professional violins are reserved for those who make a living off playing the violin, as the sound is unparalleled to virtually any other type of violin. If you’re purchasing a violin for a child, a student violin is almost always the route to go.
What About Size?
Violins come in many different sizes, including smaller sized violins for younger children. Although a smaller violin won’t have the same rich sound as a full-sized violin, it may be a necessary tradeoff to make sure your child isn’t straining to play a violin that’s too big for their frame. When determining the best size for your child, you should measure your child’s extended arm from the crook of their neck to the mid-palm area. If the measurement is 23.5 inches or greater, a full sized violin is appropriate. Anything under 23.5 inches will require a smaller sized violin. Typically, charts are available to help you determine the right violin for your child’s size.
The choice of string can have a major impact on the overall sound quality of the violin. There are different strings for different situations, so it’s best to have an idea of the type or genre of music your child will be playing. For example, classical violin strings may not sound great during a country music performance, and vice versa. When shopping for violin strings, keep cost in mind. Since strings will be replaced often, don’t automatically spring for the most expensive strings. Cost, as well as sound, should be factors when purchasing violin strings, though in the end your choice should almost always come down to the personal preference of your child.
Buy vs. Rent
If you’re shopping for a beginning student, you may be tempted to rent the instrument in case your child changes their mind about learning the violin. In cases like these, there are some good reasons to opt for a purchase instead. Long-term rental fees can add up quickly. In fact, an entry-level violin can usually be purchased for less than the cost of one year’s rental. Additionally, a well taken care of student violin will retain its value and will usually return a significant portion of its purchase price when sold or traded in. Finally, if you’re concerned about the condition of the instrument, rental instruments tend to be worse for wear complete with nicks and scratches.
Although all violins are made from wood, the type of wood varies from violin to violin. Additionally, different parts of a violin are made from different types of wood. Maple is typically used in violin necks, sides, and backs, while ebony is usually the material of choice for fingerboards, pegs, tailpieces and chinrests. That is not to say that these are the only types of wood used in violins- they’re just the most common. Rosewood, boxwood, and other exotic woods can also be used to construct a violin. Be wary of any violin that doesn’t specify from which type of wood it’s made from.
What About Brand?
Unlike other major purchases, there are generally not many trusted brands when it comes to purchasing a violin. This is due, in part, to the fact that violins aren’t mass produced in the same way as cars or kitchen appliances. The process of manufacturing a violin, even a student one, can take many years. For this reason, violins are often associated with the person who made them, referred to as a luthier, instead of a company.The most famous luthier is Antonio Stradivari, but there are many others to choose from, including Karl Willhelm and Otto Benjamin. Most violins will have a label inside them that indicates who the luthier was that made the instrument.
Violin Care and Maintenance
The best violin is the one that’s best maintained. You’ll want to make sure your violin and its accessories are properly stored in a case when not being used, and that they are kept in mild temperatures with moderate humidity. Keep a lint-free cloth handy, and wipe your violin down after each use. This will prevent the natural oils of your skin from damaging the body of the violin. If you do decide to rent, you’ll be held liable for any damages to the instrument, so properly maintaining and cleaning the instrument is key.
Don’t Forget the Accessories
Although buying the violin itself is a very important component, there are a number of accessories that will be necessary to make the violin playable. For example, a violin cannot be played without a proper violin bow. Most violinists choose to attach a chin rest to their violin, which will help make playing the instrument more comfortable. If your violin doesn’t already come with a case, you’ll need to purchase a separate case – this will help keep your violin free from dust accumulation and damage.Other key accessories include extra strings, cleaning clothes, and a humidifier.
Interested in renting a violin instead? Check out our Violin Rental Guide.
Need more info about the violin? Check out this video: