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Violin Buying Guide: Our 5 Expert Tips

Violin Buying Guide Header Several Violins

If you’re looking for advice on how to buy a violin or how to choose a violin that is right for you, you’ve come to the right place.

The best violins for beginners tend to be those that are in a low price range but are made well enough to encourage the student to play.

The worst thing that you can do if you’re a violin beginner is to focus only on money and buy the cheapest instrument you can find. This usually results in owning an instrument that is difficult to play.

A Violin Is an Investment

First, remember that a violin is an investment. If you only consider the price tag without looking at the long-term benefits, you might end up with an instrument that resembles a toy more than a quality violin.

If you’re able to save up and spend a few hundred extra dollars, you’ll likely thank yourself down the road. And fortunately, while you’re saving or deciding which violin you want to go with, you’ll have some other options to get you started.

Rent, Borrow, Research

Many new violinists choose to rent an instrument until they’re ready to invest in a violin of their own. Many music stores will offer discounts on multiple-month rentals, and you can also ask your local violin teachers if they offer similar options.

Another possibility is borrowing from a friend or acquaintance. This may be cheaper than a rental, but if you go this route, make sure the person you are borrowing from has a violin that fits you. (If you’re not sure about how to choose violin size, read on, as we’ll cover that in just a moment.)

Finally, do plenty of research of your own. When you ask about rentals at your local music store, be sure to get as much information as you can about what to look for in quality and craftsmanship. Also, ask your violinist friends if they have any tips on where to start.

Used or New?

Once you’re ready to purchase your own violin, it’s time to decide on whether a new or used instrument is optimal for you. Of course, your decision will depend upon whether you can find any used violins that are in acceptable condition to support your growth as a player.

The benefit in finding a quality used violin is that, in addition to saving money, you’re likely to find one that is already “broken in.” There’s a bit of a mystical element to this (especially in the world of antique instruments), but basically, it means that the wood has “settled” into the shape of the instrument, thereby producing enhanced resonance. By contrast, brand-new violins will sometimes sound a bit “stiff,” lacking depth of tone.

Finding Your Size

Finding the right size violin is crucial to your development as a player. Sizing is based on arm length and hand size, but this will vary somewhat from maker to maker.

As a general guide, adults with an arm length of at least 23” will need a full-size violin. Teens and adults with small hands and an arm length of less than 22” will need a 7/8 size. Arm lengths of 21-22” will need a 3/4 size. There are incrementally smaller sizes for children going down to 1/16.

To learn more about violin sizing, check out our guide here.

Purchasing Accessories

After you’ve decided on a violin that works for you, the next step is purchasing a bow, rosin and a chin rest. A chin rest is optional, so let’s begin by discussing the bow and rosin.

The violin bow is crucial in producing quality tone. In fact, good tone is directly correlated with one’s ability to control bow angle and subtle pressure changes applied perpendicular to the strings. You’ll want to find a bow that is equal parts firm and flexible. Suppleness is generally affected by the tightness of the bow hair (which is adjustable at the screw), but more specifically the wood itself will have a profound effect on bow flexibility. As such, it’s important to experiment with different bows at your local music store to see what feels best for you. If you’re unsure, ask a local teacher or violinist friend to assist you with your choice.

Rosin is the substance that is applied directly to the bow hair in order to increase friction between the bow hair and the strings. This friction is what causes the strings vibrate when the bow hair applies pressure at an angle perpendicular to the string.

Chin rests are not a necessity, although may be a good idea if you have tight neck muscles and if you plan on working up to playing for hours at a time. From an anatomical standpoint, a chin rest means that the neck is not in such an extreme state of side flexion, which can lead to dysfunction over time. With that consideration, it’s recommended for most people to use a chin rest to make playing as comfortable as possible.

Review these tips and trust your intuition beyond all else when choosing your own violin. Good luck!

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