In a previous blog article that I wrote on violinist.com, it seemed that understanding the process of acquiring a violin from China was of interest to many of you. The first article that I wrote on this topic talked about how purchasing a violin from China can be a very good thing, but what I didn’t mention is details about how the really cheap stuff out there can actually be a disaster. This article is going to explain how staying away from violins under $500 from China is probably a good idea, and how staying away from a Chinese violin under $100 is a great idea.
Furthermore, you’ll learn about the process of how a violin as cheap as $100 is acquired from China (from a dealer perspective), and how I’ve had to learn the hard way how trying to find an improved process is a deep black hole. If you are looking to buy, I think you’ll appreciate this article—as it could help you prevent some of the headaches that might have come if you would have decided to buy a violin for super cheap.
Does quality really matter?
Having a bad instrument is definitely related to the chance of someone sticking to the violin or deciding to quit (or not be dedicated). It’s also directly related to the sound production that you are going to be able or not be able to produce. Since teaching over 500 private students over the years, I’ve seen many violins come through my studio that were cheaply purchased Chinese instruments (usually online). I’ve also tried to figure out the process of purchasing them for myself as a dealer, with the optimistic thought that they could be better elsewhere (I’m talking mostly about the violins under $100 at the moment). It was definitely a waste of time for me to do that, as almost every time the violins had major issues. It’s definitely cost me precious time and lost money to try to find the perfect violin under $100—ultimately it’s led me to focus my attention in other areas.
Issues with a Cheap Violin Under $100
You know what the owners of these violins have in common? They either upgrade after 3 months (realizing how bad they were) or end up getting so discouraged with the violin that they quit. I feel sorry for someone trying to self-teach themselves how to play a violin in this price range. That is recipe for major discouragement (I don’t care how much of a music background you have).
Who normally buys them?
You’d be surprised how many people own really cheap instruments. The mindset of the student (or parent) would be that they wanted to start on something cheap to make sure they would like the violin. I mean who wants to pay a ton of money to ultimately decide that you don’t like playing the violin in general? Unfortunately, I would say half of the students that have had this mindset end up quitting because of the quality of their violin, as they normally give the reason for quitting that “I couldn’t get a good enough sound.” The story is much different when someone considers something better right off the bat.
The other reason I see a lot of students purchase violins in this price range is that they don’t have a lot of money (which is understandable), and the online graphic showing everything they would get for $99 seemed like an awesome deal. Unfortunately the online photo on any violin website will not tell you the whole story. A picture is worth a thousand words, but the photo won’t tell you everything that you could potentially deal with post-purchase.
How a Cheap Violin is Made and Potential Issues
Here are a few of the potential issues. Every violin you will find in the under $500 price range is cheaply made in almost every circumstance. Why? It really comes down to the simple economics that there isn’t enough money to be made by every part of the process. Keep in mind a violin that is $100 is much worse than $500, but similar issues can arise. Here is the process.
More Potential Issues
So back to talking about the cheapo violins (my Chinese friend/wholesaler calls it the “cheap stuff”). There are tens of thousands of cheapo violins floating around, but ultimately they end up in the trash (or storage) because trying to learn on a violin in a cheap price range has many potential problems.
Here are a few more of the things that I’ve seen over the years that made me stop buying violins directly from China in the under $100 price range.
Here are the people I would recommend a violin under $100 to.
Many shops have programs where you can rent a violin for as cheap as $10-$15/month. It would be better to go that route for a little bit better violin than to pay $99 for a cheap one online, as it will encourage you to learn, and most importantly give you the ability to not have so many headaches through the process of learning.
A week in the life…
Here are some things you would say to yourself if you purchased a cheap violin most likely online.
Are there some good Chinese violins?
If you are interested in learning more about Chinese violins vs. European violins, read my other violinist.com article that I wrote a while back that gives you a very different tone regarding Chinese violins that are more expensive. You can really hit a home run at the higher price points, but for under $100 (and sometimes even under $500) you’ll have a hard time finding something of good quality. I don't sell any violins under $100 at
Superior Violins, but the inexpensive Chinese-made instruments I do sell are of the highest quality.
So what should you buy?
There is a lot that I can say about various price ranges and normally the higher up you go the better the violin you will get—but not always. I’ll leave more of that for another day but for now, I hope I have convinced you that buying a violin under $100 is not the best idea in the world. In fact it’s a recipe for disaster.
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