I'm here to reason with you on the topic of gift violins. I know that you mean well and aim only to fulfill the wishes of good girls and boys, while operating on a shoe-string budget during difficult economic times.
The problem is, when it comes to the price of a violin, some things are too good to be true. For example, the $100-and-under violin.
Here is the alarming news: This kind of violin is not really a violin, it is a "VSO," or "Violin-Shaped Object."
I've described it in great detail in this article, but I thought it might bear repeating during the crazed week before Christmas, when people sometimes make impulsive purchasing decisions.
A real violin is an object made with care. It has the potential to lead its owner on a journey of discovery full of hard work, increasingly beautiful sounds, epiphanies of all kinds, and ultimately, a glimpse at the sublime in harmony and art. It costs some money, usually at least $450. Or perhaps you can find one from a relative or in an attic.
But please beware of the shiny-new, super-cheap models peddled by Internet elves.
Here's why: A VSO is a cynically-made copy, a race-to-the-bottom in which every expense has been spared. The VSO is made with bad wood, bad pegs, a bad bridge, bad strings, bad paint, bad varnish, bad sound. You won't "get lucky" and accidentally get a good one. The VSO impedes discovery and takes its owner on a journey of frustration and increasing expense: futile attempts to produce a pleasing sound from the instrument, inability to tune the violin ever, replacing all strings only to find it doesn't help all that much. Its inability to ever stay in balance keeps its owner from being able to get beyond the basic level of fighting the instrument. This is especially sad when the owner is a bright-eyed seven-year-old with great initial enthusiasm for learning to play.
The $100 fiddle is a false economy. You pay for what you save, and that payment can be downright heart-breaking when it leads to a student quitting in frustration, or an adult wondering for years why he or she can't make progress.
An investment in a quality instrument helps pave the way for a special life experience, served by an instrument that was made with great care to do its job.
Thanks for listening, and may your holiday be filled with joy and music.
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