I have to confess: even with all my preaching about staying away from really awful violins, I have been the fool that has bought such a violin. Perhaps it is that experience that has made me so vigilant about finding good violins for my student and recommending good violins to all of you.
My first bad violin was not extremely cheap, it was simply a student violin that sounded absolutely terrible. As a nine-year-old with non-musical parents, I just didn't know the difference when we went to the violin shop. I wanted that violin because it had a pretty case -- lesson learned! Thankfully my grandmother had a nice-quality violin that I got to use for most of my childhood. Strangely my awful violin actually increased in value because it was a Roth, but it was a Roth that was not made in the prime years of Roth violins.
My second incident of bad judgment was worse. This was when I was teaching a program at a public school, where funding was insufficient to cover the cost of the high number of violins that we needed for the children, who were first-graders. The school had some money, and thank goodness I insisted that we get good-quality violins for the school-owned violins. But a mother came to me with a plan for all the other kids, she had found a bargain from a shop that imported violins, we could get them for $29 apiece! I acquiesced to this and regretted it for the duration of the time I taught there. Unsurprisingly, these were VSOs, "violin-shaped objects." They sounded horrible, and many could barely be tuned. I also got to see a little experiment in action: the kids with the nice violins practiced noticeably more than those with the cheap squeakboxes. They had better attitudes and liked violin class more. They also tended to stick with the violin after the program was over.
Another lesson learned. I became very adamant after that, about young students having decent-quality instruments.
So there it is, I've confessed to you some of my personal mistakes, when it comes to buying violins. It happens even when we have the best intentions! Have you ever made a similar mistake? For the vote, I've made several categories, which I've described below. Please choose the one that describes your most regrettable violin purchase, and then share your experiences in the comments below.
Here are the categories of bad violin purchases:
VSO: "Violin-Shaped Object." This extremely cheap violin (i.e. $40 on Amazon) winds up being completely unplayable or barely playable. The bridge fits badly, the pegs barely work, the fine tuners break or never work, and the sound is atrocious. The problems are so obvious and pernicious that the owner gives up on it pretty quickly, relegating it to the trash or donating it for use in an art project.
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