Choosing a Violin – What Price Range Should I Consider?

April 3, 2016, 11:42 AM ·
Many potential players, parents and even advanced violinists get overwhelmed with the process of finding their next violin. When is the right time to consider an upgrade? What price range should I consider? Through this article, I’ll cover common questions that I get as a violin teacher/dealer, and talk about every price range in detail.

When is the right time to consider an upgrade?

Think about your very first car buying experience. Since it was your first, you were probably most concerned with finding a vehicle that would get you from point A to point B, for as little cost as possible. You probably wanted something that would look decent—and finding a reliable car that would run and not have road issues was probably a top priority. This is sort of the mindset of a violin player when he purchases his first violin. He wants something that will achieve the basic needs, look and sound decent, but not pay more than what is needed to learn the basics of the violin. So when does it become time to consider a violin upgrade? In the same way that you might have considered getting a brand new car, a violin player should decide when is the right time to move up into the next quality level. Just like a new car will provide significant features to your driving experience, a violin upgrade will give you a better sound, more gratifying playing experience and more ability to be considered an advanced player to the world of musical listeners.

So when should I upgrade my violin?
Here are some common situations that I would say could merit a violin upgrade.

1. You have been playing the same violin for many years. With the amount of time you have spent learning and improving, this could justify an upgrade.
2. Your teacher says you could really improve your ability with a better instrument. There is nothing better than the advice from a private instructor as they know you best. Ask them when they think the time is right.
3. You are looking to take your violin tone to the next level. A better quality instrument will provide a better sound across the violin register and give you more richness of tone, better violin projection and more. This means you will produce a fuller/purer sound that will make playing a lot more fun and enjoyable.
4. You are becoming more serious about the violin. New opportunities have arisen that make a violin upgrade a good investment. Examples would be joining a new orchestra, preparing for an audition, and/or the desire to play semi-professionally for gigs, concerts, etc.

What price range should you consider if you are just starting?
I always recommend that students start off by acquiring a violin in the $1,000-$2,000 range. Why? I’ve found that through my private studio (I’ve taught over 500 private students in 5 years) that 19/20 of my students that started in this price range are still playing and enjoying the violin 3 years later. In contrast, I’ve found that about 9/10 of my students that started on a cheap violin under $500 ended up quitting before the 3 year mark. Also, you might find interesting that every student that started on a cheap violin under $500 ended up upgrading to a better instrument within 6 months (those that hung on). I’ve not once seen a student that purchased a violin under $100 continue to progress on that instrument past 6 months. Check out my other violinist.com article that talks about staying away from violins under $500.

When should I consider a violin in the $1,000-$2,000 range?
If you already have a violin that you paid under $1,000 for, I think at any point you could consider an upgrade in the $1,000-$2,000 range. Your reasoning could be that you are committed to improving, or just want to take my advice that playing on a violin in this price range is a good idea even for a pure beginner. There are many programs out there that allow you to try a violin in any price range first for 30-days (we have this at Superior Violins), and also many programs will offer payment plans and financing. Through my site, you could pay as little as $35/month for an instrument in this price range.

It’s an eye-opening experience for a violinist to play his first ever violin in the $1,000+ range. It’s sort of a feeling similar to when you find your first love and wondered how you ever have gone through life without him/her. I’m not kidding! I see this all the time from all sorts of players that have been in the under $1,000 range for many years. Even more so for ones that have been in the under $500 range.

When should I consider a violin in the $2,000-$3,000 range?
This is a very common price range that many serious beginners and many players consider at some point in their career. Here are my top 4 situations where this price range could be where you want to start looking.

1. An adult beginner who is serious about advancing and wants to get started on a good quality violin that will last many years, right off the bat.
2. An advancing high school violinist that has the goal of pursuing violin in college. They don’t necessarily have to have the goal of being a professional, but could be aiming to at least play in a college orchestra.
3. An instrument for a college student majoring in violin education or violin performance, on a budget.
4. A backup instrument for a semi-professional or professional player.
For the under $3,000 price range, I highly recommend purchasing a Chinese instrument instead of European. Check out my violinist.com article that talks more about how violins in this price range are better in my opinion from China if you find the right one.

When should I consider a violin in the $3,000-$5,000 range?
This is the range where beginners normally won’t be able to tell the difference as much comparing to the previous range, but where intermediate and advanced players would appreciate the improvement in quality. Let me explain situations where I think a player should consider this price range.

1. An advancing intermediate adult who has been playing at least 5 years. Someone who is really enjoying the violin as a hobby and wants an instrument that will last them for the rest of their life.
2. An over-achieving high school player who has proven excellence with musical awards, and has competed for coveted musical positions (like Youth Symphony concertmaster).
3. A semi-professional who can’t afford a higher priced violin quite yet.
4. A backup instrument for a professional player.

When should I consider a violin in the $5,000-$10,000 range?
First off, I recommend not purchasing anything in this price range that is made in China. I have yet to find anything in my experience that surpasses the quality of a well-made European instrument over $5K. This is the range where you can find some really good hand-crafted instruments made in the 20th century, and also some modern violins from good quality makers. Here are the situations where this price range would be justified.

1. An advanced adult player who has been playing for at least 10 years. Someone who is serious about taking their tone to the next level, but doesn’t necessarily want to perform or be a semi-professional.
2. A student majoring in violin performance/education.
3. A semi-professional or orchestral pro looking for their main instrument to perform on.
4. A backup instrument for a concertmaster or concert artist.

When should I consider a violin in the $10,000+ range?
I’ve worked at many violin shops over the years and I would say about 2-3% of the traffic coming in was looking in this price range. It is one of those ranges where word of mouth and testing out various options is key, and should never be a quick purchase. There are some really beautiful violins you can find in this price range, and at this price point I usually only ship out 2-3 on trial for people that are interested per year. Here are the types of people I have normally worked with that were looking in this price range.

1. A very serious adult student who wants the best sound possible.
2. A very serious college player who is trying to play the violin professionally.
3. A semi-professional or professional player looking for their main instrument.

In a future article, I’ll talk about what to look for through the testing process, and what types of programs might help you when dealing with various price ranges. I know it can be overwhelming to think about everything for some of you but not to worry, as a violin teacher and passionate dealer, I’m here to help!

Replies

April 4, 2016 at 11:13 PM · This is a very interesting and helpful post. However, I think it is important to point out that you can get a lot more bang for your buck by upgrading your bow rather than your violin. Thus, the decision seems really a bit more complicated because of the possibility that a better bow will give you what you need, at least for a certain time, at a lower price.

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