Buying Advice For The New Player

May 7, 2008 at 02:12 AM · Hello.

New visitor to the site, and new student.

As a new, 27 year old student, I've decided to buy my first violin using those nice tax rebates (probably not the consumer retail purchase they had in mind, but oh well). I have pretty much decided to go with a Gliga Gems1. There seems to be some positive feedback on these forums about the brand as a good one for beginners.

When I purchase what options should I choose.

Should I upgrade the tailpiece to one with 4 fine tuners or is fine tuning something I won't be doing much of at first and can always upgrade later?

Is the standard bow a good one for beginners?

There seems to be alot of different variation's in each model, but they are all the same price. I see normal, and antiquated and a dozen choices within each of those. I know that as a handmade model there will always be differences in sound that of course cannot be known over the internet, but aside from playing it when I get it (And taking it to a local luthier for a more professional assessment), is the difference just the look of the Violin?

Also, is the right site? and have people had good luck with it? Secure checkout and everything? Site looks a little low-tech, that's why I'm asking.

Thanks for the help, look forward to joining the violinist community.

Replies (22)

May 7, 2008 at 02:33 AM · Four fine tuners is actually the mark of a beginner instrument. As you advance you won't need them. Go for a tailpiece with either 1 fine tuner (E) or two (E and A)

May 7, 2008 at 03:21 AM · The number of fine tuners is directly related to the type of strings you want to put on your instrument. If you think you'll be using steel (drawn or steel core) strings, you'll need fine tuners for all 4 strings. In that case, you might want to use a Wittner-style tail piece with integrated tuners rather than a traditional tail piece with 4 metal tuners attached. If you think you'll be using nylon core strings like Dominants (a very common and well-regarded string), you'll only need a fine tuner on the E string.

Disclosure: I run one of my violins with a Wittner tail piece and Dominant strings. Those fine tuners are nice for getting the strings *exactly* in tune without fussing with the pegs quite as much. They're not necessary, but it's kind of nice. (My "real" violin has a fine tuner only for the E string.)

As for a source, Gligas are available through a variety of channels. Shop around for price and return privileges. Don't buy from a shop where you can't return or exchange the instrument--as you note, each violin has a distinct personality.

Best of luck with your purchase!

May 7, 2008 at 03:37 AM · My son just received his 1/8 sized Gems1. For a 1/8, it is absolutely beautiful.

I got only the violin. I sourced for the bow and the case separately.

May 7, 2008 at 03:38 AM · Hi Luke,

I'm an adult beginner as well. I also purchased my violin from, they are very helpful and I had a great experience with them. I want to be able to test violins as well, but none of the shops in my area carries gligas. My price range was under $1000 and I tried over 30 violins in my area, and I liked the Gliga the best (I have the Gama)

I didn't order an outfit from them,I bought a Coda aspire, so I can't comment on their bows.

In regards to fine tuners, it's much easier for beginners like us to have fine tuners. I would recommend getting that.

Good luck!

May 7, 2008 at 03:44 AM · Luke, welcome to the site, many of us here are adult students, too.

The site you mention,, is the US branch of the Gliga Group, it is run by Vasile Gliga's son, Christian Gliga. The name of the company is actually Gliga USA. If you have any difficulties with the website, you can always order by phone. Gliga USA have a 7 day return policy, if you don't like the instrument and send it back within a week, all you have to pay for is the shipping. Some people order two or three instruments, choose one, send back the other(s) within the return period.

The Gligas are considered by many to be comparable in quality to instruments which are significantly more expensive. Gliga sell 80% of their instruments as so called whites (no varnish, no setup) to other manufacturers which then sell those under their own brands at significantly higher prices. I believe it is not an overstatement to say that Gliga instruments are amongst the best value for the buck deals in their respective range.

A friend of mine recently got a Gems violin and I found it to be good value, nice tone, good setup etc. However, the workmanship was noticeably not as nice as that of the more expensive Gama and Maestro instruments. I could tell because I looked at a lot of Gamas and Maestros in local shops and I have a Maestro myself. However, I believe the Gems are very good instruments for beginning students.

As for strings, I use Dominants for G, D and A, Goldbrokat for E, which is why I only have one fine-tuner (for the E string). You probably want to go with Dominants at first and try other strings later on. As others have pointed out, you only *need* fine-tuners for steel strings, and most violinists only use steel for E.

As for the bows which Gliga USA are selling, I am not so sure they are as good value as the instruments are. I got a wooden bow sold by Gliga together with the instrument but I would not recommend that bow to anybody else, not even a complete beginner, I got rid of it very soon. However, my friend got the top of the line carbon fiber bow Gliga are selling. I played that bow on his Gems and that one I found acceptable.

Note that a good bow makes a very very big difference. It is said, as a rule of thumb, that one dollar spent on a bow is worth three dollars spent on a violin. Following this, it would seem to make sense to save a little more on the instrument and "overspend" on a bow.

I would recommend to get the violin first and then try out bows (on the violin you want to use the bow with). If you don't have a bow and can't borrow one, get one as a very-short-term-interim, affordable enough to discard after you found a proper bow. In any event, keep in mind that most students/violinists upgrade their bows from time to time as they progress, violins far less often. This is however not a reason to start out with a bad bow because it can very significantly limit your progress.

good luck ;-)

May 7, 2008 at 07:28 AM · I don't think you can go wrong with the Gliga model. (I don't play on one by the way, so no ulterior motive). Many will say you shouldn't buy a violin without playing it first, but since you don't play violin yet that isn't really practical, and you wouldn't know what you are listening for anyway. And not everyone has access to an accomplished player to test drive one for them either. That's what brand names are for...a defacto attest to a certain level of quality.

As for the fine tuners, I reccommend the whittner-type tailpiece with 4 integrated tuners, as they don't look outlandish at all. It may be the mark of a beginner instrument, but you are a beginner after all. No shame in that. Quite the opposite in my book. And they are on beginner instruments for good reason as they are very handy. In any event you can always put on a regular tailpiece later. They don't cost much of anything and you can do it yourself.

May 7, 2008 at 06:55 PM · And not just fine tuners for the strings - get yourself an electronic tuner also. I have gotten a few comments from friends who feel because of their experiences learning as children that it is only "real" violin playing if you tune entirely by ear. In fact, I tune by ear every day. But when I've done that, I check against the electronic tuner and I correct the tuning if I'm off. And if it goes out of tune while I'm playing, I can hear it - and I try to correct it and then I check it again. I just have too many things to think about in learning to play to have the instrument not in tune. It is hard enough when it is in tune. ;-)

May 7, 2008 at 08:44 PM · Marianne Hansen- I envy you for your job!!!! So Many Books So Little Time.

Last month I bought another violin from a Luthier in Colorado Springs. It's an Eastman and he said it was his son's violin and he set it up. It has the Whitner tail piece. However, he had put 'Peg Dope' on the pegs and they turn like a dream! Fine tunning is a breeze with that Peg Dope! GET SOME! It came with Dominant strings. The quality of sound is excellent and for the price they are hard to beat. I just put on some new Larsen Tzigate that I paid $55.46. I'm hoping the sound will improve, if not I might can sell them at UW for $20.00 and get a set of Dominants but with a Gold Label 'E'.

Oh, the Eastman violin with a nice case was UNDER $1,000.00 and it sounds exsquisite!

May 7, 2008 at 11:53 PM · Hi Luke,

I bought a Gliga violin when I started a couple years ago. Offhand I think it's the Gems line; had no idea how to pick one from the other so we just went for a price range and found one that looked nice in case it ended up as a wall decoration! :P

I've been happy with the violin so I think you'll be alright there. I didn't upgrade the bow; the bow that came with the outfit was really heavy at the frog; I tried the bow they offered as an upgrade and that one felt heavy at the tip. So you'll probably end up upgrading your bow sooner rather than later and for that I'd just recommend going around to shops and trying bows. (I learned on that bow for a year and a half. Gotta say a better balanced bow makes a world of difference!)

I didn't get the Wittner tailpiece but honestly wish I had. I find pegs to be a bit of a nightmare.

You should be fine ordering from I'm in southern California and we actually drove up to Pasadena to look at the violins they had pictured on the website. There are actual people working there, etc so don't be put off by the 'look' of the website.

Hope that helps, good luck :)

May 8, 2008 at 01:07 AM · Greetings,

>In fact, I tune by ear every day. But when I've done that, I check against the electronic tuner and I correct the tuning if I'm off.

Marianne. It`s good that you tune by ear. Tuners are not actually 100 percent accurate so don`t assume that you are actually polishing up the initla work. In the long run you`ll train your ear and cocnept of violin sound much better without a tuner.



May 8, 2008 at 01:25 PM · Hi, Buri,

I'm pretty sure the tuner is better than I was a year ago. And there are days I still wonder! ;-)

What's important to me is that all the time in between, I've been able to play with the violin in better tune than if I had struggled with it - not to mention I have not had to start every practice session with a struggle. (That comes a little later in the program.) So I'm able to work on problems one at at time, not as one horrific mass of dreadful noise. I think it was the right decision, for me at least, to use this tool to compartmentalize difficulties and spend more time practicing something correct, rather than practicing errors.

The tuner I have also has other, non-violin uses, which alone were worth the price. My husband has used it to learn to "bend" notes on the harmonica (produce a note a half step lower than a reed is set for by changing the size and shape of your mouth as it serves as a resonating chamber). And it is an excellent thing to have to hand when you fall into one of those arguments I see on this site all the time about "perfect pitch" - you can either demonstrate your own perfect pitch or demand that someone else do so (depending on your point of view) by simply clamping it onto the septum of your nose and singing. Either the demonstration or the threat ought to carry your point.



May 8, 2008 at 03:01 PM · "demonstrate your own perfect pitch or demand that someone else do so (depending on your point of view) by simply clamping it onto the septum of your nose and singing."

I am very skeptical about that. A friend of mine has one of those clamp-on tuners. I held it firmly against my chin bone and hummed to see what it was doing but the notes it showed didn't seem to match up which isn't all that surprising because your bones don't necessarily carry the same frequencies that come out of your mouth. A better demo would be to hum, then replicate the hummed pitch on the violin or a guitar with the device clamped on, because that's what it is designed for.

May 8, 2008 at 04:11 PM · ". . . is fine tuning something I won't be doing much of at first . . . ?"

Precise tuning is definitely something you should be striving for from the very first day you take the instrument in hand. In fact, it's especially important for beginners to tune precisely in order to acquire accurate intonation, which is one of the biggest difficulties for most people in playing the violin.

You will need to tune the violin every time you take it out of the case, and to check the tuning from time to time while you're playing. Strings go out of tune both when the violin is sitting in the case and when it's played, especially when they are new. Synthetic strings tend to be more stable than gut strings, though.

Fine tuners on all the strings would probably be helpful for a beginner, especially a child or someone who would have physical difficulties turning the pegs. However, someone suggested using peg compound, or "peg dope." Most of the on-line violin merchants offer a product of this type, and it does make tuning without a fine tuner much easier. Apply it very sparingly, though, and use a tissue to thoroughly coat the peg and remove any excess. Your top string, the E, will be made of steel and will require a fine tuner in any case.

I think Stephen Brivati's advice about learning to tune by ear instead of using an electronic tuner is worth considering.

Don't bother with getting a more expensive "antiqued" model. Antiquing doesn't add anything to the sound of the instrument--it's just a visual effect. Some people prefer violins that look aged to shiny new-looking ones. But sooner or later (and depending on your progress, possibly sooner rather than later), you'll want to upgrade your instrument anyway. Better put the money you save by not ordering the antiqued model into a better bow if you can.

May 8, 2008 at 05:05 PM · This is our 4th day with the new Gliga Gems1.

On the first day, the violin sounded closed in, and the strings a little metallic. My son remarked " the strings sound naughty".

After 2 days, the sound opened up considerably. The son said, "only the A string sounds naughty now".

I guess by now, none of them are "naughty".

Kids have a way of expressing themselves!

May 8, 2008 at 05:34 PM · LyeYen- I love it! "The strings sound naughty." How precious!!! Thanks so much for sharing your youngster's thoughts!

May 8, 2008 at 07:31 PM · Benjamin K -

No, no, no. Definitely right on the nose! ;-)

May 8, 2008 at 08:31 PM · Before you take the plunge, you might check out the Shar website. Shar is a mail-order stringed instrument dealer that carries a wide range of products in addition to instruments and bows. Like many local violin dealers, they have a trade-in policy that allows you to trade in an instrument previously purchased from them for a new instrument with some credit when you decide it's time to move up. Almost everyone who plays a stringed instrument has purchased something from Shar at one time or another, and I think it's fair to say they have a good reputation. They can also give you reliable advice. (I have no financial interest in Shar.)

You might also check out a local violin shop if it's convenient for you--a shop that deals exclusively in stringed instruments, not a general music store.

Best of all, before you buy it would be a good idea to line up a teacher (assuming you're going to take lessons). A teacher can help you find the right violin and bow for you, especially since you're not yet able to test the instruments yourself.

May 8, 2008 at 08:57 PM · Yes, Shar even has star-spangled-banner violins now, for you patriotic folks who want the American flag imprinted on both sides of your violin.

May 9, 2008 at 12:30 AM · Oh, DEFINITELY go with fine tuners. I'm 3 years into the practice and I'm still daily grateful for them. And FWIW, the notion that only beginners use them is a classical music bias. The majority of professional fiddlers, the luthier who sold me the violin told me, prefer them.

Good luck and have fun!

May 9, 2008 at 01:23 AM · Greetings,

it@s not a classicla music prejudice and I don`t udnertsand what you mean by prfesisonal fiddlers. Idf you mean prfessional violiniss as in classical then that is totally incorrect. They don`t use more than one fine tuner except in rare cases and with good reason concerne dwith string length and performance.



May 9, 2008 at 06:33 PM · Violin "sound" is a highly subjective topic, and I've come to believe that there are different tonal preferences for classical soloists, for classical orchestra players, and then within different genres of folk music and fiddling. A properly set-up fiddle isn't going to sound like gut-string mounted Strad model set up to play the Mendelssohn violin concerto.

For a traditional classical sound, I agree that that the consensus seems to be that the fewer fine tuners, the better a sound you may be able to draw out of your violin. On the other hand, when I'm playing into a microphone or with a pickup attached to my violin, an awful lot of those tonal nuances drop out, and instead you're looking for a very different projection and sound. In that context, the weight of four fine tuners isn't going to make a lick of difference to the sound--but they'll help keep you in tune.

May 9, 2008 at 07:13 PM · I don't recall ever having fine tuners (except for the E) on my violins, since age 4. But that was almost 70 years ago.

I found around age 70 that using my fingers to turn the pegs (especially since I do go from dry to humid, hot to cool, rooms to play. However well my pegs turn - the good quality does not last. So at age 70 I installed my first violin integrated-tuner tailpiece. I selected Bois d'Harmonie after great experience with them on my cellos. They are expensiive, but tonally they match bare tailpieces - and weight-wise they are usually no heavier.

Now Pegheds, or Knilling Perfection Planetary Pegs are now available to be ALWAYS smooth and easy turning. Having added these too all my instruments (at less than the cost of the Bois d'Harmonie tailpieces) my arthritic joints are doubly protected.

Regarding the Larsen Tzigane strings that were mentioned above in this thread, my experience is that they can be remarkably good on instruments that have trouble sounding clean going up the G string (way up) with more-established synthetic string brands, but on more standard violins they do seem to spoil the sound - pretty "buzzy" G-string sounds.

On the same "note" I have fopund that the newer Passione-medium and Dogal-Vivaldi strings really deliver the goods on the right instruments. But in my experience they are not as general-purpose for as many violins as Evah Pirazzi-stark, or Obligato-weich. Among the slightly-lower priced strings I found Dominant and Tonica to be about equal- BUT also instrument-specific. (I noticed (in this geographic area) that Feller and Ifshin both sell instruments with Dominants or Tonicas on them - after determining which type is better on the instrument.)

Enough said for this thread!


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