Do You Think That A Basic Violin Is Ok For A Beginner To Use?

May 23, 2013 at 10:34 PM · I have a basic violin which I bought 18 months ago when I started to learn. I have changed the strings which my teacher suggested and I think that helps. Do You think a basic violin is ok at this stage? Please don't tell me about violins that I would have to remortgage my house to buy - I just don't have that kind of money. So If and when I need to buy another violin, what would you recommend? Price range? Name of makers?

Replies (38)

May 23, 2013 at 10:54 PM · Maybe ask your teacher what they think?

May 23, 2013 at 11:46 PM · Marie, you should be able to go to a shop that has a qualified luthier and get a properly built and set up beginner's violin for a reasonable price. That would be around 600 to 700 dollars here in the US. The UK? You don't need to spend thousands to get a good learner type violin. The key words are "properly built and set up".

May 24, 2013 at 12:53 AM · A good violin price range is $200-$400. The lowest price range I would accept to buy would probably be...around $100. Anything lower is usually a waste of money.

May 24, 2013 at 02:37 AM · You can get a pefectly good beginners violin with a full set up and decent strings for $500. Buy it from a proper violin shop with a luthier in their own workshop. There is no need to spend more at this stage. Decent strings are very important : Dominants, Tonicas or D'Addario Pro Artes. Those last ones are my favourites.

Price is not a good indication of quality when it comes to violins. I have had fantastic violins for $200 and total rubbish for $1000 !

May 24, 2013 at 05:10 AM · Here are some reasons why cheap violins are not a good deal for beginners:

http://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/201011/11787/

May 24, 2013 at 05:52 AM · Shar Music and Southwest Strings both sell beginner-level instruments that are set up properly. While they do not have the tonal range of more expensive instruments, they are not so terribly bad that one wouldn't want students to play them. I see dozens of these instruments each week in the elementary ensembles at my school program and youth orchestra, and with proper care and maintenance they will serve young players for many years to come.

Franz Hoffman Etude Outfit - $249

http://www.sharmusic.com/Shop-Shar/Instruments/Violin/Beginning-Violins/Franz-Hoffmann-174-Etude-Violin-Outfit---4-4-size.axd

Klaus Mueller Etude Outfit - $239-$269

http://www.swstrings.com/product/instruments/violin/GP-110

May 24, 2013 at 07:34 AM · I think the most important thing you need to worry about at this stage is that your violin is properly set up, ie bridge, pegs, soundpost, etc. are correctly fitted and in the best working order to get the most out of your instrument and make it as comfortable to play as possible. I would suggest you take it to a professional to have it looked over - I'd happily do it but it looks like you're a long way away! Happy to recommend someone more local if that helps.

May 24, 2013 at 11:12 AM · Seraphim

Not very helpful answer! ;) She (teacher) is one person and of course I've talked about this amongst other things - the whole idea of this forum, as I understand it, is to get many opinions from experienced players !!!

May 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM · A variety of answers but helpful nonetheless. My teacher has looked at the bridge etc and hasn't said it's not ok. She might be being nice to me, who knows! She suggested I get better strings which she put on for me. I got a new bow cause I didn't like the feel of the original one. It sounds like the better the violin the better the sound. In the future, I'll probably treat myself to something better. Thanks guys :)

May 24, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Forgot to say! My violin was a birthday present for my 55th and it cost £140.00 - don't know what that is in dollars. I got it from a reputable music shop in Glasgow. It is the bottom end of the range, but I didn't want to go expensive until I knew if I would enjoy learning.

May 24, 2013 at 11:48 AM · I'm with Lyndon on a crucial point: You've got to put your capital expenses (violin, case, music, rosin, bow, etc.) in the context of the cost of your lessons. Of course, if you're spending down your IRA just to get the lessons, that's one thing, but to me there's a sense of proportion that needs applied.

May 24, 2013 at 01:44 PM · One thing to do would be to go to a reputable shop (or 2 or 3) and ask to try violins. If you go at a non-busy time (or call in advance, explain you want to test the waters) most places are very amenable because dealers understand that people need to know what's out there before investing.

the more violins you try the more you will come to know:

1. what your own level of playing needs to grow

2. what your own personal 'must haves' AT THIS POINT are (as you change as a player, these will change, too)

3. how value/cost/playability/taste all work together for you

Besides, it can be lots of fun.

p.s. Seraphim's answer wasn't unhelpful; some people come to v-com instead of asking a teacher who knows them and their playing. That you are smarter than that is good, but not something one could know in advance...

May 24, 2013 at 01:50 PM · "Seraphim

Not very helpful answer! ;) She (teacher) is one person and of course I've talked about this amongst other things - the whole idea of this forum, as I understand it, is to get many opinions from experienced players !!!"

Hi Marie,

What I was getting at was that your teacher has actually HEARD your current violin. Nobody here has, and thus it's hard to say what's what.

If you want MY opinion it is this:

Go out and buy a new violin!!!! :^)

Who doesn't love getting new toys?

As mentioned above, if you go out and drop, say $1000, you will likely get a violin that is more enjoyable than what you are currently using.

Of course, a $2000 violin would be a real treat...

But, since you are obviously a violin enthusiast, maybe you owe it to yourself to get a $3000 instrument....

;^)

You want enabling? I'm here to help!

May 24, 2013 at 02:14 PM · When I was a lad (in pre-Thatcher days..) schools lent decent instruments, leaving only the cost of maintenance to the families.

The same applies to the local music shool near my present home in France.

Nanny states?

May 24, 2013 at 02:46 PM · You also need to know what music you want to play. If you're mostly interested in fiddle music, you can get away with a less expensive instrument. If you're mostly interested in classical, you need one that plays well in the upper registers and sounds clean when you shift.

At your age, you might also appreciate a 'better' instrument than what you're playing ability would dictate too...and that's fine as well. Nothing wrong with enjoying a better quality instrument - and you also know that it won't ever hold you back either.

From my experience, I think you'd be best served by getting a 'package' in the $1200-1500 range (CDN). Or, if you buy separately, don't underestimate the value of a good bow.

Another good place to look would be music schools or programs...you might be able to get a nice instrument from someone who is upgrading themselves.

May 24, 2013 at 04:21 PM · Adrian, my school also lent me a cello in my first year (in pre-pre-Thatcher days...), and then the next year my new private teacher got a cello for me that I've been playing ever since.

Every year he'd go up to London to an auction where he would get two or three cellos that he'd bring back to Bristol, set them up, and sell them on to his pupils for what he'd paid at auction. As befits a very knowledgeable musician who once famously turned down the offer of principal in the BBC SO — he preferred to remain freelance — he knew exactly what bargains to look for at auctions, and just as importantly was skilled in the setting up.

My particular bargain then cost £15, which would have been about twice the average weekly wage in those days. Today, this mid-19th century French cello has a value well in the high 4-figures.

May 24, 2013 at 04:32 PM · Heart-warming.

May 24, 2013 at 04:54 PM · I say, like what most people would say, is the best you can afford. I have been playing for over 1/2 a year and already felt like I needed something better than what I had so that's exactly what I did! I saved and had a ideal budget of between $1,000-1,500 but willing to spend up to $2,000 if something really impressed me. On my violin before, I got new strings and a proper set up. It helped a lot but still left a lot to be desired. I talked to my teacher and she too agreed that a new violin could be a good idea. I asked her if she could come with me and help me pick one out and said she would be happy to. Before I went though, I looked up tips on what to look for on buying a violin. that too, helped a lot [a lot of info I found came from here :)].

So having some knowledge on what to look for, the experience of my teacher, and an okay ear for listening it was a very fun day! I now have a new violin that has been teaching me more than my old one and, IMO, makes it a MUCH better violin than my old one. Its a lot easier to play, quicker, louder, more resonant, and has a much fuller tone.

The other day I tired my old violin and was able to coax more out of it than I could before and I think some of that has to do with my new one being easier to play and teaching me more than my old one could.

In the end its up to you and keep talking to your teacher about questions and concerns. While there a lot of opinions and experience (even though mine is limited) you teacher is the best person to talk to and should be your number one resource since your teacher knows how you play and sound like and we dont.

Good luck!

May 24, 2013 at 06:39 PM · Marie, if you haven't already looked into changing bows, I would recommend that yet only based on what worked for me.

I paid a friend $100 for a dusty 60 year old German Strad Conservatory model, cleaned and polished it, put $40 worth of D'Addario Helicores on it, put Knilling Perfection Pegs on it for $70, and used a $30 mass produced fiberglass bow for my first four months.

After a lot of online research about how your bow can make a difference, I purchased a $200.00 Pernambuco wood bow and the difference was noticably amazing. Then I changed from light rosin to dark rosin and another noticable difference was achieved.

The general consensus from folks online was, "I'd rather have a good bow with a bad instrument than have a good instrument with a bad bow."

P.S.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

May 24, 2013 at 09:55 PM · Seraphim

Thanks for expanding on your original comment - makes more sense now! Not sure if you are kidding about the $3000 violin bit?

Nick

I like the idea of going out with my teacher and trying out some violins :)

Marjory

also good advice about trying out 2 or 3 violins. And yeah I think aged 56 that I've learned to ask questions from everyone, especially when money is involved (what can I say - I'm a canny Scot after all!!)

Thanks Mark - replaced my bow recently - made a big difference.

May 24, 2013 at 10:22 PM · Marie, I wouldn't think Seraphim is kidding. $3,000 now, is $3,00 you won't need to think about in a few years time, where as $1, 000 now is probably still going to be $3, 000 you think about later on. Just saying, if you enjoy and stick at it, which if you have for 18months is looking scarily likely, its all in the cards.

My friend who started learning in her sixties is still playing on the original violin she purchased, but it cost around $2,000 AU at that time. I up graded twice, to a $1500, then $3500 (now an unknown but still better, long story). The more you can pay, in the amounts up to around $5000 (would that be about 4 thousand pounds?) I think you continue to get better and better value, but my experience in trying out violins over that price is that it gets very suspect and you have to play and try everything (well, of course you should anyway), because the algorithm is not nearly so well balanced and seems to become more dependent on other factors that may not be associated with playability, tone, condition. I think Lyndon may have said as much in this thread or another similar thread recently.

May 24, 2013 at 10:35 PM · The violin is only part of the deal. I was told that one should consider spending 1/3 of the cost of the instrument on a bow, perhaps even more than the instrument itself if this is an inexpensive one. The right price is what you can afford obviously, but consider renting a more valuable instrument rather than buying if the budget is very limited.

I myself sometimes regret not buying what seems to be my "taste point", which is more like $7-10K, as not only do you have more satisfaction and pleasure, but it's easier to play and maintain its value better. You can probably sell a $10,000 violin for what you paid for a few years later(if not more) hence: short term cost $10K you can't spend on a fancy trip (providing you have that kind of savings,the same logic applies to a $3K violin, though it may not retain its value as well), long term cost zero ! If you stick with it, you'll probably be glad to have that better instrument all along (whatever price point fits your level of affordability w/o borrowing money).

May 24, 2013 at 10:59 PM · Marie, if you do trade up, I would strongly suggest going to a proper violin dealer rather than a general music shop. The luthiers have the skill to set up the instrument properly. They often find good-value Chinese or Eastern European instruments, and then spend a lot of time fixing the setup.

Also, most luthiers will offer a generous trade-in deal if you go back to them to upgrade in the future.

May 25, 2013 at 12:07 AM · Marie, violins can be expensive, and those which may be more desirable tend to be more expensive. Going along with this trend, valuing instruments themselves, people would tend to spend as much as they can afford on the best violin they can find.

However, is this the best time for you to make such a decision for yourself? I suggest that you should more rationally consider an intermediate step, which is to spend as little as possible on a 'decent' instrument. That should be easier to judge or qualify, if you have the help of someone more experienced, leaving the greater decision for when you have more experience yourself.

After a series of locally-sourced student rental instruments, I got my son one from YitaMusic in China on eBay (and spent some money at a local luthier to tune it up a bit). There was a big difference in sound quality even out of the box compared to the previous ones, and my son, hearing that, was more than delighted with it. It also surprisingly came with a viable bow. As with any eBay purchase, I only spent as much money as I was willing to risk.

I could see spending three or ten times as much on a violin that sounds better when he's more advanced and it's better warranted, but in the meanwhile, his violin is certainly good enough for the more important part -- his development.

May 25, 2013 at 04:08 AM · Marie, if you go to a luthier, don't just try to or 3, try 15, or 20, some you know you can't afford, some you know you can.

Remember that dealers/luthiers often assess value on different criteria than players do (there are many threads on that topic). If you are being 'canny' and want to ensure resale at an appreciated price, your search will be different than if you are "just" looking for something to play that you love. But give it a good fun search.

I also agree with those who suggest the bow is a significant item. If you just upgraded, then take your bow along, since it'll have to play the new violin well. I have been trying bows, and it astonished me how differently my violin responded to different bows.

the whole process can be maddening, but it is SUCH fun.

May 25, 2013 at 07:59 AM · By the way, if you ever reach the stage when you are prepared to spend £1000+ (and you'll probably have to spend that to get a decent instrument, unless you strike lucky) there's an interesting dealer about 1 hour from you in Peebles. His website gives a good sense of what he's about:

http://www.martinswanviolins.com/

May 25, 2013 at 08:20 AM · Thanks Geoff

Peebles is only 40 minutes by car away from me. I go down there often. I'll check out his website.

Sounds like I need to get a good violin from someone who makes them and can set it up to suit me. Thanks for advice to all !

May 25, 2013 at 12:22 PM · @Geoff, Martin Swan often posts on Maestronet, where he is always interesting, helpful, and never one of the rude, snarky posters. I'll bet he's a great one for helping 'beginners' and all.

May 25, 2013 at 01:33 PM · When my parents bought me my first violin, they got a used Suzuki violin at a rummage sale for about $30 (including the case, bow and rosin).

Personally, I think that was a good decision for them; I was a 7-year-old kid who said she liked the violin. How many other 7-year-old kids think it would be fun to learn the violin, play it for a few days/weeks and don't continue? My parents' reasoning made sense to me then, and still makes sense to me now.

About 3 or 4 years after I began learning the violin, my teacher told us it was time for a real violin. We went to the violin shop and my teacher helped us pick out a $1,600 violin and a bow for about $300. Although the violin was a bit more expensive than what I really needed, my teacher said it would last me a long time and be a good investment, since my parents knew I was doing quite well in lessons and they were convinced that I would continue learning the violin. I think that was a good decision.

At that point, I think I was in Suzuki book 3, if you're familiar with that level. Since then I have finished the Suzuki books and moved on to pieces like the Bruch Concerto. I've upgraded my violin to one of about $1,800 value, and my bow is worth about $800.

Anyway, there's some of my own experience with the violins I've played on. I'm not sure what level you're at yet, or how much you're willing to spend but if you're pretty sure you be continuing it might make sense to invest in a very nice violin.

May 27, 2013 at 05:32 AM · Well, let me jump in here, with the assumption that most (if not all) the previous responses are from better players than I.

The violin is a complicated instrument. There are a lot of things that go into the sound of a good violin. The sound... that is the goal.

Too cheap of a violin (even with a good setup), or one with a poor setup cannot produce a good enough quality of sound, and the student gets frustrated; they don't get the positive feedback that allows them to feel successful.

Some student violins are not very complicated; they can produce the correct note, with correct intonation and harmonic, without too much work (not necessarily possible in a cheap violin). This can allow a student to progress to a certain level.

As the skill grow, certain nuances are possible, certain things become easier or more difficult. An example may be an instrument that really resonates when playing certain strings in certain positions; possibly getting high on the neck makes the violin sing.

With this skill, the violin that is pedantic may be less appealing, and the synergy between violinist and violin become more important.

So, get something with decent materials, and you can have a reasonable workshop instrument. As you develop, expect your needs to grow, and the violin budget to keep challenging you.

Short version; anything under $100 is a wall hanging, not an instrument. In the $100 to $500 range, there are wall hangings and instruments, but not complicated instruments. If you buy in this range, plan on finding a good luthier, and expect to pay about as much for the setup as you did for the violin.

Anything above this range, and you should be at the level of playing where you can answer your own question.

May 27, 2013 at 10:47 PM · Even if "a reputable music shop in Glasgow", from which you got your violin, was a general music store rather than a specialized luthier, that shop's owners have their reputation to think of in terms of what they will sell. That said, Geoff's suggestion about going to a specialized luthier makes good sense, particularly if the shop from which you bought your current violin doesn't have one on its staff.

May 29, 2013 at 01:37 PM · I'm an adult beginner that started on a pawn shop violin that cost $75. My teacher said it was about a $400 German factory violin and that I got very lucky because I could have ended up with a wall decoration.

It didn't take long until I wanted something that sounded better and would (hopefully) be easier to play. I shopped around locally but didn't find anything I liked. I ended up renting a couple different Jay Haide instruments from Johnson Strings over a year. A cheap way to play a $2,500 instrument. It made a huge difference in my playing, and as has been mentioned, boosted my motivation to practice.

That also helped me have a good basis for comparison when shopping. I felt much more confident playing a variety of instruments. I could tell what felt good, what sounds I preferred and detect differences in quality. Also important when shopping: ask someone at the shop to play the instruments you are considering, so you can hear what they sound like in really skilled hands.

I ended up with a Christian Pedersen from Robertsons in New Mexico, but there were several other close contenders. Robertsons also had some lower priced Chinese instruments that really surprised me with how good they felt and sounded. The CP blew the others away, tone-wise, but it also cost more. However I was comfortable with that investment because I knew I'd be so happy with it.

So that's my advice, if you aren't sure, rent a better quality instrument for a while. Good luck!

May 30, 2013 at 10:39 AM · Thanks Wendy

Yeah I'm going to upgrade this year - I'll get some advice from my teacher and think I might look into getting a Luthier involved. There are a couple in Glasgow and slightly further away from me. Really looking forward to getting a better quality violin and hopefully hearing that rich sound. Meanwhile, I like your idea of getting a skilled violinist to play a few so that I can actually hear the difference in sound and quality.

May 30, 2013 at 01:25 PM · A skilled violinist can make even an awful violin sound good...so have an idea of what you're listening for when you have someone else test-drive...(tonal quality - especially when you shift, etc.)...

May 30, 2013 at 05:27 PM · hello again Marie

Definitely keep talking to your teacher and ask your teacher if they wouldnt mind going with you to pick out a new instrument. make sure to plan ahead and ask at least a week or two before your ideal days to go pick out an instrument. You can also ask your teacher, other violinist and/or do some research on violin shop recommendations near by and see if they have a website and inventory listed. Have an open mind and ear when trying out violins. I thought I would like a darker violin but ended finding a wonderful bright violin (it got a little overly bright when opening up but obligatos solved that), although I simple love the sound of my teachers dark yet powerful violin.

If you have your teacher with you, there isnt too much need of talking to the luthier about it unless you want or need any recommendations about it.

I second that a good violinist can make any violin sound good and I had my teacher play to hear higher positions and registers I simply could not play to hear its full range AND potential. I know my playing isnt anywhere near my teachers but it is nice to know my instrument does have a lot of potential in my hands. Its just going to take a long time to coax it out of myself and the instrument

May 30, 2013 at 10:58 PM · ...a good violinist can make any violin sound good... that is sooo true. My teacher once played my first instrument, a home built instrument, which at twice the weight of a "normal" instrument with VERY rought build and weird bulges and dimensions that are more akin of a 2x4 than a fine instrument (my grandfather was a carpenter... no finess here !), made it sound rather nice nonetheless !

June 2, 2013 at 02:12 PM · Hi Guys

Yeah I know what you mean about the teacher making it sound good. She even makes my little cheapy violin sound reasonable! I will take on board all of your advice about sound/tonality/shift etc and of course my teacher's experience should be invaluable too. Thanks very much to you all x

June 5, 2013 at 04:08 AM · Actually, Martin Swan sometimes has French (e.g. JTL) or German violins that he'll auction for less than £1000, often between £400 - £600. He's worth a visit, especially since he's a professional violinist.

After my daughter began playing in elementary school, I stopped renting for her and bought an inexpensive Yita Music T19 violin off eBay for less than £100. I thought a proper set up for about another £75(new bridge, Dominant strings, etc) from a local luthier would be much better than the VSO (violin shaped object) we were renting. I was right.

We tried out a number of inexpensive Chinese bows (less than £50), and bought the best one.

After she improved, we tried out 40+ violins, and bought 2 more over time, a 1920s German violin and an 1881 French JTL. We've also tried out many bows, and bought a carbon fiber Yamaha CBB103 bow. As she improved significantly, we bought a Karl Albert Nurnberger bow from Martin Swan. We're very happy with the bow and the experience of buying from Martin (including his advice).

Since I played the violin, and we've gotten help from professional violinists and teachers, my daughter has benefited from getting improvements to her violin, bow, and other equipment as she needed it. For example, she's been properly fitted for a chin rest, a specific type of shoulder rest, etc. It is not just the violin and the bow, things need to fit right.

Good luck - I hope you find an instrument you love. My daughter refuses to think of giving up her favorite violins or bows, so I guess she has a collection.

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