When to upgrade from student violin to professional?

October 3, 2014 at 03:55 PM · I just started college this year at Indiana University. I am a performance major. Right now I have a pretty basic student violin and I was wondering if anyone could give me advice as to when you can tell whether you have outgrown your student violin and need to upgrade to a "professional" violin.

Replies (22)

October 3, 2014 at 04:16 PM · Have you talked with your teacher about this?

October 3, 2014 at 04:52 PM · I was planning on it. I would just like opinions to compare it with.

October 3, 2014 at 05:28 PM · Go to a city where you can try a bunch of pricier violins, and see what you think of them. Also, try everything you can get your hands on locally, like those of other players in your music community.

October 3, 2014 at 06:32 PM · Alexis, I think this is one of those parts of life where you won't know when you are ready to change until you are ready for it, and then you'll know. Like when, after two and a half years of violin lessons I suddenly just knew that I would be able to make the transition from cellist to violinist in my chamber orchestra, and did so immediately and successfully. Six months earlier, and I'm sure I wouldn't have been ready for it. I reckon the old subconscious (aka "gut feeling") is a fairly reliable guide.

However, if you do buy a better violin a little earlier than when you think you're ready for it, that's no big deal; in fact, I would expect playing on the better instrument to accelerate your progress, especially when guided by your teacher.

[Edit added: Oh, and by the way, it's most important to have a bow that matches the quality of your new violin. In case you're concerned about the financial side of buying a new bow bow in addition to the violin, carbon fiber bows of extraordinary playing quality are now commonly available at almost ridiculously low prices that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.]

October 3, 2014 at 06:41 PM · Cruise lots of different violins for a while. You'll know.

Or your teacher will tell you that you can't progress to the next level on your current instrument.

Or you'll fall in love with a particular instrument.

October 3, 2014 at 09:05 PM ·

October 3, 2014 at 10:47 PM · Play as many violins as you can get your hands on. Go to the nearest violin shops and try a few. Also play your friends' violins. Do you sound better on some of these other violins...much better or just a bit better ?

If you are not sure then consider upgrading your bow. You can always use a good bow and it will help your playing.

October 3, 2014 at 11:18 PM · ...if you are thinking it might be time to upgrade...you likely are wanting to upgrade...

So while you are shopping and hunting...start saving up! :D

Have fun!

October 4, 2014 at 01:47 AM · There have been a number of recommendations for teacher input. That can be really good, but please also realize that some teachers get significant "kickbacks" from instrument sales to their students.

One of my favorite quotes, from a student who was starting to get the picture, was:

"Mr. XXXX, my teacher, says that I need to buy a better viola from YYYY (a particular dealer). I guess Mrs. XXXX needs another fur coat."

October 4, 2014 at 09:02 AM · Wrong thread!

October 4, 2014 at 10:36 AM ·

October 4, 2014 at 11:40 AM · What doesn't happen in your area? People doing things to make money? I haven't been to a place yet where that doesn't happen. Sorry for my cynisism.

October 4, 2014 at 01:00 PM ·

October 4, 2014 at 07:48 PM · Not all teachers take kickbacks. I never have. It is a question of integrity in my opinion--I don't want anything to compromise my interest in helping my student get the best possible violin at the fairest price. (NOT cheapest. It is fair for a dealer to make a profit.)

When I started at Oberlin, my violin was somewhere below the level of a "basic student violin," more along the lines of a violin-shaped object. So I played on a fairly nice German instrument owned by Oberlin for my first three and a half years, and then bought my first professional violin between the semesters of my senior year. I loved that violin, still own it; it was my only professional violin until about six or seven years ago.

I concur with the previous comment about high-quality carbon fiber bows at reasonable prices. Most of my orchestra playing is on a JonPaul Avanti that I paid $750 for. I tell my students that if their bow budget is < $1000, they're probably going to be happier with a carbon fiber bow.

I haven't yet seen mentioned the question of debt...as in, don't buy what you can't pay for. That may make sense later but not when you're a student in my opinion, especially not if you're already incurring debt for school.

Violins vary widely by price point. My current violin is better than the Italian violin I paid $21,000 for about seven years ago, but because it has no name or provenance, I can't get it insured for more than $9K or $10K.

October 4, 2014 at 09:03 PM · I get suspicious when the teacher insists on one particular dealer or maker, rather than a specific instrument. A good friend of mine was told by his teacher in college that he needed a violin by a specific maker, who is well-known and high priced but apparently without a long wait list. I have played that fiddle and heard him play it against a random one of mine. I wouldn't claim mine was better, but it certainly held its own. Since then the friend has found one of my violas suitable for his orchestral needs. Not trying to promote my instruments, just saying that his circumstances were suspicious. And I don't know of any other teachers who I think would not be strictly ethical.

October 4, 2014 at 09:23 PM · One way to know if you need a new violin is to listen to a seasoned player play your instrument.

I hope you have someone handy.

October 4, 2014 at 09:32 PM · While you may know when it's time for an upgrade, it's equally likely that you won't know! As players we're often not very good at realizing the limitations of our equipment. That's usually a good thing! There's nothing worse than hearing someone blame their playing on their instrument or bow!

But every time it was time for me to upgrade, starting at about age 9, I didn't like the more expensive instruments as well as mine. I was too used to the old sound and feel. I needed my teacher to let me know what I was missing.

Even now, if a soloist comes through town and I love their sound, and if I get a chance to play their violin, sometimes I wonder: how did they make this sound like THAT?

October 7, 2014 at 04:16 PM · Thank you everyone!

I have been trying some violins around my area, and trying better bows with my violin, etc. Most of the music shops around me are student violin oriented so I don't have a lot of choices as far as playing better instruments goes. I can hear a difference between mine and some of the better ones I have tried, but I agree with the last person who commented - I am used to mine and always like mine better. I am planning on going to Chicago soon to get my bow grip repaired at the A440 Violin Shop. It doesn't hurt to look I suppose, but I will probably wait a year or two so that if my playing changes I won't have made the "wrong choice."

October 7, 2014 at 07:02 PM · If you've just started with this teacher then perhaps take some time to get this point, but usually they are the person who should know the best & worst of your playing. I'd definitely look for guidance from my teacher on something like this. It's also great that you're taking the opportunity to try instruments in order to get a better idea of what's possible & perhaps whether your current instrument meets your needs.

Combining the 2 points, it would also be great if your teacher could hear you playing other instruments so that they can get an idea of whether your violin is holding you back.

October 7, 2014 at 11:40 PM · I would also love to add that it's important to try several violins for a few weeks- don't buy the first one you try! It was particularly helpful for me when buying my latest violin to hear it in different rooms, both under my ear and from across the room. I also played mine before I bought it in chamber music, orchestra, solo, gigs, etc., just to be sure I knew it very well before jumping into a decision. My teacher was very helpful, but ultimately I had to feel like the instrument reflected my musical voice.

I'm at IU, too, so if you need a violin-testing-buddy just send me a message! ~Sarah

October 8, 2014 at 03:29 AM · If you haven't, have your violin adjusted by a good luthier, ask same for advice on high-quality strings that will help with the sort of tone you want, and invest in a bow upgrade. These 3 improvements can buy you some time to figure out what you need, want and can afford.

October 9, 2014 at 12:06 AM · Hi Alexis. I just came off an exhaustive (and exhausting) search for a new instrument. I'm in Chicago, so I visited A440 on my quest. They have some nice instruments there, depending on what you are willing to spend. If you are not able to have a professional play your new prospects for you, make sure that you bring along a great quality recorder (I just picked up the Zoom H6, and I love it) and a great set of headphones or speakers so you can hear yourself playing at various distances and in different room settings. The fiddle that sounds great against your head may not sound nearly as great from a third person perspective, or project well to an audience. I played my current purchase for a few hours this way, and it sounded great under my ear and even better third person. Good luck!

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