What price range of violin is recommended for middle school student?

January 28, 2017 at 08:13 PM · I know this totally depends on the individual student and his/her parents' financial situation, but still would like to hear about what people think. My 11 yr old son is ready to move to full size now, and his private teacher is trying to sell us a pre-owned camillo callegari violin for $1200. This line is priced at $1800 for new by the instrument itself, so $1200 with a bow is actually pretty good deal. My son brought the violin to his school orchestra teacher today for a second opinion, and she suggested that although this is a good violin for its price, he might need a better one for all the upcoming solo competitions, all region, all state, and etc. So I wonder what is a good price range for a student violin that is decent enough for one to use through high school, which will not put him at disadvantage for most auditions and competitions. I try to avoid upgrading again and again to waste money. Background: my son has a passion for music and he's been doing well so far with piano and violin. But he's not talented or passionate enough to pursue a music profession for sure.

Also, if anyone has comments about the camillo callegari violin I would really appreciate it! I don't know violin at all but this one of my son's sounds very bright but not deep and mellow enough to my ears.

Replies (30)

January 28, 2017 at 08:30 PM · Do not buy from the teacher. There is an obvious conflict of interest here.

Impossible to answer your question.... for too many reasons.

I personally believe that once one sets the price, there is an inherited limitation in violin's sound perception. Ideally, budget should not be a problem, but in reality one has to start with one.

So, how to avoid this catch 22 situation?

Borrow from the world of real-estate: "you want to buy a house for least money in the best appreciated area" .

January 28, 2017 at 08:39 PM · I don't know who students can turn to, if not their teachers. Often a teacher can help you get the best sounding instrument for the budget that you have. I wouldn't make the blanket assumption that a teacher is trying to rip you off! Of course, each individual case has to be taken on its own. But I would not rule out the idea that a teacher might just want to find the best instrument for his or her student! That said, you might want to consider some instruments in a higher range, if your son is serious. Then if this option that your teacher is presenting turns out to be the best one, at least you have tried other things.

January 28, 2017 at 09:17 PM · I would certainly consider the violin the teacher is proposing. I wouldn't worry too much about the maker's name at this price point. Whether it sounds good and is easy for your son to play are the main considerations. All teachers want their students to sound as good as possible.

My old teacher, a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony, encouraged my father to buy for me a rather beaten up old "no name" violin 77 years ago. It had been damaged and repaired extensively and had recently been restored again by a good Pittsburgh luthier, John Note. It was my third violin, having graduated from fractional size instruments. It cost $85.00 in 1939. I have played it ever since in high school, college and a number of (Non-professional) ensembles and find that it sounds better today than most of the other instruments in these groups. I expect to use it as long as I can play and then someone else will continue with it. It is already well over 200 years old and going strong. Maker's name isn't important!

January 28, 2017 at 09:24 PM ·

January 28, 2017 at 09:33 PM · I would also suggest him going with his teacher to a shop to try out some other options, just so he has some options. Rarely is the first instrument one tries out a perfect match. Also, it might be too early to predict whether he is talented enough to be a pro. Assuming that he hasn't skipped any years, I would say give it more time. Not all professional violinists were Menuhin competition material early on, and certainly don't let this dictate what he looks at as far as violins are concerned.

January 28, 2017 at 09:36 PM · In this price range, the maker's name doesn't matter at all. In fact, this is a brand name used by Arcos Brasil for Chinese-made instruments, it looks like. So it's a trade student violin by an anonymous maker, which is pretty much what one would expect in this price range.

At this price, resale value is basically irrelevant as well; assume that you can't really resell this instrument easily, and since you are not buying from a shop, there's no trade-in if you decide to upgrade later. (That is also part of why you're getting a good deal. It's possible your teacher is trying to help out one of her other students by facilitating the sale of this instrument to another student.)

The average price of a violin-and-bow for a student will vary with locale. Around here, in one high school in my county, I see almost exclusively sub-$1k instruments, and a lot of stuff that's just a tiny step up from a VSO. At other, wealthier high schools in this county, you'd probably see the non-serious players on higher-end workshop-made student violins (say in the $3k range) and the more serious players on $10k+ instruments. At the major local competitions, it won't be unusual to find kids with $100k+ violins.

You should ask your son's teacher what she views his trajectory as being. Is he really going to be doing competitions and being realistically competitive for higher chairs in region/all-state? Will he be playing repertoire during high school where he'd benefit from a better instrument (for instance, does she foresee him being able to play the Bruch concerto before the end of high school)? Or is she encouraging him to buy this instrument because she doesn't think he'll reach the playing level where he'll outgrow its capabilities?

What repertoire is your son playing now?

January 29, 2017 at 12:01 AM · Don't buy anything until you've tried out several violins and made comparisons. You may find something you like much more at a price you can afford, or you may decide the teacher's violin is a good deal. I think the former is more likely than the latter but you can't make any kind of informed decision without time to play and compare options. Really excellent workshop (student) violins can be had in the $3000 range, incidentally, that would take nearly all students up through high school, but you have to find them. I've tried out a couple of Fevrot violins in that range that really impressed me.

January 29, 2017 at 05:59 AM · I wouldn't worry about price too much, although being financially reasonable is one thing. If he doesn't play at a high level, the teacher's violin should be fine, but I agree with Mary on trying out some more violins.

January 29, 2017 at 07:28 AM · Thanks for all the suggestions! Again, I found this forum extremely helpful. I think I will talk to his teacher honestly about what I think. I want to shop around a little more and see if we can get a better sound instrument for my son. I actually felt obligated to buy it from his teacher because he has been talking to us about this violin for a couple of months. And since he told us it's a good violin I didn't really worry about it at all. Until last week we finally tried this instrument I'm not sure if it sounds as good as I expected. But again, we have not tried many violins before so I really have no idea. I don't have a strict budget but $3000 sounds like a good range.

To answer Lydia's questions, my son is referred by his private teacher as very talented although I don't necessarily agree. He always encourages him to attend local solo competitions which I think he's not quite ready. He started late and is 2.5 years in violin now. He's about to finish Accolay in A minor at this point.

January 29, 2017 at 07:26 PM · In that price range (around $3k, and you will probably want to shop up to $4k just in case you find something you like that's a bit more expensive, plus reserve $1k for a bow, so call it $5k in total), you will find an abundance of workshop-made new instruments (mostly from China and Eastern Europe) as well as older restored instruments (mostly from Germany). That's the price range of high-end student instruments, and if you shop carefully and try out a lot of violins, you can probably find a nice one that should be adequate through high school and beyond for casual amateur playing.

Assuming that he's playing the Accolay well, he's doing very well for only 2.5 years of study. If he progresses exceptionally well, you might need to upgrade again during high school, but for now, an instrument in the $3k range plus a bow in the $1k range should do just fine.

I would buy something better than what your teacher is offering you, and I would really be concerned, ethically, about how hard the teacher is pushing that violin at you. It sounds like it's below the level that he needs and that you can afford, plus the choice of a violin is always pretty personal to the individual student. A teacher can help you pick out multiple good candidates but should not be pushing a single violin as The One, especially when it's probably not the right fit for your needs. You should also find out if your teacher is taking a commission on the violin, which is unethical if not explicitly disclosed.

If you trust your son's orchestra teacher, you might consider paying him by the hour to help you look at violins for your son. Or if you still think you can trust your son's teacher to help you look, you can pay her by the hour for the assistance, too -- stipulating that she cannot take a commission on any sale. (Some teachers will do this for free, but if your teacher is the sort to chase a commission, better to pay her for her unbiased opinion.)

If you live near a major city there should be a bunch of violin shops that have a ton of violins in the $3k price range. Go to every shop and play as many violins as possible.

January 29, 2017 at 09:00 PM · Very well stated, Lydia. That confirmed my choice. I just sent his teacher an email explaining that I would rent his violin for a couple months but at the meanwhile shop around and try to find a better fit for my son. His 3/4 violin rental will expire in Feb so he needs to transit to full size anyway.

Thanks for you help!

January 29, 2017 at 09:14 PM · It sounds to me like your son's teacher is pushing too hard on the instrument he wants you to buy. It would be wiser to try a few dozen other instruments, and maybe find another mentor to help you evaluate them since your son's teacher seems to have an agenda; you should never feel obligated to buy from someone. The best advice I was given (by a pro player) while shopping for a cello was, Don't be afraid to walk away if the price/instrument is not what you are looking for! If you tell us what city you are in/near, someone here may be able to recommend a string dealer with integrity (the business contains dealers that don't qualify for that accolade). Happy hunting!

January 30, 2017 at 02:02 AM · Thank you Erik. I do not feel so lonely in my ethics 101 class anymore.

January 30, 2017 at 05:08 PM · On the subject of teachers and instrument sales:

1. I do not take a commission when I help a student choose a violin. That just poisons the well and encourages teachers to push students to buy the most expensive instrument instead of the most appropriate one.

2. At the moment, I have a violin I would like to sell, and a student for whom it might be the appropriate choice. As it turns out, I can't sell the violin yet because I am having some trouble getting papers for it with the appropriate expert validation, and I can't set a fair price until I have an identification that will hold up in today's market. However, when I first mentioned it to the student's parent as a possibility, I also told him that if they did want to consider it, they would need to consult with someone else before buying because I could not be objective and therefore could no longer ethically be involved in their choice. I don't think a blanket ban on teachers selling to students is necessary but extra effort is required to make sure the student is getting unbiased feedback.

January 30, 2017 at 05:45 PM · Marry Ellen,

yes, a step toward more transparency is always welcome.

However, a teacher, wanting that or not, is in a position of power (for the lack of a better word), and therefore should abstain from any financial transaction other than selling teaching services.

Would you invite your students to help you move out, or paint a room or two? Probably not.

Why would selling violin (with or with out papers and 2nd or 3rd opinion) be an exception to the rule?

Once the student-teacher relationship is over, the 2 are free to engage in almost any (legal and consensual) activity per their choice, including my favourite: Violin hunt.

p.s. perhaps "how to choose a violin" ought to be a part of a curriculum?


January 30, 2017 at 06:14 PM · This can be tricky since the teacher should help the student choose the instrument. If the teacher has an instrument to sell and doesn't want to be involved in the selection, who will best help the student?

I've only sold a violin once to a student, and it was a special circumstance. I sold the instrument for below value. I have occasionally loaned a student an instrument I had on hand for one reason or another.

Since your teacher owns it, maybe you could take it on extended trial. Practice with it, compare it with some other instruments? Do you have anyone else you can consult as to the sound and playability?

January 30, 2017 at 07:25 PM · "However, a teacher, wanting that or not, is in a position of power (for the lack of a better word), and therefore should abstain from any financial transaction other than selling teaching services."

One could argue that the power relationship is equal since the student always has the option to choose another teacher. It isn't the same as a thesis advisor where the doctoral student has nowhere to go. Now if you're thinking of a college professor, I could agree with you, but private teachers do not have that kind of power.

At any rate, the point is moot since it's going to be a very long time before I can get proper certification.

January 30, 2017 at 08:43 PM · Point taken.

January 30, 2017 at 08:59 PM · Well, a teacher is in a position of potential power; I can well imagine a male violin teacher exerting sales pressure on a young mother who knows nothing about violins except that she wants the best for her son. Not saying that is the case here, but one can still practice the Reagan philosophy--Trust, but verify.

January 30, 2017 at 10:07 PM · Think it is ridiculous to assume a teacher doesn't have your best interest at heart. Of course it depends, and their may be cases when not to trust your teacher, but really you need to gauge your relationship with them.

There is no one I would trust more when assessing a violin than my former instructor (who has since passed).

January 30, 2017 at 10:33 PM · My son's private teacher is a decent gentleman and we have the greatest respect for him. Also as a music school professor in a local college, surely he has a broad musician/student network and handy access to some pre-owned instruments that are available for sale. I'm sure he has a good intention trying to sell us this specific instrument, and he tried hard to talk down the price with the seller so it would be a good deal for us. I don't know if he will earn money from this transaction, but if he does I think it's totally reasonable and even appreciated as he did invest his time and effort. That's why I feel kind of guilty if end up not buying from him. This particular violin just turned out to be not as satisfactory as I originally expected, so I would shop around for other options. BTW, we're in DFW area and if anyone has recommendations of good local violin dealers I would really appreciate it! As a complete novice this first time instrument hunting might not be a smooth ride for us :).

January 30, 2017 at 11:24 PM · "That's why I feel kind of guilty if end up not buying from him."

It is reasonable to remunerate your son's teacher for his time and help without buying from him...shopping for a violin is a long learning curve, and I think you're on the right track by renting until you feel confident in making a final decision.

January 31, 2017 at 12:12 AM · John,

The keyword in "conflict of interest" is, guess what?

Conflict !!!

No one stated that teacher does not have "your best interest in heart".

However, by also having his/her best interest in his/her financial well-being, there is a conflict.

The best interest of student may call for a more creative solution, such as lending the instrument for free. (Some teachers in fact did this, and the violin in question was a Strad or Guarneri.)

By "position of power" I mean the power of knowledge. Teacher knows more about violin playing and violin buying process than the student & parent. (Mis)using this position for personal gain (other than compensation for teaching) is not ethical.

Student is there to learn, teacher to teach. Occasionally the teacher will also learn a lesson from the student.

Felling guilty is not the best position for a buyer.

January 31, 2017 at 07:12 PM · Take it easy John.

Not all teachers are trying to make $$ off getting their students a better violin. In a lot of cases, they just probably want to help the student and probably want to get their student off some cheap VSO.

January 31, 2017 at 08:01 PM · The problem with a conflict of interest is that it is impossible to disentangle each competing interest. So thus, the only good solution is to avoid them if at all possible. So, absent loaning the instrument to the student to play for a while, I don't see there being any place for their instrument in the future of the student.

February 1, 2017 at 03:22 AM · I don't see why the teacher is charging at all for this instrument. Couldn't the student simply use it until either they leave, or it is time for the next one ( if it is the right choice to begin with )? Then it could be a hand-me-down of sorts.

February 1, 2017 at 04:13 AM · Likely the instrument is owned by another student, not by the teacher.

February 13, 2017 at 05:29 AM · imho, if you are not independently wealthy, buy an instrument they like from a dealer who will trade up with a good return amount. You don't know how their taste in tone or feel will change over the next decade or more. Far better to get a good playable instrument and a good bow that they can handle. They will need better bows as their skill improves, again find a dealer who will trade up. Not many can handle a lively bow as a pre-teen.

Now if they're playnig the mendelssohn concerto, go for broke!

February 14, 2017 at 04:03 PM · Any updates? Has the TS tried some violins out/picked anything out?

February 15, 2017 at 05:03 AM · As stated above Callegari violins are made by Arcos Brasil. Their website gives a short description. I tried one once for a few weeks and didn't like it. It just didn't fit me well but it did have a good sound. $1200 for the instrument and bow is a decent price as long as the violin doesn't have defects. They were going for 1800 or thereabouts a few years ago.

There is good reason for buying from a reputable dealer. They will make good on a bad instrument. It is hard enough to learn to play a violin and a properly made instrument and bow are necessities. They don't have to be terribly expensive, just made and set up correctly.

My 2 cents born from experience.

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