Recommendations for violin and bow priced at $500 or less?

June 28, 2004 at 08:52 PM · Hi, I'm looking to purchase a violin and bow and am hoping to receive recommendations. I am open to buying new or used and would like to spend $500 or less. I live in the Chicago area and am willing to purchase over the Internet.

This is the first time I have posted to this list (I'm a new member). I played the violin for a while as a child, but gave up the instrument for dance and other pursuits. My son recently started Suzuki lessons. After watching a guitar class, a violin, class, and a cello class, he chose to study the violin. I rented a violin for myself also, thinking if I played it would help inspire him (he's 4). Funny thing, I have found that I really love practicing. I've been playing every day for an hour or 2 over the past few weeks. I've just about gotten through the Suzuki book 1 and have decided to start lessons. My rental contract is about to run out. I don't want to renew the rental or purchase that instrument (it's not very good quality). I have heard that Hondge makes a good violin. Does anyone have an opinion on the Hondge violins or have other recommendations on violins and bows?

Thanks for your help!

Replies (27)

June 28, 2004 at 08:57 PM · You could look through ebay for some good deals with your price range.

Here's a link to one I found, you can read the feedbacks of others who have bought from this maker.

June 30, 2004 at 02:41 AM · I have started playing the violin again after a 22-year hiatus. I've been taking lessons for about a month now -- but before that, had to get my hands on a violin. I was willing to spend up to $500. My teacher recommended ordering a violin outfit from southwest strings ( She recommended the lowest-priced outfit (total cost was about 200 bucks). When I ordered it, I followed my teacher's recommendations and requested dominant strings and horsehair on the bow (I hope I'm remembering this correctly). When my teacher saw the violin, after I received it, she was pleasantly surprised by its quality in workmanship and sound. So far, so good. I've been very happy with it.

June 30, 2004 at 02:15 PM · I would second going to either southwest strings or shar music ( and looking for instruments there. The advantage of going there to going to ebay is that you get a trial period with the instrument to see if you like it. That and definitely ask for a horsehair (not synthetic) bow, and for the violin to be outfitted with dominant strings (which are much better and only a bit more expensive than the pieces of crap steel strings it would probably come with).

July 17, 2004 at 04:14 PM · Hi- I am also a new adult player. Have lots of pro violinist friends. I have done very well on ebay with several different purchases. I just got a Hondge violin for around $375 and I don't htink you can beat the quality for the price. Showed this to an execellent palyer and she was extremely impressed. The Gliga brand "gama" is very nice too, but it will cost you more like $600 w/o bow and case. Good luck!

July 17, 2004 at 04:18 PM · sorry about the typos- I know it's hard to take advice from someone who can't spell!!!

August 15, 2004 at 01:58 AM · My strad copy was stolen about 25 years ago by a family member who has since died. I didn't know its value but my grandfather said it was apraised at $22k in 1965 - I didn't know why my teacher would have me show up early so she could play it :-)

My uncle put an Ole Bull in my case and it is just horrid - if it is a real one, someone needs to melt down his statue in Minneapolis! Anyway, my grandpa tried to help and bought me another one, though far, far, far inferior to what I was used to playing and I just quit.

Well, now I have a grandson who is very musical, so I pulled out the one grandpa bought to see if I could interest him in it. I still hate it. But I want to play again. Not flush with cash (who says music is only for the rich?), I figured I would take a gamble and see what I could do on eBay. First one arrived smashed. Still haven't seen the money back on that one, but it wasn't a lot and I am not sure it was much of a violin, but I tried again and would you believe that for the princely sum of $275.00, I have a violin that is at least as nice as the one that was stolen? Kinda ugly but it almost plays itself - rich and very open across all strings (e kind of holds back just a bit but it might be the cheap bow I am working on replacing). The one that makes you happy is the one you want. A $50,000 violin with the voice of an angel wouldn't make me happy because I would miss living indoors, but you never know where you will find your violin. Kind of like the best pets, it chooses you.

August 15, 2004 at 12:49 PM · I got a cello and a used viola from ebay for my sisters, both were excellent quality for beginners. Try a brand you Lewis...and then search for it on ebay...or go to Shar Music site for some buys in your price range.

August 15, 2004 at 04:08 PM · Southwest Strings has some good deals....

Sam Ash does too. That's where I purchased my first violin. I used it for over 4 years and it was great!

August 15, 2004 at 05:22 PM · I'd just like to put in a word for supporting local music shops. Here in Santa Fe, three out of six local music stores have gone out of business in the last year. There are many reasons for this, and one is the internet.

While the web can be a boon for some, there are drawbacks also. You don't develop relationships with those who can really support you locally with maintenance and repair. The local shop owners are often also the ones to support the local music scene, so it helps the community to support them. Ebay offers little in the way of guarantees and people have gotten burned.

Some shops will apply your rental fees toward other instruments in their shop, so you may want to ask about that option. Many shops have a range of choices for starter violins.

Most of all, I personally would never buy a violin I haven't played. There are so many subtleties to tone and feel that I would want to make sure there's a vibrational connection with the instrument I'm going to be spending time with every day.

And believe it or not, there are inexpensive violins which can make one's heart soar. My current favorite violin was purchased at a tiny music shop in Northern California for $200 a decade ago--a beat up fiddle made in 1907 by a Norwegian immigrant in Chicago. I knew right away it was the one for me!

August 16, 2004 at 02:48 AM · We have an excellent local shop we use for things like repairs, re-hairs and for those who have the money, to try out really fine violins before buying. I will patronize them for services. I don't want to pack up my violin and ship it off to who knows where and hope it survives the journey. Then there is the neighborhood shop, a place for local teachers to hold classes and sells cheaper instruments and supplies. I needed to pick up another music stand last week and literally paid 3 times what it would have cost on the web. A cake of what they called "student" rosin that I can get on the web for under $2 was almost $8. The Hill's Dark I got online for $5 was almost $30 in this shop. A set of Thomastic Dominants is around $40 while I pay about $25 on the web. Why in the world should I patronize this shop? This kind of shop served its purpose in the past but the world is changing.

September 6, 2004 at 11:08 PM · I would recommend one of the violins from Sharon Dee Strings. I own a Salvatore Nicotera which is considered to be a professional level violin, but I know that the Vitagliano Nicotera is a good student level violin for an adult, or for someone using a full size violin. One of my students plays one, and it has very nice tone. The site also has some used instruments on it also. That is the only place my students go for instruments anymore. We were disapppointed with some of the catalogue instruments and also with some of the other internet site stores. We found bad tone, and set-ups. Try Sharon Dee Strings.

September 17, 2004 at 02:35 AM · Hi,

I'm really interested in this thread as I am also a late starter.

I'm currently looking at two Florea violins (is it even a legit brand? I dunno)

I would really appreciate any help or suggestion towards this purchase.

Here are the links to the two violins:


Has anyone even heard of or played a Florea violin?

Thanks in advance.


September 17, 2004 at 11:52 PM · Try a gliga gem 2 or 1 with oil finish. they sound great!

October 6, 2004 at 01:27 PM · I must add another two cents here. I had recommended Sharon Dee Strings for student or beginner violins. (They also carry upper level instruments too) Some of my students have tried the Gliga instruments and they are good, except for the setups and sometimes they developed cracks in the cheaper models. I am sticking to the suggestion of Sharon Dee Strings, it is located in Bloomington MN and I live in Wisconsin, but it is well worth the trip for my students to go and try the instruments there. They also have a website and i think that it is just Sharon Dee Regarding the Florea violins, I have no experience with them, however, I would not recommend buying from anyone but a shop that has repair services, and is an experienced dealer and store. What will happen if all the retail stores go out of business? I know that this has been a concern. We do need to support our local shops.

October 6, 2004 at 02:20 PM · There are several shops and luthiers in the Chicago area that I know of. I just purchased a new violin (a little more expensive that $500 though) from Greggory Sapp who works out of Chicago. Try searching in your phone book under the category Music Shops, Instrumental Shops, etc...I'm sure you can find a few places to look at where you can go and actually try out some violins before purchasing.

October 6, 2004 at 02:35 PM ·

...after all the research I've been doing over this past year...I'd give this Angel CA 400 a try in your price range...Steve Perry carries them and sets them up properly...

December 7, 2004 at 12:49 AM · Hello,

Thank you for all the violin recommendations. I found a violin that I liked and my instructor liked--a German instrument (around 20 years old) that was finished in the US. I'm really enjoying playing the violin, practice every day, and my technique is improving rapidly. I just learned to shift from 1st to 3rd position (I've only been playing since this Summer). The bow I've been using is pernambuco, but it's seen better days and isn't good quality (I got it cheap used). I've saved some money and want to purchase a decent quality bow. Can anyone recommend bows that cost around $450 or less? That is all I've budgeted right now. Thanks!

December 7, 2004 at 06:47 AM · If you spent ~$500 on the violin a $200 bow should do fine. But it sounds like you might have spent more (?). Anyway, I've heard that you get much more for your money with carbon-fiber. That's less true when you get into the thousands, but if you're thinking of spending $500 on a bow you might consider a Coda. I've heard that the Coda Classics are very decent (~$700). If you're buying a wood bow you definitely need to base your decision on what works bets for you &/or your instructor. There are a lot of horrible bows out there, but if you're patient you might come across something quite good. But bows are something you just have to try out before buying.

December 7, 2004 at 12:57 PM · Wood bows handcrafted in Brazil are doing quite well. I'm pleased with them. Raposa, Arcos-Brasil, Horst John.

July 6, 2005 at 03:43 AM · I just wanted to confirm the posts above which spoke highly of Sharon Dee Strings at

I live in Minnesota so although I found Sharon on the web, I was able to make an appointment to go and try out some violins in person. She personally played and examined the current violin I was playing, then played several violins from her stock for me, and of course I played them. I am just thrilled with the Salvatore Nicotera I chose, but I also loved her Victoria intermediate violin. The Victoria had a very sweet and lovely tone which I think would be wonderful for a serious adult student, but I chose the slightly more expensive Salvatore for its greater projection. Funny, after a conversation with Sharon on the phone about my current playing level and preferences, she had guessed that would be the one I would prefer.

Sharon has been playing violin for about 50 years (since age 6), and it made so much difference to me, to have her personally help me choose a violin that was right for me. I think that if you e-mailed her through the site or called her Minnesota phone number, she would do the same for a customer who lived in another state. She also has many violins that are not listed on the site and can probably help you within any reasonable price range.

I did not try out the violins Sharon offers for $299 and $495 for a complete outfit, but I am confident that they would be better than almost anything else you could find in that price range, and that Sharon just would not sell a poor quality violin. She taught violin for many years and knows how important it is for a student to learn on the best instrument possible.

I have actually spent thousands of dollars, a few hundred at a time, on a series of eBay violin purchases which were very interesting, and some were quite old. But the setup makes such a huge difference. It may cost a few hundred dollars more to buy a violin set up by a professional like Sharon, but it is SO worth it! When I play my Salvatore Nicotera, it plays evenly across all the strings with very nice tone throughout, and this is hard to describe, but when I play poorly - with the bow at a bad angle, for example - the violin responds with a slightly poorer tone, but when I play properly it just sings, so it is helping me to become a better player!

When I am ready to upgrade from my Salvatore to a violin in the $4,000 to $6,000 range, I will definitely return to Sharon Dee Strings. By the way, I did not know Sharon before contacting her through the Web, and I'm not getting a commission, haha! I just wanted to confirm the posts above about her website and shop. P.S. My violin is beautiful to look at, also, and I bought the most gorgeous case, shown online with the Salvatore, at a reasonable price.

July 6, 2005 at 03:57 AM · I second Steve Perry's recommendation of the Brazillians for the amount you want to spend. Some of them are amazing not even considering the price. I'd include Water Violet bows in his list.

July 9, 2005 at 02:02 AM · You get what you pay for. $500? Don't expect decent sound or playability, no matter what anyone says. Even for a so-called cheap Chinese violin, you will need to pay at least $1500 in the US for this. Even in China, where I live as an expat, at wholesale prices, the good handmade violins are over $700 for a student model, going up to $3000 for a pro model. Then the bow is extra. Yes, I can find $200 violins here, but these are cookie cutter models, with horrible sound and wood and crafting- which are the ones selling for $500 in the USA. So, good luck with your search.

July 9, 2005 at 03:29 AM · I disagree with Ron on the ability to find a decent nice sounding playable instrument for a beginner at $500. Perhaps China is just not a true value place for Violins--or perhpaps the export violins are a better value due to more discerning demand made by large importers....

I am no expert on violin selection but I have been actively engaged in makeing some choices recently.

I have been able to find quite nice instruments in the $500 range--no discernable tone difference from $400 to $2000 in some cases--and in fact I have found that the bow has a larger influence than the violin in this range (and perhaps in all ranges).

The Romanian maker Gliga produces some nice instruments--I recently selected a less expensive Gliga "Gems1" over a "Gama" and some others---the thing that is so different about buying hand made wooden instruments is that they are all different--so you really do have to try a bunch if you are at all picky.....

Much of the price change appears to do with the quality of the finish, the number of coats of varnish, the care in carving the scroll and the accessories, and whether an apprentice or a "master" did the work.

If you don't care about fancy frills, and are willing to allow that a younger maker might get it right from time to time, then it seems to me to be worth while trying some $500 instruments against some more expensive ones.

But I agree that the set-up makes a big difference. This is true on all instruments though--I swapped my violin with a mandolinist at a jam the other day---his mandolin was so much easier to play than our mandolin---night and day---and it was all to do with those setup details like radius of fingerboard, neck angle, response to playing.....

But buying a violin is something of a catch 22---you have to know how to play one in order to judge one, so where to start? It is easy really: You start at the bottom and work your way up. The less expensive violins will "pass muster" with a beginners's skill set. As she advances she gains the ability to discern the difference. So in a sense everyone should be in the market on a regaualr basis--probably once a year in the beginning---what do you think?

April 10, 2008 at 07:40 PM · After reading several favorable postings else where a few years ago on the "Hondge family violins", I watched them on eBay for a while. There was definitely a consistent bidding pattern indicating a shill(s) running up the bid. That and the possibility of the shill(s) even making the favorable postings scared us off. I'm glad some have had good experiences though. We eventually bought a used but like new Eastman 305 with case and decent student Brazilwood bow for about $600. If you're trying to buy a properly set up and decent sounding student instrument mail order, especially from an individual, doesn't it make sense to buy an Eastman, Gliga, Scott Cao, etc. which have good quality/consistency reputations as well as resale value?

April 12, 2008 at 01:32 PM · May I recommend my local shop to you? It is the String House of Kanack in Rochester,NY. 585-442-9272. They have a starter violin for around $350, Arcos Brasil carbon fiber bow for $120, all of which are hand-selected from a larger shipment, and a light-weight case for $95, that holds up very well. (I've had two of same for several years.) They have a 100% exchange on violins and bows forever. I am not an employee, and I don't have a kick-back agreement; just a longtime satisfied customer. Sue

April 16, 2008 at 03:09 AM · For $500, I would recommend the Franz Hoffman Maestro outfit from Shar. You'd even have money leftover to put nicer fittings on the violin. I have one of those violins, and its sound is amazingly good! There were qualities of sound from it I liked better than my previous main instrument. I have upgraded my main instrument, but I get lots of use out of my Maestro for teaching.

April 16, 2008 at 02:16 PM · Haha, I just noticed how OLD this thread is...

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