I could really use some advice on purchasing a violin...

Edited: April 24, 2018, 11:42 PM · I started learning the violin about four months ago. I bought a very cheap $100 Mendini violin to test the waters. I really, really enjoy playing and would like to upgrade to something better. The problem is I don't have the money to have a brand new violin made for me (I was quoted minimum $6000), and I absolutely cannot tell if the used ones people are selling are any good/reasonably priced. And furthermore due to living so rurally, I don't want to drive 1-3 hours to try out a violin to see if at least "seems" good to my newbie eyes when any Tom Dick or Harry off these forums could have told me not to even bother wasting my time and money, the violin in the ads are garbage. And that's why I am humbly asking if maybe you guys could have a look and tell me if any of these are reasonable buys, or if they are all junk? I simply cannot make this purchase without help, I just know my ignorance will get me sold a lemon.

Also I just want to clarify I am looking for something that will last me a long time and sound pretty good, but it's just my own private hobby and I don't need anything progressional grade. I am generally hoping to spend less than $2000.

But anyways here are some of the interesting ones I have found in my price range, if anybody has the time to take a look. The first two ads are about an hour drive away from me, and the second two ads are about 3 hours away.

https://www.kijiji.ca/v-string-instrument/kingston-on/vintage-giuseppe-maravelli-4-4-violin-reduced-price/1240581799?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

https://www.kijiji.ca/v-string-instrument/kingston-on/fine-antique-english-4-4-violin-reduced-price/1257508222?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

https://www.kijiji.ca/v-string-instrument/city-of-toronto/advanced-violins/1349796014?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

https://www.kijiji.ca/v-string-instrument/city-of-toronto/warning:-this-violin-may-cause-you-a-divorce/1349795062?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

The last two ads are 3 violins sold by the same person and there is a video of them all being played in the first ad also, if that helps...

Thanks you guys and I apologize if people hate this kind of post, I just don't know where else to ask :( Also if they all suck and I shouldn't buy any of them, that's a good comment too.

Replies (35)

April 25, 2018, 12:28 AM · I recommend visiting The Sound Post in Toronto. They have a range of student instruments and should have someone around who can play them for you to hear them, while not exceeding your budget of $2000. There is probably another violin shop or five in the area you can visit as well, I just know they have a location there.

Another option is to rent a violin.

The problem with buying a used instrument off Kijiji is there is no guarantee if it's junk, breaks, or only appears to be in working order. If you buy an instrument from a respectable shop then you know it's going to work, you'll have had professionals set it up before hand, and you'll be able to compare it to more than just what you remember your own instrument sounding like.

Edited: April 25, 2018, 12:55 AM · I think it is a very big mistake to buy a violin from craiglist or similar.

Up to 2.000 USD it is possible to find a satisfactory instrument for an amateur. The key for you to win this game is patience and probably sacrifice some more time to go and have a look.

April 25, 2018, 2:00 AM · Like Michael said, you have to visit some violin shops. It is normal that you make an appointment and ask to try some violins. They will lay them out for you to try. You can tell them your budget so no time is wasted. Also put aside 25% of your budget for a reasonable bow. So spend 1500 (more or less) on a violin and 500 (more or less) on a bow. Don't buy in the first shop you visit, they also will not expect you to buy immediately but they will do their best to serve you so you may return to buy later! Since you are a beginner you can also ask them to have someone from their shop play the instruments for you so that you can hear their sound when professionally played.
April 25, 2018, 3:27 AM · A total of 2000 USD should buy you an instrument which will last you a very long time, at least based on pricing in the UK, where I live. I have spent about £1200 between instrument and bow, and my teacher is convinced that this will satisfy my needs for a very long time.

However, at that level, finding the right instrument did take me a long time, and I played probably 30-50 before finding one I loved. Difficult for you with living in a rural area.

Edited: April 25, 2018, 8:55 AM · Also agree with Michael.
Mail order is a minefield for a beginner and kijiji is even more risky.
The Sound Post is a reputable shop with excellent craftsmen if you need a good set-up or repair. I bought a Jay Haide there years ago which was a very good violin for it's price. Can also recommend Rick Heinl in Toronto. There is a Sound Post in Ottawa as well. Also in Ottawa Guy Harrison, who is one of the best luthiers in Canada.
Edited: April 25, 2018, 8:52 AM · The 1-3 hour drive will be the best use of your time, believe me. I know it sounds awful to travel that far, but let me tell you how I ended up with my violin.

I went to my local luthier (we have a good one in town) and tried every violin in my price range (under 2k, like you) as well as a few in the 2-3k range to make sure the next leap wasn't a huge one. He laid out 10 violins, and I played each one against my original violin (an $800 model). I narrowed it down to 4. There was one that I really didn't want to like. I don't know what it was about it at first, maybe it's look (a little blonde, rather than red). I had the owner play them while I stood across the room, and narrowed it to two. The blonde one was still in play. I played a while longer, and then he let me take the blonde one home.

It's my current violin, one I'll have for a while. The reason, I think, that I was averse to it at first was that it's a cannon of sound. I'm completely happy with my violin, and the time I spent playing prettier violins against it--and against my original instrument--was worth it. In case you're curious, it was about $1700 USD, but beat out violins twice that price in sound. And the look? I've come to love it.

April 25, 2018, 9:42 AM · If you really know what you're looking for in a violin, buying from owners on places like Craigslist or Kijiji isn't necessarily a terrible idea. It's highly luck-driven, though.
April 25, 2018, 11:17 AM · Stefan wrote:
" A total of 2000 USD should buy you an instrument which will last you a very long time, at least based on pricing in the UK, where I live."
______________________

Maybe, maybe not. Depends on how picky one is, their goals, and their budget. Aren't most of the world's Strads owned by non-professional players, or investors or collectors who don't play at all?

April 25, 2018, 11:23 AM · Decisions sometimes seem be either the lesser of two evils or a gamble. In this case you can greatly narrow the odds in favor of making the right choice.

You can greatly minimize the potential for a flawed decision process by exposing yourself to as much good violin product as possible. This is best done in person in my opinion, though some have been fortunate.. Many good suggestions already.

April 25, 2018, 11:27 AM · If you are just starting out, rent an instrument. Don't buy. Who knows, you may want to eventually switch to viola. You may want to consider buying a nice bow if you cannot get one through a rental.
April 25, 2018, 5:00 PM · Fiddlershop has a program that lets you try violins via mail order. I live in a violin desert, and if I hadn't gotten lucky and met someone that repaired/sold violins as a hobby I would have used them.

At the very least it's worth looking at, and there are violins that are reasonable student instruments.

April 26, 2018, 6:22 AM · Go forward with the help of an honest person. With that person's advice and judgement, it will be years before you need to re-invest.

And that honest person is probably waiting in a violin shop. I've met a few of these folk, and had no regrets.

Did I ever mention my purchase from China:

DXKY violins
Tongzhou
Beijing, China

Phone: 0086 10 57910569
Website: http://www.dexinkaiyuan.com

Builds violins and/or bows? Yes
Sells? Yes
Repairs? Yes

We specialized in making high quality violin, viola,cello,double bass and accesories.If you want to know more details about us,please free contact us.

DXKY Violin
0086 10 57910569
dxkyviolin@vip.163.com
www.dexinkaiyuan.com

Will come in on your budget, and I dealt with some honest people.

Or (maybe better) do the drive. I'll bet you can sus out an honest person.

Edited: April 26, 2018, 6:45 AM · You can get an acceptable violin for under $2000 but you have to get in your car and do some shopping. In your price range, there is little point trying dozens upon dozens of violins hoping to find that truly special instrument that sounds like heaven and plays itself. A good plan would be to visit two shops, try 5-6 instrument in each shop, and ask if you can take one home from each. Play those for a week, consult with your teacher if you have one, and then pick the best and buy it. In the grand scheme of things a $2000 purchase is not something you need to agonize over.
April 26, 2018, 7:10 AM · Perhaps a brick and mortar store that also does internet and phone sales is a possibility. A few years ago I was in your position and found my violin at a place called Kennedy Violins. (www.kennedyviolins.com). If you go this route give them a call after looking over the web page. The people you will talk to play violin and can help with the selection process. They have a great 45 day return policy and future trade-in if you decide to upgrade again. A $2000 budget should get you a good enough violin for quite a few years.
April 26, 2018, 7:33 AM · I have bought violins, violas, and cellos and lots of bows.

The best advice i can give is to:

1. test it with the bow you will be using to play it and take along your own instrument when you test candidate instruments
2. have at least one experienced person you trust assist you in person as you go through the trial process.
3. have a grace period during which you can test the instrument in the conditions you will use it before the money is committed.

April 26, 2018, 7:12 PM · Rent for a year or two and then cash in the rental credits to buy a better violin.
Edited: April 27, 2018, 5:36 PM · Second or third the recommendation for the Sound Post -- they're supportive of beginners and will show you a few and play them for you as well if you want. And let you take one or even two out on evaluation. Getting your teacher's input would be invaluable.

Not so sure about Heinl -- they're more aimed for professionals although they do serve students, sometimes apparently grudgingly though.

Also not sure about the budget you have in mind. I'd suggest opening it up to much lower -- say around $800 as well. You might find something serviceable at that level and nothing that really wows you at $2,000.

People who don't really know what to look for and even some who do put far too much weight into the price in my opinion, as the one measure that they have. But violins are not like that -- each is different, and they don't have a numerical measure on performance or a guarantee that the price correlates with it.

Also, you should budget for a bow or at least try to ensure you don't end up with a good violin and a wet noodle they throw in with it as the bow.

Edited: April 28, 2018, 4:58 AM · Here's another recommendation for The Soundpost in Ottawa, which seems to be fairly close to you, from the coordinates you gave (Kingston & Toronto). The staff are knowledgeable, responsible, and thoroughly professional. They are string players themselves, and the manager, David Doyle, is a fine luthier. Their clients range from beginners to professionals, and they'll give you good advice. They have an excellent selection of violins and bows in all price ranges; you can try out instruments freely and also rent from them.
April 27, 2018, 9:26 PM · Ashley,

Given that you are in Canadian rural area, and that shopping around for a violin in person can be a bit challenging, why not give Fiddleheads a try? (http://www.fiddleheads.ca)

Rhiannon, the owner of BC based violin online shop is a professional violinist and in my mind she is a very fair business woman. I bought a Topa from a year ago. I'm very happy with it. It was a rather stress free violin shopping experience for me. Rhiannon was very good in answering many questions I have and assisting me in choosing the right violin for me with my budget. She should have plenty decent violins at your price range. Give her a call and see what you think.

Happy fiddle hunt! :-)

April 28, 2018, 3:59 PM · I definitely agree with the advice you're getting here: that your best option is to find a reputable, trustworthy dealer; you should be able to find something well beyond the student violin category at a price not too far over $1,000.
April 28, 2018, 4:20 PM · Quite frankly, since you just purchased a $100 violin and nothing else, I wouldn't even buy anything over $1400. Plus you've only learned for 4 months. I upgraded my violin to a $700 only after 2 years on some 3/4 violin and a cheap 4/4
Edited: May 3, 2018, 12:15 AM · You should always try before you buy but if that is not possible you could consider West Country Violins in the UK. They have been selling over the internet for over 20 years and have lots of client feedback. Here is the link:

https://www.westcountryviolins.com

Edited: May 4, 2018, 11:37 AM · J Ray quote-

People who don't really know what to look for and even some who do put far too much weight into the price in my opinion, as the one measure that they have. But violins are not like that -- each is different, and they don't have a numerical measure on performance or a guarantee that the price correlates.


This ^^^^^^^^^

I didn't Pay as much as I thought I would need to pay for a violin that works well for me. I was actually paranoid of visiting a brick and mortar shop for fear of being scammed. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. The person I dealt with a was a great pleasure in every way.

My only regret is I didn't do it sooner.

I can't say your experiences will reflect mine exactly.

Edited: May 6, 2018, 2:36 AM · Ashley Roy, the OP, says " I really, really enjoy playing and would like to upgrade to something better."

That is nice to hear :-)

I wonder whether Ashley has been back to read the responses. There is no update or note of thanks yet, so perhaps not.

Of course, it is waste of time trying violins for something better unless you can define "better". Perhaps the definition here is, "will last me a long time and sound pretty good". A professionally built new violin should last a lifetime with a little maintenance. Whether it sounds pretty good rather depends on the player.

Edited: May 6, 2018, 9:20 PM · @birchall: Um... a under $6,000 “professionally built” violin from an unspecified luthier? Lindsey Stirling promotes a scam by a buddy in their early 20s who sells “professionally built” violins from China without trial, half down to ship in that price range.

OP: Do you have a teacher to advise you in selecting a violin? If you are looking to invest that kind of money, you should find a good teacher first if you haven’t.

I’ll guess not, because you are asking these questions here. Having a nice violin without a good teacher is kind of moot. If you’ve only been “playing” four months, you’ll need their help in picking a good violin for you. They will tell you violins aren’t like cars. Old ones can be as good or better than new ones. The cost should be split between the violin, bow, and case, selected separately in that price range. Most reputable shops ship violins and bows for trial if for some reason you can’t travel.

Start with finding a teacher before dropping close to $2,000 into a violin. Please, please, please.

Edited: May 6, 2018, 9:30 PM · Again, why isn’t anyone curious why her teacher isn’t involved if she’s only been playing four months?

Isn’t the better answer so she doesn’t get a “lemon” or scammed — is for her to take a chunk of that $2000 and spend it on lessons from a good teacher.

Maybe people could instead give her an idea of going tuition rates in Canada and connect her with a local music community.

It is only a good idea to start on the best violin you can afford AFTER you pay for lessons.

May 7, 2018, 8:03 AM · Sometimes though, I wonder if it's a which comes first "chicken or the egg" kind of thing?

I would never argue against lessons unless the teacher was inexperienced. You would think a good teacher could see if the instrument is holding back the player. In my experience, this hasn't been the case. Since my teacher doesn't play my violin she didn't know it had issues. She can see the apparent thing, but sometimes issues with the instrument are more difficult to spot. One of my best violins had a slightly worn or warped neck. If you looked for it you could see a wave in the fingerboard. You would only see this if
A- You knew where to look and
B. You were looking for it.

I think we can be more motivated to play better if we have a decent instrument. The opposite can also be true. I was becoming discouraged because my instrument was holding me back.

May 7, 2018, 8:11 AM · "Since my teacher doesn't play my violin she didn't know it had issues."

I make a point of playing on all my students' instruments--usually in the context of, "Let's see how much sound you can make with your own equipment." It can be quite instructive. The last time I did this--just this past week--I realized that the terrible sound I was about to scold my student for was actually a terrible bow.

Edited: May 7, 2018, 8:22 AM · Sometimes good violin teachers really don't know that much about buying a violin. I say that because I've met quite a few violin teachers whose last major instrument purchase was when they were heading to grad school which might have been 20 years ago and maybe only a few of their students were advanced enough to need better than student grade violins. And because they're just not super interested in that side of the business. Other teachers I've known have seemed incredibly knowledgeable to me. They're the ones who are always going into shops wherever they travel, trying instruments, talking to makers, etc., because they enjoy that kind of thing.

Following up on Mary Ellen's comment, I'm always amazed the great sound my daughter's teacher can get out of kids' fractional instruments. Of course there are some VSOs that just won't make any sound. But for a while we had a 1/2 size Eastman violin that sounded amazing in his hands.

May 7, 2018, 10:50 AM · I'd budget $1200 for the fiddle, $730 for a bow, and $70 for strings.

It's amazing what $1,000 can buy these days. Modern workshop instruments (mostly made in China, but some from Eastern Europe) can sound really good, but they've got to be properly set up with good quality strings. Sometimes the reason student instruments sound tinny is simply the cheap steel strings they come with.

You'll pay a bit more at your local violin shop, a couple hundred dollars more, but I think the benefits are worth it -- you can try out fiddles and bows and see what works for you. And you may be able to trade them in at the same shop years from now if you want to move up to a higher-end fiddle.

If you don't have a shop near you or don't feel good about your local shop (some shops don't want to sell low-cost instruments), you could try a reputable online dealer with tryout programs -- Shar or Johnson String Instruments or Southwest Strings are just examples. The disadvantage is the shipping costs can get expensive to try out fiddles.

For a bow, try out wood bows and see if you find anything you like, but do consider carbon bows from Codabow and JohnPaul in that price range, you may find carbon the best deal. Or have Shar or Johnson send you bows to try -- for bows the shipping costs for tryout are very reasonable.

May 7, 2018, 11:07 AM · Jane Kingsten said, "@birchall: Um... a under $6,000 “professionally built” violin from an unspecified luthier? "

Of course you are right. In UK and probably elsewhere there are some serious and experienced amateurs using good material and selling at the level, which might be an option, though finding and evaluating them is of course difficult. Until there is some sign that Ashley Roy has been back to read the answers to the opening question, I will say so no more, because for now we seem to be talking amongst ourselves.

May 7, 2018, 10:47 PM · Actually, I was following this thread with great interest since I am trying to buy a viola. It seems that very few luthiers have multiple violas on stock, but I did find one where I could try four. I'm renting one as an "extended trial period". Hopefully, my teacher will say that I made a good choice. (She's OK with me learning viola next to violin.)
May 8, 2018, 10:46 AM · @ Mary Ellen Goree- This is a great idea.

I Imagine it can be difficult to find some issues.The obvious things would be apparent right away to an experienced player.My issue affected the fingering and not the sound of the violin.

On my other violin the top was partially caved giving it a very dark sound.To me it looked fine because I didn't know what to look for.The difference was very small compared to a normal instrument.

May 8, 2018, 1:29 PM · So I played hooky from work today and went to a violin shop for a few hours. Using the advice of this thread, I brought my current violin and best bow. I tried out 8 different violins and 20 different bows. Alas, my pocket is happy to report that nothing felt or sounded like an upgrade; granted I stayed within within the prices I specified. I do encourage traveling a bit to try things out. There were some nice instruments, but I am glad that I brought my main violin.
May 9, 2018, 12:46 PM · If you want to buy a good violin, you should first try to figure out how much money you want to spend and than try to find the best violinmaker in your are or if you want to spend a whole lot of money, the best in your country or an auction hause for stringed instruments. there you try out at least 7 violins(everything under seven seems to low for how important this decision is). if possible, try out violins in a higher pricerange too, to find qualitys you can look for in the violins you could buy with your budged. you should primarily try to find a violin that sounds good to you. other things you should test are how responsive the violin is and how it's responed near the end of the fingerboard as well as phlageolet and a few doublestops or better playing a constant slow speed and playing doublestops in constant intervals(on one bow) by simply touching a second string. the third thing you should do is asking someone who has to do with music how the violin sounds when you play it. if you found your violin(hopefully below budget) you should try out a few bows that fit into what is left of your violin budget. if you also found a good bow for you, you should try to evaluate what you don't like about the tone of the violin(minor things only or you shouldn't buy the violin) and use a stringcompass to find suitable strings that make up for that (e.g. you'r new violin sounds a little bit too bright and has sound that isn't rich enough so you choose a set of trings that has a very rich sound and is on the darker side of the tonal spectrum) you should always try to get strings that are know to be very responsive if you can find some in the area of the spectrum where you want your strings to come from. if you are a beginner, just chooe a violin that has a sound you like and that you feel makes it easier for you to play on, but if you are a very good violinist, you should also practise a very hard piece that you can than try to play on the violins you are testing. i like to use the bach-chaconne for that because it has such a big variety of techniques that test almost every aspect of your bow, violin and of cause you(eccept very very high notes and phlageolet)
i know this comes a bit late but i hope it will help someone else... some day.

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