seeking top 3 bangForBuck 4/4 student violin recommendations

Edited: September 26, 2019, 3:14 PM · Looking for recommendations for 4/4 violin for my 11yr old daughter whose 1st instrument is piano. I am a guitar player and know very little about which makers produce the best bang for buck violins. I suppose I'm trying to find what violin makers could be as good as what Seagull is to steel-string acoustic guitars. She was happy with her cecelio cvn 500, but doesnt practice enough with it and has now outgrown it. I think she needs something that sounds better, or is perhaps more playable and/or forgiving.

Replies (16)

September 26, 2019, 9:55 AM · 99% response your gonna get is take her to a violin shop and try it out, even if you go by brands like i did in the past, 2 violin from the same brand will play and sound differently. violin shopping is very different from guitar. shopping by brands is a bad idea.
September 26, 2019, 10:14 AM · If you are in or near Chicago, as you pseudonym implies, the city is rich with violin dealers.

I suggest visiting violin shops with your daughter to try different violins. If her teacher can participate, that would be even better.

Purchase by sound and playability, not by brand.

Check out some bows too, because the chosen bow should match the violin.

Edited: September 26, 2019, 10:18 AM · Sounds like whatever you buy will fester in a cupboard. I'd get her a full-sized Cecilio with a view to getting something better if she does show any interest.
September 26, 2019, 10:43 AM · Laurie recently posted an informative explanation of "violin brands":
https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20199/27918/
Edited: September 26, 2019, 12:28 PM · If you do purchase another Cecilio, please make sure to take it to a competent violin maker for a proper set-up. It makes all the difference.
I've seen way too many of these at the beginning of this school year that are unplayable, untunable and unsalvageable at a reasonable cost.

As far as guitars are concerned, Seagulls are pretty pitiful. I'd at least want her to have a Taylor!

September 26, 2019, 3:23 PM · What price range? There are good buys in all ranges. Are we talking <$5000, or <$10,000? Or are we talking <$1000?
Edited: September 26, 2019, 3:33 PM · Thanks to all for the quick replies. Please be aware that I have an older child for whom we have huge medical expenses(USA). Ideally I dont want to go over 500 bucks. I fear visting shops will result in a major 'out of wallet experience'. She is a very good pianist, having been at it for almost 6 years, so Im not concerned about the instrument ending uo in the closet. Finally, I am quite happy with my Seagull S6 that I picked up for 200 bucks. It's not as nice as my 2000 dollar J45, but the J45 isnt 1800 bucks better(I liked only 1 taylor out of the 10 or so I tried out, and only 1 of 8 or so of the Gibsons or Martins).
Edited: September 26, 2019, 3:34 PM · Thanks to all for the quick replies. Please be aware that I have an older child for whom we have huge medical expenses(USA). Ideally, i want to stay under 500 bucks. I fear visting shops will result in a major 'out of wallet experience'. She is a very good pianist, having been at it for almost 6 years, so Im not concerned about the instrument ending uo in the closet. Finally, I am quite happy with my Seagull S6 that I picked up for 200 bucks. It's not as nice as my 2000 dollar J45, but the J45 isnt 1800 bucks better(I liked only 1 taylor out of the 10 or so I tried out, and only 1 of 8 or so of the Gibsons or Martins).
September 26, 2019, 3:36 PM · Check Shar in Ann Arbor. Or online.
Or consider renting a better fiddle.
A brand I’ve heard good things about is Kono.
September 26, 2019, 4:45 PM · @Doctor Chicago - check Fiddlershop.com. This is not a plug, and I am not associated with them in anyway. But I have been - and still am, a customer. They have in-house beginner violins under their own brand - Fiddlerman, that you may want to check out. They also do adjustments and check the setups on their violins before sending them out. They offer free shipping too.
September 26, 2019, 5:05 PM · Rent for a while as her ear will change.
September 27, 2019, 6:55 AM · A Kono is going to be well out of the price range -- they are around $2,500.

At $500 as the limit, you are better off renting, as you will get a better violin for less expense (and free upgrades to bigger sizes). Chicago has a huge and competitive rental market.

September 27, 2019, 11:36 AM · This topic comes up all the time. Could someone explain to me why two violins from the same "brand" (workshop instrument) and price category can sound very different, while for classical guitars this seems not to be the case? It would indicate that making (and setting up) a violin is much more tricky than making a classical guitar? I suppose this is then well known among luthiers? I've just never seen it explicitly said or written.
September 27, 2019, 3:36 PM · Jean,

Good question and correct observation. Laurie's blog explains the answer to it.

To the original poster, I am sorry to tell you that from my experience in the <500 range, all you are looking at is better and worse set-up instruments of the same basic caliber, unless you get really lucky and find a good old factory instrument. The good news is, a well-set up cheap instrument can be decent, but the right way to approach that is to try a bunch of instruments of the same brand and no brand in shops, and find one that sounds and feels good. It is mostly setup variables you're looking for at that price point, which means the philosophy of sound (and pricing) of the dealer.

But to take your Seagul analogy, I think the price point for that sort of place on the curve for violins is probably more in the 1000-3000 range for violins in the US. I have a new-bought ~$1200 Scott Cao 750 (bench made but in China) that I think is a good analogy to my wife's Seagull guitar, in that it is cost-effective, easy to play and makes a good and widely-appreciated sound. While you can find good instruments in the 500 range, I don't know of any formula to do so reliably, and I have only ever played one Scott Cao 750, so I don't actually know how variable they are, and for all violins, setup is everything. (Note that I bought from a local shop after trying in person, not online.)

September 27, 2019, 6:10 PM · The violins that I sell in my shop that are $500 are from Century Strings. They require a new bridge, tailpiece and strings, and sometimes the fingerboard needs work, as well as the nut. They leave enough peg to refit them rather than having to replace them. Eastman mdl 100/120 are the same. If you get one that has the "factory" set-up still in place a good luthier can make the instrument sound and play better.
I do filter through the instruments, and if there are problems with a violin that I purchase new, in this price range, I send it back for a replacement. Removing the fingerboard to lower the projection or raising the projection if it is too low is not something that i would do on instruments of this level, and we won't even discuss crooked necks. Also, in this price range, better bow makes all the difference, meaning a $150-200 bow instead of the non-rehairable, quite disposable bow-shaped objects that often show up with the fiddle.

Especially in this price range, set-up is very important, but if the instrument has a fundamental flaw-usually a too high projection or a badly warped/poorly shaped fingerboard, let it go and choose another. It is worth noting that the ebony in the fingerboards of these instruments is usually so poor that attempting to plane it simply leads to pain and suffering on both our parts. A decent fingerboard blank costs me 50 bucks, and the nice ones are closer to and exceed $100.

September 28, 2019, 1:14 PM · Many thanks to all once again; you've all been beyond helpful. For better or worse, Ive decided to roll the dice with the fiddlerman, and if that doesnt work out, sell my J45 and hit the 2 good shops i know of here in minneapolis, and/or take a weekend trip to chicago to find something there(my user name comes from having married into a gang of russians and being too fat fingered for my phone)


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