Loaning an instrument to a student

Edited: November 5, 2019, 3:40 AM · Hi there

I’ve got a student that has been progressing very well over recent months, and we’ve reached a point where she needs a better instrument. However, her parents are not in a position to invest in a better one just yet (better not bigger). Said student is already on a full size violin.

However, I’ve got an instrument that is better and more suitable for the ability level at which she’s at, and I would quite like to lend her this instrument for the time being.

Has anyone ever done this, if so, what safety points have you put in place, are there any contracts you’ve ever used? Who should take care of the insurance? I trust the family implicitly, close friends, so I’m not worried about them doing a disappearing act with it.

Thanks in advanced!

Edit - loan to lend.

No intention to charge money!

Replies (38)

November 4, 2019, 12:20 PM · I haven't, but I would charge them for usage of it. Not an extorniate amount, but enough. I would say as its your instrument, you should insure it, but I'd suggest that whatever you charge them covers (part of) the cost
November 4, 2019, 1:00 PM · Same price as your local luthier charges for renting an instrument.
November 4, 2019, 1:24 PM · I once loaned my cheapest violin to an exchange student. After two weeks she stopped coming to lessons. When I finally got it back it had plastic strips glued on to the fingerboard. I had a Luthier clean it up. Solution: Tell them to rent a fiddle from the local music store.
November 4, 2019, 1:47 PM · If they are close friends, and you have been teaching this student a while, loaning the instrument should be OK. I borrowed an instrument from my former teacher for just over a year before I could buy my own. I added it to my homeowner's insurance for a nominal amount during the time I used it. However, that was for my own peace of mind, not by request. I have since loaned instruments to that same teacher for use by other students with no problems. Those were insured by me, and if they were also insured by the borrowing parties, I wasn't informed of it. If it makes you feel better to have a written contract, then write one up and have them sign it.
Edited: November 4, 2019, 3:43 PM · Look at the Barton-Pine Foundation's instrument agreement form (They loan out high-end instruments). You could use the same agreement, it's got a lot of interesting clauses.

I would not charge them. You are putting this requirement upon them, and you are being incredibly gracious to loan the instrument.

My teacher in high school insisted I play her instrument in concerts because mine was garbage. I always appreciated her generosity and kindness.

Here is the link to the agreement:

November 4, 2019, 4:04 PM · "Care of the Varnish...The only areas you may touch are the neck and external hardware." That's pretty unrealistic, cellos especially.
Edited: November 4, 2019, 4:55 PM · If they're not in a position to invest in a better instrument right now, how do you know that they would be in a position to rent? Chances are they are not in a position to afford either one of those options.

I've given violins to friends and relatives in the past. But only because I was buying a new one, and needed to clear out space in the music room (lol).

IMHO, if you decide to "lend" an instrument to someone, it better be an instrument that you won't feel too bad if something bad happens to it... just my biased, uneducated opinion...

November 4, 2019, 4:23 PM · The obvious concern is to be clear about expectations and responsibilities. Who is responsible for damages or even loss? Who is responsible for care and maintenance? For instance, lets say the student puts on a brand new set of strings, and surrenders the instrument a couple weeks later, and then claims for a refund toward the cost of the new strings? What are your expectations in terms of care? Do you mind if the student isn't maintaining proper storage conditions? What about dings or varnish damage? So as long as you have a clear mutual understanding of your expectations and agreement (signed) up front, I'd say go ahead.
Edited: November 4, 2019, 7:57 PM · How about this. Rent it to her at a rate her family can afford. However, place the rental fee in a savings account. When that account hits an agreed upon number so a better violin can be purchased, she returns the violin, give her the money, and help her select her own instrument.
November 4, 2019, 5:52 PM · Michael's idea is a good one
November 4, 2019, 5:59 PM · I like Michael's idea! I've loaned instruments before, but it was not expensive, and just for a week so I could change her strings. She was 10 at the time.

I've been loaned an English horn by a former teacher for solo festivals, and haven't paid. But it's up to you! I personally wouldn't charge, especially if you're requiring her to save for a new instrument.

November 4, 2019, 6:28 PM · If I were you I would not lend this student one of your instruments.

If the family is not in a position to buy the student a better instrument how will they be in a position to replace the instrument if the insurance policy they get says "Gee, that situation wasn't covered by your policy?" How much will the insurance cost them? Will they be able to buy insurance for an instrument they don't own? Since they're borrowing it, it won't be covered by their homeowner's policy, most likely. They should check with their insurance agent, and whatever coverage they get would need to be in writing, printed out for you to have a copy of, including their policy number.

If you rent it to them your business relationship suddenly changes and your insurance policy which covers the instrument right now may not be valid if the violin becomes a rentable property.

And it doesn't matter how "ironclad" whatever agreement you get them to sign, do you really have money to hire a lawyer to take them to court if some of the provisions haven't been honored and the situation becomes a "you say / they say" argument over a nick in the body of the violin.

Having a big heart and wanting to do what's best for our students isn't always an asset when it comes to lending out instruments.

Consider what might be the worst outcome. Would you be prepared for that situation?

What my wife and I have observed over the years is that families that we've been kind to in ways such as giving a scholarship or two of free lessons to a family which might have 4 students studying with us, will take their family on a vacation to DisneyWorld. Having been to DisneyWorld ourselves, we know that to take the 2 parents and the 4 kids there that family could easily have paid for the lessons we were giving for free. I mention this because that family might actually be able to afford to buy a better instrument for that student but might be choosing to put their cash elsewhere, especially knowing that you might be a soft touch and will let the student borrow a better instrument they won't have to pay much or anything for.

I hate to be a doomsayer but there are too many possible pitfalls that could ruin an otherwise great teacher/student relationship, especially where you say the family are friends of yours.

Edited: November 4, 2019, 7:30 PM · David your observation is, unfortunately, not uncommon. I have given free food and lodging to "needy" international students only to find out later that his/her parent(s) were making more than 4 times my annual income, and then the student flew thousands of miles just to see a friend for a week. So much for the needy part I thought, and how unfortunate as there are truely needy students out there that could have benefited immensely more.
November 4, 2019, 9:17 PM · I've been burned once and learned my lesson. I sold a nice 1/2-size violin for $300 when I could have asked twice that. The family cried poor. After selling it to them I saw them drive off in a $70,000 car.

However, whether you loan an instrument, and whether you ask for a small rental fee, depends on your specific relationship with your student and his or her family. Sure there is risk. But there is reward too. Do what you feel is right and that's that.

Edited: November 5, 2019, 12:06 AM · I suggest sending the family to a violin shop that rents out good violins ($2,000+). You don't want something to go wrong and for it to negatively affect your relationship with this family and/or your student.
November 5, 2019, 1:34 AM · Only once to a college student, and he made the most of it for sure. But that was truly an exception.
Edited: November 5, 2019, 3:17 AM · As a parent, i am sitting at the opposite side of this teacher/student relation. Please don't get me wrong; i understand where most of you are coming from and find them justified even. But i also feel that some replies were disturbingly cold.

Generally, i agree with @Paul. It should depend on the relation with your student and his/her parents.

We are currently in a similar situation:

My daughter was invited and is scheduled to perform with one of the most reputable orchestras in our country between april and mid june next year. One of those events would be a really high profile one due to a clash with a national holiday.


Upgrading to a regular size intrument was already due somewhere around next summer. But given the situation, her 3/4 violin would in no way cut through a full size orchestra. Therefore her teacher decided to make the upgrade sooner and gave my daughter her former violin.

For about a month, she is practicing with it, getting used to the size while enjoying the convenience of a much better instrument. Besides this, her teacher informed us that she will be giving my daughter her primary violin for the upcoming events.

Now; she didn't want us to sign anything for this. She didn't ask any amount of money. It is just out of good will. Coming from a teacher who still has great passion for her profession and cares about her student.

Of course; we are not inconsidered people either. We take good care of her instrument. My daughter tries her best to live up to her trust and commitement, making her proud. We totaly assume responsibilty for anything that might happen to the instrument on our watch as parents.

Also, better finances does not actually equate unlimited opportunities. Some of you as teachers should already know, how expensive is the process of violin playing. Let me give you an example from our experience:

My daughter takes private violin, music theory and solfege lessons. We have to work with our accompanist(a lot) whenever we are to polish a piece or prepare for an event or a competition.

Due to heavy use and sweaty hands, her equipment requires much more frequent maintainance and replacements.

Low profile concerts and recitals arranged between a group of our teacher's students to boost confidence and experience. 5-10 a year...We as parents pay for the place, the accompanist and the orchestra members if needed.

At least 2 international competitions from this year onward. Just the attendance fee and the preperation for the preliminary recording requires considerable amount of resources. I don't even mention actually going to those competitions. Tickets, accompanist, recording, plane, passports, visa, hotel etc...

To summerize; it takes around 3-4 times the minimum wage in our country. In fact even more depending on how the season goes. This is with her not studying at a music school of any kind. I don't even mention about her regular education because its irrelevant to her violin playing.

So yes, our finances are better than our teachers. But that does not mean i could buy a 15,000 to 50,000$ dollar violin like its nothing. Even a 5000$ one... Or it doesn't mean i couldn't use and appreciate a couple of free lessons. And those are given by the teacher as a reward for her hardwork and progress not because we are presenting ourselves needy and being deceptive.

Questioning what place we live, which car we drive, where we spend our holiday etc. are irrelevant. This is as long as we are not acting cheap and demand favors. Not everyone is that shallow like mentioned in some of the posts.

On paper, it's totaly fine and acceptable protecting your asset with some binding agreement. But given our relation; if our teacher came up with some kind of a loan agreement for the example i have given; i would find it odd, offensive and outright insulting. That attitude would not/should not be a product of our mutual friendship, respect and trust to our relation over the years.

November 5, 2019, 3:39 AM · I think I used the wrong word, loan instead of lend. I wasn’t intending to charge money at all! I’ll fix that in my original post now.
I’m dedicated to this student so I really want to help her out where I can, and she works extremely hard.

No money will change hands apart from the usual lesson fee (already reduced because of their situation and I am in a fortunate position to be able to offer reduced rates for some students).

Michael, I love that idea, and would bare that in mind in the future if I ever felt the need to charge a rental fee.

I’m based in the UK, and while we have local luthiers, not all of them offer rental options of nicer instruments, it’s generally the basic student models, which are ideal for beginners, but this young lady is progressing into the upper grades very quickly.

The reward for me is that I get to hear an instrument played, that hasn’t been played for a goof while, and my student is able to benefit from a violin which matches her ability level far better than her current instrument.

The violin is currently at my local luthier for an adjustment and general service (I am footing the bill for this).

Roger - that is handy to all think about thank you. I am chatting to the family over this anyway, so I’ll bring this up in the next lesson.

In terms of something bad happening, I doubt that would happen, but I know ifs a possibility. My student does care for her instrument very well, I’m sure the same would happen with this violin.

Thanks for the pointers everyone!

November 5, 2019, 8:41 PM · I am an ordinary parent with an ordinary kid. I think things like places to go for holiday and cars to drive are quite relevant in this context. If parents can afford the luxury, they should pay for tuitions and rentals, just as they should pay for dinners at restaurants. Yes, the financial side of parenting is hard, but teachers are no easier and can be harder. To be honest, my partner is reluctant to let my kid choose violin as a career mostly because she thinks musicians are underpaid for their life-long efforts.
Edited: November 5, 2019, 10:03 PM ·

I think you are doing a noble thing loaning a violin to a worthy young student. Through out history, patrons have helped rising talents with selfless assistance. After all,
Paganini acquired his Guarneri
Cannone when someone lent him a violin to use and refused to take the fiddle back. As long as you stipulate it's only a loan, it is a
good deed, IMHO.

November 6, 2019, 12:22 AM · I think Roger's advice to put together a document with clear care and expectations is a good idea. You'll want to specify what maintenance they should do and what they should NOT do. You want to lay out any rules, like not leaving the instrument in a car under any circumstances. And you may want to add if that at any time the instrument suffers damage or might have done so, that you want to be contacted immediately day or night at XXX phone number.
Edited: November 6, 2019, 2:44 AM · Go for it!

Loaning instruments is a given with my group - families round here can't afford them (even though they often take family holidays across the world to visit grandparents and extended family every year - their family choice of where to put their savings shouldn't impact on a child's opportunity for musical progress, especially if it one musical kid in a large family). I find the parents to be extremely grateful and appreciative.

Because mine are beginner instruments I have not insured them, but I do get the parents to sign a form that states replacement costs. I'm aware they probably wouldn't be able to pay, but knowing the value makes them treat it better.

The only problem I had was with a good bow loaned after I'd changed schools and she started private lessons. A couple of years later when I needed it back, it was almost impossible to get her to take it to school before she graduated. I did eventually get it back but it took a lot of hard work and good will on the part of one of the head teachers. I wouldn't advise loaning to anyone you're not actively teaching.

Whether or not you use some type of contract, if yours is a valuable instrument/bow, make sure it's covered by someone's insurance (get an up to date valuation first) just in case.

But by all means go for it. She gets a nice instrument and had more fun practising and you get the satisfaction of watching her progress.

November 6, 2019, 3:07 AM · @David

My post was an objection against the generalization of a certain stereotype.

Well, I obviously don't see myself fit into that. So this got me thinking...

How would i feel?(referencing to the example on my post)

If our teacher came up with papers and clauses like i was dealing with the "Nippon Foundation" for her unknown 19th century German workshop violin.

Again; i am going to repeat what i have said earlier. On paper; everything is good and justified. The teacher has every right both legally and morally. But you know what; i have too as a parent. I could also attribute every bad experience i had to our relation with my daughter's teacher and act accordingly to cover our interests.

What good would that do, apart from upsetting a wonderfull human being making her feel worthless. Just like how the opposite would make me feel.

While still a business; teaching might be one of the most delicate and intimate professions out there. While focusing on covering potential damages and interests, one could also hurt and make a lot of good people upset on the way.

That is not a good way to conduct a business of which its main focus is people. Also it's not a good way to maintain healty relations either.

Therefore "Context" i believe should be the key and the main focus.

Edited: November 6, 2019, 3:35 AM · There are specialist insurances out there for musical instruments in use (I took mine out on the recommendation of my then Luthiers, Ealing Strings, who more recently closed shop), and one can add a clause to cover use by another person. They should pay the difference between that specialist insurance premium and what you are currently paying to keep the instrument at home, unless, of course, you want to make a gift of that money to that family, in addition to the loan of the instrument. Other than that, I can see no caveats.
Edited: November 6, 2019, 5:29 AM · Lydia - those are some good suggestions thanks you.

John R - I hadn’t thought of getting an up to date valuation, I’ve asked my luthier to do this while they’ve got the instrument. I have a fairly good idea of its value though. I generally insure with Allianz, they’re a good insurance company and have been fabulous for years.

We’ve agreed they will cover the insurance of the instrument, strings (dominants) and the bridge (should it warp or fall etc).
Any structural issues, such as seams and what not, will come under me, since it’s my instrument, and those sorts of repairs can be ghastly in cost. This violin has never had a structural issue though, so I’m not overly worried. But of course, it can happen!

This has all been really helpful, thank you.

Myself, I benefitted from being lent a fabulous violin in my teenage years, and then my parents and I were in a position to buy it. I still play it! My student will be lent a similar instrument, so I’m really excited to be able to do this. A pay it forward kind of thing. I’m also exited to hear this instrument played again. I don’t like to think of nice violins not being played.

In a few years, I think we will be looking into music trusts for a good instrument, there are a few about. I know her parents are putting money away for a college instrument, if my student chooses to take that route. I’m not sure if music conservatories in the UK loan instruments to their students? Perhaps someone else knows.

November 6, 2019, 5:15 AM · This notion that a family's choice where to put their savings shouldn't affect a child's opportunity for musical progress seems preposterous. Of course it should -- if they value traveling across the world, even to see extended family (why doesn't the extended family visit them?) more than their child's musical progress, how does it morally become the responsibility of a music teacher to ensure that the child makes musical progress?

This notion that music teachers should be a charity whenever a student needs something that the family is unwilling or unable to buy has always baffled me.

I'd love to live in a nicer house, but nobody's giving me one at no cost or lending me one at no cost in an open-ended, contract-free manner.

I'd love to play a more expensive violin than I currently have but no violin dealer or violin owner or luthier is willing to lend me one free of charge and with no written contract.

Why does it become the responsibility of the music teacher to ensure that someone else's child use a better instrument at no charge?

November 6, 2019, 5:34 AM · I don’t see it as a responsibility, this is something I want to do. Not only are they good friends of mine, but I have a genuine interest in their children, I want to see them succeed. They are a breadline family, financially, but sadly qualify for very little support from the government. Both parents work, the children are in school, work hard, well behaved. Not that behaviour has anything to do with this.

I benefitted in the past from a generous gesture such as this, why shouldn’t they?

Edited: November 6, 2019, 8:51 AM · I really appreciate Ali K's comments. What a thoughtful and considerate person.

People lend one another cars all the time. These are expensive items, usually worth more than a child's violin.

"Hey can I take your $50,000 pickup truck to Lowe's for some lumber?"

"Sure but first please sign this agreement first." That never happens between neighbors who know one another.

Probably a little discussion about proper care will be fine, just to say "clean cloth only, no Hill compound" and such. That can be done in the context of explaining the violin's peculiarities to the child.

To the OP: Both your brain and your heart are telling you the same thing, right?

November 6, 2019, 5:51 AM · My heart and brain do say the same thing. My heart was first, my head had to think about the logistics of it all!

Discussions about violin care is something I do with students straight away, no radiators, no cars, no direct sunlight or cold conservatory, keep it in your bedroom during the week etc. And absolutely no furniture polish!
To the parents, don’t leave it in cars, or next to radiators.

I think she’ll enjoy the experience, and she’s getting a pick of cases too. I’ve got a couple I don’t use (and one is stripy!).

Ali K - sounds like an exciting experience for your daughter, good for her!

November 6, 2019, 8:17 AM · @Paul

Thank you for your kind and generous comments.

@M Zilpah

I really admire and appreciate your point of view and approach on the matter. Such a noble act which i believe would not go unnoticed and underappreciated.

Edited: November 6, 2019, 12:02 PM · @M Zilpah, Bravo! I believe not only will your student remember this act of kindness, but it could very well inspire her to work harder. And who knows, it may even inspire her to make the same kind gesture and generosity to a budding violinist in the future.

On a different thought:

I agree with some of the posts;not all situation merit respect and trust. There will always be people/parents who feel "entitled", and would have no qualms about burdening a teacher or other people with their own financial woes, and therefore take advantage of one's kindness and generosity towards them.

At the end of the day, it boils down to discerning who to help, who not to help, how much you want to help, how much one can afford to help, and if helping someone is really viable and helpful to the one you are trying to help.

Just my .02 cents worth of opinion.

November 6, 2019, 9:30 AM · David wrote, "Why does it become the responsibility of the music teacher to ensure that someone else's child use a better instrument at no charge?"

I don't recall that anyone said it was. But you're a music teacher too, right? Don't you ever feel the urge (call it responsibility if you must) to do something a little outside the crisply drawn box of what you're specifically paid to do? Doesn't everyone feel this from time to time? Nobody is saying that specific acts of pure kindness should be expected of someone, but on the other hand we should be alarmed when they spontaneously occur.

November 6, 2019, 10:01 AM · There absolutely are a lot of people out there that are entitled, self deserving, think they’re better than everyone else. Thankfully, I’ve not come across this in my students (parents maybe), but my students are humble, kind and fantastic citizens of the world, and I love being a part of shaping that.

“Why does it become the responsibility of the music teacher to ensure that someone else's child use a better instrument at no charge?"

I have no responsibility to provide a better instrument for this youngster, I want to. I don’t think that’s a bad thing (from what I’ve read here, it’s praised!). (thanks everyone).
But that also doesn’t mean I can or will do it for every student of mine. I expect there will be a parent who goes, “what about my precious...” sort of thing. At which point, I will explain, she’s a budding and talented student and ready for an upgrade.

November 7, 2019, 5:16 PM · No one can answer the question but the OP. Mr Zilpah you have to decide based on how well you know the student, their level of responsibility, their financial situation. The people here don't know your student, you do. If you don't know the student well enough then I assume you have your answer. I suspect you learned a few tips, and received essentially blind opinions because the answer lies in the behavior of one specific person, of which you have the most knowledge.
November 8, 2019, 7:22 PM · I have several times loaned an instrument to a student. Usually a 3/4 size I like, with the conversation that the family should save to buy a full-size violin the next year. I also have a full-size I have loaned in the same way when I see someone spending money to rent when they need to save to buy instead. It has always worked out perfectly, with no contracts; though usually the family adds the instrument to their homeowners' insurance. It is a nice way to encourage a student who really practices, and shows the parents their child is worth investing in.
If a student has an important performance, I do loan them my instrument, as very few can afford one good enough to be heard with orchestra.
Edited: November 9, 2019, 12:01 PM · M Zilpah, now you've told me you're with Allianz, I can tell you that my insurance, recommended by my then luthier(s), is a British Reserve insurance, since taken over by Allianz.
November 9, 2019, 9:24 AM · Insurance? Everyone will say no no no, but the first person to contact for an informative conversation is the agent for your homeowner's insurance. You might be surprised by what they can offer you. Make sure to ask about theft, damage, and "mysterious disappearance." A theft is only considered theft if a police report is filed and *they* determine that a theft occurred.
November 11, 2019, 11:02 PM · I've borrowed instruments from teachers in the past, and always paid for their maintenance, never for their usage, though. Their value was more on the lower side, so they weren't insured, but certainly if it were something more valuable I would have insured it.

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