Fractional sized violins

November 10, 2019, 1:56 PM · Hi,

I would appreciate any recommendations people have on quality fractional sized violins. My son currently has a 1/10 I bought online and it sounds pretty good. But he'll have a few sizes to go so I'm interested in opinions on the best options.



Replies (14)

November 10, 2019, 3:39 PM · Your best bet is to go to a "local" violin shop. Most shops will either apply some of the money you pay on rental to a violin purchase. And often will apply some or all of the price of a violin purchase toward an upgrade.
November 10, 2019, 4:24 PM · Agree, rent from a local shop that will apply a portion of the rental to a future purchase.
November 10, 2019, 5:18 PM · Just read the fine print and don't hesitate to ask questions if anything is unclear.
November 10, 2019, 6:08 PM · Ditto on local shops, I'll explain a caveat in a bit. At that age/level, a violin bought online from a reputable seller (not talking about the bottom of the barrel VSOs from general retailers) can be acceptable. However, you have 4 more fractionals then a full size and at some point you want to stop collecting the middling types. Many(?) local shops allow trade in credit on purchases, so if you are ready to buy the 1/8, you can later pay a little amount for the 1/4, for the 1/2, etc. At the end you've spent a comparable amount but had the use of a decent instrument vs. possibly a bunch of lesser ones. (This assumes the shop stays in business and has or can get something you want.)

The caveat: I'm by no means an expert but at times find myself questioning certain obvious things such as the strings seem high to the fingerboard or suspicious(?) string angles at the bridge. Sticking or slipping pegs can be a DIY fix at least but for example, it's happened multiple times that a violin is unusually "squeaky" or "fuzzy" and I don't think it's entirely attributable to the fact that it's being played by a beginner. I say unusual meaning I hear lots of beginner rentals and for shops frequented by multiple students, have a sample size of what is "typical".

Parent goes back with the feedback and returns with a different violin and I just wonder if that means the shop does that to expedite service (not make them wait or come back for adjustment or repair) and works on the violin later, or if they put it directly back into the rental inventory to pass to another unsuspecting client. So it still does help to be informed, have your teacher have your back, etc.

November 10, 2019, 6:11 PM · Thanks for the replies. I'm saving all the smaller violins for baby sister so not interested in renting or trading in at this point. I am curious which small student model instruments have a better sound.
November 10, 2019, 6:38 PM · I'll let others comment on models that they have experience with. Before I started pushing for families to use local shops, the online purchases tended to be from Shar (whose violins still sometimes came with setup issues, it seems). I like Laurie's article on "violin brands":
November 10, 2019, 7:03 PM · Thanks Mengwei. That is a good article. I bought the last violin a Southwest Strings and as mentioned am pretty happy with it for the level. But I can see quality mattering more and more as he progresses.
November 10, 2019, 8:44 PM · What can happen with siblings is you might get a certain "level" of violin that is suitable for what older brother is doing for the time that he uses it. Little sister hears all the music early, maybe starts earlier, maybe grows a little slower physically, and by the time she is at that size, maybe "needs a better violin" than what older brother had. Of course, that is a long way off, very hypothetical, many things could happen differently.

In my experience, children are most likely to take the longest time at 1/4 size. For 1/2 and 3/4 it depends on growth spurt timing. For the smaller violins, if a lower quality is truly holding you back, it's not terrible to make a decision to upgrade the same size or to make do for a year and move on quickly. I do think it's a shame when a child has "maxed out" his violin or is close and the family gets the next size at the "same quality" that doesn't readily support his next stage of learning.

November 10, 2019, 9:05 PM · Speaking from experience, not all siblings will be happy learning the particular instrument the parent has chosen.

I started all of mine on violin at very early ages. One by one they got to 5th grade and let me know how much they hated the violin. #1 switched to double bass; #2 to oboe; #3 to flute. All succeeded admirably on their chosen instruments.

In retrospect I wish I had been more open earlier to the idea that they might have their own preferences with regard to instrument played.

November 10, 2019, 9:26 PM · Mary Ellen, I guess if they want to break my heart or don't have exquisite taste they can always switch to another instrument... :) I will do my best to instill my love of the violin to them but of course they will do with it what they will. My son is already very fond of piano too. Could be worse.
November 10, 2019, 10:54 PM · If you can find a shop that offers 100% trade-in, then you can simply return the instrument when you size up. I would rather deal with that than selling when both siblings are done.
Edited: November 11, 2019, 12:14 AM · There are many sets of sibings who play the same instrument happily e.g brother and sister happily study the violin. If you want to save the violins for the younger siblings, I suggest buying rather than renting. As for which brands are better, every violin is unique. Violins with the same brand/model name tend to sound similar but not the same. Another factor is what i available in your region and how much each violin costs. It is always best to buy violins in person, esecially if you desire the best sounding instrument and you are an experienced player.
November 11, 2019, 2:02 PM · Having gone through a lot of very well set-up (by local Luthier) fractional violins, I will say that hands down the best ones we had in 1/10, 1/8, and 1/4 were Eastman brand. Nothing was good in the 1/16 size! Once we got to half size, things started getting trickier.
November 11, 2019, 3:47 PM · If budget allows it, Jay Haide à l'ancienne comes in fractional sizes.

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