1st Violin for 4yo girl

December 21, 2019, 9:25 AM · I'm new here so I hope this is the appropriate forum for this question.

My wife and I are considering purchasing a beginner violin for our four year old girl. My wife (the musician [me, not so much]) suggests a 1/8, but neither of us know much more than that as far as where to begin. I suggested, to encourage more interest that we try to find one in pink, but as you can imagine, most of those seem a bit "toy-ish."

So the question is, "where do we begin?" Can we find a decent pink violin somewhere? Do we bite the bullet and just buy a more typical wood look? In the back of my mind I'm thinking, "If she doesn't take to it, I don't want to have wasted the money on a good instrument." Of course, we can sell it, but not nearly for it's new value I'm sure.

Thank you very much for any input.


Replies (19)

Edited: December 21, 2019, 9:53 AM · 1. Please, do not buy a pink violin. What will make a violin pink will also spoil its sound quality. The size of the violin you buy should depend on the length of her left arm - so measure the distance from her neck to the palm of her left hand extended in front of her - the violin should be that long from the "bottom" (at the chinrest) to the end of the scroll.

2. Does your daughter know anything about violins? Show her some pictures and videos of people playing beautiful music on violins - some music she will like.

I was given my first violin by my grandfather for my 4th birthday (81 years ago). My father was an avid amateur violinist so I actually played my violin (or played around with it) for 6 months before my first lesson. My father never even tried to teach me, but in my teen years (after I had stopped lessons) he gave me advice , but only when I requested it.

I still play - and viola and cello too.

December 21, 2019, 10:08 AM · I think you would be best served by first finding a teacher. One that has experience with that age can help you decide on a suitable size. You can then chose to rent, purchase new, or see if a nice used one is available somewhere. A violin without a proper teacher will lead to a mountain of frustration.
December 21, 2019, 10:12 AM · As a carpenter, I can definitely appreciate your aversion towards a colored instrument. And the affect to the sound makes perfect sense.

We will do a little more investigating into her potential interest and then take some measurements for fit. She hasn't shown any interest in or against any specific instrument. But mommy plays gigs almost daily and obviously practices at home quite often and our daughter loves to sing and play "air" instruments.

My wife says she can teach her piano and guitar and would like her to learn violin at an early age, but is unable to teach her. That's where this is all coming from.

Thank you very much for your input!

December 21, 2019, 10:18 AM · I'm concerned about the frustration as well, Timothy. My personality was not conducive to musical instruments because I couldn't play it the first time I picked it up. I wanted instant gratification, so I didn't stick with any instruments I started.

As it turns out, this is going to be a gift from the grandparents who are determined to get this for Christmas, so the instrument will come before the teacher. But I do agree that it would be a better idea to put one in her hands before purchasing, but grandparents can be stubborn. lol

December 21, 2019, 10:28 AM · 1/8 might be too big for a 4 year old
Edited: December 21, 2019, 10:34 AM · Oh, I see! that is a tough one to navigate. While it is a very heartfelt gift, it is not an ideal situation. Things that can help are exchange policies, understanding of all parties, and some hoping for the best. I do applaud that you are nurturing her musical interests. It is a very beneficial enhancement to life.
Edited: December 21, 2019, 10:41 AM · Timothy Jayne gave you the right info. Get a teacher. Suzuki programs are generally good because in addition to private lessons there are group lessons which is good for social interaction. Make sure the teacher is a certified Suzuki teacher. https://suzukiassociation.org/find-a-suzuki-teacher/ is useful. Also, don't buy, rent from a reputable instrument dealer. Perhaps ask the grandparents to pay for the rental, rather than buying.An example of a good shop in Houston, for instance is Lisle Violins. https://violins.com/ .

Whatever you do, a parent should not teach the child. Young children are very adept at manipulating parents.

December 21, 2019, 10:58 AM · You have gotten good advice.
1. A 1/8 is likely to be too big for a four-year-old.
2. Please, please, PLEASE do not get the violin before the teacher. Line up a good teacher and enlist her help and recommendations in getting a violin. This will almost certainly entail *renting* a good quality fractional (NOT PINK) from a reputable shop, with a credit accumulating for the time when your daughter is large enough to buy her a full-size (probably around age 11).
3. See number 2. If the grandparents are resistant, appeal to their desire to do what is best for their granddaughter.
4. Pink, purple, or other colored children's violins are of low quality and will frustrate your daughter.
5. See number 2.
Edited: December 21, 2019, 12:19 PM · As a teacher, I agree with everyone saying find a teacher first and renting a violin. However, if the grandparents are determined to buy a violin, I would suggest a Franz Hoffman Amadeus outfit from Shar music. Unless your daughter is very tall for her age, I would suggest a 1/16th size (very few 4 year olds in my experience, are big enough for a 1/8th violin).
December 21, 2019, 12:35 PM · Can the grandparents be persuaded with something like: there are very many options of violins out there, you want to check with a teacher to make sure the one you're buying will be helpful to her learning, not make it more difficult?

Most of my 4 year olds start on 1/10 size and occasionally someone is taller or shorter than typical (or the violin that they got that is labeled 1/10 is larger or smaller than typical). Typical time on 1/10, especially if they were on the early end of the size range, is around 1.5 years. "How much violin" you need for that period of time would be a good discussion to have with the teacher.

"If she doesn't take to it, I don't want to have wasted the money on a good instrument."
A natural thought but consider this: replace "a good instrument" with "tuition". Cost of the teacher's professional expertise is the lion's share, for 1.5 years probably 5-10x the cost of the violin. I don't mean you should overbuy or not look for a good value, but keep in mind that you can work with the teacher on how to support and motivate her, and having proper working equipment will be part of that.

Edited: December 21, 2019, 9:00 PM · I remember going to my local violin shop years ago, and the lady from the shop was showing a young boy and his mother the different instruments in the shop. She showed him a violin, and played some tunes for him. She then showed him a cello, and again the lady from the shop played some tunes for him on the cello. I believe the boy ultimately chose the cello.

If it’s feasible, perhaps a field trip to a local music shop might be valuable. If anything, it could be a learning experience for you and your child. And if she happens to like the violin, then that’s fantastic, and you will be in the right place for her to pick one, whether it’s a rental or own.

My children started violin lessons in the Suzuki method when they were 4yrs old. They told us they wanted to play because they hear me play all the time. I believe we started them with 1/16 rental. They now own their own violins; one is using a 3/4 and the other a 1/2. My child who owns a 1/2 have little butterflies professionally painted on it, and does not appear to affect the sound.

Good luck to you and your child. Playing an instrument should be an enriching experience for her.

Edited: December 22, 2019, 12:36 PM · A quality, full-service string instrument shop will have a rental/exchange or rent-to-buy program, that builds some cash value and allows you to trade up in sizes as she grows. They can also help choose the correct size to start. It is better to have an instrument too small than too large.
December 21, 2019, 1:49 PM · My youngest started on a pink FOAM violin, which is a great option for learning posture and playing around with the idea of the violin. I'm only seeing them in blue right now, but you can see the idea here: https://www.young-musicians.com/Foamalin-TM-Pre-Twinkle-Violin-Trainer-Bow-p/fg2.htm

Beyond that, please follow the advice of everyone above. Get a teacher, get the child properly sized, and rent a good fractional when the teacher says it is time.

Edited: December 21, 2019, 3:27 PM · What everyone above said.

FYI, my little one was on a 1/10 when she was 4. She has always been on the tall side (90+ percentile for girls).

She is an only grandchild on my side so my parents spoil her rotten. A lot of times, it's easier to just let them but sometimes, we politely but firmly decline when it conflicts with our parenting values. I think this situation falls more into the first category. If it's your in-laws, your wife probably can direct them to a good reputable store that has a generous trade-in policy.

December 21, 2019, 3:32 PM · Speaking as a violinist and the parent of a child who just turned 4 and started Suzuki violin lessons a few weeks before his birthday:

Get the teacher first. I second the recommendation for Suzuki. There is no such thing as a Suzuki "certified" teacher, but do look one who has had formal training (use the SAA's teacher finder to see who is in your area). I recommend strongly considering a Suzuki community program, which tends to provide useful structure and the peer group of kids of similar age and level that's very motivating (and socially fun) for kids doing Suzuki.

The teacher will tell you where to RENT a violin. Kids at this age outgrow violins pretty fast, and rental gives you the flexibility to change sizes whenever you need. Most good shops do a program by which the money you pay in rental accumulates over the years, and you can eventually use it to purchase a violin, which you probably will not want to do until your kid reaches a full-size violin around puberty. Rent the best violin the shop can offer you. Take the insurance plan, too, which they usually offer. Kids are dangerous. For a 4-year-old. fiberglass or carbon-fiber bow. not wood.

Also, different teachers have different preferences in sizing. My fast-growing kid is the size of a typical 5-year-old, and by the typical cup-the-scroll-with-bent-elbow test, a 1/10 size is perfect. But this particular teacher prefers kids begin with undersized instruments because they are easier for them to manage. So she asks that the measurement be done so the wrist is at the end of the scroll, arm slightly bent, which means a 1/16. (Which I was vaguely frustrated by, because the relative internal air volume is so much less that the 1/16 sounds much less good than the 1/10.) But the logic is sound and indeed the 1/16 is a bit easier to start on.

Do NOT get a pink one. Paint instead of a proper varnish destroys the sound even more, and it's already problematic on a tiny violin. I rented from a good shop and I still needed them to make some adjustments to get a really playable set-up (including having them switch out the chinrest for the correct one for my kid's jaw shape, and the teacher actually just takes the chinrests off entirely for beginners, who get a foam pad on top instead because it's easier for them to get used to the feel of something there).

December 21, 2019, 6:58 PM · Hm. My son's first violin at age 3,5 was 1/16, and he had it for almost two years, then 1/8 for half a year, 1/4 for a year now, and we are about to switch to 1/2.

Both 1/16 and 1/8 were from China within 50$ for the set, but taken to local shop for new bridge and strings. With work of 50$ plus to each violin. According to his teacher until 1/4 none violin resonates much anyway, and thus, it can be anything, even a board, but it has to be of proper size, shape and set-up for developing good posture and basic habits.

From 1/4 we were advised to look for a master violin, which we got from 1982, and which was played by other kids since then.

I never consider to rent, as i do not want to be worry about its safety. Children are children, they fall, they crash, they forget. My home insurance cover the home instruments, but not rented. So it is additional insurance on top of the renting price...

December 21, 2019, 8:38 PM · Good shops either include the insurance in the rental price, or it's a nominal additional fee. Shops expect that instruments for little kids get dinged up. The one my son has been French-polished in various places to deal with dings, and there are places where there might have been slight damage to the wood (not in sonically meaningful ways, but subtle cosmetic damage from having it banged into something).

There can be meaningful differences in sound quality between tiny violins. Of the tiny instruments I looked like, the one I ended up renting has a significantly less harsh tone, and some reasonable amount of ring for a teensy tiny violin. (Importantly, it offers good feedback, sounding discernably better played at the proper sounding point and the right weight on the string.)

December 23, 2019, 11:38 AM · "If she doesn't take to it, I don't want to have wasted the money on a good instrument."
An unplayable thing isn't an instrument, no matter if in motivating pink and stardust or plain wood, and no matter if bought or rented. This is just the most reliable way of getting her frustrated and drop it after a few hours of torture. In this case it would be smarter to start with flute, keyboard or percussion right away and not wasting anything on a plan that's guaranteed to fail.
The smaller the violin, the more critical is the quality of the instrument, since it is really hard enough to get anything other than the dying-cat-blues out of a fractional <1/4 anyway...

Definitely one more vote for a teacher, a rental, and Mary-Ellen's No.5. It's the best option for her joy and progress, and also financially.

December 23, 2019, 11:44 AM · Keep in mind that any pink violin bought from the www will not be set up to playable condition. For the money you'd have to spend to get that little piece of junk properly set up (if possible at all...) you could rent a fractional for quite some time.
Even worse would be if it came "ready to play" with poor setup and glued bridge + soundpost "to avoid accidents" during shipping.

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