Advice for a beginner: what violin should I start out with?

Edited: January 1, 2021, 1:24 AM · Hi all :)

I have a strong inspiration out of nowhere to start playing violin it seems. I used to play viola in 4th grade for a short while, but ended up dropping it. My hope in picking up violin at this point is to just learn to make beautiful music somehow, and to get closer to it's sound. If I am able to get that far, it will make my heart happy.

So naturally, I've been searching everywhere about what decent violin I could get as a beginner. I feel as though I'm going to try to stick with this for a while, so I suppose I would at least prefer a starter instrument that could have some potential to grow with me. I'm aware that the setup of the violin also has a lot to do with its overall quality. Given my budget, I think $500 is where I would max out in terms of price, as I'm a college student and trying to manage.

So far I've found several violins all around the internet that have caught my attention. First are the Gliga violins, which as far as I've seen people have said good things about them. I had my eye on the Gems 1 or Gems 2 violin, although I've heard that there isn't too much difference between them in terms of quality. I've emailed them around 2 days ago from the site asking about the violins, if they have a warranty etc., so far they haven't responded (maybe because holidays? who knows). I've heard their violins have a nice sound on the mellow or dark? side, which seems appealing to me personally but as a beginner I can't do much to discern sound quality. I'm interested in buying one of these in general.

I've also looked at the beginner violins Fiddlerman has, such as their highly rated Fiddlerman Concert violin. 45 day trial period and a lifetime warranty. They get a lot of good reviews in general. Out of every outfit bundle I can afford that I've looked at so far, this seems like one of the best deals out there (basically maxing out my budget). There is also Kennedy violins, and it looks like they're offering similar deals.

There's used and new violins being offered on Reverb. And then there's the ebay violins, which as far as I could guess many of them are of questionable quality. I could get one but I'm not sure that I would go through the hassle of a hit-or-miss, not knowing what seller to buy from when I could do better with something else. Although if anyone has good experience with an ebay violin, feel free to say so.

Then finally there's a local music store by me, family owned and they sell instruments, and they also have what looks like a really good rent to own program for violins & other band instruments. My very first thought was to go to them and see what they have. They also offer lessons too (but I'm not sure how far I could go with that given corona and everything, & my family may say no to that). I'm aware that its better to just try instruments in person at least.

I overthink a lot when it comes to things like this but yeah, I just wanted some solid advice before I make a decision, as whatever I'm going with is coming out of my own pocket. Thanks to anyone who responds :)

Replies (12)

Edited: January 1, 2021, 4:16 AM · It looks like you've really done your homework, compared to most people looking to buy a first violin!

When you're shopping in this price range, where you buy often matters more than what you buy. You're looking at factory-made violins that are often shipped without being set up properly. It's best to go to a reputable shop that specializes in violins, because they will do a proper setup and make your student violin as playable as possible. If there isn't a violin shop near you, go for a reputable online seller that expressly mentions in-house setup (Fiddlershop and Kennedy are both in this category). Music stores that don't specialize in string instruments are risky; they usually lack violin expertise, and even if there are luthiers on site they often turn out to be guitar luthiers with limited violin knowledge or experience. Some music stores do have a luthier who specializes in the violin family, but it's important to ask specifically about that.

January 1, 2021, 5:51 AM · Buy your first violin from a proper violin shop so that it has been set up correctly. Ask for a decent set of strings to be fitted (Tonicas are good and not expensive) and also buy a spare set of strings to have on hand. Do not buy your first violin online or from a general music/guitar shop.
January 1, 2021, 7:02 AM · My first violin was a Gliga and they aren’t bad but I outgrew it fairly quickly. Fiddlershop violins are fantastic; I have a Soloist and absolutely love it I still play mine regularly even though I’ve upgraded to a bench made violin since I bought it. I also bought a Concert for my daughter; she loves it and it’s a very solid starter violin with good sound and playability.

From what you said, I’d suggest the Fiddlershop Artist model though. The Artist is a big step up from the Concert in both playability and sound quality. The list is $680, but they sometimes have B stock ones with a small cosmetic issue for around $550; same playability and warranty so it can be a great deal if you don’t care about a small varnish run or something.

But I’d absolutely recommend a Concert over a Gliga Gems 1 or 2. The default bow with the Concert and Artist is also much better than the one that comes with a Gliga Gems.

The great things about Fiddlershop are their customer service, return policy and warranty; all are first class. And all their instruments are properly set up by a luthier before they ship which is not true of Gliga. I’ve heard good things about Shar and Kennedy also but never dealt with them personally.

My opinion on rentals is that it’s usually a very bad deal if you plan to keep the instrument for long and most rentals are low end models with iffy setups if they’re from a music store instead of a violin shop.

Good luck and I’m sure you’ll find a great instrument to start off with!

Disclaimer: I am not associated with Fiddlershop in any way other than as a very satisfied customer who has purchased multiple violins, bows, strings, etc, from them.

January 1, 2021, 9:16 AM · One way to go you might consider: Rent an instrument for a while until you have made enough progress to try one out before deciding to buy.
January 1, 2021, 11:47 AM · I would say that you should rent one from a decent violin store, or an online site that specializes in bench made violins. Decide if you make enough progress whether to buy one or not. That's what I did, until I grew to a full size and was decently good at the violin. Good luck on your musical journey, though, I think you will enjoy it.
Edited: January 1, 2021, 1:17 PM · For me, I started with a decent rent-to-own instrument from a local violin shop. I started with an "intermediate student" violin as it had a good sound and I could grow into it. After 1.5 years I did outgrow it and upgraded (from another source), but it was a good beginning.
Edited: January 1, 2021, 12:51 PM · Thank you all for your responses! This really helped. And yes, the music store I had mentioned doesn't seem to specialize in violins, though they've been around for decades now apparently, I did find a review criticizing their rent-to-own program haha. I have looked at the Fiddlerman Artist violin and listened to it as well, it has a really beautiful sound to me. The reason why I would want to rent a violin first though is just to see how much progress I would make or how much I would like it, as you all suspected. This is why I may give the music store a chance just because its nearby to see if anything they offer is comparable, but these responses will definitely help me make a better decision.

I'm looking now at shops that specialize in violins/stringed instruments, so perhaps I would find much better options there as well.

January 1, 2021, 1:00 PM · Rent from a reputable local violin shop.
January 1, 2021, 5:34 PM · I agree with Mary Ellen. If you don't have a local shop that does string instrument rentals (many don't) then rent from SHAR or such.
January 1, 2021, 6:12 PM · What Mary Ellen and Paul said. And you should definitely look for a rent-to-buy agreement, so that the rent for the first six months will be 100% deductable from a further purchase (no matter if this specific violin or a different one in the same price range or above). Make sure to deal with a shop that offers a full trade in policy and has a decent selection of intermediate level violins (at least in the 3.5-5k range) you could later upgrade to. You may not have more than 500 now, but things often change, and you never know where this journey will take you.

If after 6 months you decide that violin isn't your piece of cake, this is the way you'll have lost minimum money. It's not easy to sell a violin privately, and to succeed at all, you should go very far below retail price!

Edited: January 1, 2021, 6:54 PM · Ok, got it. I'm going to go for it and try and get a rental from a trusted violin shop! I found a couple good ones in my area. One shop says I can apply up to 9 months of rental credit towards purchasing the violin. I'm not sure about trade-ins, but I will definitely ask about this. Thank you all so much for the help :)
January 1, 2021, 7:35 PM · I found another shop with trade back and rent-to-buy exactly as Nuuska described. I will contact both shops and see what I will come out with

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