Best 3/4 Violins for Adults (and cases for them)

October 9, 2021, 4:35 PM · Hi everyone,

My apologies for being a bit wordy…

I’m an adult student doing some research to prepare for a hopeful upgrade to my violin this holiday season, and a case more urgently.

I currently have 3/4 violin I picked up used from a local music shop, and while I am an adult, I am extremely petite and my instructor believes this is still the correct size for me and I will injure myself if I try to move up to a 4/4, so I’m looking to stay with a 3/4 but I want a good quality one that I can expect at least a few years out of before I’m longing for more. I would prefer to stay under or as close to the $1,000 mark as possible. Ideally, I would like a combination of the best instrument and value. (If a $1200 one is 1,000x better than a certain $900 one, I’d be more interested in the $1200 one - my budget isn’t firm here.)

Second, I’m looking for a better 3/4 violin case. I’m not fully happy with the one I have - it’s a hard case with no storage for a shoulder rest or music, although it does have a single shoulder strap and a pocket for rosin, although I don’t like that the rosin pocket is underneath the violin neck so you have to lift the violin to get to your rosin… that drives me a little bit nuts because I like to prepare my bow prior to removing my violin from the case, but I’m nitpicking there!
I would like something protective and with extra storage for my shoulder rest, snark, and lesson book/music, so I don’t need a second bag. A backpack strap option would be nice, and I would prioritize protectiveness over weight; I don’t mind if it’s not the lightest. I want it to survive trips to lessons, and potential knocks and drops from kids and dogs.

Thank you all so much!!!

Replies (32)

October 9, 2021, 6:18 PM · Amanda, what is it that your current violin cannot do that you want your new violin to be able to do?
October 9, 2021, 6:22 PM · @Amanda, for violin, have your tried a 7/8 sized violin?
October 10, 2021, 6:42 AM · I second the suggestion for a 7/8 violin.
October 10, 2021, 8:16 AM · I "third" the suggestion for a 7/8 size. The scale is shorter but the body is almost the same size as 4/4. However, the 7/8 is larger than a 3/4. I suggest trying 7/8 though to see how it feels.
Edited: October 10, 2021, 4:46 PM · I also suggest a 7/8 size, especially if the problem is that your hand is small. If you do decide to get a 3/4, you might consider the Bobelock oblong case. My kids had one when they were younger and I believe it has the features you described.
October 10, 2021, 10:20 AM · My daughter is 4’ 10”, and uses a full size violin. Was maybe an inch shorter when she started with it. You may want to at least try some out before ruling them out as a possibility.
October 10, 2021, 10:37 AM · For $198, this case is hard to beat. My wife and I own two of them and used them for most gigs owing to their small size and light weight, and prior to the pandemic it is case I used as a carry-on for flights. The adjustable neck block lets it hold everything from a 3/4 up to a large 4/4: GEWA Pure Shaped Violin Case Polycarbonate 1.8

I know it doesn't have the storage you want, so at under $260 you might want to consider the BAM classic, which has a large compartment inside out of the way of the neck, and a full-length sheet music pocket on the outside.

October 10, 2021, 10:43 AM · The one I have currently is a Glaesel made in Romania that began it’s life as a school orchestra rental, so it has fair wear for its over 30 year life.

My instructor is quite certain 3/4 is right. I had already asked if 7/8 would be better. Using several methods of checking, it would almost seem 3/4 could be on the edge of too big for me, as holding it with my arm completely outstretched the scroll is in my palm.

October 10, 2021, 12:28 PM · I understand where your teacher is coming from. I think hand size is more important when it comes to sizing, even more so than arm length. My brother, who has fat fingers and wide palms, sized up earlier than me for that reason. That's also a major reason why some really petite people have absolutely no issue with a full size violin while others can't use one at all.
October 10, 2021, 2:43 PM · I agree that hand size is much more important than arm length. I pass the arm length test even with big violas but a 14" viola is a stretch and a 7/8 violin is just right.
October 10, 2021, 4:35 PM · Haha, don’t make me talk about my tiny hands!

My entire hand fits in the palm of a normal-size adult… compared to another small woman my fingers usually stop less than halfway through theirs. (Friends may have tried this on me a few times back in college. Lol)

Edited: October 10, 2021, 7:09 PM · Yeah I totally get it. What made me realize that there are women with extremely small hands out there was comparing my hands to a distant (non musician) friend of mine ages ago. My hands are already small (my maximum reach on a piano is an octave and even that was a stretch for years until I grew to about full size), and her hands were significantly smaller than mine. She is probably around 5' tall or something like that. If you have hands as tiny as hers, then there's no way you're going to play a full size violin comfortably. On the other hand I have another friend who's like 4,8" and her hands are only slightly smaller than mine.
October 10, 2021, 9:44 PM · Amanda, Now I see!
October 11, 2021, 3:37 AM · Amanda, I would try to find local shops that offer excellent set-up.

Depending on what you are looking for, upgrading your bow might be just as important if not more important than upgrading your violin.

Edited: October 11, 2021, 9:05 AM · Hahaha! I don’t even come close to reaching across an octave on a piano!

I do have a local shop that gave me a card for their violin guy to set up an appointment to go in and try out the violins they have and see if I like any, and they have offered to acquire anything I’m particularly interested in as well. I just want to go in having an idea of what I’m looking for/at, as I know they will probably have a lot of 3/4 violins geared toward school orchestra students and I don’t want to get caught up trying out violins that really aren’t for me if their selection is poor.
Oh, I don’t recall if I mentioned it, but I would particularly like a violin with a darker tone.

I have already upgraded to a carbon fiber bow which I’ve found much nicer to play with, which also, sadly, pointed out that my violin could either use an upgrade, or at the very least some tweaks to the bridge and strings. Having a lighter, better balanced bow really took a lot of effort out of playing.

Edited: October 11, 2021, 9:26 AM · I think this raises a really good question, when your technique on a correctly-sized instrument far outstrips the sound it can produce, at what point do you adapt? There was a fellow in my daughter's orchestra last year who was good enough to win a regional concerto competition, but is under 4 feet and as tall as he will get, but is playing a half-size violin. It makes me think about your question.

In addition to shorter scale on a regular body, the neck can be made thinner and narrower in a custom build. We trialed a 16" John Newton viola like this once that seemed like it had a violin-like neck. Sounded great, but was obviously made for someone with small hands.

Edited: October 11, 2021, 10:45 AM · My remembered experience with sub-scale violins is quite limited, however I did have a few students approx 20 years ago who rented small-size Jay-Haide violins from Ifshin Violins (when they were still in Berkeley).

I found those violins could be very good. I made it a practice to go to the Ifshin shop with them and try the violins myself to pick the best sounding and playing in stock (yes they do vary). Those rental violins were always the 101 Model and in my opinion they were better than the 101 full-size models at that time. I reasoned that might be the case because the small violins only came in the 101 Model whereas the best full-size violins could be upgraded to more expensive models before they were finished (I don't know for sure if that is true - but it's what I believe). We rented both 1/2 and 3/4 size 101s for my granddaughter from age 6 to 10, when she graduated to one of my own full-size (4/4) violins, which she still owns (20 years later).

I was quite sure that the 12-year-old virtuoso Anne Akiko Meyers was playing a 3/4-size violin when she performed the Mendelssohn concerto with my community orchestra in 1982. I was concertmaster so I was only a few feet from her - her sound was incredible as was her overall performance. She had just performed it with the LA Philharmonic and soon afterward with the New York Philharmonic - I presume on the same violin.

So, you will not be "settling" by playing a 3/4 violin - if you get a good one. But your chances might well be better with a 7/8 (Ifshin advertises those too). My own violin from age 10 through most of high school (I was told) was an antique "Tyrolean ladies full size" on which I learned the Mendelssohn and Beethoven concertos and the entire Bach 2nd Partita. It had been my father's since his teen years.

October 11, 2021, 10:49 AM ·
October 11, 2021, 11:18 AM · That is indeed the caution I’ve read from violin teachers in my research, particularly directed at adult students researching a violin purchase, don’t waste money on a violin your skill will quickly outgrow. Something better will only be easier to play grow on.

I am beyond grateful for my Glaesel, but I’ve outgrown it much quicker than I expected and I want to invest in one now that I can grow on for a while.

Is Jay-Haide only sold at Ifshin? I’m afraid that is terribly far from me if so.

October 11, 2021, 12:17 PM · Jay-Haide is sold by other violin shops. If your shop doesn't carry it, you can always go online and arrange an in-home trial.

I bought a Jay Haide 4/4 violin with my summer job money when I was in high school when their shop was still in Berkeley. I remember the folks at Ifshin being very nice and helpful to me when I was trying one out. I still have the violin, which one of my daughters nicknamed "Catsup" because of its red varnish.. lol. Although I still use this violin once in a while, it's not my violin of choice when I need to perform. That doesn't mean it's not good (it sounds very nice and very playable), it's just not my preferred violin of choice. My Jay Haide cost me close to $1,000 when I first bought it. I'm not sure how much they sell them now.

Aside from Jay Haide, you can also look at Fiddlershop violins or Scott Cao violins. They should be close to your comfortable price range, I believe.

We are in the process of looking for a 3/4 size violin for my youngest daughter. We're visiting a few shops this week, and she's excited about picking her own violin and Quite frankly in my opinion, nothing beats going to a shop and actually trying out a violin.

Good luck to you, Amanda A. I hope you find your 3/4 or 7/8(?) violin that you will enjoy playing and listening to.

Edited: October 11, 2021, 1:10 PM · I have a 3/4 Scott Cao Model 750 for sale. I'll be happy to demonstrate it for you over Zoom or Skype.
October 11, 2021, 1:16 PM · I was looking at Scott Cao violins, as I read they tend to have nice dark tones and come in 3/4 sizes. What are all your thoughts on them? I imagine there is quite a difference between the workshop and factory violins, and I did not see anything on whether 3/4 are all factory or some come out of a workshop.
October 11, 2021, 8:27 PM · Glad to hear that you have a bow that's working for you rather than against you.

SC750 is a workshop model according to their website.

If you prefer a darker/warmer violin, Scott Cao violins might be to your liking more than other Chinese workshop violins since they tend to be bright. Still, other people's dark/warm might be your dull/muffled.

My daughter's 1/4 was Jay Haide l'ancienne. It was so bright and sounded like a little trumpet. It bothered me a lot since I had to listen to her practice at home day after day but in performance situations, it served her well.

It seems like everyone on this site is buying a violin lately. We should have a swap market section.

Edited: October 11, 2021, 11:01 PM · The violin I am offering has a normal kind of violin tone. It's not especially dark or bright. There isn't really anything super special about it, but it's a decent 3/4 violin. I might even have an extra set of strings for it (they'd be Vision Solo or Evah Pirazzi probably). It will come with a case and a bow as a complete kit. The bow is a little weird -- the stick has to be tightened until the bow is almost straight. It's actually a really good-playing and good-sounding bow, but the problem is that people like violin teachers, fellow students, etc., will inevitably and relentlessly insist that your bow is too tight when actually it's just fine. It just has a slightly weak stick.

Kiki the reason everyone is buying a violin is because there aren't any cars to buy.

October 12, 2021, 1:44 AM · I like the Yamaha v5, and v7 models and would imagine the v10 is even better. They carry fractional sizes and have a very nice, sturdy case (my favorite student case by far).

There are lots of posts here about costs. My experience is that as a beginner (actually parent of kids doing violin in school) I can not easily tell a difference in sound. The idea of buying a known quality instrument (Haide, Yamaha, Cao) is good advice. You may actually have a good market in the 3/4 since so many people play those briefly on their way through the fractional violins.

Edited: October 12, 2021, 5:11 AM · Both Scott Cao and Jay Haide are Chinese workshop (factory) violins.
Edited: October 12, 2021, 7:27 AM · Paul wrote: "Kiki the reason everyone is buying a violin is because there aren't any cars to buy."

Good point! If we don't get cars soon, we'll be traveling this way:

But I don't think arm length or hand size will determine the size you need. Maybe weight?

October 12, 2021, 10:58 AM · I also think people buy fractionals because they have siblings that play violin so they can pass their fractionals onto their younger siblings once they're done.
October 12, 2021, 4:57 PM · Lyndon is right -- I fully expect that the Scott Cao violin that I'm offering for sale was made in a factory. Probably mostly by hand, but possibly by 20+ different people.
October 12, 2021, 9:16 PM ·

I don't know if I see a big difference between China workshop vs China factory but there it is.

Edited: October 13, 2021, 8:16 AM · The best video describing a Chinese workshop ("factory" in the words of the narrator) that I have seen is this one by Stentor:
I enjoyed watching the woman cut the f-holes. That kind of skill and speed does not come easily, I'm sure. Another fun moment was watching the woman trim the miter on the end of the purfling strip. So confident is she in her control of the chisel that she didn't bother moving the work to the bench -- she just did it right on the top plate of the violin. Sometimes I wonder about other aspects of the operation. For example, I wonder if they have night-time crews to sharpen all the tools, and I worry a little about ventilation in the varnishing shops.
October 13, 2021, 11:43 AM · "Factory" is Latin: "workshop" is Anglo-Saxon: "Werkstatt" is German.

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