cheap student violin

September 19, 2022, 4:23 PM · How to improve the sound of a cheap student violin ?

I'm thinking of changing the bridge, a light weight tailpiece, and a better strings set.

Your experience is welcome :)

Replies (21)

September 19, 2022, 4:30 PM · Strings are the easiest swap, and you will need to change them at some point in any case.

Otherwise, just about anything could be messed up but fixable. Best see what kind of price list your luthier quotes for options, and go with what will give the biggest bang for the buck.

September 19, 2022, 4:45 PM · How cheap? and why?
September 19, 2022, 4:57 PM · I had a pretty good sounding student violin and I asked the shop what I could do to improve it. They offered a standard " soup up" package with new strings, tailgut adjustment, sound post adjustment and maybe something else I've forgotten. It wasn't very expensive (the shop doesn't charge as much for labor as some others I've heard of). It made a great improvement and I don't believe it was all because of the strings. Maybe your local shop offers the same.
September 19, 2022, 5:22 PM · @Andrew Victor: a factory violin with factory bridge tailpiece and strings...

September 19, 2022, 5:35 PM · Depending where you bought a cheap violin from, the shop may already have done what it could to cost-effectively optimize the set-up.
September 19, 2022, 6:29 PM · For that violin, you want to (1) get better strings, (2) make sure the bridge feet are fit and the bridge isn't too high (DIY adjust as you wish), (3) get some peg soap, and (4) maybe swap in a Wittner-style tailpiece. That looks like a *super* cheap violin, but will probably get you started.
September 19, 2022, 7:08 PM · It's very common for cheap violins to have overly tall, poorly fitted bridges (sometimes even bridge blanks), especially if they're shipped directly from the factory rather than through a shop. So it's likely that having a luthier fit the bridge to the instrument will result in some improvement.
September 19, 2022, 7:14 PM · The easiest way to change the sound is to put a better set of strings on. This will not necessarily translate to better response or balance, however. To get more out of it, a new setup will make a huge difference. This can include planing the fingerboard, cutting a new soundpost, cutting a new bridge, reshaping or replacing the nut, tuning the afterlength, and/or putting on a tailpiece that works more smoothly (if the original is too cheap or clunky). If you want the best you can get out of it, a regraduation and new bassbar can be transformative prior to setup; the cost is often prohibitive for buyers of student instruments. There’s almost always something more that can be done to make improvements—it really comes down to how much you’re willing to invest to do it.
September 20, 2022, 5:51 PM · I was playing my cheap VSO at a late-night jam at a bluegrass festival. One one of the other players, who happened to be a luthier with a booth at the festival, peeked inside and said that my sound post was in the wrong place. He suggested I bring it to his table the next day for a setup, which I did. Getting the old sound post out was a bit of a struggle - it had been glued in place! I was holding the fiddle down on the table while he poked something in through one of the F-holes and gave it a good whack with a hammer until it broke free. He then cleaned up the inside and cut and fitted a new sound post in the right place. My old beater sounded like a brand-new instrument!
Edited: September 21, 2022, 8:22 AM · I've got a Stentor. It sounds echoey and cathedral-like.
When I get around to it, I plan to decide which sector of the Shar string chart it's in and buy strings in the opposite sector.
Problem is, if it's in the top right sector, most of the suitable strings would be gut. But Zyexes might work on it - they seem to be pretty warm and restrained.
September 21, 2022, 9:09 AM · I'm thinking something about a sow's ear and a silk purse. I've done up quite a few old hulks and decided rather quickly that they aren't worth spending any more money or wasting more time on.
September 24, 2022, 9:22 AM · First of all, greet you all.
This is my first post.
Then I would like to ask you the following question.
I am about to buy a second hand Cello. Specifically it is a Stentor Student II.
I want to comment that although I am going to start in the Cello, I play other instruments (guitar, piano, uke,...)
The Cello is sold to me without a bow.
At this point, the first question I ask myself, what type of bow do you recommend? I would like the sound of the instrument to improve (to improve the one that this model has from the factory).
On the other hand, is it worth changing the bridge to these Cellos? And the tailpiece? What strings would be good?
Thanks for your help.
Edited: September 25, 2022, 8:40 PM · MANUEL - welcome to

In addition to violin and viola, I also play, and have taught cello - all of these for many, many years. I am not familiar with the Stentor Student II cello and I suggest you inquire at the cello instruments & equipment website linked below (you have to copy the URL and paste it in your search):

where you may encounter a cello teacher who has had students with cellos of that brand. Unfortunately the reviews of the Stentor cello brand I have found on the internet are all linked to commercial interests.

You might also check out "The Pegbox" forum at the website (perhaps "The Fingerboard" there as well):

EDIT (Sept 25): I should add this - if you cannot find someone (teacher) to help you set your proper playing position (hands, arms, seat height, endpin extension, etc., I suggest getting the book "New Directions in Cello Playing" by Victor Sazer. He had a long career as a Hollywood studio cellist and teacher and I found his book helpful 20 years after my last cello lesson when I wanted to affirm that I was still doing cello things correctly after 50 years of mostly just violin playing.

Since you will be acquiring a used instrument it is not possible to predict anything about the attachments that might be on it.

As far as finding the right bow is concerned, the only way is to try bows with the cello once it is set up with proper adjustment of bridge, sound post, strings and tailpiece. If you can find a more experienced cellist to help you - that would be the way to go.

The bow one uses can make a tremendous difference. I recall trying a $1,000 cello at a workshop/dealer (Scott Cao) about 25 years ago - and with the bow he handed me it was pretty awful - so I then tried it with one of his Chinese gold-trimmed ($1,000) cello bows and with that it was not half-bad. For my own instruments I have different bows that I use depending on which instrument, which ensemble, and which music I am playing.

You should be aware that because violin-family instruments are made from natural resources no two are exactly the same, not even if they come from the same factory - or the same building hands - even from the same trees.

September 25, 2022, 11:21 AM · This touches on a question I was thinking about.

As I understand it part of the problem with cheap violins is the materials they're made of and/or how they're formed. They might be made of plywood which I gather limits how they can sound, or wood that's been router-cut or formed with steam-pressing - the process to make them is nothing like the painstaking carving, planing and scraping you seen in videos of boutique instruments being made. Even if it's not plywood, they're made with wood that's less than optimal and hasn't been aged/dried as long as wood used in premium violins.

Whether it's considered practical or not, assuming a particular violin was made of "real" wood to begin with and not plywood have you ever known someone to disassemble a violin, allowed the wood to age further, gone through it and improved the carving/shaping, reassembled it and ended up with a substantially better instrument? Or would there never be enough benefit to justify doing something like that?

I imagine Hilary Hahn could take pretty much any wall-hanger and make it sing couldn't she?

September 25, 2022, 12:57 PM · “I imagine Hilary Hahn could take pretty much any wall-hanger and make it sing couldn't she?”

Ray Chen has done something along these lines. For easy stuff, it’s fine, but at some point, he said he has to work incredibly hard to make it sound decent.

September 28, 2022, 4:55 AM · I teach beginner violin/viola/cello to kids who can't afford a 'real' teacher and have a bunch of stentor and other similar loaner instruments. It would be lovely to have someone adjust the soundposts and ream the pegs to a better fit, but even just peg-pasting the pegs, adding decent strings, checking the height of the nut (and depth and placement of the string channels) and sanding the bridge to fit all make a big difference. These are all things I can do myself - one day I'll find someone to teach me three rest ...
September 28, 2022, 5:02 AM · @Gordon
Live tried lots of different strings on the too bright stentors including Corelli crystal, obligato, amber and oliv (which all sound great on my 100 year old German taste violin), but settled on plain old tonicas. Steve is right about the sow's ear - there's not enough difference in time to make expensive strings worthwhile. The tonicas seem to be slightly better than dominants for smoothing out beginner instrument sounds.
September 28, 2022, 5:20 AM · Oh, I just checked to see where you were and realized you have a gliga 2. No tacky plywood there. Do get a luthier to set it up properly; it will sound like a new instrument!

Gligas have a reputation for tending tend toward the mellow (some say dull, if not well set up) end of the sound spectrum, so opt for a slightly brighter string.

My gliga 1 viola sounds great with warchal brilliant (the original, not the vintage version) strings.
Karneol sounded darker (which might be what you're looking for of you're playing mostly accompaniment).
Both Obligato and Amber (which I use on my German trade violin) sounded muffled (obligato) and a bit thin (amber) on the gliga viola.

Contact Warchal directly as they may still do trial prices for each first set of strings.

Edited: September 28, 2022, 9:11 PM · You can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig. My old factory violin still sounded like a cheap violin, even with Pirazzis or Kaplans or a new bridge.

Some people like to open up Chinese violins and strategically remove wood to try and bring more tone out of them. Whether those strategies are effective I don't know.

October 1, 2022, 7:59 AM · Hello all,

Let me be honest, I think strings do play a major role in what type of sound you would like your violin to project (such as a dark or bright sound) however what usually is the major difference in violins depends on how the violin is actually made itself. Strings don't necessarily make a violin itself more expensive or cheap. But if you would like to improve a student violin, in my personal opinions, I don't think there really is a way. Maybe firstly, look at your current student that is using that violin and look at what sort of level he/she is currently at. If he/she is playing difficult repertoire and potentially needs a better violin, I suggest just get a better one instead and take some time and effort into choosing what sounds best for them. On the other hand, if they are not playing difficult repertoire just yet, they could probably wait until later when they are at a reasonable difficulty level to switch violins. Other problems that may factor into their sound may be because of their bow contact point. You could check this with your student and see if they are playing in their best contact point, and if he/she is making a squeaking noise frequently on their violin, they could be pressing too hard or playing too close to the bridge. I think the contact point is really what could change the sound on a student violin especially if your student is producing some squeaks.

Hope this helps!

Jialin :)

Edited: October 4, 2022, 2:02 PM ·
QUOTE: Ann Morrill · 09/19/2022, 4:57 PM
"I had a pretty good sounding student violin and I asked the shop what I could do to improve it. They offered a standard " soup up" package with new strings, tailgut adjustment, sound post adjustment and maybe something else I've forgotten. It wasn't very expensive (the shop doesn't charge as much for labor as some others I've heard of). It made a great improvement and I don't believe it was all because of the strings. Maybe your local shop offers the same."
I think the above is excellent advice. There are so many subtleties to achieving the best tone that a violin has to offer. Find a luthier who's really an expert.

I've engaged in do-it-yourself efforts to improve violin tone, and most of them were expensive and unsuccessful. (I'll spare you the detail.) These were piecemeal efforts, whereas a violin is a system, all of whose components work together. It's best to find someone who understands violins from that perspective.

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