Violins come in a great array of
price ranges. Many of the very inexpensive ones ($100 to $200)
are not worth carrying home. In the violin shop, we call them VSOs
-"Violin Shaped Objects."
Unfortunately, many times each year
I am confronted with the unpleasant task of informing a distraught
parent or an excited young student that the violin they have just
bought will take over $150 worth of work just to make it playable,
and then their instrument will only be worth about $100!
A good quality, new European
violin outfit for the beginning student should retail in
the neighborhood of $650 to $850. However, through www.stringseason.com,
quality violins are available at 50% off the retail price
for under $340.
"Step-up" instruments will
be in the retail range of $1,000 to $3,500, and professional instruments
are generally $5,000 and up.
Unlike other instruments, good violins
do not depreciate in value, so buying used will not necessarily
save you a lot of money. A good option to outright purchase is
Good rental programs will allow you
to apply at least part of the rent toward the eventual purchase
of an instrument, and will allow you to exchange sizes as necessary.
It is not uncommon for teachers to
encourage their students to purchase used violins because they
have "mellowed out" or been "played in." This
phenomenon is real!
Good violins do get better as they
are played, however for a beginning student the noticeable difference
is negligible. If you choose to purchase a used instrument, you
should seriously consider getting it from a reputable dealer.
Repairs can be very costly, and are
often necessary on old instruments that are found in flea markets,
Grandma's attic, etc. If an individual is offering an instrument
for sale, you should have someone who is familiar with violins
look at it before you buy.
Violin shops will most likely charge
a small fee for this service, but it will save you a lot of problems
to get some expert advice.
Expect to spend some money on refurbishing
a used violin. Replacing the strings, bridge, and bow hair and
making other minor adjustments can cost $100 or more. Crack repairs
can be very expensive.
are several options for purchasing new violins: your local
music store, a mail order company, a violin shop, or a
private individual selling a used instrument.
One of the things you should consider
is availability of service. Buying your instrument from a local
dealer that has a trained violin repair person on staff is an advantage
because adjustments or repairs may be needed from time to time.
If you choose to buy a violin from
a mail order firm, be sure that service is available locally.
Violins are made of wood, and wood is affected by the environment. Because
of this it is important to examine the body of any violin (new or used) to
make sure that there are no cracks in the top or back.
Well repaired cracks in the top of
an older instrument may not be a problem (Seek the advice of a
teacher or violin maker), but cracks in the back of an instrument
can depreciate its value as much as 75 percent.
Examine the ribs (sides) of the violin
to make sure that they are not bulging out beyond the edges of
the top or back. This happens because wood that is not well seasoned
will shrink noticeably when it dries out.
As the top and back shrink, the ribs
begin to bulge. Most instruments of reasonable quality do not have
this problem, because close attention is given to curing the wood
properly. It is also not uncommon to find this problem in used
instruments over 50 years old regardless of quality.
If everything else is in good order,
this may not be cause to reject a used violin, but consult your
violin repair shop concerning repair costs before making such a
Check to make sure that the neck
of the violin is straight. Occasionally an instrument is made wrong,
and somehow slips through the adjusting process unnoticed.
Make sure the bridge is centered
between the f-holes, then sight up the fingerboard to see if it
aligns with the bridge. If the bridge must be off-set toward one
side or the other to make the strings and fingerboard line up you
have a problem.
"Set up" on violins is
very important. This includes proper bridge and string nut fitting
so that the strings are a proper height from the fingerboard, fingerboard
planing to make sure the strings don't buzz, peg fitting so the
pegs turn smoothly and stay in place, and setting the soundpost
for proper tone adjustment, etc.
As a general rule, pegs should be
made of ebony or rosewood because most other woods are not dense
enough to retain the smooth roundness that is necessary for easy
Some music stores do not set up their
own instruments, but well-known brands generally are shipped in
good adjustment. Many violin shops do their own "set ups," and
work to meet the desires and specifications of local teachers and
Most violin outfits will have a case
and bow included in the price. A fiberglass bow with horse hair
is a good bow for beginners. A good wood bow can add $100 or more
to the cost of a beginning violin outfit.
For step up violins, you will find
the instrument, bow and case priced individually.
Like most musical instruments, the violin requires maintenance occasionally.
You should expect a few broken strings from time to time. It just happens with
violin family instruments.
If the same string breaks often,
have your repair person examine the violin to make sure something
is not out of adjustment. Upgrading to perlon core strings can
give a violin a much more pleasing tone, and is often worth the
investment. Violin bows need to be rehaired every year or two depending
on the amount of playing.
Because the instrument is made of
wood and is held together with glue it is very susceptible to heat
and humidity changes. Leaving the violin in a car in the heat will
often cause it to come apart or crack. If an instrument gets too
cold it can crack also.
When transporting your violin, keep
it in the passenger compartment of the car, not in the trunk because
the trunk can get very hot or very cold and cause serious damage.
Rosin is used on the bow to make
it grip the strings. Dust from the rosin will collect on the fingerboard
and on the top of the violin. This rosin dust should be wiped off
with a soft cloth regularly or it can build into a hard unsightly
layer which will have to be professionally removed.
Playing the violin can be a lot of fun! There are many styles of music, and
a great variety of opportunities for musical performances are available.
Playing in the school orchestra is
just a beginning in the wonderful world of strings. Keep your instrument
in good adjustment so that it will respond to your touch, then
explore, experiment, experience the excitement of making beautiful
Reprinted with permission of School Band and Orchestra
Please visit them at www.sbomagazine.com