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How To Buy A Violin

Are you ready to purchase your first violin? Or, perhaps even more exciting, upgrade a beginner violin to one that meets your more advanced abilities? If so, there are a few things you should know before you start your search.

how to buy a violin


Even though you can find great, online deals, the internet isn't the best place to purchase a violin unless you're buying a new instrument, from a reputable online source - with a reasonable return policy. For example, here at Connolly Music, we sell high-quality Revelle violins, all with a 2-year warranty.

Experienced musicians know it's essential to play your violin with an experienced luthier or music store professional on-hand to answer any questions or concerns that arise before making a final choice.

Even so - with the second-hand option, you forgo two very important benefits of purchasing a violin from a legitimate dealer: a warranty and a money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied, so, keep that in mind. Most music stores sell good-quality, second-hand instruments for a competitive price, and they provide these important post-sale benefits.

Each violin has its own, unique sound and "personality." Even violins made by some of the world's greatest violin makers of all time (Stradivari, Amati and Guarneri) sound different from one another. Similarly, an instrument that sounds and feels best to you may not sound and feel best to the person selling it or another buyer. Choosing a violin is a very personal choice, so it's important you have ample time to experiment with it ahead of time to get an accurate feel for it.

Don't listen to anyone else's opinion but your own during this process. Again, it's a personal choice, and you'll get the most out of your new violin if you feel a bond or connection with the way it feels and sounds to your body and ears.

In a perfect world, you'd try out several violins, settle on the one that best suits your size, ability, and preference, and that would be that. Once in a while, though, that's not the case. Also, in the case of online violin purchases, you need some time with the prospective instrument(s) to find "the one."

For this reason, most well-known violin sellers offer some version of a return policy. Policy terms may vary, but ideally you should be able to return the violin (in the same condition as it was when you purchased it) anytime between 14- and 30-days from the original purchase date, for a full refund.

A new violin should come with a warranty of some type. One year would be a minimum and the ideal would be a 2-year warranty or longer. These warranties do not cover damage incurred after the purchase (that's where instrument insurance comes in and we'll speak to that next).

When you know what to look for in a violin, and you apply these tips throughout the selection process, you can confidently shop for your instrument. Once you bring the new violin home, you'll rest easy knowing the transaction is backed with return, warranty, and insurance policies designed to protect you "just in case." Now it's time to get shopping!

The beginner has two options, either to rent an instrument or make a purchase. While violin rental may be viewed by some as an opportunity to grow acclimated to the instrument, be aware that these are generally lesser-quality instruments that can be extremely frustrating to play upon. The law of diminishing returns applies to rentals, as you begin paying more for a lesser-quality violin that you never will be the owner of; if you rent for more than a year, you may have already paid through the value of the instrument. Some shops will let you apply part of your rental fees towards the purchase of an instrument, but you should always ask about this ahead of time and not count on this being the case.

One good reason for the rental of an instrument would be if you are looking for a child's (undersized) instrument. In this case, it is generally not worth the risk of physical injury to buy an instrument which is too large, thinking that the child will "grow into" it. On the other hand, it is quite expensive to buy a series of increasingly larger instruments (there are 8 basic sizes, and children grow out of their violin sizes at a surprisingly rapid rate.) Besides rental, another option for acquiring a small violin is to find a reputable luthier or music store nearby and ask about their "trade-in policy". Assuming you take care of the instrument, many shops will give you a generous discount on the purchase of the next size up if you bring back your current instrument as a "trade". (Take note that they do this because they want you to be a return customer. For this reason, most places will not give you a trade-in discount for an instrument you did not buy from them).

That said, if you decide to buy a full-size violin, you may well want to go to a violin dealer or a "luthier," which is a person who makes or repairs stringed instruments. In fact, we have a directory of luthiers right here on, as well as a directory of the merchants who support

When purchasing an instrument from a store, it is always an excellent idea to go in the company of an experienced violinist or luthier. In general, however, the instrument must be solid to the touch with no creaks when you press down (but not too heavily!) anywhere on the violin. If it is possible to test the instrument in-store, all of the open strings should sound full, resonant, and pleasing to the ear.

It is possible to buy a good violin online, but be wary of extremely cheap violins. Here is a link to our article about why an extremely cheap violin may not be a bargain for you. It is best if you can test a violin before making the commitment to buy it.

It is appropriate to test violins and bows, to play on them, before buying them. If a luthier lives in another city, he or she can send you violins or bows to try out for a time, after which you can decide on one, or send them all back and buy none, or ask for some others to try. It is also appropriate to negotiate the purchase price of the instrument.

Do not come straight out and tell the dealer your price range. They may have an intent to mark-up violin's prices on the spot if the instruments do not have a price tag. Only if the instruments have tags on them with clear pricing should you tell them your price range. Try to test only instruments you can afford. If none are to your liking, keep looking elsewhere.

Modern instruments, made by a luthier who is still living, tend to be less expensive than older instruments. An older instrument is valuable not only because of the sound it makes and the beauty of its construction, but because of its antique value, and because it is necessarily a "limited edition" if its maker is dead and no longer creating violins!

Do not forget to use one of your best resources: your teacher. Bring the violins and bows to your teacher, or ask your teacher to come with you to help pick something out. If you don't have a teacher any more, don't forget to use the ears of your musician friends. Realize, however, that neither your teacher or your violinist friends are likely to be experts in the actual construction of the instrument and can only offer an experienced opinion on the sound of the violin and point out any glaring problems.

Therefore, it's a good idea to have the violin "vetted out" by a trusted luthier. A good luthier will likely be able to verify the maker and/or approximate age of the violin. More importantly, he or she will be able to tell if the instrument is well or poorly made or if it has any structural problems.

Go to a big hall and play for someone, or let the other person play so you can hear what the violin sounds like from across the room, what impression it gives. Try to play the violin in as many rooms as possible - from large halls to your practice room - to assess fully the capabilities of the instrument.

After playing for a while, you may decide it's time to upgrade your violin. If your teacher tells you that you are working too hard to get the sound from the instrument--this is sometimes one indicator that it might be time to upgrade. If you feel that you are ready to upgrade; make sure that you know how to test an instrument for tone, response, projection, etc. Use skilled friends and teachers to help you with this.

Before getting an upgrade, explore the question of whether a refitting by a qualified luthier could make your old instrument come to life. This is sometimes the case, and often adjustments such as gluing seams (which routinely come unglued and can radically diminish the violin's sound) or moving the soundpost slightly can make a radical difference.

A common expectation is that a violin is an investment and will rise in value over time. This is possibly true for very expensive violins but certainly no one should expect dramatic appreciation on a violin purchased for less than $100,000. The economics of dealing in violins makes this very implausible and the market for the private sale of violins is not well developed.

Most violins will hold their value as long as you trade the violin for another more expensive violin from the dealer who sold you the instrument. Dealers may also offer you trades at similar value for instruments you purchased elsewhere. If you quit playing the violin and decide to sell it altogether you could see a significant decline in its value. You may decide to save it for a child or grandchild or to donate it to a school and take a tax deduction.

Ah, the venerable violin. While most often thought of as a delicate and beautiful orchestral instrument and a hallmark of classical music, it can also be a sprightly and familiar folk or bluegrass fiddle, or a sleek and spunky rock and roll instrument. It has been making a place for itself in almost every music genre, and inspiring musicians and audiences for centuries.

The quality of the spruce is a significant part of what determines the price of the instrument. There are several species of spruce that are used for violin tops, and some players prefer one over the others. Trees that grow in colder climates produce denser, more resonant, and thus more desirable spruce wood. The longer a block of spruce is allowed to age, the drier and stronger it becomes. So a piece of spruce grown at high altitude and seasoned for decades before carving will produce a superior top wood. 041b061a72


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