In the market for a violin? Buying an instrument can be an intimidating process. Depending on the make and model, it can be an expensive investment, and it goes without saying that a good amount of research and testing should be done before shelling out your cash. Once you understand the options available, however, you can learn how to buy a violin that best fits your needs.
Before anything else, you’ll want to decide whether renting or buying a violin is your best option. If the student is a child just beginning violin lessons, it may be worth it to rent first. However, keep in mind that most rental violins are of very basic quality, and may not produce the best tone. Once you’ve rented for a while and are committed to your playing, it’s a good idea to make the investment and purchase a better-quality instrument.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop for your violin:
Selecting the right size for your violin is extremely important. Typical violin sizes range from 1/16 (15 inches in length) to a full-size 4/4 (23.5 inches in length), so the best thing to do is try out different sizes before purchasing to make the best selection. The violin is a good size if, when holding the instrument under the chin in playing position, the scroll fits comfortably in the student’s palm, with the elbow slightly bent. Ask an experienced violinist (your teacher, for example) to come along with you to help find the right fit.
Every violin will have a slight difference in tone to consider. You’ll want to try several different violins, and try them out in several different locations as well. Make sure the tone is even and strong as you draw the bow across the strings. The age of the instrument will factor into this, as older violins are usually much more responsive and resonant than a newer violin, which will need to be broken in. If you’re leaning toward an older violin, make sure to pay extra attention to its condition (see next section).
Above all, consider the condition of the violin. If the instrument has been pre-owned, make sure there aren’t any cracks, and be cautious if several repairs have been made – the more repairs, the more potential for additional problems in the future, as humidity can alter the wood and cracks can open further. Keep in mind that condition is not the same as appearance. As the old adage says, “Never judge a book by its cover” – and never judge a violin just by how shiny it looks.
There are two common types of violins – acoustic (non-electric), which are suitable for beginners, and the electric violin, which more advanced players can experiment with. Violins can also be classified into eras – for example, the baroque violin has a shallow neck and angle, whereas a modern violin is more sharply angled and the wood thinner.
And of course, don’t forget to get a good violin bow while you’re at it!
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