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The Potential Problems You Can Find with Cheaper Violins

If you’re the parent of a young child who is interested in learning to play the violin or an adult beginner, you’re going to need to rent an instrument or purchase a starter violin. For some parents or adult beginners, purchasing an instrument is important, so they go online. Once there, they’re going to find a variety of inexpensive violin outfits on Amazon, eBay, and other online retailers — and they may be tempted to purchase one of these cheaper violins; after all, what if the student decides to quit?

However, as the saying goes, “Caveat emptor” or “to the buyer, beware.”  Learning to play the violin is going to take a lot of practice and patience. Buying a cheap violin is only going to make the learning process more difficult and frustrating. The result? Many students are going to decide to throw in the towel.

While a good violin is not inexpensive, it’s important to remember that a quality instrument is an investment, and, over the years, it will pay you back with music and the enjoyment that comes with playing it. 

From instrument to case

black and white photo of two comedians playing violin

What should you look for in a beginner violin to determine whether or not it’s a quality instrument? There are four major differences between cheap violins and quality-made instruments:

Quality of the woods and components: The primary woods used in violin making are spruce and maple, and ebony for the fingerboard. If inferior components are used to make the violin, the sound, structural integrity, and playability will be compromised. The wood can be prone to warping, cracking, and going out of tune.

Quality of the set up: Correct bridge positioning between the inside F hole notches, fingerboard shape and curve, tailpiece and fine tuner adjustments, properly fitted pegs, and soundpost placement are just some of the details a craftsperson follows when they setup a new violin.

Quality of the case: The primary means of protecting a violin is its case. A case should be made of a solid material such as wood or carbon fiber with a handle that is solidly attached.  Cheap violin cases, such as cloth-based cases, are leaky and offer little or no protection. A good case should have a way to secure the bow so that it doesn’t touch the violin when the case is closed.

Quality of the bow: A violin bow has a significant influence on the quality of sound and ease of bowing when playing the instrument. The hair should be uniform in length, without a lot of crossed hairs within the ribbon. Make sure the tip isn’t cracked and that the “button” turns smoothly, allowing the hair to tighten and loosen as needed.

It's not just about the instrument

If inspiring your child to play an instrument is your goal, investing in a properly made and fitted violin will give them the best chance for a successful and rewarding learning experience. The same goes for the adult beginner.

If you’re concerned about making such an investment for a beginning student, consider renting a violin online. At JSI, our rental instruments are professionally set up in our dedicated rental instrument workshop. We believe that beginners of all ages deserve to have the best experience possible learning to play the violin.

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Located in Newton, Massachusetts, Carriage House Violins is the instrument sales division of Johnson String Instrument.

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Whether searching for a job, learning about the "Mozart Effect," looking for a summer music camp, or choosing the right instrument string, you need look no further.

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Johnson String Project

A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in under-served communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

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JSI Blog

Information and helpful articles about the music and instruments we love.

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Helpful "how to" videos and useful information about JSI and the products and services we offer.

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