Many Things You Need to Know About Buying a Violin
Whether you are a beginner, or advanced player, here are some tips to help you select the right violin.

You might be trying to find a violin for the very first time as a beginner, or you may be upgrading to a finer instrument after playing for a long time.

Here are some tips:

For the beginner:

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 aquiring 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.

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.

For buying a higher-quality instrument:

If you buy an instrument from a luthier, you will probably be buying the violin, bow and case separately.
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.

If you are going to a violin shop, most have a room or a place where you can test out an instrument that interests you.

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!

An older instrument can be an excellent investment. But there are many modern makers whose instruments sound every bit as good, and if you are on a budget, this may be the way to go. A new instrument, if played well (in tune, for maximum resonance), can "open up," and it is quite exciting to be the person that helps shape the fiddle's voice.

As far as bows are concerned, a bow needs to have good weight, flexibility and balance between frog and tip. This is not always easy to gauge, and requires spending some time with the bow.

If it is too heavy, it can strain your hand and even cause injury over time. If it is too light, it can make it difficult to produce a big sound.

If it is either too flexible or too stiff, it will be less nimble in your hands.

If it is not balanced, it will be difficult to execute advanced bow stroke such as spiccato (bouncing bow), sautille (really fast bouncing bow), ricochet (bouncing several times on a down bow or up bow) or other strokes.

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, 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.

But, most importantly, do not ever buy a violin that you either don't like or have doubts about.

Luthiers and friends do have influence on your opinion, therefore do not forget that you should be the one to pick the instrument after all. Believe in your thoughts.

There is nothing worse than playing on an instrument that you bought for a lot of money and don't really like!

And make sure you are ready to upgrade; and, that you know how to test an instrument. What qualities should be present for example when you shift upward, or play on the low G string? Though personal preference directly influences these things, there is also some common performance specifications that you can discuss with your friends, preferably skilled friends.

Basically, if you don't know what the above performance specifications should be, perhaps you are not ready to upgrade your instrument just yet. What decisions went into the process of helping you decide to upgrade. Did your instructor tell 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.

And would a refitting by a qualified luthier make your old instrument come to life. This is sometimes the case, and often an instrument might be adjusted by a good luthier and given a new life. So if you are ready to get that next instrument do go slowly and shop around; and, by all means make sure the instrument matches your playing style, as already mentioned.

Expectations of value
A common epectation 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.

How to Buy a Violin
Violins, along with the rest of the String family, (violas, cellos and basses) are an integral part of the Symphony Orchestra.

The instrument is commonly associated with classical music, but there are other genres such as Mariachi, blue grass, folk and various styles of “fiddle music”. It’s also occasionally heard in blues, jazz and rock.

Contrary to some popular beliefs, the violin is not a particularly difficult instrument to play, and with consistent practice beginners usually make rapid progress, playing simple melodies relatively quickly.

The violin is particularly child-friendly in that it comes in a variety of sizes. As a student grows, the instrument can be traded for larger sizes. It’s critical that a student has the proper size instrument.

A violin that is too large in proportion to the size of the student can create a very uncomfortable situation. In extreme situations, this can lead to tendonitis leaving students discouraged and turned off to the instrument.

Student Level
These violins are produced for beginning students and are often produced by machine. Maple is sometimes used for high friction parts (pegs, fingerboard) and dyed to resemble the more expensive Ebony, which is found on most violins. These instruments are excellent for the early stages of development and are priced to easily fit into most budgets.

Intermediate Level
These instruments represent better quality wood and workmanship, most (if not all) of which is done by hand. The result is an instrument that sounds better and will accommodate a player to more advanced levels of play. Pegs and fingerboard are usually made of Ebony. Extensive hand graduation of the top and back of the violin result in a more refined sound. Some intermediate violins may approach the professional level of performance.

Pro Level
These are violins made from only the finest woods and built with a near fanatical devotion to every detail of the instruments construction and appearance. Because of the relatively low number of craftsman skilled at this level, and the number of hours required to produce an instrument of this caliber with a select piece of natural wood, the price of these instruments is considerably higher.

More Info

There are 2 basic areas of the violin:

* Body – The “box” part of the instrument. The top is generally made of a thinly and precisely shaved piece of spruce, the back and sides (ribs) are generally made of maple. The top and back may be made of a single piece of wood or a bookmatched piece.

* Neck Assembly – the structure that attaches to the top end of the violin body. It is generally made of maple and has at the top-end, the peg box (where the strings attach to the pegs) and the scroll. Applied to the top of the neck are the fingerboard (where the left-hand fingers press down to alter the pitch of the strings) and the nut (a small piece of wood that supports and separates the strings just as they pass into the “peg box”).


The Parts of a Violin

* Bridge - a specially shaped and fitted piece of hard maple that sits between the strings and body of the instrument and transmits the majority of the string vibrations to the body.

* Soundpost – a small cylindrical piece of wood that is fitted and wedged between the back and face of a stringed instrument. Its placement has a great effect of the sound of the instrument.

* F-Hole – Two holes precisely cut in the top of a stringed instrument to permit the sound to be projected from the interior of the instrument.

* Button – a small round piece of wood fitted by pressure into a hole in the bottom ribs of a stringed instrument. It serves as the anchoring point for the string adjuster (tailgut), which is attached to the tailpiece.

* Tailpiece – a long tapered piece of material suspended above the top of the violin by the ends of the strings at the bridge end, and the tailgut at the button end.

* Tailgut – the long strand of material that attaches through two holes in the bottom end of the tailpiece and then passes over the bottom edge of the instrument, looping around the button as its other anchoring point.

* String Adjuster (optional) – a small mechanical device attached to the tailpiece of a stringed instrument to make fine adjustments in string tension

The inside should look like this: