What to Look for When Renting or Purchasing a Beginner Violin

The details of buying a new violin can go in depth quite fast! This post focuses only on beginning level violins for a students with no experience, as most people looking for an advanced violin will already have a teacher to assist them. The diagram at the bottom of the page will help to identify the parts of the violin.

A good quality beginner violin can range between $250 and $500. Quality instruments will have but are not limited to theses basic features that anyone (even non players!) can identify:

  • The strings are close (but not too close!) to the fingerboard
  • The pegs, fingerboard and possibly chinrest are ebony or rosewood.
  • Adjusted or set up in a shop (preferably in the U.S. if you are living here).
  • The pegs should turn, without making creaking or cracking sounds. If you are afraid of breaking a string or peg, ask the seller to demonstrate for you.
  • Student violins should also have four fine tuners that turn easily.
  • When the screw of the bow is loosened, the stick and hair of the bow are close, but the hair is not too loose.

Of course, there are many other features that can help identify a quality violin, starting with these will get you pretty far!

When purchasing an instrument of lesser quality, you will have extra costs in maintenance and repair. A new instrument sold for less than $200 should not be purchased. Within the first months of ownership you will likely spend more than the value of the instrument in repairs and upgrades to make it playable. I have yet to see one that will stay in tune and where the bow does not fall apart within a few months.  

You may find a cheaper instrument used, but you should be a smart shopper and keep these items in mind:

  • Look for signs of wear on the strings, they should not be unwinding or fraying
  • The bow hair should be clean, no thinning or dirty hair
  • The bridge should not be leaning or warped
  • The end of the tuning pegs should fit flush to the wood on the scroll

The best places to purchase a used violin is from a quality music store that specializes in stringed instruments and/or school instrument sales and rentals.

Visit this page for great stores around the Bay Area and online.