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Violin Purchase

When enquiring about a violin, be sure you know the size required (¼, ½, ¾ or full size), and whether any price quoted is for a violin alone, or a violin set (violin, bow, and case). Unless you already have them, you will also need some rosin (round preferably), and a shoulder rest (available to fit the different sizes of instrument). When purchasing a shoulder rest, try several if possible to find one that both supports the instrument and is reasonably comfortable. Prices vary from around £10 to over £30.
Many of my own pupils find the "Wolf" range of rests very comfortable - they come in three 'flavours' with different shapes and profiles, and they are all adjustable in height to suit most individuals. Cost: £25 - £35.

 

As a temporary measure, a small sponge (baby sponge) may be used to give the violin a little support. Though not perfect, it helps give the beginner a better posture than nothing at all.

A second-hand instrument could be a better purchase than a new one as when you come to eventually sell it, you are likely to be able to ask at least the same price as you paid for it. If you do decide to buy a new instrument, something like the Stentor Student II outfit priced at around £125.00 is perfectly good for a beginner, and represent good value for money. (See Stentor web site for details). These are widely available in music shops and online, not to mention of course Amazon.

Buyer's Checklist

  • Look for any cracks or splits in the wood, particularly near the feet of the bridge.
     

  • Looking at the violin from the side - see that the bridge is not warped and make sure that it is in good contact with the body of the violin.
     

  • The neck should feel smooth to allow the hand to glide up and down easily.
     

  • Check the height of the strings - too low and they will vibrate against the fingerboard, too high and the instrument will be difficult to play. As a guide, the height above the end of the fingerboard should be around 4mm. for the G string, and 2mm. for the E string - the bridge will be taller on the G-string side.
     

  • The strings are attached at the bottom of the instrument to the tailpiece, and this in-turn has a loop of nylon or gut passing around the button. Looking along the length of the violin from the this end, check that the button, strings and fingerboard are all in-line. If the button is even slightly misplaced, it will tend to pull the bridge to one side.
     

  • Although fine-tuners on each string are not essential, they are very much easier for small fingers to turn when tuning the instrument, and youngsters are not going to accidentally break a string by over-zealous tuning!
     

  • Look carefully at the bow. When tightened, the hairs should lie flat and be spread evenly. Looking along the length of the stick, with the hair underneath, it should have a slight bend upwards towards the point, but should not twist or bend to the left or right.
     

  • Take care if your violin set has a bow made of synthetic materials instead of wood and horse-hair. Fibre glass ones sometimes crack at the thinnest point and although cheaper, they are only suitable for beginners. Modern carbon fibre and carbon fibre/kevlar composites can be very good, rivaling expensive wooden bows. As the amount of hairs on the bow gradually reduces (they break from time to time with normal playing) it will need re-hairing - you do not need to purchase a new bow.