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Buying a Violin

Buying a Violin

Salesman Advising Customer Buying Violin

Buying a violin can be an exciting,  yet scary moment when you will find yourself asking lots of questions, without immediately finding an answer. In this blog, I will try to set out things to consider and suggestions for possible answers.

The vast majority of parents of my students hire an instrument while their children are growing and will need regular changes in violin size. However, at about 11 or 12 years old, the child will grow out of a ¾ size instrument, and parents find themselves looking for a full size instrument for their child. This will be the time to be thinking not only to upgrade in size instrument, but also in quality instrument, as the full size instrument will hopefully become the child’s instrument for life.

I think that it is therefore important that you do not rush into buying a violin, but take time to decide on one that:

a) you like the sound of

b) which feels comfortable to play

c) one that also looks good

This is subjective on 3 counts!

It takes time for children and young people to discover what they like, so it is important to try lots of different instruments. The child may start by asking their friends to have a go at playing on their instruments and having a good look at them. I often discuss with the child what to look out for in an instrument.

Should I buy a new or an old violin?

One of the first choices to be made is whether to start looking at newly made or old (antique) instruments. Children sometimes suddenly feel that they become part of history when they know their instrument is over 100 years old and it was around in Victorian times for instance.

How much does a violin cost?

The next step would be to decide on your budget, which again is an individual choice. Student violins suitable for players up to about Grade 5, may cost in the region of £500. More advanced players, approximately between Grades 6-8 should be looking to spend £1000 or more. Serious players of Grade 8 and more advanced, as well as Consrevatoirs students should be looking at instruments of well over that future. It is important that you play on an instrument which matches your ability. You may waste your lesson fee if you don’t. For example: you are learning to improve your tone quality. If your instrument can’t produce the tone colours that you are after, you are not going to achieve your objective of enhancing your bowing technique. 

I always advise people to spend as much as they can afford when buying an instrument. A full size violin is very much a work of art and should be seen as an investment, as it tends to retain its value over time. At the same time, please remember that if you are to trade this instrument in in the future, you will lose 20% VAT, a good reason to try get it right first time.

Bear in mind also that at this stage the violin, bow and case are all sold separately. The value of the bow should be approximately one quarter to one third of the value of the instrument for it to be a matching pair.

Which violin case should I buy?

What type of case you will need depends predominantly on what your instrument insurance requires; some companies will only insure the more expensive instruments if they are carried in a state of the art fibre glass cases, which can add several hundreds to the total bill. Check out the internet to get an idea of prices and styles.

The most important thing though is to go to a violin maker of good reputation, who will allow you to take one or two violins home for a trial period and NEVER to buy a violin without showing it to me. Good violin makers are Woodbridge Violins in Woodbridge, Suffolk www.woodbridgeviolins.com, Caswells in Brackley (Hertfordshire) www.caswellsstrings.co.uk or Guivier in London http://www.guivier.com.

Violin buying etiquette

It is custom to always telephone beforehand, so you are sure that there is a selection of instruments within your budget range. When visiting a violin dealer, do allow at least half a day to play various instruments. All violin dealers have studios in their shops where you can play without being disturbed and take your time making your choice.

Please feel free to discuss at any point any queries that you may have, both with the dealer and with your teacher. Both will find it important that you buy an instrument which is right for the individual, so neither will be offended if you take your time for this decision.

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