It’s time to pick out your very own instrument! This is an exciting investment that you’ll be using every day of your life as a musician, so you want to make sure your choice is right for the long term. As you make your decision, consider the points below:
1. A cheap instrument will not be a savings if it hinders your child’s playing! Not everything advertised as a violin really works well for playing. An instrument with faulty tuning mechanisms, a badly fitted bridge, poor construction, etc. can cause all sorts of problems with tuning, tone, playability, which can actually get in the way of the child’s progress. That’s not only frustrating for the child (and the teacher! And probably your ears!) but it’s expensive, because we have to waste lesson time fighting with the instrument., and often, to pour the money you “saved” back into repairs to get it in playable condition. Please don’t jump for the cheapest thing you see without looking into it. Which leads to point 2—
2. ALWAYS try it before you buy it! Any reputable company, even online, will allow you a trial period to take the instrument, play on it, let your teacher or other knowledgeable person take a look at it, and return it if it’s not worth your money. Take advantage of this, and if the dealer doesn’t offer that option, don’t buy the instrument.
3. I recommend buying from qualified local dealers, rather than online—both because of the trust factor, and because it’s easier to “try” an instrument from a local dealer, and because the dealer will work with you to find an instrument that’s good for you. Plus, you’ll learn a lot just from going in and playing. Some mail order companies ( such as SHAR) also offer a high trust factor and a good price point, though not with the convenience of “in-person” shopping.
4. Things to look for: Here are some of the most important features.
· Good construction. Unfinished edges or open seams are a good clue that your instrument is not in the best of shape.
· Ease of tuning. The fine tuners should turn easily, and the tuning pegs should both turn and stick fairly easily.
· Ease of playing. The strings, nut, and bridge especially should be set up well for bowing and fingering. I or any other teacher should be able to check this for you. You should not have to work hard to produce a good sound.
· Beautiful violin tone. Listen for a clear, rich sound; it should be pleasing and should “project” so that it can be heard clearly at a distance. Tone “color” may vary but it should not be gravelly or grainy.
5. Remember: The bow is just as important—some would say more important—than the violin! Make sure you save room in your budget for a reasonable bow; try several and see which fits your instrument the best!
Where To Look?
Below I’ve listed several string companies that in my experience will provide quality instruments and service. This is not by any means an exhaustive list—there are probably many good dealers in this area that I am still discovering so feel free to investigate on your own. I’ve starred the ones I have worked with the most and definitely recommend with confidence.
Local shops (good sources for sales and rental, and maintenance)
*Sapp Violins in Wheaton and Montgomery
*Cassandra Strings in Algonquin (this is our semi-official “studio shop”)
*Dixon Strings in Chicago
Kenneth Stein Violins in Elmhurst
William Harris Lee in Chicago
Online/mail order companies
If you need help in your search, please ask! I am glad to be an extra set of ears and hands as you sample prospective instruments!