Violins are some of the most popular and glorified instruments on the planet. Before you can become part of the exponentially growing population of violinists, you'll have to do one thing - buy a violin. Finding a violin that suits your needs and your budget can be a bit tricky, but the process can also be as much fun as you want it to be. This guide will only help facilitate that fun!
What makes a violin a violin
Before you go shopping for your first violin, you should introduce yourself to what goes into making one.
What to look for
Before you buy a violin, set a budget for yourself. This will prevent you from falling in love with a violin that you can't quite afford, and will help you focus your attention on violins that are closer to the amount you want to spend (not to say that you won't fall in love with one that you can afford!).
Violins come in different sizes to accomodate everyone. To find your size, measure your outstretched arm from your neck to the middle of your palm. A sizing chart looks something like this:
'''Length (in.) Size'''
Student vs. Professional
Similar to any instrument, violins are produced to cater to players of different levels. Violins are produced in student and professional models, and the only differences are in the quality of the materials and the time spent on making it. More expensive violins are made with more exotic and durable woods, which according to Giardinelli, "[can] be flamed or quilted for beauty, over 200 years old, grown at high altitude, cut in the winter, and stored for 20 years or more." Some things, such as chin rests, can be made of plastic on student models, but more often than not, the pieces of a student model are made with a lesser wood.
Some players require the highest quality violin, while even some professionals can get by with a lot less. It's up to you to try a bunch of violins to gauge your own needs.
When shopping, you'll find that used alternatives are great for finding quality instruments that won't break the bank. However, be careful if you've decided to buy used. Make sure to check the body of any used violin for cracks in the wood, as well as imperfections in the carving. Also look for signs of wear and tear, and check for any loose parts. You can gauge how much you'll actually be saving if you buy used, based on the expected cost of replacement parts. Keep in mind that your violin will be '''your''' instrument, so if you're going to buy a used professional model, make sure it sounds the way a professional model should sound.
The best way to find out what you actually need in a violin, it's best to go to music stores and try a bunch for yourself. Specialty stores will actually allow you to schedule viewings. No matter where you go, chances are that you'll be greeted by sales people who are willing to assist you with any questions you may have. However, as helpful as they will be, they are also trying to sell you something. Once they sense you're uninformed, they will try to take advantage of the fact and sell you something that is either inferior, or a bit more costly than what you had initially planned on. If this is the case, try to bring someone who's an expert along with you, or even your teacher (if applicable). They can serve as your second pair of eyes and ears, and will tell you things about the instruments you're looking at that a sales person may try to avoid. Once you've decided on a violin, try taking it to a secondary dealer for appraisal. Some dealers do this for free, and it will ensure that you are getting the best price possible. Most people would agree on the fact that it's a good idea to buy the most expensive violin you can afford, so trust your eyes and ears, as well as someone else's, and find what's right for you!