You are planning to go for it and start learning how to play the violin? I understand that you may feel lost, because even though it is my job, I’m still having a hard time knowing the hundreds – if not thousands – of references that exist. That’s why I give you some tips to choose your first violin. That way, I hope you’ll start in the best conditions.
Finding and choosing your first violin
How much does a beginner’s violin cost?
Firstly, the budget is a determining factor in choosing a first violin. But first, you should know that it is possible to purchase a violin at any price these days. Thus, you will probably be able to find ready-to-play sets for less than 100 euros as well as single violins for several thousand euros by doing some research on the Internet. There are no real rules about how much you have to spend when you start, you can really do it depending on your budget. On the other hand, it must be taken into account that cheaper instruments are not very sophisticated, sometimes to the point of being completely unusable:
- unpleasant tones
- almost impossible tuning
- frequent assembly problems
You can purchase your first violin wherever you like on the Internet with the lowest prices (budget under €150). Most of the time, no real work has been completed on it, and if you’re lucky, you will get an instrument that is playable. Otherwise, return it and have it exchanged. This way you can start learning the violin on a very limited budget.
Of course, you are more likely to get personalised services in specialised online shops. The costs will be a little higher (budget under €400), but violins will be of better quality and offer a more pleasing musical experience.
Finally, you can still start with high-quality instruments so that you’ll have an incredible experience both in terms of playability and tone. That is why, if you have a bigger budget (above €1,000), you can look at very beautiful instruments that will follow you for many years.
Where to buy your first violin?
You have two options: buying locally or online. Each has pros and cons that I won’t list here. However, know that nowadays everything is possible and there is no reason to limit yourself. Many musicians travel from very distant places to come see me and sometimes, my violins travel long distances as well thanks to delivery companies.
Choosing your first violin when buying it
Buying a violin is an important and immediate investment, which gradually pays off over time. Yet, there will still be costs that will later add on for the maintenance. Moreover, changing some consumables will be needed sometimes, such as strings, bow hairs or rosin.
I encourage you to take a look at the special beginner’s bundles that I have developed to give you everything you need to get started. Further down this article, I explain the different details that need to be taken into account to have all the keys in hand to start playing the violin. However, my bundles already provide everything you need and thus, you won’t have to do any more research.
Choosing your first violin when renting it
Renting is a relatively flexible and cost-effective way to try out high-quality instruments. Furthermore, it can help with the transition between instrument sizes for growing children. Finally, it is a good way to try out other instruments over longer periods.
In my workshop, rental is non-binding and can be cancelled at any time. In addition, maintenance is included and I provide an annual check-up and replacement of strings and bow hairs if necessary. Finally, the most interesting option is that each contract includes a hire-purchase opportunity, meaning that, at any time, you can transfer part of the monthly payments you have accumulated into a coupon to purchase an instrument.
Book your violin now!
How to choose your first violin
If you are desperate to know the details of how to find a good violin, I will summarise some of the major points here. By doing so, you can investigate with greater efficiency and avoid making mistakes (or being fooled!).
What to check for a good beginner’s violin
- Above all, look for sculpted instruments in solid tonewoods – spruce and maple. At this level, the origin of the wood won’t change much.
- These beginner’s violins are best if assembled with traditional hot glue. This will allow easier maintenance in the future.
- A rather nicely applied varnish (oil or spirit) while avoiding thick layers. Thus, the wood can still breath and the varnish can be touched up easily if it is damaged. Alternatively, you can choose a nitrocellulose lacquer if you want to enjoy an indestructible instrument and if you do not care too much about tone.
- Real purflings should be inlaid and not roughly drawn around the edges. Indeed, it is important both for the sound and for the appearence.
- Accessories made of ebony or rosewood that are not too rough: pegs, chinrest, knob, etc. (avoid plastic or painted wood).
- By the way, as we’re talking about wood… If you see something mentioning “hardwood”, it means that it can be anything with a layer of painting on it.
- A proper assembly with good quality bridges (Despiau, Aubert, Milo Stamm) and a well-fitted soundpost. But this is only available for bigger budgets.
- A tailpiece that matches the other components (ebony or rosewood) or a composite tailpiece with integrated adjusters for practical reasons.
- Last but not least, reliable and good quality strings like Thomastik, Warchal or Pirastro. But these are very easily changed, so don’t worry too much. Do not hesitate to read the article on the best violin strings.
Checking all these points is not necessary because it depends heavily on your budget. However, the more of these points you check, the fewer problems you’ll have.
Choosing a beginner’s bow
It is simply impossible to play the violin without a proper bow. And yet, it is perhaps something that someone discovering the world of violins does not think about first. A good stick can easily be more expensive than the violin itself. But here again, don’t be afraid – good bows can be found for reasonable prices. You just need to trust a dedicated professional or to know where to look.
In many sets (the name given to the bundle containing a violin, a bow and a case for each), there is a bow which is more than enough to draw the first notes. If it isn’t already the case, according to your budget, you can look at beginner’s bow between €50 and €100.
If you have the opportunity, try different bows, weigh them and try to get a feel of their balance. Although I know it will be daunting to go into it with no experience. However, I assure you that you’ll instantly feel a difference in your handling.
You can either choose a bow made of wood or of carbon. But carbon bows generally offer much better value for money in the €50-200 budget range. With a bigger budget, sticks made of pernambuco become more interesting.
Don’t forget that bows also have their own maintenance requirements. You can find out more in this article:
Cases: essential accessories
Once you have chosen your first violin, it is important to find a case for it. This will protect your violin from knocks, bad weather and other mishaps. It is also a great way to store the instrument when you are not playing.
- Although they are less expensive, soft cases are not advised for such instruments. Indeed, they do not really protect your instrument from getting knocked, which could easily affect the assembly of a violin.
- The old wooden cases that are heavy and cumbersome are true fortresses – hardly anything can penetrate their thick shells. However, the inside is rather plain and shaking an instrument in it is rather risky.
- On the other hand, modern cases offer a good combination of lightness and inner padding to guarantee optimal protection for your instrument. They are also often used to store one or more bows as well as all accessories and sheet music.
Here are some accessories that are not necessarily mandatory, but recommended by most teachers. There are many different models and each of them deserves to be described in a separate article. However, we will only briefly discuss them here.
- Shoulder rest: they ensure that the instrument sits well on the shoulder. Kun and Wolf models are the most popular.
- Chin rest: it is a piece of wood or composite that fits the shape of the chin or jaw. It must be designed to fit your body type.
- Rosin: it allows the bow hairs to grip the strings. If you are learning how to play, you don’t need to dwell too much on the different qualities. Indeed, standard rosin will do the job.
- Tailpiece: for example, a composite Wittner with fine tuners on each string is a standard.
- Tuner: this tool will allow you to tune your violin very easily.
- Metronome: learning rhythm is mainly done by referring to the “tick” of this device.
- Mute: it allows you to reduce the volume by adding mass to the bridge so that you can practice without disturbing your neighbours.