The first step in selecting an instrument is to answer the following questions:
1. What type of instrument do you want? Do you want a student instrument or something better?
2. How much money do you want to spend? For a quality European student outfit (instrument, case and bow) you will be spending from $500.00 to $1000.00. Above the student range, consider how much of an investment you wish to make in the instrument, the bow and the case.
3. What type of playing do you do? Do you need an orchestral instrument, a solo instrument, or an instrument for playing Bluegrass or Celtic?
4. What are your long-range plans for this purchase? For most performers, we encourage purchasing an instrument that will last for several years before an upgrade.
Where should you look?
You should require the following in your search: expert advice and knowledge from the seller, a good selection of quality instruments from which to choose, a trial period, a warranty, a trade-up policy and a luthier to take care of the instrument in the future. These should be your requirements in choosing the place/person from which you buy.
Many people are using the internet for different types of purchases. For purchasing an instrument, the internet is very risky at best. Is it a real violin or a "violin-shaped object?" Can you return it? What if you need repairs? And what if you need to trade-up this instrument in the future? Do you really know if the instrument is what the seller says it is? The most common violins sold on the internet are very cheaply made and already need several hundred dollars of repairs and/or replacement parts before it is playable.
Buying at an auction is exciting and sometimes yields a bargain. But do you really know the difference between a German and an Italian instrument? Can you tell if an instrument has a sound post patch or a button graft? What will be the price of the restoration? There is no trial period. Let the buyer beware.
Should you buy an instrument from a private individual? This is a very tricky subject. How much knowledge does this person have about instruments? Can you take the instrument on a trail period? Have you looked at enough instruments to make an educationally sound decision? Again, caution is the best advice.
Buying an instrument from a reputable violin shop is usually your best choice. You will find the best value for your money in a violin shop which has a good selection of instruments, trade-in policies, warranties and a repair shop. Listen to what the sales person tells you. Ask questions. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about instruments. Remember that a shop has a reputation to uphold and that reputation is based on customer opinions.
Please remember that it is very unethical for a violin shop to evaluate an instrument you may be considering from another shop or a private individual.
Our policy is simple: we will not look at or discuss the merits of an instrument that does not belong to you. And we do not allow our instruments to be taken to another shop for evaluation.
How to Audition an Instrument
The two most important factors in auditioning an instrument are sound quality and value.
Sound is subjective. Everyone has his/her opinion as to how an instrument sounds. What sound are you looking for?
Value in a string instrument is based on several factors: heritage (where it was made and age), wood, construction (workmanship), maker (or workshop), condition, rarity, certification and sound.
Beware of instruments with thinly graduated tops. These instruments sound great for a few years, then the sound (and sometimes the top) collapses.
1. Play the same scale on each instrument to get an idea about sound. Long slow bows, listening carefully. Which one sounds the best? Which one feels the most comfortable in your hand?
2. Play several lines of music on each instrument. Again, sound and comfort are important.
3. Make sure the sound is well-balanced on all four strings.
During your trail period, play each instrument daily to learn their personalities. If you study with a teacher, take the instruments to her/him for evaluation. We caution you about listening to other people's opinions (except for your teacher) about the instruments. You should be the person who chooses your instrument.
Our trade-up policy is 100% of the price of the violin (less any repairs/restoration/string replacement needed). We require that you have your original receipt.