How to Choose a Violin for a Beginning Player or Student
The famous Comedian/Violinist Jack Benny’s famous line as he held up his violin was “If it isn’t a $30,000 Strad, I’m out $120 bucks!” Today Benny’s Stradivarius, donated upon his death to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, is worth several million. ;) With violins ranging in price from $75 to $2,000,000 and bows from $19 to $100,000, what should the average beginning violin shopper expect to spend for a good quality, entry level, beginner student violin?
If you read reviews from legitimate sources such as Strings Magazine, you’ll see that the same violin brand names pop up regularly. Some of the brand names that you will see are Gliga, Hofner, Johannes Kohr, Eastman, and Scott Cao. When purchasing a violin for your student, buying a brand name instrument will ensure that you will get a quality violin that is properly setup and ready to play. Also, many of the well known violin makers offer a beginning violin package (referred to as an outfit) that includes a bow and case. These violin outfits provide the best value for the money, and traditionally run around $400 for everything. These violin packages are normally available in fractional sizes as well, so you can find the right size violin for you or your student. When making the final decision, insist that the violin is strung with quality perlon core strings such as Dominants.
Each of the “name brand” manufacturers offers entry to professional violins costing several hundred to several thousand dollars. Avoid the least expensive beginner instruments, even from reputable companies. Why? They are trying to compete with the junk offered on the internet. There are too many corners cut trying to compete. Spending just a little bit more promises a much easier playing and better sounding student violin.
If you are searching for a quality beginner student violin, compare the Gliga Gem II, Eastman 100, Johannes Kohr K500, Hofner AS-060, and the Scott Cao 017. Ask the dealer for a professional setup, which is crucial to the playability and tone of the violin. For more information about setup, see our article "Importance of a Violin Setup". If you are looking at a Scott Cao, ask that it is set up by the Cao company, which is standard practice at Violin Pros. Scott Cao's 017 violins are constructed in Cao’s China factory, they are adjusted or setup in their California workshop where their finest violins are constructed. No matter the company, it is well worth an extra $75 to get a master builder to setup the violin's sound post, carve the bridge, and true the pegs so your instrument can sound as best as possible.
Good hunting and please remember to contact us if you have any questions about choosing any level of violin.