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Things to Consider When Buying A Student Violin

Rent or Buy

We suggest renting is the best way to go when starting children on violin lesson. This will provide an opportunity for the parents to determine if the children have the discipline and enough love for the violin in order to learn a difficult instrument. Only once this has been established, do we offer the following advice in regards to buying a violin for a child. Many parents will not hesitate to pay RM10,000 for a piano. It is a different story when it comes to a violin for their child. The truth is, the great majority of cheap violins are unplayable. These cheap violins are poorly made and need plenty of work on “set-up” in order to made them playable.

The lack of proper “set-up” affects the playability and tonal quality of the violin. The child that could have made great progress is disappointed with the playability and the poor quality of tone that he or she produces from a cheap violin. This could eventually lead to the child giving up on learning the instrument.

Handmade vs Factory-made

Handmade violin generally has proper set-up and produces better sound than a factory-made one. Consequently, it encourages the student to play and practice.

We recommend handmade instrument as long as it is within budget constraint. The logic being if you want your child to learn a skill, give him or her a better quality tool.

Handmade traditionally refers to the violin being handcrafted by one single luthier from the beginning till the end. Some dealers have referred to violins make on mass production as handmade. Although technically correct to refer them as handmade because they are made by hand, the violin is actually the work of several persons instead of one,

Condition of Violin:

Usually, the first thing the parents do is to look at the prices of the violin. Then they (and the child) look for new, shiny instruments free of scratches. The cheaper factory-made instruments are usually of inferior construction with no “set-up”.


“Set-up” refers to the preparation, proper shaping and setting of the followings:

• Tuning Pegs;
• Top Nut;
• Fingerboard;
• Bridge;
• Tailpiece;
• Saddle;
• End Pin;
• Chinrest

Violin Wood & Varnish:

Contrary to popular belief, the beautiful tiger stripe wood of the back of a violin contributes little to the sound of a violin. The quality of the wood of the top plate, which was usually made of spruce, is more important to the violin tone. The finest toned Italian violins have very straight medium grained spruce free of defects. Most violin wood is aged several years to avoid warping in fit of top plate to ribs.

There are two types of varnish – spirit and oil varnish. Some believes that a soft oil varnish is best. However, this is debatable.

Corner Blocks & Purfling:

Four corner blocks in the violin indicate an upper grade of workmanship and the bass bar is a separate piece specially-made and glued to the underside of the top instead of being just a thickener part of the top wood. The purfling made of three strips made of wood, well inlaid and perfectly mitered into the corner is a good indicator of a fine violin. Some very cheap violins have fake purfling lines “painted” on. If you can see the wood grain continue through the purfling, it is not inlaid but, rather, painted on. When buying a violin online, if there are no clear photos on the listing showing such details, try to get them. It pays to ask questions when purchasing a violin from an eBay seller.

Fingerboard, Pegs and Tailpiece…

These should be made of Ebony, Rosewood or other hardwood. Cheap instruments generally have a ebonised (just painted black) fingerboard and pegs because of inferior wood.

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