The last ten years have brought about a flood of cheap violins. You see these online (we even sell them), in catalogs and lately, in large chain stores.
The side effect of all these low priced instruments is the beginner`s perception of price. Looking around online, a new player is lead to believe that it is possible to buy good violins for $100 or less.
Why would anyone then go and spend $300 or more on their first violin? The number one reason would be to get an instrument that actually sounds and plays like a violin is meant to. Unfortunately, the “new” player or parent of the player, does not realize there is a difference, or assumes for a beginner the cheaper version will be fine.
What are you really getting when you purchase these low priced instruments? The lowest quality woods available. Very poor carving in respect to tone (The durability is fine). The lowest grade strings, bow, rosin, etc… Possibly no setup work (we setup our low cost violins).
But the violin I found is a closeout, overstock, or the seller does not know the true value.
This may be true at a yard sale, local auction or flea market. If you are shopping at online auctions and stores, it is not only unlikely, it is just about impossible. Why would the seller sell an $800 violin for $80.00? The answer is simple, they wouldn`t. There would be no need to. If it were truly worth $800, they could ask $400 and sell it quickly. If some of these sellers were selling what they claim, "we" would buy their instruments and resell them.
The reality is that, as an inexperienced player you do not have the knowledge needed to determine what is and is not a good deal. Even an experienced professional cannot tell just by looking at a picture and reading, though they have a much better chance at narrowing it down.
A violin that looks good in a picture and sounds good in the description is not necessarily going to play well or sound good in person. How can you tell? You can’t.
As sellers, we have this same problem. There are so many sources for violins. These fit every possible category, from wonderful instruments, to violins that are only suited to firewood. Until we see the violin in person, it is a guess as to how it will sound and play.
If it is a maker or source that we have previously dealt with, we will often purchase violins without having seen the model. This would be based on our relationship with the supplier and only after discussing the model in detail. This applies to large volumes. We often purchase single violin samples to see if it is something worth selling.
A violin is filled with opportunities to cut costs at the expense of quality. Good deals may be found in every price range, however, getting the best $80 violin made still results in a very low quality instrument.
It is important that you trust the shop you are dealing with. Ultimately, you are relying on them to help you choose the violin.
A few observations about cheap violins:
Most teachers cringe when they see a student bring in a low grade instrument. Some will refuse to teach the student. The student will be embarrassed when his or her violin sounds much worse than the other student’s violins, regardless of how well they play. The violin is very difficult to get good tone out of. It can be hard to play anything other than basic tunes (Mary had a little lamb) and impossible to play complex pieces. Violin shops often refuse to work on, or quote outrageous prices to repair low grade instruments. They rarely have any setup work done (not ready to be played) Soft woods used for fittings wear quickly and will need repair.
The second best way for a seller to cut cost is by not performing a setup on the violin. Many of the sellers never even open the violin case to look at the instrument. This is especially true of shops that do not specialize in acoustic instruments.
Every violin needs to be setup. This is even more true of cheap violins. Without going into details (we have setup information in other articles), you at least need the basics done, such as fitting the tuning pegs and bridge. The violins do not come from the maker ready to be tuned up and played. If the seller does not do this, you will need to have it done after you receive the violin.
Playing the violin requires a large commitment of time and effort. When lessons and maintenance are factored in, the price of the violin is only part of the true cost. Do yourself a favor and look at violins in the $350 - $500 range and do not buy anything less than $200 (these are all discounted prices, as found on the internet. You will need to spend more in a local shop). A low quality instrument requires more maintenance and has less resale value. In the long term, the better violin also turns out to be the best value.
Whatever price range you choose, make sure setup work is done on the violin. Choose your shop carefully. Be sure you are able to return the instrument for a refund if it is not what you were expecting.
A shameless request for your business:
We hope that you will consider Folkmusician for your violin purchase. We offer the best low cost violins available. Low cost (under $200) violins account for a good portion of our sales. Working with these instruments everyday has given us an understanding of their shortcomings and how best to overcome them without significantly adding to the price. That said, we do prefer to sell "better" instruments.