Buying Guide: Violins

Buying a Violin

Buying a violin can be a very difficult process, as the specs are pretty much identical whether you pay $250 or $10,000 for your violin. So what factors determine a violin's value? This guide will help you understand some of the differences.


Why buy online?

Most violin buying guides will tell you to spend hours testing out many different violins in a shop. You can do this, but you will spend a whole lot more money (and have to deal with those pushy salespeople). Especially if you are a beginner or intermediate player, this is unnecessary. Also, you may want to ask your violin teacher (if you have one) for recommendations.


In this guide, you will learn all the information you need to make an informed choice that works for you and, if you decide to buy your violin from Giardinelli, you can try it out at home for up to 45 days with our Complete Satisfaction Guarantee. That's a lot longer test than is possible in a shop! Plus with our Lowest Price Guarantee, you'll know you're getting the best deal. Now everyone can afford to play the best violin possible.


The deal with Stradivarius

Antonio Stradivari and his counterparts were master craftsmen who hand-built each instrument, assuring that each element--from the raw woods used to the highly skilled carving--was of the utmost quality. Today the name is synonymous with supreme quality and is used to describe pretty much anything from cars to various types of instruments.


A violin branded or labeled Stradivarius does not mean it is genuine. There are fewer than 700 genuine Strads in existence today. However, the present shape and dimensions of violins are usually based on the violins the Stradivari family perfected by the beginning of the 18th century.


Student or professional?

The main differences between professional and student violins are the amount of labor that goes into them and the quality and finish of the wood. Professional violins are hand-carved from the highest-quality woods, hand-varnished, and meticulously set up. Student violins are machine manufactured with average wood, finished with a machine-sprayed lacquer, and set up quickly or possibly not set up at all.


There are about 70 parts in a violin. The more you spend, the better each of these parts will be.


It's the wood that makes it good

The quality of the wood used is the most important factor in how a violin sounds. Most violins have a spruce top and maple back, neck, and sides, and the wood types rarely vary. The difference in price reflects the difference in wood quality. This difference can be vast-for good reason. The perfect piece of wood for a violin will be flamed or quilted for beauty, over 200 years old, grown at high altitude, cut in the winter, and stored for 20 years or more. This ideal wood will produce a beautiful tone, but not every player necessarily needs a violin made with woods of the highest quality.


The wood selection for fittings-such as endpins, chin rests, and tuning pegs-does vary. You'll find that ebony is the main choice for fittings, but boxwood is also used, and you may find alloy tailpieces with built-in tuners. Some fittings on beginner violins, such as the chin rest, may be plastic.


Other factors to consider

Once you receive a violin from us, take advantage of our 45-Day Satisfaction Guarantee to test it out. You should check the violin's playability, making sure there's an even tone with enough projection and no buzzing. Make sure the upper register has the right tone for you, whether that's brighter or warmer. Also be sure to check the setup, making sure the pegs and nut fit well, the neck is at the right angle, and all the fittings are set up correctly. When playing, you should be able to move freely between strings. Also, if you can't press each string down on the fingerboard near the bridge, the instrument needs an adjustment.


Our 45-Day Guarantee also lets you take some time to allow the violin to free up and begin to vibrate with its best tone and projection. This is beneficial because it takes time to loosen up a violin's parts. Violins are like sedentary people who, upon beginning to work out, are stiff but eventually loosen up. Within our warranty period, you will be able to hear the freed tone of your violin.


Make sure you are getting what you expected for the price. If you bought an outfit, check the quality of the bow, case, and other package contents. Pernambuco bows with horsehair are ideal, but fiberglass, wood, and carbon fiber bows will work for beginners, as long as they have the right spine and balance.


If the violin is for a child, make sure it is sized correctly (adults will want a full-size 4/4 violin). You might want to consult an instructor about what size to order. You can get a good idea by measuring the child's outstretched arm from neck to mid-palm. The following chart will then identify the correct size for your student:






Not sure how serious your child is?

Buy a lower-priced violin outfit to start, slowly upgrading the bow, the strings, and possibly the setup, until you are certain he or she will stick with it. The more you spend to start though, the less a student may be frustrated with an inferior instrument, and the more likely he or she will stick with it. At Giardinelli, we can help you finance your purchase with a Clef Member card for as little as $15 a month. A quality beginner violin over $250 can make a huge difference, and it'll be longer before he needs to upgrade.


Maintaining your violin

Be sure to put your violin back in its case when you're done playing, and keep it out of very hot or cold temperatures in 45-50% relative humidity to avoid damage. If you live in a dry area, be sure to check out our selection of instrument humidifiers. When you put the instrument and accessories in their case, be sure everything is in its proper place or damage will result. Keep your violin free of dirt and dust and, when using special cleaners, remember a little goes a long way. We recommend changing your strings every 6-12 months and rehairing your bow every 6-18 months, depending on the amount you play.