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Student Violins for Sale: A Guide


If you or your child is just starting out on the violin: congratulations! Welcome to the string community! If you’re looking for your first instrument, though, things can be confusing. Trying to find the best violin can be a bewildering path to take. Here are some guidelines that should help you along your journey!

student violinWhen you’re purchasing a violin for the first time, here are a few things to look for: 

  • Pegs: do they turn easily without slipping or sticking? If the instrument has pegs that keep slipping then it will be very difficult for the new violinist to attempt to play in tune.
  • Fingerboard: is it real ebony or is it some other type of wood that’s been painted black? Violin makers have used ebony fittings for years because of the wood’s hardness, so if the fingerboard isn’t really ebony then it is much more likely to warp, crack, or splinter.
  • Bridge: Is it the correct height? Too low and the strings will vibrate against the fingerboard; too high and the violin will be hard to play. Do the feet sit flush against the top of the instrument? If not, then the instrument’s potential is not being met. The bridge conveys the vibrations of the strings into the face of the violin, so if it’s not making contact with the wood then the vibrations are being lost.
  • Purfling: Is it real ebony inlaid into the wood or is it just painted on? The purfling is inlaid around the edges of the instrument in order to protect the wood from cracking. If the instrument doesn’t have this inlay, then any sort of damage sustained to the edges of the violin is likely to spread into the face of the instrument, rendering it unplayable.
  • Wood: The top of a violin needs to be spruce and the back of it is almost always maple. The wood also needs to be properly aged; if it is varnished before the wood has aged properly then it is at risk of cracking or warping.
  • Fine Tuners: Do they turn easily? Are they digging into the face of the instrument beneath the tailpiece?

These are just a few things to look for. More often than not, if you purchase a violin from ebay or craigslist, it probably won’t fit the bill. These instruments are what we like to call VSO’s (“Violin Shaped Objects”). The good news is that all of our student instruments at SHAR are inspected to make sure that they fit these and other precise specifications!

The other thing that you’ll need to know when you purchase your first instrument is what size to get. If you’re an adult then you’ll need a full size instrument. But if you’re getting the instrument for your child, then you’ll have to get some measurements! We think it’s best for the child’s teacher to size him or her, but this video contains some guidelines as well:

Finally, you’ll need more than just the instrument – you’ll need a case and a bow, too! If you buy an instrument from SHAR that comes with an outfit, then you are all set; an “outfit” includes the instrument, case, bow, and rosin.

If you have any other questions or concerns about purchasing your first violin, don’t hesitate to call us at 1.800.248.7427! We are happy to help you.


"If you're an adult then you'll need a full size instrument." NOT NECESSARILY. I'm very much an adult (in my 60's), and I find a 3/4-size instrument much more comfortable to play than a full-size. I'm short -- with short arms, fingers, etc. I have arthritis, and playing a full-size violin puts more stress and "torque" on my joints. So there are definitely times when adult violinists shouldn't rule out smaller violins. Sometimes they're exactly what's needed. If you're "vertically challenged", don't assume that a 3/4-size instrument is off limits.
Posted @ Tuesday, October 02, 2012 12:49 PM by Marsha Weaver
Rudy Hazuchka taught me how to "size" students when I did my Book 1 and 2 Suzuki certification classes. His technique was similar to yours, but slightly different. He said to have the child extend their left arm with the violin on their shoulder and put the middle finger of their left hand into the peg box with their palm around the back of the scroll. There should be a slight bend in the elbow (ie not hyper-extended). This has ALWAYS worked perfectly for me. Using thie method, I formulated my own "measuring stick" to use when I didn't have assorted sizes at hand in my studio. It has always worked wonderfully. BTW the most difficult thing I have initially with parents is explaining to them that a child cannot "grow into" an instrument like they can a pair of pants. I always err on the side of "smallness". A child can play an instrument that they have outgrown, but they can't do anything but learn bad habits on an instrument that is too big. I have these little kids walk in with "grand daddy's closet fiddle" and the parents don't want to pay for or rent a correctly sized violin because they say that they child might lose interest. I tell them that if their child attempts to learn to play on a violin that is too big.. they are GUARANTEED to lose interest. I'm sure we all have this happen. It always amazes me though. Happened to me twice last week!
Posted @ Tuesday, October 02, 2012 2:27 PM by Dee Braxton-Pellegrino
Thanks for your comments Marsha and Dee! And you're so right, Marsha: 3/4 is not off-limits for adults. That's great advice for the "vertically challenged." :)
Posted @ Tuesday, October 02, 2012 3:36 PM by Joseph Chapman
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