Violin Buying Guide
Violins have been around for centuries and remain as relevant today as ever. Whether it's classical music, film scores, or contemporary music violins have a wide variety of applications. We hope this guide will help you in choosing the right instrument for you or your child.
Violins come in a variety of sizes. Adults—generally from age 11 and older—will use a standard, full-sized violin. For children, there are also 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/10, 1/16 and 1/32 violins.
There are two ways to measure a young player for a violin. With the student’s left arm fully extended away from his or her body, measure from the base of the neck to either the wrist or the center of the palm. The neck-to-wrist measurement will indicate the most comfortable size for the student. The neck-to-palm measurement will determine the largest instrument your child should play.
The following chart will help you determine what size instrument your child needs, based on which ever measurement you choose.
The type and quality of the wood used to build a violin is the most important factor in the instrument’s particular sound. While most violins use the same types of tonewood—spruce tops, and maple necks, backs and sides—the quality of the wood varies, which is reflected in the price differences between instruments.
Other woods on a violin will help determine it’s durability, sound, and value. The fingerboard, for example, is preferably made of ebony, but economy violins may use less expensive wood. Some instruments may also have alloy tailpieces and/or plastic chin rests and lesser-quality bridges.
In general, a student violin will be made from lower-quality woods and involve much less hand work in the carving, assembly and finishing. They typically have plastic parts such as tuning pegs and chinrests. These instruments are well suited for someone who is interested in learning, but who is not yet sure if they will play for very long. They range in price from about $100–800 dollars.
Filling the gap between student and professional instruments are violins classified as intermediate. Some stores and brands omit this category, only drawing a distinction between student and professional violins. It is a helpful category, however, for musicians who know they need something better than a beginner instrument, but aren’t ready to invest thousands of dollars in a professional violin. Students who are advancing in their skills are typical intermediate violin buyers.
Professional or master violins, on the other hand, will be constructed from cold-grown and slow-dried wood, hand built and assembled by a master luthier, and finished with high-quality components such as an ebony fingerboard and wooden tailpiece. The excellent materials and refined artistic skill that go into these instruments drive up their value, and make them appropriate instruments for professional and aspiring, advanced musicians.