finding good student violins
August 15, 2012 10:57 AM   Subscribe

My daughter has been taking violin lessons for about 5 years now. Her current violin was a beginner/student violin we bought from a music rental company in the northeast. Her instructor has recommended that we need to get a better violin for her, as she is progressing and is reaching the limits of this violin. Living in Maine, there aren't that many local outlets for reasonably priced/good quality student violins, so there are few options other than the internet. Please help me narrow down my choices.

she is not ready for a full size violin, so this would be a 3/4 sized violin. This is also one of the reasons we don't wish to spend a substantial amount on a new violin, as we will be doing this again soon.
posted by rudy26 to Education (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Stringworks has good quality violins and a 100% trade in policy for the first trade in, meaning you will be able to trade in her 3/4 for a full size when she needs it, and you can get a higher quality 3/4 knowing that you will not be shelling out a lot for a full size in a few years.
posted by peacrow at 11:13 AM on August 15, 2012

My violin came from Elderly Instruments in Lansing, MI - I kept hearing good things about them when I was living in Chicago and taking classes at a folk music school. They would be a great option if you're thinking about purchasing a used instrument.

I was able to go there in person, but you can order from them online as well. I found the staff really helpful and I imagine you could call and explain what you're looking for and get good advice over the phone. Their website indicates that they have several 3/4 size violins available right now (that link will take you to a list of all of their used violins, but they're sorted alphabetically with numbers first so the 3/4 ones all appear high in the results list).
posted by jessypie at 11:18 AM on August 15, 2012

I’ve never bought a violin there, but I turn to Shar for most of my violin-accessory needs, and I like them a lot.
posted by stargazer360 at 11:23 AM on August 15, 2012

I will second Elderly Instruments. Call them to talk...I've been there a number of times, good people and they know music...
posted by HuronBob at 11:24 AM on August 15, 2012

Have you considered renting? Student violins can be rented for less than $20 a month.
posted by axiom at 11:52 AM on August 15, 2012

I have a Stringworks violin and I'm pretty happy with it. I'd recommend it for the reasons peacrow mentions as well.
posted by cabingirl at 11:52 AM on August 15, 2012

Johnson Strings. They are great.
posted by Melismata at 12:17 PM on August 15, 2012

I'd rent. Also, I'd question what it really means to reach the limits of a violin, especially when she hasn't even reached full size yet. Definitely don't spend a lot on a 3/4 size. If you do buy, go with a place that has a trade-in/trade-up policy.

How old is your daughter? By age 13 or so she should be ready to play a full size anyway.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 12:51 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that any of the big places- Shar, Eastman Strings, Stringworks- should be fine for an beginning/intermediate instrument. Is it that her instrument is *too small* for her, or that she news a *better quality* instrument? This is a big distinction.

However: this is a *really* good question to ask her violin teacher. I am an orchestra teacher, and when my students are looking I tell them to use the expertise of their private teachers. A good private teacher in a rural area should be able to tell you where her students have had success finding instruments in the past, and most private teachers in my area expect to help a student pick out and play test a number of instruments.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:21 PM on August 15, 2012

2nding Johnson Instruments. You can rent; virtually all of our students who did not have younger string siblings did this until they graduated to a full-size instrument. The Johnson folks are lovely, very professional, and have been in business matching students to instruments for many years now.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:16 PM on August 15, 2012

If she's reached the point where the specific instrument matters, then she should probably not be buying them over the internet.

Instruments are individual and it's pretty important for her to be able to pick the right one out of a selection that is right to hand. This might mean a road trip, but if violin is something she's keen on, I think it will be worth the effort.

Maybe you can get away with online for a 3/4, but once she graduates to full size absolutely take her somewhere where she can try several and find one that feels right.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:33 PM on August 15, 2012

RDL Strings in Bangor, Maine is terrific. They also do rentals. And I agree with the people who say buying over the internet is a terrible idea, especially for a stringed instrument. It's a very personal thing.
posted by pie ninja at 4:23 PM on August 15, 2012

3rding Johnson Strings & the recommendation to rent, not buy, until she is ready for a full size instrument. As I recall, they have rental instruments in several grades, the best would be adequate for all but the most advanced player. I would trust them to send you a good instrument if you choose to rent on line, but when you are ready to buy, you should shop in person, even if it means driving all the way to Boston.
posted by mr vino at 4:25 PM on August 15, 2012

Elderly and Johnson are both reputable companies Nthing - the teacher should be front and center in this process. I teach clarinet, and I can't imagine casting a student to the wolves and not helping them get an instrument...
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:36 PM on August 15, 2012

N-thing Johnson Strings. They are not the absolute best violin place in Boston, but I think they are the best for students. They have a pretty decent range of rentals - I remember renting my 3/4 size violin there (a million years ago), and trying out a lot of different violins.

And when I bought my full size violin there, I had a similar array of instruments to choose from within my parents' budget.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:38 PM on August 15, 2012

N-thing Elderly Instruments. What you get for the money through them beats anyplace else I have looked in all my travels.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 9:01 PM on August 15, 2012

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