Ok, so you’re ready to purchase a violin! Great! This is an exciting time with the anticipation of having an instrument all your own, that you’ve picked out, and that you love! However, the process can quickly become overwhelming and discouraging. So, to keep this experience positive I wanted to give you a few guidelines.
First, watch the video found at the link below. It’s about 10 minutes long and is chock-full of good information that can help you go into the process with a plan that will work.
Once you’ve watched the video you will have a good idea of where to begin, what to prepare before shopping, and what to look for in the shopping process.
A few additions to the info on this video from my experience:
- Do your instrument testing blindly. Have a price range in mind (say $1500-$3000). Ask the violin shop owner for the instruments in this price range but DON’T look or have him tell you the prices! Knowing the price of the instrument can skew your impressions. We automatically are wired to think that more expensive instruments will sound better, but this may not be the case. So choose 5–10 instruments and blindly test them using the principles in the video. After you’ve eliminated your choices to 3 or fewer and you’re ready to take them home to try them out then you can look at the prices. See which ones you picked and which ones you left. Don’t second guess yourself if you eliminated one that was more expensive. Take the advice in the video and go with your gut. The instrument you eliminated might be great… but just may not be right for you. Go with what you liked and with what worked for you!
- When I was shopping for a violin I often focused on very simple melodies because they gave me the best impression of what the sound of the instrument was like. More technical repertoire helped me discern playability, but I found the most helpful tool was my slower melodies. You can tell a lot from an instrument by just using a simple melody. Dig in, play lightly, test all the strings and different positions. I found that usually the instruments I liked best playing slow melodies, gave me the greatest depth in sound and response from my more advanced repertoire as well. I was also able to concentrate on what I was hearing and feeling with the slower melodies because I wasn’t so focused on playing my concerto correctly! See what works for you. Remember, this is going to be YOUR instrument and YOU are the one who’s going to have to play on it! Take your time and see if you “connect” with the instrument.
- Remember that a new instrument is going to sound raw as compared to an aged one, and an instrument that hasn’t been played on for awhile (old or new) will also need to be “worked in” to get its best sound. When shopping for instruments I played on both old and new. The instrument I ended up purchasing had NEVER been played on before. The sound was extremely raw. However, I could hear the potential it had, and even in its raw stage I liked the feel and sound of the instrument. I went with my gut as the video suggested, and I have not been disappointed. Knowing the age of an instrument will help you compare apples to apples, or at least know when you’re comparing apples to oranges, so you can keep your perspective accurate. However, if you already have an idea in mind of what you think you will prefer, this information is best found out AFTER you have done the tests suggested in the video and have determined sound and playability without the influence of price or age.
Good luck and happy shopping!
Emily Williams is the creator of Strategic Strings: An Online Course for Violin and Viola Teachers