Need to buy a decent, inexpensive violin

I want to get a violin for my 14-yr-old daughter for Christmas - it’s on her wish list. It will be her first one. She is a good musician, and I think she’ll stick with it. Even if she doesn’t, the rest of us are musical and will put it to good use. But I think she will stick with it, since last week she tried practicing scales on a cousin’s violin for a good thirty minutes. Beginner violins are $400+ in the stores, but only $50+ online on eBay, Amazon,, etc. Looking at a previous threadon SD, the advice is not to buy it online because of the bridge and other parts needing to be set up properly. On Craigslist, all the ones are either used beginners for more than they cost new online, or very expensive high-quality violins. I’ve called around to violin teachers seeing if they know of any being sold, but so far, no luck. I don’t want to rent one. I think I need to get one online after all. How do I figure out a decent one? Does it matter?

i’m sure the guy at the shop will set up the bridge and strings for you for cheap. i played violin through middle school and high school off a refurbished 2nd hand violin for $275. my sister had a quarter sized one for 175 and kept upgrading up in size until she got a full size one, with a $50 “trade-in fee” each transaction. (again, $275). This is just my personal experience though…

if it was me, i say go for the $50 online one and pay another $30 for the shop guy to string it for you. if you’re worried about quality and/or confident in your daughter toughing it out, i’m sure that a shop somewhere in your area will be selling used ones at a discount. otherwise from what i’ve seen, $400 is pretty standard for a new violin.

note: i’m talking about specialty, orchestra instrument shops. not sam goody. violin teachers know where they are.

I’m under the impression that those cheap violins - the ridiculously cheap ones, like 50 dollars on eBay - with fake “Italian” names are completely worthless. Supposedly they will fall apart very quickly, have no tone, and are impossible to play. This is true of cellos and basses at “too good to be true” prices also.

well, not from an ebay store, but a personal listing from ebay would be no different than buying one off the classifieds, imo.

also, i think “$50” just means “not $400”. some might start at $50 bidding, but the end price will probably be in the high 100’s/low 200’s, which approximately represents market value for a beginner’s violin, especially the new made-in-china mass produced violins.

also, antique vs new used to be an issue but from what i’ve read/heard since the 2000’s hit and china’s stepping up its manufacturing game, that it’s virtually indistiguishable especially for a beginner’s violin. cite: guy at violin shop in richmond, va.

Do not buy a violin from anyone outside your own country. No matter how well it’s packed, damage is still possible, and it’s a real bitch to negotiate repairs out of the county. I bought a cello from China, which arrived seriously damaged. After many e-mails with the seller, I had to have it repaired at my own expense.

I would highly recommend renting an instrument with an option to buy.

Unbelieveably, the $50 prices on eBay are the “Buy It Now” prices. Including shipping.

I bought my instrument from Southwest Strings. I also purchase other stuff from Shar Music and Quinn Violins. I know GorillaMan advised against the mail order route in the other thread (and his opinion is much more authoritative than mine), but I can only speak from my own experience and say I’ve never heard anyone come up disappointed buying from REPUTABLE dealers. Furthermore, a lot of people aren’t lucky enough to live close to a notable luthier and I wouldn’t trust the catch-all music stores for anything.* At the same time I had a college professor bag on distributors while my violin professor’s mouth dropped that I got the quality of instrument I did from the same companies for $2300.

Is she just starting at 14 or has she been playing for a while? By saying “$400+” are you implying that’s stretching the budget? (Some of the cheap eBay ones you mentioned are downright unplayable).

My worry is that a beginning instrument would be fine now, but she would outgrow it rather quickly. Especially if she’s already been playing for a couple years. In my experience it’s about 17-18 when you start moving to a more advanced instrument.

If there’s a chance at possibly a larger budget in the future a rental to bridge the gap isn’t a bad idea. If not, my advice would be to look for a quality used instrument. At 14 she’s kind of betwixt and between is the problem. is a great resource too.

*My mother asked if my grandmother could have her sister’s violin when my great aunt died. My aunt initially said no, then after having it appraised for only $300 at the local catch-all band store said sure. I looked at it and the label said “Neuner and Hornsteiner, Mittenwald 1884.” Ended up being worth a bit more than $300. :wink:

Good point.

How do I know that the beginner $500 violin that I’m renting to own is actually any better quality than the beginner violins online, though? For all I know, it might be the same violin. I’ll have to call tomorrow and find out what brands they even carry at the shop.

From what I’ve heard and seen, they are more or less unplayable. And I mean BAD! I saw a picture where the bow straight out of the box was warped a good 1/2 inch to the right with about a 1/8 turn in the middle. :eek:

Southwest Strings

We have bought at least 4 violins from them they are great.

My daughter had never played one until Thanksgiving, but she’s been asking for one for about 6 months now. And like I said, she spent over 30 minutes drilling scales until it started sounding like a violin. She has a great ear and musical talent and ability. It’s just too early to know how serious she’ll end up being. I wouldn’t have a problem with getting a basic beginner violin and trading up later, if I knew what was an acceptable beginner. Unfortunately $400 is way out of my budget, especially for a gamble. I actually had visualized spending about $80 for a used, good beginning/intermediate violin, before reality hit.

Your violin cost $2300? I am truly out of touch with reality! Please tell me it wasn’t an intermediate violin.

I’ll check out all these links tomorrow.

These links are great! This is exactly what I need.

That’s okay, so is her arm.

Ughhhhh. Yeah. I have no idea how much rentals are these days. A rental would let you cut and run if she gives it up after a couple of months but at $20 a month or so, it’s only a year before you should have just bought one in the first place. FORTUNATELY, if you did decide to buy, since she’s just starting I’d feel comfortable with a beginner’s instrument.

Does her school have a music program? Normally the school has instruments they loan to kids for free. Might check into that though she may be a bit old.

<Instrument Porn>
My Viola. Yeah it did. My Aunt’s violin is the special one. My first instrument was about $300 though IIRC. Used it for 8 years.
</Instrument Porn>

The expense is indeed a shame. A couple hundred dollars can be a very large barrier for a lot of people. Especially when kids are trying to find a hobby and a basketball costs $10. Cellos are even more expensive and as for a String Bass, $100 barely pays for the strings, nevertheless the instrument. It’s still a absolutely wonderful hobby if your daughter cares to continue though. Believe me, if she has drive, she’ll never be left wanting for a wide array of music and new challenges, LOL.


I’m looking to get a 1/2 size for my 9 year old, who’s outgrown her 1/4 size, but isn’t playing at the virtuoso level quite yet. She can play the hell out of Jingle Bells, however. :slight_smile:

I looked around a while ago, and found that Gliga Violins, a Romanian maker, has a full range of violins made in Romania, from $200 beginners to $7000+ models, imported and sold in a store in California owned by the same family that runs the factory in Romania.

I called and spoke with one of their employees in CA, and he was very knowledgeable, and happy to talk about their low-end models, which you don’t often find at larger music stores or distributors. The best part is that even their $200 models are made in Romania, and not imported from China. Every violin is unpacked, inspected, set up and played when it arrives in the US, and by qualified violinists, rather than some guitar salesman at a chain store.

The workshop they make the student models in is run by the same luthier who makes their top-line models, and the output is inspected by him on a regular basis. Plus, most of the stock pictured on their website is the actual instrument you receive - useful if you want a particular type of finish, and dangerous if you are easily suckered in by a beautiful flame maple, as I often am. :smiley:

Another possibility is pawn shops. I’ve found some nice beginner instruments with very nice prices at pawn shops. The downside is you have to do some research to be sure how good/valuable the particular instrument is.

Definitely talk to the music teachers at the school. They should be familiar with the common beginner brands and prices.

Yes, I bought a violin from them about 10 years ago, and it’s wonderful.

Beautiful! But you know, you didn’t have to settle for plain wood tone. You could have gotten one of these.

Wow, those pictures are gorgeous. Thanks for the info.