What Should I Look for When Buying a Violin?
Whether you are purchasing an instrument for yourself or for your child, violin price is often an concern. As a parent, it is understandable to not want to spend a lot of money on a musical instrument until you are certain your child will enjoy his or her lessons and continue to play the instrument. That is where price enters into your criteria for the violin purchase.
However, you should be aware of what to look for when purchasing a new or a used violin. Buying an inexpensive Chinese-made violin for under does not come without its issues. There are many things to look for in the way the violin is made that can assist you in making that purchase decision. In the long run, the materials used and the construction of the instrument play key roles in not only how the instrument sounds, but also in the ease of playing the instrument. This is very important for the new student as well as the experienced one. It is very discouraging if the mechanics of the instrument adds to the difficulty in learning to play it. Also, the sound of inexpensive strings in themselves will not add to the tone of the violin and may bring you to an early decision to end the student’s lessons.
It does not pay in the long run to spend less on an instrument when you might end up having to replace the strings, the bridge, or the pegs. The inexpensive violin may end up costing you upgrades.
When purchasing a violin, one should examine the fingerboard, which should be made of ebony, a hard wood which is naturally black in colour. In less expensive purchase a violin this is often made from a softer, lighter wood that has been painted or stained to resemble ebony. If you examine the underside of the fingerboard carefully where it joins to the body of the violin, you may be able to detect where it has not been painted. If this is the case and the wood is lighter in colour, then it is not made of ebony.
The bridge is also a very key part to examine. The bridge should be footed and sit in an upright position to the body of the violin. It should not be leaning. If you examine the bridge from a level view from the bottom of the violin along the strings, the strings should not line up in a straight line. The “E” string should be lower, for example, allowing for the ease of playing the individual string with the bow. If the bridge is properly made and mounted, the instrument will be easier to learn to play and make it more enjoyable to learn.
The sound post, which can be seen inside the body of the violin through the f-hole and under the treble side of the bridge, should be vertical and not leaning. The sound post is a small dowel usually made of spruce that is held inside by the friction between the top and back plates of a violin and is situated under the treble side of the bridge. It is important for structural support, as well as the tone because it transfers vibrations from the top plate to the back plate of the violin. Its position, as well as its size and type of wood, make a difference in the tone of the violin. In a later article, we will discuss how to adjust the sound post.
It is also important to look at the purfling on the violin. These are the “lines” that run parallel to the outline of the violin along the front and back of the violin. Usually these are made by carving and are inlaid with another thin strip of wood. This adds strength to the instrument. On an inexpensive instrument, the purfling may be faked by simply being painted to appear like inlay.
In most cases of a higher quality violin, but there is always an exception to the rule, the violin company or maker will have a label inside the violin that can be viewed through the f-hole on the body of the violin.
Most importantly, there is no substitution for playing the instrument and listening to its tone, its richness and its depth, the way it feels in your hand and the mechanics of how it plays. You cannot do this when ordering online!
Prices for violins vary. There are many reasons to consider paying more for your purchase. However, if the student decides the violin is not for them, you are going to get a better resale price for the quality violin you purchased that was well cared for.