Choosing the Best ViolinBuying Guide

Explore our short guide on the best violin brands and models for players of all types.

The process of buying a violin can be a confusing experience. What do I look for? What do I watch out for? What makes a violin “good?” What is a good price? What do I need to know? While these are all common questions, some basic information can provide some much needed clarity.

In the guide below, we're going to address some common violin-buying myths and misconceptions, lay out what you should consider when purchasing a violin (for both electric and acoustic instruments), and lay out some of the best violins currently on the market at a variety of price points.

Buying Guide: Electric Violins
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Quick Picks: Violins Under $500

Beginners after their very fist violin should start here.

These starter violins are constructed on an assembly-line rather than being hand-made. The bow may be made of fiberglass, and plastic fittings are commonplace in this price range.

While you can buy everything separately, the best value is usually an all-in-one bundle of violin, bow, and case, also known as a violin “outfit.” Spending less than $100-$150 is not recommended, as anything below would have been made so cheaply that problems would be likely.

What to Consider When Buying a Violin

Here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for the right violin.

Size

  • If you're an adult, you're probably a 4/4 or full size. Violins come in sizes 4/4, ¾, ½, ¼, ⅛. Anything smaller than full-size is used by children who can’t yet reach down the fingerboard.

  • If you're buying for a child, you can use the arm test to find their correct size. To do this test, put a violin up to the child’s chin and have them put their left arm out horizontally. If the scroll of the violin reaches past the child’s wrist, that violin is too big.

Price

  • Violins have a larger price range than most things on earth. In 2013, a 1721 Stradivarius sold for $15.9 million, but you can also buy a violin outfit online for $149. But it's important to remember that more expensive does not equal “better."

  • When shopping for a violin, figure out the top of your budget first, and then start exploring violins throughout your whole price range. You might try both an $800 and $2,000 violin and find that you like the $800 instrument much better. Below, we'll lay out some price ranges to give you an idea of what you can expect to pay, along with some of our favorite picks in each price range.

Tone and Feel

  • Tone: Being made of wood means that every violin will sound slightly different. Some violins sound bright, while others sound dark. Some will have sound that varies across the four strings. Some are naturally louder than others. Play enough on each instrument you are considering, and you can and will hear these sound differences. Choose the one you prefer.

  • Feel: Violins are created to specific size specifications, down to the millimeter, on nearly every small part. Even though there is careful precision, there are still tiny differences between instruments. The neck can vary in the feel of thickness or depth. The chin rest can be higher, longer or differently shaped than others. Finding a good match is like fitting two puzzle pieces together. If your hands are small, for example, you might prefer a thinner-feeling neck. Older instruments’ necks tend to feel smaller, so you might want to try those first. As you play, pay attention to what you like and try to find the puzzle piece that fits you best.

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Violins Between $500 and $2,000

Intermediate violin players upgrading from a starter or rental instrument should look here.

Most of these instruments will be new, better, factory-made instruments, but you will start noticing more variation between each violin. If the outfit includes a bow, you should expect an upgrade from fiberglass wood. It also would not be uncommon to buy the bow separately. Older instruments in this category should be checked extra carefully for bad repairs or damage, such as cracks.

Violins Between $2,000 and $10,000

If you're an advanced or professional violin player, the right violin for you is probably in this range.

For older instruments, violins will be of a lesser-known maker and will vary significantly from one another. There are also new or newer contemporary instruments in this category of makers of today. The bows in this category will have more variety, having different weights, weight distribution. Try several and buy one that meets your individual preferences.

Violins Priced $10,000-$50,000 and Above

At this professional price range, beware of counterfeits and also buy from a reputable dealer.

Above $10,000, you'll find highly crafted, beautifully handmade violins from more well-known makers. And climbing up above $50,000, you'll find even rarer, extremely fine, highly coveted older instruments.

As you go up in price, it can be important to purchase from a reputable dealer, as counterfeits are not uncommon. These instruments should come with titles, and prices should be based on a current appraisal from a reputable string appraiser. The bow alone can cost more than your dream house.

Learn More About Violins

Warning Signs and Red Flags

Shopping used is a great way to get a deal, but look out for these potentially costly issues.

Cracks

  • Cracks can negatively influence the sound of the violin and sometimes be expensive to fix, but it depends on what you're dealing with and where. Cracks along the seams are common and can be re-glued without leaving permanent damage. Cracks along the body, however, are a more serious warning and can foretell expensive future problems. With a bow, cracks are always bad and will eventually make the bow non-functional.

Uneven Fingerboard

  • Fingerboards have a slight curve to them. If it is flat, too curved, or is curved to the side, the instrument will not play correctly. Especially common with cheaper instruments, the fingerboard can curve so much that the strings are not evenly distributed across it.

Soundpost

  • Take a look inside the F hole. There should be a small wooden post around the bridge called the sound post that helps create the sound. If there is not one, it has fallen, or is in the wrong place and will need to be fixed.

Bridge

  • The bridge is the small piece of wood between the fingerboard and tailpiece that holds up the strings. It is normal to get these replaced every once in awhile, as warping and bending are common. Each bridge has to be cut for your specific instrument. Especially on cheaper instruments, the bridge may be put on the instrument without being fitted for that instrument, which can make playing very difficult.

Repaired Damage

  • Old repairs are sometimes done well, but not always. The seller should be able to tell you about old damage. Ask about where it was fixed. If it was not done at a reputable violin shop or by a reputable luthier, consider it a risk.

  • Taking all this information into account, finding a violin that falls in your price range with the right feel and tone without red flags can seem like an overwhelming or intimidating process. Be patient, shop around, and hold out until you find “the one.” You will, hopefully, spent many hours with this instrument and share the journey together on the way to your musical goals.

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