Choosing a violin for a beginner
What sort of violin should I get? | Most beginner level violins are mass-produced in China. There are some very good Chinese violins and some very bad Chinese violins - you get what you pay for! Two good brand names to look out for are Stentor (the Stentor 2 is a nice choice) and Primavera 200. Reputable violin dealers such as Stringers, Cardiff Violin Shop and Caswell's sell Chinese instruments under their own brand names and these can also be a good choice. At all costs avoid 'bargain' violin outfits sold through supermarkets, discount stores etc as they are mostly unplayable.
What do the different sizes mean? | Violin size refers to the length of the body of the instrument, measured in inches along the back of the violin. A full size instrument (4/4) measures 14", 3/4 size = 13", 1/2 size = 12" and 1/4 size = 11". The smaller instruments (1/8 1/10 and 1/16 size) are often not exactly the same size from brand to brand and I would always recommend checking the actual measurements of a small violin
What size do I need? | The correct size for a violin depends on your build and your arm length. Briefly, with the violin in playing position on your shoulder, you should be able to curl your fingers round the scroll of the violin and still have a bent arm. Please ask me to check your violin size before buying a violin and be aware that some shops will try very hard to sell children the next size up 'because they'll grow into it'. You wouldn't be comfortable in shoes that were a size too large - playing a violin that is too large is just as bad!
What does set-up mean? | For a violin to play at its best, it needs correctly fitted and adjusted pegs, bridge, strings and soundpost, otherwise the violin will be hard to tune and the sound will be poor. Setting up a violin includes shaping the pegs to fit the peg holes of the violin, cutting and shaping the bridge to the right height and curve, positioning and fitting the soundpost, and adjusting the string action. Violins which are sold exactly as they come from the factory will have a very basic setup; a better setup from a professional luthier (violin maker) will improve the sound of the violin and also make it easier to play but the instrument will be more expensive because of the extra work.
Can I buy from e-bay or Gumtree? | There are some good second hand buys available, especially where children have outgrown an instrument and moved on to the next size. However, be aware that secondhand instruments may need to have strings, bow, rosin etc replaced and the cost of doing this might make the violin rather less of a bargain!
Can I rent a violin? | There are quite a few companies offering rental schemes for violins, including Stringers, Caswells and Chamberlain Music.