Guidelines for Buying a Violin

Your instrument is your voice, your vehicle, your tool, your paintbrush.  The quality of any one of these items affects the outcome of your task.  The quality of your violin affects HOW you play and the way your music SOUNDS.  

When buying or renting an instrument I recommend the highest quality at the most reasonable price.  If your child had an infected tooth, you likely wouldn’t go around looking for the cheapest dentist you could find, let alone a do-it-yourself kit!  Knowing your child’s mouth is just as valuable as your own, you would want a qualified professional to work on it.  The same is true for violins.  A smaller violin is no easier or cheaper to work on than a full size violin.  Sure, there is a slight difference in the cost of materials, but the craftsmanship must be the same if not even more refined to assure that the violin works properly and sounds like a musical instrument and not a toy.

Beware of “violin shaped objects” (VSOs).  Cheap violins (known to violinists as VSOs) can have any number of the following problems, making it difficult to play and listen to:  squeaky sound, irreparable buzzing, pegs will not hold pitch, hard to tune, parts break, parts warp, bow impossible to keep straight because it is warped, fine tuners that bend or break, fingerboard is warped or not glued on straight, bridge is glued on, the angle and placement of the strings can be off, flat bridge, and the list goes on. 

It’s been said that the most important violin you’ll ever play is the FIRST one.  Taking all of these things into consideration, and your pocketbook, too, I have created the list below as a guideline for choosing your instrument.

  1. Buy online at one of the following online stores.  This is the most economical option over time if you have the money upfront.  Because these stores have the same standards that I have regarding the quality of a violin, I allow students to buy their instruments here.
    1. (Shar)…beginning violins from $150
    2. (Judd)…beginning violins from $750 (they also rent and are here in PA)
    3. (Johnson String Instrument)…beginning violins from $850
  2. Buy or rent at these local violin shops.
    1. Rent-to-own at Resonance Violins on Washington Rd., Mt. Washington.  This allows you to pay $15 monthly towards the purchase of a full size violin.  Be aware that this credit is valid for a maximum of 36 months. 
    2. Buy from Craig Schaeffer at The String Workshop on Carson St., South Side.  Rental is not an option here.
  3. If you find an instrument online, be sure it either came from one of the above shops or is made by one of the following makers:  Hoffmann violins (, start at $150), Snow violins (, start at $850), Yaya violins, Doetsch violins, Klier violins

I do not recommend buying instruments outside of these above guidelines without the help of a professional.  If, however, you insist on buying online outside of these guidelines without the help of a professional, be aware that:

  1. I must approve the instrument before the deal is done.  I reserve the right to say, for the sake of your musical training, that you need to get a different instrument if the quality of the violin is too low.  To help avoid sending the violin back, send me an email with the link of the violin you would like to buy so I can review it virtually.
  2. Research, research, research!  I recommend viewing conversations online that address the issue like:
    1. “Amazon now offers cheap violins” at
    2. “Surprised by a good-sounding “cheap” violin” at
  3. Find written reviews of the instrument you would like to buy, but be aware that no review will replace looking at it in your lesson with me.
  4. Be aware that you risk having to replace strings and parts which can make the price go up substantially.  Learn more about buying cheap violins.