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Should You Buy a New Instrument?

Today, I’ll be talking about some of the factors involved when you are deciding to buy a new stringed instrument.

Generally speaking, there are a few primary reasons why it may be a good idea to consider buying a new instrument.

  1. Your violin is too small.
  2.  The set-up is so bad, and it would be too costly to try and fix or upgrade it.
  3. You want better sound.
  4. You want more playability.
  5. Your violin is damaged.

Let’s talk about each reason one by one.

When to Shop for a New Instrument

Instrument Size

Regarding size, just about any person 11 years old or older can play on a full-size instrument. Even if you are a small adult, a 4/4 size is probably just fine. If you left elbow has less than a 90-degree angle to it when you are playing in 1st position on a violin, you need a larger violin. There are many criteria involved in deciding if an instrument can be upsized or not and every teacher has their own opinion and methodology for figuring this out. I won’t go into a lot of details regarding sizing in this video. —The benefit to a larger instrument is that a larger box will generally produce a larger, more complex pleasing sound.

Instrument Quality

Some violins are made “wrong,” or the set-up is just horrendously bad. It can be very expensive to have these items fixed. If you are playing on a pretty decent violin perhaps made in America or Europe and is more than 30 years old, then it may be worth it to get it fixed. It just depends on your budget for a nicer violin. You just have to find out what it would cost to improve your violin and then make the decision. If you have a violin that retails for less than $500-$800 and is pretty new, then most of the time, it’d be less expensive and in your best interests to just upgrade the instrument. Such issues to look for are:

  • Nut too low or too high. Both issues can make the instrument much harder to play or make the strings buzz.
  • Bridge fits poorly or is too high or too low. This also affects playability and can affect the sound as well.
  • String height is too high or too low. Both of these can negatively affect the instrument's playability.

Sound Characteristics

You don’t like your sound, but don’t know if it’s YOU or the instrument. The easy way to test this is to play somebody else's instrument and see if you sound better and then ask them how much they paid. You can also go to your local violin shop. Make sure you bring your violin, so you can compare in the same environment because WHERE you play is very important.

Instrument Playability

You want more playability. Nicer instruments will often be easier to play. The set-up is superior, so the bridge height, nut height, string spacing etc are all very correct and this makes it easier to play. Also, if they resonate better, they will produce a sound easier and you won’t have to work as hard. Or a better instrument might just have a bigger sound, so it’ll be easier to be heard above the pianist, the rest of the orchestra or your bandmates.

Damaged Instrument

Your violin is damaged. You have to consider the value of your violin. As a general rule, if your violin is 30+ years old and is made in America or Europe, the likelihood of it being worth fixing is much higher than if it’s a new violin that perhaps cost less than $800 and of course, depends on the cost of the repair. Some repairs or improvements are extremely expensive. For example, if you need neck adjustment, or a crack fixed in a certain area, like the scroll.

What NOT to Do

Don’t buy an instrument by price or brand name. Price is determined by a lot of factors, especially at a violin shop, so the best thing to do, is to try play instrument within a set price range and pick your favorite. Obviously, this method does not work when buying off of the internet, so if you are purchasing in the lower range, less than $1,200 then you can go by reviews, reputation but make sure that the return policy is very good and if you want to be really careful, you could always do an in-home trial if it’s offered.