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Parent's Guide

I’ve never played a stringed instrument, but I need to provide one for my child. Where do I start?

Kennedy Violins staff have spoken to thousands of parents asking that exact question! We can help you choose the perfect violin, viola, cello, or bass for your orchestra student. Here are some answers:

Instrument Quality: A good stringed instrument is made of wood and finished with varnish. Avoid any instruments that are painted or have a hard lacquer exterior. Those types of finishes keep the wood from resonating and severely dampen the sound that the instrument makes. See our page about VSOs (Violin Shaped Objects) for more information. All Kennedy Violins instruments are hand-made with high-quality wood and traditional varnish. They are then set up by our professional luthiers here in Washington state.

Instrument Size: For stringed orchestral instruments, a smaller player needs a smaller instrument. Learn how to measure for the correct instrument size.

Purchase Price Ranges and Rental Options: Do you want to purchase a lower-priced instrument and wait to see if your child enjoys playing before you make a larger investment? Or, are you a parent who wants to motivate your child to practice by investing in a higher-quality instrument that they can grow into? Some families want to rent instruments so they can try out one or more models and size up as needed. Every family is different. We have instruments available across the spectrum of price points to match your needs. Call our customer service representatives at 1-800-779-0242 to discuss which one will be the best fit for you. 

Shoulder Rest: We highly recommend that violin and viola students have a quality shoulder rest. Shoulder rests help students maintain good posture and decrease neck and shoulder strain. Many of our student outfits come with a shoulder rest included. Check to see if your selected instrument has one and, if it doesn’t, consider adding one to your order. Our teacher-recommended Portland Gold Shoulder Rest is a good option.

String UpgradesDo I need one? We string all of our instruments with D’Addario Prelude strings unless a string upgrade is specified. We have chosen these strings because they produce a better tone than most student string sets, and steel-core strings last a long time. The downside of steel-core strings is that they don’t add a lot of warmth to the sound of the instrument. Upgrading to synthetic-core strings can significantly enhance the sound quality of your instrument. Some of our most popular synthetic-core string sets can be purchased for less than $50. Also, when you add a string upgrade at the time of purchase, the installation is included at no additional charge! A set of new or higher-quality strings is also a great gift for students who have been playing on the same set for a while.

And Speaking of Changing Strings...How Often Does That Happen? We recommend that beginning students change their strings every year or two. Strings age over time, but they also wear out from use. Regularly replacing the strings on your instrument ensures that it will continue to sound its best.

Trading In and Sizing Up: Students who play fractional-sized instruments will need to size up as they grow. We offer a trade-in program to allow you to apply some or all of your original purchase price toward the next size up. We also offer trade-in credit for full-size instruments if a student is ready for a more advanced instrument. Learn more about our Trade-Up Program. Our Instrument Rental customers may also move up to the next size at any time for no additional charge.

How to choose?

For an experienced musician, the path to finding your "new best friend" is often pretty simple. Go to a stringed instrument store, play several instruments that fit your budget, and buy the one you like the most. However, figuring out how to buy the right instrument when you're not an advanced player can be a daunting task. The knowledgeable customer service representatives at Kennedy Violins are all experienced musicians who have the information you need. Talk to one of our friendly staff members today. We are just an email or phone call away!

Email us or call 1-800-779-0242

Get more advice from a few of our education center articles:

Getting Your Child Started In Music When You Don't Play Music

Your kid just came home from school and announced that he wants to join orchestra. How did THAT happen, especially since nobody else in the family has ever touched a stringed instrument before? Basically, your child has three to four choices, depending on the orchestra program — violin, viola, cello, or bass. What makes these instruments different? How can you decide which instrument is best... Read More

How to Find the Right Violin Teacher for Your Child

Where do I find a suitable instructor for my child?  Once parents decide that they want their offspring to learn a stringed instrument, they are immediately faced with this often challenging question.  For most parents, it’s very difficult to know where to start because most are not active participants in the world of stringed instruments and have no idea who to talk to or what kinds of questions to ask... Read More

Practice Makes Perfect!

Everybody knows that if you want to be better at anything, you need to practice. Most people would also agree that while practicing is good, practicing more is better... Read More