Starting to learn any instrument can be very challenging. You are going head first into a whole new world which exposes you to what can be an overwhelming amount of information.
Same goes for violins. This classical instrument is still one of the favorites with thousands of people starting out each year. However, with violins there is another added trouble - choosing that first instrument.
We have all heard stories of invaluable violins made by old masters. Prices of these instruments can often be described as small fortunes. Because of that, there is a misconception that every violin has to be expensive. Today we are going to show you that is not the case.
We will do so by going over some of the best beginner violins on the market and discussing what makes them worthy of that title.
Before we do so, we will spend some time talking about what makes a good violin and what to look for when you shop for one. Without further ado, lets get into it!
Are Beginner Violins Worth It?
The short answer is an absolute yes! Violins, although fairly complex instruments, can be made to deliver a satisfying quality of tone without being too expensive. A student or beginner violin is the perfect tool for one to start learning how to play.
If you think about it, this is the period when the new player is getting familiar with the instrument. That includes learning the what you can and can not do with a violin, how to treat it properly and so on.
Some of these lessons are learned the hard way, which is something you don't want to do with an expensive violin.
With all that said, not all beginner violins are made equal. It is important to know which features to look for and which to stay away from. In this segment of the guide we will try to arm you with the necessary information so that you can navigate the market with ease.
Lets start with the most important factor to pay attention to - violin size.
Choosing The Right Violin Size
Violin size is perhaps one of the most overlooked factors when choosing a beginner violin. This is especially the case with kids whose parents go shopping for violins blindly. You have to find a violin that fits you. It is simple as that.
That old 'they will grow into it' attitude is about as harmful as it gets. Fortunately for us there are 8 different violin sizes available, making it very easy to find the one that fits you.
Adults and kids older than 11 or 12 are usually fine with full sized violins, however it is important to take that additional time and find the size that really fits.
The main reason why we are so adamant about this is comfort. Comfort is very important when playing any instrument, but especially violins. You need to be able to grip the instrument properly, hold it up for a longer period of time without experiencing fatigue and so on. With all that said, the next step is to look at the build quality.
Use the chart below for finding the right size.
Why Build Quality Matters
Higher end violins are usually hand crafted instruments. This means that some one sat down and invested a lot of time and effort into making them good enough for professional violinists. As you can probably imagine, beginner violins are held to a different set of standards.
First of all, they are mass produced using processes which are not as sophisticated nor refined compared to hand crafting. Because of that, it is important to pay attention to the materials used to make the violin, how it was put together and overall fit and finish.
What Materials Should I Look For?
Just like other acoustic instruments, violins rely on tonewood for the majority of their performance. The type of wood used will define what kind of sound you can get from a violin, how well it will play and how easy it is to master.
This is where some brands might try and cut corners. Overall, you are looking for solid wood if possible, although laminates are known to work good as well. When it comes to the type of wood, you have maple, spruce and similar tonewood. These will give you the optimal bang for the buck in terms of sound.
Having good materials in your violin isn't enough to make it a good instrument. In order for that to happen, said violin has to be put together properly. What we mean by this is good fitment, especially on important components.
For example, if the neck joint isn't rock solid or if the hardware isn't sitting firmly, chances are that you won't get much out of that violin. Fortunately for us, most manufacturers who have established their presence in the beginner segment of the market are meeting the necessary standards of quality.
Fit And Finish
Last but not the least we need to address fit and finish. We have already talked about the importance of well made joints, which also falls into the category of fit and finish. However, there is more to this.
Violins need to be made of good materials but they also need to be symmetrical. Symmetry is going to be a byproduct of a proper crafting process.
Why You Should Ask For A Violin Setup
There is one universal truth about mass production acoustic instruments. You are never guaranteed a good setup and intonation. We see this every day with acoustic guitars, but also violins. This effect is noticeable especially with affordable models.
Because of that, one of the best things you can do to ensure that your new violin will sound good is to take it to a shop for a proper tuneup. Technicians tasked with this job will be able to recognize any serious issues and fix them immediately.
With that said, we aren't saying that every beginner's violin is going to require professional setup. What we are saying is that going through this process will squeeze the most out of your new instrument.
Improving The Sound Of Your Violin
When you have finally decided on a model, you have taken the first but not the only step. A violin on its own won't do you much good if you don't have the right strings on it as well as the right bow.
Truth of the matter is that your selection of bow and strings can have a serious impact on how good your instrument performs. There are numerous types of both bows and strings to choose from, which can become overwhelming for someone who is just getting started.
Because of that, we will give you few tips that might help you find the right accessories. Strings come in a whole variety of types. You will often see steel core strings being used by beginners.
Steel core strings are affordable, fairly playable and allow you to really master the technique on the cheap. The only problem is they limit your range of expression.
If you go and invest in a slightly more expensive set of synthetic core strings, you will get a much warmer and detailed sound.
Similar goes for bows. Saving money on bows is not a good idea. If you think about it, bows are pretty delicate as it is. When you go and get a cheap one, chances are it won't last you too long before falling apart.
Depending on the quality of a bow, it can be harder or easier for a beginner to play. Carbon fiber bows are usually the way to go for beginners. You are looking at a light, agile and durable piece that will last you much longer than cheaper bows, all while allowing you to get a good feel for the instrument.
Here's what I recommend you think about when selecting a bow:
- Weight and balance: the bow should feel like a natural extension of your arm. Look for something around the 60 gram range as this is the most common weight for beginners.
- Sound of different bows: each bow will produce a different quality of sound depending on the materials used. It can be difficult to discern this difference when you are just starting out, but as your ears refine you can start upgrading your bows.
Now that we have covered the most important factors you should consider when choosing a violin, lets get to our top picks.
We went ahead and did most of the legwork in an effort to show you what we think are the best models on the market. If you are just starting out and you aren't sure which violin to go with, any one of these will work just fine. Let's get to it.
If you are looking for something a little more modern you can check out my review of the top electric violins. Electric violins are great for young players who would have fun playing through an amp and changing the sounds of their instrument.
Beginner Violins Reviews
That concludes our guide on best beginner violins. As we have seen today, there are plenty of models to go for and plenty of factors to count in when making your decision. At the end of the day, it is important to just get started. Everything else will fall into place.