CHOOSING A VIOLIN
Choosing the Right Violin
Learning to play the violin is both rewarding and challenging. One way you can make it easier and more enjoyable is to be sure to rent or buy a violin that fits your size, sounds pleasing to the ear, and is in very good to excellent condition.
There are two suitable options, depending on your circumstances: renting or purchasing a violin. You might want to rent a violin for a young child, and buy one when the student is old enough and reasonably proficient. For the most part, a rental violin is very inexpensive and the sound quality is usually fair. In the early stages, renting makes more sense because your child's interest is not yet definite.
There are many criteria in choosing a violin. Here is a list of characteristics that determine value, in decreasing order of importance: maker, country of origin, condition, age, physical beauty, tone, investment potential, size and arching.
Other characteristics, not necessarily in order, are: instrument responsiveness, evenness of sound, clarity of tone, ease of playing and correct measurements - particularly for the 4/4 size.
It is generally agreed that Italian instruments are superior. The Italians have a few advantages because the violin was invented in Italy and the earliest violin music comes from that country. The Italians, unlike the French, Germans and Chinese, rarely approach violin making in a commercial way. Chances are that if the violin was made in Italy, an individual, or an apprentice, and assistant or a student were supervised by the person whose name is on the violin. "Handmade" is the key word here. Violins made by machine or by more than one person are usually inferior to those made by hand.
With an older violin, the condition of the instrument is very important. A violin with cracks and repairs may sound good when it is purchased, but weather changes, particularly of humidity, can cause structural or tonal problems. Cracks can open, the neck can drop, buzzes can occur and endless problems can result after many repairs.
Unquestionably, an old violin will sound better than a new one of comparable quality. With aged wood, the instrument becomes more resonant. However, a new violin is much more preferable to an old one that has undergone many repairs. A good, new violin will improve with age. All in all, the condition of an old violin must be compared to that of a structurally perfect, brand new one.