Looking to pickup a starter violin for my wife but I don't have a clue about them.
Any insight would be welcome :)
Go to a violin shop and rent one based on their recommendations. It should be about $25 per month which would apply toward purchase if she finds a keeper.
Anyhoo, as time passes, she'll know a lot more about what what she wants, and you won't have an investment in a starter-violin collection.
I agree with the rent part, but do not buy any rental violin. Apply anything you have earned towards the purchase to a case and shoulder rest and other consumables.
I'm in the business and do NOT recommend anyone rent to own. It is a goldmine for the store. Rent for a bit to see how it goes, then purchase a used, clean instrument CHEAP. Study for a while and upgrade as needed, but until you know what to look for, you don't need to upgrade yet.
Find a teacher - independent of any store - and study from the beginning. There are MANY bad habits which are a bear to unlearn, and fairly simple to get going correctly.
Don't go too cheap. At the very least, an instrument has to be in 100% playable condition, with fine tuners on all 4 strings, pegs that work well, and so forth. The violin has a steep learning curve at first, and it's easy for people to get discouraged -- especially adults. Tiny kids don't care if it sounds bad for a while.
Avoid the cheapest solid fiberglass bows with fiberglass hair. At the very least the bow should have real horse hair.
If you find a teacher before getting a violin, the teacher can help you pick one out.
Wow, thank you guys, I'll start looking for a teacher in this area, unfortunately there are no violin shops in this area, some of the music shops sell violins but none of them so far was of any help when I asked questions. I suppose it would be hard to unlearn bad habbits, as I have a couple on bass that if I had gotten a teacher from the get go I may not have formed.
I know with a bass the things to watch for are the neck, rust, frets etc. What would I watch out for on a violin if buying used?
By the way, what relevance does the size have? Is it the same as scale is for a bass?
No, an adult , unless very petite, should start on a full sized violin.
Some of the chinese instruments are pretty decent, but most are trash. I routinely get some midline chinese instruments across my bench which have really poor build quality and the flaws are not obvious to the untrained eye. Right now I have a cello that sold for 2500 on the bench for issues related to using green wood when assembled. I wouldn't give 250 for the instrument, but a local teacher recommends them - so be cautious about recommendations.
If it is made in Germany it is generally a safe bet, if it looks clean and not abused. 4 fine tuners are OK for a beginner, but they suck tone in a big way and should only be used for fine adjustments which cannot be accomplished by using the pegs. Tuning using the pegs ONLY is a goal which should be worked for from the beginning, as I see far too many tuners imbedded in the tops of instruments.
Things to look out for:
Splinters anywhere - look inside the instrument. Many new ones are loaded with them.
Improperly cut pegboxes - do the strings rest on the pegs closer to the nut?
Is there room at the A string to wrap the string over itself without binding?
Do the pegs move smoothly? They are wedged in there, so there has to be
resistance, but they should not feel sticky, and smooth fine adjustments should
be possible on all of them.
Is it still glued together at all the seams? Has it cracked and been repaired properly? Good repair
work should be invisible on the standard repairs needed by an instrument which has not been abused.
Does the neck move AT ALL? This one is a deal breaker no matter how shiny and pretty.
Does the bridge look "funky"? Too short, too tall, bent, warped, dirty? Too short or tall (assuming action is reasonable) is a sign of either poor repair work, significant repairs are needed, or a poor quality instrument. Bent or warped are minor matters and can be dealt with at most shops by replacing the bridge - if the top of the bridge (from the side) looks like an inverted V, it needs a different bridge - fitted by someone who knows what they are doing.
Are the strings unwinding? Same as on a BG, good clean smooth strings - no roundwounds! they are not violin strings and will shred your bow hair. Don't bother with expensive strings, just the basic student strings are more than good enough for a number of years. Here you should use whatever the local shop is selling for students. There may be better strings out there, but at this point it doesn't matter much (as long as they are decent to begin with) and being able to replace a broken string quickly, with a matching string, locally is a good thing.
Is the case clean and does it close easily? Does the instrument move inside when the
case is closed? Does the bow holder keep the bow off of the top of the instrument?
Bow - when you look down the stick from the frog to the tip, it should not bow to the
right at all, a LITTLE to the left is OK and never overtighten the bow! Hair should appear white and not be dirty anyplace except immediately next to the frog - oils from the hand will contaminate the hair and a rehair will be in the future - unless it is a cheap fiberglass bow. You can very gently and carefully shampoo the hair on a cheap bow with lukewarm water and it will be fine for a beginner. Just be cautious of getting the tip or frog wet.
Glaesel bows are lousy, but fair for a beginner. Do not spend much on a beginner bow as odds are it will get broken anyway. At this stage hair really doesn't matter much as technique will affect tone more than quality of the bow hair.
Get a decent shoulder rest which fits your wife specifically! Don't be sold one to take home and try out yourself. Have a violin teacher (a good one, most really are lacking in many basic skills... rant for later) fit the shoulder rest to the instrument and your wife's needs - her normal posture should be maintained when the instrument is in playing position. No bending or lifting of the shoulder - relaxed. The only thing which is changed is the head is turned a little so that the jaw can "hook" on to the chinrest. No reaching for the chinrest - as close to natural posture as possible! She should be able to hold the instrument up without using her hands at all - while maintaining good posture - do NOT compromise on this as it can have health implications later.
I have been delving into cello, and an online site for rental that continues to be recommended again and again is www.stringworks.com They have violins for rental. Always start with a rental, and an adult needs a full sized instrument.
I just rented a cello from a local shop. Turns out the pegs are all messed up and after attempting to tune it, two cheap strings broke. In a lifetime of bass playing, and I am talking decades, I have only ever broke one upright bass string.
The guy stated this was an instrument worth $700 and I could rent to purchase. I looked up the instrument and found it selling on amazon for around $400 . Good advice here about rentals.
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