All rentals and purchases of string instruments should be acquired through a string shop (dealing exclusively in string instruments) or luthier (person with expertise in string instrument repair and crafting). String shops and luthiers will provide knowledge and expertise, renting and selling well-made instruments that are set-up properly. A well-made instrument is hand crafted (not factory-made) with the proper wood elements, set-up with good quality strings, and a bridge that is cut to fit that specific instrument. When set-up properly, the instrument will have a pleasant tone and all mechanics will work correctly to insure ease of playing. Conversely, poor quality string instruments that are improperly set-up will hinder the student’s ability to play. A poorly made instrument will create unnecessary additional challenges for the student, who is already working hard to master a difficult skill.
Music stores offering a wide variety of musical instruments are not a viable choice for string students. Sales associates have little, if any, knowledge of string instruments. The string instruments available for rent/purchase are often factory made and not set-up properly. The stores may offer an attractive rent-to-own program, but the string instrument prices are usually inflated. Often, for the same amount of money, a high quality instrument can be purchased from a string shop.
Purchasing a string instrument from an internet site (online music store, Craigslist, E-Bay, etc.) is a huge risk. You cannot test the instrument before purchase, it may not be set-up properly, and if a return/exchange is needed, the student will be without an instrument during shipping time.
Family heirlooms or gifted instruments should be taken to a string shop/luthier to be assessed for value and quality. Often these instruments need some adjustments and upgrades to make them playable.
Purchasing a string instrument is an investment. For this reason, we suggest that beginners and young students rent for the first 6-12 months of lessons. This allows time for the student and parent to determine if string lessons are a good fit for the student. Most string shops offer affordable monthly rental rates, often with rental credit applied to subsequent purchases.
When a student/parent decides to make a further commitment to violin lessons, it may be wise to purchase an instrument. Remember that the student will need to transition to a larger instrument every 1-2 years to accommodate growing arms. Many shops offer a trade-in value when the student is ready for the next size instrument. Most string shops have fair prices for instrument outfits, including instrument, bow and case. For an intermediate/advanced student, we suggest trying instruments from several different shops/dealers before making a purchase. When selecting an instrument for purchase, consider comfort, fit, quality, and the family budget.
Instrument sizing is based on arm length, not necessarily on the age of the student. String shop professionals will determine the correct fit for the student, but your teacher should give final approval for the instrument selected. Most string shops have policies that will allow you to check out an instrument before you make the final purchase.