How do I choose the right violin, viola, or cello for me?

Choosing the right stringed instrument is, understandably, a daunting task for most musicians - particularly those who are relatively new to the instrument.  Think of it less as a task, though, and more as an opportunity!  The instrument(s) you choose in your musical journey are very much a part of your own musical experience, and as the instruments change, and as your playing changes, you will find that it is a deeper relationship than you would have anticipated, as the instrument is your performance tool.


"Wait a minute!  You just made me MORE confused about the search!"  


Don't be confused, as there are plenty of guides on the internet, and immense knowledge available to you via your teachers, colleagues, and even shops like ours, where we're happy to talk with you, at length, about your musical instrument needs.  Even if you don't purchase from StringWorks, or if you plan to purchase months or more from now, give us a call and we'll share our knowledge with you, to put you at ease.  For now, however, let's touch on a few basics...


1) Try it out!  Know that most reputable violin shops, like ours, will allow you an in-home trial period, as this is absolutely essential in making the right decision.  Before you determine price range, or start looking at models, be sure you have a shop that will allow you to try the instrument at home, for your own examination, and for that of your violin, viola, or cello teacher and colleagues


2) Materials.  Solid, carved woods - NEVER choose laminates, as laminated woods use glue to bond layers of wood together, and glue does not resonate like wood.  Ever.  


3) Reputation and Relationship.  Choosing a trusted shop or individual dealer is paramount to your success in choosing the right instrument for you, as you may very well wish to start a lifetime musical relationship with this person or company.  Find the right shop, and you'll get the right instrument.


4) Warranty.  Does the company stand behind their instruments, like StringWorks, for example?  A company that believes in the quality of their product will stand behind it, and protect you with this often significant investment of your money.


5) Trade In!  Many violin shops, like StringWorks, have great trade in policies, which are essentially investments in your musical future.  This allows you to spend what you can at first, and upgrade as your musical ability (and pocketbook) are able!  Because StringWorks sells ONLY our own brand of instruments, we have the best trade in policy in the industry, allowing 100% trade in credit on your first trade in, and 80% for each trade in thereafter.  Your investment is safe.


6) Budget.  To most of us, a budget is part of reality, and unfortunately you chose an instrument that is relatively expensive to buy, but ever-so-rewarding as well!  Know what you can spend, and be sure to get the best you can for your money.  If you are unable to scrape up the money for a good new instrument (we recommend minimum $500 for violin, $1200 for cello), scour Craigslist and other listings for used instruments (and feel free to contact us if you need advice on choosing one from your local classifieds - we're happy to help!) or go with a payment plan, like ours.  Don't be pressured to spend more than you can, as this musical adventure is often a very long one, and the opportunities to upgrade are always available (see #5 above)


7-9) Setup, Setup, and SETUP.  While I save this for last, it is perhaps the MOST important, and, unfortunately, the most overlooked.  If you come away from this article remembering only ONE point, let it be this one (even though it is turned into three points, as it is so important).  Do not be drawn by 'factory setup' because of its value, as there is no such thing.  Like The StringWorks Setup™, an instrument is only as good as the effort and craftsmanship, and careful execution of its setup.  You'd be amazed at the amount of time spent on setup in shops that put forth a high quality instrument.  Fingerboard scoop, neck, nut, saddle, pegbox, pegs, bridge feet, bridge taper, bridge shape, string guides, etc, all determine just how good an instrument will perform, and, most significantly, how easy it will play.  To purchase an instrument with a non-professional-level setup often sets up the player with frustration, sometimes sufficient enough to quit the instrument, and without merit as a result.


Please give us a call, toll-free, at (888)624-6114 and talk with one of us about any of your violin, viola, or cello needs during your search.  We're happy to help.

1 comment

Hello. I am a novice player who can play by ear but am finally trying to read music. I found an instructor who immediately said I need a 3/4 not a full size violin. I am a very petite 5 ’ tall and 71 years old. I love the sound my full size violin makes but when I tried the rental 3/4 I was amazed how much easier it was to play but the quality of sound is lacking. I am looking for a used 3/4 violin that sounds as good as my current full sized. I would like to trade mine in but have no idea of it’s value or of the cost of getting a 3/4 that sounds as sweet as my current violin. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Bonnie Mathewson March 05, 2020

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