Best Beginner Violin Review in 2017
Unless you are already familiar with the instrument of your child's choice, buying one for them can be a bit overwhelming. Have no fear. In this article, we'll break down the basic things to consider when choosing a beginner violin for your fledgling musician, and give you a roundup of the options that are out there.
What To Consider
To Rent or To Buy
The first decision you'll have to make is whether to rent or buy your kid's violin. There are different schools of thought regarding this decision, specifically when considering a beginner violin.
The renter's argument is that, until you're sure that your child will actually enjoy and commit to a particular instrument, it's better to wait and see how they take to it, instead of laying down a chunk of money on a violin they won't touch after a month.
On the buyer's side, it's purely a matter of money. A beginner violin will generally run you $100 - $500 to buy outright. Renting is roughly around $15 - $30 per month. So, depending on the cost of whichever violin you're looking at, versus what the going rental rate is at your local music shop, and the minimum time you expect to use the instrument, the numbers might make the Rent or Buy decision for you.
As a compromise, some stores and brands do offer a rent-to-buy option, making the financial aspect a little more flexible.
Violins come in eight main sizes, ranging from 4/4 (full size) to 1/16. The most important thing to do when choosing a beginner violin is to make sure you get the correct size. Too small might be a little uncomfortable, but too big will be very uncomfortable and make learning more difficult.
To figure out what size your kid needs, you'll need to measure them. Have them hold their left arm straight out to the side, parallel to the floor, and measure from the side of their neck to the middle of their palm. This measurement will tell you what size violin your child is at, according to the table below. For a great visual explanation of this, check out this video:
Arm Length (inches) - Violin Size
23.5+ - 4/4
22-23.5 - 3/4
20.75-22 - 1/2
19-20.75 - 1/4
17.75-19 - 1/8
16-17.75 - 1/10
14.5-16 - 1/16
These are approximate estimates that can vary from teacher to teacher, so, if possible, it's best if you have access to a physical store, where you can also test the size by feel. When holding a violin, your child should be able to bend their left arm comfortably and wrap their fingers all the way over the top of the scroll. If their fingers don't reach, you'll need to go down a size. Also, when holding the violin with proper form (straight wrist), they should be able to comfortably reach their fingers over to the G string (the furthest left of the four).
If your child has a measurement that is right on the life or seems to be between sizes, it's generally better to get the smaller size. Even though you think they may grow into a larger size later, it's actually easier for them to handle and learn right now if they don't have to wield an instrument that is too big for them.
Kits and Outfits
Beginner violins usually come packaged with the basic necessary accessories along with the violin itself and the bow. This package is called a "kit" or "outfit." Buying a violin outfit is great, because it usually means a lower cost for you overall.
Here's a list of what your options might be and what to look for when considering beginner violin outfits:
For a beginner violin, this will often be a factory construction, often with plastic fittings. Higher quality materials are more expensive and not needed when you're just starting out and learning the basics. The most important thing to look for here is that the violin's body is made of a spruce and/or maple wood, as other woods or synthetic materials won't produce a viable sound. Also check for any cracks or warping in the wood.
The bow is made of horsehair and, in student violins, usually brazilwood, carbon-fiber, or other synthetic materials. The main thing to look for here is that the bow is strong and the fibers in the ribbon don't break too easily (a couple here and there is common and happens during play, but a whole bunch is a bad bow). Also test that the knob at the base (called the "frog") of the bow works, loosening and tightening the fibers when turned.
Most will be a hard plastic shell with a padded frame interior that holds the violin and bow in place. There are also usually pockets to store sheet music, rosin and extra accessories.
Rosin is a solid plant resin that helps the bow grip the strings to produce a sound. This is rubbed onto the fiber of the bow at the beginning of each session.
Strings do break on occasion, so it's useful to always carry an extra set.
When playing, rosin dust will accumulate on the violin's body, fingerboard and strings. You'll need a cloth to clean it after playing, otherwise this dust will build up into a layer that disrupts play and is difficult to remove.
Chin and Shoulder Rests
Chin rests usually come attached, especially to beginner violins. Shoulder rests are a detachable accessory that helps the violin rest in proper form against the shoulder. Both of these rests are usually necessary for beginner violinists to be able to comfortably hold the violin for long periods of time. These can be made of wood, plastic, sponges, or a combination of materials.
E-tuners are gadgets that can be useful for tuning and practicing outside of class and lessons, but are not necessary with the wide availability of tuner apps and Internet resources.
Usually introductory books on the basics of playing the violin, care and maintenance, scales, and simple sheet music to practice. A nice bonus.
Five Best Beginner Violin
Cremona SV-75 Novice Violin
The Cremona SV-75 is a very affordable option. In this case, "you get what you pay for" seems to apply, but for families on a very tight budget, this gets the job done. The sound is tinny, the construction is basic and, aside from the novel option to order your violin in one of a variety of sparkly skins, this instrument is purely a functional violin for a very beginner. We'd recommend this particularly for a child who is unsure if the violin is really what they want to play to meet a school requirement, so in case they decide they don't like it after the fact, your wallet won't be hit too hard.
D Z Strad Model 101 Violin
This is a well-made, handcrafted instrument that is often recommended by teachers as a beginner violin because of its clear, consistent tone and smooth design, which makes for easy playability. There are no extras in the outfit, but its reputation alone compensates, as it is known as one of the most reliable student violins. The reputation comes at a cost, though, as it is mid-to-high in the price range for beginner violins.
Cecilio CVN-300 Violin
This is a handcrafted violin with an antique varnish finish, ebony fittings and hand inlaid purfling. The body of the violin is well-crafted, but the strings produce a metallic sound, though this usually isn't a problem for new students. This is a reasonable choice for a beginner violin, better quality than the Cremona, but more affordable than the D Z Strad. This brand also offers an option to order in a non-traditional color, though without the sparkle. However, if your child is very young or small, this model does not come in full range of sizes, only going from 1/8 up to full size, so correct size might not be available for you.
Ricard Bunnel G2 Violin
The Ricard Bunnel G2 is mid-range as far as beginner violin prices, but is also very good in quality, presenting better sound and craftmanship than most of the others on this list. It's made to be more durable, built in solid tonewoods, and has a nice hand-rubbed oil finish. It's not as light as the Cecilio, but it won't fall apart. Added to this, the Ricard Bunnel comes with an extended outfit, including a case with generous storage capacity, a good quality shoulder rest, rosin and extra strings, a polishing cloth, and an "Introduction to Violin" lesson book. If a mid-range student violin fits into your budget, this outfit gives your kid everything they need to get started, along with a quality instrument that will last them a good while.
Nagoya Suzuki Model 220 Violin
The Nagoya Suzuki is an import from Japan and is the most expensive in our roundup. It features a quality build, ebony fittings and produces a smooth sound. With the Suzuki brand backing it, this model is a fine beginner violin. However, compared to the D Z Strad or Ricard Bunnel, the quality isn't better, even though it's more expensive. Also, since it's shipped overseas, the bridge is not placed to keep it from getting damaged in process, but that means you have to assemble it, and if you are new to violins as well as your child, that could be an annoyance.
Based on a balance between cost and quality, and keeping in mind that this purchase is likely for a brand new student, the winner of our roundup is the Ricard Bunnel G2. Although it lacks the over popularity of the D Z Strad, we feel the quality is on par and at a more affordable price. Even with a beginner violin, having a good quality build that produces a full and consistent tone will make the learning process faster, easier and more enjoyable. Plus, the extended outfit really starts your kid off on the right foot, so they won't find out they're missing something on the first day, and you don't have to factor the small purchases into the total cost of the instrument.
Whichever violin you end up choosing for your aspiring violinist, we hope this article helped you understand the basic factors to consider when choosing a good beginner violin, and made the whole process a bit smoother. Happy playing!