This is fairly brief and to the point and comes from a teacher's frustration when a pupil comes with a totally useless violin that fond parents/ grandparents have bought without consulting me.
Firstly consult the teacher about the size and what brand or make to get. Obviously a beginner will not require the quality of instrument needed for a grade 8 student.
However if you know the size and just cant wait look out for the following.
It is essential that smaller size violins come with a fitted metal tailpiece with integral adjusters. Student strings are metal not gut and need an adjuster to get anywhere near fine tuned. This applies to all sizes but particularly more so in 3/4,1/2 and 1/4 sizes which I cannot tune properly unless they have adjusters.
If buying from a shop insist that it is tuned to pitch, if the pegs are not properly fitted the shop wont be able to tune them as they will slip. The violin will be of no practical use. If buying from the internet or Ebay ask if the bridge is fitted. If not you will have to fit it yourself, a skilled job and very expensive to do properly. It's like having a car serviced. If the violin is sent bridge unfitted the soundpost inside can come adrift as it is wedged in and held in place by the tension of the strings. Again you will have to get this fixed.
The cheap deals from stores and the net usually fall down on all the points that I have raised. Best are the used small size violins on Ebay where the child has moved on and you can ask the appropriate questions.The best new student violins in my opinion are the Prima 200 for beginners and the Westbury outfit from the same suppliers. Both have metal tailpieces and well fitting pegs and bridges. A violin specialist supplier will usually uprate the violin with better quality strings and fittings, but you will have to pay an extra premium for this. For a talented pupil this is in my opinion essential, and on the Westbury outfit the results can be as good as an expensive antique violin costing £1000 or more.
Secondhand outfits often have bows which need replacing as students tend to overtighten the bow, spoiling the stick, and it may need rehairing.The cost of a rehair is from £30-£45 which is more expensive than a new basic student quality bow. It is worth checking this with a seller if buying on Ebay.
I finish on my first point. Ask your child's teacher if you know little or nothing about violins. I'ts courtesy and it's commonsense. Best wishes and I wish your child much joy and happiness from their music making.
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