How to Buy a Violin for a Child

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How to Buy a Violin for a Child

The violin is a wonderful musical instrument, loved and celebrated around the world and important in many areas of entertainment, including opera, orchestra, and popular music. They are portable and often inexpensive, and this alongside their accessibility makes them a very good choice as a child’s first instrument. There are a number of different things to understand about the violin, and it is important to understand them before a purchase is made.

About Violins

The violin is the smallest member of the violin family (the upper voice), which also includes, in the descending order of pitch, the viola, cello and double bass. The hollow body and characteristic hourglass shape is designed to resonate as the strings are played with a bow.

The Anatomy of a Violin

The violin is constructed out of a wooden body, a bridge, a neck, and strings. Inside the body is the sound post and the bass bar:

Body

The hourglass shaped body is made from two arched pieces of wood (the top ‘belly’ and the back) connected to the side ribs.

Bridge

The bridge is a shaped piece of wood which acts to arch and separate the strings, and transmits the string vibrations to the body.

Neck

The neck lies underneath the fingerboard. At the end of the neck is the nut, the peg box and the scroll. The nut positions the strings and keeps them raised until the stings meet the bridge, the peg box tunes the strings, and the scroll enhances the violin’s resonant properties.

Strings

The violin strings are attached to the tailpiece at the violin’s base, and then follow along the bridge and neck, and end wound around the tuning pegs.

Sound post

This fits between the top and back, helping to support the top and control the violin’s tone.

Bass bar

This bar runs inside the body below the low G string, also helping to support the top.

Violin Materials

The types of wood and their individual properties used in the construction of the violin are very significant for the instrument’s integrity, playability, and quality of sound. The top is commonly made from the softwood spruce, while the other parts of the body and the neck and bridge are made from the hardwood maple. The fingerboard is usually made from ebony due to its hardness and robustness. Violin strings are made from steel filaments, and lower strings include metal wound around a core. Cheaper bows have synthetic hair, while more expensive bows have horse hair.

Buying Tips for a Child’s Violin

When choosing a violin for a child, the most important factors are the size and the price. Reasonable quality violins start at around £60, and in general, the more money spent the better quality build and the better sound the violin will give. Avoid mass-produced violins made in the Far East – look for violins that have labelled proof of manufacture. When considering bows, horse hair bows produce a better quality sound. Unless it is broken or mistreated, a good quality violin will never depreciate in value, so the investment pays itself back if the violin is sold at a future date. This makes a bigger purchase not as costly as it may first seem, and the child will enjoy a better sound and overall a better learning experience.

Matching the Size

There are nine main different violin sizes to suit children of different ages. The biggest size is 4/4 and the smallest is 1/32.
To find the right match accurately, have the child outstretch their arm perpendicular to their body, and measure the length from the neck to the middle of the palm – the length of the chosen violin should be no bigger than this measurement. Some parents choose to go with an ‘outsized’ violin to avoid paying for new violins as the child grows, but this can affect playability.
The table below shows violin size versus length of violin, length of bow, and appropriate age-group. The appropriate bow length is also provided. Bow lengths are also variable to suit the size of the child and match with the violin. There is also a rarer violin size – 7/8 – which is suited for small teens or adults who have small hands.

Violin Size

Length (inches)

Approximate Age Match

Bow Length (inches)

4/4

23

11+

27.5

3/4

22

10/11

27

1/2

20

8/9

24.5

1/4

19

6/7

22.5

1/8

17

5

19.25

1/10

15

4

17.75

Violin Accessories and Aftercare

Neck rest: There are a number of different types of shoulder rest to suit different people and preferences; however, a sponge does the job perfectly well.
Rosin: Rosin is a special type of resin, placed on the hairs of the bow. Available as dark and light rosin, it is absolutely essential to play with.
Violin case: These are essential for carrying and to keep the instrument protected when not in use. Suspension cases provide extra protection, and backpack cases are popular to help children carry them.
Violin strings: Strings get dirty and degrade over time and should be replaced at least once a year.
Violin tuner: Electronic tuners make it easy to tune each string. A tuning fork can be used to tune a single string, after which the rest can be tuned by ear.
Humidifier: Case humidifiers and instrument humidifiers keep humidity levels acceptable in dry conditions. These tend only to be necessary in dryer climates and/or if the violin is a significant investment.

Basic Violin Aftercare

To keep the violin in good condition and playing nicely, there are a number of things to keep in mind; most are common sense.
Violin wood will expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity, so always store the violin in the case, away from direct sunlight, in a place with moderate temperature and humidity and not prone to large temperature/humidity fluctuations.
Apply rosin to the bow away from the violin. If rosin gets on the violin, wipe it away with a cloth. The bow is sensitive and should always be treated with care. Loosen the bow hair when the bow is stored.
If using a neck rest, always remember to remove it before putting the violin back in the case and closing the lid. The violin can be broken otherwise.

Finding a Children’s Violin on eBay

To buy a violin for a child on eBay, first go to the eBay musical instruments webpage. There is a category guide on the left-hand side which includes a ‘string’ stringed instrument category. From here, click on the violin category; all products listed under the violin category will then be displayed on a listings page.
The listings can be refined into sub-categories by using the tabs at the top of the listings and the category search box on the left. For example, listings can be changed to Auctions only or Buy it now or specified in a number of other ways:
Sub-type (acoustic violin, electric violin etc...)
Condition (new, used, refurbished...)
Size (4/4, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16...)
Price
Location (UK violins, EU violins, Worldwide violins...)
Type of seller
These subcategories can be used to create a list of specific items; for example, a second hand quarter-size violin, a new half-size violin, or a new full-size electric violin. Searches can also be made using the search box at the top of the eBay homepage and category pages.

Conclusion

A violin is an amazing instrument, not only because of its delightful musical characteristics, but because it provides a highly promising introduction to music and performing for children of all ages. Learning to play music formally provides enjoyment, structure, engagement, and education all in one package, and the violin is an inexpensive and effective way to get children started.

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