The Complete Guide to Buying a Violin on eBay

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The Complete Guide to Buying a Violin on eBay

The violin is a stringed instrument, usually with four strings, and is the smallest and highest pitched member of the violin family. Sometimes called a fiddle, the violin visibly resembles both the viola and cello.
Available in a range of sizes, the best way to determine the size required is to extend the left arm, as if holding the violin, and measure the distance between the player’s neck and the centre of the left wrist or left palm.
Although adults will generally require a full size instrument, children often use fractional sizes. It is important to note that these fractions do not represent accurate relationships – that is to say, a 1/2 size violin is not half the size of a full size violin – but this universal manner of differentiation is useful when judging the suitability of any particular instrument before making a purchase from eBay.

Violin Size

Length in inches

Approximate Age

4/4 Full size

23

11 years to adult

3/4

22

10-11

1/2

20

8-9

1/4

18 ½

6-7

1/8

16 ½

5

1/10

15

4

1/16

14

3

1/32

13

up to 3 years and younger

Construction


All violins, violas and cellos have the same basic construction. The body of a violin, which looks like an hourglass, is traditionally made of two, arched plates joined by a ‘garland of ribs’, all made from wood. Two concave central ‘C-bouts’ form the waist of a violin, which allows the bow a full range of movement, and ‘f-holes’ permit the instrument to ‘breathe’. Although any damage to the neck, fingerboard, pegbox, scroll, or main body would require professional repair, the replaceable components are generally available on eBay as single items or from parts or not working listings. These components are:

Strings

Made from gut, steel, or synthetic materials, strings have a limited lifespan which depends entirely upon age and playing intensity. Tuned in perfect fifths, strings are, from lowest to highest, G D A E.

Pegs

A tuning peg is used to hold a string in the pegbox of the violin. Turning these pegs changes the pitch – thereby tuning the string – and unguents are available to ensure against slipping. Nicks or notches in the peg will also cause slipping and both may affect the quality of sound produced.

Bridge

A bridge supports the strings, raising them from the fingerboard, and transmitting the vibrations through the body of the violin. Bridges are relatively delicate and may require regular replacement.

Tailpiece

A tailpiece anchors the strings to the base of the violin allowing for fine adjusters to be attached.

Fine adjusters (optional)

All violins have pegs; fine adjusters, also called fine tuners, are optional. Most fine adjusters consist of a metal screw that moves a lever attached to the end of the string, allowing very delicate pitch changes. Fine adjusters on all four of the strings are a practical requirement when using steel strings, but if only the E string is steel, then only one fine adjuster is really needed. Fine adjusters allow for much more efficient fine tuning than simply relying on pegs alone.

Chin Rest

A chinrest is attached to the body of the violin and is shaped out of wood or plastic to help position a player’s chin or, depending on their preferred positioning of the head, jaw.

Bows

Made from wood and horsehair, in the same way that a violin is available in various sizes, so are bows. A bow size will correspond to the size of the violin:

Violin Size

Bow Size in inches

4/4 Full size

29.5

3/4

27

1/2

24.5

1/4

22.5

1/8

19.25

1/10

17.75

1/16

16.75

1/32

15


Bow maintenance requires regular and liberal applications of rosin which protects the horsehair from contact with the strings, improves consistency of contact (or ‘grab’) and allows for a smoother sound.
A solid form of resin that is obtained from the sap of trees and is produced by heating liquid resin to remove any volatile components, rosin is brittle at room temperature and melts at a standard stove-top heat. It is important to note that old or broken rosin blocks can damage the bow and hair.
Available in a variety of shapes, colours, grades and with certain additives, specific rosins are often recommended for specific instruments. Violin rosins can vary in stickiness with light rosins often providing less ‘grab’, or contact consistency, than the darker rosins. Lesser ‘grab’ is usually desirable in high heat and low humidity climates; greater ‘grab’ is appropriate in low temperature and high humidity climates.
A bow may occasionally require re-hairing as, during the course of playing, hairs can be lost, snagged or broken. Also, loose hairs should never be pulled free of the clasps as it could cause more hairs to be yanked out in a clump. Instead, stray hairs should be neatly clipped with scissors to guard against further damage until such point as re-hairing needs to be undertaken.
Additionally, bows should always be loosened before being stored as constant tension may cause the wood to warp in the wrong direction and cleaning the bow with a soft cloth to remove rosin dust will prevent damage to the wood.

Accessories

Comfort during playing, as well as controlling the volume levels during practice times, can be achieved by purchasing certain accessories:

Shoulder Rest

A shoulder rest usually follows the curve of the shoulder and can be flexible, made of a sponge-like material or come with a hooked extension that can reach over the shoulder to ensure further stability. Attached to the back of the violin by way of rubber ‘feet’, the shoulder rest will add height to the shoulder whilst playing and will prevent the instrument from slipping.

Mute

Placed over the strings, on top of the bridge, a mute dampens vibrations and produces a softer sound. Usually a three pronged construction, each prong sits between a pair of strings to cause the muffling effect.

Care and Upkeep

Regular playing will improve the tone of a violin so, with careful upkeep, a well maintained instrument can bring enjoyment for many years. With this in mind it is important to remember that, in the same way that rosin may damage the wood of the bow, rosin may damage any exposed wood on the body so wiping down the violin with a soft cloth after every use will prevent damage or discolouration.
Cleaning the rosin off the strings can also make a striking difference to the sound.

How to Buy a Violin on eBay

To buy a violin, first go to the eBay homepage, opening the All Categories tab, then scroll down the page until you see Musical Instruments, click on the tab and then select String. Further filters will then become available and further selections can be made for size, condition or other Accessories/Equipment. Alternatively, use the bar at the top of any eBay page and key in “violin”.

Conclusion

A violins, cellos, and violas are all members of the violin family and share the same basic construction.
Violins come in a variety of sizes, although the size descriptors bear no relation to the actual size differentials. That is to say, a 1/8 violin is not one eighth of the size of a full size instrument.
Although the solid construction of a violin means that any repairs should be undertaken by a professional, certain more loosely attached additions to the instrument – such as the bridge, strings, chin rest or pegs – can be replaced by the player.
Careful maintenance and upkeep will ensure that the instrument can be passed down and enjoyed for generations to come.

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