Judith's biography...click here.
How to buy a Violin'Stern' advice from Doug Cole,
a humorist / violin repair man.
Watch out for:
* Violins with tuning pegs that have sharp edges that break strings.
* Violins purchased on the internet or from a catalog. (Can't hear them or touch them can you?)
* Avoid Brand Name violins like Cremona, Palatino, Anton Breton, Siegler etc.
* Electronic tuner / metronomes that have too many buttons. They look cool but they are hard to use. Keep it simple. (See the Get Stuff pictures for suggestions.)
* "Thermoplastic" ABS violin cases that have no room for a chinrest - or anything else.
The first thing to do when shopping for a violin is to turn the tuning pegs. Are they sticky? Or do they run smoothly and stay in place?
The second thing to do is get help from your teacher. This is the second thing because you already went shopping or you already have a hand me down fiddle. Right?
Violins summed up in a word are - subtle. There is much to learn about the equipment before you get a violin and many, many people are 'taken' by overpriced and cheaply made violins that look beautiful.
If the instrument is hard to play and often breaks strings, then you will have a terrible time in learning. It is similar to getting a bicycle with warped wheels. It is awful and all too common.
SOME COMMON MYTHS TO OVERCOME.
"I want a new violin". Nope. New violins at any price change their tone and 'play-ability' in just a few years. At the very least, get one that has aged a few years. (Sales people will argue about this point - they make all the money...)
"It costs too much." If you know what to look for, you can have an excellent instrument at almost any price. A good value is very hard to find but older instruments usually are more stable and are usually a better value.
"It's ugly. I want a pretty violin". Big problem here - Beauty has little to do with play-ability and utility. Try to ignore this aspect and leave it for the last consideration on your list.
Other 'words of wisdom'.
SHOULD I RENT OR BUY A VIOLIN?
This is in capital letters because this is important!
Rental programs entice people into a long term relationship. Two types, 'rent by the month' or 'rent and then get a discount on a purchase' force you into a relationship with the dealer. Now think for a minute - the reason to rent is because you are not sure you want to keep the violin. Violin shops want long term relationships. That can be good. However rental violins are usually poorer quality and they are expensive to fix. No one really benefits from the deal, including the dealer.
Invest in a good old violin at a price you choose. Choose the price first and get help in finding a good one. Good violins purchased from other students are often great values.
Don't buy a violin from a music store. Sounds weird, but most music stores specialize in woodwind and brass instruments. They don't know much about violins and their violins are definitely overpriced.
After your first violin, your second violin should be one you keep 'for life'. Don't upgrade every few years and fall into the violin shop's 'trade up" policy. They coerce people into a relationship by saying they are the only ones that will take your old violin in a trade. That might be true - so choose a violin shop with care!.
The selection of new violins today is overwhelming. We are in a 'buyers market'. There are violins everywhere like at Target Superstores and at eBay. And most violin shops have dozens of beautiful violins. You can choose a good one with some help. A good one will be a pleasure to hold and an inspiration to play for years to come.