My fiddlosophy on buying a violin

Whether you rent or buy, the most important thing is to have a decent quality instrument. Learning the fiddle is challenging. You don’t need the extra challenge of playing a poor quality instrument that sounds bad, has poor action and does not stay in tune. It may seem cheaper in the short run, but it’s more expensive in the long run. 

With a cheap fiddle, you will be more likely to get frustrated and quit. It’s a good investment for your peace of mind and well-being. It also makes financial sense, because if you stay with fiddling, you’ll waste less money on other less meaningful stuff.

On the other hand, too many people obsess over which violin to buy. They miss a big point: you have to play the thing. If you have a $10,000 violin but barely pick it up, then it may as well be a $100 violin.

So to sum up: get something you can afford, but don’t go the super-cheap route.

How much should I spend on a fiddle?

The OB 1 made by FiddlerShop is a good entry level fiddle

You don’t have to break the bank. You need a decent instrument with good tone that stays in tune. I recommend spending $350-500 for a full violin outfit.

Fiddlershop makes their violins overseas, then sets them up by hand. So you get the best of both worlds; an affordable instrument that’s been adjusted and checked by a master craftsman.

Again, some good entry-level fiddles:

Another nice thing about buying from an online dealer like Fiddlershop, is that they offer a return policy. So if you feel like you got the wrong instrument or that you just don’t want to continue, you can get your money refunded (I think with Fiddlershop you have to return it within 45 days).

Should I rent a fiddle?

In short, renting is a good option if you’re not quite ready to buy a fiddle. If you are trying to decide if fiddling is something you want to pursue, then renting one from a good local violin shop for 1-2 months is not a bad idea.

Renting is an especially good option for small children who might quickly grow out of an instrument. On the extreme flipside of that, if you are 1000% sure you want to play the fiddle, renting might also be a good option. This is because you can make a better buying decision once you’ve been playing a few months.

Expect to pay $20-40/month to rent a decent instrument. Some shops will allow you to apply part of the rental money towards a purchase. 

The downside to renting is that often the quality of instruments is not that great. This is especially the case if you’re renting from generic music shops like Guitar Center where they also sell, keyboards, drums, microphones, tubas, kitchen sinks and whatever else they sell there.

Should I buy a used violin?

I don’t recommend this option for beginners. That’s because you don’t yet know how to play, and so it will be harder to make a good decision.

Once you get to a more intermediate level, you’ll have a better idea of what a good sound is. When something does not sound good, you’ll be more aware of how much of this stems from your technique and how much from the instrument.

Once you have played a while (let’s say you’ve learned 40 tunes), then you can start visiting violin shops and trying out different used instruments.

One advantage of a used instrument is that it has been broken in. The wood has settled and it has a nicer tone.

What size should I get?

Most adults play full-size violins. If you have short arms and think you might need a smaller violin, then you can do an arm test. Hold the violin at your chin and stretch out your left arm. If the scroll reaches past your wrist, then it’s too big.

If I’m left-handed, should I get a left-handed violin?

The short answer is no. Playing a regular violin requires a high degree of dexterity with the left hand. The left hand allows you to play melodies. The only time I think it would make sense is if you’ve already mastered another stringed instrument, like guitar with a left-handed instrument. Otherwise, lefties and righties can both enjoy a standard fiddle setup.

Got a question?

Just ask in a comment below.

Fiddle Questions >> 

Module 1.1 >>

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2 responses to “How To Get A Fiddle

  1. I am in the process of choosing a new violin. I am so excited. The shop that I am working with is sending me several violins and bows to explore via FedEx ( due to Covid). I live on the East coast. I have been playing for a little over 5 years (almost 3 years with Fiddlehed combined with in person lessons)and now I can appreciate a more expensive instrument. WHAT A DIFFERENCE. I grew attached to my student violin, and felt sad trading it in, but now I know!!! It is worth it for the wonderful resonance. Haven’t picked yet, but I am leaning towards a Franz Pecha, 1933, it is sooooo mellow. ( and,yup, it is used) Thank you for all your wonderful encouragement- you kept me going