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).

To Buy or Rent a Violin: A Beginner’s Dilemma

Still undecided about buying or renting? Let’s weigh up the pros and cons.

Renting a violin becomes a smart choice when:

1. You’re undecided about your commitment to the violin. Renting allows you to explore without investing heavily in a potentially short-lived interest.
2. You’re seeking a string instrument for a rapidly growing child. As they size up, so will the violin, leading to recurring expenses.
3. You’d prefer gaining some expertise before committing to a lifelong musical companion.

On the flip side, buying a violin has its merits:

1. You’re determined to master the violin. In the long run, buying can be more economical than continual rental payments. A good-quality beginner’s violin could be yours for approximately the same cost as a year’s rental fees – about $300.
2. You view it as a worthwhile investment. Fine violins retain their value, and most violin shops offer trade-ins when upgrading, helping you financially when stepping up your game.
3. You’d rather avoid rental liabilities. Accidental damage to a rented violin can be expensive! 😱 Plus, rented violins may come with pre-existing wear and tear.

How Much Does a Good Beginner’s Violin Cost?

For a complete violin outfit (bow, rosin, case, strings, and other accessories included), I recommend a starting budget of at least $300. If your finances allow, consider extending this to $600. Investing in a decent violin paves the way for joy-filled practices and eventual mastery.

The result of owning a decent violin? You’ll naturally want to practice more. And you’ll enjoy it more. Which means you won’t waste money buying other meaningless stuff (that doesn’t bring as much satisfaction as playing violin). So a decent violin is not only an investment in your personal growth, but can wind up saving you money. Sounds like a win-win, right? 😍

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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5 responses to “How To Get A Fiddle

  1. Hi, thank you for this explanation and link!

    I am an older fiddler somewhere between beginner and intermediate. There is a man who lives not far from me who rebuilds older (antique) violins. I already have an ok violin but I am wanting to upgrade sometime in the near future. I plan on spending $1,000 to $1,500 on a new violin. I was thinking of going to the man I mentioned and see what he has to offer. He has over 200 violins and bows to choose from. Would you recommend potentially buying from this man? Thanks!

    This is his ad on craigslist:


  2. What a brilliant, simple, no nonsense way of knowing if a violin is a good fit. There’s a huge resistance in the violin world against adults playing anything but a full size instrument. I spent the better part of three years learning that I needed a 1/2 size violin (The scroll lands right on the wrist pad). I started with a full size and did ok until the fourth finger was introduced. I went down to a 3/4, which helped, but was told I could stretch my little finger out to be able to play a full size by my then adult orchestra director. After several more months and lots of online searching for how to choose the right size violin for a small adult (I’m a tad over 5 feet tall with arms that are two inches shorter than all the long sleeve shirts and coats at the store.) I decided to go down to a 1/2 size. The folks at the violin store were very resistant and tried to talk me out of it. My adult daughter was with me and let them know that I was just playing for myself in my living room so I didn’t really need a violin for performances. They finally relented and let us peruse their 1/2 violin rental collection. I can now reach the fourth finger position with relative ease (I still tense up from all the years of using violins that were too big.). I highly recommend getting a violin that is the right size. It’s so much more fun to play one that fits!

  3. 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