Gliga Review: 2024’s Classic Beginner Violin & Viola Maker

by | Jan 16, 2023

Overview

Gliga Violins Master Violin with ballerina on backGliga Violins Master Violin with ballerina on backGliga Violins has been in business for some 30 years now, making beginner instruments in Romania and shipping them to students all over the world. Their violins and violas are known for having a darker, richer tone than many other beginner violin and viola brands have. They are a true classic of the beginner violin world. To add to this, they also allow you to pick the look of your instrument, offer a fully customizable experience for the outfit, and are one of the only brands to offer acoustic 5-string violins (“violans”?) and reliably offer 7/8-size beginner instruments.
Gliga Violins Master Violin with ballerina on back

Gliga Violins & Violas Reviewed

Chief Benefit: Good tone

Gliga offers a robust range of models of violins and violas starting from the mid $200’s. All of their instruments are of suitable quality for a brand new beginner to make their start on. However, I generally turn to Gliga as a recommendation for my students who have been playing a couple of years and who are looking for an upgraded violin. So far, several of my students have purchased Gems 2 violins for $400 to $500 and loved them. The violins come with a deeper and darker tone that is generally also fairly smooth sounding.

As a quick side note, ‘deeper and darker’ is not always better. It just depends on the player’s taste. Fiddlers tend to favor brighter sounding instruments as well as do people who like playing brighter, happier, or more upbeat music. That said, the sound of Gliga violins and violas is somewhat unique among beginner instruments.

Chief Drawback: Tight Pegs

One complaint I have about Gliga violins that is not necessarily unique to them but that is definitely more pronounced is how hard the pegs can be to turn. I have literally had to use pliers to turn the pegs on my students’ violins before because the pegs were simply too tight. This is a problem that will generally go away over time as the pegs get used; but it is a noteworthy annoyance when you have to say to your student in the midst of a lesson, “Do you know where your dad keeps his needle-nose pliers? Do you know what needle-nose pliers are? And can you bring me a grippy pad from the kitchen?”

Novel Benefit: Custom Look

A novel but noteworthy advantage to buying from Gliga Violins is that they give you an extra level of choice in your instrument that other companies do not offer. Every other company simply finishes all of their instruments of a particular model in the same varnish and style to save costs. Gliga Violins, however, likes to have a little bit more fun than that, finishing their instruments in a wide range of different varnishes and, yes, sometimes even colorful paint jobs.

Gliga Violin Gama Elite
Gliga Violins Gama Viola back
Gliga Violins Gama Viola back
Gliga Violins Gems 2 painted violin back
Gliga Violins Gems 2 back
Gliga Violins Gems 2 back
Gliga Violins Gems 2 painted Canada Flag
Gliga Violins Gems 2 painted violin back

Recommended Model

Whether shopping for your first instrument or looking to upgrade, I recommend you go with the Gems 2 model or better. The Genial line is fine if you are on a budget and absolutely must get out as cheap as possible; but you are also going to get what you pay for. As I’ve said, I consider Gliga violins and violas to be a good go-to for upgrading to the $400-$600 range. I recommend this for students who are roughly Royal Conservatory of Music Level 3 or 4, maybe advanced Level 2. That corresponds to roughly book 3 or 4 of Suzuki, assuming the student is well prepared.

And remember that you should be able to resell your Gliga violin or viola and outfit for around 80% of what you paid for it ($500 new -> $400 used).

Gliga Violins Gama Viola back

The Outfits

Gliga Violins also does things a little different when it comes to the actual outfits. Gliga is the only other brand aside from Shar that will allow you to buy just the violin or viola on its own. However, Gliga goes a step further as they allow you to customize your outfit and even drop items you don’t need. This is the best as it means you don’t have to pay money for anything you don’t actually need. No other retailer offers this.

Once you have selected your violin or viola, scroll down to the lower half of the page. Here, you will notice that they give you the option to change bows, select the color of your case, upgrade strings, and swap out the tailpiece. You can also choose from a Kun or Everest shoulder rest.

Here is a break down of what you need to know about each item and what to do with it should you choose to buy from Gliga.

The Bow

They offer you a $30 wood bow as standard, which is the right amount for a beginner wood bow. Ignore the ‘professional’ in the other two options; that is just marketing. Real professional bows start at $2,500 and go up from there. If you know your kid has a tendency to break things, then the carbon fiber upgrade may be worth it to you. However, make no mistake in that the $60 carbon fiber bow is just as basic as the $30 wood bow and really only suited for very early beginners.

Otherwise, if you are looking at Gliga as an upgrade from cheaper beginner instruments and you truly want to upgrade your student’s bow, too, then I recommend taking the ‘no bow’ option here and buying a $100 to $200 bow from either Shar or Fiddlershop. Bows in that price range are great for advanced beginners (RCM Level 3 or 4, Suzuki Books 3 or 4).

The Case

Blue, burgundy, green or red? This is a good one to let your student pick out. It will create a stronger sense of connection to the violin or viola if the case is also a little more ‘them’. No joke. That’s an actual thing. That’s why there are so many options for cases in the world.

If you are buying a nicer Gliga, $500 to $1,000 in price, then you may want a nicer case. A $100-$150 case will do the job. Note that Gliga Violins’ offerings over $1,000 already come with better cases though, again, you may want to upgrade all the same.

The Tailpiece

Sometimes you get options here; sometimes you don’t. If you want to personalize the instrument, they sometimes offer tailpiece options that come with Swarovski crystals on them in playful patterns. Those are $45 extra, though, and I cannot speak to or guarantee the build quality (though I am sure Gliga swears by it).

If you are buying a nicer instrument from them (close to or above $1,000), you will want to check with your or your student’s teacher to see if you should get a tailpiece with one fine-tuner or a tailpiece with the full set of four fine tuners. Higher end instruments will likely only come with one fine tuner where you or your student may still need four. Fine tuners help beginners tune a violin or viola without breaking all the strings. They are also a life-saver for kids and teens whose hands are not yet strong enough to handle the pegs.

The Strings

I’ve had students buy the violin and just take the Romanian strings, which is the budget option, to be sure. The sound quality and play-ability is not as bad as it could be for how cheap the strings are; however, if it is in your budget, I recommend picking from any of the upgrade sets. If you are buying a Gliga violin or viola with the intention of it being an upgrade for your student, then better strings are practically a must. Dominants are the standard workhorse string for beginner and intermediate players, alike. Any of the sets Gliga offers are worth the money, though. But you can always do this upgrade later. Strings should be replaced roughly yearly, anyways.

The Shoulder Rest

If you know you don’t need this item, then you can remove it. If you do need this item, then I recommend sticking with Kun. It is the better brand and will, in fact, last you or your student a decade or more, easily. You can upgrade to collapsible feet, if you like. Collapsible feet sometimes help the shoulder rest fit in the case.

Gliga Violins Gems 2 painted Canada Flag

Conclusion

There you have it! Gliga Violins is worth a look if you are interested in going somewhere a little different, want a particular look in your instrument, like a deeper or darker sound to your violin or viola, or generally are just sold on them after reading this review. Remember, Gems 2 or better is the best way to go with them.

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