Renting and Buying Beginner Violins and Violas: A How-to Guide

A Guide for the Uninitiated Parent or Aspiring Musician

Renting and buying a student violin or viola can be a daunting task. Are you getting a good deal? Is the instrument any good? Who is even best to turn to for this sort of thing? I cover all of this and more in detail in this guide. For those who don’t have the time to read it all, here is the TL;DR:

What is a beginner violin or beginner viola?

beginner violin with 4 fine tunersbeginner violin with 4 fine tunersA beginner violin or viola is the same as any other violin except in that these instruments always have 4 fine-tuners on the tailpiece to aide the beginner student in tuning their instrument. These instruments also tend to range in price from sacrilegiously cheap to around $800 (USD) and have a lower quality of sound.

beginner violin with 4 fine tuners

Should I buy or rent my beginner violin or viola?

You should buy unless either your child is very close to needing the next size up or you have doubts this will go longer than 6 months. If you do decide to rent, you can use a local service or Shar Music is the best place to rent from online. Whoever you rent from, you should not rent for more than 6 months. Absolutely DO NOT use Music & Arts – you will be over-paying for lower quality.

How much should I pay for a beginner violin or viola?

Don’t spend any less than $240 (unless you are buying secondhand). For beginner violins and beginner violas, around $400 is a good target price, especially if you are buying full-size and buying new. The most you might spend on a beginner instrument is $800 – any more than that and either you have over-paid or are buying an intermediate-level instrument. My one-stop shopping recommendation below gets everything you need for $380 (violin) or $425 (viola).

How do I buy a beginner violin or viola?

There are many great options online for beginner violins and violas, including¬† Sharmusic.com, fiddlershop.com, Gliga violins, Kennedy Violins, and DZ Strad. Amazon and Music & Arts are the worst and should be avoided (I would say “at all costs”, but it would save you money to do so, so…). The other option is to shop for a secondhand beginner instrument. This can be especially worthwhile when buying fractional violins (1/32 to 3/4 sizes) or violas less than 15″; however, care is needed to make sure you are getting value.

What about ‘outfits’?

beginner violin outfit violin with bow and case beginner violin outfit violin with bow and casebeginner violin outfit violin with bow and caseOutfits, which come with instrument, case, bow and other things, are a common way to buy beginner violins and violas. There are good outfits and there are outfits that waste your money. The outfits you find on Amazon, in addition to having violins, violas and bows that, in-and-of-themselves, are wastes of money, tend to also have other items included that are also not worth while. The best outfit currently available on the market is what Shar offers in their Franz Hoffman beginner instrument line. Fiddlershop, Gliga, Kennedy Violins, and DZ Strad are all reasonable alternatives. What makes Shar the best is their two tiers of outfit. The simpler outfits includes just the instrument, bow, case and rosin, leaving you free to get higher quality accessories as you need them. Their deluxe outfits come with all the goods that no body else offers, like a tuner-metronome¬† and humidifier, and none of the waste, like an extra set of strings or a book you don’t need.

So if I were just going to one-stop shop…?

For a beginner violin set-up, buy this ($502 total) from Shar. Here I am recommending the better quality stand, shoulder rest and metronome because they are worth it in the long-run. However, you can buy cheaper options and save up to $62 ($440 total); but you do get what you pay for. You can take it down to $340 if you get the Amadeus outfit instead of the Danube. The Peak music stand may cost a bit more than the rink-y-dink metal frame ones; however, it pays dividends in its ability to hold music, not fall down, and last. You can also try Fiddlershop and get their OB1 ($390); however, it will still leave you bereft of a metronome and the folding stand they carry costs $100 to the Peak Music Stand’s $45, bringing their bill to $520. They also do not have a budget tuner-metronome option.

Shar Franz Hoffman Danube violin outfit

Danube Violin Outfit - $380

A solid instrument with good strings, a decent beginner bow, and a case fit-for-purpose.

Peak SMS-20 music stand

Peak Music Stand - $45

You can get a cheaper stand, but you are losing out for it. This is the best stand and a very fair price.

Essential Elements for Violin

Essential Elements - $12

This is perfect for beginner musicians. Easy-read notes to start, gradual and well-thought introduction of materials, and bite-size chunks to learn with.

Kun shoulder rest for violin

Kun Shoulder Rest - $30

This or Mach One, both are great. If you are shopping for a size smaller than 3/4, you will need a Kun as Mach One's don't go smaller than 3/4.

Korg TM-60 tuner-metronome

Korg TM-60 Tuner-Metronome - $35

For the first month or so, you or your child won't need this. But, if your teacher is worth their salt, you will before too long.

For beginner viola, this collection is what you need ($492 or $435 with the budget items). You can get out for $385 if you get their Amadeus outfit ($320) and the budget accessories.

Shar Franz Hoffman Etude viola outfit

Etude Viola Outfit - $370

A solid instrument with good strings, a decent beginner bow, and a case fit-for-purpose.

Peak SMS-20 music stand

Peak Music Stand - $45

You can get a cheaper stand, but you are losing out for it. This is the best stand and a very fair price.

Essential Elements for Violin

Essential Elements - $12

This is perfect for beginner musicians. Easy-read notes to start, gradual and well-thought introduction of materials, and bite-size chunks to learn with.

Mach One viola shoulder rest

Mach One Shoulder Rest - $35

This or a Kun, both are great. If you are shopping for a size smaller than 15", you will need to shop violin 3/4 to 4/4 shoulder rests.

Korg TM-60 tuner-metronome

Korg TM-60 Tuner-Metronome - $35

For the first month or so, you or your child won't need this. But, if your teacher is worth their salt, you will before too long.

You can use the table of contents below to navigate within and between each of the different sections of the guide. I hope you find this helpful!

Table of Contents

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