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What Are the Best Tips for Buying a Used Violin?

Elizabeth West
Elizabeth West

Finding the right violin can take time and money, and a used instrument might just fit the bill. The first consideration is usually cost, followed by size, condition, and the standard of playing. A used violin will have mellowed over time and may sound even better than new. Good ones can be found in specialty shops that rent stringed instruments or from luthiers, violin makers who often refurbish older instruments to sell. A very advanced player might be able to judge tone and response, but for less experienced musicians it would be wise to seek help from their teachers.

The search starts with determining a price range. A good used violin can range from around $650 US Dollars (USD) up to $5000 USD or more, depending on the maker and how well it is constructed. Stringed instruments do not depreciate over time, so as wood and varnish harden, an older one may actually have better resonance. Cheaper violins between $100 USD and $300 USD aren’t generally worth the money and will require a great deal of expensive work to make them playable.

Children typically play smaller violins.
Children typically play smaller violins.

If purchasing is difficult, renting a used violin is a good alternative. Kids' violins will probably need to be resized as they grow by taking arm measurements and trading up to a larger instrument. Many reputable stores have lease-to-own arrangements for a player who is happy with a rented instrument and wishes to buy it. The price can be negotiated before any agreements are signed. Rented violins should come with a bow and a case.

Violins can range in cost from hundreds to several thousands of dollars.
Violins can range in cost from hundreds to several thousands of dollars.

A used violin from a famous maker may not be suitable for a beginner, but a professional player will certainly prefer it. Historical instruments with impressive provenances can be as expensive as the finest works of art. These are usually borrowed from their owners rather than purchased. Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù are two well-known violin craftsmen whose finest instruments are worth millions in US dollars.

Many luthiers act as dealers and refurbish old or broken violins to resell. They should know how to properly set up a used violin. This process entails a thorough inspection of all the structural elements of the violin. All parts receive attention, including refitting loose pegs, removing built-up rosin and replacing strings. The violin is then ready to play.

Few players are experts on choosing either a used violin or a brand new one. If the player has been using a rented violin and wishes to buy, the best thing is to take violins on trial and have the teacher help evaluate them. Students may also wish to bring their teachers with them to the store if they prefer. The teachers should be paid for this consultation time just as they would be for a lesson.

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    • Children typically play smaller violins.
      By: Stuart Monk
      Children typically play smaller violins.
    • Violins can range in cost from hundreds to several thousands of dollars.
      By: zea_lenanet
      Violins can range in cost from hundreds to several thousands of dollars.