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When people think “orchestra”, they generally think of violins.
Violins are a crucial part of most orchestras, and sometimes they have the most interesting parts to play too.
Violins can also sound great in just about every genre of music imaginable, whether it’s classical, metal or R&B.
So, whether you’re thinking about getting started as a violinist, or you’re already an experienced player, there are plenty of instruments to choose from. But which are the best? That’s what we’ll cover in this guide.
Best Violins For Beginners/Students
If you know anything about Stradivarius violins, then you know that violins can be pricey instruments. That being the case, you better be sure you’re planning to continue playing over the long haul.
Fortunately, if you’re just planning to test the waters, there are some more affordable options available. These would generally be classified as beginner or student violins.
Now, a beginner violin will never sound like a violin that costs 10, 100, even 1,000 times as much, but it should at least offer a decent starting point.
So, here are several violins worth checking out as a beginner.
Stentor 1500-4/4 Student II Violin
Stentor violins are generally good instruments for the money, and the Student II may well be the best pick for beginners (despite there being many other options to choose from).
The overall build is good, from the fingerboard to the tuning pegs. And, that’s very important for a violinist at any level.
Its tone is also surprisingly good, making it a decent choice for intermediate players too.
This specific package comes with a Zorro Sounds violin polishing cloth, which makes it even better bang for your buck.
Stentor is a name you should know as a violinist.
Cremona SV-175 Premier Student Violin Outfit – 4/4 Size
Cremona is another company that offers great violins for beginners and intermediate players. Quality control is serious business at Cremona, but their instruments are nevertheless affordable.
The SV-175 features select tonewoods (ebony fittings and fingerboard, hand carved solid spruce and solid maple body), comes with US-made Prelude strings and Swiss-style ebony pegs as well as a lightweight composite tailpiece that allows for fine tuning, has been set up to MENC Standards and is a lightweight instrument.
Simply, you get a great instrument for a great price. There are places that have outstanding offerings for violinists at this skill level.
Mendini Full Size 4/4 MV300 Solid Wood Violin
Not the best violin by any means, but the Mendini MV300 is the most affordable instrument on this list, and it’s still commonly used among beginners.
That's hardly surprisingly, because this package comes with a tuner, lesson book, extra strings, shoulder rest, bow and case.
These factory-made violins are durable (which is always good as a beginner), and surprisingly good for the price.
Now, if you have experience on any other violin, this one will probably feel like a significant downgrade. You’ll have a tough time going backwards when your instinct is to move towards better and better instruments. But if you’ve never played before, Mendini is a good place to start.
Best Violins For Intermediates
As an intermediate player, you should be a lot less wet behind the ears. So, you’ve gained some experience, you can sight read a bit and play some simple songs. You’ve probably played long enough to know whether you’re interested in playing violin over the long haul too.
That means you’re likely ready for a better violin. Maybe you won’t be playing in an orchestra just yet (maybe you will), but likely you will be spending more time practicing and performing at recitals. That alone makes a better instrument worth the money.
After all, you’re going to feel better playing an instrument that sounds and feels great.
But this also means there are a lot of instruments to choose from. There’s a huge gap in between beginner and professional level violins, such that you could spend several hundred to several thousand dollars on an intermediate violin.
I would suggest seeking the guidance of a skilled teacher if you’re lost, but I’ve picked out a few instruments that are worth looking at if you’re at the intermediate level. Let’s get into it.
Knilling Europa 3/4 Size Violin Outfit
Knilling instruments are well known among teacher and students alike. Their craftsmanship is solid, and their unique tuning pegs are a bit of a draw too.
This 3/4 size violin comes with a bow, rosin, shoulder rest and desktop stand, making it good bang for buck.
This violin would make for a decent beginner instrument too, but you will end up having to pay more for it compared to other instruments already mentioned.
Knilling has plenty of great violins and is worth checking out.
D’Luca PD01 Orchestral Series Intermediate Violin Outfit – 4/4
As you can see, the PD01 is a dark violin with a spruce and maple flame front, back and sides. It comes with an ebony fingerboard and tailpiece as wells as fine tuners. It also comes packaged with a quality horsehair violin bow, rosin cake, shoulder rest, string set and chromatic tuner. Best of all, it’s a lightweight instrument, making it easy to handle.
As the name suggests, this is a decent intermediate level instrument. Nothing special but made with quality materials and attention to detail.
So, the D’Luca might not become a favorite of yours over the long haul, but it’s a good stopgap while you continue to work towards becoming a full-fledged professional.
Yamaha SV200 Silent Electric Violin
Now for something a little different. Electric violins are something that have grown in popularity over the years. They can be used in a variety of band settings, especially in situations where you need your instrument to cut. Not just that, but you can also use guitar effects to affect the tone of an electric violin, giving you access to a wider palette of tones.
The Yamaha SV200 is a great mid-level instrument, and honestly, I think electric violins aren’t great for beginners anyway. The instant gratification you think you might get from playing an electric instrument is essentially nil on the violin, because you still need to be able to play. A violin doesn’t sound great if you’re not any good at playing it.
In any case, this instrument comes with a maple neck, spruce body, ebony fingerboard, chinrest, tailpiece and pegs, as well as a maple bridge. With the EQ Mod Switch, you can bypass the default EQ settings, and it also comes with a headphone out, line out and can be powered with a DC9V battery.
This instrument is not for purists by any means. But if you’re thinking about taking the violin outside of the orchestra into different musical situations, the Yamaha just might appeal to you.
Best Violins For Professionals/Advanced Violinists
As a professional violinist, you’re going to want a good instrument, plain and simple. Whether you’re playing in a band or orchestra, it’s important that you have the right tone, and that your instrument plays well and feels good to you.
At the professional level, there are a near endless number of instruments to choose from. So, your purchase decision is going to be dictated by how much you’re willing and able to spend on the violin because violins in this range vary wildly in price.
So, here are some of the best violins available for professional players.
D Z Strad Violin Model 800 Full Size 4/4 With Dominant Strings
Looking for a quality violin? Then the D Z Strad Violin Model 800 should meet your every desire.
The Model 800 represents one of the most expensive but still accessible violins available (Stradivarius violins may well be the most expensive violins in the world – but they aren’t accessible to general players or buyers).
These violins are made with beautiful aged wood from the Italian Alps and a fine varnish that brings out the wood’s character. But the violin still sounds smooth and powerful thanks to the light varnish.
This instrument offers incredible projection and resonance.
D Z Strad has many other great instruments worth looking at, but you certainly don’t want to ignore the Model 800.
Ming Jiang Zhu 909 Violin
The spectacular-looking Ming Jiang Zhu 909 violin was carefully crafted by one luthier and the entire process was supervised by Ming Jiang Zhu himself. Unfortunately, he passed away in December 2014, which is only going to drive up the value of this instrument over time.
The instrument has a truly beautiful, clear and full tone, no matter what note you’re playing.
The 909 also comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed personally by Ming Jiang Zhu. Here’s an instrument that could easily last you a life time.
If you can get your hands on a Ming Jiang Zhu, especially the 909, you’re probably going to be a happy camper for a long time to come.
Erwin Otto 1260RA Romanian Violin Outfit
Not an easy violin to find but there’s plenty to like about the Erwin Otto 1260RA. The violin was hand carved in Romania and is made with Carpathian maple and spruce. The package includes the violin, bow, premium rosin and case.
The D’Addario Pro-Arté strings the violin comes equipped with are more suited to advanced players as they are flexible and allow for more fine tuning.
This violin has a darker or warmer tonal quality. If you prefer a brighter, more brilliant tone, then you may want to find other options.
Regardless, the Erwin Otto 1260RA is great value for advanced players.
What Should I Look For When Buying A Violin?
When it comes right down to it, what to look for in a violin doesn’t vary greatly from another instrument.
You want an instrument that looks good, feels nice, plays well and sounds great. Some of these criteria are going to matter more to you than others, and that’s where things can get more personalized. Additionally, what looks or sounds good to you may vary from what someone else likes.
So, with that said, here are a few criteria I think are worth paying attention to if you’re in the market for a violin.
A Violin That Keeps Tune
Now, I’m not suggesting that you’re going to find an instrument that keeps tune 100% of the time. Violinists always tune their instrument before a performance (and sometimes during).
But cheaper violins will tend to lose their tune quicker than those that cost more and are made with better-quality materials. Note that some violins come with fine tuners while others do not.
Strings can also make a difference, so don’t be afraid to invest in good quality strings if you care about tuning.
An Instrument That Sounds Great
In the hands of a skilled and experienced violin player, every violin is just that – a violin. It doesn’t matter what the instrument is made of or how much it costs, a professional can make any violin sound reasonably good. So, the fingers playing the instrument do matter.
But when it comes down to it, the difference between a beginner violin and an advanced violin is quite noticeable. From resonance to the richness of the tone, materials and craftsmanship do affect the final product to a significant degree.
Your budget is naturally going to play a role in what you feel you can afford and what’s right for you at this point in time. So, finding a violin that’s suitable for your level is key.
A Violin That Feels Right
As with any stringed instrument, there are factors that affect how an instrument plays and feels – the fingerboard, strings and tailpiece just to name a few.
A violin is an instrument requiring significant coordination and intricate movements. So, if a violin doesn’t feel right to you, it’s probably going to prove harder to play. There are some things you can overcome with practice and experience, but some things simply can’t be.
So, using an instrument that’s easy to play can make a difference with your practice sessions as well as the overall progress you make as a violin player.
There are a few other minor (and in some cases major) factors that could play a part in your purchase.
- Your budget. I’ve already touched on this, but as a beginner or intermediate player it’s probably not worth breaking the bank. If you’re an advanced player, or you’re working hard to become a pro, then begin saving up for a better instrument – you’re going to want one.
- The appearance of the instrument. A minor factor, to be fair, as violins tend to look alike in most regards. But there is no question that wood and other materials make a difference, and expensive instruments do tend to look and feel better overall.
- Accessories. Accessories might be important to you as a beginner or intermediate player, especially if you don’t already have the essentials like a bow and shoulder rest. If you need the goods, then it’s worth buying an outfit.
And, beyond these criteria, there may be others. But we’d be moving into minor factors at that point.
Beginner, Intermediate Or Advanced – What Violin Is Right For Me?
Having looked at the options, you might not be sure which violin is right for you.
Maybe you have some playing experience but not a lot of money so you’re wondering whether it’s okay to buy a cheaper violin.
Or, maybe you have a dream of one day becoming a great violinist and have plenty of money to invest, but you’re a little bit leery about making the investment.
There are a variety of circumstances that can arise, and we can’t deal with all of them here.
But generally, I think you should still buy based on skill level.
Beginner violins should be purchased by beginners. If you’re an intermediate level player trying to save money, then maybe save up for a little longer and delay gratification a bit.
As an intermediate player, intermediate level instruments are good, and sometimes advanced violins are okay too. If you’re playing in an orchestra, performing a lot, composing and generally doing a lot, then maybe it’s worth putting a little more money into your instrument.
And, advanced level instruments are best for – you guessed it – professionals. At that level, you probably have income from music. You’re performing and practicing regularly. You don’t mind making an investment, either knowing that your income can cover it, or one day the instrument will be worth more and you can get your money back.
Should I Get An Acoustic Or Electric Instrument?
We know that violins are stepped in a rich history.
And, to create electric versions of acoustic instruments might seem like sacrilege to some.
I feel like electric violins are the natural evolution of acoustic violins, but that’s just one man’s opinion.
And, while, electric violins will probably be readily accepted in band situations (especially rock bands), they are unlikely to be accepted in the classical world, where tradition and excellence are held in high regard.
So, if you’re thinking about playing in an orchestra, you can immediately eliminate the need for an electric violin. You could probably use it in your spare time or for practicing, but you may not get much out of it otherwise.
Still, there are both pros and cons on either side to consider beyond the sound, appearance or designated use of an instrument.
For example, one of the reasons acoustic violins are great is because you can take them and play them anywhere regardless of whether you have any additional equipment with you. That can be a huge win when it comes to practice.
Acoustic instruments are widely accepted, making them suitable for most gigs and professional engagements.
Acoustic violins also project and can fill a room with their sound. This isn’t to suggest they can’t be drowned out by other instruments, mind you.
By contrast, you can do a lot more with electric violins using various effects.
You can also get more volume out of them by running them through a PA system or an amp. This makes them ideal for band situations.
And, let’s face it – there’s still a certain novelty to electric violins. They tend to catch people’s attention.
Based on what I’ve shared with you here, I think you can readily choose whether an acoustic or electric is right for you, but if you intend to perform in as many situations as you possibly can, you might want to pick up both.
How Much Money Should I Put Into A Violin As A Professional?
There is no easy answer to this question.
As an advanced player, you could spend anywhere from a thousand (or less) to a million (and beyond) for the perfect instrument.
And, the difference is relatively obvious if you look at the quality, history and rarity of a given instrument.
Naturally, some of the most known violinists in the world use expensive instruments, though some of these violins are owned by collectors too.
I always think the first consideration is how well you play. To a degree, a lesser instrument could hold you back, but if you don’t feel like your technique or playing ability is being affected by a specific violin, there may not be any need to change yet.
Another important consideration is where you’re planning to play. Even orchestras vary significantly, from grade school and church orchestras all the way up to Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra, which are considered some of the most famous orchestras in the world.
As a session musician performing in a variety of situations, you may not need a super expensive instrument. Or, you might just need a different kind of violin (such as an electric violin).
As a musician in a prestigious orchestra, there are probably certain expectations to follow.
Finally, as we all know, there are bound to be budgetary restrictions, especially if you’re talking about a violin that costs millions of dollars.
You also need to think about any additional extras you may need, such as a good quality violin pickup.
Best Violins For Beginners, Intermediates, And Advanced Professional Players 2019 Final Thoughts
As with any instrument, it takes a long time to get good at the violin or fiddle.
I would suggest finding an experienced and qualified teacher to help you learn the right way.
I don’t think there are too many self-taught violinists out there, and even among them, you’d have troubling finding ones that are good at what they do.
So, be prepared to work hard at your instrument. The time and effort you put into it will be worth it.
And, don’t forget to enjoy the process. Learn songs you enjoy playing so you can keep motivation levels high.