Violin Buyer's Guide
Some of the Questions Answered Below
The violin is the highest voice in the orchestral-string instrument family. Violins are commonly associated with classical music, but there are other genres such as bluegrass, folk and various styles of "fiddle music." Violins are also occasionally heard in blues, jazz and rock. Contrary to some popular beliefs, the violin is not a particularly difficult instrument to play. With consistent practice beginners usually make rapid progress, playing simple melodies relatively quickly.
The violin is a particularly child-friendly instrument that is available in a variety of sizes. As a young student grows, the violin can be traded for a larger-size instrument. It's critical that a student has the proper size violin in order to learn proper technique. A violin that is too large for a student can create a very uncomfortable situation. In extreme situations, this can lead to tendonitis.
Knilling Perfection II Violin Outfit
Student violins are produced for beginning students and are often produced by machine. Maple is sometimes used for high friction parts (pegs, fingerboard) and dyed black to resemble ebony, which is found on most violins. These instruments are excellent for the early stages of development and are priced to easily fit into most budgets.
Intermediate violins represent better quality woods and workmanship done mostly by hand. The result is an instrument that sounds better and will accommodate a player of more advanced levels. The pegs and fingerboard are usually made of ebony. Extensive hand graduation-the process of carving wood to different thicknesses-of the top and back of the violin produce a warmer and more refined sound.
Professional violins are made from only the finest woods, and built with near fanatical attention to every detail of the instrument's construction and appearance. Because of the relatively low number of craftsman skilled at this level, and the number of hours required to produce an instrument of this caliber with a select piece of natural wood, the price of these instruments is considerably higher than intermediate violins.
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Straight-grained spruce is the only material used for the top of a violin. Most of the sound is produced by the top, and straight-grained spruce is the only material strong enough to handle the heavy tension of the strings and ensure a resonant sound. Natural-aged, straight-grained spruce is preferred. The longer the natural aging, the better - five years is the minimum preference of violin makers.
Violin necks, sides and backs are generally constructed from maple which strengthens stability and enhances beauty.
The fingerboard, pegs, tailpiece and chinrest are usually made from ebony. This dense, dark wood is strong but light enough that it will not make the violin feel top-heavy.
Rosewood, boxwood and a few other exotic woods are also used for violin pegs, tailpieces and chinrests. These woods are chosen as much for their beauty as they are for their individual sound characteristic.
Strings, rosin, and a good shoulder rest are accessories that will make playing a violin much easier. A practice mute and a sturdy case are also great accessories for violin players.
Anatomy of a Violin
A decorative piece at the top of the violin.
Typically constructed from a very dense wood. Pegs are used to adjust the tension and tune violin strings.
A box between the scroll and nut that secure the violin's pegs. The holes on either side of the peg box are tapered to secure the pegs and allow for easy, stable tuning.
Typically constructed from quality hard maple. A lot of stress is placed on the neck. With proper tuning there can be 200 pounds of tension on a violin's neck.
A long piece of wood glued on top of the neck. This stiff, dense wood adds strength to the neck to prevent it from warping. Quality fingerboards are scooped inward towards the center and made from ebony.
The bridge is held in place only by tension - no glue is used. Quality bridges are hand-fitted against the body to ensure proper sound transmission. The bridge is higher where the lowest string crosses.
Two holes precisely cut in the top of a stringed instrument permits the top to respond more freely, and sound to be projected from the interior of the instrument.
Generally made of the same material as the chin rest and pegs, typically for cosmetic purposes. However, it can be made of any dense material.
Tail Gut (tail piece gut, tail piece adjuster):
Originally made from animal intestine, now constructed from nylon, this piece holds all the tension from the strings into the button, across the saddle.
Small button-like feature on the bottom of a string instrument that holds the tail gut.
Located on the inside of the body, the sound post provides structural support and transmits vibration from the top to the back.
On the inside of the body, a long piece of wood that is glued under the lowest string. The bass bar strengthens the structural support of the top and distributes the sound over the entire length of the instrument.
A misnomer because the jaw should actually rest against the chinrest, and the chin should be near the tail piece for a proper fit. Chinrests are available in a variety of shapes, heights and sizes for a personalized level of comfort.
Construction of a Violin
Building a violin is as much art and as it is science. Manufacturers employ luthiers, or stringed instrument makers, at different levels of experience. The least experienced crafters typically work on less-expensive, student violins. As the luthier's experience increases, so does the level of violin they make.
Manufacturer's employ set-up technicians to prepare a violin to play at its highest potential. Detailed shaping and shaving of components, fitting the bridge, precise fit and finish of pegs, adjusting proper depth and shape of the notches at the bridge and the nut, and fine tuning are all responsibilities of the "set-up" technician.
Flaming is a popular technique to enhance the visual appeal of a stringed instrument. However, this technique does not necessarily enhance the quality of sound produced.
Most violin backs are "book-matched," or constructed from two pieces of wood glued together. This process gives the violin a uniform appearance, but does not necessarily improve the sound quality.
The single most influential factor (after skill) of sound quality produced by a stringed instrument is the choice of strings. There is no absolutely correct type of string for all players under all circumstances. Each type of string has qualities that make it more appropriate for different situations (i.e. solo vs. orchestral or country vs. classical performances). Other factors such as cost, the players' individual preferences, and the way a particular string sounds on an individual instrument also come into play. See The Woodwind & Brasswind string selection buyer's guide for more in-depth detail.
Buy Your Violin with Confidence from The Woodwind & Brasswind
In choosing a violin, you need to consider your musician's age and skill level, and the kind of use (school band, orchestral, etc.). If for school, consulting with the band teacher is a good idea.
Whatever violin you select, The Woodwind & Brasswind's 100% Satisfaction Guarantee means you have 45 days to be sure it's the right instrument for you. If it's not, just return it for a full refund.* And you don't need to worry about paying too much. Our 45-Day Lowest Price Guarantee means that if you find the same violin advertised for less elsewhere, we'll make up the difference. When you buy a violin from The Woodwind & Brasswind, you can buy with complete confidence.
*All returned instruments priced over $3,000.00 are assessed a $20.00 fee. All bows are assessed a $4.00 return fee.
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