We all want the most for our money, however, the old addage “you get what you pay for” really means a lot in the world of strings. There are three things you can look for in a stringed instrument that will help you make the right choice: Materials, Accessories, and Playability.

  1. Materials: The person selling the instrument should know what woods are used to make the instrument. Ebony should be used for the pegs, fingerboard and tailpiece. (Some finer instruments may have rosewood or boxwood pegs and tailpiece. Beware of “ebonized” parts. That just means they have been painted black!) The top or belly should be spruce. The backs and sides of your instrument should be maple. If it is good quality maple, it will have “flames” in the wood that make it look like it has tiger stripes. Bows can be made of brazilwood, pernambuco, carbon fiber or fiberglass. Fiberglass is the best choice for small beginners because they are less likely to break when dropped.
  2. Accessories: Most “outfits” come with everything you need including a case, a bow and rosin. Make sure you are purchasing an “outfit” as opposed to the instrument only. You might want to grab a cleaning cloth and a music stand if you can, but they are usually not included in the deal.
  3. Playability: Most importantly, you want to make sure a violin is in working order before you buy it. Don’t expect to be able to replace bow hair, strings, and bridges. It can cost you more than an instrument is worth to get all of those things replaced. In most cases, I recommend you pass on that kind of instrument. Although it may look like a deal, it may be more trouble than it is worth. The seller should get the instrument in working condition before attempting to pawn it off on somebody else.