Investing in a quality violin outfit for a student player could be a wise decision providing that you’re armed with the knowledge of what to look for and what questions to ask.
If a parent is convinced that their student violinist is at a point where it makes sense to invest in their own violin – as opposed to spending more towards renting an instrument – purchasing a violin outfit may be the wisest investment. Violin outfits are sold through local violin shops as well as online music stores and online stores maintained by skilled violinmakers. A student violin outfit typically consists of a violin, a violin bow, a case and a cake of violin rosin.
Violin shops and merchants offer these prepackaged outfits as a way to provide a student player with everything he or she needs to begin playing at a price less than if the individual pieces were purchased a la carte. Make no mistake; the greatest portion of the cost of the outfit is the violin itself. The bow and the case tend to be less-than-high quality at music stores, and that is reflected in the price. At violin shops, however, experienced makers tend to assemble outfits that are of higher quality than those found at generic music stores. The cost may be greater, but in both the short and long run, it will be a smarter choice.
Higher quality outfits from violin shops feature violins that are handcrafted in overseas factories. This means that craftsmen are creating the violin, rather than machines. Although they may be built by an assembly line of makers with different skill sets – scrolls, carvings, ribs, etc. – the student violins that are produced this way can end up sounding very good depending on how they are set up, not only at the factory, but at the shop that ultimately offers the outfit for sale.
Outfits offered by the local shops, online or in their studios, are expertly set up after they are shipped from overseas. Before the packages are assembled, skilled makers will typically replace the bridge, expertly set the sound post and replace the violin strings. Just making those adjustments on a factory-made violin can drastically improve both the sound and playability of the instrument. Ease of playing, as well as the quality of the tone, obviously, is a very important element for student players.
Larger music stores and online violin stores that are not owned and operated by skilled makers and luthiers simply do not have the knowledge and expertise to make these adjustments. The violin outfit is sent to the customer as the overseas factory received it. The bows and cases included in these outfits are typically of low quality and represent the bare minimum requirements to produce a sound on the instrument.
Local violin shops will typically discard the cheap bows, made of inferior wood and bow hair, and upgrade the bow so as to further improve the experience of playing the violin. The quality of the violin as it was crafted is important. The set up performed by the shop is vitally important. The quality and usability of the violin bow is far from unimportant. A decent wood or fiberglass bow that can be maintained over time can drastically affect both the instrument’s sound and playability for the student.
The violin cases included in violin outfits provided by either the factory or the shop only need to be good enough to adequately protect the instrument from the elements. These cases are usually manufactured with plywood or thermoplastic, featuring a key lock and covered by nylon that snaps or zips closed.
So the rule is, make your purchase at a shop or online outlet that is represented and staffed by skilled violinmakers and luthiers. They are much more likely to offer their expertise and insights as to which violin outfit is best for the player. They are also more likely to be able to customize an outfit with higher quality cases and bows, while still offering savings as opposed to purchasing the items separately.
Violin outfits range in cost from about $399.00 to about $1200, with the best outfits featuring violins crafted by Snow, Otto, Eastman or Jay Haide.