Most new students, or their parents, have never shopped for a violin or viola before, so finding the right one may be confusing. Violins are a popular commodity, so there are many options. Here is a process for finding the right one for you.
To choose the violin that is right for you:
Decide whether you are going to rent or buy.
Make sure that the violin is fully functional.
Get the whole package: violin, bow, case, and shoulder rest.
Choose a violin that has a nice sound.
The first decision is whether to buy or rent a violin. Renting is almost always the best option because it is flexible, and you are not responsible for the maintenance of the instrument. Though it is often more expensive than outright purchasing an instrument it has many perks that do not come with ownership. For children, as they grow they can get a new instrument without any charge, if it doesn’t work out you can take it back, and often stores will give you partial or even full store credit towards the purchase of an instrument. Parts of the violin and bow, like the strings and bow hairs, are meant to wear out, so having someone else take care of the maintenance is helpful. Also, bad things can happen to fragile instruments, so being able to take them to the shop and get them fixed at no extra cost is a good thing too.
Buying an instrument is a good idea for people who are able to play full size instruments like teenagers and adults. It is often cheaper in the long run than renting. It is also more personal because you can get exactly the type and color of violin that you want, and you can pick the bow and case that go with it instead of conforming to a rental set-up. Of course when you buy something, or rent it for that matter, you should be very concerned with the quality.
The quality of an instrument should be judged on whether the instrument can be easily tuned, whether it is buzz free, and of course whether or not it makes a good sound. Pay careful attention to the tuning pegs. They should hold when tuned and should not slip. The fine tuners should be easy to turn as well. Nothing on the instrument should vibrate freely except the strings. If you hear any other noises when the instrument is played then something is off and you shouldn’t buy or rent that instrument.
A quality instrument kit has everything you need to play. You need a Violin or Viola, a bow, a shoulder rest, and a case to fit it all in. Carrying the case is easier if it has straps. A case is more functional if it has room for a cleaning cloth, music, and pencils as well as the instrument, bow and rest.
Have someone that can play violin or viola well play the instrument for you. Have you been listening to good music all your life? Then you are fully qualified to judge whether it sounds good. You will be the one that has to listen to that instrument the most after all.