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Best Beginner Violin
What is the best violin for a beginner?
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ggsmith
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April 27, 2016 - 7:34 pm
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Hi, I am looking to buy a violin and learn to play. I have no experience with a violin, although I have played the guitar for many years so that aught to count for something.

I don't want to spend a lot of money, but I don't want to end up with an instrument that sounds like crap and/or falls apart. What would you all recommend as my first purchase? I have been eyeing the Mendini mv300 ($67 or so), but the fingerboard and pegs are maple, not ebony like the more expensive models. Is that a big deal? Could I buy a cheap violin and then very good strings and a good bow and get a good sound?

Thanks in advance for your input!

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BillyG
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April 27, 2016 - 9:03 pm
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Hard call to make  @ggsmith ( oh, and by the way, WELCOME ! ) ....

From what you say - yup - guitar player - you have some degree of "musical background" 

I was in the same situation when I finally got around to fiddle... and no - no real "formal music studies"  (although recently I have taken an on-line course with Coursera.org and was astonished by how much I had already picked-up over 45 years of playing guitar / kbd - and passed with flying colours... lol)

Know what ?   It takes a while, even for an experienced musician ( self taught or not ) to get to grips with a totally different instrument....   for myself - intonation was not really a huge issue - left hand kind of "used to note/distance separation on guitar kind of mapped easily onto the fretless fiddle.    Bowing, though, is QUITE a different story LOLOL.  The violin is almost like two different instruments in one...

Personally, and just because you clearly are a player, I would suggest going for something (and yes, I understand that cost is always an issue, to all of us LOL) a "bit beyond the absolute basic starter violin".  It will in many ways depend on what you eventually want to do - classical, fiddle tunes etc (fiddle music is SO forgiving! )

My initial "instrument of choice" was he FiddlerMan "Concert" - at around $400 - that was 2 years ago - and still priced much the same now.   It has served me well, I love it, and because I am "driven to do more" - sure - I see its limitations - trust me - that is not by any means suggesting it is not "worthy" - it is a fine intermediate instrument, as I say - it has served me well - and - depending on what you want from your journey - it could serve a lifetime - my problem is that I am addicted now and am just looking for "more" - hard to explain....

Equally - it has to be said - in the past - I have happily drawn tunes from a few tightened guitar-strings attached to a broomstick and an empty metal biscuit-box...

And to be honest - maple, ebony - no - ( in my opinion ) it really doesn't matter to start off ( like over the first few years - and - as I said before - what YOU really want from the instrument ).   The bow ?   Nothing wrong with the FM CF   ( no, I have no commercial connection with the FiddlerShop ( http://fiddlershop.com/ ) but you should check it out, call them up, discuss your needs... great service and advice...

To my mind, these differences in material make quite "subtle" changes to the instrument tonality - the major contributor is the quality of the resonating body itself and how the fiddle has been set up ( SP positioning and so on - which of course the FiddlerShop does on most instruments) and of course your own personal choice of strings... ( I regularly swap between steel and synthetics for a different feel, sound, and articulation ) - it is a WONDERFUL journey...  awesome...

From one beginner to another - welcome to the community, and best wishes on your journey with the instrument !

BillyG

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes.  

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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ggsmith
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April 27, 2016 - 9:30 pm
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Thanks for the advice!

Definitely thinking my left hand will have the advantage since I play the guitar. I've always heard the bow is hard to use - guess I'll be finding out soon! 😛

At this point I'm looking to learn a couple good country fiddle tunes - I've got a few Alabama songs in mind for starters. Not sure how hard that'll be, but I'll work up to it.

How much of a difference do you think there is between a handmade violin and a factory one? I read somewhere that the factory ones can sound good, but might need a little 'custom' tuning to get optimal sound, which I don't mind figuring that out, but if a factory one just has a poor tone overall I'd hate to waste my money on it.

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Fidelestre
Texas
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April 28, 2016 - 6:50 am
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I started with a Mendini MV200 that cost me about $50, and it actually worked okay for a starter violin. I did have to tinker with it to get it in tune - had to use peg compound, which meant taking the strings off the peg and back on. And then it seemed to want to sit and adjust itself for a couple of weeks to the tension of the strings, and then I was able to tune it. I played it for a few months before moving on to another violin.

So, a cheapo can indeed get you started, if you are willing to tinker with it. But you can expect to want to move up pretty soon if you enjoy playing violin. If you are able to, it would be best to avoid the absolute cheapos as there is always a chance you will get an unplayable dud.

A good alternative could be to rent for a few months. Around here you can rent a violin for about $25-30 per month, with an initial setup cost of about a month's rental. Many shops will give you credit towards an eventual purchase, and there are plans with no required minimum months of rental. Renting will give you the chance to learn on a decent instrument and put you in a better position to evaluate violins to buy later on.

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ggsmith
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April 28, 2016 - 9:45 am
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Thanks for your input!

I had kind of written off renting because I know I want to learn to play the instrument, but that would be a great way to get a feel for what kind of violin I want without spending a lot of money. I'll definitely have to think about that!

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djroger
Milan, Illinois
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April 28, 2016 - 8:51 pm
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My "starting out" experience:  I decided in the early 80s that I wanted t play fiddle.  Since I had played trumpet since the 60s, I thought "How hard could it be?"  I could already read music............  I started out with a student model 'rent-to-own' from a local music store and tried the self-taught process.  Mind you, this was WAY before You-Tube and Internet!  Didn't work out so well..........Signed up for formal lessons and stuck with that for about a year, then took off on my own.  Still, with the student model.

Then I had a chance too play someone else's fiddle (a good one) and it immediately made me want something better sounding!  I eventually found one at an estate auction, of all places!

I had to quit playing after an accident in 1995, but took it back up again this past January.  Long way to go before I get back to the way I used to play, but still have my "auction fiddle" and love the tone from it!  Best guess is it is over 100 years old according to a luthier that worked on it after I got it.

My suggestion is to listen to a prospective purchase first to hear how the tone is.

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ggsmith
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April 29, 2016 - 3:42 pm
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Youtube is going to be my friend, for sure. 😛 I can read tab, for guitar, but not music. I'm going to see how far my ear and instructional videos can take me before I need to learn to read music. crossedfingersGood to hear you got a lot of use out of student model - that's kind of what I'm leaning towards at this point.

I've known some people who have found great instruments at estate sales and actions - that was my first thought of finding a good deal. I just don't know anything about violins, so I wouldn't know what would be a deal or a waste. That's probably where I'll go for next-stage violin, though. I've seen a couple antique violins on ebay and they're pretty neat.

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Uzi
Georgia
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April 30, 2016 - 3:10 pm
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ggsmith said
Hi, I am looking to buy a violin and learn to play. I have no experience with a violin, although I have played the guitar for many years so that aught to count for something.

You would think.  I thought that too.  The real answer is -- not so much.  You'll carry forward what you know about rhythm and music.  That is true.  However, that's about the extent of it.  The violin is among the hardest instruments to learn to play -- well.  It requires a lot of practice and  considerable time and effort to develop your skills on the violin.  It is, however, worth the effort. 

I don't want to spend a lot of money, but I don't want to end up with an instrument that sounds like crap and/or falls apart. What would you all recommend as my first purchase? I have been eyeing the Mendini mv300 ($67 or so), but the fingerboard and pegs are maple, not ebony like the more expensive models. Is that a big deal? Could I buy a cheap violin and then very good strings and a good bow and get a good sound?

Thanks in advance for your input!

If you are very committed to learning to play, then the best beginner violin is the best violin that you can afford within your budget.  If you're just wanting to see if it's something that appeals to you, then the rental route is probably the wisest way to start.  If you are certain that you want to buy an instrument, then calling Mike at Fiddlershop.com is definitely the best move you could make at finding what fits your goals and your budget.  Luckily, that's what I did about two years ago and saved myself a lot of money, time, effort and disappointment.  I'm not connected with them in any way, other than being a repeat customer, like a lot of others here.  There are no better deals out there, believe me I looked. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
May 2, 2016 - 2:27 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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I definitely know what purchasing an instrument on a budget is all about and I understand. You probably wouldn't be satisfied with that Mendini though. I disliked it when I tested it so much that I didn't write anything at all. I try only to post positive reviews. The problem is not just the adjustment but the way the instrument is put together and the materials. The adjustment is so bad that getting the pegs to work properly could be very costly and that is just the start.
I'm not saying that you can't get lucky and get one that is acceptable, just that I was very disappointed.
The Cecilio's (not Mendini by Cecilio) are a cut above the Mendini's.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Crazymotive
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May 6, 2016 - 4:22 am
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ggsmith said
Thanks for your input!

I had kind of written off renting because I know I want to learn to play the instrument, but that would be a great way to get a feel for what kind of violin I want without spending a lot of money. I'll definitely have to think about that!

I also endorse the idea of  renting one.  If you have a  decent  violin shop nearby you can usually rent with the option  to buy. This way you can  try several different violins and  have  the option to buy when you find  one  that you really  like.

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