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I am about ready to move on to the next level. I plan on keeping my current one as a backpacking pal. I went to my local music store which is where I got my current one from. They are mainly a guitar store but have a handful of new and used fiddles. They all look about the same type of what I have, a decent student violin. I went to see what they had and it didn't seem like they had anything special. But the thing is, none of them were tuned up and it didn't seem like they wanted to take the time for me to do that and play them to try them out. It seemed like they just wanted me to buy one by looking at it only! Is this something that is normally done or do you just break out your tuner and start tuning any that you want to try out?
Opportunity is often missed because it wears suspenders and looks like hard work.
No way would I buy a violin in a brick-and-mortar store without tuning it and playing it. It sounds like you have a fair chance of paying a lot for something that's no better than what you have.
I bought a used violin at a pawn shop some weeks ago. I carried in my current violin, bow, case, rosin, tuner, spare strings, micrometer calipers, measuring tape, and a weighing scale. I was the first to look at the violin, and it was detuned. So I got it into playing shape and tried it out and compared it to mine. They were very easy-going about it, and left me alone while I tried it. I think they were happy that I seemed to know what I was doing and was putting it in better shape to sell. It wasn't easy, but I was able to get them to turn down the piped-in music so I could hear the violin better. I didn't buy it that day, but came back next day to see that it held tune, and then I did buy it, spending just $90, which was probably a little more than I should have paid.
I don't know how much it costs to ship a violin to Alaska, but I expect anyway that you'd be way ahead to get something by mail.
I've heard of one online violin shop called fiddlershop.com that seems like it would be a pretty good bet.
I just recently made a couple trips to a local violin shop to look at bows. Not only did they have a HUGE selection, but they had a room with about 20 violins hung up on the wall. They took me there, showed me their selection of bows, pointed out the shoulder rests and then told me to pick any violin I wanted to try out bows with.
That's what you should expect....and nothing less.
I have a couple of comments on your experience. First, it is not OK to play the instrument unless you ask them and they say that it is OK. Next, if you're in a musical instrument store and they don't encourage you to test the instruments (perhaps not horns), then you're in the wrong store.
I know you're in Alaska and violin shops are probably few and far between, so, in your particular case, you really might want to consider buying one online. The trick then is to decide where in the giant online world you can get one without getting ripped off. The good news is that there are some reputable places, like fiddlershop.com here and a few others where they will give you good advice and help you get what you want in your price range. Some of them will even allow you to test one or more instruments for some reasonable time period and send them back if you don't like them. I would strongly urge you to avoid places like Ebay for buying an instrument though, unless you know exactly what you're looking at -- which is not normally the case.
A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright
Not always easy but one way is to have someone ELSE play your candidate violin. That person, of course, should be qualified.
If you play a violin and it is not really good, you will probably get the comment that you are just a beginner (!?)
You (and everyone else) can not hear the total violin sound as a performer.
I bought my current violin because I heard a shop owners wife tuning it up. Grreat sound and I hardly touched the instrument.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.