Why are cheap violins getting a bum rap?

When I first started teaching, there was no way I would go near a stamped out violin.  Students bought the Nagoya Suzuki violins and I knew I was safe.  One parent bought a cheapie and it was horrible.  The sound post was actually attached. 

As the years past and I started to have tons more fun with teaching, I worked on the Scales Aren’t Just a Fish Thing method of Music Theory and sight-reading by using color coded music and music play-alongs up through book 4 of the Suzuki method.  Gypsy music, Canons, interval songs, you name it, all found their way into my program because the students were progressing so fast I needed a distraction to give their minds and motor abilities time to catch up.  . The kids kept getting younger.  I even had one in diapers taking their bows.  With students dropping violins and the weather popping them in and out of tune, I decided to take a chance on cheap violins and here is what I have found.

Truthfully, I was pleasantly surprised.  The violins I ran from only a few years before were starting to be made better.  The sound of some of them was actually good.  The bows however were impossible for the longest time.  Now even a $50 bow gives a positive experience for the beginner.  Once the student started to really show some internality in their playing, usually around the middle of book 2, I would encouraged the parents to invest in a better violin, but up until then, for some of the students, a cheap one worked.  I usually tweaked it, I have to admit.  Changing the strings, re-fitting the bridge, maybe refitting the pegs and it sounded really good. Really, how hard is it to shave a little off the ‘nut’ or change the chin rest?   I wish I could have moved the sound post but that is a learning curve for another day.  I actually got to the point of buying a large number of violins and loaning them to beginning students so they could get a steady footing in their new journey of music before they purchased something they regretted.

Once the student does start to play well, they will have opinions about the feel and sound of their violins, and that too is part of the study of music so for the beginner, whether older or younger, don’t let cost stop you.  Start playing and take it step by step.   

Carol Anderson

Scales Aren’t Just a Fish Thing


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