Instrument Purchase
How much do you get involved?

Barbara Stafford said: Jun 14, 2013
Barbara Stafford
Suzuki Association Member
Plano, TX
59 posts

I am hoping I can get some input from members here. How much do you get involved in helping parents with instrument purchase (violins & violas) and guiding students in instrument selection. If a parent seems to want to take you shopping with them, (and not just to one store) what do you do?

This has led me into many disappointing and uncompensated situations for many years, and I would very much appreciate reading how many of you manage this!

Michelle McManus Welch said: Jun 14, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Lindenhurst, IL
42 posts

LUCKILY the several instrument shops around here will allow parents to borrow several instruments at a time. Then, at the lesson, we try them out for a few minutes. Usually, the student already likes one, and we discuss the merits/problems of the instruments. Rarely this is repeated for another week, but usually the very happy student brings the instrument back the next week, and all is well. Shar also will ship instruments out “on approval,” and that has been done on the above basis as well.

Michelle Mc Manus Welch

Merietta Oviatt said: Jun 15, 2013
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

I will put them in touch with luthiers or music shops that I trust. They must do the initial trying and narrow the field down. I then have them bring it (or them) to a lesson and we use lesson time for me to try them out, listen to the student play them, and then have a discussion on the pros and cons. There are a few that I will veto, but usually playing them for the student will help them hear the potential of the instrument. This way, it is a paid session where I am helping them but I am ensuring that they are put in good hands when I am not there—with businesses that I trust. It’s also a good idea for you to find some music stores and local luthiers that you can trust. If you send business their way, they will usually send it right back (or at least give you some discounts on re-hairs and instrument touch-ups of your own instrument). It’s really a win-win situation and you are not taking your precious time for which you are not getting paid.

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
[javascript protected email address]

Barbara Stafford said: Jun 15, 2013
Barbara Stafford
Suzuki Association Member
Plano, TX
59 posts

Thank you guys, I appreciate this advice so much!

Sigrid Karlstrom said: Jun 15, 2013
Sigrid Karlstrom
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
West Haven, CT
2 posts

I’m very lucky to be living in the same city as a great violin shop/luthier. Often I use a student’s lesson to go to the shop with them and we try many instruments in the parents’ price range, usually narrowing it down to two or three that they take home. The student will play them for a week and then decide, often assisted by me and their other orchestra teachers, youth symphony sectional leaders, etc, which violin/viola they would like.

I find that students will usually hear the sound difference between instruments, but that they don’t necessarily know what to look for in a good instrument in terms of their future development (sound in higher/lower ranges, evenness between strings, etc). Parents often don’t hear a difference between instruments.

Laura said: Jun 17, 2013
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Palm City, FL
105 posts

I like being involved because often times when students parents purchase instruments without my input the end result is less then satisfactory and it wastes their money as well as time. I am greatly involved with instrument purchases because of my website where I sell violins of all levels. I definitely have my favorites as far as student instruments are concerned and I always offer a trial program of two or three instruments so the student can compare them. I spend a little time in the lesson helping them learn the best process for choosing and comparing and then they take the instruments home to do a more thorough comparison. When I do this, I usually will be happy with any of the instruments that they choose because I only get violins that I “aprove” so to speak. So after the initial trial it’s up to them. Read more about this trial program here and any teacher could take advantage of this without having to travel to several shops. The teachers participation can be brief and in the lesson.


Community Youth Orchestra said: Jun 25, 2013
Community Youth OrchestraViolin, Viola
70 posts

I pick out specific instruments for my students, or at least give them a more narrow range to select from.

The fact is, students with little to no experience have absolutely no reasonable chance of selecting an appropriate instrument on their own. Furthermore, parents with no knowledge of instruments and how shops work are easy prey for unscrupulous businesses, or fall into the VSO trap (Ebay, department store, etc.).

It varies from shop to shop and teacher to teacher, but despite being heavily involved in finding instruments for my students, I don’t personally accept any kickbacks for this work. It’s just part of my job…if I needed more compensation, I’d charge more for lessons!

Cynthia Faisst said: Jun 27, 2013
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

I totally agree. You should not be receiving compensation from the Luthier for the purchase of an instrument. The parent needs to be able to fully trust your recommendation.

To stand on the other side of the counter with the retailor is like having a doctor sell you a prescription from a pharmacy that he owns or profits from.

Nothing should prejudice you from making the best possible decision for the sake of the student. The parent should be able to trust you integrity.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Emily said: Nov 29, 2013
 59 posts

I think it’s extremely important to be as involved as the parent will allow you to be. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time and money by not getting involved, because that could mean delay in practices for the child as well. If you are nervous about helping out and them getting angry with you, them point them to a music shop nearby that can help them without taking them for a ride.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

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