buying a tiny violin


Anne said: May 25, 2007
17 posts

Our 4-year-old is really moving along quickly, I suppose since she’s heard the Suzuki repertoire since she was in the womb (her brother’s in Book 4; and I’m on Lully Gavotte :D ). Right now she plays Waltz in Book 2, but is just as likely to pick out the Sietz her brother is playing, or the unaccompanied Gavotte, etc. Her teacher, who fortunately is very experienced and wise, says that besides doing our best to hold her back and solidify the basics, one thing that would help her is to buy the best violin we can. She’s using 1/10 size. We currently rent a Nagoya; the atalier she recommended has Eastmans in 1/10. They say they are much better than Nagoyas—before we make the 2-hour trip to check them out (I’ve had bad experiences receiving violins by mail), I’d like to know if this is true. Any other ideas (for less than $1,000, please)?

Also, she wants to play ALL DAY LONG, and she is young and not necessarily careful with her instrument—so we need something hardy, if that’s possible—I really wouldn’t buy, but we can’t get anyhting better by renting.

Connie Sunday said: May 25, 2007
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I use the following for my students:

The smallest is a 1/16.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

Jennifer Visick said: May 25, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

I’ve heard that stringworks has nice instruments. Eastman is not bad though. You could order one on trial and then compare it to the Eastmans (or whatever else) is at your shop before you buy. The SV connie recommends above could also be ordered on trial and compared to what’s in the shop.

Don’t forget to:

  1. keep a fresh set of quality strings on the instrument (change strings between 1 and 3 times a year—or more, if she is truly playing all day long every day. False strings make any instrument sound bad. Cheap strings can make any instrument sound cheap. Dominant is a pretty trustworthy brand name for strings, although there are other good ones as well. Avoid SuperSensitive Red Label strings.)

  2. Make sure the instrument is set up properly if it happens to get dropped—a bridge knocked a little askew or a sound post that’s knocked out of place can take it’s toll on tone quality and intonation.

  3. Try to keep it as clean as possible by washing hands before playing and wiping rosin off the strings & fingerboard with a clean dry cloth after playing—strings with gunk and dirt caked onto them can sound just like false strings, which are nigh un-tuneable (false strings are not uniform in shape, due to fingers constantly pressing down on them, or pizzicato, or wear & tear because of age and frequent use, etc. Because they aren’t uniform along the length of the string, you begin to hear slightly different pitches and odd tones in the ‘ring’ of each note, regardless of where fingers are placed or how precisely fine tuners and pegs are turned.)

  4. Make sure the BOW is of good quality. Small high quality bows may be harder to come by but a good, well balanced wooden stick with real horsehair is a must if you truly want to make a good sound easier for the student. (There are some high-quality non-wooden sticks but they are usually made for full sized instruments. Fiberglass bows for small instruments have the advantage of durability, but whichever you get, DO make sure that it has real horsehair).

said: May 26, 2007
 2 posts

My second violinist also started in a rented Nagoya, and when we decided to buy we moved up to an Eastman (Samuel Eastman). Our package was under $500. The sound from the Eastman is so much better than the Nagoya—I didn’t like the Nagoya from the beginning but for a rental it was all that was available. We had a wonderful sounding Scott Cao 1/10 for my first child that I wish I had kept. As far as durability—in the hands of a four year old the best option is an insurance policy! We have a very reasonable insurance rider on our homeowner’s policy that covers any damage with no deductible. All of the violins in our house are covered under the one policy.

Christine said: May 26, 2007
22 posts

My daughter has had both a 1/8 and 1/4 size Johannes Kohr violin. Both have been quite nice as long as we had good strings on it. We use either Dominats or Helicore. Her 1/10 was a Nagoya and I think the Kohrs sound better, although just going up a size makes a big difference.

I have a violin from Stringworks that I really like. They have great customer service and good trial policy for instruments. I’m not sure what they carry in the small sizes though.

Laura said: May 27, 2007
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Without hesitation, I would recommend a Gliga instrument. You can get it online through—Don’t let this be a concern. These are excellent instruments, and the service through this online dealer (a relative of Gliga, apparently) is honest, friendly, and excellent.

They make various models, but even the cheapest (Genial) are highly impressive for the price (less than $200—you wouldn’t guess though), and they only get better as you go up. I doubt the small sizes are any more than around $500 even for the highest model. The wood and the workmanship are known to be high-calibre (made in Romania).

I’ve purchased two violins from them (1/32 and 1/16) and anyone who has ever heard them has deliberately (not just politely) remarked on what nice instruments they are. This includes teachers, the luthier, and professional violinist friends. As teeny as these are, they are NOT nasally and one-dimensional sounding. The tone is rich and has life—they sing, and it is very easy to play musically on them. I can only imagine (and drool over) what the larger instruments must sound like. I’m a serious Classical musician myself and am very sensitive to instrumental sound quality, so I’m speaking from that perspective.

A word of warning: you will need to have extra set-up done locally (better strings, bridge, improvements to the tuning pegs, etc.). since the original set-up is poor-ish. This has been the case both times for me, and also for friends who have purchased the same violins. However, it’s worth every penny, since the basic instrument is so good. You might not pay any more than $500 for an instrument that performs as if it were worth well over $1000. (I’ve heard other testimonials, which led to my own purchase—we haven’t regretted it.)

Not to suggest that this is the only way to go. But we’ve been very happy going with Gliga.

Sounds like your daughter is really having fun—what a great situation! I’m sure we’ll hear about her someday in the near future. :)

Anne said: May 27, 2007
17 posts

Thank you all for the amazing advice! I’m a bit embarassed that after 7 years as a Suzuki mom I didn’t know all the information about false strings, keeping the instrument clean, etc. It seems like it might take a while to find the right insturment, but all of the advice has made me so much more secure about doing so!!!

Jennifer Visick said: May 27, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

don’t feel embarrassed about not knowing about false strings. Most people don’t ever explain it to anyone; nor is it commonly explained to new students. They just hear their teacher (or a colleague) talking about “false strings” once in a while, and infer from the conversation that false strings need to be changed out for new strings. Most teachers will just tell you that your strings are “too old” and insist that you purchase a new set, instead of calling them ‘false’ and explaining what this means.

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