First in an educational series sponsored by Robertson & Sons Violin Shop.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Embarking on the journey to mastery of a stringed instrument requires a certain degree of courage, even when starting firmly entrenched in the belief that “every child can.”

Given the difficulty of playing an instrument where pitch must be selected from an infinite continuum, and where creating good tone is a challenge, it’s extraordinarily important to select an instrument and bow which will make the process as easy as possible. Although it might be tempting to buy that unbelievably low-priced instrument from eBay or Craigslist, consider how that choice might sabotage a student’s success before he/she even begins.

As a child’s technique develops and improves, it’s also wise to upgrade equipment in tandem with skill acquisition.


Selecting an instrument that is of the appropriate size is of paramount importance. Playing in tune and with excellent posture is extremely difficult when the instrument is too large. It also can lead to injury. You should consult your teacher or a knowledgeable professional to help select an appropriately sized instrument.


In order for an instrument to sound its best and to respond readily to the touch of its master, certain elements must be in place. Here are some things you can look for regardless of the size of the instrument:

  • Pegs and fingerboard made of ebony rather than plastic or a soft wood painted black.

  • Purfling that is inlaid to prevent cracking rather than a black line painted around the edges.

  • Fine tuners on every string for smaller sized instruments. Your teacher will advise you when it is appropriate to selectively remove them.

  • New strings that produce good tone quality.

  • A bridge that is cut so that the strings are the correct distance above the fingerboard and spaced evenly.

  • A soundpost that is cut to fit the instrument and seated properly.

  • A bow that has real (not synthetic) horsehair that is clean and plentiful.

  • For violinists and violists, careful attention should be paid to the selection of a chinrest and shoulder rest that suits the child’s physique so that the equipment promotes excellent posture and position.

  • Generally, the smaller sized instruments come as a package which includes the instrument, bow, and case. The case should be of durable material that will protect your valuable investment.


If you’re worried that all of this is going to cost you more than the value of your child’s excellent music education, there are many options available that are preferable to an online gamble. Robertson and Sons Violin Shop and other reputable dealers of stringed instruments will offer a wide selection in a variety of price ranges. Well maintained used instruments can be an excellent alternative to new. If the initial instrument purchase is daunting, consider a rent-to-own program where six months of rental fees can be applied to the purchase of an instrument. Look for a dealer that will give you full trade-in value for instruments purchased in the same shop so that you can move to the next size or upgrade instruments with no turn-around fees. Working with a reputable dealer also ensures that you will have a trusted source for maintenance and repairs when necessary.

Giving a child the gift of music is an important investment of time, energy, and money. Make the most of it by carefully selecting an instrument that will help you sail smoothly into a world of harmony and happiness!