The best violins for beginners in 2022: A step-by-step guide to buying your first violin

Jennifer Clinehens
7 min readOct 13, 2016
Photo by Julio Rionaldo on Unsplash

[Note: This story has been updated by the author in November of 2022]

“I know nothing about violins, but I know that I need one. Where can I get a violin that’s good enough for learn on, not too expensive, and will sound good?”

This is the question I get most often from new students. Buying your first violin is an intimidating process, with a fair amount of money on the line. Here are some of the most common questions I hear new adult students ask:

Should I rent or buy a violin?

This is a debate that’s raged since violin rentals began. I fall in the “buy” camp, for a few reasons:

1. Mentality matters. If you invest in owning a violin, you will value practice and lesson time more.

This doesn’t mean you should run out and drop $5K on an instrument. You should be able to get a decent student instrument for less than $250 with a bow, case, shoulder rest, and rosin.

Your first instrument won’t be the one you play at Carnegie Hall, but it will get started. Once you outgrow the first instrument you can move up to more expensive fiddles. But there’s no reason to buy a Lamborghini if a Toyota Corolla will do.

2. You get what you pay for.

When you go to a music shop and rent a violin, you’ll walk out with whatever is on hand. These instruments are often pre-owned and likely to have past damage (even if it’s no longer visible to the naked eye).

Local music stores have a vested interest in getting you to rent because they make more money on a rental. The counterargument for this is that X% of your payment is going toward paying the violin off but don’t fall for it. The price you’ll pay to buy the violin after renting represents a big markup over the fair market value.

Local music stores have a vested interest in getting you to rent because they make more money on a rental.

What size violin should I get?

Photo by Calum MacAulay on Unsplash

If you’re over 4ft tall you need a “4/4” also called a “full size” violin. If you are under 4ft or are buying a violin for a child, you’ll need to measure arm length to determine the right size. Most adults will need a 4/4, aka full-size violin.

Where should I buy my first violin?

“I’m thinking about trying out the violin but I don’t want to spend heaps of money. Any suggestions on where I should be looking for a first violin?”

Though most teachers are quick to dismiss the internet as a source for your first violin, my opinion is it’s a viable option. Buying your first violin is like buying your first car — it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to get you there.

Amazon can definitely be a good resource for beginner violins, if you know where to look. Shar Music, another great online music shop, has a good selection with a more advanced price point. I’m not affiliated with Shar Music but recommend them to most of my students and use them a lot myself.

My specific recommendations for a first violin

I like the Cremona violins because they’re a good mix of quality and craftsmanship at a price point that won’t break the bank — a little more expensive than a “violin” you’d find on eBay but well worth the extra cash.

It’s also worth noting that it’s comparatively easy to sell these types of violins when you’re done with them, or want to move to the next level, since they aren’t too expensive and are suited for beginners.

Other things you’ll need to start playing violin

1. Rosin

In my opinion, Hill Rosin is the best all-purpose rosin out there. It’s only a few dollars more expensive than most rosin and will last years (plus, there’s nothing worse than cheap, crumbly rosin!).

It comes in two styles, but there isn’t a huge difference between them in practice. If you want a little more grip on the bow, I’d go darker with the rosin as it’s stronger.

2. Shoulder rest

Every violinist has a strongly held opinion on which shoulder rest is the best, but you really can’t go wrong with the classic Kun 4/4 Violin Shoulder rest. (paid link)

There’s also a collapsable version if you’re not sure the classic will fit in your violin case, but I personally prefer the original :)

3. Bow

I’ve had several adult beginners pick up this Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow 4/4 and have been very impressed with the action and versatility.

If you want to start with a slightly higher-quality bow, check out Shar’s intermediate selection. But to start, the Fiddlerman will do just fine — I’ve even used it on outdoor gigs where I didn’t want to put my more expensive bow at risk of a sudden downpour.

4. Case

You won’t need anything fancy for your first violin, but understandably some people do want to spend a little bit more on a case. There are a few levels you can invest in, but even the basic one will do for a few years:

5. *Optional* Upgrade

An upgrade that goes a really long way to improving the playability of an instrument is the right strings.

Thomastik Dominant strings (paid link) are the go-to for many professional players (click here to check them out).

These are about twice as expensive as a set of student strings but will improve your sound more than 2x, and frankly make the instrument easier to play. Don’t attempt to change your strings yourself at first. Take them to a local shop and get them to change them out for you, or have your private teacher change them out.

In the end, it’s the student’s decision to rent or buy.

Having done both myself, I can only recommend based on my own experience and my students’.

Students who own their violin are more likely to practice, stick with lessons, and get excited about learning violin.

Jen Clinehens has been a professional violinist/violist and teacher for more than 25 years in orchestras, quartets and small ensembles, and even a few rock bands.

She’s studied performance, teaching, and conducting as a scholarship student at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the University of Virginia, the Berklee College of Music, with additional graduate-level studies at Belmont University.

These days, her full-time gig is in marketing, advertising, and content creation, but she continues to play and teach.

Please note: this article contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click the link to purchase one of the items, I may receive a small amount of monetary compensation from Amazon at no additional cost to you.

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Jennifer Clinehens

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