Advice on buying a musical instrument

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
Topic Author
investingdad
Posts: 1798
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:41 pm

Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by investingdad »

Rather than put this on my other thread, I thought it would be better served as a stand alone.

I'm planning to buy my own violin rather than keep renting. My rental has a sell price of about $1300 or so. I spent yesterday trying out different violins in the under $5000 range. I really wanted to buy something nicer as a long term purchase.

The problem? Well, even though a few sounded really nice...I found that I've really gotten to know my rental over the last six months. What I mean is, I've learned how my fingers need to be placed just so to make the strings ring clearly. The ones I tried...I'm just too new to this to jump right on them.

I guess I'm looking for confirmation...at this stage, even though I wanted to spend more for higher quality, it's probably best for me as a new student to play the instrument I've gotten to know and feels comfortable. Right?

Especially since my teacher mentioned many times that it sounds quite good.

I am, however, going to get a higher quality bow. And probably a different chin rest.
Billionaire
Posts: 339
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 3:05 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by Billionaire »

I would go back a 2nd and 3rd time (whatever it takes) to play the other ones you are considering. Have you looked for any web forums for any particular brand of violin? I play the guitar and am amazed at the information and knowledge of people on various forums for specific brands of guitar. Is your rental connected to the school your instructor is based? That could be a reason why he wants you to buy it.

One of the best/proudest decisions I ever made was buying a new 1978 Guild D40 acoustic guitar in early 1979. Cost was $400 for the guitar and $100 for the case. Honestly, I bought it blindly. I had a year or so of experience on a cheap nylon string guitar. Still own it and love playing it. Old Guilds have a great reputation. My model happens to be the one Richie Havens played at Woodstock in 1969.
User avatar
climber2020
Posts: 1538
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by climber2020 »

I'd buy the rental. Once you get really good at your instrument, you'll know what features you want and be better informed when you upgrade again.

I went through 3 drum sets since I started playing 25+ years ago. The one I currently have is top of the line, but I wish I had waited a few more years before buying it - probably would have gotten the shells in slightly different sizes.
Topic Author
investingdad
Posts: 1798
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:41 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by investingdad »

I currently have the two violins I liked best at home as loaners, but after getting them home I gravitated back to the rental.

The luthier is independent and I sought him out, the instructor is independent as well. No school involved.
User avatar
ResearchMed
Posts: 10794
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by ResearchMed »

investingdad wrote:I currently have the two violins I liked best at home as loaners, but after getting them home I gravitated back to the rental.

The luthier is independent and I sought him out, the instructor is independent as well. No school involved.
By all means, then, continue to rent or buy the "rental".
You like the feel.
Your instructor says the sound is good.

Meanwhile, at your leisure, continue to look at other violins on occasion, until you find something you like better.
But you might not want to bother, until you get "better".
You could also ask your instructor to let you know if you reach a proficiency level such that he thinks you are getting close to outplaying that particular violin.

Enjoy!

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.
User avatar
CyclingDuo
Posts: 3747
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2017 9:07 am

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by CyclingDuo »

investingdad wrote:Rather than put this on my other thread, I thought it would be better served as a stand alone.

I'm planning to buy my own violin rather than keep renting. My rental has a sell price of about $1300 or so. I spent yesterday trying out different violins in the under $5000 range. I really wanted to buy something nicer as a long term purchase.

The problem? Well, even though a few sounded really nice...I found that I've really gotten to know my rental over the last six months. What I mean is, I've learned how my fingers need to be placed just so to make the strings ring clearly. The ones I tried...I'm just too new to this to jump right on them.

I guess I'm looking for confirmation...at this stage, even though I wanted to spend more for higher quality, it's probably best for me as a new student to play the instrument I've gotten to know and feels comfortable. Right?

Especially since my teacher mentioned many times that it sounds quite good.

I am, however, going to get a higher quality bow. And probably a different chin rest.
What do you use the violin you are renting for - amateur hobby, or professional music making (getting paid to play)?

How long do you plan to play, and at what point does paying a monthly rental equate to a purchase price (cost of new fiddle divided by monthly rental)?

The sound quality jumps by leaps and bounds as you move up the ladder, but it would have to be quite a bit up the ladder. If you like the rental's sound and are used to it, sounds like the $1300 price would take care of your choice. That is if you plan on playing long enough to justify the cost - which leads back to the first question: is this for amateur hobby or for professional music making?
"Save like a pessimist, invest like an optimist." - Morgan Housel
sport
Posts: 9664
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:26 pm
Location: Cleveland, OH

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by sport »

Your teacher should be the best one to answer this question. Your teacher is familiar with you, your strengths, and your weaknesses. He/she should also be sufficiently competent technically to help you make this decision.
Cheyenne
Posts: 500
Joined: Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:46 am

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by Cheyenne »

If the rental sounds and feels right, buy it. You'll know later when you need a better one. A parent of a violin student related a story to me that was told to him by a violin dealer. The dealer said a family came in his shop to look at violins and they said they were looking to spend around $6,000. The dealer showed them one that he had for about $4,000 and the shoppers liked it very much. It sounded great and had a good feel. But, they didn't buy it. The told him they wanted to spend around $6,000. Go figure.
corysold
Posts: 892
Joined: Mon Mar 24, 2014 12:58 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by corysold »

I'll concur that how you plan to use the violin matters.

If it only for your personal use and you like the rental, no reason not to buy it and use it. Unless you have a need for the additional sound quality, there isn't a huge need to upgrade at this point. Down the road, sure, but it doesn't have to be now.

I play piano. We have a digital piano that cost $1500. My MIL has a $25,000 grand piano. I prefer ours in many respects because, like you, it is what I am used to and what I play at home. The grand feels different and it bothers me when I play it since I don't play it as much.

As another option, would it be possible to rent some of the higher quality instruments you are looking at? Maybe try out 4, three months at a time for a year and see what sticks out?
random_walker_77
Posts: 1210
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 8:49 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by random_walker_77 »

Another vote for buying your rental, or inquiring about a rent-to-buy arrangement. (Some shops will credit a portion of your rental fees towards an instrument purchase. Further, you're no longer buying a new instrument but a used instrument, and it should be repriced accordingly).

You've been playing for less than a year. Later on, you'll have a much better ability to discern between instruments, and you might even want something more than 5K by then. For now, you've got an instrument you're comfortable with and which is suitable for your studies.

For the same reason, I'd also suggest holding off on buying another bow, unless then one you have is truly inadequate. After you've been playing 3-4+ years, and have started learning to bounce your bow w/ spiccato/sautille, then that's the time to buy. Beware that bows seem to like to pair with specific violins, so you might be looking for a nice violin at the same time. You might also find yourself wanting to spend well over $1K just for the bow... If you really do need to buy another bow now, pay your teacher to help you find a suitable bow to pair with your violin. It needs to be suited, but it also needs to match with your hand, so a teacher can only narrow the field but the ultimate selection must lie with you.
Topic Author
investingdad
Posts: 1798
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:41 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by investingdad »

This luthier will give me 100% credit on rental fees if I buy. In addition, he'll take 100% of the purchase price against a future, upgraded purchase if I trade up down the road.

He has a sterling reputation with the local orchestras.
robertalpert
Posts: 455
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2007 10:09 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by robertalpert »

Ask your violin teacher to join you in testing out violins for purchase.

I bought a Haynes Clarinet Manual and found it very valuable in addressing many adjustment issues, including purchasing instruments. There exist a Haynes Violin Manual that may provide you with similar assistance.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Violin- ... 0857333798
protagonist
Posts: 6767
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by protagonist »

I second the advice of continuing to try various instruments over time until one of them screams out at you : "Buy me please!"

A quality instrument is a good investment....it should not lose value and may become more valuable, and if you love it, you will be more motivated and be happier about playing. But if you have not found one yet that you prefer to your rental, keep renting until you do. And don't limit yourself to one shop. Shop around. It may take a few more years, but ultimately you will find the instrument that you fall in love with and you will buy it.

(I assume you are also trying multiple bows, since it is possible that the bow is the major limiting factor....)
User avatar
CyclingDuo
Posts: 3747
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2017 9:07 am

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by CyclingDuo »

investingdad wrote:This luthier will give me 100% credit on rental fees if I buy. In addition, he'll take 100% of the purchase price against a future, upgraded purchase if I trade up down the road.

He has a sterling reputation with the local orchestras.
There you go. Buy the rental and get all of your rental fees credited to the purchase. Sounds like a win-win all the way around. :beer
"Save like a pessimist, invest like an optimist." - Morgan Housel
User avatar
Peter Foley
Posts: 5159
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2007 10:34 am
Location: Lake Wobegon

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by Peter Foley »

I admit I know nothing about violins. I am simply reacting to the comment that you like the feel of the rental.

I own 3 guitars, one classical and two acoustics. All three have different fret widths. When I switch from one to another it takes a day or two of practice to readjust and become comfortable with the fret width. While I agree that feel is important, I don't think a short term try out is a good test. I would be interested in hearing the experience of others, especially of those who play violin.
thatme
Posts: 185
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2015 12:54 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by thatme »

investingdad wrote:This luthier will give me 100% credit on rental fees if I buy. In addition, he'll take 100% of the purchase price against a future, upgraded purchase if I trade up down the road.

He has a sterling reputation with the local orchestras.
Do this, for sure.

I play the tuba as an amateur (played when younger, picked it up again in my early 30s a few years ago). I've bought and sold a number of tubas over the years but there are a few that I wish I kept. I didn't appreciate how much I liked the sound they made until after they were gone. If you like the sound of the one you're renting, there is absolutely zero downside to buying it now and upgrading in the future if you decide.
MJW
Posts: 724
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2016 7:40 pm
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by MJW »

investingdad wrote:This luthier will give me 100% credit on rental fees if I buy. In addition, he'll take 100% of the purchase price against a future, upgraded purchase if I trade up down the road.

He has a sterling reputation with the local orchestras.
My wife plays violin and had a similar arrangement with the luthier. She opted for a violin that was a couple steps above her rental and experience level at the time with the idea that she would grow into it while having an instrument she could potentially keep forever. She has the option to upgrade in the future but may never feel the need to.

I recommend this approach for anyone who is serious about learning and sticking with an instrument.
Northern Flicker
Posts: 6630
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:29 am

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by Northern Flicker »

investingdad wrote:I currently have the two violins I liked best at home as loaners, but after getting them home I gravitated back to the rental.

The luthier is independent and I sought him out, the instructor is independent as well. No school involved.
The more expensive violins seem to be solutions looking for problems.
Risk is not a guarantor of return.
Topic Author
investingdad
Posts: 1798
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:41 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by investingdad »

Just to close this out, I ended up buying the violin I've been renting. I elected to get a different bow, still composite like the one I was using but I liked the balance and feel better. He sold me both for $1200, so I'm now the owner of a Romanian violin and American bow. A little research suggested the price was fair.

He also put new strings on and lowered the bridge for me after confirming it was sitting too high.

If I'm still playing and improving some years down the road, I'll buy a better one.
maylikesun
Posts: 29
Joined: Fri Aug 18, 2017 1:46 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by maylikesun »

My husband plays violin and has purchased several nice ones from a dealer friend. He told me every time the dealer would let him bring the violin back home and try at least a week before making the decision. If the dealer you talked to will not allow a longer trial period, I would suggest to rent several for couple of months each.
User avatar
Hyperborea
Posts: 824
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2017 10:31 am
Location: Japan

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by Hyperborea »

investingdad wrote: Fri Aug 18, 2017 1:27 pm Just to close this out, I ended up buying the violin I've been renting. I elected to get a different bow, still composite like the one I was using but I liked the balance and feel better. He sold me both for $1200, so I'm now the owner of a Romanian violin and American bow. A little research suggested the price was fair.

He also put new strings on and lowered the bridge for me after confirming it was sitting too high.

If I'm still playing and improving some years down the road, I'll buy a better one.
I don't play the violin but I do play other instruments. When/if you do buy another violin it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep this one if you can afford it. It will be nice to have around to play while your "good" one is in the shop, to take it to local events where you might not want to take your more expensive one, or to take when you travel.
It’s hard to win an argument with a smart person, it's damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person. - Bill Murray
Castanea_d.
Posts: 191
Joined: Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:14 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by Castanea_d. »

Hyperborea wrote: Fri Aug 18, 2017 1:57 pm ... I don't play the violin but I do play other instruments. When/if you do buy another violin it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep this one if you can afford it. It will be nice to have around to play while your "good" one is in the shop, to take it to local events where you might not want to take your more expensive one, or to take when you travel.
+1.
I'm a keyboard person, but married to a violist, so I've seen how useful it is to have a second instrument. Travelling with an excellent violin/viola/cello is enough to give me the willies. And there are times when you might be playing outdoors and the weather is iffy - one of my young friends, a fiddler, was playing with a group for a farmers' market last week and a thunderstorm came along. They were under a tent and quit playing when the wind really got going (50 mph with small hail), but before that point her fiddle got pretty wet.

Same with bows; having two of them is good. That gives you a backup when one is in the shop being re-haired.

It sounds like you made a good decision on things. There is a lot that can be done in terms of adjusting an instrument to suit you better.
Topic Author
investingdad
Posts: 1798
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:41 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by investingdad »

I got attached to the feel and sound of mine because it's the only one I know. So I figured, since my teacher likes how it sounds, it made sense to keep it.

When I upgrade, I'll hold into it even if just for sentimental reasons.
cmwahl
Posts: 24
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2015 6:47 pm
Location: Spokane, WA

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by cmwahl »

Do you like the sound of your rental violin? That's crucial. Playing a variety of other violins will help you decide. Pick a piece you are working on and try it on different violins. My son and daughter have played viola and cello for years. Each time a new instrument was purchased as they moved up the ladder of experience the instruments became better and in turn helped them become better. I always tried to purchase the best sounding instrument they were capable of playing. It gives you confidence to play something that HELPS you sound good. The instrument should not discourage you, but encourage you. You should not fight your instrument when learning.
Strings on a particular instrument can make all the difference. Look up recommendations on violinist.com for ththeir recommendations. Johnson Strings also has a helpful guide.
My son is now an advanced player. His cello we purchased from a local luthier 5 years ago. It was by far the best sounding one and NOT the most expensive one. We tried German instruments, Italian, Eastern European, and American ones, up to and including ones for $15,000. But the best sounding one was Chinese. We spent $3500 on it and it was considered a "second" that a large importer had cast aside. Our luthier picked it up, fixed its problems and now my son plays it. It is very delicate, resonant, sounding like thick chocolate syrup. It currently it is in for another repair. We changed strings on it several times to achieve optimum sound. If my son goes on to college in cello performance he may need another cello that will probably cost us $$$$$. But this one will give any others a run for the money. Buy the sound that is easy for you to play. Buy your rental if YOU love the sound, but try others to determine what sound you can get from an instrument, and what you like. Your ability will increase. It is an investment in you.
protagonist
Posts: 6767
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Advice on buying a musical instrument

Post by protagonist »

It took me years of shopping all over the world before I found my dream saxophone (a vintage 1955 Mark VI tenor, for those of you who know saxes).

It was worth the wait.

I would imagine violins to be more varied and idiosyncratic than saxophones.

Take your time and make the effort. Like (hopefully, in best case scenarios) you know your future life partner when you find him/her, you will know your violin when you find it, and it is worth waiting for.

And (unlike if you make a mistake in choosing your life partner), even if you realize later that you made a mistake and want a different one, your violin will likely retain its value.
Post Reply