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I figured I’d start here, as it was the first question I had myself when I first took the plunge into the world of violins.  It’s one thing to know what makes a violin “good” but it’s not going to get you any closer to getting one if you don’t know where to look.  At the same time, it’s best to know the various places to get a violin up front so you can compare each one’s quality and price as you find them.

For each place where a violin can be obtained there are pros and cons.  I’ll present the differing options to weigh both sides.  They will not be in any particular order and will certainly not be listed from best to worst.  But just for the sake of some structure, I will attempt to sort them from the most traditional to the more modern.  Surely these will not cover every possible angle, but they will serve as a basic guide.  Ready?  Let’s go hunting!

PRIVATELY OWNED MUSIC OR VIOLIN STORE                                                Pros:

  • The most traditional, time-tested, and trusted place to buy a violin
  • Usually carries the highest quality name brands of violins and their makers
  • Typically knowledgeable staff and store owners, many of whom are musicians or violin makers themselves
  • The instrument can be played in the store to test its sound and feel
  • Usually carries a wide array of accessories to go along with your violin
  • All instruments are nearly always under warranty for a period of time

Cons:

  • You are going to pay full retail for any instrument you get
  • Prices typically start in the $600’s and can go up into the tens of thousands
  • Prices are usually non-negotiable
  • The store atmosphere or staff may come across snobby or high brow (whether intentional or not)
  • You may feel pressured into buying a violin that is not right for you
  • Some stores are set up acoustically so that the instrument sounds better when being played at the store (it could sound different at your house)
  • Can be a daunting, intimidating, or frustrating experience when first walking in with little experience and seeing all of the violins and their price tags

MUSIC CHAIN STORE                                                                                         Pros:

  • Typically carries the most popular name brand violins
  • Since they have many locations, access to stores are more convenient
  • The violin can be played in the store to test it out
  • Carries a wide variety of violin accessories
  • Nearly all provide warranties on their instruments

Cons:

  • As with all chain stores, focus is on volume selling, not individual attention
  • Typically, most violin models are from high throughput manufacturers
  • Staff may not be very knowledgeable or just too busy to be able to help you with your search
  • You won’t find many hidden gems here

CUSTOM VIOLIN WORKSHOP                                                                            Pros:

  • A violin custom made specifically to your needs and wants
  • Your violin can carry a prestigious title if made by a well-known luthier
  • Top tier quality instruments
  • Guaranteed to be made to your satisfaction

Cons:

  • With a custom violin comes a custom price, usually a very high one
  • There can be a long waiting list as violins are typically made in the order in which requests were taken
  • Because a luthier’s time is limited in how many violins they can make, they may only deal with accomplished musicians

ESTATE SALE/GARAGE SALE/AUCTION                                                           Pros:

  • Potential gold mine for acquiring a great instrument
  • Can get for usually a fraction of the cost of the instrument’s true value
  • If not a name brand or well-known maker, it usually goes unnoticed
  • Violins could be in good condition, even recently played
  • Great place for bargain hunting

Cons:

  • Finding one that has violins for sale
  • You have to do your own traveling and hunting (although some now have their listings online so you can see if there are any violins being sold before you go)
  • You really need to know what you are looking for and your price limit
  • There typically will not be anyone able to answer questions about the violin
  • Instrument may or not be in playable condition
  • All sales are final and have no warranty

FLEA MARKET                                                                                                       Pros:

  • Speaking of bargain hunting, these are your classic hidden gem potentials
  • Having the option of haggling with the seller for the best price
  • Almost every town has some sort of flea market to attend
  • Great for those who want to go out and hunt for that hopeful score
  • Events or festivals may have “tent sales” for new or refurbished violins

Cons:

  • These violins are usually your classic “fixer uppers” as they may have been sitting around unused for a long time
  • It may be difficult to locate violins being sold at a flea market
  • All sales are typically final
  • It may take a lot of time, energy, or additional money to hunt around for a violin which may need refurbishing to be playable

ONLINE MUSIC OR VIOLIN STORE                                                                          Pros:

  • All the benefits of a privately owned or chain store but accessible online
  • Prices are typically lower due to the reduced overhead that goes along with maintaining a physical store
  • A wide variety of easily browsable violins to search through
  • Not restricted by physical location

Cons:

  • The violin can not be played before you buy it (however, some stores will mail and loan the violin to you to try before committing to purchase)
  • Although possibly lower, you will still be paying retail prices
  • You may not be able to see the details of the instrument from online images

CRAIGSLIST (ONLINE CLASSIFIEDS)                                                              Pros:

  • Almost always has violins for sale
  • Some of the best local deals you will find anywhere
  • These are normally local folks with no agenda other than to sell their violin
  • Prices can be negotiated before buying
  • You can browse quickly to find an instrument that may suit your needs
  • Typically you can schedule a time to meet and try out the violin before buying

Cons:

  • Now you are getting into the area where you may need your cunning and certainly your knowledge when looking for a violin
  • Prices, quality, and people’s intentions may be all over the map
  • Most listings are only centered around major metropolitan areas
  • Item descriptions and/or images may not be sufficient to make a decision
  • The violin may or not be playable upon purchase
  • While many are honest folk just trying to sell a violin, you must always be vigilant in avoiding scams or meeting sellers in non-public settings

AMAZON/EBAY                                                                                                                    Pros:

  • Access to the greatest number of violins
  • Not restricted by geographic location
  • Can find some of the best deals from suppliers all over the world, as well as individuals
  • You can view the seller’s feedback to help establish quality and trust while also viewing unbiased opinions of the seller’s violins if they are a storefront
  • Usually have buyer protection programs to protect against fraud

Cons:

  • There will be a lot of mass-produced junk violins mixed in with good quality ones – you must be able to tell the difference
  • Carries a negative stigma from many folks who have bought a poor quality violin in the past
  • Knowledge of what makes a violin “good” will certainly be your best ally here, as you will not be able to play or hear the instrument before purchasing
  • Could be daunting if you do not know how to identify a quality violin

A FRIEND OR RELATIVE                                                                                      Pros:

  • So, your Aunt Betsy has a violin in her attic? Check it out!
  • Possibly one of the best bargains around, maybe even free
  • Usually willing to find a new home for an unused or forgotten violin
  • Could have an interesting family history or carry sentimental value

Cons:

  • If you don’t know anyone that plays a violin, chances are high that they do not own one
  • A violin’s sentimental value may prevent a person from giving it up, even though it is not being played
  • Playing condition could be questionable if the violin has been stored in places subjected to varying temperature changes or humidty

Visit lukonisviolins.com for the official website of Lukonis Violins.

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