Potential Problems You Can Find with Cheaper Violins

If you’re the parent of a young child who is interested in learning to play the violin or an adult beginner, you’re going to need to rent an instrument or purchase a starter violin. For some parents or adult beginners, purchasing an instrument is important, so they go online. Once there, they’re going to find a variety of inexpensive violin outfits on Amazon, eBay, and other online retailers — and they may be tempted to purchase one of these cheaper violins; after all, what if the student decides to quit? However, as the saying goes, “Caveat emptor” or “to the buyer, beware.” Learning to play the violin is going to take a lot of practice and patience. Buying a cheap violin is only going to make the learning process more difficult and frustrating. The result? Many students are going to decide to throw in the towel. While a good violin is not inexpensive, it’s important to remember that a quality instrument is an investment, and, over the years, it will pay you back with music and the enjoyment that comes with playing it.  

From Instrument to Case

What should you look for in a beginner violin to determine whether or not it’s a quality instrument? There are four major differences between cheap violins and quality-made instruments:

    • Quality of the woods and components: The primary woods used in violin making are spruce and maple, and ebony for the fingerboard. If inferior components are used to make the violin, the sound, structural integrity, and playability will be compromised. The wood can be prone to warping, cracking, and going out of tune.
    • Quality of the set up: Correct bridge positioning between the inside F hole notches, fingerboard shape and curve, tailpiece and fine tuner adjustments, properly fitted pegs, and soundpost placement are just some of the details a craftsperson follows when they setup a new violin.
    • Quality of the case: The primary means of protecting a violin is its case. A case should be made of a solid material such as wood or carbon fiber with a handle that is solidly attached. Cheap violin cases, such as cloth-based cases, are leaky and offer little or no protection. A good case should have a way to secure the bow so that it doesn’t touch the violin when the case is closed.
    • Quality of the bow: A violin bow has a significant influence on the quality of sound and ease of bowing when playing the instrument. The hair should be uniform in length, without a lot of crossed hairs within the ribbon. Make sure the tip isn’t cracked and that the “button” turns smoothly, allowing the hair to tighten and loosen as needed.

It’s Not Just About the Instrument

If inspiring your child to play an instrument is your goal, investing in a properly made and fitted violin will give them the best chance for a successful and rewarding learning experience. The same goes for the adult beginner. If you’re concerned about making such an investment for a beginning student, consider renting a violin online. At JSI, our rental instruments are professionally set up in our dedicated rental instrument workshop. We believe that beginners of all ages deserve to have the best experience possible learning to play the violin.

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Living Our Values

It often comes as a surprise to customers and friends of Johnson String Instrument when they find out that most of our employees are string players. Many studied at conservatory or majored in music in college and are now weekend gig players who appreciate a 9-5 weekday work schedule and the benefits it provides. Many others are amateur musicians who play for the sheer enjoyment of making music and the relaxation it can bring.

We have recently launched a new video campaign (below) entitled “Living Our Values,” where we highlight an employee each month who exemplifies one of our core values of:

  • Integrity
  • Passion
  • Teamwork
  • Accountability
  • Community
  • Quality
  • Customer Commitment

We are always looking for likeminded folks to join our team. Take a look at our current job postings to learn more.



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New Year, New Goals

A new year typically brings with it a desire to “wipe the slate clean,” and start the year fresh with a new set of goals, both personal and professional. Here at Johnson String Instrument, we’ve published a host of articles on various topics over the past few years, some of which you may find helpful in solving a longstanding problem, or even pointing you in a completely new direction. We’ve broken them down into two categories: Caring for Yourself and Caring for Your Instrument. Happy reading!



Here are some inspiring stories from our friends at Strings Magazine:
“Music Has Given Me the Chance to Share Its Glory With Others on Violin”
Am I Too Old to Learn Violin?
The Changing Role of Music Editors in Classical Music
Growth as a Musician Means Facing a Little Anxiety

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How to Become a Concert Hall Manager

Most kids are introduced to music through stringed instruments some time around 4th grade. Schools will often give the children a choice between learning the violin, bass, viola or cello, and all students are taught the basics together. That’s often the sum total of music education for many students, but a select few children choose to continue to more advanced learning on their stringed instruments and go on to join the orchestra in high school. Some people who grew up playing music or hearing it in their home, dream of becoming a concert hall manager. They like the idea of being around music every day and meeting many accomplished musicians along the way. But what else does the job entail? Concert hall managers oversee the staff and are in charge of daily operations of a particular concert venue. They cover everything from hiring and training staff to maintenance checks on the facility to scheduling the performing acts.

Career path

If you’re interested in becoming a concert hall manager, the first step is to gain as much experience within the field as possible. While a degree in music business or event management can be helpful, work experience is just as important. To get your foot in the door, try to work as many front-of-house positions, like usher, and back-of-house jobs, like bookkeeper, as you can. Also very beneficial toward reaching your goal is acquiring training and certifications in areas such as emergency preparedness, event management, basic medical skills, crisis or weather preparedness. Of course, having a passion for music works in your favor when working along the career path of becoming a concert hall manager, but getting practical training and experience is the true key to success. You may want to look into a professional organization referred to as IAVM (International Association of Venue Managers). The group offers quite a few training programs for current venue managers as well as those who are seeking a career in the field.

The best seat in the house

One of the greatest benefits of being a concert hall manager is getting to hear and experience all kinds of music. Whether you’d like to be involved in large events or small, intimate concerts, your seat is the best in the house when you’re running the show. Looking for supplies to keep in stock at your venue or a good music store to which you can refer the musicians? Check out the full catalog of stringed instruments and accessories at JSI.

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How to Buy Violin Strings Online

There are many types of violin strings to choose from, and each has a different effect on the resonance, projection, and playability of the instrument. Because beginning violinists can find the wide variety of violin string sets on the market confusing, it’s important to learn about the basic attributes and how they influence the sound and feel of your violin before making a purchase. The first step in the string selection process is to choose the core material.

Originally, all violin strings were constructed of gut material harvested from sheep intestines. Traditionally, gut strings produced a warm, evocative sound. Eventually, steel strings became popular as they are more resistant to climate changes. The tone produced by steel is more brilliant and sharper than gut. Synthetic core strings are the newest violin strings, and they combine the best characteristics of gut and steel together.

New violinists may want to drop into a music store before buying violin strings online in order to get a feel for how each option feels and sounds on their instrument.

Start with the basics

Along with core material, there are two other attributes of violin strings — gauge and tension — which influence the type of sound you get from your instrument.

The gauge of strings refers to the thickness of the material. Thicker strings provide more volume, but are less responsive, requiring more pressure to depress on the fingerboard and a heavier stroke with the bow. Thinner strings, while more responsive, do not deliver as much projection. Beginners are best off starting in the mid-range with medium gauge strings.

Tension has a significant impact on the tonal quality produced by the violin. Higher tension strings deliver crisp, brighter tones, while lower tension options provide a warmer sound. Steel strings maintain the best tone with higher tensions.

An uncomplicated way to narrow down your choices as a beginning violinist is to think about the type of music you’d like to learn. For example, if you want to play country music, steel core strings will produce the brighter tones that allow you to play your favorites.

Never run out

Whichever category of strings you end up picking, make sure you always have spares on hand. Breaking a string is a fact of life for all violinists, from beginner to advanced, and it can be very disruptive. Keeping a stockpile of extras and learning how to go about replacing violin strings minimizes the disruption.

Stock up at Johnson String Instrument’s online violin string shop today. We have an enormous variety of strings to fit any musical style.

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