I had a new prospective student come in today for Violin lessons, and unfortunately a Violin had already been purchased for her that just wouldn’t be playable. The parent had told me on the phone that they had a violin purchased from Amazon, so I was fully prepared to deliver bad news. I also spent 30 minutes on the phone last week with a different mother who just couldn’t see why she should spend so much on a hobby for her kid. Today I really wished I had a more eloquent way of telling my excited new student that she can’t learn to play on what she had brought in, so I’ve written a script and made a handy file to print to give to parents, and I’m happy to share it with you, so copy and paste as you please!
Is it Really a Violin? Or Is it a VSO (Violin Shaped Object)? It can be difficult to tell. I want to be sure my students have the best possible chance to succeed however unfortunately, I have recently seen kids attempt to learn to play on instruments that are of such inferior quality that the children cannot possibly learn and the entire lesson time might be spent trying to get it in a playable condition. Everyone likes a good deal: usually parents are finding these inexpensive VSO instruments on EBAY or AMAZON.
Sadly, these instruments are not bargains. While the price may look right, the “real” cost of this instrument may be in costly repairs, poor durability, poor tone, or worst of all, a student who is not able to succeed in lessons. The students may end up driving to my house 4 times a week just so I can tune it. Our local Luthier Simon McHugh refuses to work on such instruments because the cost of time outweighs the instrument.
Here is a list of ways to tell a VSO from a real Violin.
Do the Pegs provide easy, stable tuning, turn smoothly and stay in place?
Do the pegs fit all the way through the holes?
Does The Nut provide for proper placement of the strings? The nut should be the height of a business card off the fingerboard. This is the easiest way to tell.
You must be able to tune it without having parts break off, and it is imperative that you play the correct size violin.
By saving up for a real Violin, you are placing a great importance on it. Talk with your child about their desire to learn to play while you save and let them know that when you purchase a real Violin, the cost will demand a real commitment from them to practice daily. You the parent will be much more likely to encourage them to play on the instrument that was sought and saved after, as opposed to a VSO which is incapable or producing a beautiful tone and can ruin their love and excitement for the instrument.
I hope this might be as useful for you to have on hand as it is for me now! When I get a call for lessons, I can now refer my students to this text in my new students section.