When should a student upgrade their violin?

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There is a point in every students life where they reach the moment when they exceed the limitations of their current instrument.  This should be a happy milestone in their development, but unfortunately is often tempered by a great deal of anxiety regarding it.  As is so often the case, the old dynamic of financial constraints versus the right choice is central here.  This article will attempt to ease this process by giving some informed advice on the topic.

Firstly, never make the choice in isolation.  Whether it is for yourself or for your child, it is always best to work alongside your teacher or school.  If you have chosen well (this should be evident in the students progression) their assistance should be invaluable.  Of course, trust your own opinion in addition to this and seek a second opinion if nessecary.  Just ensure that the person in question is similarily well regarded in the industry.  Unfortunately where commerce is involved they are always snake oil salesmen (although certainly not the case at Animato!) and there have been very sad cases where people have payed excessive amount for inferior instruments.  Do your research and always make informed, not emotive decisions.

When financially viable, you should plan for the future.  Buying an instrument with room to grow will allow the student to continue to progess, not “resting on your laurels” as it were.  It will also save money over the lifetime of play, as buying a new instrument twice over a five year period may not prove as financially prudent as making a larger but more cost effective purchase.  It is also worth noting that once price increases there is the decision whether to go for an older instrument compared to a fresh store model.  There is, as said in other articles, that instruments improve over time acquiring a “mature” sound.  Whether the known quality of an aged instrument measures up to the potential increased repair and insurance costs over its lifetime is entirely up to the buyer.  Likewise, is it worth buying a new instrument only to grow unsatisfied with its sound as it ages?  Again it is in the eye of the beholder, but keep in mind the sage advice of the store staff and teachers.  Over their lifetimes they would have seen many varieties of brand and craftsman age, and many satisfied or disatisfied customers.  They will at least be able to let you know the opinions of others who were making a similar decision to you at one point.

Another valid point is to when possible test it out in an acoustic environment that will suit your purposes.  If you are an orcestral player, make sure it is strong and defined enough to contribute to the overall sound.  As a soloist projection and strength could be something that is nessecary to suit your music.  In addition to this, play a wide range of styles that you will use regularily.  This seems like commonsense advice but you would be suprised how often this factor is overlooked.  Be advised regarding potential insurance issues with individual stores, they are normally very happy to work out a trial period but for your protection and theirs make sure that everything is clear before you leave the store.

Never forget the pairing of a superior instrument with an equally good quality bow.  No matter the expense of the instrument it is extremely inadvisable to buy a cheaper bow to purchase a more expensive instrument.  The bow is absolutely key to realising the instruments potential, and there is a world of differance between a serviceable student model and a finely crafted professionals tool.  Although its not a strict rule and not immediately apparent to look at, you will hear the quality in the music you play – in this instance you will get what you pay for.

With all this in mind, you as the player must enjoy the action and play of the instrument.  Buying an instrument on the best advice with personal discomfort will only lead to poor play.  If you feel a genuine rapport with instrument over that of the other choices go with your gut! It will add a certain je ne sais quoi to your play and make for a much more productive and enjoyable relationship.