Best Violins for Beginners – Buying Guide and Reviews

The violin is central to classical music, Irish and Scottish folk music, as well as gypsy-jazz and other increasingly popular genres.

It’s a beautiful instrument, although it’s one that many say is the most difficult to play. While there might be some truth in this, it’s certainly a biased opinion, as it’s a pleasure to learn and an even bigger delight to make music with.

In this article, we hunted down the top picks when it comes to acoustic violins.

At a Glance: The Best Beginners Violins

Budget
Mid Priced
High End

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If you’re feeling ready to pick up your first fiddle, it’s important that you choose one that will appropriately aid your learning process, ensuring that your practice sessions are always a pleasure, never a chore.

There are many ‘student violins’ out there, which are designed with the learner in mind, available at student-friendly prices and decent enough to take you to the intermediate level and beyond.

Here’s what we’ll cover.

Buyers Guide – Key Considerations

Choosing the Right Size

If you’re an adult, choosing the right sized violin is easy. Go for a 4/4 (full-sized) one. However, if you’re buying the instrument for a child, it’s important to get one with the right dimensions.

  • Full-sized (4/4) are recommended for children aged 12 and above, with an arm length of 23” or more.
  • ¾ sized violins are deemed appropriate for 10-12 year-olds, whose arms are 22-23”, whilst ½ sized violins are best for children aged 8-10, or with an arm length of 20-22”.
  • 6-8 year-olds, with arms that are 18-20” should go for a ¼ sized violin, and 5-6 year-olds – with arms 16-18” should go for a 1/8 violin. There are also 1/16 sized violins, for children aged 2 and above.

Tone/Sound

One of the most important aspects of a violin is the tone/sound it creates. This is determined by the wood(s) it’s crafted from.

Maple is commonly found on beginner models. This is partly due to its looks, but also due to the fact that it produces a light, responsive and bright sound.

As well as looking for something that’s made from maple, it’s important to consider the ‘top’. This is the face of the instrument. If it’s made of spruce, this is good as it promises a clear resonance, but often this spruce is a combination of different woods. If the top is labeled as ‘solid-spruce’, this is superior, as the sound will be more consistent, resonant and rich.

Tuning

The tuning pegs also need to be made of decent wood, in order to ensure that the strings remain at the right tension to keep the instrument in tune. Some pegs are made from plastic, but these should be avoided. The material is too weak to hold the strings in place. Ebony, Rosewood and Boxwood are the other main materials used.

Ebony is the hardest of these woods and therefore the most durable. It’s often found on student models. Rosewood is another popular choice as it can be a little grippier, keeping the strings in tune for longer. Boxwood is another option that varies in density, but some state that it can have a positive effect on tone.

Playing Live?

Are you planning on performing live with this instrument, and if so, in what kinds of circumstances?

If you’re intending to join an amateur orchestra as a part of your learning process, then a standard, acoustic model (of the highest quality you can afford) is the obvious option. Ensure to get one in traditional colors, to save yourself embarrassment.

However, if you’re planning on hitting a rock/folk/jazz stage, you might be better opting for an electric or an acoustic-electric violin. Acoustic-electric models can look just like ‘traditional’ instruments, or you can choose funky colours. These have the added bonus – for yourself and any sound engineers you encounter – of being easily amplifiable.

Extras

Finally, before you commit to a buying decision, check out the extras you get with the instrument. Many include cases, bows, rosin and more, but what about the quality of these products?

  • There are two main kinds of bows you can expect to find on entry-level models:
    • Brazil-wood and fibreglass. Brazil-wood is the most common. It varies in quality but generally makes the bow easy to hold and produces a warm tone.
    • Fibreglass bows are the other beginner bows you find, which are sturdier and have the added benefit of being available in a variety of colours.
  • When it comes to rosin, it often comes in either boxed or cake form. Boxed rosin is usually of lower quality, so look out for sets which include the circular tubs.
  • Cases are usually reasonably reliable, with padding, straps, handles, and pockets. Some offer additional features like covers to further protect your instrument.
  • Other extras you might see are shoulder rests, which make holding the instrument a lot easier, books, spare strings and cleaning cloths. Again, these will vary in quality, but they’re accessories that will impact a lot less on your overall playing and sound than bows and rosin will.

Product Round-up and Mini Reviews – Best Violins for Beginners

Budget

Mugig 4/4

Violin,Professional Violin 4/4 Full-size Hand-made Ebony, Suitable for Professional Students and Beginners, Including Bow, Rosin, Strings, and Case.

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The full-sized Mugig model is an impressive budget option. It’s designed in a traditional Strad shape, making it comfortable to play as well as good-looking. The wood is also anti-fade, enabling it to keep its looks for longer.

It’s handmade with pine, spruce, and maple, that’s been dried for five years. This means that it will sound at its best right away, rather than needing to undergo a ‘drying period’ in the early days of your playing.

It comes with a Brazil-wood bow, which feels nice to hold and has Mongolian horsehair. As well as a bow, there’s a case, high-quality cake rosin, shoulder rest and a set of spare strings thrown in with Mugig’s model. For the price, this makes the package extremely good value, as well as helping you to rest assured that you won’t get caught out needing something new, as soon as you start learning.

The fingerboard, chin-rest and handle are all made from ebony, so you can trust their durability and enjoy a smooth playing experience. The pegs are also ebony, to ensure that your tuning remains stable.

Who is this suited to?

It will be well suited to the adult beginner who is on a budget. It is good-looking and decently made, with reasonable quality materials. It might not suit those who are looking for something with higher quality accessories.

Pros
– Handmade with high-quality white pine, spruce and maple wood that’s been dried for five years, ensuring richness and consistency of tone.
– As well as a bow, case and rosin, there are spare strings included.
– Ebony fingerboard, pegs and chin-rest are durable and have a smooth texture.

Cons
– You may wish to replace the bow.
– The case is a little flimsy.
– Although it’s handmade, the quality doesn’t match up to higher-end products.


ADM 4/4

ADM Violin 4/4 Full Size Solidwood Ebony Pegs Violin Beginner Student Advanced Kit with Violin Case, Ebony Frog Violin Bow and Rosin, etc

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Slightly more expensive than the Mugig, but still budget-friendly, ADM’s full-sized violin is also suitable for the adult beginner. However, it’s also available in sizes from 1/16, so variations on this model could be perfect for learners of all ages.

Not skimping on quality, it has a solid spruce top, which has a superior resonance to the spruce of the Mugig above. It’s also extremely good looking, with an attractive, dark brown varnish finish. You get a lot of extras with this instrument, too. A Brazil-wood bow, rosin, a polishing cloth and a tuner that clips onto the head are all included, as well as a protective carry-case.

The pegs and chin-rest are made from ebony, so you can trust their durability and your instrument’s tuning, while the back and sides are made from maple. This adds to the resonance of the instrument.

One slight downside to this beginner package is that you need to install the bridge yourself, or ask a professional to. There are instructions included in the case on how to do this, but if you’re unfamiliar with the instrument, it might make more sense to take it to somebody who knows what they’re doing.

Who is this suited to?

It will suit beginners of all ages, who don’t mind doing a little bit of setting up themselves before playing. It will be less suited to those who require something that’s ready to play, right away.

Pros

– Hand-carved solid spruce top and solid maple back and sides give it a superior resonance.
– Ebony pegs and chin-rest are durable and smooth.
– Comes with polishing cloth and tuner.

Cons

– You have to install the bridge yourself.
– You may wish to replace the bow.


Mendini MV200

Mendini Full Size 4/4 Solid Wood Violin with Tuner, Lesson Book, Extra Strings, Shoulder Rest, Bow and Case, Natural Varnish Finish

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Mendini’s MV200 is a beginner violin with a natural varnish look, that’s available in a range of sizes. It’s impressive for the price, with a hand-carved, solid spruce top and maple back and sides. This gives it a bright resonance and brings out the high-end sounds of the instrument. The fingerboard, pegs and chin rest are also maple. This has a slightly different feel to ebony and produces a higher tone which will suit some people.

There’s a Brazil-wood bow included, as well as a case, shoulder rest, spare bridge and set of strings and some cake rosin. This remarkable amount of extras will help to ensure that you don’t get caught out in the early stages of your learning.

One slight downside here is that both bridges come separate to the violin. You’ll need to get it set up professionally before you can start playing (which shouldn’t cost too much).

Like the ADM, this is available in a number of different sizes, to suit learners from ages 2 and over. It comes at a slightly lower price, with a slightly different set of accessories, which might ultimately be the game-changer when deciding between these two products.

Who is this suited to?

The Mendini MV200 is perfect for those who are looking for everything they need to get started in a budget package. With it not being readily set up, it won’t be right for those who want to pick up and play straight away.

Pros

– Lots of included accessories including extra strings, an extra bridge and a shoulder rest.
– Maple back and sides.
– Solid-spruce top.

Cons

– Maple fingerboard isn’t as smooth as ebony.
– The case isn’t as high quality as in some other packages.


Mendini MV300

Mendini Full Size 4/4 MV300 Solid Wood Violin with Tuner, Lesson Book, Extra Strings, Shoulder Rest, Bow and Case, Satin Antique Finish

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Mendini’s MV300 is just like the MV200, but the aesthetics might suit some people more. Rather than having a natural varnish finish, it has a ‘satin antique’ look which gives it a more worn, vintage vibe.

Like the MV200, this package includes a brazil-wood bow, two bridges, strings, a case, spare strings, and some soap rosin. You can rest assured that you won’t get caught out needing something you don’t yet have while embarking upon your learning journey.

Again, like the previous product, this instrument will need setting up, but this shouldn’t cost too much and the product itself is so wallet-friendly it’s unlikely that you’ll mind. It’s made of maple, including the fingerboard, pegs, and chin-rest, and the top is solid spruce.

Who is this Suited to?

The MV300 will suit those who want everything they need to get started, and desire an antique aesthetic in their instrument. As the bridge will need fitting, it will be unsuited to those who want something to pick up and play right away.

Pros

– The antique aesthetic is cool and arguably makes it look a little more expensive.
– Includes a large amount of accessories to get started with.
– Fully maple, with a solid spruce top. This enables superior resonance.

Cons

– You’ll need to get it set up.
– The case isn’t as high quality as in some other packages.


Mid Priced

Stentor 1400 ¾ Size

Stentor 1400 3/4 Violin

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Stentor’s 1400 ¾ size model is a popular choice amongst primary school children, and is recommended by many music teachers and music schools.

It’s hand carved from solid maple and has rosewood pegs and a rosewood fingerboard. The rosewood pegs stay in place very well and the fingerboard feels exceptionally smooth on the fingers, as well as giving the violin a warm, rich tone.

All of Stentor’s instruments are supplied readily set up, so you can pick it up and play right away. They also all come in packages with cases, Brazil-wood bows and soap rosin. Whilst you still will need to buy spare strings, a shoulder rest, perhaps a tuner and maybe even a spare bridge or bow, the package still provides you with enough to get started.

The top is spruce, giving it ringing qualities and Stentor also ensure that all of the glues used in the making of the product are natural. This is especially relevant in times of repairs, where unnatural glues can render instruments extremely difficult to fix as other materials resist against them.

Who is this Suited to?

Stentor’s 1400 will suit the serious primary school student who needs to play on a high quality instrument in order to take graded exams or play in the school orchestra. It doesn’t come with as many accessories as some of the other packages, but everything you’re getting is high quality.

Pros
– Solid maple back, sides and neck.
– Rosewood fingerboard and pegs.
– Case, bow and soap rosin included.

Cons
– There are fewer extras than in some beginner packages.
– It’s a little pricey for a first instrument.


Stentor 1500 4/4

Stentor, 4-String Violin (1500 4/4)

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Stentor’s 1500 4/4 is another one that’s recommended by many tutors and music schools as an excellent instrument to learn on. It’s handmade with a solid spruce top and a solid, carved maple back and neck. This gives it a stunning resonance and tone-rich sound quality.

The fingerboard, bridge, pegs and tailboard are all solid ebony on this instrument. This not only enables a consistent aesthetic, but provides a smooth playing experience, stable tuning and longevity.

The bow is made of strong wood, making it easy to hold and control and the frog is ebony, ensuring that it’s long-lasting and holds the hairs in place. As well as the bow, this instrument comes with a case and cake rosin.

Whilst it’s not as accessory-heavy as some of the other instruments listed here, and the price is slightly higher, you know what you’re getting with Stentor, as it consistently lives up to its long-standing reputable name.

Who is this suited to?

The Stentor 1500 will suit the serious student who would like something to see them through a significant chunk of their learning journey. It will be less suited to those who would rather go for a cheaper option, first, to see if they like it.

Pros

– Hand-crafted with a solid spruce top to ensure resonance and quality.
– Carved maple neck is smooth and adds a brightness to the sound.
– Full ebony fittings are durable and smooth.

Cons

– Although rosin, a case, and a bow are included, there are no more extras.
– You may wish to replace the included strings.


Cecilio CVN-300 ¾

Cecilio CVN-300 Solidwood Ebony Fitted Violin with D'Addario Prelude Strings, Size 3/4

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The Cecilio CVN-300, which like many of the other instruments here is also available in other sizes, comes as part of a particularly impressive bundle. As well as the expected bow, case and rosin, there’s an additional bow, tuner, shoulder rest, lesson book and even more goodies.

It has a solid-spruce wood top, giving it a nice ring, while the back and neck are made from maple to bring out those bright tones.

It’s readily strung with D’Addario strings, so you needn’t worry about immediately swapping them, and there’s even an extra bridge in case any accidents happen when you do eventually change the strings (or when yours wears out).

The fingerboard, pegs, and chin-rest are all made from reliable ebony. This guarantees you a smooth playing experience, stable tuning, and reliable longevity. Also, both included bows are made from Brazil-wood, which is easy to handle and long-lasting.

Who is this suited to?

Cecilio’s starter set will be perfect for those who are looking for a bundle that includes everything they might need in the early stages of their learning. It will be unsuitable for those who are looking for a minimalistic purchase.

Pros

– Includes a tuner, shoulder rest, lesson book, two bows and more goodies.
– Solid-spruce top and maple back and sides give it a well balanced, rich sound.
– D’Addario strings are fitted, so you won’t need to think about changing them straight away.

Cons

– Pegs may be prone to a little slipping, so you might require peg drops.
– You might want to get a different tuner as the one included can be a bit unreliable.


High End

Barcus Berry BAR-AEBK

Barcus Berry, 4-String Violin (BAR-AEBK)

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Barcus Berry’s BAR-AEBK is an acoustic-electric offering, giving you the best of both worlds.

If you’re a versatile player, who might want to shift between classical and lively folk, this is the kit for you. It’s available in a few different colors, from stylish black to daring pink, all of which are made from consistently high-quality spruce woods with maple back and sides.

This instrument comes readily set up, by professional luthiers, and includes a fiberglass bow, case, and rosin. Although fiberglass isn’t the most sought after bow material, in this case it’s appropriate as it offers the option of alternative colors and is also extremely hard wearing, so perfect for use on the road.

The Barcus Berry has a piezo pickup that’s easy to plug into an amp and a volume knob to give you immediate control over your output. Amplified, it sounds bright and rich, similar to its acoustic sound.

Who is this suited to?

This acoustic-electric violin will suit players who have an interest in playing a wide range of music and are likely to do so in front of an audience. It will be less suited to those with a purely classical leaning.

Pros
– Acoustic-electric, so it’s suited to multiple genres and playing styles.
– Fiberglass bow is durable and sturdy.
– Hand-carved spruce top, with maple back and sides and maple bridge.

Cons
– Fiberglass bow could be better.
– The included rosin isn’t great quality.


D Z Strad 101 4/4

D Z Strad Violin Model 101 with Solid Wood 4/4 Full Size with Case, Bow, and Rosin (4/4 - size)

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The D Z Strad will really take you through being a beginner and beyond. It’s also available in all sizes, so it’s feasibly something that a younger musician could get started on before progressing in their musical career.

It comes completely set up by professionals, with a varnished finish and accented edges. The maple back and sides are carefully fitted and the spruce top on the instrument is tight-grain, giving it a clear tone and rich sound.

This carefully fitted, hand carved maple which is high-quality tight-grain gives the instrument a smoother, clearer sound than some other models and it’s also easier to control the dynamics as a result of this.

The pegs, chin-rest and end button are all ebony, making it durable and smooth and the included bow is Brazil-wood. As well as a bow, the instrument comes with a case, shoulder rest and rosin, giving you everything you need to get started comfortably.

Who is this suited to?

It will suit beginners who want to pay for quality but don’t mind sacrificing a few added extras. If you’re looking for a bundle that includes everything you could need, it might not be the one for you.

Pros

– Carefully fitted maple back and sides with a tight-grain spruce top.
– Includes Brazil-wood bow, shoulder rest and rosin.
– Ebony fingerboard, pegs, chin-rest and end button.

Cons

– Quite expensive for a beginner.
– Included rosin isn’t great.


Bunnel Premier 4/4

Bunnel Premier Clearance Student Violin Outfit 4/4 (Full) Size RB360

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Bunnel’s Premier 4/4 is the most expensive in this list. It’s also the sweetest sounding, and one of the most accessory-heavy bundles here.

It’s made of naturally dried maple and tight-grained spruce, giving it a clear, rich sound. This is added to by the fingerboard and fittings, all of which are made of high-grade ebony. To test that everything meets the high standards it should, the instrument is also set up and inspected to meet professional standards. These professional standards also come with a price to match.

The bundle includes a book, tuner, cloth and shoulder rest, as well as the expected case, bow, and rosin. The bow is Brazil-wood, with high-grade Mongolian horse hair, ensuring longevity and ease of control. The case is also extremely high-quality, in an oblong shape with a velvet cover to further protect it and a humidity checker to ensure that the wood is keeping appropriately humid.

Aesthetically, it has a traditional, slightly varnished look which will suit classical music styles and beyond.

Who is this suited to?

It will suit the serious beginner who is looking for an instrument of superior quality. Its price means that it might not be the ideal choice for a child beginner, despite being available in multiple sizes.

Pros

– Includes a book, tuner, cloth, shoulder rest and more.
– Comes completely set up by professional luthiers.
– Handcrafted from maple and ebony with an oil finish.

Cons

– Pegs may be prone to a little slipping, so you might require peg drops.
– It’s quite pricey for a beginner.


Cremona SV-175

Cremona SV-175 Premier Student Violin Outfit - 4/4 Size

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Cremona’s SV-175 is another one for the serious beginner (who isn’t on a budget).

It costs just a little less than Bunnel’s premier outfit, sounding just as good whilst not coming with quite as many accessories.

Like the Bunnel instrument, the body here is hand-carved maple, with a solid spruce top and it has a beautiful, translucent finish which lets all of the brown of the wood shine through, giving it a look of unquestionable style and quality. All of the fittings are ebony, so you can trust their longevity and enjoy a smooth playing experience, and the tailpiece has a special, lightweight design to enable ease of tuning.

It comes with a premium oblong case with luxurious padding and a Brazil-wood bow inside. Both of these included accessories would be comfortable in the hands of players well beyond a beginner level.

Who is this suited to?

The Cremona SV-175 will be perfect for those who are looking for a quality instrument to take them through the beginner stages and beyond. There aren’t many extras included, so it might not be right for those who would rather buy something that has everything they need to get going.

Pros

– High-quality maple, solid spruce, and ebony.
– Lightweight tailpiece makes tuning easier.
– Cool case and bow included.

Cons

– Not as many accessories as in some other starter sets.
– It’s expensive for a beginner.


Summary

As you can see, there are many beginner options out there of exceptional quality. Many of the products here used maple woods, with ebony fingerboards and fittings and tops were spruce or solid spruce in all of the price ranges.

If you’re looking for something to get your child started, the ADM (in an age-appropriate size), Cecilio CVN-300 and both of the Mendini packages are ideal options. These are all made from maple and ebony, with solid-spruce tops that offer excellent resonance. The Mendini’s also have a maple fingerboard, which is a little unusual but offers a brighter tone than ebony, which some might prefer.

The ADM model costs a little less than the Cecilio or the Mendinis, but also comes with fewer accessories. Both Mendinis and the Cecilio include everything your child might need, in the early stages of their learning and beyond.

Another violin that comes with a fantastic amount of accessories is the Bunnel Premier 4/4. It’s available in multiple sizes and comes with a book, tuner, case, shoulder rest and more. It’s also made of higher quality materials than many here, but it’s pretty expensive.

If it’s yourself that you’re buying for, but you’re on a budget, the Mugig full-sized violin is an excellent choice. It comes at a wallet-friendly price, whilst still using spruce and maple to ensure a quality of tone and including a Brazil-wood bow, case and rosin.

Those looking for something reliable and straightforward will do best with the Stentor 1400 or 1500, or the DZ Strad 101. Both of the Stentors are popular and often recommended by music teachers due to its consistent quality and mid-range price, whilst the DZ Strad and Cremona SV-175s have some extra marks of quality, with higher price tags.

If you’re the kind of player who likes to hop between a variety of playing and musical styles, the Barcus Berry acoustic-electric gives you the option to do just this with its piezo pickup and multiple designs to choose from.

Whichever you decide is right for you (or your child) to get started on, we hope that our reviews have helped you to embark on your exciting new journey. Have a blast, bow gently, and remember to apply the rosin.


Image Credits:

Featured image source: Shunichi kouroki / CC BY-SA 2.0

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