It might seem almost any violin would work for a beginner, but actually a beginner needs a suitable quality violin. A beginner violinist struggles to make the first sounds and find the initial notes. The first few months are the most difficult and are critical for a young violinist. A violin that is difficult to play or won't perform properly even when the violinist does, is too much of a discouragement for most beginning musicians. Orchestra teachers often say they can predict which students will drop out by looking at the quality and condition of the instruments they begin on.
A beginner doesn't need the most expensive violin, but s/he does need a violin that plays easily (the strings aren't too high, requiring pressing down hard on the strings to get the note), will tune up and stay in tune (the tuning pegs fit properly and don't slip), has appropriate strings that respond freely when played, has suitable bow hair in good condition to set the strings in vibration, is set up and adjusted to play correctly, and can be repaired and adjusted as it (inevitably) needs it.
Appropriate beginner violins are available from many sources:
- Buying outright. If you're sure your child will like playing music and that violin is the right instrument, you could purchase a violin outright. One challenge with this is that students move up in violin sizes as they grow and progress.
- Renting. Renting gives the child (and parents) time to see how s/he likes playing
music, consider whether violin is the correct instrument, move up in size as the student progresses, and consider
what type of violin is right for the longer term. The music teacher knows and usually advises beginners' parents where they can rent the right kind of violin, considering not just the cost and quality of the violins rented, but also the condition they're kept in and the support the company provides to keep the instruments playing properly. Rent paid is usually applicable to the later purchase of an instrument. (This is the most popular way to get a student started in music. )
- Buy (or borrow) a used one. When a good used violin can be gotten at a low enough price, it might make sense to take a chance on the student and buy it outright, even if the student won't play that size long. But always check first with the music teacher to make sure the violin you're considering is the appropriate quality. Then take it to a string repair shop to see what it will take to put it in playing condition. (Violins that have been put away for a year or more are likely to need new strings and some adjustments to play properly. )
- Internet. Although the Internet is considered a dangerous place to buy a musical instrument, someone who knows violins and is careful can sometimes find a bargain. By some estimates 90-95% of the stringed instruments sold on eBay and other Internet sites are not appropriate for school orchestra use (despite what the advertising often says); indeed many music teachers say these are the students' and teacher's worst nightmare. However appropriate violins can occasionally be found on the Internet, sometimes at good prices, for those who really know what they're doing.