The violin is the smallest member of the family of stringed instruments – but did you know that violins themselves come in a range of sizes?
You can also buy violins for different types of violinist! Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned virtuoso, different models of violins are built with varying degrees of playability to suit a range of players.
You may be surprised to learn that while the classical acoustic violin may be the most traditional type of violin, electric and electro-acoustic violins are also popular among avid violinists.
Getting to know about the wider string instrument family (which includes the cello, viola and the double bass) as well as the evolution of the traditional violin will put you in a good position when the time comes for you to visit the violin shop.
So, if you’re a new starter looking to purchase your first ever musical instrument, or you’re an advanced player that wants to weigh up the pros and cons of the electric violin, this guide is here to help!
Violins for All Sizes
Although violins come in a range of sizes to suit players of all statures, they are, in fact, all considered to be the same instrument.
Regardless of size, all violins have four strings which are tuned to the same pitches and are played with a violin bow which is held in the right hand.
Renting or buying a violin of the right size is the first and most important step to learning to play the violin.
But why is the size of a violin so crucial?
Violin specialists match violins to students by having them hold the violin with their left hand as if they were playing it, with the chin on the chin rest. They are then asked to hold the scroll of the violin in the palm of their hand. If they cannot do this comfortably, the violin is either too big or too small.
Some parents of young beginners may be tempted to buy a full-size violin for their child to grow into – but it is strongly not recommended.
Playing a violin that is too large will mean that the student has to strain to reach for the fingerboard. This makes playing the violin uncomfortable as fingering becomes difficult and can put learners off playing violin altogether.
So, make sure that your violin is professionally fitted! And don't forget to buy Rosin and other accessories to help care for your new violin.
Acoustic Violins for Each Level
Learning to play the violin is a process which involves developing one’s technical skills as well as a sense of musicianship.
When learning how to play any instrument, as the player’s level of skill increases, so too do their needs and goals.
For this reason, violin makers manufacture a range of violins which are built with all kinds of players in mind. So, whether a violinist is seeking to perfect their rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or preparing to audition for a symphony orchestra, there are models available for every level of repertoire.
· Violins for Beginners
Beginner violins (also known as student violins) are easy to find, and often come in a range of sizes and colours due to their younger users - great for those who fancy a pop of vibrancy in their performances!
Here are some of the most popular student violins on the market:
|Violin Make and Model||Price Range|
|Theodore Beginner Violin||£40-£65|
|Stentor Student II 1500||£90-£150|
|Stentor I 1400||£100-120|
|Forenza Prima 2||£90-£110|
It’s easy to spot that there is a significant difference in the pricing of violins from certain brands.
For instance, the £50 difference between the Theodore violin and both Stentor models is representative of the target customer of each manufacturer.
Theodore and Windsor violins tend to be aimed at beginner musicians who may not know whether they want to fully commit to learning the violin, whereas the Stentor and Forenza violins are crafted to take players through their music exams and remain appropriate as they progress in their learning.
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· Violins for Intermediate Violinists
It’s hard to know when you’ve become an ‘intermediate’ player.
Violinists of grade 4 – grade 6 standard are generally classed as intermediate musicians.
Finding a violin which is appropriate for this level of expertise alone can be difficult, as students needs the playability of a beginner violin with the craftsmanship of an advanced violin. For this reason, most people stick with a beginner violin until they reach an advanced level, or they buy an advanced violin which is suited to intermediate players.
Here are some of the available options:
|Violin Make and Model||Price Range|
|Forenza Secondo Series 4||£229|
|Forenza Secondo Series 6||£299|
Because the intermediate stage in a musician’s training doesn’t last very long, the most popular violins among intermediates tend to be those that may also be suitable for advanced violinists.
For this reason, prices can be elevated in comparison to those for beginner violins.
· Violinists for Advanced Players
When it comes to playing the violin at an advanced level or even professionally, a new violin is a serious investment.
Here are some of the most reputed violins among advanced musicians:
|Violin Make and Model||Price Range|
|Eastman Master Series Stradivarius||£925|
|Wessex XV Series||£2,375|
Again, the large differences in pricing are indicative of the materials used in the violin making process as well as the history behind them.
It is often favourable for accomplished violinists to play antique violins – but with age comes value.
For this reason, buying a high-quality violin with a good amount of history is viewed as an investment by those who are serious about making a career in music.
Stradivarius copies are popular when it comes to professional violin music. These violins are modeled on the famous instruments crafted by Antonio Stradivari and his family centuries ago with the aim of recreating the timbre and resonance of the original instruments.
Efforts are made by violin makers to recreate the violin parts which were carved for certain models of Stradivarius violin. This means replicating the bridge, the bow (including the horsehair or bow hair), ebony tuning pegs, tailpiece, the neck, the purfling and using the same varnish to recreate the sound of the legendary Strad.
When it comes to exploring the various types of violins, let’s not restrict ourselves to the acoustic varieties of the violin family!
Electric violins have been growing in popularity among performers since the 1920s.
This 100-year legacy is all down to the evolving world of music.
Electric violins - much like electric guitars – enable performers to plug their instruments into an amplifier through which the sound is projected, which overcomes the problem of playing in noisy venues!
Electric violins are particularly popular among solo violinists, members of folk groups and those who play in a string quartet who may struggle to be heard without the help of an amplifier.
Just like electric guitars, electric violins work with pickups. Pickups act as sensors for vibrations within the instrument and translate them into sound, which is then transmitted through an amplifier. So, even though it may sound incredibly quiet when not plugged-in, electric violins are engineered to blow the audience away on stage.
You can tune elctric violins with a clip-on violin tuner, or buy a special one with a jack input you can plug into your violin.
Another sub-group of violins is the electro-acoustic violin (also known as the semi-acoustic or acoustic-electric violin).
Electro-acoustic violins are, as the name suggests, a middle ground between acoustic and electric violins.
When unplugged, they behave like the traditional, acoustic violin, but they can still be amplified through a speaker in the same way as an electric violin.
So, if you’re a performer who likes flexibility in their instrument, the electro-acoustic violin could be perfect for you.
Prices start at around £80 for basic models, but you can expect to see price tags in excess of £1,000 for professional instruments.
If you’re thinking about purchasing an electric or electro-acoustic violin of your own, you’ll also need to think about the added cost of a violin amplifier.
Although it can be tempting to use a guitar amp for your violin, you make lose out on tone, so it’s a good idea to shop around for an amplifier which has been engineered especially for electric violins.
Unfortunately, these can be just as expensive as the violin itself, but it’s an essential if you want to use your electric or electro-acoustic violin to its full potential!
For this reason, many violinists decide to wait until they decide that they want to fully commit to performing on the violin before investing in an electric or electro-acoustic outfit.
One of the rare types of violin on the market is the 5-string violin.
In addition to the usual four strings (which are tuned in perfect fifths to G, D, A and E), 5-string violins have an extra C string, which is tuned a fifth below the G string (or C3, an octave below middle C).
The advantage to having five strings is that players have a broader range of pitch, which allows them to tackle a wider variety of pieces, including those intended for its larger cousin, the viola.
Are Fiddles Different from Violins?
The fiddle is an important part of folk history – but what exactly is it?
Fiddles are simply violins which are used to play folk music. In fact, the word ‘fiddle’ can be used as a colloquial term to refer to a violin as well as a word referring to any string instruments which are played with bows and used to play folk music.
So, the fiddle isn’t a type of violin, but an alternative name for a violin which is used to play a certain style of music.