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Looking for an AMAZING deal on a brand new violin, viola, or cello?
We’ve all been taught to shop around and be smart with our money. Especially with larger purchases. It makes sense to look for the best deal. I do the same thing. But sometimes, despite my best intentions and thorough research, I’ve ended up with a product that ended up being more junk than deal. Once I bought my son a couple of huge brick building sets that looked a lot like Legos, but were a different brand. They were WAY cheaper than Legos and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for saving money. On Christmas morning we began to build and soon discovered the pieces would not align properly, no matter how hard we tried. Our structure would not stay together and there was a lot of frustration and tears. We were following the directions. We were qualified builders. But the set did not allow us to get a successful result. The discount building sets were in the garbage before lunch time.
My children learned a similar lesson from buying toys at a local dollar store. One of my kids wanted a Barbie and was excited to find something that looked like a Barbie for only a dollar! Once home it was easy to tell that a dollar doll and a Barbie doll are not really the same at all. A dollar doll has a huge ugly bald spot on the back of her head and her hair falls out way too easily. Her arms and legs won’t bend, and worst of all, her head pops right off! My children finally learned it is better to save a little more money and buy something quality made that will last longer.
I recently saw a post on facebook that broke my heart a little. A mom had posted a question on facebook about where she could find a cello. People responded with some worthwhile suggestions and good information. After all of that, the mom said, “Thanks for your help, but I found one on ebay with everything I need for only $145. It will save a lot of money!” This well-intentioned mom doesn’t know that the instrument coming in the mail is about to cause some grief and the student using it will struggle.
Parents don’t always realize that when looking for instruments, there are drastic differences between the ‘lowest best deal online’ and an actual playable instrument. They can look so similar. It is very deceiving.
Why do these inexpensive ebay/amazon/online instruments cause grief? Let me explain.
The instrument will look like a string instrument, but the pieces won’t be fitted together correctly. It’s like buying a puzzle that hasn’t been cut right so the pieces don’t quite fit. Because of this, the instrument will be almost impossible to tune. A patient teacher can get it pretty close, but it will never maintain a correct pitch for long. Strings will constantly be stretching, pegs will constantly be slipping, and the instrument will not sound right.
Result: Everything that is played on the instrument (even when it is played correctly) will sound off and out of tune. The student will think he/she is not as good as the others because the sound from their own instrument doesn’t match the group. Often the student will begin to doubt their own musical ability and question their choice to learn an instrument. The student might feel others in the class are more talented, when really the difference was only the quality of the instrument.
The instrument can only deliver a small, thin, sound.
Quality instruments are made from only specific kinds of wood which are carved in certain ways to create the best possible, resonant sound. Discount instruments are made from inferior materials. The wood and strings on a discount violin can not produce the same full, ringing sound as quality instruments.
Result: The student can not hear him/herself while playing in a group. When a student can’t hear the tone from their own instrument, it is very difficult to make small adjustments necessary to improve and fix intonation. The student will learn to play out of tune. The student will then believe he/she has little talent and may become frustrated.
The instrument comes with many parts that will immediately need to be replaced.
The pegs in a ‘discount’ instrument are not fitted correctly, the bridge has not been shaped correctly (making it harder to play on one string at a time), the strings are too thin (making the sound too soft), and the fine tuners won’t work.
Result: To make the instrument playable, it will need new pegs, new bridge, new strings, and new tailpiece. The discount instrument now requires an additional $200+. Money that could have been used to purchase a quality instrument.
It’s wise to do research and to find good deals. When it comes to instruments, please don’t be deceived by what we call VSO’s (violin-shaped-objects). They look like the real thing, but are actually impostors. These inferior ‘instruments’ won’t help students progress and learn and they make learning harder. For a student to succeed, they must be given quality materials. A quality instrument sets students up for success. Some parents may be worried about investing money into an instrument when they are unsure if their child will like it or not. Don't fear. A child who has an instrument that works correctly and sounds good will LOVE it!
Please seek advise from your teacher when looking for an acceptable instrument. Visit your local music stores and have them tune and play their instruments for you. A student’s success in music depends on this most important step – finding a quality instrument that fits together properly with working pieces, stays in tune, and offers a full resonant sound.