How do you choose the best student violin, especially for a young player who is still growing and may require a smaller instrument? As with school clothes, you want to get a good instrument but not too expensive if he will outgrow it physically in a couple of years. There are many choices, and trying to pick the best one can be daunting.
Fortunately, we’ve put together our list of 10 best student violins that you should consider. We’ll tell you what we think is good or bad about each instrument, and then pick our favorites to help you make a buying decision.
But before you do that, it helps to know something about how violins are put together.
Best Student Violins Buyers Guide
Choosing a Student Violin: What You Need To Know
Before we run through our selected list of inexpensive student violins, let’s look at several features all violins have in common and see where some models might be better.
If you’re buying a student violin for someone who’s not yet full-grown, then you absolutely must understand the strange system of violin sizes first.
Basically, there are eight main sizes, ranging from 1/16 as the smallest to 4/4, a full-size instrument. These are arbitrary numbers, and it should be obvious that a ¼ student violin is not actually one-fourth the size of a full-size instrument.
To determine what the largest size violin your student should play, have her extend her arm and raise it perpendicular to her body. Then measure the length from her neck to the middle of the palm of her left hand. If that measurement is 23 inches or more, a 4/4 (full size) instrument is best. For 22 inches, choose a 3/4 size, for 20 inches, choose 1/2 size, for 18.5 inches, 1/4 size, for 16.5 inches, 1/8; for 15 inches, 1/10, for 14 inches, 1/16, for 13 inches, 1/32.
What If You Don’t Know The Size?
Then it’s better to choose a violin that’s slightly too small than too large. Also, keep in mind that he will need to get a new instrument at least every couple of years if he keeps studying. Some of the best student violins we’ve reviewed are offered in the full range of sizes, while some have only a few sizes or are available only as full-size 4/4 models.
The Violin Body
The body of a violin is basically an acoustic amplifier. When the player bows or plucks the strings, energy travels through the bridge to the body, which vibrates sympathetically.
To get the best tone and greatest volume, a good violin body is made of hardwoods like maple and spruce. The best have one-piece tops and backs, while some are two pieces glued together. Some very cheap violins use plywood or other substitutes. These sound terrible, and you should avoid them.
All of the violins reviewed have a top made of spruce or maple, and maple sides and back. Some have a “flame maple” back, with a distinctive grain that looks quite beautiful.
Violins have what is known as “purfling.” This is a narrow decorative edge that’s inlaid into the top. It’s not just decorative; purfling helps to seal the violin body together, so it resonates more strongly. Some inexpensive student violins don’t have real purfling and instead have a painted simulation.
All violin bodies are varnished. Developing a perfect varnish that looks nice and protects the wood but doesn’t dampen the tone is almost an art form in itself. If the varnish is too thick, the tone suffers. It’s not usually possible to tell from product descriptions how well a violin is varnished. Only playing and listening will tell.
The violin bridge is the thin slice of intricately carved maple wood between the strings and the top. The job of the bridge is to transmit string vibrations to the violin body. Bridges can break, especially on a student instrument. So getting an extra bridge included with your violin is a big selling point.
Even a student violin should have a fingerboard made of ebony. This is a very dark and very hard wood that can stand up to oils and sweat from fingers. Other parts commonly made of ebony include the tuning pegs, tailpiece, and chin rest. Some violins use an artificial alloy for the tailpiece and chin rest. For a student violin, the material doesn’t make much difference. Good craftsmanship makes all the difference here, especially with the tuning pegs, so they don’t slip.
On the tailpiece are four small thumbscrews used to make fine tuning adjustments. Some instruments have nickel-plated fine tuners, which tend to last longer.
Violin strings are definitely not all the same. Quality strings from respected string manufacturers like D’Addario will sound brighter and last longer. Also, they will have better intonation, meaning the overtones will be more truly harmonic. We’ve noted where specific violin models include name-brand strings.
Also, some student violins include an extra set of strings, which is always a bonus.
The violin bow size must be matched to the size of the violin. So as the student grows into larger instruments, new bows are also needed. Fortunately, every student violin outfit includes at least one bow of the appropriate size. Some models provide two bows, which is very handy in case one breaks, warps, or needs to be re-haired.
Bows are generally made from the wood of a specific Brazilian tree known as “Paubrasilia echinata.” The denser and more expensive heartwood is called “pernambuco,” while the less dense part is referred to as “brazilwood”. Most student violins, including the instruments reviewed here, are made from the cheaper brazilwood. Because it’s softer, it can warp more easily and doesn’t hold as much tension on the hair.
Professional violinists believe the best bow hair comes from Mongolian horses because it has greater elasticity and recovery. Some student violin bows have Mongolian horsehair. When it’s not specified, the hair could be from another source, often Siberian. It actually doesn’t make a great difference in a student bow.
Student violins always include a case. Some are stronger or lighter than others or afford better protection. Cases with backpack straps are handy. Better cases include a hygrometer, an instrument that measures humidity. This is important in drier climates, because if the humidity in the case is too low, the violin could crack.
The best student violins are often sold as a complete kit, with a case, a bow (or two), and an assortment of other items. As stated before, this might include an extra bridge or set of strings.
A block of rosin is always included. Other accessories can include a pocket tuner and a lesson notebook.
You should never buy a musical instrument without a warranty against defects in workmanship. All of the instruments reviewed include a 1-year warranty.
An important consideration is how you would take advantage of a warranty if necessary. Is there a local dealer? Do you have to ship the violin somewhere, and how quickly will it be returned? These questions can be hard to answer, although looking at the reputation of the company can give you a good idea.
Now that you’re armed with the information you need to choose, let’s look at some real violins!
Top 10 Best Student Violins On The Market 2020 Reviews
1 Aliyes Solid Wood Violin (4/4 Full-size)
The Aliyes violin is the least expensive violin in this review, but it’s still a very playable instrument. The solid spruce top and maple neck are hand-carved, and the top is purfled. It arrives already strung, so you don’t have to put strings on yourself.
The included bow is made of brazilwood with “high-quality horsetail.” The plush soft zippered case includes backpack straps. Also provided is a block of rosin, a practice mute, and an extra set of strings.
This instrument comes with a 1-year warranty. It’s available in full 4/4 size only.
- Very inexpensive.
- Non-brand name strings.
- Full-size only.
2 Mendini MV300 Solid Wood Satin Antique Violin
Mendini is an entry-level brand by Cecilio, a well-respected maker of all types of musical instruments for students, with headquarters in California. Their Mendini MV300 violin offers great value. It’s available in all sizes, from 1/32 to 4/4.
The maple and spruce body has a beautiful red “satin antique” finish that gives this instrument a very warm sound. And it also looks beautiful. The fingerboard and tuning pegs are also maple.
The MV300 uses Cecilio branded strings, and an extra set is provided. The set also includes an extra bridge. The brazilwood bow features “genuine unbleached horsehair”, and if you order the 1/16 or 1/32 size, you’ll get an extra bow. Other accessories include rosin and a padded shoulder rest.
- Beautiful finish.
- Extra bridge.
- Available in all sizes.
- Very affordable.
- The strings are mediocre.
3 Eastar EVA-330 4/4 Solid Wood Violin Set
The Eastar EVA-330 is another good option if you want a playable instrument on a tight budget. The back and sides are solid maple, all cut from a single piece of wood, and the top is solid spruce. This is a handmade instrument with genuine purfling.
With this violin, you get two bows with Mongolian horsehair, rosin, an extra bridge, an extra set of strings, and a Donner DT-2 pocket tuner, all in a hard case. It’s covered by a 1-year warranty.
- Handmade from solid wood.
- Extra bow.
- Pocket tuner included.
- Available in full size only.
4 Paititi Solid Wood Ebony Fitted Violin with Bow
The Paititi violin is available in all sizes from 1/10 to 4/4. As its name suggests, it has an ebony fingerboard, chinrest, and tuning pegs. The body itself, including the top, is solid maple, with beautiful inlaid purfling. And it comes with a translucent chestnut brown finish.
Included with this violin is a brazilwood bow with double pearl eye and Mongolian horsehair, rosin, a shoulder rest, extra (unbranded) strings, and a Paititi tuner. The lightweight, soft case has a rainproof canvas exterior and shoulder straps for easy carrying.
- Solid maple body and ebony fittings.
- Everything you need is included.
- Off-brand strings.
- Finish may show imperfections.
5 Anton Breton AB-20 Student Violin Outfit – Warm Brown
The Anton Breton AB-20 is a handmade violin that’s also suitable for a more advanced student. It has a solid maple back, neck and sides, a spruce top and inlaid purfling. The fingerboard, chinrest, tuning pegs are crafted from ebony. It features a Cremona 2-Star aged maple bridge.
The matching Anton Breton AB112 bow is brazilwood with an ebony frog and unbleached white horsehair. Its lightweight semi-shaped foam case is covered in luggage-grade nylon denier and has a plush interior.
The AB-20 is available in all sizes from 1/8 to 4/4 (full size).
- Hand-crafted from solid wood.
- Lightweight case.
- No extra strings or tuner.
6 Cecilio CVN-300 Solid Wood Ebony Fitted Violin
The Cecilio CVN-300 violin is ideal for a beginning or intermediate student. As with most of the other violins reviewed, the body and neck are solid maple. It has a spruce top with inlaid purfling and ebony fittings (fingerboard, tailpiece, chinrest, and tuning pegs. A satin antique varnish lends this instrument a distinctive mellow tone.
A couple of features set the CVN-300 apart. One is the nickel-plated fine tuners. Also, the instrument includes professional D’Addario Prelude strings that will produce a clearer tone.
Also included are two brazilwood bows, rosin, an adjustable shoulder rest, an extra bridge, a lesson book, and a Cecilio chromatic tuner (with batteries). The hard case is very well made and has a plush interior.
The CVN-300 violin is available in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and full 4/4 sizes. It comes with a 1-year warranty against manufacturing defects.
- D’Addario Prelude strings.
- All ebony fittings.
- Two bows.
- No extra strings.
- Non-tapered pegs can slip.
7 D’Luca DL-45016 Meister Ebony Fitted Beginner Violin Outfit 1/16
The D’Luca DL-45016 Meister ebony-fitted violin is a handmade 1/16 size instrument for beginning and intermediate students. The body is solid maple with a spruce top, and all fittings are ebony. The fine tuners are nickel plated.
The complete set includes a brazilwood bow with genuine Mongolian horsehair, rosin, and a lightweight form-fitting hard case with carrying straps.
The DL-450 series of violins are available in all standard sizes from 1/16 to 4/4.
- Available in all sizes.
- Good tone.
- A little more expensive.
- No tuner or extra strings, bridge, or bow.
8 Mendini MV500+92D Flamed 1-Piece Back Solid Wood Violin
The Mendini MV500+92D is a step up from Mendini’s beginner models, and they come with a higher price to match. Its 1-piece flame maple back and a high-quality varnish give this instrument a rich and more powerful sound than with less expensive instruments. The solid spruce top is hand-carved with inlaid purfling.
It includes a Cecilio 92D combination chromatic tuner and metronome, two brazilwood bows, quality rosin cake, adjustable shoulder rest, and a hard case, plus an extra bridge and set of Cecilio strings.
The MV500 is available in 1/2, 3/4, and 4/4 sizes and carries a 1-year warranty. Made in China, all Mendini instruments are inspected and tested at the factory and again at their distribution center in Los Angeles.
- 1-piece flame maple back.
- Spare bow and bridge.
- Not brand-name strings.
- More expensive than some other models.
9 Cremona SV-75 Premier Novice Violin Outfit
For a bit more money, you can get a student violin with subtle improvements that add up to a better instrument. The first thing you notice about the Cremona SV-75 that’s special is its gorgeous red satin finish. It’s hand-carved, with a solid spruce and maple body and a Cremona 2-star aged maple bridge. The body has minimal purfling.
Learning to play is much easier when you have an instrument like the SV-75 with the correct string height, string spacing, and neck relief, which make it easier to position the fingers properly. You’ll also find this violin easy to keep in tune, thanks to premium Prelude strings from D’Addario, tuning pegs that fit well, and nickel-plated fine tuners.
The SV-75, available in 1/4 and 1/2 sizes only. It includes a high-quality fitted hard case and a brazilwood bow with a rosewood frog.
- Include D’Addario Prelude strings.
- Fitted tuning pegs.
- Beautiful red satin finish.
- No extra strings, bow, or bridge.
- Relatively expensive.
10 Cecilio CVN-500 Solid Wood Ebony Fitted Violin
The Cecilio CVN-500 violin looks impressive, with its hand-carved one-piece flamed maple back, inlaid purfling, ebony fittings (fingerboard, pegs, tailpiece and chin rest) and hand-rubbed satin antique oil finish. Nickel-plated fine tuners and D’Addario Prelude strings ensure that it sounds great, too.
The lightweight hard case is very well made, with a padded neck restraint, storage compartments, hygrometer, and shoulder straps. The matching bow is brazilwood with a pearl inlaid frog and Mongolian horsehair.
Also included are a rosin cake, adjustable shoulder rest, extra bridge, Cecilio chromatic tuner, and a lesson book.
The CVN-500 is available in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and full 4/4 sizes. Cecilio provides a full 1-year warranty against any defects.
- One piece flame maple back.
- D’Addario Prelude strings.
- Tuner and extra bridge included.
- More expensive than other models.
Other Student Choices
Maybe another of your children is thinking of taking up a musical instrument? If so, please check out our reviews of the Best Student Flute, our Best Beginner Saxophone reviews, the Best Student Trumpets, the Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners, the Best Electric Guitar for Beginners, and the Best Digital Piano Beginners currently available.
So, Which Are The Best Student Violins?
Reading through these reviews, you’ve probably noticed that the differences among all these student violins are small and subtle. Some seem to be made a little better, or have a nicer finish or better strings, or include more goodies. And they’re all affordable, though some cost less than others.
So which student violin do we recommend as the best?
We’ve hedged our bet and picked two models, because ultimately your decision might come down to price. Here are our choices:
Best Overall Student Violin
We like the Cremona CVN-500 violin. It’s at the top end of the price range for the instruments we’ve reviewed, but it’s worth it. D’Addario Prelude strings sound better, which is why they’re used on so many violins that cost a lot more.
The case is excellent, and you get a tuner and an extra bridge thrown in. Best of all, your young student will love to show off her beautifully finished instrument in the school orchestra. And that will encourage her to continue studying and practicing.
But what if your budget is really tight?
Best Budget Violin
The Mendini MV300 is an excellent choice, from a leading maker of student instruments. For a very affordable price, you get a violin with a solid maple body, a spruce top, and a beautiful red satin finish, plus an extra bridge and set of strings.
You can get this model in every size, and they even throw in an extra bow with the 1/32 and 1/16 models.
These student violins are all excellent choices for a young player or even an adult. And for a younger student, they provide a practical and inexpensive solution to the need to upgrade to larger instruments as they grow.