Playing the violin might as well be the most rewarding and fulfilling thing in the entire world. But you don’t need me to tell you that, now do you?
The fact that you’re here tells me that you’re several months or years into learning the violin and now feel ready to graduate from a student violin to an intermediate violin.
Well, if that’s the case, allow me to start by saying congratulations! Being a good violinist is no easy feat and see just how far you’ve come!
Commendations aside now lies the momentous challenge of picking the right intermediate violin.
Besides looking for an affordable instrument that sounds great, this article outlines a few more essential things you need to keep in mind.
Best Intermediate Violins in 2020 Reviewed
What Is an Intermediate Violin Player?
Calling someone an ‘intermediate violin player’ sounds rather vague, now doesn’t it?
You know that a beginner player is one who’s relatively new to the instrument or even has just picked up a violin for the first time in their life; while a professional player is one who gets paid gigs as a violinist.
So, what makes someone an intermediate player?
An intermediate violin player can be defined as one who possesses one of two attributes: either they have good skill or they have good musicality. Never both characteristics at the same time.
Maybe you can pull off a few complicated music passages, but while doing so, you end up sounding dull. If this is the case, then what you have is good skill but poor musicality.
On the other hand, you may be able to put in a lot of passion in the music you play, but then lack the technique required to perform a musical piece as it should be done accurately. In this case, you have good musicality but poor technique.
If you fall under either of the categories mentioned above, then you qualify to be referred to as an intermediate player.
As an intermediate player, you should ideally be able to play chords, some scales and can also get a decent sound from the violin.
At this point, you are becoming more aware of the violin’s role in a group setting so you might begin to ask some crucial questions such as: “How do I back up another musician?” or “How do I learn to play faster?”
If you’re still not clear on what an intermediate player is, here are a few indicators to guide you:
- Can you play fingered double-stops in tune?
- Do you have good intonation?
- Can you sight-read well?
- Can you play by ear?
- Are you able to play attack bowing techniques?
- Can you maintain a good tone throughout the whole bow?
- Can you comfortably play vibrato on all fingers?
- Are you able to play well with others (in terms of blending in and timing)?
- Do you have a good understanding of all major and minor keys?
- Do you have reasonable control over dynamics?
Difference Between Student, Intermediate, And Professional Violins?
Level 1: Student
Student violins are generally designed to cost less and be easier to play.
The logic behind this is that you don’t have to spend a ton of money when you’re just learning to play. A beginner violin is simply meant to provide an enjoyable playing experience during the student’s first years.
Costing less isn’t to suggest that the instrument is of inferior quality. It merely means that a couple of cost-saving measures have been employed.
These include: using wood that’s been aged for a shorter time, using machines for the construction of the instrument, rather than handiwork, etc.
Beginner violins produce a reasonable tone, are very easy to find, and are available in a wide range of sizes and colors.
Besides the affordable price tag, these instruments also have the advantage of being very forgiving.
A student can learn proper bowing techniques without feeling like they have to be perfect, in order to see progress.
Level 2: Intermediate
Intermediate violins have a much nicer sound.
One reason behind this could be that the wood has been aged longer (say maybe 3 years). Ideally, an intermediate violin ought to have the playability of a beginner violin, but the craftsmanship of a more advanced violin.
Instruments at this level are clearer, louder, and more responsive compared to a student level violin.
At the same time, the sound will also have better projection and, likewise, have a broader range of pressure/sounding points.
Level 3: Professional
Professional violins are designed to last the ages.
They are made from aged wood, and some manufactures even go as far as to select a particular type of wood grain, which they believe has an impact on the sound quality.
These high-end instruments are often hand-carved, taking great care to match the grains, and the finishes are also applied by hand.
The bow is perfectly balanced, and the bridge is placed carefully in place before the instrument leaves the shop.
Professional violins have an immense amount of power, responsiveness, and projection, all of which are essential for a performer.
How Do I Choose Violin Size?
Violins are available in 8 different sizes: 4/4, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/10, and 1/16. While 4/4 is full size and the biggest violin, 1/16 is the smallest size. Most adults require a full size 4/4 violin.
The size of a violin corresponds to the length of its body (excluding neck and scroll). Therefore, the right violin size for you is one that you can hold and play with ease, without experiencing any strain or discomfort.
The idea is for you to be able to reach the notes comfortably with your left hand when holding up the violin.
Think of it as buying a pair of shoes. There is no general rule regarding your age or body size. The goal is simply to find a pair that fits snug but comfortable.
Similarly, the right violin size for you will be determined by the length of your hand, as well as what you feel you can comfortably hold and play.
Step 1: Stand up straight and hold out your left arm with the palm facing upwards.
Step 2: Have someone measure the left side of your neck to your wrist.
Step 3: Check the length is cm or inches, against the table provided below.
|Violin Size||Measured Length (Neck to Wrist)|
|1/16||33.5 cm; or less||13 ¼ inches|
|1/10||36.0 cm||14 ¼ inches|
|1/8||38.5 cm||15 ¼ inches|
|1/4||44.0 cm||17 ¼ inches|
|1/2||48.5 cm||19 inches|
|3/4||52.0 cm||20 ½ inches|
|4/4||54.0 cm||21 ¼ inches|
Suzuki teachers often favor this method of measuring to the wrist. Others may choose to measure to the middle of the palm, which gives a slightly bigger size than the former.
If your wrist measurements come very close to the next size up, then it would be okay to choose the bigger size.
It is crucial to size your violin correctly. Something that’s too big will be too heavy for you to hold, and something that’s too small will make it hard for you to reach all the notes.
Besides making it hard to play the instrument, either scenario could lead to sores, a hurt neck, a hurt back, and other types of discomfort.
Besides taking the measurements yourself, you could also consult a helpful retailer who would further help you decide on the right size violin for you.
What Should I Look for When Buying an Intermediate Violin?
Hand-crafted violins will be much more expensive compared to their manufactured counterparts. This is because of the time and effort that’s been used during the fabrication of a single violin.
Whether the instrument has been hand-crafted or manufactured in a factory, the violin should still feature quality construction.
The first thing to look out for is solid joints. There should be no squeaking or creaking when you gently press on the soundboard. Likewise, there shouldn’t be any gaps around the pegs or pegbox.
Ideally, go for solid wood rather than veneered materials. Solid wood will better allow for an excellent equal alignment, such that there isn’t any seam separation or visible cracks on the instrument.
Often, even on higher quality violins, you will find that the back is joined from two or three pieces. As long as solid construction has been employed, this will not affect the tonal quality of the instrument.
Secondly, observe the scrollwork. For a good quality intermediate violin, the scroll details should have a reasonably deep impression.
Thirdly, check for symmetry. When looking at the instrument, it should look symmetrical on all sides, from top to bottom, with the neck and end nut lining up accordingly.
Fourthly, the fitting of the bridge on the violin could tell a lot concerning the instrument’s quality. Ideally, what you want is a flush fitting bridge.
Indeed, any stringed instrument shop can effortlessly refashion a faulty violin bridge. However, a new violin that has an ill-fitting bridge would give the impression that there are other misaligned parts within the instrument.
Ultimately, whichever intermediate violin you buy needs to be structurally well made, with craftsmanship that pays close attention to detail.
Type and Quality of Wood Used
The tonewoods used will have an impact on the instrument’s durability, sound, and value.
A quality violin is never constructed using just one type of wood. It features a combination such as Spruce (for the table), Maple (for the sides and neck), and Ebony (for the chinrest, fingerboard, and neck).
The type of wood used has a significant impact on how the instrument resonates. Whereas the quality of the wood, including how it shaped, smoothed, and planed, determines the worth of the violin.
The stiff and dense nature of Spruce is what makes it such an ideal choice for the top of the violin body (soundboard). This tonewood can be curved delicately yet still maintain its shape. The density comes in handy in creating a better resonance than what you would get with more porous woods.
When it comes to the quality of the Spruce, the longer a block of Spruce is allowed to age, the drier and stronger it becomes. Additionally, Spruce trees grown in colder climates tend to be denser and more resonant, thereby making them more desirable and higher priced.
Similarly, the Maple used for the sides and neck of the violin isn’t created equally. What’s used on superior quality violins will be aged and carved with high precision.
As for the chinrest and fingerboard, economy violins may use less expensive wood, instead of Ebony.
Regardless, high-quality well-seasoned timbers that have been crafted in an artistic, aesthetically pleasing manner are the true mark of a quality violin.
Besides just the aesthetics, the meticulosity of the wood grain joinery will give some insight into the instrument’s craftsmanship and pricing.
The type and quality of wood used have an impact on the beauty of the grain on the violin. The finest Spruce has a beautiful flame-like figuring.
This is why the tables of finely crafted violins consist of beautifully book-matched pieces of Spruce that have been meticulously joined, therefore creating an attractive pattern.
Similarly, when it comes to premium-quality violins, the Maple used for the violin’s neck, back and sides, would be a tightly grained wood.
Both materials and craftsmanship will contribute to the sound produced. However, each violin will have its own range, depth, and tonal abilities.
Any good intermediate violin needs to have an even tone over all the four strings. For an intermediate violin, the tones should be clearer than what you got from your student violin.
At this level, also, the violin should be more responsive all the way up the neck and have good action when advanced bowing techniques are used.
At the same time, it should have a carrying sound so that the instrument can be heard clearly even when being played in a concert hall.
Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between projection and loud tone. The idea here is for the violin to have a fuller and richer sound projection.
There is a difference between the sound quality under the ear and the sound quality of what’s projected from the violin. All players will, at one point, find their violins playing scratchy and noisy.
However, you simply need to be clear about whether this is the under ear sound quality or the overall projected sound quality.
So, when buying your intermediate violin, take along a few extra pairs of ears so that you can accurately judge the violin.
Even on the same instrument, tenor quality may vary depending on the playing technique, the type of strings, or the type of bow used to play.
If you find an instrument you like, and that looks good quality, but then it sounds wretched when played, consider having it checked out by a luthier. It could be that the sound post has shifted inside, thereby affecting sound quality.
Finely crafted instruments will come finished with an exceedingly thin coat of varnish that’s hand-applied, and the violin is carefully polished between coats.
Pigments within the varnish help give the violin a beautiful patina while at the same time, bringing out the beauty of the wood’s underlying grain patterns.
An intermediate trumpet is more aesthetically pleasing compared to a beginner model. The scrollwork is intricate, and the purfling is neat and evenly applied (in the case of painted on-purfling).
Best Violin Brands for Intermediate Students
Known for making high quality, high rated intermediate violins. The instruments have remarkable playability and are moderately priced.
Known for its low- to mid-budget violins that offer excellent value for money. The violins have medium quality tones that are decent enough.
A very popular acoustic violin brand in the market. Known for its long-lasting, high-quality hand-crafted instruments.
Known for its top-quality instruments that respect tradition, vintage tonality, and the classic violin design. One of the best contemporary violin makers in the world.
A household name that makes all sorts of musical instruments. Their violins are reliable, of excellent quality, and reasonably priced.
FAQs About Best Intermediate Violins
How Much Does A Good Intermediate Violin Cost?
Intermediate violins are available in a wide range of prices. Expect to pay anything from as low as $300 to as much as $2,000.
It all depends on the brand, tonewoods, and craftsmanship employed.
How Do You Know If A Violin Is Good Quality?
- Playability – the easier it is to play the instrument, the better it’s quality.
- Construction and craftsmanship – look for a violin that’s structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.
- Tone – the violin ought to have an even tone over all four strings.
- Projection – a good quality violin has a carrying sound, such that it can be heard even in the last row of a concert hall.
- Speaks easy – a good quality violin doesn’t require too much work. It speaks easy under all conditions and in all registers of all four strings.
Is It Better to Buy Violin In-store or Online?
Buying in-store allows you to hold the violin and check out its sound, finish quality, and playability. This way, it’s easy to pick a violin that ‘chooses you.’
Buying online conveniently allows you to compare prices across different stores, and you can also make a more informed decision by reading violin reviews.
Additionally, there is a wider variety online, than what you’d typically find in a physical store.
If you’re lucky even, you could find a company that offers home trials and refunds, thereby providing you somewhat of an in-store experience.
Regardless of whether buying in-store or online, make sure you do your research and take caution by dealing with a seller that’s reputable, genuine and authorized in selling violins.
Intermediate violins should be as playable as a beginner model yet still boasting the incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail found on a professional model.
Better yet, you can definitely find something befitting, whether you are looking for a budget model or are willing to part with a serious amount of money.
The differences between one intermediate violin and another may seem subtle.
However, with time, you’ll be able to distinguish between an instrument that’s worth its price and another that will present endless troubles.
Just take your time and trust your gut.