I am going to be getting a new violin soon, and I was wondering if there is a certain kind I should get. I want it to sound more professional then the 3/4 size I currently have.
The most important thing in finding a good sounding violin is the ability to try it before you buy it, and to be able to have other musicians, especially violin players, listen to it.
Here are a few things to think about:
- Since you mentioned it, I'll talk about violin size first. It certainly possible to find a professional sounding 3/4 size violin, although you'll have to look harder than you would for a 4/4 size. The size violin you use should be determined by your size, not anything else. Read When is it okay to move up a violin size? to learn how to determine if you need to move up in size.
- If you have a teacher, ask them for help. If you don't have a teacher, find one to ask for help and to listen to and play any instruments you are considering, and maybe come to the shop with you. Many teachers will do this for a fee. Having an expert would be very beneficial, and could keep you from buying a completely inappropriate instrument.
- What's your price range? Most professionals will have an instrument worth at least $3000 (based on many conversations with players). In the classical world, it seems closer to $10,000 or $20,000 is usual, and at the other extreme, I once played with a professional fiddler who had never payed over $200 for a violin. He was also a luthier and knew what to look for to get what he wanted, and part of what he wanted was the sound typical of a lower quality instrument. $500-$1000 will last most students for years of improvement.
- What kind of sound do you want? Since you are a player, this is the number one thing you need to determine before putting your money down. Play at least half a dozen different instruments in different prices ranges before you buy so you have something to compare to. I once tested a $3000 instrument that sounded only as good as most that only cost $500-$1000. Also, since violins sound different under your ear than across the room, have another violin player try it so you can hear what it sounds like to your audience. If you can't play yet, ask the sales person to play it. If you are at a violin shop, they will be able to.
- Find a reputable string shop. Buy from a string specialty shop that focuses on selling violins. They will often have an in-house luthier who can look over and repair your instruments, and a trade in policy where if you buy from them, if you want to upgrade in the future they will give you 75%-100% of your current instruments value as a trade-in. They will also generally store the instruments more carefully and have a wider selection than a more general music shop. If there are none near you, in the US, and maybe in other countries, there are shops that will let you order over the phone, and will mail you instruments to try for a week for a small fee.
- Make sure your current instrument is well set up and has good quality strings. If either of these are bad, fixing them can improve your sound as much as spending hundreds more on an instrument.
Everything I'm suggesting takes time, money, or both. Since anything better than a rock bottom student instrument costs at least several hundred dollars, and professional quality costs several thousand, it's worth putting in the effort rather than taking the first instrument that catches you eye or ear.
Also, the single most important thing in how a violin sounds is the skill of the player. A good musician will sound good on an inexpensive instrument, and a bad musician will sound bad on a fabulous one.