I recently received this question from an adult violin student:
Thanks so much for your help. I am a 54 year old male … who in Sept. 2010 began playing the violin in a group strings program at. We have group lessons twice a week. I had decided to begin learning to play the viola also and need to buy a viola, 16.5 I think. There are so many brands including Franz Hoffman, Klaus Mueller, Palatino, Yin-Yin, etc. I need an inexpensive instrument and was considering the Yin-Yin or Mueller Prelude, or Franz Hoffman. Shar Music has Franz Hoffman, Instrumental and Southwest have the other brands but I can’t find any kind of review of the various brands. Can you help with a resource for reviews or give me some direction in this? –John
Thankfully, today there are more resources than ever to obtain a quality violin or viola on a tight budget. This is especially true since factory made instruments imported from China have dramatically improved in recent years. This article from Strings Magazine tells the story, as directs you to additional resources that you’ll find helpful.
Remember, it’s easy to be fooled by appearances, so if you’re not certain about the craftsmanship of any instrument, be sure to have it checked by a luthier or professional player/teacher who you trust. The cost to remediate a poorly made violin can easily exceed what you paid for it. I’d suggest avoiding private party sellers on e-Bay. Stick with a known dealer with a clearly defined return or trial policy.