Cami Shaskin

Violin Blog


This blog is about all things violin. It is meant to educate, inspire, and provide resources for parents, teachers, and students. The author takes full responsibility for the viewpoints expressed here. In instances where she quotes ideas from others, she pledges to cite her sources as fully, responsibly, and accurately as possible. Topics will include book reviews, technique tips, entertaining anecdotes, quotes, jokes, educational findings, instrument care suggestions, violin in the news, repertoire lists, etc.

Cami J. Shaskin graduated with her master's degree in Music Education in 2008. Violin has always been her primary instrument, since beginning private lessons at age five. See for her music résumé, or click on Spotlights for historical recordings. Cami has enjoyed an array of experiences in writing, from penning award-winning articles as a journalism staff writer in high school, tutoring peers at BYU's Writing Center, earning a Writing Fellows scholarship and a minor in Language and Computers, and later becoming a published author. She recently picked up web programming as a hobby, earning a certificate in Web Programming and Development from the local community college. This blog has been a collaborative effort between her and her husband, who is a Web Developer by profession. Together, they designed and coded this blog and its original content "from scratch."


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        16 - Welcome to My Blog
        23 - Violin Teaching Kits
        30 - The Power of Inspiration
        06 - Valuable Techniques
        07 - From the Top
        13 - In Honor of Valentine's Day
        20 - Violin Jokes
        28 - Beginning Orchestra Teaching
        06 - Singing in Orchestra
        13 - Nurtured by Love
        21 - Helpful Websites
        27 - Unique Case Uses
        02 - Favorite Music Quotes
        10 - All About Tone
        17 - Unique Composer Stories
        24 - Teaching Values
        02 - Believing Teachers?
        15 - Violin in Art & Architecture
        23 - A Solo Repertoire List
        29 - Our Quartet
        20 - Theft and Other Lessons
        26 - Violin Bridge Tips
        07 - Clever Violin Memes
        20 - Horses and Lions
        04 - Music During Covid
        16 - Favorite Music
        12 - Being There
        16 - Sight Reading Tips
        05 - Why It's the Frog
        20 - Bach on the Brain
        30 - Impact for Life
        23 - Tendonitis Helps
        21 - An Old Performance
        23 - Cars3 & Coaching
        28 - Buying a Violin for Dummies
        29 - Preferred Brands
        27 - Love: A Calling
        20 - Gratitude for Idaho Shop
        19 - Violinist Interviews Books
        08 - Music Opens Doors
        23 - Top Classical Tunes for Violin
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Buying a Violin for Dummies
28 Apr 2022
Admittedly, I’ve never actually sat down and read a yellow “for Dummies” book, but I am still a fan, and I decided to borrow the idea for this article title. These recommendations come from my years of experience selling instruments at four music stores (two of them dedicated violin shops), many conversations with semi-professional and professional players, and practically half a lifetime of taking, and teaching, private lessons and public school instrumental classes. With the probable exception of #5 below (more wood means higher cost), these same tips can apply to purchasing violas, cellos, or really any orchestral string instrument.

Okay, here we go:

1) Don’t buy a violin on Amazon.
2) If you ignored #1, get out your wallet. Even if you're just "trying it out," chances are very high you’ll be paying twice just to get it playable! They do a great job making their packages look attractive, but be the one who read this post and doesn't get sucked in. Amazon instruments are a teacher's nightmare. Yeah, don't get me started. Seriously!
3) Purfling does serve a purpose; if the lines are painted on, that's kind of scary. Also, make sure the bridge has been properly carved: it should be completely flush with the violin top, not a bridge blank that comes separately.
4) You don’t always have to buy a new violin to sound better; try upgrading your existing instrument by buying a new bow or a nicer, newer set of strings.
5) Plan to spend roughly $300-500 for a decent entry level violin, no matter the size. This isn't as much of a surprise when you consider that a set of strings alone can be $50 or more, a new bridge is around $80, and a new bow or bow rehair start at $50. A block of wood alone for the top or back of the violin before it's carved can easily be $200 or $300. See post here.
6) Don’t be fooled by the label Stradivarius. Most real Stradivarius violins are either in museums or private collections and played by the best players in the world. They sell for millions of dollars.
7) Age is an advantage. Used violins are often a smart way to go.
8) Choose a violin first, then try out bows. Yes, that is real horsehair.
9) Explore the entire range of the instrument and ppp to fff.
10) Similarly, try many different bowing styles when trying bows, like spiccato, up-bow staccato, sautille, marcato, and legato.
11) If those words in #10 looked like Greek to you, if #9 had you wondering how, or you otherwise aren't sure what to look for, don't buy from a private seller unless you invite an experienced player to tag along. Choose a reputable music store, where the personnel are highly trained to guide you through the process!
12) Know your price point ahead of time: compare apples to apples. You wouldn’t try out a $3,000 instrument at one store and then try to compare it with an $8,000 instrument at another store.
13) What you’re paying for: Just like buying fine art, you’re always paying more for a famous maker, better materials, more carving and care, etc.
14) Particularly when moving up to an especially nice violin, including what you may consider your “final violin,” try out the few final contenders in different acoustical settings.
15) The hierarchy of professional violin levels generally starts with Italian at the top, followed by French, followed by German.
16) In my opinion, wood bows “breathe” better and will always trump synthetic bows, though it's true that carbon fiber bows are becoming more well-made as time goes on.
17) It's nice to have someone listening to you play on a potential violin from a few feet away, because violins can sound quite different under your ear. When my parents bought me my first full size violin, we got permission to take some [similarly-priced options] to a church, where my mom and teacher laid down on the benches so they couldn't see which violin was which while I played on them. They were then able to offer their comments without prior prejudice.
18) If you are a college music major who aspires to play professionally, plan to spend the same amount on your instrument as you would on a new car. Some professional symphony members pay more for their violin than their home mortgage. That being said, it is an indisputable fact that how you play the violin far outranks what violin you play.
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