Should You Buy a Violin At Guitar Center? Tips from a Pro!

Author: Alexis Ronstadt | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Does Guitar Center even sell violins?

They sure do. Their online store even features a handful of used violins.

Should you buy a violin at Guitar Center? Honestly, I don’t recommend it.

It’s easy to be tempted by fun colors like blue lightning, sunflower dream, or “butterfly dream white glitter”. (Wow!) And who wouldn’t want to pick up an instrument for $150 or less?

But ultimately, violins are complex instruments that, when built poorly, sound incomprehensibly lousy and can cause lasting damage to your technique. After construction, they require proper setup by a trained luthier — bridge and strings at a minimum.

Plus, that sweet paint job actually just deadens the tone produced by natural wood.

And while the good folks at Guitar Center may be extremely knowledgeable about guitars, drums, and amps, you’re much better off purchasing your next violin from a more specialized source.

Let’s go over some more suitable ways to acquire a violin …

The Case for Renting

If you are completely new to violin or have a child who is beginning to play, you have hopefully chosen to rent an instrument first.

A common misstep for beginners is to dive in head first and purchase a “cheap” violin, just to try it out. But let’s be clear – not even Itzhak Perlman could make a $150 violin sound good. (Well, maybe he could …)

Speaking from experience, a poorly mounted fingerboard makes shifting (and learning how to shift) a Sisyphean exercise, leading to utter frustration. If the bridge is cheap and/or seated improperly, you will struggle to learn how to move your bow from string to string. The list of complications goes on …

By renting as a beginner, you’ll get a better violin for your buck. No self-respecting strings shop or school would rent out an instrument that will set you up to fail.

And should you decide that violin isn’t for you, you don’t have to go through the hassle of re-selling. Furthermore, your kiddo is going to need new sizes until they reach a full-size violin anyway.

Another benefit to renting first is that you will naturally start to hear and feel what your preferences are. I’m personally a fan of super warm-sounding violins, but bright violins are a very popular choice for many violinists. Perhaps you prefer a high chinrest, or an instrument with fine-tuners on all the strings.

These are just some of the important choices you will need to make when purchasing your next violin. Which brings us to …

Your Local Strings Shop

These are the folks who know best. They are experts in the field, they tend to have numerous well-priced and quality models for any level violinist, and they are generally well-equipped to help you make an informed decision.

Most major cities have local, independent shops for you to patronize. Chances are, your teacher or tutor already has a relationship with one or more.

The other benefit to your local strings shop is that they will also have everything you need to keep up your violin practice. They will carry a variety of top-shelf strings, rosin, shoulder rests, and more.

And if they don’t employ a luthier in-house, they can surely point you in the right direction of a local luthier who can re-hair your bow and perform repairs.

That said, when I moved away from the big city to a small community of 5,000 people, I found myself nearly two hours away from a reputable strings shop. If, like me, you’re just nowhere near one, there are some online shops (that aren’t guitar-centered) that can help you find your next violin …

Online Strings Shops

One of the most recognizable and reliable online resources for string players is Shar Music. Beginners can find an entire violin outfit (instrument, bow, case, and rosin) on their website for less than $300. And you can be confident that a viol specialist has set up your new violin properly.

Their website is clean and easy to navigate, and you can search their inventory based on your learning level. For even better prices, give their clearance section a browse.

What makes Shar a good choice for violinists who can’t travel to try out their new violin is their 30-day guarantee. If the violin you purchased from them just isn’t working for you, send it back and try again. (As always, peep those terms before hitting “Add to Cart”.)

Another superb choice in the realm of online strings shops is Fiddlerman which also carries a range of beginner to professional-level violins, set up by luthiers and ready for you to play.

Fiddlerman likewise offers a 45-day return window if you’re not pleased with your purchase. Have questions about the different instruments you’re comparing? Just give them a call to talk to a real human musician about your choices.

Pro-tip: Fiddlerman tends to have a more robust clearance section for budget-minded musicians.

Guitar Center, If You Must

In summary, does Guitar Center sell violins? They do.

Should you buy a violin from Guitar Center? You can — but if you’re serious about playing the violin, you’ll have a much more rewardable experience by consulting Shar, Fiddlerman or your local strings shop. Besides, if you’re looking for an electric violin, you’ll be outright disappointed at a Guitar Center.

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About Alexis Ronstadt

Originally from Phoenix (AZ), Alexis has been performing since childhood. She picked up the violin at age 8 and has been attempting to make interesting sounds with it, sometimes even successfully, since then. Projects include instrumental rock band Larkspurs and an improvisational collaboration called The Bone Stitchers. Aside from adding effects to her pedalboard and discovering exciting new artists, few things delight her more than writing about all things music in support of the music community at large.

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