Most folks will tell you if you’re shopping for a violin, you should stick to brick and mortar shops. You need to hold the violin in your hand, hear it, try it out and get a feel for each potential instrument before committing. This is good advice, however…
What about the folks who don’t have a local music shop? Or if the one that they do have doesn’t specialize in violins, so the selection is thin and the prices are out of budget? What if there’s no promise that the music shop really knows how to set up a violin properly? And the nearest luthier is hours away (such as in my case).
It’s no wonder that folks in this Amazon age turn to the Internet to shop for a violin. And this isn’t a terrible idea, as long as you know what you’re getting. Beyond just the quality of the violin and the reviews you read, an important thing to make certain of is that the violin you purchase is properly set up before it comes to you.
By set up, I mean that the instrument has been checked for proper alignment and approved by whatever the maker’s process is, the bridge and strings are in place, and with a little bit of tuning, it’s ready to play out of the box. I don’t include tuning in this because new strings can’t be expected to hold tune during shipping — most instruments will need some tuning upon arrival.
Some violins, especially in the lower price brackets, will require setup. You will need to place the bridge (with no promise the bridge is properly shaped to the instrument) upon arrival, and this runs a risk of the sound post coming loose during shipping.
Plus, an instrument that hasn’t been run through an approval process and professional setup may require extra cost just to get it in playable condition. That $100-$200 violin from Amazon may cost you another $100-$200 to ensure proper setup from a professional in the end… which is a doubled hidden cost you really can avoid by paying for a quality, set-up instrument from the start.
I’ve gathered a list of online shops that have been confirmed to pre-setup their instruments for online sales. My Bunnel from Kenney Violins came set up, and I know for sure Fiddlerman (some brands – double check) sets up theirs, too. The others I’ve heard as suggestions from the community — so be sure to read the product pages and reviews when looking to purchase to ensure they have gone through some approval process and include set up.
There may be other shops that provide set up online as well. These are just the ones I’m fully aware of. Hopefully this helps you to know a bit more of what to look for if you decide to shop for violins online!