- Have a general budget in mind.
Your budget determines the class of instrument available to you. Also, don’t forget to take sales tax into consideration - especially with these larger purchases, it can really add up. When you go to try instruments, ask for instruments close to your budget so that you don’t fall in love with something you can’t afford. Ask about discounts for trade-ins, and package deals with a case and bow. Depending on the purchase item(s), Sam's Strings may even be able to help make payment options available to you, which can ease the initial sticker shock and potentially help you expand your budget.
- Do your homework.
Visit websites and call ahead to shops to inquire about items you may be interested in. The one you want may be out on trial or currently unavailable. If we know when you are coming and what you are looking for, one of our string specialists at Sam's Strings will prepare everything prior to your visit, so you can have more productive and efficient violin shop visit.
- Bring your current instrument to the shop.
It is helpful to see how your current instrument stacks up against its possible replacement! You know your instrument very well, but you will be in a new space, with new instruments, and that can be disorienting at times. Your own instrument may sound quite different in this new setting, so you’ll want to eliminate any variables by just bringing it along as a reference.
- Be open to new ideas.
It is very easy when shopping for a new instrument to be drawn towards instruments which sound similar to your old one. While you need to love your new instrument, be objective about why you are shopping for a new instrument in the first place. What is your old instrument not offering that you want from the new one? At Sam's Strings, we carry many different patterns of instruments (Stradivari, Guarneri, Ruggieri, Montagnana, Gofriller, Guadagnini, and more) with a variety of tonal and physical qualities, as no individual is the same, their instrument should not be either.
- Get a second opinion (or more!)
Once you have found instruments you like, we recommend taking them to your private teacher during your lesson. Some teachers will schedule lessons just for trying out instruments! Your teacher will likely have gone through this process many times with other students and offer excellent advice. If this is a very expensive upgrade, we recommend getting multiple professional opinions. Suggestions would be to also show said instrument(s) to your school orchestra director, fellow classmates/colleagues who may have recently gone through the instrument search process, or other professionals you trust. But, above all else, this will be your decision, and you need to be in love with your new instrument.
- Explore your options.
Depending on where you live, you may only have one or two options when it comes to fine-stringed instrument stores. If possible, compare selections from both stores at the same price-point, at the same time. Do not rely on your memory of how an instrument sounded in one room, when comparing a different instrument in a new room. Find the best options in your price point that you like, then take them home, to a concert hall, your teacher and compare side by side. In addition to you playing them side by side, have someone else play them, so you can hear them from a distance. Often times instruments sound quite different under the ear, than from a distance.
If you don't have shops near you, do some online searching. There are reputable violin shops, such as Sam's Strings, who ship instruments for trial periods as well!
- Try new instruments with controlled repertoire testing.
We recommend our customers to play the same music on each instrument when trying out instruments. Have a few excerpts ready to go to test the instruments for different qualities, such as response, clarity, projection, color, etc. Also, we recommend using the same bow for all of these trials (you can shop for a bow, after you find your new instrument!). Go back and forth between instruments fairly quickly at first to objectively hear the differences. If you stay on one for too long, your ear often times adjusts to it. As you narrow down instruments you like, begin to spend more time on each one, and expand your repertoire testing.
- Once you have found a serious contender...
Once you have found an instrument you love, don't be afraid to ask the shop to make adjustments or modifications, if you feel it may need one. There may be a cost involved, but often times, a simple soundpost adjustment or swapping strings can make a big difference. At Sam's Strings, we have knowledgeable staff who are both professionally trained musicians and luthiers, who can help you get the most out of your instrument.
- Ultimately, it’s yours.
Make sure you are happy with your choice. Individuals may encourage you to decide a certain way, but you need to be happy with the instrument you choose. Our goal at Sam's Strings is to really understand what you are looking for, and to help foster a critical and inquisitive thought process to your instrument search. Falling in love with an instrument is great, but understanding why is even more satisfying!! Practicing will be more enjoyable, and your confidence as a musician will grow with the right tool. Of course, we hope you will find your musical partner with us.
- Ask about policies.
Trade-in policies, return policies, warranties, etc are different at all stores. For instance, at Sam's Strings, we offer life-time minor adjustments to your instrument that you purchase through us. It is important to us that your instrument is sounding its very best. The more you know about where you are buying from, the better off you are.