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How Long Before My Child Is Ready To Replace Their Beginner Violin With Something Better?

Upgrading your violin

When your child starts a new hobby or begins to learn a new skill such as playing a musical instrument, there’s always a tendency to project a certain timetable on the entire process. It’s human nature to want to know how long something will take, or to want to compare progress. In addition, young student violinists begin by learning on smaller sized instruments, which will need to be exchanged as the student grows.

For these reasons, many parents want to know how long it will take before their child is ready to replace his or her beginner violin with something a bit more suited to an advancing player. They’d like a timetable that’s easy to plan for and need to know simple cues that will help identify when a violin upgrade is needed.

Unfortunately, there’s simply no cut and dried way to pinpoint your child’s exact improvement rate. However, you can learn to identify some clues that will help you make the decision. By simply recognizing when your child is ready to advance from a beginner violin, you can be ready when that time comes.

Sizing Considerations

If your child begins learning how to play the violin on less than a full size instrument, then a violin upgrade in size will eventually be necessary and will namely depend on your child’s growth rate. Yet, like most parents, you’ll probably have a good idea when those growth “spurts” will occur.

However, it’s very important to remember not to rush an upgrade in size. Too large a violin can actually cause serious physical damage to the student over time. So, it’s always better to let your child continue on an instrument that is slightly too small than to hurry the process with a larger scale violin and risk injury.

When it’s time to upgrade to a larger size violin, consider:

  • The angle of the elbow: Have your child hold his or her violin using only the chin rest, with the instrument projecting at a 45 degree angle from his or her body (not straight in front or laterally along the side). If your child can bring his or her arm underneath the violin and curl the fingers around the scroll so that the bend in the elbow is comfortable, great! If the elbow is bent at less than 90 degrees, the violin has become too small.
  • Using a Vio-meter. This special measuring device is used to help size violins and violas properly. Many dealers and instructors have them available.


Oftentimes, the term beginner violin is used to describe the most basic instruments. Those, which for one reason or another, are difficult to play using more advanced bowing techniques or that lack great sound projection or quality. In this case, upgrading to a better quality violin is required when the student has progressed to the point where the violin’s shortcomings make it a chore, rather than a pleasure, to play.

Once a student has developed his or her intonation, a beginner violin can become frustrating. While it’s true that a master violinist can produce lovely sounds on any quality violin, to get to that point, the student has to enjoy playing and practicing. With many beginner violins, that can be difficult.

The only exception is when the beginner violin has been precision crafted in a controlled environment, and the final ‘fitting out’ has been conducted by a qualified luthier. And, fortunately, there are some wonderful (very affordable) manufactured instruments available these days.

However, if your child started out on a beginner violin that doesn’t offer great resonance and rich sounds, upgrading to an intermediate violin is the best way to continue the love of playing. Plus, it will help your child advance more quickly and really blossom into his or her musical abilities.

Look for these clues to know when to replace your child’s beginner violin:

  • Your child complains about the difficulty involved in learning new bow strokes
  • Your child can tune the violin easily, but complains of a ‘tin can’ sound even after replacing the strings
  • Your child takes excellent care of the beginner violin
  • Your child’s instructor has recommended an instrument upgrade

Although there really is no set timetable, in general, students are ready for a better violin after three to four years of playing on a beginner violin. However, some students may be ready for an advanced instrument after the first or second year, while it may take others longer.

The main thing to remember when considering a violin upgrade is your child’s satisfaction and enjoyment. The violin should inspire your child every practice. And, the good news is that the intermediate violin you buy will offer long-term playing enjoyment. Many violinists use their intermediate instruments for years and years before taking the plunge and buying an advanced/professional model.  

Violin being played