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This page will focus on explaining cheap instruments as well as indicating where to look for bad signs in crucial areas. Let us begin by saying that cheap instruments are made all over the world, not only in China. Many times they can have a label with a German or Italian sounding name. This does not mean that the instrument is authentically German or Italian. Generally speaking violins, that are priced under $200.00 would be considered a CHEAP INSTRUMENT ALERT (C.I.A.)

1. C.I.A. instruments will make an already-difficult skill even more difficult to learn and will cause persistent frustration in your practice. Your violin will refuse to be in tune, the angle and placement of the strings will be off, the tone of the instrument will be squeaky and unappealing, and the tuners will likely bend and break.A poorly crafted and fitted instrument is a recipe for failure. The difficulty and struggle to make a “bad” violin play will cause frustration and contribute to dropping out.

2. For a teacher a C.I.A instrument is the worst nightmare, because instead of giving a lesson they have to spend the first 15 minutes of a lesson on adjusting and tuning the instrument. For a student, instead of spending time on learning to play the instrument, their time is wasted and is thus lost money for the parent during precious lesson time.

There are a lot of parents bringing C.I.A. instruments to our shop with a list from the teacher about what needs to be done to the instrument in order to make it playable. In most of these special cases, the cost of completing all the work far exceeds twice the value of the instrument itself. The most common trouble areas are: the pegs, bridge, fingerboard, fine tuners, strings, and the nut. 

Below you can find a detailed list of things to look for to help you make the right choice. 


The desired wood for fingerboard is ebony. It is a very hard density wood which will provide you long lasting play-ability. All C.I.A instruments typically are fitted with a fingerboard made from a light wood that has been painted black. The best way to inspect the instrument for this is to look underneath the fingerboard to check for light spots. 

Also, most of these times fingerboards are not leveled at all which could cause buzzing and create dead notes.



Most of the time bridges on C.I.A. instruments needs to be replaced. The feet of the bridge are not fitting, the arch is to flat, and it is overall to low. The quality of the maple wood is very low and they are so flexible that they can not possibly stand straight.

Proper arch of the bridge is crucial for play-ability, it will allow the player to clear individual strings without touching neighboring strings, and also proper string spacing is important for ease of playing.

Properly cut bridges will have the back of it making a 90 degree angle with the top edge of the instrument. This will prevent the bridge from warping forward.



Desired wood for pegs, like fingerboard, are ebony. Also rosewood and boxwood can be used if high-quality wood is used.

The main problem with pegs for C.I.A. instruments is that they don't fit, which causes strings to be consistently out of tune. It is important that the taper of peg matches the taper of the peg hole and that the diameter of both are perfectly round. Every peg has a drilled hole in it to attach the sting to it. The position of that hole should be placed on the closer side of the center to the peg head. This will keep the peg in the proper pressure balance. They should be operating smoothly with putting only light amount of pressure.



All C.I.A instruments come with cheap Chinese wire strings. Sometimes you might receive an extra set of these cheap strings. This type of string can even make professional violins sound horrible. We recommend three brands for student instruments:

3. Pirastro Tonica

2. Thomastik Vision

1. Tomastick Dominant 

Cost of synthetic strings starts from $29.95


Well, if all the cost of the above mentioned work would be added the total minimum cost of getting C.I.A. instrument ready to play would be $221.95 + Tax. If you purchased violin on the internet for $100.00 than your total cost rounded up to about $350 including tax. Remember, it means that you ended up with $100.00 low quality C.I.A. instrument that you paid $350.00 for it. Saying that, it means that the sound of the instrument is probably still quite poor. Andrew's Fine Violins entry level violins start from $295.00. They are covered by our LIMITED LIFETIME WARRANTY. Instrument can be loaned for 1 week trial and we offer 30 DAY GUARANTEE

If your budget is tight or you're not sure if your child is serious enough to purchase instrument we recommend to consider renting instrument. we offer very affordable rental rates while providing high quality rental instruments. Please visit our RENTAL page for the rate schedule.

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