Instrument Purchasing Guide

How To Purchase A String Instrument For Your Advanced And Committed Student

***This guide is intended for students who have two or more years of experience playing their instrument, are dedicated musicians, and will continue to play in high school. This guide is not for Beginning Orchestra students.
Students in Beginning Orchestra are
‚Äč HIGHLY ENCOURAGED TO RENT an instrument for their first year.


Do not buy an instrument online.

It is difficult to know how an instrument sounds based on a picture and description. Remember, pretty pictures and a set of buzzwords are meant to sell the product to customers. Do not fall into the customer trap. Usually instruments bought online will end up costing you more money to repair the instrument to make it playable for your student. Feel free to buy supplies online like rosin, strings, cases, books, and music, but please do not buy a bow and instrument from any website.


Do not buy a pink, yellow, blue, purple, black, white, green, etc. instrument.

These are the lowest quality instruments that you can buy. These instruments are not acceptable instruments to use in the Pike Orchestra program.


There is no “good brand” of string instruments.

Many string instruments that have brand labels were made by a machine. This does not necessarily mean that they are bad instruments, but they are lower quality instruments. Quality string instruments are made by luthiers who make each of their instruments by hand. Each string instrument is a work of art. Instruments that are made by the same luthier or of the same brand do not all sound the same. You are not buying a car. Each instrument will sound different even if they all have the same label. (A luthier is someone who makes string instruments.)


Older instruments will sound better than new instruments.

String instruments are like cheese. The sound matures with the time spent playing them. The more you play the instrument, the better it will sound. However, the instrument that is 100 years old sitting in your attic that has not been played in 50 years is not going to follow the ‘older the better rule’. That attic instrument will most likely need a lot of repairs to make it playable again.


The bow is just as important as the instrument.

A bow can “make or break” the sound of your instrument. A low quality bow can make even Mozart’s violin sound bad. The bow is what pulls the sound from the instrument and should be of greater or equal quality to the instrument to produce the best sound possible.


Choosing an instrument is a project.

In most cases choosing an instrument to purchase will take several weeks or months. Take your student to a music shop to play the instruments and enjoy the experience of playing different instruments. If you want to surprise your student with an instrument and/or bow for their birthday or Christmas it is only a good idea if your student has picked out the instrument and/or bow before hand. Mom and Dad can wrap it for the gift ceremony.


Consider asking students that are not continuing in Orchestra if you can purchase their instrument.

Sometimes students that are going on to high school or college want to sell their instrument and many times they have quality instruments that are in great shape.

Buying Steps:

  1. Ask Mrs. Hoffner which size instrument/bow your student needs.

    If your student is not ready for a full size instrument/bow, it is not recommended that you purchase an instrument until they grow into a full size instrument/bow. Students that play on instruments that are too big/small for them will be unsuccessful in learning the instrument and will develop incorrect technique.

  2. Decide on a price range.
    1. Good Quality Instrument Price Ranges (give or take…)
      1. Violin/Viola (Instrument $850-$2,000)/ (Bow $300-$500)
      2. Cello (Instrument $1,500-$3,500)/ (Bow $400-$800)
      3. Bass (Instrument $2,500-$5,000)/ (Bow $650- $1,000)
      4. (String instruments can go beyond $10k)
  3. Plan out a route/schedule for going to multiple music stores in a few weekends or throughout the next few months.
    1. The Luthier Shop (Denton, TX)
    2. Wayne Burak (Arlington, TX)
    3. Bell’s Music Shop (Keller, TX)
    4. Music & Arts (Lewisville, Arlington, Hurst, TX)
    5. Dallas Strings (Allen, TX)
  4. Tell the sales people your price range and what size instrument your student plays.

    They will pull instruments within your price range for your student to try.

  5. Do not play any instruments that are outside your price range.
  6. Play each string with full bows. Try each instrument with different bows.
  7. Play the same music on each instrument and bow.
    1. Scales on all strings
    2. Shifting on all strings
    3. A favorite piece or etude
  8. Ask someone to play for you after you have chosen a few instruments that you like. Usually there is a string representative that can play for you. Ask them to play something on each instrument and with the bows you have chosen that you like (the same music on each instrument) while you close your eyes or turn around. This will help you focus on the sound.
  9. Focus on how the instrument and bow sounds, not how they look.
  10. Narrow down your selection to 2 or 3 instruments and bows. Why do you like these? (warm sound, bright sound, powerful sound, clear sound, light weight bow, heavy bow, etc.)
  11. Ask what brand of strings the instrument has on it. If they are not these brands ask to purchase a new set of strings. String quality, just like the bow, can “make or break” the sound of the instrument. A high quality instrument with poor quality strings will not sound good.
    1. Helicore $$
    2. Dominant $$ (not recommended for bass)
    3. Pirastro $$$ (Evah Pirazzi or Tonica) 

More Tips:

  • Sometimes the music store will include a case and/or an “outfit”. An outfit usually means they include the case and bow. Ask to change out the case and/or bow if you do not like it. They are usually very flexible with what “comes with” the instrument.


  • Usually music stores will allow you to take home your 1st and 2nd choice instruments and bows for a few days to continue to play them to make a decision on what you want to purchase.


  • Please do not buy a string instrument where you can also buy toilet paper…