Anyone seeking to purchase a student violin or intermediate violin will usually notice that online violin stores, as well as neighborhood violin shops, offer individual violins, bows, cases and accessories sold separately, or they will bundle them together to sell as a “violin outfit”. While the violin outfit may not be for everyone, there are many benefits to purchasing one of these outfits from a reputable shop, as the buyer will typically get an outstanding deal on a more-than-decent violin package.
The idea of selling violin outfits has been credited to Sears & Roebuck, who over a century ago featured in their catalogs the first violin outfits for sale. These catalogs were received in the mailboxes of millions of people across the country – especially in towns and cities that lacked local violin shops or music stores. The outfits typically included a professional cello a violin bow, a case and some basic violin accessories like a pitch pipe and violin rosin.
Today, as then, violin outfits are geared toward the beginning or student player and are assembled by experienced violin shops and stores so that the pricing for the outfit is more cost effective than if the buyer purchases the items separately. Depending on the quality of mainly the violin, the savings can be significant or negligible. It isn’t difficult for the buyer to perform some due diligence online to research the costs of each a la carte item in the outfit to determine the savings.
Expect the violin itself to account for the major cost of the outfit. The quality of the case and the minor violin accessories, such as rosin or a tuning fork, are typically low to medium quality but are better than nothing and are plenty good enough for students. Some shops will include a low to medium quality bow in the outfit, which will also affect the total cost.
The problem with bows as part of a violin outfit is that if the bow is of very low quality, it can make the violin much more difficult to play and for the student to achieve a good tone. It never hurts to negotiate with the shop in order to include a higher quality bow as part of the outfit, though one should expect to pay more for more. At minimum, a bow should be “serviceable”, meaning, high quality enough that it can be re-haired when needed. Ultra-cheap bows cannot be re-haired or serviced. They are, in effect, throwaway bows. Avoid them.
Now that we’re talking about investing more money for better quality, the question becomes: Who should purchase violin outfits? It is highly advised that parents of student players first rent a violin outfit from a local shop, where the instrument can be cared for and maintained during the first year of playing. If the beginning or intermediate player is serious enough about playing to want to keep playing and is, perhaps, taking private lessons and making good progress, that might be a good time to consider finally purchasing a violin – or a violin outfit – for a deserving student.