Your violin or viola is a significant financial investment. Just like purchasing a car, it needs a little TLC and upkeep to keep it in shape! Here are a few commonly asked questions about string maintence, and a few recommendations on where to go to get it done.
Where do I get a violin or viola?
The choice to rent or buy is a personal one, which is best done in consultation with your teacher. Here are a couple of Dr. S-P's recommendations:
-Benning Violins (Studio City): Great rental rates, wide variety,
-Shar Music (online): Great rental rates, wide variety, able to do all ordering online,
How often should I change my strings?
The easiest answer is at least once a year, for all players, no matter how much or little you are practicing. However, as you use your strings more, they will wear out faster. So, if you're practicing an hour a day, you should change your strings minimum every six months. If it's two hours or more, every three months. Write it down in your lesson notebook and set a calendar alarm... it can sneak up on you!
Where do I buy strings and sheet music?
As with many things, go online! In-town violin shops are often buying from the same online retailers that pros are buying, and aren't offered huge volume discounts, so they offer strings more as a courtesy to clients who didn't plan ahead! As a result, in-town shops have to charge higher prices so they can make some sort of a profit. So, sign up for mailing lists, find out when Pirastro is on sale, and buy early.
Recommended sites: gostrings.com, sharmusic.com, swstrings.com, and even amazon!
NOTE: You should ALWAYS have a complete spare set in your case. Keep old used strings in your case, for 'spare tire' emergency backups
How often should I get my bow rehaired?
Just like strings, this is very dependent on how often you're practicing. However, unlike strings, your bowhair doesn't go stale, so you if you cease practicing for a year after only only having your rehair for a month, your bow may still be fine when you pick it back up again. If your bow feels like you're playing on a ice skating rink, it's probably time to take it in.
Which is a better bow: Carbon Fiber or Wood?
A good bow is a great second teacher! Carbon Fiber bows offer generally better performance at a lower price point... and they are virtually indestructable. They are an excellent choice for adults just starting up, teens playing in their high school orchestras, rock shows, outdoor weddings, etc. They run between $300-800. They also have a particular, crisp, clear, almost cold sound (thing LP records vs. Mp3).
Wood bows, are traditionally made from the rare and endangered Pernambuco wood, are classic and sound amazing, but are also more fragile. They are definitely recommended when you are ready for them, both for the musical reward they offer but also for the financial investment and care wood bows need. A good wood bow will range from several hundred more than a Carbon Fiber bow to thousands of dollars.
Either way, your best choice is to be in constant communication with your studio teacher.