As the kids begin to head back to school this week and next week, they also may be expressing an interest in taking part in their school strings program. In turn, parents will be visiting their local music stores or attempting to find instruments online to purchase. So, perhaps you're thinking of heading to Ebay or the like to get a nice deal on an instrument for you or your child. ($25.00 or $50.00 violin, anyone?) A word of caution! There are plenty of "violins" available online which should hardly be referred to as such. These instruments may be poorly constructed or could be damaged (cracked, etc.).
One issue with many of this online-purchased instruments is that the pegs are usually poorly fitted in the peg holes and can easily take 15 minutes to tune. And then they go out of tune again 5 minutes later. You can imagine how much I get done in a 30 minute violin lesson when half the time is spent just tuning the instrument! And, you or your child will be unlikely to learn to play in tune properly if the instrument itself won't stay in tune!
Second, the overall sound of these instruments can be quite poor. It can be difficult for beginners to produce a good tone on even a good instrument, so you can imagine the challenges of a cheap violin! You'll be more likely to want to stick out those tough few months of string playing if you're playing on a quality instrument.
I'm definitely not suggested that parents rush out and spend a bundle on a violin or viola. However, I recommend sticking to reputable brick-and-mortar music stores or the outstanding online music store, sharmusic.com. Many music stores offer rent-to-own options for student instruments, where you can trade the violins in for new sizes as your child grows. Take care when looking for instruments online and know that in many cases (unfortunately) you're likely to get what you pay for.