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The orchestral stringed instruments we sell and hire are not like the instruments you'll find in most other shops.
Because unlike most other shops who will sell you a violin, viola and cello 'straight out of the box' - that is, exactly as they arrive from the factory - our instruments all go through a rigorous set-up procedure. This applies to ALL the instruments we sell or hire, no matter what their value.
To understand this, a little background knowledge is needed...
Take a look at any violin, viola or cello, and you will see a design which has remained basically the same for centuries. The entire instrument is constructed from curved sections of solid wood - some are cut and carved out of larger blocks, others are steam-bent into shape. All these sections have to be carefully joined together before the instrument is varnished, fitted with a bridge, pegs, tailpiece and strings, and finally set up into a playable condition.
Even with modern tools and production methods, making a violin, viola or cello properly takes time, and highly skilled workers, and this should be reflected in the price.
Because the majority of manufacturers and shops, afraid of being outpriced by the competition, are cutting costs and cutting corners wherever possible.
Unfortunately this results in many of the cheaper instruments being practically unplayable - common symptoms include incorrectly cut bridges and nuts which make it difficult to hold down the strings, badly fitted pegs and pegboxes which make it impossible to tune the instrument properly, cheap strings that make an awful sound, and in the worst cases, instruments and bows that completely fall to bits. Don't say you haven't been warned!
Although the more extreme problems tend to be restricted to low-budget, far-eastern made instruments*, even those from the more reputable European luthiers invariably benefit from some extra 'finishing' work after they leave the factory.
This is where the Sheehans set-up comes in.
Every violin, viola or cello that arrives at our shop is checked over and set-up by our own repairer & luthier to make sure it is playing at it's very best. If the bridge is not cut properly, we will make sure that it is, or fit and cut a new one. If a peg doesn't fit properly, we'll make sure that it does before it goes on sale. Any parts that are substandard we will replace - for example with our student Zeller outfits, this includes new strings, bridge, and tailpiece, as well as an upgraded bow and case.
As well as a full set-up, we offer a 12 month guarantee on all our instruments. Should an instrument come back to us for repair during this period, we will carry out the necessary work promptly and thoroughly, and will be happy to lend you an instrument of similar value while the work is being carried out.**
*We offer some budget Chinese and Korean-made violins and cellos available in our rental scheme - these are instruments that have been stripped down, checked over and fully set up by our repairer, and won't suffer from any of the problems mentioned!
** Subject to availability
In short, you should ask their teacher, or bring them into our shop - this is an area where it's always best to get professional help.
It is vitally important to get the right size instrument! Playing on a violin or cello that is too small will make a player feel cramped and uncomfortable; too large and he or she may not be able to reach all of the notes, and will develop bad posture. So get a professional opinion and make sure you get the right size.
Common violin sizes go from 1/8 size up through 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full size (often referred to as 4/4). For really young beginners it is possible to get hold of 1/16 and even 1/64 size violins, although the latter is quite rare and very small indeed!
Younger viola players will generally start on a smaller size violin that has been fitted with viola strings (even the smallest violas are larger than a full size violin), or they may begin by learning the violin and switch across at a later stage.
Cello sizes follow the same pattern, with the addition of a 1/10 size (half way between 1/8 and 1/16 size).
This is a fairly common question among adult beginners, especially those who already play another instrument.
While there is nothing to stop you doing this, we strongly advise getting a teacher for two good reasons:
We can email you a list of private teachers in the Leicester / Leicestershire area (to request one, please use our contact form here); if you live outside of the area, try asking your local music shop or consulting the Yellow Pages.
Although musical instruments up to a certain value (usually a few hundred pounds) may be covered on most peoples' household contents insurance, there are still several advantages to having a specialist musical instrument insurance policy. These include:
For specialist musical instrument insurance, Sheehans recommend Allianz Cornhill, who provide the insurance cover for all our rental instruments.