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Choosing A Violin, Viola Or Cello

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Why should I buy my violin, viola or cello from Sheehans?

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. 

Why is this set-up so important?

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.

So how come some retailers are able to sell violins so cheap?

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.**

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*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

What size of Violin does my child need?

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.

What sizes are available?

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). 

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Can I teach myself to play the violin?

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:

  • The importance of good technique
    It is vital to develop good habits from the start (such as getting the correct hand position, posture and bow technique) in order to get the instrument to sound right, and reduce the risk of playing related injury.  The only way to be really be sure you're doing it right is to enlist the help of an experienced teacher.
  • Lack of resources
    Although there are some excellent courses of books for learning the violin, they are all written as teaching aids, to be followed with help from a teacher.  As far as we know, there are currently no books, videos, dvd's or any other tuitional aids designed for people who want to teach themselves.  So you really will be on your own!

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.

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Insuring your Violin, Viola or Cello

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:

  • New-for-old replacement on any stolen or permanently damaged instruments
  • Instruments covered outside your home - at school, in the car, performance venues
  • Accidental damage covered
  • Instruments covered while abroad, and while travelling between different countries including air travel
  • Inexpensive, especially when compared to the extra premiums most househould policies will charge to cover more valuable insruments

For specialist musical instrument insurance, Sheehans recommend Allianz Cornhill, who provide the insurance cover for all our rental instruments.

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Sheehans 40 Point Check & Setup



Brands we stock include...

  • Fender Acoustic Guitars
  • Lowden Guitars
  • Martin Guitars
  • Maton Guitars
  • Seagull Guitars
  • Crafter Guitars
  • Fender Guitars
  • Squier Guitars
  • Esp LTD Guitars
  • G and L Guitars
  • Schecter Guitars
  • Nord
  • Yamaha Stage Pianos
  • Shure Microphones
  • Eastman Guitars
  • Faith Guitars many more!

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