I am 58 years old, and disabled due to my heart. I want to learn violin. What is the difference between Rothenburg, and Rothenberg? Are either one worth a damn, to the tune of $80-$90.00? Both say spruce, with maple sides and back, fine tuners, and ebony fittings. Are they worth learning on?  Thanks, Johnny...

Hi Johnny,

Thanks for your question.  I commend you on your desire to learn the violin and wish you the best in your musical studies (and with your health)!  I've had many adult students over the years, a few considerably older than you, who have done very well.  It's never too late to learn.  Any additional challenges from limited flexibility, tendonitis, etc. are generally outweighed by adult learners' mature attitude, discipline, ability to focus, time to practice, and general enthusiasm for the instrument.

But, to get to your question . . .  I've never heard of Rothenberg instruments and assume that someone simply misspelled Rothenburg.  Rothenburg instruments, like so many of the violins we see out there, are factory instruments of no great value.  In spite of the name, they are in fact mass-produced in China and are not generally setup or adjusted very well.  And, I'm sorry to say, almost any instrument you purchase for under $100 is going to be virtually impossible to lean on.  

With that said, there is nothing wrong with Chinese made factory instruments, per se.  They may not sound great, but for a beginner that's not the most vital issue.  And, beginners can't usually afford to shell out $500 to $1000 for a decent beginner instrument.  The key point is to get an instrument that is well setup - with the strings the right height off the fingerboard and spaced correctly, etc.  A well setup cheap factory instrument can be just fine for a beginner.  However, a badly setup instrument, even an expensive instrument, is impossible to play correctly.

The trouble is that you're not qualified to judge whether or not an instrument is setup well or not, so how are you to decide?  If you have an expert you trust, such as a teacher, you can take any potential instruments to him or her.  But, usually, the best solution for someone in your position, is to go to a reputable shop - a string shop, not a general music store - and ask about rental programs.  Get the nicest rental that they offer.  Most programs give you at least some credit toward a purchase (rent-to-own), so it's not money out the window.  And, that way you can get a decent instrument right from the start.  Plus, if you find it's not right for you, you're not stuck with an expensive fiddle that you'll never use.  And, it really does make a big difference having a good fiddle to learn on.  It's challenging enough with a good instrument.  But, if you have a bad instrument - even if you do everything right, it's still going to sound bad, and that's just discouraging.  Be sure to get yourself a decent bow, as well.  And, be sure to spend at least $5.00 on the rosin - stay away from the cheap student rosin that they give you with the rental.  If you do have trouble with tendonitis or arthritis, look into Arcus bows - they are much easier to hold and play for any length of time (though they are a bit expensive).

One more bit of advice, though a bit off-topic:  Don't try to do too much, too fast.  Learning to be a classical violinist takes many years of dedicated study.  I'd encourage you to seek out a bluegrass fiddle teacher with a good reputation in your area.  Fiddling can be a lot of fun, right from the start.  And, there are often fiddle jam sessions that meet at local pubs, etc.  It can be very rewarding to get out and play with some other people.  If you enjoy it, you can always study classical music later, or in conjunction with fiddling.  And, check out the Youtube videos of "ProfessorV".  They're excellent.  (Of course a real live teacher is also an absolute must when beginning.)

Best of luck to you!

Jim Fisher  


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James S. Fisher


Please Note: For an accurate appraisal of your instrument's value or history, I must advise you to take it to a local luthier or string shop for an evaluation. It's really not possible to do this with any accuracy via email.

However, I am happy to answer other questions about violins, bows, violin playing, and violin/bow repair. I can also talk with you about what bows, rosin, strings, cases, shoulder rests, etc. might work best for you and your particular instrument. (There are some great new products on the market.) I've taught violin and fiddle playing for the past 18 years and will answer questions about playing and technique.


I've been studying the violin for over thirty years. I started teaching in 1996. In addition to my training at Lebanon Valley College and at the Violin Institute, I handle violins, bows, and customer questions of all sorts on a daily basis in my shop - J.S. Fisher Violins,


I hold a Bachelor of Music degree from Lebanon Valley College, as well as certificates in violin repair, violin maintenance, and bow rehairing from the Violin Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

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