So, you are looking for an “entry-level,” but best value violin out there and are considering buying the Mendini brand, mv650 or alike. Well, this is not a wrong thought: Mendini mv650 is a fair shot in the otherwise crowded arena of the entry-level string instruments.
Let me first be brutally honest with you.
Your success in becoming a violinist will depend more on the quality of the teacher you get than on the violin brand at the get-go. In addition, teachers frequently have their preferences for a violin brand, and they are well worth listening to. In addition, all (well, most) branded entry-level instruments are made in China, and their differences are not significant.
However, a few hundred dollars is not something one wants to spend lightly. So, it is worth being informed about what to expect when buying a particular brand of an entry-level instrument, such as Mendini.
Before even proceeding to a specific brand selection, it is helpful to make sure you considered the basics of the violin selection (How to Find the Best Violin – Orchestra Ensemble). So, let us consider all things that matter and where the Mendini mv650 fits into the overall scheme of things.
First, you need to consider the instrument’s “playability.” Does the violin keep its tuning? Does it make a better sound as your right-hand technique improves? Does it make a pleasant sound altogether? Is it properly sized (that is, is 4/4 really 356 mm long, or a few millimeters longer or shorter)?
You don’t want to spend time later re-learning the left-hand finger positions as you progress onto a more advanced violin!) If the violin is barely playable, it is no fun, never mind how much you practice!
Besides the violin itself (a violin body with the fingerboard), some things come with it: strings/pegs, chin rest, shoulder rest, bow, tuner, etc. That all is called a “setup.” When buying an entry-level instrument, it is important to make sure the violin comes fully set up and ready to play – after tuning.
If not, you might end up spending more money in a luthier shop to put the things together! If possible, you want to avoid that when the violin price is just a few hundred dollars. Many entry-level violins, including Mendini mv650, are advertised as “completely set up.” However, in practice, it is not always so (more about that later).
More than fun colors or fancy looks, it is essential that the instrument is well manufactured. It should withstand the inevitable abuse of younger players or the heavy exercise load of the older ones – until the upgrade time comes. Thus, craftsmanship and quality of instrument manufacturing are important: proper gluing, using higher quality materials, etc. are important.
Finally, it is nice when an instrument comes as a package that includes all you need for playing: bows, shoulder rest, rosin, and string tuners. You can purchase all of those things separately, but that takes a few things off your to-do list when you buy a set.
Key Features of Mendini mv640
Overall, in my experience, Mendini mv650s are mid-range entry-level violins, the high-end of the Mendini-branded instruments. They are factory-made and hand-finished in China, have beautiful varnish, a spare strings set, come with two bows, tuners and are rated somewhat below Stentor, Cremona, or DZStrad – branded violins.
Yet, mv640s are considered to be better than some lower-end models such as lower-end Franz Hoffman, lower-end Mendini, or All Day Music violins.
- The mv640s are made of high-quality wood (spruce top and maple bottom) and sound well above what you expect when looking at the price. They have a one-piece back, and that alone makes their sound better and puts them in front of many much more expensive violins.
- They are playable: the pegs are made of ebony and keep the tuning sufficiently well.
- General workmanship is good, and the violin would surely last for the duration of time you need it and more.
- The violin is fully set up and comes with a complement of accessories a budding violinist would need to start playing.
- These violins come to you all the way from China and likely after a prolonged storage, and the included accessories are of lower quality. Because of that, it is not uncommon to see strings or some metal elements of accessories somewhat rusted. For strings, it means a replacement. For other, bulkier things, like chin rest bracket, cleaning could be enough.
- These violins are factory-made, and though sturdy, you can at times encounter some minor manufacturing defects, such as somewhat uneven attachment of the fingerboard or uneven varnish tint.
- The violin setup could be disturbed during shipping (this is common with all branded violins purchased online). So, if bought online, it might be necessary to show the violin to a luthier for an adjustment.
- Bows, rosin, and tuners included in the violin kit are of lower quality. You might want to replace them after a few months of playing, if not outright.
Some parents ask me – should we go and buy a reasonable $70 violin readily available on Amazon instead of this higher-end, few-hundred dollars violin? Well, to begin with, for $70 or so, you get what you paid for, which is generally called a VSOs, “violin-shaped objects.”
Meaning, you can hardly play it or extract an inoffensive sound even having enough skill for that. The VSOs can hardly hold tuning and do a better job decorating a living space than producing music.
The mv640 is well above that pool; it is honest to goodness entry-level, playable violin. So, don’t be swayed by the price to lower-end VSOs. The best price bracket for a beginner violin as of today is $200 to $500, and mv640 fits into this price bracket well.
Then, it is essential to keep in mind your immediate and longer-term goals, why you are buying a violin in the first place.
For example, if you buy it as a present to someone who, you know, was thinking of starting on violin but is uncertain if they continue, then mv640 is a perfect choice: it would be all they need to try, in one place, at the right price point, and sounding well enough after some skill is attained.
If, on the other hand, you would like to start on violin your child (or start on it yourself), then you might choose to supplement the mv640 with higher quality accessories.
Say, you have a longer-term goal in mind, such as starting on violin a child or starting on it yourself. In that case, you need to consider different ways to go about the violin, too. In longer term, in a year or two, you would inevitably need to upgrade to a more expensive instrument.
So, the question then is what is better: to buy a cheaper instrument now, and then get rid of it later at a loss, or to buy a more expensive instrument at the get-go and save some money in the long run? There is no single good answer to that. The two most popular options for beginners are:
- rent from your local friendly luthier shop and then buy / upgrade to a more expensive instrument later, or
- buy a good quality but reasonably inexpensive ($200 – $500) instrument that would become your own for the next couple of years, and replace it with a $2,000 or more expensive fiddle later.
Pricewise, the options are very close. The mv640 is a good choice if you like the second option more than the first. However, keep in mind that the lower quality of the included accessories makes it more likely you would need to purchase them anew.
The new strings ($30 – $50 a set, brand dependent), or tuners ($3 – $5 each), or a chin /shoulder rest ($10 – $40 for each, depending on the brand) could set you off another hundred dollars or more. Indeed, you would be able to recover some part of the cost when you sell the violin later on, but don’t count on that a whole lot.
A frequent recommendation is to first try what you buy. I endorse it, in particular when purchasing $1,000+ violins. A visit to a luthier store and a trial of a few of those is a must: you need to find the one that responds to you. With the entry-level instruments, the situation is different. To begin with, not many violin stores or luthiers carry inexpensive violins in the $150 – $250 price range.
Then, even if you find such a store, you are not likely to find sufficiently large inventory from which to choose. In general, the instruments of a particular brand/make will sound about the same most of the time anyhow. So, from a practical perspective, buying an inexpensive, entry-level instrument online makes sense and can simplify your life a bit.
And, finally, last but not least: make sure you talk to your violin teacher about the anticipated purchase. It would put you at ease knowing they support your decision.
Alternative Brands to Consider
There are about a dozen different violin brands competing for the attention of the beginner violinists. Most of those are associated with some Chinese factories. Some, like Yamaha, come from Japan and some (Gliga) – from Romania or other European factories. I find that the most noticed brands are Stentor, D Z (DZ Strad), Cremona, and Scott Cao.
Each of these brands carries violins in different price brackets, and the differences between them relate to the amount of manual labor present in violin making, quality of violin materials and finish/cosmetics.
Higher-end factory instruments can be as expensive as $1,500 – $2,000, competing with the luthier shop-made violins. However, even lower-end instruments of these brands are playable and suitable for beginners on a budget.
Stentor is a versatile violin maker, carrying violins from very basic student outfits to the higher violin shop-quality instruments, copied off famous Amati designs. It offers enough of a selection to meet the needs of most of the beginner to intermediate players.
The catch is, you are better off trying to play any violin that costs more than $500, but a Stentor instrument you like might not be available in your local violin shops.
DZ Strad, as the name implies, prides itself on making violins copied from the Stradivarius legendary instruments. It offers a smaller variety of instrument models. Still, the outfit puts a lot of effort into making the violins that look and sound well.
The Cremona is a bit at a lower-end among the alternatives considered. Yet, its mid- to higher- grade instruments are well-sounding and, with luck, can match in their quality much more expensive brands.
The Scott Cao
The Scott Cao is the higher-end violin maker. It offers a combination of a factory/shop (hand-finished) manufactured violins, with better hand-finished violins used by some professional violin players.
Answer: Mendini is a reputable and established brand of entry-level violins with large volumes of sales and multiple followers.
Answer: Mendini mv640 violins are well-crafted instruments made at about the same quality level as other beginner violins at the same price point.
Answer: Mendini violins are made and hand-finished in China.
Answer: As with any entry-level instrument, the Mendini mv640 loses its value quickly after the sale. Only a small fraction of the original price might be recovered later. So no, Mendini violins, like other beginner violins, are not a good investment.
Answer: The Mendini mv640 set includes:
• a violin (violin with attached strings, pegs, tailpiece, and chin rest),
• two bows
• shoulder rest
• spare set of string
Answer: No, this violin set does not come tuned.
Answer: Other violin brands of note are Stentor, D Z (DZ Strad), Cremona, and Scott Cao, among many others.
Answer: The branded violins are all beginner violins. Their quality may differ widely between different models, price points, and simply from instrument to instrument of the same model number of each manufacturer.
Therefore, there is no “best” violin brand, but there are reputable violin manufacturers you can use to improve your chances of a good buy. Mendini is one of such brands. Keep in mind: the first violin will need a replacement/upgrade within a year or two regardless of the brand!
Mendini mv640 is a good mid-range beginner violin outfit that would fill your needs during first year – year and a half of your study. It can serve as a good alternative to renting, providing you a sense of real violin ownership.
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