Buying a violin online: our reflections on socially-distanced instrument shopping

Our elder son began learning the harp this year. A rite of passage for little musicians, we have both been looking forward to his first music lessons for a very long time: building a relationship over Zoom was certainly not something that we ever imagined! Before this strange year, I would been sure that a four-year-old couldn’t possibly learn without a teacher in the room but thanks to his very creative teacher he is now thriving as a young musician. Musicians, like everyone else this year, have learnt to adapt and to make use of this strange fallow time before we are able to fully function once more.

Adapting the way we approach the musical process of choosing an instrument has been vital to our development in the shop this year. As many of you know, we are musicians first and foremost: removing the possibility of visiting a violin shop and playing the instruments in person felt like an obstacle that was impossible to overcome. Nearly a year on, I’m happy to tell you that our socially-distanced process has proved to be very popular and that we are confident that it represents a viable alternative to visiting us in person for as long as this is necessary. In fact, due to its popularity with our international clients, we plan to continue offering it long after the time of masks and hand gel has passed! Here are a few of our reflections on the most important features of long-distance instrument shopping:

Key to the success of our approach has been Tim’s ability as a player: as the process relies on his descriptions of instruments and his demonstrations over video call, it is vital that he is able to get the most out of each instrument and to find all of its characteristics. Of equal importance is complete honesty: there would be absolutely no point in hiding any less than pleasing features of an instrument from its prospective new partner, only to have them reject it because of these once the instrument has been delivered for trial! Total honesty has always been the cornerstone of our business: now more than ever, both parties rely on this to save spending time unnecessarily on an instrument which will not work out.

Once the client has narrowed down the options over video call (or indeed a series of calls), the instruments or bows are delivered to them for a trial period. We have extended this to three weeks to allow for quarantining the instrument and to acknowledge how busy lots of us are at the moment. At this point, we always emphasise how important it is to us that no-one feels under obligation to make a purchase: this process aims to replicate the experience one would have when visiting us and so it is no less important to us that you are happy with your choice now than it is in normal times!

Finally, it is important to point out that although the vast majority of our current enquiries follow a rough version of this process, there is no right or wrong way to find the perfect instrument. We are always very happy to discuss how we can tailor the process to your requirements. We look forward to getting to know you, whether over a comfy video chat in your own home, or over a coffee in the shop in Edinburgh once such luxuries become possible once more.

Tim ready to play a violin over video call

P.s. I took this picture whilst Tim was just about to do a video call to a client - he does not particularly appreciate having his photo taken…

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