Frequently Asked Questions

Choosing your first instrument
String instruments are made in many different sizes to fit students as they grow. Violin and cello sizes are described in fractions (1/16, 1/10, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and full size.) Adults, unless they are very small, would normally use a full-size instrument. The bow and case should match the size of the instrument.

Violas are usually described by body length in inches, such as 13", 14", or 16". A 14" viola has the same body length as a full size violin; however, the body of the viola is normally deeper in order to accommodate the resonance of the lower pitched strings.

Choosing the correct size for a student is essential for the young string player. Although parents will wisely choose clothing in a larger size for a child to "grow into," this is not a good practice in choosing an instrument size. An instrument that is too large will contribute to poor technical habits and frustration.

Beginning outfits
Our Academia Cavallo and Conservatory outfits include the bow and case. A. Cavallo Violins strives to set the highest possible standards for our beginning outfits; the Academia and Conservatory instruments are completely hand-carved and have all ebony or rosewood fittings, have hand-applied spirit or oil varnish and have inlaid purfling.

Most instruments leave the workshop where they were made in an "unfitted" condition - not tuned or adjusted for the best sound and for the individual student. To the untrained eye, an unfitted instrument may appear perfectly finished and ready to play.

We spend several hours of set-up work on each individual instrument. The bridge is carved and adjusted to the proper height and shape for maximum tone and response. The finger board is planed for accurate intonation and eliminate buzzes. We cut the sound post to the proper fit, which enhances the tone and stability of the instrument. Pegs are adjusted for ease in tuning. We customize each violin, viola or cello with the best choice of strings for the acoustics of the individual instrument.

The staff at A. Cavallo Violins are trained extensively in repair and set-up, and will ensure just the "right fit" for each individual instrument we sell. We will be happy to customize strings or fittings for you.

The right instrument for you
At A. Cavallo Violins, we will play various instruments for you and point out the differences and things to look and listen for. All of our staff have musical training and care a great deal about helping students and professionals find the instrument that suits them.

A general music store or discount catalog shop may offer an instrument from a particular maker which is cheaper than the same instrument sold in a violin shop. Most likely, the less expensive instrument would be sold directly from the maker's shipping box with no attention paid to set-up, and the music store probably does not offer any guarantee or trade-in policy. If a person selects the cheaper instrument hoping to have the extra set-up work done later at a violin shop, the labor costs are apt to be very high, which will make the instrument more expensive than if it had been purchased from A. Cavallo Violins.

What determines the price?
The price of an instrument is not only determined by the quality of the sound it produces.

The assessment of sound quality, like the taste of food or preference in color, is entirely personal. Market value of an instrument is determined by many factors, but primarily by the quality of the workmanship and materials used and the country or school of the maker or shop.

A good string instrument can last for hundreds of years. Therefore used instruments are not a bargain, and often more expensive than new ones. Many people feel that old instruments acquire a very desirable and special sound. Instruments from many makers will go up in price as their availability diminishes and their age increases. Therefore, the purchase of a good instrument is also a good investment. An inexpensive, poorly made and poorly sounding instrument is no bargain if it causes the beginner to become frustrated and stop playing, therefore you should never buy the inexpensive, "bargain" instrument just because of low cost.

There are some instruments on the market that are so poorly made that they will never sound good, they do not hold up well to even normal use and are hard or even impossible to play well. If a person is not familiar with string instruments, it is very hard to choose a good one or an appropriate one. A. Cavallo Violins can help with the choice and demonstrate various instruments for the prospective student.

Strings are classified by the type of material from which they are made, such as plain gut, gut wound with metal, synthetic core strings, steel wound with steel, etc. Strings are usually available in three gauges: thick, medium and thin.

Which kind of string is the best type to use is a very subjective question. It depends on the personal taste of the musician and the acoustical qualities of the instrument. Experimentation will determine which is the best for you. Some instruments may require a combination of different types of strings.

At A.Cavallo, we strive to determine which type of string would be the best for each student or player as a part of our set-up and will customize according to you needs and your teacher's recommendation.

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Caring for your instrument

Humidity is low, keep your humidifiers wet
If you don't have a humidifier, we have a plentiful supply to protect you.

Instruments that are maintained with wet humidifiers in the cold months will be much more stable and need fewer repairs in the long run.
Call us - we can help with all your questions on violin maintenance.

What You Can Do
Always keep the instrument and bow in its case when it is not being used. Make sure the bow is securely fastened in the proper place and position, and that it has been loosened properly.

String instruments are very sensitive to temperature changes and extremes of heat and cold. The instrument should never be exposed to sudden changes in temperature. It must not be exposed directly to the sun - either in or out of the case. It should be stored away from heat registers or air conditioning outlets. Never leave a string instrument in a car.

String instruments are sensitive to variations and extremes in humidity. A humidifier will diminish the chances of low humidity cracking your instrument and it will also less likely to go out of adjustment in dry winter conditions with humidifier use. The humidifier should be checked daily for moisture during the winter months.

Rosin should be removed immediately after the instrument is played. Use a soft, lint-free cotton cloth to clean the body of the instrument. Do not use any polishes, furniture cleaners or solvents that contain ingredients such as alcohol, turpentine or xylene to clean the instrument. A. Cavallo Violins, LLC offers a very safe, water-based polish that can be applied safely to any violin varnish.

The feet of the bridge should usually be aligned with the inner notches cut in the F holes. The side of the bridge closest to the tailpiece should be kept perpendicular to the body of the instrument, and the top edge should be parallel to the end of the fingerboard. Each time the instrument is tuned, the top edge of the bridge tends to be pulled forward towards the fingerboard a little. It is important to check the position of the bridge frequently. If the bridge is neglected, it can warp or even break. If the tilt or thestraighness of the upper edge of the bridge requires adjusting, carefully adjust the bridge by pushing or pulling on the top edge between the A and E and D and G strings with the thumb and first finger of each hand while holding the instrument firmly. Gently move the top of the bridge to the proper position. If you have problems, call us and we will be glad to help you.

Old strings are lifeless and dull sounding. They should be replaced with new strings. The finest instrument will not sound good with poor strings. The strings should be replaced one at a time. Check the bridge's adjustment, guarding against the to edge being pulled toward the fingerboard excessively while bring the new strings up to pitch gradually.

Fine Tuners
If your tuner has a lever under the tailpiece, be careful that the lever does not touch the top of the instrument. This can seriously damage the wood. To reduce the depression of the lever, simply turn the screw to the left (counterclockwise) then raise the pitch with the peg. Fine tuners may be lubricated with a nut oil such as walnut, almond or olive. Put a little on a rag or paper towel and lightly apply it to the threads of the screw.

If the chinrest is loose or touching the tailpiece, it may produce a buzzing sound. It can be made firm by inserting a chinrest key in the small hole in each chinrest barrel. Turn the barrels to tighten the chinrest just enough to secure the rest firmly. Do not over-tighten the chinrest!

Pegs should work smoothly and hold the string tension. If they are not working properly, the first thing that should be checked is how the strings wind around the peg. The pegs should be wound so that the last part of the string is closest to the head of the peg side of the peg box, so the string tends to pull the peg's conical shape into the peg hole. If the pegs do not turn smoothly, application of Hill peg compound is usually effective. Over time, all pegs and the peg box become worn. When this happens, it is time to bring the instrument to a professional repairperson for refitting.

Insurance is important! Students can insure their instruments through their parents' homeowners insurance, but be certain the insurance covers you for normal risks string instruments encounter. Very good policies are also available as group policies through professional organizations such as the American Federation of Musicians, American String Teachers, and the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

Repairs that should be done by a professional repairman
Bow Rehairing
The hair's ability to grip the strings and produce a beautiful sound is reduced following repeated use and time. Your bow should be rehaired at least twice a year if you use your instrument every day. Inexpert bow rehairs can damage the bow, so always take care to have your bow rehaired by an expert.

Care of the Fingerboard
Over time the fingerboard will develop grooves where the strings are depressed. Grooves prevent free vibration of the strings. The board needs to have an adequate concave dip to it. Your repair professional will also check the grooves in the nut, or far end, of the fingerboard. A properly shaped fingerboard can make playing in tune much easier and prevent buzzes.

Summer and Winter Bridges
In warm seasons the tops of many string instruments tend to swell upward due to the increase in humidity. This can raise the bridge and lifts the strings too high above the fingerboard for comfortable playing. A lower bridge may be needed. In cold weather the opposite is true - the top of the instrument will be at its lowest level. A higher bridge may be required. Otherwise the strings will be too close to the fingerboard to permit free vibration. See your professional repairperson for help with these problems. Many cellists and a few violinists and violists have winter and summer bridges and sound posts.

Sound Posts
If the post was fitted during cold weather, it may be too short for summer use when the top of the instrument raises. Conversely, if it was fitted in very warm weather, it may be too long for winter use when the top is lower. Unless the sound post fits properly, the tone will be not be optimal, and an improperly fittted post can damage an instrument. If it happens to fall or move, loosen the string tension and ask your repair professional to reposition it.

Cracks and Openings
If your string instrument develops cracks or openings, do not glue it at home! Improper gluing can damage the instrument and not be reversible. Most gluing can be done overnight. The sooner you bring your instrument in to us, the easier it is for us to repair it.

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Integrity in the violin business

A.Cavallo Violins, LLC sets the highest standards for dealer integrity and fine service to the customer. There are many questionable practices in the violin business, including the generally accepted practice of teacher commissions, which introduces a hidden cost to the customer, whether or not they are a student or if their teacher does not accept those commissions. For more information on these practices, see what one of the world’s foremost violin makers says about this subject. Integrity First - Violin Maker David Burgess

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Guidelines for approvals

Choosing an instrument is an important decision and requires time. A. Cavallo Violins, LLC makes its instruments available on approval for one week. During the one-week period the customer will be allowed to take the instrument home and to their teacher or other advisors. The instrument should not be taken to school or orchestra rehearsals. While on approval, the care of the instrument is the responsibility of the customer. Any damage to the instrument while on approval is also the responsibility of the customer and we will charge appropriately for any repairs required to bring the instrument back up to par. Please do not alter the instrument in any way except for necessary tuning. Tape should not be placed on the fingerboard or bow. The instrument should be returned in the same condition as when it left our shop.

Care of the instrument:

Find a safe place to store the instrument at home. Stringed instruments are very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Do not keep the instrument too close to heating or air-conditioning ducts. Find a place where the instrument is out of the way of traffic and preferably not up on a shelf where it could be accidentally knocked down.


Wipe the strings, fingerboard, and top of the instrument with an untreated soft, lint-free cloth before returning it to it's case. If rosin is allowed to accumulate it will harden on the strings and pit the varnish.

Do not touch the bow hair, as the oils from your fingers will damage the hair. Please use professional quality rosin without any metal content during the trial period. If you need it, we will provide suitable rosin so you can have the best trial experience possible.

Be sure not to tighten the bow too much or leave it tight as this could ruin the stick. If you have any questions about how tight the bow needs to be please ask your teacher or call us.

Packing and shipping:

Please pack the instrument as it was shipped to you and only ship second day air by FedEx or UPS. Securely tape the carton shut with carton sealing tape, make sure the case does not move inside the box and is surrounded by packing materials. If you are just returning a case, ship by ground UPS or priority mail. Please do not ship over weekends.

Thank you for considering an instrument from A. Cavallo Violins. Please feel free to call us if you have any questions or concerns. If you need more than a week to make a decision, please call us within the one-week period to confirm an extension to the approval time. Above all, enjoy.


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