Getting Started

We offer student instruments for both rent and purchase. Which option to choose depends on your preference. Our rental program offers maximum flexibility, because 80% of your rental payments can go toward purchase of an instrument in the future (if your child loves playing) and there is no long-term commitment so you can stop the rental at any time (if she doesn't). We also offer high-quality student instruments for purchase that will carry your child through many years of making music.

We have the best instrument rental program in Northwest Arkansas. Our instruments are the highest quality rental instruments in our region – which means that they sound the best and are easiest to play. Playing on a high quality instrument makes it easier for your child to learn, so she will enjoy it more. We choose our rental instruments based on their quality – not based on the mark-up profit. Because we are the only music shop in our region owned and operated by a professionally trained luthier, we take superior care of our rental instruments (and our customers!) - which means that your instrument will always be in superior playing condition.

We also have the most generous rent-to-own program in Northwest Arkansas. 80% of your rental payments can be applied toward purchase of any instrument in our shop – not only the student-level instrument you are renting. This means that we make it affordable for families to move up to an intermediate level instrument if their child loves playing. On the other hand, our program is month to month and there are no hidden fees – so you can return the instrument at any time, free of charge.

Also, we rent ALL sizes of violins, violas, cellos, and basses, including full sizes. This means that if you rent with us, your child can switch to another instrument easily (free of charge), or continue to rent when she needs a full-sized instrument. Unlike other shops, we carry a wide range of intermediate and professional level instruments – meaning that we can take care of your instrument needs for the rest of your life, no matter what level of ability you aspire to. We offer all of this at rates that are lower, or very close to, other music shops in our area. Why not get a superior instrument, superior service, and superior flexibility for the same or lower rental price?

Visit the Rental Services section of our website for details about our rental program. If you are needing an instrument for the school year, the best first step is to call us or apply online. At the beginning of the school year, we fill rental orders on a first-come, first-served basis, and availability may be limited. We advise you to reserve yours early!

Yes. We rent the entire “outfit,” which includes the instrument, case, bow, and rosin.

We strongly discourage purchasing instruments online. Many teachers refer to cheap instruments from Amazon and eBay as VSO’s, short for violin-shaped objects. They are made out of low-grade materials (often plywood), and there is really no way to make these instruments sound good or even meet the simple requirement of staying in tune. In addition to poor initial quality, these instruments are never shipped in playable condition and will need some work before they can be played. Customer service after the sale can be problematic as well.
  • Can you return the instrument and get a refund if it does not meet your needs?
  • Is there a warranty or guarantee?
  • Does it come with a decent case and a bow?
  • Does the instrument meet your teacher’s minimum standards for quality?
Many customers who purchase instruments online discover when it arrives that it is not playable out of the box. They then have to bring it in to our shop for a paid tune-up or repair. What we have seen many times in the past is a customer bringing in a violin thinking that it needs a bridge set up. In reality, there are a number of things wrong with the instrument. The customer inists that we just need to set up the bridge.
...A week later, when the poorly-fit pegs won’t stay in tune, the violin comes back and we have to work on the pegs.
...A week later, when the child complains that it hurts to press the strings down, the violin comes back and we adjust the bridge and nut to the proper heights.
...A week later, the cheap fine-tuner screws bind and break and the violin comes back for a new tailpiece. Etc. etc.
The customer winds up spending more on repairs than they would have had they just purchased or rented from our shop, and the instrument is still inferior.

As a rule: We cannot be the customer service department for online retailers.


Here’s a comparison using a ¾ size violin as an example:

Rental from Palmer Violin Shop
(for nine months)
Instrument from Violinz.com (Amazon, eBay, or other online retailer)
(C'mon are you really going to trust a company that ends their name with a Z?)
Cost$270.00$199.99
RepairsRepair Insurance Included - You won't pay a dime for any repairs. (Includes case and bow replacement.)You are responsible for purchasing items not included with the initial purchase, any repair work, and replacing any items that break (Average: $100 - $200 for bridge, soundpost, repairs, bow, case, strings, etc).
Customer ServiceIf your instrument needs any kind of service, we are conveniently located and can take care of you quickly.Customer service is limited to whatever you can get from a 1-800 number or email.
School RequirementsAny instrument from Palmer Violin Shop is garunteed to meet or exceed all standards established by your child’s teacher.The instrument likely doesn't meet the local standards of your child's teacher.Example...
  • May have a poplar fingerboard painted black (ebony is required)
  • May have black-painted poplar pegs (ebony is required)
  • May have low-quality poor sounding strings (d'Addario Preludes or better are required)
  • May be made from plywood (solid maple and spruce is required)
  • May include flimsy styrofoam case that will only last a few weeks
Trade-in CreditWith our Rental Credit Allowance Program, you will earn $216 (80% of the rental price!) toward purchasing an instrument with us.No Trade-in value
Total Investment$270$300 - 400

So once you figure in the additional “hidden” costs of online “Violinz,” an instrument from our shop is actually the best value.

If you want to purchase an upgraded instrument for your child who loves to play, your savings are even greater:

If you buy the initial instrument online…
Original instrument purchased online (no trade-in value): $199.99
Repair work and other items: $100 - $200
Purchased upgrade instrument from Palmer Violin Shop: $450
Total Investment: $749.99 - $849.99

If you rent for nine months first…
Rental instrument for nine months: $270 (credit accrued: $216)
Purchase upgraded instrument from Palmer Violin Shop: $450
Total: $720
Minus rental credit of $216 accrued over rental period
Total Investment: $504

So, the rental customer winds up paying $246 - $346 LESS in the long run. Plus, they will have a nicer instrument from the beginning, and the benefit of our rental insurance.

There are not different instruments for left handed musicians. When playing a bowed stringed instrument, both hands are used equally. So left-handed musicians generally have no problem playing the instruments just the same as right-handed musicians. We know many left-handed musicians who are just as comfortable playing as right-handed musicians.

Suzuki method schools and private teachers often begin teaching children very young – as young as 3 or 4 years old. The smallest violin is a 1/32 size violin, and we provide those instruments to our tiniest customers. Most middle schools in the area begin students in the 6th grade. Of course, you can learn an instrument at any age – we have quite a few customers who are adult beginners.

Violins, violas, cellos, and basses all come in “full size” (4/4) and a variety of smaller, or “fractional” sizes. Adults usually play full sized instruments, while children often play fractional sizes. Your child's teacher can measure your child to determine what size instrument she needs, or you can bring her into our shop and we can measure her as well. Children who begin on fractional sizes “size up” as they grow. Our rental program provides the option to size up whenever needed, free of charge. You never know when your child will go through a growth spurt and suddenly need a bigger instrument!

Yes. We sell all accessories required and recommended by our local schools. This includes rosin, music stands, music books, metronomes, tuners, shoulder rests, chin rests, etc. Please visit the Accessories section of our website for more information.

No. We focus our time on providing great instruments, and we can recommend a number of wonderful stringed instrument teachers in our area.

The “set up” of an instrument refers to the parts of the instrument the musician actually interacts with: the pegs, strings, bridge, tail piece, and sound post (inside the instrument). These are the parts of the instrument that make the sound. None of these parts of the instrument are glued. They are all held together by tension. When the bow's hair is dragged across the strings, all of these parts vibrate. This vibration echoes through and inside the instrument (which is basically a wooden sound box), which creates and projects the sound. All of these parts of the instrument have to be set up to very tight specifications (down to the millimeter) in order to play and sound like they should. Luthiers are professionally trained to make these adjustments. That's why having this done by a professional luthier makes a huge difference in how easy the instrument is to play and how good it sounds. Badly adjusted instruments hamper performance and can even cause the musician finger, wrist, or arm pain.

Taking the Next Step

Higher quality instruments are built with higher quality materials and are made with more attention to detail and to tighter specifications. They also tend to have higher quality varnish. The intermediate and advanced instruments we carry have all of these qualities, and we also use higher quality strings, bridges, and pegs when we do the set-up in-shop. The result is an instrument that sounds better and projects its sound better.

Yes. We carry a wide range of excellent instruments for advancing students and professionals. Please visit the Instruments section of our website to learn more.

We carry many instruments designed for advancing student musicians. Please visit the Instruments pages of our website to learn more. Your child's teacher can also assist you in selecting an instrument that will meet your child's needs.

We can take entry-level instruments as trade-ins, as long as they are in good condition and are from the larger manufacturers, such as Yamaha, Eastman, and Capella (Maple Leaf Strings), sold at music stores in our area. We generally will let you trade an instrument in good condition for half of its original sale price. We DO NOT take instruments from the following manufacturers: Palantino, Cremona, Mendini, and Cecilio. Also, we generally do not accept instruments originally purchased online. These instruments do not meet our minimum standards. When trading in an instrument, we request that you provide the original sale receipt. Trade-in credit can be used for up to 50% of the value of the new instrument you are purchasing.

Yes. To determine the amount of trade-in credit, we start with the initial sale price of the instrument. We deduct for the items that we will need to repair or replace before reselling the instrument. The minimum we deduct for is for a new set of strings (the same brand as is what is on the instrument) and a bow rehair. If the case has a torn cover, missing hardware, smells of smoke, or is otherwise not in saleable condition, we will deduct the cost of a new case. We don’t generally deduct for normal wear on the instrument, but if it’s obvious that it has been abused, we will need to deduct some more based on the lower price at which we will have to resell the instrument. If the instrument is in good shape, you wind up with a significant amount of credit towards your new instrument, usually at least 75%. Your trade-in credit can cover 50% of the purchase price of the new instrument.

Yes. We sell a wide variety of bows for student, advancing, and professional musicians. Please visit our Bows page of our website (under Accessories) or call us for more information.

You are welcome to come try out instruments at any time. However, we recommend contacting us to set up an appointment. That way, we can make sure we have all the instruments you might be interested in tuned up and ready for you to play. If you are looking for something specific that we do not have in our inventory, we can also order instruments for you to try in our shop.

The simple reason is that they are producing the best instruments at the best price. People usually think of Europe as being the primary source of violins, and if you’re looking for a new $20,000 violin, you’d be on the right track. There are many different grades of violins, though, and for student instruments, it’s hard to produce a good instrument in Europe. Labor costs are high, so the process has to be highly mechanized.

Robots do a decent job of making BMWs and Volkswagens, but they can’t do the intricate woodworking that is necessary to create a good instrument. There is really no substitute for handwork, and that is why China has become such a large supplier of instruments over the last 20 years. The standards for the industry in China have risen considerably. Chinese luthiers regularly win awards in international competitions, and the skill level of the craftsmen and craftswomen has reached a very high standard, similar to what you would have seen from the large European workshops back in pre-war Europe.

Of course, many people have concerns about instruments from China. There are still plenty of cheap, poorly made instruments out there (especially if you’re looking on Amazon or eBay). Our instruments are different; they’re made by trained luthiers, a few of whom I’ve actually met (link to Artigiano). We’re 100% certain that our instruments are well made and will stand the test of time. They are all backed by our warranty, which goes beyond and above what most retailers will provide.

We do carry European-made instruments distributed by the Violin House of Weaver in our Advanced Instrument category. The bodies of these instruments are constructed in various European workshops, but the final woodworking and varnish is done at the Weaver workshop in Bethesda, Maryland. As with all our instruments, we do all the final setup work in our shop.

Repairs & Maintenance

Most often, yes. Stringed instruments are designed to break in fixable ways – such as a seam coming open, the sound post (on the inside of the instrument) coming out of alignment, pegs coming loose, cracks appearing, etc. Unless your instrument has been smashed and most closely resembles kindling, we can usually repair it. Just bring your instrument into the shop any time during businesses hours, and we can take a look at it and let you know what we can do. Please visit the Repair Services section of our website for more information.

You can bring an instrument in for repair at any time during business hours. We will let you know in advance when the repairs will be finished. Please note that our turnaround time for repairs is much longer mid-July through September, because of the back-to-school rush associated with our rental program. If you know you will need repairs done to your instrument before the school year, we strongly recommend that you to bring the instrument to us in May or June.

Please do not do this! Stringed instruments need hide glue, a special glue that is designed to break when it experiences pressure (such as dropping the instrument or banging it into something). This is so that the glue breaks instead of the wood. Also, during some repairs, it is necessary to manually break the glue and take the top off of the instrument to work on it. If store-bought glue is used to “fix” the instrument, taking it apart in the future is impossible. Think of it as the equivalent of gluing the hood of your car shut so that it can never be opened again. We have seen many instruments effectively ruined by some can-do spirit and a bottle of TiteBond.

Of course, feel free to call us and discuss any problem you are having with your instrument. However, without having the instrument in our hands, we cannot definitively diagnose a problem or provide a quote for repair. We often have to look inside the instrument, play the instrument ourselves, or “test” certain things on the instrument to determine what repairs are needed.

Yes. You can bring your bow in any time during business hours. However, some inexpensive bows are not designed to be rehaired. In that case, we will recommend purchasing a new bow (only $7 more than getting a rehair) that is of higher quality and can be rehaired in the future. Turnaround time for bows varies from three days to a week and a half.

There are many steps you can take to keep your instrument in good playing condition, and save yourself from costly repairs. Make sure that you have a good case that protects the instrument. We recommend hard-sided cases. Keep the instrument in the case when you are not playing it. Keep your instrument in steady temperatures and humidity, as much as possible – do not leave it in your car, since heat and cold can damage an instrument. Please see our Instrument Care Guide for more information.

Appraisals & Consignments

We can tell you the market value of your violin, viola, cello, or bass. You do not need an appointment – just come see us any time during business hours. Of course, many of our customers have instruments that are treasured family heirlooms and therefore have great sentimental value as well.

We do accept some intermediate and advanced level consignment instruments, depending upon the instrument and our current inventory. We require a 20% commission on consignment instruments, plus our fee for any repair work necessary to get the instrument in good playing condition. We do not sell student or fractional sized instruments on consignment.

The Life of a Luthier

Professional luthiers undergo years of training to be able to make, repair, and restore stringed instruments. First, they receive training at a violin making school and then apprentice to master luthiers before being qualified to work on their own. Our shop's owner, Raymond Palmer, graduated with his degree in lutherie from the Violin Making School of America in 2007. During that time, he worked alongside master luthiers at the prestigious Peter Prier and Sons violin shop in Salt Lake City. He then moved to Fayetteville to apprentice to master luthier, Terry Borman.

It's true. Since its founding nearly 45 years ago, the Violin Making School of America has only 168 graduates (as of 2016). The only other violin making school in the United States is in Chicago, and it was founded in 2002. We feel strongly that musicians of all ages deserve to play high quality instruments and have their instruments cared for by trained professionals.

Raymond Palmer spends time every year studying new restoration, repair, and instrument building techniques with master instrument craftsman throughout the country and world. For instance, he has studied bow restoration with Lynn Armour Hannings, one of the world's preeminent bow experts, and regularly attends conferences and workshops. Raymond has traveled abroad to gain more knowledge and connections, including visiting Cremona, Italy where Antonio Stradivari worked, and various parts of China to commission the Artigiano line of instruments for Palmer Violin Shop from shops which still make them by hand.

Most luthiers and violin shops are located in large cities across the U.S. Raymond Palmer moved to Fayetteville in 2007 to work as an apprentice to master luthier Terry Borman. Aside from one ill-fated backpacking trip when he was in high school, Raymond had never been to Northwest Arkansas before. He planned on spending a couple of years in the area completing his apprenticeship and then seeking employment at a shop elsewhere. However, as local teachers and symphony musicians began bringing their instruments and their students’ instruments to him for repair and requesting that he offer rental options, it became apparent that there was a need for a full-time dedicated violin shop in Northwest Arkansas. Raymond opened Fayetteville Violin Shop in 2009, which later became Palmer Violin Shop when he moved to Rogers in 2010. He has been delighted to be a part of the growing orchestral community ever since. Raymond lives in Fayetteville with his wife, daughter, and shop dog, Moby. They all enjoy the area’s camping, hiking, canoeing, and backpacking opportunities, as well as the growing cultural amenities the community offers.

Most fine stringed instruments are made of Maple (back, ribs, neck, and scroll) and Spruce (top).

Most luthiers and violin shops are located in large cities across the U.S. Raymond Palmer moved to Fayetteville in 2007 to work as an apprentice to master luthier Terry Borman. Aside from one ill-fated backpacking trip when he was in high school, Raymond had never been to Northwest Arkansas before. He planned on spending a couple of years in the area completing his apprenticeship and then seeking employment at a shop elsewhere. However, as local teachers and symphony musicians began bringing their instruments and their students’ instruments to him for repair and requesting that he offer rental options, it became apparent that there was a need for a full-time dedicated violin shop in Northwest Arkansas. Raymond opened Fayetteville Violin Shop in 2009, which later became Palmer Violin Shop when he moved to Rogers in 2010. He has been delighted to be a part of the growing orchestral community ever since. Raymond lives in Fayetteville with his wife, daughter, and shop dog, Moby. They all enjoy the area’s camping, hiking, canoeing, and backpacking opportunities, as well as the growing cultural amenities the community offers.

Surprisingly, no. Some luthiers do not play the instruments that they work on. Many luthiers view themselves as craftsmen first, and musicians second. Raymond Palmer has played violin since he was 5. He plays viola with the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, “fiddle” with the Old 78s, and mandolin and other stringed instruments with various ensembles. Melanie Palmer, his wife and bookkeeper, plays saxophone and cello banjo with the Old 78s. He is hoping that his 2 year old daughter is destined to be a cellist or bassist.

General Questions

The difference between a violin and a fiddle is usually in the type of music that is played – not in the instrument itself. Symphony musicians play “violins” while folk musicians play “fiddles.” The instrument is the same. In fact, you might see Ray's “violin” that he plays in a symphony setting moonlight as his “fiddle” with his old time string band!

No. Our shop specializes in violins, violas, cellos, and basses only, as well as the accessories associated with these instruments. We carry all music, music stands, tuners, metronomes, etc. that are required or recommended by local schools. Please peruse our website for a listing of our inventory.

We are located in historic downtown Rogers, Arkansas, at 314 W. Walnut St.