Scott Cao is an American Violin Maker. One of the divisions of his company specializes in student level violins of all sizes. Made in China, these are called “factory” violins but are actually hand-carved and hand-varnished by makers trained by students of Scott Cao. In the Twin Cities, House of Note in Saint Louis Park sells and rents Scott Cao viola rental in all sizes.

Given that every violin, whether made in a factory or hand-carved by the finest makers, sounds different, achieving a reliably good line of student instruments is a challenge indeed. It is simply unreasonable to expect that every instrument will sound the same, and, indeed they don’t. Each has its own voice.

Over the years, I have played dozens of Scott Cao factory instruments ranging from 1/8 to full size. It can be notoriously difficult to find small instruments that play easily and have a full, open sound. Although each is different (some are darker than others, some more bright or brilliant) the Scott Cao instruments are remarkably consistent strong performers and are ideal for students.

Scott Cao factory violins tend to be priced between $350 (for small, used ones) to around $900 (for new, full sized violins).

It is important to remember that brand new violins need time for the varnish to dry and the wood to settle and therefore will sound different (and usually better) as they age. Scratches in the finish do not usually affect the sound, and while they may not always look their best, older Scott Cao instruments can be good buys because they are often discounted due to age or appearance.