There are a few different places to rent instruments. Renting is fairly inexpensive, anywhere from $15 to $25 a month depending on the instrument.
The first place I recommend is Shauna Fairbanks in Binghamton - her phone number is 607-724-1980, in the phone book under "Fairbanks Violins". She is also an instrument repair specialist and usually has good instruments.
HMS Music at 27 Downs Ave in Binghamton also has rentals. They are at 607-238-7416.
Race Orchestral Strings in Ithaca. 607-319-4158
Hickey Music in Ithaca. 1-800-442-5397
Lastly, Yale Music in Sayre, PA also offers some decent entry level instruments - http://www.yalesmusic.com/ phone: 570-888-2517
You can also rent online from sharmusic.com. They have good quality instruments, will ship one to you that has been set up by a luthier for playability. Also, any money you spend on a rental can be put toward buying an instrument.
You will want a full size (4/4) instrument and bow. There should be a small box of rosin with the rental as well (for the bow).
I always tell folks to beware of websites online selling fiddle, bow and case for ridiculously low prices (ex: $99 for the whole outfit). Those instruments are often poorly made, extremely difficult to tune and are often nearly unplayable. Particularly the brightly colored (purple, blue, etc) instruments on some websites!
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