For newbies to the wonderful world of music lessons, knowing exactly what equipment is necessary for learning how to play violin can be tricky.
If you’re about to start learning the violin, there are many other items you need other than the instrument itself!
Getting a suitable violin is important, but you’ll also need to learn about how to properly look after it.
You’ll also need to think about practicing the violin in between your lessons. Practice can be made unnecessarily difficult if you don’t invest in proper equipment such as a good music stand and a metronome – and being well-equipped will save you time and energy, allowing you to get more out of your practice.
Learning a musical instrument isn’t just about learning how to read music and make a pleasant sound; it’s about learning to channel your musical energy through your instrument, and if you’re going to achieve this, you need to be comfortable – and there is equipment that can help you with this!
So, if you’re an aspiring musician, here is Superprof’s guide to kitting yourself out before you learn to play the violin.
The Basics for Learning Violin
As any violin, viola or cello teacher will tell you, if you’re going to learn how to play the violin, you’ll need a good violin and a bow to go with it.
Whether you want to hire or buy your violin is completely up to you.
Violins can be hired or bought from specialist music shops which employ musical experts to advise customers on the fit and appropriateness of instruments.
This is especially important when it comes to stringed instruments such as violins, which come in a range of sizes for the varying heights of players.
Hiring or buying a violin of the correct size is essential, as it affects a player’s ability to play the instrument properly and comfortably.
During your visit to the music shop, you’ll be given violins of different sizes to hold. You’ll know that you’re holding a violin of a suitable size if you can comfortably hold its scroll in the palm of the left hand when the violin is resting on your collarbone.
It’s highly likely that you’ll learn how to hold the violin’s bow during your visit. The experts at the shop will be able to show you how to tighten and loosen your bow’s horsehair as well as how to apply rosin.
Rosin is another fundamental piece of equipment to have in your violin case.
Made from hardened tree sap, rosin is rubbed along the violin bow to provide friction between the horsehair and the violin’s strings – without it, the bow would simply glide across the strings without producing any sound.
So, the very first items people should get your hands on as a new violinist are a violin of the right size (which will come with a bow) and rosin.
Staying Comfortable During Violin Lessons
Playing any musical instrument can become uncomfortable after a while, especially for beginner violinists.
Holding a violin correctly whilst playing can be tiring for players, as they are required to use their strength to support both their instrument and maintain a good posture.
Thankfully, there is equipment which can be used to make playing violin more comfortable.
The first piece of ergonomic violin equipment you’re likely to come across is the shoulder rest.
Shoulder rests attach to the lower bout of the violin and support the instrument in the correct position on the player’s collarbone, preventing muscle strain in the neck or shoulder.
Shoulder rests are especially recommended for beginner violinists, as they promote the right position for the instrument.
Good tip: if you’re not sure about selecting a shoulder rest or you’re saving up to buy one, you can use a sponge in the meantime! Attach the sponge to the violin with an elastic band, and you’ll have your own DIY shoulder rest.
Another useful piece of equipment to make your violin practice more comfortable is a chair.
Even though it’s recommended that violinists stand whilst practicing their instrument, it can be more comfortable to sit if you’re practicing for long periods of time.
You can use any sturdy, hard, armless chair that is appropriate for playing the violin.
Your chair should also be the correct height for you so that you can maintain a good posture even when sitting.
Useful Equipment for Practicing Your Violin
There are lots of other useful bits and bobs for people to use during practice sessions.
Here are the most commonly-used items:
Violin tuner app
The strings of the violin should be in tune before you begin your practice. Violin strings are tuned by turning the fine tuners which are found at the tailpiece of the violin. However, in order to properly tune your violin, you’ll need something to use as a benchmark.
There is a wide selection of violin-tuning apps that can be downloaded for free on iOS and Android devices.
These apps are more helpful than using a piano for tuning, as they listen to the note being played and tell the player whether the note is sharp or flat.
Music stands are used for holding music while you play.
Keeping your music at eye-level is essential for maintaining the right posture during your violin practice.
Collapsible music stands are the most common, as they can be folded up and taken to violin lessons or rehearsals.
Metronomes are used for setting the pace of a piece of music. They can be downloaded onto a mobile device or they can be bought in music shops.
Using a metronome doesn’t just help players to start a piece at the correct pace, but it also helps them to maintain a steady pace throughout the piece.
Scale and arpeggio books
If you’re preparing to take exams in the violin, you’ll need to know a certain set of scales and arpeggios.
Buying a book that contains all of these is a brilliant resource that can be used to learn violin scales and recognise key signatures as well as providing some good warm-up material.
Learning and playing every major scale as well as the harmonic and melodic minor scales are good exercises for improving your general violin playing technique as you work on your musical ear training, fingering, pizzicato (or plucking), intonation and bowing.
These books can be bought per grade or as a single book containing every scale.
Alternatively, you can find great videos on the internet where teachers will show you all the main scales in a short form lesson.
When you’re learning any musical instrument, you’ll need some pieces to practice.
In general, your violin teacher or tutor will prescribe appropriate pieces for a child or adult learner based on their capabilities and personal musical goals, but purchasing the recommended books is the responsibility of the learner.
If you’re planning on taking music exams, it’s highly likely that you’ll be told to buy official exam pieces and scores, from which you will choose your exam performance pieces.
In addition to any examination material, you can also get hold of other violin music you might enjoy playing.
Music shops have music for violinists of all abilities which is often published according to genre or style.
For instance, you can find collections of movie hits or even specific franchises such as Disney – and they almost always come with a CD accompaniment, it's perfect for children and you can find out what it feels like to play in an orchestra!
If you're looking to expand your repertoire, you can always download violin sheet music for printing from the internet, too. So, if you're bored of perfecting your rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or you'd like to move on from your violin concerto, there are plenty more pieces of violin parts available!
Doing this will save you a bit of time and money, and any practice is good practice!
If you’re a complete beginner violin player, the importance of the humble pencil might surprise you.
Whether it’s used in private practice sessions, or symphony orchestra rehearsals, keeping a pencil in your violin case is a MUST for any musician.
There are three main reasons for this:
- You can use it to mark your music and highlight things to remember while you’re playing, such as accidentals and dynamic markings.
- In orchestras and rehearsals, the conductor will often instruct players to mark certain features in their parts. Doing this ensures that the ensemble sounds cohesive and realised the conductor’s vision of the piece.
- Pencil markings on sheet music can be erased, unlike ink. Using pen on music is a big no-no for musicians, especially in group rehearsals.
As your sense of musicianship develops, so too does your appreciation of the simple graphite pencil.
Violin practice mute
As pleasant as the sound of a violin is, for those living with violinists, it can become irritating after a while.
Thankfully, using a practice mute can help with this!
Practice mutes fit to the bridge of the violin and quieten the instrument down by dampening the vibrations of the strings, allowing players to practice without disturbing anyone.
Caring for Your Violin
Proper care and maintenance of your musical instrument is vital for ensuring that it sounds at its best and is not at risk of breaking.
The most regular act of care is wiping away excess rosin from the strings and body of the violin following each practice session or rehearsal. You should use a dry cloth to do this.
Wiping the dust from your violin is a simple and easy way to prevent the build-up of rosin which may affect the quality of the sound produced by the violin.
It’s also recommended that students replace their violin’s strings every year. Over years the sound quality deteriorates and natural wear and tear will break a string.
Violin strings can be bought from music shops, but if you’re not confident enough to do this yourself, your strings can be changed in music shops for a small fee.
Replacing your violin’s strings will ensure that your instrument retains a bright and warm sound.
The best thing people can do for your instrument is to get it serviced.
Servicing instruments is very similar to servicing cars, where all of the components are thoroughly checked and repaired to ensure that the instrument is fulfilling its potential.
Violin servicing often takes place at specialist music shops for stringed instruments, however, instruments can also be sent to experts via music shops if they don’t have the necessary expertise to deal with instruments.
Taking good care of your instrument is an incredibly important part of being a responsible musician, and if you look after your violin, you’ll be rewarded with a warm and satisfying sound.
While everything of course has its cost, using apps instead of buying a metronome or instrument tuner, or looking online for free sheet music, can help you save money - just as there are ways to save on your violin lessons, too.