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Violin FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions

We hope you’ve enjoyed our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning Violin’ series.  Contact us if you have questions or suggestions, and remember to sign up for 4 Feature Friday

Violin FAQ

Choosing An Instrument

Although renting a violin may seem like an inexpensive way of getting hold of an instrument, the reality is that you can buy a basic violin for as little as $60 (£50). 

Buying will require that you know how to look for a good violin beforehand, like which brand has the best reputation and where the instrument is made. 

When looking for a violin, you have to check for several things. For instance, make sure that there are no cracks on it. You can find cracks by closely inspecting the wood grain. 

Inspect the wood finish and determine if it’s high-quality wood. You can do that by taking a look at the wood grain. Good quality wood tends to have tighter grain, which means it will last longer. 

Expect to pay as little as $60 (£50) or as much as $100,000 (£75,000), because violin prices vary. Size is a common reason. There are smaller violins intended for children and young people, and they tend to be cheaper than full-size violins intended for adults. 

Generally, the older the violin is, the rarer and more expensive it is. There are also newer violins that can be as expensive as vintage ones, because of the quality and craftsmanship level of the maker. Here’s a rule of thumb: smaller, newer violins from relatively unknown makers are cheapest. Full-size violins which are older and from renowned makers are most expensive. 

Unless you’re a passionate collector, do not spend too much on your first-ever violin. Here’s what you should know about beginner violins: you get what you pay for. If you go for instruments under $100, they typically won’t sound good and won’t last you long. If you want to get serious at learning violin, you will have to shell out at least $200 to $500 (£150 to £400) for a good beginner instrument that’s properly set up and is durable. At this price range, you have a lot of options, so be sure to do enough research. 

Maintenance

We recommend that you use an aftermarket cleaner with a clean cloth to wipe down your instrument. A lot of what you can find at home can damage the violin if you use them to clean it. For instance, never ever use alcohol or any other cleaning solvents, as they can strip the violin’s varnish. If you don’t have an aftermarket cleaner, you can simply wipe the instrument down with clean cloth. 

Another alternative is to use wood polish. But when you go to look for one, find something that’s specifically formulated for wiping a violin. Either way, the violin’s varnish is what you should keep pristine and away from anything that can damage its surface. 

Store your violin in its hard case. Always. Every violin should come with its own hard case when you buy it, and you must always use it. They can protect the violin from permanent damage that can be expensive to repair. 

Also remember to keep your violin away from very hot or very cold areas. Try treating it like a pet: if you don’t want your dog to be locked out in the sweltering heat or the freezing cold, do the same for your violin. If you live in these climates where there are long summers and winters, consider buying a dehumidifier or a moisture regulator. 

Like any stringed instrument, the violin will be prone to string breakage over time. No strings last forever, and everybody knows that. Either way, your goal should not be to play your strings until they break. Regular replacement should be every 9 months or every year at the minimum. If you practice every day and play extended performances, you can expect to have to replace the strings in as little as 1 to 3 months. 

After every performance, wipe down your violin to clean off excess rosin and finger marks. Always use soft clean cloth when you do. As for the bow, you also need to wipe off excess rosin from it. But remember to use a different cloth you used to clean the violin with on the bow. Before wiping the bow down, however, slacken the hair a bit so you won’t risk damaging them during the cleaning. We recommend the ToneGear Rosin remover for this task.

Technique

For starters, learning any instrument and doing well requires daily practice. Consider that a baseline. But the bare minimum is to practice at least 5 to 10 minutes a day.

The amount of practice you should do falls entirely upon you, but it takes time to sound good. Remember to not practice too hard however, as your mind and body needs time to internalize for muscle memory to kick in. The key to practice, as with any instrument, is quality over quantity and daily practice

A sense of rhythm and timing it is critical in musicianship, especially when learning to play an instrument like the violin. Metronomes are used to keep time when you practice. There are tons of metronome options out there, most of them are completely free. All you need to do is go to YouTube and you can find metronomes in different BPMs (beats per minute). Whichever metronome you choose is completely your decision, as you will need to find something that you consider effective and engaging. 

There are also  physical metronomes you can buy, which have a few different beat settings. Use them if you feel like searching for different beats online is too much work. You can find mechanical or digital ones ranging from $30 – $250 (£20 – £200)

The violin must rest on your collarbone, supported by your left hand and by your shoulder. For left-handed players, you can do this in reverse. Remember to put a bit of weight from your head to stabilize the instrument, so it won’t fall off while you move your bow against the strings. Keep your neck free of tension so you can move and not feel stiff. 

To improve your holding technique, practice. Your biggest enemy is tension, so as much as possible, relax. The most important thing is to hold the violin lightly at the collarbone and chin contact points. Keep in mind that the hand on the fingerboard should never grip tightly, but rather just support it. 

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General

Rosin is a type of resin that you put on the bow hair so they grip the strings with friction, creating the desired sound. You can’t play violin without applying rosin to the bow hair.

When it comes to which type and brand you should use, again, it varies. There are so many options out there, so narrow it down by your personal preference. In general, however, you would want darker-colored rosin as they’re softer and stickier. Remember to choose wisely since rosin can also affect how much cleaning you have to do. For instance, powdery rosins are easier to clean than stickier ones. 

Yes, you do. Shorter nails are better since it means your fingers will be able to grip a fingerboard better. If you can’t grip, you can’t press the strings enough and they won’t sound good. They will sound muted and you won’t get the smooth, flowing melodies everybody loves to hear. It’s like any other stringed instrument–your fingers are your most treasured asset and you need to keep them maintained. 

If you don’t want to cut your nails short (because the nail art on them is your pride and joy), you can still play! Don’t worry about that much because it all depends on your fingering technique. It will take much more work to be used to this, though, so be prepared for that. 

You can find free sheet music online, yes, but they can be hard to come by. Most of the time, musical arrangements have copyright protection. This means you have to pay for them. 

It depends on which instrument you have experience with. For example, if you know how to play the mandolin, you’ll encounter something similar with the violin’s fingerboard. If you play the guitar, the violin is a lot different because you’ll be using a bow, and the fingerboard doesn’t have frets to help you identify notes. If you play cello, it’s more or less the same because you already know how it feels playing with a bow. 

Either way, experience playing another instrument will help you as you already have a musical ear. It now falls to practicing a different way of producing the same wonderful music you love.

There is no easy way to answer that.  However, we have a dedicated article on this very subject. Click here.

Violin FAQ's
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