Choosing a violin can be daunting to beginners and seasoned professionals alike. It is easy to become overwhelmed with the seemingly unending options and it’s difficult to know where to start, especially as a beginner. The most helpful component for beginning violinists is to find a teacher. During your first violin lesson in Houston, they will help guide you through the selection process and might have some options to try out. If you’d like to get an instrument before starting lessons, here are some pointers for how to select the best violin for a beginner student.
Rent, Don’t Buy
Violins have an incredible range in pricing from around $100 all the way to the millions! The vast majority of violinists can rule out the million dollar price tag, but everyone wants good value for a reasonable price. New violin students don’t need a high quality instrument, but they do need something that doesn’t sound like a toy. Even as a beginner, playing on a violin with a poor sound quality can be discouraging and frustrating. To get a higher quality instrument at a reasonable price, I strongly suggest renting from your local violin shop. Many shop rentals start as low as $20/month which means it will take years of renting to pay the actual price of the instrument.
It is also common for shops to offer rent-to-own plans so that you are making an investment with each monthly payment. Your rental will also come with a bow, case, rosin, and microfiber cloth. During the rental process, you’ll be able to ask any questions you may have with highly knowledgeable employees who will make sure you get everything you need for the best learning experience.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Many instrument novices don’t realize that the violin comes in several different sizes, from full size, also known as a 4/4, all the way down to a 1/32 for tiny hands. If you are an adult or teenager, you will most likely be fine with a full size instrument. For kids, it is best to get sized at a violin shop. If you are looking to rent a violin, they will automatically try different sized instruments to get the best fit. As a rule of thumb, the end of the violin, also known as the scroll, should reach your wrist with your arm stretched out and the violin resting on your left shoulder. It is common for parents to want to get a bigger instrument that their child can grow into, but this will make it much more difficult to play on and lead to poor posture and technique.
Music To My Ears
An important and often overlooked step with beginners is to make sure you like how your instrument sounds. Many feel that they are not experienced enough to tell a difference, but you’d be surprised what your ears can already pick up! Do you prefer a violin with a bright, twangy sound or a deep, rich color? Even though student level instruments aren’t of the highest quality, you will still be able to tell the difference between instruments when played back to back. When listening to different violins, it’s important to not let how the violin looks be a major deciding factor. When practicing you will be much more concerned with the sound it makes rather than the color of the varnish. If you don’t know how to play yet, ask someone at the violin shop to play for you so that you can pick what sounds the best to you.
Resting On Your Shoulder
Whether you rent or buy, very few violins come with a shoulder rest, not because few need it, but because it is highly personalized from person to person and can even change as you age. A shoulder rest is attached under the violin and helps balance the instrument under your chin in a more natural position. Finding the right shoulder rest for your body is crucial to playing the violin comfortably and effortlessly. Many young violinists start with a foam pad or sponge that is held on by a rubber band. A good starting point for a more formal shoulder rest is the Kun. It is imperative that you try different options with your Houston violin teacher or shop worker as they will make sure it is placed correctly and help make any adjustments so that you have a comfortable set up.
All The Accessories
Depending on the instrument you rent or buy, your violin may or may not come with some accessories that range from helpful to absolutely necessary. Here’s a list of things to make sure you have with your violin.
- Music stand: This will definitely need to be purchased separately and is a requirement for playing the violin if you plan on using sheet music. There are folding stands and more durable metal stands. If you are above 6 feet tall, try to get an extra tall stand so that you aren’t hunched over while looking at music.
- Rosin: Rosin is rubbed on the bow hair to create friction between the bow and strings. Although most instruments come with rosin, it is usually very low quality. You can buy a much higher quality rosin for $10-$20 and it will last for years.
- Metronome/tuner: You might not use a metronome or tuner much at first but it will become a staple of your practice sessions. These can be bought pretty cheaply and all in one device.
- Strings: Your violin will come with strings on it, but it is always a good idea to have an extra set in case one breaks. It is suggested to replace your strings at least once per year and more often for more experienced players. If you are renting, the shop will usually change the strings for free. This should be done by a seasoned player. I always suggest Dominants for beginners as they are a good quality, affordable set.
- Microfiber cloth: This will most likely come with your instrument but it’s always good to check. If your violin does not have one, make sure you purchase a microfiber cloth as it will not damage the varnish. Wiping down your instrument after every practice session will help protect your violin and extend the lifetime of your strings.
- Lesson book: Now that you have a violin, you need music to play! If you plan on taking lessons, wait and see what books your teacher uses before purchasing anything. If you plan on learning on your own, I suggest starting with the Suzuki method or Essential Elements books. These books are structured specifically for beginning violinists.
Are you ready to enroll in violin lessons? Find a teacher near yo! Our teachers will come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. Our online music lessons are taught by local music teachers who plan their lessons to suit your child. Contact us today to learn more.
by Tracy Gibler