The violin is such a wonderful, versatile instrument to learn. You can play Mozart concertos, Irish fiddle tunes, Indian ragas, and even rock music. I love starting a new beginner on their violin journey, and opening this new world to them. Unfortunately, the first couple lessons move slowly when the new student doesn’t have everything they need. Here is my list of 5 Things You Need to Start Learning Violin:
- A good instrument that works. Sounds silly, I know, but you’d be surprised how many first-time students I get who hand me their new violin case and say “I just got this violin from Ebay, and when I opened it up, it was all apart and I was too afraid to touch it – can you put it together?” The short answer is yes, I usually can put it together, but I’d really rather that a professional luthier set up your brand new instrument. Actually, I’d rather you didn’t buy it from Ebay in the first place. There are plenty of great quality and reasonably priced luthiers in the area, and their time isn’t reserved only for professionals. Many have wonderful quality student instruments and are happy to work on yours even if you didn’t buy it from them. Try Benning Violins in Studio City or Metzler Violin Shop in Glendale.
- A finger guide. Keep in mind that stringed instruments like violins and cellos do not have frets like guitars. When you’re faced with an unmarked fingerboard, it can be a little overwhelming. As a kid, our teacher would individually mark the finger positions with special tape. I still do this for my students when appropriate, however, the 21st century has brought us some wonderful updated tools, like this finger guide by First Frets. It’s basically just a long, clear sticker with colored lines – a different color for each finger. No more measuring, no more guessing-and-checking – I just move the strings aside, clean off the fingerboard, and stick it on. This way, my students know exactly where to put their fingers right away.
- A shoulder rest. I can’t figure out why shoulder rests aren’t included in instrument rentals. You can’t play violin without one. I’ve had violin students come to me after starting violin with a teacher who didn’t know about shoulder rests (why that didn’t disqualify this person from teaching violin, I will never know) and say to me “Miss Halley, I don’t like playing violin – it hurts!” Well, sure, without a shoulder rest, it hurts. That’s what the shoulder rest is for – you don’t want the hard wood of the violin digging into your collar bone. The shoulder rest fits right over your collar bone and lifts the violin up so that you can hold it comfortably between your chin and shoulder. My favorite tried-and-true shoulder rest is the Kun collapsible version. The feet fold in so it fits in your violin case. For the kiddos, Kun has smaller size shoulder rests that even come in different colors.
- A method book. I love the All for Strings method books. Maybe I’m biased – in 1994, little Halley began her string-player journey with the All for Strings series. Now, 25 years later as a teacher, I use this series with all my beginner students. It’s a great tool for me because I don’t just teach out of the book – I like to introduce concepts and have the student make connections with the violin first, and then use some examples in the book to reinforce the point, as well as helping learn how to read music. And a method book should be just that: A tool for your teacher to use as they are tailoring your lessons to fit your learning needs.
An open learning attitude. Pianists have it easy. They push a key and it sounds good. Violins don’t work like this. There’s a lot of physical coordination to learn, and it takes a bit of time before a new student can play a whole song. That being said, I’ve never had a student fail to get there. Having an open mind and a great learning attitude, in addition to your love for music, really helps to get the full experience of learning how to play the violin.
I hope this post will give you a good idea of what it will be like starting violin lessons and the tools that will help you get started. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions – I’m always happy to help.
All you need now is a great teacher!
By Halley Feaster