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My first violin

I fondly remember the absolute joy of my first term learning the violin: the excitement of my weekly lessons; moving on from plucking open strings to playing with fingers and the bow; and the satisfaction of progressing through my first book. I loved making up my own tunes in my note book, writing the letters of the strings in different combinations, and proudly playing them to my teacher. I remember the absolute sheer sweaty panic of my first performance at a school concert with two of my friends… and the ecstasy and relief of the applause after. But the memory that still lingers the most strongly and always brings a little smile when it comes to mind, is that of my first violin.

This memory is quite often triggered simply by opening my violin case: the sound of the zip as I open it; the smell of the varnish, varnish cleaner and rosin as I lift the cover away, and the guilt I feel as I hear my teacher tell me yet again that I should have cleaned the rosin dust off the violin body before putting it away. That, or a waft of men’s after shave. (My teacher once suggested I clean my violin with a little aftershave. Having never used it before myself, I interpreted this as the amount that would leave me and my violin smelling like my dad for months to come. Very embarrassing as a self-conscious teenager in the school orchestra.)

Nostalgia aside, I thought it might be useful to list those items you or your child will need as a beginner violinist.

  • A violin: Whether rented or purchased, always get measured in a violin/ music shop. I would avoid generic age-related sizes as everyone is different! It’s very important to get the correct size, as the wrong one will make it harder to learn on and cause posture problems that will be hard to later correct. Don’t rely on an eBay seller to convince you that the one they are selling is just what you need!
  • Bow: This should be provided for you with the violin at beginner level. Remember to always slacken the horse hair when you put it away.
  • Case: It doesn’t matter what shape it is as long as it protects the instrument. I have a rectangular one so I can slot my music into the outer compartment too. Most beginners have the violin-shaped ones as these tend to be cheaper.
  • Shoulder rest: I hate the velveted squishy “shoulder rests”. They slip around under the violin and are more of a hindrance than help. Even a sponge attached with elastic bands is better than the velvet! My preference however is a Wolf adjustable shoulder rest or a cheaper imitation. Sandners are also good.
  • Rosin: to rub along the bow hair and provide the friction needed to move the string and create a sound. Use sparingly – it should last years. There are dozens of manufacturers out there and everyone has a different favourite! Rosin comes in “light” and “dark”. I started off on Hidersine, which is a light (and less sticky) rosin. It is also one of the cheapest. Rosin shatters easily so for young beginners who might have the tendency to drop things, this is important to consider!
  • A duster: to dust away rosin from the body of the violin after playing and prevent a build-up on the varnish.
  • A music stand: It’s really important to play with your music at eye level so that you don’t get into bad posture habits!
  • Notebook and pencil

Your teacher should recommend what you need before or on your first lesson. It’s always best to check with them first before making a purchase to avoid unnecessary costs. However, I know that sometimes it’s nice to have a resource to refer to – especially if this is your first instrument, you come from a non-musical family or parent-teacher relationships are a little distant at your child’s school!

Happy violining!

POST TITLE: My first violin
AUTHOR: Jenny Maslin
POSTED: 19th August 2014

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