The easiest way to get started on the violin is usually by renting an instrument from us at Boise Music Lessons, or from another local reputable source. By starting out renting you not only see if you’re ready to make the commitment to purchase a violin, but you can also ensure you’re playing the right sized instrument. However, if you’ve been given a violin or can’t wait to get your hands on an instrument of your own, here are some tips on how to make sure it’s sturdy, comfortable, and ready for fiddling!
Step 1: Find the right size
If you take a peek inside the “f-hole” of a violin it should have a label with a size (1/2, 3/4, etc.). Nearly all adults play a full sized (4/4) violin. Kiddos are a different story. It’s important to size them so the instrument won’t be too heavy and so they can reach all the notes without stretching. Here’s how to fit your kiddo for an instrument. As mentioned in the video, err on the smaller side if it looks like you’re in between sizes.
Step 2: Find an instrument with solid construction
Violins have sneaky imposters called “Violin Shaped Objects” or VSOs. While seemingly a good deal financially, VSOs are practically unplayable due to their poor construction. And, while violin is basically the coolest instrument, it is on the challenging side when you’re just starting out. You want to make sure your instrument is working with you in your early days of learning. Here’s how to spot the dreaded VSO.
Once you can suss out an imposter, shopping for a used instrument is often a great way to go. Older violins usually have aged wood, providing better sound for a fraction of the price. Watch craigslist or Marketplace for instruments in need of a good home. Here’s a used violin checklist to give potential instruments a thorough evaluation. Remember, bridges, strings, bows, and cases can be replaced — above all you want a structurally sound, playable instrument.
If you’re looking for a new instrument, purchase from a respected local store (no, not Hastings…). If you prefer to shop online in your jammies, pick a reputable retailer like Shar or FiddlerShop. Be sure to check out the clearance section for lightly used or B-stock instruments — these are always an amazing deal! Or, shop for well known violin brand like Franz Hoffman through Amazon*. Here are solid beginner models in the most popular sizes:
Franz Hoffman Amadeus Violin Full Size (4/4)
Franz Hoffman Amadeus Violin 3/4 Size
Hoffman Amadeus Violin 1/2 Size
Hoffman Amadeus Violin 1/4 Size
Step 3: Accessorize!
All instruments will need…
Case — with suspension padding to protect your violin’s most delicate components. Handy models with a pocket for music and shoulder rest storage are ideal.
Protec Suspension Case
Bow — fiberglass models with horsehair are great for beginners, while a carbon fiber and horsehair model is an easy upgrade in instrument tone and playability. Be sure to pick a bow that matches the scale of your violin.
Full Size (4/4) Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Bow
Rosin — a fresh cake is best (under a year old) and dark rosin is nice and grabby in Boise’s dry climate
Melos Dark Rosin
Cleaning Cloth — to remove said rosin…
Glaesel Polishing Cloth
Strings — change em’ every year and keep an extra pack as a backup. Be sure to the set to match the scale of your violin.
Fiddlerman Synthetic Core Strings
Tuner — oh so very important for a fretless instrument!
Snark ST-8 All Instrument Tuner
Shoulder Rest — we could (and should!) write an entire page on shoulder rests alone, but here is short version: find something comfortable and adjustable. Some players prefer a tiny sponge, while others prefer a more molded model (this said, those that are often *not* a great fit or often fall off the violin are Kun, Muco, and Resonans). We’ll now give you a smattering of student favorites and hopefully you can try out a variety until you Goldilocks your way into the perfect fit. Again, make sure you match your shoulder rest to the scale of your violin.
Player’s Economy Foam Pad: cheap, easy, comfortable
Everest: this student fave stays put on the base of your instrument
Wolf Forte Secondo: Angie’s longtime fave — highly adjustable, even for long necks
Bonmusica Shoulder Rest: the mother of all ergonomic rests
Step 4: Build your practice corner
Create a safe and comfortable space to leave your instrument out and get in your practice groove!
Instrument Stand — a visible instrument is a played instrument! Hang your violin on the wall for a standing invitation to practice, and for a beautiful conversation piece.
String Swing Violin Hanger
Music Stand — find something nice and sturdy to hold up heavy books and a metronome/cell phone. Bonus points if you have a place to store pencils and highlighters, a stand light, fingernail clippers, and some clothes pins to keep your books open!
Manhasset Music Stand
Congratulations! — You now have all the necessary information to size your instrument, slay the VSO, and assemble a fantastic violin outfit. Now that you’re ready to roll, come play music with us!
Still have questions about buying a violin? Email us!
*Boise Music Lessons is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Amazon offers a small commission on any products purchased through affiliate links at no additional cost to you. Your purchases help support our work in bringing you quality music resources beyond in-person instruction.