Here’s what you’ll need to make your learning experience enjoyable and effective!
One of the most common questions I hear from beginner violinists is about equipment. When you’re just starting out, it can be overwhelming to figure out both what you need and how much to spend on it. But worry not—I’m here to help you avoid the pitfalls and unnecessary accessories and get what you need play better and sound better without breaking the bank! Let’s get started...
1. Instrument + Bow + Case: ($150-500, or rent from a local shop)
The first thing you’re going to need is, obviously, the instrument: the violin, the bow and the case. I consider these three a package because, at the beginner level, they usually come as a set. No instrument dealer is going to send you on your way with a nice instrument and no case.
If you order an instrument from Amazon or Shar.com that’s what you’ll get as part of a student instrument kit 99.9% of the time, but make sure to check the item description just in case (pun intended).
Typically, a package like this will also come with #2 on the list…
2. Rosin: ($5-$25)
Rosin is a yellow tree sap that makes the bow hair sticky when we apply it, and we need that friction from the bow in order to vibrate the strings. A block of rosin will usually come with a new violin case, but if it’s not included, make sure to order one—you’ll definitely need it!
3. Shoulder Rest: ($15-$30)
A shoulder rest is essentially a cushion that attaches to the bottom of the violin and lays flat against the collarbone. It provides comfort to the player, in addition to better grip when you hold the instrument up in playing position. Though you might receive a cheap shoulder rest in your case when you purchase a kit (see #1 above),I HIGHLY recommend buying an upgraded one because this will dramatically improve your comfort, and trust me: the “bargain” versions are super, super uncomfortable. It’s a bit of extra cost, but it’s totally worth it!
4. Tuner: ($0-$15)
The next thing you’ll need is a tuner. Tuners come in a lot of forms: pitch pipes, tuning forks, clip on tuners...but in the age of the smartphone, you can also use a tuner app! Many of these are free to download, so you don’t necessarily have to shell out for a fancy one. A tuner is essential for beginners, because a new violin out of the box will almost certainly be out of tune, and it will probably go out of tune again on a regular basis until it settles in. You’re going to want a tuner!
5. Metronome: ($0-$25)
I know this might seem like something secondary that you don't actually need, but I think it’s really important.Metronomes are foundational for playing in time and developing a great sense of rhythm, and I use them with my students from day 1.Like tuners, metronomes are also available in app form, and there are many free versions. It doesn’t cost anything, so go for it!
Alright! Let’s get into the “optional” section now!
You might wonder why i’m mentioning these tools at all if they’re optional! The short answer is: because they really come in handy! An important thing to remember when considering a purchase in this category is that the function of some of these tools to solve a problem, and you might not know that you have that problem until you actually get started playing. So a good rule of thumb is to get a few weeks of playing experience under your belt and then evaluate whether you feel these tools might be helpful to you!
OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED:
- Backup strings: ($25-$55)
When you get a new violin, you typically just have one set of strings, soif a string breaks, you’ll need a new set to replace it. You’ll need to pick some up in a shop or order them online and wait a few days, which can be frustrating! Good protocol is to have a backup set in the case so you always have a spare for each string in a pinch. If you change out your whole set and none of them are broken, you can also just keep the old strings as your new backup set.
One more tip on string changes:generally speaking, It’s better to change out the whole set at the same time—otherwise they’ll wear in at different speeds, which can affect your sound.
- Fingering Tapes: ($5-$15)
Fingering tapes are basically stickers that you can put on your violin’s fingerboard that provide a visual reference for accurate finger placement. They can be really helpful for honing your intonation skills and building your left hand technique in the early stages of your learning process.
That said—it’s all too easy to become reliant on fingering tape. Like a lot of accessories, these are meant only to act as “training wheels”, and you should plan to wean yourself off of them within a few months.
I also tend not to recommend these at all for adult beginners, because without them, you’re challenged to listen and train your ear to hear subtle changes in your intonation. Slightly more challenging to be sure, but I think you’ll find that you’ll get faster and better results in the long run!
- Pinky House: ($0-$10)
This is another helpful “training wheel” to be used with discretion. The pinky house will help you train your pinky for a nice and steady bow grip. You can buy one premade online (they’re pretty cheap) or even make one at home with electrical tape or duct tape.
Again, be sure to use this only for a little while, and take it off regularly to test your strength. Keep in mind that it might not actually build strength in your pinky, but rather just train you to understand where your little finger should actually sit on the bow!
- Chin rest cushion: ($0-$20)
I’ve heard a lot of students in my time as a teacher complain about discomfort with holding the violin. You’re not alone—it’s not uncommon to dislike the feel of the chinrest that came with your brand new violin! There are a lot of products out there that will cover up the edge of the chinrest and protect your neck and jaw. You can buy one of these, or make one yourself out of an old sweater or glove and rubber bands. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can always upgrade your chinrest. It’s just an accessory after all!
- Tuner Tailpiece: ($15-$50)
This is a tailpiece that has fine tuners built into it. In the beginning, you’re still learning how to tune with the pegs, and getting precise intonation with those can be tricky, even for adults. I think it’s worth it, if you don’t have one already on your instrument, to take your violin to a shop and have a luthier swap it out for one with tuners. It just makes the experience of preparing your instrument easier so you can get down to playing, and who doesn’t want that?
Alright! These are all the items I encourage you to buy or DIY when you’re just getting started. I hope this article helped you a little in your journey!
If you want my personal recommendations for each item on the list, go ahead and download my FREE Violin Essentials Buying Guide.
Have questions or want to suggest an addition to the list? Leave me a comment below!