People often ask me about violin, so I thought a blog would be a good idea. I will type a proper document and link it here on UG for people who want pictures.
I'm assuming that the person reading this is an adult or teenage beginner, so all the references for sizing and stuff I make will be for someone of this age.
Also, this isn't meant to be a complete 'how-to' but a basic guide. Any questions, PM me.
Buying a violin
Before you can begin playing, you'll need an instrument. You can order these online or buy them in music shops (some places will sell violins solely). For an instrument such as violin, I would recommend that you go to a shop, as you'll need an instrument which is suitable for size, but also for quality- you can inspect instruments and check for faults, problems and the 'feel' of it.
Violins come in different sizes and these are for the most part standardized. The smallest size is 1/32 size, for young children of 2 or 3, but an adult will need the full-size violin, which is usually called the 4/4 violin. This has a fingerboard of 33.5cm (the fingerboard is usually black and this is where you put the fingers).
Bows will also come in different sizes, referred to by the same system (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 4/4) as a violin. Bows will need a thing called rosin too, which comes in a small round 'cake'.
Pricing for a violin varies. A GOOD violin is usually at least $200+, whilst a pro-standard one can cost $10,000+. Bows will usually run in at $40 or so.
Materials for violins and bows are usually various types of wood, but there are also metal and carbon-fiber violins, but these are more expensive. Electric violins, which are similar in their working to an electric guitar, will also be more expensive and don't work without a headset or amp.
Tuning a violin
Once you've bought the violin, you'll need to tune it. Unlike a guitar, violins have two sets of tuning pegs.
Take a look at your violin. At the top are four big pegs. At the bottom there are some small screw-like things on the bridge. These are the fine tuners. The general idea is to get the top tuning pegs within a close amount to the desired note, and then to use the fine-tuners to get it exactly right.
The top-pegs are friction pegs- they rely not on mechanisms to hold the string tight but they instead rely on being pushed hard into the hole they sit in. The usual trick is to both turn the peg but also to push it slightly into the scroll (the top bit!). That way it is nice and firm.
The fine-tuners are adjusted simply by turning them, just like a guitar.
The tuning for a violin is GDAE, the opposite of a bass or guitar. You can check tuning with a piano or other instrument, a tuning fork or an electric tuner. The violin sounds one octave higher than the guitar.
Most violinists will take lessons (it's not easy to learn on your own) with a teacher, and it should be easy to find a teacher. Ideally look for:
- A teacher who is mainly a violinist and not just teaching on the side. You want dedication.
- Ask about styles and different methods of playing. If you want to learn folk violin, make sure your teacher can teach that. If you want to be an orchestra player, ask about that. If you'd like lessons with some group work, ask about that.
- Make sure you're happy with the teacher's way of teaching and their lesson plans. Think of your favorite teacher at school and the things that made them a good teacher. It's the same with violin, you want someone who is going to make the violin fun, not boring.
- Think about time and money. You want something within your price range, but also you want a teacher who can give you as much lessons as you need. This is particularly true if you want to do grade exams or do something like orchestra playing.
- Home or music school? It's up to you. If home teaching is easier for you to do, then do this. If you can get to a dedicated music school or violin teacher, then consider this.
- Music theory and reading music: see next part.
Suzuki method is a popular way to learn violin. It's aimed at little children, but adults can also learn with it.
It is basically the idea that instead of teaching a child from the start on how to read music as well as how to play, it focuses instead on memory and playing technique. The person being taught will move slowly, not moving on from one piece until the teacher is satisfied with their playing completely. Music reading is introduced only after the violinist has perfected practical technique, usually starting this with the 4th book.
The Suzuki method also relies on the student listening to recordings of the songs being learnt at home, and also group work.
- If you're uncomfortable with music reading, this is a good method.
- Suzuki method has a very good success rate in teaching people to play.
- Difficulty is gradual, again with the violinist only moving on where the last piece can be played WELL.
- It develops memory, a key skill for a violinist.
- Generally it is intended for children, as parents are encouraged to get involved.
- Some people may feel not good in playing in groups.
- It can take a lot of time up. Students need to practice, listen to the recordings on the demonstration tape and attend lessons, a three-way process.
- Suzuki-trained teachers may be hard to find.
This is the end of part 1. Part 2 I will discuss the Suzuki method more, talk a little about the bow and some practicing tips.