The violin is the
instrument and we call it a fiddle when we play traditional music.
It is the same instrument. The bow is referred to as the stick.
The best way to get
started is to take the plunge and buy your own violin "kit which
includes the instrument itself, a bow, a case and usually rosin
too. I have some loan fiddles so you can try it out.
you need to go for a kit that your budget allows, but it is hard to
produce a nice sound as a beginner, so a really cheap violin will
probably leave you wishing you’d opted for something a bit better.
a budget of around £200 you will get a good starter violin from a music
shop. The violin shops may
offer hire/buy so you get to try the instrument on a rental basis for a
few weeks, with the option to pay a balance, or return the violin.
those of you local to Bristol and North Somerset, Bob
Bailey from Clevedon Music Shop is doing click and collect during the
current lockdown November 2020 - ring him on 01275 342090.
In Bristol ring Nick at Bristol Violin shop - Upper Maudlin
Street - 0117
can find much cheaper violins online, but beware they may not be set up
properly. A previously owned
instrument from a private seller may be an option if you get a chance to
hear the instrument being played, try to tune it etc.
Be Covid aware and safe.
Tuning Your Violin and aids for this
the violin to the correct pitch is essential.
Put the violin under your chin and look down to the scroll at the end
where your fingers will play all our tunes in the "First
From right to left as you look down, the notes are E A D G
E has the highest pitch and G has the lowest pitch.
the pegs at the scroll end to make a large variation in pitch. Use
the fine tuners in the tailpiece for tweaking the pitch when you are very near to the
the pegs away from you i.e. clockwise, or turn the fine tuners clockwise
to make the string tighter, i.e. higher in pitch.
G D A E
violin is very mechanical. As you turn the fine tuner, a little
lever is depressed under the tailpiece, thereby making the string
tighter which will produce a higher pitch.
As you turn a peg away
from you, it is easy to see that you are shortening the string to
produce a higher pitch, and vice versa.
should be pushed inwards as you turn them so they do not slip.
Fine tuners are only for small adjustments in pitch. Do not force
once they are too far down or too far up, you need to tune from
the peg. Over-use of the adjusters can lead to problems with the
Be careful when tuning with the pegs, that you are tuning the correct
string ! - as you could cause a string to break by mistake.
New strings might stretch slightly for a couple of week so you may
have to tune more during this period. The good news is that modern
strings are very stable and usually only need a small amount of
adjustment after this bedding in period.
If you need to replace a
string we can all look at that with you in a class. There are lots
of videos online to help you with this.
to tune to the correct pitch:
If you already have a trained ear, a simple pitch fork will gives the
note A - the second string from the top as you look down the violin.
an online app (free)
use an electronic tuner - I recommend this for complete beginners as it
is a quick way to get to the right pitch and it will help you to train
your ear to hear that pitch. The MS Micro Violin Tuner by
be placed on your violin and shows the pitch of any note you are playing
for a short time. It also has a metronome which is useful to keep
your rhythm steady at the same pace throughout your tune. It
is about £22 - £24 and works on batteries.
Tensioning and loosening the bow
store your bow slack or you will stretch the hair and damage the
bow. When you come to play, tension the bow by turning the knob by
turning the silver screw clockwise until the middle of the bow has a gap
between the wood and the hair of about a pencil width.
you break a hair do not pull it out as this may dislodge the other
hairs. Either carefully cut it away about half an inch from each
end with scissors - or wrap it round your finger to break it near both
following accessories are important to consider. Choosing the
right one for you is difficult as you dont know until you start using it
whether it suits you. As a beginner it is even more
difficult. Reviews online can help but is more a matter of opinion
and personal preference - it is fun to read the widely conflicting
verified purchaser reviews!
is important to be as relaxed as possible when playing. When you
first take up the instrument, this is indeed a challenge, as you will
not be adopting a natural pose!
shoulder rest is a way to fill the gap between your body and the violin
so you can hold it up with your chin. A lot of traditional
musicians do not even use a shoulder rest, but that can be uncomfortable
on the collarbone.
rests come in a very wide range, most of which are extremely adjustable
in width to fit across the violin in a variety of angles, and at various
am currently using a Styddi shoulder rest which is around £10
is most likely that your violin already has a chin rest. These
also come in a wide range of shapes and styles for positioning in
different places on the violin, and on which you rest your chin!
asked to place the violin in a playing position for the first time, most
people naturally hold it with their chin pretty much over the
tailpiece. Chin rests used to be placed on the right side of the
tailpeice and nowadays are usually on the left. Just be aware that
you can easily change your chin rest to make your playing more
comfortable for you.
have been using a Wolf Special chin rest for the past 20 years - I
position it over the tailpiece so I am in the middle of the violin.
keep a spare set in your case. You can buy strings in sets or
individually, so make sure you have at least one of each string.
you are just replacing one broken string after a short time, change all
of your strings at the same time to keep an even sound. It depends
on how much you play as to when you should do this. You may be
able to hear when your strings become unresponsive, dull or produce and
uneven sound - or they may even start to show signs of wear.
is such a wide choice of strings which will sound different on different
violins and different in tonal quality too if tried on the same
violin. I suggest you choose strings to suit your
use Spirocore - they are quick to respond and have a bright sound that
suits Irish music. There are about £60 for a set and are
extremely stable regarding tuning. I change them after a year to 18
alternative that some violin shops recommend is the Pirastro Tonica
which is about £22 a set.
will be useful to really dull the sound of your violin. It is not
recommended for all of your practice because it is important for you to
hear the un-muted sound you are producing. However, it may be
useful if you don't want to disturb others in your house or you don't
want the neighbours to hear!
couple of pegs on the sides of the bridge will work, but a recommended practice mute
is one made of a heavy rubber and will cost around £5
is required to make a sound at all with the bow. A new or newly
re-haired bow will not have any rosin on it, so will need a fair amount
before you will get a sound from the strings. Run the bow from tip
to frog over the rosin several times. Keep checking that you are
not putting too much on, as it will build up on the strings and dull
your sound. After each time you play, dust the excess rosin from
the strings with a soft cloth which you should keep in your case.
violin kits will come complete with rosin. My indulgence is Larica
Gold - very expensive but lasts for years and I think it is a lovely
I first started playing the violin again (after a break of 25 years or
so!!) I attended loads of workshops and courses given by the influential
players in English, Irish and Scottish traditional music.
must admit to being a bit dismayed when Catriona MacDonald spent a whole
hour on stretching rather than teaching fiddle. To her (at the
time at least) it was an essential part of practice and playing.
I'm sure she will still endorse this.
is always important to listen to your body and the neck and shoulders
can get very stiff if you don't stretch - so use gentle movements to
release tension. There is lots of help online about stretching
these days and many of us have attended fitness classes and yoga
sessions where stretching and relaxing is encouraged.