9 Must-Haves Before You Start Violin Lessons
You’ve decided to begin violin lessons! You are no doubt feeling excited and anxious, hopeful and determined. In addition to having a violin and bow, here is a helpful list of things you need before your first lesson:
Violin Rosin. Your bow needs it and it is a vital part of what you need to get started. If you are a beginning violinist and your first purchase came with the works (violin, bow, case, and rosin), just go ahead and throw that rosin out. Trust me. I have yet to see a beginning violin set come with rosin that is good. There are so many different kinds of rosin it can be overwhelming. Without going into too much detail, I can recommend Hill Rosin. Select Light for hotter, more humid climates, and Dark for cooler, dryer climates.
Violin Shoulder Rest—maybe. I know that is not very helpful, but here is why– The violin was originally intended to be played without a shoulder rest. Considering our different body structures, some may be able to play without a shoulder rest (it takes a certain teacher to support this idea), while others may need something to support proper positioning while the student builds strength. I have had teachers advocate for the use of shoulder rests, and those who did not use them. I have tried both ways. Please do not do a search on the internet for the best shoulder rest! You will no doubt see many qualified recommendations, however, shoulder rests are very specific to your body structure and are not “one-size-fits-all”. I would hate to see you come to your lesson excited about your fancy and pricey shoulder rest only to discover it does not fit your body, or hinders proper development. I have used a Kun brand shoulder rest, a Poeland (my latest experiment–it did not work for me but I can see how it would be great for others), and a red cosmetic sponge (as used and advocated by my last teacher). Steer clear of any shoulder rest that has direct contact with the body of the underneath of the instrument as this contact works to reduce the resonance and sound.
Soft Cloth. This is definitely something you can raid your kitchen for. Just make sure it is not abrasive. I love flannel cotton and use a scrap I pilfered from my mother’s fabric box years ago. You will use this cloth to gently wipe clean your instrument after each use. It is especially important to wipe away any rosin dust from the strings and the top of the instrument as this can collect overtime and form a thick and sticky film. I love the pretty cloths from Beaumont Music, but other options are available as well. Metronome. I am a teacher that uses a metronome. Learning to feel the beat and steadiness of a metronome will be essential as you grow in your skill and talent. I practiced with one as a beginner and I still will use one when practicing today on my own or in small groups. There are many simple and complicated options out there. Matrix Quartz Metronome is a great, simple one that I have used for many years. There are also many great apps available now. MetroTimer is one my students use and love. The great thing about many electronic metronomes is the ability to plug in your headphones or speakers to increase the volume and really feel the beat as you are playing.
Folding Music Stand. In order to practice with proper position and avoid aches and pains, purchase a folding music stand so that you have the potability you need to play anywhere. The most basic and inexpensive music stands can be sufficient but I really believe in one with better support and strength. I’ve had too many super cheap metal ones drop the music while I’ve been performing! Here are a few models I have used: Basic Metal, Sturdier Option, and Orchestra Quality (this is not a foldable option and so it is not as portable however, this is what I love to practice on at home).
Extra set of Strings. Always. Always have an extra set just in case. As a beginner, your A, and E strings will tend to fail or break sooner than the others simply because beginning music utilizes these strings more heavily. If you do not have an extra set on hand, at least have an extra A string and an extra E string. I change my strings regularly due to the time I spend practicing and performing, but this just isn’t necessary for beginning students. Please, please have your teacher show you how to change a string properly before you make any attempt yourself! Here is a great YouTube video you can also use to help you know the proper way to change out a string. I recommend Vision and Dominant Strings.
Pencils. Never attend a class or lesson or rehearsal with out them. You will need them to make notes of bowing, fingerings, dynamics in your music. And there is almost always another musician who will have need to borrow one (I’ve been that borrower before!). Make sure you are prepared for your needs and it’s always a good idea to be of service to others. You will likely need a good eraser, too, so make sure your pencils and erasers are a good pair.
Notebook. For my private students in the local area where I live, I provide a lesson notebook for you. For my international Skype students, you will need to have one on hand during your lesson. This is to take notes of the important instructions and assignments that you will be given to work on in the coming week of practicing. When you practice on your own, make sure that this notebook is open for reference. It will help you to recall the action items and tips that we discussed together during your lesson. The Practice Journal is a cool resource, but any notebook will do. Your teacher can help you to organize your practice to be productive–just ask.
Method books and Music. Your teacher should provide instruction to you on what books to purchase before your first lesson. Trust you teacher, but do not be afraid to ask for additional references if you feel your books are missing something.
There you have it! Your “Must-haves” to begin violin lessons: rosin, shoulder rest, soft cloth, metronome, music stand, extra strings, pencils, notebook and method books and music. With the proper materials you will be poised to succeed at whatever you set your mind to.