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About the Violin

Violins are ideal for young players, because they come in so many sizes. A violin for a child is a great starting point for learning music.

School music programs usually introduce the violin in the fourth grade, and students begin with half-size or three-quarter size instruments, but even the very young (3 year olds) can become quite accomplished with their little sixteenth size instruments.

As the child grows, the instrument can be traded for larger sizes until they are able to handle a full size violin.

With the renewed educational emphasis on the arts, violin playing has become an increasingly popular choice in school music programs.

The violin and its extended family (including violas, cellos and basses) are central to the symphony orchestra. While classical music, with which the violin is usually associated, is traditionally the music style of the violin player, a great variety of musical opportunities are available to the violinist.

There is a long history of various styles of "fiddle" music as well as the soulful tones of the strolling violinist. In more recent times, the violin has become a major player in the world of jazz as well as being incorporated into rock and "crossover" musical styles.

Whatever the music, playing the violin can be fun, innovative, and exciting!

Background

Violins are ideal for young players, because they come in so many sizes.

A violin for a child is a great starting point for learning music. School music programs usually introduce the violin in the fourth grade, and students begin with half-size or three-quarter size instruments, but even the very young (3 year olds) can become quite accomplished with their little sixteenth size instruments.

As the child grows, the instrument can be traded for larger sizes until they are able to handle a full size violin.

With the renewed educational emphasis on the arts, violin playing has become an increasingly popular choice in school music programs.

The violin and its extended family (including violas, cellos and basses) are central to the symphony orchestra.

While classical music, with which the violin is usually associated, is traditionally the music style of the violin player, a great variety of musical opportunities are available to the violinist.

There is a long history of various styles of "fiddle" music as well as the soulful tones of the strolling violinist. In more recent times, the violin has become a major player in the world of jazz as well as being incorporated into rock and "crossover" musical styles.

Whatever the music, playing the violin can be fun, innovative, and exciting!

The Violin Family

The violin is the "King" of the string instrument family, but the violin family also includes the viola, the cello, and the bass viol.

All of these instruments can be used in solo performance as well as being played in their traditional section as a part of an orchestra or other group.

Crossing over from one violin family instrument to another is quite common, and relatively easy because the playing technique is similar.

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO LEARN THE VIOLIN?
The difficulty of playing the violin has sometimes been overplayed because the fretless fingerboard seems formidable to those unfamiliar with the instrument.

In reality, the violin is quite easy to play, and with proper hand position, and the use of "finger tapes," a student can be playing recognizable tunes within a very short time.

Once the student has become familiar with the feel of the instrument, and a measure of pitch recognition has been developed, the finger tapes can be removed.

The well known Suzuki method, which encourages parents to start children as early as three years of age, uses tape recordings in conjunction with printed music to help students become familiar with how a piece should sound.

It is not uncommon for beginning students to make rapid progress with consistent practice of about 20 minutes a day

CHOOSING A VIOLIN
Because size is very important in choosing a violin, it is advisable to seek out someone that is familiar with violin sizing.

A violin that is too large for the student can be very uncomfortable to hold, and in extreme cases excess stretching of the shoulder and arm can cause painful tendonitis.

A violin teacher, orchestra director or music store dealer can be of great help in determining the size you will need in relation to the arm length and hand size of the student.

Violin shops that deal exclusively with orchestral instruments and music stores with string instrument departments can be good sources of education, and instrument sizing is an important part of their work.

Some music stores have a very well developed violin department where children can be sized accurately, but unless this is the case, you should rely on the advice of a teacher.

Often teachers or orchestra directors want to be involved in helping their students choose an instrument. It is helpful if they can accompany you to the violin shop or music store.

If this is not possible, most violin shops will allow you to take an instrument for a few days on approval so your teacher can advise you on your purchase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning Your Budget


Violins come in a great array of price ranges. Many of the very inexpensive ones ($100 to $200) are not worth carrying home. In the violin shop, we call them VSOs -"Violin Shaped Objects."

Unfortunately, many times each year I am confronted with the unpleasant task of informing a distraught parent or an excited young student that the violin they have just bought will take over $150 worth of work just to make it playable, and then their instrument will only be worth about $100!

A good quality, new European violin outfit for the beginning student should retail in the neighborhood of $650 to $850. However, through Children's Music Workshop's instrument plan, quality violins are available at 50% off the retail price for under $340.

"Step-up" instruments will be in the retail range of $1,000 to $3,500, and professional instruments are generally $5,000 and up.

Unlike other instruments, good violins do not depreciate in value, so buying used will not necessarily save you a lot of money. A good option to outright purchase is instrument rental.

Good rental programs will allow you to apply at least part of the rent toward the eventual purchase of an instrument, and will allow you to exchange sizes as necessary.

It is not uncommon for teachers to encourage their students to purchase used violins because they have "mellowed out" or been "played in." This phenomenon is real!

Good violins do get better as they are played, however for a beginning student the noticeable difference is negligible. If you choose to purchase a used instrument, you should seriously consider getting it from a reputable dealer.

Repairs can be very costly, and are often necessary on old instruments that are found in flea markets, Grandma's attic, etc. If an individual is offering an instrument for sale, you should have someone who is familiar with violins look at it before you buy.

Violin shops will most likely charge a small fee for this service, but it will save you a lot of problems to get some expert advice.

Expect to spend some money on refurbishing a used violin. Replacing the strings, bridge, and bow hair and making other minor adjustments can cost $100 or more. Crack repairs can be very expensive.

WHERE TO BUY YOUR VIOLIN
There are several options for purchasing new violins: your local music store, a mail order company, a violin shop, or a private individual selling a used instrument.

One of the things you should consider is availability of service. Buying your instrument from a local dealer that has a trained violin repair person on staff is an advantage because adjustments or repairs may be needed from time to time.

If you choose to buy a violin from a mail order firm, be sure that service is available locally.

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Violins are made of wood, and wood is affected by the environment. Because of this it is important to examine the body of any violin (new or used) to make sure that there are no cracks in the top or back.

Well repaired cracks in the top of an older instrument may not be a problem (Seek the advice of a teacher or violin maker), but cracks in the back of an instrument can depreciate its value as much as 75 percent.

Examine the ribs (sides) of the violin to make sure that they are not bulging out beyond the edges of the top or back. This happens because wood that is not well seasoned will shrink noticeably when it dries out.

As the top and back shrink, the ribs begin to bulge. Most instruments of reasonable quality do not have this problem, because close attention is given to curing the wood properly. It is also not uncommon to find this problem in used instruments over 50 years old regardless of quality.

If everything else is in good order, this may not be cause to reject a used violin, but consult your violin repair shop concerning repair costs before making such a purchase.

Check to make sure that the neck of the violin is straight. Occasionally an instrument is made wrong, and somehow slips through the adjusting process unnoticed.

Make sure the bridge is centered between the f-holes, then sight up the fingerboard to see if it aligns with the bridge. If the bridge must be off-set toward one side or the other to make the strings and fingerboard line up you have a problem.

"Set up" on violins is very important. This includes proper bridge and string nut fitting so that the strings are a proper height from the fingerboard, fingerboard planing to make sure the strings don't buzz, peg fitting so the pegs turn smoothly and stay in place, and setting the soundpost for proper tone adjustment, etc.

As a general rule, pegs should be made of ebony or rosewood because most other woods are not dense enough to retain the smooth roundness that is necessary for easy tuning.

Some music stores do not set up their own instruments, but well-known brands generally are shipped in good adjustment. Many violin shops do their own "set ups," and work to meet the desires and specifications of local teachers and professional players.

Most violin outfits will have a case and bow included in the price. A fiberglass bow with horse hair is a good bow for beginners. A good wood bow can add $100 or more to the cost of a beginning violin outfit.

For step up violins, you will find the instrument, bow and case priced individually.

 

MAINTENANCE AND CARE
Like most musical instruments, the violin requires maintenance occasionally. You should expect a few broken strings from time to time. It just happens with violin family instruments.

If the same string breaks often, have your repair person examine the violin to make sure something is not out of adjustment. Upgrading to perlon core strings can give a violin a much more pleasing tone, and is often worth the investment. Violin bows need to be rehaired every year or two depending on the amount of playing.

Because the instrument is made of wood and is held together with glue it is very susceptible to heat and humidity changes. Leaving the violin in a car in the heat will often cause it to come apart or crack. If an instrument gets too cold it can crack also.

When transporting your violin, keep it in the passenger compartment of the car, not in the trunk because the trunk can get very hot or very cold and cause serious damage.

Rosin is used on the bow to make it grip the strings. Dust from the rosin will collect on the fingerboard and on the top of the violin. This rosin dust should be wiped off with a soft cloth regularly or it can build into a hard unsightly layer which will have to be professionally removed.

ENJOY!
Playing the violin can be a lot of fun! There are many styles of music, and a great variety of opportunities for musical performances are available.

Playing in the school orchestra is just a beginning in the wonderful world of strings. Keep your instrument in good adjustment so that it will respond to your touch, then explore, experiment, experience the excitement of making beautiful music!

Reprinted with permission of School Band and Orchestra magazine

Please visit them at www.sbomagazine.com




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