A few questions from beginner.

Edited: February 17, 2018, 2:32 AM · So I got a Hofner violin 2 days ago as a birthday present and I have started to learn to play. I know how to hold the violin and bow. I know it's uncomfortable right now but I'll get used to it.
For now, I'll be teaching my self. A teacher isn't available. It will probably take longer but I'm patient.
The questions I have to ask are about taking care of the instrument.
How often should I rosin my bow? Before playing every time?
Should I clean the bow after every practice?
How loose should my bow be when putting it away in my case? I do it just enough that the hair isn't sleek and the bow is curvier. (hopefully that makes sense)
How often should I tune my violin? (I have an electric tuner)
I have a hardfoam case that came with a blanket. What if I accidentally slightly bump my case into wall or an object? Will my instrument be safe? I've been treating my case better than a drug smuggler would treat his stuff and I feel I've been to paranoid.
I've already learned the names of the strings and where to find them on the ledger lines and now I'll be trying to learn 'twinkle twinkle little star' since it's probably the simplest but what do I move onto after that? 'happy birthday'?
Please and thank you~ :)

Replies (44)

February 17, 2018, 3:41 AM · You tune the violin every time before you play. And then you have to start watching youtube teachers to get anything out of the playing. You do not know how to hold the bow and violin yet. Accept that you dont know what you dont know.

Red desert violin and allyson violin are some examples for you to watch on youtube.

Learning just by youtself is not something that i think is going to go well, im sorry, but some people have manged it still, but you need to start watching youtube and a lot.

February 17, 2018, 4:06 AM · Hi Violetta,

You rosin your bow when it it does not grip the string and you have to press harder to make a good sound. I tend to rosin my bow at the start of each practice bout. Be careful that you do not hit the metal ferrule on the rosin cake or you will chip the edge of it. Try not to let your fingers touch the bow hair. When you are done practicing take a cloth and gently wipe down your violin and bow.For the bow, just pinch the stick with a cloth between your fingers and wipe the entire length, then the frog. Before stowing bow back in case you loosen the tension on the hair.

A foam case is okay in your house but if you stick with your pract8ce regime and decide to take lessons or play with others where you will be taking your violin outside you will want to invest in a real case at some point in time.

A teacher will be invaluable to your learning and sticking with your new birthday present and even just a half hour lesson once a month would immensely benefit your progress

February 17, 2018, 5:07 AM · Thank you! ^_^
February 17, 2018, 6:31 AM · This site has some good tutorials too: /en/masterclasses/stance-violin-position

I agree with the others that Jeff that a lesson even once a month would make a huge difference

Good luck!

February 17, 2018, 6:55 AM · Thank you! :)
February 17, 2018, 7:28 AM · A caution about foam cases: most of them don't protect the violin very well from certain impacts. If you bump the case on the bridge side (or drop the case upside down), the violin bridge will bash the inside of the case, and could do major damage to the top of the violin. A true "suspension" case supports the violin at the edges, avoiding this type of damage.
February 17, 2018, 7:59 AM · A soft cotton cloth, like an old wash cloth, can be used to wipe down the bow and the violin. Do this after your last practice/play session each day. Rosin can build up quickly and become difficult to remove. Gently wipe down the strings too.

The proper bow hold is the one that feels relaxed and natural for YOUR hand. It is important to realize that the relative sizes and positions of the thumb, forefinger and pinky to each other can vary dramatically among people. What feels natural for one player can be painful for another.

Here is a site that can be very helpful to a new player:


Welcome to Violinist.com!

February 17, 2018, 3:35 PM · Alternatively, try Skype lessons or video exchanges. I also recommend searching this site for threads on online lessons, as they're plentiful.
Edited: February 17, 2018, 5:08 PM · I agree with the others about getting a tutor. However, I'm in the same boat concerning not being able to afford the lessons (or whatever your particular setback may be).

Masterviolinclass.com is an excellent resource. You should go through every section and every video first. Without a tutor, don't make the mistake of putting ego above the importance of fundamentals and believing you already understand a certain aspect. I really recommend sitting down and going through every definition video, browsing the excercise videos and watching the entire "putting it together" section. Utilize the practice sheets they provide. A wealth of invaluable information there. They also provide guides of how to gauge your learning experience and growth and provide a list of books or peices at each level, though they are pay for music, they aren't that exspensive.

For rosining and bow tightening, you should really watch a video. Some good Youtube sources I've found are Heather Broadbent and The online piano and violin teacher but there are many more. You may think you understand the mechanics of holding and bowing but it's like thinking you know the human body until you take a college anatomy class. Really watch the ones on form and excercises to constantly improve.

I tune at the beginning of every practice. I wipe the strings where the bow lands and the top of the body after every session for rosin. You're strings can get really gunked and I just think it helps to have clean strings for every practice. Don't use alcohol or chemicals as it could harm your violin.

Scales are significantly important. In the beginning especially, you should be spending a bit more time on them but you can find a lot of good skill building etudes here: http://www.violinonline.com/etudes.htm

As your progress, you'll start tp appreciate more what the masters are doing with their individual techniques and you may find things to experiment with that even work for you so I really suggest getting to know them, becoming familiar with their works and observing them.

From one self learner to another, good luck and stay humble

February 17, 2018, 5:29 PM · Oh, and another great tip that I came on late (or just started utilizing late, maybe because it sounds weird) is to record yourself often. This is useful for a myriad of reasons.

For one, your posture may start out one way but as you play and your attention gets more and more spread out, you may lose track of it and start picking up bad habits that you'll fall into without realizing it.

Two, I didn't even notice that my violin had a light rasp until I listened to myself play on my phone. This turned out to be the rosin that came with my violin (it was worth the $15 to invest in a better quality rosin) but could have been a multitude of factors.

Three, intonation, you just hear it more clearly.

Bowing, you can see if you look stiff or relaxed and on and on.

Also, not to mention this website. I have read advice even on more advanced threads but there were little bits of golden advice that I was still able to take away and am able to use even now.

February 17, 2018, 7:42 PM · Thank you everyone so much! This means alot. ^_^
February 17, 2018, 9:39 PM · I made a blooper, the primary site I recommended browsing is the following: http://violinmasterclass.com/

Wouldn't repost if that recommendation wasn't so important. You're very welcome and I really wish you all the best on your journey.

February 17, 2018, 9:49 PM · I also strongly recommend looking at yourself in a mirror, especially as a self-learner.
February 18, 2018, 8:23 AM · @Ella Th, I tried doing that but I got too distracted looking at my reflection for possible bowing and posture errors, so much that I was making mistakes that didn't exist before. Lol. I'll settle for recording a video of myself playing (however horrible I might be)
@Gabriel Blake, thank you so much. Glad to be receiving help. ^_^
February 18, 2018, 9:42 AM · I get that. However, you don't have to do it all the time, just sometimes.
February 19, 2018, 12:15 PM · @Ella Yu I've actually been planning recording progress videos. The first will be week one on Thursday since it was last Thursday that I touched a violin for the first time. It's not for YouTube but for myself so that after 4 months or so if I feel like giving up I could look at how far I've come and use it as encouragement and motivation. So the video recording thing is actually the most convenient for me right now.
Thanks for the advice though. I'll make sure to act on it when I'm deeper in my learning. Right now everything is just so distracting ... XP
Edited: February 19, 2018, 1:23 PM · There are so many aspects to the violin, I always feel a silent need to apologize when I'm focusing on one particular detail because if it's my bowing, my intonation will be off, if my left hand, my bow will be off and if posture, likely both.

Having a good violin is a better start. My first was a Cecilio that sounded like a nasaly opera singer. This was discouraging because even good days meant sounding bad.

One thing I do to lift my spirits is when I visit the music store for one reason or another, if I can find someone who plays and I can tell respects the instrument, letting them do a few scales or random monkeying produces the full potential sound of my violin that puts a proud smile on my face and gives me a little more motivation to eventually produce that sound myself.

Of course I am very careful about who I let do this. I had an ex who played viola that I made the mistake of letting her touch my violin when she had been drinking wine and she dropped it. Thankfully it was my Cecilio but it still hurt and there was nothing to be done. Shortly after, I found the violin I have now and only three people have touched it, all professionals.

I like the suggestion of looping what you're working on. If you are starting a new peice or practicing something you don't sound great at yet, don't spend your entire session on it, loop to something you have made good or even decent progress with, continuing to build that peice and you'll have a good reference point for your progress that way as well.

There are tools you can buy to help. I didn't invest in them myself, mainly because I came on them right when I was becoming more comfortable but there is a wrist strap for your left hand to help remind your wrist to stay straight (which I think a clever person could DIY at home), little plastic bow "frogs" to help your bow hold and bow guides you can safely put on the violin. You can can find them all on amazon if that is a route you might like to consider.

February 21, 2018, 1:46 AM · I did consider buying a fret tool but then I read that professionals normally advice beginners to use their ear. I'll try that first but just in case it fails I'll keep my options open. Thanks. :)
February 21, 2018, 11:59 AM · Professionals do normally advise to learn by ear, but they are probably thinking of a student that's taking regular lessons. Don't get boxed in in your learning process. Frets or tapes may work well for you. Do what works.
February 21, 2018, 7:54 PM · First, welcome to the club! Learning the violin is both a frustrating and exciting adventure, so happy to hear you are taking the plunge.

Second, everything above. A couple more details to help you along...

The tapes Erik mentions may be a better bet than the fret stickers simply because not all violins have the same vibrating string length (aka scale length, stops) so the frets may not be in the right places for your instrument and that will make things more frustrating not less so. Instead, using a tuner and a pencil, mark off where the first, second, third and forth fingers go in first position and put a piece of 1/8 inch tape (available on amazon) across the finger board to make your own flat 'fret'. The trick with this is that you shouldn't be looking at your fingers so try to use them as a touch guide only as soon as you can. Using these will help you train your ear, which as Erik points out is the end goal but harder to do if you dont have a way to reference what good sounds like. The tapes will give you a checkpoint so you will start to be able to differentiate whether you need to adjust up or down to get it right.

The bow guide mentioned above is also a great idea for self teaching, it forces you to bow in a straight channel which in turn forces the wrist and arm to move in the right direction. Eventually, you'll learn to use other contact points on the strings but for starters it is a useful tool.

Those two tools are a simple way to help get you more aware what 'correct' feels and sounds like, and of course all the other great advice on here for cleaning, rosin, and especially youtube... and the hardest part... relax when you play. Nearly every ugly sound you make in the next few months will be the result of gripping, grabbing, pulling, pushing or otherwise man-handling your instrument or bow. When you are trying to focus on a new skill, you will get tense and angry noises will result. When that happens remind yourself to relax.

February 22, 2018, 3:22 AM · Thank you. I'm trying hard to relax but I can't get past the first finger. I'm not losing patience but it's pretty discouraging. I'm trying to experiment with every combination of pressure and speed to find the proper method of getting a sound out of my finger positions rather than a noise.
February 22, 2018, 3:26 AM · I'm also beginning to suspect that my violin strings aren't properly set. There's a deep prominent groove in the bridge for the E string but mine is set a few centimeters before the groove. The distance between my A and E strings is less than the distance between my G and D & D and A string. So I'll try to set that up as well to see if it makes a difference. The problem is tuning the violin after loosening the strings. It's like my tuner is broken since it has switched the names of my G and A string.
Edited: February 22, 2018, 6:07 AM · I'm curious what you mean by the first finger? I'm not sure what program or method you are working on and I'm not saying my method is the way to go but I never focused on *a particular finger. If not sounding great to start, on top of having to pay attention to all the aspects of posture, bow hold and other little details you won't be familiar with yet isn't frustrating enough, I can't imagine being harsh on myself about getting one finger to sound perfect.

I started out doing open string scales over and over and over, addressing more general issues than how each individual note sounded or the even the nuances of the sound I was producing. As I got more comfortable, as I put things together, as I became more and more knowledgeable, I naturally started sounding better. Squeaks and techinique related rasps disappeared, sound quality became better and intonation improved. It helps I have a natural ear but without the finger positioning burnt into muscle memory, it's a challenge.

I will change guitar strings all day long, I will file a bridge, adjust the nut and change the tuning pegs but if I suspect my violin needs adjusting or work done, I will take it to a luthier every time, even for a string change at this time while I'm still becoming familiar with the instrument. It's a really delicate instrument, don't rush anything and definitely get an opinion.

I can't stress patience enough, playing violin seems straight forward but when you get down to it is akin to the old challenge of patting your head and rubbing your belly, throwing in a plate to balance on your foot for good measure.

February 22, 2018, 7:14 AM · Thanks for the advice. I'll reflect on it. ^_^
Edited: February 22, 2018, 9:18 AM · Less advice (I'm not actually qualified for that) then just an enthusiastic hang in there, from one amatuer to another. I know the frustration of beginning but also the satisfaction of making progress but I apologize if it seems that I am trying to be an authority because we basically speak as peers and I am excited for you and your Hofner. I genuinely am curious what method you're following? I'm always looking for new possible practice techniques of routines.
February 22, 2018, 11:37 AM · As someone who picked up the violin a week ago, I haven't been following a routine. I have been playing whenever I get the time which is basically an hour on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends. I've downloaded several apps for music theory and rhythm. So for the time being I'm kind of 'winging it'.
Oh and I regarded your words as wisdom from one amateur to another. Sorry if you were offended. :)
February 22, 2018, 2:29 PM · Violetta, the string should rest inside that groove. The largest groove is for the G string and smallest for E so make sure it is the correct way around. Bridge position and being perpendicular to the violin is important. Perhaps you can post a picture of it so we can determine if it is alright.
February 22, 2018, 3:14 PM · Lol, 2 prerequisites for playing violin, regardless of circumstance:

1) Clipped nails

2) A playable violin

Bring it to a luthier.

February 22, 2018, 8:16 PM · There aren't any luthiers in my city probably in my country. One of the reasons why I can't find a violin teacher. There are barely even any music competitions that I could use to track down any sort of teacher.
When I asked the music store owner if I should come back to his store to get my bow rehaired if I ever needed to, he just told me that my bow couldn't be rehaired in the city and that I'd have to buy another one and discard the old one. lol
If there's anything that's need to be done to the bridge I'll have to do it myself since the music store owner was the one who didn't set up my violin properly. Apparently you have to lean your bridge a little bit towards the tail piece during tuning so that the bridge doesn't lean towards the fingerboard. I didn't see him do that. Probably my bridge was like this from the start and I only just noticed.
I'll try to post pictures asap. :)
February 22, 2018, 8:39 PM · Violetta, no worries. I was afraid I was starting to sound disrespectful or overbearing with my enthusiasm. I'm glad to encounter another self learning amateur on here. I definitely consider Erik an official source, but for me, learning the violin does come as a multi tasking operation. At least to do it in a fashion I hope to progress and become tolerable. I am from FL but living in between here and IN. Aside from the fact my funds are tight, finding a steady, non committal tutor is tricky. Probably just because I don't know the scene. Finding a luthier in IN was a cinch. In FL, I mostly rely on the big corporations and I question the quality of those workers, maybe unjustifiably but I do. I also kind of "violin worship", to put it in a sense, and I get nerd level geeked out to put my hands on a different violin than my own. Case in point, I visited a pawn shop today and saw a Sam Ash FR30 44 violin (around a $500 violin). The guy was like, "You can just put it on the counter," as I was trying write down the details of the violin on a scrap piece of paper. No chance that was happening and I just held it in my left hand. :P

I'm curious what state you live in that services are so limited, if it isn't uncomfortable for you to share. I understand the schedule restrictions. I have been lucky lately, lucky enough to practice until my shoulder and jaw hurt, whatever kind of luck that is, lol. That luck won't hold though so I'm still taking it as I get it.

February 22, 2018, 9:25 PM · Lol I live in a country that is considered undeveloped. Finding a string instrument shop was hard enough lol. Also, I think I perfected my strings and bridge because this morning when I decided to experiment during practicing open strings suddenly all of the scratchiness went away. It started to go away from the E to the G. Either I accidentally found the perfect speed and pressure or I've been blessed with miracles from Mozart's or Beethoven's ghost. Hahaha
February 22, 2018, 10:15 PM · Ah, I didn't realize you were in an undeveloped country. It's great that you finally figured out the "magic combo" of bow speed, soundpoint, and pressure. Honestly, that's the hardest part about starting the violin so it should be easier from now on :)

Just remember that the thing that separates great players from everyone else is -consistency-. Spend time with the violin whenever you can, and don't burn out too early. Don't try so hard early on that you get exhausted and quit. Lots of small changes over a long time is the key. It's an endurance run, not a sprint, and my main concern with you is that your eagerness may make you burn out. Keep pecking away at little epiphanies (like the one you just experienced), and you'll notice significant changes overall if you record yourself every few months (if you have something to record your sound with).

February 23, 2018, 1:12 AM · @Erik Williams you're right. I should work on that. I'm getting my hopes up too high every time something good happens. So I have A lot of work to do on that.
Edited: February 23, 2018, 3:25 AM · @violetta May i ask in which country you are on? I come myself from a 3rd-world country and I can assure you, there is always a musical community somewhere. Sometimes you just need to dig a bit.
February 23, 2018, 10:08 AM · @Bruno Camargo I'm from India. The problem isn't finding a musical community, it's about finding a luthier. I could easily find a music community when I start college.
February 23, 2018, 2:56 PM · I am afraid this is not the best approach. When you find the community, you will find the service.

I know a few players that went back to india (ex co-workers). If you live near Avadi, I can provide you with their contacts and they will introduce you their luthiers.

February 23, 2018, 8:40 PM · Unfortunately I don't live anywhere near there. Thanks for the help.
February 23, 2018, 10:26 PM · Violetta, you sound very happy and enthusiastic about your violin and I think you could do great things. I completely understand being under restrictions and you clearly face even more obstacles than I do. I think you should explore and try to find a community but under the realistic conditions of your situation, that may not be within your resources so my second best suggestion would be: the work you can do yourself on a violin is very limited because it really is a delicate instrument so before you consider doing anything yourself, post lots of pictures, ask lots of questions and do a lot of thorough research online. The whole saying, "Hindsight is 20/20," is sometimes too painful for us to swallow and accept. Therefore, just research your butt off concerning proper care so you know all the preventitive measures and ask, ask, ask.

Sometimes when I think there is a problem, I've made it a bigger monster than it is in my lack of knowledge. I had a vibration recently and I really thought something was going on internally. I drove 40 minutes to a shop just to find out I had over tightened the G strings fine tuner. This was after I had read many sites and articles about vibrations and it's many causes. I probably would have been handed the answer easily from someone this site had I asked and posted some in depth pics. If I hadn't had the resource of a shop and tried to answer the problem for myself, despite being a thorough and decently intelligent human being, I might have done something that put my violin out of commission.

So yeah, throwing myself out there as kind of dense and perhaps prideful at times to say, I hope you stick with it and take every precaution to safegaurd your new best friend. :)

February 23, 2018, 10:32 PM · Also, I've always wanted to come to Dubai to do some personal research there. Visit some libraries and read the history from India's perspective. I know some areas of India are struggling, the population and it's growth, along with climate conditions and natural disasters are a very deep concern. I did a paper in my english composition college course about child slave labor around the world and I know certain areas especially struggle with this. I had two heartbreaking stories involving children from India. I still hadn't really thought of it as a third world country.
February 24, 2018, 2:11 AM · Large parts of the world are still lacking in musical communities when it comes to Western instruments. It's mostly a matter of taking time to penetrate cultures that don't traditionally use the violin family. Funny you mention Dubai -- it's been the wealthiest city on the Arabian Peninsula since the 1960s, but as recently as the 1990s it was one of those places. I mostly grew up there (age 3-12) and never saw a violin-family instrument until 1995, months before returning to the US.

In recent years I've taken some interest in the history of Western string instruments in the UAE, mostly out of curiosity. As far as I've been able to tell, Dubai got its first youth string program in 1994, its first community orchestra in 2002, and its first luthier in 2003. (If anyone knows of any of these things existing earlier, please tell me.) The UAE now has three community orchestras, two in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi, but has never had a professional orchestra.

Edited: February 24, 2018, 1:52 PM · That was a blooper, I meant New Delhi (got Dubai stuck in my head due to a funny youtube video of a kid coming down off hospital drugs) but I would take the opportunity to study anywhere. History is bias to the nation it is taught. Also, picking up interesting facts like the ones you just mentioned. I've always been interested in India specifically because it is the origin country of Buddhism but I think an ultimate goal, traveling to any part of the world, would be to get a more balanced perspective of world history and submersion into diffiferent cultures.
February 25, 2018, 3:28 AM · I was wondering where Dubai was mentioned, or if anyone who posted in this thread lives there... and didn't think it was strange because there's a large Indian population there.

Mostly I wanted to caution: "third world" doesn't always mean there are no string instruments and luthiers (even the poorest parts of Latin America have classical music communities), and on the other hand wealthier nations don't necessarily have string-playing communities if Western classical music is a comparatively new arrival.

March 13, 2018, 3:00 PM · Hey. I started learning violin 1.5 years ago and I live at a place that consist of no violin teacher (I finally found one, but I end up travelling by bus and train to reach him)

Here's everything that I found helpful

First, Use 3 thin strips of paper or pieces of tape to mark the position of first, 2nd and 3rd finger.

Forget Music, PRACTICE ONLY SCALES. You'll be practicing scales everyday henceforth. I suggest, do not even touch a music piece for atleast 2 months. It'll be boring at the beginning, but trust me, It'll pay off. Start with G Major, then D Major, then A Major, then C and other scales after that.
Practicing scales will serve several purposes. You'll learn how to hold the violin, how to bow, and how to press the correct notes, and how to create the perfect sound.

Do you know how to read sheet music? I suggest you to learn the basics. I've always been bad at rhythm. But clapping the beats before I start the music helps me significantly.

I use Eta-Cohen Books. I like how it progresses and pays excessive attention to rhythm and scales. It also has countless nice pieces.

March 13, 2018, 7:47 PM · As my mom and teacher always said, "PRACTICE SLOWLY!" Especially for a beginner, when fingers still need to learn where they are placed. I feel like the pros have covered everything else already.

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