A Beginner Needing Student Violin / Rosin Help

September 19, 2009 at 05:54 PM ·

Hello, all! I am an adult beginner (21 years old) who has just recently worked up enough courage to actually consider learning the violin--which I have always thought would be a beautiful to play. I am already familiar with the piano and I also sing, so I have some experience musically.

I think knowing my goals would be helpful here, so I'll state them: I basically want to play for myself--this is not a career and I don't care to play in a large group. I would like to play some classical pieces that I love and I would also like to play "fiddle" with my banjo-ist brother and guitarist sister. I'm not ambitious! I just want to enjoy it.

Now, I have several questions for you:

1. Considering my goals and the fact that I can't afford much, what in your opinion the best student violin to buy? I can't spend very much (even $300 is high for me), but I don't want something that is ugly. It doesn't have to be a glorious violin, just one that is beautiful enough to motivate me more!


2. I am 5'2" with a slight build and small hands. I have been told I should use a full 4/4 size violin, simply because I'm an adult, but I don't know if that makes sense. What do you recommend?


3. I happen to be allergic to many chemicals and other allergens, and I found that using some  student rosin made my asthma worse. I'm rather afraid my violin experience will end before it began because of my asthma!

Which rosin do you think produces the LEAST amount of powder while still giving a good sound? I may be able to use a nearly powder-less rosin.

Also, I have read good reviews about the synthetic Clarity rosin and others, including Mortrya Gold Rosin, but I don't know how powdery these rosins are, especially the Clarity rosin. I'm not sure I like the idea of breathing in gold powder or a synthetic powder either. How have other allergic violinists handled this problem? Has anyone noticed long-term health problems from Clarity?


Thank you all so much in advance! I have been reading through the very useful archives, and I can tell you are all so patient and helpful!



Replies (20)

September 18, 2009 at 08:50 PM ·

Oh, I forgot to add something:

I would like to play the violin, but my primary joy and vocation is writing--I don't want to do ANYTHING that will damage my ability to type, etc., in the future. If I play the violin as a hobby, not as a career, and I'm careful about stretching, good posture, etc., do you think I'm safe from fears about future shoulder / wrist / etc. injuries keeping me from typing in years ahead? I stress "as a hobby" because I won't be practicing / playing half the day, every day of the year.

September 19, 2009 at 05:40 PM ·

I realize that questions are reviewed before being submitted to this website...but how do you know when your question has been accepted and is viewable by others?

I'm embarrassed to post again, but I thought of something that might be helpful to you. When it comes to sound, I really prefer a mellow, sweet, rather low and pure sound to a bright, edgy sound.

September 19, 2009 at 06:29 PM ·

 Andrea - congratulations on your decision to start violin.  I also started as an adult (although nearer to 40!)  You might want to start with renting.  First, most string shops let you put the money you spend on rentals towards a future purchase.  Renting first will let you learn about what you like in a violin.  Finally, renting a 4/4 will let you verify that it is the right size for you.  I'm 4'11'" and needed to switch to a 7/8 size.  I don't think anyone is ever comfortable with first holding the violin as it takes some time to become accustomed to it (however you should never be in pain).  Renting as you start to get used to playing will give you time to acclimate, and to make a better decision about violin size.

September 19, 2009 at 06:58 PM ·

Thank you for your reply, Karen! I know that renting is often suggested, but I am personally a bit nervous about renting because of my chemical sensitivities. There is no telling what rosin has been used, etc., on the rented instrument. I would prefer an instrument of my own, even if it wasn't the most fantastic one, just so I could control things as much as possible.

My uncle has a 4/4 violin that I can try to study sizing. He let me borrow another violin that is about maybe 1/2" to 1" smaller than the 4/4. Would that be 7/8? I feel like that size is comfortable, but I guess that the 4/4 would be also be fine for me--it wasn't much bigger. I'll check before buying one, though.

Actually, after reading through numerous topics here on violinist.com, I happened upon one topic (http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=4424) that mentioned Sharon Dee's company. Since I'm looking for a nonexpensive instrument that is still personal and carefully set-up and made, I was very interested in two posters' glowing responses to her company--so I called her myself.

She was so sweet and so helpful on the phone, even suggesting that I contact someone who just bought a violin of the kind I can afford (her Arcadia Violin) and ask him my questions about it!

The violin (http://www.sharondeestrings.com./Economy%20Instruments.htm) already has nice strings and is set up properly, and she says it has a very nice sound for a beginner adult violin. It's a Chinese violin, apparently kind of in the line of Scott Cao's violins (according to Ms. Dee).

Has anyone bought the Arcadia Violin before? If so, what did you think of it?

Considering sizing, the only option here would be a 4/4 size. The Arcadia doesn't appear to come in 7/8 size (though I'll ask to make sure).

Thank you!

By the way, the two posters who commented so favorably on her company were Kelly Hooey and Julie Sigfrinius--thank you both for doing so.

September 19, 2009 at 08:09 PM ·

Suposedly the hypoallergenic rosins have little dust.

Do you have a teacher already, to size you up, and set you up?  I know that this is a bit off topic, but if you try to teach yourself and you begin posting questions, inevitably the recomendations will almost always be find a teacher. Better to do so now.

Best wishes on your rosin quest.  You'll more than likely will have to get different hypoallergenic rosins and experiment.

September 19, 2009 at 10:19 PM ·

Yes, I do have a teacher. I haven't had a lesson yet, but I will on Monday I hope!

About the rosin...I understand I probably will have to experiment. I'm just curious which rosins used by violinists here produce only a little dust. I'd like to narrow down the range of "to experiment with" rosins if I can! Also, I'm curious about personal experiences with Clarity (especially long-term experiences).

Thank you!

September 19, 2009 at 11:28 PM ·

Andrea-  I use AB Cello rosin and it leaves little dust.  I've noticed that upper epsilon rosins are not very dusty.

Glad to hear that you have a teacher!  And welcome to the wonderful world of the violin!

BTW- My grandfather who adopted me was a Sioux Indian Medicine Man and one of the last members of the Eagle Pipe Medicine Society.  If I can be of any aid regarding you interest in alternative medicines let me know.

September 19, 2009 at 11:51 PM ·

I use Andrea Bang, its  much less dusty, because you don't have to use much at all. Millant Deroux (dark) is the same thing, great Rosins too.

Sizing the violin is not about your heights, it about the length of your arm.

September 20, 2009 at 02:00 AM ·


Clarity is truly hypoallergenic and the dust is unlikely to cause you any problems.  All other rosins are based on the same material, primarily abietic acid, which is the prime allergen.  Clarity is made from a very benign material which has been used as a major component of adhesives used for baby diapers and surgical tapes for more than twenty years.  It has been throughly tested and found to be generally safe.

September 20, 2009 at 03:58 AM ·


I have been taking lessons for 2 1/2 years now, starting at 61.  I play several other instruments (I have a bedroom/studio with 14) and thought I would just buy a beginner instrument.  The best advice I got was from a friend who teaches high school music: 1st rent and 2nd get a teacher.  After 55 years of music, I am used to teaching myself new instruments, but I am very glad I found a teacher.  This is such a subtle and intimate instrument that very slight changes can make huge difference in your tone, comfort and physical health.   My rental was a new instrument, West Coast V6 made in China, as are most inexpensive stringed instruments these days.  The rental was applied to a purchase if I decided to keep the instrument, or I could upgrade at any point.  After 5 months, I decided to upgrade and moved from $25 per month payments to $75 with most of what I had previously paid being applied to the new instrument.  I have been very pleased with the rental because it gives me an option to upgrade as I gain experience and it allows me to purchase over time.  In fact, my current violin is almost paid off and I am getting a little concerned about owning it free and clear.  It feels like I will have less contact with the shop and the friends I have made there.  One day I opened my case and the sound post had collapsed, the bridge had fallen and the strings were lying limp.  No problem, since it was a rental.  I took it to the shop and their luthier laughed, said it was not a rare occurrence, showed me how to reset the sound post, reset the bridge and made a few suggestions for cleaning.  All at no charge, since it was a rental.  BTW, my primary teacher is 4'11" and she does fine with a 4/4 size.  Good luck and I hope you find the violin as rewarding as I do. 

September 20, 2009 at 12:34 PM ·

Thank you, Royce! I will look into those rosins. And I appreciate your offer of advice for alternative medicine.

Thank you for the suggestions regarding rosin, Elinor! It makes sense that violin size depends on arm size--and I don't have short arms, so I can probably use a 4/4.

I appreciate the information about Clarity, Tom! I don't mean to obsess about rosin, I just have to be careful due to asthma. When they say "generally safe" they don't always take into consideration people who are sensitive to chemicals. However, I'll probably just buy some and try it out.

Thank you for the advice, Aaron! I do have a teacher now. In regards to renting a violin...I have a list of the music stores in my area and I will see if they rent violins. I don't there there are any high-quality luthiers in my area, however--I live in a small town in MS. Still, I'll check it out.

September 20, 2009 at 05:37 PM ·

Andrea, I live near a small town also (1,500).  We have a superb guitar shop that does 90% of its business over the net, but not much for the violin family.  I travel 55 miles to work in the nearest small city and found my shop and teacher there.  Check with the local high school music teacher and find out what shop he uses.  Some shops that specialize in school music programs even have traveling repair people for the instruments they rent.  Have fun, and as the Shar catalog advises, beware of VSOs, "violin shaped objects" that appear cheap and are. 

September 21, 2009 at 05:30 AM ·

Welcome to the Violin family!

I am an adult beginner, and I would like to say what everyone else is saying; rent first, then purchase. I can't speak to the rosin issue, but you seem to have some good sources of information already.

I will guarantee that after a couple months of rental, you will have so much more information about what you consider important in a violin (sound is so much important than looks, and the sound YOU can get out if it is so much more important than the sound someone else can get out if it).

If you cannot find a local rental site, you may try Shar Music, or some other site that will do a rental long-distance. I would suggest a rental that allows a month-to-month agreement, not one that focuses on a year or longer term.

When I started, I rented for a little over a month, then I purchased a used instrument. I am still very happy with that one, but I am also looking for the next step.

September 21, 2009 at 04:57 PM ·


I am an adult beginner (44) and just shy of 5' 1".  I have short arms and short hands, and I've just moved to a 3/4 violin.  I could tell that first the 4/4 and then 7/8 were too big because of shoulder pain on the 4/4 (I was stretching my right shoulder too much to bow) and then hand pain with the 7/8 because as I learned more skills that required more stretching of the left hand, I was at the limit of what my hand could do.  That said, I have other joint issues which probably exacerbated both problems.

I am very comfortable now with my 3/4 and only occaissionally have hand pain. 

Chances are with your arm length as you describe you would be fine, but it really  might be a good idea to rent until you are sure that the 4/4 will not hurt you.  While my pain is gone, my shoulder will never quite be what it was before...

Have fun either way!


September 23, 2009 at 05:17 PM ·

Thank you so much, everyone!

Aaron--I will be very careful to avoid VSOs! Thank you for your suggestions on where to look to rent a violin.

Roland--Thank you for your welcome! I appreciate the advice.

Ann--I'm definitely leaning toward a 3/4 violin. The little old violin my uncle let me borrow is a 3/4, and I like the weight and size of it a lot. It seems that a little small is better than a little too large, and I'm not too worried about any sound problems.

Again, thanks, all! I'm sure I'll enjoy my learning experience!


September 23, 2009 at 05:27 PM ·

Hi Andrea, I am a very petite adult... only 5'1" with short arms and tiny hands... but I play a full size violin without any problems. I use a Berber chin rest because it is centered and feels more comfortable to me, and I have my shoulder rest on the very lowest setting. Those are the only adjustments I've made. There isn't any issue for me as far as gettting enough reach with the fingers of my left hand, even though my pinky is a full inch shorter than my ring finger. So the 3/4 size violin might be too small for you. Just something to think about.

September 23, 2009 at 09:19 PM ·

Hello Andrea,

I also started as an adult (23). I think I started with a chinese hundred buck manufacture, which was I think my girlfriend's at that time. But then, I actually made my first draws on her regular one, which had a really nice sound.

Perhaps renting might be a good idea...,

cheers, k

September 24, 2009 at 03:21 AM ·


About your problems with rosin dust:  One rosin that has a lot of dust is Pirastro Goldflex.  So although its a nice rosin, if you have allergies I'd avoid that rosin!

Just my little input!


September 27, 2009 at 12:10 PM ·

Thank you, Glenda, Krisztian, and Hanna! I appreciate the advice and information!


October 6, 2009 at 09:13 PM ·

Welcome, Andrea.

In the price range you are considering, I suggest you get something from Shar Music, a mail order shop that has some of the best inexpensive instruments.  They have some outfits in your price range that will at least get you through the basics for the first year or two.  A full size violin is more rewarding to play, and so you should start there unless your arms are unusually short for your height.

It is my personal experience that playing the violin is easier on the fingers and wrists than typing or playing piano assuming proper technique with each of these.

I have no allergies and can't give much useful advice on hypoallergenic rosin, except to say that one shop I frequent supplies it for customers' use in the shop, and it works fine musically.

You really do need a teacher or mentor who already knows how to play.

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