Getting Your First Violin

Learning to play the violin can be one of the best decisions that you have made for yourself. Whether you choose to learn face-to-face from a qualified instructor or through the vast amount of online resources, you are bound to deal with this situation – buying a violin and setting it up for the first time. If you visit a brick and mortar music shop, you are likely to find an instrument that has been properly set up. However, not every shop owner has the expertise to do it right, particularly when they do not specialize in the selling the violins. On the other hand, if you order a violin from eBay or Amazon, you will have to set it up yourself.

Parts of the Violin

Parts of the Violin

Setting Up the Violin

Strings, Bridge, Chin Rest, and Shoulder Rest

When you first receive your instrument from the store, the strings are usually not installed or intentionally loosened, and the bridge detached in order to keep the instrument safe for shipping. If the strings does not come installed, you will need to sort out the strings by name (from left to right - G, D, A, E) and install them to the pegs and tailpiece. With the front of the violin facing you, the peg for G string is the one at the lower left, followed by upper left (D), upper right (A), and lower right (E). Install each string by inserting the ball end of the string to the tailpiece and thread the other end through the pegs and tighten it by rotating the peg towards the scroll. Make sure the strings are well-aligned without overlapping as you turn the pegs. They should be coiled outward towards your hand for each peg (refer to the picture below).

Leave the strings rather loose so that you can install the bridge. Hold your bridge upright and identify the higher and the lower side. The higher side should be to the left (G string) and lower side to the right (E string). Since each violin is slightly different, professional luthiers tend to have different ideas on where exactly to place the bridge. But if you are a beginner, a good reference would be to align the bridge directly centered with the inside wedge of the f-holes. Make sure the bridge is upright and centered between the f-holes, and you may proceed to tune each string to its desired pitch.

Chin rest is usually properly installed on the violin, but if it does not fit your jaw shape, you may need to replace it with a different one. The shoulder rest, on the other hand, is a separate accessory that does not usually come with the violin. Violin teachers have differing views on whether one should use the shoulder rest or not. The purpose of the shoulder rest is to fill in the gap in between the back of the violin and the shoulder. Unless the players have a perfectly square shoulder, most people will find a shoulder rest helpful. (Refer to the picture below to see the proper placement of a shoulder rest).

Strings Well Aligned on the Pegs

Strings & Pegs

Proper Placement for Shoulder Rest

Shoulder Rest

Setting Up the Bow

The hair on the bow can be tightened or loosened by the screw. When the screw is facing you, turning it clockwise will tighten it and vice-versa. Usually we loosen the hair when the bow is not in use. Keep in mind that whenever you are tightening the bow hair, do not overdo it. The bow should maintain its curve while the bow stick should not come into contact with the bow hair when you play it on the strings.

The hair for a new bow has no friction to it and hence, it does not make any sound when you draw it across the strings. You will need to apply rosin to the bow hair. There should be a piece of rosin that comes with your violin. Otherwise, you will need to purchase one separately. Rub the rosin across the bow hair evenly until the transparent surface of the rosin becomes slightly opaque and you can see some powdery substance coming off the rosin. Try it on the violin again to see if it makes sound. Keep in mind that you should avoid touching the bow hair at any time to keep it clean.

Parts of the Bow

Parts of Bow