Taking care of your violin is a daily routine. Here is a list of things I do to make sure my violin is in good shape so it can produce the best sound possible.
1. Wipe off the rosin dust on the strings and the violin every time after you play. Rosin left on the strings and over the body of your violin can cling to your instrument. It is sticky and will ruin the finish of your instrument.
2. Loosen your bow after each practice. An extended period of tension can cause the bow to warp over time and lose its arched shape.
3. Change your strings regularly. A Luthier once told me the life of my strings is about three months, if I play 3-4 hours every day. You can continue to use the same strings until they break, but they won't sound as good.
4. Check your bridge's alignment. I have developed a habit of checking my bridge's alignment after I tune my violin, because tightening the strings can make the bridge lean forward. Make sure the feet of the bridge are flat against the surface of the violin, and the bridge is at a 90 degree angle with the body of the violin. If adjustment is needed, loosen the strings slightly before you move the bridge.
5. Keep your violin in a place with room temperature. Your violin doesn't like extreme temperature levels, so make sure it is stored indoors, but away from heat.
Keep your violin happy and it will keep you happy! :)
Putting on your shoulder rest takes practice, and it can be frustrating sometimes.
I have a few tricks to share, I hope it will make this process a little easier.
If you have a shoulder rest that is shaped somewhat like this: Place it on a flat surface on its feet. Looking at it sideways, you should see an S-shaped curve. The high end of the curve is the left side and the low end of the curve is the right side.
Step 1: Sitting down, violin on lap, strings facing down between your legs. (We don't want an accident to happen!)
Step 2: Identify the left side (high) and the right side (low).
Step 3: Left hand grabs the left leg of the shoulder rest, and the right hand grabs the right leg.
Step 4: With padding facing up, turn both legs of the shoulder rest towards the center. Looking straight down, it should look like the letter V--like this ( \ / )
Step 5: Slide the shoulder rest onto the bottom of your violin, clipping it to the ridges on the sides.
Step 6: Adjust the legs as needed until it is clipped on snuggly.
Here is what you should see:
Ta-da! If you put the shoulder rest on correctly, it should resemble a sad face. :(
Now finally, hold on to the neck of the violin and give it a couple shakes to test its stability.
If it doesn't fall off, you are good to go!
Leave a comment to let me know if this helps you or not. :)
I get a lot of confusion from my beginner students every year. There are many kinds and shapes of shoulder rests. Let's talk about the most common shoulder rest you will see in the shop. (If you want the conclusion, jump to the end.)
1. KUN violin shoulder rest.
If I had to guess what kind of shoulder rest a violinist uses, it probably is KUN. It is probably the most popular shoulder rest you will see. I have tried a lot of shoulder rests in my twenty years of playing, looking for the perfect shoulder rest. Guess what I am using now? A KUN.
Here is why I choose KUN, and why I recommend it.
1. You can find it easily in most music stores.
2. It is comfortable, durable and reasonably priced.
3. It is shapes to fit most people, which I think is the reason why so many people choose it.
You can adjust the height and width of the KUN shoulder rest, but obviously one size doesn't fit all. What if you have a shorter neck than most people, or you just prefer a much flatter shoulder rest?
2. Playonair shoulder rest
During my journey for the perfect shoulder rest, I decided to try a shoulder rest that can adjust to the shape of my shoulder. I tried Playonair for less than a year and went back to KUN.
Why I didn't like it:
1. I had to inflate it every time I played.
It is an air-inflated shoulder rest. At the time, I was practicing up to 3-4 hours every day. Playonair did not hold its shape during my practice, it slowly lost its air, and eventually became completely flat. I got tired of inflating it.
2. Playonair makes too much contact with my violin.
The body of the violin vibrates when it is played, which means any contact to the violin will diminish the vibration, and it will affect the sound quality. Compared to the KUN, Playonair covered almost 1/3 of the the back of the violin.
Needless to say, it was an easy decision to switch back to KUN.
3. A shoulder sponge
I have never used a shoulder sponge for an extended period of time, but my students usually receive some kind of sponge when they purchase/rent their violins.
A shoulder sponge is a little tricky. It comes in many shapes, heights and materials. You may have a sponge that is really soft and will adjust to the shape of your shoulder, or you may get a harder material that is more rigid.
I think a sponge is good for beginners and very young students.
It is easier to handle, and usually the cheapest option. If you are crafty, you can even make a sponge yourself that fits you better. I have made many sponges for my students, it is quite easy.
4. Bonmusica shoulder rest.
I have never used this shoulder rest before, but I have had students that use it.
I would never recommend this shoulder rest, because:
1. It is bulky
Most shoulder rests can fit inside a normal sized case, but Bonmusica has a very extreme shape. It is harder to fit in the case.
2. It is a little stiff.
I find the shape too rigid. The ideal shoulder rest should adjust to your shoulder. I find my students trying to adjust to the shoulder rest instead. It is never good news if you have to change your position because something doesn't quite fit.
To sum up:
I hope this helps you get started!
Ok, so you made up mind and want to purchase a violin. Where do you go to buy your first beginner violin?
Amazon? Craiglist? Ebay? Online music retailer? Local music shop? Flea market?
So many options. My quick and simple advice is--Ask your teacher for recommendations!
Haven't found a teacher yet? No worries. Here is my recommendation:
1. Factory made instrument or handmade instrument?
The odds are if the violin is handmade, it is probably good quality.
If you go with a factory made violin, you might end up with a VSO (Violin shaped object)
Be cautious when considering a factory made violin.
Eastman, Klaus Muller, Yamaha, and Franz Hoffmann make decent instruments, however, I wouldn't recommend a violin that costs less than $100. The VSO may look great but after a while, things start to break. The bridge is not cut right or is too high, the strings are not good quality and break or become hard to tune, the tailpiece is one unit so when one tuner breaks, you can’t replace a single fine tuner, you have to replace the whole thing. The cost to fix up a VSO is just too high, it is worth investing a little more for a violin that will last you a while.
2. What is the right size violin for me?
Small sized violins are for younger players. Generally speaking, all adults and children over about 5 feet tall use full sized (4/4) violins.
If you want to find the right size for your child, the best way to do it is to try it out. Here are some tips when you try out the instrument--
If two violins (each a different size) seem to fit the player, choose the smaller size. It will be easier to hold up in playing position. This is especially important for a beginning player.
This size is perfect.
* The images above are from The Violin Shop.
If trying out an instrument is not an option, try the method below to find the correct size for you.
1. You almost always get the spotlight.
As a solo instrument, the violin section almost always gets the melody part in an orchestra, or in any combination of ensemble. That is because the violin has a higher pitch range, and it is much easier for the violin to stand out in a group. It is a no brainer for composers to let the violins play the melody.
2. You won't sound like the violin in your favorite music video for a long time.
You WILL hear some scratches and nosies when you first start on the violin. It is completely normal. It could take you days or weeks, but once you have found the perfect balance of weight using the bow, you are one step closer to playing your favorite song.
3. Your fingers/arm/shoulder will get sore.
This is the first thing I tell my beginning students, and my solution is---GET OVER IT. The violin position is unnatural, you can not find one activity in your daily life where you turn and lift your left arm for an extensive amount of time. Your left hand fingers will hurt from placing down on the strings. There is no way around it, but you will develop calluses over time, and you won't feel a thing by that time. However, if a student complains about pains in unexpected places or the pain won't go away, there is something wrong with his or her posture. Be sure to ask your teacher about it!
Welcome to the violin community! You will love it.
Welcome to my violin blog! After years of being asked the same questions over and over again, I realized there is lot of confusion and misunderstanding about playing the violin. I am super excited to start this blog and I hope it can help you answer some questions you may have about the violin.