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Selecting Your First Violin, and When You Want an Upgrade!

Last week, I wrote and published a brief history of the violin, which included where and how it was conceived, as well as the early movers and shakers who shaped the violin into what we know currently. Today, we will continue to look at the violin, in terms of its elemental features. I write this articles as a beginner’s guide!

The violin, when examined closely, is, in my opinion, a true masterpiece. It is the ideal confluence of stunning beauty and symmetry; the pinnacle of mechanical design where music and science meet. It is truly mesmerizing! To be able to effectively enjoy this beauty, as a violinist, it is imperative for us to familiarize ourselves with the tips and tricks of picking the violin as a beginner. Don’t worry too much about the terms and functions, because you will automatically remember them as you consistently practice.

So, how do we pick the violin in the store? Let's learn more together so you can pick your own as a beginner, and later, when you want an upgrade!

Picking a well-made violin for beginners

As I mentioned in the previous post, we're all playing classic violin designs by Andre Amati and friends. Every violin has the same, otherwise extremely similar features that are clearly distinguishable. These characteristics have been proven and true for years, and they have been included into ongoing violin designs even in the contemporary world. As a musician, I've never come across a violin that did not satisfy the standard characteristics that have been in place for years - unless they are custom-made, of course!

The following are some fundamental guidelines for selecting your first violin:

  1. Well-seasoned wood.

    • The violin's body must be constructed of well-seasoned wood and fashioned according to the violin's forebears' traditional design.

    • Well-seasoned wood is available from a variety of sources, and the longer it lasts (higher quality), the higher the price.

2. Equal, consistent tone throughout the four strings.

  • After inspecting the wood, it is also worth noting that the instrument has been precisely formed, with each string having an equal and consistent tone throughout all four strings.

3. A charismatic, carrying sound.

  • The violin must also have a carrying sound that can be heard from the final row of the music hall.

  • This does not imply that the sound must be loud; rather, it must be captivating enough to tune without requiring you to bow the strings violently.

4. Ease of strings’ register.

  • The four strings have to be able to register quite freely under all circumstances. It means, you need to be able to play them individually, or collectively in such a beautiful manner!

5. Simplicity

  • Finally, your violin should be simple and comfortable to set up and play.

Some violins are designed to magnify louder notes, while others are designed to chirp delicate tones. You need to be able to pick and choose whatever features you want based on your preferences and needs. In Ensiklomusika Music School, your private music class’ instructor will not only teach you how to read notes for violin, they can also help you pick your first violin! Curious? Enquire with us here.

When you choose to upgrade…

What I wrote above are the basic qualities that any traditional-style violin should have for every beginner. Over time, of course, you will probably be better at playing the violin, and that is when you probably want an upgrade! Ensiklomusika Music School private music class can probably advise and help you further in this, however, you are also free to pick one yourself!

Here are some of the most important things to look for when buying a violin:

  1. Strings

    • All four strings tuned in fifths; G3, D4, A4, E5.

      • The high E string is colloquially referred to as the top string, and the low G as bottom string.

    • They have to be made out of steel, or even more traditionally, sheep gut.

    • Occupies the soprano voice in a string choir.

    • Each string can produce sound liberally on its own or collectively, whether bowed or plucked.

2. Bow

  • The most common one is a bow made out of horsehair, with a wooden back.

3. Body

  • The top of the violin has to be constructed of laminated plies of wood, or spruce top.

  • The body itself is made of maple.

4. Fingerboard

  • The fingerboard is fretless where you can press the strings to sound certain pitches.

  • Remember that pressing down a string against the fingerboard is known as a “stop,” and pressing down two strings is known as a “double stop.” Triple and all strings pressed down are also possible. Do try it before purchasing!

5. Peg turners

  • Placed at the top, it is turnable to tune your instrument.

  • Fine tuners are also discoverable along your violin’s tailpiece.

If you are still unsure, Ensiklomusika Music School’s group of experienced teachers can definitely help you to pick your violin! Enquire with us here.

Stay tuned for next week’s article! I will be detailing out each part of the violin and its functionality. See you next week!

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