Beginners Starting Out with Violin What You Will Need to Start

Brief List of Things You'll Need:

  • Violin
  • Bow
  • Rosin

Brief List of Things You'll Want:

  • Music
  • Shoulder Rest
  • Music Stand
  • Pencil (not a pen!)
  • Practice Log
  • Tuner
  • Metronome

In order to start learning violin, you will need a few things. These are just the very basics of what you need, of course. First, we'll discuss how to evaluate your first violin. If you want a general beginning violin checklist, see my list of beginning violinist accessories here.

Evaluating a Violin for Beginners

First of all, you'll need...a violin! Hopefully this isn't a surprise. There is a wide variety of violins out there.

If you have a used violin sitting in front of you that you are considering, check the following:

Make sure that it has a bridge that is installed and upright under the strings.

Image of straight and crooked violin bridge for beginning violin learners

(For more information about fixing a crooked bridge, see this page about violin bridges)

Make sure that the front, side, and back panels are not separating from each other. The image below shows you the areas to especially check for this problem. If you find this problem, you should consult a violin repair shop if you are still interested in using the violin.

Violin shown from side, indicating where to check for cracks along seams between back, front, and sides of violin.

Make sure there are no significant cracks. My violin does have a crack, below, but it has been repaired.

Violin with repaired crack on top.

Make sure the violin itself does not rattle when moved. If it does, there is a possibility that a special wooden dowel inside the violin called the sound post has fallen. This requires repair by a professional.

Very occasionally you can find a good instrument for sale via Craigslist, eBay, or Amazon, but you definitely have to watch out for cheap instruments and unreasonable prices. In general, you should not be paying less than about $300 to have a chance of getting a quality instrument.

The easiest way to do that is to look up the instrument online and read reviews on it.

To find information about the violin:

  • Hold the violin with the side of the violin at eye-level, with the top of the violin upwards.
  • Peer into the f-hole (one of the two identical holes cut out on the top of the violin) and tilt the top of the violin slowly towards you.
  • Read the label that is on the inside back of the violin. Copy down that information and use it to search the Internet for more information about the instrument.

NOTE: Do NOT get excited if the violin label says something like "Copy of Stradivarius". Many, many violin labels say that and some of them are horrible. No one truly knows exactly what Stradivarius did to create his amazing violins.

Most of these problems are repairable, although some are particularly expensive to repair. For more information, please see our Used Violin Buying Guide (Coming Soon!).

Evaluating a Violin Bow for Beginning Violinists

f you have a bow you are considering, check the following:

Is the bow more or less straight? Sight down the stick itself.

How to sight down a bow to see if it's straight
  • Wooden bows tend to warp especially badly, depending on humidity. Fiberglass bows, which tend to be used more by beginners, do not warp nearly so badly.
  • Is the hair on the bow stained, greasy, or especially dirty?
  • Are there any splits or cracks in the stick?
  • Does the nut at the mechanism at the frog of the bow turn easily, but without feeling sloppy? Does it tighten and loosen the hair of the bow? This is not at the pointy end of the bow.

The violin may or may not come with a bow.

If you try to play the violin with the bow and the bow makes no sound whatsoever, either the hair on the bow (which is easily replaceable) is ruined or it has never had violin rosin applied to it (which induces friction that makes the string make sound).

Bows can have some repairs done to them, either by you or by a professional repairperson. For more information, please see our Used Violin Buying Guide (again, coming soon!).

Image of violin rosin

You will also need some rosin, providing the instrument and its bow are both useable. Rosin comes in several varieties, depending on your taste and your level of ability on the violin. If the violin comes with a cake of rosin, you can more than likely simply use that for a good length of time. There are several kinds of violin rosin, depending on your needs. Learn more about violin rosin here.