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What You'll Need to Start Learning Violin

The Three Items You Absolutely must have when Learning Violin

When starting to play the violin, the choices of can be very confusing. Going into a music store doesn't help the situation, either! There are humidifiers for the instrument, polish for violins, and the amount of music available is staggering! Let's get back to the basics, though and answer the question:

What do you need to start learning violin today?

Brief List of Things You'll Need:

  • Violin
  • Bow
  • Rosin

Brief List of Things You'll Want:

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


Starting with the most necessary piece of equipment is...a violin! The violin is the highest-sounding instrument of the string family and generally carries the melody in an orchestra. Violinists can choose to play in an orchestra, a smaller group such as a quartet, or just play by themselves for the fun of it!

Image shows a violin and bow in a blue case, popped open against the wall.You need to make sure you get the correct size of violin, and make sure you get a good violin. You have the option of either buying a violin or renting one from a local music store.

Violin Bow

Picture of violin bowThe bow is another necessity when starting to learn to play the violin. The bow is the the thing that looks like a stick that has hair attached to it in two places. It's a good idea to learn now about how a violin bow is made and how you should take care of a the violin bow. The violinist strokes the bow's hair on the strings of the violin to create sound. With no bow, all you'd be able to do is pluck the strings to make sound!

The violin bow is either made of fiberglass or wood. Beginner bows are usually fiberglass, which makes them less likely to warp (bend wrong) with changes in the weather. The hair on a bow should never be touched with bare hands or skin because it can make it not make sound when used on the violin. The hair on the bow is usually made from horse hair (really!).


Rosin is a small cake of hard, sticky stuff that is applied to the hair on the bow. Generally, it's a little bit bigger than one of those pink erasers you buy for school.

Picture of violin rosinRosin is actually made from pine sap (among other things)! It can come in a wooden box, attached to a cloth, or in cardboard. If there were not rosin on a bow's bow hair, the bow would make no sound at all on the violin! Don't leave your box of rosin in the sunlight, it'll melt! I found that out when I was eleven. There's still a small spot of it stuck on my floor.

Do you need to more about rosin? Find out about the different kinds of rosin and what kind of rosin is recommended for beginners here!


Beginner Violin Starter Materials

Beginning Violinist Items to Make Your "Life" Easier

So, the previous three items are things that you'll need to start learning to play the violin. Here are some things that you're going to want soon after starting to practice violin, but they aren't absolutely vital.

Music Books, Scales Books, and Sheet Music

You can get beginner violin music from a bunch of different sources. If you are teaching yourself, one really good source of cheap violin books and music are used book stores. Often, used bookstores don't really know what to do with the sheet music they get, so they mark it waaaay down and put it in a box in the corner. If you can't find it in the bookstore, ask! Sometimes they hide those boxes of music pretty well.

If you're a parent looking for music for your child, go to the local music store. Most of the time, your child will bring home a piece of paper telling you which book to get. The local music stores will usually have the book. If they don't online sources such as will.

If you are attending an orchestra class, your teacher will tell you exactly which violin book you will need. You'll be able to find most beginning violin books used in the school system where you live at the local music store.

Here are some books that I have used personally to help adults and children learn violin.

All For Strings - Book 1 (Violin)This is the book I started with myself! It shows playing positions, finger positions, helps you learn to read music, and more! This book is also commonly used in schools.

All For Strings - Book 1 (Violin)

Essential Elements 2000 for Strings Plus DVD (Violin)This book also has playing positions, fingering positions, etc. Ihave some fond memories of playing from this book as well. This one has a DVD with it, containing music to play along with!

Essential Elements 2000 for Strings Plus DVD (Violin)

Music Stand

This is not an absolute must, but boy does it make life easier! Basically, a music stand holds your music for you while you're playing. They're usually made from metal. Any good music stand can be adjusted to standing or sitting height. For more information about the different kinds of music stands that can be useful for a student, see this page.

Pencil (not a pen!)

You always want to use a pencil on your music, always! Often, especially if you're in an orchestra or a class, the music you will be playing will not be yours to keep. If you mark the music in pencil, then the marks will be removable if the next player wants to erase them. Make sure your pencil markings can be erased easily. Never use a pen on music!

You might be tempted to use pen on music that you own, but it's still not a good idea to get into the habit. My strong suggestion is to always only use pencil to mark on music.

Music Folder

How do you keep all of your music and your pencil together? You use a folder! Music folders are larger than a standard sheet of paper. They are generally made from light cardboard and have two inside pockets to hold music. Sometimes they have helpful tips for beginners printed in them, or scales for beginners to practice. Often, you can go into the local music store and ask for one for free!

Practice Log

A practice log helps you keep track of what you've practiced and when you practiced it. This can be good so you can look back and see your progress! It can also be helpful for your teacher, if you get one or have one helping you learn violin.

Usually, practice logs are on paper. They have spaces for you to mark how long you practiced and what you practiced. Some practice logs meant for kids going to orchestra class also have a place for the teacher and/or the parent to add notes.

We offer a free printable practice log PDF so you can use it to keep track of your personal practice.


A tuner is a handy gadget! Basically, you use it to make sure that the strings on your violin are tuned to the right note. You play the string at the gadget and it tells you if the string is too high-sounding, low-sounding, or perfectly on pitch.

Tuners come in many shapes and sizes. Some metronomes (see the next thing on the list here) are also tuners, in fact! Tuners can be smaller than a cell phone or as big as a paperback book.


Metronomes will help you a little later on when you're learning the different lengths of notes and rhythm. Basically, the metronome's job is to sit there and go "tick...tick...tick" at specific speeds. It's easy to accidentally go too fast or too slow on a piece of music.

When you start practicing music, you will need to be able to keep a steady beat. That way, the music will sound correct. Some music is hard the first several times you play it, so you will need to play it more slowly at first. Playing music slowly is easier to do right if you are doing it to a slow beat from a metronome. So, a metronome will help you practice difficult music.

First, you practice the music slowly. Then, little by little, you increase the speed of the metronomes ticking. You practice it at each speed increase until you can play the music properly. Soon, you will be playing the difficult music at the music's correct speed!

Metronomes, like tuners, come in many different shapes and sizes. There are metronome apps for phones. There are metronomes that are smaller than a cell phone or TV remote, and there are metronomes that are bigger than a paperback book! There are even metronomes that are completely mechanical. Mechanical metronomes require that you wind them up, like an old-fashioned watch.