students' area : what's this do-hickey called?
Work on memorization skills by learning parts of the instrument!
Many parts of the instrument are named after the body. Start with
going through the names a few times then testing on the parts: What
is this? The parts of the bow should be learned too! Tip:
use the real violin/violanot the drawing.
Also the names of the strings on your violin are: "Good Dogs Always Eat" G D A E from low to high. On the viola, your strings are C G D A, let me know if you come up with a good phrase to memorize that one and I'll put it here in the site!
From the aging of the wood to the skills needed to make a string
instrument, you can assume that any string instrument took years
to complete. The making of string instruments perhaps involves the
most craftsman-like skills of all instruments and they should be
treated with utmost care.
Rosin dust that accumulates on the violin/viola needs to be wiped
with a clean, cotton cloth after every session. This cloth can be
kept with the instrument in the case. The bow should be loosened
so that the hairs are just off the stick after playing. This can
be adjusted with the screw at the frog of the bow. When playing,
the bow needs to be re-tightened so that there is some tension in
the hairs, but not so tight as to cause the stick to be straight
or curved away from the hairs. Over-tightening can ruin or break
A cover for the instrument will help prevent damage to the instrument
in the case from the bow coming loose from its holder. A pillow
case works nicely for this, simply insert the instrument and tuck
into the case.
Cleaning the instrument and bow stick should be done periodically
with a special cleaner sold at violin shops. Never ever use a common
household cleaner! Chemicals not designed for the fine varnish of
the violin/viola can seriously and permanently damage the varnish.
Store cleaners away from the instrument (dont keep these bottles
in the case.)
There are differing schools of thought on rosining the bow. What
it boils down to is a matter of preference. Rosin the bow when the
lack of it seems to be negatively affecting the sound (glassy sounding
or generally slippery feeling.) It isnt always necessary to
rosin before every sessionexcept with some bows that have
synthetic hairs. Rosin with a gentle but firm motion, the whole
length of the bow. Try to avoid the impulse to over rosin certain
areas of the bow, it is better to have a consistently rosined bow.
Know where to place your fingers. Use this handy helper to place fingering tapes on your violin.
Shoulder pads need to be of the correct size and thickness to be
comfortable. Pads can be attached to the back of the instrument
with rubber bands. Sponges work well and dont slip off the
instrument. Fabric stores sell foam padding which is excellent for
this application. Heres where it gets a little tricky: the
pad needs to be of the right thickness for your neck. The pad should
bring up the chin rest to just below natural chin level. Usually
the 3/4 to 1.5 thick type foam pad works well for most.
Also consider the give of the material. If it is stiff,
it wont adapt itself as well to the shoulder. If it is too
squishy, it wont provide support.
Pads should be placed (looking at the back of the instrument) in
the lower right, right/center region (under the chinrest, generally.)
Play with different shapes of pads and various placements to find
the ideal spot. A rubber band can hold the padding to the violin:
Be sure and remove your pad before putting your violin away in
its case, and store the pad where it is not going to create pressure
on the instrument (usually somewhere around the scroll or point
of the case is good to store the pad.)
If you find that your chin rest is uncomfortable against your neck,
cutting in, try draping a cloth over the chinrest and over the end
then placing it on your shoulder.
Those of you who saw my pad and are interested in getting one:
it's made by "Kun", I believe they only have one style
of violin shoulder rest and last time I bought one, it was about
$30-35 at a music store. On eBay, they appear to be $8-20. Listed,
there are Kun "Style" rests and actual Kun rests, I'd
recommend getting the real thing, not an imitation, also, try to
get one with the feet that detach, these are easier to store in
setting up your music studio
setting up to practice, it's important that the top of your music
be level with your eyes. If you get a music stand, make sure that
it goes up high enough to accomplish this, it'll help you in not
straining or going out of position just to read music. Also, a full-length mirror is very helpful in giving you feedback on your arm
positions, violin level, finger positions and bow movement. Note
the angle between the music stand and mirror, and that the violin
is more or less parallel with the mirror. When practicing, in general,
point the scroll of the violin at the left edge of your music.
About practicing in New York City: Paper thin walls and
neighbors that make Godzilla look like Barney.... If you're finding
that you're encountering problems practicing, or that the only time
you have to practice is late at night, you may wish to purchase
a "practice mute". Though it's not recommended
to practice regularly with a mute, a practice mute may be the
only solution in tight quarters when surrounded by neighbors who
may be, perhaps, striving to become better supporters of the arts.
mutes are made of thick, heavy rubber or metal and slip on the bridge
deadening the sound of the instrument greatly. There are two types
of mutes, a performance mute and a practice mute,
the performance mute only softens the sound a little bit, so make
sure you don't accidentally purchase that one if volume is truly
When mounting the metal mute (in particular), do take care to hold
your violin at a steep angle or upside down so that the mute does
not accidentally fall straight onto the face of your instrument
if it slips out of your control, it's very heavy and will damage
your violin if dropped on it.