“…the violin — the most human of all the instruments…” - Louisa May Alcott (Author of Little Women)


The violin, sometimes called the fiddle, is the smallest instrument of the string family. Made out of wood, it has four strings (a metal or nylon core wrapped around in aluminum/silver) and is played on the left shoulder, held in place by the player's chin. The violins make up the largest section of the orchestra. Their role is to play the melodies and highest pitched accompaniments for soloists. The violin is the most agile and adaptable member of the string family and it is for this reason that it is the leader of the orchestra. As well as being perhaps the most important member of the orchestra, the violin is a very popular and well-known solo instrument and it's qualities make it great for playing in smaller ensembles and duets.

The sound of the instrument is produced by the violin bow that is covered in a sticky resin (rosin) which makes the strings vibrate as it is moved across them. It is not only the use of the bow that produces sounds of the violin but the special effects it can create are unique and exciting:

  • Pizzicato (Plucking the string with the fingers)
  • Harmonics
  • Glissando (Sliding effect created by the Left hand)
  • Col Legno (using the wood of the bow)


Here are a few examples where you can hear the violin in action...

Ralph Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending demonstrates the agility and melodic nature of the violin, in some parts we are unsure if it is a real lark!
The first movement of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor shows the expressive nature of the instrument.
Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major is a great example showing the power of the violin.
Jean Siblelius' Violin Concerto in D Minor is also a good example of the authority of the violin over the orchestra.
It is not only classical music that can be performed on the violin, but it can also be found in the folk and popular music scene across the world:

Irish Fiddle
Bond - Electric String Quartet

FUN FACT: The modern Violin contains over 70 separate pieces of wood and the world’s smallest violin is only 37 millimetres long - that's small enough to fit in a box of matches!!

Getting Started

Due to its popularity, the violin is a relatively inexpensive instrument and accessories are readily available. Here are the key items that we recommend you need to get you started on the road to becoming a great violinist!


The trumpet can be purchased or put on a hire/purchase scheme. If you choose to buy your own, it is worth investing a few pounds to ensure a good start

Beginners Violin

The Stentor Student Violin Outfit (comes in 1/10, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 4/4 sizes) is a high quality student violin perfect for the complete beginner supplied with a case, bow and rosin - so the only extra things you need are a violin shoulder rest, a tutor book and a teacher to get started (see the violin accessories & beginner books sections below).

What size violin do I need?

To find out which size of violin you need please measure the length of your arm from your neck to the tip of your fingers (see diagram to the left) - then use the chart below for find out which size violin you will need:


Whilst violin accessories that you need to get you started (including a violin bow, rosin and case) are usually included when you buy or rent a violin, you will usually need to purchase a violin shoulder rest (the shoulder rest supports the violin for perfect posture). Violin Rosin may need replacing over time and a tuner is very useful.

The size of your shoulder rest should correspond to the size of your violin - i.e. a 1/4 shoulder rest fits a 1/4 violin. Many students are recommended to use a small sponge in place of a structured shoulder rest - this is not ideal, as sponges result in bad posture which usually leads to shoulder and neck pain and cause problems with technique (especially with the left hand) later on which are hard to iron our. Supportive (structured) shoulder rests can vary in price, but we recommend:
  • Hidersine Oxbury Shoulder Rest (available in 1/4-1/2 and 3/4-4/4 sizes) - affordable and supportive for beginners
  • Wolf and Kun Violin Shoulder Rests - these slightly more expensive and higher quality shoulder rests suitable for intermediate/advanced (grade 5+) students who have an increased amount of playing. The Wolf Violin Shoulder Rest is available in 1/4-1/2 and 3/4-4/4 sizes, and the Kun Collapsible Violin Shoulder Rest is available in 1/2 & 3/4 and 4/4 sizes.
Different qualities of violin Rosin (resin) are available depending on your level. We recommend D'Addario Violin Rosin for beginner players and Pirastro Goldflex Violin Rosin for intermediate/advanced players (grade 5+). Using a high quality violin rosin makes a massive difference to the sound quality and they last for a very long time so its worth the investment when you get to grade 5 level.
Although it is not essential to own and use a chromatic violin tuner when starting the violin, it is a useful device that makes tuning the instrument really simple compared to using a violin pitch pipe. We recommend this affordable Fender Clip-On Tuner that attaches to the pegs of your violin and guides you to tuning your violin accurately - when your in tune the whole display goes green!

Beginner Books

Here are the best selling violin tutor books for beginners:

Fiddle Time Joggers is an ideal first book of very easy pieces for violin with open string pieces and tunes using the finger pattern 0-1-2-3-4. There are well-known tunes and original pieces from rock to calypso using simple slurs and a few dynamics. Notice-boards introduce new notes and rhythms to you gradually. The book comes with CD, providing performances of all the pieces with accompaniments using piano and other instruments.

Abracadabra for Violin contains a beginners' course in 20 steps, built up of more than 100 popular songs and catchy tunes. It can be used alongside the 'Abracadabra' tutors for viola, cello and double bass for duets and small group work, making learning to play fun - exactly what it should be. It's step by step guide is very simple to follow and the accompanying CD makes it fun to learn by ear as you hear what you should be sounding like!

Finding a Violin Teacher

It is highly recommended when starting an instrument to employ a qualified teacher to make the learning process interesting and fun. Teachers can be found across the UK at schools, local music services and musicteachers.co.uk or if you live in our locality please do not hesitate to contact us for details of suitable teachers.

Music Centres - playing in orchestras & ensembles

Music centres are set up in many towns to give students an opportunity to meet like-minded people whilst putting their playing into practice. The centres often have a wide variety of ensembles which you can join if you wish. It provides great opportunities to perform in concert situations across the UK and even sometimes Europe. Here is a list of Music Centres/Services in the UK.

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