If you are a student of music theory or composition, you will simply discuss what you’ll need in a lesson since it is much more difficult to standardize. Below are recommendations for violin and viola students only.
In addition to renting or purchasing an instrument, you will need several supplies to maintain your instrument and facilitate the learning process just as you would buy books and supplies prior to attending classes at a school.
You will need:
- A music stand
- A metronome
- A tuner
- A shoulder rest
- Music books
- A folder and tote bag/small backpack
Rosin is a must; the instrument won’t make a sound without it. It is tree sap that is shaped into a block (called a “cake”) in a small enough size that you can easily draw it across the bow. It gives the bow hair the friction needed to cause the strings to vibrate. Bernardel rosin is the brand that I currently use on my violin. You can get it on Amazon here.
Music Stands come in a wide range of prices. For beginners, a simple wire music stand can do the job well. They are the most inexpensive, but they tend to be shorter in height which may be problematic if the student ever plays while standing. They can also tip over when large books or binders are placed on them.
If price is less of a concern, and you want the most durability and height, choose the classic Manhasset Music Stand. These stands will last for decades and look the most professional. They are also the simplest to use after assembly since there are no clamps or other gadgets.
Peak Music Stands are also a great choice. They are less expensive, more portable, and of a lighter weight than a Manhassett. However, they are much more durable than a wire stand in spite of their plastic table. They are tall and will look equally as professional as Manhassetts in a performance setting. Because of this, many pros use them for gigs.
Metronomes and tuners are essential for developing musical accuracy. Tuners in general are necessary for maintaining an instrument. With lessons, all students will learn to tune their violin or viola on their own. I recommend the Korg TM-60, which is a portable tuner-metronome combo that is about the size of a smartphone and can easily be kept in most instrument cases. It is simple to use, and the features of this device are adequate for students and professionals alike.
Shoulder rests are used to keep the violin or viola in a suitable playing position while reducing the potential for strain on the neck and shoulder muscles. Since everyone’s anatomy is different, and you will need one that matches the size and setup of your instrument, I strongly urge you to discuss recommendations in a lesson before making a purchase. Below are a few examples:
- Foam shoulder rests such as this one may be easier to use for young students and are the least expensive. They are attached to the instrument with rubber bands.
- Kun shoulder rests are the most popular for violinists and violists of an elementary school age and up. Here are the links to the full size model and the smaller model.
- Though it is not nearly as popular as the Kun, the Playonair shoulder rest is a great choice for those who prefer more cushion than firmness. It has much less height than the Kun or even a large foam rest, so it more likely to be suitable for those with shorter necks. They have several models that cover varying amounts of surface area.
There are several method books that I use in my lessons. For young students preschool age and up, my #1 choice Sassmannshaus’ Early Start on the Violin. (Here is the version for viola.) Though it seems a bit pricier than most popular method books, it is twice as long and very well made. The pages are of heavier weight with full-color illustrations and large, easy-to-read notes. All of the songs have lyrics so that singing can be used to make the music easier to learn for children. This method also encourages music literacy at a really young age, and it moves at a fast pace that keeps most students challenged appropriately. If your student is not yet fluent at reading, that is not a problem! In my experience, learning to read music enhances student’s reading skills and vice versa as there are many commonalities. (Music is easier to read than English, believe it or not!)
Essential Elements for violin or viola is a lot more inexpensive than the previous title, and I find it useful for beginners that are ages 9 and up, including adults. Because it is designed to be equally as useful in a classroom or group setting as an a private lesson, it is quite popular in school music programs. Essential Elements also has many helpful diagrams and glossaries, and it comes with audio as part of the book. Admittedly, I often skip several pages for students who wish to move at a faster pace. If your student is of an older elementary age and is not bothered by picture-book style illustrations, the Sassmannshaus Method above is of better value in the long run since it is more challenging.
When students start to approach an intermediate level, I begin to supplement their studies with the Suzuki Method for violin or viola. The Suzuki books are great for students who are ready to learn standard repertoire and solos for their instrument, and all of the books have piano accompaniment. It is crucial that you buy the edition that comes with the CD as I often refer to recordings in lessons, and listening to recordings is an integral part of the Suzuki Method.
In addition, keeping supplies in a folder within a tote bag or small backpack is strongly encouraged, especially if your instrument case does not have a storage pocket or you will be carrying a lot of music. It especially helps young students keep their music, practice logs, accessories, and stationary together so that time is not wasted if things are forgotten. I also encourage young students to keep all of their music in a three-ring binder especially if they are receiving sheet music from their school ensemble or youth orchestra. This teaches professionalism and prevents music from getting lost.
If you have questions, feel free to discuss any of these materials in person at the interview, especially if you or your student are just beginning an instrument. Call me to book an interview for free, and I will be glad to help you.
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