There are several things that make a violinist’s life a bit, actually a lot, easier. In fact, some accessories are crucial to playing the violin. In this post, I’ll share my favorite violin accessories and experiences with them, as well as include links to websites where you can purchase everything. So let’s get started!
Rosin is definitely at the top of my list. Without rosin, our violins and bows would be practically useless. Since our violin bows are made out of fine Mongolian horse hairs, they are very soft and “smooth.” Rosin is what makes our bows sticky enough to grasp the strings and produce sound. Click here to read more about how rosin works.
Rosin can vary greatly in price. Every rosin producing company has its own special recipe – some even add flecks of gold or silver to the rosin mixture! An expensive round of rosin can cost anywhere from $30 to $50; a cheaper block can cost as little as $2. My teacher has told me that she spends around $10 to buy rosin. I’ve stuck to this price rule, and so far it has served me well. My two favorite rosins are Kaplan’s Premium Light Rosin and Piastro’s Goldflex Rosin.
I’ve noticed that the Kaplan rosin produces a little more dust than the Piastro but it produces a nice sound. The Kaplan costs around $10, and it comes with a handy-dandy case.
The Piastro rosin is a bit more expensive; it comes in around $15. The Piastro is a nice, clean, classic rosin. I don’t think it produces nearly as much dust as the Kaplan. I personally prefer the tone Kaplan yields, but that may be just me. I tend to play more vivaciously than other violinists so I like a nice strong sound, which to me the Kaplan produces.
A shoulder rest is very important to me, namely because I have acquired a rather long neck! In my violin career I’ve only bought one shoulder rest; I tried it out on a friend’s violin and I loved it. The shoulder rest is the Kun Original Shoulder Rest. You can buy it here. The shoulder rest is pretty basic. It includes adjustable feet and you can also adjust the length so it can fit a ¾ size violin, as well.
One of my pet peeves is a shaky, cheap, wire music stand. There is nothing worse than trying to balance a folder or stack of sheet music on a wobbly music stand. When I first started violin, my mom bought me one of those dreadful stands. It fell apart long ago, and I have 3 stands now, each with a different purpose.
My favorite is a sturdy orchestra stand. I have the Manhasset #48. I love it! It’s great for home practice and occasional string orchestra performances. You wouldn’t believe how much music I can fit on that thing, before it slowly sinks down!
My second stand is much the same as my orchestra stand, except that it folds up. The engineering on this stand is quite remarkable. When un-folded, the music stand looks almost identical to my orchestra stand except that it’s made out of heavy duty plastic instead of metal. This stand folds up and fits into a bag that comes with it. The finished, folded-up product is about 30” x 5’’. I like to take this stand to nursing home concerts and solo engagements. The stand is the Peak Collapsible Music Stand SMS-20.
The third stand I own is perfect for packing. This little stand is only the top half of a normal music stand…just the rack. There’s a little kick stand behind the rack so you can prop it up on any table or chair. I don’t use the stand often but it’s a lifesaver when traveling on a plane. You can buy it here – Hamilton Tabletop Music Stand.
What can I say? The pencil is the musician’s favorite tool. Or at least, if it’s not, it should be! I was just telling my sister the other day that next to my violin, bow, and rosin, the pencil is my most valued tool. What other device can write notes-to-self, erase notes-to-self, and write in bowings, fingerings, dynamics, phrasing, plus encouragement, on your sheet music?
As far as my favorite pencil goes, anything works. Just make sure it’s sharply sharpened! 🙂
Ok, to be completely honest, I’m not that pumped about putting a metronome on this list. I should be pumped, but I’m not. Who would be? A metronome clacks at you with a steady beat, making you realize your worst fears. A metronome blinks annoying lights at you while you’re practicing. A metronome makes me fly into fits of rage. This is really bad. Never mind me.
Metronomes are awesome! The clacking beats keep you from an embarrassing lesson with your teacher. Those lights that blink at you make you realize you’re starting a measure on beat 3. A metronome shouldn’t make me fly into fits of rage.
I should practice with it more. Every musician should practice with it more. Nothing more to be said.
My favorite metronome is a metronome/tuner that can fit in any bag and go anywhere, anytime. Take a look here – the Korg TM50BK Instrument Tuner and Metronome.
This accessory is valid, even if it seems a little out of place. IMSLP.ORG is an online sheet music site like no other. IMSLP contains thousands, if not millions, of scores and parts, all completely free. I visit this site so much, I can’t imagine living without it.
Google…amazing! How many years ago was the first violin made? Who was Yuendi Menuhin? What is the format of a rondo? I can’t count the times my curious questions are answered by Google. Plus, Google links to YouTube, a musician’s gold pot!
A Musical Dictionary
Even though Google can answer almost any question you may have, there’s nothing like a book. I love The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians; it’s so much fun to page through it in the evenings, and it’s wonderful for looking up answers when there’s no computer nearby.
An Extra Set of Strings
Maggie, you know how important this accessory is, right? For those of you not in on the joke, the last two times Maggie and I have gotten together my A string has started unraveling. This resulted in us having to drive to a music shop and get a new string – all because I didn’t have a spare set of strings in my case. So, an extra set of strings should definitely be a violinist’s accessory.
I guess everyone has a favorite string brand, or ones that they’ve always used. I have always used Dominant strings; you can buy them here.
I guess that ends my post! I’m hoping to post a more in-depth piece next week but for now, enjoy this one! Thanks for reading!