Learning a new instrument is hard. Especially when you are in the beginning stages of getting to know the instrument, and especially when it's the violin - arguably the most difficult instrument there is! So, for that reason, I have compiled five "hacks" that I have learned over the years that helped me out when I was a beginner, have helped my students, and I know they will help you too! Let's dive in.
Bow hold helpers. There are many different versions of these, a popular brand "Bow Buddies" being one of them, but all varieties serve the same function: to enforce a proper bow hold. Bow hold helpers are typically made of rubber, and they sit either on top of your bow, or wrap around the frog area of the bow to keep your fingers in place while you play. Genius! So, whether you struggle with keeping your pinky curved, keeping your thumb bent, or perhaps knowing where to place your index finger and not moving it, bow hold helpers can make a huge difference in the beginning stages of learning how to hold the bow correctly, and making sure you don't develop any bad habits.
Shoulder rest alternatives. A shoulder rest is an essential part of having a technically correct violin setup, but did you know there are alternatives to the standard shoulder rest? One of these alternatives is a sponge, or "foam pad" designed for the violin, and can be attached using rubber bands. This is a great segue into the "real deal", and can be a comfortable alternative while you search for the right shoulder rest for you. A regular kitchen sponge is also fine to use, so long as it doesn't have an abrasive side that's in contact with the instrument.
Finger tapes. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: finger tapes are a must for beginners! I always recommend using electrical tape (rather than using those stickers that are designed for the violin), as it can be taken off and reapplied or adjusted much more easily. You can typically find electrical tape at your local hardware store (support local!), and you can even find a variety of colors if you want to use a different color for each finger. All you have to do is cut the tape into thin strips, and place it onto your fingerboard, underneath the strings. I recommend using the eraser side of a pencil to check your placement with a tuner for a more streamline application process. For a demonstration of what I mean, see this video.
Fine tuners. Lucky for you, fine tuners are usually already a built-in feature of the violin! They are those four, small, metal tuners located at the base of the tailpiece. Fine tuners are great, as they allow you to tune your strings in an easier, gentler way until you are comfortable enough to use the pegs, which sit inside the scroll.
Practice mute. A practice mute is a fairly large piece of hardware, either made of metal or rubber, that is designed to sit directly on top of the bridge. As the name implies, the practice mute dampens the vibrations of your strings, allowing you to play at a significantly quieter volume. A practice mute can come in handy if you are in a situation where you need to practice but it's not appropriate to play at full volume, for example if you have multiple people in your home, if it's late at night, or if you are traveling and need to practice in a hotel room without disturbing the other guests.
I hope you feel a bit more at ease now that you know a few tricks and hacks that can serve you as you embark on your learning of the violin! I wish you all the best.
Check out the video below for more on this topic!