The violin has brought happiness and joy to countless numbers of people around the world. The most popular and most accessible stringed instrument, the violin proved crucial in the classical music era and has found renewed popularity in many genres of popular music since. From string quartets to complete ensembles, violins will always have an important role.
A Guide to the Violin
The violin is the upper voice of the violin family, which also includes the viola, cello, and double bass. The violin's size and string characteristics provide the highest pitch of its family, and the shape and size of the wood and the hollow body give the violin its characteristic sound qualities.
The Origins of the Instrument
While there were a variety of stringed instruments in the distant past, the exact history of how the violin came to be is unclear. Stringed instruments were used in many ancient cultures and civilisations, such as the lyre from Ancient Greece and the cithara from the Roman Empire. It is believed that the use of a bowed stringed instrument originated with nomadic horsemen in Central Asia and developed throughout the Middle Ages. Proto-violins were around in the early 16th century, and the modern violin as we know it emerged in the proceeding Renaissance and Baroque periods.
The violin exploits the principles of resonance, which is why they have a shaped, hollow body. The violin consists of a number of different parts, each with their own important functions:
Main body - The violin's main body consists of a spruce top (soundboard), a maple back, and maple sides (ribs). These pieces are constructed separately and then glued together. The soundboard includes F-holes to help project the sound.
Neck - The violin's neck is usually made from maple and lies underneath the fingerboard. The fingerboard can be made from stained wood or, more preferably, ebony, thanks to its hardness and wear resistance. The nut, pegboard, and the scroll are located at the end of the neck. The nut provides an anchor point, and the pegs tune the strings.
Bridge - This is a precision-cut piece of maple that creates the second anchor point for the strings and transfers the string's vibrations to the violin body.
Bow - Violin bows consist of the stick - usually made from brazil-wood - and the fibres of synthetic hair or horsehair. When rosin is applied to the bow, the bow grips more easily with the strings, helping them to resonate.
Half Size Violin Buying Guide
Violins with a fractional size of the full size violin, such as the half size violin, are known to have been around for as long as the normal 4/4 size violin. Their smaller size is designed so that children can play them, though because they are smaller, they have a higher pitch, which means they are able to play in a higher range than the normal size violin. Today, fractional violins are mostly made for children, so that they can learn from a younger age at a time when the normal 4/4 violin is too big to play.
There are nine major violin sizes, from the full size 4/4 violin to the smallest 1/32 size violin. A ½ size violin is not actually half the size of a full size violin.
The Half Size Violin
The half size violin measures approximately 12" for the body and 20" for the body and neck, and this size is most suited for children aged 6-9, depending on the child's build and height. Bows also come in different lengths, and the suitable bow length for the ½ size violin is 24.5". Parents should ensure the ½ size violin will fit properly by measuring the distance between the neck and the middle of the palm - the violin length (20") should not be bigger than this measurement. However, many parents ignore this advice and choose a larger violin for the child to grow into though this can make playing less comfortable and more difficult.
Aside from ensuring that the violin is the correct size, the quality of the violin is the most important consideration. It is never a good idea to go with the cheapest option as the tone and playability will not be satisfactory, and this is why mass produced violins imported from Eastern countries should be avoided. German and Italian violins are often great for quality. Horse hair bows are a much better choice than synthetic bows.
Proof of manufacture and labelling is one way to ensure a good quality instrument, and from any reputable seller, the best indications of quality are the price and the labelling. Research the labelling, check to see customer interest for auctioned violins, or consult a specialist to understand the quality.
When treated properly, the quality of a violin lasts indefinitely, and the value either appreciates or remains stable, which is why very old violins still sell for high prices. This means that spending a fair amount of money on a good quality violin always provides a good return on investment in both the short-term and long-term.
Violin Accessories and Care
There are a few important violin accessories to purchase with a violin:
Rosin - This is a form of resin used on the bow to ensure good contact between the hairs of the bow and the strings.
Violin case - Every violin needs a violin case for carrying and protection. Expensive violins should be kept in a robust suspension case. There are also backpack cases to make carrying easier.
Neck rests - These are also useful, though a simple sponge or cloth also works well.
Violin tuners - Tuners are a convenient way to ensure the violin is kept in the right key, though the internet or a tuned piano could also be of use.
In dry climates, case and instrument humidifiers stop the violin wood from contracting though this is only important for more expensive violins. Strings should be replaced once a year or more if played frequently.
Caring for the Violin
Here is some quick advice to keep the half size violin safe:
Store properly - Always store the violin in its case, in an environment away from direct sunlight, and ideally with moderate humidity and temperature. Don't store by a window or anywhere that experiences heat and humidity changes.
Loosen the bow - The bow hair is taut when in use, but for storage (especially long-term storage) the hairs should be loosened.
Remove the neck rest - If using a neck rest, get the child in the habit of removing it as soon as they have finished playing. Closing the lid on a violin case with the chin rest still attached to the violin is a very easy way to break the violin.
Buying a Half Size Violin on eBay
Half size violins can be found on eBay by first going to the eBay homepage and looking in the All Categories tab for the Musical Instruments page. Violins can be found under the String category, and upon following the former link, the full range of violins and violin accessories on offer can be found.
The listings can be made more accurate (for example, half size violins) by clicking on the sub-categories on the left hand side of the page. Results can also be specified according to the condition of the violin, the price range, the buying format, the location, the delivery options, and the type of seller.
The half size violin is a great instrument to let children aged 6-10 learn the basics of music and progress to the intermediate level, and there aren't many other choices that offer an introduction with such a wonderful instrument, at a comparatively affordable price.